Pramila Jayapala rejected her indigenous Indian culture when she was a young child, having been taught and raised in Western schools and ideology. For years, Jayapala held this uncomplicated opinion: "India repressed and backward, America creative and advanced." But after working a soulless job in investment banking and marketing, she finally came to realize that "there was a woman within me, waiting to emerge, a persona that included a complexity of new images of homeland, identity, life values, and work."
Eventually she left Seattle, Wash., where she had worked, to embark on a two-year pilgrimage through India. Japayala takes us on the underground tour--letting us see this complex and spiritually fascinating country through Western eyes but with a native guide. She openly questions the feminine and class restraints of India, yet somehow she never becomes self-righteous or didactic. Through this brave, unflinching voice we find a mentor for self-discovery as well as a model for how to know and question our own homelands. At its core this is a global manifesto in which Jayapala recognizes that spiritual growth is the only way to bring about social and political change. But at its heart this is a dynamic spiritual memoir as Jayapala continually returns to her personal journey, including the gripping crescendo--a miraculous story of her son's premature birth in Bombay. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Born in India, raised in Indonesia and Singapore and educated at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Jayapal received a grant from the Institute of Current World Affairs to revisit her native country and write about her observations on contemporary Indian society. Jayapal, who holds an MBA and has experience both in the private and nonprofit banking sectors, is most enlightening in this collection of essays when combining her professional expertise and personal observation in order to comment on the theory and progress of development in India. For example, in Kerala, which has been long hailed as a successful model of development, Jayapal explains that the same forces of unemployment, corruption and gender discrimination are at work as in other "less developed" states, just in less obvious ways. Jayapal has a fine ear for listening to others and supplies impressive examples of both successful and unsuccessful development efforts by organizations and villages. "Development groups often installed technologies without explaining to villagers what they were or how to maintain them," charges Jayapal at one point, then continues, "I became increasingly convinced that the most important factor in any development effort is listening to those who will live with the consequences." Less intriguing are her more personal remarks, which are bloated with dull truisms, such as "Little is black and white in India" and "One is challenged every day to look at life not in absolutes but in relatives." These blemishes aside, those interested in economic and social development--particularly women's issues--would be well served in taking up this volume. (Mar.)
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