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India Rising: Tales from a Changing Nation Paperback – 7 Mar 2013
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'Oliver Balch beautifully captures the spirit and rhythm of a nation. Balch foregoes analysis and history-book fact-feeding for a collection of lively anecdotes gathered from across the subcontinent ... The stories are illuminating, and Balch s writing is just plain excellent.' --Irish Times
'Oliver Balch brings a zestful, youthful approach to a sub-continent as ancient as history but young in the perpetual reinvention of itself ... Energised and excited by India, Balch's set pieces add up to a well-made drama of lives in a complex, colourful, competitive landscape where extremes, often to their mutual dismay and distress, collude and collide.' --Iain Finlayson, The Times
The first thing to recommend is how well written it is. The second is that as well as talking to tycoons, Balch also asks ordinary folk about the bewildering pace of change.' --Conde Nast Traveller
In India Rising, Oliver Balch travels around India telling true stories from the front line of an emerging economy.See all Product description
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Some of the least likely chapters are the best, as in “Actor Prepares” where the author tracks down Naval, the wannabee Bollywood director who has broken with tradition by giving up the course financed by his father, without telling him. In the process, Balch describes the urban tragedy of the hideous, jerry-built concrete housing blocks in unfinished suburbs where recent migrants to Mumbai are crammed without the money or knowhow to equip themselves adequately.
After visiting the artificial bubble of a western style shopping mall, which girls can only attend chaperoned or with friends, Bauch interviews the retail millionaire who feels that aspiration levels, even amongst the poor of India, are now too high to halt the growing tide of consumption: “material things are rewards for performance”. Can Gandhi’s opposing philosophy of the importance of inner peace and harmony survive against this? It is interesting to read how the ingenious poor of India are beginning to set about achieving their ends. There is the “microfinance” (controversial in view of the interest rates levied) which enables groups of women in the slums to borrow money for small-scale activities, guaranteeing repayments for each other as necessary. Similarly, in remote villages off the beaten track, it is again women who operate like “Avon ladies” selling small packets and jars of cleaning agents. When asked if she is happy with her purchases, an old lady gives the telling response, “Before, we washed our dishes with ash”.
On page 250, a rare piece of analysis asserts, “India is travelling at multiple speeds as in multiple directions. New India is a story of fits and starts, not linear progression.” And in the conclusion: “India is too diverse, too full of paradoxes, too confident ever to be homogenised” or swallowed up by global capitalism. But is this too simplistic? India is clearly in transition, with the poverty of the majority highlighted in the process: state-funded space research versus stagnant villages and mushrooming slums in filthy, lung-searing, gridlocked cities. Will the sheer scale of the economy create such pressures of pollution and instability that India plays a major part in the destruction of our global civilisation as we know it? “India Rising” never probes as deeply as this.
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