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

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  601 ratings  ·  55 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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I have had this on my shelf a long while, and was looking forward to reading it, which is probably why I struggled a little with it. It is written in a too-technical way for me to find it enjoyable, and moves from the macro to the micro, using the generalizations it rally's against earlier. While it is largely anecdotal, I found myself continually confused as it moved from one viewpoint to the next.

There is little doubt it offers insights, and probably much accuracy, but I found it hard to organ
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
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 simultan
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. ...more
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.
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
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. ...more
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
Abha Mishra
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourite, hindi
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
Serge Bouvet
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's never too late to make discoveries. With this book "Being Indian: Inside the real India", I would have liked to have read it before working in India. As a foreigner, I had never understood this attraction of Indians to the hierarchy. It's human, the quest for power exists all over the world, but in India, there's a big complex about it and Pavan K Varma explains it quite well. For Varma, the Indians respect too much the powerful and lack the courage to emancipate themselves from the hierarc ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Really, 3.5. Writing style = 3 while content = 4.

The writing style was a bit repetitive and didn't consistently flow well between points.

Content wise, it was very interesting to read. I think this book is meant to be very insightful, and since the author is Indian I'm guessing his insights are profound, but I found them hard to swallow. His most salient points, which he states without prescribing a morality to them, are that Indians are power hungry, wealth seeking, morally ambiguous people who
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book definitely made some broad generalizations that made me a little uncomfortable, but overall I really enjoyed it. The author draws some really interesting relationships between Hindu religious stories and Indian attitudes toward authority, wealth, and cultural norms. Also, especially because it's relevant to my current situation, I really enjoyed the discussion of the homegrown software engineering industry versus the much more prominent and high-level role Indian migrants to the US hav ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nidhi-home
The gentleman has a biased point of view set in traditional Western ideology of ultimate right or wrong that is totally stripped off from the inclusiveness concept of 'India' and her context, as it is.

Those who are to see 'Indian' with the same lens would find the meaning & value reinforcing enough, of course, devoid off the deep rooted empathetic understanding we do as researchers while understand culture and people.
Ashish Khare
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is for young Indians who really want to understand Indian culture in depth, traditioons, beliefs and much more concepts .
Also it has a great analysis technique in every aspect of a nation and the people living in it. The most beautiful part of this book is that it gives us a new way of path to think on and to look back on our own path to correlate.
Excellent read .....👍👍
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Lots of incredible insight into the Indian national character in regards to power, wealth, technology, and the growth of Pan-Indian identity. It is overburdened with anecdote and examples and it is outdated and wrong in some of predictions so it acts in part as a piece on what India could’ve become and maybe what it still can become if it changes course sharply in certain areas.
Ragesh R Nair
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
well written ..tries to probe into what INDIANS want to be and what we are ..
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
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
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Pavan K. Varma is a former Indian Foreign Service officer and was an adviser to the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, with cabinet rank. With effect from June, 2014 he was a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) until July 2016. He is currently the National General Secretary and National Spokesman of the Janata Dal (United).

Varma is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi where he studied

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Juneteenth, observed on June 19th each year, is an American holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston,...
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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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