Rejoinder COMMENTS
Pankaj Mishra’s was more an ideological cry of pain than any honest appraisal of my book, says Patrick French


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1
Feb 28, 2011
Hoisted by Your Own Retard, Shall We Say?

I have not read French’s book but I did read Pankaj Mishra’s review and I have to agree that it was a shameful attack that mostly seems to have nothing to do with the book itself and more to do with its author being British (Cameron’s Cuz is More the Curzon, Feb 14). I have followed Mishra’s journalism in the New York Review of Books and the Guardian since it first began to appear and while I am not hostile to it, I must say its quality has deteriorated and become shriller over time. The very first time he wrote for the nyrb, I was delighted for Mishra and happy that nyrb had gained a fresh voice from India which had not been socialised in Western institutions; as of late I tend to groan when I read him. I can only assume, as French seems to suggest, that the rise in Mishra’s status has come at the cost of his judgement.

Vivek Sharma, New Haven, US

Patrick French’s demolition of Pankaj Mishra’s bombastic rhetoric was brilliant, delivered in that most English of ways (though French is not an Englishman), hitting hard where it hurts but leaving no tell-tale sign of injury.

Surjit Kohli, Gurgaon

I’m an admirer of the writings of both Mishra and French but I must share my surprise that Mishra—a huge beneficiary of the system he finds so rightly wanting—chooses to take cheap shots for the benefit of the Indian middle-class readers of Outlook (such as myself). Like so many Indians, Mishra arrogates the right to be critical of India to those like him: firangis are welcome so long as they invite you to their salons.

Girish Kumar, Kovalam

Well done, Mr French! A response to Pankaj Mishra’s review was quite in order. It doesn’t take a genius to spot the ‘warts’ in India today. One can do that easily even in the US if one looks at the inner cities.

Raghu, Santa Clara

Hear, hear! Pankaj Mishra has been successfully pankajed in this review by Patrick French. I specially admire Mr French for his remarkable ability to free himself from White Guilt and really go for it.

Omar Ali, Los Angeles

Many talented Indians, once they produce something good or are recognised as brilliant, seem to be overawed by success and then stop producing anything creative or useful.

Vijay, Arlington, US

If anything, you have to understand the snobbery of Pankaj Mishra. This ilk has been desperate to ensure they alone and no one else has any upward mobility in India. It was heartening to see French put him in his place.

Sanjay, Bangalore

Excellent riposte. One has a new-found respect and regard for Patrick French, after those earlier wishy-washy defences of the demagogue Jinnah.

Varun Shekhar, Toronto

So rightly and eloquently thrashed!

Kumar Siddharth, Montreal

French need not worry about Mishra’s appraisal of his work. Many of us set aside his view and viewpoint.

Priya Madhavan, Rochester

People like Pankaj Mishra forget that India has changed for his kind of upper-caste Brahmins who are unable to see anybody superior to them.

Pankaj Kumar, Mumbai

Great, Mr French. You have done what many of us have been wanting to do for sometime: take on Mishra and his hifalutin leftist “bakwas”.

Gaurav Ghose, Columbia

Very well done, Mr French! Somebody needed to take down Pankaj Mishra a peg or two. Many Western analysts, particularly those belonging to the “global left”, have an outdated view of India which does not consider the extraordinary political, social and economic changes that have taken place in India in the last 20 years. In their view, India = (child labour) + (caste system) + (corruption) + (high inequality and alleged indifference of the elite towards the poor) + (dirty unhygienic roads/garbage) + (spirituality/fascinating culture). Not that these things don’t exist in India, but lot of other things do too, and India shouldn’t be viewed solely through this prism.

Mitra, Chicago

How many jobs have Pankaj Mishra and his ilk created? How many poor people have they found employment for? What have they done, in real terms, for “the benighted 800 million in rural areas”? These questions are not intended as sarcasm; I genuinely want to know the answers.

Amit Ganpat, Delhi

Mishra is continuing in the grand old tradition of Left intellectuals—good at pointing out problems; solutions are none of their concern.

Vibhuti, London

People like Mr Mishra will travel the world to earn royalty on their books and live the high life while being preachy to other people who may have done well for themselves. His review, unfortunately for him, seems to have backfired badly.

