'India Calling': The New 'Land Of Opportunity'? Anand Giridharadas grew up in America, but it was in India — the country that his parents left — where he went to look for hope. In his book, India Calling, Giridharadas describes how India's growing economy is creating growing opportunity — what many might recognize as American-style chances to get ahead.

'India Calling': The New 'Land Of Opportunity'?

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An American writer moved to India and found a country that's dramatically changing. What may be changing most is India's frame of mind.

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: India has become, in a way that has not been, a land of opportunity for millions and millions and millions of people.

INSKEEP: A land of opportunity, he said. The journalist Anand Giridharadas says that's new. Giridharadas grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, and then he moved to India, the land of his ancestors. His book "India Calling" describes India's growing economy and the new possibilities it has created, something we might see as American style chances to get ahead. Yet he also explores a country riddled with ancient divisions of class and caste.

GIRIDHARADAS: In India you're eternally a master and eternally a servant. And servants in many ways have been seen and taught to see themselves as being not someone who is situationally inferior, but someone who is eternally, intrinsically inferior.

INSKEEP: What happened when you encountered a servant who didn't quite realize who you were?

GIRIDHARADAS: And I suddenly saw the man have this total human metamorphosis, and he shrunk right in front of me, from a master to a servant. And his whole body, his physiology changed, and he started apologizing with his presence and with his words. And you realize that almost every Indian is engaged in both of these transactions at different moments of their days, superior to some, inferior to others. And as an Indian poet once said, never thinking to resist the one kick from above, nor to refrain from giving the kick below.

INSKEEP: All right, let's talk about that. Did you meet anybody who managed to transcend these boundaries or move from one station in life to another?

GIRIDHARADAS: And he watched how they dressed, how they gestured, how they talked, what kind of cars they drive - he memorized everything about them and mimicked it, and slowly set out to become them.

INSKEEP: How did it work out?

GIRIDHARADAS: He is now - he runs an English language academy and he runs a roller skating academy. Roller Skating is this huge craze in small town India. And he's a lecturer at, like, seven colleges, teaching people English. And he's made himself the guy in this small town of 50,000 in the middle of India, he's made himself the guy who you need to go see in that town if you want to get out of that town.

INSKEEP: Well, you know, I want to ask you, as an American who grew up in suburban Cleveland and then went to live in India. You've lived in these two countries that seem to be at different places right now. You have an India, that as you point out, has this incredible image right now and is seen as the future, but as you point out, that is actually very problematic. You've come from an America where there seems to be a great fear of decline, although, you know, we shouldn't miss the fact that it's still the greatest economy the world has ever seen.


INSKEEP: I wonder how the elusions are changing and how much the realities are really changing in these two countries right now.

GIRIDHARADAS: And I think in India, the opposite is true, which is there's so much optimism and foreign investment flowing et cetera that people sometimes get diluted into thinking this whole thing is going to be wrapped up in about five years. But in many ways, India still has a lot to work out. And one of the risks of a boom is that it becomes easy to forget that.

INSKEEP: Anand Giridharads is the author of "India Calling." Thanks very much.

GIRIDHARADAS: Thank you. $00.00

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