Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anand Giridharadas

From a Q & A with Anand Giridharadas, author of India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking:

Your book focuses not only on Indian-Americans like yourself returning to India, but also on Indians born and raised in India who are choosing to stay in India rather than emigrate. What do you think is the new draw to stay in India?

I think there is an invisible line that a country like India crosses, beyond which people have the feeling that they can fulfill their dreams and control their fate and become the fullest possible expressions of themselves right there on their own soil. When you cross that line, emigration begins to seem to many people like a choice, not a necessity, as it was for my father. The reality is that India, in its fundamentals, is still not an easy place to start a business, to deal with the bureaucracy, to drive a car, to buy a home. It's not that all the old constraints have vanished, though they have loosened considerably. The change, I think, is attitudinal above all. Millions of Indians swagger now with the conviction that destiny is theirs for the making and that there is no more blessed fortune than to be Indian; and once people begin to believe that, you have combustion.

India is obviously a frequent news headline these days. How is India's growth portrayed differently in the Indian and the American media? What role is technology playing in this "revival"?

There are substantial differences. In the American news coverage of India, two somewhat extreme and opposite tendencies seem to be at work. There are lots of intensely New India stories, with the "new" italicized and bolded and underlined. And then there are lots of intensely Old India stories, of malnutrition and puffed-out bellies, of Kashmiri violence, of unwieldy coalition politics, of the degradations of caste. There is a great deal of truth in both of these storylines; but to me what is most engaging in India today is neither the Old India narratives in isolation nor the New India ones. It is where the two meet and clash and dance and melt into each other that the excitement lies. Caste endures, yes, but how is it being unraveled — and perhaps confirmed — by the software industry? Democracy continues to fail many Indians, yes, but what happens when entrepreneurs give voters a way to find out candidates' criminal backgrounds via simple text messaging? The drama is between the extremes.

The Indian media...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue