Sunday, December 07, 2008

Imagining India

Optimism. Can Do. Two things that India needs today and two words that strike you as you start off on Imagining India.

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation is the title of Nandan Nilekanis new book that came to me from Webchutney for review. It is a big book, make no mistake - and it is clear that Nandan is not your average writer (or blogger) - he is an astute, observant and meticulous author. The processes that his company is renowned for is reflected in his book. Overflowing with citations, bolstered by first person accounts and teeming with anecdotes, it is also an account of interactions with a lot of people who have been intimately involved with a lot of these ideas.

It takes a book like this to really tell you that there is more about India, than novels titled on coloured felines would make you believe. And which is what makes this book so credible. Nandan is closely associated with a company that has negotiated through this maze, ethics and values intact, and made a success out of it. As you read through it, you cannot but shake your head at the many opportunities India missed. Also, given todays disillusionment with politics, it may even make you wish that people like Nandan made it to governance.

As a book on contemporary history, it is an engaging read. For people who have not seen the "socialist" years or want to know how business operated during those years, it is a must read. And my favourite chapter was the one where he talks about technology - and there are two of them. The passion there is evident.

As he dissects the facets of India, how we reached here, why we are what we are and how we can change, it comes across a simple, sensible, even obvious set of ideas. And the overall attitude is a refreshing one of quiet self belief. How we can use what is given to us to take us where we want to do? How can we do better with the resources that we have? How can we improve our lot? The answers are all out there. Indeed this book makes it a simple to-do manual for any government. In each of them, he ends on a positive note and belief that we can achieve and talks to many who are working on these areas in the right direction.

The only issue, which I suspect also plays on in the authors mind, in that in the past few weeks, post the financial meltdown (and the terror attack), many things have changed and we still dont know what is in store. So, while it is an engaging read for what got us till here, some assumptions may change. But even here, it is evident that we need "Indian" solutions in a lot of places instead of templating whatever has been tried across the world. But recession or no recession, in the meantime, the basic things that need to set right still need to set right and Nandan gets it right.


Kavi said...

Interesting..thanks for sharing. Will look this book up..

purple pitara said...

ok - convinced enough to borrow your copy to read it!

Anonymous said...

"novels titled on coloured felines"
You meant colourless felines, didn't you? :)
My one criticism of the book is that it doesn't have enough of Nilekani's ideas. He does a fine job bringing together the best ideas, but where is the stance on "this is what i believe should be done". I think I would have wanted a bit more of that.