“The Girl Who Lived” by Christopher Greyson

I was reading a thriller after quite some time. This one was, ” The Girl Who Lived ” by Christopher Greyson. I found it quite interesting though at times there was a lot of repetition. The author hammered home points building the the character of Faith Winters in the story of four murders that took place years ago in a small town in America. She was the survivor- and of course- “the girl who lived”.

Faith’s traumatic experiences are chronicled in great detail. As one reads more of the story, the reader develops a soft corner for her as she is very much the underdog. She has spent time in a mental asylum, has problems of drugs and alcohol. As a consequence her mind is pretty messed up. Yet one part of her mind ceaselessly tries to assemble the bits of the puzzle that is driving her crazy: a huge need to find out what actually happened that day years ago when her sister, her father and two others were killed in mysterious circumstances in a cottage in the woods.

She returns to that town when she is discharged from the mental asylum, determined to find a closure on what has been bugging her for years. She has no one she can trust. Her dead sister’s boyfriend is in the local Police force. He tries to help Faith but she is not sure how much she can confide in him. Her relationship with her mother continue to be strained. Her mother has written a best selling book about the murders. This angers Faith who believes the has cashed in on a family tragedy.

In the course of the story, Faith is driven to desperation, enough to make her contemplate ending her life. However, she stumbles on from one clue to another. It then dawns on her that while she is looking for the killers, someone is hunting her down! She must find the killers before they kill her to silence her forever.

The book leaves you with an interesting climax! Greyson’s thriller is well worth the time and money you spend reading it.

“Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer

Firstly, let me make a confession. I really didn’t know as much about Swantraveer Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 1883-1966) as I ought to. Having lived in Mumbai briefly, I knew of course that the old Cadell Road in Mumbai had been re-named Veer Savarkar Marg. I had no idea he had died just a few years before my time there.

I had heard of course about his long years of imprisonment by the British in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, there was much about his life and career that I did not know. Continue reading ““Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer”

“A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey

For many in my generation, mention of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) in the United States, brings memories of J Edgar Hoover. He was Mr FBI for citizens of the US and indeed many other parts of the world as he held that position from 1947 to 1972. After Hoover there have been many Directors of the FBI but I, and most others, don’t know much about them. In more recent times, a FBI Director who was very much in the news was James Comey. You may recall that he was fired by President Donald J Trump when he was the seventh Director of the FBI.

Mr Comey has written about his stint as the FBI Director and this incident in a book called, ” A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership “ published by Flatiron Books in April 2018. I read this book recently and found it quite interesting. The essence of the book is Mr Comey’s argument that those holding high office in the US Federal Government owe allegiance to that office and not to whoever happens to be the President of the United States at that point in time. He served as the FBI Director from 2013, when he was appointed to the post by President George W Bush till 2017 when he was unceremoniously fired by President Donald J Trump.

Comey was not a career FBI officer in that he did not start as a FBI Special Agent. He did his Masters in Law from the Chicago Law School then joined the Department of Justice as the US Assistant Attorney in New York. As US Attorney he successfully carried out many cases against organized crime in the New York area, including the dreaded Mafia. Apart from many years in Govt service, Comey also worked for private enterprises such as Lockheed Martin and Bridgewater Associates. He was selected by the Bush administration to become head of the FBI. He writes at length about the personalities he had to deal with during the Bush and the Obama administrations.

Before and during the 2016 Presidential election, Comey was investigating the Hillary Clinton emails case and came under criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike! The Republicans felt he was going soft on the Senator from New York and pressed hard for quicker action against her, while the Democrats felt he wasn’t aggressive enough in defending her in a case which was no longer relevant. Comey explains his role quite candidly and gives us more information than we knew before. Even to this day people believe this case did influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential elections.

During the Trump Presidency, Comey felt he was being directed to be loyal to the President as an individual, which he could not bring himself to do. The book has Mr Comey’s lessons on ethics and leadership. It gives a comprehensive insight into the politics of high office, especially in such a sensitive role as Director of the FBI.

“Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Being an unabashed fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s, I loved “Unaccustomed Earth” a collection of short stories, first published by Albert A. Knopf in 2008. I had the pleasure of reading this recently. Ms. Lahiri was not a new author for me as I had read her famous novel, “Namesake” in the past, as also her first anthology of short stories, called ” The Interpreter of Maladies” some years ago.

You may recall that at age 32, she gained immediate fame for the debut ” The Interpreter of Maladies” in 1999. This collection of short stories received popular acclaim. She received the coveted Pulitzer Prize and it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for long. The stories were typically set in the East Coast of the United States. I guess all the stories had a common theme. They were about the lives of Indian Americans and the challenges faced by first generation immigrants. The author knew this part of the US the best having grown up there. Ms Lahiri’s parents migrated from India to the UK in the 1960’s and when she was three, moved to the US. She then grew up in the State of Rhode Island.

This collection of short stories, titled, “Unaccustomed Earth” coming as it does, about a decade later, shifts focus somewhat to the second generation of Indian American immigrants. Their lives have been vastly different from that of their parents. Their parents had to struggle to balance between two cultures, the Indian culture which they were born and brought up in, and the one they had voluntarily embraced with their new lives in a different country. For the second generation of Indian Americans, the issues were rather different. The ties with India were not so strong or fading away with time. They faced a new set of challenges being Americans -but of Indian origin.

As always, Ms Lahiri writes in a simple yet elegant manner. Her choice of words, and the descriptions of people and places are deft. They make her characters come alive to the reader. The book has eight short stories, each one more engaging than the other. They have a tinge of sadness that one has come to associate with many of Lahiri’s stories. As always, the characters are primarily Bengali though the stories are set in different places such as Seattle, and Cambridge in the US and London, Rome and Thailand outside of the US. Naturally, the Rumas, the Pranabs and Kaushiks of the stories belong to a world with which Lahiri is so familiar.

It is widely acknowledged that short stories are very difficult to write. Her mastery over this craft is so evident in her writing. Highly recommended for anybody who appreciates excellent writing. This is short story writing of the highest order.

“My Life In Full” by Indra Nooyi

I would recommend this book to every Indian student of business and practicing professionals as well for it was an absorbing read. The full title is “My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future” and it was first published by Portfolio in September 2021.

This is the story of Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi – a middle class Tamil girl born in Chennai, India in 1955, who we now know for having been the CEO of PepsiCo– one of the largest business corporations in the world. There were many firsts in her career. Ms Nooyi was the first woman to become the CEO of PepsiCo , the first person of colour and an immigrant to reach the highest position in a Fortune 50 corporation. For many years, she featured in the list of The Most Powerful Women in the world.

Like most middle-class families in Chennai- if not everywhere in India- the focus of her early life was on attaining a good education. She says in her conservative Brahmin family, “education was everything”. Naturally, from a young age she was accustomed to striving for excellence- a high priority for her family. In her early life, she looked up to her paternal grandfather, apart from her parents, for guidance and support in all that she did.

Nooyi speaks at length about their house in Chennai. We get considerable detail about her life- growing up with her elder sister, younger brother, parents, and grandfather -in a large house where many traditions were followed. She shone in her studies at the Holy Angels Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, run by Irish nuns, and later at the famous Madras Christian College. In both places, she was an excellent debater and took part in many extra-curricular activities. In those years, it was unheard of to have an all girls rock band but she was part of one!

She then did her Post Graduate Degree in Management from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta . Here she was one of the very few girls in the class, as also one of the few fresh graduates who did not have work experience. On graduation in 1976, she worked with Mettur Beardsell and Johnson & Johnson in India before leaving for the United States for a Master’s degree in Public and Private Management at the Yale University’s School of Management in 1978.

