Have you ever been into an argument when you wished – I wish I can prove why you are so wrong? Have you ever heard or read something that you instinctively knew to be incorrect yet you were unable to explain it how? You know that the world is not what it ought to be, but you do not know how to address it in an informed manner. You are frequently getting disillusioned by the quality of debate on television and are looking for avenues which can provide meaningful information.
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Are you interested in human rights, good governance, environmentalism, equality for all, gender issues, economics, society and culture and feel the need to be more educated and have meaningful constructive conversations with like minded people? There is an option now, namely a meetup called Bangalore Politically Inspired Book club (BPIBC).
At a BPIBC meetup, we read and discuss one book a month. Books are chosen democratically through an online poll. The two top-rated books from each poll become the books for next two meetups. Book suggestions mostly come from members. Everyone is required to recommend a book when he or she joins the group.
The idea of choosing books democratically is critical to ensure that personal bias does not color our reading selections. We do invest some effort to ensure that we read on different subjects, different thinkers and also radical writing so as to understand their position. For example, this month, we read – Bad Samaritans: The myth of Free Trade and the secret history behind Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang, a book known to be radically opposed to the free market theory – it was an interesting read. There is some conscious effort to keep a balance between writings on general issues and writings focusing on Indian issues.
20% reading of a book mandatory
About 20% of the reading is mandatory for one to attend the book discussion, although a few do ignore this and just stop by to see what is this all about. For some, the idea of a book club is a novel one and for this to be a politically themed one is bizarre.
Each meetup has been interesting in its own way. Listening to others talk about the same material but from a different perspective is a lesson. People from different professions have attended this meetup, most of them young, but everyone shares the curiosity to be informed. Our discussions may be fiery but are always civilized. Everybody listens while one talks and people take turns in putting forth their points.
As people blend in their personal experiences with the material, it sometimes completely changes your understanding. Few months ago, we were discussing Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night, his memoir on life in Kashmir during 90’s and one of the attendee was a Kashmiri who shared few of her own experiences while growing up. While Peer’s narration was quite real, listening to her added another layer of authenticity. While discussing Ramchandra Guha’s India After Gandhi, one of Guha’s friends joined the discussion and offered insights about the writing that we were not aware of.
How did it all begin?
The idea of starting such a book club came when I moved back to India from US. In Bay area, I was an active member of a similar book club. After moving back, I tried to look for such avenues but could not find any. Thus, I started BPIBC hoping to find a community. Apart from meeting and discussing with many different people, the biggest achievement has been reading the kind of books that we have read.
We read Small is Beautiful by E F Schumaker and followed it up by Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson; it was amazing to look at similar constructs first from bottom-up and then from top-down. Our book reading list includes The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel.
We will be reading How much should a person consume by Ramachandra Guha in December, followed by Daniel Yergin’s The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World in January. If you are interested in these topics, please come and join us.
Out meetup group – http://www.meetup.com/Bangalore-Politically-Inspired
Link to our facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/413264015379163/