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The book has three parts: Rashtra (Nation), Lakshmy (Wealth), and Samaj (Society). Each section has sub-sections.


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The book has three parts: Rashtra (Nation), Lakshmy (Wealth), and Samaj (Society). Each section has sub-sections.

30 review for India: A Portrait

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    India: Connect-the-Dots (or not) French divides the book into three neat parts - Rashtra (Nation, i.e., The Politics), Lakshmi (Wealth, i.e., The Economics) & Samaj (Society, i.e., The Sociology). He attempts to sketch a comprehensive ‘portrait’ of the country by using this eminently scientific approach. Hard to fault the ambition. Except that India refuses to be divided into such easy compartments. Nor are these sciences ones that can be easily examined without reference to each other. They are India: Connect-the-Dots (or not) French divides the book into three neat parts - Rashtra (Nation, i.e., The Politics), Lakshmi (Wealth, i.e., The Economics) & Samaj (Society, i.e., The Sociology). He attempts to sketch a comprehensive ‘portrait’ of the country by using this eminently scientific approach. Hard to fault the ambition. Except that India refuses to be divided into such easy compartments. Nor are these sciences ones that can be easily examined without reference to each other. They are not the hyphenated-sisters for no reason. Much of the pleasure in reading the book comes from the tension generated by French trying to wrench and force fit his stories into his compartments, religiously avoiding cross-references (as much as possible). The fact that he keeps the whole thing coherent is an achievement in itself. Rashtra Appropriately the first section is politics which is the fountainhead of much that follows. French here attempts the herculean task of trying to compress the byzantine complexity of Indian politics into a third of a book. He keeps it light and funny and does not lack in insight when it comes to history. But his telling is slightly biased in favor of the current government - lavishing praises on Mr. Singh, Soniaji and on her son, even as he dishes out excessive criticism on almost everything else concerning Indian politics. It must be an embarrassment for the author if it were pointed out now how he was praising Rahul Gandhi as the possible savior of an increasing decadent Congress system while so insightfully highlighting the worst aspects of the party politics. The best analyzed chapter of the book (Family Politics) comes in this section and deals with the minutiae of Hereditary Politics that has plagued India. With the help of some (almost) ad-hoc calculations and excel-plugging, French arrives at a picture of how deep-rotted the problem really is. This depressing analysis points out how low a proportion of non-hereditary political leaders, i.e., people who made it on their own merit are there in the higher (and even lower) echelons of power. As opposed to the ones who didn't need merit - He calls them H-MPs/H-MLAs (Hereditary-MP/MLA). Can’t think of a more stinging slap on the face of ‘democracy’. French ends the chapter with a stirring warning that the route India has taken of entrenched hereditary politics is taking her rapidly back to the era of Kings and Princes. Lakshmi As with any Indian Economic history, French dives with great relish into criticizing the early planning economy, especially Mahalanobis - he even points out how this damaged not just India but the rest of the newly independent countries as well since they looked to India (Calcutta in lieu of Chicago) for economic wisdom and adopted Mahalanobis’s elaborately concocted fantasy as theory. But the fact is that the steady stream of economists who poured into India in that period of exceptional enthusiasm (which Das elaborates in his book) had all certified the plan as faultless, Friedman being one of the few voices to cry foul and that was probably more because it was against his ideology than because of any specific objections to the theoretical framework. Thought experiment: India as an early Keynesian vs Monetarist battleground. Almost, but not to be. Sigh. In addition to the standard fare of criticism of early policies and the run up to the much hyped turning point of the 90s, some interesting flashes stand out in this section to interest even the informed reader - such as: How Keynes’ early career and theoretical synthesis was shaped by India; How the at-first-glance stunningly socialistic and idealistic ‘Bombay Plan’ was as in fact politically motivated and was a shrewd move to outflank the left-wing; How Mahalanobis was obsessed with the science of skull measurement and concocted dreamy theories on the racial superiority of Bengalis, etc. Samaj Fittingly, this concluding section about Indian Society is the most amorphous and yet most coherent part of the book. He uses it to highlight some of the everyday concerns of the Indian media and the everyday fears of the Indian ‘common-man’ - all of which seem mundane but are of stunningly tragic proportions if one could only take a step back and see the extent, depth and sheer depravity of it. The topics he takes on in this section ranges from caste issues, societal disconnects such as the urban-rural divide (where he