She was selected by the Boston Consulting Group in 1980. Even to this day she rates her experience there very highly. Then followed stints with progressively higher responsibilities at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, where again she achieved considerable professional success. She then joined PepsiCo in 1994. While still in her early 30s, she was in the Executive Group of a major US corporation. She became the President and Chief Financial Officer in 2001 and was appointed as the CEO in 2006. She held that high office till 2018. During her years at the helm of PepsiCo, the business revenues grew by 80 % to $ 63 billion. There were many strategic initiatives she introduced including her much admired Performance with Purpose program.

Ms. Nooyi is candid enough to admit that she had lucky breaks in her career. Fortunately for her, she had mentors who saw the potential in her and helped her develop skills by pushing her towards challenging assignments.

She got married in 1980 to Raj Nooyi. In the book, she writes at length about the struggles they had managing their careers and their growing family of two daughters. Here too she is quick to give credit to her support system by way of family, especially her mother, and other relatives from her husband’s family who pitched in to help them out. By the way, I never knew that Nooyi is a small village in the Dakshina Kannada district of my home state of Karnataka.

She is often asked about how it was to become a woman in the top echelons of corporate life. All over the world, the infamous glass ceiling frequently restricts women from progressing in their careers. Seldom do they reach the very pinnacle as Ms Nooyi did. In this book she shares her views and suggestions, based on her own experience and her observations after interacting with a wide cross section of women at work across all parts of the world.

Overall it was an interesting book. I admire Ms Nooyi for her candidness in describing her career, her family, and the organisations she worked for and led.

Her story is inspirational indeed!

“Humans of Bombay”

It’s been over a month since I had a blog post here. My apologies. We were busy getting ready for our trip to the United States in the third week of February 2022. You can imagine how much we were looking forward to this trip! After all, we had been largely at home for two years or more due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

So, here we are in San Francisco enjoying a vacation with our son. This reminded me of an earlier post of March 2019 in this blog on” Humans Of New York”. I had written about how much I enjoyed the book by Brandon Stanton. I had wished someday someone would start a similar initiative in India.

I didn’t know at that time that young Karishma Mehta had started “Humans of Bombay” on Facebook way back in 2014. She writes that she started with just 10 photographs in her bank . By the end of the first day, her Facebook Page had a thousand likes, which shot up to 10,000 in the first week. I see now that over 1.3 million people have liked the Facebook Page.

You will find much more information on the “Humans Of Bombay” initiative in their website . This includes links to their blog, press coverage, and how you can collaborate with them.

Recently reading the book – “Humans Of Bombay” – , first published by Popular Prakashan in 2017- was a truly delightful experience. The stories chosen for the book are interesting, touching, and heart warming. They are so easy to relate to for one who has lived a lifetime in India.

Special mention must be made of the photographs which accompany each story in the book. They greatly enhance the interest in the story. Most of the stories are short, a page at best. A small number of them spread over a few pages while a few are made up of just a few sentences! This adds to the charm of the compilation. You will notice that in most of the stories the identity of the person involved is not disclosed.

What makes the book fascinating is that the stories cover people of different ages, religions, and economic strata of society. Yet despite the wide diversity, the issues are real, and people speak from their hearts.

If you want to experience Bombay through the eyes of an interesting cross section of its inhabitants, read this book! As you might know, Bombay has been renamed Mumbai since 1996 but old timers like me are more accustomed to Bombay. As Karishma Mehta herself writes, ‘Read this book, the Bombay way. With some cutting chai and far from healthy vada pav, and if you are away from Bombay, salivate at the thought of it. But for now, allow me to welcome you to the city of dreams.”

Highly recommended.

Action at the IPL Auction

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is probably the richest cricket tournament in the world. Brand Finance, the renowned brand value consultancy pegs its value at $4.7 billion! Naturally, it attracts players from all the major cricket playing countries, and some of the lesser known ones too. Decades ago, the emoluments of India’s cricketers was really measly. They used to envy players from the so called ” developed” countries such as England, Australia, and New Zealand for their compensation. The wheel has turned full circle. In the last decade, players from these very countries hope for a lucrative IPL contact – these could change their fortunes!

