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அருகர்களின் பாதை – book review


One word to describe this book – ‘magnificent’.

Well known Indian Tamil writer Jeyamohan exemplifies in the art of describing places and events in this so-called travelogue so much so that one gets a feel of having traveled with his team all along.

This travelogue is on the trail of ancient Jain monasteries and temples. Jains in ancient India exemplified in the art of trade and established the now famous trade routes. Jeyamohan and his friends go in search of this ancient trade route and, in the process, explore the monasteries and caves where Jain monks lived and preached from.

Being an expert in the philosophical history of India, Jeyamohan excels in the art of describing the philosophical connection at each place of his visit. Not only are we enthralled by the beauty of his Tamil language but also by the juxtaposition of metaphor and thought.

The Jain trail takes place over a period of one month and covers the entire western length of the physical India of the present.

Everywhere we are treated to the enormity of the temples or caves, the philanthropy of the Jain establishments in treating the pilgrims who come visiting them, the splendor of the institutions – either ruined or not yet – and the extremes of weather that the magnificent country India has to offer.

We are also audience to a repetition – the repetition in the destruction of temples by Islamic invaders and the re-construction by enterprising Jains.

Barbaric invader Allauddin Khilji finds a mention again and again for the wrong reasons. Whenever Jeyamohan mentions a temple, there is always an Islamic invasion that would have resulted in its destruction and a subsequent rebuild. The details of destruction get so frequent that you begin to expect one such when Jeyamohan visits a new place. The volumes of history destroyed by the Sultanates and Mughal zealots is simply unfathomable.

That such structures were, time and again, destroyed by pre-Mughal and Mughal invaders and have been re-built, time and again, paints a picture in contrast — foreign forces aiming at destruction and local spiritual forces aiming at re-construction and reconciliation. And there in lies the resilience of the continuous culture of India for the last 10,000 years or so.

That such a magnificent Jain trail that has existed in India and has been so cleverly hidden by successive governments in the name of ‘secularism’ is a sad commentary on the Nehruvian version of education and governance. Though we are left in awe at the different places that Jeyamohan visits because of the splendor of the structures that he describes, what pains is the enormity of efforts that successive regional and central governments have taken to hide these stupendous wonders from the common man of the country — by way of not having incorporated these in history text books.

Jeyamohan describes the common man in Maharashtra and Gujarat who welcomes strangers with open arms and a smile, and offers food and tea even at odd times of the day. That, as Jeyamohan correctly depicts, is the chord of humanity which runs through the civilization that is India.

The other uniform thread that runs through the narrative is the peaceful coexistence of Jainism and Vaishnavism in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The interoperability of icons in both the religions is a lesson in the belief that unity of divinity is the founding philosophical base of India.

Jeyamohan also mentions the ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ – the four way link expressways that the Vajpayee government built ( subsequently abandoned by the Congress governments) and its benefits to India.

Among the many Hindu and Jain kings mentioned, Raja Hamir Dev of Ranthambore needs special mention. He sacrificed his kingdom and himself in order to keep his word to safeguard a couple from the strangleholds of Allauddin Khilji.

Selfless kings like Hamir Dev of Rajasthan and the Solankis of Gujarat epitomize the spirit of India.

Kudos to the author for his painstaking travel and, more than that, his equally, if not more, painstaking documentation of his travel to the minutest of detail and for this philosophical-historical treatise.

The book can be bought here.


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India Rising – a book review

This book is a compendium of various facets of India, from a Singaporean perspective, by an author-journalist who was part of all the facets. The book is not only interesting but also riveting as the author, Ravi Velloor, has dealt in detail, each one of the above facets.Even though the book is detailed, it doesn’t test our patience, as the lucid presentation lures us into the book and the details that it contains.

The book covers the happenings in India between 1998 to 2015. More focus has been on the UPA-I and II periods and the roller-coaster ride that the country went through under the regime.

Ravi Velloor talks about the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between India and Singapore, the behind the scenes negotiations that took place to enable that, the role played by former PM Goh Chok Tong, and the necessity of cooperation between the two democracies.

