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Many books are released in India these days. Some good, some bad, others indifferent. Few of them have received as much publicity as Nandan Nilekani’s “Imagining India”. The expectations of the book were very high- particularly considering the profile of the author. After all, he is the Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Infosys, one of India’s largest IT companies.

The book is written in a fairly chatty style and is replete with quotes from experts in many diverse fields. They have, over time, spoken to the author when he checked their reactions to the propositions he had.  “Imagining India” has a huge amount of statistical data in the various fields that Nandan writes about- be it education, agriculture, population or the economy as a whole.

Some of them are really staggering- to mention but a few:

  • We could be seeing our per capita income double every 9 years
  • Alternate energy options can provide us with 50 % of our energy requirements by 2050;
  • 50 % of India is still not eligible to vote being under 18 years of age
  • India has a median age of 23 “when the rest of the globe is going grey”.

These are interspersed with his own observations on events that have happened in the past or those he believes will happen in the future. The impact of these events- be it in energy conservation or education for that matter- can either be extremely positive to the country -if the right actions are taken in time- or a disaster- if nothing is done.

Readers who have seen India change over time can relate easily to Nandan’s description of how India has evolved over the last few decades- as they have experienced it first hand. For the younger reader, especially those, who have experienced only the growth phase of  the Indian economy, some parts ( the book is about 485 pages) may tend to be too detailed and in places, repetitive.

The ideas that Nandan writes of , one must admit, are not entirely new. However, they have been lucidly articulated with strong arguments as to why they should be implemented. The fact that we enjoy so many advantages as a nation is very encouraging.

I feel Nandan could have touched upon another aspect in more detail which pulls back our progress and compels us to lag behind. In my view, our entire orientation towards the law needs to be changed. It is a root cause of our not achieving our potential as a nation. Probably due to our colonial past where defying the law was considered a heroic deed, we have scant respect for the law. The leaders who went to jail- in those times in very different circumstances and for very different reasons- were unfortunately not able to correct our outlook towards law after we gained Independence. It is not that this can’t be done. The fact that it can is best exemplified by observing the Indian in India and the same person abroad.

Nandan should be widely commended for sharing his thoughts, ideas and experiences , perhaps for the first time in such a format, with a larger audience. He writes from his personal experience of being one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs. Undoubtedly, companies like Infosys- which he co-founded- have changed the fortunes of many thousands  of Indians. Encouraged by the success of this book, he should write more on how we are able to meet the challenges that must be overcome to genuinely emerge as a economic super power.

India is indeed at the crossroads. They could be very exciting and prosperous times ahead-provided we Indians are able to effectively manage those issues which could otherwise potentially tear us apart as a nation.

The book is priced at Rs.699 which straight away- in my view-  places it beyond the purchasing power of a large segment of his target readers- the youth of India.  Nandan writes of the wide spread prevalence of piracy of books in India. If he does not come out with a more affordable (paperback perhaps) version of ” Imagining India”,  don’t be surprised to very soon see the same thing happening with his book as well.

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