Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Book Review

To sum it up in one sentence - this book changed my personality - from a (hardcore) introvert to a cool and popular extrovert. Way back when I was in my teens and going through that very rough and rocky terrain (called 'starting teens' by me  - though only of late I've discovered this teen phase goes on forever or recurs but never ends) this book was a gift from the Gods - who happened to be my father actually. Among hundreds of other books in his collection, I still don't know what made me pick this one - maybe good luck.

 It started me on a journey of countless friends,  continuing interest in personal development and career as a counselor and mentor. The simple narrative style, the real life incidents, the anecdotes, and summing up the chapters in principles and above all - the fact that the author walked the talk is what makes it the bible of personal development.

Excerpts from the book

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you". Dale got this insight from his puppy Tippy - well he sure was inspired from every aspect of life.

"When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look for first?"
Insights like these hit the target straight - it makes learning and remembering the concepts so much easier.

"Six ways to make people like you - Principle 3:
Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
When I greeted him by his full name: Good afternoon, Mr.Nicodemus Papadoulos, he was shocked. For what seemed like several minutes there was no reply from him at all. Finally, he said with tears rolling down his cheeks, 'Mr.Levy, in all the fifteen years I have been in this country, nobody has ever made the effort to call me by my right name.'"
I wonder if the scenario has changed much in the U.S but in India where most of the people are referred to as bhayya, babu, anna, tambi maybe it helps to call people by their name - even just once - to give the personal touch.

Here goes the Q & A session

Q : What did Dale Carnegie do to humanity?
A : He filled it up with a large dose of human sense, which is much much more vital than common sense.

Though the book was published in 1936 and is filled with incidents from U.S, it is a book for the global citizen and for anyone who is a homo sapien.

The final question
Q : Should I buy this book?
A : Yes, Yes, Yes. You should buy this book, by-heart this book and eat it if you can :) 
An apple a day keeps the doctor away and reading this book a page a day can improve our human sense by leaps and bounds.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

One Minute Millionaire Book Review

When u flip a coin and chose (heads I win) and realize that both sides of the coin has heads - wow - that's the feeling I had while reading the book in 2003. Every time I pick up the book the same feeling continues - with more intensity. It caters to both left brain and right brain functioning modes.

This left right thing started with the title itself - my left brain said - "hey c'mon it's logically not possible to make a million in a minute unless it's a lottery of some kind", while my right brain was more liberal and started convincing me, "maybe there are certain possibilities in the western world (USA to be precise) which we can adapt here".

As the back cover stated it's about Michelle - who needs a million dollars to get back the custody of her children- which she does with the help of her mentor Samantha -(who guides her through the various methods legally available to make money in USA) along with the dream team.

It is a handbook of the century on money making - the various concepts like 
Butterfly effect
Choose your millionaire mountain
The HOTS theory
Millionaire Ahas
Enlightened millionaire
seem to be very handy in handling personal finances, people management, self development or to quench our thirst for money making.

Interesting tidbits of info about celebrities like Sylvester Stallone (The Real Rocky story spice up the concepts to be put to practical use)

The left side pages are analytical, informative, while the right side pages carry the story.
The continuity seems to be lost coz u have to keep looking only to one side to keep track of the version.
The left right concept didn't agree with my visual palette (if there's such a word).

It was a bit distracting - I would have preferred the whole book to be in two different versions.
It always felt like I was tasting south Indian meals with north Indian meals simultaneously not to mention the size of the book (definitely not our average 'zero size' kind).

Michelle's story reminded me of Indian blockbuster cinema with a female lead ( though a little less senti and more practical).
The only hitch is that the avenues of money making - the real estate, toy making and selling coaching classes on the net - these businesses function differently in India. While the story is a sure fire success in inspiring us to go trekking on the millionaire mountain
the footwear we wear here might be sandals and not the sports gear of USA. There needs to be lot of Indianisation to be done in our head to the script for us to get that million dollars (or 50 lakh rupees - whatever the current conversion rate is)

The author's have so generously shared almost every bit of info to make the reader successful (maybe influenced by Buckminster Fuller - the legendary enlightened millionaire).
This book is a must read for anyone who needs money, who loves money and who spends money.
And by the way this book is a must gift to anyone who belongs to the above classification too.
Well dollar dreams or Indian needs - this is the book.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chanakya's Chant - Book Review

Historical fiction is not really a genre that I prefer. But when the hefty 450-page paperback came into my hands, I started reading the first few pages, assuming that this book would leave soon. I read the Prologue and was hooked. It took a while to go through the entire book but each day I would eagerly return to the pages, so see how the bilayered narrative developed.

