The successes and failures of contemporary Indian society, supplemented by “An A to Z of Being Indian.”
Fans of Tharoor’s prior coverage of Indian history and culture, India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond (2005), will be pleased to discover this addition, a collection of the author’s previously published writing on modern Indian society. Tharoor begins by discussing the complex religious landscape of India—where Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and many other religious groups coexist—and how this impacts the identity of the country. In particular, he focuses on his own religion, Hinduism, examining the differing ways Hindus react to the disparate religious practices at work in present-day India. While the author provides a carefully considered examination of what it means to be Indian, he is also a pop-culture junkie, and subsequent passages offer a mixture of humorous anecdotes from the author’s life and general musings on India’s adaptation to life in the 21st century. Like many Indians, Tharoor is a passionate cricket fan, and he presents a particularly amusing story on the perils of watching the sport in New York City, which illustrates how satellite television has proved to be a mercurial force for Indians stranded in non-cricket loving countries. He also tries to determine what happened to the sari, offers a damning verdict on an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, discusses the effect and influence of the call center on Indian society and examines India’s cell-phone usage, among many other topics. Each article is well-written, and Tharoor is a charming and knowledgeable guide. But the structure of the book makes for puzzling reading, as many similarly themed articles are scattered rather than grouped together.
Lacks a cohesive structure, but entertaining and informative nonetheless.