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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


It was supposed to have been The Last Nizam, but that had to wait. All thanks to the arrival of Sudhir and Katharina Kakar's impressive new book simply titled The Indians - Portrait of a People.

They say pictures speak a thousand words and this one had me gripped right from the cover.

The amazing black and white shot by Vidyut Kulkarni spoke to me even before I'd flipped over to read the jacket in a bid to figure out what this book is about.

There is the domineering father, the uncertain mother, the coy daughter-in-law, the unsure of where to look little boys, the mock flowers, the floral table cloth, the stage curtain - all captured to perfection I'm sure with that black umbrella caressing the camera, the flash popping and the don't say cheese look. Full marks to Puja Ahuja for the brilliant cover design that is bound to stop you in your tracks, even if you don't end up buying the book.

And it isn't just the cover, that makes this book such a compelling read. Yes, it is a look at the Indian identity, our Indian-ness, as it is. Once I'd got over the initial excitement about the cover, I was half-expecting an academic discourse into issues of identity, yet another explanation of our caste-system, our divides and our inherent differences as a people.

The book has gone beyond all of that to provide an immensely fascinating insight into not just our lives but our minds as well. If the Indian male is analysed, so is the Indian female. And if its Kakar, sexuality can't be far behind. Yes, the Kamasutra weaves its way though the bigger story is beyond that.

I loved every bit of it. My pink post its, which often determine how much I really like a book, make an appearance after almost every 10th page. I can spend a whole evening talking about it, but this one which was almost a bane of my childhood (being the darkest in the family!) resonated the most:

".....Whereas in the West anti-wrinkle creams and other products against ageing are a gold mine for pharmaceuticals companies, in India, especially among the middle class, products that promise a whitening of the skin chalk up record profits. Television commercials for 'Fair and Lovely' cream for women, and, more recently 'Fair and Handsome' for men; the natural equation of light skin with nobility, beauty and high birth in proverbs, tales and legends; matrimonials in newspapers and in Internet websites specifying 'fair' brides- all these are accepted as being in the natural order of things. 'Black is beautiful!' is not a slogan that will catch on in India anytime in the near future."

I'm heartened to note, some things haven't changed.

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