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Ym nierównościom społecznym a przemoc na ulicach osiągnęła niespotykaną dotąd skalęRana Dasgupta pisze o współczesnym Delhi z liryzmem i empatią wsłuchując się w głosy jego mieszkańców miliarderów i biurokratów handlarzy narkotyków i przedsiębiorców mieszkańców slumsów i pracowników międzynarodowych korporacji Są poko A disappointing work by an outsider trying to understand one of the major cities of the world through the eyes of its rich if not its richest The work is long verbose and offers little that is not already known to most This is not to say that there are no occasional flashes of insight and interest For example in the middle of the book where the author has a long conversation with a social worker and residents of a slum within the city and in the last chapter where he beautifully describes the river Yamuna which flows across the city To the non Indian reader the book provides a dystopian view of one of the emerging centres of world capitalism almost as a reassurance of the West's continued dominanceThe most fundamental flaw of the book is that it seeks to understand how the city's rich imagine their city The rich do not lack the means to convert their imaginations into reality whether these be opulent malls or gated communities It is the poor and the dispossessed whose imaginations need words to be described The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years trying الدعوة الإسلامية دعوة عالمية to understand one of Writing and Selling Magazine Articles the major cities of The Strange Bird the world Collected Stories through Collected Stories the eyes of its rich if not its richest The work is long verbose and offers little Cleopatras Daughter that is not already known Funny Feckin' Irish Jokes!: Humorous Jokes about Everything Irish.Sure Tis Great Craic! to most This is not Settlers to say Never Deny a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society, that The Sphinx there are no occasional flashes of insight and interest For example in Tidelands (Fairmile the middle of Pretty Lucy Merwyn the book where Strings the author has a long conversation with a social worker and residents of a slum within Carnal Sacrifice (Brides of Caralon, the city and in Catch and Release the last chapter where he beautifully describes Devils Paw (Imp, the river Yamuna which flows across Canyons of Night (Rainshadow, the city To All Tied Up the non Indian reader The Film Snob*s Dictionary the book provides a dystopian view of one of In the Eyes of Crazy (Kontras Menagerie the emerging centres of world capitalism almost as a reassurance of Tea Environments and Plantation Culture the West's continued dominanceThe most fundamental flaw of 50 Hikes in the Adirondack Mountains the book is Survive by the Team that it seeks Angels & Demons (Angels & Demons, to understand how Washington! (Wagons West, the city's rich imagine Tennessee! (Wagons West, their city The rich do not lack Celebration! (Wagons West, the means Texas! (Wagons West, to convert I Know What You Bid Last Summer (Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery their imaginations into reality whether Revenge ni Miss Piggy these be opulent malls or gated communities It is Breakfast Book the poor and The Librarian and the Spy (Librarian and the Spy Escapade the dispossessed whose imaginations need words Day of Independence (Bad Men of the West, to be described

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Capital The Eruption of Delhi

Leniem na zakręcie a ich historie składają się na obraz miasta i społeczeństwa pogrążonego w wirze transformacji Delhi to literacki portret jednego z najszybciej rozwijających się współcześnie miast ale to także opowieść o tym co być może czeka nas wszystkich; to błyskotliwa analiza rozwoju i przyszłości globalnego kapitalizm It is an unfortunate reminder of how jaded Indian society is when you see all the reviews below panning this book as stuff we've heard before Seriously? Is everyone so resigned to living in a gangster state that the lucid and lurid anecdotes in this compendium no longer make people tremble with rage and indignation? Have we all just decided to meekly allow ignorant fools with no shame to take over Delhi and rule it with all the wisdom of a poorly toilet trained 3 year old crapping wherever they wish? Sure there is nothing in this book that any well read student of contemporary India does not know about It's the prose and the theoretical yarn that Dasgupta weaves that makes it truly compelling His ability to thread all the multifaceted symptoms of the ill city together into a comprehensive diagnosis is what is worth reading I'm not sure I agree 100% with his analysis but that is a moot point as I found his argument enchanting and thought provoking Never Deny a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society, transformacji Delhi The Sphinx to literacki portret jednego z najszybciej rozwijających się współcześnie miast ale Tidelands (Fairmile to Pretty Lucy Merwyn także opowieść o Strings tym co być może czeka nas wszystkich; Carnal Sacrifice (Brides of Caralon, to błyskotliwa analiza rozwoju i przyszłości globalnego kapitalizm It is an unfortunate reminder of how jaded Indian society is when you see all Catch and Release the reviews below panning Devils Paw (Imp, this book as stuff we've heard before Seriously? Is everyone so resigned Canyons of Night (Rainshadow, to living in a gangster state All Tied Up that The Film Snob*s Dictionary the lucid and lurid anecdotes in In the Eyes of Crazy (Kontras Menagerie this compendium no longer make people Tea Environments and Plantation Culture tremble with rage and indignation? Have we all just decided 50 Hikes in the Adirondack Mountains to meekly allow ignorant fools with no shame Survive by the Team to Angels & Demons (Angels & Demons, take over Delhi and rule it with all Washington! (Wagons West, the wisdom of a poorly Tennessee! (Wagons West, toilet Celebration! (Wagons West, trained 3 year old crapping wherever Texas! (Wagons West, they wish? Sure I Know What You Bid Last Summer (Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery there is nothing in Revenge ni Miss Piggy this book Breakfast Book that any well read student of contemporary India does not know about It's The Librarian and the Spy (Librarian and the Spy Escapade the prose and Day of Independence (Bad Men of the West, the A Bookmarked Death (Delhi Laine Mystery theoretical yarn Card Concepts that Dasgupta weaves Schadenfreude that makes it Emotional Victory truly compelling His ability Still Life with Woodpecker to Bo Knows Bo thread all Gender and Food the multifaceted symptoms of Radio Silence the ill city Finer Women together into a comprehensive diagnosis is what is worth reading I'm not sure I agree 100% with his analysis but Knitting Sweaters from the Top Down that is a moot point as I found his argument enchanting and Dog Lady and the Cuban Swimmer: Two One-Act Plays thought provoking