follows up on the Kafkaesque Aarushi story, in great detail.), religion and its discontents, customs - their origins and current forms, ancient science, philosophy etc and even some tasty anecdotes such as how Mahalanobis (yes he does seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Mahalanobis - just as he can never talk of Keynes without commenting on his sexuality within the same sentence) saved Ramanujam from chilly nights by teaching him the engineering dexterity necessary for manipulating a blanket. Being the manifestations arising out of the Politics and Economics outlined in the first two sections of the book, this final section finds French at his poignant journalistic best. Tracing out moving stories and making almost a travelogue of this, one gets the feeling that this was what French originally wanted to write about and the run up/introduction in which he wanted to show some of the underlying causes to the societal ills of India ended up turning into a two-thirds-of-his-book-long introduction. French should probably have stuck to the original plan. It might have meant that we could have had a profoundly moving portrait, without being asked to do a connect-the-dots puzzle all the time before being shown the stark reality of the picture for a flash and then being blind-folded again. Left alone with the confounding puzzle, most dots still left hanging.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Narrated by Walter Dixon. 17 hrs and 12 mins Description: A monumental biography of the subcontinent from the award-winning author of The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul. Second only to China in the magnitude of its economic miracle and second to none in its potential to shape the new century, India is fast undergoing one of the most momentous transformations the world has ever seen. In this dazzlingly panoramic book, Patrick French chronicles that epic change, tell Narrated by Walter Dixon. 17 hrs and 12 mins Description: A monumental biography of the subcontinent from the award-winning author of The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul. Second only to China in the magnitude of its economic miracle and second to none in its potential to shape the new century, India is fast undergoing one of the most momentous transformations the world has ever seen. In this dazzlingly panoramic book, Patrick French chronicles that epic change, telling human stories to explain a larger national narrative. Melding on-the-ground reports with a deep knowledge of history, French exposes the cultural foundations of India’s political, economic and social complexities. He reveals how a nation identified with some of the most wretched poverty on earth has simultaneously developed an envied culture of entrepreneurship (here are stories like that of C. K. Ranganathan, who trudged the streets of Cuddalore in the 1980s selling sample packets of shampoo and now employs more than one thousand people). And even more remarkably, French shows how, despite the ancient and persistent traditions of caste, as well as a mind-boggling number of ethnicities and languages, India has nevertheless managed to cohere, evolving into the world’s largest democracy, largely fulfilling Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream of a secular liberal order. French’s inquiry goes to the heart of all the puzzlements that modern India presents: Is this country actually rich or poor? Why has its Muslim population, the second largest on earth, resisted radicalization to such a considerable extent? Why do so many children of Indians who have succeeded in the West want to return “home,” despite never having lived in India? Will India become a natural ally of the West, a geostrategic counterweight to the illiberal rising powers China and Russia? To find the answers, French seeks out an astonishing range of characters: from Maoist revolutionaries to Mafia dons, from chained quarry laborers to self-made billionaires. And he delves into the personal lives of the political elite, including the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, one of the most powerful women in the world. 1: Accelerated Progress 2: There Will Be Blood 3: The Centrifuge 4: Family Politics 5: The Visions of Keynes 6: Dismal Prospect 7: Falcon 900 8: A Quarry near Mysore 9: The Outcasts Revenge 10: 4ever 11: Solace of Religion 12: Only in India Gawd, I don't know which is worse - this reportage of bombs, bigotism, guns, class prejudice and nepotism, or the newspapers full of rape, and fundimental Hindhuism. This is a painful biography about an amazingly complex country, yet there is such hope for the future as the population is just so damn intelligent. NONFIC NOVEMBER 2015: CR White Mughals 5* A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts 3* Rome and the Barbarians 4* Field Notes From A Hidden City 3* The King's Jews: Money, Massacre and Exodus in Medieval England CR A History of Palestine 634-1099 3* Charlotte Brontë: A Life 3* The Alhambra 5* A Long Walk in the Himalaya: A Trek from the Ganges to Kashmir 3* Buddhist Warfare 4* A Gathering of Spoons AB A Brief History of Roman Britain - Conquest and Civilization 4* Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination, 1830-1880 3* Food Safari CR She-Wolves 3* India: A Portrait 2* The Archaeology of Ancient Sicily

