The Idea Of India Redux COMMENTS
That the nation persists is what has lent the India story such gravitas: an idea that’s taken strong root. But will the march of history leave us behind?

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Daily Mail
Feb 20, 2012
Born in the USI?

Surprisingly for one writing on present-day Indian politics, Sunil Khilnani pays scant attention to the severe problem of corruption (Programmed to Survive, Feb 6). Post-1970s, India has been defined by an unequal relationship between a rapacious conglomerate of politicians, babus and police on the one hand, and the rest of the nation on the other. Of late, our people have gone from mute submission to the conglomerate to despair to disgust and anger. But the article gives no sense of this relationship, its tensions, the forebodings of a potential upheaval.

Shyam Sethi, New Delhi

Khilnani’s prose is hard to read and boring because his sentences have so many qualifiers, clauses and sub-clauses. Meaning is hard to find; I suppose one is to take it for profundity. This is a characteristic of many Indian writers. Maybe they have little to say. Khilnani is a safe writer for the West: he sells them the idea of India as a second-rate western democracy.

M.K. Saini, Delhi

Snap out of your hubris and self-importance, Mr Khilnani. You’re right, India has moved on. Unnatural nation, you say? According to whom? Your conclusions would have been different if you looked at the history of the country from a non-Eurocentric point of view.

Sumedha, Geneva

Democracy is the biggest illusion in India. Outlook must publish something more sensible than Khilnani’s swill. If the magazine’s low on ideas, may I suggest it report on the human cost of keeping India intact?

Pankaj Vaishnavi, London

Jan 28, 2012
01:03 PM

 “The Raj Path is same, the Highest Chair is same, and the Spectators too are same but the reason behind the celebrations has changed – earlier we used to take pride that ‘We Were Made Republic Today’ but now we take a ‘Sigh of Relief’ that ‘Thank GOD We Still Are a Republic Today’.”

Rajneesh Batra
New Delhi, India
Jan 28, 2012
01:28 PM

"We might now, in the new century, turn our thoughts to practising a more effective democracy and a more inclusive market capitalism."

Fully agree. Our democratic processes have become stolid and unresponsive. The widening income gap will, unless curbed, present problems of its own in the not-too-distant future.

Dallas, United States
Jan 28, 2012
02:06 PM

 From the times from Plato todate , Democracy reached its pinnacles of glory with heightened economic prosperity!!

Gurgaon, India
Jan 28, 2012
02:35 PM

The authors theory clearly fails to explain the success of CHINA - some ten times that of India in a similar timeframe.

The REAL reasons must lie in Indias capability to cater to the skilled man=power needs of the western world. A need that the western world miserably failed to anticipate, and ( instead of training its males in skills ), spent its resources on 'empowering' and 'pampering' its females. A state policy that has back-fired, benefitting India and China. And must be seen as such.

Male Unblocked
Chennai, India
Jan 28, 2012
04:07 PM

Not since nineteenth-century America has an ex-colony moved so fast into prominence on the world stage.

No Indian intellectual has ever lost the gift for hyperbole  where does this bloated self regard come from in upper class Indians?

MK Saini
Delhi, India
Jan 28, 2012
04:13 PM

this man has mentioned his book "An Idea of India" 6 times.  Is he warming us up for a new book release? An update?

MK Saini
Delhi, India
Jan 28, 2012
07:49 PM

of course what these people will never admit is that the idea of India might possibly be hindu. Not majoritarian hindu, whatever that is. That was a concoction of leftists and secularists

what other land produces so many windbags, like perhaps the author of this article.  Is that not proof of this land's essential hindu nature. It accomodates so much 

MK Saini
Delhi, India
Jan 28, 2012
09:09 PM

Why all rich countries are wooing to India? Simple answer is Indian growth market have lot of  potentialities.Indian consumer is earnestly  desirous of western made commodities.he is soft not quarrelsome.Giving bribe you can get lots of facilities of government  and earn bumper profit.Who fool not taken opportunities  looting  the credulous people,who are themselves ready  bankrupt.

