Ayya's Accounts

Ayya's Accounts : A Ledger of Hope in Modern India

3.92 (25 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , By (author)  , Edited by 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 3 business days
When will my order arrive?


Ayya's Accounts explores the life of an ordinary man-orphan, refugee, shopkeeper, and grandfather-during a century of tremendous hope and upheaval. Born in colonial India into a despised caste of former tree climbers, Ayya lost his mother as a child and came of age in a small town in lowland Burma. Forced to flee at the outbreak of World War II, he made a treacherous 1,700-mile journey by foot, boat, bullock cart, and rail back to southern India. Becoming a successful fruit merchant, Ayya educated and eventually settled many of his descendants in the United States. Luck, nerve, subterfuge, and sorrow all have their place along the precarious route of his advancement. Emerging out of tales told to his American grandson, Ayya's Accounts embodies a simple faith-that the story of a place as large and complex as modern India can be told through the life of a single individual.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 232 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 25.4mm | 249.47g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 17 b&w illus., 1 map
  • 0253012503
  • 9780253012500
  • 932,300

Review quote

Ayya's Accounts makes for pretty gripping reading, even for people who have never read this kind of first-person anthropology before. * The Aerogram * Written elegantly, translated eloquently, Ayya's Accounts is an absorbing read. Pandian's conviction that the history of modern India might be read through an individual is proven through this book: following Ayya, his times and his extended family we learn of many vital issues in South Asian history, culture and diaspora. This promises to also be a good book for classroom adoption, appealing to the imaginations of students at all levels and grounding larger abstractions in vividly lived, emotionally resonant particulars. -- Kirin Narayan * Postcolonial Studies * Ayya's Accounts is at once a mesmerising memoir of an ordinary man's life and an anthropologist's revealing examination of the astounding changes experienced by persons and families over a century of tremendous hope and upheaval in modern India. . . . Ayya tells his tale to his first-born grandson, an anthropology professor in the USA, Anand Pandian. Pandian beautifully re-crafts the tale, while interlacing it with pithy interludes of anthropological insight. The result is an inventive text impossible to put down. -- Sarah Lamb * South Asia * Ayya's youth in an impoverished family in rural Tamil Nadu in the 1920s becomes not just the story of an individual in Pandian's hands, but rather a window onto an entire historical tapestry. * Los Angeles Review of Books * Spanning India, Burma (Myanmar), and America, this is an absorbing exploration of one man's life. * Library Journal * Ayya's Accounts is a gem of a book: fluid, accessible, moving, instructive, compact. It is a book with the word 'hope' in its title and this means a lot. Ayya's Accounts shows readers a globalized world that is not dehumanized. If I were teaching 'Introduction to Anthropology,' I would assign this book right at the beginning. -- Ann Grodzins Gold * Journal of Anthropological Research * Pandian is to be lauded for bringing to light the significance of a life in ways [that]... reveal what it is like to be human, an anthropological project of much value in our fast-changing and turbulent world * American Ethnologist * The book is an unusually evocative cross-generational memoir, a wonderful read. Pandian's own elegant and sparse prose shows how a focus on one life can illuminate India's development and interaction with a rapidly modernizing world. -- Karen Leonard * H-Asia H-Net * I suspect they'll never make a movie about M.P. Mariappan, but no one deemed a superhero by the movies has had a more interesting life with such extraordinary sweep. He was born in 1919 in British Colonial India . . . He drank milk from mud pots. He fled for his life during World War II, walking a treacherous 1,700 mile route from Burma to southern India. He sold fruit. He suffered the death of a daughter. He survived both an old world illness, the plague, and a new world one, prostate cancer. And now many of his grandchildren have grown up to be teachers, engineers and other professionals living in the U.S. as well as India. -- Scott Simon * NPR Weekend Edition * The . . . work, accessible rather than academic, is only deceptively simple-because, in sketching an ordinary man's passage over a lifetime, from tradition to modernity, it also charts a country's century-long journey. This is where the anthropologist's skill comes in handy. Pandian, who spent a lot of time in India, has been able to absorb Ayya's experiences and make them seem universal. * Khabar * Overall, this is a beautifully written, deeply engaging book. Theory - such as it is present at all - is worn lightly, insights emerging gently through an engagement with Ayya's stories, rather than imposed to make sense of the whole. -- James Staples * Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute * Pandian and Mariappan underscore how provincial India, which once represented the past, can also ultimately become the telos of the future. * American Book Review * I found the story of M. P. Mariappan's life completely engrossing, and found it reflected a bit of my own family's history from a completely different part of the globe. -- Sheilah Kast * WYPR * Pandian's Ayya makes it possible to believe that the common can be uncommon. In the hands of this gifted writer, the eyes of this careful observer, and the ears of this persistent listener, an uncommon ordinariness itself becomes extraordinary. Indeed, Anand Pandian's loving dialogue with his Ayya is inspiration to all of us to listen, observe, and take note of our family histories. The little stories of our parents and grandparents are very much a part of the grand narrative of tradition and modernity. * India Currents *show more

About Anand Pandian

Anand Pandian is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. He is author of Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India, co-editor of Ethical Life in South Asia (IUP, 2011) and Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference, and a contributor to Everyday Life in South Asia (IUP, 2010).M. P. Mariappan (1919-2014) was a retired fruit merchant living in the south Indian city of Madurai at the time he co-authored Ayya's Accounts.Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. Her many books include Critical Events: An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary India and Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary.show more

Table of contents

Preface1. A Century of Experience2. In Some Village, Somewhere3. Taj Malabar Hotel, 20054. Things I Didn't Know I'd Lost5. Pudur, 20126. A Decade in Burma7. Okpo, 19408. When the War Came9. Kovilpatti, 194610. A New Life at Home11. Victoria Studio, 194912. Dealing Cloth in a Time of War13. Dindigul, 195114. A Foothold in Madurai15. Gopal Studio, 195316. A Shop of My Own17. Madurai Fruit Merchants Association, 196018. Branches in Many Directions19. Norwalk, 197420. Between Madurai and America21. Madurai, 199222. What Comes Will Come23. Oakland, 199724. Burma, Once Again25. Okpo, 200226. Giving and Taking27. Listening to My GrandfatherAfterword \ Veena DasAcknowledgmentsNotesBibliographyshow more

Rating details

25 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 28% (7)
4 44% (11)
3 24% (6)
2 0% (0)
1 4% (1)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X