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Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  688 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Beginning in the late '60s, hundreds of thousands of Westerners descended upon India, disciples of a cultural revolution that proclaimed that the magic and mystery missing from their lives was to be found in the East. An Indian writer who has also lived in England and the United States, Gita Mehta was ideally placed to observe the spectacle of European and American "pilgri ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 28th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1979)
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Christopher
May 07, 2009 Christopher rated it it was ok
Gita Mehta's KARMA COLA, originally published in 1980, is a 1979, is a collection of anecdotes about the Western travelers that Mehta met in India in the 1970s. A westward-looking Indian (Cambridge educated), Mehta views young spiritual seekers with a combination of amusement and dismay. She highlights the absurdity that people looking for enlightenment and truth are falling for the rhetoric of gurus teaching such blatantly irrational doctrines. Whether it's some Europeans worshipping a candy-ea ...more
DoctorM
Jul 18, 2010 DoctorM rated it really liked it
A bleakly, acidly funny look at the Westerners who went out to India in the 1960s and 1970s and the dance of mutual incomprehension and exploitation that resulted. Mass marketed Enlightenment, commodified exoticism, and gullibility abound here. Call it a darker, subcontinental version of "Hideous Kinky"--- and one that, as heroin replaces hashish amongst hippies and enlightenment seekers, gets darker as it goes.
James
Jun 21, 2012 James rated it it was amazing
Here we have a book about the development of “metaphysical tourism” in India. The term pertains to non-Indians, mostly Americans and Europeans, who come to India looking for spiritual guidance. Mehta’s book is a mosaic of episodes and observations held together with bits of philosophy and poetic prose. Some of the book describes how certain gurus exploit their foreign flocks as cheap labor, sexual opportunities, and sources of income.

But more than this, “Karma Cola” describes how Westerners dam
...more
Karen
May 29, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
Hilarious! I read this in India, and it just perfectly summed up so many of the idiotic Westerners I was meeting there. ("Hi, I'm Sally? I've been a Buddhist for six months?...") It also was a good reminder for myself to have a sense of humor abroad and not take myself or my travels too seriously. Highly recommend it if you're planning on some sort of "spiritual journey" here or abroad.
Ffiamma
Feb 17, 2015 Ffiamma rated it liked it
il libro è del '79 e quindi un po' datato- ma l'incontro/scontro fra est e ovest e che spesso culmina con un fallimento totale è spesso esilarante. gita mehta, con penna caustica, sbeffeggia gli equivoci e le forzature che seguirono la grande scoperta dell'india negli anni 60 e portarono a un travisamento a volte totale e grottesco del suo misticismo e a ridicoli tentativi di "occidentalizzazione" di un pensiero così particolare. divertente- anche se mi ha profondamente irritato l'ottusità di al ...more
Manish
Feb 05, 2016 Manish rated it liked it
I was pleasantly surprised with Gita Mehta's effort in Karma Cola especially since my previous outing with her (The River Sutra) was a disappointment. Written in the late 70s when Mehta was probably in her 30s, Karma Cola is a kaleidoscopic view of the naivety of the Westerners who flocked to India in search of spiritual salvation in the 60s and of the bankruptcy of the Gurus who mushroomed all across the country to cater to this demand. While no Guru was explicitly named, I could only recognize ...more
Lori Theis
Mar 15, 2008 Lori Theis rated it really liked it
Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East reads like a string of self-conscious journal entries. Nested inside each of Mehta’s anecdotes are metonyms within metonyms, fashioned out of poetic free verse, assonance, alliteration, slogans-turned-epigrams, ramped up hyperbole, fragments of dialogue, cosmic irony, and heavy doses of allusion (most likely lost on anyone under 30 years old). Throughout Karma Cola Mehta uses the figurative language of rock and roll to pen her tragically comic and cacophoni ...more
Patti
Oct 06, 2010 Patti rated it liked it
This book was nothing how I expected it to be. I found the timing difficult at first, but once I started to read, I enjoyed Mehta's story telling.

