[2018-12-31] “The Elephant Paradigm”

“The Elephant Paradigm” by Gurcharan Das is a collection of essays by the author based on his columns in The Times Of India and other newspapers. Published in 2002, it examines how India has changed after the economic liberalization of 1991, as well as other reforms like those in telecommunications, education, and local government. It then ponders how the country can really make progress on economic and other fronts to become a truly developed country. (Disclosure: After the first 100 or so pages, I mostly skimmed through the rest of the pages as I found the book a bit dull – more on that below – so take this “review” with a pinch of salt.)

One of my bad habits is to always try and read a book from cover to cover even after I have realized that I do not like the book. This habit not only wastes a lot of my time, but it also makes me drag my feet before picking up another book to read. It is thus doubly harmful. I have been trying to break this habit, especially after reading articles like Nancy Pearl’s Rule Of 50 For Dropping A Bad Book and Reading Is Not A Chore: On Quitting Books.

When I started reading this particular book, I found it quite stultifying and haphazard even after I had read close to a 100 pages (out of the roughly 300 pages), so I thought of discarding it in keeping with my resolve to mend my bad habit. However, having read the author’s column on and off in the Sunday edition of The Times Of India over many years, I felt a bit bad about it and skimmed through the remaining pages, reading a page more thoroughly if something on the page caught my eye. The book unhappily did not get any better, so I ultimately ended up wasting my time.

The book is divided into three parts, each part containing a series of essays somewhat loosely gathered into individual chapters. The first part examines the country as it stood around 2002 after a decade or so of significant reforms to regulations governing business and finance, telecommunications, local government, education, etc. The second part then explores how individuals have already changed with the changed country and how they must change in order to achieve progress. The last part dwells on how as a nation India must evolve in order to become a truly developed country.

As I have noted earlier, the essays are a bit haphazard and meander through a whole host of topics. Perhaps it is because the source material was a set of disparate newspaper columns. Combined with the dull prose, this makes it very hard to engage with the book. To be sure, there is no doubt that the author is well-read, well-travelled, widely published, and fairly accomplished in his corporate life — however, the book as a whole still does not work for me, so I sadly cannot recommend it.

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