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Book Review : Razor Sharp : 13 Short Stories

Published November 2, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is a new genre for me; that is why I was initially skeptical of reading this book – and passed it over. Adding to it was the rather uncomfortable fact of its being an e-book, which doesn’t appeal to me. Frankly, a book should feel like a book, smell like a book… or it isn’t a book. But a friend who runs a book blog {a Top Indian Blog} recommended it to me – and suggested I read and review it. So it was that I landed up reading this e-book, based only on the recommendation of a friend, my experience with whose with suggestions on reading was 100%.


E-READING-MATERIAL
First, The E-book. I made a flat statement above; and I stand by it. I read something – and blunt, frank and straight, it wasn’t a book. It was intellectual property, a reading product, reading material – but not a book. It didn’t feel like one, smell like one, didn’t have the same interface, and more. I didn’t like it. Period. Yes, I have read E-Reading-Material before, {Ain-i-Akbari, Economic History Of India by RC Dutt, various RBI reports, Ecology / Genetics research papers etc} – and admit that this is going to be a trend. It has distinct advantages in terms of cost, but loses one hell of a lot in terms of reading comfort, especially in following complex arguments, theses etc. It will be a sad day indeed when the printed version goes out of fashion. That said – E-Reading does lower barriers for entry to new writers.
THE BOOK
Aah, now we come to the book. As I noted above, the person recommending this has a hit-rate of 100%; I have liked all suggestions. Well, to cut it short, the strike rate remains 100%. And this has introduced me to a new genre – short stories of the human-interest genre. These can be fascinating for the glimpses they give into life, culture, human psychology, society and more; they are easy to read, as each story is unconnected. That means, you can use this to disconnect from arduous tasks; 10 minutes – and you are fresh again! In a normal book, you might get distracted if you try that!
That is precisely what I got from this book – the short stories and cryptic in many ways, very short in some cases; but all of them, without exception, giving a discerning look into some aspect of life, humanity, society, people. That may or may not have been the intention; being new to this genre I cannot say. But the short, sharp and pointed observations, characteristics, situations, and life-portrayals in the book bring out some deep and most times poignant aspect of life. Most stories end with a powerful insight into some aspect of life. And yes – the title of the book says it all {Razor-Sharp}
The difficulty, you cant really review such books, at least judging from this experience – not in terms of the story or the content. Given the short nature of the content, anything I write will be a dead give-away, a spoiler. Thus, excuse me for not revealing even one word of the content of the stories. Each story is short, sharp, and well-crafted. There wasn’t a single one that I didn’t like. Each story, as noted above, revolves around one human emotion, or societal reality, or one single human factor. Each story creates a web of enchantment around your mind, and pulls you in.
The above is a feat; creating engaging content with such short notes is very hard, as most bloggers are aware. Each word has to be in place; the room for error does not exist, or the entire story suffers. And if you can manage to build a character is such a crippling disadvantaged constraint – that is realy good indeed. And that is what I liked the best – I can still recall a few characters from the short stories – meaning the author has made a connect with me on a deep level, that the character has left its imprint on me, an indelible mark that will stay with me.
CONCLUSION
E-Reading-Material : If it isn’t printed, it isn’t a book. Period, end of discussion. Jai Raam Ji Ki. Namaste. Sayonara. That says it all. But, sadly, this is here, and to stay. It has many advantages – and I concede them all, so may as well get used to them! Whoever said development is good?????? Would I read them again – yes, depending on the genre.

The Book – definitely worth a read. It is a well-crafted piece of art {book when in printed form}, that is a fast and light read. The stories make a deep connect with you, have a life of their own, and are written in simple prose. The cover the full range of human emotions, and leave you in a very different mood than when you started out; they are short, sharp, fast reads, full of the flavours of life in every form. This is a good option for a journey, as it is in easy format {E-R-M}, easily available, and light. 


