Book Review

In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce

The other day in a dinner conversation the topic was on how India has a nation has grown in spite of everything – Corruption, Inefficient bureaucracy and all the differences. That’s when this book came up “In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce“. I bought the book immediately and I finished reading it during my travel now.

The book is an excellent work done by Mr.Edward Luce, who is a journalist with Financial Times. During his various assignments, he had worked in London, New Delhi and now in Washington. Mr Luce is best suited to do this book because of his long stay in India, his wife being an Indian and finally he is a Britisher (a lot of things in India are still colonial hangovers). Without these backgrounds, he couldn’t have done such a wonderful job.

Mr Luce finely balances a westerner viewpoint and Indian insight in a lucid manner – you don’t see contradictions anywhere. Many things about India is puzzling to understand even for Indians, and many times you have to go back to long gone history to truly understand. For doing this Mr Luce start with a detail of larger than life figure of 3 modern day Indians – Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and BR Ambedkar. People who know India know that North India is very different from South India and so on., so Mr Luce seems to have done extensive travel to report both sides.

I was happy to read about the good things he talks about the work of my state (Tamil Nadu) government. I learned many things from the book about India that I didn’t know before or haven’t seen it that way. One observation I really liked is Mr.Luce’s case on how several welfare programs in India like anti-poor program, literacy programs, free power, labour laws which are all created with good intentions are not effective because of the very bureaucracy that is created to run it.  Mr.Luce talks with ease of both India’s strength and weakness.

If you are an Indian or someone interested in India, this is a must-read book. Thank you Mr.Luce.