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The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor

We live in the age of change. Nowadays our world develops so rapidly that every day some of our stereotypes about it crash. This concerns the sphere of politics and culture; the picture of world becomes different from what it was yesterday.

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India is a wonderful example to illustrate this tendency. This country is an embodiment of different contradictions; poverty and luxury, beauty and mud are mixed here.

The book The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone presents the reader the completely new India that is still unknown to the West. It describes India’s unbelievable growth during recent years. This book includes more than sixty essays on India’s present and past. Novelist and columnist Shashi Tharoor tries to reconcile India’s clashing traditions with technical progress and liberalism. The vision of India by Indians is greatly different from that of Americans. India is an ancient civilization of incredible richness and diversity, “a conglomeration of languages, cultures, ethnicities”.

The title of the book is may be self-explanatory. The last element of the title for the author is the symbol of change and progress. When the author was young, cell phones were very rare in India. For example in 1975 there lived about 600 million people in India, but only about two millions of them had land-line telephones. A telephone was a luxury; only important government officials had them.

The book is about India being transformed. The book opens with a beautiful allegory of India – an old slumbering tired elephant. He is slow to move and reluctant to change. The animal is attacked by Southeast Asia’s tigers. Eventually veterinarians tell the elephant what the solution is: “You must change. You must become more like the tigers.” So it these days we can observe the elephant metamorphosing into a tiger.

In America there is a firm vision of this country as of one which is undeveloped and impoverished. The feeling of cultural and financial superiority makes Americans see India as a country with no social growth. But in these days Indians break this stereotype. In quite a short time India has changed from an impoverished, undeveloped country to a major economic power. Now India is compatible with global economy.

India is thought to be old-fashioned. But now this country manages to combine western fashionable tendencies with its unique culture. Women often wear jeans, but they do not also forget about their traditional feminine clothing. “Sari Saga” is my favorite essay, because it sounds like an ode to this beautiful clothing, “masterpiece of feminine attire”. The author of the book expresses his pity about the fact that jeans are more popular with young women than beautiful sari is. “Very few of today’s under-thirty women seem to have the patience for draping a sari … I think this is actually a great pity.” But it just means that life in India becomes faster and very often women want their clothes be appropriate for the situation. It is not easy for example to catch a bus wearing a sari.

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Americans are also apt to think that Indians, especially women, are non–educated. But it is not quite true. In these days female literacy rates in India constantly raise. “Everywhere there are the women: striding confidently through the green, holding aloft their elephants, steering their little boats through a storm, holding their own at the marketplace, and simply—how simply!—reading.” In his book Tharoor states some very interesting facts, as for example that that quantum mechanics was known in ancient Indian science.

The next part of The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone is filled with mild humor and is extremely interesting to read. Even the titles make the reader smile: “Hooray for Bollywood”, “Cops and Jobbers”, “Democracy and Demockery” etc.

There are some problems that are not solved yet. The first one is in the sphere of politics. The elected Indian leaders are very often corrupt, the well-being of their country is not their main concern. These politicians are like a blot on Indian democracy. Secondly, Tharooh states that the black economy and the white one are probably the same in size. There is a precipice between rich and poor in this country.

This book may serve a guide for those people who have never been to India but still know some information about its history and culture. A trip to India is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the country from inside. I would like to give a piece of advice to those Otterbein students who are going to visit India this December. First of all they must be prepared to visit “the country of contrasts”. They must be ready to enjoy “a life style that’s a cocktail of premature affluence and ersatz westernization“. Though in recent years a lot of positive changes in economics and social sphere of India can be traced, still there are many problems which are to be solved within the coming years.

The sphere of health is also lives much to be desired. Indians take care of personal hygiene, but the state of public sanitation is awful, because the nation is somehow not aware of its importance. May be this fact will be the most striking for American students. It is often a problem to find a public lavatory. From the point of view of Americans the most shocking peculiarity of India is insanitariness of its streets; very often sewage can be seen there. There are lots of homeless people. It is surprising to see sacred cows walking to and fro. Nobody must offend the animal. Indian roads are not bad but one may feel that nobody obeys the rules;but accidents and swearing are rare.

Irregularities in power supply are not rare even in the capital. For American students it may seem strange, but the sphere of services is highly developed in India. On of the most prominent features of modern Indian economics is a reasonable balance of big and small business which keeps monopolists away. The exception is the famous centre of movie industry Bollywood, the production of which is a bright example of minimum investments and incredible profits.

Indian markets impress with an abundance of various products of different quality. But Americans students must be aware of the fact that not of them are healthy and harmless. There are no usual supermarkets in India.

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So this country is full of contrasts. In some way Indians are opposite to Americans in their culture and lifestyle. It is a completely unique civilization with its own beliefs, traditions and morals. That is why to visit this country is a must-do for everybody who wants to learn more about the world.

Works Cited

Tharoo, Sh. The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone. Arcade: New York. 2007.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 28). The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-elephant-tiger-and-the-cell-phone-by-s-tharoor/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 28). The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor. https://studycorgi.com/the-elephant-tiger-and-the-cell-phone-by-s-tharoor/

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"The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor." StudyCorgi, 28 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/the-elephant-tiger-and-the-cell-phone-by-s-tharoor/.

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StudyCorgi. "The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor." October 28, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-elephant-tiger-and-the-cell-phone-by-s-tharoor/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor." October 28, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-elephant-tiger-and-the-cell-phone-by-s-tharoor/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Elephant, Tiger and the Cell Phone by S. Tharoor'. 28 October.

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