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Rana Dasgupta

CapitalGains
Essay:Delhi,India,economy,financial,nouveauriche,automobile,society,globalmarket
Tuesday,July28,200922:27GMT
ThisessayappearedinGranta107

ONE
Itallcomestogetherontheroads.
Delhiisasegregatedcityanimpenetrable,warycityacitywithafondnessforbarbedwire,armedguardsandguestlists.Though
itspopulationnowknocksupagainsttwentymillions,IndiascapitalremainscuriouslyfaithfultothespiritoftheBritishadministrative
enclavewithwhichitbegan:Delhiitesadmiresocialrank,namedroppingandexclusiveclubs,andtheysnubstrangerswhoturnup
withoutaproperintroduction.TheDelhinewspaperspaytributeeverymorningtothehairstylesandpartiesofitsrich,anditisthey,
withtheirhighwalledcompoundsandtintedcarwindows,whodefinethecitysaspirations.Delhismillionairesaresqueamishabout
public places, and they dont like to go out unless there are sufficient valets and guards to make them feel at home, and prices
exorbitantenoughtokeepundesirablesoutside.
Butinthissegregatedcity,everyonecomestogetherontheroads.Thesubwaynetworkisstillincomplete,therearefewlocaltrains
(unlikeBombay),andyoucanttakeahelicoptertowork(unlikeSoPaulo)thedraconiansecurityregulationspreventthat.Sothe
Delhiroadsaccommodateeverykindofcitizen,andofferauniqueexhibitionofthecityssocialrelations.
Ontheeveofliberalisationin1991whenthethenFinanceMinisterManmohanSinghopenedtheeconomyuptoglobalmoney
flows,sobringinganendtofourdecadesofcentralisedplanningtherewerethreevarietiesofcaronsaleinIndia.TheHindustan
Ambassador and Premier Padmini had both been around for thirty years and it took seven years to acquire one production was
limitedtoafewthousandayearandownershiprestricted,inpractice,tobureaucratsandseniorbusinessmen.ThecompactMaruti
800,bycontrast,wasarecentarrivalthathadbeenconceivedasapeoplescar:withaquotaof150,000ayearithadbroughtthe
possibilityofprivatecartravelwithinreach,forthefirsttime,ofthemiddleclasses.
Nearlytwentyyearson,thosethreeoriginalshaveallbutvanishedintheflurryofnewbrandsthatliberalisationusheredin(thoughthe
stately Ambassador remains the preferred conveyance for Delhis politicians and senior bureaucrats). The new economic regime
stimulatedmoreIndiancompanies,suchasTata,tostartbuildingcars,butitalsobroughtintheglobalgiantsHyundai,thenFord,
GMandToyota,andsoonerorlatereveryoneelseandnow,withcarmarketsdecliningaroundtheworld,theyarelookingtoIndiato
takeupsomeslack.Indiascarconsumptionistentimeswhatitwasin1991,andrisingrapidly,andtheeffectinthecitiesisdeadlock.
Thestrickencarriagewaysareneveradequateforthecarmania,nomatterhowmanynewlanesandflyoversarebuiltandinDelhi,
mostcarsarestationerymostofthetime.Hemmedinbytheperpetualemergencyofroadworks,andgovernedbytrafficlightsthat
can stay red for ten minutes, the situation is unpromising. Delhi drivers, moreover, never confident that any system will produce
benefitsforall,trytobeatthetrafficwithanopportunistichustlethatoftenturnstoagreathonkingblockage,smotheredinthesmoke
of so many engines airconditioning their passengers against the fortydegree heat. The main gainers are footbound magazine
sellers,whomovefastandoffersomethingtowhileawaythetime.
Anotherdistractionforunmovingdrivers:theendlessautomobilereveriesposteduponhoardings,imagesofaparallelworldwhere
theroadsareopen,anddrivingissexyandcarefree.
***
Withsomanycarsjammedupagainsteachother,eachashobbledasthenext,roadtravelcouldthreatentounderminethesteep
gradients of Delhis social hierarchies. But here the recent car profusion steps in to solve the very problem it creates. The
contemporaryarrayofbrandsandmodelssuppliesausefulcodeofsocialstatustooffsettheanonymityofdriving,andthevertiginous
altitudeofDelhisclasssystemcomesthroughadmirably,evenonthehorizontalroads.Carbrandsregulatetherelationshipsbetween
drivers: impatient Mercedes flash Marutis to let them through the throng, and Marutis move aside. BMW limousines are so well
insulatedthatpassengersdontevenheartheunflinchinghornwithwhichchauffeursdisperseeverythingintheirpath.Canaryyellow
Hummerslumberovertheconcretebarriersfromtheheavingjamintotheemptybuslaneandaccelerateillegallypastthemasses
andtrafficpolicelookaway,forwhichcopisgoingtoriskhislifetochallengetheentitlementofrichkids?Yes,theprivilegesofbrand
rankareenforcedbyviolenceifneedbe:aHyundaidrivergetsoutofhiscartokickinthedoorsofaMarutithatkepthimdawdling
behind,whileyoungmeninaMercedeschaseafteraTatadriverwhodaredabusethemoutofthewindow,runninghimdownand
slappinghimasifhewereaninsubordinatekid.
ThereisnothingsuperficialaboutbrandsincontemporaryDelhi.Thisisaplacewhereonessocialsignificanceisassumedtobenil
unlesstherearetangiblesignstothecontrary,sotheneedforsuchsignsisauthenticandfierce.Andinthesetimesofstupefying
upheaval,whenalloldmeaningsareunderassault,itiscorporatebrandsthatseemtocarrythemostauthority.Brandsholdwithin
them the impressive infinity of the new global market. They hold out the promise of dignity and distinction in a harsh city that
constantly tries to withhold these things. They even offer clarity in intimate questions: He drives a Honda City, a woman says,
meaningfully,aboutaprospectivesoninlaw.Brandshelptostaveofftheterrorofsenselessness,andthemoreyouhave,thebetter.
Wheretheoldsocialistelitewasfrugalandunkempt,thenewDelhiaristocracyisexuberantlyconsumerist.Withbigcarsanddesigner
accessories,itliterallyadvertisesitssupremacy,creatingwavesofadorationandhatredoneveryside.
***
Somewherearound4amonthemorningofJanuary10,1999,acarspedalongLodhiRoad,abroad,leafyarteryflankedbyDelhis
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parksandrichestresidentialareas.At the wheel was a drunk young man named Sanjeev Nanda, who was returning home from a
partywithtwofriends.Thecarwasa100,000BMW,oneofthemanufacturerslargestandmostluxuriousmodels,whichhadbeen
privatelyimportedandstillcarriedforeignplates.Laterestimatessaiditwastravellingat140kmperhouratanyrate,itwentoutof
control when it reached a police checkpoint and crashed through the barrier, ploughing into seven people, and killing six instantly:
threepolicemenandthreelabourers.Witnessessaidthattwomengotouttoseewhathadhappenedwhentheysawthebodiesand
thescreamingsurvivorstheygotbackinthecaranddroveoffinapanic,runningoveroneoftheprostratefiguresastheywent.
Sanjeev Nanda was a charismatic twentyone yearold who had just graduated from Wharton Business School. His lineage was
deluxe:hisgrandfatherwasAdmiralS.M.Nanda,ChiefofIndiasNavalStaff,who,likeseveralotherwellconnectedfiguresinthe
Indianarmedservices,hadmadebigmoneyinhisretirementbysettingupasanarmsdealer,brokeringdealsbetweenforeignarms
companies and his former colleagues. The business flourished further under the shrewd eye of Sanjeevs father, Suresh, whose
acquisitionofDelhiselegantClaridgesHotelwasonlyasmallpartofanetworkofinvestmentsandacquisitionshebuiltinIndiaand
aroundtheworld.
