A Rainbow in the Night - Book Review

9:09 PM Shanky 2 Comments

Even as a kid, my fascination towards the big cats was unexplainable. I have no clue why, but I think it might be due to the character of Bhagira in Jungle book. As I grew up, I was fascinated by the countries which had these big cats in large numbers. That and reading about Gandhiji's ashram in SA and colonization of African countries increased my fascination and a sense of brotherhood towards African nations. I think they will be able to understand the Indian way of life better because they have suffered the same difficulties that we Indians have suffered. This fascination and the sense of brotherhood drove me towards buying "A Rainbow in the Night: Mandela and the tumultuous birth of South Africa" at the Mumbai airport when I was waiting for my Kolkata flight almost 5 months back! 

Some books/authors try to analyze a situation from what they see now and try to behave like they are the messengers of god - giving out solutions and how the problems can be resolved. Most of the self help books fall into this category and I try to avoid them. Some books look deeper into the situation try to analyze what was the starting point, take a macro view and then drill deep into the current state of affairs. I love such books and in fact that is how even I think sometimes. Asking why is a disease that I have developed over the years and I am truly happy to have contracted it. Dominique Lapierre hits the bulls eye in this book with his approach to recording the notorious events that marked some of the dark times in South African history. The narrative is a mixture of story telling and reality TV styles. In story telling he transports you to an era where the Voortrekkers first embarked on a historic trek across Africa to find the promised land for their race. The reality TV comes into play when he describes the real life stories of some of the unsung heroes of the apartheid period. 

Success of any major movement has three very essential ingredients - A designated leader, non-designated leaders and supporters. By supporters I mean sympathisers from the other side of the table who see the rationale behind the movement. Take independence movement in India - M.K. Gandhi was the designated leader, Subramaniam Bharathiyar, The trio of Lal, Bal, Pal and many others were the non-designated leaders and there were many sympathisers from the British side who helped as well. Identifying all of these group gives you a clearer picture and is the least that humanity can do to pay respect to the movement as whole! M.K. Gandhi might be the father of the nation but without the other two ingredients he might have just been another brick in the wall! This book (don't let the title, Mandela and the tumultuous birth of South Africa, deceive you) does exactly the same. It tells you why Mandela is a celebrated leader of SA, who were the unsung heroes and who are the sympathizers who made it possible for the nation to reemerge from its ashes. By identifying the sympathizers there is one other important duty that this book or any such book performs. It eradicates the backlash of hatred and reduces stereotyping!

I always thought these designated leaders are just overhyped! I mean, they could not have achieved what they achieved without the help of others, is it not? I had a similar notion about Mandela and I held the notion for most part of the book. But during the later parts, when SA just gets rid of apartheid and grapples with the myriad problems that comes with sudden freedom, this book highlights why Mandela is a leader! Instead of writing a whole lot about it, let me just say Mandela is an awesome leader! Invictus gave me a peep into his leadership qualities and this book just seals it! When you hear an idea and think "That's so simple! I assumed that might have been tried already!", it means that is the most simplest yet most powerful idea to solve the problem. One such is the idea of doing away with courts and implementing something even more basic - a reconciliation center for the crimes committed during apartheid. Imagine, someone having the conviction and courage to think of such a bold idea! Such was the audacity of the non-designated leaders that Mandela could turn to in times of crisis. Man in point - Desmond Tutu, Nobel prize winner. How strong must a Caucasian woman (Speech therapist) be to adopt an entire black township which lacks anything that will be labelled as basic amenity in today's world. She not only adopts it but also transforms the women there to unleash the potential leaders in them. 'Mama' Helen gives us all a lesson or two about transformational leadership. Many such personalities, ideas and leaders adorn this book. 

This book will emote you, inspire you and make you think about how you treat everyone around you. It orders you to be humble, requests you to show compassion and respect to others. Any day I will recommend this book. A definite must read for any human being who can read! Regarding the downsides, I could not find any. Next time you go to a book store just grab a copy of this book and read it! It is better than the average bestseller novels and is definitely not boring like the documentary type history books. Dominique Lapierre just stormed into my list of favorite authors and I am definitely going to read all his books starting with Freedom at midnight next :)

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  1. A very good review. Sounds very interesting.

  2. Absolutely interesting and inspiring book! would definitely recommend it :)


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