Of Dreams and Demons: A Memoir of Modern India

Patwant Singh, Author, Philip Turner, Editor Kodansha America $14 (206p) ISBN 978-1-56836-086-7
Singh's unique account of India's six-decade-long transformation from British colony to the world's largest democracy alternates vividly painted personal memoir with penetrating analysis of that nation's deeply complicated political, cultural and religious life. A well-known Indian writer and essayist and founder of India's first magazine on design, art and architecture, Singh has moved in India's artistic, political and intellectual inner circles since the 1950s. His passion for architecture and city planning brings an odd but intriguing mixture of aesthetic values and social activism to his political perspective, such as when he parallels the decline of India's cities- through reckless development and attendant overpopulation, disease and poverty-with the decline of the country as a whole. He traces the responsibility to a post-partition political apparatus he believes to be endemically corrupt, supplementing his concise analysis with personal experiences of Nehru's government; the momentous rise, corruption and assassination of Indira Gandhi (who sought Singh's political counsel on several occasions); and the increase in religious fundamentalism (Singh's own religion, Sikhism, occupies a precarious position in a country violently rift between Hindu and Muslim). He is refreshingly candid about his swings between political idealism and pessimism. But it is his emotional rendering of Delhi's tragic disintegration-from the gracious, elegant city of Singh's childhood in the 1930s to the urban nightmare it is today-that perhaps makes the deepest impression. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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