Nobody Does the Right Thing

A Novel

Nobody Does the Right Thing

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: Published: June 2010

Author: Amitava Kumar

Asian Studies > South Asia, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

A young poet is killed by her lover, a politician, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Soon afterward, across India in Bombay, an idealistic journalist is hired by a movie director to write a Bollywood screenplay about the murdered poet. Research for the script takes the writer, Binod, back to Bihar, where he and his cousin Rabinder were raised. While the high-minded Binod struggles to turn the poet’s murder into a steamy tale about small towns, desire, and intrigue, Rabinder sits in a Bihari jail cell, having been arrested for distributing pornography through a cybercafé. Rabinder dreams of a career in Bollywood filmmaking, and, unlike his cousin, he is not burdened by ethical scruples. Nobody Does the Right Thing is the story of these two cousins and the ways that their lives unexpectedly intertwine. Set in the rural villages of Bihar and the metropolises of Bombay and Delhi, the novel is packed with telling details and anecdotes about life in contemporary India. At the same time, it is a fictional investigation into how narratives circulate and vie for supremacy through gossip, cinema, popular fiction, sensational journalism, and the global media.


“[A] terrific novel. . . . Nobody Does the Right Thing should provoke a lively debate about life in contemporary India for readers — both those with personal connections to the Indian subcontinent and those who don’t know it very well.” — Amardeep Singh, Sepia Mutiny

“If you’re willing to have Indian villages and metropolises and pop culture and politics become a small part of who you are, pick up a copy of Nobody Does the Right Thing. You’ll be the richer for it.” — Patricia Hagen, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Kumar’s writing reveals the nuances attached to the political scene, crimes, obsession with films, interpretation of modernism, and social complexities occupying the lives of people in these places. The people, their emotions, and actions feel real.“ — Sweta Srivastava Vikram, India Currents

“The fact that [Nobody Does the Right Thing] has been written in conversation with Hindi literature is astonishing. I can think of no other English language novel that does this. Because of the hierarchy of language-medium education in India, it is rare for a writer in English to have read any literature in Hindi whatsoever. . . [A] novel like [Nobody Does the Right Thing] is not only an excellent read, but it also avoids reifying the dehumanizing and possibly dangerous stereotypes about an under-privileged area, while simultaneously opening up for readers all around the world the complexities of the every day lives of people living in the flyover country that is Bihar. If you like that sort of thing.” — Lapata, Chapati Mystery (review of the Indian edition)

“This is not the clichéd gleaming metropolis of Thomas Friedman and Slumdog Millionaire or the streetwise slumming of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. Amitava is too devoted to capturing each detail of Bihar, where he was born, to be continually on-message about India. He is too busy observing to be self-consciously faux-authentic.” — Ken Chen, Mead

Kumar’s latest, distinctive novel looks at the multifaceted, interconnected lives of two cousins within the blurry terrain of personal ambition, class, and contemporary life. . . . The shifts between rural communities and the
urban sprawl of Delhi and Bombay heighten the contrasting perspectives in Kumar’s intelligent tale.” — Leah Strauss, Booklist

“To know a country so you have its dirt beneath your fingernails is a difficult thing. Read Nobody Does the Right Thing and you will have India beneath your fingernails.” — Akhil Sharma, author of An Obedient Father

Nobody Does the Right Thing imaginatively portrays the forces shaping contemporary India, and it is a remarkable reader of mass culture and popular narrative forms, of the worlds of Hindi cinema, pulp fiction, sensational journalism, and globalized media.” — Siddhartha Deb, author of An Outline of the Republic and The Point of Return

Nobody Does the Right Thing is a deeply compassionate novel about art, life, and everything that lies in between.” — Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son

Nobody Does the Right Thing is a quietly but deeply impressive novel. It not only takes us into the living, ambivalent textures of an India that is relatively little written about: the India of villages, highways, second-class train compartments, and old but second-rate metropolises. It also transforms itself, in the process, into an exemplar of how that variegated terrain might be addressed.” — Amit Chaudhuri, author of The Immortals


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amitava Kumar is a novelist, poet, journalist, and Professor of English at Vassar College. He is the author of Husband of a Fanatic, a New York Times “Editors’ Choice”; Bombay-London-New York, a New Statesman (UK) “Book of the Year”; and Passport Photos. He is the editor of several books, including Away: The Indian Writer as an Expatriate, The Humour and the Pity: Essays on V. S. Naipaul, and World Bank Literature. He is also an editor of the online journal Politics and Culture and the screenwriter and narrator of the prize-winning documentary film Pure Chutney. Kumar’s writing has appeared in the Nation, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, American Prospect, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Hindu, and other publications in North America and India.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

I. The Car with the Red Light 1

II. Ulan Bator at Night 33

III. The Lady with the Dog 61

IV. Kiss of the Spider Woman 99

V. News of a Kidnapping 123

VI. Nobody Does the Right Thing 153

VII. The Glass Menagerie 175
Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc South Asia

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4682-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4670-8
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