The Sellout Nation by Vikram Bhatti takes a wicked, irreverent and tongue-in-cheek look at India’s tryst with Globalisation. The novel is a humorous fictionalized account of the Republic of Bharatpur, which is infamous for its poverty and potholes, and is home to a billion locals.
Well, the collapse of the USSYAAR whacks the citizens of the Republic of Bharatpur from their comfort zone. A new superpower is now about to pay them a visit, and make them an offer they cannot refuse. The generosity of two international visitors, Mr. George W. Push and Miss Pamela Lewinsky, the President and the First Lady Secretary of the global superpower USK starts the ball rolling.
So, on one bright afternoon, with an impoverished countryside for a backdrop and scores of happy faces dreaming dollar dreams in the foreground, the ‘Open Your Door’ policy comes into being, and the fate of the nation is sealed forever. However, how this policy will play out is an epic tale yet to unfold. With Prophet Profit in charge, Gullibalisation, renamed Globalisation is a tool of choice in order to wage product wars to win the coffers of the world. It is just a matter of time before Bharatpur gets tangled in this web.
You’ll meet an interesting slew of characters…right from Rahul Bhaiya, the politician, Mr. Garbachop, the politician from Moscow, to minister Mohan Singh and a host of other people such as Aam Prasad, a commoner and the wise Ped Prabhu, who is a tree and provides much needed wisdom.
How did the idea for this book emerge?
My book, The Sellout Nation, is my wicked take on the Globalisation of India and how it has impacted our nation over the last three decades. I believe it is not fair for any nation to be guided by financial interests of other nations, even if it means occasional GDP jumps and availability of Chinese made western products in the domestic market. I see Globalisation as an economic invasion, much like the invasions our civilisation has witnessed in the past. However, what really urged me to write this book was how despite undertaking a monumental freedom struggle that was strictly fought on the principals of Swadeshi, in just four decades of attaining Independence, we conveniently swapped it for its exact opposite – Gol-bol-lie-sation. Doesn’t it tell something about us?
What sounds effortlessly humorous actually requires a lot of hard work! The book had me in splits! Right from the language and names of characters to actual descriptions of situations, every page brims with humour. Can you talk about using humour as your primary writing tool?
I am humorist at heart and I love satires. In fact, I work hard towards adapting my stories into these genres. When it came to writing ‘The Sellout Nation’ I was clear from the start that it was going to be a fun read, with twisted phraseology, spoof characters, silly jokes and cheap digs. I had some of the characters and events worked out beforehand, but most of it flowed in organically. Moreover, Globalisation falls under Economics, which is not of much interest to many. My challenge was to turn this drab and seemingly research-based subject into popular fiction, something that a larger reader base could easily comprehend and enjoy.
The characters of the book also show that very often people themselves are also to blame for whatever happens to them! Aam Prasad represents everything that is wrong with the common man! What are your views on this?
A dialogue from my book reads, “How can you blame a smart-ass for fooling a fool?” Yes, people have to accept the blame for whatever happens to them, because people make choices and choices have consequences. I think the real problem with the ‘common man’, which Aam Prasad represents, is that he is way too gullible, hence prone to committing the same mistake over and over again. Perhaps, being a traditional society, we still go by the face value. But, here, we are dealing with the West, which is never known to hold its word. In fact, they constantly change the goalpost to suit their requirement and it takes us decades before we catch their con. For this reason, my book refers to Globalisation as ‘Gulliblisation’ – the art of globalising the gullible.
One of the characters I found fascinating is Ped Prabhu, the centuries old Banyan tree, who has a very different perspective on the entire history of Bharatpur thanks to age. Tell us a bit more about what you wanted to bring out through this character…
I love Ped Pradhu myself, the 500-year old Banyan tree that has been around since the coming of the Mughals. He loves to sleep long hours and is forever irritated with the Locals for disturbing his sleep whenever they are in trouble. Although, in the book, Ped Prabhu is portrayed as the oldest and the wisest character of the village, he is, in a way, their sleeping conscience to which the Locals return to from time to time for guidance. He provides the objective view.
The entire concept of westernizing the younger generation to set a long term market for globalization seems to come across in the book. It also seems critical about many ‘developments’ which have come forth in the country. I understand a lot of these is tongue-in-cheek, but, what is the one takeaway for readers of the book? Something that as a writer, you would want the end reader to recognise?
Apart from all the jokes, spoofs and gags that fill the surface, my book really springs from the philosophic difference between East and West. While Eastern philosophy stresses on sustaining with nature, the Western philosophy is openly capitalistic and abusive, both to nature and nations it extracts profit from. Concepts such as ‘Internationalism’, ‘Aspiration Value’, and ‘Progress’ have been contrived by the West only to push consumerism. Moreover, the younger generations must recognise that Capitalism has already reached its zenith with Globalisation, there’s not much room for it to progress any further. It’s best that we stop going gaga over Globalisation and internationalism, and instead root for Localisation as the way forward. Don’t be a sellout!