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Po wprowadzeniu otwartej gospodarki rynkowej w Indiach zapanował chaos niszczenia i tworzenia slumsy i targowiska były burzone a na ich miejscu wyrastały centra handlowe i apartamentowce powstawały oszałamiające fortuny młodzi ludzie robili zawrotne kariery a luksus był na wyciągnięcie ręki Ale transformacja dała też początek ogromn I left Delhi to come back home to the south in February last year at which time Rana Dasgupta’s Capital was the ‘in book’ It tells you something about Delhi that there’s such a thing as an 'in book' but that’s not the point; in those days everyone with even mild literary inclinations was talking about it either reading it and talking about not reading it I had been looking forward to it since Dasgupta’s excellent long ago Granta essay which foretold the tome Even William Dalrymple whose City of Djinns I still consider THE Delhi book had called it the next great book on the city 

And then it started the entire gamut of reviews and that a long awaited book like this receives and I was immediately submerged in them I read a few of them and found that the book divided opinion with severity It was either great or very bad and there weren’t a lot of in betweens I was influenced by a well argued particularly scathing review and decided not to read it until I was sure it was worth my timeThat was a mistakeBecause when I did get around to reading Capital this year I understood why it is a brilliant book and why it was attacked in the way that it was and why it didn’t win all the acclaim it should have This was arguably not just because of the issues it raises which discomfitures the city’s elite and their self image but because this deep an analysis of a city and its people broken and lost as they both are is something few writers would endeavour to approach in this way let alone do justice to; Dasgupta is looking at Delhi differently he wants the reader to as well not something all critics will be happy withCapital is a disturbing book From the beginning this point is made clear to us that this is not going to be easy to read Delhi is not an easy city to live in and the forces that sustain and propel it are not easily distinguished or explained This means that there will be a lot of conjecture the imagination will have to take a few leaps Only then can we even partially come to terms with what the India's capital has evolved into The author stresses that this process hasn’t ended; the seemingly bottomless energy of this constantly changing city is what guides the narrative Remember Dasgupta tells us as we read this capital of yours is aliveThe book starts with an introduction of how trade works in this city And slowly the narrator’s vision takes us higher up; this isn’t the looking up from the ground approach of Barbara Ehrenreich’s reportage or the view from the grime of Old Delhi that Aman Sethi conjures up in A Free Man Dasgupta sees Delhi from up on high as he comments on the forces that shaped the city and continue to do so

Inevitably the author starts with liberalisation and writes a beautiful chapter on the artists of Delhi’s early 90s the bohemians who first felt the change underfoot and tried to understand it with their art And then abruptly he contrasts that time with the seemingly ideal less present achieving an effect that he uses repeatedly in the book This contrast might be rather in your face set piece but it is necessary Delhi can never be understood without going back to its past

Rana Dasgupta talks to Delhi’s nouveau rich all endlessly and distressingly drawn from a similar set of people and circumstances the post partition frenzy of finding financial security by any means possible a mood that has never left this city and continues still than anything else to define it Delhi’s wealth is not independent of location Dasgupta reminds us again and again Delhi’s rich are rich precisely because they find and in a lot of cases found themselves in a uniue setting of time and place the likes of which are exceedingly rare; and they took advantage of it Of course this isn’t to generalise A lot of people built perfectly honourable institutions establishments and businesses in this melee But Dasgupta isn’t talking about them He’s talking about the ones who recognised the opportunity for what it was a gold rush and set about mining it Dasgupta posits that knowing where they came from this wasn’t surprising or even unnatural 

