India

'Rogue Elephant' Asks: Is Democracy Right For India?

Jun 29, 2014

Over the course of the past month, some 600 million Indians went to the polls to elect a new government — the largest exercise in democracy in the world.

The results surprised few: Discontented voters tossed out the ruling Congress Party and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Congress, which has controlled India much of the time since its independence in 1947, has now been reduced to a parliamentary remnant.

More than 25 years ago, Saroo Brierley was one of many poor children in rural India. At 4 years old, he couldn't read: He didn't even know the name of his hometown. His mother was raising four children on her own, and they were constantly hungry. Brierley's older brothers would hop trains to nearby towns to search for scraps to eat.

On Monday, Narendra Modi will be sworn in as India's prime minister. His rise to power is a remarkable story. A former tea vendor who speaks poor English, Modi is a distinct outsider to India's political and cultural establishment. His election signals the extent to which India is shedding its old hierarchies and class barriers, becoming a more meritocratic society.

'Girl In The Road' Is A Dizzying Journey

May 22, 2014

Can you write about the future these days without it being apocalyptic? It's not clear whether Monica Byrne was trying to answer that question in her debut novel, The Girl in the Road — but she does it anyway. Taking place near the end of the 21st century in India and Africa — as well as on a high-tech bridge that spans the Indian Ocean between the two — the book isn't short on misery, tragedy or violence. It certainly isn't optimistic. At the same time, it gracefully dodges the apocalypse-mongering that's become all but de rigueur in near-future science fiction.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We told you earlier today [Friday] about a University of Chicago professor whose book was withdrawn in India after a Hindu group brought a court challenge against the publisher, Penguin Books, India.

In a surprise move, the Indian Supreme Court this week ruled to uphold a ban on gay sex. The ban, instituted under British colonial authority more than 150 years ago, had been repealed in 2009. With its reinstatement, the law, also known as Section 377, once again makes homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"Immigrant number 96153. That's how my great-grandmother was cataloged, that was the number on her immigration pass." says Gaiutra Bahadur, author of the new book Coolie Woman.

Bahadur set out to uncover her family's roots by following a paper trail of colonial archives and ship records that traced her great-grandmother's journey from a small village in India to the cane fields of Guyana.

For an introduction to India's cultural and culinary delights, you might hop a flight to Delhi or book a trip to Mumbai. But to meet the country sans passport free of airport indignities, you could just curl up with the crime novels of Tarquin Hall.

Vish Puri, Hall's opinionated private investigator, is a 50-something Punjabi super sleuth with a fondness for family and food. The mustachioed detective cracks open India's underbelly with a caseload that delves into forbidden love, corruption in Indian cricket and the deadly clash between science and superstition.

For The Love Of The Game: How Cricket Transformed India

Jul 16, 2013

The English language and cricket were Britain's two largest colonial legacies in India, says journalist James Astill, but it is the second of these bequests that is the subject of his important and incisive new book, The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption, And the Turbulent Rise of Modern India. Astill is a former bureau chief for the Economist in New Delhi, and he notes the parallels between the country's control of cricket and its dramatic economic rise.

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