This is a really interesting book about modern India. Seven of its eight chapters each focus on the life of one young adult (the introductory chapter is about the author), using each story to illuminate some aspect of life in India. For instance, the first chapter focuses on a young prodigy who is born to a relatively poor family, but with enormous effort – and a very dedicated mother – makes it to college, but the chapter also discusses the sorry state of Indian education for most children – though almost all now attend primary school, many leave it still unable to read, and for uneducated parents it’s hard to tell whether the children are learning. Another chapter focuses on guerilla movements, and in particular one young woman who joined a rebel group. One chapter is mostly about politics and the rise of Narendra Modi, while another is about a young couple murdered by her brother because they’re from different castes.
Through the stories of generally interesting people, the book provides a lot of information about history, politics, and society, in a country undergoing rapid change. Sengupta is an award-winning journalist and so everything is provided in an easy-to-digest way. And she’s economical, packing it all into just 219 pages of text. The use of present tense for storytelling is a little odd, and the sections about the author were the least interesting parts of the book to me, but overall I enjoyed and learned from this. This book would be an excellent choice for anyone interested in India, and it makes a strong case for why those who aren’t yet should pay attention.