THE author, trained in computer science, with two decades of software knowledge under his belt, returns to India after spending 10 years in America which remains a familiar second home for him, and which he delights in visiting. He leaves one democracy (India) to visit another (USA). Through stories of his experiences, big and small, he shows America as seen through the eyes of an Indian who is critical but not intolerant, understanding but not stony-eyed. Wherever he goes, he is compelled to compare the situations with those back home in India.
On a cold sunny morning in February, the author travels over the rural road winding over the hills of western Virginia to track through Raphine. He discovers that while the US has a superb inter-state highway system that takes you everywhere you want to go, it is the smaller roads that retain their beauty and character. “Roads that curve gently through towns and villages that sometimes don’t even make it on to maps.”
On the first page of the local newspaper he reads about a 19-year of US soldier Daniel Todd Morris dying while fighting in Iraq. He is affected by the death of this young man whom he never knew because that reminds him of India where soldiers, who fight and die are normally from small towns and rural areas as rural areas offer less job opportunities than cities do. He remembers the six-man Indian army patrol which was ambushed in the 1999 Kargil war among whom five were from obscure villages of Rajasthan and their captain was from Palampur, a small town in Himachal Pradesh. So he is left to mull over the truth abut rural America that is reinforced for him in Raphine, as a similar truth is seen in Palampur. Once he gets off the major roads, there’s a quiet beauty to be found, he says; two, in wartime, “you’re that much more likely to run across the tragedy of death in battle.”
Passionate and perceptive, wry and sympathetic, he discovers that countries, especially large and complex ones like India and the US, are infinitely varied in their character but it’s what makes them fascinating and always a delight to explore. He says, “But if they embrace the variety, take strength from it, it’s what also makes them vibrant, successful, influential societies.” It’s why President Obama spoke of ‘this vibrant and promising India’ on August 15, 2009.
D’Souza’s last sentence is, “If people talk about an American century and now the possibility of an Indian one, it’s not because either country is staid and homogeneous. Instead, it’s because both are exuberant and diverse, so what if that naturally includes the odious as well as the exalted. But to survive and flourish, they must embrace the variety in every sense – ideas to people to cultures.”
(HarperCollins Publishers India, A-53, Sector 57, Noida-201 301.)