22
Jun

10 Grand Examples of Corporate Strategy

Case Studies in Corporate Strategies; Prof. Dileep Saptarishi and Prof. Jairaj Kochavara; Pearson 2015; pp 155

- Shana Susan Ninan

What better way to teach corporate strategy than using case studies, timely and relevant. The above book delineates 10 Indian companies that began as small ventures and have grown into large corporations. The authors have brought out the best of the companies’ strategies on market segmentation, acquisitions, CSR, taxation, HR, Finance, etc. Each case study is holistic and thought-provoking, prodding us to think further on how to take an enterprise from ground level up.

One that I think I may personally use in my PR and Corporate Communications class is the example of Emami’s fairness cream for men. The very idea of men needing a fairness cream, the execution of the ad, and all the way up to the selling of the products. Other examples are from IT, Cut flower business, packaging Steel, R&D, FMCG, Food & Beverages, and others.

As much as this book is meant for teaching faculty, it is quite applicable for freshers in various industry. Some of the case studies are pertinent in the international arena, too.

 

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Rating: 6.0/10 (1 vote cast)
29
May

Child Sexuality, A conversation

Review of Dark Room: Child Sexuality in India; Pankaj Butalia, Illustrations Neelima P. Aryan; Harper Collins 2013; pp 179; Rs 350

- Shana Susan Ninan

That’s a question I’ve tried a lot to answer.

The line between sexuality and abuse of children is thin and shifting. It is demarcated by family background, neighbourhood lived in, culture and social mores. In India we see a mediated sexuality, in children and adults. Elders, society and often, strangers, dictate what our sexualities should or shouldn’t be. Childhood sexuality has always been a cause of anxiety, and elders’ first step has always been to “protect” children from sexual experiences – with the self and with others. Adults often refuse to acknowledge that children have a sexuality. The children do. They’re not just kids, they are mini humans. With all the innate feelings, emotions and instincts as we have – just that its levels are much lesser, perhaps.

Butalia has chosen 11 stories – real and happened ones – to illustrate how children have a sexuality. It may be expressed through words or deeds, and most definitely through thoughts. After reading them, it registered in me how the term ‘child’ is wrongly defined by us. The continued existence of child marriage in India gives us a glimpse into our negotiation with childhood sexuality, and that it isn’t restricted to myth or religion.

The longish introduction by Shalini Advani, and educationist and author, opened my eyes to facts I had read before but refused to accept. Sexual experiences by and in children are blanketly termed as abuse. Having worked for a while with young mothers who were victims of incest, it was very difficult for me to see the positive side of child sexuality, if there is something as a positive side.

The importance of touch, is another theme I’d like to explore, after having taken in the real life experiences of the 11 people. Parents and siblings, and to an extent, cousins and friends, play a large and irreplaceable role in initiating and grounding the tactile senses of a child. Hugs from parents, platonic kisses from siblings, a pat from a friend… all these ‘harmless’ touches may actually help to condition sexuality in the childhood. And it may even help children to keep away predatorial sexual experiences.

Pankaj Butalia is a former table tennis player who has a 20-year stint at teaching Economics, and has won several international awards for his documentary films. This is his debut work in writing. The book is an eye-opener. The accompanying illustrations by Neelima are strong and focused. I think all adults, especially parents and teachers/ professors, should read this book. A much needed impetus for a conversation on child sexuality.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)
02
May

Roots for a Life

Review of Soil for my Roots; Minal Sarosh; LiFi Publications 2015; pp 277

- Shana Susan Ninan

Belonging to a multicultural set of parents and grandparents myself, I can very well understand the protagonist’s search for stability and roots.

With traces of autobiographical musings, Minal Sarosh’s Soil for my Roots doesn’t fail to entertain. The author’s strength in poetry is visibly strong in her prose and soft narrative. The Money Plant is a recurring symbol in the plot. There is a constant search for stability, and a yearning to understand what goes around.

Angela’s story starts in the 1970’s and then progresses. Her school life, her friends, family… are all revealed to us in well-researched bits. There are many questions that she ponders over. How is it that my family is Gujarati but I’ve a name like ‘Angela’? How come my friends celebrate Diwali while I celebrate Christmas?

I loved the cover – a neat lemon yellow background, with a bottled money plant and some books, on an ornate table.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)
24
Apr

Moustache, Mystery and the Man

Review of The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery; Kyril Bonfiglioli, completed by Craig Brown; Penguin 2012; Rs 399; pp 175

The moustache – hair garden, rather – on Mortdecai’s upper lip is as much the protagonist as Hon. Charlie Mordecai himself is. The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery is the fourth Charlie Mortdecai in the series, and definitely has you laughing. It’s more like a Holmes Meets Wodehouse kinda humour, with nothing less to be said.

