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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

December 6, 2008

Decoding Nilekani’s Imagination

During my college days I had read a book called “the wonder that was India” by AL Basham which was in fact the bible book on Indian History & General Knowledge for all Civil services aspirants of that time. It was a seminal work of a true historian who reflected on the glories of a mature civilization and its myriad qualities. In essence it was harking back to the past, which most of us in India essentially do, the difference being that the historians do it as a systematic academic work while for the rest of us it is a clichéd habit in our argumentative discourses . Talk to the older generation & the discussion usually meanders towards the clichéd phrase “ in the good old days...” which essentially is the premise that the past was good, vibrant and certainly glorious. In a very oblique way it somewhere reinforces a thought that the present may not be as good as the past .

It took a technopreneur like Nandan Nilekani to change that cliched vision of the past to the future through his book ‘Imagining India’. It is as though someone took the arc-lights of our mind& its incandescent energy (read latent energy) from the past to the future . Certainly no better person could have taken this work up better than Nilekani who along with Naryanmurthy & others defined the paradigm change in India’s mindset towards adoption of new ideas & technology as harbingers of the new age economy. In essence they replicated the golden era of Vijayanagar Empire (which is touted as the pinnacle of Indian civilization reflected in its glorious architecture & famed street wealth ) , albeit as a small pool in the economy where all those who straddled within the campus became either millionaires or novae rich. Coincidentally both these happened within proximity of few hundred kilometers.

I had one memorable rendezvous with Nilekani when I  visited him in his office with V Vaidyanathan, currently the Country Head at ICICI Bank sometime in 2001. After the usual pleasantries we got down to a Business chat & Nilekani inquired Vaidy about the Bank’s performance on the Business side .And he listened with genuine intent & interest . His body language was languid but behind his still countenance I could sense the hum of sharp mind that was probably designed to whirl at a higher RPM(revolutions per  minute). When I interjected somewhere in the discussion, he replied me back by with my name which pleasantly surprised me. It could have been one of his charming ways but was certainly reflective of his sharp wit & his attention to detail.

I will not get into the review details of his book, Imagining India which has been done so far in umpteen Newspapers, magazines & television channels. I only emphasize his 180 degree shift in thinking and admire his locus standi on a very important theme that was propagated albeit differently by another great of our times, Abdul Kalam who had earlier published a book, India 2020, another inspiring read.
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