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A Love Life so Painful
Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai
Those enchanted four and half years
Shantaram
HEXAGON
One and a Half Wife
The Bankster
Love You Forever : Only In That Way
Nine Lives
The Mistress of Spices
The Fortune Hunters
I Too Had A Love Story..
Ladies Coupé
The Krishna Key
Mumbaistan: 3 Explosive Crime Thrillers
Of Tattoos and Taboos!
Left from Dhakeshwari
I loved a Street woman
Chanakya's Chant
Dreams in Prussian Blue


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Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review: Hungry Gods by Richa Lakhera

Title: Hungry Gods

Author: Richa Lakhera

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Crime (Fiction)

Date:  2018

Price: INR 265/212 (kindle unlimited)

Pages: 186

Reading time: 4 hours
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SNAPSHOT: 
Hungry Gods is easily one of the most unique works of fiction I have come across in my life; it stands out for its in-your-face unique blunt approach. This is a fast moving, riveting but dark book – a story of brutal revenge, hard worded and racy, a story of hard words, harder facts and harsh realities of life for the unfortunate. Reviewing this book is not easy – given my proclivity for an insistence on complete language control in a book. Yet, remarkably enough, upon keeping this book aside after finishing it – the aspect of language does not even begin to register on my mind.

THE BOOK:
The story  is in two distinct storylines  – first, an unnamed mystery Rape n Murder of a woman; and the attendant revenge by the lone survivor, sadly the lady’s son or daughter. This mystery of identity and specifics is kept till the literal last page of the book. This forms the core story; the other aspect involved is one of Corporate Scandals, with a Pharma company being accused / suspected of major hanky-panky, with someone from the press investigating the same. Also involved is the TV industry, where a serial is being sponsored by this company. As the plot moves ahead – people connected with both the above – The company and the Serial, start dying one-by-one

THE ANALYSIS:
The backdrop, or the setting, of the above two stories is set in a dual system – one being the TV industry, and other a sordid Drug background, a background where drugs, alchohol and crime mix into a heady seething potion of trouble, uncertain loyalties, unclear lines and bad vibes. And this is why the bad words and the blunt sexual descriptions don’t stand out: they gel in with the background. In fact, the blunt violence, sex, drugs, atmosphere, swear words all seem to mix into one logical whole. Full credit to the author for creating such a powerful and strong visual imagery and backdrop, one that is sure to stun you and pull you in.

For the rest, the Characterisation is different; the characters are roughly etched, not fully filled in – and yet leave a strong impression on the reader. When you keep the book aside, you are left with a strong impression of the bad chaps – deeply etched in some cases. That speaks for itself! There is no good, no bad here : this is too realistic, in fact. Only shades of grey everywhere; again – this is also in consonance with the overall theme, setting and story – makes it doubly realistic.

The most riveting part of the story  is the Pharmaceutical & corruption angle. This has been deliberately kept as a secondary theme, which leads to the punch and the surprise! The focus on the Serial, underplaying the murder and the Pharma Company, was unique in my memory at least. At the same time, an opportunity was lost – a fantastic thriller could have been visualized around this theme of the Corporate Corruption… maybe next  time, the author can think of this! The author’s objective in this book is different, a look at the underside of Humans… which she has successfully brought in vivid stark imagery that is certain to jolt and shock you, though the naked powerplay that could have been focused on a bit more than is the case now.

The story is fast paced, in fact frenetic in places – but for the most part, the pace is calibrated and deliberate. The imagery, the word skill that creates vivid images in your mind of the backdrop, setting and overall storyline is fantastic; read it for this alone. In Conclusion – a unique book, one that is a recommended read for its unique approach, skilled wordplay, storyline and overall approach.

RC RATING: 4/5. Recommended only if you routinely read the genre. 



Monday, November 5, 2018

Book Review: Pralay by Vineet Bajpai

Title: Pralay: The Great Deluge
Author: Vineet Bajpai
Publisher: VB Performance LLP.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date:  2018

Price: INR 162/free (kindle unlimited)

Pages: 315

Reading time: 6 hours

Snapshot:  The second book in the "Harappa" trilogy brings to you a more complicated web of deceit than the last one. If you thought the intensity of characters and the plot was just what was laid in the last book, you will be proved wrong and delightfully so. Pralay has much more to offer on the solid foundations of the first book - Harappa.

