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Being Indian: Inside the real India
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Being Indian: Inside the real India

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  528 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
In the 21st century every sixth human being will be Indian. India is very close to becoming the second largest consumer market in the world, with a buying middle class numbering over half a billion. The Indian economy is already the fourth largest in terms of purchasing power parity. It is in the top ten in overall GNP. Yet at least 200 million Indians remain desperately p ...more
Published March 3rd 2005 by William Heinemann Ltd (first published 2004)
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This books is the younger distant country cousin of Gurucharan Das' "India Unbound"

If you have not read 'India Unbound' yet, then go for that book first.
If you have already read that, then there is no need to read this one.

This is an interesting read exhibiting some idiosyncrasies of we Indians, nevertheless.

One quote I particularly liked -

"The mistake one should never make is to accept the amiable Indian as a monolith. He is a most well-adjusted split personality, capable of living simultane
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
The book provides insights into the Indian mind in a coherent framework.
The opinions are frankly expressed and there is rarely any pretense. Though sometimes I felt that there was a little too much glorification.
The author understands the Indian mind very well and after discussing some broad traits in the end provides some pointers towards harnessing the potential of India.
The key message is that public policy needs to be in sync with the Indian traits for them to effectively work.
What I underst
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An honest portrayal of the nature of Indians and the corruption that is openly flaunted there when you consider that the author is one of "them" as a high ranking civil servant. Power, money and sex are all covered in this fascinating book. Indians have been held back for a long time, and in the modern context, the Socialist "Nehruvian" era that lasted from 1947 until the early 1990s seriously stunted the country's growth. When India finally opened for business, it just went off like a rocket - ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book does offer some insight into Indian culture, its gross over generalizations neglect to provide acknowledgment of the diverse nature of this vast nation. As other reviewers have said, the writing style also made this book a slow and laborious read. Although a totally different kind of book, I recommend Dalrymple's City of Djinns as a well-written alternative introduction to Indian culture.
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has spelt out for me so many facets of Indianness that hardly ruled my conscious mind.
A must read for all indophiles. A detailed analysis on who we are, where we come from and how we became our present selves. This book has given me deeper insight to questioning what the future holds for me as an Indian and for India itself.
Archana Sharma petwal
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I do not have words to describe it actually. Only thing is a must read for Indians and anybody who is interested in what India is.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
By calling his book, 'Being Indian', Mr. Varma takes upon himself a rather difficult task - that of defining the traits, characteristics, beliefs, mannerisms, dreams, aspirations of typical Indians.

He starts by tackling the image of Indians. Indians are considered to be 'other worldly', spiritual and non-violent. But, Mr. Varma argues this is merely a projected image and in reality Indians are extremely practical, worldly people, who have very earthy goals in life. To illustrate his point, the a
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it
or, The truth about why the 21st Century will be India's. This book, published by Penguin, cost me just Rs 250 and the back cover says that it is for sale in the Indian Subcontinent and Singapore only. How odd. Btw, I have not finished this either - I've been distracted by The Argumentative Indian and my rediscovery of my 500+ book collection from which I've extracted a few old favourites. I'm also still digesting much of what it means to be Indian, something I rejected being, quite honestly, fo ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wish I had read this before our trip to India not while we were there LOL. Excellent insight into interacting with the people in this amazing, interesting country. A bit repetitive in some spots but certainly worth reading.
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm conflicted on this book. On the one hand, it deals in gross over-generalizations and stereotyping, but on the other, much of it is well thought-out and it's certainly much closer to offering a real (and recognizable) sense of Indian identity/culture than Western images of India are. It's important to talk about cultures and how they differ from one another without immediately waving the red flag of racism/stereotyping/etc, but I'm skeptical of a book that attempts to do this in just over 200 ...more
A.J. Bryant
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: goodstuff
After spending 6 months in India, this book helped explain a lot of my feelings about the people and the culture. It gave words to ideas that were perculating in my mind regarding what I saw, felt, heard about how Indians live and why they did so. If you have a general idea of what India is like already or have really good friends who are Indian, this book would be very interesting to you. If not, read a primer first. This is more about the sociology of the Indian, albeit in broad brushstrokes.
May 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Some comments and observations are so good...almost like a psychoanalysis of a cross section of Indians....great read...I could not read it at one stretch like I normally for books of this size and type...memorable.
Jake Goretzki
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Best one I've read so far. Enjoyably unsentimental and happy to debunk many a piety (the end justifies the means; you're poor because it's your fault; democracy is a fast track to influence; wealth is always good; bribery isn't always bad). Very useful.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A brilliant insightful book that solved a lot of incomprehensible dichotomies in my mind about india. Very practical, grounded and eminently readable
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hindi, favourite
Great book for starters who wants to know the real India .I found the book quite limited due to its emphasis on few basic topics which everyone knows but it States the true face of Indians who are corrupts ,sufferers and money minded. it seems that these bigots will never change but this never changing attitude will land them nowhere. apart from this the authors generalization about certain things like entrepreneurs or democracy is quite genuine, yes Indians are born entrepreneur s and will be s ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
In the introduction to “Being Indian”, the author writes that this book is not a scholarly work, and will rely on anecdotes. And therein lay the difficulty with the book.

