Jan Book Club : Being Indian - Pavan Varma

A special book club meet-up for people who are going to India for the Jaipur trip and for anyone else interested in getting and insight into Indian people and how they think.

This is a discussion on Being Indian and on what it means to be Indian. The nominated book for this discussion is a Non fiction book which has been recommended by many Indians.

The Book Club will follow the traditional book club's discussion format.

Description of the Book from Amazon:

In the 21st century every sixth human being will be Indian. India is very close to becoming the second largest consumer market in the world, with a buying middle class numbering over half a billion.It is in the top ten in overall GNP. Yet at least 200 million Indians remain desperately poor. Illiteracy rates are high. Communal violence is widespread; corruption endemic. Brides are still tortured and burnt for dowries; the caste system has lost little of its power and none of its brutality.

How are we to make sense of these two, apparently contradictory, pictures of India today? And how can we overcome the many misconceptions about India that are fed by the stereotypes created by foreigners and the myths about themselves projected by Indians? In Being Indian, Pavan Varma, whom the Guardian has called 'one of the country's most perceptive writers', demolishes the myths and generalisations as he turns his sharply observant gaze on his fellow countrymen to examine what really makes Indians tick and what they have to offer the world in the 21st century.

Review of the book.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/710348.Being_Indian

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/being-indian-by-pavan-k-varma-6148368.html

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  • be

    Enjoyed views both in the discussion and the panaromic ones (1st time visit), disagreed with some of it, but thats the beauty of indiviual thought!

    January 15, 2013

  • Sonny

    one of the most lively, passionate and interesting discussions i have been to as part of the group. i am going to look for a maths test to confirm my innate mathematical aptitude.

    2 · January 13, 2013

  • Jessie H.

    Very informative,fun and friendly

    January 13, 2013

  • Ade

    I really enjoyed the meeting. The discussion was lively, funny and well-informed. I learned a lot. Looking forward to the next one!

    January 13, 2013

  • Sonny

    @hina, im going to save my energy for sunday. Lets agree to disagree.

    January 11, 2013

  • Sonny

    photoshopping is one thing. and from mainstream media i wouldnt expect any different. but asian mags - which have ZERO white readers - employing only light skinned women is something else. theres not just a near-total absence of asian girls who arent fair, but a large number of white models who never even look remotely 'ethnic'. anyway, here is an interesting piece i saw today -
    http://www.the-nri.com/index.php/2013/01/tall-fair-and-handsome/
    hurrah for shah rukh khan!

    January 10, 2013

    • Hina

      Also, I find this article hilarious. SRK started endorsing the product way back in 2007 and he received a lot of flak for it. Is this journalist just coming to realise about this scenario?

      January 10, 2013

    • Hina

      Oops...everytime I press enter my comments get posted. http://news.bbc.co.uk...­ I think the nri article is quite biased. So it is ok for lighter skinned people to want to go down a shade or two but it is not ok for dark skin people to want to get lighter a shade or two. If it is not acceptable for dark skinned people to wish for a slightly lighter skin tone then I think we should be trying to ban all the tanning products from the supermarket shelves. Why is there no articles being published on this? In either scenario be it dark/light both parties are not comfortable in their own skin

      January 10, 2013

  • Vineet

    Here are some starter questions related to the book to Ponder about, before you come to the book club meeting on Sunday.

    1. What is your definition of “Being Indian”? Has this changed after reading the book?
    2. Has Varma written a positive, negative or neutral portrayal of India? Is objective and non-judgemental?
    3. Are Spirituality and Materialism really complimentary?
    4. Are most Indian born with a mathematical gene?
    5. What is the most enduring quality of Being Indian?
    6. What is the most disgusting quality of Being Indian?
    7. Is religion or tradition holding back progress in India?
    8. Is Bollywood simply reflecting Indian society or does it play a major role in creating the society?
    9. Is India one country or a federation of countries? Do you agree with Varma’s take on Pan Indianness
    10. Will the current mass protests, related to the gang rape, in India be instrumental in changing Indian attitudes towards women?

    January 10, 2013

  • Hina

    Again, I dont think that is something restricted to Asian magazines. If that was the case we wouldn't be having heavily photoshopped Beyonce and Rianne to a lighter skin tone.

    Infact, quite a few months back I remember reading this article on the advert of Estee Lauder where they had women from 3 different ethnic background yet they all looked alike with similar features albeit with slightly different skintone but all on the lighter side.

    January 10, 2013

  • Sonny

    I was talking about virtually all british asian mags/catalogues' automatic deference to the lighter end of the scale, yep. You can tell alot by what is presented/desired as 'aspirational'.

    January 10, 2013

  • Hina

    Most Indian magazines that I have looked have always have asian models in there. If Indian models where not in demand India most certainly will not be having a big fashion industry and it wouldn't be churning out Indian models on daily basis

    Yes, Asian magazines which are produced in UK or by UK company's therein I have noticed quite a few non-sub continent models. Now why Asians in the UK or not using Asian models that is beyond my understanding.I think Indians are becoming well aware of dark beauties otherwise you wouldn't have the likes of Deepika Padukone, Rani Mukherjee, etc being popular.

    January 10, 2013

  • Sonny

    Btw, there should be an exclamation mark at the end of my quote for dark (pun unintended) comic effect.

