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Insightful Analyses


Saroj Pachauri

HEAD COUNT: MEMOIRS OF A DEMOGRAPHER
By Ashish Bose
Penguin, Delhi, 2010, pp. 224, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 1 January 2011

This highly readable book provides a recent history of Indias population problem. It is not a demographic analysis as the title might suggest, but rather a collection of episodes that are woven into the authors own life experiences.   Ashish Bose, a renowned demographer, recounts, through the deft use of vignettes from his own experience, Indias contemporary history in the population and family planning field set within the larger political context. He relates with zeal his interactions with several political leaders, especially the NehruGandhi family. He also draws upon his interactions with other politicians and bureaucrats whom he treats with cynicism bordering on contempt.   An informal writing style sprinkled with humour and personal anecdotes lends zest to the narration. His visits to many countries, as a member of various delegations and a participant of a number of UN conferences are described at considerable length. The details of his narration makes these events come alive for the reader. The child like side of his character unfolds as he describes every moment of every event, remembering each meal that he enjoyed and each conversation that he had, in its minutest of detail. His frank, honest and candid exposition and his intimate knowledge of the events he relates are refreshingly insightful. While the description of his interactions with the various dignitaries that he met such as Imeldo Marcos and J.R.D Tata are interesting and informative, the stories about Prabhu Dayal, his malishwala, and Mother Teresa, are fascinating. His belief in sadhus and miracle men reveals a very personal side of the authors character, not known to many. Although it is not an autobiography, this book provides interesting glimpses of his professional and personal life.   These writings reveal that Ashish Bose truly believes in learning from the people. He believes that peoples have the answers to his questions. He has a passion for field research to obtain answers from the people and not remain confined within an ivory toweras is the case with most university scholars. This quality makes him stand apart from his peers.   The book reflects the authors ardent belief in democracy. Woven through the text is his utter contempt and disgust for the Emergency, the darkest period in Indias postpartition history; this theme recurs throughout the narrative. This book provides an insightful analysis of the countrys recent history, crafted by one of the brightest social scientist of Indias modern times. ...


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