Mind

Book Review: Business Sutra- A Very Indian Approach to Management by Devdutt Pattanaik

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Devdutt Pattanaik is currently the Chief Belief Officer at the Future Group. His website introduces him as an author, speaker, illustrator and a mythologist which to me sounds like the coming together of an extremely interesting set of professional skills. His latest book is a most welcome contribution to the exposition of issues that ail the modern discipline of Management. Business Sutra involves a very serious and  painstaking effort on the author’s part to bring to light the differences in the approaches to  business and its management across cultures and belief systems. Pattanaik considers the mythology of a people to be the central axis around which their beliefs, behaviour and consequently their ways of doing business revolve. The primary argument he seems to put forth is that in order to make sense of the metaphysical as well as the practical worlds of a people, one needs to be careful of the mythological background  that nurtures these worlds. In order for the discipline of Management to be truly what is aspires to be, such approach is indeed beneficial. By a ‘Very Indian Approach to Management’, Pattanaik aims to trace ‘Western ideas’ to ‘Indian vocabulary’ so as to present an altogether different context to situate the relevance and the applicability of those ideas.

The book has three main sections. The first of these deals with connecting belief to business. In this part the author quite convincingly tries to lay to rest the many debates that the very title of the book is likely to engender. The second section is titled “From Goal To Gaze” where he brings together the Western, Chinese and the Indian historico-philosophical systems of thought to conclude that:

“Indian thought yearns not for an efficient way like Western thought, or a more orderly way like Chinese thought, but an accomodative and inclusive way”.

While discussing the mythology that informs the Indian way of life,  the author does not restrict himself to the Hindu scriptures but gives due attention to Buddhist and Jain sources where classical scriptural sources from Sikhism and Islam (most importantly Sufism) are left out. The Indian way to do business is not to chase wealth but to let it come to you thanks to the Indian’s unique relationship with Lakshmi- the Goddess of wealth. The Indian mind according to him is not obsessed with making sense of prevailing chaos and ordering ones’ life to achieve harmony with nature. Instead the Indian mind is comfortable with this chaos and does not consider one point of view to be the only point of view or the truth.

The third and the largest section of the book details the Business Sutra where the author discusses the topic along five sub chapters i.e. Kama’s vision statement, Drishti- observing objective reality, Divya Drishti- observing subjective reality, Darshan- observing the subject and finally Yama’s balance sheet.

The book relies on a substantial review of literature ranging from Sociology of India,  Anthropology, History and other Social Sciences. Management in his view is a western science is and is deeply rooted in Greek and Biblical sources. Pattanaik seems well aware of developments and debates in sociology and social theory and introduces the ideas and tenets of Positivism, Weberian modernism, Structuralism, Orientalism and Post colonial thought in very subtle and lucid ways. On that account the book is to be rated very highly as it touches upon crucial debates on the ways and the categories through which Indian society has been hitherto understood both by the Orientalists and Indians themselves. The book is written very simply and the numerous lovely sketches produced throughout the text aid in summarizing the key points presented.

Pattanaik’s discussion of mythological characters remains largely restricted to Sanskrit-North Indian- Brahmanic-Scriptural sources. There is little evidence in the book to suggest his understanding and appreciation for the oral narratives, for the folklore and mythologies from other parts of the country. Epics like the Silappatikaram, Thirukkural and characters like Kannagi and other local, classical or vernacular traditions remain untouched. This lacunae however should be taken more as a limitation than a drawback of this impressive contribution. Readers interested in Indian mythology and the historical development of the discipline of management in the west as well as in its fate in the Indian subcontinent will find the book very interesting.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers.Participate now to get free books!

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Book Review: Love Peace & Happiness: What More Can You Want? by Rituraj Verma

 

In the pages of this slick and colorful book lie wonderfully captured the lives of an impressive range of characters. The people in these stories, their life worlds and above all their strikingly individual attempts at finding a way out of crucial existential dilemmas they face is the reason the nine stories in this anthology deserve to be read, appreciated and pondered about.