Akshay, Ludhiana

Pankaj Mishra’s only achievement is in being supercilious towards those who have come up on merit, a quality he singularly lacks. He needs to analyse why French’s book has struck a chord among many people who see a celebration, at least in parts, of what India should be, devoid of entitlement and reservations.

Krish, Bangalore

In his book, Patrick French’s affirmative attempt to coalesce Indians into a smooth stereotyped mass misses out the soul of real India. One of the greatest attributes of India is its diversity and in that lies its ineffable genius. India was described as “a mixture of pearls and dung”, by Arab scholar-scientist Abu Raihan al-Biruni. The contrast continues in the 21st century: Indian citizens top both global rich lists and malnutrition tables. Indian identity is an idea forged in diversity, according to Shashi Tharoor, who has argued that “every one of us is in a minority”. Caste and language divisions put everyone in a minority. “The whole point of Indian pluralism is you can be many things and one thing.” India is an idea that has emanated from a strong society that is deep-rooted in old religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. The idea of the nation-state is a relatively new invention.

M. Nauman Khan, West Wimbledon, London

2
Mar 07, 2011
Cross-Court Winner

Patrick French’s rejoinder (Cameron’s Cuz is More the Curzon, Feb 14) to Pankaj Mishra’s shockingly disappointing review of his book was perfectly amusing, as well as being a fitting reply. That aside, French’s portrayal of the India of our times, the positivity he exudes and the proactiveness he encourages are just what we Indians need to accept and act on, for the prevailing cynicism and negativity would get us nowhere. French correctly argues that in a globalising world treatises on nations can come from foreigners, which cannot be dismissed as dross on that ground alone. In fact, the objectivity implied therein might well be an asset.

Asha Hariharan, Bangalore

Pankaj Mishra had it coming. His knowledge of economics has always been shallow; it certainly does not complement his passions. Leftists like him should stop bristling with rage at the new prosperity of middle-class India and stop blaming them for the country’s problems. Instead, such people should face up to the fact that most Indians are poor because of their own failed policies.

Mihir Samel, Mumbai

Order by HAVE YOUR SAY
1/D-79
Feb 05, 2011
08:11 PM

  Excellent article, lucid, compelling and erudite. One has a new found respect and regard for Patrick French, after those earlier wishy washy defenses of the demagogue Jinnah.

Varun Shekhar
Toronto, CANADA
2/D-6
Feb 06, 2011
02:53 AM

Mr. French, Thank you!
Don't worry about Mr. Mishra's appraisal of your work. Many of us set aside his view & viewpoint.
Your book India: A portrait is timely and lucid.

Priya Madhavan
Rochester, United States
3/D-19
Feb 06, 2011
04:25 AM

Why whine over a book review? Different people will have different takes. I thought Mr Mishra had made some excellent points.

Anwaar
Dallas, United States
4/D-24
Feb 06, 2011
05:48 AM

Anwar,

  And pray tell us what were those excellent points. Mishra apparently has traveled far, very far, but not far enough to shed the classic Indian trait of useless sermonizing and doublespeak. We have all read about his version of the Sikh massacre in Kashmir. Anyone who thinks that the era license permit raj was the best of Indian democracy is a cuckoo and should check up with a doctor or a seer. 

Amit
Tucson, United States
5/D-34
Feb 06, 2011
07:36 AM

So, rightly and eloquently thrashed! Mr Patrick, these people give these superficial reviews to tell people that leftist ideas are the only way to get away with poverty and attain equality, and they say so to please their own reviewers!  

Kumar Siddharth
Montreal, Canada
6/D-73
Feb 06, 2011
02:56 PM

 Well done, Patrick! Though everyone is entitled to his / her opinion, I think a response to Pankaj Mishra's review is quite in order. I always feel that the Left has never been able to come to terms with reality ever since the people of Eastern Europe brought down communism in 1990. They keep looking for the 'holes' in Globalization and neo-liberal economics and run down the advances made in lifting people out of poverty.It doesn't take a genius to spot the 'warts' in India today. One can do that easily even in the US today if one looks in the inner cities. As you have challenged Mishra, let them come out with 'alternative proposals'.

Raghu
santa clara, USA
7/D-78
Feb 06, 2011
04:42 PM

I am an admirer of the writings of both Mishra and French but on this occasion I must share my surprise that Mishra-a huge beneficiary of the system that he finds so rightly vaunting-chooses to take cheap shots for the benefit of the Indian middle class readers of Outlook  (such as myself,or at least those among us who can afford to buy the magazine).

