Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information

Part 1
Basic Cultural Introductions for Foreigners (and NRIs)

Those about to visit India for the first time or who are thinking of relocating there for work purposes with an Indian or foreign company naturally turn to the Internet to get basic information. Everything is there, scattered over many websites, but as a preliminary orientation, I would recommend one webpage, assembled by an Indian-based provider of content writing and design services, On this page (URL below), “” offers 39 introductory articles for both foreigners and returning NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and POIs (i.e. other persons of Indian origin).

To further facilitate research, I have regrouped the articles below. To consult them, go to the relevant page of the Chillibreeze site and, checking them against a copy of this revised list, select the titles you wish to read. (I have separately listed the articles for NRIs and POIs which are in the Chillibreeze list on this web page and which also contain useful information about contemporary India, especially about changes in living conditions due to the prolonged economic boom of recent years.)

For Expatriates (Expats):
Group 1: Parts of the “India Survival Kit” Series posted in May 2008
The India Survival Kit – an Introduction. (This gives a full list of the 5 sections and articles offered.)

The articles:
Communication in India: It is different!
Ten Tips to Survive Indian Culture
How Indian Society functions: A few cultural tips
Indians Cannot Say ‘No’!
Indian Family Values: What you must know before you visit India
Indian English Quiz: How well do you know India?
What is Indian English? A Whole New Language!
Exotic India: Landscape, Celebrations, Temples, and Art Forms
Cultural tips for visitors to India: Food and Restaurant Etiquette in India
The Diary of an American visiting India – Part 1 / Part 2
The Role of Culture in Business Relationships with Indians – A Case Study

Group 2: Other articles mainly for Expatriates

Expatriates and NRIs in India – Experiences and Perceptions – May 2010 –
NRI tips to Expats Living in India – May 2005 –
Repositioning Delhi: A guide for expats and Indians – Aug 2008 –
Ten Tips from an Expat – May 2007 –
A look at the experiences of American in India – January 2006 –
An American’s Perspective of Life in India – May 2005 –
The Road Less Travelled:The Challenges – May 2005 –
Independence Day – Sept 2008 –
Meet Bob: An American Expat Living in Bangalore – May 2005 –
Must Have Book List for Bangalore Expats – Oct 2004 –
Expat Mom Gives Description of Life in Bangalore – Sept 2004 –
Long-Distance relationships – Jan 2009 –
Will your baby be born in India? – Oct 2007 –
Other Articles – mainly for NRIs and POIs
The Resident Non-resident – May 2010
Musings of an RNRI – Sept 2006
Returning to India: But which one? – Oct 2008
Moving to India? Five Things No One Will Ever Tell You – Jan 2010
India’s Work Culture- Some Tips for Returning Indians and Foreigners – May 2008
Notes from an Itinerant PIO on Freedom – May 2005
Why NRI’s Want Their Children to Grow up in India – May 2005
Top Ten Techie Favorite Areas in Bangalore – Oct 2008
A guide to relocating to Nagpur – Oct 2008
Is real estate in Bangalore booming? Let’s look at some trends – May 2008
Choosing the right school board for your child – Nov 2008
Tips for NRI parents living in India – August 2006
Surviving Summers in the Gulf – July 2010
Shopping at an Indian store in the US – Oct 2008.

Part 2

Basic Books by English-Speaking Visitors to India

The following is a brief reading list for those interested in benefitting from the (relatively) recent research and travels of English-speaking visitors to or residents of India.

Luce, Edward, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Abacus paperback edition, 2007. Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)

Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005 during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Singh, William Dalrymple and ex-President Kalam, among others. A real mine of insight and information, with analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.

Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Kremmer, Christopher, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.

An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.

An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Tully, Sir Mark
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. A later blog will deal with his lifelong work in more detail. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Aitken, Bill
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”

For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I include three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre. More comment and analysis will follow in a later blog.

Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.
The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.

An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians, based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

Dalrymple, William
Dalrymple has gained considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller in the English-speaking world (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.

These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Fishlock, Trevor, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.

Another of the distinguished list of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.
NOTE: Further blogs on printed and online information about contemporary India are planned.

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