Archive for October, 2018

Ashok Alexander’s ‘A Stranger Truth’

Chrestomather | October 6, 2018 in Reviews | Comments (0)

 

 

In 2003 Ashok Alexander left a top job at McKinsey & Co. and took on the task of setting up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s India AIDS Initiative. Under Ashok’s stewardship the Initiative soon became the world’s largest privately sponsored HIV prevention program; it is credited with having played an important part in the subsequent decline in India’s HIV epidemic.

A Stranger Truth: Lessons in Love, Leadership and Courage from India’s Sex Workers (Juggernaut, 2018)

 

 

is the story of this remarkable journey. Written in the form of a memoir the book is, in one of its aspects, an organizational chronicle, a fascinating story of bureaucratic and institutional infighting, enlivened by sketches of the author’s encounters with Bill Gates, Richard Gere and many other celebrities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In another, even more compelling aspect, the book is a richly detailed ethnography of sex work in India, filled with tales that are sometimes desperately sad and sometimes heart-warming. In both these aspects the book is always engaging, thoroughly readable.

A Stranger Truth is a portrait of contemporary India like no other: in its pages some of the richest and most powerful people in the world cross paths with some of the poorest and most desperate.

Having known Ashok since my college days it comes as no surprise to me that he turned out to be a managerial wunderkind.

 

What does come as a surprise is the discovery that he is also an unusually gifted writer.

 

 



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