Global India in 21st-Century Asian American Literature
Summary and Keywords
Twenty-first-century Asian American literature is a developing archive of literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and multimodal cultural texts. As a field, it is marked by its simultaneous investments in exploring the United States’ imperial geopolitical relations and the concurrent rise of Asia. Global India, a shorthand for the nation’s ascendance onto the world stage after the liberalizing market reforms of the early 1990s, is discernible in Asian American—and particularly South Asian American—depictions of a range of figures including call center agents, entrepreneurial farmers, art gallery owners, and globe-trotting filmmakers. It is an India to which many writers imagine returning, given its heightened standing in the world economy and the prospect of American decline. This change marks a shift in the literature from the Americas being the primary locus of attachment to Asia as a site of possible reinvestment, both psychic and material. Asian American writers frequently focus on parallels between the experience of international migration and that of in-country migration to India’s major cities. They also tacitly register the rise of India in narratives about the abortive promises of the American dream. In comparison to Asian American literatures of the 20th century, which were primarily read as part of the multiethnic canon of American literature, Asian American literatures written under the sign of Global India are equally legible as part of diasporic, postcolonial, world, and global Anglophone literary formations. Many writers considered postcolonial in the 20th century may be profitably read in the 21st century as Asian American as well, whether because of a move to the United States or a professed affiliation. This expansion of the field is a consequence of the evolving diasporic and global imaginaries of Asian American writers and scholars.
Twenty-first-century Asian American literature is a contemporary developing archive of what is being called the “Asian” or “Pacific” century. At the time of writing, scholars are only just beginning to track the explicit and subtle ways in which this literature registers the public discourses on China’s rise, Global India, and “the post-American world,” what a 2010 McKinsey Global Institute report described as China’s and India’s return “to the global prominence they played before the European and North American industrial revolution.”1 This literary registration may be described as a shift from the Americas as the primary locus of attachment to Asia as a site of possible return. In the 20th century, Asian American literature was primarily read as part of the multiethnic canon of American literature. By contrast, Asian American literatures of the 21st century, and in particular those interested in the emergence of Global India, are equally legible as part of diasporic, postcolonial, world, and global Anglophone literary formations.
The term “Global India” is typically used to refer to the nation’s cultural, social, and geopolitical transformations after the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-led liberalization of its financial markets, beginning in 1991. India, the story goes, is now an entrepreneurial, neoliberal “New India” whose “hard” economic power rivals the “soft” cultural power of yoga, supermodels, and expatriate writer-celebrities it was known for in the mid- to late-20th century. That said, and as detractors point out, India’s bursts of outsized economic growth in the early 2000s have yet to translate into development for the majority of Indians. In 2017, the nation had the fourth-highest number of billionaires in the world, but over 20 percent of the population was living below internationally recognized poverty thresholds. Locating Global India in 21st-century Asian American literature thus requires attention to both the material transformation of Indian and Indian diasporic lives and the technologies of myth and mystification that undergird avowals of the nation’s “globality.”
Global India is discernible in depictions of figures like the enterprising “slumdog” in the international blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and the call center agent in Bharati Mukherjee’s novel Miss New India (2011). Global Indians include entrepreneurial farmers, like Ramadas in Akash Kapur’s India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (2012), and owners of posh Kolkata art galleries, like Rajat in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Oleander Girl (2013). The new Global India is present equally in discussions of outsourcing and terrorism and in descriptions of India’s move from economic protectionism to liberalization. Global India is also legible in references to Bollywood films, as in Kanishk Tharoor’s story “Icebreakers,” from the collection Swimmer Among the Stars (2017), in which an international group of icebreakers stranded in the Antarctic pass the time watching Indian films. Global India is registered in Rajesh Parameswaran’s “Bibhutibhushan Mallik’s Final Storyboard,” from the collection I Am an Executioner (2012), when the narrator describes films about rural India being celebrated by America’s preeminent film critic, A. O. Scott. It is also manifested in 21st-century Asian American literature’s preoccupations with the New India that, from the vantage of the expatriate or repatriated writer, might have been or might yet be. Finally, Global India is a construct that puts pressure on a constellation of terms associated with Asian American literature’s treatment of India before it was “global”: terms like postcolonial, developing, and Third World. It is a sign under which Asian American literatures will increasingly be written in the years to come, and one which may be profitably employed in the revaluation of the literatures produced in the early 21st century.
As a scholarly field, Asian American literature is still relatively young. It was inaugurated institutionally in the 1970s, marked by what was then a nascent pan-Asianism in the United States, and subject in the ensuing three decades to tremendous debate regarding the geographical and cultural boundaries of “Asian America.”2 Early anthologists of Asian American literature strove to assemble an archive that was “authenticated by realism, understood as the accurate reflection of a lived reality.”3 Some later scholars would criticize the focus on field definition, authenticity, and corpus expansion as theoretically impoverished.4 Agreed upon, however, was that Asian American literatures were substantively concerned with the experience of being Asian in America, whether that experience was one of assimilation, inclusion, exclusion, or alienation. As recently as 1998, scholars observed that the “two central criteria . . . operative in the definition of Asian American literature [were] adoption of America as home and the experience of persecution/oppression/lack of privilege.”5
Within this landscape, South Asian American literatures depicting India and Indian global subjects have been “a part, yet apart.”6 On the one hand, 20th-century writers like Meena Alexander, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee, Sandip Roy, and Abraham Verghese shared the larger field’s thematic preoccupations with the experience of being an ethnic minority in the United States. Their writings were collected in anthologies like Living in America: Poetry and Fiction by South Asian American Writers (1995) and Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America (1996), which were focused, as the former’s title and latter’s subtitle suggest, on how South Asians were “imprinting [themselves] on North American landscapes” and “contribut[ing] to as well as complicat[ing] and chang[ing] the complexion, the traditions, and the mythologies of American literature.”7 On the other hand, South Asian American writers did not always consider themselves Asian, nor did anthologists of Asian American literature consistently include them in the field. South Asian Americans tended to write themselves and their communities as postcolonial as well as ethnic and, especially after September 11, 2001, were concerned with the significance of their cultural, linguistic, and religious affiliations to Central Asia and the Middle East.
