Recasting India – a review

I finished reading Hindol Sengupta’s ‘Recasting India’ during my recent trip to Ujjain. It is extremely well written. His style and flow are very impressive; almost breathtaking. The book is about many entrepreneurs who are making a difference to India in their own ways. The book was written in 2012 when pessimism was rife.

I loved the observation on Shri. R. Thiagarajan of Sriram Group. He voluntarily gave up money and power! Heights of spirituality and renunciation. He needs to hold classes for our politicians on what a true ‘Raj Dharma’ or being a ‘Raj Rishi’ means. I had the pleasure of meeting him early last year. Also, have heard of his distribution of his shareholding to employees quite a while ago from people who worked for him.

About three decades ago, my father used to work as an agent for Sriram Chits. He must be proud of having worked for Mr. Thiagarajan, even indirectly. Even at that time, a relative used to warn him that they might go bust and leave depositors/investors stranded. It used to annoy him. In the end, the chit fund that my relative was invested in went bust and Sriram is going strong. Some faith in divine justice still possible.

Also, the lady who ran a maid agency work in Gurgaon – she had the right attitude. She was not a blind activist who was trying to rescue these girls/ladies from their husbands and make their lives worse. She displayed the right attitude, something for which I admire Madhu Kishwar incidentally. She is the only activist I know of who has had the honesty to acknowledge the limitations and the harmful effects of activists’ arrogance in the name of doing good.

Shri. Ambedkar’s comments – Hindol Sengupta quotes liberally from his works – on the Brits and what they did to India was very useful. I was reminded of reading ‘The case for India’ by Will Durant.

Of course, his (Ambedkar’s) comments on the Muslim rulers’ contribution to India would not go down well with large sections of the ‘Cultural Right’.

These stories make us feel good. They give us hope about India. However, there is a risk. It might be too tempting to be swayed by the anecdotal stories of bravery, business ingenuity, courage, smartness, brilliance and spirituality and generalise it to the whole of India. That is what some of the other storywriters do.

Good work done in and by some communities does not mean that the model is readily replicable in the country. History, context and special factors matter. In fact, that these stories make the news is in itself worthy of reflection. They should cease to make news. Then, India will have arrived. But, we have a very long way to go.

From recent developments in India and from some emails that I have received in recent days, I get the impression that sections of the Right will hold back India as much as ‘Left/Marxists’ do. They are too caught up, trapped and frozen in their time warps.

Therefore, we may end up relying on books like these to keep our hopes up and alive.

As an author, scholar and researcher, Hindol will scale many more heights in the years ahead. There should be no doubt on that one.


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