The India-US relations, how the US began to lure India into its fold, how the partnership cemented, the background on Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the stupid role played by the communists in trying to stall the deal, how Manmohan Singh ensured that the deal was made – all these are captured the sequential manner  in which these occurred. Lots of insights here on how Singh ensured the deal got through.

The book talks in detail about the state or the lack of it in Pakistan and how the nation was behind the Nov 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai. The detail on the young Singaporean lawyer Lo Hwei Yen who was killed while on her one day work visit to Mumbai would bring tears to your eyes not only because of the dastardly nature of the attack but also because of the journalistic ethic that the author displayed when he didn’t want to look at the naked body of the victim, as he thought that would have amounted to violation of privacy of a lady. Such journalists are a rare breed in this era of Twitter journalism.

5188ewqcnyl-_ac_us160_fmwebp_ql70_The author is highly critical of Shashi Tharoor for his flamboyant methods to woo international opinion to favour his elevation as UN Secretary General. Tharoor comes out as selfish, attention seeking and always-after-power type in spite of his ebullience and erudition. Tharoor, in order to win over the confidence of Sonia Gandhi and get her support to get India’s backing for his position, goes to meet her in person, carrying a biography of Nehru that he had written. Despite the Indian external affairs ministry’s misgivings in fielding Tharoor, just because Sonia Gandhi approved his nomination, India backed him, and in the process got disgraced when the US sided with the Korean nomination, Ban Ki Moon. Condolezza Rice’s comment on Tharoor is all the more damaging. Tharoor becomes the case of a person who put himself ahead of the nation.

Sri Lankan equation makes an interesting reading. That the LTTE dug it own grave is all the more evident. But some genuinely sympathetic exchanges from Rajiv Gandhi to Prabhakaran – the former gave the latter his bullet proof vest – were discarded by the LTTE and today the terrorist organization doesn’t exist. This section explains in detail how the LTTE didn’t get the post 2001 international situation at all and this, coupled with Indian animosity, ended in the downfall of the Tigers.

While dwelling on Tigers and the final phase of assault, the author explains in detail as to what happened prior to Karunanidhi’s bizarre half a day ‘fast-unto-death’ when he had prior input from P.Chidambaram that there would be a temporary cessation of hostilities.I would only recommend that at least this section be translated into Tamil and circulated in Tamil Nadu. The sequence of event is as below ;

  1. Elections are underway in India. Polling in TN was to have happened on 13-May.
  2. Congress govt worries that any news of Prabhakaran’s death would jeopardize the polling in TN against Congress-DMK combine.
  3. Shivshankar Menon and Narayanan travel to Sri Lanka to ask them to stop hostilities for a couple of weeks.
  4. Sri Lanka agrees.
  5. P.Chidambaram conveys this to Karunanidhi.
  6. Next morning, on 28 April 2009, Karunanidhi announces a ‘fast-unto-death’.
  7. Sri Lanka announces ceasefire the same day.
  8. Karunanidhi declares ‘Victory’and calls off ‘fast-unto-death’.
  9. Polling gets over on 13-May.
  10. DMK & Congress get elected.
  11. Prabhakaran is killed on 19-May.

Conspiracy, self-centric policies, avarice, intrigue – the characteristics that Karunanidhi symbolizes, are shown in the above approach. The author captures it all.

Ravi talks about the ‘Mallu Mafia’ – the bureaucratic stranglehold that the Malayalee bureaucrats – TKA Nair, M.K.Narayanan, Shiv Shankar Menon – had on the govt, the politics that unfolded, the power struggle in the bureaucracy and after-effects thereafter.

Anthony, India’s worst defense minister ever, is dealt with in a separate chapter. As a result of the Right to Information Act, bureaucrats become averse to taking any decision and begin to pass on the buck. This strangulates decision making and puts purchases for armed forces under scanner. Meanwhile several mishaps take place in the naval force. The defense minister blames the then Naval chief D.K.Joshi and accepts the latter’s resignation in the most ungraceful manner. The UPA government under Singh had not only institutionalized corruption but also defamed the armed forces. The then Army Chief V.K.Singh’s retirement age episode took place in this period. The author has captured all these in minute detail.

What is shocking is the reason attributed to Anthony’s actions. Under fire from all directions on different scams related to 2G auction, Coal, Commonwealth Games and Aadarsh Building, Anthony was expecting Manmohan Singh to resign so that he could take over the reins.