South Asian American literature has long posed a challenge to the field of Asian American literature “precisely because of the multiple subcontinental contexts to which it refers, and because it cannot be neatly confined within the categories of Asian American, American, or postcolonial literature.”8 The same is true of South Asian American authors and their transnational modes of belonging. Many of the writers considered “Asian American” in the 21st century were not read as Asian American three decades ago because there were no grounds for their possible inclusion in the field. Salman Rushdie, formerly the iconic “British” writer of Indian Anglophone postcolonial literature, is one example. He moved to the United States in 2000 and has since written multiple novels about the American experience. Hari Kunzru, also formerly British, moved to the United States in 2008; Delhi-born Sonia Faleiro lives, at the time of writing, in San Francisco. A number of writers discussed in the following sections are frequently read or taught as postcolonial, including Aravind Adiga, Aman Sethi, and Altaf Tyrewala. By that same token, they were educated in American universities, an experience that significantly informs their work.
London-born Aatish Taseer, of Indian and Pakistani parentage, is another example of a global Anglophone writer who might profitably be read as Asian American. Taseer married an American man and became a green card holder in 2016. He then wrote in The Wall Street Journal that America offered him, like generations of migrants before, “the opportunity to slough off the demands of the past.”9 Taseer’s epic Global India novel, The Way Things Were (2015), intersects in important ways with its author’s life story. It depicts an Indian American man, Skanda, returning to India, where he is to cremate the body of his recently departed father, a well-known scholar of Sanskrit. The novel is structured around significant political events of India’s postcolonial (but preglobal) history, like the Emergency in 1975, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992. And yet it significantly dramatizes how alive this recent history is for its Asian American protagonist. “He had needed [the past] to be near,” Skanda reflects at the close of the novel, “as much as he had once needed to escape it.”10
Reading Global India in 21st-century Asian American literature or reading the literature of Global India for its Asian American signature raises the question of how “rooted” one needs to be in the United States in order to be considered Asian American. Is having been “routed” through America, to use the classic homonymic distinction from diaspora studies, sufficient grounds for annexation by the field of Asian American literature? As the boundaries of the field shift and the imaginaries of Asian America expand, the answer from scholars and writers is increasingly an affirmative one.
White Tigers, Call Centers, Big Cities, and Small Bombs
The most internationally celebrated Global India novel, The White Tiger (2008), was written by an author who is not consistently read as Asian American: Aravind Adiga. However, Adiga was educated in Australia and the United States (he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University) and worked for the American newsweekly Time before writing his Booker-winning debut. The White Tiger tells the story of Balram Halwai, a chauffeur who performs various odd jobs of a domestic servant and who, through a series of letters addressed to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, takes the reader on a tour of Global India’s “darkness.” These letters signal the mounting pan-Asianism of the Asian 21st century. Balram tells Wen Jiabao that he, unlike American self-help gurus who are “so yesterday,” represents “tomorrow.”11 In the voluminous scholarship on The White Tiger, critics have examined how Adiga performs pan-Asian solidarity, ventriloquizes India’s subaltern, and problematically upholds caste as a ticket to economic advancement. Less frequently observed is that his Global India narrative depends on the depiction of an Asian American character’s, Mr. Ashok’s, murder: Balram bludgeons and slits his foreign-returned employer’s throat on his way to becoming a Bangalore-based taxi company owner.
Violence is often central to the Global Indian narrative of self-appreciation and self-discovery. In particular, cross-class relations between global Indians are frequently narrated in murderous terms. A macabre chapter in Rana Dasgupta’s nonfictional Global India book, Capital: The Eruption of Delhi (2014) (see “Nonfictional Narratives of Return to India”), tells the story of Surender Koli, a housekeeper and cook, who was found guilty of luring children into the home in which he worked prior to then raping, murdering, and eating them. Thrity Umrigar’s A Space Between Us (2005) tells the story of an interclass, intercaste relationship between Bhima, a housekeeper, and her middle-class employer, a widow named Sera. Sera is discouraged by friends and family from becoming too intimate with Bhima. “Arre, did you see the story in last week’s Times of India?,” a friend asks, “About that elderly Parsi lady who was murdered? . . . Poor woman, stabbed in her bed by her own servant. Neighbors said the woman had worked for her for decades. . . Stabbed her seventeen times and took off with the jewelry.”12 Umrigar’s The Weight of Heaven (2009), which tells the story of an American couple’s relocation to India after the death of their son, also pictures Global India as a scene of violence. Early in the novel, Frank, who is running an HerbalSolutions plant in the village of Girbaug, is perversely excited by having to cover up the death of a young worker: “despite the horror, the shame, the revulsion he felt . . . there was also a kind of excitement . . . of being adult and worldly in a way he never would’ve been if he’d remained in Ann Arbor.”13 Eventually, Frank’s irrational desire to parent the young son of a servant couple ends disastrously in the murder of his own wife.
Bharati Mukherjee’s Global India novel, Miss New India (2011), is also a novel of irrepressible desire and violence on a number of registers. The novel tells the story of Anjali Bose, who migrates from small-town Gauripur, Bihar to the virtual cityscape of Bangalore, where she is inducted into the world of Young India and its fast-talking global English-speaking call center agents. The first part of the book describes Anjali’s life in Gauripur, where she is emotionally manipulated by Peter Champion, a former Peace Corps volunteer. She is also sexually assaulted by her would-be arranged marriage match, Subodh Mitra. This violation has stultifying effects later in the novel. In return for a new cell phone, Anjali allows herself to be initiated into an exploitive sexual relationship with an older journalist. She describes herself as “terrified, tempted, and corrupted by the infusion of vast sums of new capital” in Global India but does not know what to do as a result. When Anjali meets Monish Lahiri, a Wharton MBA who returns to India “because this is where the money is, money and opportunity,” she is struck that her country has been “overrun with repatriates and immigrants.”14 Faced with these inheritors of her India, Anjali is envious and enraged.
