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GURCHARAN DAS
India Unbound
From Independence to the Global Information Age
PENGUIN BOOKS
Contents
About the Author
Dedication
Introduction: The Wise Elephant
PART ONE: OUR SPRING OF HOPE (1942–65)
1. Ranting in English, Chanting in Sanskrit
2. Smells of the Bazaar
3. The Train to Nowhere
4. Blind Then, Blind Now
5. If We Were Once Rich, Why Are We Now Poor?
6. The Paper Route
7. Capitalism for the Rich, Socialism for the Poor
PART TWO: THE LOST GENERATION (1966–91)
8. Bazaar Power
9. Lerma Rojo and Taichung Native No. 1
10. Caste
11. Multiplying by Zero
12. Merchants of Marwar
13. Dreams in Kabutarkhana
14. Licensing Blues
PART THREE: THE REBIRTH OF DREAMS (1991–99)
15. The Golden Summer of 1991
16. A Million Reformers
17. New Money
18. Old Money
19. The Rise and Rise of a Middle Class
20. Modern vs. Western
21. Democracy First, Capitalism Afterwards
22. Knowledge Is Wealth
23. A New Country
Afterword
Notes
Acknowledgments
Copyright Page
PENGUIN BOOKS
INDIA UNBOUND
Gurcharan Das is an author and public intellectual. He writes a regular column for the Times of India,
Dainik Bhaskar, Eenadu and other newspapers. He also writes for the Wall Street Journal,
Financial Times, Newsweek and Foreign Affairs. He graduated from Harvard University in
philosophy and politics and was CEO of Procter & Gamble India before he took early retirement to
become a full-time writer.
He is the author of the novel A Fine Family. His other literary works include a book of essays, The
Elephant Paradigm, and an anthology, Three English Plays, consisting of Larins Sahib, a prizewinning play about the British in India, which was presented at the Edinburgh Festival; Mira, which
was produced off-Broadway to critical acclaim; and 9 Jakhoo Hill, which has been performed in
major Indian cities.
First published in 2000, the best-selling India Unbound has been translated into several languages
worldwide, and was also made into a film by the BBC.
Praise for the Book
‘It is a wonderful book—a great mixture of memoir, economic analysis, social investigation, political
scrutiny and managerial outlook being thrown into the understanding of India … The temper of the
book is both critical as well as optimistic, and I think the combination works well. Gurcharan being
happier with the world makes a difference—there is a kind of positiveness that breathes through
every page’—Amartya Sen
‘This brilliant work in political economy is for all young Indians, especially budding politicians and
IAS probationers. It deserves to be translated in all Indian languages so that the common person can
become better educated about the policies that they want for their country’—N.R. Narayana Murthy
‘Having constructed a comprehensive indictment of India’s economic failures, Das is optimistic about
the liberalization that has opened the economy in the 1990s … Das writes in an engaging style,
sprinkling his text with a well-chosen array of quotations. There are layman-friendly discussions of
economic theories of poverty, and his arguments are leavened with a close reading of economic texts,
both classic and contemporary. But what shines through is the telling anecdote, the personal example,
the remembered conversation’—Shashi Tharoor, Los Angeles Times
‘There’s much to be said for this book. In the first place, it’s interesting, for Das is a natural
storyteller. Second, it’s unpretentious—the language, while adequate, is without unnecessary
flourishes. Third, it’s informative—it contains a mixture of history and autobiography—which
includes some essentials for anyone in business or management—and the reader glides smoothly from
one to the other’—Shashi Warrier, Indian Review of Books
‘Gurcharan Das is by any standard an amazing man … India Unbound is an education by itself. [He]
goes back and forth into history, politics, social changes as and when the situation calls for, and
speaks more about the world around him than about himself … Even when he is critical of Jawaharlal
Nehru’s policies he is appreciative of his sentiments’—M.V. Kamath, The Daily Sunday
‘Gurcharan Das has written a paean to liberalization (India Unbound)—arguably the most readable
book on the reforms of the 1990s. Gurcharan is a magical writer and a great storyteller; his account of
the reforms is so upbeat that even I thought we had accomplished something’—Ashok Desai,
Business Standard
‘India Unbound is bound to become an essential component of the reading list for anyone interested
in the contemporary Indian economy’—Sushma Ramachandran, The Hindu
‘Gurcharan Das is a good storyteller. He weaves a series of unconnected actions into a pattern with
some sort of theme. His technique is to put himself, often vicariously, as an observer, occasionally a
participant, into the events he describes; in this way he gives immediacy to history’—Sudhir Mulji,
Business Standard
‘Why has a country as bountifully blessed as India achieved so little in a half century of freedom?
Gurcharan Das provides a fascinating interpretation of the possible reasons in India Unbound … Not
often does one come across a former CEO of a major organization … who is also well-read in a
wide range of subjects, ranging from economics to philosophy to poetry. And if one does come across
them on rare occasions, not many can wield a pen as dexterously as Das does’—V.S. Mahesh,
Business India
‘Gurcharan Das’s keen eye … captures the panorama of the last 50 years of Indian history in his own
way … both fascinating and interesting … India Unbound keeps your interest in top gear throughout
the book’—Shunu Sen, Business Line
‘The change in India since economic liberalization in 1991 has been astonishing, and the pace of it
picks up every day. On a recent visit—after several years—I found a book which gave a vivid and
persuasive explanation of the transformation all around me. India Unbound … is a mixture of memoir
and social and economic inquiry, written with great energy, personal knowledge and clarity. I would
firmly recommend it to any visitor to India as a key guide to its recent past’—Ian Jack, New
Statesman