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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This One Is For Keeps
I picked up this book out of a discard bin at my job, fascinated by the cover. I have a strong interest in the BRICS countries, particularly how modernization is affecting the old way of life and culture.

What I got from India Becoming was a candid, vivid portrait of complexities that belie modern India's rise. The major factions are a reluctantly acquiescent...
Published on March 15, 2012 by ashleyist

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent portrayal of people living in a country that's rapidly changing.
NOTE: I won this book on LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

"India Becoming" is a book about India in transition, especially after the economy was liberalised in 1991. It's written by Akash Kapur, who grew up in India, spent his early adulthood in the United States, and then returned to live in India. His hometown and the surrounding areas and cities have changed a...
Published on March 19, 2012 by Kriti Godey


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This One Is For Keeps, March 15, 2012
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
I picked up this book out of a discard bin at my job, fascinated by the cover. I have a strong interest in the BRICS countries, particularly how modernization is affecting the old way of life and culture.

What I got from India Becoming was a candid, vivid portrait of complexities that belie modern India's rise. The major factions are a reluctantly acquiescent old guard, an eager new guard dominated by youth, some of whom seem incredibly naive, and a Westernized generation in the middle uneasy about it all.

Perhaps, the most striking thing about this book is how the myriad proper and cultural references to India could easily and almost seamlessly be replaced with those of China, Brazil and even the United States. It is, quite simply, a portrait of the price we pay for what is universally and often dubiously billed as progress. The only question that remains is, To what end?

Well done, Mr. Kapur. Well done.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent portrayal of people living in a country that's rapidly changing., March 19, 2012
By 
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
NOTE: I won this book on LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

"India Becoming" is a book about India in transition, especially after the economy was liberalised in 1991. It's written by Akash Kapur, who grew up in India, spent his early adulthood in the United States, and then returned to live in India. His hometown and the surrounding areas and cities have changed a lot, and he talks to a bunch of different people to figure out how their lives have changed. Sathy is a landowner in a village, which was formerly a position of power, but is quickly becoming irrelevant. Banu, his wife, is struggling to balance her career and her family. Hari and Selvi are recent college graduates from small villages, finding their place in a Westernised corporate world. Veena is an ambitious career woman that is flouting tradition by divorcing her husband and living with a boyfriend. There are a few more people interviewed, like Jayevel the cow-broker and Das the Dalit businessman.

The book is divided into two parts. The first focuses on the good; the burgeoning middle class, the proliferation of women in the workplace, the new businesses and construction and culture. The second part talks about the destruction and disarray that accompanied them - for instance, people's livelihoods and homes getting destroyed, people that are unsure of their place in the new world.

The stories made interesting reading, but I don't think they were more than a series of vignettes. It's true that India is rapidly changing. This means that people can aspire to much more than the government jobs that used to be the only recourse in socialist India, and that Western culture is pervasively affecting Indian youth. India's economic development is completely ignoring sustainability and damage to the environment. There is still enormous poverty, despite more and more people being successful. I think that's what Kapur aims to show us with all these stories.

I'm not entirely sure why this book left me so ambivalent. I did enjoy reading about the people. I guess I was hoping for more insight or theories about how India might evolve in the future. I already know that there is a lot of change in India, both constructive and destructive, so I didn't really learn much from the book. I know that we are neglecting our poor, but that we're also becoming more individualistic and free, all because of globalisation. Kapur didn't offer any analysis of this - just platitudes about how nothing is what it seems to be like on the surface. He doesn't offer any answers or suggestions as to how India might achieve a better balance, he just points out the flaws.

The blurb for this book says:

"India Becoming is essential reading for anyone interested in our changing world and the newly emerging global order. It is a riveting narrative that puts the personal into a broad, relevant and revelational context."

I don't think I'd take it quite so far, but it's a decent portait of a few lives coping with a country that is rapidly changing.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars India changing and the way it affects different people and places., April 18, 2012
By 
DirkG (Pondicherry) - See all my reviews
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
What makes Akash Kapur's book so much more interesting and indicative of the changes happening in India is the fact that he writes about it from both an insiders' and and outside observers' perspectives. He gains the confidence of people from very different backgrounds and is able to give a real account of their lives and the way the new India affects them. This is not a superficial account with statistics and factoids like is often the case with so many "India" books by writers with little real insight but a book that gives a true image of what's happening at ground level. Recommended for both readers that already know India and those wanting to get a good idea of what's happening.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced portrait of the rush back home, May 23, 2012
By 
Vijay K. Gurbani (Lisle, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
I must admit that I approached this work with some trepidation. After all, India has recently become the poster child for reasons why expatriates are rushing back home and non-expatriates are willing to relocate there and divine the mysteries of an alien culture. (See my review of "Sideways on a scooter" by Miranda Kennedy as an example of the latter and "India calling" by Anand Giridharadas exemplifying the former.) The last thing I wanted to read was one more author trying to glean a larger meaning of life by talking to a statistically narrow sample of a few casual acquaintances and well-off friends.

