An everyman flair makes history most authentic and intensely gripping. Nothing captures more gnawingly the acute scarcity in the wake of two successive wars—with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965—than the lengthening lines outside ration shops. Fifty Year Road is Bhaskar Roy’s look-back moment, but more crucially, it’s the less-focused account of India that often gets overlooked by historiographers.
The Naxalbari uprising, in perspective, was the first and fiercest far-left challenge to the Indian state, born out of deep disillusion of the republic’s first generation with the robust dream come crashing. Each of the subsequent upheavals has had untold sides too: the Bangladesh Liberation War, the 1974 rail strike, the Emergency, Indira assassination, Rajiv Gandhi years, economic reforms, Ayodhya demolition, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh’s stewardship of the UPA, and Narendra Modi’s inexorable ride to power.
Because it’s an ordinary man’s memoir, the narrative gets intertwined with the Indian chronicle. The big and powerful amplify their lives and achievements; a journalist captures the tone and tension of his times. The book pulsates with the author’s emotions and the nation’s pain and possibility as well.