Three old books, but a good holiday read

One of the joys of the Christmas and New Year holidays is the world slows down and you can find things you’ve been putting off, sometimes for years. In my case it is books. I buy or have many shipped and they pile up in my bedroom, dusty but unread. This year I decided to fix it. I caught a few and today I want to tell you three. They are old books and I wish I had read them earlier. But if I’m wrong you might be lucky!

Two of them are biographies, which is a genre I really enjoy. However, these are unique. The first is Zareer Masani’s slim but revealing and insightful work on Thomas Macaulay. Written in his highly readable style, Masani paints a picture of a man we know nothing about but owe a great deal to – more than most realize and most are willing to admit.

As the cover says, “If you are reading this book in English it is probably because of Thomas Macaulay.” The simple but clear acceptance of his famous moment of that teaching, although it undoubtedly criticizes Indian science and philosophy, literature and religion, is the reason why India has such an English power. To use Macaulay’s own words, it formed “a race of people, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, sentiment, manners and intelligence.” That, I might add, is the basis of our success in IT and why we do well when working abroad.

Macaulay also gave us the Indian Penal Code. It has been involved since 1862. And has played an important role in the Indian Civil Service profession. His suggestion was that there should be a preliminary examination. The Indian Administrative Service is a direct descendant. As the subtitle says, Macaulay was a “pioneer of Indian reform”.

Another biography is the study of Arthur Herman whose name is the study of Gandhi and Churchill. I was surprised to find the two together but this book reveals how they influenced each other. In fact, what one man did was bound to anger the other.

The two deceiving features of this book, which are evident from its first page, are the sympathy and understanding the author has for men and its easy-to-stimulate style. Oh yes, there is a third one too. Research. It’s full of amazing details, but I won’t say too much for fear of revealing some amazing surprises and spoiling your enjoyment.

However, this is a big book and to get the most out of it you need to give it time and undivided attention. If you do, the reward will be rich.

The third book is very different. The beginning is a joy for them. It comes with a purple velvet cover and you can spend hours looking at its beautiful photos. It’s the perfect but affordable gift if you’re the one making the gift!

Called Dining with Maharajas, this is a royal recipe book but you don’t have to be an avid cook to want one. And if so, there’s a very handy and collapsible kitchen copy of the recipes so you don’t ruin the book itself with your sloppy experiments.

Anyway, let me give my opinion. The food looks delicious, if a bit heavy, but it is Maharajas and theirs a frog they are obvious, often unpleasant. They try hard to look the part, just in case time and lack of royal attention has made them work! But that adds to the fun.

Now, after this experience, I made a promise. I will try hard to read as many books as I buy or find. It may not be all and probably not a complete book on every subject but as much as I can. After all, I don’t want to find out, five years from now, that some of the best books I’m reading I should have picked up half a decade ago. I can’t make that mistake again!

Karan Thapar is the author of The Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story Opinions expressed are personal

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