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India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India
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India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  251 ratings  ·  41 reviews
A "New Republic" Editors' and Writers' Pick 2012 A "New Yorker" Contributors' Pick 2012
A portrait of incredible change and economic development, of social and national transformation told through individual lives The son of an Indian father and an American mother, Akash Kapur spent his formative years in India and his early adulthood in the United States. In 2003, he ret
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Riverhead Books
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Akash Kapur is a prolific writer who has written for several of the world's leading publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Economist and Granta. He was born in India, was educated at Harvard and Oxford, and worked in New York for over a decade before he and his wife returned to India in 2003.

Starting in 1991, India underwent a dramatic transformation in response to financial crisis, from a socialist system plagued by nepotism, corruption and underdevelopment to a Wester
I love reading a book whose pages end before my mind is done partaking in the story. Moments after finishing the last page of this book, I caught myself still staring at the cover, absorbed in the people and ideas presented. I realized I wasn't yet ready to be separated from the experience of reading it.

This book is a current "portrait" of the social, economic, political, and environmental changes that have affected people living in India. Why did I find it so compelling?... the people the auth
Dorinda Balchin
As an English ex-pat living in Tamil Nadu I’m often asked by friends back home to describe the changes happening in India. I have always found it difficult because, whilst I can see what is happening now, I have no experience of the past to compare it to. Now I don’t need to try to explain to my friends – I can just tell them to read this book!

Mr Kapur has an engaging style of writing, informative but not overly academic, and is able to describe his characters and their lives in a truly sympathe
This is a wonderful work of non-fiction by the author. First of all, it is pertinent to note what this work is not. This work is not a masterpiece on anthropology or on the socio-economic polity of contemporary India. It is not a comparative historical analysis. By professional and technical standards of academics, it may not even qualify as a scholarly work.

Then, what is this work? At a glance, it appears to be nothing but a collection of narrative about the lives of certain characters that the
Reading this book was part of my class and despite the fact that it reads easily I got quite frustrated with the author at the beginning. There were too much of nostalgia, idealization, blank and general descriptions and sentances at the beginning.
It seemed to have too much of „pop culture” and „americanization” painting things in black and white. It was hard for me to agree with the references about author’s good eye for details. What I saw were general sketches of people and places concentrat
India’s dizzying economic growth is one of the stories of the first decade of the 21st century. But what is “India Becoming”? In this thought-provoking book Akash Kapur avoids the trap of coming up with an easy answer.

In 2003, Kapur returned to India after a decade in the USA and England with a degree from Harvard and an Oxford Rhodes Scholarship under his belt. He had left India in 1991 at the age of only sixteen when the country looked doomed to economic failure after limping through two diffi
Catherine Siemann
Akash Kapur grew up in India and the United States; in 2003, finding America stagnant and India in the middle of something new and exciting, he relocated back to India. India Becoming is largely anecdotal, as he follows the stories of various people he has gotten to know: Sathy, from an old zamindar (landlord) family, whose wife is more comfortable in the economic boom of Bangalore; Veena, an ambitious woman trying to balance her own ambitions with cultural expectations; Hari, a young gay man st ...more
Initially, this book reminded me of Siddhartha Deb's The Beautiful and the Damned without the grit, but as some of the story-lines matured -- and Kapur got more involved with the people he was writing about -- I was drawn in.

Kapur sets out to tell two parallel stories in this book: “One is a story of progress,” he writes, the other, “of the destruction and disruptions caused by the same processes of development.” Kapur’s own feelings about India are overwhelmed by flavorless nostalgia but fortun
Umesh Kesavan
A riveting portrait of a nation on the move, told through life stories of a diverse range of characters - an ex-Zamindar,an IT professional who is also a homosexual,a working woman,a human rights lawyer,a sexologist and so on. The author merely paints character sketches and leaves it to the reader to make judgements on them and the New India.For those who are overly optimistic about the neoliberal model of growth pursued by India in the 21st century,this book is a reality check.
This is the best nonfiction book I have read in a long time.

India holds a lot of curiosity for me. I doubt I'll ever be able to travel there, but who knows?

Things I liked:

- the individual stories of modern day Indians
- the unvarnished modern history
- the variety of perspectives

Not so much:

- limited scope (what about the north?)
- Ends abruptly

Overall, if you are interested in modern India, you could do worse.
I started this book a while ago but got side-tracked by other books that needed to be read. I picked it back up again a couple of days ago and I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed this book immensely. Akash Kapur gave an excellent and objective account of life in Modern India. At times it was spot on, other times downright depressing, but had such elements of truth and desperation for a country growing too fast (and with that a plethora of growing pains). I especially enjoyed Kapur's narrative styl ...more
I received a copy of India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur from a giveaway on Goodreads.
Kapur is an adept writer whose first person accounts of his return in adulthood to India bring life and depth to this novel. The story flowed fairly well, and showed the readers two faces of India. Poverty and opulence abounds, with almost no middle ground. You see pieces of old India woven with a new, wealthy, technological India. The Author seeks to understand these changes by s
Kulpreet Yadav
‘India Becoming’ reads like a story. Of lives coming to terms with the change modernization has forced on them. Of challenging the established hierarchy in the Indian society. Of the gift of pollution and ugliness littering the urban landscape. Of new found sexuality.

