The Argumentative Indian is a book that has to be chewed slowly.
It’s wonderfully written.
It will, at points, shock you with its little quirky insights on “being Indian”; actually, even “being Indian”, in the abstract, is questioned and argued about in the book.
Irrespective of what you want this book to be, it will turn into that book that you want to read because it allows you the luxury of self perception, into the society (and maybe yourself).
It’s an enriching book, in that it makes you look at your countrymen with more empathy for their steadfastly held (always steadfast, never slack..) beliefs. It’s, however, not a book you want to discuss details of with your devout and orthodox relatives who argue endlessly, one-way (some will be maddened into thinking you’re turning into a deviant rebel if you do talk to them with the rationality that might stick when you read this book). It broadens your mind, undoubtedly.
A friend said, after he read this book, he looked at people, and India, differently. That sounded very cliche. But he was right. This one gives you a rather grey tinted looking glass. It makes you conciliate with the anomalies of your society, it helps you make peace with all kinds of gobar too. (But it didn’t really help me make peace with whatever it is that the “nation wants to know!”*)
As for the title, it’s not misleading. The essays in the book reflect on the argumentative nature of Indians, and help you realize that being argumentative is a powerful tool you can have; not to be mistaken with being loud and thick. This book, for example, is soft spoken (if I may), but is compelling. The essays are about the different hues of deliberation, discussion and debate that conversation and practices lead one to; it, at no points, mistakes lambasting and being crass for being argumentative.
As for the writer himself, what can I say that a Nobel** cannot? Salut to you sir. Thumbs up on the choice of the book cover. So gorgeous!
*reference made to an unpopular Indian TV anchor who lives in his little deep well, like the green frog did.
**the Nobel was admittedly not for his work on culture, history or polity (which this book is about), but was in the field of economics. Nevertheless, it’s a great measure of one’s greatness, at least in the annals of bloggesh. *tips hat at imagined audience