Why western

Ramesh Raghuvanshi
pune, India
Jan 28, 2012
10:55 PM

The India that has become the toast of the world lost forty years of economic dynamism to socialism. By 1991, when reforms were grudgingly adopted, China was already well on its way to making its tryst with greatness. Even today, the dominant political narrative is anchored in the populism of the early seventies.

The success of our democracy and the gradual strengthening of our institutions is something we can be justly proud of. But the rapid unravelling of the India story - not a happy word - is coming through ideological choices that we are making.

ashok lal
mumbai, India
Jan 29, 2012
12:17 PM

 @ MK Saini - Question is why Outlook keeps publishes promotional material from Khilnani's preface to his new version of endless cliches.

Do we need the 12th version of HIS idea of india so that we can stop thinking of other ideas? Should we bow down gratefully about his insight into the unnatural nation? Wah wah about a constitution force-fed from the Irish, English, Scottish, American and perhaps Polynesian constitutions? Uphold a system that observes a law or a rule more by the breach than by the compliance? Constantly parse official lies about how corruption is too difficult to control? Give up on alternatives to quotas-within-quotas? Praise our all-encompassing mediocrity (not a single new contribution to knowledge since the 18th century) ? Ritually conduct independence day and republic parades, women's day, mothers day, cricketers' day, politicians' day, malnourished day etc faithfully every year? Regularly update ourselves on dumb-down news of the day, watch I the people, The Suck Stops Nowhere, Face The Potion, HeadStop, funny puppet shows on NDTV, The Weak (humour) That Was'nt etc? Gawd, is there No Exit?  Can I stop reading hopeful messages from Khilnani and Guha atleast, if not Pratibha Patil?

Tearful Onion
Jhumri Talaiyya, India
Jan 29, 2012
07:43 PM

Throughout known history India was always very taken seriously . In the known historical times India was the dream destination. Even in victorial Engaland American colonists were considered uncivilised buffallow hunters & India was the land where fortunes were to be made or carreers are to be built.

Ony after the gradual extinction  freedom fighting generation, a new set carpet-bagger political class got vice-like grip of India who created their own set of self-serving power elites & put themseves above India. This has now created a crisis of the democratic idea of India. It is the rapacity & avarice of this class which put the Westminister democratic model in India in to question.

But democratic political ways has in-built safety mechanism to take care of excesses of political & economic power. I am of the opinion that in this country greenshoots of true peope's powe is also cropping up as it  is throughout the entire world. One or two attempts may fail like the Arab spring . But there need be no doubt idea of India is very much kicking & finally overpower the usurpers.

Jan 30, 2012
01:39 PM

This Sunil Khilnani introduction to his book or whatever is difficult to read or discouraging to read. It is very poor English and dead boring.

What exactly is this idea of India and what is "unnatural" about it?
There is mindboggling diversity but the inner current of thought, philosophy of living, family system, values, sentiments,"sukh and dukh" all are same, across India even though India is as big as half of Europe.

If someone thinks that entire Europe is that of white race, one religion, and also family system is same, then one must think about power of Hinduism!! . Finally all said and done with theories, the hard fact is that India is united because of Hinduism. It is as simple as that.

If India has to be "disjointed" in to splinter groups, as a Chinese news magazine, has written in an article, one has to look at this 'weakening" Hinduism!!! This paper also mentioned that India is united because of this Hinduism, which is getting fast "outdated” as well.

India was a united country even in the past much before British came, during the rule of so many kings and queens through the length and breadth of India, who were full aware of their identity of belonging to "Hindustan". This coining of the word called "idea of India" is ridiculous; born out of ignorance.