There is an imbalance in the author’s treatment of a scam pertaining to a Singapore company in an Indian arms deal. Anthony had black-listed the company. The author loses his balance here and starts his mud-slinging on Anthony. It is a different matter that Anthony deserves not handfuls of mud but mountains of it. He makes a startling revelation that Manmohan Singh had early stage Parkinson’s disease and hence was not as active when he was Prime Minister and often looked wooden even in public appearances.

Ravi also talks about the ‘prince-charming’ who has been in eternal wait – Rahul Gandhi. He some how claims that Rahul is an exceptional listener, a voracious reader and an eager learner. None of what Ravi says has been visible sofar. He even says a Singapore minister had spent a day with Rahul and was enchanted at the latter’s curiosity. Ravi could have said more on this episode. The claim that Sonia Gandhi is also a voracious reader is news.

There is an interesting bit on Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to accept the Prime Ministership listening to her ‘inner-voice’. It turns out that it was Rahul Gandhi who argued with Sonia not to accept the position as he felt the position was too risky. Natwar Singh who was party to the conversation confirms this to the author.

Another interesting tidbit that we gather is that Rahul had come twice to Singapore and to spend some time listening to the legendary Lee Kuan Yew who had asked him not to hurry for position, to surround himself with smart and reliable folks and be ready when the time comes. Looking at the kind of folks that Congress has, it seems Lee Kuan Yew’s advice would remain an advice.

The author also covers the wholly unconstitutional National Advisory Council with Sonia as the Chairperson that had enormous powers even on the Prime Minister and the complete compromise that Singh had to resort to in order to please Sonia and her coterie and similar such items in this book that send shock waves over one’s spine.

The author concludes with Modi, talking about his performance in Gujarat, his gradual ascendancy in national politics and then becoming PM at last. An essential book on India through the eyes of an outsider who knows more people inside than the rest of the insiders.

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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in book review, English Posts


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The Indian Ideology – book review

‘The Indian Ideology’, a book by Perry Anderson, is an extremely virulent anti-India book that finds fault with anything remotely Indian. And that includes Gandhiji, Nehru, Indira Gandhi and even Ramchandra Guha – the quintessentially leftist writer.

The book spews venom on the concept of India, questions its ethos and continuity as a civilized society, makes fun of its religious diversity, and generally paints India as a collection of peoples who were fortunate enough to have been united by the British into one land mass and, in the process, has acquired some semblance of civil rights and democracy.

The book questions Gandhiji’s celibacy, paints him as a rather confused and often unpredictably eccentric person who didn’t have a stand on any issue, character assassinates Indira Gandhi as having had conjugal relations with Mathai, her father’s secretary, denigrates Nehru as he had apparently taken Mountbatten’s wife to bed, criticizes RSS and almost everything that is even remotely Indian.

The book paints a picture as though all the philosophical and civilizational standing that the nation has had for the several thousand years is a farce and that, in reality, India is a loose collection of different groups that are in a state of constant violence and cauldron.

And for all these, predictably, Arundati Roy has lavished praise.

This is a book that you can best avoid. To quote Gandhiji’s words, the author, Perry Anderson is a ‘gutter inspector’. Amen. #bookreview #nehru #gandhiji


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'God who failed' – book review

51aymrwgool-_sx336_bo1204203200_Disclaimer : I hold Panditji in high esteem and in no way would write anything to insult his memory, for I am a product of the Nehruvian socialist secular educational system and still carry many of the ideals that I had been taught.

Madhav Godbole’s  book is a significantly incisive work on Panditji’s policies and their impact on India. The author, a former bureaucrat, has, in due course of the book, compared the personalities of Panditji and Patel. We get to see that, had Patel been at the helm in 1947, the fate of India would have been different.

The author does not dwell on Panditji’s life and history, but plunges into his administration and government. That is a welcome change from the maze of books that talk about Nehru’s early life and romanticize his leftist leanings.

Having been introduced to Panditji when he was an IFS probationer, the author has not been carried away by the former’s magnetic personality. Thus he produces a detailed account of what he saw of Panditji’s policies and administration.