Mukherjee’s Anjali is also not submissive enough to become a call center agent. Anjali refashions herself as “Angie,” and yet, she does not have the malleable disposition required for customer-support labor. “I think,” a call center trainer notes, “you have a great deal of difficulty erasing yourself from the call. . . We teach you to serve. That’s not in your makeup.”15 The trainer’s critique indicates that Mukherjee reads the global Indian Anjali/Angie as a pioneer, like Jasmine/Jane of her canonical Jasmine (1989). Miss New India, too, privileges rebellion and the pursuit of individual fulfillment. Miss New India thus continues Mukherjee’s project of detailing the transnational processes of migratory unmooring and assimilation by translating the story of international migration from India to America into one of internal migration within India itself.
The phenomenon of internal or in-country migration from rural to urban areas within India is central to the Global India narrative. As a result, many writers of Global India tell the hyperreal stories of its major metropolises. Both of Austin, Texas-based Karan Mahajan’s novels are set in global Delhi. In the Delhi of Family Planning (2008), teenage wannabe rockers play songs by bands like Staind and Oasis and the Minister for Urban Development busily designs flyovers to nowhere. Mahajan’s National Book Award-nominated The Association of Small Bombs (2016) begins with a small bomb and the death of two brothers in a Delhi marketplace in 1996. Over the course of the next seven years, their friend, Mansoor, who survives the blast, attends college in the United States and returns to India. He then becomes involved with a group of Kashmiri separatists and is jailed on suspicion of terrorist activity. The plot is intricate; nevertheless, Mahajan leaves room for rich descriptions of Delhi. The city is “flat, burning, mixed-up, smashed together from pieces of tin and tarpaulin . . . [offering] no respite from itself. Delhi never ended.”16
The city most frequently written as a metonym for Global India is Mumbai. The third novel in Manil Suri’s trilogy, The Death of Vishnu (2001), The Age of Shiva (2007), and The City of Devi (2013), is set in a preapocalyptic Mumbai that imagines India and Pakistan on the brink of nuclear war. In No God in Sight (2006), Altaf Tyrewala, who studied in New York before moving back to India in 1999, contrasts Global India’s “Mumbai” with the comparatively cosmopolitan Anglicized “Bombay” that existed until the city’s renomination in 1995.17 He does this through interlinked stories of dozens of Mumbai residents, from a middle-class housewife to a beggar, from an abortionist to a terrorist and his many namesakes. Their first-person narratives follow from each other’s in swift succession like linked web pages.
University of California at Berkeley professor Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games (2006) details Bombay’s transformation into the global Mumbai on a more epic scale. Sacred Games has been read as a work of detective fiction or a crime novel: a gangster’s suicide is investigated; Hindu nationalists plot to detonate a nuclear bomb; a nearly six-feet-tall virginal model becomes Miss India and an informant for the police. Ganesh Gaitonde, dubbed “Ganglord Gaitonde” by the newspapers, is another version of Global India’s entrepreneurial, self-made man. “Past is passed,” he says; “Future is future . . . no past, any future.”18 He speaks a colorful, chutnefied Hinglish, but is painstakingly teaching himself English in secret. “There were many like me, born far from English,” he reflects. “I took English, I wrestled with it and made it give itself to me, piece by piece.”19 Gaitonde’s acquisition of English is one of many potent signs of India’s globalization. The language has always been a vehicle of upward mobility and economic development in India, but now, in Global India, it is available to lower-caste and class communities formerly barred access to educational and vocational institutions for English-language learning. The elitism and inaccessibility of English is just one of many aspects of the postcolonial Indian development state criticized by the Global India novel. Suri’s The Age of Shiva plays this out through debates between characters representing, on the one side, the perspective of Hindu nationalists calling for “a new age, a new yuga, not of [Jawaharlal] Nehrus and [M. K.] Gandhis, but of Ram and Shiva,” and, on the other, secularists who counter that “without Nehru’s vision we’d have no science—without Indira [Gandhi], no nuclear bomb.”20
An Absent Present
Global India also figures in postmillennial Asian American literature as an absent present: it is discernible and trackable despite not figuring in the narratives in question as setting, theme, or character. It regularly appears, for instance, as the India encountered by an Indian American ethnic subject returning to his or her putative motherland. This India does not necessarily bear the conventional markers of globality; there may not be scenes set in Indian shopping malls or internet cafes; there may not be outsourced tech workers or Bollywood starlets. Rather, what makes the India imagined in these works “global” is its apprehension by a global Indian, a transnational subject who has chosen to make a life in diaspora or was born in the United States, but for a variety of reasons chooses to return to India. What the reader finds in these works is that the Asian American writer, at the turn of the century, begins to attend more to the nation left behind, India, than the nation into which she has previously labored to assimilate, the United States.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s short-story collection, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives (2001), features three stories written under the sign of such a return. In “The Intelligence of Wild Things,” the narrator describes her first trip home to Calcutta after having left India for the United States a decade earlier. “I was shocked by how much had changed, and how little. . .” she reflects. “The colors [of the gigantic movie billboards] were exactly as I remembered. . . The gestures of the heroes and heroines hinted at the same exorbitant worlds. . . But I didn’t know a single name, and the faces on the posters were so young—so young and beautiful and hard—that I wanted to weep.”21 The narrator has returned to an India that she no longer thinks of as home and to a mother who she discovers is dying. The rest of the action of the story unfolds in Vermont, but it is haunted by the narrator’s newfound knowledge that while she has been away from India, the nation has moved on.
In “The Lives of Strangers,” American-born Leela, who has recently attempted suicide, travels to India, where she has never been, and where she expects to find stereotypical scenes of poverty. Her immigrant parents had “never discussed their homeland, a country they seemed to have shed as easily and completely as a lizard drops its tail,” but there in India Leela will undertake a pilgrimage at once alienating and transformative.22 The story does not date its action—the only cultural reference is to Star Trek—but the reader learns that Leela is a programmer who grew up playing computer games. The India to which she returns is one in the throes of its global reimagining, signaled by details like an older woman’s having to live in “a women’s hostel” because her son and daughter-in-law refuse to abide by the traditional practice of intergenerational living.
