New Delhi one month after the declaration of the Emergency is the setting for Nayantara Sahgal's novel Rich Like Us an ironic tender and exquisitely crafted study of India and its people in the aftermath of Independence.
The Emergency in India meant many things to many people - profit and power for some; jail for others; mobile vasectomy clinics for thousands more. For idealistics like Sonali it meant the end of a dream the extinguishing of a bright flame of promise for the country's future that had burned since Independence. An unmarried woman proud of her senior ranking in the civil service she finds herself demoted and humiliated through a corrupt deal at governmental level. For opportunists like Dev a beneficiary of the deal it means a chance to quite his ailing father's business and make it on his own as a leader of the New Entrepreneurs. Sonali's colleague Ravi Kachru once a passionate Marxist makes himself indispensable to the "royal line". Meanwhile the stubborn shopkeeper Kishori Lal bloodied survivor of Partition lands in a filthy prison cell for a non-existent crime.
Rich Like Us is many individual histories and many voices in one - a compelling and vivid tapestry of India's past and present. Above all it is the story of Rose the cockney memsahib brought by the worldly Ram from London forty years before to a family that neither wants nor welcomes her. In Nayantara Sahgal's tale with its humour and tragedy is mirrored some of the grandeur and folly of the Indian experience itself.