“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”

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“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.”

“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”

“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”

“No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Often a catchy title of a book makes you want to read it all the more. One such book is, “No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is reckoned to be one of the best Zen Buddhist teachers in the world. This slim book, just 109 pages in all, was published by Aleph Book Company in 2017. As a reader we figure out what the title of the book suggests and this is borne out by the book’s byline, ” The Art of Transforming Suffering.” At the outset, writes Hanh, “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud, to help the lotus flower of happiness to grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

Continue reading ““No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh”

“Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way” by Virender Kapoor

In a country where 15 to 24 year olds make up more than 35 %  of the population  there is a strong need to have effective role models. In my view, the famous actor Amitabh Bachchan qualifies quite comfortably to be such a role model. Fortunately too in India “Bollywood” the world of Hindi cinema had tremendous influence on the minds of people so it is not at all surprising that Virender Kapoor chose to write a self-help/motivational book based on this super star.  Continue reading ““Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way” by Virender Kapoor”

“My Hanuman Chalisa” by Devdutt Pattanaik

“Jo yeh padhe/Hanuman Chalisa/Hoye siddhi/sakhi Gaureesa” these lines are known to almost every Hindu. If they have not actually read them, they would have heard them recited by their elders, their parents and their grandparents. The lines written in Awadhi by Tusidas over 400 years ago mean, “Whoever reads/these forty verses of Hanuman/Will achieve whatever he desires/a claim to which Gauri’s lord (Shiva) is witness.” Awadhi is a dialect of Hindi that was commonly spoken in the areas of the Gangetic plains which include the holy cities of Awadh or Ayodhya and Kashi or Varanasi.  Continue reading ““My Hanuman Chalisa” by Devdutt Pattanaik”

“Here and Gone” by Haylen Beck

I got the opportunity to read Haylen Beck’s thriller, “Here and Gone” which will be published by Penguin Random House shortly, thanks to NetGalley. If you are looking for a fast paced story which keeps you hooked, this one is for you. The story is about Audra Kinney, who in her 30’s is fleeing a broken marriage with a rich New Yorker who is abusive apart from being a total Mamma’s boy. They have two children, a boy Sean, aged 11 and a girl Louise, aged 6. While her divorce case drags on, Audra can no longer take the abuse and the toxic atmosphere at home. She decides to flee even before the courts decide on who gets custody of her children. She cannot bear the thought of her children being given in the custody of her husband and mother-in-law.  Continue reading ““Here and Gone” by Haylen Beck”