Snakes & Ladders – A journey back home

I had first picked up this book because I felt I had not given a lot of attention to Indian writers but Gita Mehta’s writing style was pleasantly penned. Snakes & Ladders is a collection of essays based on a time period when India had just gained its independence but was still ironically fighting to be free. It was written about a time when India struggled to gain a foot hold and establish itself in the form of its culture, films and folklore we identify it with today for. Never did I once imagine India to be struggling after the British Raj had been defeated; I was naïve to think it must have been a suave ride after the Independence movement and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1947 when the first Prime minister was elected and India was along its merry way to a democratic nation.
The author of this book was born in a time when India was under the British Rule and she lived through the period to see it sweat blood and to the final 1947 glory She highlights her experiences post-independence about the way she felt during the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the Sikh riots; aggressive in her tone she doesn’t shy away from expressing her opinions about the rampant political corruptions of that time involving Rajiv Gandhi and the role he played in the Sikh’s massacre in 1984. Her detailed personal experiences when narrated about reading Archie comics in Kolkata’s libraries as a little girl and discussing the building of shopping malls highlights the pride she takes in her country even as a child. Her personal encounters with various film makers and poets in that time and the discussion of ancient India paints a beautiful picture of a contemporary India that is heartfelt even today.
Born in a family of freedom fighters, the author’s father was an Indian independence activist and the Chief minister of Orissa while her brother is the present Chief Minister of Odhisa (formerly Orissa). Gita Mehta describes India as a land of numerous cultures, races, religions and languages and while Indians come across as exotic to the world it might come as surprise to know that many Indians look at their fellow mates across the states as exotic too. North Indians would find it exciting to visit the land of Kerala and vice versa (I hope).
If like me you’ve always wondered about a journey back home to a time you never knew what your country went through then Snakes and Ladders provides a useful insight into the personal political views of the author with a hint of some socio historic spice which is bound to spark your hidden curiosity for the multihued mosaic that is our India.


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