Of particular interest are the Kashmir imbroglio and the China conundrum. The author treats us to various sources on the confusions around Kashmir and China. How Panditji despised Maharaja Hari Singh, how Sheikh Abdullah deceived Nehru and India, how Patel had judged Abdullah early on and had sounded alerts and how Panditji took Kashmir to the UN on the advice of Mountbatten and many more policy failures are laid bare in this book.

We get a feeling of ‘If only Patel had handled Kashmir.. ‘. Once into the book, we are drawn into this moment of truth when the sad reality of the present (2016) stares at us with a devilish smile.

Mountbatten repeatedly deceives Nehru on Kashmir. He hunts with the dog and runs with the hare. While being the Governor General of India, he still serves the interests of Britain and works to fulfill Clement Atlee’s wishes. In this process, he completely deceives Nehru into believing that taking the Kashmir matter to the UN would be in India’s interest. We see that Panditji is completely blown off by the personality of Mountbatten that he agrees with him after some initial murmurs of protest.

And we are left with a boiling Kashmir even after 70 years.

On China, the story is a case of extreme neglect and despair. Sardar Patel writes two very important letters to Panditji that caution him on China and her intentions. Patel is direct and explicit on the threat from the communist neighbour. He goes on to compare the imperialist colonials with the communist tyrants of China and even says that the former are a tad better as the latter are driven by an ideology and hence are more harmful. Panditji choses to ignore those and after 12 years, China gives India one of its worst defeats. If only Nehru had paid heed to the Sardar, the history of the nation could have been vastly different.

In the book we see many things that baffle us completely –  Panditji lies to the Parliament on the Chinese occupation, prevaricates on equipping the army, lies again on the clothing supplied to Indian soldiers, denies knowledge of Chinese road works in the Aksai Chin area, meets alone with Chou En Lai who comes with a team of officers for discussions, and the like. What is clear is that Nehru was willing to believe in Chou En Lai than in the Indian officers on the China situation. When Chou En Lai repeatedly lies on the issue of maps, Nehru acts like a docile pet and accepts whatever the former says.

We get to see Panditji repeatedly saying that the maps that Chou En Lai had shown were old maps of the Kuomintang and that China would amend them once the country stabilized. We also get to see Panditji often misleading the nation on the China situation.

We also find that Nehru’s foreign secretary didn’t have the nerve to approach him with clarifications. One could ask as to why India’s Foreign Minister didn’t meet with Nehru to apprise him. The answer : India didn’t have a foreign minister and Panditji played foreign minister as well.

Even considering that Nehru was overwhelmed due to his age and workload, what baffles us is that he never felt the need for a Foreign Minister. Could Rajaji have filled up that position? With Rajaji’s stature and intelligence- he commanded equal respect and admiration as Panditji – the situation would have probably improved. But Nehru didn’t deem it fit to assign the Foreign Ministry to a full time minister. In an earlier book by Walter Crocker, this is attributed to Nehru’s ‘all knowing brahmanical’ attitude.

Despite the callousness shown by the Chinese media to him and the intemperate words used by the Chinese officials, Panditji fights for a permanent seat for China in the UN. Even Khurushev of the USSR hints that the USSR would recommend India to be the fifth member in the UN Security Council, but Panditji turns the offer down and instead says that including China into the UN was the need of the hour. While even the US was not in favour of another communist power being in the UN Security Council, Nehru feels otherwise.

Panditji shows undue haste in de-recognizing the Chiang-Kai-Shek led Kuomintang government in Taiwan and recognizing Mao’s communist China, despite the fact that Chiang-Kai-Shek was a friend of the Congress and Gandhiji. Nehru gives an impression that he was employed by the PRC (People’s Republic of China) as its PRO (Public Relations Officer). He speaks of recognizing China’s nationhood in every international arena possible. Though he did all these to secure a friend in the Asian context who was anti-colonial, the results were not to India’s benefit.

In spite of all these overtures, China attacked India and humiliated Panditji and the nation. We also see that Nehru sent a series of desperate telegrams to the US seeking immediate military help. This, and the humiliation in the war, dealt a death blow to the grandiose prestige, international and domestic standings of Panditji and he never recovered from that.

