Book Review on “Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity” by Pavan K Varma

By Madhurantika Sunil

 

 “ I do not want to stay in a house with all its windows and doors shut. I want a house with all its windows and doors open where the cultural breeze of all lands and nations blow through my house. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

This aphorism from Gandhi sets the tone of the book Becoming Indian by Pavan K Varma, as he uses this statement of Gandhi on the very first page of this book. This aphorism explains for the idea of welcoming of all culture, the idea of sharing and caring, mingling with each other, realizing each other’s existence and having multiple experiences of diversity, but in the midst of all this, one must not forget it’s own culture, that is the message that it communicates.

With this being the underlying framework of the book, Pavan K. Varma examines the cultural psyche of the Indian people after sixty years of political independence from the rule of British but still enslaved through the cultural shackles. The book presents the picture of Modern History, contemporary events as well as personal accounts which reflects on the identity of an individual as an Indian.

The book is divided into seven chapters, and each chapter of the book looking into different aspects and themes, but still in continuation and in relation to each other. The first chapter entitled, “Choosing Exile” has the account of personal narrative, from the family life of the author. It is followed by the chapter on “The Imperishable Empire” which recounts for the British Empire in India and how this is still connected with India. Another chapter of the book entitled “Macaulay’s Legacy” underlines the circumstances of coming of the English language as the medium of communication in India. Further, the book talks about the “Colonial Amnesia: A Tale of Two cities” which elucidate for the relationship and linking of the two cities that is Old Delhi and New Delhi. Architecture is an outstanding example of Empire symbolism. Furthermore, the chapters, “Creativity and Distortion”, “The Empire at Your Threshold” and “Within the Global Village: Asymmetry and Co-option,” discuss the idea of neo-colonialism and cultural imperialism. The Britishers have indeed left India in 1947, the Foreigners are no more here now, but Foreignness still exists and now this alienation is among the people of India, who themselves are strangers to each other and it is difficult to define Indianess of Indian People.

In the present situations of the country, this book is a must-read as it reflects on our post-colonial past that is after 1947, as it discusses for the whole idea of “BECOMING INDIAN’, it discusses for the reclaim of our cultural identity so that India can truly have its sovereignty. The events and circumstances of the recent happenings make one question Who is an Indian?,  What is Indian Culture? What is the identity of India as a Nation?

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