Title: India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking
Author: Anand Giridharadas
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Publisher: Times Books
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Anand Giriradhas, the son of a couple who immigrated from India to the United States and fully assimilated into American culture, decides to return to India, the land of his ancestors. He takes a job which sends him to Bombay, and there, he studies the culture and people which are so familiar, yet so foreign, and presents the conflict between tradition and modernity inherent in India today.
In India Calling, Anand Giridharadas brings to life a country in the midst of a cultural revolution by examining its people. He tells the story of a country’s changing values and ideas through individuals he meets and seeks out, trying to understand the new India and how it connects to the old. Giridharadas uses the prism of his own family – both those who have emigrated as well as those who have remained in India – to anchor the story and make it personal. He becomes part of the story of the changing India.
Giridharadas focuses on India’s vibrant youth population as its vehicle for change, and his insights here are incredibly fascinating. He doesn’t just study the young people from afar; instead, he becomes one of them, joins them, and talks to them in order to understand them. Young Indians in their twenties are no longer repressed and oppressed; while most still live with their parents, as tradition dictates, they drink alcohol, go to bars and club, have sex, and generally live wild, carefree lives. So, Giridharadas asks, how do they reconcile their traditions (because, after all, these youth still keep to the culture they are taught) with this newfound freedom? The answer is both enlightening and completely intriguing (though I won’t spoil it in this review).
India Calling is written in an accessible and engaging way; though, at its core, it’s a sociological and cultural study of a country, it reads incredibly quickly. The author tackles his central question from many different angles, talking with everyone from a Naxalite (or Maoist) leader to a man who runs a sort of “finishing school”, and as a result, Giridharadas paints a broad portrait of modern-day urban India. I appreciated how easy this book was to read, how beautifully it was written, and how interesting it was.
If you’re interested in modern-day India or intrigued at all by the crossroads of culture and tradition the country is currently at, I highly recommend India Calling. It’s well-written and very accessible even if you don’t know much about the country.