Dia Mittal is an airline call center agent in Mumbai searching for a better life. As her search takes her to the U.S., and eventually to Greater Los Angeles, Dia's checkered relationship with the American Dream dialogues with the experiences and perspectives of a global South Asian community across the class spectrum--call center agents, travel agents, immigrant maids, fashion designers, blue- and white-collar workers in the hospitality industry, junior and senior artists in Bollywood, hustling single mothers, academics, tourists in the Third World, Afro-Asian refugees displaced by military superpowers, Marwari merchants in the Thar Desert and trade caravans of the Silk Road, among others.
... eschews mainstream literary convention to stand proudly as a work that makes its own rules ... an anthem to the irrepressible power of female creation, which cannot be kept within the artificial borders men have erected to perpetuate the delusion that women are their inferiors.
Poddar's organization of the book into two parts: 'Roots,' and 'Routes,' is a clever play on words that makes for a clear structure ... one senses that Poddar's observations of immigrant life are the plot ... Poddar is particularly skilled at showcasing the illusory nature of the American dream ... She has created an engaging debut by bringing us into the lives of those who leave and those who stay. If she is tilling familiar ground, she is also giving us a new set of characters. That the individual stories in Border Less can stand on their own is testament to her literary dexterity.
... a strenuous effort, at times urgent and revealing but ultimately showing the limits of Poddar’s ambition to give everyone a voice ... At its core, “Border Less” is a glimpse into contemporary, cosmopolitan India and its diaspora, which, true to the title, feel boundless ... Billed as a novel, Border Less reads more like a linked short-story collection, each chapter a window into a different character’s life and social position ... It is along some of the more minor tangents that Poddar stumbles; stories glimpsing the lives of servants, patriarchs and a fourth-generation Indo-African woman who feels isolated from her second-generation Indian American husband add little to the plot and disappear without a trace. They can also feel heavy-handed, as in the coming-out story of a lesbian Gujarati daughter, which reads like an obligatory inclusion of questionable relevance ... The feeling of checking boxes runs deeper than that. The term 'American' remains frustratingly vague throughout Border Less — echoing Lahiri’s oeuvre, in which American implies white ... the trope of a scandalous Hindu-Muslim love affair feels tired at best ... In such instances the novel-as-collage, by pointing to itself, fails to justify the experiment. But in a larger sense (and when better employed), Poddar’s scattered storytelling is arguably a matter of form meeting function, a necessary tool to uncover the fragmented realism of modern-day Mumbai and the mishmash cities ... Poddar’s debut sheds light on the inextricable networks that make up cosmopolitan India, its California spinoffs and the cyclical, multigenerational journey from there to here and back again.