The Post American World – Book Review – Author Fareed Zakaria

This blog should have been one of my first blogs as the source of inspiration is not the book but the author .But the inertia lasted longer than I expected as fictions had caught my attention lately .

I am not left out with many hours in a day  after my job as a physician and CNN is my constant background companion during my chores at home .On one of these days ,by serendipity , I discovered Fareed Zakaria on Global Public square on  CNN   in 2012 and since then I have not missed out on  a single episode intentionally .

I was simply awestruck by his layman version presentation  of the most complex political issues in Global Public square episodes  . Oblivious of the twitter storms or Facebook comments  his episodes  are anything  but candor , conviction and courage about his world views  .The subjects are truly global . contemporary and well researched

Fareed Zakaria was a bright star since his student days in Yale  and Harvard and is considered one of the best analyst of foreign policy, economics and cultural affairs .

“Global public square” is Emmy nominated and he was  ex editor of  “TIME” .Presently he is columnist at Washington Post and best selling author of “The Post American World ” and “The Future of Freedom” . His last publication was “In Defence of a liberal education “. His books as his episodes are lucid , succinct and purposeful.

The  book we are going to touch upon is “The Post American World  which is  a best seller and was initially published in 2008 . I said touch upon as today the book might seem a bit dated but it is an interesting read as you compare notes in retrospect about the last decade ,its prophecies ,its successes and its failures .The book has many historical anecdotes and reference points which gives an insight about present day affairs .The chapters on India and China  are  an indepth depiction of its then socio political and economic milieu and how these counties are trying to gain back it’s lost glory .

Post American World was published when America was in the midst of a deep economic recession  and the  Unipolar world had  started taking note of the rest of the world including the rising stars , BRICS with China spearheading it .

The Wars in Afghanistan and Iran had left a bad taste in mouth and America still   had an expensive military presence in Middle east  with peace not in sight .Unemployment rate was high in the US and outsourcing was a big woe though it left MNCs with a fair share of profit .Middle and secondary education had gaping holes and higher education was leaving a big dent in the financial future of Americans  .Middle America was the worst hit with  no easy solution in sight .

As per author ,Great Britain was the only historical reference of the past centuries for the US of twentieth century, as far as  economic success story and political supremacy goes .The US with its sheer size ,its strong technological base ,stress on meritocracy and unusual strength in turning abstract theory into practical products [Fareed Zakaria] was always way ahead than its counterparts and had emerged as the uncontested Super power, staunch believer of democratic values with stress on free speech . US was the peacekeeper and moderator who the nations of the world  could rely on .

The book ended on a positive note  in which author was optimistic about this Great nation. As per author, though  US is a worrier and this was the fourth wave of concern since 1945, Zakaria was sure this would pass as American system is flexible , resourceful and resilient and it can correct its course on its way if needed .

And America did emerge from this longest lasting recession .

Author did not touch upon President Obama’s presidency and its after math and we are expectant that there would be another best seller on President Obama and after.

President Obama was elected  during this longest lasting recession and for the next eight years right economic policies were implemented and country did buoy out

But the expectations  of the American people were not met .

And the America that emerged Post Obama  was  almost surreal , unimaginable . Everything that was deplored in the past was becoming the new normal

This was the Post Obama America

America felt that the world has not been fair to it .Alliances, trade deals ,Defence deals  did not mean much to it anymore  .It pulled out of NAFTA .Universal health Care which was so painstakingly put together is being dismantled .Iran deal was unilaterally broken with no rational reasons and allies left in a lurch . Land of immigrants were now hating the immigrants and building a wall to stop them from coming . Fair speech is  now unfair and there is  a new kind of fact called “alternative fact “.People are suffering the “Gun Law” and greed is overpowering the need

America was hit so hard by the recession of 2007 that every thing wrong in the past is right in this post traumatic America  .Moral  bankruptcy is at its peak and  an adversary  country is allowed to  interfere in it’s  elections and may have  funded it’s  elections . Simply unimaginable

Economic recession of the US  is fading away but no one knows what to do with this political and moral  recession !  One does get amnesic when times are good but the next decade would bear the brunt of today’s policies

In his book  ” In Defense of a liberal Education ” he debates the virtues of liberal arts which I was not very convinced to begin with . No doubt technology and skill based education leads to better prospects and quicker results  in life but as we trudge along the trajectory of life ,as mentioned by Zakaria ,we try to find “meaning , fulfillment and happiness “, when  futility of the  transient world looms large on the horizon

World of literature always enticed me from afar but the pull was not strong enough to think about long term goals . I do not know the transition to another career will ever happen or not and I am  till now , pretty much fence sitting, but even the journey this far has been joyous and we know unpredictability is the new norm

