So I sprained my ankle one more time. As a result I am totally immobilized for at least two weeks. Now the problem was to find something to do to spend the painful initial days and less painful ones later while my ankle heals. Nothing came to my mind except watching Hindi mythological serials on the net or reading books. As usual, the stock of serials had to end at one point and books were the only option left. I decided to go through the books neatly stacked on my bed’s headboard.
There was a whole bunch of them, all development related. Nothing seemed particularly interesting.
Suddenly one title grabbed my attention. ‘The world is flat’, the book almost shouted at me. I felt like laughing. How can it be? I became curious. I thought it was worth a read. I pulled out the book but its sheer size made me cringe. No, I am not going to read it, was my initial thought and I put the book back on the shelf. The book, however, did not leave my thoughts. The title literally haunted me for a while. I tried to look at other books, but my eyes kept going back to the same one. I looked at the book one more time and tried to rationalize that it was not for me.
Initially, I thought the book was about the debate surrounding the actual shape of the earth. I remembered reading somewhere that before third century BC, the earth was indeed thought to be flat. It was only during the third century that a Greek mathematician Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the earth using shadows cast by the sun during the summer solstice at different locations, and performing a bit of clever geometry, concluded that the earth was not flat. His finding created confusion and later Columbus proved the earth was indeed round. Since I already knew this, I had no idea what was left to be written about the earth being flat. Curiosity got the better of me and I finally pulled out the book.
The first look at the fine print below the title jolted me. It said, ‘a brief history of the twenty-first century’. With this, it became clear the book had nothing to do with the physical shape of the earth as I had initially thought. By now, it’s a well-known fact that the world is not flat. I looked at the writer’s name, ‘Thomas L. Friedman’. I wanted to pull my hand away from the book yet again. Just looking at the author’s name made it clear that it had to be something complicated. I vaguely remembered the writer to be an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist—the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books. Finally, I decided to look at the book and then come to a conclusion. I picked up the book and looked at the bulk of it.
A hard cover book, with almost 500 pages of writing, way too much for my patience. Then I thought if kids have the patience to read the Harry Potter series, and all ten of them if you include the Potter supplements to the Potter series, why can’t I read just one, which is not even the size of one book. So now it was decided, I would give it a try. I turned the book around to read what others had said about it. The New York Times says, “…an exciting and very readable account of globalization…….” Wow, I thought, the writer must have bent really backwards to prove the world flat. Then again what could be connection between globalization and the world being flat? This baffled me. The next comment on the book was from The Washington Post book world, “Captivating (and) engrossing ….An enthralling read…”
The New York Times book review that called it, “Excellent….ingenious….. (Friedman makes) complicated ideas accessible…” This really got the better of me and I decided to turn the pages and start reading it.
The first few pages of the book made it very clear that it was all about globalization. All about nations and power, the dynamic force a nation has to possess to drive the process of global integration in terms of brawn and muscle. That is, how much brawn and how much muscle a country has and how creatively it is deployed for the purpose of globalization. I continued reading it and found that Friedman has defined three eras. First, led by national-states, and powered by wind. Second, led by multinational companies and powered by steam engines. And finally, the third led by individuals and powered by the internet. This further intrigued me. The author needed to prove his hypothesis that the world was indeed flat. No one was going to accept it just because Friedman said so. He needed proof.
By the time I finished the book, I was glad I had ventured into reading it. It was a delightful book, written in simple language with concrete evidence of the hypothesis.
To prove his point, Friedman brings forward a number of forces that flattened the world. This made sense to me. Being a science student, I always lap up concrete evidence. I decided to look at the table of contents. That would give me a better idea about the book. I found that the author had listed his ‘flatteners’ there, among other things. After reading the table of contents, one fourth of my fear disappeared. And after going through the titles and first paragraph of each chapter, I finally gathered the courage to read the entire book.
By the time I finished the book, I was glad that I had ventured into reading it. It was a delightful book, written in simple language and the reviews on the back of the book seemed completely justified. The forces that he mentions have definitely helped to make the world flat. At the end of the book, I was glad that I did not judge the book just by its cover. I was enlightened by the fact that incidents like the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of Microsoft’s windows around the same time were the beginning of the world becoming flat. This indeed was a revolution and the world has not been the same since then. So if someone now asks me, I would definitely agree with the author and say the world is gradually becoming flatter by the day.
My discussing the book to this extent has perhaps aroused your curiosity too. Go ahead, grab a copy and read for yourself to see if you agree with the author.