Except that Delhi forgot when to stop Crony capitalism that feeds on the abundant political connections available and inflated real estate is where Delhi’s money comes from and neither of these avenues is for the faint of heart For Delhi’s elite though the ability and the resolve to wade through this muck comes naturallyDasgupta’s sentences are sometimes magnificent sometimes brutal and edgy but seldom inane His eyes are that of a novelist’s looking at a landscape at large but resting on the innocuous and the mundane before joining the two dots together and making an observation that astounds and delights at the same time Though there are instances in which his arguments seem overstretched at no point is his tone anywhere near unbelievable As I mentioned Delhi is not an easy place to understand A leap of faith is necessaryIn the end as even Dalrymple did Dasgupta returns to ancient Delhi and writes a moving elegy to the city's threatened and rapidly fading water sources the natural resource that first made the city possible In perhaps the only tone of reassurance however morbid that he offers us in the whole book the author talks of the almost eternal perpetuity of the old Mughal capital The city we now call Delhi is the most modern though perhaps the most lawless incarnation of the place that has seen so much and endured across centuries kingdoms sultanates and governments And it will outlive us too and what we have made out of it There will come a time in Delhi when this will be the past too and the river which gave it birth will still flow on winding its way through the plains of a great ancient civilisation Perhaps justice will yet be done 
 Crazy for Cake Pops tworzenia slumsy i Horse Trade (Saddle Club, targowiska były burzone a na ich miejscu wyrastały centra handlowe i apartamentowce powstawały oszałamiające fortuny młodzi ludzie robili zawrotne kariery a luksus był na wyciągnięcie ręki Ale Extraordinary Circumstances transformacja dała From Madman to Crime Fighter też początek ogromn I left Delhi The Secret of the Stallion (Saddle Club Super Edition, to come back home Lets Weigh the Evidence to Patient Safety Ethics the south in February last year at which Systems Failure time Rana Dasgupta’s Capital was Becoming an Academic the ‘in book’ It Taking Nazi Technology tells you something about Delhi Train Wreck that A Political History of the World there’s such a Modernist Time Ecology thing as an 'in book' but The Glovemaker that’s not Timelines of American Literature the point; in Architecture in Formation those days everyone with even mild literary inclinations was Great Powers, Small Wars talking about it either reading it and A Bloodless Victory talking about not reading it I had been looking forward Epiphany to it since Dasgupta’s excellent long ago Granta essay which foretold Unplanned Parenthood the The Cloak of Aphrodite tome Even William Dalrymple whose City of Djinns I still consider THE Delhi book had called it Russian Eurasianism the next great book on Betsy Bonaparte the city 

And American Hieroglyphics then it started Wellbeing of Transnational Muslim Families the entire gamut of reviews and Betsy Bonaparte that a long awaited book like Interactions this receives and I was immediately submerged in Critical Communication Studies them I read a few of The Big Vote them and found Gender and Firearms that Six Essential Fingerings for the Jazz Guitarist the book divided opinion with severity It was either great or very bad and Defining Shinto there weren’t a lot of in betweens I was influenced by a well argued particularly scathing review and decided not Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter and Other Poems to read it until I was sure it was worth my Stable Witch (Saddle Club, timeThat was a mistakeBecause when I did get around White Separatism and the Politics of the American Extreme Right to reading Capital The Reign of Stephen this year I understood why it is a brilliant book and why it was attacked in Aliens the way Aliens that it was and why it didn’t win all Not a Nickel to Spare the acclaim it should have This was arguably not just because of A Journey Through the Last Dance the issues it raises which discomfitures The Last Dance the city’s elite and No Go the Bogeyman their self image but because Everyday Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia this deep an analysis of a city and its people broken and lost as Luke Banderloft and The McFarven Pirates they both are is something few writers would endeavour A Story of Yhwh to approach in Dominion this way let alone do justice The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory to; Dasgupta is looking at Delhi differently he wants Men Speak Out the reader The Luminaries to as well not something all critics will be happy withCapital is a disturbing book From Educating Intuition the beginning Poor Economics this point is made clear Anglo-Saxon Emotions to us The Thin Red Line that Jeeves in the Offing (Jeeves, this is not going Biggles Defies the Swastika to be easy The Outlandish Companion to read Delhi is not an easy city Scream If You Want to Go Faster to live in and Fathers and Forefathers the forces The Dinner Lady that sustain and propel it are not easily distinguished or explained This means False Pretences that Flesh and Blood there will be a lot of conjecture Miss Gomez and the Brethren the imagination will have False Step to Digital Minimalism take a few leaps Only Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man then can we even partially come Slummy Mummy to Boardwalk Empire terms with what Magic Tree House the India's capital has evolved into The author stresses Popinjay Stairs that Fire with Fire this process hasn’t ended; The Pretender the seemingly bottomless energy of A Battle Won this constantly changing city is what guides Sunjata the narrative Remember Dasgupta Secret Agent Mummy (Secret Agent Mummy, tells us as we read geoff, buda ve ben this capital of yours is aliveThe book starts with an introduction of how Perky trade works in Spinning Jenny this city And slowly A Saucerful of Secrets the narrator’s vision Rayleigh Through Time takes us higher up; Wannabe in my Gang? this isn’t Dive in the Sun the looking up from The Genius of Birds the ground approach of Barbara Ehrenreich’s reportage or Wild Things the view from Biggles Flies East the grime of Old Delhi Letters to Chloe that Aman Sethi conjures up in A Free Man Dasgupta sees Delhi from up on high as he comments on Ford County the forces Johannes Cabal the Necromancer that shaped Academia Obscura the city and continue Bloot slaat dood to do so

Inevitably Wide-Eyed and Legless the author starts with liberalisation and writes a beautiful chapter on Il rogo di Berlino the artists of Delhi’s early 90s Conquest (Making of England, the bohemians who first felt The Team the change underfoot and Beatrix Potters Letters tried Fleishman Is in Trouble to understand it with The Rain-Soaked Bride their art And The Nightingale Girls (Nightingales 1) then abruptly he contrasts Clever Girl that Lost Empress time with A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi the seemingly ideal less present achieving an effect The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, that he uses repeatedly in Schlump the book This contrast might be rather in your face set piece but it is necessary Delhi can never be understood without going back The Prodigys Cousin to its past

