THE BILLIONAIRE RAJ by JAMES CRABTREE

The Billionaire Raj, a “journey through India’s new gilded age” as the cover promises, is a totally engrossing read.

It is especially fascinating for Indian residents, like myself, but Mr. Crabtree writes in such an inclusive way that even people unfamiliar with this extraordinary country will be informed, entertained and – let’s be honest -probably repelled by some of the excesses and corruption on display in the book.

Mr. Crabtree, who used to be based in India as a foreign correspondent tells his story through human stories. He meets some of India’s fantastically wealthy people, like the now imprisoned Vijya Mallya.

He talks to politicians, bankers, employees, bureaucrats, fellow journalists.

He drinks with one of India’s most influential financial figures, he visits mining sites with their polo-playing owner, he meets Arnab Goswami, one of the most controversial men on India’s television screens – who is very much in the news these days, and currently undergoing police questioning in Mumbai.

And he travels a lot throughout the length and breadth of the country. South India, Gujarat, New Delhi, Mumbai.

Mr. Crabtree looks at the threads that bind this diverse country – money, politics, bureaucracy, trade, cricket, Bollywood – threads often so closely interwoven that it’s hard to unravel the fibres of patronage, favours, and obligations.

But one truth is pretty much self evident. Politicians need a lot of money to campaign and succeed in India. Hence the web of patronage and generous donations and equally generous favours in return.

This is an excellently researched, well-written, enjoyable, eminently readable book with a light, human touch.

Thoroughly recommended.

Link to order, below.

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