Title: Eternally Talented India – 108 Facts
Year of Publication: January 2008
Publisher: Vivekananda Life Skills Academy, Secunderabad
Contact Info: J. Chandra Sekhar, Coordinator, Vivekananda Life Skills Academy, Plot No.1, Venkat Ram Nagar Colony, Transport Road, Kharkhana, Secunderabad – 500 009, Tel: 040 -27892105, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: http://www.viswadham.org
Parents and Teachers in India face a harrowing paradox – though the Indian nation is the proud repository of the most ancient cultural heritage of mankind, the education system does very little to make young India appreciate this fact. Hence, we grow up with a confused notion of what it means to be an Indian or even worse, internalize the hidden antipathy towards our cultural roots that the education system injects into its ‘victims’.
Several attempts have been made, some of them scholarly and meticulous in detail, to fill this vacuum to popularise the cultural heritage of India. The book under review is a similar effort. But it is an extraordinary compilation – attractive in format and style, intelligent in classification of facts and faithful to the Indian spirit in details. The book is also reasonably priced notwitstanding the glossy paper and multicolour printing.
The book is divided into 18 sections, each highlighting a different facet of our heritage – science, technology, culture, spirituality, education governance and sports etc. As the title suggests, there are a total of 108 features covered in the book; in fact, the opening feature is about the significance of the number 108 in Indian Culture and why the editorial team chose 108 facts for the book: “As 108 reveals to us the connection between the Creation and the Creator, our effort of compiling 108 truths about Indian greatness into one book is also by Divine ordination and is in tune with cosmic rhythm.”
It is not only in tune with the Cosmic rhythm but also in line with dream of our own Swami Vivekananda who declared: “So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life. It is out of this past that the future has to be moulded; this past will become the future. The more, therefore, the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor to his nation…”
So, in that sense we can say that the Vivekananda Life Skills Academy has become through this noble effort, the greatest benefactor to the Indian nation.
Coming from a scientific background himself and having had first hand experience in teaching Indian Culture and Heritage to students for the past four years, this reviewer could not help making a critical evaluation of the accuracy of the details presented in the book. There are many who go completely overboard in their zeal to highlight the ancient glories of India and thus compromise their own credibility by sacrificing scientific and academic rigour in favour of popular myths about our cultural heritage. Also, the younger generation today is very intelligent and well read in these matters and does not accept such facts without critical examination. So, the educators must be careful to scientifically validate and peer review the facts to be presented to the students.
Consider for example, fact no. 84 on p.320 of the book – “History’s First Atomic Explosion at Harappa.” This wild conjecture about Harappan civilization having been flattened by a nuclear explosion is a preposterous hoax, to put it mildly. It was set off by a spurious writer called Graham Hancock who claimed without any supporting evidence that skeletons found in excavations at Harappa were highly radioactive! Well, there is absolutely no scientific basis to this theory and the editorial team could have avoided including such controversial facts in the otherwise inspiring compilation.
In the introduction to the book, the editorial team does acknowledge its limitations by declaring that “Please note that this is not a scholastic work of research and erudition. We tried to project the various achievements of India from a layman’s point of view, mostly keeping the youth in view.”
However, this does not exempt the editors from the consequences of endorsing such unscientific theories by including them in the compilation. The editors will do well to submit the work to a team of sympathetic but unbiased scholars for an objective critical review before the next edition is published.
We hope that once these details are taken care of, the successive editions of this book will become immensely popular and serve as a ready reference for all young Indians in search of their cultural roots.
(This review was originally published in The Vedanta Kesari, May 2008)