Chronicle of how a brave new generation of Indians are re-engaging with the vastly altered land of their parents.
Raised near Cleveland, New York Times contributor Giridharadas worked in Bombay at the international management-consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., where his father was employed early on in America. 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. His father was a Tamil Brahmin who had made his way to America via higher education; his mother was a Punjabi who worked as a French translator. While the author and his sister grew up thoroughly Americanized in the suburbs, they were also keenly attuned to the Indian ways and occasionally visited the relatives in the Old Country. However, what distinguished his family from their counterparts in India was “their perpetual growth and self-renewal,” in contrast to the general stasis dictated by caste, heritage and profession. Yet mores were changing fast in India, and Giridharadas records what he saw in terms of the themes—dreams, ambition, pride, anger, love and freedom. He was struck by the new self-confidence in the country. “Indians didn’t need their émigrés anymore,” he writes. They were beginning to break caste and switch over to professions not practiced by their forebears. One example was Ravindra, a young man from the caste “tasked with crushing oil seeds,” who left his village to study English and eventually set up a thriving business offering roller-skating classes. The author looks at the changing manners of the Anglophiles, the class from which his parents emerged, and the new relativity of Indian moral reasoning, and he traces the “circus of money” that prevails in a society such as Hyderabad that now embraces acquisitiveness as vehemently as their parents’ had eschewed it. The author met many others determined to challenge the received ideas of their parents.
Giridharadas avidly attests to the new sense of freedom gripping India.