Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Review of "Sceptical Patriot"

"Sceptical Patriot", if nothing else, makes us question the bias we all carry in our hearts for our motherland. This book by Sidin Vadukut has a simple structure - take some of the most commonly held and the most widely believed "India" facts and methodically investigate their veracity. Did India really invent the zero ? Was India really THE richest country in the World ? Was Takshashila the first University of the ancient world ? We have all heard these factoids before - either via email and WhtsApp forwards or sometimes even perpetrated by pop culture and the media. What Sceptical Patriot tries to do is, instead of blindly accepting these factoids at face value, it subjects them to a "litmus test" of checking historical records, searching for real, verifiable and evidential proof and as far as possible arriving at an "informed" conclusion - you know, the sort of thing we all should be doing always - before "accepting" anything as truth.

The effort is definitely commendable here. The author wants to debunk the commonly held India myths - and while doing so the conclusions that he arrives at do appear logical and convincing.

That being said, the book is not without its faults. The big put off for me was the unnecessary humor ! Just when things get interesting and it looks like we are
getting at some inconvenient truths, the author takes it all away by cracking a silly joke. And this is a recurring pattern. In all honesty, it felt to me that the author didn't want to appear too sceptical ! Secondly, with all the talk of being detail oriented and scientific when getting to the roots of something, the author chooses a hand-wavy explanation sometimes. An example of this is the Chola invasions on Myanmar chapter.

But these things aside, "Sceptical Patriot" is a breezy and an entertaining read - a mixture of some new historical details about ancient India coupled with some insightful anecdotes. A definite 4/5 from me.

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