Like so many Indians, Mishra arrogates the right to be critical of India to those like him :  firangis are welcome so long  they invite you to their salons.

Girish Kumar
Kovalam, India
8/D-93
Feb 06, 2011
08:19 PM

An excellent response to Mishra’s bombastic rhetorics, given in the most sophisticated English way, (though Mr. French is not an English man), hitting hard where it hurts but leaving no tell tale signs of any injury. Leftist theories are abominable but the tragedy is after put in use for so long without any positive results, diciples of Marxism still keep on exploiting the poor and wretched masses of India and in particularly of west Bengal with their good for nothing ideas, especially when the communism and socialism has been abandoned everywhere including Russia and China. Bankruptcy of Indian leftists is even more revealing knowing fully well whatever their actions and utterances are is to please their masters overseas who are their paymasters.

Surjit Kohli
Gurgaon, India
9/D-102
Feb 06, 2011
11:23 PM

Mr.Pankaj Mishra reminds me of the character Ellsworth Monkton Toohey in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The Leftists, who have managed to keep India backward by making people forget that hard work and a vision, and not entitlement will always criticise any work that celebrates success. This class thinks that 'success' is wangling positions based on Sifarish and edging others out. It heaps scorn on the success of people who reach positions of wealth and fame through sheer hard work and adherence to a vision. Mr.Mishra's only achievement is in being supercilious towards those who have come up on merit, a quality which he singularly lacks. He needs to introspect and analyse why Mr. French's book has struck a chord among many people who see a celebration, at least in parts, of what India should be, devoid of entitlement and reservations. Let Mr.Mishra come up with a work that evokes the kind of emotions that Mr. French has done with just one chapter, on the Arushi murder and what it did to the Talwars. 

Krish 52
Bangalore, India
10/D-72
Feb 07, 2011
12:44 PM

Most leftist Historians ignore/tend to ignore the realities & practicalities of the time (age) in their quest to be objective .. in layman terms they like to take the fizz off the soda   .. its good there are atleast a few people who co-relate the circmstances with the historical acts. A FAILURE TO DO SO MAY END UP DISTORTING/DESTROYING/ SIMPLY TAKING THE FIZZ OF HISTORY.

hari
chennai, India
11/D-88
Feb 07, 2011
02:04 PM

Good rebuttal. Mr. Misra is continuing in the grand old tradition of left intellectuals - very good at pointing out problems - solutions is none of their concern.   

Vibhuti
London, England
12/D-113
Feb 07, 2011
04:53 PM

" Pankaj had, in fact, already written a review of the book in London’s blue-chip Financial Times which contained compliments like “eloquent” and “acclaimed”, but in the Outlook version, such words disappeared"

That says it all. People like Mr Misra will travel the world earn royalty on their books and live the high life while being preachy to other people who may have done well for themselves. His review unfortunately for him seems to have backfired badly. Brilliant rebuttal.

akshay
Ludhiana, India
13/D-3
Feb 08, 2011
12:24 AM

  Patrick French writes.." I also have grave doubts whether Marxism, Maoism or Mishraism offer a solution. Can India’s chronic rural poverty really be alleviated only by the state? If so, how will the state get the money to do this, except by further economic growth?

Whatever the value of Pankaj Mishra's arguments, lets get one thing straight. Whether in Marxism or Maoism, there's strictly nothing about the state alleviating rural poverty. Rural development takes place thru the culitvators' own efforts. A different system of property and new organisation (cooperatives, collectives) provide the basis for boosting food production. That in turn feeds a growing urban working class which builds industry. The state helps organise it all. The ruling party centralises and refines the ideas drawn from the experiences of ordinary folk, and implements them. The key to success lies there.

That, Patrick French, allowed the Soviets to thrash and nearly eliminate the nazis in world war two. They did that almost single-handed. Historian Geoffrey Roberts (Stalin's Wars, Yale University Press 2006) writes that British-US aid amounted to around 10 % of the USSR's war requirements. So the Soviet Union produced enough food, clothing, machines and weapons to fight off what was then the most modern war machine in history. Economic historian Robert C. Allen writes that output went up and up in Stalin's USSR. Average food intake reached 2,900 calories on an average by 1939, barely a decade after debilitating shortages provoked by upheaval. And they even produced some of the world's greatest music and ballets, fine sportspeople and chess palyers, and reached the peak in atomic energy,  aeronautics and computers, to mention only those sectors.

