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The Gentle Iconoclast

G.K. Arora

By Deena Khatkhate
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 410, Rs. 795.00


Deena Khatkhate, a front-rank economist, was Director of Research at the Reserve Bank of India, when he was spotted by the International Monetary Fund. He went on to serve in several high-ranking positions in that institution but threw it all up as he refused to conform to the Fund’s Holy Writ. The decision he then took to do his own thing was a risky gamble because to leave the Fund was like leaving the protection of a benign patron who grants you favours but can also ostracize you, consigning you to a shelterless and friendless existence. That Deena braved it all speaks volumes for the quality of his mind. His academic work prospered and his articles were welcomed by quality journals.   This book under review is not about his theoretical and empirical contribution to monetary economics. It is about his passionate commitment to the ‘idea of India’ and what he has felt, experienced and thought over four decades of professional life. It is a valuable piece of intellectual history, expressed in a language of incandescent idealism, at times cynical, but always full of hope that someday, somehow, something will happen to change the way we think and function to work for a more just and fair society.   His reflections or ‘ruminations’, as Deena calls them, have been organized under five major headings. The first deals with American themes.   Deena has a rosy view of the freedom enjoyed by American journalists and their relentless pursuit of the truth as they see it, to the extent of seriously embarrassing men in authority. He mentions the shocking revelations of the ‘Deep Throat’ at the time of the Watergate scandal. Perhaps he would have occasion to revise his views about journalism in America after what has happened in Iraq, where the government, the entire political establishment, the liberal media, led by the redoubtable The New York Times, colluded systematically to lie and deceive the public about the true state of affairs, confirming the Chomskian theory of mechanisms of ‘brainwashing under freedom’.   Deena is merciless in exposing the seamy side of American social life and organization, refusing to be seduced by the glitter of bright lights behind which lie the despair of the homeless whose shattered lives come not only from poverty but also from the breakdown of moral and emotional cohesion, what he calls in a telling phrase ‘illness of the mind’. He ...

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