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How the Commonwealth Games pushed me to learn about India

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As a first-generation American whose parents had immigrated to the US decades ago, I had never paid much attention to India. My Urdu was atrocious, Bollywood was alien to me, and apart from Manmohan Singh, I couldn’t name a single Indian politician.

But the dust started to change that. It wafted into my suitcase and followed me home to the States, reminding me that I couldn’t ignore India anymore. So I dove into books, trying to understand the country I had disregarded my entire life, the land from which my father had come 43 years ago, which has so transformed that my parents no longer recognize it.

Some books were recommended; some were time-honored classics, some I simply stumbled across in the library, and many, many are missing, yet to be discovered and read. All helped me understand a little slice of this booming nation.

Here are a few of them:

"A Suitable Boy," by Vikram Seth. A brick of a book, weighing in at 1,474 pages, this novel reads like one long, sweet lyrical love note to India. It is, at its core, a love story, the tale of a young girl’s attempts to find love – and her mother’s attempts to secure a "suitable boy." It unfolds against the backdrop of a newly independent India preparing for General Elections, struggling to establish itself in the world, and eager to chart its own future. (A sweet surprise – the table of contents is written as a poem.)

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