India celebrated fifty years of independence. As I finished work
for this book, the idea of India seemed to be looming large in the imagina-
tion of diverse peoples all over the world. From conferences on partition
literature in Bologna, Italy, to the dedication by the
New Yorker
of "The
Fiction Issue" to India; from airlines advertising special fares to Mumbai
and Delhi to celebrations in Chantilly, Virginia: one could not help but
trip over the subcontinent in some shape or form. The one big gap in all
this hype was India itself. If this sounds absurd so baldly put, let me elabo-
rate: How exactly was India "celebrating" this event? What were Indians
in India doing to commemorate this moment in history?"Nothing much"
seemed to be the standard response. I had traveled to India and seen very
little to indicate that
was somehow special or different. My own
perceptions were borne out as much by my conversations with friends
and relatives in Calcutta, Delhi, and Bombay as it was by the dearth of
any media coverage on actual celebrations in Indian cities, towns, and vil-
lages on Cable News Network
Headline News, or even
aim in raising this question is to direct attention to the manner in which
India continues to be mined for consumption by the West.
The moment I write this sentence, though, I am compelled to qualify
it. This is not the age of
King Solomon's Mines
or even the Indiana Jones
films; if India continues to exist in some minds in the frozen landscape of
some spurious B-grade adventure movie, it is more than compensated by
those who are better versed in the language and ideology of the "new" In-
dia, those who refer to the city of Bangalore as the "Silicon Valley of In-
dia," those who realize that the greatest buying power in the twenty-first
century could come from the burgeoning middle class in India, and those
who know that
is the most popular show among Indian view-
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