The Sellout Nation will have the reader in guffaws, and even though you may not exactly agree with everything the author purports, the reader will appreciate the idea of localization and Swadeshi.
Title: The Sellout Nation
Author: Vikram Bhatti (http://www.vikrambhatti.com)
Publisher: Notion Press
Genre: Fiction, Humour
Bollywood is a world in itself. There is the Bollywood that we see on screen. There is the Bollywood that we get a sense of as we witness stars of today carve out their well-polished public images.
But this is a story of Bollywood before the well oiled PR machinery of today came into being. It is the story that comes from a silent observer, and an active participant. These are his recollections of a time when Bollywood was different from what it is today.
The writer, Raaj Grover, has an almost fifty-year association with the film industry. Half a century is long enough time to create and reflect on a storehouse of memories and events.
Point of view
The author was very closely associated with the Dutt family, and this thread runs through the entire book. Each chapter in the book is about one personality from the industry, with whom he had interactions and associations. But, thankfully, it does not read like an autobiography of the personalities! He starts off with an incident pertaining to them and jumps on to something else, incorporating a heady mix of stories, incidents, trivia and poetry. It is this treatment of the narrative which sets this book apart.
What he narrates about that personality is born out of his experience with the person. This provides a different lens through which we see the personality. Moreover, the book does not cover the entire biography of the Bollywood persona that Grover talks about. Rather, it narrates a specific incidence or episode from times where their journeys coincided. Hence, in the chapter on Amitabh Bachchan we get a glimpse into his very early struggles of when he came to Mumbai for the first time to try his luck in the Industry. The chapter on Dilip Kumar has interesting nuggets of the star’s life in Peshawar and how he came to be the actor that he is today.
Due to his deep bond with the Dutt family, the chapters on Nargis, Sanjay and Sunil Dutt seem to be the most personal. I found the narrative on Nargis most interesting. He recounts many little but relevant instances that brings out Nargis, the human being behind the actress completely alive on the pages of the book.
The book reads like a friendly conversation or casual banter with a person who has been an integral part of the lives of these film personalities. It has some pictures that have not been seen before in popular media.
As you read the book you are sure to encounter some really interesting little incidents and nuggets. For example, his description of Dimple Kapadia cycling away merrily after a meeting with him at Bandra brings a smile to the face. The stories of intense struggles of stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan or Rajendra Kumar are inspirational.
There are some elusive film personalities as well, who leave the world wondering what’s there behind the enigma. Rakhee is one of them. Grover’s chapter on Rakhee Gulzar reveals a different side to the actress. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Vinod Khanna, his talents besides acting (he was one of the best cooks!) and how his constant kindness helped Grover.
Grover is a poet himself and the book is peppered with some of his couplets. He also includes some beautiful poetry that has resonated with him. This is wonderful reading in itself!
Besides tales of Bollywood there is another subtle thread that runs through The Legends of Bollywood. Grover has roots in Peshawar, as did many key personalities of the film industry such as Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar. One can understandably sense the displacement and sadness that pervades those rooted there, in the context of our country’s relationship with Pakistan. The last chapter, Two Neighbours- The Love-Hate Relationship takes a look at the fact that India and Pakistan are both rooted in strong common customs. He discusses the strong relationships between Hindus and Muslims that have existed in Bollywood, and continues to flourish even today. In fact, one of the most successful bhajans dedicated to Krishna, from the film Baiju Bawra, has an interesting trivia associated with it. The lyrics were written by Shakeel, the music director was Naushad and the singer Mohammad Rafi were all Muslims. The chapter shows how art can indeed build bridges.
Well, Grover was a young lad of eighteen when he joined the industry and now, he’s over seventy years old! As he talks about these stories from Bollywood the passage of years brings with it a deep reflection. Interspersed with the stories about film stars are also reflections and musings on life. They are not obvious, but quietly pervade the story that he tells us.
This book will be of interest to all those who are keen fans and observers of Bollywood and who want a little peek behind the scenes through the unique viewpoint of an insider. It has some minute details about well loved legends of Bollywood. The ethos of this book could be summed up in the author’s own words, “Just like a mother carries her child in her womb, I have been nurturing some precious memories in my mind for many years, dredging up varied experiences that I have had in my eventful life. The Legends of Bollywood is a humble attempt to share the same with you!”
The Legends of Bollywood tells us some fascinating stories and brings forth interesting snippets from the lives of stars whom we have loved over the years. Grover adds to these nuggets with some philosophical musings and heartfelt poetry imbued in the narrative.
Title: The Legends of Bollywood
Author: Raaj Grover (translated by Suchitra Iyer)
Publisher: Jaico Books
All of us have experienced the healing power of nature. Sadly, we have all also seen how we are pulled away from co-existing with nature, thanks to our increasingly urban lifestyles. A new book, Creating Sanctuary: Sacred Garden Spaces, Plant-Based Medicine, and Daily Practices to Achieve Happiness and Well-Being by Jessi Bloom, addresses how we can find and create our own personal sanctuary, where we can allow nature to heal us.
The book starts off with exploring the concept of sacred space and personal sanctuary. It is important to tune in with the spirit of the land and be clear about our intentions for the space as a first step. It then gleans through the entire process of actually setting up our sanctuary. Creating Sanctuary takes you through common elements that must be a part of your own sanctuary. The section on how gardens and sanctuaries can be used for healing is also especially useful. For example, the simple use of labyrinths can add just so much beauty to a place!
The heart of the entire process lies in the chapter “Five Steps to Creating Your Sanctuary Garden” which outlines in detail five practical ways of going about creating sanctuary. Another practical resource is the descriptive and detailed list of fifty plants that could inhabit your sacred space. The book also goes on to describe how and which plants could be used for medicinal purposes. It provides tips on not only growing medicinal plants, but also using them, as in, making your own apothecary. The book is packed and replete with a number of recipes that one can try out with the medicinal plants in our gardens- both for application and consumption.
Varied photographs add to and aid the understanding of the concepts explained. The book also features real-life spaces where people have created and willingly shared their own sacred sanctuaries. This is quite inspirational as well.
Takeaways for me…
This is a practical and inspirational book on creating sanctuaries right where you are. I would also use the term spiritual gardening to describe the philosophies expressed in the book. Yes, it is also a highly practical book which is almost like a storehouse of ideas on the varied aspects of creating your very own personal sanctuary. But above all, it is all about being at one with your natural core. As Rumi said, “The entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you,”!
Author: Jessi Bloom
Photographer: Shawn Linehan
Publisher: Timber Press
Genre: Gardening, Spiritual Gardening
Sarang Mahajan’s fantasy world, Inkredia has all the elements of a truly alluring and magical land. The first book in a series set in this mythical world, Luwan of Brida, introduces us to the protagonist Luwan, a young and brave lad. The story follows this simple village boy and his sister Meg, as they embark on a dangerous journey towards a destination that is unknown. What makes them run away from their simple but fulfilling lives in their village? What secrets does the magical book given to Luwan by his mother hold? Why are the inhuman Ghork-riders, the terrifying creatures of death, behind him? What is it about the medallion around his neck that draws danger towards him?
As Luwan and Meg make their way away from their village they encounter dangers at every step. The reader meets a set of fictional fantasy creatures each with their own unique characteristics- spirits that live within walls, demons of death, magicians, monfrits and many more. If you like the fantasy fiction genre, this book is the right one for you. There is a sense of mystery that pervades the entire book, and makes the reader want to continue till the very end. Are all the questions answered? It suffices to say, that while many questions are answered indeed, many new questions are raised which makes the reader wait in bated breath for the next book in the series!
The Fantasy fiction genre is a crowded one. It is heartening to note that many Indian writers are exploring this genre as well. What do you think makes the Inkredia concept stand out?
Yes, the genre is crowded if you are speaking globally, but in India it is still quite new. The fantasy that we see in India is mostly Indian mythological fiction. Inkredia, on the other hand, has an entirely original fictional universe. This factor not only makes Inkredia stand out among Indian fantasy books but also sets it apart from the western fantasies like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, because Inkredia does not borrow fantasy creatures such as dragons, unicorns or centaurs or the races such as dwarves or elves.
In addition, the Inkredia Universe has its own concept of magic, a detailed and original map, original names of people and places and so on. Even some of the magical objects mentioned in Inkredia serve unique purposes and don’t exist in any other fantasy literature. I believe these are the factors that make Inkredia stand out and it has been pointed out by many readers so far.
You have been actively involved in writing for television. It is not surprising then, that while reading Luwan of Brida, one can actually visualize the entire sequence of events! Do you plan to introduce it as a television series as well?
I began as a writer with the novel format and I still consider myself a novelist. When I write, I love to withdraw from the real world and enter the fantasy world I am creating, so that I can enjoy the process. I believe that’s why many readers feel that my narration has a visual quality to it. Television happened later. I was approached to write a fantasy show for Star because of the success of Luwan of Brida. Since then, I have done four shows in all. But I still love the novel format most. Indian television is totally different from the novels that I write. So far I have had people expressing interest in turning Inkredia into a video game or a film, though I do believe that if ever it’s adapted for the screen, it will best fit a TV show format because of the length and structure of the story.
