Nov 21, 2010

Rakesh Wadhwa’s “The Deal Maker”: A review

I just finished reading Rakesh Wadhwa’s debut novel (written with Leon Louw) ‘The Deal Maker’. Well known for his free market and capitalism oriented articles in leading newspapers of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and the US, Mr. Wadhwa has finally come up with a book that tries to sum up his political-economic views. Hence the book is more of an economic treatise than a work of fiction. Inspired by Ayn Rand’s monumental classic Atlas Shrugged, The Deal Maker follows the rise of Sudesh Kumar from an ordinary Indian boy to the prime minister of India. Sudesh too influenced by Atlas Shrugged, applies free market principles to lift India out of poverty into the world’s hub of trade and prosperity. The title “the Deal Maker” well suits the novel as it reflects the protagonist Sudesh Kumar’s deft abilities to make smart deals that benefits his people as well as his country.

Sudesh Kumar, the son of an honest policeman from a village near Delhi, aspires of becoming the prime minister and changing India after growing up. However, his life falls into disarray after his father dies in a government hospital due to hospital staff’s negligence. Sudesh, through a series of events ends up working for a multi-national company headed by Ray Upton, who is a passionate supporter of objectivism and free markets. Working for Ray Upton, Sudesh not only learns about business and investments but also a mentor who teaches him the philosophy of libertarianism that guides Sudesh’s every action thereafter. Returning to India after working in Upton Corporation for years, he embarks on the road to becoming a prime minister. Becoming the prime minister is next to impossible for an ordinary guy when added to his lack of knowledge of politics are traits like honesty, straightforward way of dealing with people and the belief in free markets which is almost heretical in Third world societies. However, Sudesh ability to influence people with his arguments and cutting smart deals help him along his journey.

Surrounding the main protagonist’s story are other various sub plots with related stories and twists which is generally asked for by a fictional work. Venashri, the daughter of India IT mogul, Inder, childhood buddy of Sudesh who later becomes a top cricketer of India, Police superintendent Nanek singh, Madhumati, the secret agent who is hell bent on eliminating criminals, Shakti, the sister of Inder who’s in love with Sudesh lead their own lives but at the same time contribute in many ways to the journey of Sudesh.

The prominent importance of this novel I find as a libertarian is its ability to express the ideas of free markets and libertarianism is a way that’s understandable even by the laymen or casual novel lovers who aren’t much familiar with political-economic discourses. I believe fiction is a wonderful and effective medium to reach out to the people with your ideas as the phenomenal success of Ayn Rand’s works in creating objectivists out of readers and the success of Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” in creating libertarians shows us. We can expect “The Deal Maker” to influence people in similar direction making them aware of the real problems that the third world societies face today and the importance of free markets in creating prosperity.

Despite its success in disseminating ideas, The Deal Maker however doesn’t succeed too well as a novel. The series of events are somewhat too fictional and unrealistic even for a fictional novel about rags-to riches and the dialogues characters use while interacting with each other are too lame. Although it’s necessary for the novel to create a different world to discuss the ideas, when the world is too fictional the readers are less likely to relate the ideas in the real world. It would be sad if a reader tosses the book away after reading it thinking everything discussed exists just in a world created by Mr. Wadhwa’s mind. Besides, it would also have been better to have the name of Linux inventor right. The author could have worked harder to eliminate such minor technicalities and make the novel even better.

In spite of these, Mr. Wadhwa has done a great job of creating this novel which if nothing else, will surely help thousands of readers get different perspectives of the society they live in and the policies their governments are following. I am sure it will educate many people about free markets and their importance in creating prosperity. And hopefully make some more libertarians. Even if nothing as such were to happen, I am  still very happy that Mr. Wadhwa wrote this book, for now I have a definite book to gift or recommend when a novice book lover asks me “What is the best book about free markets or libertarianism for absolute beginners?”