By Vijay Vikram From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, Pankaj Mishra, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pages Pankaj Mishra is a fascinating creature. He was born to a family of pauperized Brahmins in Jhansi, a small town in the north of India in 1969. By the age of 20, he had spent “three idle, bookish years at a provincial university in a decaying old provincial town.” Like many young men of a bookish disposition, he had little idea of what to do with himself. He harbored literary ambitions, but was uncertain how to fulfill them. Add to this an aversion to “the modern world of work and achievement … careers and jobs” and we find ourselves in the company of a distinctly brooding, melancholy character who would either beat the odds and rise to make a mark on the world of English literature or die in obscurity. He succeeded. By 2012, Mishra had completed the journey from periphery to metropole in a most spectacular manner.