What was the inspiration behind the conceptualization of the entire Inkredia universe? It is a pretty detailed outline, and Luwan of Brida seems to have just touched the tip!
Yes. The first book is just the tip of the iceberg. The sequel, The Castle of Tashkrum will give a better insight into the Inkredia Universe and the novels after that will keep revealing more and more. The inspiration was my love for the fantasy genre. When I began to write a book of my own, I almost instantly decided that I am not going to use existing elements from the Greek, European, Egyptian, Arabic or Indian mythologies. I thought it would be way more exciting to create new stuff. This was the phase when I had not even thought of having a book published. I just wanted to enjoy the process. As I started developing the map and later started writing the book, I realized that I would have to come up with a lot of things other than places and creatures such as festivals, currencies, a political structure; in other words, an entire culture. Since I loved doing all of this, the universe kept expanding.
While the book solves many mysteries it also leaves the readers with several questions about what is going to happen next! As a writer, how challenging was it to balance this sense of suspense with a sense of revealing some aspects of the story, to satisfy the reader’s curiosity?
Well, I never looked at the first book in isolation. Whenever I have thought of the story, it has always been about the entire series, which is about the evolution of Luwan’s character that’s going to go through some tough challenges, personally and mentally, over the course of the series. As I worked on it, the first logical episode in this character journey turned out to be a big one and would have been impossible to fit in one book, but I let it evolve as it did. It was only when the story was completely ready that I considered the practical aspects. I knew I could not write a 1200-page first book. I had to cut the first episode in two parts and it was challenging.
After I cut the first episode in two books, initially, the first draft of Book one had a story that ended abruptly and I knew I could not leave it like that. So, I borrowed as many revelations from the second book as I could without harming the next part and put them in the first one. I also increased the insight into the fictional universe. I was later surprised to see that I had actually managed to arrive at some logical conclusion for the first book, because in the next book, Luwan is not going to go through similar challenges. I believe I have succeeded to a great extent in achieving the balance that you speak of, judging from the reactions so far. All the unanswered questions are going to make the second book thrilling and entertaining and you will realize that there was no way I could have answered those questions without telling the next story. But that’s what a book series is about, isn’t it?
Luwan of Brida is the first book in the series and is soon to be followed by The Castle of Tashkrum. How many books do you plan in total?
I have made a lot of progress on the second book and plan on finishing the first draft soon. I also have a detailed outline of the third and the fourth book. The story, as I see it now, ends in the fourth book. But I want to keep an open mind and see how it goes.
Are you fond of reading fantasy fiction? Which are your favourite authors and books in the genre?
I have been a huge fan of this genre ever since I started reading. I remember being absolutely fascinated by Aladdin and the Magic Lamp when I first read that story. I do love adventures as well. Stories like Gulliver’s Travels and Sindbad used to fascinate me as a kid, so did Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. What I really love though is a fantasy combined with an exhilarating adventure and a touch of mystery. I love the genre so much that I find it hard to read any other genre even today. Due to an utter lack of books like these in India, I eventually ran out of the stuff when I was in high school. I did not read for several years. It was Harry Potter that drew me back to books and I am deeply grateful to JK Rowling for that. But the work that really made me want to write a book of my own was the one that I got to next, The Lord of the Rings. I have been in awe of JRR Tolkien since then. Thankfully, the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan came to my help and filled up the massive void left by LOTR. I devoured all ten books in the series that had been published by then in one go. These are the books and authors that remain my favorite to date. I wish to read the works of Brandon Sanderson and George RR Martin but haven’t been able to do so yet.
Title: Luwan of Brida
Author: Sarang Mahajan
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Neelesh Misra dons many hats- lyricist, radio storyteller, journalist and writer. He is also the founder of Content Project, home to many writers, collectively called ‘Mandali’. Storywallah, a collection of short stories presents some of these voices to readers. Khila Bisht has translated these stories from Hindi to English.
Many of the stories that form a part of the collection belong to provincial India. Indeed, this is far removed from urban areas of the country. Voices from the diverse townships and villages of our diverse country are always interesting to hear. But, human emotions transcend geography and other man made barriers. The stories in the collection all represent the varied and rich hues of human feelings.
In Wildflower, a daughter grows to understand her mother as a woman first, a mother later. The story shows the depth of true love. Yellow Roses revisits the theme of evolution of love. Friends, lovers, spouses…most of us go through these relationships in stages. Does crossing one mean that the other ceases to exist? This story explores just that!
In Letters, the protagonist revisits a lost love, aided by his wife! Our People shows humanity in the aftermath of a riot and how the love of common people can truly heal wounds. My favourite story though, is Satrangi, a supernatural love story. Equally touching is Overcoat, a love story that depicts the development of a romantic relationship in the senior years.
