This morning I watched Rajdeep Sardesai interview Ramchandra Guha, a historian who has recently published The Makers of Modern India. Sardesai explores why the author has chosen to include some personalities and exclude others. Amongst the ones that he has excluded, Sardesai raised an eye brow at Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel and Indira Gandhi. Fair point raised, I thought. To all those Guha had one reason to give:
Their actions made a great impact on the history for which I have great respect for them. I have excluded them because they are primarily doers rather than original thinkers.
I find that troubling in many ways. First of all, if the book is titled Makers of Modern India then surely it should be all the people who have had ‘shaped’ the country by thought or action or both. Secondly, isn’t doing just as important as thinking? A lot (including thinking) goes into getting done something you have or someone else has thought of. In an interview with livemint he says:
I chose people who were active in politics and social reform, but at the same time left behind a significant corpus of writing. That is to say, those who were both thinkers and doers.
I suppose as a historian he has to depend on some source of information to write the book but is it fair to limit yourself to just writing? There many other forms of information that could be used to form these judgements: Speeches, personal contacts, media. And btw, didn’t Indira Gandhi leave a good corpus of writing?
I haven’t read the book yet but just listening to the interview, it seemed a bit unfair to me.