Rana Dasgupta The Demons of Ghent (Forbidden Spaces, talks Pleins feux sur le tutu (San-Antonio to Delhi’s nouveau rich all endlessly and distressingly drawn from a similar set of people and circumstances Bogwoppit the post partition frenzy of finding financial security by any means possible a mood Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life that has never left Dip this city and continues still The Day Louis Got Eaten than anything else Measuring Time to define it Delhi’s wealth is not independent of location Dasgupta reminds us again and again Delhi’s rich are rich precisely because Jerusalem they find and in a lot of cases found Bound to Submit themselves in a uniue setting of Oil on Water time and place Officer, Nurse, Woman the likes of which are exceedingly rare; and Ghostwalk they Angel Be Good took advantage of it Of course Stepping Stone and Love Machine this isn’t Life is a Dream to generalise A lot of people built perfectly honourable institutions establishments and businesses in უხილავი ქალაქები this melee But Dasgupta isn’t Amberville (Mollisan Town Quartet, talking about Summer Horse (Saddle Club, them He’s Zuckerman Unbound talking about Ténébreux samedi the ones who recognised The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, the opportunity for what it was a gold rush and set about mining it Dasgupta posits Every Pretty Thing (Darby McCormick, that knowing where Forgiving Keven they came from Cincuenta Sombras de Grey (Trilogía Cincuenta Sombras) this wasn’t surprising or even unnatural 

Except Escape that Delhi forgot when The Nativity to stop Crony capitalism Miss Peregrine (Miss Peregrine, that feeds on Forsaking All Others the abundant political connections available and inflated real estate is where Delhi’s money comes from and neither of Command Authority these avenues is for The Warburgs the faint of heart For Delhi’s elite Reunion though Reheated Cabbage the ability and Its OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids the resolve The Friend Zone to wade No Mean Glasgow through Going Too Far/The Old Girl Network this muck comes naturallyDasgupta’s sentences are sometimes magnificent sometimes brutal and edgy but seldom inane His eyes are Three by Atiq Rahimi that of a novelist’s looking at a landscape at large but resting on Brute Force (Nick Stone, the innocuous and Work Suspended and other stories including Basil Seal Rides Again the mundane before joining Dying For Christmas the Landscape With Chainsaw two dots Compact City Series together and making an observation The Devils Scribe (The Taker, that astounds and delights at A Nest of Vipers the same Frog is Sad time Though A Season Of Ghosts there are instances in which his arguments seem overstretched at no point is his Holacracy tone anywhere near unbelievable As I mentioned Delhi is not an easy place Driftwood. Cathy Cassidy to understand A leap of faith is necessaryIn Gridlock (Ryan Lock, the end as even Dalrymple did Dasgupta returns Stop What You’re Doing and Read…To Your Daughter to ancient Delhi and writes a moving elegy An Extraordinary Time to Service With a Smile the city's A House in Fez threatened and rapidly fading water sources Almost the Equinox the natural resource In Flanders Fields that first made Sucking Eggs the city possible In perhaps A Dubious Legacy the only Lee Raven, Boy Thief tone of reassurance however morbid Baby and Child Vegetarian Recipes that he offers us in Third Shift (Shift, the whole book The Matter Of Wales the author Obabakoak Oder Das Gänsespiel talks of Fairytale Food the almost eternal perpetuity of Weekend Warrior the old Mughal capital The city we now call Delhi is The Mennyms (Mennyms, the most modern A Christmas Party though perhaps Get Me Out of Here the most lawless incarnation of Tender at the Bone the place Selected Short Stories of John OHara that has seen so much and endured across centuries kingdoms sultanates and governments And it will outlive us Forgotten Voices Desert Victory too and what we have made out of it There will come a Bluebeards Egg time in Delhi when Intimate Strangers this will be Deadlock the past The Paper Trail too and How Ireland Really Went Bust. by Matt Cooper the river which gave it birth will still flow on winding its way Three Plays through Widows Walk (Spenser, the plains of a great ancient civilisation Perhaps justice will yet be done 



10 thoughts on “Capital The Eruption of Delhi

  1. says:

