“This takes, wisely, a humble approach: instead of trying to encapsulate the entirety of India’s changes, it follows a few lives along the idiosyncratic ways they develop. For people who savored Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”—Evan Osnos, newyorker.com
"[A] lucid, balanced new book . . . Kapur is determinedly fair-minded, neither an apologist nor a scold, and he is a wonderfully empathetic listener.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Kapur’s strength is in letting his characters display the ambiguity that many feel about the ongoing change. … Kapur offers a corrective to a simplistic “new, happy narrative” of a rising India.”—The Economist “There are many virtues of Akash Kapur’s beautifully sketched portrait of modern India….The book inhabits parts of India we do not explore often enough, the India of the south and of the transforming countryside. Mostly, it takes us into the minds and hearts of Indians seeking to adapt to a society changing at disconcerting speed…. The book reads like a novel…Kapur’s skill is to get people talking and to weave their stories into a necessarily messy debate about India’s future.”—The Financial Times
"Impressively lucid and searching . . . In his clarity, sympathy and impeccably sculpted prose, Kapur often summons the spirit of V.S. Naipaul." —Pico Iyer, Time
“Kapur himself, with one leg in the East and one in the West, is an excellent ambassador to explain the dynamic of change in India, what the nation is becoming. Any reader who would like to understand the country better would do well to give him a read.”—Daily Beast
"Kapur has a fluency that outsiders—even those of us with a genetic tie—lack”—The New Republic
"This is a remarkably absorbing account of an India in transition - full of challenges and contradictions, but also of expectations, hope, and ultimately optimism."-Amartya Sen
"A wonderful writer: a courageously clear-eyed observer, an astute listener, a masterful portraitist, and a gripping storyteller. Kapur's voice is as sure and as intimate as his subject is chaotic and immense, and he proves himself the perfect guide to the enthralling promise and the terrifying menace of a society in the throes of colossal, epochal, all-encompassing change."-Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Your Families
"Marvelous . . . Kapur shows how the old rural cycle of the south Indian village depicted and romanticized by R. K. Narayan is fracturing and breaking apart to reveal a very new, more unstable world where the old certainties are disappearing and everything is up for grabs. Sharp-eyed, insightful, skillfully sketched and beautifully written, India Becoming is the remarkable debut of a distinctive new talent."-William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
"Akash Kapur lives in and writes out of an India that few writers venture into. Curious, suspicious of received wisdom, and intellectually resourceful, [Kapur is] one of the most reliable observers of the New India."-Pankaj Mishra, author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
"Through a series of deft character sketches, Akash Kapur captures the contradictions of life in modern India-between city and country, technology and aesthetics, development and the environment, greed and selflessness, individual fulfillment and community obligation. His writing is fresh and vivid; his perspective empathetic and appealingly non-judgmental."-Ramachandra Guha, author of India after Gandhi
"Beautifully written . . . Akash Kapur celebrates the gains and mourns the losses, conveying a complex story through the ups and downs of the lives of some fascinating individual women and men."-Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers
"India today is in the midst of profound change and Akash Kapur captures the impact of that change on the lives of ordinary Indians with a narrative that avoids all clichés, platitudes, and simplifications."-Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound
“A fascinating look at the transformation of India, with broader lessons on the upside and downside of progress.”—Booklist (starred)
“[A] Lively, anecdotal look at the people who have been vastly changed by the entrepreneurial explosion in India. . . . An honest, conflicted glimpse of a country.”—Kirkus
…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 fromand being battered bythe change going on all around them.
The New York Times Book Review
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.
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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."