Book Review on Imagining India

Page 1 of 106

Book Review on Imagining India

By | Feb. 2013
Page 1 of 106
INDIA, BY ITS PEOPLE

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Imagining India : ideas for the new century/ Nandan Nilekani; New Delhi: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books, 2009. (38-61, 158-175, 256-282, 363-383 p.) INDIA, BY ITS PEOPLE

IN DELHI THIS Monday morning, it is chaos. Despite its pristine new metro and expanding highways, the city can barely contain the morning hubbub, the swarm of people all trying to get somewhere. By the time I reach Kaushik Basu's home—set a little apart from the highway, on a quiet street that is empty except for a single, lazy cow who stops in front of the car, in no hurry to move—I am very late, a little grimy, but exhilarated. Kaushik and I chat about how the crowds in the city look completely different compared to, say, two decades ago. Then, you would see people lounging near tea shops, reading the morning paper late into the afternoon, puffing languorously at their beedis and generally shooting the breeze. But as India has changed— bursting forth as one of the world's fastest-growing countries—so has the scene on the street. And as Kaushik points out, it is this new restlessness, the hum and thrum of its people, that is the sound of India's economic engine today. Kaushik is the author of a number of books on India and teaches economics at Cornell, and his take on India's growth—of a country driven by human capital—is now well accepted. India's position as the world's go-to destination for talent is hardly surprising; we may have been short on various things at various times, but we have always had plenty of people. The crowded tumult of our cities is something I experience every day as I navigate my way to our Bangalore office through a dense crowd that overflows from the footpaths and on to the road—of software engineers waiting at bus stops, groups of women in colourful saris, on their way to their jobs 38

at the garment factories that line the road, men in construction hats heading towards the semi-completed highway. And then there are the...