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The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  453 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

Siddhartha Deb grew up in a remote town in the northeastern hills of India and made his way to the United States via a fellowship at Columbia. Six years after leaving home, he returned as an undercover reporter for The Guardian, working at a call center in Delhi in 2004, a time when globalization was fast proceeding and Tho
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Faber & Faber
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best Indian Books
276th out of 648 books — 2,023 voters
Outliers by Malcolm GladwellSita's Ramayana by Samhita ArniThe Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard KapuścińskiIndia After Gandhi by Ramachandra GuhaCereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
What I did in 2011.
26th out of 38 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,389)
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Feb 24, 2012 Neil rated it really liked it
For those of us that live outside of India and take trips there, it is easy for us to wax eloquent about how much "fun" India is, or how affectionate people are or how glamorous things can be or how much easier life in India is with the help of servants and drivers and relatively inexpensive labor. What lies just beneath the surface, however, is something we mostly miss out on not living there. And for those of us that live there, we are doing what is necessary to survive in what is essentially ...more
Rudrangshu Das
As the name suggests in this book the author has tried to capture several facets of life in modern India in its contrasting shades. How on the one hand Indian economy is booming with lots of outsourced jobs and foreign investment pouring in, and on the other hand millions of Indians are still living without the basic amenities, thousands of farmers are committing suicide every year and a lot of Indians are struggling to come to terms with the changing and confused environment. The idea is good, ...more
Questa nuova India sembra già vecchia e i personaggi qui presentati non sono particolarmente simpatici. Tutto ruota attorno al denaro, di tutto viene ostentato il prezzo.
Siddhartha Deb ci presenta 5 situazioni: l'indiano ricco (o arricchito); l'ingegnere; il contadino e la campanga; la fabbrica ed i lavoratori precari; sole, per ultime, le donne.
Nonostante un livello di scolarizzazione elevata (molte lauree in materie scientifiche, molti master) le ambizioni sono basse e si concentrano sul mero
Vivek Vikram Singh
Jul 27, 2013 Vivek Vikram Singh rated it it was ok
The book was fairly informative, thought provoking and does address several important issues being faced by the new India; however the grouse I have with the author and the book is the lack of balance. There is too little beauty, and far too much damnation.

Like several Indians who live in the west, and are always eager to please their western masters (audience, editors, employers - take your pick), Deb comes across as far too sanctimonious when talking about India. The self-congratulatory prose
Elaine Tama
Jun 26, 2012 Elaine Tama rated it it was amazing
Siddartha Deb gives us an excellent, well-written portrait of different sectors of the current, "new" India, through his interviews of people from all walks of society and also his analysis and research of the business world as well as society and governmental impacts on these Indian. He attempts to describe both the glitter of the new high rises, malls, call centers, and the various business schools that produce the tech employees to work in these places. But in tracking down individuals who ar ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Shawn rated it really liked it
I liked this book. Have you noticed how many books are entitled the beautiful and the damned? There are quite a few pop up if you try to enter this title in Goodreads.
I think about this global situation a lot, and (I love your name) Siddhartha Deb paints a picture of working in the lucrative F&B or Food and Beverage (being a waitress) supporting your siblings who all have degrees but who can't find appropriate jobs, supporting them on your tips. Or working in the call center or as a software
Oct 18, 2012 Fiona rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Flashes of brilliance and insight about the new India and the impact of its "progress" on various different groups of people, interspersed with long passages which meandered without point or structure. At times I felt like I was skirting round the edges of something interesting without ever actually getting there. When the writing was good it had something very important to tell us about what it means to be human in the 21st century - looking at how India is developing has serious things to tell ...more
Oct 27, 2013 Talia rated it it was ok
I wanted to learn more about contemporary India but this book was disappointing. Deb follows 5 main stories...but each one feels a bit more like a voyeur's view or surface-level take than a deep dive into a subject (with Deb maybe more interested in the process of interviewing and the idea of himself as a writer who has transcended all this than in the people themselves). Perhaps it should have been 5 separate books, but even as it was each chapter seemed a little too long for what it offered. T ...more
Sylvia Arthur
Aug 31, 2011 Sylvia Arthur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing journey through the India you don't see. Deb goes behind the veneer of life in the New India and lays bare the contradictions that exist between the image and the reality. Told through the lives of five main characters, these well researched and well told stories together make up a narrative that tells you more about 21st century India than anything I've read to date and in such a subtle and darkly comic way. Deftly constructed and thoroughly engaging. Highly recommended.
Umesh Kesavan
A nuanced portrait of contemporary India -with no sweeping generalizations- told through profiles of five representative Indians. The Indian edition does not have the chapter on Arindham Chaudhury but ironically,this chapter must be the most read one online as it went viral a year or so back. My favorite chapter is the one on Esther, the waitress from North-East India.
Jan 10, 2016 Abubakr rated it liked it
This book is about the current economic challenges of India. It's about a beneath the surface view of people dealing with this perception of India - it's possibilities and hope and taking opportunity for growth and development of themselves. It particularly deals with individual experiences and the paradox of achieving a better life through materialistic objectives. A sensitive look that all is not well. Nonetheless, people are hoping for a better life regardless of self-centered individuals and ...more
Lakshmi Krishnaswamy
Jul 13, 2015 Lakshmi Krishnaswamy rated it really liked it
This book is rigorous in mapping the aspirations of the 'new' India of unstoppable consumption. The narrative, despite the tenor of a careful social scientist, manages to excavate the inner lives and the accompanying idiosyncrasies of the characters it encounters. In doing exactly that, it ties the specifics to general patterns of a culture; one that is marked with perplexing paradoxes and coagulated layers of stubborn politics.

