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"Idiotic", Vikram Seth? The Travails of a Sycophant


One of the sad realities of post-independence Indian literature has been the breed of Indian writers writing in English. These worthy inheritors of the infamous Nirad Chaudhry [1] discovered a short-cut to success: any shocking portrayal of bride burning, sati or prostitution certainly got them overnight fame and a couple of (re)awards for a job well done. They have quite seriously appropriated the mantle of conveying to the whole world a mythical India mired in millions of horrific practices. Let us take the case of Vikram Seth, an Indian novelist and poet, who has written some-odd novels and poetry books of doubtful standing and has wrangled some awards including one of ‘Crossword Book’. He has tried to make a career of it, but that does not come easy. For such a path, one has to excel in sycophancy. One has to sell one's soul, appease a lot of firangis and suck up to them non-stop. The deal  also includes calling one's own patriotic and eminent countrymen "idiotic" and "obscurantist" or even "extremists" [2].  One has to efface one's self-respect and plead for the causes of foreigners even when they are distorting and invading the sacred [3] in the name of "scholarly work". A "liberal intellectual’s” slanderous work is never done!

Let’s discuss this “scholarly work”, shall we? Is it The Hindus? Did Mr. Seth read even the reviews of this book on Amazon [4], where readers across the globe are disgusted at Penguin’s betrayal to fib off at best a” paper weight” for a book, perhaps publishing it at a time when they had fired all their editors. One does not have to be scholar to know that the lady totally missed the point of Hindu religion, which is spiritualism. If Mr. Seth needs to know more of this crap he calls “scholarly” he should consult Vishal Agarwal’s [5] list of factual errors in this book. The enormous number of factual errors in the book should be grounds enough for the withdrawal of this document. Mr. Vikram Seth - you clearly have no clue as to what you are talking about, you are earnestly entreated to stick to fiction and “poetry” and not opinionatedly meddle in history or religion. We are talking of serious writing based on years of slogging to find real, substantial, hard evidence of what you report rather than just flimsy flights of fantasy.  

To praise the pulp fiction as  a "scholarly work" [6]  one has to work very hard to ignore the glaring factual errors [7] that hit you in the face, all which are "coincidentally", of course (!), defamatory. What is the big deal? Perhaps the person in question considers it a small closet cost on the road to riches and fame. When those in the most responsible of positions are panting for fame and riches by selling out their country, why not lesser mortals like  Vikram Seth?

In the current episode, Mr. Seth is riding a white horse in shining armour, his sword unsheathed, attempting to defend Wendy Doniger, who is becoming increasingly infamous for "peddling soft-porn" in the guise of "Alternative History". In his fight, our protagonist Vikram is trying very hard to ignore that Wendy [8] does not need him to defend her. Her publishers have very adroitly withdrawn her pulp-fiction "The Hindus: An Alternative History" to save Doniger (and themselves!) from a certain prison sentence in the criminal defamation case.  Vikram would do much better by associating with some real scholars like Rajiv Malhotra [9] rather than dated and discredited professors.

Monika Arora states it very succinctly in her now famous letter Intolerance in Name of Freedom of Speech [10], "Wendy Doniger wrote in her ill-famed book that Swami Vivekananda & Mahatma Gandhi advised people to eat beef. Mangal Pandey hero of 1st Independence Movement was under influence of bhang, opium, alcohol; Rani Laxmibai was loyal to the British. Shivalinga is a representation of the male sexual organ in erection. Lord Rama said only an idiot like father would give up a good son like him for the sake of pretty women. The map of India is shown without Kashmir.

Not only are the objectionable passages insanely erroneous but are per-se defamatory, abhorrent and insulting to our freedom fighters and the Hindu Gods. Eminent personalities including former ambassador, historian, educationist, freedom fighter approached the court of law for the deletion of such passages. After 4 years of legal battle, Penguin agreed to withdraw this book and gave an undertaking to the court to this effect. Hence the withdrawal of this book is an outcome of a valid, legal battle fought by people of eminence in this vibrant democracy.

Further, this lynch mob and intolerant pseudo-secularists in the name of freedom-of-expression are crying from the rooftops and demanding the freedom of defamation.

India is governed by Rule of Law which states that law is Supreme and governs the whole country and its people. Article 19 of the Constitution of India states the fundamental Rights of freedom of expression which comes with reasonable restrictions in public order, morality, unity and integrity."

An obsessively sex-ridden (I didn’t say it, ask Devdutt Pattanaik [11] and horrendously illogical hodge-podge of blunders does not constitute a scholarly representation of how “men and women enjoyed sex and sexuality”. Read the book before you talk about it Mr. Seth!! And YES! Speaking from the supremely personal experience of being one – the distorted nonsensicality of the book’s content does offend the free-thinking, damned aware and very consciously emancipated Bhartiya-Naari. 

In light of all that, who needs a “liberal” (read: confused and self-important) Vikram Seth jumping up and down at a fake "Litfest" tilting at wind-mills? Anyone who needs an “extremist” like him, is welcome to take him away. India will be better for it.

Author: S. Mann, Phd

Published: February 25, 2014

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[1] Postcolonial Critique of Nirad C. Chaudhuri's Writings'

[2]Let’s not put up with extremism, says Vikram Seth: The Hindu Feb. 15, 2014 Link:

[3] Invading the Sacred:  An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. You can now download it free at link

[5]Vishal Agarwal in   Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[6] Let’s not put up with extremism, says Vikram Seth: The Hindu Feb. 15, 2014 Link:

[7] Vishal Agarwal in  Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[8] “Wendy Doniger’s Alternative “History”: A Wake Up Call” by S. Mann

[9] Rajiv Malhotra, Author and Researcher.

[10] Monika Arora, Advocate, Supreme Court of India on 13th Feb., 2014 in

[11]“Devdutt Pattanaik responds to the decision by Penguin to withdraw and pulp Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History.” Link  Accessed 13 Feb. 2014