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.”