Sainath’s book: Everybody loves a good drought

Excerpts of reviews of Sainath’s book :

“A devastating new book…on a huge section of Indian society….Its author has criss-crossed the country, living in the poorest villages and riding the trains with out-of-work migrants, to compile a dossier of deprivation and neglect…”, The Guardian, UK

“An extraordinary achievement…a fascinating, worrying and at times amusing book…He has avoided the sensational — the spectacular natural disasters or the outbreaks of plague — and concentrated instead on building up a detailed picture of how people live.” Patrick French, The Times, London

“Sainath has the skepticism of an I.F. Stone, the stamina of a Khariar bull, the courage of a Tom Paine. The book provides compelling substance. Many of the stories defy belief, but they are carefully documented…a journalist destined to gain world stature.”, Barrie Zwicker, Sources, Canada

“A brilliant piece of reporting which captures both the bleakness and the spirit of rural India in the 1990s. It rates comparison with Engels’ Condition of the English Working Class (1845)…but Sainath writes better. He has a sense of humour…his sentences are as sleek as arrows…He’s a scholar as well as a journalist… (Yet) the existence (of this book)…also highlights one of India’s glories, the ability to produce and tolerate self-examination and criticism. In what other country in Asia could such a book have been produced? Japan perhaps. But surely nowhere else. Robin Jefrey, The Australian (Review of Books)

“Establishes Sainath as one of the finest Indian journalists of his generation…This is journalism of a high order; pointed, well-researched, critical, stirring, alive with passion and thought. It deserves the widest readership.” Sunil Khilnani, Independent

“Extraordinary — investigative journalism at its best.” Times Literary Supplement

“A beautifully judged account, bristling with vigorous humanity…an invaluable social document…he has produced a work of great purpose and universal clout.” Simon Garfield, Mail on Sunday

“He set off on a journey of 50,000 miles around the subcontinent, to inspect poverty at close quarters in just about every corner of the land, and after four years, felt ready to write. Everybody Loves A Good Drought is the noble result.” Geoffrey Moorhouse, Daily Telegraph

“A best selling book…that has reawakened hundreds of well-off Indians to the struggle millions of their countrymen endure each day just to survive…As India prepares to celebrate its 50th year of independence from Britain, the book’s stark prose is a sobering reminder that poverty is still the country’s biggest problem…tribal groups torn out of their ways of life…a dam unfinished after 20 years, and schoolrooms whose only occupants are village goats — these are facets of their nation that few urban Indians see…” Clarence Fernandez, Reuters

While the author’s original audience was Indian, this book transcends national borders, presenting characters, lives and stories of interest to anyone who follows community development and politics…a fascinating look into the lives of some of the world’s poorest citizens…few journalists commit themselves to a project as this author has done.” Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun

“A great story of the real India…this book ought to be translated and published in Sweden. Readers need such texts in order to understand the world, and so be able to change it!” Jan Myrdal, Folket I Bild / Kulturfont, Sweden

“Anyone who wants to understand the untold side of the Asian economic miracle should read Sainath’s book, Everybody Loves A Good Drought…” Satya Das, Edmonton Journal

“Nobody should evaluate the 50 years of Indian independence without reading this book…work of exceptional quality…a textbook for every journalist…” Juha Rekola, Kumppani (Finland)

“Here’s a book I highly recommend…(stories) of man-made drought and of disaster relief that goes not to the poor but the rich…of deforestation not by native peoples but by private timber companies…of devastating World Bank projects that uproot villagers and turn them into ‘development refugees.” Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive (USA)

“…the conscience of the nation…a magnificent exposure…one of the most powerful indictments of the system that must make every Indian feel ashamed..(yet) reading this book, one wonders at the amazing fortitude of our people… This reporter extraordinary…writes as an eye-witness and lets the person and situation speak instead of pontificating himself…a sharply etched portrait of a vital section of our society…a stirring call for national recovery bereft of the curse of stark impoverishment.” Nikhil Chakravartty, The Times of India

The stories in this book have insight. On the one hand, they they reflect the desolate picture of the bureaucracy, corruption, exploitation and extremely unjust behaviour of the state. On the other hand, the book reflects the resistance and pride of the people. This remarkable book has been a bestseller in India’s metropolitan bookshops. It should be widely read in Finland, too. Tapio Tamminen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland

“Brilliant dispatches from India’s poorest districts… Stories of unusual intensity and force, (with) an almost parable-like quality. What distinguishes them above all is the quality of narration, humane, unsentimental, finding through the abject lives of the poorest the ostensibly larger issues that confront us. Sainath’s book can’t be praised enough. Every Indian should buy a copy.” Tarun J. Tejpal, Outlook