“The Names of Stars in Bengali” narrates the story of an Indian American woman, Khuku, and her return to India with her sons. The date is unspecified, but references suggest the action takes place in the 1990s. There, in her hometown village outside Calcutta, Khuku encounters Indians who seem, on the one hand, like relics from the 1970s; they ask her questions like, “Is it true you have machines that do all your housework?” and think of America as a “[l]and of gold.”23 On the other, they tell Khuku that “[t]he village is changing. . . Every night [we] watch national news on the Door Darshan channel. We know about America, too. O. J. Simpson, Madonna, Monica Lewinsky.”24 References to American cultural icons and touchstone political events appear frequently in postmillennial narratives as a way of tracking India’s emerging globality. If, prior to liberalization, only Indian elites were able to imagine themselves abroad, now the Indian everyman can participate in the international exchange of information and media. Similarly, in “We Didn’t Like Him,” from Akhil Sharma’s story collection A Life of Adventure and Delight (2017), Global India is a place where even Hindu pandits in provincial towns “watch American movies,” the lure of secure government employment that characterized Nehru’s India has vanished, and “everyone want[s] to work for a foreign company.”25
What is significant about these descriptions of India’s dawning globality—from its jettisoning of customs to democratization of Westernization—is that it is matched by the diasporic Indians’ heightened imagining of India as a place in which to make a life. Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2004) tells the story of Piyali Roy, an Indian American cetologist who goes to the Sundarbans to study Gangetic dolphins.26 The novel begins with a description of Piya seen through the eyes of Kanai, an urban Indian who runs a translation business in New Delhi: “[S]he was not Indian,” he thinks, “except by descent.”27 Piya cannot speak her mother tongue, Bengali, and is dressed like a foreigner; nevertheless, hers is a narrative of homecoming. In fact, the categorical instability of Piya’s diasporic Indian identity is an enabling condition of her academic and personal journeys in tide country. At the close of the novel, Piya is resolved to remain in India, drawn back by forces beyond her: “Maybe the ancients had it right after all. Perhaps it was the crab that ruled the tide of her destiny.”28
The Hungry Tide can be read as a novel of ancestral return, but it is also significantly pervaded by ecopolitical and environmental concerns. Global India, the novel shows, is not all urban coffee shops and Booker-winning novels. Through Piya, the reader learns about the Indian government’s violent destruction of marginal communities in the Sundarbans, the endangerment of species that once populated the islands, the dangers of overfishing the rivers of Bengal, the degradation of the mangrove forests, and the perils of climate change. Ghosh’s novel thus joins a growing body of world literary fiction that explores these distinctly anthropogenic crises, like Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People (2007), a reimagining of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, and Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis (2012), in which drug addiction in an “imploding and apocalyptic” Bombay “serves as the exemplary dystopic allegory for all circuits of millennial dependency ensnaring the postcolony.”29
Literatures written about the declining West and the abortive promises of the American dream also implicitly track the careers of a Global India. Hari Kunzru’s Transmission (2004) begins with Indian computer programmer Arjun Mehta, who is determined to secure an H-1B visa and move to America. His Indian employer, Mr. Khan, berates him for abandoning India for the West: “Who has trained you to do this work? India! Who has provided the schools? What do you think it means for you to take yourself abroad, instead of using your talents for the good of the nation?”30 This is the familiar “brain drain” narrative, but it has a twist. The novel goes on to show how Arjun’s dreams of America are betrayed. He is recruited to work for Databodies in California; on his arrival, however, he learns that he is being treated like an indentured servant. Beholden to the company, he owes money for his accommodation and airfare and is unable to return home to the rapidly globalizing India that was the enabling condition of his “success.”
Another such text is Rushdie’s Fury (2001), set in a decadent New York that has effectively become the “new Rome.”31 America has “seduced” the novel’s Bombay-born protagonist, Malik Solanka, and part of his fury is directed at himself and how he has been taken in by the mythology of America when the nation is patently on the decline. Although “[e]verywhere on earth. . . American success had become the only real validation of one’s worth,” Solanka is acutely aware of “the contradictions and impoverishment of the Western human individual, or let’s say the human self in America.”32 He falls in love with a smart and beautiful Indian diasporic woman, Neela Mehendra. Read as a novel of the post-American world, Fury’s observations about India’s “great pride . . . in the achievements of U.S.-based Indians in music, publishing. . . Silicon Valley and Hollywood” reveal as much about India’s achievement of global legibility as about the salience of American recognition as such.33 In addition to an enterprising India central to the new international division of labor, Global India is also an India that is recognized internationally, that has worldwide cachet, and whose expatriated subjects, like Neela, are desired in and by both East and West.
Poetic Mediations of the Global
As with the literary fiction of this period, 21st-century South Asian American poetry both registers Global India and has yet to fully explore the subject. A reading of Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry (2010) bears this out. The editors’ introduction describes the poets collected as “all active participants in the world of American literature” whose work enables analysis of “what it means to be an American poet writing today and an enriched understanding of the South Asian American experience.”34 “Global India” does not figure as an explicit locus of reference for the majority of these poets, including Agha Shahid Ali, Kazim Ali, Bhanu Kapil, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Srikanth Reddy, and Vijay Seshadri.
That said, a number of poems collected in Indivisible implicitly refer to Global India; it figures as an unspoken point of reference, dreamscape, or inevitable by-product of the unfolding times. Amitava Kumar’s “Against Nostalgia,” published first in Bombay-London-New York (2002), describes how the emigrant’s India, and the emigrant’s memories of India, “will not come back”: “They were never there. Those days/that will never come back.” There is no returning to the poet’s “first green kite/My sister’s childhood/. . ./Bharat Coffee House on Fraser Road in Patna/where we ate masala dosa after watching Sholay. . . ” The poem goes on to think about the impossibility of returning to a triumphant moment in Indian Anglophone literature—“The minute after/[Rushdie] had heard/that he was the winner of the Booker Prize”—as well as to the Indian cities that preceded the nation’s globalization. Anticipating Kumar’s nonfictional A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna (2014) (see “Nonfictional Narratives of Return to India”), the poet notes the transformation of “. . . present-day Patna/where my mother cannot leave her doors unlocked.” The poem ends with a final note to the emigrant from India who became an immigrant in America, and is haunted by the future he might have had: “What will come back is the one who never left.”