The voices are distinct and each storyteller evokes a different India. Bustling cities, vibrant marketplaces, rural vibes, urban decay, an Indian heart on foreign shores…the stories run across the length and breadth.
The common thread of nostalgia also binds these tales together. The stories are mostly about revisiting the past and reflecting on it with a new insight. Most of the stories in Storywallah have a certain sense of longing attached.
In all, the stories that form Storywallah touch upon raw human emotions, especially the sense of love and loss and strike a chord in the heart!
There comes a time in the history of mankind when a cleansing of humanity is called for. Vineet Bajpai’s novel Pralay-The Great Deluge, the sequel to the first novel Harappa- the Curse of the blood River, tells the story of a chain of events that led to the destruction of mankind in a great deluge as well as an opportunity to redeem the human race.
In the prequel Harappa, the mighty and godly king of the ancient civilisation, Vivasvan Pujari, is betrayed by a dear friend. In the ensuing events he loses his beloved wife, he believes that he has lost his son Manu, and he faces severe humiliation in front of his own people. Yet, there are those who would do anything for their devta. He is rescued but these events have left him a changed man with a changed heart.
In his desire for revenge he unleashes a chain of events that threaten to destroy Harappa, and his future lineage as well. It is up to his son Manu to redeem mankind.
The story of Harappa has a strong link to the story of Pralay- The Great Deluge. In the latter, the young and dashing Vidyut Shashtri is set to take over the mantle from his grandfather, Dwarka Shashtri, the powerful Brahmin. The year is 2017, but events that occur at this time have deep links to the past. Vidyut has to fulfil his destiny not only by freeing his lineage from a terrible curse, but also by saving the whole of mankind.
Pralay- The Great Deluge, just like its predecessor, swings between historical periods. The story unravels across time. Love, power, violence, betrayal- this story has all the elements of an epic saga.
Events that happened simultaneously at two different locations in 1700 BCE at Harappa, are intricately connected with a story that unfolds in 2017 in Banaras. Yet, there is something that takes form in 325 AD, in a place that is modern Turkey, that also changes the course of events.
In a sense this sweeping canvas of eons allows the story to play out in epic proportions. As a reader of fantasy fiction, I love interconnections that span the length and breadth of time. This also makes the reading smoother and propels the book faster, since the reader is constantly kept interested in this switchover between different eras.
Realms of fantasy
Pralay- The Great Deluge also represents a kind of intersection and interaction of Western and Eastern worlds. The onset of pralay where Manu builds an arc to save mankind from a flooded disaster, echoes the legend of Noah’s Ark. There are references to exorcism and how the sadhus of Benares and the practitioners in the West somewhere and somehow converge.
Some human emotions and tendencies remain constant across ages. The intoxicating desire for power, the greed for supremacy and the inherent violence that is a part of human nature is seen across all of time. It is this aspect of humanity that leads to sin and pain. Whether it was the sins committed in Harappa that led to a drastic turn of events, or emperor Constantine’s vision which actually proved counterintuitive or a new world order that caused much destruction in modern times, three parallel stories tell the tale of humanity at its worst.
And yet, our ancient texts dictate that even mere mortals can rise to the ranks of devtas or the gods. Whether it was Manu who played saviour to the continuation of life after the great deluge, or Vidyut’s ancestor who cautioned Constantine against his crazy notions or the last devta Vidyut who is destined to be the saviour of the world against dark forces, the book reiterates that the redemption of mankind lies in the hands of man himself!
What I loved the most is the fact that three stories set in different eras in time unfolded with their parallel plot lines and reached a scene that leaves us longing for more! “What happens next?’is what the reader really wants to know as the book takes you at a fast pace towards the end, though there is no conclusion yet.
Reading the first book, Harappa, will surely make the reader appreciate the intricacies of the second book, Pralay- The Great Deluge, in a better matter. However, Pralay- The Great Deluge has a detailed introduction to the first book as well, so the reader will not be lost if he has not read Harappa .
The soon-to-come third book, sequel to Pralay- The Great Deluge, titled Kashi, The Secret of the Black Temple will provide the readers with the end of the story. Or, maybe not. Because as the book says: “The wheel of time was always turning, presenting human souls with the same trials. Kaalchakra was ceaseless”!
This book review is a part of “The Readers Comsos Book Review Program and Blog Tours. For details log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in
Title: Pralay- The Great Deluge
Author: Vineet Bajpai
Publisher: VB Performance LLP
“Walk into a Starbucks and it is not surprising to see more laptops than coffee mugs on the table,” writes Parthajeet Sarma in the introduction to his new book about the changing nature of workspaces. Most of us are so involved in the routines of our daily work-life that we fail to see the changes that are taking place all around us. The radically changing nature of work, workers and workplaces highlights the future of work and how workplaces need to change to remain relevant in the future. Parthajeet Sarma’s book is thus about using space as a starting point for innovation.
