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In the Retrospective - S. Sathya - The Sunday Indian
 
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Monday, October 23, 2017
 
 

LITERATURE

In the Retrospective

 

What's Changed
S. SATHYA | Issue Dated: July 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Kartikeya Kompella | PV Narasimha Rao | Dr Manmohan Singh |
 

IN THE RETROSPECTIVE

WHAT'S CHANGED

Edited by Kartikeya Kompella

Penguin Random House India

Edition: Paperback

ISBN: 9788184007022

Pages: 230

Amidst political turmoil, high oil prices, fiscal profligacy and little foreign exchange to last for a fortnight, India was forced to airlift tonnes of gold to the Bank of England for a loan even as it awaited more help from the International Monetary Fund. This was akin to pawning the family jewels. It was a national humiliation for the country whose consumption of gold is the highest in the world.

Supported by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao in 1991, the then Union Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh presented a Budget that devalued the rupee, abolished some legacy of quota-licence-inspector raj and invited foreign capital in some industries.  Since then, India has undertaken cautious baby step in liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. After a quarter of a century, even as India is still pushing hard its reforms agenda amidst the global economic stagnation, experts, economists, policy makers and public intellectuals are engaged in stock taking of how liberalisation has impacted this country of one billion plus people. In this series, the latest book – What's Changed: 25 Years of Liberalised India, with contributions by experts in 14 sectors – is edited by Kartikeya Kompella.

Despite spending half of his life in pre-liberalised India,Kompella took an easy way out by asking experts to explain how different markers of culture have changed due to liberalisation, as he found the task of deciphering macro change ‘pretty intimidating’ and ‘not interesting’.

The book has remarkably focussed on more than a dozen popular and national obsessions such as cricket, Bollywood, shopping, fashion...and more to explain the concept of change.

To hook the readers, Kompella begins the book by introducing the sexual revolution that is sweeping across India; the book cites how in 2010, the most searched 'how to' on Google India was 'how to get pregnant'. In 2008 and 2010, the second ranked 'how to' was 'how to kiss'

The book enumerates: “Progress? It contains the silent anxiousness, unhappiness even, of women who want to get pregnant but are unable to, and probably find it difficult to talk about. These are symbols of yearning, lust, innocence, aspiration, acceptance, stress, commerce and striving, all on display. It reflects the modern outlook of 'Googling' to learn."

Along with Harsha Bhogle, often described as the voice of Indian cricket, Kompella records the emergence of Sachin Tendulkar as the demigod of Indian cricket and how he scored his second and third test centuries on a tough tour against Australia in 1992.

More interesting is how Doordarshan – the government owned public broadcaster – and The Board of Control for Cricket in India were at loggerheads over telecasting rights of matches and how cricket played a significant role in global cola giants and their brand wars on Indian soil. Other contributors have rightly recorded how television took the game to remote areas and the subsequent emergence of MS Dhoni, the new poster boy of Indian cricket and the birth of Indian Premier League, which brought big money for the board and players too.

The book then shifts its focus to next popular opium of masses: cinema. India is credited with producing the higher number of films in the world. As per the book, the silver screen too has witnessed a paradigm shift from worshipping super stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth and Chiranjeevi (who fought the system) to anti-hero Shah Rukh Khan. Siddharth Roy Kapur dictated to the editor the changes in the Indian cinema in terms of themes, cast and viewing.

Observing how ‘India’ is at the first stage of a sexual revolution’ Ira Trivedi, well known author and yoga instructor, says that the twin forces of urbanisation and globalisation have brought Brazilian waxes, condoms from China, from Denmark, porn from Paris, sex toys from Sweden into the imagination of Indians and their bedrooms too. Ira concludes that as much as people may try, nothing or nobody can stop it (the sexual revolution).

Others who have contributed to the book include Rama Bijapurkar on consumer behaviour, Rohini Nilekani on Indian philanthropy, and changes in TV industry by Dr Subhash Chandra, the leading media baron who established India’s first private TV news channel.

Hindol Sengupta, editor at large of Fortune India, writes that luxury in India has struggled to find champions who can connect with the villages without shifting artisans and their sweatshops to cities. He observes that Indians stretched their ‘civilisation illiteracy’ to imagine branded products from the West would make them effervescent and even modern. Times immemorial India has indulged in opulence from abroad.

The postscript has been authored by Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, as to how business has become environment competitive and how there is a consequent need for crafting strategy, transformation of Indian organisations from local to global, higher standards of accountability to society, greater employee diversity, and for recognising the rising profile of women.

Writing about education, Professor Debasish Chatterjee who taught at Harvard, quotes an anecdote of how in 2014 a mechanical engineer from Karnataka was found driving an autorickshaw in Delhi, and how this speaks volume of transformation due to liberalisation in the country.   

S. Sathya

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017