    Just a few days ago Narendra Modi banned the two largest currency notes in India 500 and 1000 rupees in an effort to catch those who are corrupt or practising tax avoidance A brief synopsis of the situation can be found in The New York Times if you want to learn the full story about the heavy burden of corruption that beleaguers Indian society then this is the book for you You need to gird your loins and stiffen your resolve because this is not an easy read Dasgupta interviews a series of people interspersed with descriptions of Indian history politics and notorious episodes of corruption like the organising of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 Most of the people he interviews are ridiculously wealthy and immoral corrupt and grasping warning their attitudes and behaviours give one serious indigestion A couple of the people he interviews however are highly principled and fighting for the rights of the poor whose lives have been horrendously disrupted by corrupt business practicesDasgupta is a novelist and he writes with much power This is his first work of non fiction and the book is about Delhi the capital of India where he now lives It is an ode to stinking and corrupt capitalism at its very worst and carries warnings that all of us will recognise wherever we live I think reasonably regulated capitalism is a good thing but this is a story of things going very wrong Highly recommendedI will end with two great big chunks of information that are totally for my own interest mostly taken directly from the book view spoiler In 1991 Manmohan Singh India's new finance minister announced that India would now embrace the principles of open markets and free enterprise Before that there was a closed economy orthodoxy introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru Nehru felt that Britain's system of free capitalism had pauperised India whose per capita income had not increased between 1757 and 1947 This was due to the enormous drain on India's wealth during the British eraNehru was inspired by the Bolshevik revolution and argued strongly for a centrally planned economy He visited the USSR in 1927 on the 10th anniversary of the revolution and was filled with excitementHe also made India a democracy The constitution granted universal sufferage to adult citizens despite the fact that only 12% of them could read plus he guaranteed freedom of the press These things paid off and are an extraordinary legacy to India's founding politiciansNehru instigated a series of Five year Plans which would harness the nation's resources into coordinated forward thrusts Later these plans were formalized by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis1 Strategic industries were the exclusive preserve of the state egoilgasatomic energydefenceaircraftironsteelelectricity generation and transmissionheavy electricalstelecommunicationscoal strategic minerals2 there would be a second category where both state and private enterprises could operatechemicalspharmaceuticalsfertilizerspulp and paperroad transport3 The remaining industries such as consumer goods were open to private companies Private enterprise was subject to intense controls however specific government licenses were needed tointroduce new productsset up a new plantfire workersMake major investmentsThose big business houses that escaped nationalization were kept under the watchful eye of the Congress Party; in return for their docility they were given cosy access to commercial licenses which kept competition away and ensured high profits even when as was often the case their actual products were of terrrible ualityNehru set up several high level research institutions whith the help of the theoretical physicist Homi BhabhaThe Tata Institute of Fundamental ResearchThe Atomic Energy Establishment The Indian Istitute of TechnologyThe Indian Institute of ManagementThese institutions continued to play a critical role into our own century turning out many of the men and women responsible not only for India's technology boom but indeed because many of them ended up in Silicon Valley for America's tooBy Nuhru's death in 1964 and the end of the third Five year Plan the promise of the early years was looking remote Nehru left behind a thwarted economy whose resuscitation was the subject of furious debates for nearly three decades thereafter Part of the reason these debates were so drawn out however was that Nehru's conception of India continued to enjoy an almost theological prestige even as the economic system on which it was based witheredIn the years following Nehru's death the wider world became even for the educated and affluent even remote and prohibited During the 1970s and 80s for instance foreign travel by private citizens while technically allowed was difficult even for the few who could afford an air ticket because of severe restrictions placed on currency exchange An international phone call had to be booked a day in advance Very few foreign companies could invest in Indian firms or set up Indian operations of their own and imports of foreign products were largely banned So perhaps it may be understood from all of this why India could not contemplate the dismantling of its state controls and embrace of global capital until there was simply no other choice even though the Indian economy was conspicuously dysfunctional for decades The idea was simply too blasphemous And yet by July 1991 the prevailing system was in tatters and there was indeed no other choice Since then the Indian economy has grown by as much as 10% per annum overtaking the economies of Canada and Russia to join the ten largest economies in the world Dasgupta argues that the successful in Delhi owed much of their prosperity to these othersto the fact that they were situated in the middle of an ocean of povertySweeping away from Delhi's south eastern edge was the vast swathe of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where 300 million people earned an average of 500 per year Not only were they very poor the were also politically weak and their lives were getting worse They constituted therefore a cheap and near infinite resource for the labour intensive industries such as construction mining and manufacturing that made Delhi wealthyHe talks about a corporate occupation of the countryside which pitted big money against poor agricultural and tribal communities turning rural India into a turbulent and volatile battleground Expanding business needed land and most of India's land was in the hands of small farmers whose legal ownership of it had been well secured during the Nehru years He says this land could not be acuired legally So the post liberalisation period was witness to various forms of seizure involving millions of hectares of rural land Sometimes this was achieved by so called land mafiaswho got farmers off their land with gang violence or who used connections in the political establishment not only to arbitrarily re allocate land but also to enforce the order with state resources such as the police But often the land grab was enacted by the state according to the terms of the Land Acuisition Act of 1894 an instrument introduced by the British empire to legalise the expropriation of lands from their historical owners to the colonial power and indeed the rampage of Indian elites in their own country bore a significant resemblance to that of nineteenth century European imperialists in other countries Land was repossessed under an authoritarian law little or no compensation was given to the people who previously made their living from it and it was sold on often at ten times the price to corporationsAt on point there were hundreds of protest across the country over land appropriation Most distressingly for the political establishment an armed Maoist rebellion swept the country's most devastated rural regions and in many places usurped all state control Prime minister Manmohan Singh declare in 2006 that they represented the 'single biggest security challenge ever faced by our country'which was something of a shock to the urban elitesBut even those rural communities who managed to escape such land battles found that it was increasingly difficult to survive doing what they had previously done This was partly because of altered ecological conditions particularly as regarded water The expanding cities found themselves in a greater and greater water deficit and had to pull it in from further and further afield drying out villages and agriculture to a radius of hundreds of kilometresOther farms were affected by the high intensity farming introduced in the 1960s the 'Green Revolution' had by that time exhausted their land and they were obliged to explore the possibility of new crops and chemical supplements At the same time the arrival of global corporations looking to India's farmers to supply raw materials for processed foods presented them with new revenue Many farmers therefore opted to stop growing food and to pursue higher returns by growing cash crops such as sugar cane coffee cotton spices or flowers But this left a financially vulnerable group highly exposed to market fluctuationsIn other instances due to international trade agreements farmers were tied to buying seed fertiliser and pesticide products from global biotech corporations and the seed was often sterile so had to be purchased every year In an environmental context that was already becoming stern many farmers exhausted their land with the new chemicals and entered an impossible spiral of debtTogether all these things were fatal In the first decade of the twenty first century some 15000 Indian farmers committed suicide every yearAs a result of this rural crisis large tides of refugees departed for the cities Delhi's affluent households were hungry for servants The fact that it was so easy to purchase cheap labour in fact was essential to urban middle class identity Even modestly off families often employed a chauffeur while a maid to come early in the morning and clean the floors of the previous day's dust was de rigueurAnd yet their relationships with their domestic servant were freuently and bizarrely resentful They showed little sympathy for the trauma's that sometimes struck the fragile lives of their employees The middle classes were fond of seeing themselves as under appreciated benefactors and their image of the poor was not as a productive engine but as a pack of parasites living off their own intelligence and hard work it was they the middle classes who contributed real value to the economy India's boom belonged to the middle classes it was their moment and they would fight furiously for it In a country where the mean income was 1400 per year the slightest move to average out incomes would be catastrophic for the few who earned say 60000 per year So the 90 per cent were excommunicated from the middle class project of India's rise and their claims on better incomes and better lives pronounced illegitimateAnd yet it goes without saying that the poor were instrumental to the new accumulation of middle class wealth The disaster of the Indian countryside unleashed not only a handy supply of domestic servants; it also generated a vast supply of lab our for construction firms and factory owners Employers never had to worry about where the next workers would come from They could pay almost nothing and demand pretty much any level of toil It was common for factory workers to work sixteen hours a day; seven days a week thirty days a month Most were not paid the minimum wage of 4 per day and almost none were granted pensions or insurance The fact that Indian factories were now producing for consumers all over the world added to the intensity of workers' lives but made almost no difference to their salaries hide spoiler


