India is a land of the “open crowd"—to use Elias Canetti’s idea from his landmark Crowds and Power—the type of crowd which, as soon as it comes together, "wants to consist of more people.” As if in fulfillment of a social-media dream, “the urge to grow is the first and supreme attribute of [this] crowd… there are no limits whatever to its growth; it does not recognize houses, doors or locks and those who shut themselves in are suspect.” (How else to explain the hurt notes, the messages of reproach, that one gets from Indians when one does not agree to “friend” them? “Sir,” one man wrote to me, “I am really unhappy that you will not respond [to] the friendship request. I have admired your writing for several years. Also, I think we both hail from Tamil Nadu state. So please reconsider.”)

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