Title: Indian Cultures as Heritage- Contemporary Pasts
Author: Romila Thapar
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
In her book Indian Cultures as Heritage, Romila Thapar talks about the phenomena called culture and what constitutes the Indian culture. Her focus is on those things that are generally not considered when talking about Culture & Heritage. As such, her take on Culture & Heritage, in this book, is an unusual one.
She starts with a rather extensive introduction to the subject. And then she begins analysing certain aspects of Indian culture in each of the chapters. She goes back into the past, as back as she can and then she moves across the horizon, as far as she can. Her approach is such that hardly anything can escape the field of her vision.
She conjures up a new image of Cultures & Heritage in front of us- an image that clearly brings forth those aspects that have remained obscure for a long time. She probes into the objects and ideas and makes us question what we have so far considered to be Indian Cultures. Unlike the Indian society, the dominant and the marginalised, both share the same space in her book.
Besides two chapters of general nature, there are five chapters that focus on one thing at a time. These include Time, Science, Women, Discrimination & Education. These might not be the essential constituents of Cultures but Romila Thapar manges to convey the essence that makes it Indian. And she is clear about her intention in the beginning itself.
My attempt here is to consider just a few among the many, merely to suggest that there is much that we miss out when we speak of culture as it was defined in earlier times.
A little attention is to be paid to the subtitle of the book, that is Contemporary Pasts. One has to bear in mind, while reading this book, that Culture and Heritage are not just a thing of the past. These are dynamic concepts and it is through the contemporary lens that Romila Thapar views Culture and Heritage and it is this same view that she presents in this book. Amongst other things that she does in this book, she accounts for the shift from ‘Indian Culture’ to ‘Indian Cultures’.
The book definitely appears to be a promising read. And there are some thought provoking passages in the book. But my reading experience has not been a good one. I struggled to finish this book. There’s something deterring in her writing style. What it is exactly, I cannot point out. If anything, her writing is not reader friendly. There was about just 20% of this book that I really enjoyed.
I wanted to appreciate this book so much, that I kept on reading it with the hope that I get into it at some point. But that didn’t happen. Several passages seemed irrelevant to me. I was so much frustrated that I just skimmed through those passages looking for some narrative from the mythology, much like a child would scan a book looking for colourful pictures.
If this book is in your tbr, I suggest you to read an excerpt before actually picking up this book. However if you’ve a vast interest in this subject, then this book would be a must read.
My Rating: *** (2.5/5)
What do you think about this book? Have you read any other book by Romila Thapar? Did you have any issue with her writing style? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
*I was kindly sent a copy by the Publisher, in exchange for a review. Views expressed are entirely personal and unbiased.*