Freedom at Midnight : recollections of a really epic experience.
An excellent example of how reading can be a life-changing experience.
Very rarely comes a defining moment that changes history to the extent of being un-recognizable and very rarely comes a book that changes your life, perceptions and everything that you presumed to be true once and for all. Independence of India was the defining moment in modern India and this book by the author duo Dominique Lappierre and Larry Collins on the before and after-math of the same is the defining book in my life.
Honestly speaking, not even the most lauding words of mine can do justice to this beautiful, poignant and soul-stirring historical documentary cum novel in which we glide through the charming yet terrifying history of our own nation during the period of 1939-49, stupefied, terrorized and wide-eyed in awe and chill, as the author duo take us on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of ride that is bound to change our very perceptions of history, beliefs and ideologies regarding the very country and society that we inhabit.
Frankly, never has a single book amazed and intrigued me so much, while being so educative and informative.
The most astounding achievement of this book is that it rips out the aura of myths that have agglomerated around our political figures associated with the freedom movement, and humanizes each and every one of them, while being totally neutral, and being absolutely honest with the facts.
Every Indian has grown up on a staple of myths and legends associated with our freedom fighters. These fables have a tendency to sweep history in very broad strokes, ignoring much and instead forcing us into believing generalised facts such as those about all Britishers/foreigners being diabolic, all freedom fighters being pious to the hilt and many others. Well, be rest assured that this book will end up ripping out each of those notions and burning them to cinders.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is its characterization of Mahatma Gandhi, so real yet surreal at times. It shows you in clear light, the real essence of being the father of a nation. It shows you what it meant to be one M.K.Gandhi. You are bound to bow in humility and fall in love with this mahatma, whether you have read good or bad or nothing about him before.
The other facets of the Indian independence story like the Kashmir problem and the issue of princely states have also been dealt in a very detailed manner too and are wonderful read on their own accord themselves.
There is also a very horrifying and realistic account of the tragedy of partition and its bloody aftermath. Through this piece, the author-duo have delved into some of the darker sides of the prominent figures of that era and the whole populace as a whole. This portion is the most gut-wrenching one and you are left to wonder in amazement at the sheer magnitude of craziness and horror of the whole episode. One gets to know why this is the one deep blemish that has stained the minds of every subsequent generation on the both sides of the border.
This book is recommended for anyone interested in knowing our freedom fighters, freedom movement, the Raj, the Maharajas and the Mahatma very substantially, if not wholly or in full measure.
Above all, this is recommended for every Indian who wants a tryst with the quandary that is INDIA.
[ Lastly, I am sorry if I ended up writing a eulogy instead of an honest critical review, but such is the place of this book in my life, that it is almost impossible for me to view it in a critical way. ]