Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tamarind City - Where Modern India Began by Bishwanath Ghosh

Madras (now Chennai)-  the city where I used to spend my school holidays when I was a kid; the city where I spent almost 8 years (M.Tech, Ph.D) pursuing my higher education in the esteemed institution IIT-Madras; the city where my grandpa worked and had a house (sadly sold off 20 years ago); the city where my parents got married; the city where many of my uncles, aunts and cousins had lived or still live !
I have  pleasant memories of this first city of modern India.
It is always a pleasure to read anything about Madras/Chennai, especially if it has to do with its history and its culture.
The author Bishwanath Ghosh has come up with a delightful narrative about his life in this city.
A must read for  Chennaiites!

Book Description [Source: Back Cover of the Book]
‘While in other big cities tradition stays mothballed in trunks, taken out only during festivals and weddings, tradition here is worn round the year.’

This is just one of the author’s many keen observations of Chennai. With mordant wit, this biography of a city spares neither half of its split-personality: from moody, magical Madras to bursting-at-the-seams, tech-savvy Chennai. 

And, a minute into the book, the reader knows they are inseparable-and Bishwanath Ghosh refuses to take sides.

And yet, he tells us, while Chennai is usually known as conservative and orthodox, almost every modern institution in India-from the army to the judiciary, from medicine to engineering-traces its roots to Madras’s Fort St George, which was built when Delhi had only just become the capital of the Mughal Empire, and Calcutta and Bombay weren’t even born. 

Today, the city once again figures prominently on the global map as ‘India’s Detroit’, a manufacturing giant, and a hub of medical tourism. 
There have been sweeping changes since pre-Independent India, but even as Chennai embraces change, its people hold its age-old customs and traditions close to their heart.
‘This is what makes Chennai unique,’ says Ghosh, ‘the marriage of tradition and technology’.

Bishwanath Ghosh wears a reporter’s cap and explores the city he has made his home, delving into its past, roaming its historic sites and neighbourhoods, and meeting a wide variety of people-from a top vocalist to a top sexologist, from a yoga teacher to a hip transsexual, from a yesteryear film star to his own eighty-five-year-old neighbour, from the ghosts of Clive, Wellesley, Hastings and Yale to those of Periyar and MGR, two people who redefined the political skyline of Tamil Nadu.

What emerges is an evocative portrait of this unique city, drawn without reservation-sometimes with humour, sometimes with irony-but always with love.

Goodreads Rating - 3.71 out of 5 ( 120 Ratings; 35 Reviews)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day - Hollis Thomases

Book Description
The complete guide to a successful Twitter marketing campaign.
Twitter is a microblogging service that's changing the way we communicate. 
Marketers recognize its value, and Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day offers marketers, advertisers, brand managers, PR professionals, and business owners an in-depth guide to designing, implementing, and measuring the impact of a complete Twitter strategy.
Expert author Hollis Thomases acquaints you with the Twitterverse, its conventions, and its fascinating demographics and statistics. 
She then teaches you step by step how to effectively craft successful branding and direct response strategies that can be scaled to any organization and its objectives. Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day uses interesting case studies, success stories, anecdotes, and examples to demonstrate how to use Twitter metrics in order to inform strategic direction. 
You'll discover how top companies-large and small-have leveraged this exciting communications platform.
  • Twitter has become a phenomenon with 32 million users, including major companies such as Apple, JetBlue, and CNN
  • This step-by-step guide explains the demographics, shows how companies are using Twitter, and explains how to scale the approach to your enterprise
  • The detailed coverage includes the basics for Twitter newcomers and explores all elements of a successful strategy
  • Expert author Hollis Thomases shows how to set goals, develop and implement a plan, attract followers, and measure the impact of a campaign
  • The in-depth book explains how to maintain momentum and explores such issues as contests, promotions, and crisis management
Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day is the ultimate guide to succeeding one tweet at a time!

My Comments:

I am having a twitter account  (@gpnth) for almost 5 years. 
But I had been a casual user (about 4 or 5 tweets per month) till now. 
Though somewhat outdated, this book gave me a good insight into the twitterverse and prompted me to use Twitter more often.
I find sharing links, small nuggets of info, quotes in Twitter  much more easier than other social media sites.
The book has some very good tips for newbies and experienced user alike. 
Read the post-2010 edition  of this book so that you get the latest updates about Twitter.

