Games Indians Play

This is an extract from a post on another blog. Click here for the full post. In some ways I am trying to be a farmer sharing his seed corn when I write about trust or Eko. The major difference is that Eko is just starting and has won no awards but the intent to share and see others prosper as well is strong.

In his book Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are, V. Raghunathan writes about a farmer whose corn won top awards year after year. When a reporter asked about the secret of his success, the farmer attributed it to the fact that he shared his corn with his neighbors. Why, the reporter wondered, would the farmer want to share his seed when those neighbors also competed with him for the prize? The farmer’s reply was, “The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grew inferior corn, cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors do the same.”

That Indians often fail to act like this farmer is the principal theme of Raghunathan’s book. Using examples as varied as their tendency to drive through red lights to their failure to protect the environment, Raghunathan argues that Indians often act in ways that focus on winning immediate gains at the expense of long-term benefits. What makes Raghunathan’s approach unusual is that his argument isn’t a moral diatribe: He employs game theory — a branch of mathematics — and related concepts, such as the prisoner’s dilemma, to present his case.

2 Responses to “Games Indians Play”

  1. mahesh says:

    very nice book but doesnt give the solution.

  2. Bipin says:

    Interesting post. In any comment on a people as a whole , or on their socio-cultural leanings there is a danger of using an incorrect socio-cultural reference. Typically for everything Indian, the reference seems to western economies/western cultures. A simple question of why some Indians jump red light could be a complete study of how roads and traffic have evolved in India. Not too long ago, red lights were unheard of apart from the metros. When a small town gets red lights, people take time adjusting to it. You could argue enforcement is required and I agree. More than average enforcement is required till people get used to the idea of stopping at red lights. Good roads and smoothly flowing traffic are also strong deterrents against red light violations.

    A correct reference for red light violations would be to check the statistics from US when it was at a comparable level of socio-economic development.

    Another example would be industrialists fighting with each other for quotas during license raj. Does this mean Indians don’t or can’t co-operate? I dont think so. Why not question public policy?

    My only point is its tempting to think that adult Indians will not take to McDonalds or Pizza Hut or KFC because as kids we were brought up on roti-dal-chawal. Culture ,as you talk about, is never static and is a function of multiple other functions including a time-warped form of itself.

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