Title: India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India
Author: Akash Kapur
Release Date: March 15, 2012
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel, Cultural
Rating: 4 out of 5
Akash Kapur was born in India, but has spent much of his life in the United States. In 2003, he decided to move his family back to India for good, excited about the transformation the country was undergoing. But what he found over the course of his years back in India weren’t what he expected: the modernity that India is pursuing comes at a high cost, and he wonders if the price was too much.
There have been many books and memoirs written about India’s changing state, its societal inequalities, and the potential the country has for growth. Many have examined the difficult social issues that India is facing, as well as its extreme poverty juxtaposed against the glittering cities it holds. The subject isn’t new, but it certainly is fascinating, and Akash Kapur gives it his own unique spin in India Becoming.
Kapur’s memoir/travelogue/social and cultural commentary sets itself apart from other books because of his circumstances. Not only was he born in India, and thus had some sort of true frame of reference for the changes he was witnessing, but he settled in a smaller town, rather than in one of the bigger cities like Mumbai or Bangalore. As a result, it’s easier for him to see the difficult changes that India’s people, especially its rural workers and farmers, are facing. It’s a refreshing difference, that he doesn’t focus on the cities, where it seems like everything is happening.
India Becoming is structured as a series of anecdotes about the people Kapur meets during his time in India. It’s through this prism that he analyzes the benefits and costs of modern-day India. His voice is steady, guiding the reader through the pages, so though the book’s overarching narrative thread is weak, he never loses the reader’s attention. His depiction of India is startling, though he doesn’t go for cheap shock value. Instead, he presents an honest, true depiction of India, with many weaknesses, but also some encouraging strengths.
There is so much talk about the promise of India and its bright future on the world stage, but it’s important to remember that potential for growth comes with costs. Kapur reminds the reader of this with his graceful prose. He is a wonderful storyteller and his depiction of “ordinary” Indians in a changing society is fascinating. Here’s hoping he follows up this book with another, as there is so much more story to tell.