Goodreads Rating - 3.39 out of 5 ( 28 Ratings; 6 Reviews)

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Sai Baba of Shirdi - M.V. Kamath & V.B.Kher

A Unique Saint
Sai Baba of Shirdi is a phenomenon.
In all of India's history,there has never been another like him.
He is not a conventional saint.
He wrote no critique of Bhagavadgita or the Upanishads or any other holy work.
He made no pretensions to scholarship yet he had a profound insight into both Hinduism and Islamic scriptures.
He founded no ashram or peetham,wrote no tome,initiated no disciple to take over from him.
He performed 'miracles' but in no manner of means to impress anyone,devotee or otherwise.
Sai Baba in every way remains unique. 
Born about twenty years before the 'Sepoys' mutiny in the 19th century in Marathwada,the home of medieval saints of Maharashtra,he came in his late twenties to Shirdi,an insignificant hamlet in Ahmednagar District and spent fifty years of his remaining life there until his mahasamadhi.
Shirdi is no longer an obscure village.
Today it is a centre of pilgrimage for lakhs of Sai Baba's devotees. 
This book is a complete account of his life and mission
[Source: Back Cover of the Book]

My Comments:

I was impressed by the research the authors have undertaken to trace the birth place and early life of Shirdi Sai Baba which was rather unknown before the publication of this book.
Also the chapters where lineage of Marathwada Saints to which Sai Baba belongs are very informative.
I have extreme regard and respect  for  Shirdi Sai Baba, truly one of the great saints of modern India.
I was expecting a biography which can provide me a better understanding of  Baba as a person, his nature and his core philosophy.
While these areas are discussed, the major portion of this book comprises of  hundreds of anecdotes about how directly or indirectly Baba came to the aid of his devotees when they were in trouble.
This makes the narrative very repetitive and several of these stories seem somewhat incredible to my rational mind.
Hence I was somewhat disappointed with this biography.
Nevertheless it is a good book to read, especially for the very pious and the faithfuls.

Goodreads Rating - 4.14 out of 5 ( 7 Ratings)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
High above the sky stands Swarga, paradise, abode of the gods. 
Still above is Vaikuntha, heaven, abode of God.
The doorkeepers of Vaikuntha are the twins, Jaya and Yijaya, both whose names mean 'victory'.
One keeps you in Swarga; the other raises you into Vaikuntha.
In Vaikuntha there is bliss forever, in Swarga there is please for only as long as you deserve. 
What is the difference between Jaya and Vijaya? 
Solve this puzzle and you will solve the mystery of the Mahabharata.

In this enthralling retelling of India's greatest epic, the Mahabharata originally known as Jaya, Devdutt Pattanaik seamlessly weaves into a single narrative plots from the Sanskirt classic as well as its many folk and regional varians, including the Pandavani of Chattisgarth, Gondhal of Maharastra, Terukkuttu of Tamil Nade and Yakshagana of Karnataka.

Richly illustrated with over 250 line drawings by the author, the 108 chapters abound with little-known details such as the names of the hundred Kauravas, the worship of Draupadi as a goddess in Tamil Nadu, the stories of Astika, Madhavi, Jaimini, Aravan and Barbareek, the Mahabharata version of the Shakuntalam and the Ramayana, and the dating of the war based on astronomical data.
With clarity and simplicity, the tales in this elegant volume reveal the eternal relevance of the Mahabharata, the complex and disturbing meditation on the human condition that has shaped Indian thought for over 3000 years.
[Source: Inside cover of the book]

My Comments:
This is the third book of Devdutt Pattanaik which I read, the other ones  being 7 Secrets of Vishnu and 7 Secrets of Shiva.
Doing full justice to Mahabaharata, one of the longest epics ever written (more than 100,000 verses), in 300 odd pages is a challenge to any author. 
Therefore  the author has focused on the lesser known incidents in this epic. He has also provided his own interpretation after every chapter which are quite interesting to read.
The line drawings and the layout of the pages of this book are simple yet very elegant. This proves you don't really need colors to make things attractive.
All these aspects make this book a highly readable and enjoyable one,as evidenced in more than 300  reviews by the readers in Goodreads site.


Goodreads Rating - 4.19 out of 5 ( 35 Ratings)

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Facilitating Groups by Jenny Rogers

Getting the Best Out of a Group
A systematic, well-written and compact book which will serve well as a quick reference for the facilitators.

Book Description (Source:
Every manager, every coach, every HR professional, every trainer, every team leader – anyone who needs to get the best out of a group needs to know how to facilitate. Facilitation bypasses coercion, teaching or chairing. 
It’s about how to read a group, how to challenge appropriately and how to name the apparently unnameable; it’s about having the skills which make it safe for the silent to speak and the over-talkers to calm down.
 It’s about knowing that the role is to remain objective and why that matters so much. It’s about being able to design events which perfectly match what the group needs and then to run such events with aplomb. 
This book, written by a facilitator with 30 years of experience, cuts to the heart of the practical skills that any facilitator needs

  • How to get clear what facilitation is and isn’t
  • How to get the measure of what is going on in a group under the surface
  • Preparing and designing events with impact
  • 6 vital skills that every facilitator needs
  • How to deal with facilitator nightmares – eg the person who runs out of the room crying, the angry participant, the one who talks obsessively, the silent – and many more.