Wednesday, March 09, 2011

India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking by Anand Giridharadas

Who in the West knows and understands India? American-born Anand Giridharadas thought that he knew it pretty well before he moved to the land of his parents in 2003. He had heard family stories, attended Indian expatriate parties in the U.S., and visited his grandparents in the ancestral homes many times. India was a hot and humid country where family obligations limited personal freedom, he thought. It was a place where things never changed and people accepted their roles. He knew there was a trend toward modernization in the larger cities, but he expected to find bedrock conservative Hindi values in charge almost everywhere. In India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking, Giridharadas tells how right and wrong he found his preconceptions.

Giridharadas went to India for a job with a multinational corporation but after a couple of years became a reporter for the New York Times/International Herald Tribune. Both jobs allowed him to travel through rural India where he met many people struggling with old values and new opportunities. India is a rapidly changing place where former lower classes can move into prosperous positions but still might not be able to marry well. Giridharadas also found that many young people have replaced Gandhi and Nehru with entrepreneurs as their heroes. In many ways, he though Indians had become just like American consumers, but they also retaining many local customs while claiming to reject Western ways.

The strength of Giridharadas's book is his ability to tell stories and draw conclusions from them. With the rise of India as a major economic and political power and with so many Indians immigrating to Western countries, this might be a good time for book groups to read about the Indian people. India Calling would be a good choice for book discussions.

Giridharadas, Anand. India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking. Times Books, 2011. ISBN 9780805091779.

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