There is no curry in India, says bestselling Korean author Lee Ocksoon on India

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Seoul
  • Updated: Dec 03, 2014 16:05 IST

Lee Ocksoon, the author of the bestselling Korean myth-busting book on India, "There is No Curry in India" is disarmingly frank about her success.

"When it was first published in 1997, it sold some 200000 copies. This year, it sold about 5000. I don't even remember how many editions have come out," Ocksoon said as we sat chatting in a Seoul five-star hotel on the sidelines of an India-focussed seminar last week.

It seems plausible that she has trouble keeping a count of the number of editions of her book: in her career as an academic and author spanning several years, Ocksoon has written 20 books on India. "There is No Curry in India" attempts to correct the many myths that foreigners have about the country.

According to her colleagues in the Seoul-based Institute of Indian Studies (IISK), of which she is the current president, her books are a must-read for any Korean visiting India or keen to know about it.

That's believable too. "I have been visiting India twice every year (despite hating India's summer) for the last 25 years," Lee said, adding: "I have lost count of the number of places I have visited. I have even visited Saharanpur".

The list of places she has toured includes Kashmir (four times) and, rather rare for foreigners, nearly all of India's northeastern states.

"I see how India is changing rapidly. I go back to the same city or town after one-two years and the changes are stark," she said.

Ocksoon said she is the first Korean to have completed a Phd on Indian history. Between 1984 and 1991, she completed her MA, MPhil and Phd from Delhi University, staying at the PG Women's hostel.

"I was destined to go to India," Lee said, explaining that her strict army dad was against it. "I rebelled".

Lee counts sociologist and critic, Ashish Nandy and author Khushwant Singh as among her favourite Indians. "When I first read, Nandy's 'The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism'', it hit me. I like his provocative ideas".

Lee is currently teaching Indian history, culture and society at a leading Korean university. "That's what I do. Either I write books on India or teach of about India."

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