The sub-continent 60 years later

From TLS:

Re-visiting Bharati Mukherjee’s 1997 review of Snakes and Ladders:

Bharati At the time of the Raj, it was fashionable for British and American writers as diverse as Maud Diver, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, George Orwell, Beverly Nichols, John Masters and Katherine Mayo to present the Eastern and the Western thought-processes as opposed. These writers’ pronouncements, such as “never the twain shall meet” and “not yet”, may have come as a relief to their readers. The enlightenment highway has been designed for a one-way traffic in ideas: from the rational West to the child-like, intuitive East. Even in the 1960s and 70s, when the West’s affluent young discovered Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Buddhism, Hinduism and the I Ching, the traffic remained one way, only this time speeding from the East to the West. The Nirvana-poachers’ invasion of industrializing India and the resultant “mythological osmosis” was the subject of Gita Mehta’s first work of non-fiction, Karma Cola. Now after eighteen years, the novel Raj and a collection of short stories, A River Sutra, Mehta has returned, in Snakes and Ladders, to monitor the progress of the traffic in enlightenment.
Although the game of snakes and ladders may have been invented centuries ago “as a meditation on humanity’s progress towards liberation”, Mehta remembers that in her childhood “the actual board was suggestive of danger”. By using the game as a way of summing up India’s fifty-year experiment in sovereignty, Mehta suggests that although the political leaders after Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi are spending too much time in serpents’ bellies, ladders prop themselves against walls for the use of future idealists.

More here.