The problem with journalistic sketches such as these is that they are forever becoming obsolete. Since many of these essays take the reader only to 2004, one is left wondering, for instance, what is happening today in Bollywood, with India's BJP party, in Kashmir, in Musharref's Pakistan, and in Nepal and Tibet. Events in these parts of the world are moving faster than Mishra can write about them. But the great value added here is Mishra's untangling of the tortured web of historical events and personalities from which India, Kashmir, and Pakistan stumbled their painful way into their current predicaments. Often one is left trembling with despair. For instance, Mishra gives us a detailed retelling of the decades of ubiquitous injustices and murders rampant in Kashmir. And the deeply solidified hatreds and passions that have emerged from the power-hungry ambitions of men throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, from the British on, leave one feeling hopeless for any reasonable resolution to the India/Pakistan Muslim/Western miasma engulfing us today. Indeed, one wonders at the subtitle of this book, "How To Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond." It seems to be something of an ironic joke, since Mishra is never at a loss to point out the hypocrisy of corrupt Indian "modern" politicians who live in a self-imposed bubble and ignore the suffering of millions. He also gives us an insider's look at Bollywood's lightweight "modern" movie stars and movie makers whose financial backing comes from criminals. And in general he sees the cup here as definitely more than half empty. Perhaps that viewpoint is from his many interviews at the ground level, with the suffering masses, the pathetic, powerless victims, and the poverty-stricken illiterate.
I recommend this book for those naive Westerners, like Thomas J. Friedman, who think "shining India" is the focal point of the modern world. Not quite.