June 28, 2020
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The New India

So funny that it's sinister

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The New India
Making The Minister Smile
By Anurag Mathur
A'N'B Publishers Rs: 95; Pages: 219
THE Kiplingesque 'twain' not only meet, but collide hilariously when an American jock comes to the mystic East to further commercial links between his plastic manufacturing company in small town America and the Kapco company of Delhi. The owners of Kapco, the well-connected Kapoors of Punjabi Bagh, bribe, bash and butter all those who can deliver ministerial favours to crush a rampaging union leader; the minister is satisfyingly vulpine, complete with hooded eyes and Nehruvian references, who only smiles when the denouement reduces part of his constituency to ashes. And then there is the devil himself, travelling under the name of Mani Shankar Aiyar, who lurks behind bushes but then is revealed to be only a Pakistani agent. Chris Stark, steak-and-apple-pie-soccer player, finds himself astounded by globalising India, far too big to fit into anything, confronted with the estate of unknowing on whose brink New India stands.

East and West have forged an awkward relationship in the age of economic reforms. Politics has broken free of the idealism of the founding fathers and is floundering in sleaze. How appropriate then, that the book should appear at the time of the hawala saga. Mathur describes the complicated backroom deals and bloody vendettas that lie beneath the surface of everyday India. The Manmohanomics generation capers in a universe of parties; promiscuous US-returned designers and drunk arrivistes from Patna jostle in a fog of drink. Chris is seized by lust for his host's fiancee and she, svelte and dusky, (naturally) reveals that the New Indian Woman has undergone a transformation far more far reaching than the economy.

Mathur has written of an India that is so funny that it is quite sinister. The book is strewn with recognisably demented characters and racily written Hinglish abounds. Perhaps this highly topical little novel is sometimes a little cliched; yet it is always a mirror of our contradictory selves as we start out on the road to a globalised society

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