Sunday, March 4, 2012
India Becoming by Akash Kapur
He paints many individual character portraits of men and women caught in the crosshairs of change: a young gay man struggling with his identity, a young woman who divorces and then chooses to live with her boyfriend and not marry, another young woman who moves to the city to take advantage of all the amazing work opportunities, but chooses to retain a very traditional lifestyle regarding dating, a man from the dalit caste who defies local customs, a farmer and his wife living apart: country mouse and city mouse. All these stories he follows over several years.
Part II of this book is kind of character study of India itself: a painting of the price of progress. He profiles the immense poverty that still exists in the cities that sits on the backs of the new Indian elite, the huge problem with waste and pollution that plagues even him and his family, the disorganized state of the police and the vast contempt for the rule of law, and finally the state of India once hard times hit the newly prosperous nation.
All of the stories are varied, interesting, often disturbing, and well written. I felt that he could have spent some more research time on some of his topics. He seemed to rely almost solely on anecdotes told by friends, and friends of friends, to make points about poverty and pollution. A few facts and figures could go a long way to bolstering some of the portraits of people and problems.
All in all, a great read. Mr Kapur reminded me somewhat of an Indian Malcolm Gladwell. This was enjoyable. I plan to share it widely.