Pretty good performance, eh? Marxism, Maoism are sources of inspiration. Humans are the ones who endeavor and achieve...

So let's get the record straight, and our memories cleared up, shall we?

SARKAR
Paris, FRANCE
14/D-24
Feb 08, 2011
04:09 AM

I have not read Mr. French's book but I did read Pankaj Mishra's review and I have to agree that it was a shameful attack that mostly seems to have nothing to do it the book itself and more to do with its author being British.  I have followed Mishra's journalism in the New York Review of Books and the Guardian since it first began to appear and while I am not as hostile to it as seem to be most of the comments here, I do agree that its quality has deteriorated and has become more shrill over time.  The very first time that he wrote for the New York Review I was delighted for Mishra and happy the New York Review had gained a fresh voice from India who had not been socialized in the western institutions; as of late I tend to groan when I read him.  I can only assume, as French seems to suggest, that the rise in Mishra's status has come at the cost of his judgement.

Vivek Sharma
New Haven, United States
15/D-26
Feb 08, 2011
04:54 AM

How many jobs has Mr. Mishra created?  How many poor people has he employed?  What has he done, in real terms, for the "the benighted 800 million in rural areas"?  These questions are not intended as sarcasm; I would genuinely like to know the answers.

Amit Ganpat
Delhi, India
16/D-36
Feb 08, 2011
08:28 AM

Patrick French absolutely right to recognise that the provision of social welfare requires resources. The problem is that, with the notable exception of the NREGA, - and despite burgeoning revenues - there doesn't seem to be a great will on the part of the Indian government to direct funding towards such schemes.

When it entered office in 2004, Congress promised that state spending on healthcare would rise to 3 percent of GDP. Five years later, according to a WHO study, that figure stood at 0.9 percent of GDP. Only four other countries out of the 175 surveyed spent a lower proportion of their national wealth on universal healthcare provision. In the context of this sorry record, who can blame the Indian middle class from opting out and using their new wealth to go private so undermining the prospect of a properly funded universal healthcare service for which there is a crying need. Of course you need resources but I do not buy the romantic view that an end to poverty is possible by the creation of wealth alone.

Tom Pietrasik
London, United Kingdom
17/D-37
Feb 08, 2011
09:28 AM

I did not read the book nor the review but I can say that any nation where only one family has ruled for almost 60 years is a sick society. Congress Party has filled its pockets with bribes while quality of life index in India is worse than sub-sahara Africa. Is that not a definition of failure?

I would comment on only one aspect of Mr. French's rebuttal: Many talented Indians, once they produce something good or are recognized as brilliant, seem to to be overawed by success and then stop producing anything creative or useful.

vijay
arlington, United States
18/D-42
Feb 08, 2011
10:21 AM

I never thought I would see anyone talking sensibly on Outlook site (or in it's magazine), but this one is so good I could not help registering and posting a comment.

Mr French, you come across as a sensible man clued in to India. I will be buying your book sometime.

If anything, you have understated the snobbery of Pankaj Mishra. This ilk has been desperate to ensure they alone and no one else has any upward mobility in India. I have personal experience with many of them.

It was heartening to see you put him in his place.

Sanjay
Bangalore, India
19/D-45
Feb 08, 2011
11:43 AM

 Very well done, Mr French! Somebody needed to take down Pankaj Mishra a peg or two, he has really started to think a little too highly of himself. Many western analysts, particularly belonging to the "global left" has an outdated view of India which does not consider the extraordinary political, social and economic changes taking place in India in the last 20 years. In their view, India =  (child labor) + (caste system) + (corruption) + (high inequality and alleged indifference of the elite towards the poor) + (dirty unhygenic roads/garbage) + (spirituality/fascinating culture). Not that these things don't exist in India, but lot of other things do too, and India shouldn't be viewed solely through this prism. "Intellectuals" like Pankaj Mishra exist to pander to the shallow views of the global left. Pankaj knows he cannot write a book that captures the extraordinary transformation that India is currently going through. You have made an effort to write such a book. 