This year’s auction was held recently at Bengaluru and 204 players including 67 from overseas were sold for Rs 551 crores. For the uninitiated -in India 1 crore is the equivalent of 10 million. Unlike the last few years, this year there were 10 franchisees bidding for the players with the addition of two new franchisees, the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans.

As if the fast paced action at the auction was not enough, there was a moment of apprehension when the widely respected auctioneer, Hugh Edmeade collapsed and had to receive immediate medical attention. Fortunately he not only responded well to the treatment but was back in action for the concluding part of the auction on the second day!

In Edmeade’s absence, the auctioning was done by Charu Sharma. Overall, he did a good job, I guess. However, I felt at times he was not consistent enough to be a good auctioneer. For some players/teams he was quite liberal with the time he gave for them to decide, for some others he wasn’t half so generous. I also felt he could have been a little more considerate for the young uncapped players. For them this is a make or break opportunity, so maybe a standard time could have been set. We saw some were declared unsold within seconds while others were given more time, which I thought was not fair.

Every IPL auction has its stars who draw the biggest bucks. This article lists the most expensive players over the years, starting from 2008. We have seen, though, that not all of them were very successful in that year. Possibly the sheer pressure of being the highest paid falls heavily on their shoulder. When people begin to calculate how much you cost per ball bowled/faced – you can imagine the pressure the player has to go through!

This year, young Ishan Kishen was the biggest gainer, being paid Rs 15.25 crores to be bought back by a team which did not retain him in the first place, the Mumbai Indians. Each team, as you know, were allowed to retain a maximum of four players, who then would not go into the auction. This brings me to an interesting observation. Should there be a minimum amount fixed for retained players? I ask because many who were not retained got far more by way of the auction. They were better off not being retained!!

The auction went off without a hitch, but there was a controversy when Charu Sharma declared Khaleel Ahmed sold to Delhi Capitals when really he should have gone to Mumbai Indians. He can perhaps be excused as there were so many players to be sold!

The players have made their contracts , now they must earn the big bucks spent on them on the cricket field!

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Statue in New Delhi!

On January 23, 2021, I wrote a blog post here titled, ” Salute To Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” . One more year has gone past and I see far greater interest in the life of this iconic Indian leader than ever before. This is evidenced by a recent event that took place in New Delhi, which I consider momentous.

On January 23, 2022, Netaji’s 125 th birth anniversary , Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Netaji’s statue would be built at a prominent spot near India Gate in our capital city of New Delhi. Netaji’s birth anniversary is being celebrated as Parakram Diwas honoring his courage and that of his troops- men and women- who fought for India’s independence. As many of you will know, Netaji was at the forefront of the war for independence and his Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauz fought the British troops in important battles such as the one in Imphal in 1943. It is perhaps in the fitness of things that Netaji’s statue will be in the same spot where once stood the statue of the British King Emperor George V !

The target date for its inauguration has already been announced as August 15, 2022, India’s Independence Day. Till the statue is made ready, we will have a hologram of Netaji ‘s statue on display. This hologram is 28 feet high and will be powered by a 30,000 lumens projector.

For the youth of today who may not know much about Netaji as our history books have very little on him, a few facts are worth recounting. In October 1943, Netaji established the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore which had fallen to the Japanese during World War 2. He was the Head of State and Prime Minster. Currency in the name of the Free India Government was also printed by the Azad Hind Bank. These were more by way of promissory notes that would become official currency once the British were driven away. “Subh Sukh Chain” was declared the national anthem of Netaji’s Free India and the Sher-e-Hind was the highest military honor instituted by Netaji for the troops of the Indian National Army.

Since the close of World War 2, the story of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has seen many twists and turns. There have been so many versions of his death. No one quite knows the truth. A new book will be published in February 2022 which promises to be interesting. This is “Bose: An Untold Story Of An Inconvenient Nationalist” by Chandrachur Ghose. I, for one, look forward eagerly to reading this.

Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice

January 19, 1990 may be just another date for you and me. However, for the thousands of Kashmir Pandits who had to flee their homeland leaving behind everything, this date will never ever be forgotten.

Today, on January 19, 2022, if we look back at that tragedy, it is fair to say that the Kashmiri Pandits still await justice. A short recapitulation of events that took place in the Muslim-dominated State which was then called Jammu & Kashmir is given in my blog post of January 22, 2020 titled, ” How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi”.

Today, I saw so many tweets from displaced Kashmiri Pandits that are touching. “32 Years and counting. Our genocide is forgotten” says India 4 Kashmir; ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. What About Our Human Rights? ” asks Gita S Kapoor; ” Shameful that even after all these years, the wiping out of a community from our own land is Not recognised as a Genocide, as an act of Civilizational Terrorism. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” tweets Rati Hegde; . These are but a few of the many tweets expressing anguish that not much has happened to bring those responsible for such targeted human suffering to book.

Shedding blood on religious lines is not new to India as our country was born with this as the gory backdrop. I suggest you read my review of ” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole. for perspective of those far away days. The British were in hurry to leave India, and our politicians were in a hurry to grab power. No one imagined the short term consequences and the enormous cost in terms of human suffering.

After the gruesome murders and carnage that took place during the Partition of India, two events stay in the memory as blots in our “secular” society- the first was the Sikh Massacre in 1984 often toned down to be called Anti-Sikh Riots!! Do read my review of books on this subject elsewhere in this blog. One of them needs particular mention, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

The second was the Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. A book worth reading is Rahul Pandita’s, ” Our Moon Had Blood Clots” published in 2013 which captures his memories of fleeing Kashmir as a 14 year old in 1990. No one knows the true figures but certainly hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and their family members were raped, killed, or brutally injured when they- over 350,000 of them- were terrorized in leaving their home by pro- Islamic mobs. Why the then Prime Minster, V P Singh did not call out the Indian Army to bring about peace in Kashmir is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he hesitated because he himself had been elected to power only a month or so ago, and did not want to rock the boat of a fragile coalition which he ran.

How the story of the Kashmiri Pandits will end is anybody’s guess. It is astonishing that for far lesser crimes, thousands all over the world -especially certain NGOs -scream about the abuse of Human Rights and Democratic Values. For the hapless Kashmiri Pandits, sadly, there hasn’t been a whisper from them- just a frosty silence. Strange are the ways of our democracies in recognizing and addressing human suffering.

Aiyyo Shraddha

Have you come across Nandini Rao, teacher in Bul Bul Vidya Mandir? Or, Reena Dalal, India’s biggest Makaan Matcher? You will recognize her as the same lady who speaks on National Doctor’s Day, On Goal Setting, On Adoption of Stray Dogs, and on HR practices with equal flair and aplomb. She is none other than Aiyyo Shraddha, who has 1.55 lakh subscribers for her YouTube channel, 20k followers on Twitter, 352,000 followers on Instagram, and 318,000 followers on Facebook!!

Shraddha, is for me, one of India’s best entertainers on view at present. In a world of stand up comedy, where it is considered fashionable in some circles, to have vulgar language, with a lot of f’s and b’s and other expletives thrown in for good measure, she stands apart for her clean- yet remarkable funny shows.

Her shows are what in the old days used to be described as “family” shows. This means -from the grinning 8 year old to the gurgling 80 year old- all can understand and appreciate her wit and humor. Her themes are based on current goings on and naturally topics like Covid, work from home, and all that is going on around us feature in one form or another.

Shraddha, I understand, is a girl from Mangaluru who grew up in Mumbai- hence the mastery over Marathi shown from time to time in her shows. She is equally adept at English, Kannada, Tulu, and Hindi. This is a useful part of her armory, where she can adapt to different roles. Talking of which she plays several roles in the same episode. In a popular series, she is a young lady herself, besides being both her mother and her father!

