Barely have we strapped ourselves in to read Anand Giridharadas’s rollercoaster ride of thoughts, experiences and interviews about being an Indo-American who returns to India, when whoosh! It’s over.
But in its brisk way, the book covers a broad area while sparing us the mandatory visits to slums, brothels and palaces. It should appeal to the thousands of so-called ABCDs—American Born Confused Desis—who struggle with feelings shading from guilt and confusion to joyous surrender to their ethnic homeland. Amongst the most corrosive results of emigration is the loss of a past without the benefit of gaining a present. For the Indian diaspora, the typical cultural dislocation of all immigrants is multiplied many times over by the fact that, as a culture, we’re not homogeneous and the shared citizenship is an illusion. We might find ourselves being thrown together with others of our nationality only to realise that we have neither food, language, religion nor social experience in common. We would be better off with complete aliens, who would at least have no expectations, than with one of our “own”, who might be inclined to penalise us for being non-standard.
Giridharadas’s story is just one amongst the countless multi-dimensional histories that this diaspora has begun to write. His parents left during the peak “brain-drain” years. They fell in love in India and married across the Punjab-Tamil Nadu cultural divide. Once in the US, they assimilated quickly, raising their two children as Americans, rather than as Indians-in-Exile. In this way, Giridharadas had less confusion to contend with than many others. His face and genes are Indian, but the organisation of his thoughts is American. When he talks to Ravindra the Roller Skating King or the hapless divorcing couples at the Bandra Family Court or the god-emperor-industrialist Mukesh Ambani, it is as an outsider looking in, but with the advantage of looking like an insider.
Trained as a management consultant, the author moved to Bombay in 2003, working for McKinsey & Company for two years. Having previously interned with the New York Times at the age of 17, he returned to journalism in 2005, reporting from Bombay for the NYT and Herald Tribune for four years. The stories he tells best are those which work as set pieces in a column, such as the scenes at the Family Court and the tragicomic account of his stay in a Ludhiana home belonging to two brothers, where climbing the stairs from the ground to the first floor is like time-travel from the fly-blown hospitality of the past to the cell-phone-enabled future. I wondered how his subjects would respond to their depiction in this book, whether they felt violated rather than showcased. But perhaps that’s always the case with documentary footage?
I also found myself being reminded, oddly enough, of both Geeta Mehta’s Karma Cola (1979) and Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City (2004). Both were huge best-sellers, but one was written as infotainment and the other as dispatches from an urban war-zone. Giridharadas is cooler, younger and more detached than either of these writers. He writes with the confidence of the marathon runner, who knows he has many miles to cover before he truly finds his way home.
Lets not deride Macaulay. We are slightly ahead of Sub Saharan Africa thanks to Macaulay and his education system. Am sure you would not want your kids to spend the best part of their lives learning Manu Smriti or the vedas by rote.
"As if Anand Giridhardas would have the time or the inclination to reply to people like you commenting on Outlook artricles! Get a grip on reality, man and calm down!"
So has this Giridhardas fellow hired you to bite people commenting on Outlook ? If that is the case he will be well advised to fire you. You are a PR disaster.
Mitra - "The derision comes from the inferiority complex" - This gentleman seems to be still living in a time wrap(1975?). People back home don't worship their cousins in the US anymore and people dont give a hoot to what patronising over rated/over paid American Indians think. get off the pedestal "Sir" Mitra.
<i>It is a silly nationalistic attack on an excellent book- very unfortunate, considering how deeply Anand Giridhardas cares about India - you will understand if you read the book.</i>
It is not important whether Giridhardas cares about India or if he feels the country is used toilet paper!!!
What matters is 'if he wrote a good book'. From the review it seems he did not.
I have read this chaps columns in NYT...he is Friedman lite. James Yardley and Lydia Polgreen do a better job. And they are not even Indian origin.
@ Kajal Shah
I agree with you...Manu Joseph, Friedman and his clones are boring to read. I don't care for groundbreaking insights, but atleast be fun to read!
I am tempted to write a book about America and Americans I have met in the last decade or so...a book full of cliches and insights which every jackass with a 2 cent brain knows!
But I think I need to prove my mettle with an overrated consulting jig.
You hit the nail on the head because precisely what you quoted from Mr. Mitra is what left me perplexed also. I started reading the Giridhardas's book and was sorely disappointed. The article you linked points out how well-deserved the desition for Giridhardas is. What has really disappointed me is NYT's choice of correspondents. If Giridhardas was not enough, we had Manu Joseph promoting equally absurd stereotypes about India. Must NYT always choose the simplifying stereotypers like Friedman? How about someone who presents the Indian complexity in all its myriad contradictions? Someone like R.Guha or M' Kesavan?
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT