Monday, January 16, 2017

The Sceptical Patriot: Auditing India Facts

Internet is a medium for transmitting information. The problem is that there is no guarantee that it is right information that reaches us. Day by day we are assaulted with loads of data on dozens of subjects and most of them come without substantial proof.

We wisely ignore some of them, like the ones about wives of overturned dictators trying to transfer their ill begotten wealth out of their countries and the ones about Mark Zuckerberg donating one dollar for the cause for every one share or like of a picture. But there are others that appeal to our soft emotions and make us believe them. Finally we end up sharing it and becoming part of the chain.

The Sceptical Patriot is a book written by Sidin Vadukut, Indian blogger, writer of Dork series of satirical novels and journalist, that sets out to evaluate how much truth lies in the kind of forwarded stuff that he has named India Facts. I think there won't be any Indian who hasn't encountered forwarded messages containing list of all things that are supposed to make us proud as Indians. Some examples are the claims that India has never attacked another nation in the last 10000 years, or the claim that it was Indians who invented zero.

The patriots amongst us immediately pat their own back and spread the good words. The sceptics shout aloud that all these are bogus and ignore or delete the message. But Sidin, being the sceptical patriot, took upon himself the task of making the record straight.

When I took to read this book, I was in-fact sceptical about it. Sidin, being a writer of humorous pieces and the task being the inspection of history, I was sure that this is going to be a terrible mish-mash of humour and shallow history. But there was one statement in the introduction that made me feel that my expectations are going for a toss.

"...just when it looks like we have unshakeable proof to buttress some historical argument, new discoveries will come along and make everything before them meaningless."

If he is smart enough to figure out this fact, the uncertainty in finding out what exactly happened in the past, I felt it would be reasonable to give my time to this book. And I wasn't dissappointed. For a book on history that is designed to entertain the reader along with its other goals, The Sceptical Patriot scores.

In ten chapters the author tries to find the truth in as many India Facts. To his credit, he never goes for shortcuts. Most of his missions end in more questions. Some of the claims stand meritorious and some dubious. Most stand in between. Without going for the temptation to proclaim each claim as true or false, Sidin gives them a rating out of 10 according to their truthfulness. I appreciated that element the most in this book.

The Sceptical Patriot is a book that instils in its readers a sense to question the knowledge bequeathed through internet and to gauge its merit instead of blindly choosing to believe or deny it.

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