Like in most middle-class Indian families, her parents too encouraged to do well in academics. Predictably, like many of her background, she completed her engineering and worked for a few years in the IT industry. She then realized that her true calling was in entertainment. She was a RJ in a popular Kannada channel Fever 104FM for nine years. I think the creative resume she sent was one of the best I have ever seen.

Later she became a host/anchor in Colors Kannada and later head of non-fiction content there. She is now on her own, producing , directing, filming and acting out her content on different social media channels. She also played the role of the fiesty landlady of a Women’s PG in Bengaluru in the Amazon Prime hit film, “Pushpavalli”.

In case you haven’t seen her shows yet, do check them out. I am sure those expressive eyes and knock out punch lines will draw you back to her shows, as they do for me.

“Navratri” ed. by Bibek Debroy and Anuradha Goyal

Growing up in the South of India, I knew about the practice of Kolu or Golu during the Navratri festival. In many houses in the locality where we lived, dolls were unpacked with care, arranged tastefully and exhibited for all to view and admire. This was called Bommai Kolu in Tamilnadu and Gombe Habba in Karnataka. The lady of the house often stood there proudly looking on with approval at the elaborate display. Later it became common to have some kind of theme built into the display of dolls.

When I visited Gujarat many years later, I saw an entirely different way of celebrating Navratri. This was through the Garba and “Dandiya Ras” with the ladies swaying to the beat in colorful costumes. I had never seen anything so vibrant and colorful in my life! Later, In West Bengal, I experienced the grandeur of the Durga Puja pandals and all the associated celebrations. Years have passed by, but the beat of the drums while the ladies performed the “Dhunuchi Naach” stays fresh in my mind.

These and more memories flooded my mind when I read the recently published book, ” Navaratri” edited by Bibek Debroy and Anuradha Goyal, published by Rupa Publications. “When Devi Comes Home” is the appropriate byline as we Hindus believe that it is during these nine days/nights that Devi visits us here on earth. The editors have assembled a collection of 16 articles which depict how Navaratri, one of the most important of festivals in Hinduism is celebrated in different parts of India. The descriptions cover not just the background of the festival in each region but the rituals most commonly practiced, along with the other associated elements including food, customs, and cultural events.

Amrita Chakravorty’s book cover design is captivating. It attracts you to read the contents. The book itself is written in fairly simple language and makes one marvel at the rich cultural heritage of our country. From Kashmir in the north to Kerala in the extreme south, from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the East, we are exposed to how the Navaratri festival is celebrated in each of the regions. Needless to say, though the festival of Navaratri has some common elements , it is interesting to note both the similarities and differences, explained in the articles. This diversity adds considerably to the charm of our customs.

As the editors explain, ” The common thread among all the Navaratri celebrations is the devotion to Devi, who is also the Prakriti or Nature manifested all around us, of which we are a small part.” The editors have arranged the book in 16 chapters which pretty much cover the entire country. I was happy to see that celebrations in places like Konkan and Assam -which tend to get ignored as compared to the bigger and more famous celebrations elsewhere- were also covered. There is a chapter too on Nepal, the only Hindu country in the old today.

In the nine days of Navaratri, Devi is worshipped in Her different forms. This book makes you feel as if you are physically there- in the midst of the frenzy that typifies community worship. So well are the rituals and cultural events described! You can sense the smells and sounds of the celebrations as if you are there in person to join the thousands of worshippers.

Congratulations to the editors for bringing this book to us. It is extremely informative about the origins of the Navaratri festival and explains why and how Devi came to be worshipped in a particular manner in one or the other region.

“Business as ‘Yajna'” : B Anantha Bhat & Team

Many of you will be familiar with quotations from the Bhagavad Gita, the timeless wisdom given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra. These have taught millions of Indians- and increasingly people of other countries all over the world- a set of principles to lead their lives. A kind of moral compass, if you will.

One of the most quoted is, โ€œDo everything you have to do, but not with ego, not with lust, not with envy but with love, compassion, humility and devotion.โ€ Judging by both his actions and words, I can think of few people who have followed this advice as effectively and successfully as Mr Yajna Narayana Kammaje, the Chairman and Managing Director of the privately-held Sona Group of Companies, headquartered in Bengaluru.

