Indianomix by Vivek Dehejia, Rupa Subramanya
I read this book Indianomix because of all the media hype that I saw about this book. Literally, everyone was going gaga over how insightful the book is. Well, it is written interestingly. But does it tell you what its tagline ‘Making Sense of Modern India’ promises to, I don’t think so? It reminded me of another book also based on Game Theory called Games Indians Play. And the authors of both the books seem to have a similar profile. Go spend some time in the west, come back and get lost in the Indian chaos. And then use the western lens to interpret the chaos. Especially through all the well-funded random studies that can derive a co-relation between any two parameters.
I could not make any sense out of any chapter. It starts from somewhere lands somewhere. And the meaning of initial intent and the chapter heading gets lost in the process. It seems like random conversations between friends that begin with some observation or a personal incident. And leads into some probing on why this happens. An addition to those conversations is that in the book authors have roped in related research on the subject. Sometimes the research has re-enforced their views. And sometimes given them new angles. Research reports as the authors would themselves tell you through the book are hardly dependable. And are heavily tilted towards what they want to say, irrespective of the research. Is there anything new that authors tell you about India, especially modern India, I could not find a single thing, even from the perspective of non-Indians?
There is a complete chapter on Chinese and Japanese superstitions. And their impact on the economy. I found the impact of solar and lunar eclipses weird. And wondered if the analysis was done for any other two random dates, would there not be positive or a negative variance always. I kept waiting for the India angle there. But it was mentioned only in passing as a conversation with Devdutt Pattnaik. What India they had set out to understand, I did not get.
However, intentionally or unintentionally the authors have done something that worked for me in this book. They have uncovered how the surveys, polls, research reports based on samples are useless. And why we should not use them to form opinions or make decisions. They talk about election polls that have gone wrong, they talk about AIDS data that could not have been more wrong. And a very good example of how expert committees or panels go wrong. This is a subject that needs further exploration in this media maniac age. Where media impact is so strong that people base their major life decisions on them. Live in the hype created by media and do anything to be in the media eye. Ironically, throughout the book authors quote a lot of research, all by others. While inadvertently debunking the myth of the same.
Read Indianomix for good examples of truth behind the samples surveys, polls and research that seem to find a co-relation between any two damn variables, ignoring the rest of the universe.