Aftertheaccident,Sanjeevspedawaytothenearbyhouseofoneofhiscompanions,whowerealsofromelitebusinessfamilies.This
mans father owned a finance company and was used to grasping complex situations quickly: he immediately ordered his driver to
movetheBMWofftheroadandintohiscompound.Thefrontofthecarwascoveredinagorymatofbloodandflesh,andtheguard
wasgiventhejobofcleaningitup.Butithadleftatrailofleakingoilasitfled,whichthepolicewereabletofollowtothehouse.They
turnedupinthemiddleofthecleanup,arrestedSanjeevandtookhim,stilldrunk,intocustody.
Thecaseshouldhavebeensimple,butitwastomeltawayunderthebackstageinfluenceoftheNandafamily.ManojMalik,theonly
oneofthesevenvictimstosurvivehisinjuries,changedhisstoryduringthetrialtosaythatitwasprobablyatruck,andnotaBMW,
thathadhithim.Theonlyindependentwitness,SunilKulkarni,whohadbeenpassingbythatnightandhaddescribedbodiesflying
overtheBMWsroof,withdrewhistestimonyandsaidthathehadmadeitunderpressurefromtheDelhiPolice,whoweresupposedly
conspiringagainstSanjeevNanda.Sanjeevhimselfallegedhehadnotbeeninthecarthatnight,whichwasregisteredinhissisters
name,anddeniedanyconnectiontotheincident.TheNandafamilytriedtodissipateillfeelingbymakingunofficialpaymentstothe
victims families. The case lost steam and life went on. Out on bail, Sanjeev did an MBA at INSEAD in Paris, became Managing
Directorofthefamilyhotelbusiness,andmovedintoapenthouseatClaridges.ManojMalikmysteriouslydisappeared.
SureshNandasbusinesswashitwithunfortunatepublicity:anundercoverinvestigationintoarmsprocurementcorruptioncarriedout
by journalists from the critical newspaper, Tehelka, found that he had paid large bribes to government ministers in return for
favourable consideration of his clients products. He was charged with corruption and let out on bail while the Central Bureau of
Investigationlookedintohisaffairs.Itemergedthatherananinternetprocurementmonopolythatgavehimaguaranteedcutofthe
vastbusinessofgovernmenttenders,andthenewspapersexpressedoutragethathecouldcontinuetoenjoythisprivilegeevenas
thatsamegovernmenthadhimunderinvestigation.Beforelong,hewascaughtofferingabribeofahundredmillionrupees(1.4m)to
ataxofficialwhowasofferingtohushuptheinvestigation,andheandSanjeevweresenttojailforfourteendays.
ThentheBMWcasetookanewturn.Thediscreditedwitness,SunilKulkarni,inanattempttoshowtheworldwhatpressurehewas
under,tookundercovertelevisionjournaliststoasecretmeetingwithrepresentativesoftheNandafamily.Thisoperationrevealedthat
theNandaswerepayingthelawyersonbothsidesofthecase,whowereworkingtogethertokeepKulkarnisilent.Thelawyerswere
dismissedandthecasewasfinallyheardintheSupremeCourt.InSeptember2008,nineyearsaftertheincident,SanjeevNandawas
convicted of mowing down six people while driving in a drunken condition, and sentenced to five years imprisonment an
extraordinarymomentwhen,contrarytoexpectationsandexperience,itwasshownthattheIndianelitecannotalwaysmakeitsacts
disappear.
***
ContemporaryIndiansocietyistransfixedbywealth.Anewgenreofpopularmagazineisfilledfromcovertocoverwithfeaturesabout
goldplated bathtubs, diamondencrusted mobile phones and superdeluxe vacations, allowing readers to wallow in what they can
neverafford.Televisiongameshowsgiveweighttotheseductivewhispersofthemarket,showingworkingpeopleintheverymoment
theyaretransformedintomillionaires.Peoplelovetoreadaboutthepossessions,opinionsandtalentsofIndiasleadingindustrialists,
someofwhomhavesucceededincreatingquasireligiouscultsaroundthemselves.Criticismoftherichresultsinastonishingwaves
ofrebuttalbyordinarypeoplewhofeelitisanattackontheirnationalpride.
Butthisdeterminedadorationoftherichcoexistswithsomethingelse:somethingmorecrepuscular,fulloffearandnighttimejolts.In
asocietyasstratifiedasthis,itispossibletoimaginethattheonesatthetopofsocietyenjoyendlessfreedomfreedomsoabsolute
that the only adequate use of it would be cruelty. For most people, Delhi life remains gruelling and deprived, the inconceivable
promiseoftheglobalmarketunfulfilled,andthisfeelingofperpetualdeficitletsinapprehensionsofavampiricrulingclass,sucking
theplenitudeawayfromeveryoneelse.ThisisthefeelingthatfindsresonanceinthestoryofSanjeevNanda,whichhasbecomeone
ofDelhismostpopularparables.Thisstoryeruptsintothepublicdomainwiththedeliciousnauseaofsomethingwidelyfelt,butrarely
observed: the recklessness of this economic system, its outofcontrol heartlessness. Nandas speeding BMW is a symbol of
gleaming,maleficentcapital,uncheckedbyconscienceorbytheroadblocksofthestate.Thesceneoftheimpact,a100metrestretch
ofroadstrewnwithorgans,severedlimbsandpoolsofblood,islikeamoralitypaintingofthecataclysmiceffectsofthismarauding
eliteintheworldofordinarypeople.
In this nightmare version of the rich, they are no longer the pride of the nation but invaders from outside, representatives of trans
national currents who are never authentically committed to the Indian good. Much was made, in the Sanjeev Nanda story, of his
British passport and his imported car, as if his fatal velocity was that of foreign forces whose impact, here in India, could only be
catastrophic.TheIndianroadhasnotbeengivenovertospeedasithaselsewhereitisaplaceofinnumerablemodesoftransport,a
placeofcommerce,leisureandbureaucracy,aplaceclutteredwithhistory.Eventhemostpowerfulmeninthecountrycannotexpect
thatcleanlineswillopenupforthemthroughtheIndianreality.Onlysomeonewithnoconnectiontothatrealitycouldimaginesucha
thing.
ThesocietythathasemergedinpostliberalisationIndiaisoneconsumedbothbyeuphoriaanddread.Thericharetheemblemsfor
both these sentiments, which is why they never settle into a single meaning. They are the simultaneous saints and demons of
contemporaryIndia,andanyconsiderationofthemoscillateswithpowerfullycontradictoryfeeling.

TWO
IntheWesternpress,thefaceofthenewIndiaistypicallyurbane.ItmightbethatoftheexquisitelysuitedAzimPremji,Chairmanof
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WiproTechnologies,andstapleofeveryAsianpowerlist,whostudiedatStanford,inheritedasuccessfulvegetableoilcompanyand
turned it into a global technology enterprise. It could be the face of Nandan Nilekani, cofounder of Infosys Technologies, Forbes
AsiasBusinessLeaderoftheYear2006,andauthoroftherecentImaginingIndia:IdeasfortheNewCentury.Englishspeaking,
intelligentandarticulate,thesebillionairesarethekindofmentheWestcandobusinesswith.Theyareregularlyinvitedtoexplain
Indiaseconomicgrowthtointernationalbusinessconferencesandjournals,wheretheyprojectarationalandunderstatedimageof
thecountry.TheyreassureWesternaudiencesthatthenewIndiawillbenomorethananannexeoftheoldWest:thatthefutureof
India,andtherefore,tosomeextent,oftheworld,willbeintelligibleandfamiliar.
In truth, however, the anglicised class to which Azim Premji and Nandan Nilekani belong is becoming marginalised from Indian
society.Immense upheavals are afoot, and Englishspeaking sophisticates now speak about themselves as harried and besieged.
They still enjoy many privileges, but as time goes on they see their values and sensibilities disappearing from the media and the
streets, and they are faced with the troubling realisation that they no longer rule this society or dominate its imagination or even
understandthefirstthingaboutit.
