The politics, religion and culture of India.

Book Title: Inhaling the Mahatma

Author: Christopher Kremmer

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Inhaling the Mahatma. Photo: Harper Collins

Promotional Blurb: ‘When a Gandhi dies, nobody is safe.’ An assassination, a romance. A hijacking, several nuclear explosions and a religious experience … just some of the ingredients in the latest tour de force from the bestselling author of the Carpet Wars. In the searing summer of 2004, Christopher Kremmer returns to India, a country in the grip of enormous and sometimes violent change. As a young reporter in the 1990s, he first encountered this ancient and complex civilisation. Now, embarking on a yatra, or pilgrimage, he travels the dangerous frontier where religion and politics face off. Tracking down the players in a decisive decade, he takes us inside the enigmatic Gandhi dynasty, and introduces an operatic cast of political Brahmins, ‘cyber coolies’, low-caste messiahs and wrestling priests. A sprawling portrait of India at the crossroads, Inhaling the Mahatma is also an intensely personal story about coming to terms with a dazzlingly different culture, as the author’s fate is entwined with a cosmopolitan Hindu family of Old Delhi, and a guru who might just change his life.

My Thoughts: I have read Kremmer’s work before (The Carpet Wars) and he always delivers a fascinating insight into a country. His journalistic eye and ear for a story, enables him to dig deep into a country’s peculiarities around politics, religion and culture.

In this book, Kremmer experiences India as a journalist and returns a few years later to live, after falling in love with, and marrying, an Indian woman. This naturally gives him entrée into parts of society that would not normally be able to accessible by Westerners.

If he has a weakness, it is that he digs too deep into the detail and ends up losing the essence of the story. It also gets dead boring as he elaborates, in excruciating detail, about yet another Hindu God!

Despite the promotional blurb above, I believe he fails to share his personal perspective on life in India, except when discussing his eventual conversion to Hinduism. I would have enjoyed reading more about his adaption to a completely different way of life rather than his constant academic analysis.

For anyone with an interest in India or with plans to travel there, this book is worth including on your bookshelf, but it is not an easy, travel read. It did however give me a slightly better understanding of what makes that country tick.

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Christopher Kremmer. Photo: author’s website

Author bio: Christopher Kremmer is one of Australia’s most respected and popular writers of narrative non-fiction. Educated at the University of Canberra, he spent a decade in Asia working as a foreign correspondent, producing a series of award-winning bestsellers, including The Carpet Wars, Bamboo Palace and his latest book, Inhaling the Mahatma, a personal history of India. Born in Sydney he divides his time between homes in India and Australia’s Southern Highlands.

Author website: http://www.christopherkremmer.com/

Pages:  427

Published: 2006

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available from: Book Depository ($24.99), harpercollins.com.au ($24.99)

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