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The Dark Underbelly Of Shining India

Abdullah Khan

By Syeda Hameed  and Gunjan veda
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2012, pp. 365, Rs.399.00


On the cover of this elegantly written reportage-cum-travelogue is a shabbily dressed teenage girl holding a toddler. In the background we see the thatched houses and many tell-tale signs of extreme poverty. From the cover photograph itself you have a fair idea what this book is all about. At the top of the cover it reads Beautiful Country: Stories from Another India. The title is apt because the stories here are, of course, from another India; an India which is different from the India portrayed by the worshippers of mindless consumerism and votaries of crony capitalism. This India doesn’t shine and re-mains unaffected by the impact of double digit growth. This is, in fact, the dark underbelly of one of the world’s fastest growing economies where majority of Indian citizens live. They are ‘resilient and courageous women and men of India whose ordinary lives and extraordinary spirit inspired the author duo, Syeda Hameed and Gunjan Veda to write this book. Beautiful Country chronicles the journey undertaken by Syeda Hameed, the social activist and member of Planning Commission, and Gunjan Veda, journalist, to that another India, the India of villages and small towns. And what they observed during their visits was quite disconcerting. From a river island of Assam to the tribal areas of Andaman Nicobar, from the freezing valleys of Ladakh to the backwaters of Alleppy in Kerala, they criss-crossed the entire country taking notes of the daily lives of the people living away from the glitz and glamour of the big cities. During their voyage they encountered the people and visited the places which rarely appear in the mainstream media. Somewhere in this book the authors take us to Daniyalpur, Varanasi, and we are intro-duced to Maimun Nisa and her son. And it goes like this: ‘Thin face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, a frayed light pink dupatta covered her head. Her son, Imran, was tiny and had the face of an old man—shrivelled and shrunk. His feet were so thin that we wondered if he would ever be able to walk. His head seemed too big for his small frail body’. These lines speak volumes about the so-called growth that our country has witnessed during the last two decades. Clearly, much applauded Manmohanomics has failed to bring any noteworthy change in the lives of the people on the margins. Across the country there are many Daniyalpurs, ...

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