Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India - Edward Luce


"In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India" By Edward Luce is a collection of memoirs based on discourses and interviews which Edward Luce, the British journalist makes with politicians, religious and business leaders in India. Edward Luce presents the challenges faced by the Indian state while growing as a major world power.

This is in contrast to Fareed Zakaria's 'The Post American World' which also talks about India, but is more focussed on its position in world economy and its future effect on it. Edward Luce talks about what conspires at the grassroots level in politics, administration, and in the lives of people in the country.

The narration would probably astound most westeners of the intricacies involved in Indian administration, caste politics and general way of life. The complexities of vote bank politics as practised by all political parties in India, more so in the cow-belt regions of UP and Bihar are deciphered. What makes regional politicians and political outfits having no agenda succeed and how state machinery and administration works in the region is well explained, although the author's political opinion hints to be biased at times. Some of the facts would hit hard as new revelations even to Indians, mainly those who have had no exposure to the functioning of government in rural areas.

There are varied theories about how the caste system was conceived (Vedas, Manusmriti..etc), but there is little meaning or sense in continuing with the system in modern times. Its only significance in today's age is to be a tool for politicians and feudal lords to exploit people of thier rights, and divide them in order to stay in power. It makes us no different from fundamentalists who promote extremism across the world. It is our excessive obsession with religion and caste that has become the biggest hurdle to development. Is there a lesson for us to learn in it from China? Again, this being a sesitive topic, every Indian has varied and passionate personal opinions.

Another important point mentioned: Indians have the habit of counting thier chicken before they hatch. India is a rising power indeed, but they Indians like to beleive they are already a superpower, whereas it has several challenges to address in order to get there. This is a characteristic evident in our nature.

Some excerpts:

"India, as the writer V.S. Naipaul said, has become a land of a million mutinies, some are mutinies of lower orders against the upper orders; there are also mutinies of upper orders (and some lower orders) against Muslims; and there are mutinies of both lower orders against each other and upper ordersagainst each other. But India is also a land of unexpected alliances: between enemies of enemies, between Muslims and lower castes, and between people who disdained each other yesterday and may tomorrow do so again."

"India has a way of confounding you and still making you laugh about it"

5 comments:

Smita said...

Fantastic review...

Though not my kind of book but I liked the gist of it...

What the author says "Indians have the habit of counting thier chicken before they hatch" is so true...

We love to celebrate a cricket victory but we don't stand up against the numerous bads happening in here....

Anyways....good review

Rahul Anand said...

Thanks. Yes, the attitude unfortunate but true.

Sumit said...

I'm glad to have stumbled across your blog, being a bit og a bibliophile myself. :)

I loved reading this book, and it gives a good picture of how different our perceptions about ourselves are, from what an outsider thinks.

Rahul Anand said...

Welcome to my space Sumit.

Yes some facts mentioned were really eye-openers, I never knew that about my own country.

Raging Bull said...

I just started reading this book.
I am only through the Introduction and on Chapter 1 but am impressed and intrigued enough to continue reading.