Ayya’s Accounts
A Ledger of Hope in Modern India
Anand Pandian and M. P. Mariappan
Afterword by Veena Das
“Anand Pandian’s spellbinding memoir of his grandfather is at once a labor of love and a reckoning with life. . . . This is ethnographic writing at its finest.” —Michael D. Jackson, author of The Wherewithal of Life: Ethics, Migration, and the Question of Wellbeing
“One senses here something quite rare: the clearly delineated emergence of a person’s life, thoughts, and relations through the course of a lifetime.” —Robert Desjarlais, author of Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths among Nepal’s Yolmo Buddhists
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.