Sunday, December 30, 2007

Surfeit of India books

Somehow, in the last few weeks, 'India' books have been dominating my reading. I re-read Ramachandra Guha's "India after Gandhi", finished Shashi Tharoor's "The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone", and am reading V Raghunathan's "Why are we the way we are", and have Edward Luce's "Inspite of the Gods" next on my reading list.

It's been fun. All the authors (ones I've read) love India. Their patriotism shines through every word they write. However, each book has a different focal point to its verbiage. Ram Guha's book is more political, placing emphasis on the political history of the country, focusing on personalities (and events) that shaped India, all the while making the point that India remains a single country because of democracy and the vast number of safety valves it offers.

Shashi Tharoor's book is better: the author has an amazing sense of humour, he is a great story teller, and this book is far more about ordinary Indians than Ram Guha's. Shashi talks about Bollywood, Cricket, Hinduism, Gavaskar, Ramanujan, rural womenfolk - in short, everything that makes India, India. I'll post a few snippets after I obtain his permission. But in any case, go read the book - it is a very easy, fun-filled and anecdotally-rich read, something you won't regret in the new year.

If the two previous books gave me a sort of a high, V. Raghunathan's "Why are we the way we are" brought me crashing down to garbage-ridden, potholed earth. In his book, Raghunathan examines, using Game theory, many aspects of Indian behaviour and concludes that our selfish desire to go ahead of our neighbours makes all of us poorer in turn. With lucid and contemporary examples, Raghunathan proves that the India would be a far richer and liveable country if only everyone lived by the rules, even if acting purely in self-interest. A chapter on the management principles of the Gita stoked my curiosity and I think I'll give the great book another read.

If you are Indian, or want to know about India, particularly why we tick (or barely survive), these books are a must read. If I know you, you have it easy: ask me. :)

Happy new year folks. Do keep reading and keep your comments coming.


H said...

How is the book "India after Gandhi" by Ramachandra Guha ? There was a show on KQED where the author was interviewed.

Prashanth said...

Did you not not like sashi tharur because his involvement did not contribute to the greater goodness?

Gops said...

H: The book is very nice. A little big though, but it is a great read.

Prashanth: No, I really like Shashi tharoor's work - did I not say the same in the post?