India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India

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Overview

A New Republic Editors' and Writers' Pick 2012
A New Yorker Contributors' Pick 2012
A Newsweek "Must Read on Modern India"

“For people who savored Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”—Evan Osnos, newyorker.com

A portrait of the incredible change and economic development of modern India, and of social and national ...

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India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India

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Overview

A New Republic Editors' and Writers' Pick 2012
A New Yorker Contributors' Pick 2012
A Newsweek "Must Read on Modern India"

“For people who savored Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”—Evan Osnos, newyorker.com

A portrait of the incredible change and economic development of modern India, and of social and national transformation there told through individual lives

Raised in India, and educated in the U.S., Akash Kapur returned to India in 2003 to raise a family. What he found was an ancient country in transition. In search of the life that he and his wife want to lead, he meets an array of Indians who teach him much about the realities of this changed country: an old landowner sees his rural village destroyed by real estate developments, and crime and corruption breaking down the feudal authority; a 21-year-old single woman and a 35-year-old divorcee exploring the new cultural allowances for women; and a young gay man coming to terms with his sexual identity – something never allowed him a generation ago.
As Akash and his wife struggle to find the right balance between growth and modernity and the simplicity and purity they had known from the Indian countryside a decade ago, they ultimately find a country that “has begun to dream.” But also one that may be moving away too quickly from the valuable ways in which it is different.

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Editorial Reviews

Geoffrey C. Ward
…lucid, balanced…Kapur is determinedly fair-minded, neither an apologist nor a scold, and he is a wonderfully empathetic listener, willing patiently to visit and revisit a large cast of men and women over several years to learn how they are benefiting from—and being battered by—the change going on all around them.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Kapur sets out to tell two parallel stories in this book: "One is a story of progress," he writes, the other, "of the destruction and disruptions caused by the same process of development." Kapur's own feelings about his native country tend to get overwhelmed by bland nostalgia, but fortunately, to make his point, Kapur focuses on recounting the stories of a wide range of characters he encountered during his research. As his influence and status wanes, Sathy, a rural landowner, wants simply to hold on to comforting rhythms of the old India (much to the annoyance of his progressive wife, who runs her own consulting business in Bangalore). Hari, a high-flying young IT worker, flourishes in the city but struggles with his homosexuality; Selvi, a small-town girl who moved to the city to take a call center job finds her views of Americans changing as she interacts with brusque customers; and Veena, an ambitious divorcee, must balance her aspirations for a career and independence with her desire for a family. Their stories are what give the book its texture and insight, and make it a valuable investigation of the effects of India's fast-paced change on the land and its people.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Lively, anecdotal look at the people who have been vastly changed by the entrepreneurial explosion in India. In 2003, Kapur, a half-American, half-Indian journalist, moved back to India, where he had been raised, after more than a decade in America. The country he left as a teenager was still stifled by "fatalism and bureaucracy," where people were heavily burdened by the rigid social order and tradition. India had enthusiastically embraced globalization, the modern trappings in evidence by ATMs, software parks, cell phones and tractors having replaced bullock carts. On one hand, Kapur saw new Indians who dared to imagine for themselves a different kind of future; on the other, he found that development had taken a terrible toll on the environment, law and order and wealth distribution. The author returned to his home state, yet he traveled widely to meet people and witnessed a "great transformation unfold, unfurl like a heavy, crushing carpet over fragile societies and cultures"--e.g., in the crumbling of the old feudal order, as explained by his new friend Sathy, from a once-powerful noble family accustomed to deference from its inhabitants, especially Dalits. Now Sathy only encountered disrespect and resentment, as new money eroded loyalties and even obedience to law. Kapur talked to many people: a young homosexual, resistant to his parents' traditional matchmaking but riven by ambivalence; a sex therapist overwhelmed by demands of patients exploring their sexuality for the first time; the acquisitive new urban entrepreneurs both male and female who dated and traveled freely; cow brokers at the shandies in Brahmadesan; scavengers of the landfill outside Pondicherry, which was poisoning the atmosphere. The author finds a nation gripped by an illusory sense of itself and in the throes of wrenching change. An honest, conflicted glimpse of a country "still sorting through the contradictions of a rapid, and inevitably messy, transformation."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594486531
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 354,642
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Akash Kapur is the former writer of the “Letter from India” column for the International Herald Tribune, which has been picked up in the Week in Review section of The New York Times on occasion. He has also written for The AtlanticThe EconomistThe New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. He holds a BA in Social Anthropology from Harvard University, and a doctorate in Law from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He consults on development and media law for a number of organizations, including the United Nations. He lives outside Pondicherry in Southern India.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part I

Golden Times 15

Demographic Dividends 43

The Shandy 77

Garden City 111

A Drowning 143

Part II

Blindness 169

Goondagiri 195

Dioxins 220

Hard Times 243

Reality 269

Acknowledgments 288

Glossary 291

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    i will meet the author tonight at a lecture on the subject of hi

    i will meet the author tonight at a lecture on the subject of his new book. from the little i've read so far of the book and the video clip here on B&N, i can say my first impression is one of deep empathy. as an indian-american myself, my main attitude towards india is ambivalence towards the dichotomy mr. kapur talks about. the author seems to "get it" and mirror my own unsure sentiment. but i shall reserve (full) judgement) til when i've completed the book and met the author.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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