2010-07-20

Book Review: "Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya" by V. S. Narayana Rao

(CC-BY-NC-SA Das U-Blog by Prashanth)
This is actually a relative's book; this relative has let me borrow the book for the time being.
I must confess that I haven't read the entire book. But there's a reason for this.
With parents from Karnataka, I am of course proud of Sir M. Visvesvaraya's contributions to the industrialization of India. I am of course amazed by his physical and mental agility even through his 90s.
Yet, I am pained when I read this book. As a work written by an author and journalist, no less (as opposed to an engineer or contemporary with questionable English writing skills), this is one of the worst biographies I have ever written (which should be taken with a grain of salt, as I haven't read too many biographies).
For one, the writing style is way too choppy. The author keeps jumping from Visvesvaraya's life to some background about one of Visvesvaraya's work sites without any transition at all.
More importantly than that, though, is that it portrays Visvesvaraya like a saint. It talks about how morally pure he was and how he always won somehow or the other in the face of adversity (and if Visvesvaraya loses in some dispute, the author spins it to make it look like it was Visvesvaraya's gain and the adversary's loss). While it may be true that Visvesvaraya was as morally pure and principled as described in the book, I am immediately suspicious of a book that doesn't even attempt to offer any kind of criticism. Even at the end (which I have read), the book is almost apologetic that Visvesvaraya had to die after living up to the ripe old age of 102 (and even here, the book is inconsistent with itself, because his given lifespan doesn't correspond to the difference between his birth and death dates).
If you come upon this book, please save yourself the trouble of reading it. It's not worth reading at all.

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