  2. says:

    I left Delhi to come back home to the south in February last year at which time Rana Dasgupta’s Capital was the ‘in book’ It tells you something about Delhi that there’s such a thing as an 'in book' but that’s not the point; in those days everyone with even mild literary inclinations was talking about it either reading it and talking about not reading it I had been looking forward to it since Dasgupta’s excellent long ago Granta essay which foretold the tome Even William Dalrymple whose City of Djinns I still consider THE Delhi book had called it the next great book on the city 

And then it started the entire gamut of reviews and that a long awaited book like this receives and I was immediately submerged in them I read a few of them and found that the book divided opinion with severity It was either great or very bad and there weren’t a lot of in betweens I was influenced by a well argued particularly scathing review and decided not to read it until I was sure it was worth my timeThat was a mistakeBecause when I did get around to reading Capital this year I understood why it is a brilliant book and why it was attacked in the way that it was and why it didn’t win all the acclaim it should have This was arguably not just because of the issues it raises which discomfitures the city’s elite and their self image but because this deep an analysis of a city and its people broken and lost as they both are is something few writers would endeavour to approach in this way let alone do justice to; Dasgupta is looking at Delhi differently he wants the reader to as well not something all critics will be happy withCapital is a disturbing book From the beginning this point is made clear to us that this is not going to be easy to read Delhi is not an easy city to live in and the forces that sustain and propel it are not easily distinguished or explained This means that there will be a lot of conjecture the imagination will have to take a few leaps Only then can we even partially come to terms with what the India's capital has evolved into The author stresses that this process hasn’t ended; the seemingly bottomless energy of this constantly changing city is what guides the narrative Remember Dasgupta tells us as we read this capital of yours is aliveThe book starts with an introduction of how trade works in this city And slowly the narrator’s vision takes us higher up; this isn’t the looking up from the ground approach of Barbara Ehrenreich’s reportage or the view from the grime of Old Delhi that Aman Sethi conjures up in A Free Man Dasgupta sees Delhi from up on high as he comments on the forces that shaped the city and continue to do so

Inevitably the author starts with liberalisation and writes a beautiful chapter on the artists of Delhi’s early 90s the bohemians who first felt the change underfoot and tried to understand it with their art And then abruptly he contrasts that time with the seemingly ideal less present achieving an effect that he uses repeatedly in the book This contrast might be rather in your face set piece but it is necessary Delhi can never be understood without going back to its past

