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A New York Times Book Review Editors' ChoiceIn Temptations of the West, Pankaj Mishra brings literary authority and political insight to bear on journeys through South Asia, and considers the pressures of Western-style modernity and prosperity on the region. Beginning in India, his examination takes him from the realities of Bollywood stardom, to the history of JawaharlalA New York Times Book Review Editors' ChoiceIn Temptations of the West, Pankaj Mishra brings literary authority and political insight to bear on journeys through South Asia, and considers the pressures of Western-style modernity and prosperity on the region. Beginning in India, his examination takes him from the realities of Bollywood stardom, to the history of Jawaharlal Nehru's post-independence politics. In Kashmir, he reports on the brutal massacre of thirty-five Sikhs, and its intriguing local aftermath. And in Tibet, he exquisitely parses the situation whereby the atheist Chinese government has discovered that Tibetan Buddhism can be "packaged and sold to tourists." Temptations of the West is essential reading about a conflicted and rapidly changing region of the world....

Title : Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
Author :
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ISBN : 9780312426415
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 323 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond Reviews

  • Rajesh Kurup
    2019-06-09 20:18

    My feelings on "Temptations of the West" are very mixed. To start, the book has little do with the title, or subtitle "How to be Modern.." Mishra writes mainly of the history of the subcontinent rather than its future. His journalistic tendencies come out a lot throughout the book. Each chapter reads more like distinct articles rather than as chapters of a single unified book. However, whether they are distinct articles or unifying chapters, his editor could have been stepped in more. Particularly in the chapters on Kashmir and Pakistan, he really could have wrapped his points better. There was always another episode or encounter that got in the way of the larger narrative. On the positive, Mishra get his content spot on. I will start with Kashmir. As a secular Hindu Indian American, I have never understood why India and Pakistan have pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war 2-4 times over this woe-begotten state of rock and snow. I've heard fundamentalist Hindus or nationalistic Indians argue passionately that India should sacrifice all to keep Kashmir, to avenge Kargil. But why? The argument usually follows the vein of "it belongs to us." Misra provides context for both Muslims and Hindus. He also provides a thread that links the anti-Soviet Afghan freedm fighters to the Kashmiri insurgency movement 1990s and back to the Taliban of the 2000s. Mishra does this a lot. Whether it his chapter on Ayodhya or Allahabad, he provides links to other mass movements in the subcontinent over the past 100 years. The larger point that he seems to make is that the region is a much more brutal and hopeless place than I've ever thought. Ex. it's the fate of Brahmins whose land was taken by Nehru and then whose job prospects were given to untouchables. Or Muslims who escape one massacre just to wait for the next massacre all with the governments tacit approval. Or it's Afghan women who either face the rage of extremists in the city or the dead, arid land in the countryside. Pankaj, dude, let's go out get a beer, watch some football and lighten up a bit. Or should that be a hot toddy and cricket.

  • FaisalBuzdar
    2019-06-03 20:18

    An extremely insightful book, providing an illuminating account of Pankaj Mishra's travels in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Tibet. Mishra takes us to cities and remote regions in these countries, uniquely experiencing modernity, development and changes wrought by capitalism. Meeting politicians, social activists, religious fanatics, traders, intellectuals and ordinary men and women, Mishra elucidates local history, politics, conflict and gains made by the powerful and the privileged. The prologue is one of the most well-written sections of the book in which Mishra tells the story of his stay in the historical town of Varanasi, time spent in a fast-dying public library and his encounter with a very interesting character, Rajesh. The chapters on Allahabad, Ayodhya, Kashmir and Pakistan are also brilliantly written and make one think hard about people trying to eke out a respectable existence amid tumult and turmoil. This book not only focuses on the aspirations of common people in South Asia and beyond, but also puts a spotlight on the chauvinism and appalling indifference exhibited by the urban middle classes. Many hailing from the urban areas of India and Pakistan, normally supporting the majoritarian rule, will find this book revealing and might even come to question the lies systematically fed to them by the state and mainstream media.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-29 20:30

    Wow! This is totally my kind of nonfiction! The author, an Indian-educated journalist, lends his personal understanding of South Asian culture, language, and history to current events in these countries. The first chapter was my favorite, especially the strange juxtaposition of a Brahman immersed in Edmund Wilson with a Princeton undergrad smoking hookah in late-80s Benares. Throughout the book, I was disturbed by the accounts of corruption and violence that rampages in nations pushed into modernization (compared to the middle-class corruption of 19th-century Paris), but I was glad to find a happy ending. The conclusion is that a nation or people who are grounded in eternal moral principles can withstand any chain of world events.Ironically, the journalistic style of the book reminded me of those I've read by Krakauer; the differences are that I found this book much more intellectually challenging, and deeply empathized with the views of this author.

