The first true people’s history of modern India, told through a seven-year, 9,000-mile journey along its many contested borders
Sharing borders with six countries and spanning a geography that extends from Pakistan to Myanmar, India is the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country. It is also the site of the world’s biggest crisis of statelessness, as it strips citizenship from hundreds of thousands of its people–especially those living in disputed border regions.
Suchitra Vijayan traveled India’s vast land border to explore how these populations live, and document how even places just few miles apart can feel like entirely different countries.
In this stunning work of narrative reportage—featuring over 40 original photographs—we hear from those whose stories are never told: from children playing a cricket match in no-man’s-land, to an elderly man living in complete darkness after sealing off his home from the floodlit border; from a woman who fought to keep a military bunker off of her land, to those living abroad who can no longer find their family history in India.
With profound empathy and a novelistic eye for detail, Vijayan brings us face to face with the brutal legacy of colonialism, state violence, and government corruption. The result is a gripping, urgent dispatch from a modern India in crisis, and the full and vivid portrait of the country we’ve long been missing.
”Suchitra’s account of her journeys across the undefinable and ever-shifting borders between India and its neighbors is gripping, frightening, faithful, and beautiful. In Afghanistan, Kashmir, and India, from one dangerous conflict zone to another, she spoke with people, ate with them, and listened to their stories. As a bedouin who grew up listening to beautiful stories from beautiful storytellers around a fire, I was transported by her storytelling. This is a serious, often funny, and deeply revealing book.” —Mohamedou Ould Salahi, author of Guantánamo Diary
“Unique and ambitious, Vijayan’s project gains urgency and significance from our moment of resurgent nationalisms, when borders are being aggressively reasserted, in India and across the globe.”—Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman
“An intervention like no other when it comes to thinking through not just the history of India but for reflections on borders, migration, the elusory nature of nations With sharp political analyses, dense historical research, and lyrical, image-rich prose, Vijayan’s journalism displays an inspiring ethic, one that is invested in the micro-histories of the ‘small man,’ the one existing on the fringes of history and the one that most requires urgent representation.”—Bhakti Shringarpure, author of Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital