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India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  718 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Reversing his parents' immigrant path, a young American-born writer returns to India and discovers an old country making itself new

Anand Giridharadas sensed something was afoot as his plane from America prepared to land in Bombay. An elderly passenger looked at him and said, "We're all trying to go that way," pointing to the rear. "You, you're going this way?"

ebook, 288 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Times Books (first published December 22nd 2010)
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The parents of Anand Giridharadas left India when they were in their twenties to pursue new opportunities and greater freedom in the United States. The author reversed the trip, going to India to work as a management consultant, and later as a journalist. He looks at the changes in India through the view of his own family's history, and through years of interviewing Indians from all walks of life. He writes about the conflicts between traditional parents and their modern children regarding old t ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Regular readers know that in the last several years, I've been giving myself a crash course of sorts all about the regions we in the West refer to as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, mostly because these areas are becoming more and more important by the day in world affairs, and like most Americans I do
seema patel
Mar 05, 2011 seema patel rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
I approached this book with some hesitation. When outsiders go in, and attempt to write about the inside, I hesitate. But I read through this (quickly, I might add--the writing is easy, conversational, and fluid that way) and truly appreciated the perspective for what it was. Giridharadas does not attempt to be an insider; he recognizes where he is from (America), that he is on a journey to (not BACK to) India, and that he is writing about his own observations about a nation in some turmoil. In ...more
Siddharth Shankaran
As a one line review, If one wants to read a book on India , among so many in the market, this one can be given a miss.

But broadly, it is somewhat a different take on new India, and yet again by an "outsider". This book is largely a reflection of his personal and very intimate understanding of an India today, which happens to be on a path of tremendous change at all layers. And yet , there is the anger of lost simplicity and fractured familial bonds, of poverty, of growing chasm.

After some po
Jun 15, 2012 Marcy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what to make of this book. It was definitely written in a way that made it a quick-paced read. Giridharadas narrated a series of stories about various people in different parts of India to give a sense of how the country has changed/is changing. But at the same time I felt that something is lacking. It felt kind of superficial as if meeting one man with particular goals in one village can give one a sense of an entire nation. I like the way his personal narrative enters the story an ...more
May 29, 2015 John rated it liked it
To be honest, I found the journalistic style often tedious, skimming through parts in a determined effort not to give up. I suppose the best way to express it would be that the author failed to convey why he prefers India to life in America, almost as though he were holding back why exactly he left. Really 2.5 stars, but two would slightly uncharitable.
Fred Rose
Jan 29, 2012 Fred Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my shelf for a year or so, I received it as a gift. I needed the right time to read it, and since I haven't been in India since last summer, and am going again in a few weeks, it seemed like a good time. Overall, I really liked the book, and it's style. It's not just another, "Oh, look how India is changing", book, but for the most part seems to uncover the contradictions and daily struggles for people dealing with the change. What's the impact on aspirations? Family dynami ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Tasneem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for:
Why are desis the way they are??

Why is it so hard for them to allow their ideas to be upset by better ideas?Is it really important to die where one is born? Is it really imp to be the clone of one's parents..or maybe a little bit better version somebody they wanted to be but couldn't be so now they they get to live a life they wanted for themselves through their kids.

Is it because they grew up as lotuses in filth, which makes them suspicious, over cautious, running through the days of their live
Jan 06, 2011 Jennifer marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: NPR
Shelves: nonfiction
Heard about this on NPR - sounds interesting:
Jun 17, 2012 Undreya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. Referring to an Indian girl who had moved to England to escape the confines of her Indian family he writes: 'In England...she not only found a boyfriend and not only moved in with him, but also managed to find one who was a Pakistani Muslim. Her parents did not know, and it was assumed they would go into simultaneous cardiac arrest if they ever found out' Writing about attending a party to celebrate a visit home by the above mentioned girl: 'The men seemed more than shy ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Virginia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is meant to be some kind of general overview about modern India in the last 10 years or so – BUT when I read this I thought of it more as being the author’s memoir, comparing the impression of India from his childhood in the US to the rapidly modernizing reality he found when he moved there. He then goes into in-depth investigations of different facets of this phenomenon, but he never really removes himself from the narrative.

I didn’t really know a lot about the topic – I have read
Aneel Trivedi
Oct 03, 2011 Aneel Trivedi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a second generation Indian, I found MUCH to relate to in Giridharadas’ book. It’s a compelling and deeply interesting look into the complexities of today’s Indian society.

I feel like we’ve generalized all Indian culture here in the west, as if to say, “All Indians are like…”, without acknowledging the enormous diversity in a country of 1 billion+ people. And no place, save perhaps China, is changing as quickly and as significantly as India. The old meets the new in one generation, one family
Feb 25, 2011 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful, intimate look into the blossoming modern society of India. The author touches on the outmoding of the caste system and the transference from that hierarchy to the hierarchy of class. Other subjects include the push towards capitalism from socialism and how that has left older generations behind in a wasteland of what once seemed secure dreams and the new idea of "twoness" as it relates to love relationships. The author did his research, interviewing everyone from the richest man ...more
May 16, 2011 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tradition meets ambition and desire--India threw off its colonial rulers in the last century, but according to author Giridharadas that was just its first step in a struggle for freedom. This is a beautifully written, absorbing account of modern Indian society in an era of rapid change told through the personal lives of a diverse and well-drawn group of individuals in the midst of the transition. International call centers continue to multiply, but arranged marriages are still common and traditi ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Seema rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting analysis of the "new" India, told from the perspective of a second-generation Indian-American writer who returns to India in his 20s. I found that I agreed with many of Giridharadas' observations about Indians, both in the U.S. and India; he was able to articulate things I had thought about but had never been able to express (and certainly not so eloquently).

But his story-telling approach didn't quite work for me--with the exception of the chapter about the Ambanis/Reliance. The
Feb 04, 2016 Danis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
slim, a lot of the same
Krishna Kumar
“India Calling” is a book about the modernizing India of the 2000’s from an interesting perspective: that of a second-generation Indian (Anand Giridharadas) with immigrant parents. Sometimes derisively known as “ABCDs” (American-Born Confused Desis), their knowledge of their parent’s homeland is limited to infrequent visits during school vacations and the aspects of Indian culture that were retained by the parents, primarily language, religion and food. I have a similar, though not exactly the s ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting facts from this book:

-Having spent time in India and journeying to Darjeeling and then on to Sikkim by car I can relate to this line from the book: "The sense of life's preciousness, having already diminished, continued to diminish with each mile. The disposition of living and dying became a matter for God's hands, not the hands on the wheel"

-Paradoxes of daily Indian life: "Before you have met, you are anonymous and the rule of the jungle applies. As soon as you have created a conne
Jan 12, 2011 Beverly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Barb Natividad
Just finished this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While I found the descriptions and stories of Indian modern culture enlightening and amusing, I thought that the deeper themes of being born to immigrant parents and seeing the "mother country" as a myth, then facing the reality of it; and being the foreigner in your country of origin themes and captivated my attention. Great book!
Sep 13, 2012 Sunita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely worth a read for the author's insightful attempt at dissecting India and her plunge into modernity. For Indians who are born and have lived through what he tries to decipher by immersing himself into the Indian "hangama", this might not be such a revealing portrait but more an entertaining find to see so much of it published on print for maybe the first time.
Feb 25, 2011 Deodand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giridharadas says things about the Indian philosophy of life that have gone unsaid, and are poorly understood by people who didn't grow up in India. Perhaps these concepts aren't even cemented in the minds of Indians living in India.

