A street sweeper discovers a cache of black market money and escapes to see the Taj Mahal with his underage mistress; an Untouchable races to reclaim his life that’s been stolen by an upper-caste identity thief; a slum baby’s head gets bigger and bigger as he gets smarter and smarter, while his family tries to find a cure. One of India’s most original and audacious writers, Uday Prakash, weaves three tales of living and surviving in today’s globalized India. In his stories, Prakash portrays realities about caste and class with an authenticity absent in most English-language fiction about South Asia. Sharply political but free of heavy handedness.
You ought to know the truth: there are only two reasons lives like ours are stamped out. One: our lives are left over as proof of past and present sins and crimes against castes, races, cultures; they always want to keep this as hidden as they can. Two: our lives get in the way of the enterprising city, or act as a road bump in the master plan of a country that thinks of itself as a big player on the world stage. Our very humanity threatens to reveal the wicked culture of money and means as something suspect and unlovely. That's why whenever civilizations once developing, now on the brink of prosperity, decide to embark on a program of 'beautification', they try to root out such lives, the same way the mess on the floor is swept outside.Uday Prakash is one of India's most highly respected writers, due to his rich stories of modern life and his willingness to describe the corruption and caste prejudice that exists there. However, his career has been marked by harassment by government officials, which has caused him to be fired from numerous jobs and to become a jack of many trades in order to feed his family. He was born in the state of Madhya Pradesh in 1951, to a family of village landlords. After the premature deaths of his parents he obtained a university degree in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, and taught comparative literature and Hindi at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, where he has resided since 1975.In the words of Jason Grunebaum, the narrator of this book, "In many of his stories, Uday Prakash shows how those who dare to dissent against a suffocating system are punished. But with his biting satire and delightful narrative detours he also demonstrates how humor and compassion ultimately provide the best means to fight back and escape."The Walls of Delhi consists of three short stories, all set in Delhi at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, about a person struggling against poverty and corruption, each one told through the eyes of a narrator that knows him well. In "The Walls of Delhi", Ramnivas Pasiya is a lower caste emigrant to Delhi who is barely able to support his young family as a part-time sanitation worker, in a neighborhood filled with street vendors, prostitutes and smackheads. One of his jobs is to clean a fitness club where wealthy Hindis go to lose weight, while the poor that surround them are engaged in a daily struggle to find sufficient food for the day. "Mohandas" describes the life of Mohandas Viswakarma, who becomes the first person from his village to obtain a university degree and graduates second in his class, yet finds that the expected pathways to success are closed to him, as less educated and talented men with personal connections or the ability to bribe officials obtain employment ahead of him. Finally, "Mangosil" is about a young boy from a poor family cursed with seven prior miscarriages, whose is born healthy but experiences massive and painful enlargement of his head in proportion to his body, while simultaneously developing unusual wisdom and intelligence. Doctors are willing to diagnose and treat him, but their fees are beyond the means of his parents.These three stories are all suffused with both tragedy and humor, which prevents this book from being an overly depressing one, though it isn't a light or frivolous read. The narrator or characters make frequent and poignant comments about Indian society and its caste prejudice and rampant corruption that flow smoothly within each story. I could not put this book down once I started it, and I finished it in one sitting. The Walls of Delhi is a masterful book about modern India, which is a far better book than [The White Tiger], Aravind Adiga's Booker Prize winning novel, and it deserves to be widely read and appreciated.read more