In Light of India by Octavio Paz | Book Review

In Light of India by the Mexican poet and the 1990 Nobel Prize laureate, Octavio Paz is a rich collection of essays on India, packed with ideas, informative, well- researched and lived-through insights, deep ruminations on culture, history, religion, philosophy, society, architecture, languages, Sanskrit poetry and the notion of nationhood and statehood shown through the lenses of the Mexican sensibility. Paz first travelled to India in 1951 which had a huge impact on him, followed by the longer six year stay in India in 1960s when he was appointed the ambassador of Mexico.

Octavio Paz’s discourse on India is deeply compassionate and lucid, in awe of wonders and achievement of this great civilisation. His reflections on the centuries – long coexistence of Islam and Hinduism in India are thought-provoking and make the reader reflect on the current situation on the subcontinent.

The Mexican poet offers a balanced perspective on the British colonialism in India and draws parallels between India and Mexico, also a former colony, as well as the Spanish colonialism. This topic is treated by Paz with a great deal of sensitivity, eloquence, and intellectual rigour.

My favourite part, however, is a comparative analysis between India and Mexico as well as Mesoamerica; similarities and differences between both countries, cultures, cuisines and nations. In some sense, Paz analyses his own country, Mexico through the poignant observations of India. His observations on the Mexican soul in relation to India are deeply moving.

He does not stray from discussing the social and historical complexities, limitations, weaknesses, and nuances when at the same time he remains an argent admirer of India and all the greatness this civilisation contributed to the development of humanity.

Undoubtedly, Octavio Paz loved India greatly and the years he spent there affected him deeply. 

In Light of India is an extraordinary and fascinating collection of essays, written with lyricism but nevertheless this is a very personal account of one individual’s insight into India. It is not a history book per se. The Mexican outlook made this book unique.

If you are interested either in India or Mexico or both, I would highly recommend you this book.


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