Detailed review: The story begins where the last one ended, in Banaras where Vidyut understands that for a long time he has been surrounded by evil, who have been waiting for an appropriate time to attack him. He is yet to understand "why". A concept of "The Black Temple" emerges, herein lies a secret that his family has been entitled to protect since generations from a very different parallel timeline that concerns one of the greatest Roman emperors. The story traverses between three timelines, in the first Vivasvan Pujari continues to feed his evil side and turns into a monster never witnessed before. He forms alliances with the most evil people to plot the destruction of the entire city of Harappa. On the other hand his own son Manu, is the chosen protector. In another timeline, far later a Roman emperor wants to create a "New World Order" to ensure that the wars of religion become a thing of the past. However, to achieve this a secret needs to be kept safe, the Sastri clan is the protector of this secret. What is this secret? Who will win Vivasvan Pujari or his son Manu? Will the protector be able to protect what a half man-half god person once built? and How is all of this connected to "The Big Man" who wants to destroy the protectors of this secret? What makes this mission so important?

If you loved Harappa and the intertwining of timelines and concepts, of the mingling of the long lost ancient Indian civilisation and its connection to one man being wronged, this was just the cover for much more that Pralay contains. Its not just the well-co-ordinated to and fro into different timelines, done so brilliantly by the writer, that the reader transitions ever so smoothly between them, it only seems natural. Vineet Bajpai's amalgamation of Tantrics and a critical mythological event into the fabric of what was already a good plot depicts his broad vision and brilliance as a story teller. 
The only thing that could have made this book much better was editing. The plot though crisp, there are repetitions at some places of the emphasis on one thing and a good editor would do magic with the book. The book could be easily 50 pages shorter. I hope the writer will ensure that in his upcoming book and hold up to the promise the first two books have created.

RC Rating: 4/5. Unlike any Indian writer, Vineet Bajpai ventures across religions and histories and timelines weaving them together into a tale that makes one keep guessing what next. A gripping read. Recommended.






Author Interview: Parthajeet Sarma

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Recently we published a review of Parthajeet Sarma's book "Work, Workers and Workplaces". This is the first ever book on "design thinking" for organizations and how it helps improve employees original thinking , thereby ultimately affecting company's performance, details here: http://www.thereaderscosmos.com/2018/10/book-review-work-workers-workplaces-by.html. So we decided to dig deeper into the concept and Parthajeets journey into understanding and working on the same. Here is the conversation that followed....



 Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I am an Architect who does not design buildings (J). Well, I graduated in Architecture from Sir J J College of Architecture in 1995, and later went on to do an MBA. I have always been fascinated by observing human behaviour and have felt the need to do things, which help improve human lives. This interest, coupled with my background in design, set the platform for me to design experiences for organisations in the workplace, that augment employee wellness and increase productivity. I work hand in hand with organisations, at a strategic level as a consultant, on workplace strategies that enhance human productivity.

Q. What motivated you to write the book on Workers and Workplaces?
A: Modern day workers go to work for more than ‘getting their work done’ or to access tools of work. They like to exchange ideas, socialize and engage with others who share values similar to theirs. In highly competitive business scenarios, only those organisations will do well, that can attract and retain the best of talent. To do so, the workplace needs to act like the exoskeleton of an organisation’s ethos and values. Space can condition the quality of thinking, and thus condition productivity. There is a direct linkage. I conduct workshops to familiarize executives about this. The book is an extension of this familiarization effort and is a summary of learnings that I have had over two decades.

Q. What was your first experience with design and its impact on your creativity?
A: In the nineties we graduated believing that good aesthetics can be used as a differentiator. Well, that worked for sometime. But soon thereafter, every new product or project became good looking; so good aesthetics could no more be used as a differentiator. Today we are at a stage where I see that designing an experience is far more impactful and fulfilling. We are now using similar design techniques that we learnt in the nineties, for mapping a customer user experience journey and helping organizations design such experiences. We are now looking at employees as internal customers of organisations in pretty much the same way that customer facing organisations look at their customers.