“This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours.  To know more log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in
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Book Review – Make Success A Habit ; 50 Stories That Enlighten, Empower, Energise and Entertain

Published October 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

This current book under review is quite unlike any I have reviewed, with only one – Subir Chaudhury’s The Difference – making as much of a connect with me – as a professional. As a person, this book has connected with me big-time; but that is something I will reserve for a private conversation / communication with the Author, Mukul Deva. Almost every page of this book, taken seriously, is a learning and an experience. In light of the above preamble, let me depart from normal custom or style, and quote lines from an iconic Hindi song, one which came to my mind as I was reading one of the stories contained in this collection of 50 real life case studies.

इक दिन बिक जाएगा, माटी के मोल
जग में रह जाएंगे, प्यारे तेरे बोल
दूजे के होंठों को, देकर अपने गीत
कोई निशानी छोड़, फिर दुनिया से डोल
इक दिन बिक जायेगा   …
{Source : Lyricsindia.net}
We, in the daily humdrum of business, rarely give time to focus on the small, tiny and seemingly irrelevant, or unimportant, or lesser vital, or basic issues & habits that go into making us a professional and a person. So acute is our focus on ourselves, our KRAs, our lives, our desires, our ambitions  that we forget these rock-bottom basics. These are the bedrock of life; be it personal or be it professional. This exclusive focus tends to take us away from our maximum potential, rather than make us more effective in achieving our potential. That is why we need to re-train, re-charge, re-focus, and look for – introspect – analyse ourselves to make us better people and better professionals.

Mukul Deva

That, in a nutshell, is the lesson I have drawn from this book. Now the question in your mind ought to be, what is that song doing in between a perfectly reasonable business discussion? That brings me to the story number 45 in the book – my own sticky pad notes on it should be self-explanatory. I wrote : In this {story}, the lesson is that the basics of care, honour, decency, respect & importance should be provided with and to each person we speak to – professionally as well as personally. The lines above also says much the same – in an oblique fashion; if we can get others to sing our tune – we are done. They wont sing freely unless they like, understand & agree to it! The key here is that this is not a theory – this is told through a real life success & turnaround story.
All too often, we treat people roughly, or don’t listen to them, or half-listen, or insult, or ignore them – leading to long-term damage down the line. The impact of this behavour on business bottom and top lines, professional relationships etc  is amorphous in real life – in this book, a clear line has been drawn for us. And this is something that repeated in 50 case studies, all around small with vital aspects in Business or in life.
You have stories around communication, team handling, development and management – building scalability – sustainability – performance in teams / developing teams and members; personal development -goal setting, thought management; simple yet often ignored managerial processes, the importance of sticking to the basics and fundamentals in this ever-increasingly paced life, values & ethics, training self to inculcate process oriented thinking, leadership & leadership roles; and more.
This is a review – not a summary; therefore, I have to stop here. But, let me organize the above into some fashion of order. The stories contend around Leadership, Team Management, Team Development, Personal Development in broad categories. The various real life case studies together provide a multi-faceted look at different parameters of the above broad categories. Each story has names and details changed – but is a real story, from a Business perspective. Here you will learn the importance of the small, the basic, and the intangible things that separate good from great is the way I put it.  
That said, I do have a grouse; it was surprising to note top managers not having a connect with, or not giving importance to, some things that are clearly basic to any business : a shared  vision, values, ethics, basic decency, team development, empowerment etc are all fundamental requirements of a strong performing sustainable and scalable team. Without these, the team may return excellent performance over a short period – but will lack sustainability and scalability. A leader needs to, above all, ensure that teams and their performance are sustainable and scalable. That is precisely what goes wrong as sales go up, and resultant quality and customer experience goes down – leading to sales losses!  And this book also teaches us the way we can avoid that pitfall!