Would talk to you all soon

 

 

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Victoria and Abdul -Book review-Shrabani Basu

While reading this book , I had often wondered how this interesting and enigmatic association of a British Monarch and her Indian teacher “Munshi ” had escaped the keen eyes of historians. In Hindi , the word “Munshi ” is more traditionally used for accountants of small businesses but this “Munshi” was definitely much more than to Queen

Much has been written about the times of Raj but this unconventional relationship was partly concealed as systematically the evidences were purged after Queen’s death .The teacher and his family were driven away from their homes .All the correspondences were burnt or confiscated and Munshi’s family was hounded upto India to wipe away any residual documents .It was as if the indulgence that the Queen was allowed in her later years was a matter of great shame to the Monarchy and earlier it was forgotten the better it was. Further, the descendants of Abdul Karim had left the subcontinent after partition of India and had settled in Karachi [Pakistan], which further helped to fade away the memories .Post Indian independence ,many historical buildings such as the tomb of Abdul Karim after his death had also fallen into neglect . Fortunately , as the Queen’s journal were in Urdu [Persian script]and they were left alone by foreign historians ,it helped the author a great deal to analyze this relationship .

This book’s claim to fame was its adaptation into a major motion picture [Stephen Frier’s film by the same name ] seven years after it was written .It was initially written in 2010 by Shrabani Basu ,who after majoring in History from St Stephens College in New Delhi trained as a journalist and later joined the London Office of Ananda Bazar Patrika as their correspondent The book was republished one more time seven years later. She has many other books to her credit such as For King and another country ; Indian Soldiers on western Front ;Spy Princess-Life of Noor Inayat khan .The book ,Victoria and Abdul ,was a toil of five years and travel of three countries .

Queen Victoria , was the Queen of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901 . In 1876 , she adopted the additional title of” Empress Of India .Tall handsome ,24 years old , Abdul Karim was presented to the Queen at her Golden Jubilee celebration with the other Indian servants. Abdul Karim worked as an assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail and his father was a physician of traditional medicine .Though he was supposed to be with the Queen for a year but an incredible relationship happened and lasted more than a decade .

Though Queen was titular head ,but had always taken a keen interest in affairs of her Monarchy .She had strategically arranged the marriages of her children all throughout the Europe and was later known as the “Grandmother Of Europe and always had some kind of political influence in the country . But after the deaths of her husband , Albert, and later her Scottish gillie , John Brown , whose ring she took to her grave, she had an enormous emotional void in her life .None of the trappings of Monarchy or the presence of her big family could fill it .

Just at that point Abdul Karim entered Victoria’s life and he had all the qualities that Queen admired .He was soft spoken , well mannered ,gentle ,good looking ,proud of his heritage, learned and aware of current affairs .When Queen met Karim she was in her geriatric age group but that did not deter the Queen from forging a human relationship which even to the insiders including her own children was of the most bizarre kind .

Victoria had been brought up as an epitome of morality and the relationship was platonic to its core but it was a combination of various relationship in one . She was a mother, well wisher, guide ,employer and he was a companion ,teacher ,adviser to her .

Queen ,though did not travel to India but was always very inquisitive about this colony ,” The Jewel of the Empire “.Soon after her association with Abdul ,his influence on her was complete . Not only did she start learning the language but Indian curries were being cooked and attires were being worn in the household .Interestingly , the journals she kept of her lessons were of profound importance as they played a great role to unearth this beautiful relationship.

As far as Victoria was concerned, he was a part of her household and expected other members to accept Abdul .But the schism was much wider than the Queen imagined . Abdul lasted for almost ten years but it was almost a daily struggle for Queen to legitimize his position in the household as for rest of them, he was just a part of the” Black Brigade”

In the book “White Mughals “[2002] , written by Dalrymple ,we have witnessed that in early 18 th and early 19 th century, 1 in 3 British men in India were married to Indian women but as British supremacy got established, it was expected that the relations should be of ruler and ruled .We have to recall that post 1857, subcontinent had officially declared its War of Independence and though it was overtly quenched , covertly the milieu was most inappropriate for a relationship between a White Monarch and her Brown servant .

From times immemorial , unconventional human relationships had been under persecution .These relationships are perfectly legal but are not allowed to be preserved as some unspoken rules emerge from some corner . Rules of convention , Rules of race , Rules of religion ,Rules of color , Rules of hierarchy and God knows many other unheard of rules But the bonds of these relationships are much stronger and they resurface time and again with their whiff of eternity .