The book I review today – “Business As ‘Yajna'”– is about this gentleman. It tells us how he succeeded as a first generation entrepreneur. Apart from this, he positively impacted the lives of thousands of people, many of them from rural areas and from the economically lower strata of our society.

The title itself is quite intriguing. It combines two elements, Yajna Kammaje’s approach and thoughts about doing business and “Yajna” as a person- with a clever play of words. The book was recently released in Bengaluru and described as “Life Lessons from Industrialist: Yagna Narayana Kammaje.” The lead author is Mr B Anantha Bhat, who has worked in the VLSI/Semiconductor technology field for over 30 years in India and abroad. He is an entrepreneur himself. The key drivers of this initiative are some dedicated folks from the National Institute of Technology-Karnataka ( NIT-K)Alumni Association.

Yajna has close ties with this venerable institution which started as the Karnataka Regional Engineering College (KREC) at Surathkal, near Mangaluru in 1960. He did his B.Tech in Electrical Engineering in 1971 and M. Tech in Industrial Electronics in 1973 from this institution.

He was the President of the Alumni Association for many years. In this field too, he excelled. He did more than anybody else in recent times to build and nurture this body. It is now a vibrant alumni association with active members from all over the world.

The lessons from this book are really directed towards entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs. In the India of 2021, it is quite common- and indeed somewhat fashionable in some circles- to talk of entrepreneurs, start ups, venture funds and angel investing.

Things were vastly different in the 1970’s and the decades that followed. For most people a secure job was probably the most important thing in their lives. In such a milieu, Yajna, then a rising star of the famous HMT, who had rapidly grown to the position of Dy General Manager in the Watch Division and clearly ear marked for higher responsibilities chose to give it up and strike out on his own! Considerations that most people would have worried about like having a wife and two children and other family to support, did not come in the way of his dream to start and grow a business. Not just to make money for himself – though of course this was an important parameter – but to give back in good measure to society at large and the less affluent in particular. The second would have been the farthest in the thoughts of most people in such circumstances.

In this venture, immense credit is due to his wife Smt. Vasanthi Kammaje who stood by him like a rock through thick and thin. She has made very significant contributions towards his success as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, since they began their entrepreneurial journey in 1987.

As a student of human behavior, I have seen that often when someone is in need, those with “less” are the first to give while those with “more” are the most reluctant. Likewise, as a proportion of what they have, those with less tend to be far more generous than those with more. Yajna, in my view, is an exception to this general rule. He gave in plenty when he didn’t have much and he continues to give in plenty as he became more wealthy. Charitable causes, religious causes, people in need, employees, vendors, budding entrepreneurs and many others have benefited from his generosity. Often they return with more than what they hoped for, if he thinks theirs is a right cause to support or their need for help is genuine.

What has shaped him to be what he is today? Clearly his disadvantaged start in life has. He came from humble economic origins and knows, more than most, what is means to tb economically disadvantaged. As a consequence, all his life he has worked hard, and worked smart. He has demonstrated his risk taking ability on many occasions- the true differentiator between a real entrepreneur and others who go by that name.

The book is made up of contributed articles by people who have known him and his work. They are too many to list here but they have impeccable reputations and records of distinction in their professional lives. It is written by his professional colleagues, friends and admirers and many who have benefitted from their association with him.

On a personal note, I am proud to know Yajna for a decade or more as we live in the same apartment complex in Bengaluru. Besides, he is from Siddakatte a small village in the Bantwal Taluk of the Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka. And, I happen to belong to Bantwal! Shobana, and I were honoured to receive a copy of the book from Yajna recently.

“Business As ‘Yajna'” is printed and published by Tik-Talker & TradePost and can be ordered through Amazon. I would urge not just those who wish to become entrepreneurs but indeed any one in business to read this book. It is replete with lessons on how to conduct oneself with humility and consideration for others while being successful in business.