While rendering the cultural terrain of 21st century aspirational In
Nishant Jha
May 30, 2014 Nishant Jha rated it liked it
This book talks about the manic progress our country has experienced in the last 10-15 years and in the process so many unprivileged people are still stuck and haven't grown at all with the matching pace of others! It talks about their struggles, pains, dilemmas and accomplishments! The best part for me about this book was that it isn't preachy and doesn't try to provide any solutions or pass judgements; the reader is free to make their own interpretations of the people's issues mentioned! This ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Sunaina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What was the point of this book?
Rajat Ubhaykar
Jan 17, 2016 Rajat Ubhaykar rated it it was ok
A hugely incomplete book.
Feb 18, 2013 Ritwik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physical
Tells it like it is.
Ashwini Nocaste
perhaps it was my fortune or misfortune that i read suketu mehta's maximum city where he was able to embrace and lay bare the nerves and bloodstreams that function the city of mumbai in the most sensitive manner possible. having read the same, and also because of my infinite emphatic amazement for the wonder that was and is, "india" i had a major issue with the general rank effused by this book. the way siddhartha described how an IT guy was expressly anxious about being written the way in this ...more
Jenny Brown
Nov 18, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it it was amazing
This book sheds a bright light on the dark side of progress and wealth in India and illumintes the terrible price people are paying for "economic development." Much of what Deb has to show us is deeply disturbing. But it's an important book for that reason and made me far more aware of what is going on in India than I had previously been.

The rabid materialism he describes makes the average American seem like a deeply spiritual person. Ironic, in view of the long-held American image of India as
Aug 13, 2013 Jessica marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have decided to put this book down for a while, and pick it up at a later date.

It started off really well with the 20+ page introduction. I got really hooked into the story of the activism going on in Bhopal, and how the people are still dealing with the Union Carbide disaster. The different ways that the 2 main "Activists" are working to bring awareness and relief to those effected etc. And Siddhartha Deb's immersing himself into the life as a call-center worker was very interesting.. But th
Dec 15, 2011 Denali rated it liked it
Recommended by Rao!

Deb has set out an great project for himself and it's a testament to his understanding of both new Indian and journalism/storytelling that his introduction is among the best parts of the book. It's also something an author probably doesn't want to hear.

The stories, five portraits of different "characters" of New India fleshed out with interviews and personal detail, are well written but suffer slightly for Deb's own bewilderment with much of what he encounters. Actually it ma
Nov 08, 2011 Mythili rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A remarkable book. Deb asks some very good -- basic but neglected -- questions about who the real winners and losers are in India's recent economic surge, and then stubbornly sets out looking for answers. He doesn't always find clear explanations for what's happening in his vast, confusing homeland, but his explorations still provide a very interesting picture of what life in today's global India is like -- both for the filthy rich and the hopelessly destitute, as well as those who fall somewher ...more
Sep 21, 2012 Judy rated it liked it
The author was born and raised in India, then traveled to the US for a degree from Columbia. Upon returning to India, he took on an undercover assignment for the "The Guardian" magazine, trying to get a job at a call centre in order to write about what it's like to work at such a place. I wished for a map of his travels and, since I'm ignorant of India's money, how much is a person getting who earns 25,000 rupees a month. I guess I could research that myself. The chapters took you from one poor ...more
Tom Romig
Jun 25, 2013 Tom Romig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, exhaustively researched (four years of interviews), and insightful. While India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, which I read a few weeks ago, focuses on the growing opportunities and prosperity of that portion of the Indian population that benefits from the "new India," Deb's work contrasts this fortunate group with the 80% or so of agricultural and factory workers whose lives of unmitigated poverty continue in the shadow of a highly rationed renaissance. The ...more
Apr 28, 2012 Ankur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian-authors, 2012
This book has already been made popular by Arindam Chaudhary (of IIPM fame) by getting an injunction against the publishing of the chapter on him in India, making Deb into lesser Rushdie (and Arindam a god of some sorts??)

