A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi

Jon Stock in The Telegraph:

Delhiweb_2836372bI’ll always remember the early hours of April 30, 1999. I was living in Delhi, working as a foreign correspondent for this newspaper, when the news broke that a beautiful model called Jessica Lal had been shot dead in a bar. The Tamarind Court in Mehrauli, where Jessica was serving drinks, was just up the road from our house and her violent death felt too close to home. It also shocked the nation, seeming to confirm that Delhi’s lawless elite was running amok. The bar had just shut when Manu Sharma, the son of a wealthy Indian MP, walked up to Jessica and asked for a drink. He offered her 1,000 rupees but she refused, telling him that he couldn’t even have one sip of alcohol. “I could have a sip of you for a thousand rupees,” Sharma replied. He then pulled out a gun, fired one shot into the ceiling and another into the model’s head.

Rana Dasgupta recalls her murder in his compelling, often terrifying, new book, Capital: a Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi. The author, whose debut novel, Solo (2010), won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, moved from Britain to Delhi in 2000, the year I left the city, and has lived there ever since. In Capital he sets out to show how Delhi has changed since the country’s decision in 1991 to embrace the principles of free enterprise and open markets. Mixing polemical chapters on the city’s history – the arrival of the Mughals, the decision by the British to move their capital from Calcutta to Delhi – with intimate interviews with billionaire businessmen, drug dealers, gurus and slum dwellers, Dasgupta argues that globalisation has had catastrophic consequences for a once great city.

More here.