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William Faulkner is reported to have said that “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

Partition, or rather the tearing apart of India into three parts circa 1947, has always been a theme of enduring interest. To those who lived to tell the diabolical tales of their survival, it brings back a flood of memories, awash with deep-seated regrets and a sense of deep loss of one’s original home and hearth. Hence the title Hiraeth, meaning a longing based on a feeling of helplessness of not being able to revisit a place.

To their succeeding generations, it is a valuable record of the trauma of the planet’s biggest mass migration on record. It also captures the endurance and resilience of the human spirit, of an innate will to live and prosper, and of keeping the descendants isolated from the traumatic pain and suffering of their preceding generations.

Just like the graphic works of Saadat Hasan Manto, Khuswant Singh and many others, Hiraeth captures the agony, the suspicion, the cruelty and the madness that pervaded the air in those turbulent times. A commendable endeavour, indeed.  

The stories, based on the experiences of the author’s grandparents and other seniors in her family circles, capture not only the courage and sacrifice but also the generosity of the human spirit. These are written with a piercing beauty, alive with moral passion and sorrowful insight.

However, a word of caution may be in order. Picking up and going through the book needs nerves of chilled steel. It took me close to three years to build up the courage to get a copy. I could then devour the stories only one at a time. Each one of them, so very poignantly written, made me either sob uncontrollably or cry. Identifying with the main characters was apparently my undoing. Suffering the pain and deprivation they underwent.

Somewhere, a father was killing his own daughter so as to protect the family honour. Elsewhere, a recently widowed lady was able to release her inner grief only when she came across the turban cloth of her late husband.

Some offered solace as well. A just-orphaned kid getting breast-fed and adopted by a lady who has undergone the trauma of giving birth to a stillborn child of her own, their different religions notwithstanding.

The last story touches upon the ripple effect of a parent’s decision on the next generation. It goes on to demonstrate that partition, though the term in itself is a highly sanitized version of what really transpired then, is not so much an event in the past, but one that continues to influence the descendants of those who survived it. Those displaced and uprooted have stood up, shaken off the dust of negativity from their feet, taken control of things and ensured that the coming generations did well in their life and career. But the scars remain.  

Thanks to the efforts put in by the publishers, the book is well presented. Urdu titles of stories have been beautifully calligraphed, adding a unique charm to the text. The use of common terms to address parents, grandparents and other relatives in Hindi/Punjabi language bring the stories closer home. The cover itself says a lot, though, at first glance, one does not appreciate it.

At the end of it all, the book does lead one to feel more anger and even more anguish. Is there a way to avoid such tragedies in future? Can our leaders not be more prescient and take better control of things? As human beings, we pride ourselves on our technological achievements. But do we care to dismantle the invisible walls that exist between us? Could we widen our consciousness in such a way as to avoid conflicts and wars? Could we not instead channelize our collective energies towards addressing environmental challenges that we, as a race, face?

One may well ask if there is any point in remembering yet again what one cannot forget in a lifetime. Perhaps, a closure lies in moving towards mutual acceptance of culpability, a joint mourning for the lives we took, the attendant horrors we inflicted upon each other and then go in for mutual forgiveness. However, it is easier said than done. Wounds of the flesh heal; not so with the mental scars. Thus, the cycle of violence continues unabated. It suits our politicians to keep stoking these dormant embers.  Often, we end up being mere puppets in their hands.

In fact, this is the larger purpose the book serves. It reminds us of our past follies. It makes us sit up yet again and start wondering as to how to take better care of ourselves and our brethren. It prompts us to build bridges wherever needed and break down the walls of our biases and prejudices. It shows us the futility of treating those different from us as ‘others.’ It exhorts us to use our individual intellect to judge if what we are doing is right, not to be led astray by jingoism, chest thumping and wars.

I am reminded of a song which Talat Mehmood had rendered in his velvet-like soothing voice long time back:

Hein sabse madhur woh geet jinhen hum dard ke swar mein gaate hain…

Roughly translated, this says that the songs which are the sweetest are the ones which are set to the melody of sorrow!

It is in this spirit that this book deserves to be picked up, devoured and brooded upon. 