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Ask me for some off-the-top-of-your-head associations with the word 'India', and I'd probably stammer something about Slumdog Millionaire, wacky gods, poverty, exotic food and Mahatma Gandhi. Maybe pad it out by adding a few things gleaned from reading RK Narayan; think about mentioning Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and then - quickly - come to my senses. Although I knew a little about the author's previous work - including his excellent biography of V.S. Naipaul - I knew next to nothing Ask me for some off-the-top-of-your-head associations with the word 'India', and I'd probably stammer something about Slumdog Millionaire, wacky gods, poverty, exotic food and Mahatma Gandhi. Maybe pad it out by adding a few things gleaned from reading RK Narayan; think about mentioning Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and then - quickly - come to my senses. Although I knew a little about the author's previous work - including his excellent biography of V.S. Naipaul - I knew next to nothing about his subject. In a way, the very sub-title is a tease ('an intimate biography of 1.2. billion people'), operating out of the zone between ignorance and knowledge. Telling the truth about any nation depends, quite literally, on where you stand. So how do you tell the story of a nation as massively diverse and contradictory as India? French's answer - and a successful one - is to admit the messiness. Many worlds exist in parallel, each shedding light on the other. French studies the 'small' up close, and cuts away to the bigger picture: using the soliloquy to explain the play. The daily life of the dabbah-wallas of Mumbai metamorphoses seamlessly into a study of Indian customs and codes regarding business, and India's entrepreneurial spirit. 'Although India is home to a higher number of illiterate people than any other country in the world, which is in part the consequence of having more than a billion citizens, many of those who travel overseas are well-educated and motivated. It is estimated that Indians are responsible for one in six Silicon Valley start-ups, and that 30,000 graduates of the Indian Institutes of Technology live and work in the US. [...] Vinod Khosla co-founded Sun Microsystems, Sabeer Bhatia started Hotmail and Ajay Bhatt [the architect of the the USB] became a rock star.' Making politics and economics readable and thickly larded with human conflict - particularly in the chapter concerning the making of the Indian Constitution - is one of the book's major achievements. India's poverty, religious conflict and caste-cruelty are never glossed over. Casteism, French suggests, is worse than most other prejudices. An anti-semite will let it slip that he envies how well 'they' do in business, just as a white supremacist lets it slip that he envies black athletic prowess. But prejudice against an 'untouchable' is built on the idea that to even share a room with one is to be physically contaminated, at serious risk of literally becoming an insect. Nor, however, are the above presented as the whole story, as if further enquiry is somehow unnecessary. Before, India was regarded as 'exotic, eternal, to be admired and patronised, but incapable of helping itself. It needed the pump-priming charity of outsiders, and was certainly not a competitor, not a country that might take off and revitalise itself.' Yet 'at the very time Westerners were travelling to India in search of suffering and spirituality, and writing replica accounts of it, a more interesting shift was taking place.' That shift saw a country that nearly went bankrupt in 1991 rebound so successfully its economy is predicted to overtake the Japanese by 2032. That prediction may frighten some. I find it fascinating. I will be looking up French's previous book on India, (Liberty or Death) without delay.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex Docobo