Chanakya's Chant is a story about the legendary Chanakya who begins life as Vishnugupta, son of learned Chanak of the ancient kingdom of Magadha. But Chanakya's Chant is also a Sanskrit verse that is described multiple times in the modern day story that parallels the original tale. Pandit Gangasagar Mishra, a modern day Chanakya uses the powerful chant to further the political career of his protege in the sleazy world of Indian politics. The two stories are told side by side and mark the steady progression of the potential rulers, Chandragupta Maurya as leader of a united Bharat in 340 BC under Chanakya's tutelage and of Chandini Gupta, aspiring to be India's Prime Minister under the training of Mishraji.

It is an extremely well-researched book with very tight narration that keeps you glued to the pages as you learn the smart and underhanded ways in which kings are mere puppets in the hands of the kingmakers. With the uncanny ability to process reams of seemingly unrelated information, predict the behaviors of the other sides, and ruthless precision, these Chanakya's steadily advance their proteges towards the desired goal. While the historical Chanakya leaves his long hair untied until he fulfills his prophecy of avenging his father's death, the motivation of Gangasagar Mishra is not quite clear.

The author, Ashwin Sanghi, has divulged many secrets commonly known to modern-day politicians and some historical secrets like the use of the many medicinal plants available in India which can be used to harm or heal. Preying on the vices and weakness of men, even men as powerful as the great Alexander, Chanakya and his counterpart Mishra, bring about the fall of emperors and ministers, all mere pawns in the race to secure the highest position of power. One striking aspect that stands out is the fact that the art of politics is truly the Arthashastra, the science of wealth, not governance.

A must read for history buffs but highly recommended for those looking for a thrilling read as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Connect the dots - book review

Mera number kab ayega - this would aptly summarize the phase in which I randomly bought 'Stay Hungry and Stay Foolish' and impulsively (rather by default being habituated to pick up all the titles by an author whenever possible ) bought 'Connect the Dots' too.

Actually the cover page caught my attention first - I couldn't figure out which side to read the book from till I actually opened the pages.

What made me read the book was the fact that ( i mean choosing to read this first rather than the other title) I always considered myself to be a hum honge kaamiyab ek din MBA grad from the likes of Harvard, IIM, ISB so on. (Thank God u don't have to take CAT and other animal tests with the terrifying math paper to dream of these courses).

I should say it rang a bell and a whole Indian senti-film song started playing in my head, heart, and soul the moment I started reading the Author's note.

As can be expected, I started reading with the people I heard of  through business magazines or TV programs.

Ranjiv Ramchandani (Tantra T-shirts) - this article is as humourous and creative and whacky as his t-shirts. It actually brought back cherished memories of my tantra t-shirt.
Kalyan Varma - wildlife photographer. I've been much inspired by  Rashmi's intro than the actual story.
Well, it struck a chord.

" When my brother was little, he wanted to be a BEST bus conductor; when I was little, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut.

When Kalyan Varma was little, he said to himself, "I wish I could live in the jungle watching animals all day!"

Today, my brother is a brand manager with a multinational corporation.

I am a writer who looks up at the stars and thinks, maybe - some day.

But guess what, Kalyan Varma actually spends his days watching animals in the jungle. And, taking their pictures.

Kalyan Varma represents the big dreams of the little people."

This is precisely where I was hurled into my teen flashback where I decided I would be a poster designer.

I could go on and on but the final decision is if Big B or King Khan wil ask 'Lock kiya jaaye' haa! haa! haa!

