Whole Numbers And Half Truths

A PR professional’s life revolves around analysing, interpreting and leveraging data. As communication professionals, we understand its importance in crafting communication plans and conveying narratives. The analogy here is from the profession I come from, but I believe data is used across all industries and genres. It is crucial to the growth and development of the country and economy. The book ‘Whole Numbers and Half Truths’ by veteran data journalist Rukmini S deep dives into the nuances and talks of the numbers which can influence policy makers and decision makers in the country. The author further breaks many myths about the demography with in-depth research and gives the reader an insight into how the data driven system can be flawed or misleading if not well understood. 

What does the book cover?

The book is divided in 10 chapters. It takes one through a narrative of how modern India lives, spends, ages etc. investigating the complete truth and context behind the numbers and its interpretations. Each chapter is heavy on data and detailed insights with interviews of the citizens to build the narrative further and strengthen the story that the number tells.  The data collated through various government and private sources gives a real but grim picture about the country and socio-political and economic status of the people living here. The themes covered are crime, politics, healthcare and urbanisation bringing her experience of covering stories over two decades to the forefront. 

Three takeaways 

  • Develop a framework to understand crime statistics – The first chapter in the book reveals a lot on India’s official crime statistics. The author believes that the numbers do not really tell the whole story. Stories about empowerment of the powerless, injustice against them, the hard work put in by the police force. The numbers do not match the churn. Providing a real framework will help one understand the crime statistics and use the data to create a better ecosystem for its citizens.
  • Interpretation of data – India is data rich, influenced by diverse caste, culture and belief. In the book, many myths are busted about the Indian youth, including the myth that they are liberal and secular, but the data indicates that this is not the case. (Read chapter two – What India thinks, feels and believes) 
  • Data and narrative –A noteworthy aspect of the book is the way the author uses and interprets data while weaving interesting narratives around it. Her experience and knowledge of the subject are clearly evident.

What’s in it for me?

Data is important and this book tells me a lot about how India lives. It tells us stories about our nation but sometimes it misses the why, it leaves a gap for us to interpret the reason or find the meaning behind it. I liked the narrative and topics covered and the insights shared. The ideologies argued and presented are debatable and makes one ponder. It has got me thinking beyond the obvious.

My recommendation

The book is industry agnostic. Read it for the joy of knowing how Modern India thinks or lives. While I am not sure how much of it one can apply in practice, but as the author mentions in the book, the data used or mentioned are all recent and attributes it to the right source. Hear the stories that numbers tell. In this case, what it is telling us and what it isn’t telling us! A book worth spending your time on. Go for it.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarika Chavan
Sarika Chavan is a public relations professional with over 15 years of work experience.

Sarika has previously had stints with with Weber Shandwick as Vice President - Client Experience, Adfactors PR, Text100 (now Archetype) and Perfect Relations. With keen observation and analytical skills, Sarika has successfully led PR campaigns for key brands across multiple sectors by leveraging her strength and expertise in the communications arena.

She is a post graduate in communications from Xavier Institute of Communications. She is based in Mumbai and in her free time loves to spend time with her daughters, play with her dogs, read and travel.

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