Q. How does design influence you now?
A: I now like to think that everything can be designed. Human behaviour can be designed. I focus on doing this, through designing experiences for organisations’ employees. This is very simple to understand through an analogy; you think of a visit to a place of worship; as you enter the space, the surrounding environment has an impact on your mind, on your thinking. It brings a certain change of mood. In ancient times, this change of mood was designed through the clever use of spaces, through sights, smells, sounds and touch. 

Q. Why was it so that humans thought about a well designed home but not a workplace but are thinking of it now?
A: Well, you like a beautifully designed home, mainly because it makes you ‘feel’ good. It is only in recent times that human feelings have become important at the workplace, from an organisation’s perspective. So workplaces are designed in a manner that makes workers ‘feel good’; there are enough social science experiments that demonstrate that happiness = productivity. This recent shift is also because of the fact that most of the ‘non-emotional’, left-brained, repetitive work has been automated; so most humans today are increasingly doing more of such work that requires them to tap onto their emotional side. So feeling good and employee happiness is now paramount for organisations and hence this is leading to a whole new approach to the design of workplaces.

Q. What are the key elements of an ideal workspace?
A: The short answer to that is that one size does not fit all and the question may not be relevant today. This question would have been relevant 10-15 years back. A workspace today is no more a physical entity but a mix of the physical and the digital. Such a workspace needs to be reflective of an organisation’s ethos and values. The key is that it has to be human centric, and for that, organisations need to treat their workers as their customers. So a lot of the new workspaces are turning out to be a blend of different types of spaces, that respect the needs and aspirations of different types of people and of different types of work.

Q. Tell us about some experiments with design and creativity that you undertook?
A: What has brought a lot of joy is when we have let the end users design, instead of me taking the high horse of being the creative guy. I only facilitate the process. Every human is creative and in our engagement with corporates, we organize workshops that allow end-users to take an integrative role in shaping the design brief for management to follow. When you allow end users to be open about their aspirations, the most creative solutions emerge from there. This eventually leads to workplaces that ‘work for the workers’ instead of workplaces that win us awards or the client lead a promotion.

Q. What is the evolution needed in mindsets of businesses to incorporate design thinking?
A: In my mind, the biggest jump that organisations need to make is to truly believe that their employees are their internal customers who need to be valued as much, if not more, then their external customers. So the kind of effort which goes into designing customer experiences, especially by customer facing organisations, need to go into designing experiences for their employees as well.

Q. How does a novice get acquainted to this concept?
A: The book is a starting point. Beyond that, we conduct ‘learning by doing’ workshops that demonstrate the methods. What participants learn in the workshops stay with them as they ‘think with their hands’. The most popular workshop is the one we call ‘Co-creating the Future of Work’. For more on this, readers are encourage to contact me on +91 98202 21767 or email me at parthajeet.sarma@idream.in

Q. What are your upcoming books/projects?
A: There is a plan to set up a global centre of excellence, which will help, co-create the future of work, right here in India. The idea is to get like minded organisations, researchers, academicians, social scientists and others who are researching the ‘future of work’, under one roof and co-create intellectual property that will help improve human lives at the workplace.

Q. How has the book been received?


A: The book seems to have been well received by corporate executives and even students and worshippers of innovation. I live, sleep and eat what I have written in the book, so in a way it is an extension of me. So, like-minded people are picking up the book and it has helped align the mutual thought process and grow the tribe of believers.

Q. A message for your readers.
A: Someone said, practice what you preach. Well, the book may appear to be one. When we begin to look at modern day workers as humans, we seem to know less and less, as we dive into human minds. My books have been my learnings and observations from my work, which is constantly evolving as the world around us change fast. Clients and even readers are helping in this, by co-creating the ‘future of work’. I would love to hear back from readers and explore ways to collaborate and co-create.

We thank Parthajeet Sarma for spending this time in having this conversation with us.