Mythili's Reviews > India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India

India Becoming by Akash Kapur
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Feb 24, 2012

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Read in February, 2012

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 fortunately, to make his point, Kapur largely focuses on recounting the stories of the wide-ranging characters he meets rather than dwelling on his own observations.

As his influence and status wanes, Sathy, a rural landowner, wants simply to hold on to comforting rhythms of the old India (much to the annoyance of his progressive wife, who runs her own consulting business in Bangalore). Hari, a high-flying young IT worker, flourishes in the city but struggles with his homosexuality, and later, as the boom economy readjusts, his debt. Selvi, a small-town girl who moved to the city to take a call center job is caught in the scandals of her single female roommates. Veena, an ambitious divorcee, must balance her desire for a career and independence with her desire for children and a family. Jayavel, a cow broker (whose story also appears in a New Yorker article by Kapur), must learn to redefine himself as his profession becomes obsolete.

Their stories are what give the book its texture and insight, and make it a valuable investigation of the effects of India’s fast-paced change on the land and its people.


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