I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.India was One on March 6, 2011 and has 370 pages.
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An exploration of Indian culture via the life of two young Indians living in Mumbai and their friends and family.
I received this advanced reading copy from the author.
Indian starts us with today, with Kaahi trapped in North India and forbidden to be with her husband, and then uses flashbacks to bring us up to speed. To explain why.
For the most part, India was One was a good story, introducing us to the complexity of India’s people and its culture. I have such a craving for samosas, it’s just not funny! And part of me wants to move there! I loved how Indian included the paragraphs about the different groups that make up India and some of the explanatory paragraphs (I think Indian got a little too carried away with some of these). Setting them off with italics made it so much easier to switch back and forth between story and explanation. And it made for a deeper understanding.
The underlying point of it seems to make a parallel comparison with America. A country where people mingle, immigrants who have their own areas and blend in with the rest. I did love Bunty’s dad’s comment about the beauty of cricket! Very true. Very practical. Very realistic. On that point alone I could become a sports fan, *grin*.
Indian goes on to make a number of political and economic points as well. The Smiths keeping up with the Joneses type issues that we have in America — just substitute the most common Indian last names! The brain drain followed by the reverse. Jai and Kaahi’s experience with an American potluck. The benefits of existing in L.A. within a smaller group of people from all over India and learning more about India than they did at home. A bit like living in a place and never seeing its beauties, always wanting to see somewhere else.
I liked Indian’s use of character glyphs, the anglicized version of the word, and the English translation throughout. It gave a nice flavor, I just wish that it had been more consistent. I also wish the glyphs had translated into my Kindle…sigh…
I could wish he’d had a proofreader if only for all the missing articles and prepositions, etc., but considering that English is a “second” language (I don’t really know how many he does speak), Indian does very well with his sentence construction for the most part. It’s an odd combination of simple and complex sentences, and it’s easy to tell English is not his primary language, but I think the structure lends a flavor to the story.
The way Indian presents India and its melting pot makes me think of America. The richness and tolerance of so many different cultures that have made both countries what they are today. Certainly the wedding oneupsmanship is too similar to what happens here in the States!
The geographical split of India that I suspect is the reason Indian wrote this book was motivated by different groups upset that people are moving from one part of the country and taking local jobs. Similar to American upset over immigrants taking jobs here in the U.S. Except that some Indian politicians used this as an excuse to further their own agendas and actually accomplishing a split — like our own Civil War. The scary results of this make me hope we never try to go down that path again. Splitting India into two halves and forcing people to return to their state of origin, treating the halves like warring countries…how stupid was that?! Dumb and ill-thought-out, affecting the economy so very badly. Opening the country up to even worse attacks.
I think Indian’s anger over this is why he refuses to use his real name. Worry over payback for saying what he thinks. Only, I don’t see that he’s saying anything so controversial. It may be that because I am an American and am used to being able to say the president is an idiot or that politicians should be shot or…whatever I want to whine about, that I don’t understand the situation in India. Well, it’s certainly true. I’ve never been there. One day…sigh… I don’t know what sort of punitive actions might be taken against him or his family.
Well, that’ll teach me to leap to conclusions! Turns out that An Indian simply wanted to ensure that readers didn’t assign him a biased point-of-view. Much as we have our stereotypes of people from the Deep South, Texas, California, the Midwest, or the East Coast (to name a few!), so is India itself divided into different regions. It’s odd how we each see our own country as one place but with tons of regional differences, and then we go out and believe that all of India is one place or all of Germany is one place. Or Africa or South America or…well, you get the picture.
I do think that he should have emphasized this. I don’t think he went far enough. We have all this buildup in the story, and it’s not until some seventy-one-plus percent into the story before the division of India occurs, and then it’s a rush to the finish. Indian missed an excellent opportunity to dramatize this event.
I think it was incredibly stupid of both Jai and Kaahi to go back, especially when they were told they would not be allowed to fly in together. That they wouldn’t be allowed back out. That they had no idea what was happening. Just stupid. At this point, my involvement just turned off. I understand the desire to rush back, to be sure loved ones are safe. But if you’re going to take this route. Dramatize it. Bring emotions into this. Yes, there’s the bit with Bunty. And that is certainly over with too quickly. Even as I was thinking how stupid a move it was. And how did he become a colonel so quickly when he’d only been out of college a few years??
This whole last quarter of the story was disappointing, even as I cried. All the beautiful buildup only to cram in the entire point.
India was One introduces us to the people we will follow through college. Their interpersonal relationships with each other with a more in-depth look at Jai and Kaahi’s relationships with their parents. Especially when it comes to their getting married.
A trip to a friend’s wedding and Jai and Kaahi’s honeymoon allows us to tour different parts of India. The pre-wedding events allow us to peek behind the curtain so to speak and with a native which means we experience these celebrations as though we were a part of them. Not just part of a story.
Viewing America through Jai and Kaahi’s eyes allows us some perspective on how America appears to others, how different.
Brian, a friend of Jai’s in the U.S., invites them to Thanksgiving dinner (I did enjoy seeing how someone from another country tries to interpret what Thanksgiving is about. It always gives you a different insight to see through another’s eyes). But it’s an invitation they cannot accept when civil unrest breaks out in India.
It’s a political nightmare fostered by politicians and results in people being forcibly deported to different parts of India. A split India. One which separates families, wives from their husbands, if one is unfortunate enough to have parents from one state, but living in another.
Vijay “Jai” Rao is the son of a well-to-do family whose father is in the software business with branches in India and the United States; the senior Rao is originally from Karnataka.
Kahani “Kaahi” Parekh is a Gujarati and is pursuing her own degree. Part of what Jai likes about her is she stands up for herself, has her own opinions.
Manjeet “Bunty” Singh Sodhi is a Sadar (Sikh) who goes on to become a colonel in the Indian Army, Subramaniam “Subra” Iyengar is a huge, brilliant Tamil, and Pankaj “Punk” Bose is an introverted Bengali whose father is very wealthy. They are his college friends at Our Sweet Lady of Pure Hearts College of Arts and Sciences in Mumbai while Kaahi is a student at Sir Edinger Norman Economics and Management College (ENEM) next door. Ali is Bunty’s neighbor.
Jignesh Shah and his wife are very helpful in getting Jai and Kaahi settled in to their house in L.A. when Jai comes over to oversee his father’s American side of the business. Mr. Chopra and his wife invite the Raos to a potluck
Colonel Rathod is a compatriot of Bunty’s and helps the young lovers. Seems the Indian Army is all-India.
The Cover and Title
The background for the cover appears to be a rough silk weave and it’s topped with a rippling flag of India all of which is crossed by three strands of barbed wire.
The title is Jai’s response to Bunty’s heartfelt cry. They both want India to be one and, before the politicians went nuts, India was One.