t would be the understatement of the new millennium to say that India is not an easy country to unravel. Foreigners who claim to understand it are mostly pirouetting on thin ice. This is not because our society is closed or our polity less transparent, but because ancient civilisations are naturally complex and their cultures obstinately opaque. It thus requires a great deal of patience, humility and persistence to attempt to size up what India is about. Daniel Lak’s latest book is a credible and sincere effort to do that.
I say this because Lak has spent nearly two decades in India as a journalist for the BBC. During this period he had the opportunity to travel extensively through the length and breadth of the subcontinent, and to meet a wide range of people from very diverse backgrounds. He has brought to his natural instincts as a journalist the kind of actual exposure that is indispensable to board the India Express.
Lak’s essential thesis is that India’s democratic credentials and the concomitant growth of liberal...