Monday, December 14, 2015
The subtext to Being Indian reads: "The truth about why the twenty-first century will be India's." It is an issue of heated debate in this election campaign but sadly, party rhetoric has robbed it of any value.
Varma's effort is a logical sequel to his earlier book The Great Indian Middle Class. The timing is certainly opportune. Statistics and economic forecasts paint a rosy picture of India's future and, for the first time, the phrase "emerging superpower" has a ring of credibility.
The author's thesis is, however, more rooted in the Indian psyche and the elements that characterise our society. Earlier, these were largely a handicap: the naked pursuit of power, patronage, skewed value systems, negatives that flourished under a flawed system of democracy.
Today, he argues, democracy has taken firm roots because it has proved to be the most effective instrument for the pursuit of power and also because it has empowered people who were earlier denied legitimate representation and provided them upward mobility.
That a Dalit, Mayawati, can become the chief minister of India's most populous state is an example. An unabashedly democratic India, where compromise and co-opting are preferred to divisiveness and self-destruction, is the key to building an Indian century.
Following in the literary ethos of his earlier books, Varma draws extensive parallels from Indian epics and religious texts to flesh out his hypothesis. Indians, he says, have deliberately promoted a spiritual, other-worldly image.
The truth, he says, is that the naked pursuit of wealth is considered dharma. Given the right milieu, Indians can "emerge as the most resilient and focused commercial operators of the new millennium".