Now, all stories will not hold equal attraction for all – there may be some areas where you are doing fine. Thus, you have to pick and choose. Question is – how do you pick? The only way you can judge where you yourself are upto speed is do the small questions at the end of each case study – these questions are self-analytical, and provide insights as to where you need to work on. I used sticky notes to annotate my thoughts where I found relevance to me  to work on. But that is my style; you can do it any way you choose to.  All in all, rated 5 stars, must read book for businesses and professionals alike!

Book Review – Re-Imagining India: Unlocking The Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower

Published October 14, 2017 by vishalvkale

Re-Imagining India – Unlocking The Potential Of Asia’s Next Superpower is a collection of essays by an eclectic mix of writers from various fields, Indian as well as foreign, edited by McKinsey & Company. It is subdivided into 6 sections : Reimagining, Politics & Policy, Business & Technology, Challenges, Culture & Soft Power, and India In The World. The authors of the essays range from Foreign Policy experts, to businessmen, to eminent Indian sportspersons, to journalists – listing some pretty famous and accomplished individuals from the various fields. Out of a total of approximately 63  essays, approximately 21-22 are by foreign authors; this gives a nice gives, while also being revealing

Mckinsey

THE NEGATIVES
First, for a book on Reimagining India, I got the distinct impression that the focus on agriculture was woefully inadequate, underrepresented – and in some ways questionable.  Agriculture & Rural India comprises the majority of the people, of employment; by contrast, there were few essays on this topic. The few that were present did not deal with the issues by and large. In fact, only one dealt with the relevant issues directly – India’s Farms, Harvesting The Future on Pg 247. Agreed that Energy, for example, is an issue – but when you give more real space that as opposed to Agriculture / Rural Sector, then it becomes hard for me to see how you can re-imagine India!
Second, several write-ups by foreign authors {Exceptions prove the rule} are preachy, slightly impractical; and in at least one or two cases, unimplementable and objectionable. For example, the foreign policy “experts” who opined, some of them at any rate, were off the mark by nearly 100%. The Americans were quick to shift the blame, as I perceived it, off their own shoulders, and advising India to take the forward step! What else have we been doing all these years? So, that part was frankly the worst in the book. But it does serve to highlight the fact that The West still has somewhere near zero idea of India, sadly.
THE POSITIVES
There were many top essays that provoke thought – all of them by Indians, bar one. Next time, kindly use more of Indian Authors – people who understand India, not look at it through either rose-tinted, partially informed, uninformed or through biased lenses! And that one is the Polio essay by Bill Gates, which was stupendous to put it mildly. Moving on, I recommend the thought provoking essays by Ruchir Sharma, Anand Mahindra in the first section; topping it with the classy Gurcharan Das essay dealing with hard reform, dealing with citizens and institutions.
The book comes alive in the second section, with a series of really educative essays starting off with Sonia Faleiro on Rural Women empowerment, and Shekar Gupta’s Something Is Working being topped off with Ashotosh Varshney’s essay on regionalism, language, diversity & federalism – these make the forceful point that our decisions on Language, Federalism are excellent. There were many other essays that are noteworthy: Aziz Premji is another example. I found the western critics in this section uniformly negative, which is strange considering the topic. You don’t reimagine by criticizing; you do so by suggesting positivity and change for what isn’t working. There is a fine dividing line.
The third section is on Business; and misses the bus by somewhere around 81%. The Indian Economy is 19% Corporate India, around 60% MSME + Unorganised, and rest Agriculture. Not one of these latter 2 – not one- appeared significantly anywhere. What is more, I noticed 9 of the 16 essays by non-Indians! Who is expected to know more about my economy & business environment – Indians, or outsiders? Among all the 16 essays, I found barely 2 or 3  upto the mark, so I shall not name them. Suffice it to state this section was uniformly preachy or anecdotal.
The lackluster third section is made up for by the fourth section – 100% Indian almost, or at least Indian Origin {if anyone was an NRI or PIO – I don’t know, didn’t check}. Again, slightly skewed – what is our biggest challenge? Without a shade of doubt, it isn’t energy; it is Poverty and Rural Employment specifically agriculture. Energy is but an offshoot of vaious sectoral challenges- and is a part of the solution. But you cannot give a proper solution without first defining the problem! And here, one essay – India’s Farms – Harvesting The Future by Barnik Maitra and Adil Zainulbhai stands out as best not just in the section, but in the entire book.  That said, this section does identify Health care and education – brining some sense of balance to the book, elevating it to a large degree.
The fifth section again loses it – cannot understand the relevance of Mumbai Movies, Cricket, Chess, Western impression of our culture and arts, restaurants, and Olympics – not to Reimagining India! Not when we have other pressing concerns. Nonetheless, most of the essays in this section are good, and  written by Indians by and large, thus practical and realistic. The one that stands out- Suhel Seth on The Fourth Estate – kudos for that one.  
The sixth section is preachy in its foreign policy; you can safely ignore 100% of foreign policy essays in this as impractical, and / or one-sided views as the case may be. But in this lackluster segment – two essays lift it on their own single shoulders each; the heart-warming, and yet though-provoking class write-up by Kumar Manglam Birla on adapting to changing environment, India as a nation and more; and the top piece by Ahmed Rashid on India-Afghanistan
THE CONCLUSION

