Das, Gurcharan. India Unbound, Anchor Books, 2002, index, 412 p. (pb)

Das is an Indian who was born into a post-independence India. The story he tells is a personal retelling of India as it shook off its British colonial rulers and began to look at independence and what it means. As Das sees it, the story is "soft drama. It is taking place quietly and profoundly in the heart of Indian society." It is a story of vibrant entrepreneurs fighting entrenched bureaucracy and it is a story of the world's second most populous country struggling to come to grips with what it means to be a player in the global economy. He compares India, where the vast majority of people live in poverty and where the economy was stagnant for the first 50 years of independence, with the Asian Tigers, where governments encouraged economic growth. It's not always a favorable comparison. Although the Tigers showed astounding economic growth for a couple decades, they have suffered for the last several years. India, on the other hand, has grown very slowly but has not suffered many of the calamaties the Tigers did. Das calls India an elephant rather than a tiger. He hopes that the path India is on with slowly but surely make India a strong player in the global economy but not at the cost of the loss of its historic culture of diversity, tolerance, and spirituality. Such costs are often incurred when countries are overwhelmed by the western consumer culture most associate with the global economy.

India is a very old civilization, pre-dating the western world by centuries. At one time it was fabulously wealthy. Later that wealth evaporated and in the 20th century India almost stopped economic development as the socialist Nehru turned the country into a giant bureacracy. Recent reforms have begun to change the country. Das expects to see poverty begin to recede and a middle class to become ascendent within the next 20 years or so. It's an optimistic view and not one that's yet been determined. One can only cheer India and its citizens on.


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