Mitra
Chicago, United States
20/D-85
Feb 08, 2011
06:24 PM

Great Mr. French. You have done the job of what many of us wanted someone to do for sometime. Take on Mr Mishra and rebutt his high falutin leftist "bakwas". And so right you are in saying that the leftist intellectuals go on and on on what's wrong with the country without suggesting solutions.

gaurav ghose
Columbia, USA
21/D-97
Feb 08, 2011
08:12 PM

 TOM PIETRASIK,

In India there is a great dichotomy between health care objectives and the implementation of health care policies. Its most often sheer rhetoric the politicians indulge from the PM to politicians of all shades. Haven't we heard about two decades ago Health for All by Year 2000, etc? What have the govts in power done so for? Nothing. They neither planned to evolve a structured  career oriented medical & health care service to begin with for meeting such and objective  nor did they establish any new specialty hospitals for the poor they cry so much about. Not even a single hospital on the lines of AIIMS or JIPMER has come up after the sixties. Rs 12,000/- crores were allotted last year for health. Any difference did it make except cosmetic changes? Budgets remain mostly on paper and the allocations barely touch the real requirements. Most often they are token. And added to that is the confusion between understanding of Health and Medical care. Few have understanding that they are two different entities. While India has good core competence in Medical care- thanks mostly to the well trained doctors of yester years and the private hospitals manned by them, it is no where near the desirable levels in so for as the Health care is  concerned.

Clean drinking water, well paved roads, proper sewage disposal, strict vigilance & prevention of  pollution by monitoring of industries and sincere implementation of National immunisation programmes and Mother & Child care etc  make for good health care. And we all know how bad we are in these. These do not fall under doctors' purview but public health Engineerrs, bureacrats and politicians. The quality of these being what it is, health of populace of this country suffers for generations to come.  Any sector which is in (India) Govt hands suffer from poor implementation and shoddy planning - thanks to the saga of Mahalonabis Planning . And so is our health care delivery system- a total flop and waste of resources. The doctors who form the core of medical services have no say in any of medical matters and the career & compensation offered to the  doctors is such it can never attract committed professionals. Only the left over and mediocre join Govt services and it has telling effect on the quality of services.  The leftist thinkers are to blame.

sandilya
Chennai, India
22/D-102
Feb 08, 2011
09:20 PM

Hear hear! Pankaj Mishra has been successfully pankajed in this review by Patrick French. I specially admire Mr. French for his remarkable ability to free himself from White Guilt and really go for it.
We want more!

omar ali
los angeles, usa
23/D-104
Feb 08, 2011
09:36 PM

Mr French, Pankaj mishra is one those (many, unfortunately) loosers who see nothing good in india. Even after pathatic rule by the congress for nearly 60 years, india is till there. yes there are faults, many of them but she is changing and changing for good. Mishra sits in his comfortable home in the UK and gives lectures to indians. He spews venom against hinduism thro his ridiculus articles in the guardian. He is one of those idiots like arundhati roy who has no answers to india's problems. these people can only find faults but have no solutions. when states like gujrat are trying to progress, and are progressing, these morons like mishra will try to water down every achievement. Mishra even tries to lecture hindus in UK but we don't even spit on his bullshit views.

Mr French, best thing to do is IGNORE these looneys. let them bark in the dark.

NAMO5
London, United Kingdom
24/D-62
Feb 09, 2011
04:30 PM

India is yet to become an "information super highway for the rest of the world". Swami Vivekananda predicted this but we are yet to achieve this. We can not ignore the factors those have been responsible for India's economic growth for the last few years. We can not offord to revert back with controls,licence raj,neglecting cities and file pushing "red tapism". For example computerizing railways reservation sytem and provident fund offices largely controlled corruption and became an example for the rest of the institutions.

We have to computerize and move to e-governance, Mr.Chandrababu Naidu's e-governance intiatives in A.P state brought wonderful changes in A.P and eased up life at least in a few aspects in a citizens life. If we know that corruption, lack of accountability among govt. employees is one strong reason for Maoist upsurge and strength we shall realise the importance of e-governance.

We are yet to become "information superhighway" for the rest of the world, we are yet to lay down a back-bone communication lines of such a scale which would become a central nodal point for the rest of the world. We should concentrate more on software revolution , bio-tech revolution, nano-technology revolution and shall be in the forefront of rest of the world.That is where we can score ahead of many developed countries and our neighboring country China.

