By T.J.S. George
There is no end to books coming out on India. On Narendra Modi alone there are already more than a dozen. Expect more. Obviously the market is good even if some books say nothing a la P.V. Narasimha Rao's two "autobiographies." Journalists, fabled as composers of "the first draft of history," often tend to take sides. When they don't, some worthwhile books come out such as Inder Malhotra's biography of Indira Gandhi. Into this category falls India Rising: Fresh Hopes, New Fears by Ravi Velloor, a Delhi journalist who went to Singapore and turned himself into an institution there.
What makes this book eminently readable is its story-telling style. Velloor's account of the 2004 tsunami is a powerful chapter. But there is no hint of the disaster in the opening paragraph which is all about his spending the morning after Christmas Day in 2004 on a golf course in Central New Delhi with three officers of India's admiralty. His telling of Bangalore's IT revolution starts, not with Narayana Murthy or Azim Premji, but with Arjun Kalyanpur, a radiologist who sits in his villa in Whitefield and reads scan results of a patient being examined in a Chicago Hospital. Even the terrorist attack in Mumbai comes alive with the Velloor touch. "Jai Arya, executive Vice-President of the Bank of New York's Singapore operations and his wife Rohini were dining [at the Oberoi Trident] with Ashok Kapur and his wife Madhu. Ashok, who was my wife's cousin, was Chairman of Yes Bank and had earlier led the Rabobank's Singapore operations and we were frequent visitors at his bungalow." Three paragraphs later, Ashok is dead on the hotel's stairs.
Velloor now holds an exalted position in Singapore's Straits Times, but his real strength remains the reporter's blood coursing through his veins. Operating out of Delhi in the 1980's, he was amazingly networked, his quiet and subdued nature earning the trust of his contacts. The reporter's approach helps Velloor come...more