‘Snakes and Ladders’ is a collection of essays on India. Captured in these essays is a time-period when India, post-independence, was struggling to establish its identity as a self-sufficient, progressive economy. The forward of the book explains the name given to the book and relates it to the Indian context. The book proceeds with essays on Indian politics, films, myths, popular beliefs, superstitions, love, leisure, décor and other very Indian tidbits. These combine beautifully to weave together the tapestry that is India.
The author Gita Mehta’s family has been closely associated with Indian Politics since the time of Indian Independence. The author’s father Biju Patnaik had been a freedom fighter and the Chief Minister of Orissa. Mehta’s brother, Naveen Patnaik, is the present Chief Minister of Orissa at the time of writing this review. Little wonder then that Gita Mehta would have been able to bring to the table a poignant and heartfelt kaleidoscope of India since Independence, rife with her personal political views on the Indian menagerie.
Crystal clear understanding of the Indian socio-political scenario combine with lucid articulation to make this book such a delightful read. The author writes as if she is talking to a friend about India over a cup of evening tea. Personal attachment to India, a sense of pride in the country-its history and culture, and a rich faith in its future formulates the frank confessions of the book.
This is one of those sparkling gems you discover when you are least on the lookout for them. Born in India at a time when I was too young to understand the Sikh riots of 1984, I had missed out much of the political drama of the Indira Gandhi regime. Gita Mehta’s book helped me gain very useful insights into the process of the Indian socio-political machinery of that time, among various other things. I could relate to almost all the essays- as all of them reconstruct some faction of the Indian commoner’s life. Coupled with that, this book gave me a short and spiced up social history of India that I could not hope to have found in any pedantic book of Indian history. I simply loved reading it.
Book Reviewed by Ashmita Saha
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