ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Secret History of Modern India?

Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India by Akshaya Mukul, Noida: Harper Collins India, 2015; pp 539, Rs 799.

Do you remember Professor Devdas Dharamdas Trivedi aka DDT from Mahboob’s film Andaaz? The portly figure in a suit and solar topi who insists on speaking shuddh Hindi and enters the film exclaiming “Paap, ghor paap, mahapaap” is the voice of conservative society who frowns at Nina’s dosti with Dilip (“you cannot play a foreign/vilayati raag on an Indian harmonium”).

Yet menacing as he sounds, in the film Professor DDT remains a figure of comedy, a self-serving and servile hypocrite who demands unlimited hospitality and is a world apart from the film’s glamorous ambience of parties, modern city life, and free interaction between young men and women. But what if Professor DDT took/had taken over the film, banned dance parties and replaced them with satsang and bhajan sessions, quickly married off Nina and Rajan, and turned Rajan and Dilip into pious and industrious young men, devoted to business and cow protection? This is what reading Akshaya Mukul’s book on Hanuman Prasad Poddar and the extraordinary success story of the Gita Press of Gorakhpur feels like.

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