I was one of the 10 lucky bloggers who got a chance to read Accidental India by renowned journalist-analyst Shankkar Aiyar under the book reviews program conducted by BlogAdda. An interesting initiative by them and every week they come up with interesting books on board. I finished reading the book over the weekend and absolutely loved it. So much that I am recommending it to many people in my circle.
While I was reading the book, I wanted to interview its author. Crisp writing and to the point stuff with logical explanations pushed me to get in touch with the author. Thanks to Twitter and also to Shankkar Aiyar who entertained my request for a short e-mail interview and here is what he had to say to my questions
Me : What inspired you to write Accidental India?
Shankkar : Accidental India began as a query and translated into a thought as I investigated and researched the cause of visible and persistent sloth and systemic lethargy in addressing critical issues facing the nation.
Me : When did you first notice the pattern that you have explained in the book?
Shankkar : I would say the pattern is persistent since Independence and I seriously began asking the question sometime in the nineties.
Me : Intense research, so many anecdotes, facts and figures, how long did it take for you to put down everything in order?
Shankkar : I researched and then re-researched further as questions popped while writing the book so every issue is substantively addressed. From first word to book release it took 13 months.
Me : It’s been 30 years since you have been dealing with politics and influence on the economics of India. Do you think there are certain things that are being purposely overlooked by our politicians or they are unaware of the things going around?
Shankkar : Politicians do know what is happening around them. The issue is systemic. Political parties do what is electorally profitable, bureaucrats do what is convenient and doesn’t disrupt status quo and people seem to accept what is morally satisfying – promise rather than performance.
Me : Corruption, your take on it?
Shankkar : It is too complex and multi-dimensional to be redressed by another law or authority. Technology can be a big help – it can address complexities, scale and deliver transparency. But first India first needs to write a comprehensive citizen’s charter on delivery of public services. It needs to restructure the model of government – decentralise decision-making and powers. Delhi is not the repository of national wisdom.
Me : What is there in the book for young readers?
Shankkar : I would think Accidental India is a book for everyone who has a stake in the development of India, in India finding its destiny. Accidental India enables a comprehensive understanding of the process of change and transformation across 65 years of Independent India.
Me : There have been some successes too without any crisis. Your take on that? Good leadership or its all about having a vision?
Shankkar : There have been successes yes. The nuclear and space programmes, the Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Programme set up during the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be two instances. But really the exceptions prove the rule. Leadership is not about pickled intellect or about degrees, it is about having a view on where India must get to and how to reach there.
Me : Shankkar Aiyar, what does he do when he is not working?
Shankkar : I photograph birds – I have pictures of over 90 species, I watch a lot of movies – many multiple times, I read books and papers on classical thinkers of philosophy and political science, I also love to travel.
Me : Not even a single bad review. Everyone who has read your book has praised it. Does that inspire you to write more? Will you be writing more books in future?
Shankkar : I am happy and Thank God for blessing my hard work. Yes it is heartening and inspiring. I do know I will write another book but when I cannot say.
Me : Democracy, do you think it hinders the implementation of reforms and ideas somewhere? As we have always seen, India always tries to hit a six on the last ball of any match.
Shankkar : Some people tend to lazily blame democracy. The same democracy has delivered when there is a crisis, so it is not about democracy but leadership. Sticking to your analogy, the last ball six is needed only when the run rate through the overs is poor.
Me : Your comments on the present economic conditions of India? Where are we heading?
Shankkar : We are entering a very difficult period – a confluence of political and economic instability. Somehow it seems in India for things need to get worse before they get better.
That’s Shankkar Aiyar for you. Crisp and To The Point, just like the way he is in his book Accidental India.
He writes regular columns at The New Indian Express portal and here is the link.
You can get in touch with him on Twitter @ShankkarAiyar
And to read my review of Accidental India, click here.