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Delhi temperatures peak at over 100 °F in May and June, and the city remains hot for much of the year. Evenings, a blessed respite from the sun, are treasured. As dusk descends, a breeze awakens the city. Shy couples slink through the lawns of the verdant Lodhi gardens, while earnest grandparents throng its pathways. Fried vegetable cutlets sell fast as a pre-dinner snack. Dinner itself is considered the most important meal of the day, and begins late in the evening: our host family never eats before 9:30pm. The fruit and vegetable vendors at their two-wheeled carts peddle their produce until at least 10pm. Weighing up your okra, they dangle a handheld set of scales from the fulcrum, reminiscent of the Goddess of Justice balancing arguments.
The writer Gurcharan Das relishes the familiar song of nighttime—at dusk he’s often found in his neighborhood park, taking a stroll. But the author of India Unbound believes that India’s night is more than simply a time to revel in the cool. Night is when the country spurs to action. Not the literal nocturnal hours, but the time off the government clock, beyond its stagnation, inefficiency, and interference. In his new book, India Grows at Night, Das argues that India’s last decade of prolific growth can be attributed not to the state, but to the resourceful initiative of individuals and private enterprise. The country has risen heroically despite the state. But there’s a limit to that. We spoke with Gurchuran Das in his home in Delhi to find out why.