How the Commonwealth Games pushed me to learn about India
The dust raised by the Commonwealth Games drove this child of Indian immigrants to begin reading about the land of her ancestors.
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"In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India," by Edward Luce. One of the best introductions to modern India, “In Spite of the Gods” paints a wonderfully dynamic picture of India’s rise to global power. Luce, the Financial Times’s South Asia bureau chief in New Delhi from 2001 to 2006, writes with scholarship and insight, detachment and intimacy.Skip to next paragraph
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"A Fine Balance," by Rohinton Mistry. Recommended to me by everyone I know who read it, this book took my breath away. Set in 1975 in an unnamed city by the sea, this sweeping narrative tells the story of four strangers whose lives are thrust together when the government declares a state of emergency. It shows India in all its ugliness and beauty, its cruelty and sweetness. It’s a raw, stunning, magnificent story of the contradictions of a country and its people.
"The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone: Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power," by Shashi Tharoor. As any well-read Indian will tell you, if you want to learn about India, read Tharoor. The youngest undersecretary-general of the UN in that organization’s history, Tharoor is also a member of India’s parliament, as well as a prolific author, journalist, and columnist in The Hindu and The Times of India. He brings that experience to this book, in which he explains the how and why of India’s rapid rise from poverty and underdevelopment to economic and technological prowess. With lucid prose, fascinating opinions, and solid research, it’s an opportunity to see India from the perspective of an insightful Indian writer.
"Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India," by Anita Jain. In this approachable, fun memoir, author Anita Jain tells her own romantic – and hilarious – story about finding a husband. After years of unsuccessful dates as a modern, globe-trotting journalist, Jain decides to move back to India – the “backward” land her own parents left – to find a husband. With honesty and wit, Jain recounts her experiences meeting eligible young Indians, finding an apartment, and considering the traditional life her parents fled. It’s one of the most accessible entrees into an urbanizing India at once modern and old-fashioned.
Husna Haq is a frequent Monitor contributor.