All in all, rated two-and-a-half stars. The essays are good – by and large; the ones that identify the problems & suggest probably solutions; or the ones that impart positivity. The critical ones- God knows we have much to be critical about – well, frankly – it is dead easy for an outsider to criticize – what about a solution? Have you lived here? Are you aware of the ground realities? And the Indian articles that criticized, well – they were correct, and spot-on; but taken all together, the book simply fails to connect, and does not achieve its objective of Re-Imagining India. It gives an excellent idea, to be fair – but the negatives pull it down. Not worth the original price; I got it as a hefty discount! 

Book Review – India’s Most Fearless

Published September 26, 2017 by vishalvkale

A BOOK LONG OVERDUE
India’s Most Fearless is a book that has been long overdue – a book dealing with the stories of some of India’s decorated Armed Forces Personnel. We are a nation that for some reason lacks the literary habit of documenting the exploits of the heroes who defend our borders and our people; not only that, we lack a habit of covering the stories of these heroes, these brave soldiers once the immediate relevancy of the situation fades, and the passage of time brings fresh memories to the fore. Therefore, it is great to see a rising tendency of documenting these heroes; the current book is the second book in that genre, with the first being The Brave -Paramvir Chakra Stories, the story of our Paramvir Chakra vijetas.


THE AIR FORCE AND THE NAVY
The other great part of this book is the equal prominence it gives to the three arms of the Forces : The Army, The Air Force, and The Navy. It is this which makes this book a must read, and not just for aficionados, civilians, but also for just about every Indian citizen who can read. For what is perhaps the first time, we get to read of the doings of our Naval Forces and our Air Force.  As a matter of fact, having read a news article on the IAF during Kargil as well as Gen Malik’s book on the war, there is a need to bring out the IAF side of the story and their contributions, if feasible under law.
The authors, or their advisors, or the forces, or whomsoever it was that gave this idea-  perhaps all of the above – deserve a standing ovation from all for this. The Air and Naval wings get the much-needed coverage, which brings out a full picture of the extent, scope and range of heroism on display; it also serves to put the required depth and understanding of the word  “Bravery”, as well as take us into at least some of the nuances of these wings of our Armed Forces.
WHY IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT
How do you review a book that is centered on true stories of bravery, courage, sacrifice of the people we have entrusted with protecting us? You certainly cant analyse the content, not beyond a point; civilians don’t have the depth perception and understanding, domain expertise to pass judgement. In that light, I make no comment whatsoever on the content – I am not qualified. The question this review tries to answer is why should a reader read this book, what value it adds, and what extra does it possess? What is it that makes this different? I have raised one such point above.
