If I have summarize this book in one sentence, it would be ‘A book written by a upper middle class Bangalorean, who has to drive through the traffic everyday, who happens to be a student and teacher of management, and he applies game theory to investigate the everyday behavior of Indians, and shares his random thoughts on just about everything that is wrong in India and adds the dash of Gita to bring in spirituality in the end’. It could have been very well a book composed out of random blog posts written about everyday frustrations. His list of disclaimers actually goes on to support the same. The problems he has picked up are usually faced by middle class Indians, and seem too personal. He has not looked at problems faced by other stratas of the society, and he ends up highlighting what he is out to prove that we are so selfish that we can not see any other problems but ours. He abhors rich and famous by talking about what they get away with. But there is a lot that we middle class people also get away with because of our position in the society, which he has not touched upon. If all his issues are addressed, which are limited to corruption that you face while registering the land, queues that you face at the airport, chaos that you face at the traffic signals, annoyance when others drive on high beam, I am not sure if he would be interested in exploring behaviors. While I am not denying the problems our not so civic behavior causes, I am not sure if I can appreciate the limited view of the same.
The tagline of the title says ‘why we are the way we are’, and does the book answer that question? My assessment is an absolute NO. He uses Prison’s dilemma and a goat example throughout the book by changing variables there in, to explain certain theoretical behaviors, but does not relate any of them to the issues that he highlights in the book. He has described Indianness with 12 characteristics, all of which are grossly negative and derogatory, and somehow the approach says as if he is not one of them. Is there nothing positive about us? Do we have no human face?I wonder if the holistic approach would have been better to look into our behaviors. An analysis of behavior both positive and negative would have given more scientific and complete approach into the motivation for the behaviors. As of now it gives me a feeling of dealing with very personal bothering. I think the whole game theory was irrelevant as it only fits the issues into a model and does not really suggest a solution.
In the end the author adds the dash of his personal awakening that happened by his reading Gita and finding the traces of game theory there too. And the only solution that he suggests is the most famous Gita verse ‘karmanaye vadhikartaste.. .’ which is nothing but suggesting “Gandhigiri” in the more colloquial words.
My recommendation for this book would be read if you like absolutely light reading on a relaxed day. Though the high degree of cynicism in the book agitated me a bit…
Thanks Dhaval for gifting me this book.
Array (  => V Raghunathan )