    I have a complaint about this book that I predict not many people will share: it's too anecdotal. At first the anecdotes are an asset but after reading about half the book they become a detractor. Too often does the author deviate from the big picture of India to tell the story of some person who there's no way I will remember. It becomes annoying. I mean it's okay to tell me that there was an entrepreneur in India who revolutionized shampoo but to spend 4,5,6 pages on him is simply too much. T I have a complaint about this book that I predict not many people will share: it's too anecdotal. At first the anecdotes are an asset but after reading about half the book they become a detractor. Too often does the author deviate from the big picture of India to tell the story of some person who there's no way I will remember. It becomes annoying. I mean it's okay to tell me that there was an entrepreneur in India who revolutionized shampoo but to spend 4,5,6 pages on him is simply too much. Too often did I get the feeling that I was being overwhelmed with information about someone who's life had little to no consequence on the country as a whole and too rarely did I feel that I was absorbing information about people who really shaped the country, such as Ambedkhar. However, the book has plenty of positives as well. I especially enjoyed the parts that focused on political and economic history. For example, the stuff about the Permit Raj, which I had absolutely no knowledge of before, was extremely interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Nayak

    Patrick French's portrait of India was a great refresher on various topics from India's past and present most of which were lost on me, having been raised on an information diet of textbooks and media that are heavily biased towards removing the unpleasant and ugly facts about political leaders and the more grimy aspects of how our country has been governed. The book is divided into three parts, Rashtra, Lakshmi and Samaj, which deal with the formation of the nation, its economy and finances and Patrick French's portrait of India was a great refresher on various topics from India's past and present most of which were lost on me, having been raised on an information diet of textbooks and media that are heavily biased towards removing the unpleasant and ugly facts about political leaders and the more grimy aspects of how our country has been governed. The book is divided into three parts, Rashtra, Lakshmi and Samaj, which deal with the formation of the nation, its economy and finances and its society. Reading about Nehru, Gandhi, Patel, Prasad and Ambedkar in terms which treats them as humans and not the exalted super beings that we have been led to believe they are is a refreshing change. This probably was the most interesting part of the entire book for me, except the final few pages where a detailed albeit rudimentary statistical analysis of MPs in India only serves to confirm common knowledge. The section Lakshmi paints a fascinating picture of the early nation state of India, with exalted ambitions and noble aspirations which fail to translate into real world pragmatism and led to our economy being stunted and slow for the better part of a half century. Samaj is the most contemporary section of the book as attempts are made to understand our varied society which at times seems to completely lack the quality of compassion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mohit Choudhary

