We Need a Revolution by Sachin Garg

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We need a revolution by Sachin Garg, is a book that I believe was released in February 2016, however since the book doesn’t have a publishing date I am not so sure. I came across this book while window shopping at a crossword store in the Bangalore airport in India. Let me be honest, I have not heard of this author or book before, but the title got me intrigued. Also, what interested me was that it was apparently a book on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which form one of the most secluded and southern tip of India. I have always been fascinated by the Islands as I like to call them and have them on my bucket list of places to visit in the country. I don’t know much about the islands, but have friends who have worked there as part of their doctorates and so I have heard a lot of stories. Of course, the islands also have a place in our colonial history, when they were primarily used as a place to exile anyone who caused too much trouble, what was called ‘Kaali Paani’.

To give a quick summary of the book, it is based in the Andaman Islands and charts the story of a young couple who come to Islands for a visit and leave with a different world view and empathy for the plight of the aboriginals residing in the Islands. Samar and Navya, are on their last leg of the journey when Samar gets arrested for disorderly conduct. That is where he meets the intriguing and mysterious Shubhrodeep Shyam Chaudhary  and gets exposed to a different world view and gets involved with a British activist, a Muslim lawyer (read the book to understand why his religion is important) and Shubhro himself, in their fight to protect the Jarawa tribes (one of the last, quickly dying, aboriginal tribes in the Islands, now number around 300-400 individuals in total). I won’t go into the details of the book or their struggle as that would spoil it for everyone who wants to read it. The book, in short is about how a revolution is needed for the Jarawas, as was said by a freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh, “you need an explosion to make the deaf hear you” (loosely translated from Hindi). The book attempts to highlight the plight of a section of citizens of the country, a section that most “mainstream population” don’t even know about, forget give equal rights to. Citizens, who are no more than tourist attractions or worse, hurdles in the land grab race.

I discussed this book with a friend who works in the Islands, and she rightly pointed out that the book does not do justice to the Islands or the people. If you want to develop an understanding of the Jarawas or the Islands, this book is not the way to go. I completely agree. While this book is set in the Islands and is focused on the Jarawas, it is definitely an outsider’s perspective. The Islands are this amazing  place, characterised by a unique ecology and way of life. However, the book sadly, fails to capture that. However, in the defence of the writer, I don’t think that the intent of the book was to provide such an insight, and if it was, then he failed splendidly.

The book serves better as a lesson in humanity, in the apathy that has set amongst all of us, especially us ‘civilized’ people and the need to end it now! It’s a story not about the Jarawas, but about five people who decided to do something about the injustice they were witness to. Each came with their own motivations, some because they had lost the purpose to live, some because it was their job, some because they saw a similarity in a past injustice done to them and some simply because they had to be with the one they loved. Each person’s motivation was different, but what kept them together was the simple desire to do something! In that sense, it’s definitely a thought-provoking book, a book that makes you reflect.

However, having said that, I have one major issue with this book, and I seem to have this with most of the works I read, it doesn’t sell the characters to me. The story is interesting and thought-provoking but not gripping! it doesn’t keep me at the edge of my seat. I am known to be an emotional person, and can cry at anything really, and if you manage to invoke my empathy; then beware of the waterworks. However, this book, I didn’t feel anything, not enough anger, not enough outrage, not enough joy, not enough pain and not enough triumph. I had no stake in the characters, I had no personal interest in them and most of the relationships didn’t make sense, simply because the author did not make an attempt to make them! Shubhro is an incredibly interesting character and had my interest peaked in his introduction, but that is where it ended. The book is narrated through another character, and thus does not provide enough insight into any of the other characters.

Overall, I felt one major problem with the story telling and that was that it was not very good story telling! It was more a loose narration of events, devoid of human emotions. Like I said before, this is something I feel is a problem with a lot of the writers today, the books don’t emote enough! Human connect and emotion is what gets people going, and some of the best writers are those who are able to tap into that, J. K. Rowling, J. R.R Tolkien, G. R. R Martin to name a few. Unfortunately this book doesn’t do that.

In my opinion, this book isn’t bad by any means, but it isn’t mind-blowing either, so overall a B!

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