Anything to Declare at Immigration?


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Indian-American in possession of some years' experience of India must be in want of a book contract.

This book will not be easy to write. It will require living in some insalubrious part of the world Anand Giridharadas, the author of India Calling, was slumming in Goa while you put the finishing touches to your extensive research. That extensive research, of course, requires a gruelling sort-through your sent-mail folder for the articles that you have written over the past few years, each of which can be turned into a heart-warmingly gloomy chapter. This means you can be paid twice for the same four-year-old interview, an aspect of authors' life that can only gladden the frugal heart that beats in every Indian chest.

And every author of this ilk knows that "Indians" are frugal. Also, definitely, ambitious. And stoic. They honour their parents. They take kickbacks to finance their daughter's wedding. They have no conception of "keeping their word", or of empathy. India Calling, thankfully for ignorant old us, makes all these startlingly innovative claims and in an understanding tone, only occasionally allowing in a trace of wondering superiority. The last refuge of full-throated Orientalism is an Indian-American's big India book.

I had hoped, while reviewing India Calling, to not make large and expansive statements about "such books". But it seems I will fail. Partly because essentialising is a very contagious disease, and every page of India Calling is crawling with its icky germs, as also with those other brain-eating bacilli, Generalisation and Extrapolation. Partly because little in this particular book sets it apart from anything else in the genre, other than its quite unashamedly effusive blurbs. And partly because it is so extremely irritating a book that actually focusing on just it for very long hurts my head.

... contd.

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