Outlook | 30 April 2014

This model piece of non-fiction narrates a tragedy of our times—how the brilliant Manmohan Singh fell from grace and stumbled his way through a tough term as PM.

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Forbes India | 22 May 2012

Gurcharan Das
The Man: Gurcharan Das's second career as a writer and public intellectual is more noticed and in some ways far more influential than his first as a professional manager. It spanned 30 years, and across six countries and included a term as CEO of Procter & Gamble India. His writings drew from his experience and also from his wide reading. He tells us that individuals could be immoral but the institution of the market itself is deeply moral.

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Outlook | 28 September 2010

I first met Gurcharan Das on a night train to Kalka in the early 1980s. He was CEO of Procter & Gamble and I was an He was CEO of Procter & Gamble and I was an economics lecturer from Hyderabad. The other occupant of our coupe was the Marxist economic historian Amiya Kumar Bagchi. Three unlikely co-passengers from a Graham Greene novel. We were all on our way to a conference on the history of Indian industrialisation at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla.

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Outlook | 16 August 2010

English bespeaks progress. India’s youth is much the worse without it.

Our obsession with the English language has served us brilliantly. It has kept us united as a nation; it has contributed significantly to the social mobility of Indians; it has been a major factor in our recent success in the global economy.

 One of the cheerful things happening in India is the quiet democratising of English. Dalits are today its biggest advocates because English allows them to work in call centres and other modern jobs where there are fewer caste barriers. A recent survey in Mumbai shows that Dalit women who knew English rose economically by marrying outside their caste--31% of Dalit women who knew English had inter-caste marriages compared to 9% who did not know the language. Dalits identify vernacular languages with caste oppression. Hence, Dalits across the country hailed Mayawati’s decision to introduce English from the first grade in U.P. (That there aren’t English teachers is another issue!)

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Biblio | 04 August 2010

Ayn Rand and the world she made, Anne C. Heller, Tranquebar Press, Chennai, 2010,567 pages, Rs 495, ISBN 978 93 80658 01 8.

It is not easy to connect a writer’s life with her ideology.  Most biographers assume that there is an obvious and intimate connection and get on breezily with the job. Too often the connection turns out forced and the reader feels that she has been taken for a ride. Anne Heller’s excellent biography of the Ayn Rand is an exception. Her great achievement is to have connected Rand’s extraordinary legend and individualistic philosophy of unbridled capitalism to her life as a youngster, Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, an awkward and wilful Russian Jewish prodigy, who had written four novels by the age of eleven. Heller makes you believe that  that Rand’s excessive self-absorption and vehement protest against any form of collectivism are rooted in her family’s suffering in early-twentieth-century Russia, where Jews were violently persecuted and personal freedom died when the communists came to power.

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Outlook | 22 December 2009

James Tooley, The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves, Penguin; 302 pages; Rs 499

I first met James Tooley on a cold morning in Delhi. I was drawn to him by his sincerity, his passion, and most of all by his infectious smile, which made everyone in the room smile back at him. As I watched him I thought of Tagore’s observation in the Stray Birds about how much the world loves a man when he smiles.

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Open Magazine | 12 September 2009

As a result of meticulous research, an eye for detail and probably the time he spent in Harvard as a student of philosophy, the book offers not just an Indic perspective on dharma, but also an indepth comparison of Mahabharata heroes with their Greek counterparts.

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Outlook | 10 July 2009

Ever since 1991 we have come to expect a vision of the economy's future in the Budget speech of the Finance Minister. This did not happen on July 6, 2009. The day before, the Economic Survey had raised the hopes of real reform. Those hopes were dashed. Pranab Mukherjee spoke like an accountant, not a statesman, and the stock market fell by almost a thousand points. The new government lost an opportunity to spell out its program and win over domestic and foreign investors.

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Newsweek Magazine | 20 March 2007

India's New Budget Reveals A Party Still in Love with Bureaucracy.  

On Febuary 28, India's ruling congress party-led coalition introduced its latest budget, aiming, according to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, "to lift the poor" and close the income gap. The new plan, however, is no more likely to succeed than past efforts. The problem is best understood by focusing on two numbers hidden in the document. One represents a promise to hire 200,000 new schoolteachers; the other, to grant 100,000 scholarships. These two figures underscore both what is right and what is wrong with India today and why its leaders are failing to help the poor.

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