Author: Bhisham Sahni
Publisher: Indian Institute of Advanced Study
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8185952450
Translated from the original Hindi, Basanti encompasses the blighted springs of a low-caste teenaged girl brought up in one of Delhi's numerous ever-insecure bastis.
The demolition of her basti saves the fourteen-year-old 'working' girl from being sold off in marriage to a sixty-year-old lame Rajput. She rebels against her mercenary father but in vain, for the lover with whom she elopes 'like a heroine' turns out to be another mercenary. He, too, sells off the pregnant girl and goes back to his wife.
Basanti is daring and vivacious but all her subsequent attempts at making something of her life are thwarted by the 'regulators' surrounding her. In a resolution that is both moving and dignified, she demonstrates her firm grip on life as well as her quick ripening into a mature being unlikely to be deluded by myths about class, caste, love, marriage, and the welfare state.
As well as being a fast-developing individual in her own right, Basanti is the special site from where the author offers a vivid and disturbing perspective on the urban jungle which is what Delhi is for a huge chunk of its citizens.