The next point in this book is the coverage of the Air and Naval wings helps us appreciate the nature and context of these wings, a subject which we aren’t too aware of for various reasons. The difficulties of mounting operations in these wings, and the hardships and challenges they face in the conduct of their activities, the level of mental acuity, quick response and agility required, and the aspect of physical toughness required for even a sailer or a pilot is brought out well enough in these stories. You are left in admiration at all these qualities displayed by each officer in question in the stories, and how they saved the situation under the most trying of circumstances – Yemen evacuation, or be it near-crashes.
THE ARMY
Coming to the Army, what can I say – when I am reading the true and full story of a couple of events that are still fresh in memory- the two Surgical Strikes in Myanmar and Pakistan in the past 2 years? Here you will find their stories; but there is more. Oh, much, much more : and it isn’t all about war and fighting. As we saw above, here too, we see stories that help us understand what makes a soldier a soldier, and that it isn’t war alone that carries risks or requires toughness. This is the book that will drive home the hard point that our Armed Forces are required to be tough every day, every night, 24*7*365. Try doing that on your job, any job. Is this true? Being an Army Colonel’s Son, I know that for a fact. If you believe toughness and hardship is only in battle, read this book.
ABOVE ALL – THE FAMILIES
But above all of this; above the stories, above the courage – which by the way is of a mind-numbing variety; you will scarcely be able to believe what these heroes pulled off – rises the Armed Forces Family and their strength. Again, knowing my mom, I know this to be true. The stories of the families, their courage, their fortitude bring a tear to the eyes. You are left with no doubt in your mind that the real strength of these brave men comes from their families. A quiet and silent thanks is due to every single Army Air Force and Naval family… this book is a tribute to them, and my personal thanks to the author Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh for bringing this out in this tour-de-force.
CONCLUSION

Even in their deaths, these heroes end up teaching us something. In their courage, those who survived teach us something. The families teach us something. And I don’t mean patriotism, Jingoism or whatever. Being tough is essential – but each and every single one of these stunning stories is a tribute to the capability of the human mind, human spirit and what it can achieve if it can be trained to keep its cool, keep calm, as that brings out the toughest responses to any situation. Reading this book is like an adrenaline shot, as it teaches you the merit of calmness and reasoned response! 

But at the last, The Entire Indian Army, Air Force and Navy deserves a note of thanks for their cooperation in allowing these stories to be published, so that we can all learn from the deed of our Brave men, so that we can all appreciate our protectors all the more… 

Book Review – Assassins by Mukul Deva

Published September 21, 2017 by vishalvkale

Ravinder Singh Gill is back; and he is back with a bang! I, of course, refer to the character Ravinder Singh Gill from the Mukul Deva stable of fiction – the latest book under review is Assassins, a Ravinder Singh Gill Novel authored by the king of action thrillers himself – Mukul Deva. And, though I am frankly tired of saying so now, yet again – the novel is c.o.m.p.l.e.t.e.l.y different from the others; each novel of Mr Deva is different unique – and this is no exception. The story, the plot, the flow and the narrative are different yet again; only the pace is the same – again, a Mukul Deva signature.

