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Being Indian by Pavan K. Varma

Being Indian (2004)

by Pavan K. Varma

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Seeming at first to be cynical and ultra-critical, this actually displays a deep and realistic (PKV might say 'worldly-wise') love of the kind usually saved for one's own family. It addresses on the one hand the romantic image of spiritual India that's common in the West and encouraged by Indians themselves, and on the other the image of a powder-keg of religious fanaticisms waiting to explode. He generally plays down the Muslim--and other minority--presence to the extent that his introduction includes a warning that he sometimes uses 'Hindu' and 'Indian' interchangeably; but the two or three pages where he does discuss the relationship between Muslims and other Indians are convincingly reassuring that religious tolerance is a firmly established norm.

The mundane preoccupations of ordinary Indians are what this book is about, rahter than the refinements of religion, philosophy, art or literature. Though Varma doesn't aspire to lyrical heights, a good bit of his book amounts to an infectious hymn of praise to democracy, the great--though frustratingly slow, compromising and corruptible--transforming force for justice and equity; and to the people of India--pragmatic, self-interested, materialistic, status-conscious, entrepreneurial, non-confrontational, able to turn a weakness into a strength, often overtaken by anger but rarely by self-pity.
  shawjonathan | Dec 2, 2007 |
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Drawing on sources as diverse as ancient Sanskrit treatises and Bollywood lyrics, Pavan Varma creates a vivid and compelling portrait of India and its people. 'Being India' is an essential book for anyone who wishes to understand Indians, and for Indians who wish to understand themselves.… (more)

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