Saturday, May 05, 2007

Inhaling The Mahatma

'One in every six people on our planet is an Indian, and the nation they inhabit is conducting the world's largest and most important experiment in democracy. Can a deeply religous society of more than one bilion people with a large Hindu majority sustain a secular government under which people of all faiths are treated equally? If it can work in a developing country as populous and diverse as India, it can work anywhere.
In just sixty years, the power of ordinary Indians to determine who governs them has revolutionised once demoralised colony of Britain, breaking down feudalisim and caste discrimination, and making enormous strides in reducing poverty and disease. In 1947 the average Indian's life had a life expectancy of thirty-two years, and only one in five people could read or write; today's Indian lives twice as long on average, is better off than ever, and two out of every three people are literate. India's information technology boom has buried its image as a timeless, caste-ridden place teeming with paupers, snake charmers and maharajas. The world is doing yoga, wearing pashmina and reading Indian authors, not to mention enjoying spicy Indian cusine and being entertained by the pulsing output of Bollywood cinema.'

from 'Inhaling The Mahatma' by Christopher Kremmer

Another big roadtrip plus is that without a computer to dick around on or a garden to distract me, I get some reading done. This one is a fine history of modern India told through Kremmer's time as a foreign correspondent based in New Delhi. He's a great writer, an Aussie journalist (and surfer) who's written a couple of great books on Afghanistan and Laos respectively. It's an intense history at times. much sectarian violence and that democracy seems to be only semi-functioning, but Kremmer is convincingly hopeful. Good stuff. And there's a swell here too. Nice size, a bit jumbled and windswelly where I was yesterday, but still fun.

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