Two decades after the author’s death, this book was completed by Craig Brown and published by Penguin. This whodunit follows Mortdecai for almost half the book in his convalescent state – a long rest time which he’s put to good use by cultivating a largish hairy chrysanthemum on the upper lip. Much to the chagrin of his wife, Johanna, and his acquaintances. He is invited to Oxford to investigate the death of a lady Don at Scone College. The protagonist and his trusted ‘dawg’ Mr Jock leave us in splits of laughter, and so does the sections where Mordecai navigates major pain-in-the-necks to get at the villain.

Kyril Bonfiglioli has studied at Oxford and worked in the army, then as an art dealer, quite like his creation, Charlie Mortdecai. Bonfiglioli was born on the south coast of England in 1928 to an English mother and Italo-Slovene father.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (4 votes cast)
15
Apr

Killing the Face That Graced a Million T-Shirts

Review of Hunting Che: How a Special Forces Team Helped Capture The World’s Most Famous Revolutionary; Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer; Berkley Caliber 2013; pp 277

- Shana Susan Ninan

Traces the US-trained Bolivian forces’ success at capturing 20th century’s most famous man – Che Guevara. It’s the ordeal of a US Green Beret team that trained Bolivian soldiers and common men in 1967 to capture Che. After Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, Che was on a high, travelling to Asia, Africa and countries of South America

The CIA knew everything about him, except where he was. And that was damn frustrating. For a man who was trained to blend into the forest and not be visible to the rest of the world, Che does a good job evading the Americans.

Major Ralph Shelton a.k.a. “Pappy”, who saw combat in Korea, Laos and the Dominican Republic, led the Green Beret team which captured the famous man. Shelton was a favourite in his unit, accepted by the soldiers and villagers, alike.

The middle section of the book is rife with photos pf the capture, Che’s travels, and for the first time in publications, a photo of Che in disguise as an old man. The writing is prose mixed with some news writing. The authors have written well, showing the death of the revolution and not just the death of one man.

Che was a grand propagandist, more like a PRO for the Communist Party – even now- than as a leader. His message, his photo, rather, lives on in the minds of the young and the old. And in all fairness, I think, of all the books I’ve read of and by Che, this one is the most unbiased. As writers and journalists, the authors have taken an even stand in recreating this drama at the end of Che’s life.

When most writers, filmmakers and documenters of Che’s life absolutely fall for his charm, Weiss and Maurer are not at all enamoured by this smart-talking revolutionary. In fact, their words in describing the few minutes after Che’s capture says it all:

“Don’t bother, captain, this thing is all over,” Che said.

The Che – the picture of confidence, the icon of the revolutionaru movement – hung his head….

And for once, Che had nothing to say.

 

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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
14
Apr

Lawyer at 13!

Review of Theodore Boone: The Activist; John Grisham; Puffin Books 2013; pp 304

- Shana Susan Ninan

I fell for his robust plots and forceful prose from the time I laid hands on The Client. John Grisham doesn’t disappoint in his YA collection either. Theodore Boone: The Activist, the fourth in the series, features the 13-year-old only son of a lawyer couple. With both parents vocal in their own ways, and having the luxury of an office to himself in a backroom of Boone & Boone, Theodore knows the law better than all his peers put together. And when the authorities of the American city of Strattenburg decide to “take” people’s lands in the name of eminent domain for a bypass that’d run around the city, he decides to join a group of environment activists.

The turning point is when he visits a friend’s farm, spots encroaching surveyors and gets involved in a fight that leaves his dog and faithful companion, Judge in a fatal state. Having hung around courts and law offices all his life, he’s familiar with the legal arm of the city. He uses it to his advantage, even winning over a family debate with his dad.

This book has all the legal drama of any other Grisham one – court scenes, standoff between parties, legal tiffs, and of course, the bad guys who break the law! Well, for animal lovers like me, the pages where Judge is hanging on to dear life in a Vet’s clinic can be a tad tear-jerking.

 

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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
11
Apr

Between the Devil and Men

Review of Knight of the Cross – A Knight Hospitaller novella; Steven McKay 2014; pp 95

- Shana Susan Ninan

Steven McKay’s Robinhood in the first two books of the Forest Lord Trilogy had me swooning with anticipation! Steven’s visual words and action-packed plot was enough to keep me glued to the pages. Although Sir Richard-at-Lee comes only second to him, he’s an imposing character one can’t miss.

As the Knights Hospitaller battle ancient evil in medieval Rhodes, three of them go missing from a local village. The English knight Sir Richard-at-Lee and his trusted sergeant-at-arms Jacob are sent to find out the truth behind the disappearance and to stop the perpetrators forever. Supernatural elements in the narrative gives a pungent twist to the plot.

