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Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  528 ratings  ·  40 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, 193 pages
Published June 28th 1994 by Vintage Books (first published 1979)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,007)
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DoctorM
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.
Christopher
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
James
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
Lori Theis
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
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
Karen
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.
Lizw
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.
Ryan
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
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
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
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
Manish
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
Andrew Foster
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.
Peter H. Fogtdal
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
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
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
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).
Sam Pryce
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.
Nelly
Read this for a class, and lucky me, I happened to love it.
Nirmal
Not a bad one or what we should say as the good one. It says fiction but it is written not in a novel or narrative style but in a documentary non-fiction style. It is Indian spirituality meeting west and whole spectrum of things around it like Beatles / rock groups coming to India for getting the enlightenment exp., drugs, hippies, Goa, sadhus, foreign disciples in India , and all the other stuff. It is written with a light touch but covers almost all the related topics. Its lighter style and hu ...more
Sae-chan
The ugliest book cover I had on my shelf. Well, non-fiction books are destined to have ugly cover, I supposed.

A very cynical look at almost everything, except the faith itself. One can taste the acrid bitterness after only a couple of pages. I could only guess that the journey travelled between Karma Cola and A River Sutra must be a remarkable one.
Brimate
this was a good read before i went to india. it's realistically-based fiction, and written in a unique manner. Mehta offers a satirical and sarcastic critique of the legacy of euroamericans flocking to india since the 1960s, and the gross simplification of indian culture that has taken hold in the euroamerican perspective.
Freda Lisgaras
The British East India Company used opium to spread decay among the spinning wheel and handloom craftsmen of India, so that Indian weavers would be forced to tend their poppy fields and not their looms, and be forced to buy the manufactured textiles of the steam powered Lancashire mills.
allyson bainbridge riccardi
Jan 22, 2008 allyson bainbridge riccardi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to allyson by: gg
fascinating read - the author has unique perspective and organizes the vignettes beautifully... anyone traveling to another country, especially india, would learn from this book's wisdom on cultural confusion
Mpho Majozi
Wow!! Mother Gita is an amazing story teller. Intellect infused with humor. You feel like an observer in every scene. Loved it. Worth reading more than once. Namaste, Mother Gita
Dan
Jul 25, 2011 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
possibly too cynical for its own good, but i still quite liked it, unfortunately. recommended if you can take it, although only if you're going to India or have been.
Meg
Another two and a half. Random musings on Westerners in India...a little too random. I found a lot of it repetitive, and only a few pieces stuck out as interesting.
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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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