About the Author:

Dr. Shivani Salil, MD, calls herself a voracious reader, in love with words – both written and spoken. She used to work at KEM Hospital, Mumbai, until some time back when a geographical move pushed her into a sabbatical. She currently resides in Hong Kong with her husband and daughter.

As a child, she harboured two dreams: one, to become a doctor and the other, to pursue literature so that she could become a writer. Having lived and loved her first dream, this book is a step forward towards the second.

Get to know more about her on her website http://www.shivaniwrites.in and her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/shivaniwrites18.

Availability of the Book:

In India: https://www.amazon.in/Hiraeth-Partition-Stories-from-1947/dp/8194132622

In US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Germany:
https://www.amazon.de/Hiraeth-Partition-stories-1947-English-ebook/dp/B07WRLTGLC

The book is available on Kindle as well and is free on Kindle unlimited.

(The book has been published by Room9 Publications (www.artoonsinn.com).

Goodreads:

Hiraeth: Partition stories from 1947 by Shivani Salil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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If you are looking for a book imparting management lessons backed by some shimmering jargon and quotes from famous experts in the field adorning its pages, this one is bound to disappoint you.

In case you have a researcher’s attitude and are hoping to unearth some new facts or discovering new management theories, you will find nothing here that may excite you or whet your appetite for a scholastic understanding of the science and art of management. 

However, if you believe that the real world of management has lot of experiential learning to offer and that values and ethics play a crucial role in the sustained success of a business organization, you would be delighted to have come across this book, entitled Practical Lessons from Great Managers.

By the time you devour this plain vanilla offering, you would have realized that a formal management degree is but a launching pad of sorts. It is not essential to achieve success in one’s career. It may be merely desirable so as to advance your career prospects, especially given the corporate world’s preference for formal degrees.

The author of the book, Mr. Ramesh Subramaniam, offers keen insights into the practice of management. Based on his five decades long experience in the leather footwear industry and in industrial promotion, he shares his experiences in a very lucid manner. The narrative has an easy flow and touches upon various concepts, drawn from his observations about the kind of situations and challenges faced from time to time. The book is arranged in 14 chapters and runs into 104 odd pages. The presentation is not chronological in order. Rather, it takes up a concept and develops it across the entire span of his career.

Written to impart acquired knowledge, the book categorically deals with such facets of management like communication, strategy, integrity, customer relations, leadership, policies, innovation and the like. The underlying messages are very clear – the importance of training one’s mind, decision making based on sound values and cultivating a passion for continuous learning. This is akin to Stephen R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, exhorting managers to always keep their ‘saw sharpened.’

One of the typical practices which define a manufacturing mindset of yesteryears is brought out rather clearly in the book – that of employers taking a jaundiced view of employees taking leaves! Yet another is that of treating physical availability as a sign of higher productivity. In the current pandemic driven operations, where work-from-home has proved its value, albeit in other sectors of the economy, some of these notions may not be relevant.   

I confess I had the good fortune of working with the author of the book for close to five years when we were together at the Footwear Division of Tata International. He was thorough in whatever he took up, was a good teacher and always encouraged me to maintain two diaries – one for routine work, another to keep a meticulous record of new things learnt on the job.

If you wish to learn creative problem-solving in such organizations as Bata, Tata, FDDI and Sri City, this is precisely the book you are looking for. If you are curious to know how such organizations follow ethics and values and how managers therein resolve the dilemmas inherent in such cases, it is a must-read.

Going through a pragmatic book of this kind, penned by a management veteran, is a pleasure. It would surely be a worthwhile journey for those who aspire to survive and excel in the corporate jungle! 

 

(Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/dp/1636401961
Flipkart: https://www.flipkart.com/practical-lessons-great-managers/p/itmaf7071c6a6eb8?pid=9781636401966)

      



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As a survivor of the corporate world for over a decade, I can precisely understand the analogy between corporate and jungle. There are myriads of personalities one encounters in a business day and their traits can be pertinently mapped to those of lions, cubs, fox, etc. Although this book doesn’t do vivisection of the personalities, yet the title is very well suited to the environment.