RajivDesai,afanoftheBeatlesandtheNewYorker,whospenttwentyyearsworkinginChicagobeforereturningtoDelhiandsetting
uponeofIndiasleadingPRfirms,isquiteclear:
ManyofmyfriendsaremovingtoGoa.TherearesomanypeoplelikemewhohaveasecondhomeinGoa,whichistheonlyplace
youcanstillfindanglicisedvalues.Peoplehaveintelligentconversation.Theresstandingroomonlyinthejazzclubs.Myhousein
Goasnotacountryhome,itsasecondhome,whereIgotobemyselfandpreservemysanity.IcantstaythewholeyearinDelhi.
Its backward. You take your life in your hands on the roads, you see the kind of people there are. Its been taken over by Hindi
speakersandloudPunjabifestivalslikekarvachauththatnooneusedtomakeafussabouttwentyyearsback.
TheIndianeconomyoftheturnofthetwentyfirstcenturyhasbeenfartooexplosiveforthetinyEnglishspeakingclasstomonopolise
itsrewards.Infacttheyhavenotevenbeenitsprimarybeneficiaries.Theirforeigndegreesandcosmopolitanbehaviourpreparethem
well for jobs in international banks and management consultancies, where they earn good salaries and mix with people like
themselves.Buttheyaresurroundedbyverydifferentpeopleprivatebusinessmen,entrepreneurs,realestateagents,retailersand
general wheelerdealers who are making far more money than they, and wielding more political power. These people may come
fromsmallercities,theymaybelessworldly,andtheymayspeakonlybrokenEnglish.Buttheyareskilledintherealmofopportunity
and profit, and they are at home in the booming world of overlords, connections, bribes, political loopholes, sweeteners and
occasionalviolencethatsendstheiranglicisedpeersrunningforthenearestcappuccino.Overthelastfewyears,provincialshave
become Delhis dominant economic group, with many millionaires, and a few billionaires, among their number, and networks of
politicalprotectionthatmakethemimmenselymoreinfluentialthanthosewhohavegotrichonasalary.
SaifRizvi,asociableyoungplasticsurgeonwhohasgrownupmostlyinSaudiArabiaandtheUnitedStates,isoneofmanywhoare
affrontedbythenewarrivals.ProminentMuslimsfromLucknow,hisfamilytracesitslineagebackfivehundredyears,andSaifhasa
healthycontemptforDelhisupstarts:
OhmyGod,thenouveauxriches.YeahIseethemeverywhereIgo,man,youseethewaytheywalkintotheclubs,thewaythey
order their drinks. Theyre horrible. The only thing those guys have thats nice is their cars. The nicest cars pull up and the most
horriblepeoplegetout.Horriblebodies,horribleteeth,horriblevoicemodulation.
SaifmovedfromNewYorktoDelhitotakeoverthefamilyclinicwhenhisfatherwaskilledbyatruckonaroadinUttarPradeshtwo
yearsago,andheisgloomyabouthisnewsurroundings.HeisalienatedbyDelhiconversation,andhetakesrefugeinexpatsocial
evenings.
ImnotimpressedbyDelhisincetheseguyscameintomoney.Nowtheclubscatertothem,theTVandeverything.Everywherethey
playBollywoodmusic,man,thatswhattheseguyslike.
RizviisaDJinhissparetimeheplaysthesortofpsychedelictrancethatgivesDelhisCambridgeandBerkeleyeducatedyoutha
goodenvironmenttotakeMDMAandescapefromthecitysgrind.
The Ministry of Sound set up a club in Delhi and you know what kind of music they played? Bollywood.Can you believe it? The
MinistryofSoundissupposedtobecuttingedge,andtheyplayBollywoodsongs!Justtokeepthoseguyshappy!
Unfortunately for Saif, the laments of disdainful cosmopolites like him carry less weight these days. The city now looks to the
Bollywoodlovingprovincials,whohavereapedbillionsintheearlytwentyfirstcenturyboom,andturnedthecitysclublikementality
upsidedown.Therewardsofthatboomhaveflowedtothembecauseitsimplausibleescalationsrodeontheonethingtheyhadthat
Delhipeopledidnot:land.
***
In1957,PrimeMinistersJawaharlalNehrusgovernmentconsolidatedthecapitalsplanninganddevelopmentagenciesintothenew
DelhiDevelopmentAuthority.TheDDAhadsoleresponsibilityforplanningandexecutingthecitysexpansionanddevelopmentand,
in order to fulfil this, it had the right to acquire land forcibly and at greatly reduced prices. It was a development monopoly, whose
exclusivitywasguaranteedbylawsmakingitimpossibleforprivateindividualsorcompaniestoownmorethanafewacresofland
withintheDelhiborders.
TheDDAwasgivensuchenormouspoweroverthelandscapeofthisnewcapitalthatonecanonlybeinawe,today,ofthemediocrity
of its achievements. The drab, mouldering tower that the agency calls home is fully indicative of the DDAs preferred architectural
style:thecountlesshousingdevelopmentsithasbuiltacrossDelhiarewarrenlikeandpoky,andbynowtheyareleakingandfalling
down.Nehru Place, the ugly office complex built by the DDA in the 1980s, is in ruins, and has now been mostly abandoned by
companiesfleeingtonewaccommodationoutsideDelhi.NehruStadium,whichtheDDAbuiltfortheAsianGamesin1980,hashad
tobeentirelyrebuiltinordertoservefortheCommonwealthGamesin2010.
SuchphysicalrotisanoutwardindicationoftheenormouscorruptionthatgrippedtheDDAinitsheydayofthe70sand80s.Sinceno
oneelsecouldownlandfordevelopment,theagencywasabletocontroltheentireconstructionbusinessandtochargemoneyfor
access.Itwouldkeepthesupplyoflandlow,sittingonitsbankofrusty,disusedplotsandsellingbuildingcontractstothehighest
bidder.Buildingcontractorswouldthenclawtheexpenseoftheirbribesback,oncetheyweregivenacontract,bycuttingeverykind
ofcorneronconstruction.InacityofDelhissizeandprestige,thisracketwasbigbusiness,andsomeofthelargestfortunesinthe
cityweremadebymidlevelDDAengineerswhosejobitwastorubberstampnewprojectsandmanyofthemresistedpromotion
outoftheselucrativepositionsforyears.
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ButthedisasteroftheDDAcreatedasetofother,unexpectedeffects,whoselongtermimpactwasevenmoremomentous.Withthe
cityofDelhicompletelysealedtoprivatecommercialdevelopment,anumberofindividualsbeganinthe1980stobuyuplandinthe
surroundingstates.Itwasaquietandlaboriousprocess,andmostofthepeoplewhobeganitwerenotfromtheurbanelite.They
came from small towns, they understood how to do business with farmers, and they operated in areas that seemed impossibly
backwardandremotetoDelhibusinesspeople.
One of these men was Kushal Pal Singh, who came from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and whose fatherinlaws realestate
business was decimated when the DDA was set up. Singh was charged with reviving the business, later called DLF, and in 1979,
unabletooperateinDelhi,hebegantobuyuprurallandtothesouthofcity,inthestateofHaryana.Thisishowhedescribesthe
process:
"I did everything it took to persuade these farmers to trust me. I spent weeks and months with their families. I wore kurtas, sat on
charpoys,drankflyinfestedmilkfromdirtyglasses,attendedweddings,visitedthesick.Tounderstandwhythiswasimportant,itis
necessary to understand the landholding pattern. The average plot size in Gurgaon was four to five acres, mostly held by Hindu
undividedfamilies.Legally,togetcleartitles,Ineededtheconsentofeveryadultmemberofthesefamilies.Thatcouldbeuptothirty
peopleforonesaledeed.Gettingthemarrieddaughterstosignwasoftentrickybecausethemaleheadofthefamilywouldrefuseto
sharetheproceedsofthesalewiththem.SoIwouldtraveltotheirhomesandpaythedaughtersinsecret.Remarkably,Gurgaons
farmerssoldmelandoncredit.Iwouldpayonefarmerandpromptlytakethemoneybackasaloanandusethattobuymoreland.
ThefirmsgoodwillmadethemwillingtoactasbankersforDLF.ButitalsomeantIhadtobeextracarefulaboutinterestpayments.
