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4.0 out of 5 stars Delhi, but not the citty of Djinns, 24 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi (Kindle Edition)
This is a bleak picture of one of India's most iconic city Dasgupta's cast of characters is wonderfully idiosyncratic - the rich and successful as well as those for whom system is exploitative. The portrayal of a venal medical profession betraying the basics of any hippocratic oath and the historical indifference of the new rich for their compatriots would raise the hackles of anyone not familiar with Indian civil service practice !
It is a significant contribution to the huge library of portraits od Delhi in that it reflects a 21st century prtrait - no attempt to mreflect the establishment of seven historical Delhis, no appeal to the past, it is an unflinching critique of what the city has become. In terms of professionalo development, architectural abomination and civic exploitation, it reveals a depressng picture but on the other hands stories aroud those characters such as the gay fashion designer, the business woman trapped in a traditional matriarchal home and the second generation millionaire provide a portrait of real life.

Having lived in Delhi, I foun d it fascinating, un-put-downable, great narrative and beautifull written.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Biography and synecdoche: all in one., 4 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi (Kindle Edition)
Capital proved to be an unexpected delight. Dasgupta, a relatively new and unknown Indian voice, writes with a sensitivity and directness that I have seen many accomplished columnists and self-fashioned commentators try and fail. His attempt to decode the hidden underworld behind his adopted city is free from any personal nostalgia and the pointer of his deconstruction is an Eastern megapolis transformed completely while riding on the neoliberalisation wave. The tone largely stays that of an incredulous expatriate who is disturbed and sobered by only the most recent of the jaw-dropping metamorphosis who then sets about putting microphones before the mouths of the movers and shakers along with the moved and the shaken to make sense of the disorienting din.

Armed with the emerging vignettes, he inserts himself regularly with a sweeping overlong editorial distilled from the recent historical and economic touchstones that is driving the city's contemporary citizens aspirations and ideals. The end result is an updated polyphonic biography of the city and a commendable effort at encasing the narrative of this city's metamorphosis as a synecdoche and a cautionary tale for the global phenomenon of crony-capitalism and its consequences, both for the ever-more dispossessed and expanding masses and the ever-narrowing, flourishing classes. The particular transformation of Delhi is as comprehensive as the more general extrapolations.

I have read many an articulate account that bemoaned the total loss of pre-Partition cultural sophistication and pre-British regalia of Mughal kingdoms, especially in City of Djinns (Dalrymple) and Delhi (Khushwant Singh), but here that moan is tied to a longer, later post-post-colonial transformation narrative that bookends its new transformation as the latest tragic chapter to a city that has braved multiple complete annihilations. This decimation is relevant as the emergent population, migrant and resident, fresh from the convulsions of Partition and 1984 riots, have bred themselves and their future generations as ten-fanged entrepreneurs and wealth-accumulating warriors whose thirst for building and owning is unquenchable. The incessant land-grabbing, license-acquring, real-estate speculating predictably facilitated by the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have enabled a few to stir their way up into the cream of the Delhi coffee cup. From the drip-by-drip account of the economic policies executed by this nexus of the politicians and the lobbying business class, Dasgupta's persuasive thesis constructs the origins of the present grotesque sub-society of three-tier reality made of the inaccessible cabal of connected and wealthy billionaires, the middle-class sold to derivative materialist dreams and the underclass of billions subsisting on abuse and pitiable scraps of the above two, with alarming acuity.

He joins the dots of prevalent attitudes and behaviours with spectacular ease. Of particular note is his deconstruction of unprecedented violence against women in the city and a city-wide obsession with security and boundaries. I did not see the anthropological connection to traditional idea of women being custodians of Indian-ness in post-colonial Indian reality that was demolished by a newfound mobility unleashing a horrifying war against the gender. Punctuating his neat explanations are extempore streams-of-consciousnesses of carefully chosen subjects from across the socio-economic spectrum that air their grievances, moral vacuities, justifications, intellectual poverties, motivations and compensatory mechanisms with ease and simplicity: drugs, automobiles, mansions, farmhouses, parties: the Faustian pacts signed for these and their multi-limbed repercussions: the delusions and breakdowns manage to transmit the mindspace of the metropolis. The old and the dispossessed also get to bemoan the lack of culture or any semblance of society. Dasgupta's concern is endearing: a patient account of medical malpractice representing the apex of everyday apathy and corruption infecting the firms running private hospital corporations tears into the reader as much as a walk with him up the silted-with-sewage Yamuna river that now floods every year.

It's almost a relief-less catastrophic narrative teeming with incident, wailing with concern and it made me wonder aloud at the future of such a metropolis, and many like it around the world, post-solidification of the lava ejected by the free-market volcano. Presumably, after the gloss of capitalism has dulled for a critical mass of the population and the consequences of global ecological plunder starts forcing whole nation-states with their respective populations to co-operate, to restructure, to redistribute resources both within and outside, such remorseless billionaires with their conquests could become outmoded. The need of the hour is new leaders to form a "new experiential and philosophical base" according to Dasgupta. Given the leanings of the newest elect for India's premier and a whole new mega-wave of neoliberalisation in tow, this utopia has just become a little more distant and the walled, concrete inferno is here to stay.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Sadenning. ..a great read., 21 May 2014
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Enlightening and broadly encompassing insight into modern Delhi life. Well written, insightful and thought provoking and sometimes leaving the reader feeling saddened at the bleak outlook presented. Though Das Gupta's current observations and experiences are well reasoned and written, Im not so sure if Delhi's historical side is as well presented and researched. A few times in the book, chapters are dedicated to a single persons versions and perspective on Delhi's history and development and this is then almost taken as gospel by the author and presented to the reader as is, without question. Overall a great read, especially for those who have lived in Delhi as I have done.
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