    I felt the book delivers a mini crash course in the economics, politics and castes of India, the observations are clinical yet some of them are very insightful which even I, as an Indian, failed to notice in all these years. Overall, I found it to be a useful read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Does what it sets out to do: cover a complex country's politics, economy, and culture. If you don't mind slightly intellectual writing and want to get a briefing on the country before a work trip or vacation you could do a lot worse. Politics: Breezes through the end of the British and partition too much probably but I liked the overview of the dynastic power of the (Indira) Gandhi family and how Congress Party being the primary power for so long kept the country stagnant institutionally (reminde Does what it sets out to do: cover a complex country's politics, economy, and culture. If you don't mind slightly intellectual writing and want to get a briefing on the country before a work trip or vacation you could do a lot worse. Politics: Breezes through the end of the British and partition too much probably but I liked the overview of the dynastic power of the (Indira) Gandhi family and how Congress Party being the primary power for so long kept the country stagnant institutionally (reminded me of the PRI in Mexico). Perhaps a little too generous when talking about the rightist identity politics of the BJP. You can only take so much political stuff as an outsider so I'm glad this section didn't go on too long. Economy: I didn't realize how socialist the country's economic policies were. Not as intense as Eastern Europe and the culture sounds very merchant-like but there was a long time when the government used the precautionary principle for most economic activity and it sounds like really kept people in poverty. Now the entrenched corruption has made it hard for the freer market to be fair but I think the author does a good job of talking about the tradeoffs of economic growth and income inequality. Puzzling amount of time discussing Keynes' personal life in this section. Culture: As an outsider, this was the hardest for me to gauge but I found it a little undercooked given all of the time he spent on Keynes in earlier chapters. This section talks about how the attempts of the government to end caste prejudice is working or not working but this, nor the religious and linguistic divides weren't made palpable enough for my taste.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Great analysis of India -- where it's come from & where it's going. My favorite quote: Integration is welcoming; it says join us. Multiculturalism says, go to your ghetto. (p 322). Fascinating discussion of the differences in western (judeo-christian) culture. The Christian idea "it's harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle" is absent. The pursuit of wealth isn't shameful. The idea that people are punished in this life for sins in past ones - Great analysis of India -- where it's come from & where it's going. My favorite quote: Integration is welcoming; it says join us. Multiculturalism says, go to your ghetto. (p 322). Fascinating discussion of the differences in western (judeo-christian) culture. The Christian idea "it's harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle" is absent. The pursuit of wealth isn't shameful. The idea that people are punished in this life for sins in past ones -- leading to a lack of distress in the face of human suffering. Interesting political analysis on 'hereditary democracy' for lack of a better term -- the practice of inheriting your family spot in the legislature (and the disasters of the Nehru family!). Fascinating discussion of the caste system & the history of the muslim community.

  9. 4 out of 5

    ♛ ѶaɱՏ¡ TM

    Reading 'India: A portrait' by Patrick French is really a good experience, you can sense all the changes happened before and after independence in political,economical,Industrial,community and cast sectors. Few pages, similar like reading day to day news. Patrick tried to give a statistical info about our Member of Parliamentarians since 1947. In recent years, more than half of them are HMPs(hereditary MPs), they are getting power as Inheritance. Slowly Parliament doors are shutting down for new Reading 'India: A portrait' by Patrick French is really a good experience, you can sense all the changes happened before and after independence in political,economical,Industrial,community and cast sectors. Few pages, similar like reading day to day news. Patrick tried to give a statistical info about our Member of Parliamentarians since 1947. In recent years, more than half of them are HMPs(hereditary MPs), they are getting power as Inheritance. Slowly Parliament doors are shutting down for new raising leaders who are not having any political back ground. If you like to read democratic India's political background and modern trends, this book is a must read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aditya Relangi

    Decent book that covers the breadth but not the depth. It can be a good intro to someone completely new to the idea of India. It successfully covers most of the major issues that are dear to and define Indians, but like many others before completely ignores the northeastern states. Heavily interspersed with anecdotes to convey broader ideas, the author does a decent job though misses the forest for the trees. The book could've done well with much sharper editing especially the final chapters. Th Decent book that covers the breadth but not the depth. It can be a good intro to someone completely new to the idea of India. It successfully covers most of the major issues that are dear to and define Indians, but like many others before completely ignores the northeastern states. Heavily interspersed with anecdotes to convey broader ideas, the author does a decent job though misses the forest for the trees. The book could've done well with much sharper editing especially the final chapters. The book starts quite strongly at the beginning but flounders by the end. All in all, it's decent and entertaining.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    It is well structured book and touches on many interesting issues and themes of the modern India. But it reads more like a set of articles rather than coherent whole. It did not raise my curiosity and interest about this unique country further. I liked very much the one of the last chapters about the role of religion. I wish all the book would be on such level. But definitely interesting worthwhile read overall.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Biju P.R.