Mukul Deva

THE PLOT,
The plot essentially carries on from its predecessor – “The Dust Will Never Settle” {Reviewed on my blog here}. The main protagonist – Ravinder Singh Gill has now retired, and is in effect convalescing after the personally shattering events of that mission. Unfortunately, intelligence is received on a forthcoming attack on the Pakistani ex-dictator as well as the Prime Minister during a visit to India. That brings to India one of the close friends of Mr Gill, now a top British Lawman, who manages to get Ravinder Singh Gill involved in the hunt, given that the suspected hitman is their common once-best friend.
The 3 share a personal tragedy – which has clear ramifications for all during this hunt; the hunted killer – Leon Binder – blaming Gill specifically for a sad tragedy; Edward Kingsley – quiet but disturbed on this matter; and Gill – for whom this tragedy was going to increasingly come back, just as for Binder. To make matters more interesting, Leon Binder is getting all status reports from within the hunter team of law enforcers, making for a terrifying climax to this story.
THE ANALYSIS
As you can see, there isn’t much of a plot that I have stated; the book blurb on the back of the book says even less, almost nothing in fact. And for that, there is a reason – no way I can tell more without lessening your reading pleasure, so let us leave it at that. The book is, from page one, a classic hunt novel, right till the last page – one unbroken, breakneck speed unputdownable book; the story of a chase. And not just any chase – for all the key characters, it is the chase of a lifetime, of a career.
The plot unfolds from 3 perspectives – the hunted killer perspective, as Leon Binder goes about laying his plot to kill; the treachery perspective as the traitor – who is revealed from the start – goes about betraying his own pals colleagues and seniors, and the hunter perspective, that of the story of the hunt. If this reminds you of Forsyth – stop comparing, for it isn’t similar. The admixture of human emotions, frailties, tensions and past history makes this not quite so simple a story. And the classic admixture of desires, fears, ambitions and personal plans of each main actor in the story makes it absolutely unique.
Each perspective is detailed exhaustively, building a complete background as you are able to relate to each character as a human, a real living person rather than a bare literary figure. Each character comes alive in front of your eyes as you  read, which is the highlight of this book. The way continuity has been maintained in the character plot is sheer class, a point where several top authors of chain novels falter, as I have noted for one previous chain series earlier.
As the hunt gets personal, the tensions ratchets up fiercely as no quarter is asked for and none spared; the hunted killer and the traitor staying one step ahead of the hunters for the most part, making for a very highly tense and riveting read. However, the narrative doesn’t feel dark, unlike one other novel of the same author, which is quite an achievement. The pace is simply too fast, too frenetic, as parry and thrust, counter and counter-counter come one after the other from each of the three sides of the equation.

Adding to the tension is the exhaustive detailing of each strategy as the players do their best to emerge on top in this novel – one of the finest hunt and chase novels I have ever read, to be completely frank. You will be forced to control your impatience, forced to stop yourself from peeking ahead and skipping a few pages to see how things turn out, as the tension builds, yet – the pull of the narrative keeps you glued to the current page. As I said – one of the finest hunt novels in a long, long time indeed!

Book Review : India – Priorities For The Future By Bimal Jalan

Published September 10, 2017 by vishalvkale

India – Priorities For The Future is a book that can be best described as being at the cross-roads of politics and Economics, which makes it quite unique. It is a very thought provoking and deep analysis of this intersection of these two vital aspects of our nation, concerning itself with the Economy of the country, its performance through the years in numbers as well as Macro Factors; and the political aspects of this, that is – the decisions, involved decision makers, systemic weaknesses and plus points as they exist and what needs to be done.
Bimal Jalan


