Reviews

The following compendium of reviews relates to the following non-fiction and fiction books of Gurcharan Das. Click on the text that interests you or read the entire document.

1. India Unbound: From Independence to Global Information Age, 2000-2001, Penguin/Knopf/ Vintage
 
1) "Something tremendous is happening in India, and Das, with his keen eye and often elegant prose, has his finger firmly on the pulse of the transformation. His stories enliven what could easily have been a dull piece of economic history. Das had a ringside seat at the events he describes, and the result is an engaging account that moves easily from the big picture to the telling anecdote. Part memoir, part journalism, and part history, the book begins shortly before independence and continues until the new millennium. "The theme of this book," he writes, "is how a rich country became poor and will be rich again."
- The New York Times, March 25, 2001. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-nytimes)
 
2) "The big story is that this is wonderful book. India Unbound is a great mixture of memoir, economic analysis, social investigation, political scrutiny and managerial outlook being thrown into the understanding of India. It is not easy for a book of this kind to work, but in this case it actually does. In terms of the temper of the book, the fact that Gurcharan Das is happier with the world does makes a difference. He is both critical as well as optimistic and I think that combination works well. There is a positiveness of approach that breathes through every page, and the view of India that emerges is optimistic but it is not unrelated to criticisms of early periods, [the decades after Independence], and at one or two places I would even say that he may have over-criticized things. "
-- Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner, at the Nehru Centre, London, 7 May, 2002 (Read full text here: http://gurcharandas.org/amartya-sen)
 
3) "India Unbound is a quiet earthquake that shook faraway shores long before its shockwave reached Britain. [Its] conclusion is that in the next two decades India will become the third largest economy, after the US and China, …[and] two industries, information technology and agriculture, will lift India out of poverty. It talks of an India where teenage tea-shop assistants work to save money for computer lessons…[and] says that if the poor get rich and a few people get filthy rich, that is better than worrying about the distribution of wealth and no one getting rich. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winner was so impressed he asked Das to start a "secular, rightwing party" modelled on Britain's Tories in India."
--The Guardian, London, June 11, 2002. (Read full text here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-guardian)
 
4) "One of the most readable and insightful books to appear on India's tortuous economic path…since shaking off British rule"
-- Business Week, New York, April 16, 2001. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/businessweek)
 
5) "The change in India since economic liberalization in 1991 has been astonishing, and the pace of it picks up every day. Any visitor to India must ask how it came about and where it might lead. On a recent visit—after several years – I found a book which gave a vivid and persuasive explanation of the transformation all around me. India Unbound: from Independence to the global information age by Gurcharan Das is a mixture of memoir and social and economic inquiry, written with great energy, personal knowledge and clarity by a man who began his commercial career selling Vicks VapoRub to India villages (an excellent chapter). It isn't perfect – it has to my mind too much pro-market gusto in the analysis and a touch of Samuel Smiles in the story – but I would firmly recommend it to any visitor to India as a key guide to its recent past."
-- New Statesman, London (by Ian Jack), 30 January, 2006. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/ian-jack)
 
 
 6) The revised edition of Mr Das's book, India Unbound, is at the top of the country's best-seller list for non-fiction, tapping into a vein of renewed self-confidence and national pride that is itself a central theme of his study. Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, part polemic, India Unbound dissects the failures of the country's Nehruvian socialist experiment and vividly describes the changes that are transforming the daily lives and outlooks of the country's 1bn people.
 
Mr Das's central argument is that India's market reforms, which began in 1991, are proving as revolutionary as Deng Xiaoping's embrace of capitalism in China in 1979--it is just that they are occurring more slowly and have so far failed to generate as much outside interest… In fits and starts, he argues, India's liberalising reforms are slowly unleashing the country's "animal spirits" and will eventually lead to its emergence as one of the world's great economic powers. By 2025, he predicts, India could have increased its share of global output from 6 per cent to 13 per cent, making it the third largest economy in the world.
 
While India may never roar ahead like the Asian tigers, he argues, it can at least advance like a wise elephant, moving steadily and surely, pausing occasionally to reflect on its past and to enjoy the journey.
--Financial Times, London Aug 21, 2002. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-financial-times)
 
7) "The strength of his inquiry lies in its castigation of those who inherited the running of India from the British. He is commendably scathing about Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, who had her father's hubris and contempt for businessmen but not a trace of his erudition…  In most developed democracies, someone like Mr. Das would be a legislator or a cabinet minister.  The author regards economic growth as the only way to strengthen Indian democracy. ...[and] his optimism is potent when he says, 'We have good reasons to expect that the lives of the majority of Indians in the 21st century will be freer and more prosperous than their parents. Never before in recorded history have so many people been in a position to rise so quickly.'"
--The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2001. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/wall-street-journal)
 
8) "Informative, entertaining, and basically correct about India's need to embrace capitalism more wholeheartedly, for all the costs and risks."
--The Economist, February 17, 2001 (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-economist)
 
