Category Archives: Aleph Books

The Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica: Edited by Amrita Narayanan

The Parrots of Desire Title: The Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica
Edited by Amrita Narayanan
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064090
Genre: Literary Fiction, Erotica, Anthology
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

If anything, we have to acknowledge that we are the land of the Kamasutra – the ancient and divine art of lovemaking and that would perhaps be the first step toward a more progressive future than a regressive one. This thought came to mind after I finished reading yet another supremely brilliant anthology from Aleph Book Company, “ Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica”, edited by Amrita Narayanan. Amrita Narayanan is the one who has written “A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and other Erotic stories” which I loved, so I wasn’t surprised when I loved this anthology.

According to me, it takes a lot to edit an anthology. It isn’t as easy as it seems. To be able to pick the right pieces that fit with the theme is a lot of intelligence, empathy and hard-work at play, which reflects in this collection, maybe more so because it is erotic. It does what it must – the pieces liberate, titillate, make you want to engage in erotica, they make you want to be with someone in bed and explore each other’s bodies and maybe even read pieces from this collection today, before or after coitus.

The entire book is divided into 12 sections – right from why bother with sex to the art of seduction to men’s wish to be women (that’s India for all the regressive people) right to suspicion and confusion when it comes to bodies, Narayanan’s selection of pieces is also unique. The book covers parts of Kamasutra (but obviously) and writers such as Nagarkar, Kamala Das, Ismat Chughtai (Lihaaf but of course), Tarun Tejpal, Tagore, and so many more make this collection delightful.

What I found amusing at times was the looks I got on a bus or also while travelling in a rickshaw, at a signal as I was reading this one. Perhaps only when it generates curiosity will people bother to read and educate themselves on the art of erotica and love-making and not see it as a taboo.

As I said earlier, this collection wouldn’t have been what it is if not for the editor. Props to Narayanan for tracing erotica in India to 3000 years ago and collecting it piece by piece for this anthology. The writing is only richer because of the pieces and also the varied kinds of emotions – sexual and sensuous that are evoked through it. Read it for sure. Tease yourself a little. Give in to desire.

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365 Stories: Day 7: Sandalwood by Tejaswini Apte-Rahm

these-circuses-that-sweep-through-the-landscape-by-tejaswini-apte-rahm

Sometimes a story just does nothing for you. Sometimes it does so much that you cannot handle it. Tejaswini Apte-Rahm’s story “Sandalwood” falls in the latter category. An unnamed narrator, a lady is told by her husband that he is homosexual after 17 years of their marriage. They have two teenage kids. He has decided that she cannot live with them anymore and that his partner Chandan (Hindi for Sandalwood) is moving in with them. The children also want to live with their father. Thus begins the story. There are no spoilers. So don’t you worry.

Apte-Rahm’s writing is brilliant. It doesn’t cut corners. It says what it has to and is stark and clean – like a knife after being cleaned. I loved the narrator. I wish there was more from her perspective – sure it seemed enough, considering it is a short story but more could have been said. Inner lives and thoughts are well-handled by the author and I love that in a good story.

Book Review : Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry

Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer by  Cyrus Mistry Title: Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Author: Cyrus Mistry
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9788192328058
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are so many books to read. It will always be the case I guess. And then there are some books which you never thought you would read and end up reading them and loving them with a passion. There are also some books which you discover a little late and then wonder why you didn’t discover them earlier. For me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” by Cyrus Mistry is one such book.

It is about the world that we ignore. It is about societies and communities we overlook because it suits us fine to do so. And this has been going on for ages and the book only covers a portion of that discrimination.

“Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” is about a marginalized society in the Parsi Community – that of the corpse bearers, known as the Khandias, the untouchables of the community. The son of a Parsi priest, Phiroze Elchidana, falls in love with Sepideh, the daughter of an ageing khandia. He marries her and agrees to change to a khandia. That in short is the plot of the book, and yet there are so many layers to it.

For one, the book is set on the verge of Pre-Independence India and in Bombay, a city bustling with activity and a community so small and so ridden with their customs and traditions, like any other community. Mistry with his writing has brought to life the very core of life – its hypocrisy, and the double standards we live by.

The writing is slow and takes its time to reveal what lies underneath. The characters behave the way they are meant to – from Phiroze to his father to Sepideh; there is this edge and restraint, both in good measure to them. I also think that comes from Mistry knowing the Parsi community inside out, of course, so you would expect a story by him based on the caste structure practiced there, with all the finer details. More so, because the story is inspired from a true story, it rings and stays with the reader a lot more than it would have otherwise.