“A superb work of grassroots reporting on real people, their relations with one another and with the privileged and the powerful… of flesh and blood human beings, the wretched of the Indian earth… A picture of poverty that is both simple in its very readable style and complex in depicting its relationship to social structures, the state, means of production, and control over natural resources…descriptions that are often touching, (yet) his style is plain, direct, deadpan. This excellent book deserves to be read in every college, every major language, by every conscientious citizen, bureaucrat, economist and policymaker. And yes, by every journalist.” Praful Bidwai, Frontline

“A damning indictment of our glorious history of development, in particular of the new economic policy. All the excitement about the dramatic break with our ‘socialistic past’ …is shattered once we enter the field…stories of the more crucial processes that cause deprivation… of trade and usury; of the decay of traditional irrigation systems, of the tying down of land, labour and produce to the trader-moneylender combine; of deforestation; of displacement…there is no denying Sainath’s ability to get under the skin, to force us to confront our inanities, and sometimes even face up to the lies we speak and live.” Harsh Sethi, Seminar

“No discussion on where India stands fifty years after independence will be complete without a reference to P. Sainath’s Everybody Loves A Good Drought….vital information and insights which planners, economists, NGOs, politicians and journalists can ignore only at the risk of losing their sense of perspective…there are several stories in this book which read as if they are adaptations of Kafka: stories of drought amidst plenty of rainfall, of current fads overriding common sense, of bureaucratic bungling…With this book, Sainath has expanded the scope of journalism.” Dileep Padgaonkar, Biblio

“One of India’s finest journalists…Sainath has succeeded in single-handedly turning the intellectual tide. He has lifted the poor from the footnote to the page and made them a significant part… of the very discourse of the Indian republic….a model for other aspiring journalists seeking to go beyond the daily trivia…stories more poignant than any research document can ever hope to be…Sainath’s characters become so alive that they start asking uncomfortable questions to the reader…” Arvind N. Das, The Pioneer

“Perhaps truth is not only stranger than fiction, it’s also the best literature. Each newstory here is a first-hand, first-person account. Sharply satirical and bristling with black humour, the stories explore what is unique and complex in each situation and character…a quality of vitality. Using journalistic variations of Brechtian alienation, he packs a punch in each paragraph, jerking the reader out of ‘useless compassion’….He also does another difficult thing: he refrains from manipulating his facts for the sake of good copy. You never get the feeling that he is prying into people’s lives for the sake of good copy…”Vasantha Surya, Indian Review of Books

“Essential reading…written with hope as well as humour…as gripping and easy a read as thriller. You will probably stay up late at night reading this book. School kids would probably find this book easier to read than many of their textbooks.”Aparna Talaulicar, Sunday

“Illuminates a grim subject with wit, warmth and clarity….no dreary statistics, no breast-beating, nor soft focus pretty pictures of distress…a powerful account of a difficult subject…achieves a commendable balance between two primary modes of viewing the poor: either as hapless victims or as heroes… Besides being intelligent and well informed, the book is outstandingly well written.” Amita Baviskar, The India Magazine

“Some of the stories read at times like an update of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath…an epic journey across the poorest areas…areas ravaged not so much by nature but by inhuman social relationships…Sainath’s writing is lively, irreverent, laconic, reader-friendly and unfailingly alive to the paradoxes and absurdities of the situations he describes…a book no thinking person in India can afford to ignore. It takes us relentlessly into the issues…with a power and passion impossible to ignore…” Susan Ram, Book Talk (ASIANET TV)

“A journalist who writes with an elegance that is unique in the Fourth Estate…he writes with deliberate understatement, muted irony and a delicate wit to describe the most horrendous of situations….his stories are outstanding examples of a writer observing the detail, allowing his subjects to speak and skirting the breast-beating of those remnants of the 1960s idealists now ensconced in the establishment, pontificating with paralysing dullness on the edit pages of English language dailies…”Ashok Upadhyay, Business India

“Sainath, excellent journalist that he is, knows how to hold a reader’s attention…Most readers will be astonished to meet his ‘characters’…Perhaps the litmus test of any such book is the inspiration it provides others in the field. Even while appearing as dispatches, (these stories) prompted local and national journalists to follow the same leads. The book will certainly be used as a primer for journalism courses throughout the country. But it will also trigger off enquiry among academics and activists alike…”Darryl D’Monte, Newstime

“Straightforward reports remarkable for their restrained narrative. Sainath’s is a laconic style; not for him the exaggerated phrase or purple prose that characterises the periodic reports on drought and disaster from the hinterland…Everybody Loves A Good Drought is a searing indictment of inept policies, bureaucratic callousness and political indifference… It’s a pity that few administrators take the trouble of travelling to the remote areas Sainath has been in…A compulsory reading of this book should offer (them) some desperately needed insight.” Latha Jishnu, BusinessWorld