9)  "The strength of his inquiry lies in its castigation of those who inherited the running of India from the British. He is commendably scathing about Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, who had her father's hubris and contempt for businessmen but not a trace of his erudition…  In most developed democracies, someone like Mr. Das would be a legislator or a cabinet minister.  The author regards economic growth as the only way to strengthen Indian democracy. ...[and] his optimism is potent when he says, 'We have good reasons to expect that the lives of the majority of Indians in the 21st century will be freer and more prosperous than their parents. Never before in recorded history have so many people been in a position to rise so quickly.'"
--The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2001. (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/wall-street-journal)
 
10) "For American readers…this book will come as a welcome surprise…it could be an eye-opener to readers unfamiliar with the radical transformations currently under way in the subcontinent".
--The Washington Post Book World, March 11, 2002 (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-washington-post)
 
11) "When George Bernard Shaw famously wrote that 'if all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they would never reach a conclusion,' he clearly didn't have Das' book in mind. Das weaves accessibly written history, thumbnail biographies of legendary Indian industrialists and entrepreneurs, his own experiences as a young executive building up the Vicks brand in the Indian heartland and accounts of Kafkaesque encounters with bureaucracy, into a book that traces 'the struggle of one-sixth of humanity for dignity and prosperity' and comes to pretty clear conclusions. Das is, in tempered and measured prose, scathing…Having constructed a comprehensive indictment of India's economic failures, Das is optimistic about the liberalization that has opened the economy in the 1990s. He sees India on the brink of a great transformation, fuelled by the Internet that will rival Japan's after the Meiji Restoration…Das writes in an engaging style, sprinkling his text with a well-chosen array of quotations. There are layman-friendly discussions of economic theories of poverty, and his arguments are leavened with a close reading of economic texts, both classic and contemporary. But what shines through is the telling anecdote, the personal example, the remembered conversation."
--Los Angeles Times, (by Shashi Tharoor), March 22, 2001 (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/page_id/16)
 
12) "Remarkable...heads and shoulders above the customary books .... This story, so much more persuasive and effective…[as] Das traces his life as a journey headed in the same direction as the business life of his country, an almost literary scheme that is unusually effective...The issues of business vs. private enterprise played against the somewhat parallel questions of modernity vs. tradition and nationalism against cosmopolitanism…. This elegant essay has something for everyone."
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
14) "Gurcharan Das has written a paean to liberalisation (India Unbound, Viking)-- arguably the most readable book on the reforms of the 1990s. Gurcharan is a magical writer and a great story-teller; his account of the reforms is so upbeat that even I thought we had accomplished something."
--Business Standard, November 28, 2000 (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/ashok-desai)
 
15) "Gurcharan Das's view of the recent history of India, particularly the socio-politico-economic history of the country is unabashedly right. His keen eye and sharp sense of sound captures the panorama of the last 50 years of Indian history in his own way. . . both fascinating and interesting . . . "India Unbound" keeps your interest in top gear throughout the book."
--Business Line, June 8, 2000 (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/shunu-sen)
 
16) "His account of the behind the scenes activity is illuminating. . . "India Unbound" is bound to become an essential component of the reading list for anyone interested in the contemporary Indian economy."
--The Hindu, June 18, 2000. Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-hindu)
 
 
17) "The former CEO of Procter and Gamble India paints a rich canvas of the new India. . . there are great moments of insight."
--Sunil Jain, Indian Express, May 14, 2000. Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-indian-express)
 
19) "This is a great book to read…what permeates the book is the optimism of the million reformers who have been unshackled."
--Bibek Debroy, Outlook, May 22, 2000. Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/bibek-debroy)
 
20) "Why has a country as bountifully blessed as India achieved so little in a half century of freedom? Gurcharan Das provides a  of the possible reasons in India Unbound…Not often does one come across a former CEO of a major organization and currently head of a venture capital fund, who is also well-read in a wide range of subjects, ranging from economics to philosophy to poetry. And if one does come across them on rare occasions, not many can wield a pen as dexterously as Das does."
--V.S. Mahesh, Business India
 
22) "Gurcharan Das is by any standard an amazing man…India Unbound is an education by itself. Gurcharan Das goes back and forth into history, politics, social changes as and when the situation calls for, and speaks more about the world around him than about himself…Even when he is critical of Jawaharlal Nehru's policies he is appreciative of his sentiments."
--M.V. Kamath, The Daily Sunday.
 
 
 
 
 
 
II. The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma, Penguin Random House India, Oxford University Press, New York, 2008/9
 
1) "Das's deeply informed and learned musings on The Mahabharata and its moral dilemmas are invariably penetrating and full of insight, and the questions he raises so important…highly personal and idiosyncratic, yet richly insightful meditation on the application of ancient philosophy to issues of modern moral conduct and right and wrong."
--The Financial Times (William Dalrymple), September 26, 2010. Read full review here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/606cdfb8-c76a-11df-aeb1-00144feab49a,s01=1.html#axzz17hZ7qlDS)
    
2) "Gurcharan Das is a multi-talented man. He has been a successful business leader, an author of plays and novels and the book India Unbound, which told the world that India had arrived. Now he has taken on the difficult task of reading the Mahabharata and interpreting its many messages in light of contemporary circumstances…The result is a book rich in ideas. Das does not retell the story as has often been done. He takes episodes and characters who pose moral and ethical questions. …He has given us a cosmopolitan study of a quintessentially Indian text. The central question concerns dharma and its changing meanings as attributed by the characters in the epic and the way we would think of dharma today. 
--Indian Express Sept 12, 2009 (by Lord Meghnad Desai), (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/dobg-lord-meghnad)
 