As can be seen from the short preamble above, this is quite wide a scope, and seems daunting. The best part is that the entire scope has been dealt with remarkable aplomb and sufficient depth, while at the same time not exceeding too many pages. This is a very short, {well – relatively short anyways, considering the topic and the scope – 180-odd pages} book, and all the arguments are presented in a superbly logical and yet delightfully succinct manner.
The book is divided into two logical sections – “India Then”, reflecting the period from 1980 – 2000; and “India Now”, reflecting the period from 2000 onwards till 2015. The first section highlights the initiation of the reform process that started in the 1980s, and the second section looks at the situation and strategies taken up from the 2000, till almost the present time, 2015. While looking at the economic side, the book also consistently looks at the political side as well, taking pains to analyse the impact of the political situation and the political aspect of economic decisions.
This approach is what sets the book apart, and elevates this into the realm of one of the finest books to be written on the Indian Economy, as it creates a complete picture in broad strokes of where we are, where our weaknesses lie, and where we need to go in order to develop and take the nation forward. In fact, in more ways than one, it highlights the politico-bureaucratic bottlenecks and problems, and looks at how these can be overcome. That is the main thrust; the arguments, however, are economic and developmental in nature rather than political.
THE FIRST SECTION- The 1980s onwards
It is the general impression that the Indian Economy was reformed from 1991; this book puts paid to that impression, and takes one into the reality: the reforms process which started in the 1980s, the reforms taken then with steps like loosening of direct controls especially in Industrial Licencing. Several committees were set up on trade policy, PSU Policy, and shift from physical to financial control. Several of their recommendations were implemented. The result was industrial growth averaged 8% from 1985-1990 as an example.
Despite all of this, by 1991, the situation was dire, and the Economy was in doldrums. This is where the book acquires a life of its own, so to speak – and does a hard-hitting fact based politico-economic analysis of the fall of the Indian Economy’s reasons in three hard hitting chapters. The stunning aspect is that this fall happened when the Agricultural production was at its peak, and Industrial production was showing good growth.  The fact that the Economy despite that is a wonder, and needs explanation – I recommend you read the book for that.
Also in this section is a superb analysis of the Economic Strategy of the 1950s onwards, with solid reasoning, proving how no other approach was feasible given the overall conditions then in presence. This is a welcome correction, given the public misapprehension regarding this. As it moves into the late 1980s, we run into the paradox of good Industrial and Manufacturing, good Agriculture, in the run-up to the crisis. Here, the impact of the Gulf War, Oil Shocks, BoP situation. Collapse of the USSR, combined with our export scenario and unstable internal political environment In 1989-1991 – and how these carried into the crisis is a lesson in MacroEconomics for all readers.
THE SECOND SECTION – 2000 Onwards…
In my opening remarks, I had noted that this book is right at the intersection of Economics and Politics; the second part is where this book comes alive to transform into one of the most pertinent blunt and factual take-downs of our approach it has ever been my fortune to read. The author has gone deep into the Indian Economic-Political scenario, pulling out problems that we all  knew existed – but no one wanted to talk about… until now. The first section was a build-up, analyzing how we got where we are today, and what has been done. The second one takes off from there, building a classic case for some hard reform, and tackling the issues head-on.
As early as in the 3rd chapter of the first section, the author has identified lack of exportable products, the systemic problems plaguing us and the problems in the Public sector as contributory causes. Che goes much deeper in the second section, building the case for strong systemic reform, outlined in the magnificent last chapter of the book. The erosion of quality in the Public Sector has been discussed at some length again, pointing out the inability of the Public Sector to generate surpluses for investment over the past. Also noted are the growing Private-Public debate.
The most significant part of the book is the longest chapter, the 6th one – Politics and Governance, which forms the meat of the analysis in the book. It goes deep into the system of governance- looking at the Judiciary and its relationship with the Executive, and Legislature; the erosion of the values {or conduct to be specific} of the political class, accountability of the Cabinet – the myth versus the reality, noting with candid clarity that the Parliament and the Legislatures generally do what the Government wants them to do, rather than the other way around. He identifies the 3 key impediments – Deadweight of the past, power of distributional coalitions and growing disjuncture between Economics and Politics; concluding with a stunning observation on Pg 112-113 : Alleviation of Poverty is not an important criterion in determining electoral outcomes!
The next chapter – the 7th – is the shortest; but deals with the most fundamental aspect – the myth of the separation of powers, and once again in typical candid and dispassionate form. This looks at Centre-Judiciary Relations, Collective Responsibility,  Lack of accountability, Problems in Parliament and its functioning, and the Politicization of Administration. As can be seen, each and every one is a deep, systemic and fundamental issue where we need to introspect… The last chapter – well, I recommend you read it for yourself.
CONCLUSION

