Sunday, 22 January 2012



In a country of over 1.21 billion people, a figure of 23 hardly matters. But then they can matter if these 23 people and their associates bring about substantial positive changes in the lives of millions of people in India. The changes they bring about are results of their ingenuity, ideas and actions: an engineer who builds foot bridges at a village in Kerala that remains marooned in water for six months in a year; a gynaecologist in Uttar Pradesh who fights for the ‘right to life’ of girl child; a farmer in Karnataka who partnered with a bee scientist to come up with a disease-resistant bee strain; the initiatives of the Smile Foundation to provide education to underpriviledged children in Orissa; and the Rural Medicare Centre which provides reliable facilities. Such stories and others have been compiled in the book, Inventive Indians: 23 Great Stories of Change.

As one reads the book, what stands out distinctly are the courage and dedication of people who have been portrayed in the essays. Amid the negative stories that fill the newspapers and television news channels, these people suddenly look like rays of sunshine. The road for them was never easy, as the chroniclers put it. Typical hurdles — bureaucratic, infrastructural among others — were aplenty. But that didn’t stop them to move ahead with their ideas. Take for example, Harivansh, who left his job of an Assistant Editor in Kolkata to join a defunct daily, Prabhat Khabar, in Ranchi. His unyielding determination to revive the daily, make it credible and compete with the big names in the media business can be instructive for the journalists and media proprietors. Defamation cases, poaching by bigger media house and punishing working hours could not stop Harivansh and his team to turn this newspaper into a true ‘people’s daily.’

Based on the interviews of people and the descriptions of the initiatives, the essays use a language — sleek and chatty — typical of magazines. These writings were published in the magazine Civil Society over a period of six to eight years. Quite naturally, some of them may sound a bit dated. Most of the essays do not have an ‘update’ on the current status of the initiatives or the people behind them. Moreover, there are no detailed statistics that might have helped a reader to understand the issues better. Plus, there is too much of ‘do-gooder’ aura in the writings. But then these writings are more about the efforts, grit and teamwork, rather than academic or typical journalistic analyses of the situations. Sometimes minute scrutiny must take backseat and allow the reader to relish the positive stories. Therefore, it is better to ignore these lacunae.

This compilation is like a tribute to all those who did not succumb to the lament of failures in this country, and the apathy of the politicians and governments. But more importantly, this compilation forces the reader to think whether he or she can contribute in some way to the betterment of the society. The compilation, simply put, is inspiring. ‘Mainstream media’ bosses and the glitz-struck editors will do well to note such stories.

Inventive Indians
Edited by:
Rita and Umesh Anand
Genre: Non Fiction / Essays
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 259
Price: Rs 350