  • Nithyanand
    2019-06-11 20:09

    Much excellent reportage but not enough analysis to deliver what the title promises―analysis appears, on a different plane, in his latest book, Age of Anger.I could write a long essay about my readings of Pankaj Mishra, on and off, over the last ten years or so, but I’ll save that for the long-pending review of his Age of Anger, of which this book is a logical precursor. In fact, the continuity, and evolution, of his ideas and interests from his very first book is remarkable.From the very beginning, he has been obsessed with one question―what happens to people who arrive late to modernity? What happens when the promised land―whether it’s jobs, prosperity, democracy, justice, equality, liberty―turns out to be illusory? What happens when people who were hitherto left out of the global economy, uprooted from their villages, educate themselves but find their roads blocked, and they see the elites, ensconsed in their comfortable worlds, holding on to their privileges and hypocrisies? In his Age of Anger, he digs up the word ressentiment to describe the emotional rage of those left behind. He doesn’t use the word here, but one can see how he was able to construct his forceful arguments in his later book―it wasn’t just his reading of Rousseau and Bakunin. To quote (and translate) a Malayalam proverb, “Give a man an elephant, but never give him (futile) hope.” And Mishra’s arguments could be transplanted almost seamlessly to examine the so-called Arab Spring, with the difference that South Asia at least has nominal democracy which the Middle East lacks.In this book, he writes―after an absorbing introductory chapter about his formative years in Allahabad―about his travels to Ayodhya, Mumbai, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Tibet. The chapter on Bollywood was delightful, with Mahesh Bhatt (of all people) his initial guide. That seemed an odd choice, but Bhatt turns out to be just the man to orient Mishra, who then delivers a trenchant critique of Bollywood that doesn’t see, or even attempt to see, beyond the urban elite and the NRIs. The chapter of Kashmir promised much, but there wasn’t a whole lot new in it. He then goes to Pakistan and Afghanistan under the guise of a London-based Pakistani journalist. But how did he successfully pass himself off as one? Surely they’d have noticed, for instance, that he wasn’t performing namaaz at prayer time. In Tibet, he concludes that, due to a combination of Buddhism and its unique culture, it may be better prepared to enter the modern world than other regions of the world. I’m not sure if ascribing it to Buddhist-influence is justified given the atrocities Buddhists have proved to be capable of in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.In his work, and his interviews, he raises two other questions that are worth pondering. What if there are people who don’t want competition, in all its forms, to be the fundamental driver of their lives? What if they wish to choose a different way of being? Linked to this is the other, more urgent, question: How does one modernize, both at a societal and a personal level, without losing one’s identity? Or, in an Indian context, how does one preserve tradition, however one defines it, while uprooting caste?

  • Namgay
    2019-05-26 18:15

    I really enjoyed it because I got to read about Nepal and Kashmir and Hindu nationalism and Afghanistan, places about which I had known nothing before. But I have a feeling that I will return to this book after a few years and find it pretty much self mastabatory. (<-- is that a word?)

  • Harshit
    2019-06-23 00:03

    This is the first book by Mishra that I have read. I’d heard of him from his fights with Rushdie and Ferguson. In my mind he was always the review world’s Rakhi Sawant. Reading this book has possibly elevated him – Sawants and Kardashians don’t go to Afghanistan and Tibet – but it still is a tepid book. ‘A sparkling collection’ the back-cover declares , ‘…Pankaj Mishra looks at the surprising ways modernity has come to South Asia’. It also notes that the books contains ‘lurid and astonishing characters’ from ‘societies that are struggling to define themselves’. Every writers dream, every readers nightmare. While the characters might be intriguing to a westerner who is being introduced to South Asia by this book, they are no revelation to us natives. With one foot in JNU’s campus and one foot in London (where as he notes, he divides his time), Mishra peeks into Mumbai, where he critiques the likes of KHNH and KKHH (for the NRI’s), Mallika Sherawat (‘As she spoke, she kept brushing back thick wavy hair from her full-lipped, oval face …. Mallika and I sat on the sofa, separated by a few inches – the narrow space into which she suddenly dropped, while still speaking of Almodovar, two glossy photos’ ) and a struggler (doesn’t everyone writing about Bollywood?). In Afghanistan he meets war-lords and new ministers struggling to find a place in the new country – and in Tibet (where he travels by Land Cruiser) he sadly admires the beauty. While to us there might be nothing new in Mishra’s essay’s, maybe someone in the west might find more use with the book. Sadly he seems to have taken the role of the slightly leftist conscience keeper to readers in the west, vacated by Roy , who has scooted, well – more to the left. Mishra has probably just started thriving in that world. I just hope he starts writing better books – because he seems to be an otherwise excellent writer

