‘Imagining India’ is a book I would never have picked up in the normal course of events. Not that I have anything against Nanadan Nilekeni himself. Just that, I am extremely wary of inflicting on myself a book that is likely to turn out to be a self-congratulatory account of events as interpreted by the ‘great man’. And a book that has as its cover a mug-shot of the man who describes himself as a ‘commentator’ appears to be just that.
Two random events conspired to make me buy the book. It was highly recommended by a colleague who mentioned how ‘awesome’ the book was at least twice every day. And I fell ill bang in the middle of a month when I had imposed a ‘no fiction unless interspaced by non-fiction’ ban on myself. If the book did speak about Pratham and Akshay Patra, two non-profits that I know do very good work, how bad could it be?
The book went with me to hospital, and by the time I finished the Preface, I knew that the only thing that would make me put the book down was sleep. What I liked most about the book was the undercurrent of cautious optimism. While most commentators tend to go overboard in either their praise or their censure, he admitted our shortcomings, and somehow managed to convert them into opportunities.
After reading the book, I found myself sliding back into the solutions mode that I thought I had left behind many years back. Yes, there is a lot wrong with and in India, but not all of it defies solutions. I know that I too am going to spend a lot of time ‘Imagining India’ in the next few weeks.