What does Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta stress regarding modern India?
India gravitates to either end of a pendulum swing – a sentimental adoration or pitiable sympathy. The writings are almost always at the extremes - praising the hoary past, culture, traditions and garnered wisdom or condemning the modern day destitution, inequities, wasted opportunities – accompanied with chidings normally heaped on a defiant upstart having a mind of her own. Looks like India does not allow for middle grounds. Every nation goes through waves of aspirational highs facilitated by a fortuitous culmination of favourable events and the bursting forth of exceptional individuals on the scene. ("Snakes and Ladders – Gita Mehta – A Review" by Vish Mangalapalli, June 16, 2009)
One of the most prominent praises for this book (and its author) has been that it captures cultural, political, and historical details of modern India with wit, sincerity, and honesty. It is true that this collection of essays ranges the gamut of topics and ideas, and seems to present a bit of a "pendulum" (as you say) of extremes, politically, economically, and socially. I think what the author really intends to stress about her country through this book, is that despite her homeland's image in the eyes of a world that likely knows very little about the reality of living or growing up in India, she loves her country. She accepts its faults and celebrates its successes. She wants her readers to know that India is fighting (in many different ways) to create and maintain an acceptable modern and global identity, and she has hope that it will accomplish this.
Furthermore, I think the author wishes to portray herself through her culture, from a perspective that is both honest and candid, but also proud. Her easy going tone throughout the essays suggests that this collection is not necessarily meant to be a revolutionary guide, a complaint, nor a call to action. It is a presentation of beauty, of reality, of complexity and simplicity, and it is meant to be read as a very personal account. As a result, I came away from reading it with more of a connection to the author than to the country of India.