Comerainorshine,theinterestwouldbehanddeliveredtoeachfarmeronthethirdofeverymonthat10am.Webought3,500acres
oflandinGurgaon,morethanhalfofitoncredit,withoutonelitigationagainstDLF."
WhenmenlikeSinghfirstcalledDelhibuildingcompaniestotrudgeoutintothefaroffbrushlandandbuildmiddleclassapartment
complexes,thecontractorsthoughttheyweremad.Theydroveoutinjeeps,lurchingoverthebakedearth,andstoodinthenaked
expanse, where brightly turbaned villagers lived in huts and tended goats, and they wondered which Delhi banker or advertising
executive would ever venture there. But by the 1990s, Delhi was caught in a realestate crisis. Delhis megacity population was
growingfasterthananyonecouldbuild,andthecityanywayhadlittlespaceleftfornewhousingdevelopments.TheDDAhadmade
almostnoprovisionforcommercialrealestate,andbigcompanieswereoperatingoutofcrampeddomesticbasements.Thequaint
communitymarketsbuiltinthesocialisterawereentirelyinadequateforexhibitingtheproductsofthenewconsumereconomy.So
whenGurgaonopeneditsdoors,proclaiminganewSingaporeofglassofficeblocks,gatedcommunities,golfcoursesandshopping,
itdidnottakelongforthecorporateclassestorespond.Flushwithboomcash,Indiasbankshandedoutloanstoanyonewhoasked,
andhousepriceswererisingsofastthatitmadesenseforeveryonetoputtheirsavingsintoproperty.Microsoftanditsilkbuilttheir
IndianheadquartersinthethrillingemptinessoftheHaryanacountryside,andGurgaonquicklybecamethelargestprivatetownshipin
Asia,adusty,boomingexpanseofhypertrophicapartmentcomplexes,skyscrapersandmalls.In2007,K.P.Singhlistedhiscompany
ontheIndianstockexchangesthe2008Forbeslistestimatedhimtobetheworldseighthrichestman,withafortuneofthirtybillion
dollars.
GurgaonwasonlythelargestandmostprestigiousofmanysuchdevelopmentsacrossHaryanaandU.P.,andK.P.Singhsfortune
onlythemostfabulousofcountlessothers.ThelandsurroundingDelhiwasanamazingcommodity,doublinginvalueeverythreeor
fouryears,andmultiplyingitsvaluesixtytimeswiththesimpleadditionofbricks,concreteandabitofcheaplabour,andthe2000s
saw a desperate land rush. Hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land were sold on to developers. Companies that had
previously made their money from other things suddenly switched to real estate, and major banks such as Deutsche Bank and
Morgan Stanley queued up to fund them. Smalltime developers from drab little towns like Ghaziabad became serious property
moguls,whoboughtmansionsinDelhi,threwglitzypartieswithBollywoodstarentertainment,andsenttheirsonstoU.S.business
schools to learn how to run billiondollar businesses. Even farmers walked away from land deals with a few million dollars in their
trunks,andboughthulkingSUVsfortheirsons,whobroughtthemtoDelhianddrovewithmachogleearoundtheseatofpower.Such
windfallswereoftenquicklyspent,butthemoreastuteofthesefamiliessetuprealestatebusinesses,andtookfurtherslicesofthe
pie.Some of the realestate agents who had set out on their mopeds a few years ago to sell all this new property now received
Mercedesandapartmentsasbonuses.Asalways,politicians,madeakilling.JawaharlalNehru,forwhomagriculturewassacrosanct,
had cast stringent rules to prevent just such a land grab as this, and U.P.s legendarily entrepreneurial politicians made sure that
peoplepaidwelltohavesuchanaugusttraditionoverturned.
This bonanza privileged those whose business methods were catholic. It was nearly impossible to operate at any significant scale
withoutawidenetworkofpaidconnectionsamongpoliticians,bureaucratsandthepolice.Moreover,amidsuchintensecompetition,
theacquisitionfrenzysometimesabandonedthedelicacyofK.P.Singhsrecollections.Realestatemafiasgrabbedcountryhousesin
Haryanaandemployedseniorpolicementosilencetheownersbyfilingfalsecriminalchargesagainstthem.InUttarPradesh,they
forcedfarmersandtribalcommunitiestosellthemtheirlandunderthreatofviolence,employedthelocalpolicetoclearthelocalsoff,
andsolditonatalargeprofit.Therewasageneralescalationofcriminalityandviolence,andthepeoplewhocamethroughwithnew
fortuneswereaformidablebreed.Theyknewhowtohijackstatepowerfortheirownprivateprofit,andtheyenjoyedthesupportof
the police and of muchfeared extortion gangs. Such people had cracked the muscular equation of contemporary India, and they
spurneditsliberalplatitudesasjustsomuchpiouscant.Thesewere theones who becamesuddenly and gleefullyconspicuous in
Delhi,arousingtheresentmentofpeoplelikeRajivDesaiandSaifRizvi.
DuringallthisactioninHaryanaandU.P.,Delhisownpropertypriceshadreachedfairytalelevels.In2006,attheheightoftheboom,
industrialists and property moguls were paying almost 1.5 billion rupees (then $33 million) for Delhi mansions. Even retired army
officersorjournalists,towhomthestatehadgivenspaciousplotsatknockdownpricesinthe1950s,suddenlyfoundtheyweresitting
onpropertyworthtwoorthreemilliondollarsandsincetheyoftendidnthavemuchintheirbankaccounts,theydecidedtosell.But
likeeveryoneelsesellingpropertyinDelhi,theysettheofficialpricelowandtookthemajorityofthemoneyincashsoastoreduce
thetaxbillontheirprofits.Whocouldbuypropertyatthosepricesonthoseterms?Whatkindofpeoplewerewalkingaroundwith,
say,amilliondollarsincash?ItwasnotthecosmopolitanchildrenoftheoriginalDelhimiddleclass,whoworkedasPRexecutivesor
TV newscasters, and for whom a million dollars of black money was a tall order. These people were moving out of the city into
Gurgaonflats.No:thepeoplewiththesuitcasesofcashwere,aslikelyasnot,propertytycoons,industrialists,politiciansorcriminals.
ThecapitalofshiningIndiawasbeingsystematicallyhandedoverfromitsmiddleclassestoanewblackmoneyelite,anditwasthis
groupwhowasincreasinglysettingthetoneaesthetic,commercialandethicalforeveryoneelse.

THREE
TarunTejpal,editorofTehelka,isaprominentDelhifigurewhohasdevotedthelastdecadeofhislifetodocumentingcorruptionand
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violence in the twentyfirst century Indian ruling class. His newspaper made its name with a sting operation in which senior
government ministers were videotaped accepting bribes in return for their consideration of the products of a fictional British arms
company,andboastingopenlyaboutothermoneytheyhadmadeinthisfashion.AnotherTehelkastingoperationhelpedtoputthe
sonofapowerfulHaryanapoliticianbehindbarsafterheshotawaitressdeadforrefusingtoservehimadrink:thegunmanhadbeen
acquittedbythecourts,butTehelkasinterventionshowedthatthewitnesseshadbeenpaidoffbyhisfamily.Tehelkahaspublished
anunparalleledstudyofthe2002slaughteroftwothousandMuslimsinthestateofGujaratasetofinterviewsthatprovedwhat
manysuspected:thatthestatehadactivelycolludedintheevent.Themagazinehastirelesslydocumentedtheongoinglandgrabby
whichvasttractsofIndianterritoryareseizedfromfarmersandhandedovertocorporationsundertherecentSpecialEconomicZone
Act.In a country of complacent, celebrityhappy newspapers, Tehelka is a major journalistic achievement, and one might expect
Taruntobequietlysatisfied.Butheisnot.
Noonecares,hesays.Therearenoideasexcepttheideaofmorewealth.Theelitedoesntread.Theyknowhowtoworkthetill,
andthatsit.Theresnothing:wearelivingintheshallowestdecadeyoucanimagine.RuralIndia,thatseighthundredmillionpeople,
hassimplyfallenoutofthemasternarrativeofthiscountry.ThereshouldhavebeenanenormouspoliticalleftinIndia,butpeople
worship the rich and theres no criticism of what they do. They face no consequences they live in an atmosphere of endless
possibility.
