Where are you from? This relatively simple question posed to New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas years ago proved to have a significant influence on his views of Indian culture – and even life itself.
Giridharadas discussed his exploration of those ideas with nearly 200 attendees during a presentation Tuesday at the University of Central Florida.
The forum, part of the ongoing 2010-2011 India Speaker Series, was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office. Giridharadas also made presentations at other community events during his visit to Orlando.
Giridharadas was the Times’ first Bombay- based correspondent in modern times, beginning in 2005. He began writing the “Letters from India” series three years later, and he is presently focused on “Currents,” a column focused on globalization and the increasing effects of technology. His first book, “India Calling,” is due out in January.
Giridharadas, who is of Tamil and Punjabi ancestry, grew up in Ohio and wasn’t interested in India as a young person. Short visits to his parents’ country of birth did not help, and he was guided by negative preconceptions, he said.
Later, though, after spending more time in India, he experienced an awakening. Most important and exciting, he said, was the realization that “Indians were coming to believe that their destinies are in their own hands. They were coming to believe in the power of their own dreams.”
Those dreams, he said, are what separate the past from the present and mark a stark contrast between the land his parents had left and the one to which he had returned.
It was in this context that Giridharadas elaborated on the “rise” that will make India a world leader. He noted that the next generation of Indians will be of major significance because they will provide a new model for globalization, challenging how Americans learn and being ambitious.
In addition, Giridharadas urged the audience to see India as an experiment, one that will have a major effect on international politics, economics and social organization. Democracy, cutthroat capitalism, pluralism and poverty are all factors in India that have the capacity to drastically alter the country’s path, he said.
“Even if you don’t care about India, you should care about its experiment, because it is, in so many ways, your experiment, too,” said Giridharadas.
The sponsors of this event included the UCF Global Perspectives Office, The India Program at UCF, The Anil and Chitra Deshpande India Program Endowed Fund, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, UCF’s Political Science Department, UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication, UCF’s International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.