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Common sense

The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

Review of the last book I read...

The meticulous attention to details and the extensive research on the subject, is a big strength of the book. The author does mention at the beginning that this is a collection of essays edited to fit into a book (by minimising overlaps)

These days, sadly, bookstores in the West are filled with Mysticism when it comes to India. Its high time that the other side of India is revealed to the rest of the world. And Amartya Sen has done a wonderful job. Its not a simple book glorifying India, but a book thats having a honest critical look at India's history and how its perceived by the West, and how its being twisted by Hindu fundamentalists today.

Chapter "Indian traditions and the Western Imagination" is a must-read. Dr. Sen categorizes the existing interpretations of Indian history, and provides a sound explanation on James Mill, Macaulay et. al. and how that interpretation suited the British colonialism. For those who simplistically claim that Justice, tolerance, reason, liberty are all Western values, Dr. Sen provides factual answers from the Indian history.

Dr. Sen talks about Satyajit Ray, Tagore, also answers that misleading claim about "Asian Values" (by Singapore Foreign Minister), looks at the class/gender inequality problems.

While Dr.Sen has done a remarkable job in the chapter "Secularism and its Discontents" I am personally a little disappointed because of my expectations. Dr. Sen tackles the argument (by a growing number of Hindus) about the failure of the Muslims to see themselves as Indians first. While the answers provided are sound, I am still finding it difficult to pass that message to the grass-roots Hindus, who are genuinely carried away by the Hindu fundamentalists propaganda. (Its probably a question of target audience, but a disappointment nevertheless)

In summary, Indians need to be told who they really are. This book does that job really well. Also, in my opinion, outside world has never really understood the puzzle of India, and this book would serve them really well too. Needless to say that its very important at this point in history.
(By the way, what an awesome choice of cover for the book!!)

posted by Jey @ 12:37 AM,


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