Luckily this book is not all that. Well, the sample is still narrow and not enough to be statistically significant, but at the very least Mr. Kapur does not paint a perennially rosy picture. Born of mixed parentage (American and Indian), Mr. Kapur decides to relocate back to his ancestral homeland. The initial exuberance shortly wears off as daily ennui takes affect. Mr. Kapur presents the rose-tinted view of the future of the country mixed with equal measure by talking about the toll being exacted by the entrepreneurs, politicians, and businessmen from the land. The buildup of technology parks is balanced by discussing the plight of farmers who see no other way than suicide to deal with their problems. The pull of a nucleus family is explored in the context of the price it extracts from the traditional way of life. The liberation of women working in large cities is painted against the backdrop of the parochial view of the place of women in the society. Traditional jobs, handed through generations, are being redefined --- a good example is that of a cow broker. It used to be that brokering cows was a good business; brokers made a reasonable amount of money by matching up sellers with buyers. The problem with the modern interpretation of cow brokering is that the buyer is more than likely to kill the cow for meat and the seller is more than likely to be a broke farmer pawning off one of his last assets. The broker makes a lot more money now, but this comes at a cost of being stigmatized in society (cows hold a certain value to Hindus, and this value prohibits them from being used as meat) and being filled with guilt and self-doubt (as a cow broker is when he wonders if his son died in a motorcycle accident because of the sins of the father).

I think this is an excellent book and provides a much more balanced view of how the Indian society is evolving as tradition gives way to the modern and the price this evolution is exacting from its people and the ancient land. I recommend this book highly. (May 2012)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study of Changing India, May 3, 2012
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
This is an excellent study of the rapid changes India is undergoing. The author does not just focus on the urban site but also pays quite a bit of attention to what is going on in small town India. He does so by following a number of people for a longer period of time, not so much interviewing them, but simply staying in conversation, trying to understand what is happening in and to their lives in relation to the more macro-economic changes India is undergoing itself. It leads to particularly vivid and in-depth portrayals of a number of characters among which Sathi, a Reddiar/Reddy, land-owner who is unwilling and in a sense uncapable of giving up his 'role' as land-owner and village care-taker. But there is also Sathi's wife, whose ambitions reach far beyond the city, who runs a business from Bangalore, and who reflects quite differently on Sathi's view of life. And then there is Hari, a young IT guy who struggles with being different, his homosexuality, and the relationship with his parents/family. And then there are a number of others, often whom he gets to know through earlier contacts. It is a typical way of doing anthropological fieldwork but this book does not fall into the trap that so much anthropological scholarly work has: it does not attempt to fit it all into a grand and often overly complex theoretical narrative. It registers, observes, and discusses, and by doing so provides a rare glimpse into a rapidly changing India where answers to Small and Large problems are not always readily available or even necessary. I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What price progress?, March 17, 2012
By 
bigcuz (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
We received this book as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher.

What price progress? India Becoming is not one mans story about life in India; it is stories from some of the people that the author has met in search of what is happening in India. How life is changing and what that means to some of the people who live there.

Progress tears down the old rules, and brings chaos. What are the new rules? Who defines them? Who has power? Is it the family? Is it the individual? The village or town? What part does the family play in this new life? What parts of the old life should you keep? What should be left behind? These are just some of the questions that people living in India face.

Akash Kapur does a good job giving the reader insight into what is going on in India and some of the problems that people face there. There are people who live in unspeakable poverty who live in hope, there are village girls who have moved to the city and are trying to stay true to the values that they grew up with. There are others who are blazing new trails and wonder if they are on the right path.

Anyone interested in India or in the process of a country becoming more modern should find this book an interesting read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read to understand India of the present, April 26, 2012
This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
Kapur offers a fascinating look at the rapid pace with which India is changing. The years he spent abroad living in the US, plus his Indian/American family history gives him special insight into the development of one of the world's most vibrant countries. After hearing the stories of the characters like Ramadas and Sathy, it's up to the reader to determine if the change is for the better - or worse.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mixed blessings of modern day India, May 13, 2012
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This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
Absolutely brilliant, my favorite read of the year so far! Every now and then you run into a little book that brings back the pure joy of reading... and despite being work of non-fiction, Kapur's beautifully written reminiscences on modern-day India are that kind of a gem.

I picked up the book after reading accolades in the Economist and was expecting a work with top-down approach, peppered with GDP numbers and featuring Indian elites. Instead Kapur centers his book around several next-door characters whose lives have been profoundly changed as a result modernization and galloping economic growth over the past decade. This is book written in the old-school tradition of Naipaul, Chatwin and even W.G. Sebald.

Kapur asks many questions, offers some answers but really shares with us the complexity of it all: the good and the ugly. The first part of the book is centered on unequivocally good things that these changes have brought - but from page one when we meet larger-than-life Sathy, a village elder, we also get exposed to the undertow of mourning for walks of life gone by, mourning after used-to-be quiet endless fields which are now being scavenged by developers looking to build second homes for wealthy Indians. Fortunes are being made, and some lost but the wheels of this progress are spinning tirelessly and Kapur captures the energy of it and excitement in gory detail. The second part of the book offers more somber picture: jobs are being lost, a taxi driver falls to an angry mob, author's own family suffers gravely from a toxic landfill.

One of the characters says towards the end of the book "living is the most important" and that's the sentiment that Kapur leaves us with, that there's profound optimism in these changes, that a complex new world is taking place of the old one.

Beautiful!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes vivid the stories of India's change, April 27, 2012
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This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
I find myself admiring India's growth from afar but, since I've never been there, I think of it in real generalities. This book made all those grand themes -- economic opportunity, social freedom, but also abandonment of tradition, the surprising and confusing juxtapositions of modern life, etc. -- human.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecological damage in India, December 28, 2013
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This review is from: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India (Hardcover)
What I liked about this book is that he addresses the ecological price that India is paying for the development. Wish people in the Indian government would read this book. It is good that India is doing well financially. However. unless the problems of overpopulation and the damage to the ecology is addressed, the lives of ordinary Indians is not going to get any better. I immensely enjoyed reading this book.
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India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India
India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur (Hardcover - March 15, 2012)
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