Anand Giridharadas in the NYT:
I came to Umred to write about a riot. A few months earlier, power blackouts that rural Indians always suffered silently triggered a violent reaction. Why? Umred was just another small town in the middle of nowhere, dusty and underwhelming. But Umred had begun to dream, townspeople told me, because of television, because of cousins with tales of call-center jobs and freedom in the city. Once Umred contracted ambition, blackouts became intolerable. A psychological revolution, a revolution in expectations, had taken place.
“Electricity is essential to ambition,” an energetic young man named Ravindra Misal explained to me, “because I need it to do my homework, I need it to listen to music if I am a dancer, I need it to listen to tapes of great speakers, I need it to surf the Internet. But I cannot, so people get angry.” Over plates of mutton and chicken, Misal and his friend Abhay offered examples of the little things that were changing in Umred: young men hunting online for wives, farmers’ sons deserting the farms to work at a bank in a nearby town, a deluge of students signing up for English classes. And beauty pageants. “I see Fashion TV on television, Miss India contests in the big cities,” Misal said. “So I thought, Why can’t we have that also?” And so he organized the first Mr. and Miss Umred Personality Contest, which seemed to be half about physical appearance and half about the communication skills that are all the rage in small-town India.
Misal embodies the type of person who will truly transform India: not an engineer or a financier, but an average person who refuses to be satisfied with the status he was born to. Umred rioted because its people had somehow acquired the courage of their own dissatisfaction. But what kind of India will they build?