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'A gem of a book that is a joy to read . . . You can almost touch and feel the centuries and millennia as they pass by' ~ Tony Joseph
'Deepens our sense of the wonder that was India' ~ Pankaj Mishra
'Illuminating, absorbing and a joy to read. I defy anyone to peruse it and not feel richly rewarded by its insights' ~ John Keay
A BRILLIANT, ORIGINAL BOOK THAT REVEALS INDIA'S RICH AND DIVERSE HISTORIES
What do we really know about the Aryan migration theory, and why is that debate so hot?
Why did the people of Khajuraho carve erotic scenes on their temple walls?
What did the monks at Nalanda eat for dinner?
Did our ideals of beauty ever prefer dark skin?
Indian civilization is an idea, a reality, an enigma. In this riveting book, Namit Arora takes us on an unforgettable journey through 5000 years of history, reimagining in rich detail the social and cultural moorings of Indians through the ages. Drawing on credible sources, he discovers what inspired and shaped them: their political upheavals and rivalries, customs and vocations, and a variety of unusual festivals. Arora makes a stop at six iconic places--the Harappan city of Dholavira, the Ikshvaku capital at Nagarjunakonda, the Buddhist centre of learning at Nalanda, enigmatic Khajuraho, Vijayanagar at Hampi, and historic Varanasi--enlivening the narrative with vivid descriptions, local stories and evocative photographs. Punctuating this are chronicles of famous travellers who visited India--including Megasthenes, Xuanzang, Alberuni and Marco Polo--whose dramatic and idiosyncratic tales conceal surprising insights about our land.
In lucid, elegant prose, Arora explores the exciting churn of ideas, beliefs and values of our ancestors through millennia--some continue to shape modern India, while others have been lost forever. An original, deeply engaging and extensively researched work, Indians illuminates a range of histories coursing through our veins.
The year is 2003. Ved, a 36-year-old Indian in Silicon Valley, works for Omnicon, the world’s largest computer networking company. He finds his colleagues’ false bravado and pretensions to changing the world both sad and comical. As the Dotcom Crash starts exposing the hypocrisies of his profession, Ved must deal with the turmoil in his relationships with Sasha, a Russian escort and an ambitious immigrant like himself, and Liz, a spiritual-liberal American, with whom he can freely talk about books, politics, art and the meaning of life.
As Ved is reevaluating his life choices, his traditional parents visit from India. Although fiercely proud of his success, they are anxious for him to ‘settle down’. Ved reflects on the vast gulf between their respective worldviews and the sacrifices they made to secure his future.
Amid increasing racial hostilities after 9/11, the ongoing Iraq War and his own loneliness, Ved must finally confront his place in the American Dream and his inability to make room for companionship. Love and Loathing in Silicon Valley is a perceptive, tender and satirical portrait of the hallowed grounds of Silicon Valley, and the quest for love and belonging.
An egalitarian ethos has not been a prominent feature of Indian civilization, at least since the decline of Buddhism over a thousand years ago. All people, it is believed, are created unequal, born into a hierarchy of status and dignity, and endowed not with universal but particular rights and duties. This has greatly amplified the unfairness of accidents of birth in shaping one’s lot in life. Despite a long history of resistance, such inequalities have thrived and mutated, including under European rule, modernity, and markets.
Starting with the deeply moving stories of three writers, Arora explores the origins, persistence, and textures of inequalities rooted in the lottery of birth in India—of caste, class, gender, language, region, religion, and more—and their intersections in daily life. Blending scholarly rigor with moral intelligence, these essays engage with the Bhagavad Gita; the legacies of Ambedkar and Gandhi; Indian modernity, democracy, and nationalism; linguistic hierarchies; reservations; violence against women; identity politics; and much else that today weighs on Indian minds.
Praise for the book:
“The Lottery of Birth reveals Namit Arora to be one of our finest critics. In a raucous public sphere marked by blame and recrimination, these essays announce a bracing sensibility, as compassionate as it is curious, intelligent and nuanced.” — Pankaj Mishra, Essayist and Novelist.
“A remarkable compendium. The topics Arora tackles here—India’s formidable caste, class, and gender inequalities, and how its leaders, writers, and thinkers have engaged with them—have been tackled before, but mostly in dense academic volumes. What’s unique here is Arora’s seamlessly accessible and personable language, rich with autobiographical context, so we feel that the author has a stake in what he speaks of, above all, as an engaged citizen. From ancient scriptures to Dalit literature, reservations to violence against women, Arundhati Roy’s controversial views on Gandhi and Ambedkar to Perry Anderson’s controversial views on Indian history, these essays are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand contemporary India.” — Arun P. Mukherjee, Professor Emerita, York University.
“Namit Arora writes with envy-inspiring clarity and erudition about the central role in our lives of the many random inequalities we begin life with, such as class, gender, and, especially important in the Indian context, caste. This brilliant book is an immensely useful corrective to the conservative notion that people get more-or-less what they deserve, based on their own ‘merit’ and hard work. Read it. If nothing else, it will surely soften your attitude toward the disadvantaged in our midst, which is never a bad thing.” — S. Abbas Raza, Founding Editor, 3 Quarks Daily.