Ravish Kumar
Rajkamal Prakashan
November 4, 2019
Final Verdict

About the Author

RAVISH KUMAR, writer, journalist and social commentator, is Senior Executive Editor with NDTV India. He is also the author of Ishq Mein Shahar Hona and Dekhte Rahiye.
Other Works By Ravish Kumar
Ishq Mein Shahar Hona
Dekhte Rahiye.

To Fight Battles Not for Victory: The Free Voice by Ravish Kumar Review

Amritesh Mukherjee reviews Ravish Kumar’s Bolna Hi Hai (Published by Rajkamal Prakashan, 2019)

“The act of speaking out makes you alone.”

A colleague at work shares the trailer to a new propaganda movie coming soon in a new election year to a not-so-new cheering audience. “Goosebumps”, she adds with the trailer link on the group chat. I watch the trailer and, indeed, get goosebumps, too, though not of the intended species.

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I subdue my urge to react to the messages and carry on with life. But the lingering sense of things getting worse and worse remains, as it has remained through the last few years. As democracy and democratic values continue to deteriorate in India, Ravish Kumar’s बोलना ही है (translated to English as The Free Voice) remains a siren call for our times. Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s immortal lines about speaking out because your voice is free, because your life is still yours, come to mind:

बोल कि लब आज़ाद हैं तेरे
बोल ज़बाँ अब तक तेरी है
तेरा सुत्वाँ जिस्म है तेरा
बोल कि जाँ अब तक तेरी है

The Importance of Bolna Hi Hai by Ravish Kumar in Today’s “Debate Culture”

Written in a typical Ravish voice, the book looks at the changing Indian dynamics, the downfall of Indian media after the 2014 elections, and the increasing fundamentalism in Indian society. At a time when dissenting voices are few and distant, too limited to little niche circles, his simplicity and mass reach are unparalleled.

With hooligans masquerading as journalists on prime time channels every day, clapping and cheering to power as issue after issue is shrugged off under the target and opponents hounded incessantly, reading the book today comes with its bittersweetness. The ruling government would make a comeback after the publication of the book, NDTV’s power dynamics would change, Ravish would resign, and the remnant of sanity in TV media would stay no more.

“If politics transforms society to such an extent that it calls the dissenter a traitor, putting a barbed wire of intimidation between itself and citizens, then that is a form of violence too.”

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What the Book Contains

Ravish Kumar

There are essays on the remarkable Supreme Court judgment on the right to privacy, on mob lynchings, on religious figures and their hold on the populace, on love and how we love and we’re allowed to love, and reading 1984 in 2019. Those who’ve seen his prime-time shows will identify the wit and satirical tone in the book, whether in the original form or the translation.

“If we are not vigilant about our rights in a democracy, it does not matter how much Bournvita and Chyavanprash we consume.”

Despite the inherent simplicity and the lack of depth and nuance through a perhaps more detailed understanding of the sociopolitical structure of our society, the book never fails to leave its intended message. Ravish’s aim here is to ask you to speak up before there’s nothing left to speak up for. The book wants to take you beyond the obnoxious propaganda of the state-sponsored media and social channels, and in that, it’s completely successful.

“Citizen or robot; democracy or tyranny – the choice is ours.”

As another election year unfolds in front of us, as the chances of the ruling party returning to power are higher than the last time around, despite COVID failings, farmer protests, media clampdowns, statewide riots, and tragedies, the book is a reminder of using your voice, no matter how small or big, to speak up to power, to ask for your rights, to separate truth from fiction, history from mythology, and assert your rights (and follow your, dare I say, duties, the buzzword these days) as a citizen.


The book is essential reading for everyone, if only as a starting point. Ravish’s familiar voice and witticism ensure this tale of a growingly dystopic nation doesn’t become even more apocalyptic. It challenges you to rise above fear and conformity, to fight for what’s right, to speak for your brethren, and to ensure your democratic rights aren’t snatched away by the powers above.

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh doesn't know what to do with his life, so he writes. He also doesn't know what to write, so he reads. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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