India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, by Anand Giridharadas, Times Books 288 pp.
To foreigners, “old” India was a poverty frozen, caste-driven country, equal parts tradition and corruption. “New” India means outsourced American jobs, fuzzy transpacific IT phone calls, and glitzy Bollywood films. When visiting relatives as a child, Anand Giridharadas, though the son of two Indian immigrants, didn’t view the country much differently. It “seemed to function on low expectations and almost otherworldly powers of acceptance,” he writes in India Calling.
On a college vacation, however, he feels a personal connection to his heritage for the first time. And so, just a few decades after his parents left India in search of a better life, the author returns for the same reason. He accepts a consulting job in Bombay, later becomes the first New York Times correspondent in the city, and eventually comes to understand the many intricacies of modern day India.
More important than its slowly growing economy, writes Giridharadas, is the way the country’s citizens have changed their conceptions. No longer do they view their lives as stagnant. Indians are reinventing themselves – studying vocations outside familial expectation, marrying for love – and at the same time embracing the customs they once shunned. Giridharadas successfully uses his first-hand account of self-discovery to illustrate a larger picture of empowering change.