Mehta writes about the struggles that come with tourism and the Westernization of culture for sales and marketing. The stories of the Westerners who go to India to look for enlightenment and end up falling completely into the Void are interesting. Illusions lead to disillusions. Con men pose as gurus.

Mehta doesn't just hate on tourists, though. She d
...more
Bill
A mildly interesting look at the sudden interest in eastern mysticism and religions by millions of baby boomers in the late 1960s. The Beatles might be partly responsible but Mehta does major literary eye-rolling at the influx of naive westerners traveling to India and other south Asian countries in search of knowledge. Even Steve Jobs succumbed to the pull of this nonsense. To this day, there are westerners afflicted with this desire to "find" themselves and become one with the universe or some ...more
Nandakishore Varma
I totally agree with Gita Mehta's opinion of gullible Westerners falling for bogus Indian Gurus. It would be worth their while to memorise the following quartet by Adi Sankaracharya:

"Matted hair, shaven heads, hair tied up in tresses;
Saffron-clad - varied are their dresses:
Seeing, still the foolish do not see!
All these costumes are for filling the belly..."

Yes, indeed.

--------------------

That said, the book was only a set of mildly funny and disjointed anecdotes that did not impress me much. May
...more
Erik Akre
Aug 18, 2015 Erik Akre rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: seekers attracted to India and "the spirituality of India"
Shelves: spirituality, history
Gita Mehta holds a mirror to the Western fascination with India and its spiritual heritage.

Mehta gives us a look at people's New Age quests to India for salvation, beginning in the 60's. So much is utterly ridiculous, even insane. We can generalize and say that embracing another culture's spirituality--without any cultural connection or deep experience with tradition--is like ditching your inner life for an impossible dream, which if you follow it far enough, will result in the surrender of all
...more
Kavita Ramesh
Aug 17, 2015 Kavita Ramesh rated it it was amazing
I have read it twice, and I think it is an absolute MUST READ for anyone planning on visiting India.
Lizw
Dec 19, 2008 Lizw rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Not really about marketing, but about the interaction between Western hippies and Indian (particularly Hindu) society in the 1960s and 1970s. It makes a good companion-piece to Said's Orientalism, I think - more impressionistic and less ranty, but definitely addressing similar themes.
Lisa
Mar 05, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
A great book on the continuing theme (my personal one) of the corrupting influence of religion. This book was first published in 1979 and this edition was published in 1991 so some information may be dated, but Gita Mehta's main thesis, the subtitle if this book is the marketing of the Mystic East and she shows clearly that as with all religion all that is being sold is fraudulent crap and in at least one case urine of the guru as having healing powers. The book will make you shake your head, it ...more
Ryan
Apr 07, 2010 Ryan rated it liked it
I need to read this again--I recall finding it very interesting. I loved the insights into the "other side" of the West's fascination with the so-called "mystic East." I picked this up after reading Mehta's A River Sutra in a college lit. class.
Mike
Jan 30, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: eastern-thought
Karma Cola is a book of the 1970s and the hippies that came to India for enlightenment, for some time at the spiritual spa, before they were called spas. Remember the Maharishi, remember George Harrison, far out man. Om Mane Padme Hummmmmmmm
Sankari Ni Bhriain
Sep 06, 2011 Sankari Ni Bhriain rated it it was amazing
I read this while I was travelling around India and I laughed out loud and loved every page. I only wish now that I hadn't passed it on because I can't find it again. Next time I lay hands on this little wonder I'll keep it.
Richa gupta
I read this book in my college days, I want to read it again coz I ve forgotten most of it but I remember a line which said " never believe in a yogi with Adidas shoes "