    Nice book. A deep understanding of India in the eye of a foreigner.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Antenna

    Although published in 2011, before the rise of Hindu nationalism under President Modi and resultant surge in the persecution of Muslims which Patrick French could not foresee, this book remains worth reading as a clear, informative and wide-ranging introduction to a fascinating and complex country. With many anecdotes, he creates a strong, authentic sense of place, starting with the old man in his apricot orchard, recalling how when Nehru visited the newly independent northern border region of La Although published in 2011, before the rise of Hindu nationalism under President Modi and resultant surge in the persecution of Muslims which Patrick French could not foresee, this book remains worth reading as a clear, informative and wide-ranging introduction to a fascinating and complex country. With many anecdotes, he creates a strong, authentic sense of place, starting with the old man in his apricot orchard, recalling how when Nehru visited the newly independent northern border region of Ladakh, there were no roads, so he had to land by plane, something the locals had never seen before, so they simply put their hands together and prayed to it. At the other end of the scale are the computer whizz kid Indian graduates who have made such a contribution to Silicon Valley in the US, some claiming that their early grounding in abstract Hindu philosophy has helped them to make “mental leaps in the virtual world”. Commencing with a useful potted history of the creation in 1947 of what was initially meant to be a secular democracy, and an explanation of the complex politics, with MPs now increasingly determined by family links, French moves on to the early problems caused by a well-intentioned but over-bureaucratic socialist system of central planning, with enterprise often stifled by the need to obtain permits to import or manufacture products. The benefits of the subsequent liberalisation have “lifted large numbers out of extreme poverty” but the rise in population has left about the same number of poor people. There seems to be a widening gap: “By 2008 four of the eight richest people alive were Indian”, there is a “dynamic middle class, but “people….still die, finding that eating rats or ground mango kernels does not save them from starvation”. The issue of caste in all its complex degrees of exclusion runs through the text: the Chuhras who have had to do “hereditary work sweeping, cleaning, dealing with dead animals…” then scraping up the leftover food after weddings, the “joothan” to boil and store for late. In the unconscious insensitivity of his much vaunted personal sacrifice, Gandhi wished to be reborn an untouchable “to share their sorrow, sufferings and the affronts levelled at them”. With the perhaps questionable observation that “compassion is not a Hindu concept” French describes the plight of a “Dalit” (low caste) worker who, for seeking to leave his job with an unpaid debt, was fitted with heavy metal fetters, forcing him to spend years breaking stones in a quarry, until he was saved by some activists during a political campaign. French covers relations with Pakistan and the position of Indian Muslims, who are surprisingly almost as numerous as Pakistanis. They are described by one of their own leaders as the most backward community in India “economically, educationally and socially”, largely because the most disadvantaged were left behind in the 1947 Partition. Yet, this self-same leader defended the persistence of archaic Muslim codes in India which supported his personal power, even at the cost of feeding resentment among conservative Hindus that they could not enjoy similar “separatist privileges”. Occasionally the book gets bogged down too long in one issue, and the final chapter seems a somewhat rushed catch-all for all the outstanding points the author wanted to include, but overall this is highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    French's interesting examination of this most diverse of states is a fun romp through modern India. French is a journalist, and this work combines both a history of India along with personal stories that French gathered as a journalist. The history is interesting, though he focuses almost exclusively on modern India, giving the reader only snippets of India before 1948. The stories from his journalism work are hit or miss. Some of them, like the story of the murder of a middle-class Dehli famili French's interesting examination of this most diverse of states is a fun romp through modern India. French is a journalist, and this work combines both a history of India along with personal stories that French gathered as a journalist. The history is interesting, though he focuses almost exclusively on modern India, giving the reader only snippets of India before 1948. The stories from his journalism work are hit or miss. Some of them, like the story of the murder of a middle-class Dehli families only daughter and how the police tried to frame the father because they could not come up with a better supsect, are compelling. Others are boring and feel like they were just tacked on to the end of the book just to add filler. The book ends with just a bunch of short weird stories that do not fit anywhere, and they feel like they were just placed here because he did not know where else he could put them. This causes the ending to be a damp squib, dissappointing since a book that is a portrait of an important and gigantic nation deserved a better finale. Still, it is worth a read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Herrholz Paul

