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India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


India Calling is a fine book, elegant, self-aware and unafraid of contradictions and complexity. Giridharadas captures fundamental changes in the nature of family and class relationships and the very idea of what it means to be an Indian.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“[A] smart, evocative and sharply observed memoir . . . Giridharadas's narrative gusto makes the familiar fresh.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“Capturing the monumental changes sweeping India is a feat many attempt but few manage. . . . In India Calling, Giridharadas has written the best of this now established genre. . . . A finely observed portrait of the modern nation.” ―Financial Times

“Eloquent. . . . [Giridharadas's] gritty and witty pen portraits of a host of Indian characters and places make a great read.” ―Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)

“Warm, witty and highly perceptive. . . . Where Naipaul's gaze was excoriating, almost half a century later, Giridharadas' scrutiny, though no less penetrating, is kinder and gentler. In this return of the native genre, India Calling is an honorable successor to Naipaul's classic [An Area of Darkness].” ―The Canberra Times

“The moving story of an unexpected romance between a young American and a country he never knew was his to love.” ―San Jose Mercury News

“[A] readable, intriguing book. . . . [Giridharadas is] a marvelous journalist--intrepid, easy to like, curious. . . . India Calling connects us to a new India, and an engaging new voice.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A beautifully written, intelligent look at the cultural history and changes of India. . . . The book [is] worth reading because of [Giridharadas's] skill as a writer. . . . Giridharadas publishes sentences and paragraphs that are exquisitely worded, to the point of becoming downright memorable, and certainly quotable.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Giridharadas successfully uses his first-hand account of self-discovery to illustrate a larger picture of empowering change.” ―Christian Science Monitor

“I doubt that there's any writer today who is a more acute observer of ‘the new India.'” ―The Christian Century

“An eminently readable, closely observed book on a fascinating subject… [Giridharadas is] the perfect intermediary between Western readers and the world he introduces.” ―Readings.com.au (Australia)

“Giridharadas offers a fine-grained portrait of what seismic changes mean at the ground level… [and] captures in sharply observed portraits how people react to the gale force of a major change.” ―Curledup.com

“In this fresh, clear-eyed account of his stay, the author writes eloquently of how he came upon a very different place from where his parents grew up.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Well thought out . . . Like a morality play, each chapter reflects a different inner quality, while woven together in the narrative are bits of the author's family history. The portraits . . . show the myriad ways in which India has changed and yet remains the same.” ―Library Journal

“Rarely has an author deciphered the Indian enigma the way Anand Giridharadas does in India Calling. By lucidly portraying the country's real locomotive--its vast and populous youth--he provides the most timely and elegant guide to perhaps the most important next generation in the world.” ―Parag Khanna, author of The Second World and How to Run the World

“Anand Giridharadas is more than just a widely admired journalist; with India Calling he has transformed into a fluent, witty, and intelligent writer. His very personal and perceptive look at the new India is a memorable debut, full of insight and diversion.” ―William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India

“Anand Giridharadas has become one of the finest analysts of contemporary India. In India Calling, he has produced an engrossing and acutely observed appreciation of a country that is at once old and new--an enormously readable book in which everyone, at home in India or abroad, will find something distinctive and altogether challenging.” ―Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in economics

“The emergence of a more dynamic India has been widely observed. Less well understood are the myriad reinventions that make the New India so exciting. In India Calling, Anand Giridharadas renders this change on an intimate scale with a tapestry of keenly observed stories about the changing dreams and frustrations of all walks of Indians--and his own. Savvy and often moving, India Calling is for those who prefer the view from the ground than from thirty thousand feet.” ―Edward Luce, author of In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India