India should concentrate on its strength, which is its educated population. India shall most probably become a network hub, an information super Highway, for the rest of the world in future because of its world highest number of engineers and scientists, English education, high population with university degrees, it shall be the country as a source of information for the whole world, in the future "info" world, where most of the world's business, knowledge dissemination, education, services, and even politics shall be done online in the very near future.

Consider for example, even in late 80, imagining reading a newspaper online and rendering services for a foreign country online (like BPO) was very difficult and beyond comprehension for many "leftist as well as rightists" but in many technical magazines I myself read such possibilities.

Now with a back bone cable or presently unimaginable communication gadgets or channels, India shall be the only country which has a clear chance emerging as an "information super Highway" for the rest of the world.

bowenpalle venuraja gopal rao.
warangal, india
Jan 30, 2012
03:48 PM

I didn't realise at first that this is taken from the preface of the 5th edition of his book

Sunil Khilnani's prose is hard to read and boring becasue the sentences have so many qualifiers and clauses and sub clauses. The meaning is hard to find and this is taken for profundity. Its a characteristic of many Indian writers. Maybe they have little to say.

At heart Khilnani is a "safe" writer for the West. He sells the idea of India as a second rate western democracy, a couple decades behind the West. And that is true in many ways, For example, India is a user, not creator of technology.  At least Indians are not mad about it like the Arabs who bemoan the loss of their glorious past and start blowing things up. ;-)

That Khilnani is releasing the 5th edition of the "Idea of India" in the space of 15 years is interesting. Does that mean this book is a current affairs reader?  Or is he being promoted as a  state theoritican, of the Congress - Secular - Nehruvian government. Or is he simply not getting it right each time. Still its a better book than what Sashi Tharoor writes, and more work has been put it it.

MK Saini
Delhi, India
Jan 30, 2012
05:34 PM

"Programmed To Survive.......... But will the march of history leave us behind?"

Agreed that we are programmed to survive and hence as a corrolary not programmed to be the BEST/GREATEST, etc. But that does not mean that the "march of history" will leave us behind. If we can refocus ourselves from not wanting to be a "superpower" or "sit at the high stakes table" as our due and manifest destiny but look to build a more humane, just, less heirarchical and equitable culture after 5000+ years of not being that due to the processes of democracy, industrialization and urbanization then we would have made history

Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India
Jan 31, 2012
05:23 PM

"democracy in India is a story of deflating illusions"

Democracy itself has become the biggest illusion in India. I think Outlook needs to publish something more sensible for a change, rather than a petty rehash of Khilnani's stale ideas in an even more fustian tone. If the editorial staff of the mag are low on ideas, then let me suggest one: why not explore the human cost of keeping India intact? At least publish something from real reporters like P. Sainath than this rubber desk-johnny!

Pankaj Vaishnavi
London, United Kingdom
Feb 01, 2012
08:40 AM

I wonder if India would exist without Hinduism?

Khilanani avoids that thougt like the plague.

But the cultural inheritances of nations are much more than what some little guy in the university says.

China sought to get rid of Confucius and had to go back to him.

Russia tried to abolish its Christian Orthodox heritage and had to go back to it.

The lesson?  Countries cannot abolsh their cultural identity just because some tiny sod in the university says so.

India is HIndu.

Mohammed Othman
Aurangabad, India
Feb 01, 2012
08:45 AM

Hinduism will just yawn at the attempts of tiny salaried little crickets like Sunil Call-ninny and Rummy LaTorpor to abolish the Hinduness of India.

So how is your Madame Son Why Can't He,  Sunil Call-ninny?

Mohammed Othman
Aurangabad, India
Feb 01, 2012
01:05 PM

.........I wonder if India would exist without Hinduism?
Khilanani avoids that thought like the plague.................
@@Mohammed Othman

It will not.

That is the reason any trends which go against "indianess" or degrading to "Hinduism" must be challenged. Freedom of expression as such has its limitations according to the constitution of India. This is not absolute as per our constitution.

