Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Review - Imagining India

Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani: This book is a little over 500 pages, written by Infosys co-founder and former CEO. My six year olds were asking me how long I could read so many pages, and how long I'd take to finish - turned out it only took me a couple of days to finish cover to cover! That was because, much of the book was history of India, more of visualizing the past as opposed to imagining the future. Roughly 75% of the book presents policies, politics, population and problems from Nehru's time - corruption, inefficiency, bureaucracy, caste, religious and regional politics - stuff that people have experienced first hand, or have read in other books, so it was easy to breeze through. A few insights were useful, but most seemed shallow. The author says India's demography is young and Infosys average age is 27 years old - but I am not sure we can connect the two. In fact, I have seen Infosys job advertisements clearly asking for Date of Birth along with resume, so it may just be due to plain age discrimination! Another place the book echoes the conventional notions that caste purity and pollution as silly and child marriages as evil - definitely true in today's context, but mention of why they came about would help set right context why we can imagine doing without it (like, fear of disease, control of natural resources for caste discrimination, low average life expectancy (35 years in 1947) forcing early marriages). The remaining 25% talks about the need to change many things - primary and higher education, health care, social security etc. I felt legal reforms, basic ethics, habits, traffic sense were left out. Some solutions are presented from experts, experiments and experiences in India and abroad, like how Information Technology (IT) will increase transparency, reduce corruption, why US type social security won't work, as well as his pet idea of Universal ID for every Indian. However, I felt it lacked the punch that an economist or politician from years of experience would have delivered!

No comments: