Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Games Indians Play by V Raghunathan

Why we are the way we are? – No, I am not asking you this question. This is the fundamental question the author raises in his book Games Indians Play. I must say, It is a very brave effort by the author to bring in one of the best theories – Game Theory to analyze the Indianness of Indians. After all, the author was a professor at IIM for about 20 years and after that he has been working with the private corporation as the chief executive. Being a specialist in Game theory and the behavioral economics, Raghunathan’s efforts in analyzing the ‘sorry state of affairs’ that all of us are so very well aware of is absolutely commendable. For me to put it in a single statement – this book is written by a frustrated, highly educated Indian (with everything happens around), applying Game Theory to answer the question Why we are the way we are?

The most positive aspects to learn from the book for me were - the author brings in some of the brilliant concepts like Prisoners dilemma and his own creative analysis of Veerappan’s dilemma. It is a treat to read both the cases and the beauty of the Game Theory in solving those dilemmas. Some of the strategies that are borrowed in the book are outstanding; the ones like Tit-for-Tat strategy. They were absolutely delightful to read.

In the end, having done such a brilliant analysis; he doesn’t get to answer his own question thoroughly.  The reason I could think of is that the efforts in the book were much focused on consolidating the ‘already known’ information about India and its problems. It is like collecting the bad news in the news papers for 20 years and binding it together. Every problem that we encounter around us, be it the traffic signal jumping, railway coach cleanliness, corruption in the state, political scams, railway gate jumping, chaotic queues at the airports, quota in the education system and many such similar issues are beautifully complained again in the book. For every question or an issue he raises, there is a comparative analysis of the same with other foreign countries.  

Many examples quoted in the book are real life stories that author has encountered; both in India and elsewhere. Each example has been analyzed and inferences are drawn based upon the payoff matrix arrangement. The same pattern repeats for all the examples quoted in the book. To end, author has given a beautiful analysis of Bhagavad Gita in relation to the Game Theory.

To stop myself complaining about the book, I do recommend this book strongly to be read only for the following reasons:
  1.  To understand the Indianness of Indians. For those who are not much aware of what is happening around and to understand how bad the system in India is.
  2.  To understand how beautifully one can apply Game theory to the everyday happenings.
  3.  To enjoy reading the Prisoners and Veerappan’s dilemma.
Other than the above said reasons, the book doesn’t give any other comfort for those readers who are interested in knowing the solutions for the known problems. If I get a chance to ask a question to the author, I would ask (forgive me if I am being rude) – “Dear Sir, you have brilliantly analyzed the known problems of our country; we agree to all of it more than 100%; but the analysis doesn’t lead us anywhere. What if someone says - writing such books will again fall under your definition of ‘Indianness’?. Why didn’t you choose some other useful topic to analyze which could help improve the current situation? To give you some idea, in your epilogue, you have mentioned that if we bash ourselves hard enough on the things that we end up doing, we would be more action-oriented. Dear Sir, there are many people out there who are struggling to make some difference to bring in change in the current system. Give them support. Appreciate what they are doing. Help them by giving them good ideas and strategies to get a good pay off. Your game theory may be more applicable and useful there but not here in analyzing known problems and wasting time and energy. I am sure you will come out with brilliant ideas to fix the system. Thank you.”

My rating: 6/10


Vaishnavi said...

Hey I have read this book and I agree with your views for the most part. I particularly didn't rwally enjoy the game theory part of it (that's more to do with personal liking). I did enjoy reading all the instances he has narrated. But I think there are many books such as this, which state the already stated. My take away from reading it was that it had more to do with getting us to think about why are we the way we are. I don't think the book was meant to give us any answers.

Srik said...

hey! Thanks.

Glad you enjoyed reading all the instances narrated. Unfortunately, i could not appreciate them as i felt its too terribly complained on the known facts.

At the same time, it did not succeed getting me to think about why are we the way we are. They are just facts.

Anyway, it would be so helpful if author comes up with one more book and tries applying the Game theory analysis for the possible solutions that would help people to do better things. Thats all I wish!