Indra Sinha (born in 1950 in Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) is a British writer of English and Indian descent. Formerly a copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather, London, and, from 1984, Collett Dickenson Pearce & Partners, Sinha has the distinction of having been voted one of the top ten British copywriters of all time. He became known for hard-hitting, campaigning advertising for charities such as Amnesty International and the Bhopal Medical Appeal, but became increasingly disenchanted with commercial advertising. He resigned from the agency in 1995 to concentrate on writing novels and non-fiction.
Indra Sinha's books, in addition to his translations of ancient Sanskrit texts into English, include a non-fiction memoir of the pre-internet generation (The Cybergypsies), and novels based on the case of K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra (The Death of Mr. Love), and the Bhopal disaster (Animal's People). Animal's People, his most recent book, was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize and a regional winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Sinha is the son of an Indian naval officer and an English writer. He was educated at Mayo College, Ajmer, Rajasthan in India; Oakham School, Rutland, England and Pembroke College, Cambridge in England, where he studied English literature. He and his wife live in Sussex. They have three grown-up children.
“I was invited by a publisher to write the text for Tantra. Having done some research, what fascinated me was the evidence that many 'tantric' ideas actually came to India from the Mediterranean. It is rather a dry read and debunks reports of orgies and sexual mischief – sorry to disappoint.”
— Indra Sinha, Interview.
- 1980. The Love Teachings of Kama Sutra: With extracts from Koka Shastra, Ananga Ranga and other famous Indian works on love. Translations from Sanskrit and commentary. London: Hamlyn. Hardcover first edition: ISBN 0-600-34158-5. First North American edition 1997, New York: Marlowe & Co. Paperback: ISBN 1-56924-779-X.
- 1993. Tantra: The Search for Ecstasy (also known with the subtitle "The Cult of Ecstasy"). London: Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-57699-X.
- 1993. The Great Book of Tantra: Translations and Images from the Classic Indian Text. Rochester: Inner Traditions - Bear & Company. ISBN 0-89281-487-X. London: Hamlyn paperback edition: ISBN 0-600-59998-1.
- 1999. The Cybergypsies: a True Tale of Lust, War, and Betrayal on the Electronic Frontier. New York: Viking Press, hardcover first edition. ISBN 0-670-88630-0. New York: Simon & Schuster paperback edition: ISBN 0-684-81929-5.
- 2002. The Death of Mr Love. New York: Scribner (Simon & Schuster). ISBN 0-7432-0698-3. (See also: K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra.)
- 2007. Animal's People. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5920-3. (See also: Bhopal disaster.)
Sinha has been a passionate campaigner for justice for the victims of the Bhopal disaster since 1993, when he created the first advertisement for the Bhopal Medical Appeal (using the now-famous photograph by Raghu Rai of a dead child being buried) that raised money to build a clinic to provide free treatment for the survivors. He is an outspoken critic of Dow Chemical Company, the multinational owner of Union Carbide, whose neglected, dilapidated and undermanned chemical plant in the city of Bhopal leaked 27 tonnes of poisonous gas on the night of 3 December 1984, killing up to 8,000 people and injuring upwards of half a million. Around 22,000 people have died as a result of injuries sustained on "that night", and more than 100,000 remain chronically ill; the abandoned, derelict factory continues to leach toxic chemicals into the groundwater, poisoning wells.
Apart from his novel, Animal's People (a fictionalised account of the aftermath of the disaster), Sinha has given many interviews and written several articles on the subject, including one in The Guardian marking the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which he roundly condemns local politicians (particularly Babulal Gaur of the BJP) for their failure to comply with a 2004 Supreme Court ruling ordering them to supply clean water to the poison victims. Nor does he absolve the Indian Government of blame.
"…Dow has been trying to twist the arm of Manmohan Singh's Congress government into letting it off the Bhopal hook in return for a billion-dollar investment in India.
"When people ask, 'Why is the disaster continuing? Why has the factory not been cleaned? Why have Union Carbide and Dow not faced justice?', the answer is this: Union Carbide's victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders."
— Indra Sinha, Bhopal: 25 years of poison, The Guardian, 3 December 2009
As a former advertising copywriter, Sinha is particularly scathing about Dow Chemical Company's attempts to improve its image through its sponsorship of events such as the Blue Planet Run and Live Earth Run For Water. He has called Dow's "Human Element" advertising campaign "glossy falsehoods", and quotes artist Paul Phare (who created a set of e-cards in response to Dow) “Telling a lie beautifully does not make it true.”
- Lindsay Pereira (22 August 2007). "I feel strong contempt for Indian politicians". Rediff.com. "Pick an advertising agency; any agency. Walk to where the copywriters congregate, and gently whisper the name 'Indra Sinha'. Then stand back and watch as feelings of inadequacy suddenly rush into the room. There is a perfectly logical explanation for the reaction. For decades now, Sinha has been making copywriters around the world feel inadequate and inspired in turns. Being voted one of the top ten British copywriters of all time tends to give one that kind of power ... Sinha's writing career has been intriguing. He began with a translation (Kama Sutra) and followed it with an explanation of the Tantric tradition (Tantra: The Cult of Ecstasy), before winning acclaim with his rather frightening memoir on hours spent online in the early years of the Internet, The Cybergypsies. His first novel, The Death of Mr Love, was based on a real-life murder, in Mumbai, where he was born."
- "Indra Sinha profile". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 28 May 2008.
- Ogilvy Indra Sinha's website blog, accessed 21 October 2011.
- Indra Sinha's website blog, accessed 21 October 2011.
- Stephen Moss, "Triumph from tragedy", The Guardian, 26 September 2007, accessed 5 December 2009.
- "SINHA, Indra". State Library of Western Australia.
- "Our decade: The 90s and cyberspace". BBC News E-cyclopedia. 13 March 1999.
- Shamaila Khan (15 November 2002). "Indra Sinha Interview". BBC Radio Manchester (includes audio link).
- Nilanjana S Roy (14 August 2007). "Bhopal revisited: Animal's Story". Business Standard. (This book review also discusses Sinha's book in the context of previous books about the Bhopal disaster: It Was Five Minutes Past Midnight (2001) by Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro; A Breath of Fresh Air (2002) by Amulya Malladi.)
- Mark Thwaite (2007). "Interview with Indra Sinha". The Book Depository, Ltd. Gloucester.
- "McEwan battles Booker newcomers". BBC News. 7 August 2007.
- "At-a-glance: a guide to the Booker longlist 2007". BBC News. 8 August 2007.
- Biography on Indra Sinha's website.
- Common misconceptions about Kama Sutra. “The Kama Sutra is neither a sex-manual nor, as also commonly believed, a sacred or religious work. It is certainly not a tantric text. In opening with a discussion of the three aims of ancient Hindu life – dharma, artha and kama – Vatsyayana's purpose is to set kama, or enjoyment of the senses, in context. Thus dharma or virtuous living is the highest aim, artha, the amassing of wealth is next, and kama is the least of the three.” —Indra Sinha.
- Books on Indra Sinha's website (cached).
- Indra Sinha, "Abandoned to their fate", The Guardian, 9 April 2008, accessed 5 December 2009.
- Indra Sinha, "Why I'm going on hunger strike for Bhopal", The Guardian, 12 June 2008, accessed 5 December 2009.
- Indra Sinha, "Bhopal: 25 years of poison", The Guardian, 3 December 2009, accessed 5 December 2009.
- Bhopal.net "Behind the mask of Dow" e.cards accessed 5 December 2009.[dead link]
- A glimpse behind the mask of Dow Indra Sinha's website blog (cached), accessed 5 December 2009.