India Sub title: A Portrait Author: Patrick French-penguin india
‘India is a macrocosm, and may be the world’s default setting for the future.’ The independence of India was a time of hope and uncertainty in equal measure. It was also a time of accelerated history, when every decision—whether considered or arbitrary—had a lasting effect on its vast and diverse populace. In the decades since, India has evolved into a globally prominent nation of enormous promise and achievement, great contradictions and conflict. In this landmark book, Patrick French, author of the acclaimed bestseller Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division, chronicles the epic change. With his superb sense of history and political insight, and an eye for the extraordinary that is as keen as his understanding of the everyday, he builds a compelling narrative of the social and economic revolutions that are transforming India in fundamental ways. Beginning with an account of how the Union was conceived and put together—when India took ‘a gamble on democracy’—he examines the astonishing shift from rigid socialism to unbridled capitalism, the continuing empowerment of the Dalit and lower castes, the anxieties of secular India’s large Muslim minority and the rise of violence in the conduct of the State and among those it neglects or suppresses. Focusing on the most recent changes, he shows how extreme hunger and destitution persist even as millions are pulling themselves free of poverty, how nepotism has triumphed in politics and how sudden societal changes allow the deeply traditional and the startlingly unconventional to co-exist. Along the way, French also paints revealing portraits of Nehru, Ambedkar, Indira and Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, L.K. Advani and Manmohan Singh. And through his travels across India, he speaks to Maoist revolutionaries, mafia dons, chained quarry workers, technological innovators, cash-rich pimps and self-made billionaire entrepreneurs, trying to answer the central question of the book: ‘Why is India like it is today?’ The result is a richly detailed, wide-ranging and hugely rewarding portrait of modern India."