August 23, 2005

The ocean around

    Mr [Suketu] Mehta paints a picture of India that is so vast, complex and confusing as to defy generalisation, and facing such a terrifying array of problems that it forbids optimism. Yet most of his characters show what Pavan Varma in "Being Indian" calls the intrinsic Indian propensity for not losing hope. That dauntless optimism is in evidence on a national scale at present. To many foreigners it seems almost unseemly: how can a country talk so proudly when so many of its people -- 260m at the government's count -- live below the poverty line?

    Mr Varma's answer is brutal: the rich in India have always lived a life quite uncaring of the ocean of poverty around them.

From "Not losing hope", a joint review of Suketu Mehta's Maximum City and Pavan Varma's Being Indian, in The Economist, April 9 2005.

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