Minal Hajratwala’s “Miss Indo-America dreams” (2004), also included in Indivisible, narrates an Indian American beauty pageant winner’s dreams of both India and America. She fantasizes about “an agent/a Bollywood contract/a first-desi-on-MTV appearance. . . ” The pageant winner would be happy to appear with “Bob Barker,” host of the iconic American television show The Price Is Right, or Bollywood-star “Amitabh Bachchan.” This suggests that the Asian American’s dreams of arrival into the United States are mixed up with dreams of return to Global India. At the conclusion of the poem, the pageant winner addresses her parents and forebears: “everything they imagined when they came/is true for at least one/24 karat gold afternoon.” Participation in the beauty pageant is, in other words, a way to mark the simultaneous rise of India and arrival of Indian Americans into the American national consciousness. The pageant winner feels a responsibility to those generations who preceded her and whose migratory itineraries are the enabling condition of her “24 karat gold afternoon.”
Beyond the prominent Indivisible anthology, Meena Alexander’s collection Atmospheric Embroidery (2015) includes “Hyderabad Notebook” (2010), a poem that details the transformation of what used to be “New Mysore Café” in Hyderabad into “a Reebok store, also a shop selling Airtel SIM cards,/Cell phones in colors of the rainbow,/Ray ban dark glasses and knock-off Coach and Prada.” University students in this new Hyderabad wear “stained jeans and kurtas.” They occupy a space once filled by a hospital. There’s a spot, the poet’s narrator reflects, “on Nampally Road where the booksellers used to be.” The roads are populated not only by “ox carts,” “Ambassadors,” and “Marutis” but also Mercedes Benzes and returnees like the Asian American poet who stands “in the rush of traffic,” “notebook in hand.” Such a shift in frame of reference is significant for Alexander, the author of canonical 20th-century works of Asian American immigrant arrival, like Fault Lines (1993) and The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience (1996).
By contrast, a new generation of poets such as Rajiv Mohabir, an Asian American writer of Indo-Guyanese descent, offers more heavily mediated, philosophical meditations on the possibilities of returning to Global India. Mohabir, who lived in Varanasi, India from 2003 to 2004 and in so doing, became the first member of his family to return to India in over a century, is the author of The Taxidermist’s Cut (2016) and The Cowherd’s Son (2017). He writes about postmillennial diasporic experiences using the migratory patterns of narwhals and the seasonal bloom of algae, along with the songs of his grandmother, in order to explore his family’s transcontinental journeys away from and toward what is now Global India.35 It is a project in conversation with Shailja Patel’s poetic memoir and performance piece, Migritude (2010), as well as Amarnath Ravva’s multimedia text American Canyon (2013), suggesting that while migration narratives remain central to the project of Asian American literature in the 21st century, they are also taking on new forms.
Nonfictional Narratives of Return to India
At the close of the 20th century, many Asian Americans returned to Asia from the United States in response to the perception of both American economic decline and Asia’s global rise.36 Scholars across the disciplines coined a range of terms—“flight capital,” “reverse brain drain,” “brain circulation,” “technomigration”—to describe this particular phase of reverse migration.37 In memoirist Shoba Narayan’s words, “the East was the new West. . . Non- resident Indians were opting for jobs in Bangalore, rather than Boston. . . The Western gold rush had come full circle.”38
The result of this return migration was an international publishing boom in English-language nonfiction works about the rise of Global India. Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (2004) was the pioneering work of returnee nonfiction in the broader “neoliberal genre of emergence.”39 This genre is comprised of texts like Edward Luce’s In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (2006), which views the liberalizing economic reforms of 1991 as a relative triumph, and more literary accounts like Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India (2012). A significant number of the journalists, novelists, and scholars chronicling Global India’s emergence were nonresident Indians living in the United States, and their respective returns to India served as occasion for the writing of their nonfiction works.40 In addition to the works by Mehta and Deb, these texts include, in chronological order of publication, Pico Iyer’s The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home (2000), Pankaj Mishra’s Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond (2006), Anand Giridharadas’s India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking (2011), Akash Kapur’s India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (2012), Shoba Narayan’s Return to India: An Immigrant Memoir (2012), Rana Dasgupta’s Capital: The Eruption of Delhi (2014), Amitava Kumar’s A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna (2014), and Somini Sengupta’s The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young (2016).41
Taken together, these writers give the lie to the idea that there is a one-standard migratory pattern between India and the United States. Some of these writers were raised in India and moved to the United States as adults; others were born in India but brought up and educated in the United States. Some went back to India as adults with their own American children, determined never to leave again. Others returned to India on assignment, only to emigrate once more. Many of their journeys include time in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Despite these different trajectories, all of these writers pursue in their emergence texts the counterfactual pasts and futures that they might have had, had they, or their parents, never left India. In many of their works, there is a tacit self-critique of having emigrated away from India in the first place, as well as an awareness that the newly Global India is capable of functioning, thriving, and arriving into the future without their presence. Sengupta, who grew up in California and returned to India as the New Delhi bureau chief for the New York Times, aims to understand “[w]hat I would have known how to handle, had I grown up there.”42 Kumar, professor of English at Vassar College, is “haunted,” “struck by the fact that I left Patna in search of a life of comfort”; he strives to see the city as if he had never left, “to search for that which would have engaged me most fully if I were living and working in Patna.”43 Giridharadas, a Cleveland-born journalist and prominent television commentator, writes, “I was chasing the frontier of the future, which just happened, in my case, to be the frontier of my own past.”44
The changing world economy is only half the story told by these texts, as a sense of familial duty undergirds the return journeys of many of those who hear Global India calling. Professed motivations for return include Kumar’s desire “to see how much older my parents look” and Giridharadas’s dream of experiencing “a different kind of family love.”45 Many writers seek to give their children the Indian futures they themselves lost, or forsook, years ago. Living in New York, Mehta and his wife think, “We have to take the children home. Our children must have the experience of living in a country where everyone looks just like them.”46 “My girl is at home here,” Sengupta muses while contemplating returning to New York from Delhi. “I wonder if she will one day ask what I still sometimes ask: Who might I have been had I stayed?”47
