INDIA: A PORTRAIT


India: A Portrait is the latest book on India by Patrick French

An intimate biography of 1.2 billion people

Around the world, India’s recent economic rise has caused puzzlement. How can a country produce so many billionaires, such chronic poverty and a new, dynamic middle class? Why are Indians often successful in areas such as business, medicine, finance and electronics? Does the secret lie in cultural forces that are unique to India?

Patrick French seeks to answer these questions and many more in India: A Portrait, his most wide-ranging and collaborative book to date.

Beginning with an account of how the Indian union was put together—when the nation 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 dissent.

In his travels across India, he has spoken to figures ranging from national political leaders to Maoist revolutionaries, mafia dons, chained quarry workers, outstanding technological innovators, cash-rich pimps and inspirational self-made entrepreneurs, trying to answer the central question of the book: ‘Why is India like it is today?’

The result is a richly detailed portrait of modern India, which throws up as many new enquiries as it solves – as well as some fresh questions about aspects of Indian life which are turning out to have a global significance.

What is the ideal way to run a very large country?

Why is south India so unlike the north?

Is caste genetic?

Is Indian democracy becoming increasingly nepotistic and hereditary?

Has the recent economic revolution helped only a handful of clever, lucky business people?

Why was a labourer, Venkatesh, chained in a quarry near Mysore for nearly two years?

Why does Indian national identity remain so powerful even while globalization is changing the country profoundly?

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