Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review- India Was One by An Indian

Goodreads Summary:

…Suddenly, he saw something shiny at the bottom of the abyss. He squinted his eyes to see what it was. He ran back to his binoculars and turned them to see what it was. Sharp barbed wires that separated the two mountains came into focus. He had come as far as he could in his country. But she was standing in another country.

He was in South India and she was in North India…

Have you ever imagined India being divided into two countries? What happens to the millions of Indians who are from South India but are now residing in North India? Kaahi & Jai were two such people who got trapped in this situation. Everything was going smoothly for them and suddenly, their world turned upside down.

How will they get together? Will India become one again?

Take an exciting journey with them from their college days in Mumbai to their life in the US and back to India when they find out that India is divided.


I was intrigued by the title "India Was One" the moment I saw the book online. Being a student of Political Science, I knew this was one book I had to read. Before reading the summary, I had assumed that the book would be about Indian history before partition. But India Was One was not even close to what I thought it would be. I was trying my best to lay my hands on this book when the author very kindly gave me a copy of it in exchange for an honest review. 
There were some aspects of the book that I really liked while there were some that didn't sit quite well with me. Honestly, I don't really know how to review India Was One without giving away too much and without taking prejudices into consideration. 
India Was One is the story of Vijay (Jai) and Kahani (Kahi), college sweethearts who, after getting married, move to the US and all hell brakes loose when, just as they are settling in and getting used to thier new lives, CNN flashes news that the country of India has been divided into two parts, North India and South India. 
One of the best aspects of the book for me was that I could connect to it emotionally. The college scenes with Jai, Kahi and their friends, Bunty, Subra and Punk were exactly like any normal college scenes. The family scenes, anxiety in times of cricket matches, sipping chai (tea) endlessly, food, parties, dance, drama are also easy to relate to. Being an Indian myself, I could easily understand why someone did something in some way. The author has nailed the art of explaining a simply complicated Indian scenario with simplicity and extravagance simultaneously. All Indian concepts and histories that non-Indians might not be aware of have been clearly elucidated. These concepts and histories are clear in my head, but reading about them was an altogether different learning experience. 
When Jai and Kahi move to the US, they walk into a new world. They learn to live life in a new way. Not just me, but so many Indians have relatives in the US and we've all heard stories about their experience when they first went there. Another facet that I could relate to. We have all teased NRIs (Non- Residential Indians) by calling them Non- Required Indians. We have all, in a teasing manner of course, made fun of them saying that they leave India and don't care about the country at all after that. We have all heard them complain about India when they occasionally revisit and we've all curiously listened to their US-India comparisons. 
We have all been there and done that and India Was One is just a reflection of that. 
Jai and Kahi's return to India was what made the book emotionally powerful. Just the fact that they come all the way back to India only to see if their parents are okay is what makes an Indian, an Indian. 
This part is where you get to see how India, the largest democracy in the world, is in a chaotic state and nothing can be done. I would have loved to read an elaboration of the division of India. How it all happened, why did it happen... Instead, it was just said that India was divided due to national unrest. Radio stations and TV channels are turned off. The Indian economy is in shackles and even cricket (which is more of a religion than a sport in India) is out of the picture. It would have been enlightening to read about the what's, how's and why's of it.
The ending was extremely heart wrenching. The 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai were referred to and everyone has their personal opinion on it. I do too, but I do not how to share them without having to pick over either sides of the story. Even though the attacks happened in Mumbai and it was important to give significance to Mumbai residents or Mumbaikars, I thought the stress on Mumbaikars was heavy, keeping aside the others. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and I loved how the author stresses on unity among Indians during times of trouble and how, in the end of the day, no matter which of the 28 states of India we come from, we are all the same- Indians. 
The book took me back to Chetan Bhagat's The 3 Mistakes Of My Life and 2 States, two books that I absolutely adore and I really liked how India Was One reminded me of them. A resplendent read, India Was One made me smile at times, laugh at times, and feel tearful sometimes. It is a book that respects India, is proud of India, but above all, it is a book that will remain close to the heart of Indians and will be a knowledgeable and beautiful experience for others as well. 


X 3.5

Those of you who'd like to further check out the book, you can visit the India Was One Official Website



  1. Wow, yeah, I didn't expect that after reading the blurb. It does sound interesting though.

    Great review.

    1. I know, right! But I guess there's beauty in that too, when a book isn't what you thought it would be. Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! :)

  2. Like a lot o people in the US I don't know that much about internal Indian politics. This sounds like a book that would be good for me to read just for that information. It also sound like a very good story.

    1. You can definitely read India Was One just to get a general idea about life in India and I'm glad to know you're interested in getting more info. Thanks for stopping by, Jo! :)

  3. Replies
    1. You are most welcome. Anytime! Thank you so much for stopping by, it means a lot. :)


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