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River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India's Future Hardcover – December 19, 2017
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"Victor is one of those rare foreign journalists who not only likes and understands India but, in addition, has the capacity to see its faults as well as impartially assess the efforts it's making to correct them. This means his coverage of India is always informed and thought-provoking. Even when sympathetic he's never biased. I, therefore, implicitly trust his views and I have always learnt a lot from his writing."--Karan Thapar, journalist, television commentator and interviewer
"To try and fathom the wonders and follies of India through a river is grand ambitionand Victor Mallet pulls it off!"--Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and The Difficulty of Being Good
"An extraordinary and fascinating combination of history, geography, environment, politics, religion, and much more. Written with affection for and understanding of a country of special importance. This is a river of unsurpassed significance on the world stage, whose flow and life is traced from the Himalayas to the Sunderbans and the Bay of Bengal. Not just the story of an often difficult past but also of hope for a possible healthy and attractive future."--Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at LSE
About the Author
Victor Mallet is a journalist and author who has reported for three decades from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, first for Reuters and then for the Financial Times. From 2012 to 2016 he was based in New Delhi as the FT's South Asia Bureau Chief, and is currently in Hong Kong as Asia News Editor. His highly praised book on the south-east Asian industrial revolution and the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, The Trouble with Tigers (HarperCollins), was first published in 1999. He twice won the Society of Publishers in Asia award for opinion writing. In India, he was awarded the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism as a foreign correspondent for a 2012 feature about the rise of Narendra Modi.
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- many if not most Indians may agree with this observation, by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, remarking on India's numerous, maddening contradictions .
There is very little in Victor Mallet's book on the Ganges that will surprise even the casual observer of Indian life - we talk big 'Clean India' etc, 'Modi-ji' and his RSS buddies pass laws to purify India's culture for Hindus, while all along the most iconic natural symbol of India's culture, from Vedic times, the Ganga river is in substantial parts nothing more than a stream of feces, corpses and leather tannery pollution.
As old as India, Indians talk a lot, wring their hands, praise Hindu Vedas, the God Shiva and Vishnu, but blame someone something else for the sewer running by their feet.
why praise a book that only tells you what you already know!? -
the solutions are also well known - eliminate open defecation, treat the sewage (imagine that!), dont let tanneries dump chromium directly into the river water.
But Mallet provides interesting insights - Why do people still believe, as Mark Twain apparently observed, that drinking Gangajal is self purifying, even as corpses float by in sewage flowing into the holy river?
How does the growth of 'superbugs' - antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, exchanging genes in high speed evolution, not yet kill millions in India and around the world?
apparently the secret could be in the bacteriophages - these are like viruses, which thrive in the sewage attack and live on the superbug bacteria - this titanic struggle of Nature keeps the humans alive in its midst.
it is small miracles like this that keep life going on in India, can we count on it for ever?
Used to be that we thought that Indian govt, the local authorities just did not have the resources, but the shocking, perhaps not shocking, truth is that funding is there, the grand public announcements are made, great gestures are proposed, but then nothing happens, the sh it still flows on!
the hope I suppose is that someone somewhere, among India's cricketers, Bollywood stars, or even ordinary people will care enough to do what is already known as solution.
Mallet describes how the Ganga and its tributaries - whether in Uttarkhand, UP, Nepal, Bihar or West Bengal - being choked to death by diversion, plastic, sewage, effluent and pretty much every form of abuse one could heap on them. Nothing is more central to the identity and survival of India than our rivers. Thanks, Victor - for a moving work of love and for reminding us again that when the catastrophic end arrives, it will be because we didn't speak up when it counted.
Victor Mallet has written the book very well. I would say that his treatment has been exceptional. He dives into side topics like the treatment of the river, in Hindi movies. He talks of the mythology. This does give the reader a more rounded view of the river, and this is the aspect of the river of life that he is talking about.
It also helps to alleviate the depression we feel when we read about the pollution, the callousness of the Indian officials, and the way in which many people deceive themselves with a religious view
The book is approachable, despite the huge amount of research that has been done. It is a book that should be read by many Indians.
Top international reviews
The author however thinks otherwise and I wholeheartedly agree that we need to act and implement the solutions to resurrect this river or else be prepared for disastrous consequences for more than 500 million people across north and east India.