Work has, today, become more fluid than ever before. With a smartphone in the hand or a laptop by your side, you can virtually work from anywhere. What does this mean for the traditional office then?
Sarma points out in this book, the signs of a paradigm shift that is taking place in the world of work. Informal observations suggest that people are slowly but surely changing their very basic and fundamental conceptions about work. Unlike the era of industrial revolution where the concept of ‘going to work’ was introduced, today, It is not unrealistic to ask “Why do I need to go to my workplace?”
The book analyses the obvious reasons such as evolution of new technologies and so on as factors that spear a series of other changes.
The book is also futuristic in a sense. It reflects the notion of a new workspace – the blended workspace of the future. “A radically new concept of workplaces will play a significant role in shaping the changing nature of work and workers. Thinking workers will need to welcome innovation as an inherent part of their work. The new mix of talents and skills at the diverse workplace includes regular workers, freelancers, crowd-sourced talent, working harmoniously with robots and AI applications,” writes Sarma.
The book is divided into three sections. The first describes what blended workspaces actually entail. These are what the author believes to be the future of workspaces. They are a far cry from the cubicle style offices of the past. These workspaces offer the modern worker what he needs. To put it in the words of the author, “workplaces of today need to have a wide variety of spaces, which allow workers to work in isolation at times, collaborate when necessary and recharge as well,”.
The second section discusses the importance of a workplace. The changes in the nature of work, must also mean that there needs to be changes in the nature of workplaces. Sarma describes in detail how the modern workplace should be physically. How does it look and feel different from the workplaces of yesteryears? This section is particularly important for leaders and business people. I would go on to say that it should be of great relevance also to people who are involved in designing workplaces and offices. One of my favourite parts within this section was the discussion of how play and exercise contributed to creative thinking and how organizations can foster creativity.
The third section discusses the practicalities of using space as the starting point for innovation. Here as well, he presents strands of thought that are crucial in understanding the relationship between the workspace and productivity in context of the times we live in. I found the section on co-working spaces especially insightful.
Sarma draws from various experiments in the realm of psychology and social sciences in order to support and explain some of the concepts that he purports. This abundance of experimental studies and their applications and implications for work productivity and workspace design holds important inputs for the modern workforce.
What’s in it for the reader?
Anyone who works in today’s environment has sensed the changes that are slowly but surely creeping into our lives. This book will give an insight to established businesses about how work and working are changing and what this means for workspaces and organisations.
Sarma writes that “a future imagined on past and current human expectations is not exactly reflective of what will work on the future. One needs to step back a little from this perspective and take a macro view,”. This book does just that.
This book review is a part of The Readers Comsos Book Review Program and Blog Tours, for details log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in
Author: Parthajeet Sarma
Publisher: Become Shakespeare
Genre: Non-Fiction, Business, Self-help
There are many books that dissect success. What makes Master Opportunity and Make it Big different? For one, this is a book that primarily focuses on the concept of opportunities. As we all know, success is intrinsically linked to choosing the right opportunities and recognising the opportunities that we should be grabbing.
Rothman, an American settled in India, sees the country as a land of opportunities. He runs a consultancy, OpenMind, which is an Opportunity Consultancy. Through his extensive experience as a consultant, he wishes to debunk many myths that we assume about opportunities.
Rothman believes that success and opportunities are linked in a very strong way. After having interacted with Managing Directors from various companies all over India, Rothman identified a gap in the existing school of thought. While most people believed that opportunities were crucial to success, very few actually had a systemized plan to recognise the correct opportunities and to grab them and convert them into tangible results.
Let’s talk opportunity
As one reads the book, little lessons on opportunities pop up. For instance, the idea that safety nets blind people to opportunities is recurrent. As Vijay Mansukhani, Co-Founder of Onida puts it, “If you have a lot of money and a lot of education, why would you take chances? You’d say they’re too risky, but that’s an illusion. If you have nothing, opportunities become your most important leverage. Sometimes, your only leverage.”
Another aspect discussed in Master Opportunity and Make it Big pertains to recognition of opportunities in a climate of intense change. The OpenMind process created by Rothman seeks to articulate in clear terms the manner in which a person can seek opportunities for sustained growth. The book outlines this process at various stages.
Case studies have been a crucial and insightful manner to learn from the success of others. After all, who would know more about success and profitable growth than those who have tasted success themselves?
The first part of the book presents success secrets of India’s opportunity masters. It chronicles the stories of the struggles and ensuing success of eighteen of India’s successful business people.
Each story is inspirational in its own right. However, the author has fleshed out one key lesson that the reader can take away from each story.
