Would you call yourself an American Born Confused Desi?
No. I’ve always enjoyed the humour of the term, but beneath it is a sad assumption that multiplicity leads inevitably to confusion.
Why is the India journey so important for your generation of Indian-Americans?
Given the dynamism of India today, there is almost no one of my background who can’t benefit from that spark.
Why should Indians read your book?
I wanted to speak to Indians as an insider-outsider...to help society choose among the multiple futures available for India.
You really think the market took India out of a deep freeze?
I don’t say that in my book. It was a combination of market forces, intellectual exposure, and the rise of the lower orders in politics.
Your India is the India of cities and towns, even your Maoist lives in Hyderabad. Why?
This is a book about a turn, India’s turn, and at this stage, the change is coming first to cities and small towns.
Which of the powerful characters in your book has stayed with you—hope the answer’s not Mukesh Ambani?
No, it’s not. It’s Ravindra, who was born the lowest of the low, and rose to teach English and roller-skating.
Has Naipaul influenced you?
I don’t share his ideas, but in terms of method, there is nobody I’ve learnt more from. I have apprenticed myself to his books.
How did your six years in India change you?
They took an American-raised kid with a strong sense of self and added an instinct for community, for involvement in others’ lives.
What’s next for you as a writer?
A second book, also non-fiction.
It’s not about a country, but once again, I’m speaking of big changes through the changes in people’s lives.