3. 'Gurcharan Das is without doubt the most erudite CEO…. His book India Unbound captured the change in post-liberalisation India. It echoed our hopes for a new India. In The Difficulty of Being Good, Gurcharan voices our despair about inequities and the amorality of public life. This book reveals a new Gurcharan. Reflective, humane, deeply spiritual and secular—a renaissance man…. What is truly appealing about Gurcharan's contemporaneous reading of the Mahabharata is his reinforcement of liberal values. The epic's wisdom empowers the individual and shows us the way forward in dealing with daily challenges…Despite its moral ambiguity, it shows how one can act righteously in an amoral world…He draws from his own life and the lessons he has learned. He reflects on his decision to call it quits, as CEO of Procter & Gamble India, at the early age of 50 and live his vanaprasthya as a writer. We must thank him for his wisdom in making that choice, for we are today the true beneficiaries of his personal decision.'
--Outlook Magazine ( by Sanjay Baru), New Delhi, 28 Sept 2009, (Read full review: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261926)
 
4. "This book is sure to find followers among businessmen, corporate professionals and maybe even political leaders, all of whom seek to find a code of ethics that justifies their actions and who would be delighted to find an indigenous paradigm that allows for a contextual good rather than a categorical imperative… 
 
Here is a man in the shadowed afternoon of a life well-lived, now in a stage of quiet of self-reflection when one looks back on what one has done and achieved and wonders about what lies ahead, what might happen next. For all of these reasons, Das is a thoughtful and compassionate guide through the territory that he defines and treads. He wields a confident machete that cuts through the tangles of ancient brush and the over-grown and self-congratulatory contemporary elephant grasses that cover the path towards clear-eyed ethical action… 
 
Das uses stories from the ancient text as parables to understand the world we live in and the people that we are surrounded by. The project he undertakes is as much about mining the past for wisdom as it is about parsing the present such that we can make sense of it. He uses the characters and the situations of the Mahabharata as a grammar through which we might tease meaning out of recent public scandals that ask the question, was this the right thing to do or, how could he have done this?…Das has the courage to seek a moral centre within the great text that is human rather than divine.'
-- The Book Review (Arshia Sattar), New Delhi, 2010, (Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/dobg-arshia-sattar)
 
 
5) "In his dual capacity as a pundit and a littérateur, Das could hardly have chosen a more relevant filter for the ethical questions before India in a time of galloping growth, explosive conflict and dizzying change. Das uses the Mahabharata to trigger his reflections on everything from corporate corruption scandals and Ponzi schemes, to affirmative action and reforms in higher education; from the future of Gandhian resistance to the fate of tribal communities in the face of rampant development; from the quarrels of industrialists to the personalities of politicians. Sometimes he takes a detour through American history, German social theory, Greek philosophy and English literature; at other times, he recalls moments from his own life and career in India.
 
The book's subtitle, On The Subtle Art of Dharma, takes us to the heart of the epic's subject matter… When Barack Obama had to decide whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, and if so then how many, he grappled with a problem of dharma… When developed countries do not take steps to address the climate change that their technologies have precipitated, theirs is a failure of dharma… Places such as Gaza and the West Bank, where conflicting moral claims give rise to violent military engagements, are theatres of dharma…But when my friend must decide whether to keep his dying parent on life-support, that too is an engagement with dharma. It is clear that the term is complex and capacious, enfolding everything from "right" to "norm" to "law" to "duty" to "injunction" to "righteousness"."
-- The National (Ananya Vajpayee), Dec 24, 2009. Read full review:
 
6. "Through a series of bravura readings of the Mahabharata, Gurcharan Das  makes a learned and passionate attempt to inform how the great Indian epic might illuminate our present-day moral dilemmas. Readers will find his analyses of dharma insightful, challenging, and honest--doing full justice to the world's most complex, exciting and honest poem.
 
This admirable book offers precisely the kind of reflection that the epic itself invites—moral, political and public. It shows why the Mahabharata is a classic: because it is ever timely. This superb book is knowledgeable, passionate, and even courageous. Grounded in a secure knowledge of the narrative, it raises key moral problems—from the doctrine of just war to affirmative action to the nature of suffering-- and it makes striking attempts to link these with contemporary discussions and issues, both public and personal."
--Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Columbia University
 
 7. "This wise, passionate, and illuminating book is one of the best things I've read about the contribution of great literature to ethical thought…How can we live with moral balance in an arbitrary and uncertain world?  In this wise, passionate, and illuminating book, Gurcharan Das turns to the classical Indian epic Mahabharata for answers -- and finds, instead, a life of questioning, an ethical temper tolerant and 
suspicious of ideology, in which certainty is no virtue and respect 
for the projects of others is the appropriate response to life's 
complexities."  
--Martha Nussbaum, Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago
 
