There is a small story behind my reading of the book Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani. While traveling I was reading a chapter about Nandan Nilekani in the book Men of Steel by Vir Sanghvi. Vir was all praise for the co-founder and CEO of Infosys. Well it was quite a news for me as most of us knew only about Narayan Murthy as he was the face of Infosys. Anyways coming back to book, a passenger beside me was reading a book very intently written by Nandan Nilekani. While he was reading Ubharte Bharat ki Tasveer Hindi translation, I opted for the English version of the book Imagining India.
A book written by a business man always gives an impression that it will be about his business exploits, the company he founded and about his experience as an entrepreneur. But wait. Imagining India has nothing like that. It shows an altogether a different facet of the Nandan Nilekani as an author which has nothing to do with his entrepreneurial skills. But of course with his writing skills and his awareness about various issues in India has been jotted down in the book very adeptly and wonderfully much to the delight of the reader.
So what is the book all about. It is about the ideas which are embraced by India. Ideas which are in progress in India and ideas which has arrived in India but are in nascent stage. On this basis the book is divided into four parts. Ideas That Arrived, Ideas in Progress, Ideas in Battle, Ideas to Anticipate.
It is a unique thinking and concept to write a book. The author himself has done a deep reasoning, research and introspection on each and every topic. Along with his personal observation there are also analysis of experts as well. This gives the book such a fulfilling effect to satisfy the appetite of the readers.
Part 1 discusses about the ideas which faced severe resistance among the Indian before becoming the integral part of our life. Like family planning, entrepreneurship, globalization, the English language and democracy, technology and computers. We Indians have rejected all these new ideas breeding in India only to accept them with open hands and minds later on. So much so today we can’t think our life without computers and our little kids speaks fluent English. Everyday a new start-up is evolving and family planning is always at the top of our mind. Of course we Indians have become so brand conscious.
Part 2 discusses ideas which made their way into India but decade after decade these ideas have not taken the desired shape. Like basic education to all, well developed cities, infrastructure, simplified tax system etc. Every government works on these ideas but never manage to implement them properly which is hindering the growth of India.
There are also ideas which has arrived in India but are struggling to be accepted and embraced. Issues like economic reform, labour reforms and higher education are corrupted by the personal interest of political parties and business houses. There is a mode of stagnation in these areas which is pulling our country back.
In last part the author charts ideas that are pivotal to India’s future growth, and stresses that new ideas for Information and Communication Technology, social security, environment, public health and energy that are required to secure India’s future.
The Verdict: These are all very difficult issues to ponder over and clearly the ruling government mostly Congress party failed to leave its mark. The book show a very pragmatic approach of the author but not once he was pessimistic about the India’s future. In fact he ends the book with awakening notes which are full of positivity and possibilities.
He also draws interesting comparison with other countries mainly China who were in the similar situations like India but manage to bale out and India remain struggling.
It is a must read. The book has all the material to stimulate the thought provoking process of the reader. It is a fat book. And might take a few months to read. There is no point in gulping the book like a fruit juice instead should be drunk as a wine. A small sip at a time enjoying the taste. Imagining India should be read in that way.
I myself took three and half months to finish the book but not once felt like to give it up.