Becoming Indian  -  The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity

Becoming Indian - The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity

Product ID: 28203

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Author: Pavan K Verma
Publisher: Penguin/Viking
Year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 288
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780670083466


Those who have never been colonized can never really know what it does to the psyche of a people. Those who have been are often not fully aware of—or are unwilling to accept—the degree to which they have been compromised.’

Till just a few decades ago, much of the world was carved into empires. By the mid twentieth century independent countries had emerged from these, but even after years of political liberation, cultural freedom has eluded formerly colonized nations like India.

In this important book, Pavan Varma, best-selling author of the seminal works The Great Indian Middle Class and Being Indian, looks at the consequences of Empire on the Indian psyche.

Drawing upon modern Indian history, contemporary events and personal experience, he examines how and why the legacies of colonialism persist in our everyday life, affecting our language, politics, creative expression and self-image.

Over six decades after Independence, English remains the most powerful language in India, and has become a means of social and economic exclusion. Our classical arts and literature continue to be neglected, and our popular culture is mindlessly imitative of western trends. Our cities are dotted with incongruous buildings that owe nothing to indigenous traditions of architecture.

For all our bravado as an emerging superpower, we remain unnaturally sensitive to both criticism and praise from the Anglo-Saxon world and hunger for its approval.

And outside North Block, the headquarters of free India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, a visitor can still read these lines inscribed by the colonial rulers: ‘Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing which must be earned before it can be enjoyed.’ With passion, insight and impeccable logic, Pavan Varma shows why India, and other formerly subject nations, can never truly be free—and certainly not in any position to assume global leadership—unless they reclaim their cultural identity.

It is a project, the book argues, that is more urgent than ever before, for in the age of globalization the pressures of homogenization and co-option by the dominant cultures of the west will only increase.



‘[A] masterful delineation of the urban Indian’s character or the lack of it…vivid, sure-footed and at times tongue-in-cheek’—Frontline

‘A fascinating and far from rose-tinted guide for anyone heading to this vast country or who simply wants to know how the 21st century is going to play out’—Sunday Times

‘A compelling thesis … [Varma] uses a clever mix of history, religion and personal examples to give this book depth and clarity’—India Today


‘[An] erudite, thoughtful, perceptive and elegantly written study…Not only the most outstanding non-fiction book of [the year], it is among the best that have come out of India in the past two decades’—Hindustan Times

‘A lucid book…The first popular social history of the class that has shaped India’s recent past and still controls the key to its future. This book…brings out the harsh truth, offers a critique and hints at what the way out could be’—The Hindu

‘An honest and courageous account…an interior journey of a sensitive writer to discover and understand the loss of innocence and idealism of a class and a generation’ —Business Standard



1. Choosing Exile
2. The Imperishable Empire
3. Macaulay's Legacy
4. Colonial Amnesia - A Tale of two Cities
5. Creativity and Distortion
6. The Empire at your Threshold
7. Within the Global Village - Asymmetry and Co-option

Author's Note