Prashanth's Reviews > Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution Of Culture And Identity

Becoming Indian by Pavan K. Varma
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's review
Jan 09, 14

really liked it
Read in May, 2011 — I own a copy

If Mr. Varma's earlier work, "Being Indian" was descriptive of the status quo (how Indians are and how, possibly, they came to be this way), "Becoming Indian" is profoundly prescriptive. The author expresses his heartfelt anguish at the withering of the vibrant Indian cultural ethos due to colonization by the British. Under the assault of Macaulayism, the author asserts, the Indian elite's acceptance of the supremacy of western culture, language and philosophy meant that India's subjugation by the colonial power rule was complete and this has cast a long shadow over subsequent sub continental developments. According to the author, excessive lionization of western achievements and culture and a simultaneous disavowal of Indian culture, customs and languages have reduced the Indian social ethos to a caricature with blind imitation of western cultural and social mores as its defining characteristic. It has engendered an obsession with English and thus has arisen a situation where facility with the language has become the yardstick for education and refinement. Inevitably, and tragically in a society steeped in inequalities, this also implies English has become a tool for social and financial exclusion. While this is appalling enough, the author says, the promotion and elevation of facility with English to the level of aspiration has come at a great cost- a weakening of the socio-linguistic and cultural moorings for the elite who have access to English education and have adopted the language , and an ingrained sense of inferiority for the rest who do not but aspire to.
The author concludes by asserting that tis’ a sad state of affairs and needs to be addressed urgently, lest we lose our millennia old cultural and linguistic legacy completely and become an ersatz, uninspired and uninspiring, unthinkingly imitative repository of western values and culture- neither comfortable in our own skins, nor accepted as equals by those we seek to emulate.
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message 1: by Anushree (new) - added it

Anushree Just ventured into this book, and I felt that from the beginning the book was too prescriptive as you rightly said. His examples and accounts are very interesting so far, I would much appreciate a more detached report on what exists in the prevalent state and how it has been shaped - rather than what it should be and what is regretfully be lost and must be reclaimed in the author's opinion. I guess, I should have picked up Being Indian instead, but one cant beat a deal of getting this in hardcover for Rs.150 on the strets of Old Delhi.

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