Veteran BBC-correspondent Tully (coauthor, India: Forty Years of Independence, 1988) draws upon a lifetime of living in India as he illuminates some of the many complex issues facing the subcontinent nation. Tully, who was born in Calcutta of English parents, comes to his subject armed with extensive knowledge of the day-to-day machinations of life in India, and it is this intimacy that gives his book its greatest strength. He examines such Indian phenomena as the caste system, the Kumbh Mela (the world's largest religious festival), and Operation Blue Star (the Indian army's attack on the Sikh Golden Temple in 1984 that led directly to Indira Gandhi's assassination) by both analyzing the historical, political, social, and religious forces behind them and by speaking with Indians from all walks of life. Many of his facts are fascinating: It is considered proper for a bridegroom's relatives to arrive drunk at a wedding, for example, but the bride's relatives must remain sober. Tully's chapters on the ""The New Colonialism"" and ""The Deorala Sati"" are especially engrossing. In the first, he writes of the elite's fawning embrace of Western culture, and of a kind of encounter group for Dalits (formerly called ""untouchables"") in which they share tales of indignations still forced upon them and are encouraged to remember that they are ""Dravidians--the original Indians who were here long before the Aryan Brahmins."" In the second, he recounts reactions when a young woman, in an ancient ""sati"" ritual, immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre; some insist that she committed suicide, others that she was murdered. A well-written study that penetrates deeply into the psyche of modern-day India.