India has always been a complex country. But since the reforms of the 1990s, I feel the pace of change has become more dramatic. Because the country has opened up, the outside influences are much stronger than in the 1970s and the 1980s.
Yes, we've always had the poor. But in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the narrative of India had been that it is a poor country - overlooking the fact that there were also wealthy people.
What has changed in the last 20 years is that the narrative has become about India's power, India's rich - overlooking the poverty. The narrative has changed, but the poverty is still there, and in some cases it has gotten worse.
What comes through in the book is an element of longing for the old India...
There is an element of nostalgia there. But am not saying they were better times, but there were simpler times. There was less movement, there was less churning.
In many ways, India was a sleepy country in the 1970s and the ‘80s. There wasn't much economic opportunity or change.
People lived the life they were born into, and if you were born into an occupation or caste, that's what you did. There wasn't a lot of outside influence.
I am not saying that was a good thing. Everyone knew their place and things were static and unchanging - I think that's a very bad thing. I don’t agree that I romanticise that.
What I'm saying is that India has become a lot complicated in the last 20 years. Suddenly, everything is out of place. In many ways, that's a wonderful thing: It means if you were born a Dalit, you can go to school and move up in the world. You can move out of your village and do a lot of things. That's the wonderful side.
But with all this economic growth, and all this opportunity, a lot of confusion sets in.
So I don’t think the book is an attempt to say the past was good and the present is bad or the reverse. It's much more an attempt to say that we live in these incredibly complex times, and it's an attempt to capture seven-eight lives trying to navigate that complexity - and trying to show how well that complexity reflects in their lives, and how badly it does.
Image: Two pictures, taken some twenty years apart from almost exactly the same spot, up the road from Akash Kapur's childhood home in Auroville. The pictures "show how much the world I write about has changed", says Kapur.