Fast forward to 2016 : China uses its Security Council veto power to act against Indian interests and the border dispute with China still persists.

Panditji’s stand on the Uniform Civil Code, Constitutional Amendments and looking the other way when corruption occurred – all these bring down the stature of the first Prime Minister of India. The LIC Mundhra scam, the V.K.Menon episode etc bring down Panditji’s reputation. But, by any stretch of imagination, I don’t mean to say that he was corrupt.

Being a firm believer in democracy, Panditji is seen as striving hard to uphold the democratic ideals in all his actions so much so that he lends himself to be termed ‘indecisive’. In spite of being in awe of the Soviet Union and Communism, Panditji doesn’t believe in implementing the ways of the communist state in India. However, the central planning mechanism that he had implemented has been modeled on the Soviet Union and has proved to be a huge impediment to the nation’s progress. Thankfully, the current PM Modi has done away with the commission.

Panditji is seen striving hard to uphold the system of parliamentary democracy. His many and often lengthy answers to queries in Parliament are evidences to the fact that he believed in treating parliament sacrosanct.

Page after page spews out references to books of yore, written by ex-bureaucrats who had served under the first PM of India, some leading politicians of those times, historians et al.

If you read this book you would learn :

  1. Why some of Panditji’s policies failed.
  2. Who else could have done a better job.
  3. What are the consequences of the failures.

If you don’t read this book:

  1. You would continue to believe in what the CBSE text books would have taught you about Panditji and continue to live in utopia.

P.S.: The book is available here.

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Posted by on October 2, 2016 in book review, English Posts, Writers


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Nehru: A contemporary's estimate – my review

Former Australian diplomat Walter Crocker is the author of ‘Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate’. He had written this soon after Panditji’s demise. Though most of the details are known to us, I felt the author has gone overboard with his treatment of the invasion of Goa.

The boo41tefxqbewlk is a sincere attempt at painting a balanced view, though at times I felt that the author was in awe of Panditji’s personality. Probably anybody who had worked with Panditji would have been struck down by the magnetic personality that latter oozed.
The book doesn’t deal with the two important things in detail – Kashmir and China. I didn’t understand why the Australian diplomat didn’t consider these two issues worth his while to write in detail while he had taken considerable efforts to paint the invasion of Goa in bad light.

I didn’t understand the rationale behind such a promising introduction by Ramchandra Guha.

The book’s language is convoluted and it smacks of the usual western arrogance in liberal doses. Probably that was how diplomats wrote then. Though rich in data, I didn’t find this book as enchanting as the the one by Judith Brown.

A detailed account, though.


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Nehru, a Political life – book review

Amid the plethora of books on Nehru, this one by Judith Brown stands out in that it is not wishy washy. It doesn’t beat around the bush but hits the nail on its head straight.

Brown covers the entire lifespan of Panditji that includes some details on his ancestry, the migration of the Nehrus from Kashmir to Delhi to Rajasthan to Allahabad and then finally to Delhi. Nehru had an aristocratic childhood and continued with such a life until his entry into the freedom movement under Gandhiji.

We get to see how Panditji saw India, Europe and the world in general. We see that Panditji’s agnostic views were shaped partly by the rationalist views of his father. Panditji’s household, during his childhood, had people of many faiths and nationality employed as cooks, tutors and general care takers. This, we are given to understand, would have played a major role in shaping the worldly outlook of Panditji.

41jbz4vtbtl-_sx320_bo1204203200_Panditji comes out as man of temper and is always ready to blow up in the face of mediocrity and rituals. We see Panditji as a man in a hurry trying to turn, overnight, a predominantly agrarian economy into an industrialized one. But, in the hurry, he also had to share the burden of foreign policy too, for he didn’t have a full time foreign minister till the end.

We get to see Panditji’s stature among world leaders rise to meteoric levels due to his extreme interest in bringing peace to all countries. It is a pity that, in his efforts to bring peace all over the world, he loses out on the home front with the Congress party becoming an unmanageable entity, corruption becoming part of his minister’s diet and centralized planning ( modeled after the Soviet Planning Model ) resulting in not so spectacular results.

