Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On 'The Argumentative Indian'

I wrote this review a while back. Since this book is mentioned in the reading list (which I doubt our newcomers will read), I decided to post my article here.

Amartya Sen is a genius, and it doesn’t take a genius to make that claim. The sole Indian recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics has received enough national and international acclaim to firmly establish his position among the most influential Indians of our time, and any individual with the slightest interest in economics has most certainly come across his name.

His collection of articles, compiled under the title ‘The Argumentative Indian’ tries to explain the various aspects of India (such as its history, culture and identity) by invoking its argumentative tradition. The reasons he gives for employing the argumentative approach are its long history in the Indian culture and its contemporary relevance. The unique approach towards writings on culture and history makes the book a refreshing read.

The casual reader might come across a bit of a rough patch when Sen abandons storytelling and engages himself in reasoning (for example, in the article ‘The Reach of Reason’). But almost every other article is easy to read, and even a layman stands to gain a lot from diving right into the midst of the Indian history recounted by Sen. Explanations to the fondness displayed by Indians towards philosophy, why the Western world turns towards India for its mystical and spiritual answers, the bias of NCERT’s books against Muslims and India’s reasons for pursuing nuclear weapons are just a few of the various answers about contemporary India that are hidden in this enchanting book.

I do not know whether the pursuit of these answers appeals to our youth. But for those of us left dejected with the view of India provided by our history books, ‘The Argumentative Indian’ offers us a chance to view India in a new light.


deepanshu said...

i especially liked the chapters 'India and China' and 'Tagore's India'