Anyone who imagines that India today is simply a land of IT companies and call centers should read this book. Somini Sengupta sees the new India in all its complexityits gated towers and remote villages; its kidnapped maids and chief ministers; those who want to remake it into a Hindu nation and those who care only about getting ahead. India is home to nearly a fifth of the world’s peoplefew places will be more important to the shape of the twenty-first century.
The End of Karma, with its vivid storytelling and intimate portraits of India’s younger generation, is a riveting vision of the future.
The End of Karma is the essential beginning for any reader who wants to understand the future of the world’s biggest democracy. With meticulously researched, grippingly told stories about youth in today’s India, Sengupta’s quest to understand her daughter’s birthplace seized me like no other book coming from the country today.
Thoughtful and timely...Sengupta balances strong impartial analysis with emotional investment.
Portentous...Returning to a transformed nationits economies in bloom, its cities abuzz[Sengupta] sensed a fresh impatience of aspiration....Vibrant.
New York Times Book Review
[Sengupta] marvels at the resulting ambition and ingenuity, while also observing the power of residual caste and gender prejudices.
Gorgeously written. . . . Sengupta lays out the enormous challenges India faces. But she remains optimistic that the young generation will continue to push the country toward more meaningful progress.
In the book's most vibrant sections, Sengupta profiles seven young Indians, shadowing some of them over years. All grew up in poor or lower-middle-class homesthe socioeconomic brackets that hold a majority of India's populaceand their lives illustrate the ways in which the state is failing its youth.
The New York Times Book Review - Samanth Subramanian
If Salman Rushdie famously immortalized India’s 'midnight’s children,' those born on the cusp of the country’s independence, Sengupta shines light on the 'noonday' children, citizens who came of age after the country’s economic reforms kicked into place in the early 1990s…A rich and nuanced study that delivers more than predictable sound bites about the world’s largest democracy.
Booklist (starred review)
[A] sharply observed study...richly detailed portraits....What separates the book from the musings of so many other foreign correspondents is the lens through which Sengupta sees the country: that of a mother.
In fluent, conversational style, Somini Sengupta asks that burning question of contemporary India'What happens to a dream deferred?'by looking at the trajectories of seven lives. The resulting book is compelling, moving, necessary and, above all, truthful.
In this story of India's younger generation, New York Times writer Sengupta does a wonderful job of detailing the distinct lives of seven young individuals (one could argue that the author is the eighth, as she folds her experiences into the work) struggling to fulfill their educational and economic dreams. These aspirations, which are deemed a right among the country's youth, come into conflict with an older generation and a nation that cannot provide for its citizens basic services such as water, electricity, education, and jobs. While Sengupta sees change and hope for the younger set, she doesn't provide any easy answers to what will happen in the future. VERDICT Beginning in 2011 and continuing until 2030, around ten million Indians will turn 18 each year and start their search for a college education, a job, and personal independence. This volume looks at a few individuals simultaneously succeeding and failing to find their way in modern India. Highly recommended for anyone interested in India past and present as well as women's issues. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.]—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Bio-Medical Lib., Minneapolis
India's young population is growing dramatically, writes Indian-American journalist Sengupta—and it's growing impatient with the roadblocks its elders have erected. "Strictly by the numbers," writes the author, who covers the U.N. for the New York Times, "inequality in India doesn't look as bad as the imbalance between the rich and poor in the United States"—and though the numbers don't tell everything, the economic reforms that India has been putting into place since 1991 seem to have helped some. Even so, as her sketches of young Indians reveal, there are numerous social and economic constraints to a growth that will satisfy this cohort, which aspires to mobility and opportunity along with wealth. One appalling hindrance is India's useless caste system, which works to put the lie to Sengupta's note that "ordinary citizens up and down the social ladder believed they did not have to be bound by their past, that they could escape what had been predestined." Not so if you are born a Manganiyar, traditional court musicians to the rulers of Rajasthan somehow classified as untouchable, so low that you are "technically outside the Hindu caste system" and therefore legally, socially, and economically invisible. One case study involves a budding, brilliant entrepreneur who, in the end, settled for the safety of a government job—not the worst thing that can happen but a terrible loss of possibility. Another depicts a rural Maoist guerrilla, for India is one of the few countries in the world where Maoism still gets an airing—thanks, Sengupta writes, to its having been able to "tap into the well of anger" that young Indians feel for having so few avenues out of poverty and predefined roles short of dropping out of society altogether, emigrating, or being swallowed up by Facebook. A compelling portrait of what will soon be the world's most populous nation, one on the verge of great change—for better or worse.