Monday, September 30, 2013

Games Indians Play - Why We are the Way We are

Games Indians Play - Why We are the Way We are by V.Ragunathan (2006) [170P] ISBN: 0-

67099-940-7 Penguin Books

Book Review: Kavneet Singh

An intriguing book written by a professor and a economist teaching currently in Europe. Testing 

his theory by using behavioral economics and game theory to see why Indians are prone to certain 

negative traits, it is really interesting that finally someone is at least scratching the surface of this 

most intriguing issue.

Chapter 1:

Many may take umbrage at my inherent proposition that we are largely a less-civilized people 

than most other major nationalities and hence we need to take afresh look at ourselves ........... 

[page 17]

Ragunathan has hit the nail on the head as the average `Indian' is highly unethical, corrupt 

to the core with no civic sense in the public sphere at all.

Chapter 2:

However, the theories also prove both theoretically and empirically that such selfishness need not 

come in the way of cooperation, and hence in the overall betterment of the human race ....... [page 


Indians are as intelligent as anyone else worldwide but when it comes their behavior vis a vis 

the state it is very dismal. Civic sense, corruption from the very top to the absolute bottom and 

throughout the system is endemic and will not change even with the rise in education.

Chapter 3:

Here I am being pr

we no longer even seem to suffer a guilty conscience when we give or take bribes. We stand mute 

witness to gross injustice...... [pages 42 & 46]

The fatalistic thinking which seems to be inborn is definitely tinged with inherent cowardice, low 

self esteem and no pride in their surroundings which are not their own.

ivately smart.....publicly we emerge dumb. So fatalistic have we become that 

Chapter 4:

Tit for Tat in Political Life — It is common to see two politicians belonging to different parties 

go for each other's throats. Yet come elections, the two get together, like long lost siblings in the 

final reel of a Bolly-voocl f ick, to form a coalition...... [page 63] The extreme shamelessness 

of an Indian in any business or life's general dealings with others is always one sided. Any and 

all advantages are to be maximized but if it becomes even more advantageous to sleep with the 

enemy then so be it.

Chapter 5:

How can we ask for the participation of'foreign universities when there is nothing in it for them? 

Where is the `live and let live' policy here? Clearly, we are more worried about what they might 

get out of coming to India than what we might get out of it!......[page 70]

The self-righteous behavior coupled with being abundantly selfish with absolutely no compunction 

about the greater good of all is now the national norm and part of the social culture in India.

Chapter 6:

Forget the dismal state of our public urinals, even the national carrier is occasionally known to 

sz ffer from toilet bowls brimming over mid-flight. Clearly, this has nothing to do with poverty, 

or lack of resources or the economic status of the users. It is our defect-defect behavior and 

utter lack of self-regulation..... Undoubtedly, our defect-defect behavior lies at the root of our 

filth, corruption and chaos.....We are glib Indians. Not for nothing does Amartya Sen club 

us the `Argumentative'Indian(s)... . Videotape and cellphone evidence is rubbished with a 

straight face... .we neither penalize wrongdoers ourselves, nor do we expect our judiciary to do 

so.....Little wonder that our heayweights have nothing but disdain for our institutions of law and 

justice.......Surely we are grand democracy of defections. Our guilty are free to defect against the 

spirit of the judiciary through innumerable adjournments; our judicial system is free to defect not 

dispensing timely justice; a functioning anarchy, as John K. Galbraith called us......... [pages 77,78, 

99,100,10] & 104]

World class free loaders, Indians will stoop to any level so that they can gain personally making 

sure in the bargain that the proverbial other definitely does not gain even if it is to their own 

detriment and expense. This ingrained, negative, self defeating psychology and trying to find chinks 

in the law to thwart at will is really unique.

