Around two years ago I learned that Sidin Vadukut, Dominus Maximus himself, was in London on assignment for the Mint newspaper. Having been a fan of his writings I thought it might not be a scaly plan to meet up with the man. Cunning investigative work revealed his email address and I wrote off to him asking if he'd like to catch up over a coffee. He replied promptly that he was spending much of his time at the British Library, and while he got tremendously freaked out by new people, he saw no reason why we shouldn't meet.
To cut a long story short, we didn't.
Then his book The Sceptical Patriot: Exploring the Truths Behind the Zero and Other Indian Glories came out in early 2014, and the reason for his British Librarying became clear.
You must have seen emails popping up every now and then that listed all the ways India is excellent and unique. Most of the assertions are quite patently rubbish while others might have some kernel of truth in them. As a journalist, Vadukut decided to probe some of the claims. To see what he found, you would do well to read the book.
Vadukut's a humorist, as readers of his blog and fiction would know, and in this book he brings some of his humour to bear. But it is essentially an investigative work, interspersed with stories of growing up in the Gulf and his years of engineering school. He has fun with - among other things - 'zero' (turns out that the earliest representation of the number zero appears not in India but in Cambodia) and with ancient Indian plastic surgery, the supposed lack of Indian invasions of foreign countries, and the invention of radio. But above all, it is a timely reminder to be sceptical.