Games Indians Play – An Excerpt

Drawing examples from the way we behave in day-to-day situations, an all-new and revised edition of Games Indians Play tries to show how in the long run each one of us-whether businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats, or just plain us-stand to profit more if we were to assume a little self-regulation, give fairness a chance and strive to cooperate and collaborate a little more even if self-interest were to be our main driving force.

In a rare attempt to understand the Indianness of Indians-among the most intelligent people in the world, but also, to a dispassionate eye, perhaps the most baffling- V. Raghunathan uses the props of game theory and behavioural economics to provide an insight into the difficult conundrum of why we are the way we are.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of the book!


NOT WHO BUT WHY

‘Who am I?’ is not a question that occupies me much. I have neither the intellectual curiosity nor the intellectual endowment to ask or answer that question. But, off and on, like when I have just returned from a visit abroad (by ‘abroad’ I mean not only countries like the USA, UK and UAE but also the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia or Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi), I find myself asking some less philosophical questions. For example:

Why is my sense of public hygiene so porcine? Why do I throw my garbage around with the gay abandon of an inebriated uncle flinging 500-rupee notes at a Punjabi wedding? Why do I spit with a free will, as if without that one right I would be a citizen of a lesser democracy? Why do I tear off a page from a library book, or write my name on the Taj Mahal? Why do I light a match to a football stadium, a city bus or any other handy public property, or toot my horn in a residential locality at 3 a.m.? Why do I leave a public toilet smelling even though I would like to find it squeaky clean as I enter it? Why don’t I contribute in any way to help maintain a beautiful public park? Why is my concern for quality in whatever I do rather Lilliputian? Why is my ambition or satisfaction threshold at the level of a centipede’s belly button? Why do I run the tap full blast while shaving even when I know of the acute water shortage in the city? Why don’t I stop or slow down my car to allow a senior citizen or a child to cross the road? Why do I routinely jump out of my seat in a mad rush for the overhead baggage even before the aircraft comes to a halt, despite the repeated entreaties of the cabin crew?

Why do I routinely disregard an airline’s announcement to board in orderly groups in accordance with seat numbers? Why does it not hurt my national pride that in international terminals abroad extra staff is appointed at gates from which flights to India are to depart? Why don’t I vote? Why don’t I stand up or retaliate against social ills? Why is it that every time the government announces a well-intended measure like a higher rate of interest for senior citizens I am not averse to borrowing my ageing parents’ names, or the old family maid’s for that matter, to save my money? Why is it that, every time the government announces no tax deduction at source for small depositors, I split my bank deposit into fifteen different accounts, with the active connivance of the bank manager? Why do I jump red lights with the alacrity of a jackrabbit leaping ahead of a buckshot? Why do I block the left lane, when my intention is to turn right? Or vice versa? Why do I overtake from the left? Why do I drive at night in the city with the high beam on? Why do I jump queues with the zest of an Olympic heptathlon gold hopeful?

 


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