India Yatra: Places We Have Never Been, People We Will Never Meet

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Item Code: IHL341
Author: Nandan Nilekani, Edited by Neelesh Misra and Zara Murao
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788172238582
Pages: 156 (37 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 Inch X 5.5 Inch
Weight 270 gm
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Book Description

From the Flap

In the run-up to the 15th Lok Sabha elections in 2009,the Hindustan Times decided to take its readers up close to grassroots India, and to share the lives and perspective of ordinary Indians—the people who really matter in an election. India Yatra was probably the biggest national reporting project of its kind. It spanned more than 23,000 kilometres and 117 constituencies-around one—fifth of all Lok Sabha constituencies. Fifty-six reporters and the same number of photographers were sent out on selected routes to explore different themes and convey the concerns that occupy the people. The exercise showed just how diverse India really is, and how startling its variety. So that, as Nandan Nilekani points out in his foreword, anyone who claims to ‘know India is either lying or foolish.

These reports present a picture of the country with remarkable clarity, without getting lost in the maze of its complexity. As India negotiates this critical period of rising awareness and an intensifying struggle for access to the benefits of y growth, India Yatra assumes a significance that goes beyond the immediate reality.

ESELESH MISRA, who conceived the India. Yatra project, is deputy executive editor at the Hindustan Times. He travels across the country and writes for the paper on issues. As diverse as Kashmir, land acquisition battles, atomic energy and Bollywood. He was born in 1973 in Lucknow, completing his education there and in Nainital, and works out of New Delhi.

Neelesh is the author of three books: 173 Hours in Captivity: The Hijacking 0f IC 8l4; The End of the Line: The Story of the Killing of the Royals in Nepal (both non-fiction books); and Once upon a Timezone, his first novel. When he is not chasing the news, Neelesh writes Bollywood songs and pursues his a love of photography.

ZARA MURAO is news editor with the Hindustan Times in Mumbai. A graduate in literature from Sophia College, University of Mumbai, she earlier worked with the Indian Express, heading the city desk there and later at HT. She has written several travelogues for both newspapers and worked on a number of special series.


India Yatra (an Indian journey) was probably the biggest national reporting project of its kind attempted by any newspaper, spanning more than 23,000 kilometres across 117 constituencies, approximately one in five of all lower house constituencies.

As the run-up to the world’s greatest electoral show, India’s 15th Lok Sabha elections, began, we decided to take our readers up close for a firsthand look at grassroots India-at people who are often left behind in the poll—time scramble that is typically dominated by politicians.

We decided to take our readers to the people who should matter. India Yatra was a sprawling medley of journeys and reportage across the length and breadth of the country, a collection of stories on what has changed in this overwhelmingly young nation over the past five years—told through the experiences and lives of ordinary people. In the run-up to the national elections, it tried to look at politics in the world’s largest democracy through a totally new prism—writing about politics without meeting a single politician.

Instead, 29 reporters and 27 photographers were sent out on small journeys across the country on pre—designated routes to explore different themes and create a vast jigsaw of issues that impact and shape India’s politics, and the invisible yet powerful voices that make it so.

When the election results came in, these voices were vindicated by the overarching theme of the mandate that, by and large, the people had voted for those politicians that had a track record of good governance.

Few nations are as kaleidoscopic, complex and mind-boggling as India is. Indians are at once among the world’s richest as well as the poorest; India boasts of being one of the world’s oldest civilizations as well as being at the cutting-edge of modern research and technology; it is a nation that plays a key role in playing peace-keeper in conflict- ridden hot-spots across the globe and yet itself struggles to combat insurgency and separatism within its boundaries; as much as 60 per cent of Indians are under 35 but the average age of the ministers who lead them is 53. These were the contradictions that our writers and photographers went out and tried to capture.

But India Yatra wasn’t just a documentation of the obvious. It was a portrait of the lives of ordinary Indians—sometimes triumphant, sometimes frustrated by their lack of access to a world they had only glimpsed on TV or via the Internet. There were stories about how gleaming highways and brand new schools were changing lives and aspirations. Tales of the new India, the Maoist India and a forgotten agrarian India that seemed to have fallen through the cracks.

