Irwan's Reviews > India: A Wounded Civilization

India by V.S. Naipaul
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Jul 18, 10

bookshelves: 2010, finished
Read from July 16 to 17, 2010

A wounded, well-written prose about a wounded civilization.

This text was finished written in the month that I was born. Almost three decades later I had the chance to visit India, his "wounded" civilization. But it was not the wound that had drawn me to India. It was something that I understood as a breath of hope. Something I, probably a little naively, perceive as a hope that can be shared and learned for my own country, Indonesia. I am talking about the flourishing business of IT outsourcing which is concentrated mostly in Bangalore, and in the lesser degree in Hyderabad - the city in which I briefly stayed.

Why do I think Indonesia can learn something from India? Because the countries share many similar social economic problems such as poverty and immense population - just to name a few. Since I am not equipped with social science background or of political inclination - I am an IT practitioner - I thought Indian experience with the IT "success" can be something workable in Indonesia, and certainly something within my reach to consider about.

However, this "wounded" book has put light on things I overlooked. It shows me the scale of the thing I thought similar about the two countries. As school pupils we were told that Indonesia has suffered 350 years of external occupation by the Dutch. And I thought the parallel is the British occupation for 150 years. But the author added the previously 500 years occupation by the Muslims. This occupation results in the author observation that "no civilization was so little equipped to cope with the outside world; no country was so easily raided and plundered".

One of the things I learned from my research was, India becomes the major destinations of software work outsourced from the developed countries, more than other countries aspiring for this type of business, is because, among others was the high availability of English-speaking IT engineers. Yes, "english speaking". So if India was seen as "a little equipped to cope with the outside world", then how about my country? Please, excuse my introspective mood. Then again, decades have passed since this book was written. Aha, then on the positive side one might argue, if the previous assessment of the author was accurate, than it takes only a few decades to change, to have more hopes!

Another interesting point is the description of the internal psyche of the Indians which the author argues are very much confused by the traditions and religions. The lack of individual, independent thinking due to the minutely regulated life by the social/group code. Or what is called "instinctive life", I supposed he insinuates the opposition to a logical, based-on-reason, life.

I am not sure how much exaggeration the author has put in this assessment, but it does make me think about my country and my people again. Are we leading "instinctive" life? How much has this "instinctive-ness" dominated our life individually or collectively?

But anyway, no matter how troublesome, I still don't see my country as "wounded". Hopefully I will always have the reason to it.


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Reading Progress

07/16/2010 page 57
07/17/2010 page 90
45.0% ""Meditation and stillness can be a form of therapy. But it may be that the true Hindu bliss - the losing of the self - is more easily accessible to Hindus. According to Dr. Sudhir Kakar, ...., the Indian ego is 'underdeveloped', 'the world of magic and animistic ways of thinking lie close to the surface', ... ""
07/17/2010 page 91
57.0% ""Every detail of behavior is regulated - .. Relationships are codified. And religion and religious practices ... lock everything into place. The need, then, for individual observation and judgement is reduced; something close to a purely instinctive life becomes possible.""
07/17/2010 page 100
62.0% ""When men cannot observe, they don't have ideas; they have obsessions. When people live instinctive lives, something like a collective amnesia steadily blurs the past.""
07/17/2010 page 103
64.0% "... Black is a color horrible to the Indo-Aryan; the moustache is an important caste emblem, and untouchables can be killed for wearing their moustaches curling up rather than drooping down;..."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Grace Tjan I think Naipaul has a love and hate relationship with India. Have you read Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey and its sequel Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples? A large part of those books deals with Indonesia.

Irwan Not yet, but i plan to since I start to like the way he writes.

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