8."I was very moved by this richly articulated, contemporary meditation on the Mahabharata and the great human themes it embodies-- above all the question of what life means and what one might do to endow it with purpose, within the inherently ambiguous and painful contexts in which we always find ourselves. The book is a kind of miracle:  a deeply sensitive man suddenly decides to leave his usual routines and familiar roles and to spend some years simply reading the Mahabharata and seeing what the ancient epic has to tell him; he engages profoundly with the text, with the bewildering profusion of its messages, its tormented heroes, and the dramatic events it describes; and he then finds the space and the right words for a thoughtful, highly personal, philosophically informed, skeptical, sustained response. Such things happen only rarely in our generation, and we should all be grateful to Gurcharan Das for this gift.'
--David Shulman, Professor of Humanistic Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
 
9. "This book is a triple treat.  It provides a subtle reading of episodes in the Mahabharata. It uses those readings to raise consistently provocative questions about the character of dharma. And it addresses important questions about the character of our ethical lives…It wears its learning lightly, prompting one to think, and hence it is a pleasure and a provocation."
--Pratap Bhanu Mehta, political scientist and president, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
 
10. "The book is a wonderful combination of the scholarly and the personal, the academic and the meditative. The basic plan works beautifully, building a rich mix of  his very, very careful and detailed reading of the text, his other wide reading, and his life in business; an extraordinary blend. I found the use of evolutionary biology and the Prisoner's Dilemma to explain the pragmatism of the Mahabharata absolutely brilliant."
---Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago.
 
 
11.'Gurcharan Das' personal search for dharma in the ancient epic uncovers buried signposts to a desirable future polity. The Difficulty of Being Good is a significant Indian contribution to a new, universal Enlightenment that is not Western in origin or character. It is a delight to read a book that wears its learning so elegantly and presents its arguments with such panache.'
--Sudhir Kakar, author and psychoanalyst
            
12. "If US President Barack Obama had listened to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas in Mahabharata, he would not have behaved the way he did when he had to deal with the greed and indiscretion of America's top investment bankers. Obama had sought a legal way to claw back the bonuses these executives had showered themselves with even as the institutions they headed were going bust. But this is not what Obama should have asked for, argues Gurcharan Das in this book. "To want to punish someone in this crisis was understandable but it was a dangerous path. What the world needed instead was the calm and principled voice of a Yudhishthira. In Obama's place he would have appealed for a 'voluntary' return of bonuses while explaining to the American people that Wall Street had been bailed out to save Main Street's pain and honoring bonus contracts was necessary to the rule of law," he explains. If you conclude from this that Dharma means to remain calm, follow principles and honor the rule of law, Das will accuse you of over-simplifying Dharma."
-- Business Standard, New Delhi, Sept 17, 2009. Read full review:
 
13. "This tale of a family in crisis is a metaphor in Das's book for the economic upheavals that have engulfed the world…Investment bankers on Wall Street suffered from similar moral infirmities as the heroes in the Mahabharata; they exposed the flaws in the global capitalist system… Are lessons from the Mahabharata enough to save capitalism? Das, certainly, thinks that a healthy dose of Dharma may restore trust in the system. Das's book (even though it is not really a translation) will certainly make it accessible to a whole new generation."
--Hindustan Times, New Delhi, September 11, 2009. Read full review:
 
14. "Das, in his magnificent new book, seamlessly blends the personal and the scholarly, the academic and the meditative, to brilliantly explain the pragmatism of a classic."
--Economic Times, Mumbai, Oct 15 2009.
 
 
 
III. India Grows at Night: A liberal Case For a Strong State, Penguin, 2012
 
1."Das has written a timely book that deserves to be widely read. And it has its share of hard-headed proposals....Simply calling for less government is no answer, says Das. It needs also to be strong. Indian capitalism needs an honest referee...India has much to celebrate nowadays but also faces a cacophony of institutional challenges....Das's core argument is right and urgent."
--Financial Times, London, 25 January 2013. Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-financial-times.
 
2."Why should it take us 15 years to get justice in the courts or 12 years to build a road?' argues Gurcharan Das.…You need a strong state and a strong society, so the society can hold the state accountable. India will only get a strong state when the best of society join the government and China will only get a strong society when the best Mandarins go into the private sector."
-- New York Times, (by Tom Friedman) , 6 February 2013, Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-nytimes
 
3. "The book raises some excellent questions...India is an open tolerant country. So why does liberalism not flourish there? Mr Das insists that liberal ideas offer the clearest answer to many of India's woes. Corruption, for example, will not be beaten with a big, new authoritarian bureaucracy, as anti-graft protesters want. Instead discretionary powers must be wrested from dodgy bureaucrats and politicians, the state made smaller, and markets allowed, openly and freely...Mr Das's celebration of liberalism is admirable."
--The Economist, London, 10 Nov 2012, Read full review here: http://gurcharandas.org/the-economist.
 
4."The prominent pro-market intellectual, Gurcharan Das, argues that India's rapidly growing middle class should resurrect Swatantra, or form a new party infused with its spirit."
--The Wall Street Journal,  27 February 2013, Read full review here:
 
5. "The former CEO of Procter and Gamble in India, who has become one of the country's leading intellectuals, has written a spirited, intelligent book about how to his country moving again. The most interesting book on India that I've read in a while.
---Fareed Zakaria, CNN-GPS, January 19, 2014
    
6." I now regard Das as the most perceptive analyst of contemporary India... Das suggests, while capitalism is developing, the 'dharma' of capitalism has been given short shrift. This 'dharma' is more than just the 'rule of law'. It is a combination of transparent and efficient governance and 'trust' between the various segments of society and the market.
It is a liberal cause that Das espouses. Indeed, the book's subtitle could well have been reversed. Das makes out a 'liberal case for a strong state' as much as he makes a 'strong case for a liberal state'. At the least, a liberal and strong state must deliver...transparent and rules-based decision making in government with no arbitrary powers being vested in government officials and ministers, and a speedy and efficient justice delivery process. An arbitrary executive and a slothful judiciary have given a bad name to governance.
He suggests that the first step has to be the creation of a powerful liberal voice and platform and he seeks inspiration from the now defunct Swatantra Party. A second best would be for India's national parties to, in fact, walk their talk about being truly democratic parties with liberal principles. That is clearly a national project worth pursuing and Das's book would inspire anyone who feels this way."
--The Telegraph, 15 February 2013.
        
7. "It is hard to disagree with Das's bullish take on the future of the subcontinent. Indian middle classes are on the rise, and are increasingly becoming an interest group in their own right. As they grow in size, wealth and respectability, they will have a greater say in Indian politics and hopefully push for reforms improving government effectiveness and accountability."
 
8. "The eclectic mixture of mythology, history, sociology and economics is overwhelming, but the reader can't disagree with Das's prescription of a strong liberal Indian state."
--Hindustan Times, October 26, 2012. Read full review here
 
9. An Indian political pamphlet of the 21st century....Das moves swiftly across centuries and continents, between anecdotal evidence and occasional factual detail, to outline his liberal case for a strong state. The essence of this argument is that while India has grown over the last two decades the state has not kept pace. And he does not see this as a recent phenomenon but a part of a longer term reality. 
--The Hindu, 10 December 2012. Read full review here
 
10. Offers one significant new twist for the global discussions on markets and states.... While the Western world wrings its hands about the loss of the moral on the way to the market, Das celebrates and promotes the discovery of a new version of an old moral compass, driven by and supportive of the market....If the state enables the market, the market will reshape society, and the weak state will become strong, in the sense of being compelled by public aspiration to push back on the illiberal aspects of the social order....In the end, this may be the underlying point of the book: the social system for shaping both markets and states toward development begins with the individual enterprise of introspection.
 
-- Caravan(Jessica Seddon), 1 December 2012. Read full article here
 
 
IV. Kama: The Riddle of Desire, Penguin Random House, 2019
 
1."Kama: The Riddle of Desire is a book about desire in the fullest sense of the word—it is about love and vulnerability, about self-doubt and betrayal, about wanting more of everything and being haunted by settling for less….When we read Kama, Das offers us a journey into the life of a body as much as the life of a mind, and in Das' narrative, the body diminishes through life but the mind expands. There are multiple strands in this complex book which is part memoir, part treatise, part life-lesson and most obviously, a tantalising roman-à-clef. "
-- Open Magazine 5 Oct 2018 (by Arshia Sattar) READ FULL REVIEW: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/books/infinite-passions
 
 2. "If you are someone who has ever loved, or lost, or dreamed of loving, or is frustrated by its paradoxes, this book is definitely for you."
 
3. With an astute mind and a romantic eye, Das pieces together the riddle of desire, leading to the meaning of life. He concludes, like Proust, that 'what matters in life is not whom or what one loves… it is the fact of loving'… He deserves praise for tracing the history of kama and its multiple strands across the history, cultures and philosophies of both the East and the West. 
 
4. "Das has created this sense of enchantment, using memory as a device to summon the many forms of desire that play upon the mind [thus] entering an imagined world of beauty…. In evoking those moments of beauty in a lifetime of memories, Gurcharan Das is a poet-philosopher to be cherished."
 
5. "A fascinating narrative, it weaves the story of Amar, the protagonist, into a philosophical journey… It could have been a treatise, instead it's a grand novel with a gentle message of acceptance. Not unlike Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality, which is a study of Western concepts, Das's  unique success is to tell the Indian story of "desire" which is much beyond sexuality…So seamless is the plot created by the author, it is the greatest kind [of fiction] that speaks of an era of social transformation."
--Indian Express, 17 November 2018. READ FULL REVIEW:
 
6. "With this book and others, Das has established himself as a truly modern Indian thinker grappling with the complexity of the mind of the urban middle class Indian.
 
7. "With empathy, effortless humour and doses of the philosophies of the great masters, Das examines romance, love, rejection, nuptials, family, infidelity, ennui and jealousy in the relationship of a couple. His book challenges the reader, placing paradoxes and riddles before him…The key word is balance, which underlies the civilisational equipoise— a good life demands a balance between the plural goals of human life."
 
8. "It is a ground-breaking narrative that is engaging and enlightening, shedding new light on the irresistibility of desire. It assigns new meanings to kama and tells us that it is our duty to live every moment as though it were our last because making creative use of kama serves a higher purpose of life."
 