The book is a sensitive narration of 5 important typecasts in Modern India - The IT guy, the filthy rich, the naxal/marxist farmer/ the migrant worker and the woman from small towns making a living in India's metros.

Deb explores their lives with utmost honesty, and gives us the
Sep 01, 2012 Maha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the book describes in detail different issues related to the negative effects of capitalism in India, many of the issues apply to other countries. The beauty of this book is that an Indian born and educated author who now lives and works in a western society goes back to India to talk to people and describes his experience. The description is rich which makes it possible for the reader to develop her/his own interpretation. I was familiar with many of these issues however the internal m ...more
Dec 06, 2011 Thaths rated it liked it
Shelves: india, non-fiction
I picked up this book after I had read the long form piece that Deb had written about the flim flam educator Aridnam Chaudhuri in the magazine Caravan. I had found that article (which forms the first chapter of this book) balanced and fair (even though Aridnam took the author and Caravan to court over the article). I liked the chapters (first on Aridnam Chaudhuri and the last about "Esther" a waitress in a New Delhi restaurant) bookending this work to be good. However, I was not happy with the m ...more
Priyanka Kanse
There were a few reasons that I wanted to read this book. One, because the title is homage to one of my favourite books, and secondly - and probably the main reason - last time I was in India, there was a lot of fuss about the book as it had to be reprinted without a chapter. So maybe my expectations were unnaturally high, leading me to be disappointed.

Disappointed because the stories aren't crafted in a way that pulls you in. For example, Naipaul's writing on India is rich and evocative, an em
Jim Rimmer
Feb 09, 2012 Jim Rimmer rated it really liked it
This is a little book with big ambitions, shining a light on the disparities of progress in India.

Through a series of exploratory portraits Deb delves deep into the psyche of a nation, it's people and their future. Hailing from a peripheral State, having studied in the US and obviously willing to go where few have before him I genuinely believe it would be difficult to find an author more qualified to make this important contribution.

The Beautiful and the Damned is about power, about winners an
Huzefa Mukadam
Oct 10, 2015 Huzefa Mukadam rated it really liked it
Timely, Well researched. Especially appreciate the author's observation that a software industry boom in Hyderabad and Bangalore could not have happened without a real-estate boom. Same for Pune as well.
Jan 03, 2012 Adrian added it
Deb an Indian working in the US goes home to see how India has changed since globalization rocked the economy. He starts with the new rich; entrepreneurs in fields like information technology and motivational speaking and doesn't unearth much more than young money-hungry males. Next he moves to agriculture where 200,000 farmers have killed themselves in the last ten years (because of financial ruin) and the hard dead-end world of manufacturing before pushing on to put-upon women in the service i ...more
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“Prabhakar was waiting for me at the bus station, smiling happily through the rain. He led me through the people gathered at the bus station, past shops selling cheap household items and eating places where pakoras were being fried in bubbling oil. The brands and consumerism of urban India had disappeared, and although I felt an acute sense of displacement, I was oddly comforted by the rough utilitarianism of the place, which reminded me of the India I had grown up in.

There were no cafes where I could hide my loneliness behind a cup of coffee and an open laptop, no shopping aisles where I could wander, picking out items that momentarily created an image of a better life. There was no escape here except through human relationships, and for that I was utterly dependent on Prabhakar speeding through the rain on his motorcycle.”
“Arindam understood well how these aspirers had been given a language of assertion by the times they lived in, and how they had also been handed a vocabulary of rage that is quite disproportionate to their perceived provocations.

It is one of the triumphs of our age that aspirers can be made to feel both empowered and excluded, and that all over the world, one sees a new lumpenbourgeoisie quick to express a sense of victimization, voicing their anger about being excluded from the elite while being callously indifferent to the truly impoverished.”
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