Sunday, December 1, 2013

Drifting Democracy by Pravin Boddu ****

Before you visit India, Drifting Democracy by Pravin Boddu is required reading. India is so different from what you might imagine. Bollywood and high-tech outsourcing is just a tiny fraction of these one an a quarter billion people.

Living in California, I knew many immigrants from India, mostly doctors and engineers. I had also visited many poor countries around the world, and particularly China which I imagined to be similar. China has had a market economy for a similar period (decades). They both have long histories of advanced civilizations and an emphasis on education. In fact, Indians also compare themselves to this neighbor. China is nothing like India! The actual closest point of similarity is the spelling of their names.

When I arrived in India ... I was shocked! Nothing like I expected. Neither China, nor South Africa, nor any other country prepared me for the reality. Pravin Boddu's book might be the best antidote to the shock of seeing India in person. As I said, required reading before any visit, business or pleasure.

As the author points out, India skipped the 20th century. Everyone has wireless devices, but for many reasons: sewers, clean water, reliable electricity, roads, and garbage collection are all missing. The Economist summed the situation up in 2008, "India is a mess."

Without this book, a new visitor will waste time and effort, understanding the depth of the problems and the structural explanations for them. This book explains it all ... in the first four chapters. Non-Indians can safely stop reading after chapter four, and don't let the typos discourage you, this book is well worth your time.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on November 20, 2013. I received the book on November 27, 2013.

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