This includes conversions by means of bribe or coercion which must be made punishable by all states.
There is a conspicuous trend we see, ever since the mushrooming of TV channels started with "liberalism". The trend is to appear on TV and debate in favour of people who degraded "Hinduism" and Hindu icons like Lord Krishna or Lord Rama ,just to pass themselves as "'intellectuals". Actually most of these “intellectuals” are either absolutely corrupt, shameless people who wanted some benefits from western publishers, or western media or else they are totally ignorant and far removed from realty.

Another trend is to see, the "index" writers who tabulate current affairs and call themselves (a sort of self-appointed) as "historians" with the help of magazines like Outlook. These "index" and bibliography writers are the ones who often coin the word called "the idea of India" which is ridiculous for any conscientious Indian.

It seems to me that, even though there are many fakes among Gurus and Godmen, most of them are better than these so called "intellectuals" who are generally leftists. In fact "leftism" has become synonymous with intellectuals or a "progressive" minded person.
If you carefully observe, you may easily find that every day in and out, through various media as well as books and authors there is a sublime attempt being made to divide India while all the way telling us that India is only an “idea” !!!!

bowenpalle venuraja gopal rao.
warangal, india
Feb 02, 2012
02:49 AM

"why not explore the human cost of keeping India intact?"

  What are the costs of bowing to violent secessionst movements or equally violent insurrections? Particularly when none of those movements are progressive in the sense that they are struggling for something more elevated and enlightened than the entity they are opposing. The Naxals want a Khmer Rouge fascist totalitarian state, the Kashmiris an Islamist fundamentalist one, the Naga separatists some Christian-tribal chauvinist concoction.

 India as a federal, plural, democratic, empowering entity is greater than these violent, regressive opponents.  So yes, India should endure.

Varun Shekhar
Toronto, CANADA
Feb 02, 2012
11:34 AM

Photographically speaking, the leading photo of this article has to be the worst photo ever in any magazine.
Cannot figure out at all what this photo is conveying?
The small blurred scooter in large frame, neither talks of motion nor survival.
The almost blank reflection on car mirror is distraction, rather than feature.
The large cylinder, lamp pole, electric pole, and messed up buildings in the background doesn't tell any story.
Half frame is filled by emotionless road and half by meaningless sky.
Sun blare on the right-up corner is really annoying.

I would fire my photo-editor for this without second thought.

Santosh Gairola
Hsinchu, Taiwan
Feb 03, 2012
02:58 AM

India with its diversity has always been too complex to comprehend. So there have always been competing narratives to explain the idea of India. One could explain India in the context of its Hindu cultural roots citing the harmony between the indiv. Somebody else could see India in the in the context of cultural assimilation and adaptiveness, a unity in diversity. A third one may view India through the prism of western concept pluralist democracy. There are so many different ways to define and explain what is India. In fact a staunch imperialist Churchill  thought that India as a nation-state was just an idea. Irrespective of all the attempts to understand glorify or discredit India the nation still survives, remains live and kicking with perpetual co-existence of contrasting stories of hope and despair .

I personally believe that a culture built over centuries through assimilation of diverse local and foreign cultures is what defines India always. India's uniquness in its form of polity,  social values, economic ideas, attitude to foreigners, management of social conflicts etc. is derived from Indian culture. Indians have always been accustomed to living in diversities by accommodating and, accepting differences. For the same reason, Indians do not really care if there is only one or multiple ideas to describe India, they know it is immaterial.

NEW YORK, United States
Feb 03, 2012
09:34 PM

Snap out of your hubris and your self importance, Mr Khilnani. You are right, India has moved on and your ignorant ideas may not get any traction at all. Unnatural nation, indeed! According to whom? Perhaps you could have cast half an eye over the history of the country beyond your eurocentric views and the results would have been different.

Geneva, Switzerland
Apr 12, 2012
05:51 AM
Comment removed for violation of Website Policy
giza, Egypt


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