“The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark” by John Duffy & Ray Nowosielski

As you would expect from such a title, this book is about something that went horribly wrong. It sure looks like the watchdogs didn’t bark!! Would you believe that the horrendous events of 9/11 could probably have been avoided, if not the damage vastly minimised?  To refresh your memory, though on this event most do not need reminders, 9/11 must rank as one of the greatest tragedies in American history. On that fateful day in September 2001, Islamic terrorists of Al Qaeda crashed 4 hijacked aeroplanes in a series of meticulously planned attacks. Two aeroplanes crashed into the iconic World Trade Centre in New York, one crashed into the supposedly invincible Pentagon, HQ of the US Department of Defense, while the fourth heading to Washington DC ( with the White House, no less, as a possible target) was thwarted by passengers who fought with the hijackers forcing them to crash the aeroplane into a field in Pennsylvania. In all, it is reported that 2996 people were killed and over 6000 injured in these attacks. This event, more than anything else, changed the way people reacted to terror threats forever.  Continue reading ““The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark” by John Duffy & Ray Nowosielski”

“Train To Nowhere” by Anita Leslie

Over the decades I have read ever so many books about the Second World War. Most have been by professional journalists or by the military top brass who have written about their own experiences. I have just finished what must be one of the best autobiographies I have read which has the Second World War as a backdrop. This is “Train To Nowhere” by Anita Leslie, a young lady from a well to do aristocratic Anglo-Irish family who was distantly related to Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. In 1940,  aged 26 she joined the Mechanised Transport Corps where she became a qualified mechanic and ambulance driver, to do her bit for the war effort.

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“The Spy Toolkit” by Stephen Twigge

As one who has read extensively about the Second World War, I was delighted to read, “The Spy Toolkit: Extraordinary Inventions from World War II” by Stephen Twigge published by Osprey Publishing recently. Starting with the story of the famed German spy from the First World War, Margaretha MacLeod, a Dutch dancer and courtesan better known by her stage name of ” Mata Hari “, I have been fascinated (like millions of others, I am sure) by stories of spies and spying. The profession has always been full of hazards and many stories of spies have remained untold. For every spy like Mata Hari who made the headlines there must have been thousands who died unsung, many at the hands of their captors during war. Continue reading ““The Spy Toolkit” by Stephen Twigge”

“Winning Like Sourav: Think & Succeed Like Ganguly” by Abhirup Bhattacharya

Today’s post is about  “Winning Like Sourav: Think & Succeed Like Ganguly” by Abhirup Bhattacharya, who has a degree in Fashion Technology and MBA in Finance from the well know Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai.  The book has recently been published by Rupa Publications.

Way back in 1992, a young cricketer from Kolkatta was selected to tour Australia and didn’t do much on the tour. The 18 year old Sourav Ganguly returned with a dip in his reputation rather than a boost in his career. There were snide remarks that he was selected through favouritism under the “East Zone quota”,  gossip that his team mates found him arrogant for one so inexperienced and a mere 3 runs to show from his only appearance in One Day Internationals. Cut to 1996, and four years later, Sourav Ganguly is the talk of town. His century (131) on Test debut at Lord’s, followed by another (136) at Trent Bridge a few weeks later showed the world that Ganguly the player had emerged from the shadows of the past. Now he is lauded, and rightly so, for all his cricketing feats including of course his captaincy.

After all years later, the great Sachin Tendulkar said of Ganguly, “Sourav’s greatest strength is his mind. He is hard working – not only in the nets but also mentally. He bounces back.” One also remembers another Indian cricketing “great”, Rahul Dravid, famously say, “On the offside, first  there is God, then there is Ganguly.”!!

Apart from the 21 Test wins out of 49 under his leadership, ( 11 of them overseas) he is remembered for his mentoring of many young cricketers who became famous over time, men like Yuvaraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zahir Khan and the unforgettable Virender Sehwag, but to name a few. As a top order batsman, in summary, he amassed 11363 runs in 311 ODIs at an average of 41 and a strike rate of 72, with 22 centuries. In the 113 Tests he played, he scored 7212 runs at an average of 42 with 16 centuries.

Looking back to those times, there is no doubt that he injected a fighting spirit in the Indian cricket team which was down in the dumps when he was appointed captain in 2000. The match fixing scandal had scalped senior players like Azharuddin, the captain; Ajay Jadeja; and Nayan Mongia and Ganguly inherited a team which had potential but was down in morale.

The book is however not just about Ganguly the cricketer. ” Dada”, as he was popularly called by his team mates and millions of his fans world wide, used a variety of techniques to mould the team to a fighting unit. Abhirup Bhattacharya relates in management speak just how Ganguly achieved what he did. Be it in leadership, in mentoring, in strategy or in risk taking, the author maps Ganguly’s achievements with certain well established principles. Each chapter has “Learning Tips” which are enough to succinctly convey important messages to the readers.