The author gives some intriguing ideas. Basically, he believes that Indians love to seek power and have no moral qualms about attaining it by any means possible; Indians love money and have no moral qualms about the earning of money being their goal in life; Indians have a knack for technical prowess, but have never been encoura
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Noor Alam
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: india
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
Pawan Verma (let's point out that he is an IFS officer, in keeping with Indians' affinity to display qualifications and designations, as he mentions in the book!) has a self critical look at what it means to be an Indian (to set the record straight, he clarifies that sometimes he uses Hindu and Indian interchangeably in the book, I noted it but I am not entirely convinced that one disclaimer justifies the interchangeability of these tags). The 'myth busting' mission includes tackling romanticise ...more
Aseem Juneja
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an insightful read about Indians..Very well written.
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
Insightful yet disturbing. I read this book after reading The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen and found it provided a more down to earth although personalized interpretation of what it is to be Indian. Both authors strongly contest the Western perception of the spiritual Indian but in very different ways with Sen relying on much historical evidence while Varma points to current relationships with power and wealth. As a foreigner with close contacts with India, perhaps the most interesting as ...more
Tony Sheldon
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A slap on the face of India. It tells the tale of truth. Of what is and what should be. How Indians behave and where they are in the world. How their thinking works and as an Indian I can say it was very insightful. It is funny,cunning,fast and thorny in the way it tells the tale. Now I know what I needed to and what was never told in the school. Now I know the difference between the real image of Indians and the one projected by the society. But even though of its beautiful course towards reali ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok

Summary: 'His book titled, Being Indian, analyzes the Indian lifestyle, psyche and future threadbare.' It says the book tells truth about why the twenty first century will be Indian. This book has an extraordinary style of writing; Pavan wrote this book with style of writing. This book is an exceptionaly extended essay with profound understanding and this is presented in fairly lucid language. Basically this book is diveded into four major parts; power, wealth, and technology, which Indians are
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anindya by: Vivek Nair
Shelves: back-2-reality
Finally someone wrote the truth about our country. The author reveals what the real Indian really is. He backs his statements with facts. The facts might be available is voluminous reports 'generated' by the GoI but no Indian would care to read them. This book, on the other hand presents the facts in an easy-to-read-and-relate way. After finishing this book I was not proud to be an Indian. It did more to me. I felt content to know for sure that India has a brighter future just because of who we ...more
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Pavan Verma explains what makes up the Indian psyche in clear, lucid language, how people can be completely rational scientists at work and be fervently religious with all the attendant superstitions once they get home. The book also shows, why power and money are pretty much synonymous in today's India and have always been so for millennia. One point where he slips, is in lamenting that imposition of Hindi in the south is opposed by what he calls as 'regional chauvinists'. Apart from ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Heartily recommend this gem of a book which has tremendous insights into the psyche of the Indian people (Indian culture, attitudes and motivations)- lays bare the yawning gap between our self-perceptions and reality, quoting liberally from the Gita as well as modern Bollywood lyrics to illustrate/elaborate. Begins to feel just a mite contrived, though, in the last couple of chapters where the author tries to outline why India will do well, its faults notwithstanding...The author's view seems to ...more
Rob Williams
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asia

4 stars for insights, which are very good and enlightening. I did not give it 5 stars because the text is a little stilted in places interrupting what is otherwise a useful book. I just skimmed the fluff and that accelerates how fast one can get through this book and focus on the meat of it. The first two chapters are the best for one tweaking to better understand what makes India tick. Late in the book are some interesting observations on pan-Indian developments.
Jeffrey Ogden Thomas
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those wanting to better understand current Indian society
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Woodstock book group
An interesting attempt to elaborate and justify the India Shining slogan of the BJP. Most of it flows well, but it slides over the difficult questions of communalism. The author probably speaks for a significant chunk of India's middle class, and his boosterism is infectious. India could well dominate the 21st Century, but there are several better-placed and better-organized competitors out there.
The most informative was the chapter "Technology: Success in the Shadows of the Past." It begins,"The crecent emergence of India as a power to reckon with in information technology prompts the question: do Indians have a special talent in this field?" Varma's answer is yes. He goes back to ancient history to explain how Indians used a system of weights and measures based on an awareness of the decimal system and they invented zero. They also excelled at astronomy and astrology.
Aug 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although loaded with all sorts of problematic and authoritative generalizations, some particular to specific subsets of the Indian population and some not at all particular to the peoples of the subcontinent, the former Indian ambassador to Cypress makes a number of thought-provoking observations about contemporary Indian society.
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“Over the years the Indian leadership, and the educated Indian, have deliberately projected and embellished an image about Indians that they know to be untrue, and have wilfully encouraged the well-meaning but credulous foreign observer to accept it. What is worse, they have fallen in love with this image, and can no longer accept that it is untrue.” 7 likes
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