9. "Is there rea¬lly, one wonders, 550 pages worth of fresh insight into what Das describes as a 'sense-intoxicating emotion'? As it happens, there is, and Kama is a creditable attempt to encapsulate in a single, voluminous tome the author's informed grasp of the subject of desire. The prose flows smoothly…and there is strength in Das's exposition, enriched by an insightful reading of texts."
--Outlook India 5 Oct 2018 (by Manu Pillai). READ FULL REVIEW:
 
10. "This is an exquisite book, at once tender and profane, like desire, itself."
--Shashi Tharoor
 
11. "This is the third book in Gurcharan Das's magisterial opus on the Hindu concept of the four goals of human life (purusharthas), and that rich background allows Gurcharan Das to view kama more broadly than it has ever been viewed before.  Not just sex, or desire, and not even just pleasure more broadly conceived, but love in its deepest and richest sense, including all of the Indian tradition, from the Vedas to modernity, even catching up Marcel Proust in its graceful coils.  
  --Wendy Doniger, Professor, University of Chicago
 
12. "It's a huge achievement.  The way he alternates narrative with philosophical reflection and analysis is really brilliant. Each strand enhances the other in a way that is really original – and brave. I'm sure there are many people who would say that combining elements in this way wouldn't work And yet it absolutely does!"
--Carole Satyamurti, English poet and author of Mahabharata (Norton) 
 
13. "Like Kama, Gurcharan Das too has five arrows in his quiver: philosophy, literature, psychology, art and most potent of all, insight. It is armed with all that he approaches—soft- footedly—the subtle landscape of desire."
--B.N. Goswamy, art historian and critic
 
14. "In a fictionalized memoir of one man's  experiences of love and loss, interspersed with fascinating meditations on love, longing, lust and nostalgia, the author records a life as he moves effortlessly through a vast and astonishing range of Indian and world literature from the Rig Veda, the Sanskrit epics, the Bhagavad Gita and Vatsyayana,  to Shakespeare, Proust, Tolstoy, Freud, and many more, with insightful excursions into the bhakti poets and  the operas of Richard Wagner. Das has given us a moving and thought provoking insight into the inner workings of the human heart"
--Prof Robert Goldman, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
 
V.  A Fine Family: A Novel
 
1) "Gurcharan Das' novel is a worthy addition to the body of fiction that deals with the anguish and bitter memories of one of the most sorrowful and least inevitable disasters in human history….What makes A Fine Family intriguingly different is a determined effort on the part of the novelist to evolve a pragmatic philosophy and a code of ethics for the protagonist…He has attempted to break new ground in so far as a boxwallah had hardly been hero material in traditional British fiction based in India or in the novels written by Indians…Das seems to prefer a more formal style in which he is perfectly at home and he writes with grace and vigour.
--The Hindu, 24 July 1990 (by K.C. Nambiar) READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/trauma-partition-and-emergency
 
2) "A Brilliant Debut! …a fascinating novel which spans three generations of a Punjabi family, two countries and several decades in time…For a first novel this
is a major achievement. Gurcharan has woven in these pages emotions which ring true to life, the work of a man who understands it.
--The Indian Post, 20 May 1990 (by M.V. Kamath) READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/brilliant-debut
 
3) "The canvas is broad and the scope enormous. But Das' success lies in making people ordinary without making them dull….They are contended middle class people with middle class dreams. But they possess true grit and emerge out of each crisis with honour… the book is engaging, not demanding. It does not confuse the reader with a cast of thousands who promptly develop incestuous 13 and complicated relationships. And it is written smoothly. It is a tale told simply, the kind to read with feet up on a stool near the fireplace on a winter night. At a time when fiction prides itself in appearing clever, A Fine Family shines because of its simplicity.
--India Today, 15 March 1990 (by Salil Tripathi). READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/engaging-saga-but-little-ease
 
4) "There is no doubt that this is a well- researched piece on life in pre-partitioned times, especially relating to middle class families and the trauma. Descriptive, factual and spanning almost three generations, a fine novel but only if you have time for some serious reading…some reasonings that do appeal like, 'she had always been passionate and it was easier to make a mystic out of a passionate person than a prig.'"
--Deccan Herald, 9 April 2000. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/saga-three-generations
 
5) "A Fine Family is a deeply insightful and thoughtful novel about urban middle-class India from 1942 to the Emergency. It is the book of a believer; an optimist
with faith in India, her people, her institutions, and her future…as Bauji says, 'The important thing is not self-fulfilment but that life should go on; survival is a virtue in itself.' These are flesh and blood characters to whom one can relate…finely nuanced, all too human, all of them seekers, beset with self-doubt.
--Indian Review of Books, 16 June-15 July 2000. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/tuned-fine-pitch
 
6) "The novel [is] a study of middle-class society. The values of such a society are often questioned and change according to circumstances. As in the case of Anees, 'Bauji felt a sensual nagging…the sensual impulse stung him and made him blush. Deep inside he wrestled with his middle-class scruples.' But he made his decision any way…The novel deals with three generation of voices. The characters represent their own periods…and make the novel authentic. It is the narration that holds our attention.
- Daily, 27 May 1990. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/arresting-narrative
 
 
VI. Three Plays, Penguin Random House India, Delhi, 2011 (earlier titled Three English Plays, Oxford University Press, Delhi 2002)
 