The book is set in Pondicherry (now called Puducherry), home to Akash, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. From changing rural landscape, to the rapid, unplanned modernization, the author has brought out the perils of rapid growth throug
Graham Mulligan
I wanted to learn more about the new India as I plan to make a journey to the great subcontinent in the next year or so. It has been 43 years since I first visited India and much has changed. Akash Kapur has given me a glimpse of the changes but also a sense of what has not changed. The threads of interviews throughout his book give a good portrait of the way a diverse group of people from Sathy, the Reddiar of a rural village to Hari, the young homosexual struggling with coming out in India, fa ...more
I didn't know where to go with this book at first, I couldn't fully swallow Kapur's initial enthusiasm with the sort of body-slam of capitalism that has been washing over India. However, his balance of personal observation (seasoned by a life split between India and the US) and letting the cast of people whom he develops relationships with tell their stories begins to really bring it home about halfway through. It gets really dark, then finds a medium, and keeps an intriguing pace throughout. Ka ...more
At times this book is as much about the author as it is about modern India. While showing the reader "his" India, he is very present in every page. Unfortunately, however, it does not show us anything outside of the places he frequents, which, frankly, means the reader doesn't get any sense of most of the country. What he does present is interesting, but clearly one man's opinion of modern India. For me, the greatest problem with the book was that Kapur showed us little of what is being done to ...more
The author divided the book neatly into one part which detailed the people he talked to and the dilemmas and choices they were facing in his former home town of Chennai and parts south. The second, more dire section includes observations on police inertia when his driver strikes a child; the negatives (and positives!) of life as a rag picker living beside a landfill; the gradual lawlessness of the newly monied as they get used to their privilege; and his reflections on whether to return to NYC o ...more
Daniel Simmons
Readers have to endure a lot of vapid philosophizing in this book's initial pages (mostly about the multiple Indias, traditional and modern, now in sometimes uncomfortable coexistence) before they can finally sink their teeth into the good stuff: a series of vignettes about real people and real experiences in the author's South Indian countryside surroundings. Some more unnecessary moralizing and symbolism starts creeping in near the end (a frail but beautiful flower is spotted rising from a gar ...more
As a first-generation Indian living in America, I became aware of the huge cultural gap between myself and my grandparents. Curious about the same gap between modernity and older traditions in India, this book seemed to be a way to respond to that curiosity.

Sometimes throughout the novel I felt that some tangents were repetitive, or found myself lost in the number of "characters" Kapur wrote about (although I found them all intriguing). However, I felt the novel did an exceptionally well job at
A fascinating up close and personal look at modern India with all its complexities. The author introduces us to Indians coping with newly acquired wealth, as well as debts, Indians whose livelihood is threatened by the change in Indian society, by the poor who are still struggling and by the poor who have managed to climb out of poverty. The glamor in the high-tech cities contrasts with environmental decay and slums like those shown in Slumdog Millionaire, a movie of a few years back. Anyone int ...more
I admit, I am one of those who always judge a book by its cover. Loved the cover and the title , but was quickly disappointed.
Akash Kapur had all the potential of taking a topic such as this and turning it into a terrific read.
Instead he seemed lost and too slow to grapple with "India becoming".
He often seemed dazed as a writer, and did not enlighten me on anything I did not already know.

Nevertheless, he has tried to explain India through the eyes of the characters,possibly as he understood it,
More of a personal book than "India: a Portrait," "India Becoming" brings to life the good and the bad of economic growth in people's lives, with less emphasis on the big picture politics. The freedom that women are getting is clear but as in America, it seems to also bring a lot of accompanying guilt of the many more paths not taken. I particularly liked his portrait of the village elder seeing his hereditary power erode with the new order of things and the author's realization that the despoil ...more
This is an excellent book on every level, and deserves its five star rating. Part memoir, part biography, and totally engaging, it's a journey through the lives of several persons as they struggle with forfeit, and gain, in transitioning from traditional to modern ways of living in India. How good is this book? I didn't want it to end, and I wanted to meet and know the people contained within its pages, in person. What greater recommendation may be made to read a book, than that?
I was disappointed that I learned almost nothing about modern India from this book. The characters' crises (tradition vs. change, rural v. urban, family v. career, unfettered capitalism v. social responsibility, economy v. ecology, straight v. gay) are the same virtually everywhere, including the United States. Only a bit of local color reminded the reader that the setting was not Costa Rica, Egypt, Shanghai, New Jersey...
A look at what India has become today written by a man who was born there but emigrated to the US as a child. He decides to return to live there remembering a beautiful, peaceful place. However, he faces a changing lifestyle that may, ultimately, not be a benefit for Indian society. The reader gets a chance to see from the inside how the cultural changes are affecting the people.
Non-fiction. So many books are about a historic India. This book is "today" in India...for better or worse. The author interviewed different people over a few years time. You could see how they were affected by a "modern" India and the ongoing chanages. I read it for the information. Doubt that my friends would want to read the book unless they have a real interest in India.
Jeff Christensen
Kapur returns from the states in 2003 to his native rural India to raise his young family in the boom years of India's rapid growth. Optimism for the future of his country and the younger generation is supplanted by skepticism and alarm and finally something of an accepting outlook. His portrayl of changing Indian society and the effects of the global economy however are sobering.
Savannah Miller
So I definitely finished this book a LOOOOOOONG time ago, but I haven't been on here in a while. This book really opened my eyes to some of the stuff that goes on outside the U.S. Some parts made me cry. This was a really good book, and I am now going on a missions trip to India this summer! I recommend this book to anyone who is compassionate about the world.
Jul 30, 2012 Vinay rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vinay by: Angela
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This is a wonderful, mixed look at what India's rapid changes have done to its culture, environment, and heritage.

Kapur paints a view of a country that has a lot of poverty and a lot of wealth. It's a country that is seeing new liberties for people that have been oppressed for centuries, but also has increased violence (both physical and economic).
Stan Lanier
The first part of this book is written in a breezy style that led me to think this was going to be some kind of glorification of neoliberalism in India. The second half, however, dealt with some of the contradictions between tradition, economic development, and the common good characteristic of the destructive path of capitalism.
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