The Chands are typical of Hamilton Court residents: Well-traveled young professionals, some returnees to India after years abroad, grateful for the conveniences.
Some of them are also the first in their families to live so comfortably. Chand attended an elite but government-financed school. His father was in the military. Some of their expenses, Mr. Chand said, their elders consider lavish. Gurgaon, a largely privately developed city and a metonym for Indian ambition, has seen a building frenzy to satisfy people like the Chands. The skyline is dotted with scaffolds. Glass towers house companies like American Express and Accenture. State services, meanwhile, have barely kept pace.
The city has neither enough water nor electricity for the population. There is no sewage treatment plant yet; construction is scheduled to begin this year. India has long lived with such inequities, and though a Maoist rebellion is building in the countryside, the nation has for the most part skirted social upheaval through a critical safety valve: giving the poor their chance to vent at the ballot box.
That the bottom of the pyramid votes became obvious to the Chands when they last went to the polls. Chand recalled. Hamilton Court, meanwhile, is rarely courted at election time. Inside its gates, the Chands have everything they might need: the coveted Sri Ram School, a private health clinic and clubhouse next door, security guards to keep out unwanted strangers and well-groomed lawns and paths for power walks and cricket games.
View all New York Times newsletters. They bought their apartment just after the birth of their eldest, Aditya, who is now in first grade. Next year, they hope to enroll their youngest, Madhav. The school recently hosted a classical music concert. The business school guru C.
Prahalad gave a lecture the following week. Some domestic staff members work at Hamilton Court, an average of 2. The building employs its own plumbers and electricians. At any one time, 22 security guards and 32 surveillance cameras are at work. Bhalla said. Gurgaon has one policeman for every 1, residents — lower than the national average — and a surfeit of what Mr.
Bhalla calls official apathy. The guards at the gate are instructed not to let nannies take children outside, and men delivering pizza or okra are allowed in only with permission. Once, Mr. Bhalla recalled proudly, a servant caught spitting on the lawn was beaten up by the building staff. Recently, Mr. If a police officer does not arrive quickly, Mr. Lal rued, the residents complain. Come back tomorrow.
They accuse the police of raiding their shanty, hauling men to the local stations and forcing them to clean and cook before releasing them back to their hovels, often without a single charge. The police say migrant workers are a source of crime.
One afternoon, Mrs. Das returned from her duties at Hamilton Court, cleaned up the lunch plates that her sons had left on the floor and took her plastic water jugs to stand in line under the acacia tree, only to discover that there was a power failure, which meant the water pump could not be turned on. Das already had two of her sons in a charity-run school nearby, but much to her shame, she missed the registration deadline for her youngest, now 6, who will now be a year behind his peers. She cannot read. Next door to Mrs.
Every time I see one on the side of a highway, I get a chill.
And I think of my friends in prison. Romy challenges those expectations. Does that debunking reflect something of your own experience with prisoners? There was a period of time, before she went to prison, when she checked books out of a library to read, but that urge could be seen as in opposition to her education, or even in spite of it—which reflects my experience not of prisoners but of people I grew up with.
D, and so he gets her these books that most people read in, say, sixth grade, which she and her cellmate laugh about. One thing that seems clear to me, and I believe is probably pretty apparent in my novel, too, is that intelligence in prison is collective. It is shared among people who have to survive, individually and together. Gordon goes to some length to try to justify—for himself—the crimes that his students have committed, or at least to understand them within a sociological context, instead of judging from a position of privilege.
Do you think he would feel differently about her if he did? Is this something that you yourself have struggled with, in getting to know people who were serving life sentences?
He is not trying to make them innocent. It sounds noble, but Gordon is also snooping, which is not noble. The lack of results, the emptiness of the search, forces him back onto himself. Individual destinies recede, and one sees a set of relations, an arrangement, a set of allocations. There is a tendency on the part of both liberals and conservatives to regard crime as individual. This way of regarding the individual acts of others seems to exclude the larger truth of the organization of society: that some very poor people are destined to commit crimes.
Sure, there is some chance and variability and individual agency in who, in that layer of the population, will go to prison, but what is defined as crime in our society is committed by—and against—the poorest people. There are exceptions, but they are merely exceptions. I am slouching toward the contemporary, and this book is my take, I guess, on both where we are as a society and what I think a contemporary novel might look like. Histories aside, it has a range of voices and outlooks, which is something I have done before, but I feel I know how to manage narrative better now.
I was much more in control of the story technically than I was in control of it morally and emotionally.
A brave story, with a strong message that goes straight to your heart. I am still trying to find her. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Empathy Educator. When I finished, I fixed myself in the mirror and, on the way out, ran and leapt to swing from the high bar joining the metal stalls to the tiled wall.
It took me on a ride, a sometimes harrowing ride, and that was new. In terms of models, Don DeLillo is a high standard for humor, and for the necessity of humor even in bleak scenes and histories. I heard him say something, while I was writing this book, that was incredibly useful. While writing, I read the correspondence that Johnson engaged in with two men who were in prison in Arizona, letters that are among his papers at the Harry Ransom Center. I also like what Cheever said when he was inevitably peppered with questions about why he taught at Sing Sing prison.