In conclusion – this isn’t a book on Economics, or on the Indian Economy per se. The title says India – Priorities for the Future; and that is precisely what this book is all about. As the books notes candidly in our development record as on date, our performance has many deep seated issues. These issues – the most important ones – are on the intersection of Economics and Politics; or rather – squarely in the Political Zone. Economics enters into it as we measure growth in Economic terms. Administrative reforms, Decriminalisation of Politics, Federation, Subsidy Rationalisation, Ministerial responsibility – if made more efficient, can have a defined impact on our nation and its Economy… 

Book Review – The 30 Something CEO by Vineet Bajpai

Published September 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is not a book for everyone – and these aren’t just my words; this is what the author has also opined in the course of this very thought-provoking book. This is for ambitious; hard working people; people willing to sacrifice; and people with a dream – and the willingness, courage and mental strength to continuously follow that dream for the elusive sweet smell and taste of success. This isn’t a book meant only for the corporate chap; anyone who has all the above – even one less wont do – can learn a lot from both, what has been mentioned in book, as well as what hasn’t been mentioned.
Vineet Bajpai
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Any book has both positives as well as negatives; in fact – anything in life has both aspects to it. This book is no different; rather than call them negatives, I will them them things the author has missed – for silence on an issue is not the same as disagreeing. There aren’t many of them, to be honest; but nonetheless, I would be being less than fair if I did not mention them. Hence, let me first tackle the task of the issues of silence.

MISSES
This is a book that identifies and gives insights on how you can succeed in any endeavor; given this theme, the most vital ingredient should be – values. There is no mention of this in the entire book; the second aspect that is needed is integrity and honesty – again, no mention anywhere. I am not a CEO; but basis my life experience, these three are among the most vital ingredients. In order that you run a clean organization, you cannot hope to survive without having these three – not with the pressures of running a modern organization. Compromising on these three will give short- to mid- term results, not long term. It may be that the author considers them a basic quality, that does not need mention. However, given the world we live in, it is vital that a straight linkage between these three and sustainable victory is established through the example of a role model.
PLUSES
Too many management gurus have neglected to mention quite a few of the points that find a mention in this book; and yet – it is a fact that what has been mentioned by the author is gospel, of that there is no doubt in my mind. Backbreaking hard work, sacrifice, work-life balance, belief in your dreams, persistence and resilience are all small-sounding words, and yet – there is no escape from even one of these; and no – these are not in abundance – I am in total agreement with the author here.
These aren’t so simple to understand; hard work, for an excellent example. This doesn’t mean staying late; you can stay and do nothing productive, trust me. How do I know that? Because I have on occasion seen people goof off, while adding no value. Hard work means actually working; it means making those extra sales calls; clearing those 5 extra documents from your desk and so on. Resilience doesn’t mean dogmatism – it means using your experience and judgment and effort to keep at it longer than others have been doing; this I know from personal example. I once turned around an area cause I wouldn’t admit defeat; and just doggedly kept at it. Result was an area that hadn’t performed for years gave its potential numbers. And trust me – no high-faluting management fundas worked; just hard work and resilience, just keeping at it.
These are the elusive soft skills trainers should be talking about; these are the learnings that managers should be trying to inculcate in their juniors, these are the qualities one should be looking for; sadly, these are the qualities that are far too often taken completely for granted. And these are core habits – in my opinion, you cant have a management training schedule that teaches you even one of these; you have to do it yourself.

The question will arise in the mind of everyone that why are these so important? The ones I have mentioned, and the others in the book that together create a powerful plus – these offer a person, a leader that slight edge over the competition; and in the modern world, a slight edge is frequently all that you need. There is much that is wrong with the business world; and doing all the things may not guarantee you success; but it will ensure you keep fighting fit and gung-ho even if you don’t succeed as much as you could have. For, realistically, to be at that height, you also require – as the book correctly spots, enterprise and the mental aptitude to take risk, and the education & intelligence to be among the fastest to spot an opportunity…