February 01, 2013

Book Review: Accidental India

Accidental India: A History of the Nation's Passage Through Crisis and Change
Author: Shankkar Aiyar
Number of pages: 352
Price: Rs. 695

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An engaging narrative of how the country came about its most interesting transitional policies or agendas if one can call them so, this book is a must read for those who look towards a better future for India.

Although set in the past, this book is a glorious salute to the men and the policies that made India a name to reckon with in the world of International economics, and is an effective pointer to what best we can do to make the country prosper in the future times.

From being an agrarian economy to the technology behemoth, transitioning across the decades with slow but succinct growth patterns, the book follows the path taken by this country in a gripping manner.

The author knows his facts well. Figures even better. Although I may not be in a position to ratify their correctness, as an observer, they appear pretty accurate. And being a seasoned journo, I'm sure, he won't fib facts and numbers. And the fact that he has placed his facts in very well depicted chapters of Indian history makes the reading all the more pleasureable. 

I personally loved the Soup Kitchen for the Soul and the Da Vinci code chapters which talk about the Mid-day Meal scheme and the Right to Information Act, to mention only a couple of them. Given a random topics and asked to pick out a few that moulded the nation's growth, I'm sure not many would have zeroed in on simple yet far reaching topics like Dr Verghese Kurien's Amul White revolution which is depicted as The Milky way or the rather contentious nationalization of banks pioneered by the Indira Gandhi regime or even the genial Lal Bahadur Shastri giving a push to fill India's grain godowns.

And it is good to note that the author has not taken up topics like the Bofors or Mandal Commission or the Babri Masjid demolition and harped on more positive growth aspects of this country. The author has also looked into the future to talk about what lies ahead of us. However, what the author has elaborated upon were the disturbing circumstances, the crises under which the reforms took place. The Indians act bold only with their back to the walls was well known in cricketing parlance - Eden Gardens 2001 a fine example - but the same is actually true of the nation and some of the glorious revolutions that took place in the country. While Steve Waugh's Aussies were on a ride steamrolling everyone in their path, two brave men showed them the finger salute and turned it all around. The author was well placed to unearth the pledging of our gold reserves to the Brits to repay our debts. We were at a pawn-broker selling our family jewellery. And then decided to fight against the odds, open up reforms under the guidance of a pouting premier and a turbaned financier. Such are the logs that the author has put on paper.

I thought of cataloging this book to a single genre and failed miserably. History, tick. Facts, tick, Politics, tick. Industry, tick, Governance, tick. Ideals, tick. Research, tick. Hell, it even will tick if I classify it as a post-doctoral thesis!

I would surely recommend this book to everyone. Especially to most of the socially unaware, educated, working, earning female population of this country. 

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