(Posted here from Goodreads. Just in case. Although it seems more likely that the review will stay on Goodreads and vanish from here than vice versa. For posterity, perhaps. I also need to get much better at writing book reviews. I’m working on it!)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve read Sidin Vadukut’s Dork books and his column in Mint, the newspaper. I don’t think he writes there and more or less jokes around. Those are fun to read. With The Sceptical Patriot, I think Sidin’s writing reaches the narrative style that shines through in some of his blog posts. The versatility of that narration has never ceased to amaze me.
I think this book of myth busting comes around at the right time. After a decade where India was lauded for many things – its achievements, people are slowly sobering up to the fact that India is just another country with its share of issues and strengths. It is during the previous decade that people suddenly started sharing wild assertions of the greatness of India. Some true. Some false.
Sidin does a good job of picking up a few of these assertions and applying rational thinking, researching on the Internet and reading from libraries (I love this!) and illustrating how one could apply the same technique to other facts that one reads everyday on Facebook and Whatsapp (notice how this is absent on Twitter?) if only one spent a little time. Skepticism is what India needs a little more of.
I don’t think Sidin was trying to or reaches the superb awesomeness of Mythbusters or Phil Plait or even Bill Bryson. I hope he doesn’t. I wish he’d go off a bit and explore more genres and doesn’t stick to one. I like this wandering interest that he shows in his work.
My favourite quote from the book?
(It is truly remarkable how NASA has become the ‘India fact’certifying agency of choice.)
This was said in reference to a 1985 paper written by a Rick Briggs who considered Sanskrit to be one of the few languages worth considering for use in computer programming. He was working with a company that worked as a contractor with NASA. This probably was the start of Indians looking at NASA for bolstering various ‘India facts’.