About the Author

Anand Giridharadas writes the "Currents" column for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times online. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, and a graduate of the University of Michigan, he worked in Bombay as a management consultant until 2005, when he began reporting from that city for the Herald Tribune and the Times. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091779
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "India Calling", Anand Giridharadas takes a different tack from Thomas Friedman and others who have described the now familiar call centers and globalization that have turned India into an economic powerhouse. Instead Giridharadas decides to focus on the country's most important assets- its people and their changing attitudes towards the world, their families and themselves. Giridharadas has an unusual vantage point as an Indian who grew up in the US and who returned back to his country for a fresh look. The book is primarily about how India's new economic, political and social roles have changed Indians' relationships with themselves and their families. The most important consequence of the "New Order" is that Indians whose role in life was traditionally defined for centuries by their birth and their caste, class and gender are now seeking to make their own place in society rather than to "know" it. This is a great thing for a country where identity was defined for hundreds of years by where you came from rather than where you wished to go. As Giridharadas describes, in the new India someone from the lower caste can finally dare to dream beyond what was regarded as his indelible destiny.

To showcase these changing Indian identities, Giridharadas presents us with several "case studies" and describes the life stories of people drawn from a wide slice of Indian society. There's the poor boy in a small village who was born into a lower caste and decides to remake his identity by pioneering English language and "personality development" classes in his village and organizing a personality pageant. There's the "rat-catcher" whose job is to kill dozens of rats in the slums of Mumbai.
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Format: Hardcover
Sadly, I have to echo the negative reviews of this book. I purchased it with enthusiasm, having watched an interview with the author, and feeling I had followed a somewhat similar trajectory to him. (Unlike Giridharadas, I was born in India, but my family emigrated when I was a small child, and I established a reconnection with the country only as an adult.) What a disappointment. The author knows very little about India, and yet writes as if he were a great authority, drawing generalizations that are always simplistic and one-sided, and sometimes just absurdly inaccurate. For instance, imagine thinking that until recently Indians have had no notion of romantic love, and no sexuality in their media! This is a nation with a rich store of literature and mythology celebrating, and arguably obsessing about, exactly these themes, an obsession that's been reflected in Bollywood films from the start. Maybe Giridharadas cannot see eroticism unless there are naked bodies, but actually subtler representations can be more powerful (and then there are all those wet sari scenes - it isn't only because Indians like rain, you know). At the same time, most Indian marriages have been arranged, and it's true that the approach to marriage has been very pragmatic. These are both dimensions of a highly complex picture, of which Giridharadas is woefully ignorant.
Equally absurd is his claim that his grandparents' generation emulated the British, while the young in contemporary India have cultural confidence. Some of the former did indeed absorb much from the culture of Britain, but they also fought, and suffered and sacrificed, for Indian independence, and drew on indigenous (as well as "foreign") sources of value and strength in the process.
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OK so I am the idiot thirty-something conservative, white American whose limited understanding of India comes from a few novels by Salman Rushdie, Bend It Like Beckham, Slumdog Millionaire and Friedman's "The World is Flat". I stumbled across the author's "Currents" column accidentally half a year ago and have been a fan since. Like another reviewer, after finishing "India Calling", I tracked down the author at one of his Bay Area book appearances where a few of my questions were answered.

The book is not an attempt to be a representative sample of the "Indian" story. Rather he provides vivid (and at times graphic) snapshots of his family and a few others (mostly men) and how they are dealing with the changes in India's economy in the mid 2000s. To different extents, he writes of his experiences of an entrepreneur, a cab driver, a Bollywood actor turned rat exterminator, billionaires and servants.

He explained at his appearance that the in depth few profiles of women were not oversights. Aside from Maleeka (a banker) introduced 180 pages into it, and Deepti (an expatriate living in London), the author attempted to interview middle and lower class women living in India. He attempted to talk to female servants and family members but societal norms prevented them from answering personal questions from a twenty-something male stranger. At his appearance he said it is relatively easy to capture a brief quote or a short soundbite for a newspaper or radio interview, but impossible to get the same woman to answer personal questions about family and relationships.

For the most part I liked his turn of phrases.
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