  • Aakash
    2019-06-23 00:20

    I liked temptations of the west because of its narrative style different from what I am used to in the academic genre. Mishra is discussing important questions about modernity and tradition in south Asia using very personal stories of real people in different locations in south Asia and raising the fundamental question of becoming modern over and over again through out the book. It is easy to see that the book's overarching frame work of thinking is post-colonial studies though what makes the book different from academic tomes and more accessible to a larger audience is restraint from engaging with just the academic community. Mishra is writing to a wider audience and trying to take what is usually just an academic conversation among 10-15 people at a time, to a much wider audience in south Asia and interested folks elsewhere. I hope more people read this book.

  • Tariq Mahmood
    2019-06-13 19:18

    The book is a journalist's experiences in his native India, where he focuses on politics and Kashmir, in Pakistan where he explores a jihadism, in Nepal where Maoism rebellion is covered and in Tibet where Dalai Llama and the Tibetan struggle is touched upon. I really enjoyed his objective and impartial depiction of Hindu fundamentalism in India and the distinction made with Islamic fundamentalism which was pretty poignant. I also enjoyed the Pakistani and a Afghani analysis. The Pakistani areas covered were in the war torn North West provinces. The last chapters on Nepal and Tibet were not as good as the initial ones as the author does not display the same depth of analysis. Nevertheless, the book is an important reference to any one trying to understand these countries from an insider point of view.

  • Alden
    2019-05-29 20:08

    Mishra is a very good writer and this book is in many ways illuminating. It discusses some aspects of contemporary life, the stresses of contemporary life in South Asia. I had hoped for more of the sort of analysis the title seems to promise: an explicit examination of the strains put on the people in these nations by the demands of modernity and the modern market culture. Instead, the book is largely narrative (not in itself a bad thing) with each chapter following a regular pattern - exemplary narrative, background or history, exemplary narrative). The book is also a reworking of articles published in the New Yorker and sometimes has an episodic feel. Weakest is the chapter on Nepal; best, the one on Pakistan and the section on Kashmir. A good book, but not the one I'd hoped for and expected.

  • Ilaria
    2019-05-24 21:25

    The author is a brahmin journalist who shares his own experience with the history of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He goes from the violence against the various ethnicities and religions to the not-so-golden world of Bollywood. It’s more interesting in the journalistic parts while it’s a little too generic when he talks about history.

  • Ming
    2019-06-06 01:03

    A series of essays which are more personal experiences of an Asian Indian journalist. Well-written and each essay contains intriguing and/or lesser-known facts, e.g., Western involvement in so many of these countries and involvement that made the countries worse. The style is a bit chatty and wandering.

  • Rojel
    2019-06-03 19:06

    Very interesting read (though the title can be a little misleading - its not a book preaching anything) about contemporary stories from India (stories about India dominate the book much more than Pakistan or Tibet) - Dalit identity politics from Uttar Pradesh (India's largest state and the home of the cow belt and caste politics), aspiration of migrants in search of the Bollywood dream and massacre of Sikhs in Chittisinghpura among others. For me the story that really stood out was about the Chittisinghpura massacare that was a killing of 36 Sikhs in a small town in Kashmir on the eve of President Clinton's visit. Pankaj tries, but not too hard, to go to the depths of "who dun it" - ultimately bringing out the tragedies practical aspects - a fearful community to afraid to speak either against the Indian govt. agencies or the Kashmiri militants/terrorists. I only remember this massacre was being blamed on the Pakistan based terrorists originally - but the book suggests there is more to it, and it could even have been a "false flag" attack. In any case I had to do more research on my own as to who really did it. It looks like the current consensus from most sources is that it was probably the 'Ikhwanis' - rehabilitated former militants - whether they were directed by Indian Govt or Army is not clear and will probably will never be. One thing is clear though that Kashmiris often have to deal with a lot of excesses by the Indian Armed forces - and many times the ones who bear the brunt are the ones who want no trouble - just want to peacefully live their lives. That is the tragedy of Kashmir, as it is of every separatist struggle.

