Rana Dasgupta’s Capital was making waves at the Jaipur Literary Festival this year. I couldn’t attend any of his sessions there but the book caught my fantasy. It looked beautiful in a black & golden jacket, shining all the way.
Then it was at a famous bookstore in Delhi, where I went to spend some time and got to know that Rana is doing a reading from his book there on the very same day. I attended it and he read some paragraphs about Sukhwinder. It was a stark and vivid account of a married woman’s troubled life in one of the households of Delhi. Some instances from Sukhwinder’s (a changed name) story left everyone in the audience in splits and towards the end, I felt really bad for her. That is when I thought I will definitely read this book and I did.
450 pages painting a portrait of twenty first century Delhi is how I would like to describe this book. Gripping from the word go, the book is unputdownable. The facts, anecdotes, stats and information was too much to digest to finish this book in a couple of sittings and that’s the reason I decided to go slow with it. Rana came to Delhi at the beginning of 2000 with no intention of staying here and it’s been fourteen years since he has been in a love and hate relationship with the capital.
It begins with Rana meeting with Rakesh (again a changed name) at his lush farmhouse in South Delhi who is a filthy rich businessman of Delhi. Rakesh’s family has been in the north Indian jewellery business for the last century but Rakesh ventured into automobile sector and is currently supplying various car manufacturers. He talks about his family, business, future plans and how Delhi has played an important role in making him what he is today.
As the book progresses, it gets more captivating. The author has tried to cover as much as he can about the capital. Connecting the past (since independence & historic times) with present and drawing inferences for the future of the country after talking to a wide array of people belonging to different classes of the society intertwined with anecdotes that have been documented realistically sans the real names of people is what makes this book rich and a compelling read.
Some anecdotes in the book will disgust you to the core and many will leave you shocked. For e.g. What goes on in the corporate hospitals in Delhi in the name of world class treatment will make you question the real motive behind healthcare institutions of our country. The kind of money people made while the capital was gearing up to host Commonwealth Games will leave you flabbergasted. Nithari killings to 1984’s anti-sikh riots to Jessica lal murder case, everything has been discussed in this book with details that I never knew existed before.
Rana Dasgupta interviewed people from different backgrounds and communities that added various fascinating dimensions to the book. He went to a retired defence personnel’s house in Defence Colony where he got to know about how Def-Col came into existence. He also meets Sadia Dehlvi who has written several books about Sufism and is also a member of Delhi’s old and august Muslim families. She tells him that it is difficult to relate to the city of Delhi anymore. She has seen it change drastically over the years. The only place she can still relate to and loves from the core of her heart is the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya. During her growing up years, her house was full of music and poetry. She is deeply saddened with the fact that a lot of people don’t know Urdu. She mourn the loss of language and says “When you want to destroy a people, you take away their language”.
There is a lot more that has been covered in this book and putting everything together in a review would be exceptionally tough. All I can say is, this book will not let you down at any given point. I highly recommend this book to all those who love Delhi and are oblivious to the various shades that makes it one of the most dynamic cities of our planet. This book will make you see our capital through the eyes of its people from all walks of life. Its insightful, dark and uncanny and brilliant to say the least.
Book Source : Publisher
Publisher : 4th Estate – Harper Collins India
Genre : Non-fiction
Price : Rs. 799/-