To all the wannabe entreprenuers - this could be a life saver at the most and a inspiring read at the least and and an idea generator and host of other things in the middle

Though it was a bit tough following the hindi phrases - Rashmi did a fantastic job of bringing the essence of the people - their success and their messages in exactly the same order - the intro - the interview and advice to young entrepreneurs.
Rashmi showcased the other side of India - who stepped out of 'the conventional study and climb the success ladder' - and became 'the winners of the snakes and ladder show of real life'. ( well if you consider the 20 entreprenuers she introduced )

Finally - to all those MBA grads out there "mere paas connect the dots hei - aapke paas kya hei". Just kidding - I know - I know - you have 'stay hungry stay foolish :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul - Book Review

My foray into the world of chicken soup was with a bit of hesitation. Being a 75% veggie (other than the much favored occasional tandoori chicken snacks), I wasn't very comfy with the title 'chicken soup'. This was way back when only American version was available. I picked up one. I don't remember which one but the stories caught my attention. They reminded me of the Chandamama and Balamitra and various other telugu story books I grew up with.

Coming back to the present, I bought this with lots of other titles. It was the last on my reading list - there were other interesting titles and not to mention that I was continuously in and out of one spiritual course or the other - what do i need to read a book for!
Well - this book did take me by surprise - my very understanding of spirituality has changed. I already knew conceptually that spirituality is a part of life - not a standalone segment still there was a lot that I learnt from this book.

The best thing about this book is the desi flavour it brought, even to spirituality and of course the curiosity of what the celebs think about spirituality

A few of my favorites

* The miracle of the flying leap - Suma Verghese - editor of life positive magazine. The simplicity and honesty with which she put forth her whole life in a few pages is amazing.

* Hug your enemies - Moid Siddiqui. It is the story of K.S. Raju, a successful businessman, where he shares a wonderful way of  forgiving.

* A single candle - Tanushree Podder. It shows how a simple selfless act of kindness can bring a tremendous shift in our thinking.

* To or through the messiah - Mini Krishnan. This is a story of how spiritual fragrance can touch our lives even through a school prayer and shape our personality.

Recently, I was going through one of those severe test of faith phases and I was drawn to this book. I casually flipped a few pages and amazingly got the answers i was searching for - the strength to hang on - to steer my life in a new direction.

Is this a miracle book? I don't know. But is it a must read?  Yes, yes, yes!

Just as much masala is to the Indian curry  - spiritualiy is to the indian soul - come in whatever form it may.

This book is a subtle help in understanding our lives and intergrating our roots in this fast paced world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One Amazing Thing - Book Review

Nine people are trapped in the basement of a building in an unnamed American city. This group of strangers are bound together for an unspecified period of time due to the earthquake that traps them in an unlikely place - the Indian consulate office. With this interesting premise, Chitra Banerjee brings together people of various races, religion, age and economic backgrounds to rally around their shared fate of being forced to stay together while they await rescue or death. The strange situation of spending time in a dark gloomy about-to-collapse building, makes the usually reticent strangers divulge their secret stories to a willing audience that amicably suspends judgement as it listens intently to each of them in turn.

Chitra Banerjee has woven together a reasonably plausible plot to explain the reasons for the stereotypical characters to want to visit India in spite of their apparent lack of connection to the country or their reluctance to do so, as the case may be. So we have Cameron, the African American ex-military man, a well-heeled Caucasian couple, the Pritchetts, a Chinese grandmother (Jiang) with a surly teenager granddaughter Lily, Tariq an angry Muslim boy, Uma a young single woman, and the two Indians from India - the consulate employees Malathi and Mangalam, taking turns to spill their stories into a room where a leaking water source starts flooding the floor, parts of the ceiling collapse and their hopes of rescue decline with each tale that is told.

I have read many of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's books and I am impressed with her writing style. The prose is poetic and her metaphors are unique, underlining the beauty of each observation. But her strength has been in writing for a predominantly American audience and her stories border on a magic realism underpinning to narratives that superficially appear to be about contemporary issues. This hybrid genre unique to Indian writers writing about India from their location based in Western societies has spawned many authors and Banerjee is at the forefront among them. While she has been prolific in creating diverse narratives, this book is different from her usual formula. With the key ingredient of "exotic" India missing from the stories within the larger story, the book is at best a half-baked attempt to link what might have been better presented as a collection of short stories instead of a homogenous novel.

The individual characters don't seem like real people and the disjointed tales serve no larger purpose of moving the story forward. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the ending which really is neither an ending nor a reasonable denouement for a novel. Although an attempt to explain the title is made in the last few pages, it fails to register. The book is not in the same realm as any of Banerjee's previous writings and appears to a half-hearted and shoddy attempt at publishing within a deadline.