Rebellious Lord is a delightful account by Meghnad Desai of his journey from middle class Vadodara and Mumbai to a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and then to the London School of Economics, and a life in academia and Left politics in the United Kingdom but with an Indian connection that has remained strong and acquired new roots and depth with the passage of time. As he details in the book’s final chapter, ‘A Global Life’, which covers the period 1991 till 2020, India starts to occupy a progressively larger space in his life as his profile expands due to TV, his writings, his association with major India-related initiatives in the UK and finally because he has been a perceptive observer and commentator of India’s polity and economy. Meghnad Desai was awarded the Pravasi Bhartiya Puraskar in 2004 and the Padma Bhushan in 2008.
The book’s great appeal is that unlike most autobiographies of politicians and academics, especially from our part of the world, which tend to be a mix of dry facts and concealed self-congratulation, Rebellious Lord is both refreshingly candid and informed with dry wit. Apart from Desai’s professional focus on economics and his political activism, the book details his interest in theatre and film since his student days in Bombay, as well as his lifelong love for reading.