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India, Interpreted Anew
By Pramila Jayamila
RIDING the tail of the Mahakumbh leviathan, Pilgrimage, as the strap line warns, is one woman's return to a changing India. But it's essentially an India its people (both born and naturalised) have seen change over and over again in its half-century-long post-independence history. What makes Pramila Jayapal's series of articles published by the Institute of Current World Affairs in Hanover, New Hampshire, worth expanding in book form is that her story comes from the perspective of a Westerner. Pilgrimage comes with overbearing deja vu as Jayapal, in the presumed capacity of a prodigal 'native', methodically nails the usual suspects impeding development. Not surprisingly, then, her best insights are personal, though she tends to get misty-eyed and hoarse-throated. Jayapal's India is complacent, venal, discriminatory; hence terribly cliched.
Where content fails, language and style come to her rescue only to question the intelligence of her Western readers, with unnecessary translations of accepted Hindi words and leaves the subcontinentals wondering whether this is meant for them at all.