Reading the book we see a singularity of purpose- that of the unification of India and overcoming the divisive methods that have kept the country divided for long. What we also see is the visible hatred that Panditji had for religious rituals, more towards Hindu ones.

The reasons of Panditji’s blunder in Kashmir are not known yet while the reason for the blunder on China is well known – Nehru’s belief in Chou En Lai’s  words and his belief that China wouldn’t be an aggressor considering the out-of-the-way helps that India had done to get China into the UN Security Council.

I got a feeling that Panditji got so carried away in the halo surrounding him due to his international stature that he failed to focus on the ground realities at home and at the border.

Panditji’s efforts to found the NAM, his anti-colonial stance in the case of the newly independent African states, his struggles to get food aid to India during her formative years and extensive travels lead to rapid deterioration of his health and  results in his death in 1964.

Keeping aside all his blunders, however gargantuan they are, we cannot but be impressed at the extremes to which he had travelled to ensure the success of parliamentary democracy in India. His every thought and action had two motives : keep India united, industrialise the nation. The extent to which he had strived to bring peace in Kerala before having to dismiss the first elected communist government, the deliberations on Goa before sending in the army et al speak volumes about the patriot Nehru.

Panditji’s socialist policies don’t work today but the intent with which the policies were framed then was beyond suspicion.

Brown’s book is a voluminous yet detailed work on Panditji.

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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in book review, English Posts, Writers


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Shadow work – book review

41dwaetbrgl-_sx331_bo1204203200_What are the works that we do unknown to ourselves?

How do corporations push their work to the consumers and still charge for the entire service?

How do consumers, in the guise of becoming tech-savvy, become willing pawns in the corporations’ hands and spend their most valuable asset – Time – in enriching the corporations, with no benefit to themselves?

These and many items like these are covered in the book ‘Shadow Work’ by Craig Lambert

Take the case of the numerous user ids and passwords that we have to figure out on a daily basis. Why should we, the consumers of services, have to pay by way of our time and effort, for authenticating ourselves across multiple applications, while the need to authenticate the consumer is on the corporation? Unknown to ourselves, we the consumers, are becoming the shadow workers of corporations.

Take the case of self-service petrol stations or salad fixing stations in eateries. Why should the consumer do the job of a petrol pump attendant or an eatery worker? Not only many jobs are lost but also consumers work for the corporations, for free.

When postmen delivered mails, we got mails that we needed to get. We never got junk mails or spams. But with the advent of emails, we are the recipients of more spam mails that proper ones. And the work of sifting through hundreds of spam emails is on us, consumers. This is shadow-work.

Call any bank and you have to wait for some time to ‘familiarize’ yourself with their ‘changed menu options’. Why should a customer have to spend time to wait on a call to learn about some key punching sequences that have changed?

Take Facebook. The content that users write is in turn used by Facebook to target advertisements and earn for themselves. In terms of content generation, Facebook doesn’t invest at all. It uses consumer’s time, effort and intellect for free, while earning advertisement revenue for itself and its shareholders.

Every tech company has an online forum where users answer one another’s queries, removing the burden on the company to provide support and service to a large extent. If this would not have been the case, the company would have had to hire more support staff. With consumers acting as shadow workers, the companies stand to gain by ‘out-sourcing’ their support work for free.

The rapid automation of services – check deposit, teller transactions et al – has also resulted in lesser human interaction and increased human isolation. While man is supposed to be a social animal, the proliferation of technology and such shadow works have ensured that man is isolated from his society, with each catering to his own needs with no need to interact with fellow humans.

The book is well written, an eye-opener in many cases, and a great read.


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TATA log – a review

TATA LogThis book is about a four letter word that inspires awe, respect and pride – TATA.

The author Harish Bhat is a senior director for the TATA group. That does not mean he sings hosannas for the company. He talks about 8 TATA companies and the hardships that people underwent to make each company great.

Harish emphasises the 4 Ps  which are the  essential attributes of any TATA company – Purposive, Pioneering, Principled and (not) Perfect. He demonstrates these attributes in every company that he talks about.

