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 portrait of incredible change and economic development, of social and national transformation told through individual lives

The son of an Indian father and an American mother, Akash Kapur spent his formative years in India and his early adulthood in the United States. In 2003, he returned to his birth country for good, eager ...

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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 portrait of incredible change and economic development, of social and national transformation told through individual lives

The son of an Indian father and an American mother, Akash Kapur spent his formative years in India and his early adulthood in the United States. In 2003, he returned to his birth country for good, eager to be part of its exciting growth and modernization. What he found was a nation even more transformed than he had imagined, where the changes were fundamentally altering Indian society, for better and sometimes for worse.

To further understand these changes, he sought out the Indians experiencing them firsthand. The result is a rich tapestry of lives being altered by economic development, and a fascinating insider's look at many of the most important forces shaping our world today. Much has been written about the rise of Asia and a rebalancing of the global economy, but rarely does one encounter these big stories with the level of nuance and detail that Kapur gives us in India Becoming.

Among the characters we meet are a broker of cows who must adapt his trade to a modernizing economy; a female call center employee whose relatives worry about her values in the city; a feudal landowner who must accept that he will not pass his way of life down to his children; and a career woman who wishes she could "outsource" having a baby.

Through these stories and many others, Kapur provides a fuller understanding of the complexity and often contradictory nature of modern India. India Becoming is particularly noteworthy for its emphasis on rural India-a region often neglected in writing about the country, though 70 percent of the population still lives there. In scenes reminiscent of R. K. Narayan's classic works on the Indian countryside, Kapur builds intimate portraits of farmers, fishermen, and entire villages whose ancient ways of life are crumbling, giving way to an uncertain future that is at once frightening and full of promise. Kapur himself grew up in rural India; his descriptions of change and modernization are infused with a profound-at times deeply poignant- firsthand understanding of the loss that must accompany all development and progress.

India Becoming is essential reading for anyone interested in our changing world and the newly emerging global order. It is a riveting narrative that puts the personal into a broad, relevant and revelational context.

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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: 271,258
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Akash Kapur is the former "Letter from India" columnist for the International Herald Tribune and the online edition of The New York Times. He has also written for The Atlantic, The Economist, Granta, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He holds a B.A. in social anthropology from Harvard, and a doctorate in law from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes scholar. 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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Customer Reviews

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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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