Three Non-Fictional Reads

My Life My Rules: Stories of 18 Unconventional Careers by Sonia Golani

My first read of the year 2020, the book charts the career of 18 individuals who shrugged off conventional wisdom by leaving highly-paid jobs and taking on something their heart desired: becoming a rock star, a food critic, a cricket commentator, a DJ, a writer…. Eighteen write-ups that would warm the heart of anyone planning to fling off the security of a salaried job and venturing into uncharted waters.

First Line: Rahul Akerkar is the man behind a clutch of Mumbai’s high-end….

Publication Details: Chennai: Westland, 2012

First Published: 2012

Pages: 226

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Under the Shadow of Gallows by Gulab Singh

A young revolutionary sent to the infamous Andamans to serve a sentence is after many a year allowed to return to the main land for the remainder of his sentence. In the meanwhile, his mother (the only family that he has) has gone blind. But now that he is back on the mainland, mother and son hope to meet each other even though with the prison bars between them. The mother petitions to the government and the date is fixed for the meeting. The son waits eagerly. A few days before the meeting, he gets into a scrap with a jail official. And then he wakes up one day, only to be told that his mother had arrived the previous day and had waited all day long outside the jail precincts hoping to meet her son but the jail authorities had not allowed it. The man who had suffered all the atrocities at Andamans is unable to bear this. That very night, he hangs himself in his cell. I don’t know when I hated the British Empire more.

This is just one of the anecdotes related by Gulab Singh, another young revolutionary who was sentenced to death for conspiring against the King-Emperor. His sentence was changed to life-imprisonment and so he lived to tell the tales of all those known and unknown men who fought and died for our country’s freedom. This was a very difficult book for me to read and one that I had been putting-off since 2002.

First Line: The struggle for our independence is a long, long story, which begins simultaneously with the subjugation of Bengal, and the subsequent annexations of our territory by Imperialist Britain.

Publication Details: Delhi, Rupchand, 1964

First published: 1963

Alternate Title: Thorns and Thistles (Published 1948 though without the first part: My Predecessors)

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Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule) by M.K. Gandhi

M.K. Gandhi is one of the foremost political leaders of the twentieth century. In 1909, when the call for India’s freedom had gained momentum, Gandhi wrote his own vision of India’s self-rule. While it is very difficult to agree with all of Gandhi’s points, there are certain very pertinent points that Gandhi makes: Swaraj (or self-rule) is not merely a political thing. It means rule over one’s own self, so before trying to rule over others, one should discipline oneself. Swaraj, in the political sense, also doesn’t mean simply a transfer of power. How would India benefit if the British are simply changed by Indians while the system remains as exploitative as ever? Unfortunately, this is what has mostly happened. Most importantly, Gandhi doesn’t ask us to try and change the world. We have to do our duty and in that we have to be scrupulously honest. As he was to comment later on: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Edited by Anthony J. Parel, this is a good introduction to Gandhi’s views.

First Line: Hind Swaraj is Gandhi’s seminal work.

Publishing Details: ND: Cambridge UP, 2005

First Published: 1909

Editor: Anthony J. Parel

Pages: lxxv+208

3 thoughts on “Three Non-Fictional Reads

  1. These sound fascinating, Neeru! I’ve always been interested in Gandhi’s life and thoughts, so that one in particular got my attention. But the others sound great, too. They all sound a bit different, but it sounds as though each has much to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

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