January 15, 2005
An insightful look at the historical roots, cultural and social behavior and economic influence of the Indian middle class. Pavan K Varma offers an excellent introduction for anyone with interest in understanding the Indian middle class.
He traces the history of the class, and the strong influence of Gandhi and Nehru's ideology. Further, he offers an explanation of the perceived subsequent ideological decline, and the role of the middle-class in subverting the nation's goals to serve its self-interest. He also explains the hypocrisy common in middle-class behavior - private practice of ritual and casteism while publicly projecting a secular image, relentless pursuit of self-interest while maintaining a belief in social justice and so on.
Varma's book cites several examples, from the Mandal commission recommendations, to the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. It offers insight into corruptness of Indian society, and critical analysis of the role played by the middle-class in the 50 years since independence.
The book is not full of statistics, or rigorous research results. It draws on common examples, probably familiar to most readers, rather than esoteric academic work. It is easy to relate to, even though somewhat simplistic in presenting the analysis. The book falters somewhat in the final chapters, where the author switches from diagnosis to prescription.
Many might disagree with the author's opinions. It is undeniable though, that it presents a hard look at the self-obsessed Indian middle-class.