The Asian American writers in question are drawn back to India by the facts of birth and heritage and confronted with the nation’s global transformations. Thus, the unruliness of Global India is coupled with the perspectival blinders of personal enmeshment. They must cope with the disruptive presence of what Mehta calls “memory mines,” sudden and jarring recollections of the past that make it challenging “to deal with the India of the present.”48 Traveling in Global India for these writers means looking in vain for a house that has been built over, going out in search of a dirt road that has become a highway, or seeking a temple that has since become a shopping mall. It means struggling to see Global India for what it is, despite the inevitability of seeing it in terms of themselves. By consequence, each writer eventually concludes that his or her own experience of Global India is not sufficient material for a book. She or he must turn to other, ostensibly more rooted Indians whose stories can illuminate the Global India in ways otherwise unavailable to the diaspora returned. They look for global Indians like Ramadas, a sixty-year-old Dalit cow broker, driven out of his profession and into the ranks of the aspiring entrepreneur, whose story “was a quintessentially Indian story . . . of ruin and reinvention,” and Deepak Kumar, who “seemed to distill, in a single being, the new sense of hope gusting through India.”49 Sonia Faleiro’s Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars (2011) and Aman Sethi’s A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi (2012) take this project further by each focusing on a single global Indian—the young Bombay bar dancer, Leela, in Faleiro’s case, and the Bihari contract worker Ashraf, in Sethi’s—in order to explore the complexities of the sexual economy and the laborer’s life in Global India.
Asian American nonfictions of return to Global India challenge readers with their generic ambiguity. For example, one critic terms Mehta’s Maximum City a work of “documentary,” “reportage,” a “memoir of migration,” “ethnography,” a “narrative of discovery,” and the work of a “good journalist”—all in the same review.50 On the one hand, dramatic narratives like Mehta’s offer novelistic treatments of Global India. On the other hand, they also evidence an ethnographic imagination, what Anand Pandian describes as a belief that, when confronted with the ordinary individual, “there are many others like him, scattered here and there . . . and beyond.”51 As Sengupta writes of one of her subjects, “Anupam is a prodigy. . . .Likewise, he is an emblem. . . . There are millions just like him. . . .”52 Both for Pandian and for Sengupta, the identification of an individual as type is central to his or her hailing as informant.
Pandian, professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins, is also the Asian American writer of a generically hybrid Global India book, Ayya’s Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India (2014), cowritten with his grandfather, M. P. Mariappan. Ayya’s Accounts excavates the past in order to understand how it gives form to the present. Mariappan can be read as a metonyn for “Modern India” to which the subtitle refers. His life begins in rural poverty and culminates in semiurban plenitude; he goes from earning 22 rupees a month as a shop assistant to a venerated patriarch who has traveled to the United States ten times. But Mariappan’s story also frustrates the conventional narrative of India’s transformation from Third World nation to economically powerful Global India. Mariappan “saw big things happen” in his country “and caught just some of their momentum.”53 His may be a story of global change, but it is one fully conscious of its, and India’s, provincial roots.
Discussion of the Literature
Asian American literature in the 21st century has become more disparate, diasporic, and entangled in its referents. The editorial introduction to a 2017 special issue of American Quarterly, titled “The Chinese Factor: Reorienting Global Imaginaries in American Studies,” describes the new orientation for Asian Americanists thus: as requiring the conceptualization of the entangled relations between China and the United States “as competitors and collaborators [in] the shifting global order” and attention to “the plurality of what is signified by China,” whether with respect to “frontiers/borderlands . . . transpacific texts . . . [or] liminal subjects . . . [that] have been uneasily incorporated into the U.S. imperial and neoliberal orbits.”54 Curiously, Global India is not mentioned even once in the issue as a counterpoint to “Rising China”; “the Chinese factor” is the only one figured in the reoriented global imaginaries under discussion. This is in part symptomatic of the persistent marginality of South Asia within Asian American studies writ large. It also reflects the fact that Global India is as much an aspiration of expunging India’s postcolonial state as it is an empirical reality. While Rising China has been understood to refer to the statistical inevitability of China’s economic ascendance, with US debt holdings to prove it, Global India has, according to some critics, failed to transcend its status as a rhetorical smokescreen for domestic policy failure.
Nevertheless, the American Quarterly issue indicates that if the 1990s saw a transnational turn in the field of Asian American studies, the 21st century is seeing the field go global. To date, this turn primarily reflects interest in the United States’ neoimperial succession of the British Empire. Asha Nadkarni’s vision for a “truly global frame” for Asian American Studies is revealing to this end. She envisions a frame “that uncovers the workings of U.S. power at home and abroad and that seriously interrogates the aspirations and machinations of postcolonial nationalisms as they are in confrontation and collusion with the United States.”55 Kandice Chuh’s vision of a global frame shares Nadkarni’s interest in technologies of US power and hegemony, but she also advocates “a critical reckoning with the model minority-identified Asian American subject” and a focus on “the instrumental role of Asian racialization in securing the continuing dominance of capitalism.”56 To be explored, in other words, is the relationship between the rise of Asia and the rise of Asian Americans, or Global India’s ascension onto the world stage and the arrival of Indian Americans into the American national consciousness.
Consistent with earlier studies in the field, 21st-century monographs on South Asian American literature, like Rajini Srikanth’s The World Next Door: South Asian American Literature and the Idea of America (2004), tend to focus on how South Asian American literatures are serving a pedagogical function in terms of educating American readers, making them “aware of the gaps in their consciousness,” challenging narratives of American exceptionalism, laying bare America’s role in the international division of labor, and emphasizing the United States’ geopolitical and economic entanglement with regions like South Asia.57 The dominant question in the field remains, in other words, how Asian American literature has contributed to and complicated the field of American literature.
