x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Book review: light-hearted, but daft take on Indian psyche

Drawing inspiration from the bestselller Freakonomics, Vivek Dehejia and Rupa Subramanya provide insights into human behaviour in India.

Indianomix: Making Sense

of Modern India

Vivek Dehejia & Rupa Subramanya

Vintage Books

Deriving its model from the multi-million selling Freakonomics, this work is also a light-hearted meander through the world of economic theory and social sciences with the aim of revealing some counterintuitive thoughts about human behaviour.

Here, Vivek Dehejia, an economics professor at Carleton University in Canada, and Rupa Subramanya, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, tailor their thesis to examine issues they feel are pertinent to modern India.

They discuss the causes for India's crushing defeat in its 1962 war with China, why Indians have a propensity for unpunctuality and what impels Mumbai's commuters to risk death by dashing across train tracks.

Although some of the arguments are compelling and the copy is generally witty, the book doesn't quite succeed in its mission to both edify and entertain.

This is because too many of their conclusions tend to be inane. For example, their assertions that politicians are prone to overconfidence or that the human condition is irreducibly random are glaringly obvious.

The reader leaves without any insights into the Indian psyche.