How real-life corruption inspired Deepti Kapoor’s novel Age of Vice – Orange County Register

Age of Vice, Deepti Kapoor’s second novel, devotes most of the first 170 pages to the story of Ajay, who is born into poverty in rural India but manages to carve out a living for himself through skill, hard work, and constant servitude of various kinds in a rapidly modernizing Delhi. But this life of service to Sunny Wadia, the son of a wealthy and ruthless businessman, comes with its own set of risks that cost Ajay dearly.

We then spend the next 200 pages with Neda, a young journalist who aspires to something but doesn’t know what, until she falls in love with Sunny Wadia. She quickly realizes that this relationship involves risks that also cost her dearly.

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Set in the early 2000s and steeped in violence, Age of Vice examines the price of India’s modernization as it handed the reins to what Kapoor calls the “land mafia,” wealthy and connected “semi-gangsters.” bought up property and entered politics to protect their business interests at all costs.

“I feel sadness,” says Kapoor, who now lives in Portugal but was a journalist like Neda at the time. “There is so much ingenuity and warmth among people born into terrible circumstances, and the state is utterly absent. That hasn’t changed.”

The novel caused a sensation at home and abroad; it is now being adapted into a series by FX. She recently spoke about the novel and its themes via video. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Is this novel read differently in the West than in India?

The reaction in India is completely different than in America and Europe. Indians are rightly always a little suspicious of books they think cater to the West, saying, “Oh, is that another ‘White Tiger’ or ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.”

Americans simply worship Ajay, the downtrodden everyman trying to lift himself out of poverty. For me, this story is a decoy and switch. They start with Ajay and his journey into the world I wanted to depict: the world of Delhi, with Sunny and his family. And that interests Indian readers much more.

There are many great non-fiction books out there about the relationship between crime and politics and how criminals become politicians and eventually rule the state. It’s been covered in non-fiction, but not so much in fiction.

Indians love the idea of ​​me exploring modern day India and its corruption, inequality and violence. People there are desensitized, you almost close your eyes because it’s so painful – Delhi is a brutal and harrowing place to live and it can be easier to live in a bubble of privilege and comfort that Neda is seduced by .

Q. How much did your time as a journalist influence this novel?

I wanted to cover crime but was pushed to cover media, lifestyle and art. In the early 80’s, companies suddenly realized that with liberalization and the open market, they could sell many products with consumer lifestyle coverage. I documented social trends and witnessed rapid changes in Delhi – the first McDonald’s, the first bowling alley, the first shopping mall. Delhi was a sleepy city suddenly charged with business centers and office parks.

Sunny’s idea of ​​remodeling the Yamuna riverbank – it was a floodplain and there were people living in settlements around the edges and he wants to remodel it with art galleries, boardwalks, running tracks – and Dean said, “You can’t just throw these people away.” reflects the clashes that were taking place in Delhi at the time.

There were newspaper articles saying that the city would enter the modern world and be as beautiful as Paris. It would be very easy to be seduced by this idea. I remember not even thinking that it might not be right.

They see shiny new highways and roads – they love development like this – but access to schools and health care for those who are not rich falls by the wayside.

Great journalists reported on serious issues, but I was never there myself. I wasn’t a very good journalist, but I’m good at listening and observing people, which helps as a novelist. All the people I met and the stories I heard went into this novel.

F. Sunny is the son of a powerful and corrupt man and seems almost like an act of rebellion to want to do good. Ditto for Dinesh Singh, a supporting character who at least seems to be better at it. How sincere are they in their intentions?

India is an extremely feudal society. So if your father is an important person, you are likely to inherit his power, regardless of whether you have the right skills or not. These are the men I grew up with. These men are sent to very expensive universities by fathers who are half-gangsters. Some study public policy or government in America or Canada and come back with ambitious ideas. But I’m a little skeptical that they’ll ever be able to implement them. Dinesh wants to do the right thing, but maybe he can’t. Sunny is weak and plagued by so many other things.

Q. Is the corruption and violence different now than when the book was set?

I was just in UP [Uttar Pradesh] last month and there are some things I need to be careful about because it can be dangerous. Corruption has not ended; it’s just gotten sophisticated and streamlined and hidden. Back then, it was more of a free-for-all with half-gangsters getting into politics, becoming powerful, and making as much money as they could. I’m not sure if the change is good.

From then until now you have had great journalists doing the investigative work of nepotism or the exposed links between corporations and major corruption scams by politicians. What often happened, however, was that the journalist would then go to the businessman and say, “I have all this crap; pay me off.” You could make a lot of money to set yourself up for life.

Now they also suppress dissenting voices, so a narrative is pushed and it’s difficult for the media in India to fight that. A lot of really good journalism has been choked off by the Modi regime because people are really scared. There is some good media out there that does great work – but many journalists write books for all the stories that get squashed by the editors of newspapers and magazines. There is now an atmosphere of fear. How real-life corruption inspired Deepti Kapoor’s novel Age of Vice – Orange County Register

Adam Bradshaw

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