The "Howard Roark effect" is sweeping India, writes Jennifer Burns, author of a new book on Ayn Rand. Apparently, Indians perform the second most Google searches for Dame Ayn after folks in the U.S., and Ayn Rand's book have sold 50,000 copies there since 2005, about the same sales are enjoyed by John Grisham.
Shortly after winning Miss India Earth, the country's top beauty pageant, in 2005, Niharika Singh cited The Fountainhead as her favorite book. "Ayn Rand helped me win the crown," she declared. Other stars, including biotech queen Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, actress Preity Zinta, and soccer-player-turned-dancer Baichung Bhutia have all credited Rand with helping them succeed.
Beyond personal inspiration, however, the Indian excitement for Rand today is linked to a larger enthusiasm for the country's inchoate but powerful drive for development and wealth. Since the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India has seen a gradual shift away from socialism, much appreciated by Rand's fans. Vikram Bajaj, a 45-year-old entrepreneur who considers himself an objectivist, has lived through Rand's evolution from an ignored outsider to a popular prophet of capitalism. When he discovered Rand, taxation rates for high earners were hovering at 85 percent of income; now, with her books widely available, that upper rate is only 30 percent.