I found the narrative style quite easy to read and apprehend. To make things interesting he tells the story of the struggle of each individual. However, the lessons that the reader needs to remember are all fleshed out and presented in point form. This makes the experience of navigating the book a smoother one for the readers. So, while they still enjoy a good story, they are aware of the key points that they can learn and practically apply in their work lives. Each chapter ends with a short summary of the golden rules of success based on Rothman’s gleaning.
So, here are just a few of the things you would learn from these case studies: How did Subhash Chandra become a media baron when he started off his career with less than 50 rupees in his pocket? What lessons does Harsh Mariwala have for you in the realm of branding? How did Dr. Yusuf Hamied create an economically beneficial pharma venture and still focused on social benefit and philanthropy with equal gusto? What lessons does the story of Dr. Mukesh Batra hold for those who want to excel in a niche category? Neeraj Roy’s story teaches you how to ride the wave of technological disruption. How can you harvest change for ever increasing opportunities? What does Aditya Puri, who created HDFC bank have to tell you about the role of strong values? Rafique Malik’s story of his journey with Metro Shoes holds lessons on identifying opportunities as the company evolves at every stage. How did Nirmal Jain, a shopkeeper’s son, create IIFL, one of India’s largest financial conglomerates? These and many more questions are answered in the book.
The specificity of the lessons that these entrepreneurs share, is one of the positives of the book.
Sutras to follow
The second part of the book contains forty-four opportunity sutras. These are basically short mantras and tips that have been derived through these extensive interviews as well as from the OpenMind Process in general.
These sutras include opportunity accelerators which are basically traits and habits that work to accelerate the individual’s ability to capture opportunities. They also include opportunity activators which are factors that individuals could focus on in order to find and perceive breakthrough opportunities. Then, it contains opportunity evaluators, which are criteria to evaluate the potential of opportunities that one comes across. Lastly, the book highlights opportunity expediters that go on to speedup the process of implementation.
An easy to read and practical guide on how one can recognise opportunities, grab them and convert them into tangible success. A mix of storytelling and practical advice though interviews with successful people who started off very small, makes this book inspirational. The opportunity sutras in the second half of the book distill the learnings of the successful entrepreneurs into doable tips. I would have loved to see examples of successful women entrepreneurs though!
However, in all, as the name suggests, this is an apt book to learn about how to master opportunities and make it big!
Author: Richard M Rothman
Publisher: Jaico books
Genre: Self-Help, Business
India is a land of contrasts and contradictions. How can one then define what is “Indian”? If one looks closely, we can indeed define ourselves through simple objects. Or maybe, simple day to day objects can define us Indians! This is exactly what Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan has done in her picture book Pukka Indian: 100 Objects that Define India. The book was released at ARTISANS Gallery at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai, and has been critically appreciated for an honest view of the country and our identity as Indians, through the lens of product design.
Pukka Indian takes 100 objects that we could associate with India, or rather objects that define India. The book presents aesthetically shot images of the object followed by a comprehensive history of the role of the object and its significance in the Indian context.
Bookedforlife chats with the author to unravel the inspirations and travails of the journey of writing “Pukka Indian”.
Coming up with objects that in some way define our identity is a colossal task, which you have accomplished quite well! What inspired the idea in the first place?
I went to a product design school. I think it was natural for me to question objects of daily use. Objects used every day like the bangle, bindi, pressure cooker, sari blouse, dupatta tandoor, etc., all put a long tradition of design of household objects, at the core of everyday life in the country. Objects like Kalnirnay calendar, bahi-khata for bookkeeping, mandira, a tool used to churn milk into butter, reflect uniquely Indian habits like churning and calculating, gestures I became acutely aware of while studying architecture design at the School of Art and Design at Tsukuba, Japan. Here I realised that few contemporary cultures have as close a relationship with objects that were designed 5000-7000 years ago as India does. Kitchen tools like the tava, the oldest of utensils in India used to roast the country’s staple diet, are a testament to this long and uninterrupted use of objects. Design thus became the chain linking the last two decades of my life; the chain that propelled me to this architecture school and that brought me to Paris to design with the most elusive of all materials – smell, that in India finds expression through incense.
What were the challenges you faced in the actual research process?
The process of research was very extensive. I went through archives, documents, and interviews not just with designers but also with writers of fiction who have used these objects in their books.
You have given special attention to the kitchen and the objects within it. What is it about the Indian kitchen and its evolution that you find fascinating?
