Chronicle of the five years the author spent in India defining herself as “a journalist, an adventurer, a woman.”
In the early 2000s, Kennedy was a restless 20-something journalist living and working in New York. Unwilling to wait for her ideal job to find her, she decided to “kick [her] way out of the claustrophobia of normalcy” and become what she most wanted to be—a foreign correspondent. The author relocated to India, where a British great-aunt had served as a missionary and where her own parents had lived during the early years of their marriage. The transition to her new home in New Delhi was difficult and at times painful; she was a feringhee (foreign) woman on her own in a city that did not receive many international visitors and in a culture that did not look favorably upon single females. Kennedy writes how “[e]yes followed me everywhere unless I was safely ensconced inside a five-star hotel.” She discovered that the only way she could gain any respect (and find more permanent lodgings for herself) was to present herself as a married woman with a husband abroad. In this guise, Kennedy began a process of cultural assimilation that eventually brought her into contact with the unforgettably colorful Indian women whose lives are at the heart of her story. Some, like her maid Rhada, were poor; others, like her neighbor Geeta, came from more privileged classes. Ethnicity, caste and cultural traditions separated these women, but the more Kennedy came to know them, the more she found how their traditional concerns with love and marriage were—however much as she tried to disavow it—also her own. Part personal account, part extended reportage on an ancient culture in the throes of modernization and part nonfiction narrative of manners, the book offers an intimate look at the nature, problems and limits of both Western and non-Western female freedoms in a country where “nothing is sharper than the tug of tradition and family.”
A generously observed memoir of an American finding her way in India.