Book Review- The Sceptical Patriot

This book by Sidin Vadukut is about the great country that India is/was (mostly in the past tense). He examines several India 'facts' to the best of his ability, and concludes that there are wildly inaccurate half-truths or less, circulating as truths on the social media and through email chains.

Some of these include "India never attacked a foreign country." True only to the North of India. The Cholas actually ruled over vast parts of East Asia. "India invented the zero." is partially true, as in it invented the use of zero as a full-fledged digit, but there were symbols used earlier to indicate 'place' where nothing was between digits.

"World's first plastic surgery was done by Indians." Could be true, but as usual, there are grey areas about when and who actually did this. There is a description of how to do a nose job in some ancient texts.

Finding documents about anything Indian is a Herculean task, and some temple inscriptions are sometimes the only evidence you can rely on.

His comments about history (or its writing) always being questionable, and should be questioned, are good. So is the book. My view is that it is better than his Dork series, based on college humour. Maybe I'm too old for that now.


Rahul Sharma said…
Well, well, well. What a fantastic piece of pop-history, non-fiction this is!

In short - Sidin goes on an adventurous (and potentially life-threatening, if you take extreme nationalists into account) journey to look at popular 'India myths' that do the rounds on email and Whatsapp, and proceeds to verify them using research.

ACTUAL research, not just a quick check on Wikipedia! There are around 7-8 myths he looks at and gives each of them a score.

It's obviously a lot more 'serious' than his Dork or Cricinfo stuff, but at the same time, it has smatterings of Sidinisms throughout. Hardcore fans will be happy to know Blossom Babykutty gets a mention ;)

Should you pick this up? Definitely! It's a wonderful, eye-opening read. It's cheap. It's a light read (you should be able to get done with it in a train journey from Bangalore to Kochi... Or an auto ride from Andheri East to Versova).

I'll be honest - Sidin's Dork trilogy wasn't his finest writing (especially Book 2, though 1 was a riot!). But with TSP, he's produced some of his best, and something that all Indians should read, and importantly, use it to develop a healthy sense of cynicism about myths, religion and everything you see and read in this internet age which could have a lot of bunkum floating around.

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