Return to India

The Hindu review

The Hindu review of Return to India here

The human mind when faced with criticism reacts in a formulaic way– which as a lifelong student of psychology– interests me.  There is denial, rejection, scorn, and rationalization.  I went through all this as I read this harsh review.  The first bit is true.  Lots of people have said that the immigrant phenomenon is old and overdone.  Agreed.  But this is a book that I had to write and so I did.

It is the second bit that I found mean-spirited, particularly when Ms. Roy calls me “daft” and my husband balanced.  This then is the tough bit about being a memoirist.  Memoirs are tough because your family, friends, spouse and children will read them.  And some of them populate your tale.  How do you write about people you love in a way that makes a book read-able? You can make everything hunky-dory, like Nancy Reagan did and make everyone perfect.  But then…. There is nothing worse that a syrupy memoir that sugar-coats everything.  What if you can’t– you don’t want to– be too harsh in describing the parents, friends, and family who populate a memoir?  The only solution is to make yourself ‘daft.’

The real critique of the book, and one that Ms. Roy hasn’t written is this: why haven’t I made myself more daft? As an aspiring humor writer, I agree with the analysis that my book is “unflinchingly honest.”  Many people have said this.  What I wish I could do is to  take all the personal neuroses that I let hang out, and somehow exaggerate, aggrandize them like Mary Karr did; or David Sedaris does.  But I don’t have the skills for that.  Not yet.  If I could have; I would have.  So instead, here I go, providing fodder for more critiques.


  1. I pre-ordered the book and read it. The portrayal is very much naturalistic and also instigates thirst of a prospective student to read, atleast in the initial pages. I completely enjoyed every moment of reading the memoir and would recommend the books to others. But you havn’t discussed much about immigrant student’s dilemma(grad school days). Yet, the book is engaging throughout the reading phase!! Thank you very much @shoba and continue writing similar stuffs.


  2. Your book being discussed on Twitter

    by @subbudu:

    @ramyakannan oh, appidiya sethi. Reading this as a standalone review tells me more about the reviewer than the author. @madraskaari


  3. hey Shoba – very strange review in hindu. i think, even discussing it (either here or in our mind) is giving it more “bhaav” than it deserves… it deserves to be totally, totally ignored!
    One can easily counter many of the ällegations” Ms Roy makes – but it isnt worth any one’s time!


  4. Shoba, your book is such a jewel. I laugh, I was moved, you’re insanely gifted. As we say in french “critic is easy, art is uneasy”. You’re an artist. Don’t let others frustration steal your joy. Hope to see you soon. Elisabeth.


  5. Ms. Roy’s brown sahib review of your book, was a typically frustrated “unfamous-mediahound-who-can’t-leave -cal ” type of review fully replete with the Nirad C Chaudhri lens about Indians. Very petty minded review of the book indeed. Ignore it and..Just Do It… as the running shoe adverts tell us.


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