    Part one is concerned with the political landscape of India in recent times since independence and gives us a fairly comprehensive account of the multifarious manifestations of such and shows by way of conclusion how nepotism seems once more to be rearing its ugly head. Part two is about the economic life with a multitude of anecdotal sketches and episodes in French`s usual style which give the spice to the pickle and enable a vivid sensorial reading experience. Part three attempts to convey a li Part one is concerned with the political landscape of India in recent times since independence and gives us a fairly comprehensive account of the multifarious manifestations of such and shows by way of conclusion how nepotism seems once more to be rearing its ugly head. Part two is about the economic life with a multitude of anecdotal sketches and episodes in French`s usual style which give the spice to the pickle and enable a vivid sensorial reading experience. Part three attempts to convey a little of what it is different about Indians and their culture. This is perhaps the most interesting part of the book and there are areas which would appeal to readers looking for some access in to Hinduism. The chapter entitled `Only in India` is particularly engaging. A really interesting read; I was left with a feeling of having encountered this fascinating culture in a meaningful way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    Integration is welcoming; it says, join us. Multiculturalism says, go to your ghetto. Many places could be called a land of contrasts, but India seems to take it to the extreme. This is by no means a comprehensive history of the country, as it only covers since independence and even then is just a portrait or snapshot as the title suggested. I found the above quote from the book very striking, considering the current political and religious tensions India is experiencing. Worth reading up on a pl Integration is welcoming; it says, join us. Multiculturalism says, go to your ghetto. Many places could be called a land of contrasts, but India seems to take it to the extreme. This is by no means a comprehensive history of the country, as it only covers since independence and even then is just a portrait or snapshot as the title suggested. I found the above quote from the book very striking, considering the current political and religious tensions India is experiencing. Worth reading up on a place that will be an economic power for quite some time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alysha

    I’m glad I procrastinated reading this until after I returned from my trip to India. While initially skeptical of a British person writing about India and the colonial gaze likely to be exerted upon my motherland, I was blown away by the stories and un-imperial insights into Indian history, culture and psyche. It helped me put words around what I already knew and felt, as well as taught me more about the ridiculously complex and diverse place I’m lucky to have my roots in.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mithlesh Kumar

    I bought this book for learning more about the history of India, but after listening for 10-15 minutes, i realized that the book is more of a commentary over the current situation in India than the history. But anyways, i enjoyed the book. This books provides the glimpse of technology, politics, society and culture of India.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Velayudhan

    This book was very interesting. It made me understand life in India from the perspective of individuals (through many anecdotes) and also gave me an overview of the many cultural and political forces that are shaping this country. It made me ask myself: What does it mean to be Indian in the twenty-first century?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jose Puttanani

    An amazing exercise by Patrick French to capture the India with all her extremes in the book well narrated with the help of true stories, references, historical events and expert assessments. I don't think he would have shown the same optimism if the book was written now. An amazing exercise by Patrick French to capture the India with all her extremes in the book well narrated with the help of true stories, references, historical events and expert assessments. I don't think he would have shown the same optimism if the book was written now.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vendela Gambill

    A bit of a connect the dots portrait, but enjoyed the first and second sections particularly

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jules Brugel

    This is not a typical read for me, so it is good to learn about Indian political dynasty and the democratic system there.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chandan Kumar

    Not good if u hv read Guha and Bipin Chandra's book. Not good if u hv read Guha and Bipin Chandra's book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lenny Burnham

    Good overview.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Apta

    Patrick French's 'India' is the only non-fiction book on India that I have ever finished. I've tried reading John Keay's 'India: A History', Mark Tully's 'No Full Stops in India' and even some Dalrymple, but have never been able to get beyond the first half. Perhaps, poised as I am to leave this country in a few short months, Patrick French's book was extremely topical. All that aside, I truly loved this book. Patrick French's point of view on India is that of an outsider who has spent years get Patrick French's 'India' is the only non-fiction book on India that I have ever finished. I've tried reading John Keay's 'India: A History', Mark Tully's 'No Full Stops in India' and even some Dalrymple, but have never been able to get beyond the first half. Perhaps, poised as I am to leave this country in a few short months, Patrick French's book was extremely topical. All that aside, I truly loved this book. Patrick French's point of view on India is that of an outsider who has spent years getting to know and love this country. He is on the inside enough to understand the multitude of cultural idiosyncrasies that almost define this country without being entrenched and unable to see the humor and absurdity of life in India. Although he is Britisher, he does not approach his writing with nationalistic loyalties, but a curious observer of a nation of curiosities. This approach, I feel, is what makes 'India: An Intimate Biography of 1.2 Billion People' - the contradiction in the title resonates as a theme through the entire book - a page turner. I literally, could not put the book down and found myself reading about the economic history and development of India while I brushed my teeth. I have not read much non-fiction, so I suppose I'm not qualified to really pass judgement on Patrick French's skill as a writer, but I think that this man has the quiet brilliance (of HTC - haha, just kidding) that is the mark of a great mind. He has the ability to discuss the technicalities of economics and politics without becoming too pedantic and always keeping in mind the contextual, human story that drives political and economic change. I believe that his understanding of society, that it is nothing more than a collection of human beings bound together, loosely, by random historical, cultural and economic events, really frames the way he understands India. And he never, just as he discusses later in the book, falls prey to the Western impulse of categorizing and defining India by rules that have no meaning in it's context. Patrick French's 'India', is a balanced and ultimately optimistic account of a country's modern history that places you in a much better position to understand the India. As an introduction to non-fiction literature on this country, I would say this book is pretty much perfect. It is a page turner, contains enough anecdotes that are entirely relatable and is sufficiently factual and technical to feed your intellect. For more advanced readers, it may not be a sophisticated or analytical enough account, but for me, it was just perfect. Finishing the book felt as heartbreaking as it will to leave the country two months from now.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ratna

