x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

India Rising: Conflict between old and new

Oliver Balch finds that the economic powerhouse that India has become is a far cry from the spiritual hub he once knew.

India Rising
Oliver Balch
Faber and Faber
India Rising Oliver Balch Faber and Faber Dh85

After a South American sojourn that produced his acclaimed book Viva South America! A Journey Through a Restless Continent, Oliver Balch returns to the country where he idled away his student gap year and, in India Rising, finds the rapidly developing economic powerhouse of now is a far cry and a long way from the spiritual hub he once knew.

Balch experiences waves of bewilderment as he encounters India’s shantytowns and loitering cows, both occupying the same space as thrusting new skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls. The contrasting and conflicting paradigms of old and new India unfold through each of his many experiences.

The author rarely views India alone. Instead, his chapters are peppered with the nation’s many and varied citizens and while a needy Bollywood hopeful and a few zealous cricket fans both seem achingly predictable, other chapters include excerpts from marriage counsellors, a chauffeur who dreams of owning his own fleet of cars and a former IT consultant who now teaches impoverished children. Each of these vignettes gives the reader a wider perspective on the state of a nation.