Richard
May 05, 2010 Richard rated it liked it
A bit slight, but a nice antidote to all that eating, praying, loving bullshit.
Simar
Jul 29, 2011 Simar added it
Fantastic, sardonic, a view from our side
Nitya Sivasubramanian
Often, when I mention to people that I refuse to go to yoga classes in America, they ask if I'm offended by the cultural appropriation of suburban moms chanting mantras. This book at least explains a bit of my concern, that in a quest for meaning, outsiders often ascribe more value to certain rituals than are necessarily intrinsic. I'm all for centering yourself and finding peace, but if you're surrendering yourself to a spiritual guide at the risk of your own health, is it really worth it?
Andrew Foster
Nov 02, 2014 Andrew Foster rated it liked it
Thought-provoking and a great introduction to the concept of cultural misappropriation, it's a solid read. That said, I feel that it misses at points and doesn't necessarily flow cleanly to the extent that it gets in its own way from time to time. I think it too frequently resorts to painting culture as an inscrutable thing that can't be shared effectively rather than simply highlighting the problem of cultural dilettantes claiming a tradition to which they've no connection.
Sarah
Mar 14, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
I read this book because it's one of Lonely Planet's recommended books for travellers going to India. Having been to India, being of Pakistani descent, and also having loads of exposure to Indian art and music, I was curious about why they recommended Karma Cola. I see why they did, although I didn't love the book.

This book has some extremely witty bits. There were many "why didn't I write that?" moments. It is a very important work that exposes what is wrong with the mentality of "Occidentals"
...more
Peter Fogtdal
Jul 24, 2012 Peter Fogtdal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
My own next novel is about a devotee's farcical relationship to his Indian guru, so when a Facebook friend told me about KARMA COLA I knew I had to read it.

Well, after the first fifty pages I thought this non-fiction book was going to be another predictable work about how ALL Indian gurus are cheats (yawn, yawn), but luckily Gita Mehtha is more sophisticated than that. Yes, she's deeply critical of the Guru Business but open and knowledgeable enough not to pan it in the condescending way that's
...more
Allison
Jun 03, 2014 Allison rated it liked it
I found this book on the shelf while I was staying at the in-laws house and found it entertaining, but not remarkable. If I can remember correctly (since I read this one about six years ago) it describes the (fictional, but based on truth) influx of white, Western tourists to India, in seek of gurus and mysticism...
Noor
Nov 13, 2014 Noor rated it it was ok
I found this book very difficult to get through. Though that can be put down to the subject matter now being redundant, it doesn't bode well for a book to lose the interest of the reader even if the book is being read years after being published.

Having said that though I must accord Gita Mehta with a nice flow and for clearly doing her research well.
Sari Sikstrom
Jun 26, 2014 Sari Sikstrom rated it liked it
I bought this book while travelling in India.



I was curious how the people of India viewed the swarms of westerns and europeans who were so desperate to find 'enlightment' at any price.
Gita is not related to the Canadian film maker Deepa Mehta (Fire,Earth Water).
Flinx
Jun 05, 2016 Flinx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian-stories
Even though pretentious at times, the book gives a knowledgeable insight of India. As opposed to many books i've read so far, this one offers an insider's point of view on tourists in India. Gruesome at times, shocking at others.
Sam Pryce
Feb 12, 2014 Sam Pryce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly hilarious, this anecdotal work denounces the pseudo-spiritual tourists that flock India searching for miracles and Enlightenment. Read as an accompaniment to A River Sutra for some Mehta-related intertextual links.
Katja Vartiainen
Aug 06, 2015 Katja Vartiainen rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Any westerner been to India, can relate to this book. It is witty, funny, shocking, surprising, just like India. Some of the stuff I cannot interpret, while i was born probably after it happened, and the names, events, i never lived. The question remains has the west learned anything? Spiritual seekers still run around India, lot of them mistreated. History teaches us nothing? And for the East? Mistakes were made before, and it seems people still think they have to make them themselves..Anyway, ...more
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Gita Mehta (born in 1943) is an Indian writer and was born in Delhi in a well-known Odia family. She is the daughter of Biju Patnaik, an Indian independence activist and a Chief Minister in post-independence Odisha, then known as Orissa. Her younger brother Naveen Patnaik has been the Chief Minister of Odisha since 2000. She completed her education in India and at the University of Cambridge, Unit ...more
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“In a Cuban writers union, there was some confusion about what the toast should be? It was the Gita Mehta who solved the riddle and said,
"I purpose a toast to the health of the written words”
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“There is that difference between being kicked in the teeth and reading a description of being kicked in the teeth. Some call it existential.” 0 likes
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