- Hardcover: 455 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate (29 January 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9789350297933
- ISBN-13: 978-9350297933
- ASIN: 9350297930
- Package Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 4.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,20,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Capital: A Portrait of Twenty - First Century Delhi Hardcover – 29 Jan 2014
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'A terrific portrait of Delhi right now' - SALMAN RUSHDIE 'An astonishing tour de force by a major writer at the peak of his powers' - WILLIAM DALRYMPLE
About the Author
Solo by Rana Dasgupta has won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book: Europe and South Asia. He was born in England in 1971 and grew up in Cambridge. Having lived in France, Malaysia and the US, he moved to Delhi in 2001. His first bestselling book, Tokyo Cancelled, a thirteen-part story cycle, has been translated into six languages. He is currently working on a novel about science and daydreams.
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This book was suggested by a friend who knew I’d enjoyed Anand Giridharadas’s “India Calling”. Essentially this book is a portrait of Delhi and so it has rare glimpses of the author’s opinions. The narrative is simple and exhaustive at the same time without giving any leads to the author’s take on these issues. Giridharadas gave more of a personal account of the new India while Dasgupta is more objective in his approach.
The book starts off as being quite one dimensional in terms of the personalities he interacts with. The stories seem to gain momentum slowly and perhaps that helps in mirroring how the author must have grown to understand the city. To assimilate the essence of Delhi (or any city) takes time - through stories about its origins, why Delhi was planned, why India shifted its capital (and the seat of politics) from Calcutta to Delhi, what was the role of the Partition in influencing the air of Delhi and setting the tone for the religious and societal upheaval that took place, the real estate boom, the rise of the bourgeoisie, the parallel drawn to the epic Ramayana, the history of language, literature and arts in the city followed by the exodus of the artists who engaged in Urdu, Sufism and anything rumoured to be "Muslim" to Mumbai, a city most absorbent of cultures... There are stories of the modern day private hospitals, the genesis of the BPO sector responsible for the creation of Gurgaon, the gay scene, and the patriarchal business families in addition to encounters in slums, politics, the situation of middle class families with their maids… the author manages to keep things interesting.
In a way, Rana Dasgupta keeps switching the mood of the book from chapter to chapter. There are things to be proud of in Delhi and others that are shameful. A lot of parallels can be drawn to other modern day cities that have morphed from more ancient cultures. This is definitely worth reading.