Doyouthinkanythingwillcomeofallthismoneytheyremaking?Iask.Doyouthinktheylltrytoleavebehindalegacy?
Theydontcareabouttheirlegacy!ThisisaHindusociety:ImbackforamillionmoreliveshowmuchfussamIgoingtomake
aboutthisone?Indianbusinesspeoplemightrunaschoolorfeedafeworphansbuttheyrenotinterestedinreformbecausetheyare
bent on making the system work for them. Hinduism is very pliable. It rationalises inequality: if that guy is poor its because he
deservesitfromhispreviouslives,anditsnotformetosortouthisaccounts.Hinduismallowstheseguystothinkthatwhattheyget
isduetothem,andtheyhaveabsolutelynoguiltaboutit.
TheresanincredibleenergytoTarun.Messagesarriveconstantlyonhistwomobilephones,andheanswersthemwithoutabreakin
hisoration.Overthecourseofthelastfewyears,whilemanagingaweeklymagazine,hehassomehowfoundenoughsparetimeto
writetwonovels.Thesecond,TheStoryofMyAssassins,hasrecentlycomeout.ItisadevastatingportraitofIndiansociety,ataleof
suchhopelesshorrorandviolencethatthereaderisleftbeatendownandwithoutresponse.
Tarunisneverlostforwords,butaswetalkIgetthefeelingthathetooisbecomingdisillusioned.Tehelkahasgothimintoalotof
trouble:hehasfaceddeaththreatsforhisjournalism,andministershavetriedtoburyhimwithtaxinvestigationsandlibelsuits.The
magazinerunsonashoestring:advertisershavestayedfaraway,andcorporatefundershavebeenadvisedtopullout.Tarunisa
wellconnectedmanfromagoodarmyfamily,butoverthelastfewyearsmanyofhisconnectionshaveturnedaway.Somehaveeven
suggested that he is in pay of foreign agents and that this is why he writes so critically of the Indian state. All this has left him
wondering whether the enterprise of trying to tell the truth as he sees it Free, fair, fearless goes Tehelkas slogan is simply
pointless.
The dominant mood is frenzied accumulation, he says. The corporations and the state are in bed with each other, eating and
drinkingthecountryoutofeverythingithas.TheGangesisbecomingatrickle:themostfertileriverbasinintheworld.Butthetruthis
thatnooneisinterestedinwhatsreallygoingon.Wedontevenhaveavocabularytotalkaboutit.
Tofindareasonbigenoughforsuchastartlingpredicament,Tarunburrowsintohistory.
It all goes back to colonisation: were a damaged people. We were a subordinate race for three hundred years and its made us
envious.Nowpeoplearecomingintowealthforthefirsttime,theyrediscoveringgoodies,andtheywantthemforthemselves.They
dontwantanyonespoilingtheparty.Theirparentswerecompletelydifferent:theywerentextravagant,theyneverateout,theywere
stillinspiredbyGandhi.Thisgenerationhasnothinginitsheadexceptgoodies.
OurconversationisbroughttoanendbythearrivalofTarunsnextvisitor.AsIleavehimIfindmyselflookingforwaysoutofthe
sealedboxofhishopelessness.Icantdisagreewithhismoroseassessmentofwhatishappeningaroundus:itisdifficulttolivehere
andnotbestupefiedbythespeedandbrutalitywithwhicheveryresourceisbeingfencedin,minedandcommodified.Butisittrue,as
heimplies,thatnorthIndianHindusaresimplyprogrammedbytheirhistoryandreligiontoberapacious?Capitalismisrapacious,and
itsnewelites,wherevertheyhavebeenintheworld,haveusuallyrisensternly.IsthenewIndianeliteworsethaneveryoneelse?Isit
worse,moreover,thanthesocialistrulingclassthatwentbefore?Itissocommon,thesedays,tohearpeopleindictingthevulgarnew
India,asTarundoes,bycomparingitunfavourablytothemoregenteelsocialistsystemoftheolddays.Butwasntthesocialistelite
justascruelandcorrupt,evenasitquotedShakespeareandMarx?Isnttheremuchthatispositiveintheexplosivedynamismofthe
contemporaryIndianeconomy?
Igotohavelunchwithapsychotherapist,AnuragMishra.ItellhimaboutamanIrecentlymetwhotoldmeastorycuriouslysimilarto
theSanjeevNandaincident.
Hissoncalledhimtosayhehadjustkilledamanwithhiscar,Isay.Thesonwasinapanicanddidntknowwhattodo.Therewere
injuredpeoplelyingonthestreet.Thefathertoldhim,Getoutofthereasquicklyasyoucan.Hissonhadborrowedhiscarbuthewas
onlysixteenandshouldnthavebeendrivingatall.Sohetoldhimtorun.Isntthatsurprising?
Notreally.HesanIndianfather,andhellprotecthissonaboveeverythingelse.Acaraccidentisamatterofperception,itsatrickof
fate,butafathersdutytohissonisabsolute.Doyouthinkhesgoingtosay,Confesstowhatyouhavedoneandpaytheprice?This
isnt a guilt culture. In the Indian psyche, you dissociate yourself from the bad things you have done, and then theyre not yours
anymore.Thatswhyyoucannevermakeanyaccusationsticktoabusinessmanorapolitician.Theywontevenrecognisethecrimes
youreaccusingthemof.Theyllprobablyhaveyoubeatenupforinsultingthem.
WeareinanItalianstylecaf.AnuragistalkingtoomuchtotouchhisCaesarsalad.
Delhi is a city of traumas, he says. You cant understand anything if you dont realise that everyone here is trying to forget the
horrifyingthingsthathavehappenedintheirfamilies.DelhiwasdestroyedbytheBritishin1857.ItwasdestroyedagainbyPartitionin
1947.ItwastornapartbytheantiSikhrampagesof1984.Eachofthesemomentsdestroyedthecultureofthecity,andthatisthe
greatesttraumaofall.Yourentirewebofmeaningsistiedupinculture,andifthatislost,yourselfislost.
He tells me stories of clients of his who have been torn apart by returning memories of Partition horrors memories they had
successfullyburiedforsixtyyears.Hetellsstoriesoftherecollectionsofviolenceanddeprivationthatremainfrighteninglypersistent
eveninthemindsofthosewhohavemadegoodmoneyinthelastfewyears.
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ThatswhyDelhiisbyfarthemostconsumeristcityinIndia,hecontinues.Peoplebuyobsceneamountsofstuffhere.Delhihasan
impoverishedsymbolicvocabulary:therehasntbeenenoughtimesinceallthesewavesofdestructionforitssymbolstoberestored.
IfIdonthaveadequatesymbolsoftheself,Icanttellthedifferencebetweenmeandmine.Sopeoplebuystuffallthetimetotryand
makeupforthenarcissisticwound.Itstheirdefenceagainsthistory.
Dontyouthinkitwillgetboringafterawhile?Ifitsasyousay,peoplewillsurelyrealiseafterawhilethatbuyingstuffisntsolving
anything.Maybetheylltrysomethingelse?Maybetheirchildrenwillrebel?
Anuragsmiles.
Thisisveryinteresting,hesays.YouknowabouttheOedipuscomplex?Freudsaidthiswastheuniversalconditionofyoungmen:
they unconsciously want to kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers. Thats the source of revolutionary energy you kill your
fathersymbolicallybyrejectingallhisvaluesandfindingnewones.ButIdontthinkthisappliestoIndianmen.IwouldanalyseIndian
menintermsofwhatIcalltheRamacomplex.IntheRamayana,Ramagivesupthethronethatisrightfullyhisandsubmitshimselfto
enormoussufferinginordertoconformtothewillofhisfather.Indianmendontwishtokilltheirfathers,theywishtobecomethem,
theywishtoemptythemselvesoutofeverythingthathasnotcomefromtheirfathers.
