Capital review – Rana Dasgupta’s perceptive exploration of modern Delhi

Jason Burke in The Guardian:

Capital-delhi-review-rana-011In the final pages of this intense, lyrical, erudite and powerful book, Rana Dasgupta makes the most important of many perceptive points: there is no certainty, indeed little probability, that the city will eventually find the relative calm, order and hygiene of its counterparts in the developed world. There is no obvious reason why the evolution of this crowded, traumatised, violent metropolis in India in the early decades of the 21st century should follow that of New York, London or Paris in another place and another time. Delhi will remain as it is. Judging by the content of the previous pages, this is a frightening prospect. Dasgupta has provided a welcome corrective to the reams of superficial travel writing describing the whimsical, the exotic, the booming or simply the poverty-stricken in India. His is a much more complex, darker story and it is no surprise that his book is peopled by the corrupt, the tragic and the terrified.

Dasgupta was born and raised in the UK and his work thus fits in a long tradition of nonfiction writing on India by outsiders who are also insiders. The idea to take Delhi, and more particularly its new “bourgeoisie”, as a subject is a very good one. Through an unflinching portrayal of the arrogant, aggressive, ultra-materialistic new wealthy in the Indian capital he makes broad points about India a generation after the major wave of economic reform which unleashed a savage capitalism in the country.

More here.