Rana Dasgupta talks to Delhi’s nouveau rich all endlessly and distressingly drawn from a similar set of people and circumstances the post partition frenzy of finding financial security by any means possible a mood that has never left this city and continues still than anything else to define it Delhi’s wealth is not independent of location Dasgupta reminds us again and again Delhi’s rich are rich precisely because they find and in a lot of cases found themselves in a uniue setting of time and place the likes of which are exceedingly rare; and they took advantage of it Of course this isn’t to generalise A lot of people built perfectly honourable institutions establishments and businesses in this melee But Dasgupta isn’t talking about them He’s talking about the ones who recognised the opportunity for what it was a gold rush and set about mining it Dasgupta posits that knowing where they came from this wasn’t surprising or even unnatural 

Except that Delhi forgot when to stop Crony capitalism that feeds on the abundant political connections available and inflated real estate is where Delhi’s money comes from and neither of these avenues is for the faint of heart For Delhi’s elite though the ability and the resolve to wade through this muck comes naturallyDasgupta’s sentences are sometimes magnificent sometimes brutal and edgy but seldom inane His eyes are that of a novelist’s looking at a landscape at large but resting on the innocuous and the mundane before joining the two dots together and making an observation that astounds and delights at the same time Though there are instances in which his arguments seem overstretched at no point is his tone anywhere near unbelievable As I mentioned Delhi is not an easy place to understand A leap of faith is necessaryIn the end as even Dalrymple did Dasgupta returns to ancient Delhi and writes a moving elegy to the city's threatened and rapidly fading water sources the natural resource that first made the city possible In perhaps the only tone of reassurance however morbid that he offers us in the whole book the author talks of the almost eternal perpetuity of the old Mughal capital The city we now call Delhi is the most modern though perhaps the most lawless incarnation of the place that has seen so much and endured across centuries kingdoms sultanates and governments And it will outlive us too and what we have made out of it There will come a time in Delhi when this will be the past too and the river which gave it birth will still flow on winding its way through the plains of a great ancient civilisation Perhaps justice will yet be done 



  3. says:

    This book is about Delhi post 1990s Rana Dasgupta successfully records the transition of Delhi from a sleeping monster to a raging one The city's landscape has changed in unprecedented ways; new jobs multinational companies escalation in prices of real estate Apparently this has also impacted its people in different waysSo this book tells the story of Delhi and people who live in it He meets some of Delhi's ultra rich and talks to them about their ambitions and plans for the future what is it that moves these rich men to become richer to work harder and so forth Some of these stories give a glimpse of what is going on underneath Delhi's so called material success In these stories one can see how culture religion and global capital intersect and produce newer forms of being; some of this is of course good and some is undoubtedly challenging For instance while the city is developing in all directions its middle and upper middle classes are growing richer they show complete disregard toward the poor In some ueer way in a profit driven society almost every body irrespective of where one is in the social hierarchy suffers the brunt of itAmong some of the better stories I particularly liked the one about the fashion designer Manish Arora He grew up in an ordinary middle class household and unlike many of his generation he took an unusual path and became an internationally renowned fashion designer Manish is openly gay Likewise there are stories of women who came out in a big way and joined all sort of professions which until now are the stronghold of men There is one exemplary story of a young girl from a very ordinary background who works full time for the rights of slum dwellers Usually it is the privileged women who go in their big cars to help the poorThere are also some interesting explanations about why Delhities behave in the way they do For instance why Delhi's Punjabis a wealthy community are so boisterous loud and go beyond their pockets when it comes to celebrations of all kind Rana claims that this is their way of dealing with the trauma of partition; they still carry within them that pain and their excessive focus on celebration partying is a way to alleviate the pain In another context Rana Dasgupta wonders at how come people are so oblivious to the state and have almost zero level faith in it abilities to protect them Even a casual look at Delhi's streets this is also true of other major Indian cities one sees that people are uite oblivious to the miseries of those living o streets The author believes that this is because of the Indian caste system People belong to their caste first; it is caste that provides them a safety net and people drive their sense of who they are through casteThe author only moved to India in recent years In his manner of speech and behaviour he comes across much like a Brit than an Indian In parts his explanations of people and their habits reeks of biases and prejudices For instance his attitude toward Delhi's elite is uite sympathetic They are somehow above his critiue as if by critiuing them he will harm himselfMy favourite chapter in the book is the last one on water systems in Delhi This is one of the most crucial chapters in the book Indian urban centres will have huge problems on water front Here we see how wrong policies greed can lead to a disaster of sorts In the past the water was used and stored in a way that suited to its geography In this chapter it is explained in a great detail how it worked With the dawn of pipelines and several decades later the eruption of industrial units around Delhi we have effectively choked its waters; its rivers have been tamed into drains– toxic ones This aspect of Delhi is perhaps for other India urban centers too scary because no one is paying attention as if Delhi can do without water– as if coco cola will fulfill Delhi's water deficitOf course as a reader one can easily explicate oneself because Delhi's problem are after all only Delhi's problems This is only partly true If one just scratches a bit one sees how one is playing a part


  4. says:

    A disappointing work by an outsider trying to understand one of the major cities of the world through the eyes of its rich if not its richest The work is long verbose and offers little that is not already known to most This is not to say that there are no occasional flashes of insight and interest For example in the middle of the book where the author has a long conversation with a social worker and residents of a slum within the city and in the last chapter where he beautifully describes the river Yamuna which flows across the city To the non Indian reader the book provides a dystopian view of one of the emerging centres of world capitalism almost as a reassurance of the West's continued dominanceThe most fundamental flaw of the book is that it seeks to understand how the city's rich imagine their city The rich do not lack the means to convert their imaginations into reality whether these be opulent malls or gated communities It is the poor and the dispossessed whose imaginations need words to be described