Like Tarun, Anurag sees the fundamental structures as fixed and preordained, even as the surface of Indian life changes so fast.
Once again I struggle to find a way out. Surely its not enough to say that the business elite is so in thrall to its own wounds and
traumasthatitcannotrestrainitsownrecklessimpulses?forthesepeoplearestrikingprimarilyfortheirastonishingboldness,not
theirlimitations.IaskAnuragabouthisownrelationshiptomoney.
DuringtheBritishtime,hesays,mygrandfatherwasafreedomfighter.AfterindependencehebecameaCongresspolitician.My
fatherwasacollegeteacherandmemberoftheCommunistParty.Bothofthemwereidealisticandfrugal,andIwasalwaystaughtto
thinkthatpeoplewithmoneywerebad.Theyhadtobedoingsomethingseedy,andprobablycriminal.AtschoolIenviedtheboys
withmoneybecausetheyhadstuffIwanted,butIalsothoughttheymustbebad.
WevefinishedlunchbynowandmovedouttothecafsterracesothatAnuragcansmokeoneofhisbelovedcigars.
IdidnthavemoneyformostofmylifeanditwasabigproblemformewhenIbegantopractiseasapsychiatrist.Ididntknowhowto
relatetomyselfassomeonewithmoney.IdidntreallybelievethatIdeservedmoney,orthatIhadtherighttochargeformyservices.
WhenIfirstgotmoneyIstartedeatingalotandIgotveryfat.Iatebadthings,justwantingtofillmyselfup.Iveonlymademypeace
withmoneyquiterecently.Ivelostallthatweight.NowIthinkitsOKtogivemyselfgoodthings.Likethislunch.Idonthavetohave
twentybadthings:Icanhaveonegoodthing,anditsbetterthanthatexcess.
AshetalksIrealisehowcomplicateditmustbeforhimtowatchtheunrestrainedconsumptionofthenewrichwithwhomheshares
his city. I realise that, for a certain segment of the anglicised middle class, the new rich offend sentiments that are so deep and
complexthattheonlypossibleresponseisprofoundanxietyandrevulsion.Irealisethattherereallyisnosimplewayoutofthegloom
theyfeelaboutthepresentmomentIunderstandwhytheseconversationsalwayshitdeadends.
IfpeoplelikeTarunandAnuragreferbacksonostalgicallytothesocialistperioditsbecause,nomatterhowhypocriticalitwas,the
socialistregimeatleasttookthetroubletolegitimiseitselfintermstheycouldrecognise.Thismodicumofintellectualcorrespondence
with the ruling class seems positively alluring now that the people who are shaping their world are so adamantly opaque. Where
possible,thenewIndianeliterunsprivatecompaniesthathavenoshareholdersandnoscrutinyandoftenitconductsitsground
leveloperationsthroughamyriadofothercompanieswhoseownershipisdeliberatelyobscure.Itamassesinvisiblefortunesandpays
verylittletax.Itdoesnotliketoseekfundsfrompublicsourcesinsteaditformsallianceswithothersecretiveandcashrichelites,
suchastheRussianbillionaires.Itkeepssuchalowprofilethatsomeofitsrichestandmostenterprisingindividualsreturnnoentries
onGoogle.Itoperatesbehindhighwallsitisenergised,ratherthanoutraged,bytheimmensedisparitiesintheworld,anditispretty
muchindifferenttopublicoutcryormediaexpos:youcanthinkwhateveryoulike,thereisnodialogue.
IcanfindlittlereassuranceforsomeonelikeTarunTejpal.Thereisnothingtrivialabouthisfeelingsofoutrageandimpotence.They
arefeelings,infact,thataccompanythenorthIndianbusinessclasswherevertheygo:bothMumbaiandBangalorehavesignificant
politicalmovementsdevotedtoprotectinglocalsocietyagainsttheferociousbusinessacumenofnorthIndianentrepreneurs.Itistrue
whathesays:inthesetimesitisdifficulttomakeanymarkonIndianpubliclifethroughthesubtletyordistinctionofonesthought.
Peoplewhosetalentsandtasteslieinthatdirectioncandowhattheylikeforthetimebeingtherulesaresetbyothers.
And perhaps Taruns are the dominant global feelings, in fact, of the times to come for the new Indian elite is charismatic and
muscularandultimatelywellrearedfortheageofglobalisation.Inalltheirgrandioseunsentimentalitytheyremindusthatalotofthe
comfortablemythswehavebeentoldaboutcapitalismaresimplythat.Intruth,itisaflailing,terrifyingthing.

FOUR
MCmakesatimidentranceintothequiethotelloungewherehehasaskedmetomeethim.Hewearsablackturbanandsuitheis
stockyandmuscularandspeakswithafaintlisp.Heistwentyeightyearsold.
Heisnotparticularlytalkative.Itrytobreaktheicebytellinghimthatwehaveafriendincommon,andwetalkaboutherforawhile.
Herelaxes.Iaskhimabouthislife.
UntilIwasateenager,hesays,Ithoughtmydadworkedforthegovernment.Iusedtoask,Whydowehavethisbighouse?They
toldme,Yourgrandfatherbuiltit,thenwelostthemoneyandnowyourdadworksforthegovernment.
Intruth,MCsfatherranalargeassemblyofbusinessesacrossthestatesofUttarPradesh,HaryanaandPunjab.Themainstayofthis
empire was liquor retail, a business which, in gangster states like U.P., offers rewards only to the shrewd, charismatic and violent.
OtherpeoplewithMCsbackgroundhavetoldmehowtheygrewuphearingtheirfathersgivingassassinationordersoverthephone
butatthisearlypointintheconversationheistooprofessionaltosharesuchdetails.
Ofcoursethereweregoonsaroundyoucantrunthiskindofbusinesswithoutastrongarmbutmydadalwayskeptthemoutof
oursight.Hebelievedindiscipline.Hesaid,Ifyoudobadthings,likeifyougetcaughtfordrunkdriving,Icantgetyouoff.Alotof
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powerfulpeoplesaidtotheirsons,Icangetyouoffanything.Itmakesforadifferentkindofmentality.Ofcourse,laterIdiscovered
thattherewasnothingIcouldhavedonethatmydadcouldnthavegotmeoff.
MCsfatherispresentthroughouthisconversationasakindofspiritualtouchstone.
Thecompanywassetupbymygreatgrandfatherin1952.Whenmyfathertookitoverinthe1980sthefamilywasindebt.Nowthe
grouphasanannualturnoverof$1bn.Myfatherswilltosucceedisphenomenal.Ifhesetsouttodosomething,hewillgetitdone.If
theressomeoneIwanttobecome,itshim.
MCspeaksaboutthefamilybusinessinthefirstpersonplural.Hehasgrownupabsorbingbusinessideasandtechniques,andthey
areanaturalpartofhisspeech.
Whenourliquorbusinesswasatitsheightwecontrolled19%ofIndianliquorretail.At that time, the government auctioned liquor
outlets to the highest bidder. Later on it introduced a lottery system to prevent monopolies. But we could still grow the business
becausewehadsomanyemployees.Inanylotteryinourregion,outofa100entrants,80wereourmen.
MCwassenttoaseriesofexpensiveschools,buthewasrepeatedlyexpelled,andattheageofsixteenhedroppedoutforgood.He
wenttoLondonforayearortwotohavefun:clubs,parties,andeverythingelsethatateenagerwithawellstockedbankaccountcan
thinkof.
Whenhecamebackhewasputinchargeofoneofthefamilyssugarmills.Buthisheartwasnotreallyinitandtherealestate
boomwason.In 2001, the family set up a real estate business and MC, twentyone and entirely untrained, was given the task of
buildingthelargestshoppingmallinnorthernIndia.