1. LARINS SAHIB
1) "The prize-winning play, Larins Sahib, has solid dramatic substance. It is professionally constructed and shaped by historical material. In its balance and proportions, its clear-cut characters, in the discretion, discipline and relevance to its ideas, time and place, Larins Sahib attains all its author's objectives.
--The Times of India (Nissim Ezekiel), November 24, 1968. READ FULL REPORT: http://gurcharandas.org/gurcharans-play-wins-theatre-groups-award
 
2) "One can see why Larins Sahib won the Sultan Padamsee Prize…beautifully structured, with simplicity, carving out the development of one man's character. The dialogue is lucid and dramatic…like a delicate instrument in a surgeon's hand. We feel the ineffable thrill of tragedy.
--Enact Magazine, December 1970. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/larins-sahib-enact
 
3) "To show men and women alive in a past epoch…and behaving as they must have behaved, to present the spirit of the times is a rare achievement. The playwright takes up one of the most important episodes in Indian history and makes it warm, excitingly alive…And so, as the curtain rings down we have been transported into another world."
--The Tribune, Chandigarh, 27 February 1972. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/panorama-punjab-history
 
4) "The storyline of Larins Sahib concerns itself with human relationships more than actual history. Lawrence is an interesting character with many dimensions. He
was very sympathetic to the Sikhs. But no matter how much he adapted himself to India and the ways of the 'natives', he could never be one of them. This was for me the best thing about his character….no matter how much he tries to avoid it, the Englishman in him surfaces and is at odds with the Sikhs. I thought this was very credible. Sad, but true."
--Indian Express, Bombay, 10 August 1991. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/edinburgh-bound
 
5) "Larins Sahib is a grand, yet simple play. It has a historical setting, yet it does not deal as much with history as with human emotion. It is the story of an
obsession…of Henry Lawrence with the Punjab, and more particularly with Ranjit Singh…Caught between two cultures, he lost out both ways: he was too English for the Indians…his Indian sympathies put him beyond the pale as far as the British establishment was concerned. Finally, entangled in a web of political expediency, and entrapped in his own self-deluded mind, he is transferred in disgrace.
--The Independent, Bombay, 15 October 1990. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/history-and-human-emotion
 
 
2. MIRA: A RITE OF KRISHNA
1)"Remarkable in the way it combines Indian legend with the sophistication of Western total theatre…[It] has something of the quality of a dream ritual. The language has a plaintive poetry to it, and what the play lacks in immediacy it makes up in pathos. Mira, you feel, is a modern woman being broken on the wheels of convention… It has all the grace of a lovely voice speaking of eternals in a language just delicately opaque."
--New York Times, June 3, 1970 (by Clive Barnes). READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/stage-mira-la-mamas-indian-play-0
 
2)"But by all that is noble and true, Mira is an artistic achievement of immense merit and supreme significance to the re-blossoming of the theatre in India…A rare, beautiful experience, watching and listening to Mira; One came out of the theatre cleaner, more joyous, and several centimetres taller."
--The Times of India, 8 MARCH 1972. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/mira-major-artistic-achievement
 
3) "MIRA…is an enchanting fable based on the life of a young princess who lived in North India in the early 16 th century….The very talented Mr Das is a simple writer whose work is filled with lovely poetic images: his lines often emerge like a song, the writing recalling Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy."
--Show Business (by Joyce Tretick) 30 May 1970. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/off-bway-shows
 
4) "A Look at Sainthood: The depth of the word was heightened not by the nuance of acting or the involvement of the body but in the sheer rendering of the lines,
aided by silhouettes on a silver screen by shadowed music and to the bare accompaniment of the flute and visual images from slides, casting pictures in parallel…Whether it was a fusion between the human voice, music and painting, the effect was abiding…Padamsee's production of Mira provides a new dimension to theatrical activity…"
--Indian Express, 12 November 1972. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/look-sainthood
 
3) 9 JAKHOO HILL
1)"During the autumn of discontent of a once wealthy clan, 9 Jakhoo Hill broods over better days…[It is about] the hold that mothers have over their sons, a family coming down in the world…[There are] remnants of the Raj, disillusionment with politics. Sixties? The script is here and now."
--India Today, June 30, 1996. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/premier-offering
 
2)"A FINE ADDRESS IN SIMLA: Gurcharan Das has managed to enclose within the confines of a single Simla address a certain segment of our society that was grappling with itself as an old order was giving way to inevitable transformations.
--The Times of India, New Delhi, June 9, 1996. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/fine-address-shimla
 
3) "This gift of an Indian play is like sinking into a warm bath on a cold night. Not that the play deals with easy stuff but it moves adeptly from the body politic to the individual heart…it is deceptively fluid and haunting. I think it is a must. Why? Mainly because it is a simultaneous exploration of national change and changes in the way people feel, move and have their beings…The play is compassionate and wise.
--The Sunday Independent, 14 July 2004, Johannesburg, South Africa. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/the-gift-layers
 