Yes. Definitely, the decorative aspects, particularly surface embellishment plays a historic role in Indian design. Its origins go back to design of utensils for the gods. It is also reflected in the design of kitchen tools where traditionally kitchen utensils were used to cook as well as serve. They were used in temples as well as homes. Ancient utensils used during rituals gave rise to utensils for daily use. Some, like the deep rimmed patila for boiling milk exist from the later Vedic period and was used both in temples and in homes for the same purpose. This combination of the sacred and the profane is what makes it unique. Their design combined both decorative and utilitarian elements. This is the reason why they have multiple tasks of cooking, storing and serving. Indian designs have constantly involved and have included sophisticated technologies. Even during the Harappan period the simple kitchen tools such as the skillet and the tong for making rotis was an extremely ingenious and innovative response to the conditions around. If you take a simple thing such as the box for chapatis it is fascinating to note how over thousands of years its material has evolved from terracotta to metal and now it is available in various polymers.
You have a fine balance of old objects that have existed for centuries with newer objects. Can you name a couple of modern objects whose design is timeless and would definitely stay very relevant in the distant future?
This is what cultures like India and for that matter all traditional cultures including Scandinavian cultures teach us. We don’t need to choose between the old and the new, because tradition is still current, and current defines the future. Cultures like ours are unbroken. This thread of continuity is expressed in design too.
Pukka Indian is a great source of information on how common everyday object design has shaped our lives in deep ways. In your opinion, what should the reader take away from the book?
Indian design is constantly evolving. Having stood the test of time is just one of its unique aspects. Its success is due to the fact that it is flexible and inclusive. Indian design often includes all the senses including taste and touch and this is one of the unique characteristics.
Pukka Indian: 100 Objects that Define India is an interesting coffee table book that makes the reader see common objects in a new light. The delightful pictures and the accompanying text paints a picture of the journey of Indian design and how our lives are so intimately connected with these everyday objects.
Author: Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan
Publisher: Roli Books
Zentangle is a meditative art form. It is relaxing and easy to learn. It involves using structured patterns, and using them repetitively. These patterns are usually done on 3.5-inch square paper tiles. The repetition draws the mind into a “flow state”, thus leading towards mindful meditation.
Sunali Shah, a certified Zentangle teacher has just released a set of three books that teach this art form in a very simple step-by-step manner. She chats with Bookedforlife about her new book-set, Zentangle: Recipes for Mindfulness.
What are the benefits of Zentangle?
In today’s fast paced world, Zentangle helps all ages. Firstly, you have to understand that you don’t need to be an artist to draw on this simple 3.5-inch square paper tile. I have always believed, that ‘Anything is possible….one stroke at a time’. This process can de-stress and calm you. It reduces anxiety, fear and mental pressure. It brings about a positive and confident approach to life and improves your focus and concentration considerably.
So how is Zentangle different from let’s say, doodling?
Sometimes people will think the Zentangle method is like doodling because the results of each can look similar. The biggest difference between a doodle and tangle is that a doodle is generally aimless and random. One does it especially when preoccupied or to kill time. However, a tangle is structured and deliberate.
Moreover, doodling is usually a secondary activity. For instance, you may doodle while you are on the phone or bored during a meeting or class. Zentangle is both a primary activity, done with deliberate intent, and a secondary activity.
You have written an interesting series of books on Zentangle. These serve as introductory texts for anyone wanting to learn the form. What was your motivation behind the same?
I have been teaching the art of Zentangle for some time now. I get a lot of inquiries for my workshops conducted in Mumbai from people outside of Mumbai and even from other states of India. Initially, I took online sessions. However, these had their own limitations.
So, I thought of writing these books which would help me reach out to more people. People would also be able to learn at their pace. It also turns out more economical to learn from these books especially if one does not have time off from their busy schedules to come and learn through my workshops.
Can you share some experiences from your workshops?
The benefits of the workshops are that the students receive plenty of individual attention and support. They appreciate the positive, hands-on approach especially when it comes to understanding the finer points and nuances of tangling!
It is satisfying to see that the art has made a difference to the lives of people. A mother called me to speak about her very hyperactive 9-year-old son. He had been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Slowly, over a few sessions we could see that he calmed down and the results were seen in school.
Another instance that I recall concerns a 78-year-old. His motor skills were almost nil. He said he could not sign cheques! Over a few sessions his shaky hand started getting more steady. Of course, it was not a complete recovery but it was good enough to write his cheques and a little more.
My friend’s mother had cancer and she was extremely depressed after chemotherapy. I went to her 2 to 3 times a week and taught her tangling. She loves tangling now and makes a tile a day!
Can novices benefit from the books?
Yes of course! Anyone can try this art form. The instructions in my books are very easy to follow.
Can you share some of your future plans with respect to propagating the art of Zentangle?
The current set of books are the elementary series. I have already starting working on the Intermediate series. The Advanced series will follow as well.
Zentangle, as an art form has many benefits to offer. If you are keen to learn it, these books could be a great way to start this process of self-study. Are you ready to Zentangle?
Title: Zentangle: Recipes for Mindfulness.
Author: Sunali Shah
Genre: Art/ Self-help