WhenIwasinEnglandIspentalotoftimewalkingaroundmalls,studyinghowtheyweremade.Theresnopointreinventingthe
wheel.IknowmorethananyoneinIndiaabouthowyousetupamall,howyouarrangeyourbrands.Myfatherhadnoexperienceina
professionalcontext,soeverythingIknowabouttheprofessionalcontextIvelearnedmyself.Iintroducedcomputersystemsintothe
business:ItaughtmyselfOracleprogrammingbecausetheprofessionalcontractorswerenogood.ThenItaughtmyselfallaboutthe
latestbuildingtechniques.MyfirstmallwasbuiltwithspecialprefabricatedsteelpillarswhichhadneverbeenusedinIndianmalls
before.Recently,Itaughtmyselffinance.IreadfinancetextsonlineandeverytimeIdidntknowawordIlookeditup.Sixmonthsago
IdidntknowanythingandnowIcanconductfinancemeetingswithPriceWaterhouse.
MC's mall was famous for having Delhis most luxurious, hightech nightclub. It was MCs pet project, his personal party zone with
endlesschampagneforhimandhisfriendsandhisnightlyarrivalthere,surroundedbybodyguards,wasalwaysafrisson.
ForatimeIwasthemaninDelhi.Loadsofpeoplewantedtobemyfriend.Womenwantedtosleepwithme.Isaidtomywife:ifI
hadntbeenmarried,thingswouldhavebeenverydifferent.Alotofpeoplewereveryfake.
Like many Delhi rich boys, MC was given a big wedding as a way of winding down his wild years. When he was twentytwo, he
marriedhischildhoodsweetheart,SKtheirreceptionhad6,000guestsandfeatureddanceroutinesbyBollywoodstarsDiyaMirza
andShilpaShetty.MCstilllovesparties,and,asIdiscoverduringourconversation,hebecomesrelaxedandwittywithalcohol,but
thereisnodoubtthathehasbynowgrownintoafullyfledgedpartnertohisfather.Hesreadytoshutdownhisnightclub:hedoesnt
havetimetoattendtoitanymore,andhedoesntwantanyoneelsetorunit.HeoperatesfiveshoppingmallsacrossIndia,andhehas
another1400acresunderdevelopment.Andthatisjustthebeginning.Heismovingontomuchbiggerplans.
Wevejustleased700,000acresforseventyfiveyearswereopeningupfoodprocessing,sugarandflowerplantations.
HeissomatteroffactthatImnotsureifIveheardcorrectly.WehavealreadydiscussedhowlaboriousitistoacquirelandinIndia,
buyingfromfarmersatfiveortenacresatime.Icantimaginewherehecouldgetholdoflandonthatscale.
Where?Iask.
Ethiopia.MyfatherhasafriendwhoboughtlandfromtheEthiopianPresidentforacattleranchthere.ThePresidenttoldhimhehad
otherlandforsale.Mydadsaid,Thisisit,thisiswhatwevebeenlookingfor,letsgoforit.Weregoingintherewith[exiledRussian
oligarch]BorisBerezovsky.Africaisamazing.Thatswhereitsat.Youretalkingaboutnumbersthatcantevenfitintoyourmindyet.
Reliance,Tata,allthebigIndiancorporationsaresettingupthere,butwerestillaheadofthecurve.Imgoingtorunthisthingmyself
forthenexteightyears,thatswhatIvedecided.ImnotgivingthistoanyCEOuntilitmeetsmyvision.Itsgoingtobeamazing.You
shouldseethisland:lush,green.Blacksoil,rivers.
MCtellsmehowhehasonehundredfarmersfromPunjabreadywiththeirpassportstosetoffforEthiopiaassoonasallthepapers
aresigned.
Africanscantdothiswork.Punjabifarmersaregoodbecausetheyreusedtofarmingbigplots.Theyrenotscaredoffarming5000
acres.MeanwhileIllgothereandsetuppolytechnicstotraintheAfricanssowhenthesugarmillsstartuptheyllbeready.
ShippingfarmersfromPunjabtoworkonAfricanplantationsisaplanofimperialproportions.Andtheressomethingimperialabout
thewayhesaysAfricans.Imstunned.Itellhimso.
Thankyou,hesays.
Whatisonthatlandrightnow?Iask,alreadyknowingthathisresponse,too,willbeimperial.
Nothing.
MC is excited to be talking about this. His spirits seem to be entirely unaffected by the recession that currently dominates the
headlines.Heordersanotherbeer,thoughwehaveexceededthetimeheallotted.Allofasudden,Ifindhimimmenselycharismatic.I
canseewhyhemakesthingshappen:hehasmademebelieve,ashemusthavemadeothersbelieve,thathecandoanything.Iask
himhowhelearnedtothinklikethis.
Imonlytwentyeight,hesays.Whynot?
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Hebecomesflamboyant.
Weregoingtobeamongthetopfivefoodprocessorsintheworld.YouknowthefirstcompanyImgoingtobuy?Heinz.
IminterestedinhisWhynot?Is it on the strength of such throwaway reason that three quarters of a million acres of Ethiopia are
cleared and hundreds of farmers shipped across the world? I wonder what the emotional register of this is for him. It seems as if,
somewhere,itsallabitofalark.
IsometimeswonderwhyIwork,hesays.Idoaskthatquestion.Idontneedtowork.ButwhatelseamIgoingtodo?Youcantsit
inbeachresortsforthreesixtyfivedaysayear.SoIthinkofcrazythings.Ilikeitwhenyouthinkupsomethinganditssowildyoure
messedintheheadandyouthinkHowcanIdothis?andthenyouthinkWhynot?
I feel like pointing out that life holds more possibilities for someone like him than just sitting on the beach. Messed in the head
soundslikelanguagethatremainsfromhiswilddays,asifthewholethingisaboutgettingahigh.Iaskhimhowhewantstospend
hismoney.
CurrentlyIdriveaBMW750i.ItsgoodforlongdrivestothemallImbuildinginLudhiana.ThecarIreallywantisanAstonMartin
DBS.ButIllbuyitlaterwhenIdeserveitmore.MyfatherwantedtobuymeanicesportscarthreeyearsagobutIsaid,Wait.Iset
myself certain goals. By the time Im forty I want a 160ft boat. I want a nice Gulfstream plane. And I want to be able to run them
withoutitpinchingme.
MCtalksasifheweresavingupforamotorbikeorafridge,andsuddenlyheseemsstrangelybanal.Thisisamanwhocandreamup
earthbending forms of moneymaking, but his ideas of spending it are consumerist in the most ordinary of ways. Hismiddleclass
vocabularyseemsatoddswithhismultibilliondollarinternationaleconomy,andIwonderifheisdeferringhissportscarsoasnotto
runoutoffutureacquisitionstooquickly.Iwonderifthewholeenterprisedoesnotteeterontheedgeofsenselessness,ifheisnotin
factstillwaitingforsomeonetosupplyhimwithameaningforthismoneyaroundwhichhislifeisorganised.
Unprompted,hebecomesphilosophical.
Imnotreligious.Imspiritual.Mybasicprincipleis:Whatevergoesaroundcomesaround.Itwillcomebacktoyou,youcanbedead
sureofthat.IlivemylifeinaVedicway.Disciplined.Noidolworship,nostupidacceptance.Alsothatyoudontjustletsomeonehit
youandtakeitfromthem.Yougiveitbacktothem.
Im not sure if this last point flows from the basic principle, but I dont question it. MC is deadly serious. He is letting me in on his
knowledge.Hetellsmeastory.
Iwasatapartyrecently,andthewaiterwashandingoutdrinksandhemovedthetrayawayalittletoosoonandthisguyhadntgot
hisdrink.Sotheguyshookupasodabottleandsprayeditinthewaitersface.IwentstraighttothehostandIhadhimchuckedout
oftheparty.Youhavetoknowhowtobehave.Somepeopleonlyfeeltheyhavemoneywhentheycanscrewsomeoneelse,andthen
theyfeel,OK,Ihavemoney.Youhavetoknowhowtotreatnormalpeople.Youseetherearetwokindsofrich.Therearepeople
whovehadmoneyforalongtimeandtheydontgiveafuckwhoyouare:theyllbenicetoyouanyway.LikeImnicetopeople.You
maygetboredbeingaroundthembecausealltheytalkaboutishowtheyvejustgotbackfromCannesorStTropez,buttheywont
kickyouout.Butthepeoplewhovegotrichinthelastfiveyears,theyturnupatapartyandthefirstthingtheydoisputtheircarkeys
downonthetabletoshowtheyhaveaBentley.Theydontknowhowtobehave.