Firstly, each of Verma’s stories are about a sufficient detailing of the predicament in which the protagonists are situated. Secondly, each story uses the technique of conversation and dialogue quite powerfully. As a result, we meet quite a good number of people from varied socio-economic backgrounds, read about who they are, get to know of what they think and ‘hear’ a lot of their justifications for the decisions and choices that they have made in their lives. Each story is ultimately about a tension that we aim to resolve so very often in our lives that  it begins to  seem unresolvable and hence banal. Verma takes us back to those ‘love marriage versus arranged marriage’ and ‘learning to say No versus learning to compromise and sacrifice’ debates.

These stories do not make a villain out of any of these actors and refrain from offering easy solutions to the deeply philosophical issues they raise. Interestingly, the book offers the readers an innovative option to rewrite the endings of these stories on the author’s website in the event of their dissatisfaction with any of the endings. The episodic nature of some of these stories and the detailed biographical element in others arouse equal amount of interest and one would have to appreciate the comfort and ease with which the author addresses an impressive range of emotional entanglements. Be it the plight of a failed love affair, anxieties and insecurities of a marital discord or the complexities of living in a joint family, Verma addresses them all with a studied  sensitivity.

Two stories that I specially enjoyed reading would be The Practitioner of Austerity and The Soul Mate Theorist.  The former reminded me of Ritwik Ghatak‘s classic Meghe Dhake Tara. Through a glimpse into the tribulations of its protagonist Aparna’s life, the story says a thousand things about the meanings of being a daughter, a woman and a civil servant from the scheduled caste whose life is ultimately nothing but a sacrifice that hardly anyone takes a note of. In what appeared to me to be a modern-day adaptation of the Rajesh Khanna starrer Amar Prem, The Soul Mate Theorist takes us to a bar where two college friends discuss women, love and sex. From the bar we are taken to the apartment of a sex worker where we meet her son. This story is a wonderful take on the static and constraining institutions that marriage and family can actually turn out to be.

The book is written with a specific audience in mind and does falter on its ‘appeal’ quotient. In a few places, the descriptions seem  trite and unnecessary. The reference to the internet pages where background research on the settings of these stories was undertaken could have been avoided. Overall, this is an interesting book- one that ideally can be read on one of those days when the mind is prone to some  retrospection and is willing to pause and take stock of all the puzzles that life has had to offer!

 

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Book Review: Another Chance by Ahmed Faiyaz

Writing a review for the second book by Ahmed Faiyaz is for me an occasion to think about the directions that the young Indian mind seems to have come to follow in terms of carving for itself a career as a creative person and its notions of life in general and of relationships in particular.

The book is a slightly complicated tale of a girl Ruheen Oberoi and the various kinds of emotional entanglements she experiences with different men. She learns and not learns a number of lessons while managing (with varying degrees of success) her life. At the other end of the tale is Aditya- her college friend who admires her almost throughout the novel. Another Chance takes the reader to a variety of locations from Mumbai to Shimla to London and Amsterdam which makes the novel script-able for a film which the front page mentions to be upcoming in the year 2012.

The tale tries unsuccessfully to capture a range of predicaments that the protagonists find themselves in. So there is a threatening boyfriend and then an abusive husband and then a devoted lover Aditya whose affection for her seems later to gradually fade out because of his professional engagements (so the story made me believe) . In Ruheen we see a typical instance of  emotional uncertainty that brings her face to face with transforming relationships and allegiances. We are not told about the reasons for her developing a liking for these men in the first instance. Is it merely infatuation that leads her to disastrous linkages or something else was an issue I feel Faiyaz could have dwelt on for the story to have been more nuanced.

