The Beautiful and the Damned, By Siddhartha Deb


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The Independent Culture

If you have ever felt peeved at the application process for an Indian visa, your pain will be contextualised by Siddhartha Deb's administrative nightmare in India, which began in an unfeasibly long queue under an unfeasibly hot sun, and ended in a near punch-up, with a visa no further in sight.

Deb, whose account of "life in New India" is shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, takes us through the ironies and tragi-comedies of living in a country whose economy is growing fast but which can barely cope, in some cases, with modernisation.

There are some amazing and murky stories, from a self-made movie mogul's tale to a village riddled with farmers' suicides. Deb reveals a country of acute contrasts.