    The bookseller goaded me on to buy this book. I had heard of the author and was therefore very much tempted. But the initial pages were a bit of a disappointment. Maybe because I had read about the past history of India previously or was aware of the events that unfolded during the tumultuous years of the nation’s birth. The vision of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the events which unfolded during Indira Gandhi’s youth and which eventually catapulted her to occupy the most powerful seat in the country, w The bookseller goaded me on to buy this book. I had heard of the author and was therefore very much tempted. But the initial pages were a bit of a disappointment. Maybe because I had read about the past history of India previously or was aware of the events that unfolded during the tumultuous years of the nation’s birth. The vision of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the events which unfolded during Indira Gandhi’s youth and which eventually catapulted her to occupy the most powerful seat in the country, were no eye opener. The dynastic politics of the Congress party, the Dalit movement which spearheaded with Dr. Ambedkar and consequently the rise of Kanshi Ram and then Mayawati are also in the public domain. All along the book seems to garner the feeling that it had been written for an audience which was not familiar with the phenomenon that is India. Therefore, it is somewhere here that its appeal lays. The language used in the book is good but sometimes you get the feeling that perhaps Dr.French meant to convey more than what has been written, especially the candidature of Ansari and why he fell foul of Mayawati. However, the book succinctly captures the economic history of the country and how the turnaround happened to make it one of the fastest growing economies of the world-(The rise of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the economist and then as the finance minister and finally as Prime Minister). Dr. French has also touched upon a very topical matter in his book-the Aarushi murder case which I liked since it gave me a different perspective of the family. Till now, the parents have largely been perceived as cold but his delineation of the events surrounding their daughter’s death has rendered them human, capable of pain and frustration very similar to ours. “Innocent till proven guilty” is often consigned to the records for all purposes-here we pronounce the guilty verdict all too soon with very little thought to how it would affect the person concerned. All in all, a commendable effort by Dr. French-because India is too huge a subject to be handled and there are bound to be areas which would be left out. The portrait is good but does not go deep and the details are missing. But it is a pretty picture all the same.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    I have a deep appreciation for this book. I think that it was perfect for me. It manages to be an historical account of India since Independence, without taking on the burden and responsibility of being a "history book". The subtitle for this book is perfect, it is "a portrait" of India. That label gives the book freedom to explore that a title like "India: A History" would not allow. Patrick French writes with a refreshing voice. There is something trustworthy and transparent about the straightf I have a deep appreciation for this book. I think that it was perfect for me. It manages to be an historical account of India since Independence, without taking on the burden and responsibility of being a "history book". The subtitle for this book is perfect, it is "a portrait" of India. That label gives the book freedom to explore that a title like "India: A History" would not allow. Patrick French writes with a refreshing voice. There is something trustworthy and transparent about the straightforwardness with which he describes the many characters he meets, views, and interviews throughout the course of the book. He comes across as that friend that you keep around because of his refreshing honesty. He doesn't like some people, and others he likes very much. He will quite simply point out how ridiculous someone appears, through their actions and appearance. He never comes across as having any sort of hidden agenda. He quite simply is describing things as he sees it. The book is the perfect length. In being "a portrait" instead of "a history", "INDIA" is once again allowed freedom to explore without having the responsibility of becoming an epic exhaustive account of every single issue that has arisen in this epic and exhaustive country. There is never the feeling that certain issues are being "glossed over" or ignored. Rather, you get the feeling that "INDIA" was created as a result of essays and personal explorations by its author. The separating of the book into three distinct sections, as well as the topics of each chapter, become ways of categorizing these essays/interviews/explorations into a rich whole that is composed of separate parts. The order makes it chronologically understandable, as well as allowing the reader (especially if he/she has little to no knowledge of India's complexities) to digest certain aspects in order to better understand what is to come. In other words, the layout of the book is perfect: each chapter can be read on its own, as its own dense and complex aspect of Indian society, while the book as a whole feels like a rich composition made up of these individual parts, and flows perfectly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Listened to it on audiobook. The book is set up a bit differently than I expected, but in a way that I like. The first section takes a look at the political history and present situation in India. I wondered what was going to happen now that we had reached present times by only 4 hours into the book. Then the book shifts away from politics and backs up in time again to explore economics, social history, religion, etc. in later sections. Remember, I was on audiobook, so I couldn't just read the ta Listened to it on audiobook. The book is set up a bit differently than I expected, but in a way that I like. The first section takes a look at the political history and present situation in India. I wondered what was going to happen now that we had reached present times by only 4 hours into the book. Then the book shifts away from politics and backs up in time again to explore economics, social history, religion, etc. in later sections. Remember, I was on audiobook, so I couldn't just read the table of contents. The format was successful, I think, because each section built on each other section and became more illuminating as the book went on. For example, economics and the Permit Raj were more interesting when you considered the political context of what Nehru was trying to do after independence. Then, of course, the limitations of the centrally-controlled economy after independence had a lot to do with India's struggles to modernize and its citizens seeking opportunities abroad. And although the book is about India, it is also about Pakistan and Bangladesh and the regions within India. As I'm often reminded, India is about the same size as Europe is and is about as diverse as Europe is in its cultures, and French does not let the reader off easily by talking about India in broad strokes. He talks about the ethnic Tamils, Gujaratis, Kashmiris, etc. French also has compiled a large number of in-depth interviews with interesting characters into this book that really give it depth. He seeks out former Maoist insurgents in the jungles, interviews the father of a girl who was murdered and whose justice was grossly miscarried by incompetent law enforcement, he finds "Islamic Rage Boy" of internet fame to get insight on Muslim/Hindu relations as they stand today, he talks to political hopefuls who fancifully imagine a glorious Indian history of impossible productivity, and more. Very good book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    this is a well written thorough, intelligent work. i enjoyed french's biography of naipaul and was encouraged to try this based on that experience combined with a long standing desire to get my head around india - as i know so little about it. endeavouring to describe a country is ambitious by any means, where do you start ? .....french addresses his subject in a quasi- biographical way and attempts to conjure - via a mind numbingly vast array of anecdotes, facts, observations and historical per this is a well written thorough, intelligent work. i enjoyed french's biography of naipaul and was encouraged to try this based on that experience combined with a long standing desire to get my head around india - as i know so little about it. endeavouring to describe a country is ambitious by any means, where do you start ? .....french addresses his subject in a quasi- biographical way and attempts to conjure - via a mind numbingly vast array of anecdotes, facts, observations and historical perspective - a picture of modern india. however, notwithstanding his accomplished and engaging writing style and the rich and well selected repertoire of experience and scholarship the book was a struggle for me, relentless in its tone and manners it seemed to never end and i grew wearier and wearier and increasingly disillusioned with the book as my journey through it progressed. maybe this is me or maybe french just was not able to control his subject with adequate dexterity to be able to maintain my attention and his need and desire to complete it was not as a a consequence of desire but of duty. perhaps if i had visited india or was visiting india while reading it the book may have been more accesible. so sadly whilst my admiration for french remains firmly intact based on his admirable rigour and intellect my appreciation of modern indian culture remains largely obscured by this text.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vamsi

    This book isn't about the history of India, French tries to condense the complexities of India into 3 major aspects - Politics,Economy and Soceity. The chapter on family politics is well researched. It gives a detailed analysis of the number of MP's coming to parliament due to their family connections. The increase in the number of Hereditary MP's is a worrying sign to the future of democracy in india. If this continues, it has the potential to take india back to the past where India was ruled by This book isn't about the history of India, French tries to condense the complexities of India into 3 major aspects - Politics,Economy and Soceity. The chapter on family politics is well researched. It gives a detailed analysis of the number of MP's coming to parliament due to their family connections. The increase in the number of Hereditary MP's is a worrying sign to the future of democracy in india. If this continues, it has the potential to take india back to the past where India was ruled by a few hundred families. The disastrous economic policies of Nehru and Indira Gandhi are explained through anecdotes of businessmen during the socialist times. It gives a vivid picture of how entrepreneurship is systematically suppressed in india during the dark decades of 60-80's. The book is more of a collection of interviews and anecdotes of various people.The book is written with foreign readers in mind. The book only scratches the surface of many aspects of history,economy and religion. If you are a serious indian History reader, this book does not add any fresh perspective or knowledge about India.

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