Insightful Analyses
Saroj Pachauri
HEAD COUNT: MEMOIRS OF A DEMOGRAPHER by Ashish Bose Penguin, Delhi, 2011, 224 pp., 450
January 2011, volume 35, No 1

This highly readable book provides a recent history of Indias population problem. It is not a demographic analysis as the title might suggest, but rather a collection of episodes that are woven into the authors own life experiences.

Ashish Bose, a renowned demographer, recounts, through the deft use of vignettes from his own experience, Indias contemporary history in the population and family planning field set within the larger political context. He relates with zeal his interactions with several political leaders, especially the NehruGandhi family. He also draws upon his interactions with other politicians and bureaucrats whom he treats with cynicism bordering on contempt.

An informal writing style sprinkled with humour and personal anecdotes lends zest to the narration. His visits to many countries, as a member of various delegations and a participant of a number of UN conferences are described at considerable length. The details of his narration makes these events come alive for the reader. The child like side of his character unfolds as he describes every moment of every event, remembering each meal that he enjoyed and each conversation that he had, in its minutest of detail. His frank, honest and candid exposition and his intimate knowledge of the events he relates are refreshingly insightful. While the description of his interactions with the various dignitaries that he met such as Imeldo Marcos and J.R.D Tata are interesting and informative, the stories about Prabhu Dayal, his malishwala, and Mother Teresa, are fascinating. His belief in sadhus and miracle men reveals a very personal side of the authors character, not known to many. Although it is not an autobiography, this book provides interesting glimpses of his professional and personal life.

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