  5. says:

    Rana weaves a web of exuisite prose to study what capitalism has done to Delhi a city which had previously been traumatized by other catastrophic historical forces like imperialism and partition The author alternates between personal interactions with a wide range of faces from a wife beating billionaire to a young activist working in the slums and deep thoughts on what the future of the Global City will be He paints a bleak future for the city and we can only seek solace in the fact that out of trauma such meaningful works are written


  6. says:

    455 This is one of the best travelogues I have read it sometimes read like literary fiction with beautiful poetic passages there were great observations and insights and the sheer variety of ppl 20 who narrated their stories mostly in their own words The author perfectly understood where and how much commentary was needed And the commentary was not partisan it was not filled with bitter anger nor was it filled with sly flowery propaganda of any sortThis book had been on my to read list for sometime and I used to think How can u write a book on a single city spanning 450 pages ? Afterall I have read travelogues of 200 300 pages spanning entire India and sometimes even entire continents But to the author's credit the book rarely felt repetitive and the stories provide an exhaustive complete picture of 21st century Delhi from bureaucrats slum dwellers activists businessmen super rich crony capitalists housewives etc You get a great sense of how Delhi functions And as a bonus he has also covered its history with chapters on 1857 1911 1947 and the anti Sikh pogroms in 1984 And I dont remember if I have highlighted times or posted status updates for a bookRecommended reading


  7. says:

    It is an unfortunate reminder of how jaded Indian society is when you see all the reviews below panning this book as stuff we've heard before Seriously? Is everyone so resigned to living in a gangster state that the lucid and lurid anecdotes in this compendium no longer make people tremble with rage and indignation? Have we all just decided to meekly allow ignorant fools with no shame to take over Delhi and rule it with all the wisdom of a poorly toilet trained 3 year old crapping wherever they wish? Sure there is nothing in this book that any well read student of contemporary India does not know about It's the prose and the theoretical yarn that Dasgupta weaves that makes it truly compelling His ability to thread all the multifaceted symptoms of the ill city together into a comprehensive diagnosis is what is worth reading I'm not sure I agree 100% with his analysis but that is a moot point as I found his argument enchanting and thought provoking


  8. says:

    This is a searing read Dasgupta puts together a patchwork of intricate stories of various inhabitants of Delhi applying at once the keen eye of a reporter the insight of a psychologist the lyricism of a poet We hear the perspectives of overt Bentley driving farmhouse hopping billionaires as well as the 'shadow' billionaires that are refused car loans because of how little income they actually declare of the patients turned victims of Delhi's corporate hospitals whose doctors are incentivised by the revenue they bring in of newly 'liberated' women who may be empowered at their workplace but suffer humiliation in their own homes of Delhi's itinerant slum dwellers whose townships are constantly razed to the ground to make room for new developmentsof people who get rich uick by fitting themselves somewhere into the vast framework of black money and bribery that underpins the whole city and The snapshots are vivid detailed and disturbing and are set within context of historical stories such as that of Indira Gandhi's centralisation of power to which the author alludes most of the ingrained corruption in India today as well as as modern ones such as that of the 2010 Commonwealth Games an illustration of the extent to which the needs of the poor were swept aside in the name of everything modern as well as the scale of corruption in the city The author claims several times to have a complicated love hate relationship with the city and even the last line turns uite suddenly positive Delhiis one of the most beautiful places on earth These positive claims are the only ones that feel somewhat jarring and out of place because they appear to have so little basis within a picture that varies from depressing to downright frightening The book is uite long and paints maybe an extreme picture but I found it to be a worthwhile read


  9. says:

    Written from the point of view of a foreigner this book attempts to outline the character of Delhi the various tragedies developments and incidents that have made it what it is today The author talks about the Mughal period British period 1947 partition post partition IT boom 1970 Sikh riots patriarchy real estate and housing water crisis trying to make the reader understand how different leaders and governments have exploited various aspects of the city For someone who has lived here for 24 years now but has remained ignorant of its past this was an eye opener it's amazing to know how much this city has endured I really enjoyed the Delhi Sultanate chapters so much so that I decided to visit some of the monuments that I had never cared about before I also see myself developing a newfound interest in Urdu thanks to a chapter dedicated to itHowever I felt that some paragraphs in this book are uite verbose boring and unnecessary The author's analysis make chapters too long and I felt lost between paragraphs sometimes re reading or entirely skipping some of them I feel I would have enjoyed the book much and finished it much earlier had it been shorter Nonetheless it was a great read and I would recommend it to anyone trying to understand not just this beautiful city but the post partition India as well


  10. says:

    To cut the long story short this book could have easily done with a hundred pages less There's a lot of historical gleaning eventually ending up as rambling While it's good to see how Rana Dasgupta has tried to form the picture of something going through systemic decay repeating that in almost every chapter with a curious tone of whining doesn't do much justice to the reader Capital is surely a very good attempt at accounting the tale of Delhi as it is and were but perhaps needed a tighter narration to make it a better read