“Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw” by Hanadi Falki

I have always been a huge admirer of the late Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw (1914-2008) so jumped at the chance to read one more book about him. This ebook titled, “ Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw” is written by Ms Hanadi Falki. Frankly there wasn’t much in the book that one hadn’t already read about. It looked like a re-hash of arcticles, book extracts, interviews and the like. The personality of the Field Marshal is so strong, and his story so interesting however, that we feel like reading about him all over again – which is exactly what I did.

As a military commander and a leader in war and peace, Sam Manekshaw has few parallels in Indian military history. He was the 7th Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army- from 1969 to 1973- and his greatest contribution was winning the 1971 War against Pakistan. This led to the bifurcation of the Pakistani State and the birth of the new country of Bangla Desh.

The book traces his life and career in the Indian Amy from the time he joined the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1932 in the very first batch of cadets. He served the Indian Army for four decades and fought in five wars till he retired in 1973. A grateful nation then bestowed upon him the rank of Field Marshal. He was the first General and COAS in the Indian Army to be so honored.

Apart from his exploits as a military leader, (he won the coveted Military Cross for bravery as a young officer in the British Indian Army during Second World War in Burma), Manekshaw’s character as a person of the highest integrity and professionalism stand out in the many anecdotes in the book. He had the courage to stand up to those in authority including the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and the political leadership of the country.

As I have said before, I have been and remain a huge admirer of Field Marshal Manekshaw. I am therefore terribly puzzled how under his watch India released 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of war but did not do enough to get back 54 of our Defense Personnel, They simply did not make it back to their homeland . I was hoping that this book would cover this unsavory part of Indian military history but I continue to remain disappointed on this score.

I wish the book had been better arranged for ease of reading. It does not follow a prescribed pattern. For example, it has his childhood and early years suddenly appearing from out of the blue, much after the start of the book. However this slim volume, despite its shortcomings, remains interesting because of the man the book describes and his exploits- in war and peace.

“Tongue-In -Cheek: The Funny Side Of Life” by Khyrunnisa A.

If you are looking for delightful light reading, a book to pass time and, and improve your mood in the bargain- here’s one for you. As the title suggest, “Tongue-In-Cheek: The Funny Side Of Life” is a collection of short stories or should I say “middles” by Khyrunnisa which indeed capture the funny side of life.

Not everyone has the talent to see and describe a situation with humor. On reading this book, I can vouch that Khyrunnisa most certainly has this gift in abundant measure. She writes of situations which you and I have come across in our daily lives: finding a snake in the garden; the rush for the wedding feast; the mandatory jewelry worn in weddings; booking a seat in a bus the Indian way; the perils of maintaining an aquarium (more commonly known as a fish tank in most Indian homes), amongst many others.

In most of these anecdotes, the author brings in her husband thereby allowing us readers to take a peek into moments of married life that most readers would relate to quite easily! She jokes easily about the way many people pronounce -or rather mispronounce -her name. The best part of this book is that you can dip into it at your convenience. Reading story No: 10 long before Story No: 1 doesn’t matter in the least. Not being connected with each other, they can be read in any random order.

I understand that the author is an Asst Professor of English and has written many books for children. After reading this book, I, for one, would love to read more of these tongue in cheek stories from Khyrunnisa. I liked her wit and writing style . Here’s hoping someday she will write and publish another book -as entertaining as this one!

“The Trillion Dollar Coach”: Schmidt, Rosenberg & Eagle

Google has become a household name across the world. Like in the old days one frequently said, ” Take a Xerox” for making a photocopy, Google has become synonymous with searching the internet. Looking for some information? ” Just Google it”, we are told! Of course, this search business is only one part of this huge tech giant which was incorporated in 1998 and had revenues of $182 billion in 2020. With this as context, let’s talk about this book.

When a former Executive Chairman of Alphabet (the holding company of Google), and a Senior VP who headed the Products team in Google, along with Google’s Director of Executive Communication write a book together – it does create a buzz. That book is “The Trillion Dollar Coach” by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. It is described as the Leadership Playbook of Silcon Valley’s Bill Campbell.

Who might Campbell be? Many may wonder. Simply stated, the authors of the book (like many other Silicon Valley leaders, some legends even, amongst them) , were all coached by Campbell. He, by the way, started life as the coach of a relatively small University football team.

Bill Campbell helped create over a trillion dollars in market value, hence the title of the book. He was associated with companies like Google, Apple and Intuit. It was under his guidance that a large number of corporate tech honchos made their mark in the demanding world of business. The names of the executives he coached reads like a roster of The Who’s Who in Silicon Valley and the world of big tech.

He was so much a part of Valley lore that many did not know that Campbell was not from here. He was born in western Pennsylvania and attended Columbia University in Manhattan. Needing a job, he became assistant football coach in Boston College. He was reasonably successful as a football coach without having a spectacular record. When he was 39, he switched careers by joining the advertising firm J Walter Thompson. He then worked for Kodak till 1983 when John Sculley offered him a job in Apple. Here he was the VP of Sales and Marketing then became the CEO of Apple’s software company Claris.

His next assignemt was CEO of a start up called GO Corporation but that closed down in 1994. He was then offered the position of CEO of Intuit which he led till 2000. He became a full time coach when he was invited to Kleiner Perkins to become a coach for its portfolio companies. The rest, as the say, is history. Till he passed away in 2016, he was a major influence in the many businesses he was associated with as an executive coach.

The book has many lessons in leadership for today’s executive. The format used highlights the key take aways by means of chapter summaries. The book makes for easy reading without the jargon usually associated with books on management and leadership.

So, if you want to become an effective leader in today’s business world, make it a point to read this book. Campbell’s lessons will surely help you become more successful.

“Mafia Queens of Mumbai” : Zaidi & Borges

Recently, I read an old book which I found quite fascinating. This was, ” Mafia Queens of Mumbai” by S Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges – first published in 2011 by Tranquebar/Westland. The title itself makes those fond of crime stories- like me- reach out for the book. Zaidi is perhaps Mumbai’s best known crime reporter. He has written several books about the interesting cases he covered involving Mumbai’s underworld over the decades.

In this book the focus is not on the underworld gang lords themselves- men like Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Varadarajan Mudaliar and Dawood Ibrahim- but about a few women who became enormously influential in the underworld, in their times. They had different social and economic backgrounds, lived in different circumstances but all of them had the grit, determination, and even ruthlessness, to become feared in the dim lit alleys and backstreets they operated in.

We read about Jenabai Chaavalwaali, who brokered a truce between warring gangs by invoking the name of religion. This probably was the start of underworld gangs owing allegiance and building empires largely on communal lines. Of Ashraf Khan aka Sapna Didi and her aim to avenge the murder of her husband; and of Mahalaxmi Papamani, the wealthiest drug baroness in Mumbai.

The authors also cover the stories of the fabled gangster’s molls? What were they like in real life? Were they as they were depicted in the Hindi movies? Perhaps the most famous-or infamous- of them was Monica Bedi, who became a Bollywood starlet before linking up with gangster Abu Salem. Other “underworld wives” we come across in the book are Asha Gawli, Neeta Naik, Sujata Nikhalje and Padma Poojary.

Overall an interesting read. It makes you realize that pretty much the same base emotions and motivations drive people, irrespective of which side of the law they are on!