Setting the Pace

Filed on June 4, 2010

Several attempts have been made over the years to put between the covers of a book an insight into the trailblazing, pioneering spirit of specific ethnic groups.

Pacesetters, by locally-based journalists Meraj Rizvi and Mehre Alam, is one such book, with superb production values, which will stand the test of time on any coffee table. By its very nature, the selection of 30 eminent persons from thousands of well-established Indians is arbitrary and to a certain extent, subjective.

The authors reserve the right to make their selection based on their yardstick, and they live with it. These two make no apologies for their choices and the language of the script is fortunately neither steeped in treacle nor fawning in its tonal value. Most books of this genre tend to switch off the reader because they are shrill and two-dimensional, but Pacesetters has tried to stay honest. About as honest as it can be, seeing that it could just as easily have had 300 Indians in the same genre, each capable of making a case for his or her inclusion. Also, the writing is dramatically varied — some pieces are personal, others come off relatively clinical, while a few are personality-centric and sound like tributes. This allows the reader to choose what he is comfortable with and let the rest be.

For the 30 men and women who did make the authors’ cut, it is definitely very gratifying to be in what is certainly august company. The singular difference between this book and the usual ‘pander’ is that wealth is not the only criteria — merit and achievement are also important. The ability to persevere and come back fighting has linked up with staying power to give a common thread to the book.

The photography is often pleasantly personal. It includes family pictures, delves reasonably deep into the minds of the personalities and what makes them tick, and succeeds in underscoring the commitment, the stamina and the desire they showed to get where they did. The essays are largely spiked with anecdotes and since most of the names are familiar, there is a certain curiosity that rises from that intimacy and compels the reading of the narrative.

Priced at Dh350, it might not fly off the shelves, but as a testimony to good people doing the right thing, and as a book to keep in the corporate libraries and lounges, in school reading rooms and in the corridors of power, it is certain to have a pretty decent print run.

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