  • Thomas Haverkamp
    2019-06-21 02:17

    Een bij vlagen prachtig relaas over India, Pakistan, Afgahnistan, Nepal en Tibet, en de worsteling met het westen en de eigen geschiedenis. Het werd mij duidelijk dat veel leed was veroorzaakt door het westerse kolonialisme, wat vervolgens door de eigen en huidige bestuurders nog een stukje verder geholpen werd. De situatie is alleen maar slechter geworden , door vooral veel politieke eigen intresse.

  • Lisa Ya-Han
    2019-06-18 18:28

    Will be an excellent travelogue on one’s trip in India (thou I read it in my room). Insightful, journalistic but writing with sentiments. It is like Arundhati Roy without the smart sarcasm (which I also love).

  • Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
    2019-06-12 21:10

    I picked this one up for its interesting subtitle — How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond — but it turned out to be a little misleading. Most of the time, Mishra is complaining about modernity, by which he mostly seems to mean contact with the West and the side effects of same (e.g. "the profound modernity of religious nationalism").Mishra doesn't really completely convince me that the region's problems stem exclusively from modernity as he defines is, but this book gave me a lot of food for thought. India is a apparently lot more chaotic than I had thought. (I mean, no one got blown up or kidnapped in English, August.) And it's interesting to remember how much was going on in the world in 1917 - the October Revolution occurred, the Indian freedom struggle (according to this book) was going into high gear, and of course, there was a war on.This appeared to be made of essays and articles originally written for magazines, so I had to cut it some slack about citations. (There aren't any; no index, either.) The piece about Afghanistan was an interesting contrast to Kabul Beauty School. The depiction of India honestly reminded me a lot of Iraq as it's depicted in The The Prince of the Marshes:: the interaction of a powerful religious nationalism movement, religious minorities, and tribal culture leading to violence. (When I say tribal I'm thinking of the tribes as depicted in Beowulf as well as Iraqi tribes. Weregild exists in both contexts, so why not compare them? I'm oversimplifying there but let's just say the connection makes some sense to me.)

  • Sanjay Varma
    2019-06-07 18:14

    Count me as a fan. The author is attempting to understand the human condition; he just happens to be writing about India. He offers no solutions, he merely describes the reality that people live.His style is journalistic, not magazine article. The chapters have titles such as Kashmir, Pakistan, etc. In each chapter, the author presents chronologically his research for that particular region. His method is to interview and shadow the key players. It seemed to me that there were generally two types of people with whom he met: political leaders and victims.Mishra is the type of journalist who would be killed if he wrote in Putin's Russia. He persists in following every trail, until he has shown that the official version of events rests on a bed of lies. His main focus, and very appropriate for a book about India, is to raise the alarm over religious intolerance.

  • Manu
    2019-06-15 19:24

    A commentary on life in the subcontinent, that vividly portrays issues that pertain to the region- from the university politics of Uttar Pradesh to the lanes of Bollywood and from Ram Janmabhoomi to the plight of Kashmir, and thats only one country. It also shows the role of Pakistan in the cold war, its dealings with the US , the mujahideen, communists and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Touches on Nepal and the Maoists vs Monarchy tussle. Most importantly it also throws light on how religion can fuel the fires of jihad (Afghanistan) as well as serve as a cohesive force that becomes a source of cultural identity (Tibet).While it could be claimed that he does not devote the deserved attention to each part of the sub continent and therefore leaves the work incomplete, what I liked was that though Mishra tries his best to remain objective in his understanding of the issues, he is also not dispassionate, and tries to bring in a perspective that reflects the views and experiences of the resident population. If you've read his earlier work, 'The Romantics', you'll feel a sense of deja vu, not just in the content, but in the tone too.Read it at a good time since the outcome of a lot of things discussed in the book is happening now - Prachanda's triumph in Nepal, the return of the Kasmiri pundits, the Tibetan protests.The other good take out was his projecting of Buddhism as possibly the last bulwark against capitalism. No, I'm not a communist anymore, but strongly believe that our society needs an anti thesis, an option against the unbridled arrogance of money.

