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Being Indian [Paperback]

Pavan K. Varma
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Sep 2006
In the 21st century every sixth human being will be Indian. India is very close to becoming the second largest consumer market in the world, with a buying middle class numbering over half a billion. The Indian economy is already the fourth largest in terms of purchasing power parity. It is in the top ten in overall GNP. Yet at least 200 million Indians remain desperately poor. Illiteracy rates are high. Communal violence is widespread; corruption endemic. Brides are still tortured and burnt for dowries; female infanticide is common. The caste system has lost little of its power and none of its brutality How are we to make sense of these apparently contradictory pictures of India today? And how can we overcome the many misconceptions about India that are fed by western stereotypes and Indians' own myths about themselves. Pavan Varma turns a sharply observant gaze on his fellow countrymen to examine what really makes Indians tick. How, for example, does the indifference of most middle-class Indians to the suffering of the poor square with their enthusiasm for parliamentary democracy? How can a people who so supported Mahatma Gandhi's strategy of non-violence during the struggle for independence burn young brides for their dowries and beat domestic servants to near-death? Why do Indians have a reputation for being spiritual and 'other-wordly' when their traditions so exalt the pursuit of material well-being as a principal goal of life? 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 Indian is an essential book for anyone who wishes to understand Indians, and for Indians who wish to understand themselves.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (30 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143033425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143033424
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.8 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,073,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Pavan Varma is one of India's most admired and widely-read writers of non-fiction, and in Being Indian he has excelled himself . . . Brilliant . . . Varma shows how India's self-image has been distorted by simplistic myth-making, and sets out to find instead what it really means to be Indian" (William Dalrymple)

"A well-researched and urgent inquiry that is informed as much by allusions to Hindu mythological texts as it is by a knowledge of current affairs and popular culture" (New Statesman)

"A stimulating and readable polemic" (Sunday Times)

"Elegantly written . . . Being Indian is one of the most subtle recent attempts to analyze the continent-sized mosaic of India" (The Economist) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A compelling journey through the paradoxes, myths and realities of India, by 'one of the country's most perceptive writers.' (Guardian) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really insightful 1 Sep 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book for people who want to try and capture some of the Indian psyche, and understand where India is going in the next century. I guess, to understand that, you need to know the context. That's what Pavan Varma tries, successfully, to do. He touches on the desire to create a better life and the focus on wealth being huge motivating factors for most Indians. The issues of language, politics, religion and family are also discussed at length. The mix of modernity and tradition is one that most Indians sit at ease with. Indians can embrace new technologies, but yet, cling to marrying within their caste and, in some cases, having a dowry. Social India is highly conservative still.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and insightful 31 Mar 2009
By julie
I won't shy away from the fact that this is not an easy read but it is worth investing time in it. I recently moved to India and have spent the last 5 months experiencing and being puzzled and frustrated by the mass of contradictions that there are within the country. Reading this book has been a revelation - its not answered all the questions, but many things, in particular the persuit of power, have suddenly explained the actions of so many around me. Can't recommend it enough.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating & Insightful 3 Feb 2007
This is the first book which ( I have read or found easy enough to read)attempts to examine /explain the cultural and philosophical underpinnings of Modern India and its recent economic success. Especially insightful is the explanation for the success and surival of democracy - the fact that it was seen by the masses as a way to get a step onto the POWER ladder ( power being one of the prime aims /drivers of the Indian polity/culture, according to the book ) i.e a means to an end. It is aptly summed up by the author when he writes " India has a democractic process, but we dont have a democractic temperament". All in all , a great read with several great insights!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and engaging read 2 Mar 2011
By CatDee
I bought this book based on previous reviews and wasn't disappointed. I've travelled to India many times and the more time I spend there I realise just how complex and paradoxical the country and its people are. This book goes some way to attempt to explain certain things that have puzzled me about India, for example that religion is such an important aspect of their lives yet corruption is as pervasive and accepted in the temples as elsewhere. I found the book a really interesting and engaging read and very accessible.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful introduction 11 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an easily readable book (not too long or academic) that attempts to give insight into what first appears to be a baffling and complex country. It is made quite clear from the outset that as the majority of Indians are Hindu, it is really a book about Hindu culture.

The author tries very hard to give a balanced view however I sometimes got the impression that he was having to stifle his natural enthusiasm and promotion of his country that was probably developed whilst working for the Indian diplomatic corps! Also, some of the conclusions made about Indians today based on their history I found difficult to believe.

The positive thing that I took away from the book is that human nature is the same in India as in the West.

I recommend this book if you want an introduction to the subject.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing book 1 April 2008
A very incisive, interesting and compelling book on modern India, its inhabitants and their generalised characteristics, helping to dispel or reorient some of the mysticisms that surround India in the West. The author writes with great insight (and some courage!) and weaves his analysis with both interesting and relevant examples, as viewed by an Indian sub-continental reader. Well worth the price.
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