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Global issue 20

Arena Books accompanied the split – which was characterised by murder, exile, the wrenching apart of faiths and communities, and saw the murder of hundreds of Hindus and Muslims. In the years that followed, longestablished communities, like many of the country’s monuments, were left to crumble. “This is why the city seems so emotionally broken.” “We have no beauty to leave our children,” adds Sadia. But a strange quality of hope and ambition permeates even those at the bottom rungs of the ladder – after all, one day they might be the ones at the top. And why not, when money has historically landed on people independent of intelligence and hard work? Looking at it this way, the hopes of being on the receiving end of a low-probability, high-value windfall run high. It is this American Dream-like attitude that props up those who have a monopoly on wealth in a country where 30 per cent of the population is destitute. “One might think that a place of inequalities as entrenched as Delhi’s would breed democratic yearnings, but it is not the case,” reads Capital. “Delhi’s fantasies are feudal.” The stereotype of the young Delhi male paints him as aggressive, with little regard for social structures like community or law, and fiercely protective of his property – among which he lists the women in his life. In fact, writes Dasgupta, there is a “low-level, but widespread, war against women whose new mobility made them not only the icons of India’s social and economic changes but also the scapegoats”. As he speaks with one man, the grandfather of an interviewee, Dasgupta thinks again that men who were adults before Partition seem able to love women more fully than their sons and grandsons. It isn’t the people he meets that he holds to account, but the culture that allows such overwhelming divides to thrive. So Dasgupta uses pseudonyms for those that he interviews, recording the confessions of the unrepentant and absolving them © Jan S. / Shutterstock simultaneously through anonymity. “Corruption does not stem primarily from wicked or greedy individuals; it comes from destroyed social relations,” he writes. Past and present climb on top of one another in Dasgupta’s Delhi, the various perspectives and nuances mixing together to form a new palette with which he paints the personal details of his interviewees, the broad strokes of wealth and stature that colour and divide Delhi. At its heart, Capital is an affectionate account of a strange, chaotic and, yes, corrupt city that has packed its streets densely and in doing so obscured the horizon. It’s about Delhi, but it is also about the rest of the world, the 140 or so nations that formed out of empires and Soviet agglomerates after 1900 and the Second World War. As Dasgupta writes towards the close of his book: “It is not extraordinary. It is the story of our age.” Kate Bystrova reviews books on her blog at: www.thelittlecrocodile.com www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 61


Global issue 20
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