We can not ignore cities which means, developing infrastructure like roads, communication back-bones throughout the country with the fastest and biggest bandwidth, clean water catering to rising population in cities and higher number of schools and so on because, India can not forge ahead based on villages alone ,though rural economy is important.

We should reduce our dependancy on rural economy or perticulary agricultural economy and reduce our dependecy on lazy beurocratic system to get information,registration,and permissions. Then only we can improve the lives of people. It does not cause any harm if you get your wealth by providing services. There is no rule that you should get money only by means of high agricultural produce or through industrial production only.

We do not need petty politicians we need politicians with vision.

bowenpalle venuraja gopal rao.
warangal, india
25/D-3
Feb 10, 2011
12:40 AM

Jyotibabu, the longest serving chief minister in the history of India was fond of scotch whiskey and his annual vacation in London. He spent all his time denouncing the rich for all the privileges they enjoy while shedding tears for the have-nots (sarvahara in Bengali) for their miseries.

A man who studied law in England obviously was the ideal leader who abolished teaching of English (the language of the imperialists) in the primary classes of Bengal's government- funded schools apparently to help the poor. As a result those who could not afford costlier English-medium private schools, remained disadvantaged in their learning of English and the haves including those from Jyotibabu's economic class moved on.

After reading Mishra's criticism of French's book and then the latter's response to the criticism the above examples came to mind. I think every educated person Indian or foreigner who is familiar with India knows the opportunities that India has as well as the tough challenges India is grappling with. And it is equally easy to argue on each side calling the glass either part-empty or part-full.

However when the know-alls who are the beneficiaries of the present system criticize the same system without giving up the privileges the system confers , it reeks of utter hypocrisy. Denouncing the rich and shedding tears for the poor at a dinner with stake and lobsters in Switzerland is quite appealing. Lecturing on tribal rights on TV channels without moving out of a Delhi farmhouse is appealing too. But living in poverty and fighting for survival is nasty and appeals to no one.

Unfortunately this is how the Indian intellectual left have always been. Some of them made a living out of politics, some of them made a living out of writings and lecture circuits peddling India's poverty. But none of them is too sure on whose side they represent- the poor who they never fashioned in their own lifestyles or the rich who they despised but embraced in personal lifestyles. Finally they all appear confused, contradicting and to some extent selfish.

DC
NEW YORK, United States
26/D-36
Feb 10, 2011
11:49 AM

 I always wonder why all the brahmin wear the tag of communism in INDIA,in college and intellectual circle everywhere...this seem like try to save his inherited elitism ...pankaj mishra is one of them ,....i like the term mishrism ...in bihar my home state we use the word to make fun of pandiji...grt work PATRICK FRENCH

PANKAJ KUMAR
MUMBAI, India
27/D-39
Feb 10, 2011
11:59 AM

 Actually MISHRAISM is very much similar to brahminism ....people like PANKAJ MISHRA forget that INDIA is changed for his kind of upper caste brahminism ..who is not able to see anybody superior than himself....

PANKAJ KUMAR
MUMBAI, India
28/D-69
Feb 10, 2011
08:50 PM

Actually MISHRAISM is very much similar to brahminism ....

PANKAJ KUMAR
MUMBAI, India
 

A Bihari friend of mine once told me that many Biharis prefer to keep their middle initials as their surname to hide their caste identity because casteist feelings are very strong among Biharis. I wish Pankaj Mishra had changed his surname to  Kumar so that a fellow Bihari from Mumbai would not have identified that he is a Bramhin and could not have cracked casteist jokes about him.

Dear Mr. Pankaj from Mumbai: After locating yourself to the country's commercial capital, please try to stop seeing the world through casteist prism. Your casteist comments are unfortunate and not called for. Mr. Nitish Kumar is trying to do a lot of good work for your state which is mired in all kinds of miseries including casteism. But if the educated and non-resident Biharis like yourself continue to focus on someone's caste identity instead of the person's opions and view points, I cannot imagine how Bihar's socio-economic backwardness can go away.

DC
NEW YORK, United States
29/D-74
Feb 10, 2011
09:13 PM

 "I always wonder why all the brahmin wear the tag of communism in INDIA"

Something about the phrase "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" must have tickled their fancy. Here is a modernist ideology that is very Brahminist. They took to it like ducks to water.

Dictatorship of the Proletariat is of course a transitional state in Communism, but not if the Brahmins have their way . 