For more explicit engagement with the subject of Global India, one must look to the robust social scientific research on the subject. Call center ethnographies, studies of Bollywood, monographs on the spread of global English, ethnographies of IT workers and outsourced laborers, and research on the sociology of New Indian genre fiction all serve to inform and illuminate the central concerns of the literature in question. For engagement with the literature of Global India, one must look beyond the Asian American field and to global Anglophone literary scholarship more generally. For example, Nadkarni examines the relationship between outsourcing and terror by twinning the global Asian figure of the tech-support agent with the migrant terrorist. Her attention to “circuits of nationalism, immigration, labor, and state power” has to do with how Global India is being read as well as how Global India is being written.58 Her work follows from that of Mrinalini Chakravorty, whose 2014 monograph In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imagination examines the global circulation of commonplace stereotypes about South Asia, including “hunger, crowdedness, filth, slums death, migrant flight, outsourcing, terror.”59 Of note, however, is that Chakravorty reads writers who are either not clearly Asian American (Rushdie, Adiga) or not writing about Global India (Monica Ali writes about Bangladesh, Mohsin Hamid writes about Pakistan, and Michael Ondaatje writes about Sri Lanka).
By that same token, a writer like Hamid is of great interest to scholars studying contemporary Asian American depictions of Global India. His first novel, Moth Smoke (2000), details Pakistan’s global transformations in the aftermath of the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests. His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), tells the story of Princeton-educated management consultant Changez’s increasing alienation from America in the aftermath of September 11th and the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. Hamid is also the author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), which, like Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire (2013), tells the story of Asia’s 21st-century rise through the narrative conventions of the self-help genre. Expanding the lens beyond Global India to the global Indian subcontinent more broadly brings a writer like Hamid into the critical conversation, along with Bangladeshi and Pakistani diasporic writers like Tahmima Anam, Mohammad Hanif, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Zia Haider Rahman, and Kamila Shamsie.
Links to Digital Materials
Asian American Writer’s Workshop (AAWW): AAWW, founded in 1991, is a national nonprofit arts organization that creates, publishes, develops, and disseminates writing by Asian Americans.
Kaya Press: Kaya Press, founded in 1994, is the premier publisher of Asian and Pacific Islander diasporic writing in the United States.
South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA): SAADA is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that documents, preserves, and shares stories and artifacts about the South Asian American experience.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation” Digital Exhibit: The Smithsonian APAC’s “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation” was a groundbreaking exhibit displayed at the National Museum of Natural History from 2014 to 2015. The digital exhibit continues and extends this project.
Verge: Studies in Global Asias Journal: Verge is a journal published by the University of Minnesota Press that emphasizes multidisciplinary engagement at the intersections of Asian Studies and Asian American Studies.
“The Virtual Immigrant” video series by Annu Palakunnathu Matthew: Rhode Island-based visual artist Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s “The Virtual Immigrant” series features audio and video clips of call center agents in Global India.
Anjaria, Ulka, ed. A History of the Indian Novel in English. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:
Chakravorty, Mrinalini. In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imagination. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.Find this resource:
Daiya, Kavita. “Provincializing America: Engaging Postcolonial Critique and Asian American Studies in a Transnational Mode.” South Asian Review 26, no. 2 (2005): 265–275.Find this resource:
Ghosh, Bishnupriya. When Borne Across: Literary Cosmopolitics in the Contemporary Indian Novel. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.Find this resource:
Gooptu, Nandini, ed. Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India: Studies in Youth, Class, Work and Media. New York: Routledge, 2013.Find this resource:
Hegde, Radha S., and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo. Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora. New York: Routledge, 2018.Find this resource:
Joshi, Priya. Bollywood’s India: A Public Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.Find this resource:
Koshy, Susan. “The Rise of the Asian American Novel.” In The Cambridge History of the American Novel, edited by Leonard Cassuto, 1046–1063. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Find this resource:
Kothari, Ritu, and Rupert Snell, eds. Chutnefying English: The Phenomenon of Hinglish. New Delhi: Penguin, 2011.Find this resource:
Kumar, Amitava. Bombay-London-New York. New York: Routledge, 2002. Find this resource:
Lim, Shirley Geok-lin, John Blair Gamber, Stephen Hong Sohn, and Gina Valentino, eds. Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.Find this resource:
Mani, Bakirathi. Aspiring to Home: South Asians in America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Mankekar, Purnima. Unsettling India: Affect, Temporality, Transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.Find this resource:
Prashad, Vijay. Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today. New York: New Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Rowe, Aime Carillo, Sheena Malhotra, and Kimberlee Perez. Answer the Call: Virtual Migration in Indian Call Centers. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.Find this resource:
Sadana, Rashmi. English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Schlund-Vials, Cathy J., ed. Flashpoints for Asian America Studies. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.Find this resource:
Srikanth, Rajini, and Min Hyoung Song. The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:
Varughese, E. Dawson. Reading New India: Post-Millennial Indian Fiction in English. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.Find this resource:
Xiang, Biao, Brenda S. A Yeoh, and Mika Toyota, eds. Return: Nationalizing Transnational Mobility in Asia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.Find this resource:
(1.) Shirish Sankhe et al., India’s Urban Awakening: Building Inclusive Cities, Sustaining Economic Growth (Brussels: McKinsey Global Institute, 2010).
(2.) Mark Chiang, The Cultural Capital of Asian American Studies: Autonomy and Representation in the University (New York: New York University Press, 2009).
(3.) Yoon Sun Lee, “Type, Totality, and the Realism of Asian American Literature,” Modern Language Quarterly 73, no. 3 (September 2012): 415.
(4.) Susan Koshy, “The Fiction of Asian American Literature,” Yale Journal of Criticism 9 (1996): 315–346.