The cover, with a mediaeval colour scheme, pulls you right into the protagonist’s world. As is the case with novellas, I felt Sir Richard’s story was over too soon. I really wish Steven is inspired to write more on him.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Apr

Stopping A Terrorist

Review of Checkmate; Hrishikesh Joshi; Leadstart Publishing 2015; Rs 150; pp 158

- Shana Susan Ninan

What better way to hijack a plane than to use a judge with a VIP status to smuggle in guns? Three fidayeen from Indian prisoners are the ransom, in return for the hostages. Calling the shots for jihadis from Pakistan is once upon a time right hand man of Osama Bin Laden and now the most dangerous terrorist in the world, Muhammad Zia ul Afridi.

Coming to the rescue is Vikram Roy, chief Secretary of RAW, who finds out there are inside activities in the organisation that he needs to tackle first. Playing his hands at a long term relationship, Vikram is your middle-aged, handsome guy.

The plot is engaging, and for the debut work of a 21-year-old, it’s pretty promising. A few typos and grammatical errors apart, this is a nice read.

You can buy the book at:

http://www.flipkart.com/checkmate/p/itme5ze8z2bdvgyt?pid=9789381836941&otracker=start&q=9789381836941&as=off&as-show=off

www.infibeam.com/Books/checkmate-hrishikesh-joshi/9789381836941.html

http://www.amazon.in/Checkmate-Hrishikesh-Joshi/dp/9381836949/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426828143&sr=8-1&keywords=9789381836941

http://www.amazon.com/Checkmate-Hrishikesh-Joshi/dp/9381836949/ref=sr _1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426828146&sr=8-1&keywords=9789381836941

http://www.crossword.in/books/Checkmate/p-books-9789381836941.html

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Rating: 7.8/10 (5 votes cast)
18
Mar

Art for Acceptance

Review of The Art of Kozu; James Edgecombe; Sandstone Press 2014; pp 130

- Shana Susan Ninan

A straightforward cover with a Kimono-clad woman looking towards the hills greets us as we take up James Edgecombe’s The Art of Kozu. In two parts, the author gives realistic details of the life of Kuzo and Yumiko. The Takayanagi family of art dealers has long been associated with the artist Yuichiro Kozu (1878-1953). With the war over interest is renewed in the art of Kozu. A painting is used as the basis for the story, and unravels word by word, image by image.

Indochina during the Japanese occupation and Paris are the two areas where the story is based. Almost 20 years of art and conflict is depicted in this short novel. The power and influence of the two are portrayed through the lives of the protagonists. This controversial artist’s struggle for acceptance and uncorrupted recognition forms an undercurrent in the two sections.

Edgecombe’s words are evocative, visual and highly appealing to our senses. One gets the feeling of gliding on the surface of a painting, taking in the hues and the smells. Representation of Yumiko, the married lover, is done stunningly well. Yumiko stands for everything that’s desirable and, sometimes, forbidden. The romantic imagery and soulful prose guide the reader seamlessly through the years as the author takes us into times of war, struggle, love and separation.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)
29
Jan

Mrs Hudson, At Your Service

Review of The Case Book of Irene Adler; San Cassimally; Green Okapi Press 2014; pp 189

- Shana Susan Ninan

A thief and an investigator – that’s what Ms Irene Adler is. And she plays her part right down to the t. As a contemporary of the famous Sherlock Holmes, and at times, circumstantially against him, Adler comes to Holmes’s refuge. She gets Holmes to hire her in place of Ms Turner, the housekeeper. Armed as Mrs Hudson, with good disguise put on, Adler tells her side of the story this time. Let me assure you, in the solving of the cases mentioned, she’s adept and insightful, sometimes even seeming to outwitting Holmes. Their intellectual connectedness is thoroughly explored in San’s work.

Three most brilliant minds of the time – Moriarty, Holmes and Adler – comes under one roof in one of the stories, and you hold your breath, waiting for the unthinkable to happen. I shall let those who’ve not yet got a copy of San’s book to wait it out and read the rest of the happenings that follow the three masterminds.

Adler’s cases range from ambitious thefts, disguising as gypsies to retrieve a Romany child to redeeming her gay friend’s esteem and even tying the knot with her gay friend to save his skin in society. She learns to ride the horse, hunt game and use the gun deftly, all taught to her by her friends at the Club des As, a common group of friends who are out to right some social wrongs.

The author’s trademark playwright background and love of theatre comes through in the plots. Adler herself being a not-so-famous actor who’s now turned to a different occupation. San hails from Mauritius and received his education at Manchester and Cambridge Universities and is a prize-winning and produced playwright.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (5 votes cast)