Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
In 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.
Gul. He attempted to reinvent himself as a full-time jihadi, writing columns in the Urdu papers and sending long faxes, as an exasperated editor told me, to the offices of the English-language press, usually denouncing the new military government for surrendering before India and America. Gul’s awareness of his lost authority seemed present in his swift response on the telephone when I told him that the men shadowing me might stop me from traveling to his home in the Chaklala air base near
forehead with the sleeves of his kurta, already damp from his prenamaz ablutions. Only the men at the mosque in the nearby town, Rahmat said, had been able to help his family. They had employed his teenage younger brother at their own madrassa; they had worked through their contacts in the police to ease the pressure on Rahmat’s family. Rahmat knew vaguely that they were members of the SSP and opposed to the Shias, but he hadn’t given it much thought. Then one warm evening in 1995 one of the
invariably join us at this point. These were election observers sent to the region from other states, men in their thirties and forties, eager and fluent. A brisk bonhomie would ensue around the dining table as people compared notes on who was posted where and who was about to be promoted. There would be little talk of the election or the police stations we had visited (some of them in total disarray—small dark rooms full of dusty files and broken furniture, smells of urine and alcohol emanating
of the Sikhs and Kashmiri Muslims. I remember from my own small-town childhood the abruptness with which many lower-middle-class Hindus began to distrust and scorn the Sikh neighbors they had previously lived alongside in perfect amity for decades. The Hindu nationalists owe their rapid blood-strewn progress partly to this antiminority frenzy Indira worked up during her last years in office. In June 1984, Indira ordered the army to force Bhindranwale and other Sikh militants from the Golden
pocket and send it to his children and aging mother in Pakistan. As the Indian Army announced one improbable victory after another, TV reporters and newspaper journalists emerged as cheerleaders, and then, in July 1999, when, under American pressure on Pakistan, the infiltrators withdrew from the strategic heights, the media led the country in celebrating what the Hindu nationalist government described as Pakistan’s military and diplomatic defeat. If the battles in Kashmir hardened public