AT THE DAWN OF THE PRESENT CENTURY I was working for a marketing consultancy firm in New York. The job was becoming a burden: I was increasingly consumed by the novel I was trying to write in the evenings and, moreover, I was in love with a woman who lived on the other side of the world—in Delhi. And so, at the end of 2000, I emulated, contrariwise, my father’s journey.
I arrived with one suitcase and a box of notes and articles I had collected for my writing. Everything else I owned I stored with an uncle in New Jersey. I didn’t think it would be long before I was back. I didn’t know how long it took to write a novel, but it surely couldn’t take more than six months. I had no intention of staying in Delhi: I had passed through it a few times during childhood visits to Calcutta, and remembered it as a polluted, charmless sprawl. I had no doubt I could convince my beloved to forsake it for sparkling Manhattan.
But such attitudes quickly fell away when I arrived in Delhi. It would be too simple to say that I fell in love with the city—it is just as true that I fell in hate—but there was certainly an all-consuming plunge. A drawing-in, as if Delhi’s attractive power exceeded mere like or dislike—for, in 2000, all that was comfortable and settled in the places I had lived before was here in turbulent preparation, and the city was a vortex of prophecy and possibility. I had fallen, by pure chance, into one of the great churns of the age and, without ever planning to do so, I stayed.
From Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-first Century Delhi by Rana Dasgupta, published this month by HarperCollins India. To read this excerpt in full, pick up a copy of the January 2014 edition of The Caravan. To subscribe to the magazine in print, click here. For digital subscriptions, go here.