Another Chance then is a novel that stands for contemporary upper class Indian youth’s aspirations and is a good window to the perplexities it has come to encounter in the increasingly globalised world. As is clear from the plot, there seems to be now a clear marking out of the settings where love can (should?) happen and romantic gazes may be exchanged. A cup of coffee or a drinking session seems to be the necessary prerequisite. That to me is a stark departure from the mohalla level exchange of letters and scenes of young men pursuing girls riding on bicycles in the lanes of small towns. Romance that ways has gradually been ‘upscaled’ and seems to have acquired a cosmopolitan character and Another Chance is a prime instance of sorts.

There are books that introduce us to characters, make us live their lives and share their feelings. There are books that we read, enjoy and close only to harbor lasting memories. Another Chance is one which I read and enjoyed. I am not sure if I will remember Ruheen and Aditya for that long though. It is well written. There is a pleasant feel to its writing style that is undeniable. Yet it moves too fast for situations to become clear enough and for issues to evolve. Before any of that happens, we are taken to new setting. Amsterdam comes alive in the novel- a part that I really enjoyed reading. Romantic relationships when talked about in a novel, I feel should form the background. Faiyaz pulls it to the fore and that is the reason Another Chance takes the form of a narration and not a tale that I will ever return to!

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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Book Review: Hot Tea Across India

(It was extremely nice of the website http://www.blogadda.com to have selected me for reviewing Rishad Saam Mehta’s latest book titled “Hot Tea Across India”. I wish to express my thankfulness to the site for giving me this opportunity and for ensuring the timely delivery of the book.)

Hot Tea Across India is Rishad Saam Mehta’s new book about his adventurous expeditions to so many parts of India. The stories of the many trips amiably told give the reader a wonderful glimpse of the landscapes and the people he encounters on the way. It is also an insightful journey into the soul and mind of the new age, modern Indian. The average  audience has been of late coming more and more in contact with this personality (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, the Hindi film released last year was one such occasion). To break oneself off from the routine and the mundane and explore the world in one’s own way has been an idea that seems to have picked up fast and is so ‘in’. Marking a break from the established norms and conventions, the new age young man is willing to exoticise the ‘everyday’ more than ever.  Hunting for moments in life that can be necessarily metamorphosed into occasions for laughter, witty analysis and ultimately a written book/blog post/diary entry seems to be the newly found pastime.

The book opens with a striking comment about the ubiquity of tea stalls in India. Un-arguably the most popular hot beverage of the country- tea has been rightly selected by the author to serve as the binding thread of the lovely stories he sets out to tell. However there is nothing more about tea per se in the book other than  harping on the fact that tea is prepared variously in various parts of the country, that “a lot can happen over a cup of tea” and that a hot cup of tea can be really a source of rejuvenation and energy in the hour of fatigue. That’s almost all about tea that the book has to say. A reader who expects a fascinating and fresh account of the beverage or its stalls is likely to be disappointed. Kashinath Singh’s Hindi novel Kaashi Ka Assi is the novel I recommend in that case!

Mehta’s descriptions and his skilfully crafted narrative are a delight in as far as his language is concerned. Coming to the events and situations presented in the book, the reader would be  reminded of the 1970s era of Hindi cinema (specially while reading the stories from the mountains) when “scenes from the hills” became a rage . Remember Shammi Kapoor randomly deciding to go to Kashmir and singing a song in the hills and meeting the Punjabi Kashmiri tourists on the way- I think we have seen it all. Most stories that Mehta tells are so predictable. They are also short enough to make sure that none of the people we meet in the book stay with us after the book has been closed. If not rampant, stereotyping is something that the author has resorted to throughout the book.

Mehta does bring in moments which enthrall and captivate. These are few and shorter than the long, prosaic and clichéd sections (the one about his bullet motorcycle for instance was a lot of effort reading for me).

Hot Tea Across India is likely to interest someone who is new to India and wants to know about some of the easily observable incidents and people while travelling through its length and breadth. A deeper, lengthier and slightly heavier account of things, places and people could have definitely made this book better!

Cover of the Book: Image taken from http://www.helterskelter.in

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com.  Participate now to get free books!

 

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