  • Danesh
    2019-06-19 20:21

    Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond contains treatises on the author’s travels through India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet. Pankaj Mishra provides honest, fearless reports from the areas he visits. The incidents and conditions that he reports are hardly covered or purposely censored in the mainstream media. Reports from Kashmir, Pakistan’s play in Afghanistan and the political reasons on events and the governments responses, are well covered. He also mentions the threats he and his family have received due to his frank coverage.The book is recommended to anyone who wants a honest, on-the-ground view of things.

  • David Mason
    2019-06-05 23:22

    Well written but really more of a collection of essays. I didn't check - were they all previously published somewhere? Not that it matters. My sense is nothing really new here. I thought the chapter on Tibet, in particular, was weak and cursory.I was hoping for a more thoughtful discussion, and perhaps some synthesis, but instead found a collection of essays more along the lines of "difficulties of modernization" (or - because I hate the word "modernization", perhaps recent history showing some difficulties the region faces).

  • Vikram
    2019-06-03 02:26

    Interesting sections on Nepal and Tibet, but overall it's hard to take his narrative history style seriously because he offers no hard evidence, just personal observations. For the larger sections in the book covering India including Bollywood, the BJP, Kashmir and Nehru's legacy, I did not feel that he added much to existing works on the same topics. His latest book From the Ruins of Empire sounds promising.

  • Tenzing
    2019-06-05 18:18

    The book made me realize how ignorant I am of the deeper context of many of the things - violence in Kashmir, Hindu-Muslim bloodshed - I was constantly exposed to in the papers and on TV while attending boarding school in India. Makes me question the value of much of the `learning' that goes on in classrooms all over South Asia. As Bob Marley once memorably said, "If I were educated I'd be a damn fool."

  • ina
    2019-06-20 21:21

    First part of the book on India is excellent - the author clearly is at home with his material and has a "new historian" critical approach mixed with personal narrative. The remaining parts of the book are about Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet and are more textbook than personal narrative. It is clear that these parts of the book have been more difficult to write for the author, and I think one could find better histories than this. But all in all a good and interesting book.

  • Betsy D
    2019-05-25 22:12

    Mishra gives a fine review of the recent, tragic mostly, history of these areas, including Kashmir.Many cultural and historical factors contributed to their tragedies, but so did the CIA, using them as pawns in their "game" with the USSR. This makes me very sad. Of course, we don't know how the history would have proceeded without the CIA.He tells a number of individuals' stories, to illustrate how history played out for a variety of people.

  • Sue Pit
    2019-05-29 20:27

    This book regards the current situation and recent history of Indian, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmire, Nepal and Tibet. While the writer does not write in a manner that is entirely reader friendly (odd repetitions and lay out is such one can lose focus at times), it does provide the read with an excellent understanding of that area and why things may be as they are currently.

  • Rashad Raoufi
    2019-06-18 21:20

    its an easy read, very insightful at times but its slightly confusing as we dont know if its an objective view or personal account but it does not diminish the authors skill in examining the soth asian socities, especially his view of the rise of hindu nationalinsim. its good summer reading and i laughed out loud at the cow urine lab!

  • Bharathi
    2019-06-18 23:05

    Extraordinarily good reporting. Most Indians look to the mainstream media for news. They lack the perspective that Pankaj Mishra brings to light. In his other South Asian potrayals, the writer is very sympathetic of his various subjects. He writes keeping in mind the history and culture of the place and its peoples.

  • Heath
    2019-06-13 23:19

    This is, from start to finish, a fantastic book. Intelligent, honest, and sharply written, it strikes a perfect balance between skepticism towards those in power with deep compassion for the ordinary people the powerful cause to suffer. I'm not sure why it took me so long to finish considering how much I enjoyed it.

  • Windy2go
    2019-06-05 23:32

    Thank you Christopher for this book for Christomas. I learned a lot from it about India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal. Even about Tibet. This book gave me insights in the culture and historical conflicts through journalistic essays on each country.

  • Cheryl Zaleski
    2019-05-27 02:25

    The title is misleading...I thought I was going to read something social/cultural, but in the tiny print in one of the book reviews,it is about "modern politics [and economics] in South Asia. A bit of a tiring and confusing read for this foreigner...

  • Jecca Namakkal
    2019-06-02 02:29

    Excellent introduction to contemporary Indian politics, and the complicated relationships between post-colonial East and West. Also, a pleasure to read. Check out Mishra's articles in the New Yorker. Top-notch.