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Towards a better India

Vani Mahesh, October 6, 2012 15:09 IST
When Chetan Bhagat, the quintessential youth magnet, started writing a weekly column for a major daily, he quite surprised many. Because he did not write about lost loves and education at IITs, but opined about the political affairs in India. The book, What Young India Wants, is a compilation of essays from his columns.

When I picked up this book, I wondered what a youngster would get out of reading these essays. A lot, I felt, right after the first two essays. The writing had the potential to inspire young minds to do something to better our country or at least to make them pause before casting their votes.

The book starts off with a very earnest note from the author as to what qualifies him to write a book of this nature. Is he a bureaucrat? Is he an economist? None, but he is not a novice when it comes to world economy and finances — a fact you learn from the foreword. He has served on the advisory committee of Goldman Sachs which guided the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines on how to improve their credit ratings. This was enough for me!

Gripping and emotional — two words that can be safely used to describe Chetan Bhagat’s style of writing. His writing is not much different even in a non-fiction collection of this nature. Indian finances, rain-dependent agriculture, poverty-stricken farmers — there is no such thing as a dry topic when Chetan Bhagat writes about them. The book has three sections dwelling on societal, political, and youth issues — the first two provide some serious fodder for thought while the last one is more of a motivational talk.

The book begins strongly with the essay Being Rich Being Good. It draws a comparison between the rich in USA versus the rich in India. Wealth is accumulated in America through intellect, innovation and hard work. Those who flout legal norms, whether it is the Lehman brothers or Rajat Gupta, are punished irrespective of their affluence and social standing. What happens in India? Most of our affluent are also the most corrupt.

Wealth here comes mostly from ancestry or corruption and hardly through ethical means and innovation. Young entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg, could make it to the elite billionaire club without ‘connections’ in the US. Does that ever happen in India?

He makes a case for why his readers should support Anna Hazare in his fight for a strong Lokpal Bill. He argues strongly against government officials and offices occupying prime real estate in metros. His anger, frustration, and hope for India are all made real and palpable to the reader. In essays like What Is A Citizen’s Worth and Chocolate Cake And Terror, he puts a human voice behind the German Bakery and the Bhopal gas tragedy. He also engages readers by often doling out unusual stories and little-known facts — how and why the British got China hooked on opium two centuries ago, how the Zimbabwean currency collapse almost resulted in a barter system and many such.

Though he tries to be politically correct most of the time, you know that he is really not gung-ho about the current ruling party in India. Here is a clever pot-shot: “You vote for Rahul Gandhi if you like his political moves. Not because he is the prince of an uncrowned dynasty. If you think Rahul’s influence on financial policies have put the country into deficit, then don’t vote.” Ouch!

This book is not for the current affairs savvy. Then again, what percentage of our population is really knowledgeable about current events? This book at least gives a bird’s eye view of what plagues India. The issues discussed are real. We may not agree, at times, with the author’s very simplistic solutions to grave Indian problems, but they are his view points. Readers can always have theirs. More than what young India wants, this book, in my opinion, is what young India needs to think about.

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