Some very interesting companies / items covered are :

  1. The TATA Indica car – the first Indian small car.
  2. Tanishq Jewellery – how the company transformed the Indian Jewellery market.
  3. Tata Chemicals and how they helped transform Okhmandal in the  Kutch region of Gujarat.
  4. The first Indian supercomputer – EKA – built by the TATAs.
  5. The TATA Finance fiasco and how the TATAs regained customer confidence.
  6. Tetly acquisition.
  7. How TATA Steel won the coveted Deming Prize.

I was floored by the ‘Second Career Programme for Women’ – even for those women who are outsiders to the TATA Group. I couldn’t think of any other company doing this anywhere in the world. Noble thoughts are not the attributes of the morally weak. TATAs come out strong here.

What if you read this book.

You would learn that TATA:

  • Is different from most other groups.
  • Places country ahead of revenue.
  • Cares about the environment and society that surrounds it.
  • Empowers women and helps them get back to the workforce.
  • Takes any business decision based on its need for the country.
  • Considers ethical business as the only means to its goal.

What if you don’t read this book.

  • You would continue to believe that private enterprise is for private wealth generation at the cost of the public and therefore all private enterprises are evil.

Having worked for a TATA company in the 90s, I acknowledge that the values spoken about in the book are true.

A breezy read for anyone interested in knowing what TATA stands for.

You can buy the book here.


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The Great Hedge of India – a review

51nwb9nem-l-_sx311_bo1204203200_In 1995, an Englishman Roy Moxham, retires from work, visits a used-book store in London, chances on a book written 100 years ago in India by a disgruntled British officer, and then makes history. He comes across a huge hedge, a wall built across India that is even longer than the Great Wall of China, by the British colonial government to collect tax on, of all items, salt, to enrich the lives of the English officers and their government at the cost of innocent Indians.

The author then spends all his fortune, travelling in India, trying to locate the hedge and, in the process, tries to atone the sins of his forefathers – the then British colonial government. The result is a fine piece of investigative work that brings to light the most abominable piece of history that has long since been forgotten so much so that people have refused to believe that such a hedge had indeed existed.

Some of the salient features of the hedge –It extended from Orissa to Kashmir and had poisonous reptiles let inside so that people wouldn’t dare to go cross it. At one point it was guarded by 12,000 soldiers. The chief architect of the hedge, A.O.Hume, later founded the Indian National Congress to fight for the people of India.

We get to see the heartless colonial government, in full throttle, trying to extricate what is left of the poverty and famine stricken India of the 1800s. What follows is a detailed account of Roy Maxhom’s tireless efforts in trying to chronicle one of the greatest shames of the British empire.

The conscience keeper, Roy, succeeds in bringing back to light one of the darkest periods of British history in India.

A must read for every Indian.


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Autograph – book review

Autograph_Chitra RameshChitra Ramesh has woven a continuous narrative of life in Neyveli during the 70s and 80s when childhood was not a burden to be carried on one’s back but a bouquet of flowers to be held, to periodically inhale the fragrance as well as spread it for the others to enjoy.

The author has splashed, all through the book, her childhood pranks at home, at school and all over Neyveli Township. The innocent and cheerful pranks at home and school evoke mirth, and remind the reader of the carefree times at an idyllic location during a relatively peaceful era.

Neyveli has been my hometown too and I was able to very well travel with the author in her journeys into the myriad yet well laid-out lanes of the town. A sense of nostalgia grips when she mentions about the only movie theatre which screened those films which would have become outdated at least by two years.

The peer-pressure that never existed, the jack-fruit trees that were ubiquitous, the monkeys that lived on those, are all well documented in this travel down memory lane, aptly titled ‘Autograph’.

The then only means of transport was the omnipresent bicycle and she has touched upon that as well. One cannot imagine the town without its bicycles.

As times change, Neyveli has also shed its old world look and has begun to sport a trendy look with the arrival of mopeds and cars, thus spoiling the very USP of the town. And with these, the very character of the township has been lost to the commercial capitalistic pulls.

The once socialist paradise has now become a semi-capitalist tyranny and is slowly inching towards a complete commercial anarchy in the immediate future.

The book, though a pleasure to read and reminisce due to the immensely enjoyable narrative on those good times, also brings tears when it makes one remember the placid and laid back society that it used to be.

For sure, those days are not going to be back.


Posted by on March 25, 2016 in book review, Writers


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