MCisalittledrunk,andhespolicingboundariesthatareclearertohimthantome.Its not the first time hes said Peoplehaveto
know how to behave.Once again I feel that his stand against the nihilism of the Delhi rich is all the more fervent because he is
assailedbyithimself.Heisintimatewithallthethuggishbadboyswhohavegivenpeoplelikehimsuchabadname(Itssosadwhat
happenedtoSanjeevNanda,hesays,hessuchasweetguy)andheisimpressedbyparablesofrestraint.
Ihaveafriendwhosamultibillionaire,hesays,andIaskedhimaboutthebestcartobuyforyourkids,becauseIvejusthadkids,
andhesuggestedaToyotaInnova.Hecouldaffordtobuyajetforhiskidsbuthedoesnt.Theyhavetoearnit.Hejustbuystheman
Innova.Yousee,peoplesaytherearebadkidsbutitsalltheparentsfault.Itstotallytheparents.Theyhavefuckedtheirkidsand
oncethatshappeneditcanneverbeundone.OnedaytheguyisdrivingaMaruti800thenextdayhesdrivinganSClassandhe
buysBeamersforhiskidswhentheyretenyearsoldandtheyjustgocrazy.Thekidsgetfuckedup.
IvehadanumberofconversationswithpeopleinMCseconomicclassandtheyalltalkaboutDelhiasakindofElDorado,where
fortunespourinovernight,almostwithoutyourasking.Inthiscountry,atthistime,theysay,youvegottobeanabsolutefooltogo
wrong.Butforallthetalkofnewmoney,mostDelhifortunesarenot,strictlyspeaking,new.Theyhavecertainlyexplodedinthelast
few years, and smalltown powerhouses have indeed turned into metropolitan, and even global, ones. But they rest on influence,
assets and connections built over many decades, and in that sense they are wholly traditional. The sudden prominence of a new,
provincial elite should not lead one to think that the economy has become somehow democratic. People like MC have always had
money,andtheyseetheworldfromthatperspective.Thegruelling,aridDelhiofsomanypeoplesexperienceisnotacitytheyknow.
WheredoyouplaceyourselfinthepyramidofDelhiwealth?Iask.Therecantbemanypeopleturningoverabilliondollars?
Youhavenoidea,hesmilescondescendingly.
ThisyearsForbeslistcountedabouttwentybillionairesinthiscountry.Howmanydoyouthinktherereallyare?
Atleastahundred.Mostpeopledontgopublicwiththeirmoney.Theydontwantscrutiny.Iwouldneverlistmycompany.
WhosthemostpowerfulpersoninDelhi?
Italldependsonpolitics.Youcanhaveabillionbutifyouhavenoconnectionsitdoesntmeananything.Myfamilyhasbeenbuilding
connections for two generations and we know everyone. We know people in every political party, we never suffer when the
governmentchanges.
Sowhydoyoutravelwithbodyguards?
TheU.P.policeinterceptedcommunicationsaboutaplantokidnapme,andtheytoldmyfather.Peoplewantmoneyandtheythink
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oftheeasiestway,whichistotakeitfromsomeonewhohasit.Theycantdoanythingconstructivethemselvessotheythinkshort
term.WeneedmoreprofessionalisminIndia.Morecorporategovernance.Thenwellshowtheentireworld.
Forgoodreason,MCisgratefultoIndia.
SinceIwasfourteenIverealisedIndiaistheplace.Ilovethisplace,thisiswhereitsat.Elsewhereyoumayhaveasmuchmoneyas
LaxmiMittalbutyourestillasecondclasscitizen.Thisisyourfuckingcountry.Youshoulddoithere.
MCtellsmehowhehatesAmerica.
WhyshouldWalmartcomeinhere?IdontmindGucciandLVtheydonothingtodisturbthesocialfabric.ButkeepWalmartoutof
here.Wewereunderslaveryforsevenhundredfuckingyears.Weveonlybeenfreeforsixty.Giveusanotherthirtyandwewillbuy
Walmart.Itellyou,IwasatapartytheotherdayandIhadmyarmsroundtwowhitepeopleandIsuddenlypushedthemawayand
said,Whyareyouhere?Wedontneedyouguysanymore.
Twentyeight years old, well travelled and richer than most people on the planet, MC's resentment towards white people is
unexpectedlyintense.IaskhimhowtheworldwouldbedifferentifitwererunbyIndians.
Itwillbemorespiritual,hesays.Butthenhethinksforamomentandsays,
No.Itwillbeexactlythesame.
Ibringourconversationtoanend.MCpaysthebill,andwewalkoutsidetothequietcarpark.
Thanks,hesays,shakingmyhand.Idontreallyknowwhy.
His driver opens the back door of his BMW, and MC gets in. The gates open, the BMW sweeps out, and behind it an SUV full of
bodyguards.
MClivesabouttwohundredmetresaway.
Idrivehome,thinkingoverourconversation.Iponderalittledetail:duringmyloobreakhetookadvantageofmyabsencetosenda
textmessagetoourcommonfriend.JustcheckingthatIreallyknewher.SomewhereinMCissomethingalertandintimidating.
Imstilldrivingwhenhesendsatextmessagetome,askingmenottoquotecertainthingshehassaid.Iwriteback
okifyouansweronemorequestion.whatdoesmoneymeantoyou?
Herespondsstraightaway:
oneoftheendproductsofmyhardwork,itdoesmeanalotIrespectititgivesmemorehardworkandonthesideabitofluxury(:

FIVE
DrivingpastDelhissoledealerofBentleysandLamborghinis,Istopinonawhimandasktospeaktothemanager.Hesnotaround
andImsenttohavecoffeewiththePRgirls.Theyareappropriatelyattractiveand,judgingbytheirdiamonds,fromtherightkindof
family(IvedrivenamillionPorschesandFerraris,saysone.Theyrenicecars.ButwhenyougetintoaLamborghiniitssomething
else).Forthem,Delhiisaplaceofinfinitemoneymaking,andtheyfalloverthemselvestryingtoexpressthisfantasticfecundity.
When someone comes in here looking to buy a Bentley we dont ask him what hes driving now. Just because he drives a BMW
doesntmeanhecanaffordaBentley.Weaskifhehasajetorayacht.Weaskifhehasanisland.
AretheremanypeoplewithjetsinDelhi?Iask.
Thegirlswaxapoplectic.
Everyonehasone.Andnotjustonetheyhavetwo,three,four.
Wechataboutnicecarsandexpensiveliving.ALamborghiniisdrivenintotheshowroom:thenoiseissodeafeningthatwehaveto
stoptalkinguntilitsinplace.IaskthePhilistinesquestion:whatsthepointofspendingthirtymillionrupees(400,000)onacarthat
can do over 300km per hour in a city where the traffic doesnt move? They tell me about the car club that meets at night in the
diplomaticenclave,wheretheroadsarestraight,wideandempty.
Youhavetohaveatleast,like,aBMWoraMercedestojoin.Theymeetatmidnightandtheyracetheircars.ThePrimeMinisters
officeisalwayscallingustocomplain.
Why?
BecausethePrimeMinistercantsleep.Theseenginesmakesomuchnoisetheykeephimawake.Sohecallsustocomplain,but
obviouslytheresnothingwecando.
AsIdriveaway,IcannothelpthinkingofPrimeMinisterManmohanSinghtossingandturninginbed,hissnowyhairunturbanedon
thepillow,hisdreamsinterruptedbytherichboysFerrarisscreamingupanddowntheroadsoutside.ManmohanSinghisofcourse
themanwho,longago,asFinanceMinister,openeduptheeconomyandsetthecourseforanewmarketelite.

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