To one of his admirers, no less than a Ramachandra Guha, Ashis Nandy is ‘an unclassifiable social scientist’. To me, who has an impressionable young mind, he is capable of giving few sleepless nights. He mixes psychology and philosophy with sociology to a magical effect. I can not imagine anyone who would read him without being deeply influenced. His collection of essays ‘The intimate enemy‘ (and other works too) have decolonized some minds. His work continues to have a deep impact on South Asian intellectual culture. He is surely one of the finest public intellectuals of our time.
I can’t comment much on the merit of his work but I can comment something on his intellectual temperament. I prefer people who has the intellectual temperament of a naturalist : someone who is interested in finding things out for himself above everything else. He is definitely more than that. To be sure, he is deeply interested in ‘interpreting the world’ , but he also interested in changing it for he do judgment of values and distinguish things between right and wrong. Moreover he loves to surprise and edify his readers. Perhaps this is why his email id starts with ‘reasonbuster’. Exuberant intellectuals often stretch the point and they mislead their readers, sometimes knowingly.
His writings are very ambitious in scope. He establishes connections among seemingly unconnected things and he moves from one conclusion to another at a great speed. He questions and attacks, perhaps religiously, well-established wisdom. The little magazine has called him the best known voice of dissent.
I am a great admirer of Prof. Andre Beteille. I am perhaps the youngest engineer alive in this world to do so. I learnt it from him that an intellectual pursuit is, above everything else, to scratch the surface of confusion caused by observation and experience. It is ‘a slow boring of hard boards’, to borrow a phrase of Max Weber. I have always gotten carried away by Nandy till I read what he wrote in the preface of collection of his well-known essays, ‘I shall not grudge it if some enterprising reviewer finds unconvincing history in the following pages, as long as he finds in them convincing myths.’ and somewhere else in an essay ‘.. the way to fight the myth : by building of resurrecting more convincing myths.’ I am not sure if he still hold these beliefs. If he does, he and his reader would do well to remember that a sociologist, a historian, or any intellectual does not create myths. They produce enough raw material from which other produces them. And they oughtn’t create myths even when they are not expected to take any responsibility for their creation.
 Nandy in EPW