WHOLE NUMBERS AND HALF TRUTHS: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India

Rituja Roy 1st Year PGDM Student (2022-24)
The book is written by Rukmini S., an independent data journalist based in Chennai, India. The book is full of data, facts, and figures extracted from both government & private resources and personal interviews with the citizens of the country. The book consists of 10 chapters covering various aspects of Indians like eating habits, income, expenditure, political opinions, healthcare, urbanization and much more. This book can be taken as a journalist’s attempt to look beyond the data and do some research, hence debunking the myths. Each chapter will be flipping through an array of facts and figures telling the reader that statistics solely aren’t sufficient when it comes to knowing the reality.
The author through these 326 pages book takes us on a journey that has its own share of data which makes us see things from a different perspective. She has put across both sides of the coin in a very neutral manner. The very first chapter talks about crimes & cops and how she says that it isn’t about which states have a higher number of crimes happening instead it could be that those states must be reporting all the cases religiously. Similarly, during the Pandemic, it was reported that few of the states were contributing to the majority of the cases, but it was just that those states were reporting the cases appropriately whereas others weren’t. Another chapter talks about eating preferences and elaborates on how eating habits differ across the country with Malayalis consuming the maximum number of fruits. There can be a visible geographic disparity when it comes to milk consumption with Punjab and Haryana being among the top consumers. The author also reveals that eating preferences aren’t based on affordability but also on a combination of cultural and environmental factors. One of the interesting facts that could be learned from the book is that “India is assumed to be a vegetarian country although the reality is different, as there are no more than one-quarter to one-third vegetarian present”.
When it comes to traveling, Indians travel a lot to see their family & friends along with going to pilgrimages and other religious places. There is a change in marriages happening in the country, but data from January 2018 states that 93% of married Indians have had arranged marriages only 3% have love marriages, and 2% have love-cum-arrange marriage.
The interesting facts that make us re-think what we have learned so far are numerous instead the book is full of those figures. Figures like; 20% of people in Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka still marry their relatives and how physical characteristics continue to have a pivotal role while choosing the life-partners, keep the reader engrossed in the book entirely and maintain the curiosity of the reader excellently.

As we proceed through the chapters there are some hard-hitting facts like; people who are actually rich self-identifying themselves as middle-class and forward castes being the richest.

This book by Rukmini S is a perfect read for those who are interested in seeing the country from every tangent without any bias. The book also gives you a lot of information and is an eye-opener. The perfect choice of words and opinions of the author makes us realize to not trust the facts and figures showcased blindly, as there is more to it.


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