31 July, 2021

Know India: Learn The Alphabet By Heart

The raised-as-American Giridharadas has a steady eye, but his set-pieces are a patchwork in a big book

Getty Images (From Outlook, March 14, 2011)
Know India: Learn The Alphabet By Heart

Barely have we strapped ourselves in to read Anand Giridharadas’s rollercoaster ride of thoughts, experiences and interviews about being an Indo-American who returns to India, when whoosh! It’s over.

But in its brisk way, the book covers a broad area while sparing us the mandatory visits to slums, brothels and palaces. It should appeal to the thousands of so-called ABCDs—American Born Confused Desis—who struggle with feelings shading from guilt and confusion to joyous surrender to their ethnic homeland. Amongst the most corrosive results of emigration is the loss of a past without the benefit of gaining a present. For the Indian diaspora, the typical cultural dislocation of all immigrants is multiplied many times over by the fact that, as a culture, we’re not homogeneous and the shared citizenship is an illusion. We might find ourselves being thrown together with others of our nationality only to realise that we have neither food, language, religion nor social experience in common. We would be better off...

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