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A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A Strange Kind of Paradise is an exploration of India's past and present, from the perspective of a foreigner who has lived in India for many years. Sam Miller investigates how the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, Arabs, Africans, Europeans and Americans - everyone really, except for Indians themselves - came to imagine India. His account of the engagement between ...more
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published February 24th 2014 by Penguin India (first published February 15th 2014)
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3.94  · 
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 ·  136 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Himanshu Bhatnagar
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
William Dalrymple called this book a "love letter to India". I fully agree. "A Strange Kind of Paradise" isn't intended as a history text-book, nor a dry list of "facts" (*cough* Romila Thapar *cough*).

What you have in your hands though, is an incomparable collection of selected writings from non-indian writers about India as they experienced it through the ages - from the earliest Greek visitors to the modern American ones. From wondrous tales of fantastical tribes (one rumored to have their fa
Ranjeev Dubey
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Long resident of India and married to a Parsi, the author is a half insider and his review of how westerners (and Chinese in the main) have imagined India since their first contact is a useful addition to writing on the subject. His main point is that foreigners 'construct' India in the context of their needs at that point. Okay, end of the point, now you don't need to read the book!!

I'm kidding. This is infotainment. The fun is in the anecdote weaving and short trips up the side valleys. Good f
Sajith Kumar
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, india
Indians have been particularly complacent in recording history or putting down their observations to paper, or palm leaves, or whatever. India boasts of early mathematicians and philosophers who were at par with Greek scholars, but the position of Herodotus remains uncontested. Whatever history the modern historians compiled was from the accounts of visitors and invaders who came here. Early Buddhist texts and a rational analysis of the Puranas supported their findings and the modern Indian hist ...more
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, history
The book is part history, part travelogue and part memoir. Oh, and also a love letter to India.

The author, Sam Miller was the BBC regional South Asia head, and this is his second book. His first was a similarly written book on the city of Delhi.

A Strange Kind of Paradise is a rambling account of what foreigners (although who these people are in context to India is not very clear in the first place) thought right from Greek visitors to the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims and Arab visitors to the most r
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have read about India. It is: informative, inciteful, entertaining, unobtrusively scholarly, and accurate. As its title suggests, it considers India through the eyes of people who have visited it for any of many reasons, and how it affected them and their opinions about the country. Interspersed amongst the chapters, there is a series of 'interludes' in which the author describes how he gradually adapted to India over the years.

Like me, Miller had no particular in
Kshitij Rawat
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“What is India?” A great many people of yore, mostly Europeans, who had only a faint idea about a distant land they thought, for a long time, incorrectly, to be located at the end of the world, must have wondered this. Even Alexander the Great was ignorant–he assumed that after conquering this land beyond the Indus, he would win the whole world. Back then, people didn’t have the comfort of quick modes of transportation like aeroplanes and trains. And of course, the maps were incomplete and inacc ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Strange Kind of Paradise is a very entertaining take on Indian history. The unique lens that the book uses is to look at Indian history from the perspective of foreigners who have visited India over the past couple millennia. That lens helps to convey rather effectively why India has always been interesting & different. Further, Sam Miller regales the reader with periodic intermissions in which he shares his own experience moving to and living in India.

While there is no dearth of books on
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
The author of this book is a British correspondent, who lived in India for many years, and is married to an Indian woman. He focuses on how India is portrayed by foreigners. The book intersperses one chapter of his narrative about his experiences in India with another on a foreign power in India's history, for example, the Mughals, Portuguese, and eventually the British. It is a very interesting idea, and I liked the chapters on history, but I thought the author sounded rather pretentious in the ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice read but it has some glaring loopholes but I wouldn't like to dwell on them here!
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and informative at the same time, I would recommend it to anybody that enjoys non-fiction, travel and history.
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Wasn't as much fun as I expected it to be. There are some very interesting facts - I found the footnotes to be the most fun, where the author, as if in a quiz contest where one has to connect random events and people. For example, while talking about Rosselini, Fritz Lang etc, the footnotes gets into Lang's marriage and how it ended when he found his wife in bed with an Indian journalist and Gandhian. Or when while talking about the great Indian rope trick, the footnotes describe how it was the ...more
Dibyajyoti Sarma
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read both the Sam Miller books, Adventures in a Mega City and A Strange Kind of Paradise, together. The first book was long overdue, and the second book was just out. I think I liked the second book better.

The first book sounds a little contrived; the author circling the city on foot. And, somehow, in the last few years, it has aged badly. The Delhi that Miller describes in the book has changed considerably. The Delhi I know is more complicated than described by Miller.

A Strange Kind of Para
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating topic - what do foreigners think of your country? After marrying the sister of his Indian brother-in-law, the author moves to what is then Bombay. His love story with India, having started with his wife, starts extending to what he calls "A Strange Kind of Paradise", that is 'India through Foreign Eyes".

It begins with his own views, and then he starts researching what other foreigners thought about it. The Portuguese, Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, the Chinese, the French, and of course wh
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
I chose to read this book because it was recommended as "A must read before you visit India". Not quite a descriptive book about what to expect from Indian culture, people and places. In my opinion the only good part of it were spicy details and small stories from Indian history and everyday modern life. The author is a good foreign insider giving you a warm welcome to his Indian reality. A reality of the hardships of a foreigner living in a foreign country - the same reality for expats all over ...more
Jane Wilson-Howarth
This book is encyclopaedic in its coverage yet it is an easy enjoyable read, with plenty of passages that made me smile, or want to share. I liked the progress through time, as Miller reviewed foreigners' views of India since Alexander. Alongside this is this description of his own discovery of India - where he continues to reside. I like Miller's self-effacing style. This is a refreshing review of all things Indian.
Syed Saqi
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
The book is an eye opener in how the others viewed India, more often than not, it was with contempt, prejudice and disdain.. nevertheless, the land was charmed in the minds of the entire world.

Sam gives interesting titbits about so many of his connections and interpersed with his own story of unravelling this marvellous country. However there is no central theme across the book.. may be that would have helped attract this book more to this Indian reader.
Patrick Bryson
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
A much better read than Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity. Thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly finding out the name of the Japanese actress Masako Natsume, who played the male part of Tripitaka in Monkey. It's facts like this, combined with a sound historical narrative, that make the book so fun.
Ankur Vohra
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. A memoir interlinked with History. A must read for all those interested in knowing more about my home-India. A page turner for sure.
P.D.R. Lindsay
An interesting wander through someone else's thoughts about India. Mildly amusing and a pleasant read.
Sadiq Kazi
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
A Travelogue, a lesson in history, and a personal ode to India...interesting read!
Anuradha Goyal
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Navin Rajaram
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Easy read, and full of nice anecdotes.
Revanth Ukkalam
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Captain Nemo is Nana Sahib?
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Jun 09, 2014
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“We all have our patchwork ideas of India, our notions and opinions and prejudices–often fallacious and absurd–of this enormous, disparate country, which, as I take pleasure in reminding newcomers, bigger in population than all but its own continent: Asia. It is a place onto which foreigners have projected their own exotic fantasies and fears, their explanatory and simplifying schemata. And they never seem quite to make up their minds–as they swing from one extreme to the other–whether this country is of great wealth or of appalling poverty, of spiritual renunciation or of unabashed materialism, of fasting or of gluttony, of erotic sophistication or of sexual puritanism, of corruption or of moral superiority. They probably fail to admit that it might be all these things, and even more so, everything in between.” 1 likes
“a good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving" Taoist dictum quoted by Sam Miller” 1 likes
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