I wish there was more incidents in the book of Ganguly the cricketer apart from the more famous ones that everyone has read about or seen on television. However, it must be said that a lot has been crammed into 145 pages.

Students of management as well as cricket fans would enjoy this book. It is a fitting tribute to one whom Geoffrey Boycott fondly called,  “The Prince of Calcutta.”

Friendly Advice to Would Be Writers

A good friend whom I have known for many decades now has decided to write a book. This is not on any management subject nor is it a work of fiction. What makes this one different from books that most people say they will write is that his book is about a personal tragedy that took place in his life a couple of years ago. His daughter whom he was very fond of passed away when she was only in her early 30s. She had been through an unsuccessful love marriage a few years ago. This tragic event prompted him to write a book on her life as seen through his eyes as her father.  Continue reading “Friendly Advice to Would Be Writers”

“Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell

I loved this book when I first read it as a kid more than 50 years ago and I loved it even more when I read it once again recently. The timeless classic for young and old alike, “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell has been re-published by Rupa Publications in 2018. This book which has remained a best seller over the decades was first published way back in 1877, over 140 years ago. It has always been a favourite amongst children. Interestingly, it was also the only book written by Anna Sewell!

This story of a horse called Black Beauty set in Victorian England is told in the first person by the horse himself. Of course, in the course of his life he was called by different names by his various owners. Staring from his youth till the present when he is about 14 or 15 , the story written in a simple yet elegant style is captivating. It takes you through the ups and downs that Black Beauty faces in the course of his life. By the way, a horse aged 13 is reckoned to be a middle-aged 43 in terms of human age.  Continue reading ““Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell”

“Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst

The title is arresting and I had to read this book though I had never till now heard even remotely of the author, Dr Koenraad Elst. I am glad that Rupa Publications have published, “Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” in 2018. It is a balanced account of what motivated Nathuram Vinayak Godse to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. On that January evening in Delhi in 1948, barely a few months after India became an independent nation, Godse shot Gandhiji at point blank range. You may agree with Nathuram Godse or you may not, but this book makes you consider issues from his point of view and explains why he opposed the Mahatma, going so far as to kill him in cold blood and make no effort to escape.  Continue reading ““Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst”

“Ambedkar: An Overview” Book Review

In case you are wondering why I have not mentioned any author for the book “Ambedkar: An Overview” I must clarify that the book (published by Rupa Publications in 2018) is a collection of essays/writings of Bharat Ratna Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar ( 1891-1956). To that extent I think the title of the book itself is somewhat misleading. It suggests that someone has written about Dr Ambedkar but in reality is a collection of his own writings! Even “Essays by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar” or ” Selected Writings of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar” would have been more apt as a title, in my opinion.

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“The Lucknow Cookbook” by Chand Sur and Sunita Kohli

I love history, I love food. With this as the background, it’s a no brainer that I loved, ” The Lucknow Cookbook” by the mother and daughter team of Chand Sur and Padma Shri Sunita Kohli, the famous interior decorator. This book of 225 pages, each one worth reading carefully has been published by Aleph in 2017. As specified in the title the book is centred around the city of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.

Lucknow, the capital of the Nawabs of Oudh, has had a special place in Indian history. It is renowned for its culture and customs. In more senses than one, it is the cultural capital of North India. No one who has visited there can come away without carrying memories of a Nawabi culture which sounds almost quaint now in the hustle and bustle of 21st century India. It is in this setting that Sunita Kohli shares family recipes handed down to her by her mother Chand Sur and other family members, friends and relatives. Chand first came to Lucknow in 1948 as a young bride from Quetta, in the days following the tumultuous Partition of British India into India and Pakistan.

Though the story of Chand Sur covers a  mere 20 odd pages, they are full of life and evoke fond memories of a period long gone by.  Continue reading ““The Lucknow Cookbook” by Chand Sur and Sunita Kohli”

“Happiness Is All We Want” by Ashutosh Mishra

Recently, I was delighted to read ” Happiness Is All I Want” by Ashutosh Mishra, a 200-page book published by Bloomsbury in 2016. Mishra is a B. Tech from IIT Delhi and an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur. He has spent more than one and a half decades in the banking industry. He has worked with international organisations such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank and is currently a senior banker in ANZ Bank.  Mishra is therefore well-qualified to understand the stresses and strains of modern-day corporate life where executives are expected to be accessible almost on a 24×7 basis.  Continue reading ““Happiness Is All We Want” by Ashutosh Mishra”