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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India

Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India - Miranda Kennedy This is a fascinating, insightful book—as gripping as a good novel—because it gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the hearts and minds of several Indian women navigating their lives in a country that’s still bound by caste and tradition but modernizing at a dizzying pace. There’s lively, charismatic Geeta, a “modern girl”, who is nevertheless torn between hoping for a marriage arranged by her parents and finding herself a love match. Parvati, another highly opinionated friend of author Miranda Kennedy, chain smokes in spite of its stigma and has more contemporary notions about caste, love and marriage, but because of her unique situation these ideas are influenced by living in a reality that is very different from that of most Americans. Besides these friends, Kennedy had two household servants whose lives she becomes deeply involved in, one a proud but poverty stricken Brahmin from India’s highest caste and the other a Dalit or “untouchable” from what has traditionally been the lowest rank in Indian society. We also meet the friendly Muslim and Hindu women at the fitness center Kennedy frequents who are generally more interested in having a chance to relax and socialize than they are in exercising. Miranda Kennedy met these women and became part of their lives while she lived in Delhi for more than five years. She had dreamed about India, and wanted to go there herself, for most of her life. In her family that journey had become something of a tradition since first her great-aunt Edith traveled there as a missionary and later her hippie parents wandered around the subcontinent. When the September 11 attacks happened Kennedy was a radio reporter in Manhattan and she spent weeks sleeping, eating and working at the studio, which was just a few blocks from the World Trade Center, afraid that if she left the NYC police would not allow her back in. Afterwards, burnt out on hourly news reporting, and wanting to follow the story in a more in-depth way from Afghanistan she managed to get a small grant to train radio reporters in South Asia. It wasn’t much money, just enough to get her started and after that she had no guarantee of work. Everyone advised her to wait, and work her way up to be a foreign correspondent within the system, but like her peripatetic family before her Kennedy felt the need to shake her life up and go somewhere she hoped she could become her fullest, most interesting self. With Delhi as her home base Kennedy reported on some of the biggest South Asian stories of the time, including the war in Afghanistan, unrest in Pakistan and the 2004 tsunami, but it isn’t her adventures as “super reporter girl” that make up the bulk of this volume. It’s Kennedy’s account of her struggle to find the right balance between work and love, and the way that quest was deeply and surprisingly influenced by the Indian people, especially the women, that she became close to, that is the larger and far more fascinating part of the book. This is the second book written by a female NPR reporter who spent time living in South Asia that I’ve read in the last few months, and I also highly recommend Lisa Napoli’s book on Nepal, Radio Shangri-La.