It was politics narrated through the voices of India’s people, and the response was remarkable. Letters poured in, readers offering stories of their own and tales of what they hoped for from India’s new Lok Sabha.

In the end, it became a multi-layered journey across India for our readers themselves. We tried to bring to them places they would never go to and to meet people they would otherwise have probably never known about.


Foreword xiii
Nandan Nilekani
Preface xvii
Found on Reality TV: The Real India3
Neelesh Misra
Big Bosses Want to be on the Little Box 5
Neelesh Misra
Kashmir Calling: A New Voice at the End of the Line 8
Monalisa S. Arthur
In the Land of Ram, Switching on a New Deity: Technology 11
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Trousers. Knives and Forks. Camera Phones. New Dreams 13
Varghese K. George
Such a Short Journey: Munganda to Manhattan 16
Kuchi Venkat Lakshmana
The ABC of a Whole New World 19
KumKum Dasgupta
The New Bhadralok: Bytes of Change in Kolkata 22
Soumya Bhattacharya
In a Small Town in Andhra, Lives the World 25
Varghese K. George
An Expressway Runs Through It 27
Sanchita Sharma
Found at a Coffee Shop, Kashmir’s Two Faces 30
Monalisa S. Arthur
Votes—for—favours Works Wonders in Poll-savvy Dwarka35
Ritika Chopra
Goliath Falls, a Jharkhand Village Is Reborn 37
B. Vijay Murty
Watch Your Words, There’s No Hunger in the Hunger Capital 39
Rajesh Mahapatra
Spotted in a Drought-hit Village: Millionaires 41
KumKum Dasgupta
Life after Bhojshala 44
Piyusha Chatterjee
A Small Victory in a Losing Battle 46
Kuchi Venkat Lukshmana
Angst in the Land of Rooftop Patton Tanks 51
Paramita Ghosh
Dreams Run Out in Kerala 54
Lalita Panicker
The Sparkle Is Missing in Surat 57
Mayank Austen Soofi
In the Blind Spot of Elections, the Dreamless Are Dreaming 61
Archana Phull
Missing Mantris: Sex Workers Step In 63
B. Vijay Murty
Small Change, Big Difference 65
Sunita Aron
Armed With the Right to No 69
Ketaki Ghoge
Fighting a Lose-lose Battle in Singur 72
Soumya Bhattacharya
In a Dusty Village, Freedom - Courtesy a Two-wheel Drive 77
Ruchira Hoon
Dreaming Big, Living Small 79
Lalita Panicker
In a Picture-perfect Village, Seething Resentment 82
Archana Phull
Democracy Vanishing in Red India 87
B. Vijay Murty
Guns by the Blackboard 89
B. Vijay Murty
For Orissa’s Poor, an Expensive Peace 93
Rajesh Mahapatra
In Assam, a Minority in Their Own Land96
Rahul Karmakar
Trying to Fit in: A Jigsaw Called Home 99
Sweta Ramanujan—Dixit
Cheek by ]owl, in Different Worlds 102
Ritika Chopin
A Tiny Battle and a Big War in Coffeeland 104
Kuchi Venkat Lakshmana
There Is Nothing Dharavi About Dharavi 107
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
State of Discontent 110
Pankaj Jaiswal
Trapped in the Sewers in Infotech City Pune 112
Sumana Ramanan
In Gandhi Kingdom, Mayawati on the Cards 115
Sunita Aron
The Great Wall of South India 117
Renuka Narayanan
Faith Accompli 119
Karnataka Tale: A Minister Mining His Own Business 125
Chitrangada Choudhury
How He Won the Kingdom of Awe 128
Naziya Alvi
On the Border, a Sixty-year Battle of the Invisibles 133
Arun Joshi
In Bundelkhand, a Ticket to Nowhere 136
Pankaj Jaiswal
Nameless, Faceless: The Men Building the New India 138
Sanchita Sharma
1,000 Murder Suspects. One Pain 141
Dharmendra Jore
Armed, or Unemployed 144
Naziya Alvi
Dammed: W/ho Took My Water, Vidarbha Farmer Asks 146
Dharmendra Jore
Guess the Price of Misery: Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 800 149
Pankaj Jaiswal
Headed for Derailment 152
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit
School’s Out 155
Ritika Chopra
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