He's answered some questions I had about why things are they way they are there. His discussion of caste is the most succinct I've read yet.
Alexis Goebel
Aug 07, 2012 Alexis Goebel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent insight into the internal and psychic change as India emerges from 3rd to 2nd world status. Giridharadas explanation of the traditional Indian family structure and concept of self bellied by and the imposition of western ideals is really an eye opener. Recommended.
Jul 18, 2015 Hamsini rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There was a smug, condescending tone to the whole book, and this showed whether in staunchly using the word 'servants' or in attempting to narrate the transformation of a nation through the window of a few lives, mostly from Bombay (and south Bombay at that!). The author also announces and maintains grandly of his privilege in a less-than-graceful way. While the book did manage to retain my attention for the most part through its decent writing, I hardly enjoyed it and the stories it attempted t ...more
Dec 04, 2015 Vivek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
In India Calling, author Anand Giridhiras tries to make sense of the India he encounters after moving to Bombay following college in 2003. Prior to the move, his glimpses of the country had been in the form of annual visits to relatives, and the stories passed down from his parents of the India they had left to make a new life in the United States. For this book, he draws on those resources, as well as his experiences and access as the in-country correspondent for the New York Times. India Calli ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As we have been preparing for our trip to India, I have read a series of books, both fiction and non-fiction, focused on life in current-day India. Although each book concentrated on a different facet of modern Indian society/culture, an overriding theme in each was the omnipresent corruption that permeates business,the legal system and government. I believe that this non-fiction memoir offered me the clearest picture of both the importance of family relationships and at the same time, the lesse ...more
Kavita Das
Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter is built around a unique and yet totally plausible plot set amidst two worlds: San Francisco, US and Mumbai, India and the characters as residents of those two worlds. But at its core, the plot really revolves around the international adoption of Asha, who is given up by a desperate Indian mother seeking to save her female baby from infanticide and adopted by a multicultural couple (husband is from India, wife is caucasian) and its ramifications. I can say a ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can say that India Calling has made it onto my list of all time favourite books before I even managed to finished the book. It's beautifully written to portray the movement of Indians, not as a nation, but as individuals trying to find a balance between the always changing India. It shows a culture that is conflicted by influences of modern world and Westerners but yet trying to hold onto their Indian identity. The author, Anand Giridharadas, touched on every aspect that makes up the Indian va ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Arpita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"It is a milestone in any nation's life when to leave becomes a choice, not a necessity"

Anand Giridharadas has spoken of many contrasts - Indian traditions wearing foreign aspirations, the loving collective family unit versus the nuclear freedom, prioritizing izzat over love, new nuances of morality, political ideologies repeating age-old societal divisions... of a country suspended between two times, displaced and barely touching new frontiers.

Never have I enjoyed reading a book so much as this
Jun 26, 2016 Nehal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Incisive and insightful.

I would only like to submit one suggestion...often the author uses the word "conflict" when describing a situation that contrasts the old India with the new one. I believe any transition involves gradual change and, inevitably, gradual change brings forth contrasts between the old and new. I would NOT call it conflict. For want of a better descriptor, I would suggest "confluence".
Apr 28, 2016 Charlotte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting look at the changes to India in recent years from a young man who was drawn to the land his parents left. An intimate look at the differences between Indian and American cultures and the changes - positive and negative - arising from India's modernization. Giridharadas captures the internal struggles and contradictions that come about as the western worldview of India's youth challenges the traditional easten values of the elders. Fascinating!
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Anand Giridharadas writes the Admit One column for the New York Times's arts pages and the Currents column for its global edition. He is the author of India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of A Nation's Remaking. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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“The young now approached love in the way they approached success and consumption and the future itself: with an underlying assumption of abundance. They expected more out of love than earlier generations did and were willing to fight to secure it, but when it failed they were equally at ease in walking away. It was one strike and you're out. They rejected the moral vocabulary of an older generation: patience, tolerance, adjustment.” 0 likes
“In those hours I began to realize that izzat, honor, was an aesthetic idea more than a moral idea. It was a way of carrying yourself, the bluster of claiming to go to any length for your relatives, to love and be loved more than others loved and were loved. But while it purported to be fundamentally about others, it was really about oneself: about one's own marvelous virtue and the elaborate public demonstration of it. The same person who honored you by preparing meat, or inviting you to sleep in his house, had little conception of what it meant to make a promise to you, to keep his word, to empathize.” 0 likes
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