Chapter 7:

The world renowned Hoover Institution has an essay on India, `India: Asia's Next Tiger?' 

by Hilton L. Root on their website, which is indeed insightful; Root

writes..... Where departments allocate licenses, subsidize goods, or raise money by black market 

sales (i.e., transport, public, health, civil supplies, the development authority for land and projects), 

posts can command a good pr

corruption.......[pages 113 & 114]

The entire system has been planned by design to be centralized whereby the power stays in the 

hands of the rulers who wield it with the deft of a professional magician. The power brokers and 

king makers at the very top have used their so-called religious texts as the foundation to build upon 

this extremely digressive system which then has slowly

permeated into every nook and cranny of the country with the stealth of the AIDS virus. Since the 

common man cannot change the system `he' has learnt to beat it in any and every way he can to 

survive and over the last 60 years it has become the norm.

Chapter 8:

Defection is our national trait. So also is looking for loopholes in practically every law or system. 

Ifs fact much of the Indian legal system, particularly at higher levels, revolves around capitalizing 

on this trait. Be it our company law or criminal law, we thrive on finding loopholes in these 

laws...... [page 130]

The legal system is falling apart just like the decrepit court houses in India. Procedures are 

purposely kept so lengthy that the average civil case takes upwards of 15 years while the lawyers 

have milked the clients for all they are worth while justice remains a mirage.

Chapter 9:

`Am I doing the right thing?' is the only relevant question. That `others may cheat' is 

irrelevant..... [page 136]

Indians will always stress themselves out and are needlessly stuck in the horns of dilemma 

wondering what advantages does the `other' get and will never be satisfied that `they' are supposed 

to simply do the right thing which is ethical and moral by any standard. Lord Wavell of Britain, 

based on his dealings and observations of the infamous Mohandas K. Gandhi, called it the 

`haggling bania syndrome!'

Chapter 10:

I have shown how, as supported by game theory, it pays to follow the dharma, or right conduct. 

But I am not well-versed in the Gita. Nor am I sure if I subscribe to all references to clharma, for 

instance, those pertaining to the caste system.....Clearly, while the West, using its cumbersome 

vehicle ofgame theory, has covered a lot of ground in collective cooperative behavior, we seem 

to have made little headway in that direction, notwithstanding our heritage of the Gita...... [page 


Ragunathan has made sense in the entire book except this final chapter where he tried to apply 

the holy Hindu religious text `Gita' as a book of good conduct and righteousness. He accepts 

and acknowledges his limited knowledge of the Gita with a word of caution. Unfortunately the 

author does not realize the root of problem, i.e., `why Indians are the way they are,' actually lies 

in the Gita. Careful reading of the Gita shows us that every moral code and ethic known to man 

is thwarted at will by the most revered `dark' lord Krishna. Krishna a perpetual philanderer and 

a shrewd politician act's exactly like one. If the holiest of `holy gods' can act and behave like an 

immoral, unethical mortal what can be expected from mere [Hindus] Indians. Even the Bhagvad 

Gita commands that one is supposed to follow ones caste rules and therein lie's another problem. 

Indians especially those who follow the Hindu socio-religious philosophy behave exactly like the 

fairytale characters of all the ancient lore of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, by simply twisting 

the truth for the benefit of the petty self instead of at least trying to live honestly. All the followers 

are living in tiny proverbial compartments due to the deep rooted caste system and jockeying for a 

better position constantly which then in turn creates a self negating selfish mentality trying to outdo 

the other in any which way they can, to get out and get ahead.

This book is a good start on trying to discover the basic deep rooted problems of Indians. 

If the author had done more research for his last and most important chapter a truer and 

much more honest picture would have emerged. The author is himself a Hindu so faith 

biases are understandable but what Ragunathan is trying to uncover, namely the reason for 

Indians to be so unethical and callous, he needs to re-read the Bhagvad Gita and the other 

Hindu religious books with an open mind and will be shocked to see a completely different 

picture emerge, shedding light on the problem he is trying so hard to solve.

An interesting book which all self deluding, hypocritical, egotistical and religious Indians 

should read so that they wake up and change for the collective good.

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