    January 10, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Well... I must say I am proud to be East Asian, Chinese origin to be precise. To me, skin colour is what it is - skin colour, nothing else. To be white does not equate to be more attractive than Chinese or Indians - there are ubelieveably beautiful Chinese and Indians, and quite ugly white people..... Inner beauty is most important and the person with inner beauty will be beautiful to everyone. Of course, a caucasian, however common, will attract attention in Asian society, as this person will stand out, as will a Chinese/Indian person in a white society. Just thought I should add my 五仙 !!

    January 9, 2013

  • Vineet

    "Modern men prefer blondes, because the fair-haired women have higher levels of estrogen, however brunette are 10% more successful in romantic relationships and they often feel sexier and more attractive"

    January 9, 2013

  • Sonny

    its definitely not an indian only phenomenon - africa, east asia, everywhere has its 'issues' to do with skin colour. but one difference between, eg, the african community and south asians is that they at least seem more conscious of the debates around it and - gasp! - even have those who prefer dark skin and dont mind saying it! a lot of asians seem to enjoy pretending it doesnt exist. and asian magazines have to be the only ones featuring white models pretending to be asian. im sure some asian models wouldnt mind some of that work. anyway, as the line from mississipi masala goes, you can be dark and have money, you can be light and have no money, but you cant be dark AND have no money.

    January 9, 2013

  • Hina

    Forgot to mention even in Africa there is a preference for lighter skin-tone people. There is quite a large number of African women using bleach cream which is at par with Fair&Lovely.

    January 9, 2013

  • Hina

    I dont think you can restrict this as an Indian phenomena. It is natural tendency of most people to set themselves apart from others. What about the trend in west when it was considered fashionable to be pale as if you had a tan you were considered working class. Or how about the current trend to be tanned. You have all sorts of tanning lotion in the supermarkets. So it is perfectly acceptable for western people to wish to be tan and be dark but not acceptable for Indian wishing for a different skintone? If we move away from tanning, in Italy and Spain they prefer to be blond and blond women are considered more desirable compared to the brunnettes? Why?

    In my opinion it is a question of seeking to be different and not "Indianness"

    January 9, 2013

  • Vineet

    Surely this should read Dark and Ugly !! I have another question, In India would a fair and frowny face still considered to be more attractive that a dark and smiley one? Incidentally the book says the British Indians are far more bothered about their image and how they look than the Indian Indians, I am not too sure about that !!

    January 9, 2013

  • Gizmo

    You have hit upon a vital historical point, my dear chap :) Like the Indians, we too had a caste system: the fair, wheatish, and dark Gizmodians. I’m ashamed to say, we all once shared a belief that the fairer our fur, the more angelic our tendencies. And the darker our fur, the more evil our traits. Furious with being so badly treated, the dark Gizmodians rose up and fought. Fur flew on an epic scale. Millions of Gizmos died in the worst massacre of all time. We vowed “Never Again” to this atrocity. So what did we do? We made it mandatory for all Gizmodians to apply Fair & Lovely to one part of the fur, Dark & Lovely to the other bit, and Wheatish & Lovely to the following areas: our protruding ears, paws, lower facial area and eyelids (see photo). As you can see, each Gizmo now represents the entire complexion spectrum and because of this equality, we enjoy a tranquil existence. Sadly, the Indians rejected our idea as for some bizarre reason they refuse to sport multi-coloured faces.

    2 · January 9, 2013

  • Peter L.

    Hey Gizmo if you combine your Fair and Lovely and your Dark and Lovely you too can be wheatish......!

    January 9, 2013

  • Gizmo

    We Gizmodians are image obsessed too. We use Fair & Lovely on half of our fur (see photo). The other half gets the Dark & Lovely treatment. I'd say we look rather fetching with our equal opps fur.

    1 · January 9, 2013

  • Chhuvi

    Yep, let's talk some more about the photo. I agree, it's a natural mid-chuckle shot capturing Vineet's warmth with a backdrop of festive cheer :) Gets a happy, toothy grin out of me every time I see it. Indians being obsessed with image? Well, they have managed to invent a whole new colour to add to the complexion spectrum. The Indian version of the rainbow song goes like this: "red and yellow and pink and green, purple, orange, blue and ... wheatish" <shudder>

    1 · January 9, 2013

  • Sandeep

    Does one have to have read the book to attend this? I haven't read it but would like to come as the topic is something close to my heart. So i may read it some day. Can I come? Thanks

    January 8, 2013

    • Vineet

      Sundeep , I did reply to your message on Facebook, you didnt get that ?

      January 8, 2013

    • Sandeep

      Hi Vineet, I haven't posted any comment on FB. May be u responded to someone else's comment? I'm not part of this group on Fb

      January 8, 2013

  • Sonia

    Yes. It is typically Indian. So, can we carry on discussing your photo Vineet? I like how you look full of mirth, embodying the Christmas spirit.

    January 8, 2013

  • Vineet

    Mmm. Can we move on from the photo and start talking about Being Indian .... Is it typically Indian to be obsessed with image and how we look in our photos?

    January 8, 2013

  • ramesh r

    I don't love your photo, vineet :-)

    January 8, 2013

  • Gizmo

    As do I!

    January 8, 2013

  • Chhuvi

    I love your photo too Vineet!

    January 8, 2013

  • Vineet

    Sonia better than a Gok Wan makeover eh? I was told as I was not smiling in the previous photograph, it put off people from joining the group! Besides I am now planning to become strict about RSVP rules, so I thought I better do that with a smiling face.

    January 4, 2013

  • Sonia

    I love your photo Vineet!

    January 3, 2013

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