(5.) Lavina Dhingra Shankar and Rajini Srikanth, eds., “Introduction: Closing the Gap? South Asians Challenge Asian American Studies,” in A Part, Yet Apart: South Asians in Asian America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998), 10.
(6.) Shankar and Srikanth, eds., “Introduction: Closing the Gap?”
(7.) Sunaina Maira and Rajini Srikanth, eds., “Introduction,” in Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America (New York: Asian American Writer’s Workshop, 1996), xix; Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, ed. “Introduction,” Living in America: Poetry and Fiction by South Asian American Writers (New York: Westview Press, 1995), 2.
(8.) Asha Nadkarni, “The South Asian American Challenge,” in The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature, ed. Rajini Srikanth and Min Hyoung Song (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 357.
(9.) Aatish Taseer, “The Day I Got my Green Card,” The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2016. See also Aatish Taseer, “Why the World Loves New York,” New York Times, November 2, 2017.
(10.) Aatish Taseer, The Way Things Were (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), 550.
(11.) Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (New York: Free Press, 2008), 4.
(12.) Thrity Umrigar, The Space Between Us (New York: William Morrow, 2005), 170–171.
(13.) Thrity Umrigar, The Weight of Heaven (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 33–34.
(14.) Bharati Mukherjee, Miss New India (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 216, 306.
(15.) Mukherjee, Miss New India, 241–242.
(16.) Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs (Uttar Pradesh: Fourth Estate), 2016.
(17.) For analysis of this renomination, see Thomas Blom Hansen, Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).
(18.) Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), 251.
(19.) Chandra, Sacred Games, 233.
(20.) Manil Suri, The Age of Shiva (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), 408.
(21.) Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives: Stories (New York: Random House, 2001), 48.
(22.) Divakaruni, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, 61.
(23.) Divakaruni, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, 251, 253.
(24.) Divakaruni, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, 267.
(25.) Akhil Sharma, A Life of Adventure and Delight (New York: W. W. Norton, 2017), 68, 60.
(26.) For an argument regarding why Amitav Ghosh’s novels should be read as Asian American literature, see Ruth Maxey, “Beyond National Literatures: Empire and Amitav Ghosh,” in The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature, ed. Rajini Srikanth and Min Hyoung Song (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 567–582.
(27.) Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins, 2005), 3.
(28.) Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 119.
(29.) Mrinalini Chakravorty, “Of Dystopias and Deliriums: The Millennial Novel in India,” in The Cambridge History of the Indian Novel in English, ed. Ulka Anjaria (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 274, 275.
(30.) Hari Kunzru, Transmission (New York: Penguin, 2004), 22–23.
(31.) Salman Rushdie, Fury (New York: Random House, 2001), 86.
(32.) Rushdie, Fury, 86, 224.
(33.) Rushdie, Fury, 224.
(34.) Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam, eds. “Introduction,” in Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010), xix.
(36.) Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, “The Rhetoric of Return: Diasporic Homecoming and the New Indian City,” in Room One Thousand 3 (University of California eScholarship, 2015), 308–335; Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, “Unmoored: Passing, Slumming, and Return-Writing in New India,” in Postcolonial Urban Outcasts: City Margins in South Asian Literature, ed. Madhurima Chakraborty and Umme Al-Wazedi (London: Routledge, 2016), 95–112.
(37.) David Heenan, Flight Capital: The Alarming Exodus of America’s Best and Brightest. (Mountain View: Davies-Black Publishing 2005); Vivek Wadhwa, “A Reverse Brain Drain,” Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2009): 45–46; AnnaLee Saxenian, The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Aalok Khandekar, “Engineering the Global Indian: Skills, Cosmopolitanism, and Families in Circuits of High-Tech Migrations between India and the United States” (unpublished PhD diss., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2010).
(38.) Shoba Narayan, Return to India (Jasmine Books, 2012), 130.
(39.) Manu Goswami, The American Dream Outsourced: India and the Genre of Growth (New York: Public Books, 2012).
(40.) For discussion of why the majority of the writers in this genre are male, see Srinivasan, “The Rhetoric of Return,” and Srinivasan, “Unmoored.”
(41.) This list could be expanded to include nonliterary nonfiction works written by journalists and policy makers with an educational or professional foothold in the United States, such as Atul Kohli’s Poverty Amid Plenty in the New India (2012), Aseem Shrivastava and Ashis Kothari’s Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (2012), and Shashi Tharoor’s India trilogy, The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell-Phone: Reflections on India in the 21st Century (2007), Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century (2012), and India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in Our Time (2015).
(42.) Somini Sengupta, The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young (New York: W. W. Norton, 2016), 4.
(43.) Amitava Kumar, A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), xii, 84.
(44.) Anand Giridharadas, India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking (New York: Henry Holt, 2011), 254.
(45.) Kumar, A Matter of Rats, 107; Giridharadas, India Calling, 227.
(46.) Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 12–13.
(47.) Sengupta, The End of Karma, 81.
(48.) Mehta, Maximum City, 38.
(49.) Akash Kapur, India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012), 285; Giridharadas, India Calling, 32.
(50.) Amitava Kumar, “The Enigma of Return,” The Nation, September 30, 2004.
(51.) Anand Pandian and M. P. Mariappan, Ayya’s Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014), 164.
(52.) Sengupta, The End of Karma, 56.
(53.) Pandian and Mariappan, Ayya’s Accounts, 5.
(54.) Chih-ming Wang and Yu-Fang Cho, “Introduction: The Chinese Factor and American Studies, Here and Now,” American Quarterly 69, no. 3 (2017): 449.
(55.) Asha Nadkarni, “Outsourcing, Terror, and Transnational South Asia,” in Flashpoints for Asian America Studies, ed. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017), 105.
(56.) Kandice Chuh, “Asians Are the New . . . What?,” in Flashpoints for Asian America Studies, ed. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017), 179.
(57.) Rajini Srikanth, The World Next Door: South Asian American Literature and the Idea of America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004), 33.
(58.) Nadkarni, “Outsourcing, Terror, and Transnational South Asia,” 96.
(59.) Mrinalini Chakravorty, In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 11.