MK Saini
Delhi, India
30/D-54
Feb 11, 2011
11:16 AM

We seem to have a Stalinist "SARKAR" commenting from Paris. He does not explain how the Communist system starved millions of peasants to death (Ukraine) nor tortured and liquidated tens of millions (the Gulags). Finally Sarkar's utopia collapsed under the weight of its own contraditions.

Akram Haidar
somecity, India
31/D-4
Feb 13, 2011
12:17 AM

Thank you  Mr French,

Pankaj Mishra had it coming. His knowledge of economics has always been shallow, unable to complement his passion. His theory of "India acheived best growth before 1990", has ealrier been totally refuted by Salil Tripathi in an exchange a couple of years back. But he hasnt learned one bit. 

Leftists should stop balming the new found prosperity of neo-riche Indian for the  countries problems, and face up to the fact that the majority of the country are poor because of their own failed policies.  

Mihir Samel
mumbai, India
32/D-71
Feb 28, 2011
04:10 PM

I bought this book after reading Pankaj Mishra's biting review. I must say that I am glad that I read this book. It is one of the best journalistic writing on India to have come up in recent times. French is knowledeable about his subject and has covered it in astonishing breadth and depth. I really doubt if Pankaj has actually read the book.

Pankaj starts his review with a complain that "The worldwide corporate hunt for new sources of profit has now created another one-dimensional image: India, we are now told, is rich and materialistic, ...". I would surely agree with Pankaj's view if the book actually took this view. However, the author has taken a much wider view than the usual "India Shining" stuff. In fact the most poignant part of the book is Venkatesan's story.

Next Pankaj claims that "French deals summarily with some long-established commentators on India, such as Amartya Sen, whom he compares to a “clever schoolboy”, someone out of touch with the “reality of how people live and think”. I think the author has quite convincingly challenged Amartya Sen's argument that religion is NOT a primary identity in most people's lives. Anyone who has lived in India for any length of time and has kept his eyes open knows pretty well that in Indian context "majority" community indeed means Hindu community even if Pankaj doesn't agree to it.

Pnakaj's next complaint that "Even India’s popular cultures, reliably bracing guides to a range of Indian attitudes, don’t get a look-in; Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and the IPL as well as Apur Sansar are sidelined" is even more ridiculous. I can in fact come up with a list of a billion more things that I would like to be addressed in a book on India. The only difficulty is that it will not remain a book then. It will be a hardbound compilation of Times of India and a dozen more newspapers.

The fact that Pankaj has not actually read the book becomes clear when he claims that "there is something very retro about his conclusion that corruption in India is caused by “poverty and social imbalance”; it reminds you of the small-time bribe-taking babus, netas and thanedars of a relatively innocent, pre-1991 era." because in the same paragraph the author has talked about big business corruption as well. I do not know what is there to argue against "poverty and social imbalance" conclusion as the cause of corruption unless someone is totally clueless about the meaning of "social imbalance".

Pankaj even finds fault with French's approach of analyzing nepotism because the author "produces computer-generated charts and graphs to underline what to any sentient Indian has long been blindingly plain." All I can say that Mr. Mishra seems to have a very robust disdain on any conclusion derived from hard data. His own inability to understand "computer generated charts" can hardly be taken against the author.

Pankaj's argument that "not all young men from destitute rural families can join the software industry, which currently employs all of 2.3 million people, or take up wine-making" is true. However, if he has an alternative vision that can actually enable all young men to do so, he must have kept it a secret.

In the end he gives a list of alternative reading that are much superior in his opinion. I am sure they must be definitely having some good points but I sincerely believe that Pankaj is doing a disservice to these authors by recommending their works because being recommended by Pankaj may give an impression that those authors are as shallow and opinionated as Pankaj himself is, though actually they may be excellent writers.

abhilash
lucknow, India
33/D-43
Mar 03, 2011
09:51 AM

 It is a good sign. The readers have become critics. It is required from every writer in this present age to provoke debate amongst readers. However bitterness should be avoided because then your perception and vision gets clouded.Pawan Kumar Varma, in his brilliant book - 'Being Indian' has quoted Kapila Vatsayan that 'envy' is the 'only enduring emotion among Indians. Well, French has indeed succeeded in exploiting this 'emotion' after writing his response.

ajit mishra
nagpur, India
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