“A book that takes you right into the lives of the marginalised millions…incisive analysis and solid statistics…an eye-witness account of the sobering reality of rural India. The book awakens you to exploitative networks…to the denial of basic resources to the poor, the incredible level of land grab and even more incredible level of displacement of human beings”Radha Rajadhyaksha, The Sunday Times of India

“A milestone in journalism, developmental or otherwise… Sainath manages to combine an exceptional understanding of developmental economics with top-drawer reportage, painstaking research… and first-rate story telling skills. This book is unique… pathbreaking…remarkable…unlike many of his peers, Sainath does not look for legitimisation of his work by Western donor agencies. In fact he is unsparingly opposed to the so-called development industry spawned by the West.” Sanjay Kapoor, Blitz

“This book attacks the very basis on which (present) media systems are founded….it is (also) heartening that someone has torn off the virtuous halo around the NGOs….Sainath shows how only a few NGOs can genuinely claim to stand outside the establishment.” Iqbal Masud, Mid-Day

“Everybody Loves A Good Drought is probably the most talked about book in India today. If its isn’t, it should be…a few factors distinguish this book from many others…one is the author’s obsession with people rather than with institutions or organisations…another is his direct approach to the problem. The story is told without any frills and the writer comes to the point quickly within the space of a thousand words…there are plenty of facts but they are meant to inform, not to impress…no wonder Sainath has bagged 13 awards. He deserves every one of them.” M.V.Kamath, Sun Times

“A remarkable book…what makes it a tour de force is the living experience of the author on the issues and people he writes on. Yet, it is not a romantic view of the meek and wretched of the earth…Everybody Loves A Good Drought should be compulsory reading in all institutes training (government) officials on the threshold of their career. Sudhansu Mohanty, The Statesman

“Sound political analysis and great writing at the same time…great conviction and clarity…stories that have a vibrancy and colour capturing the rhythms of everyday life even as they expose exploitation and abject poverty…compulsory reading for concerned persons.” Rahul Srivastava, Humanscape

“The book of the year…Penguin has a real winner in its stable… meticulous detail and searing sincerity…an original and profoundly disturbing work for anybody seriously interested in the state of the nation.” The Afternoon Despatch & Courier

“Compelling reading…arguably the most serious journalistic work on the issue…captures deprivation, exploitation, drought and, through it all, the strange resilience and strategies of the poor with stark realism.” Seema Kamdar, The Statesman Sunday Magazine

“Refreshingly bereft of the stock-in-trade phrases of those in the business of analysing poverty…the book’s triumph lies in its appeal not being pre-determined by ideological moorings…simplicity complements Sainath’s journalistic rigour. Add to that dollops of indiscriminating irreverence. This writer isn’t in the business of saluting holy cows….(the book has) a naive faith….(but) exemplary research, a fine sensibility, and much irony…an unquestionably fine book….” Shefali Mishra, The Indian Express

“The contents of this book become the first trench in the battle for bringing about a fundamental change in the nature of state and society…Sainath’s efforts should reach all languages, not only in this country but in other countries also…a call to patriotic duty in an era of genocidal neoliberalism.” Amarjeet Singh Sirohi, AP Times

“A simple narrative style laced with a bleak humour…impersonal statistics become flesh and blood…throughout the book, however, is a real optimism. Human resilience makes itself constantly felt, for instance in the moving descriptions of tribal parents educating their children. These rare snapshots tell us hope springs in the unlikeliest places.”, Gentleman

“Sainath has produced an eye-opener…Many of his stories are leads for follow up reporting, research and, of course, action. This is especially necessary at a time when the word ‘poor’ has become a four-letter word in the development parlance in these times of liberalisation.”, Down To Earth

“Sainath’s stories provide many … answers without sounding melodramatic. There is so much drama in the real life that he explores, that Sainath had no need to produce any effect by use of oft repeated ‘journalistic tools’ or similar devices….his style is to consistently probe the process…not just) to report the happenings.”, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, The Hindustan Times

“The book takes us to an India which we are largely either unaware of or whose existence we are unwilling to believe. But Sainath leads us to it so pesuasively and ruthlessly that we have no option but to go, and later marvel at his skill…Sainath lays bare the inhumanity of our system.”, Rajesh Singh, The Navhind Times

“Well researched, written in a lucid, engaging style marked by irony and wry humour. Boring statistics come alive through sheer human interest stories…Effortlessly he punctures our belief that our government actually tackles poverty…” Meenakshi Shedde. Sunday Mid-Day