Organized by topics like advertising, burnout, leaders, networking, working hours, etc., the author gives a snippet of advice related to each. It doesn’t deep dive into the topic to explain the nitty-gritty of them but is limited to a single piece of guidance. None of the topics reach beyond a single page except a few where the learning of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata are correlated to exciting times.

It is not intended for a specific category of employees. Whether you are fresher, experienced, a boss, a CEO, or in top management, it touches upon multiple aspects of corporate life. It is not a textbook that will walk you through the concepts with motivational examples but a quick reference guidebook.

Having gone through multiple management books and corporate training, I intended to find some pathbreaking tips. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it. Unarguably, the capsules of wisdom in each chapter hold relevance but some of them are at a pretty elementary level. For instance, being accessible, work-life balance, networking. These tips find a place in almost every management book under the sun.

Irrespective of unable to go beyond my expectations, it is still a valuable asset to people lost in the corporate jungle. Easing out your way when nothing seems to work needs a proficient support system. I believe his book can prove to be one. It is worth a read, and I would recommend it. As an add on, the book is available in Portuguese as well.

(This is where you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book: http://livraria.vidaeconomica.pt/gestao/1493-como-sobreviver-na-selva-empresarial-guia-pratico-9789897681868.html)

Related Links:

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Hapless leaders keep getting bombarded with an overdose of new ideas these days. Other than leading their followers into a world where the roses would always be in bloom and where the sun would never set, poor souls are expected to work upon path-breaking ideas. Consultants keep dishing out advice, followed by hefty bills. Other leaders whose scintillating speeches act like Botox shots to the sagging visage of their organizations have to be incessantly tracked. Political outfits of all hues and shapes need to be kept in good humour. Hellhounds of various taxation departments have to be kept at an arm’s length. Relentless window-dressing of quarterly accounts leaves them no time to pause and reflect on the basic meaning of life. Being connected to operations makes it impossible for them to relax and unwind.

Authors and intellectuals, whose contribution to the evolution of our species is dubious in any case, also do not leave them in peace. They keep churning out literary tomes and books which a leader would not touch with a hundred foot pole even on a space flight to a distant galaxy.

Take the case of the latest book on Leader Mindsets. Here are some reasons they can avoid picking it up.

  1. Even though the focus of the book is on universal human values, it appears to be based on an Asian view point. When leaders think of this part of the world, they only remember irrelevant scriptures, outdated religious beliefs, widespread poverty and illiteracy, and a certain lack of decency in public spaces which others on the planet could readily deride. In other words, there could not be much to learn from the book.
  2. At a time when leaders are grappling with the upheavals being caused by Industrial Revolution 4.0, the need is to understand and adapt newer technologies. The underlying belief is that in the times to come, the human dimension is going to be less important. Understanding machines is what should be a priority. Human behaviour has already been mapped thoroughly. Even if one were to understand it better, one would run the risk of ending up being a ‘soft’ leader who is unable to take ‘hard’ decisions, thereby compromising one’s effectiveness as a leader.
  3. The book appears to be based on the premise that to become an effective leader, one has to change oneself – a tough proposition, indeed. There is nothing wrong with the leaders in their present mould; hence, there is no need to tweak anything within them.

The book goes on to propose that having changed one’s mindset, one should help others to change their mindsets. If the first step is undesirable, this one is near impossible; and the next one – that of changing the entire organization – even more so.

After all, management is the art of the possible. Leaders are happy the way they are.

Smart leaders would do well to brood over these thoughts. It would save them lot of time and trouble. Their followers would heave a sigh of relief upon realizing that they have been spared the trauma of being asked to change themselves in any way; that they can trudge along merrily without a care in the world, focusing on immediate and important tasks at hand. If the critical and strategic tasks get neglected in the process, so be it.

Even if the author were to gift a copy of the book to a leader, the latter would do well to either gift it to one of his arch-rivals, or to simply throw it into the nearest waste paper basket. If the shameless author persists by sending a soft copy as well, prompt use of the delete command would be highly useful.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/a-word-about-the-book-on-leadership)

 

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