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One of the world's most ancient cultures, India can be understood and explained in as many ways as humans can possibly devise. To make sense of this astonishing turmoil of ideas, Sunil Khilnani has created a remarkably simple and attractive solution. In this book (which accompanies a major Radio 4 series which he is narrating) he takes the lives of 50 Indians, starting with the Buddha, some very famous, some more obscure, from the earliest records to the present day, and in a series of short chapters describes what makes them so surprising, curious or important. These are not simply history lessons, but stories rooted in today's India, as Khilnani goes on a quest across contemporary India to find the living traces of these extraordinary individuals.
For all of India’s myths, stories and moral epics, Indian history remains a curiously unpeopled place. In Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani fills that space, recapturing the human dimension of how the world’s largest democracy came to be. His trenchant portraits of emperors, warriors, philosophers, film stars and corporate titans—some famous, some unjustly forgotten—bring feeling, wry humour and uncommon insight to dilemmas that extend from ancient times to our own.
An entertaining and provocative account of India’s past, written by one of the country’s leading thinkers For all India’s myths, its sea of stories and moral epics, Indian history remains a curiously unpeopled place. In Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani fills that space, bringing to life fifty extraordinary men and women who changed both India and the world. Journeying across India in pursuit of their stories—visiting slum temples, ayurvedic call centers, Bollywood studios, textile mills, and Mughal fortresses—Khilnani offers trenchant portraits of emperors, warriors, philosophers, artists, iconoclasts, and entrepreneurs. Some of these historical figures are famous. Some are unjustly forgotten. And all, Khilnani convinces us, are deeply relevant today. As their rich and surprising lives take the reader through twenty-five hundred winding years of Indian and world history, Khilnani brings wit, feeling, historical rigor, and uncommon insight to dilemmas that extend from ancient times to our own. We encounter the Buddha not as the usual beatific icon but as a radical young social critic. We meet the ancient Sanskrit linguist who inspires computer programmers today. We hear the medieval poets, ribald and profound, who mocked rituals and caste and whose voices resonate in contemporary poetry. And we see giants of the twentieth-century Independence movement—among them Mohandas Gandhi; Ambedkar, the Untouchable lawyer turned constitution maker; and the legendary singer M. S. Subbulakshmi—not as cardboard cutouts but as complex and striving human beings. At once a provocative and sophisticated reinterpretation of India’s history and an incisive commentary on its present-day conflicts and struggles, Incarnations is an authoritative, sweeping, and often moving account of a nation coming into its own.
THE IDEA OF INDIA was originally published to mark the 50th anniversary of India's independence and has since established itself as a uniquely valuable and authoritative book on a key subject. At the heart of India's self-image since independence has been 'the idea of India' - modern, technocratic, egalitarian, secular - but the tensions between the idea and the reality have become almost intolerable. With the legacy of Nehru and Gandhi everywhere under attack and ferociously religious and militant politicians in power has the idea of India lost all meaning?
In 1498, when Vasco da Gama set foot in Kerala looking for Christians and spices, he unleashed a wave of political fury that would topple local powers like a house of cards. The cosmopolitan fabric of a vibrant trading society - with its Jewish and Arab merchants, Chinese pirate heroes and masterful Hindu Zamorins - was ripped apart, heralding an age of violence and bloodshed. One prince, however, emerged triumphant from this descent into chaos. Shrewdly marrying Western arms to Eastern strategy, Martanda Varma consecrated the dominion of Travancore, destined to become one of the most dutiful pillars of the British Raj. What followed was two centuries of internecine conflict in one of India's premier princely states, culminating in a dynastic feud between two sisters battling to steer the fortunes of their house on the eve of Independence. Manu S. Pillai's retelling of this sprawling saga focuses on the remarkable life and work of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the last - and forgotten - queen of the House of Travancore. The supporting cast includes the flamboyant painter Raja Ravi Varma and his wrathful wife, scheming matriarchs of 'violent, profligate and sordid' character, wife-swapping court favourites, vigilant English agents, quarrelling consorts and lustful kings. Extensively researched and vividly rendered, The Ivory Throne conjures up a dramatic world of political intrigues and factions, black magic and conspiracies, crafty ceremonies and splendorous temple treasures, all harnessed in a tragic contest for power and authority in the age of empire.
Reaching as far back as ancient times, Ronojoy Sen pairs a novel history of India’s engagement with sport and a probing analysis of its cultural and political development under monarchy and colonialism, and as an independent nation. Some sports that originated in India have fallen out of favor, while others, such as cricket, have been adopted and made wholly India’s own. Sen’s innovative project casts sport less as a natural expression of human competition than as an instructive practice reflecting a unique play with power, morality, aesthetics, identity, and money. Sen follows the transformation of sport from an elite, kingly pastime to a national obsession tied to colonialism, nationalism, and free market liberalization. He pays special attention to two modern phenomena: the dominance of cricket in the Indian consciousness and the chronic failure of a billion-strong nation to compete successfully in international sporting competitions, such as the Olympics. Innovatively incorporating examples from popular media and other unconventional sources, Sen not only captures the political nature of sport in India but also reveals the patterns of patronage, clientage, and institutionalization that have bound this diverse nation together for centuries.
One of the most remarkable stories of immigration in the last half century is that of Indians to the United States. People of Indian origin make up a little over one percent of the American population now, up from barely half a percent at the turn of the millennium. Not only has its recent growth been extraordinary, but this population from a developing nation with low human capital is now the most-educated and highest-income group in the world's most advanced nation. The Other One Percent is a careful, data-driven, and comprehensive account of the three core processes-selection, assimilation, and entrepreneurship-that have led to this rapid rise. This unique phenomenon is driven by-and, in turn, has influenced-wide-ranging changes, especially the on-going revolution in information technology and its impact on economic globalization, immigration policies in the U.S., higher education policies in India, and foreign policies of both nations. If the overall picture is one of economic success, the details reveal the critical issues faced by Indian immigrants stemming from the social, linguistic, and class structure in India, their professional and geographic distribution in the U.S., their pan-Indian and regional identities, their strong presence in both high-skill industries (like computers and medicine) and low-skill industries (like hospitality and retail trade), and the multi-generational challenges of a diverse group from the world's largest democracy fitting into its oldest.

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