4) "Gurcharan Das' play is a Chekov-Albee-Tennessee Williams blend of splintered relationships in a partitioned nation. Moments of high drama alternate with quiet shattering of the psyche as two families from Lahore try to survive in independent India….The play builds many metaphors—the broken ties mirror the Partition, loss of home is loss of dreams, the betrayal of trust in the Indo-Chinese War, reversals on the war front…"
--The Hindu, 15 August 2005, Chennai. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/broken-ties-lost-dreams
 
5) "Fading aristocracy clinging foolishly to spent dreams, an embittered, idealistic scholar hopelessly dependent on a young girl, whose arching desire for Bombay is a fierce cry in a play suffused with longing for the 'other', for escape from an incestuous small town society….9 Jakhoo Hill is about a rich family from Lahore, which by 1962 has been reduced to auctioning off paintings and chandeliers to fend of debtors…Into this world of wasting descend Chitra and Deepak…"
--Hindustan Times, Delhi, 19 June 1996. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/jakhoo-hill-resembles-chekhov-play
 
 
VII. The Elephant Paradigm: India Wrestles with Change, Penguin India, Delhi, 2002.
1) "The author's attempt to deal with society's big debate on how to combat or combine tradition with modernity is fascinating, as is his take on how the influences of religion, caste and class are moulding individuals and society. Above all, as an Indian, the book makes you feel good about the progress made by the country.
--The Times of India, March 5, 2003 (by Pradipta Bagchi). READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/the-elephant-paradigm-india-wrestles-with-change
 
2) "Gurcharan Das is convinced that India will never be a tiger that will charge ahead. It is more like an elephant, wise and sedate. India's failures [he believes] are not failures of ideology or democracy but failures of implementation…Das doesn't just diagnose, he offers prescriptions.
--Indian Express, March 2, 2003. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/set-lumber-along
 
3)"After reading The Elephant Paradigm, I ended up admiring much of what this "old-fashioned liberal" has to say….The best thing about this book are the small
but vital truths…which our opinion makers often shy away from uttering….Reading The Elephant Paradigm did not make me an optimist about India. But if it was made required reading for every politician and bureaucrat, I'm open to changing my mind."
--Outlook, December 23, 2002 (by Sandipan Deb). READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/aphorisms-us
 
4) "The elephant, of course, is the Indian economy. Slow to stir, but once up and moving, impossible to thwart….This is, in essence, a book on democracy and
capitalism, on which it sways to the liberal side of the fence.
--Business Today, 2 January 2003. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/swaying-fence-sitters
 
5) "The author is certainly at his best when it comes to propounding the cause of a right-wing ideology… He recognises the complexities and paradoxes that characterize many aspects of life in this country. He acknowledges that the Indian government's biggest drawback is its failure to provide education and health to
the people. He is clear about what he wants—a two party system with the BJP becoming a right-wing conservative party minus its Muslim bashing….What is an outstanding quality in the author is his ability to remain optimistic in the face of all odds.
--Hindustan Times (P. Guha Thakurta), 5 January 2003, READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/for-milk-honey-and-clean-water
 
6) "The Awakening: As a sequel to India Unbound, this collection of eleven essays, which segue from one to another within each section, works well. In contrast to
the 1990s when the Indian economy was still grappling with liberalization, The Elephant Paradigm comes when it is much more mature….[Das'] approach is benign yet firm, and refreshingly not in the in-your face-mould that has become a trademark of recent prescriptions."
--India Today (Sanjoy Narayan), 20 January 2003. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/the-awakening
 
7) "Where did we go wrong?... Das, in this collection of essays…notes the grey if not the dark side of things, while maintaining his perennial optimism…[He] also sees more than what a man in his cocooned circumstances. He tells us of his visit to the Madras Museum at Egmore. 'While I was admiring a Chola bronze, a middle aged South Indian woman came behind me and without self-consciousness, placed a vermillion mark on the Shiva Nataraja. At first, I was appalled, but then I realized that we lived in two different worlds. Mine was secular and hers was sacred. Both of us stood before the statue with different expectations. For me, it was a 900-year-old object of beauty, for her it was God.
Mine was aesthetic pleasure, hers was divine darshan'…He then shows the limitations of blinkered secularism. 'This is where our empty secularism has gone awry. Modern, liberal, English educated Indians are losing the holy dimension. They will never know the depth and opulence of the south Indian lady's life."
--Deccan Herald, Bangalore, 12 January 2003. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/where-did-we-go-wrong
 
8) "He calls it the silent revolution. He naturally praises what the revolution has wrought, but is clearly disappointed that it hasn't wrought enough. The elephant metaphor goes some way but not far enough…He therefore takes the help of the essay form…to explore the roadblocks and to suggest how to get over them….Part two of the book which deals with the private space is indisputably the best part of this very readable work.
--The Book Review, by G.K. Arora, August 2003. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/doctrines-dogmas-dilemmas-doubts
 
9) "No recent publication has done greater service to the country than this single work by Gurcharan Das for which the nation has to be grateful to him. There are lots of things that are wrong with India that could set right. But there are writers and columnists who revel in damning the country day in and day out, without once deigning to see the see brighter side of the picture….This is a book to be read, digested, and acted upon…Gurcharan Das comes like a torchlight in the midst of darkness.
--Organizer, 27 June 2004. READ FULL REVIEW: http://gurcharandas.org/what-blackens-our-day-the-state-governance

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