In contradictory modern India, an urban woman’s private confession becomes a portrait, and perhaps an indictment, of 21st-century globalism.
The novel opens with 37-year-old Renuka Sharma describing her first encounter with a stylish man at a Delhi metro station. His name is Vineet Sehgal, he is 30 years old, and he works in a boutique hotel in Gurgaon, a rapidly growing financial hub on the outskirts of Delhi. Renuka and Vineet soon become chaste but frequent companions, and she seems to learn everything there is to know about him. In return, Vineet has little curiosity about the facts of Renuka’s life. She is never forced to tell him that she's married, that her husband works in Dubai, that she lives with her 15-year-old son, Bobby, in a small flat, or even that her mother died when she was 13. Those intimate details are reserved for the reader, details of her domestic life mingling with observations about technology, poverty, ambition, real estate, respectability, and masturbation. As candid as her observations are, there are times even in these pages when she withholds the truth. When her relationship with Vineet does become sexual, it is stated casually, as an afterthought, and then expertly rationalized. Renuka seems to embody all the contradictions of urban India in the 21st-century global economy, with its shiny new malls and underdeveloped infrastructure, its growing wealth and collapsing middle class, its modernity and traditionalism. Her fraught, often humorous and irreverent narration is a study in cognitive dissonance, in which she is constantly trying to reconcile the complex stimuli of Delhi with the image of herself as a simple woman from a good family.
Even as cultural products can feel increasingly generic in our technologically advanced global marketplace, Kapur (Overwinter, 2012) proves that a gifted writer can still powerfully capture a complex voice from a singular place and time.