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About My Two
Kalita provides an incisive perspective on globalization and the unique
challenge India faces in educating its youth." - Rajendra S. Pawar,
"Mitra Kalita writes
and clarity, offering an outsider’s
account with an insider’s access." -
columnist and commentator
Indias: A Journey to the Ends of Opportunity
By S. Mitra Kalita,
Harper Collins India 2010
What is government’s role in an economy? What is its obligation to its
people, rich and poor? Why do managers struggle to find talent even as
millions around them are desperate to land jobs? What values get left
behind when a country makes itself over?
These are among the many questions facing India today--and they are
the questions that guide "My Two Indias: A Journey to the Ends of
Opportunity," a new book by award-winning journalist and author S.
In the fall of 2006, Mitra moved from the US to India to help launch a
business newspaper in Delhi. She was thirty years old, the same age as
her father when he made the opposite migration across the Atlantic. My
Two Indias takes readers on a journey with Mitra and her family into
the India of old and new. She and her artist husband quickly enter the
elite of Delhi society, joining a cast of characters from CEOs to
cross-dressing curators. They embrace India’s mad rush toward
free-market reform. Government is mocked as useless, clumsily invading
and disrupting daily life.
But beyond the newsrooms and boardrooms of Delhi, another economic
reality looms in Mitra’s home state of Assam, a state in a forgotten
corner of India embroiled in militancy and unrest. On regular visits,
relatives’ pleas for jobs, advice and guidance underscore an India
tragically bypassed by the boom. As she grows closer to her family in
this neglected region, their very different lives and expectation of
government confuse and exasperate Mitra, as do their expectations of
her. Yet somehow, those who have been most abandoned manage a deeper
belief in their democracy than those who have benefited.
Gradually, exasperation turns to understanding and appreciation. And
after months of lecturing Indians on US-style efficiency, Mitra
unexpectedly learns how American workers, companies and innovation
might actually be lagging themselves. In the wake of the deadly
terrorist attacks on Assam and Mumbai in late 2006, Mitra finds a
populace consumed with redefinition, frustrated with elements of
government but still largely supportive of its over-arching reach into
their daily lives.
My Two Indias lucidly reconciles the many faces of India: separate,
unequal, inextricably dependent. Mitra, now back in the US as a senior
writer at The Wall Street Journal, deftly marries her personal story
with the broader economic tale of modern India. In chapters that
artfully move from the living room to the newsroom, the call centre to
the factory floor, her grandfather’s village to her grandmother’s
deathbed, Mitra’s reflections on two years in India are part-love
letter and part-damning critique. Among other themes, Mitra touches on
manufacturing and labour laws, education systems, gender roles and the
workplace. This is a book about what it means to be an American, an
Indian, a working woman, and a global citizen in the new economic
Mitra is available for book readings and lectures.
Please email email@example.com for more details.
1/29/11 Evanston, Illinois
Keynote speaker, Kellogg India Business Conference 2011: ‘Role of
Media and Entertainment in Modern India’
Trickle Up, fireside chat on "Two Indias"
Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Distinguished Visitng Fellow
Washington and Lee University
3/3/11 New York, N.Y.
New York, NY
Frequently Asked Questions
(Journalists, feel free to quote liberally from this)
Q. Tell us about this book.
A. There is an old India. There is a new India. And
there is the place
they transition, clash, morph, meet. I’d like to think of this book as
that meeting point. I focus on the Indias and Indians encountered by
my family and me between 2006 and 2008.
Q. Why did you write this
A. I had been tinkering for years with a book on the Indian economy
and struggled with how to tell it. Initially, I approached it similar
to my first book with a hunt for subjects; and that’s how I met many
of the people and companies who end up appearing in this work. But as
I went along, I grew self-conscious of being an outsider trying to
tell the definitive story of such a vast, diverse country. So I
haven't -- the book is intentionally called MY two Indias, focusing on
the slices of what I saw, experienced, lived, loathed, loved. I didn’t
set out to write about myself or my family but through a column I
wrote for Mint—called Wider Angle—I began experimenting with marrying
reportage to my reactions. Not everyone loved that reaction, mind you,
but my columns sparked a dialogue, drew readers and allowed us to
dissect change as it was occurring.
Like many books, mine was partly driven by a burning question: How can
it be that as a manager in Delhi, I struggled to find and make the
right hires, yet every night would be deluged with phone calls from
Assam begging me for a job? I set out to find the answer and reconcile
these two Indias I straddle, that so many workers and migrants in an
urbanizing will find familiar.
Q. Is this a memoir?
A. This book is hardly my whole life's story, or even that of my
family. I approached it as narrative nonfiction, where our journey is
shared and contextualized with the reader. I often take a step back to
more critically examine anecdotes and offer research and statistic to
keep me honest. I also rely greatly on many other characters, such as
the folks at Cvent and Cotton Kids.
Q. Tell us about those
A. I began interviewing many of them before my family and I even left
for India. Companies such as Cvent allowed me to look at the global
economy more tightly through the lens of a workplace and workers
trying to understand each other across different sectors, cultures and
time zones. Other workers and subjects, especially the youth quoted, I
met through reporting for Mint, the business newspaper I worked for in
Q. How much did you rely
on your Mint columns for this book?
A. Quite a bit. The column, in many ways, was a diary of our journey,
although I had the same allergy to writing in the first person in its
early days. Slowly, it became clear that the personal resonated with
Q. In what way? Do you
identify as Indian or American, a New Yorker, a
Delhi-ite or Assamese
A. Well, that's just what I mean. There's a scene in the book where my
husband and I are at Mainland China, and a fellow diner is rolling her
eyes at my American accent. A few moments later, my great-aunt is
calling me telling me about a wedding in our village and how tasty the
pigeon curry was. I'm not so easy to box. I was born in the US and so
when I got to India, that made me a firang, so-called phoren. But my
experience before 2006, when we moved, was largely in rural and
second-tier India because my family is from Assam. Few of my relatives
had phones, fridges, cars before the late 1990s, even into the 2000s.
My maternal and paternal families lived in extended families until
very recently. In many ways, their expectations of me (and each other)
remained rooted in the Indian village--which could be at odds with our
fast life in the city. India, to me, is filled with these collisions.
I see myself a product of that, and so don't really identify as one or
the other but a mix of them all.
Q. How did your view of
government change while living in India?
A. It's complicated and took an entire book to explore but ... the
simple answer is that in my early days in India, I cursed the babus,
the bribes, the bureacracy. By the end of our time there, I
sympathized a bit more with the sheer challenge of running India, and
devised a metaphor in coming to terms with my family's expectations of
me with the average Indian's expectations of government...
The global recession certainly affected my outlook, too; leaders such
as Manmohan Singh who advocated salary caps during boom years were
suddenly seen as ahead of their time… It remains to be seen if the
scandals embroiling this government of late will truly be a catalyst
for more change, though.
Q. Do you miss India?
A. Every day. And to understand why we left, read the book!
Q. Who is your audience?
A. As I wrote, I pictured the manager, the CEO, the returnee, the
middle-class family living in South Delhi. And I pictured my cousins,
first-time college attendees, the cybercafé crowd, folks in
third, no tier India. I hope they all pick this up.
A Mail Today "pick of the
"It's a wonderful journey
through India, part memoir, part
absolutely splendid book."
- NDTV's Sunil Sethi, host of "Just Books"
the NDTV video clip here.
beautifully juxtaposes her personal story with the broader
story of India."
- The Hindu
Read the full review here.
memoir. ...Kalita writes with reasonable verve and
flashes of wry humour..."
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