Book Review - The Crooked Timber of New India

Why I Picked This Book?

The title of the book “The Crooked Timber of New India – Essays on a Republic in Crisis” intrigued me and caught my attention. The book is a collection of essays written between 2020 and 2022 and captures contemporary events and government policy decisions. It is a critique of the government and the ideology it is following . When every media outlet vying to be the spokesperson for the government, it is important to read the few authors who don’t toe the government line. I read the forward and picked this book as my next read.

The Book

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” –Immanuel Kant

The quote by the author at the start sets the tone of the book. It tells us when the basic structure of democracy is tampered with, and the premise of governance is based on flawed ideology we can’t achieve anything good. When the government and its supporters are in denial of the reality, we are doomed. The author hopes after reading this book, “people at least won’t be indifferent towards the developments in our polity, economy, and society”. There are twenty-two essays in the book covering contemporary events and policy decisions. Each essay is on a different subject; however, all essays converge on a single theme – the timber is crooked, and we need to understand and acknowledge it to rectify it.

Inside The Book

The book talks about many challenges that we are facing as a country. The book stresses that the core pillars of democracy are compromised by successive governments and more so by the present one. Through his essays, the author broadly touches upon the following topics.

The Ideology
Event Management & Glorification

Mr. Prabhakar like many of us, is astounded by the “eventification” of every other government policy. This, apart from showing the self-obsessed nature of the PM shows that the government has nothing worthwhile to showcase. There are many examples of it in the last ten years; the most absurd was the hype and advertisement around the G-20 presidency. It was laughable

Creating Conflict and Reaping Benefits

Some essays highlight the conflicts that the BJP has created deliberately to divide and consolidate people by stroking religious sentiments. The hijab vs saffron scarf, pitting Netaji Subhash Bose, and Sardar Patel against Nehru, Maligning JNU and civil society and demonizing them. These are all illogical and trivial issues, but they are promoted by the BJP and even the government. The author says this manufacured chaos rob the people of the real issues they are facing, which is detrimental to the nation.

Implementation of Unplanned Laws with No Accountability

Accountability and the government are oxymoron. Mr. Modi takes many (most) decisions at his whims and fancies; the glaring example is demonetization. The author in some of his essays brings this forth. There is an essay about Farm Laws, and how a bill of such importance and impact was rushed through parliament without due discussion.

The audacity and indifferent nature of PM Modi is setting a wrong precedent. He treats the rules and due process as hindrances in decision-making. As a result, most of the policy decisions made by him turned out to be horrible and caused a lot of problems tothe citizens. Despite his constant policy failures, he never took responsibility and the agencies for checks and balances never held him accountable. As per the author, all the anomalies that have crept into our democracy will be difficult to get rid of. It will need much more than a change of government. 

Who Should Read?

Anyone who wants to see things beyond the news that we are fed daily. And as per the author himself, people, “Who are too busy with their not so easy quotidian lives to develote special attention to the unfolding events will, I hope, be less indifferent after reading these essays”.

About The Author

Parakala Prabhakar studied at JNU and the London School of Economics. He was the Communications Adviser to the Government of Andhra Pradesh between 2014 and 2018 and held a Cabinet rank. Currently the MD of Right FOLIO, a knowledge enterprise based in Hyderabad. He is also a widely read columnist on current affairs and has a popular YouTube channel, ‘Midweek Matters’, where he discusses issues related to India’s politics, economy, and contemporary society

The Verdict

A must-read for everyone who wants to understand what is happening around us. This book captures the events affecting our society and democracy and how they affect us. It documents the present times critically when most of the media is happy being the spokesperson of the government. The book bring forth the flaws in our government and warn us of the danger ahead. I can’t stress enough how important this book is.

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