To me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” not only brings to light the marginalized structure of the society but also, somehow makes you think and connect with lives at a deeper level. It is a book which will make you seek more books written on such topics and that says a lot about the author and his writing.

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Interview with Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik and Modern Management infused with Mythological concepts seem to go hand in hand. He has always been at the forefront of exploring and breaking paradigms when it comes to looking at Mythology in the country or for that matter Management as well. With his new book, “Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management” he shatters all myths and at the same time urges you to look at management from a different perspective. The Indian perspective which cannot work sometimes on Western ideologies given the vast difference between Eastern and Western philosophies. Keeping this in mind, I decided to interview him and this is the result of that interaction.

Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik

1. Myth and Management. How did you think of connecting the two?

Myth is subjective truth. Management is about people. Every person has a subjective truth. So connecting the two made sense. Of course, if you think of myth as something to do with fantasy and religion then this connection seems incredible. Myths of the world are maps of the human mind; they reveal how different cultures approach life. Reading them helps us understand different societies.

People are slowly realizing that management has long ignored the culture lever making it rather
mechanistic.


2. Modern concepts of Management do not seem to recognize Mythology and its importance. How do you tackle this in your role as a Chief Belief Officer?

Modern management is based on science and mathematics. So it is assumed to be rational and universal. Only an outsider knows that it is steeped in Western thought, which is strongly shaped by Greek mythology and biblical mythology, something the West will vehemently deny. You see, the fish never sees the water. The bird does. As someone who has been studying mythology for years, this was so obvious. When I mapped it to business, I realized all the problems of business could be traced to this mythical root. When I presented it to business leaders, the ones who always sensed the difference intuitively loved my work. Then at the 2009 TED conference, the popularity of my talk indicated that everyone in the world sensed the relationship of culture and management principles, hence the exclusion of non-western cultural ideas.

Image 2 (1600 x 1066px)

3. What was the motivation behind “Business Sutra”?

Modern Management follows the biblical paradigm of defining the Promised Land (target) and moving towards it by following Commandments (tasks) or the Greek paradigm of challenging authority and forging a new path as hero (innovation and leadership). I wondered what Indian mythology would reveal. And I saw a whole different approach to targets, tasks, innovation and leadership.

4. This book is very different from your other works. How much did the book take from you and in what sense?

This was tough as it meant making a journey from Western management to Western mythology to Indian mythology to Indian management. I had to explain basics of management to those familiar with mythology and basics of mythology to those familiar with management. Mythology was especially tough as most books on the subject are written by European and American writers whose understanding of the subject is rather poor because of the Western linear bias.

5. You have almost created a niche audience for mythological books. How do you think they are accepting a book about looking at Indian Management differently?

I have a good readership in Management because of my columns in Corporate Dossier (Economic Times) and my CNBC-TV18 show, Business Sutra.

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6. “Business Sutra” breaks barriers all the time. Almost breaking paradigms. Was this intentional to the writing of the book? How did the book structure come along?

Well I did not seek to break barriers. I just wanted to draw attention to the incompleteness of current scholarship in matters related to management. Management today assumes that the military model followed by the Roman army and Jesuit missionaries is the ‘right way’ to do things. That sounds scary. At the heart of it seems to be about conquest (read growth) and domination (read leadership).

Something does not feel right about its spirit. Is an alternative discourse allowed? We want to propagate violent worldviews and there is a trend to dismiss alternate worldview as unrealistic and exotic. That is not healthy and not very wise either.

Structuring the book was very tough as I had to explain the meaning of belief, connect belief with mythology and then business, draw attention to Western mythology whose existence is for all intent and purposes denied, and then show how it was different from Indian mythology. One then had to enter the new world of Kama, Yama, Indra, Vishnu, Shiva and Daksha, and of Laskhmi, Saraswati and Durga. While most readers are sort of familiar with many of the words/ideas of the book, they do not either all the words, or understand it in depth. So there were challenges at every level.

6. Devdutt, the writer…

Writes every day for 2-3 hours…weeps at how little or how badly he has written….and struggles to make his ideas understood.

7. Devdutt, the Chief Belief Officer. How does he make sense of madness at the workplace? Where do the sutras then begin to show the way and how?

The workplace is not mad. We sign a contract which is essentially voluntarily domestication. For a payslip we do what we are told to do. But as humans we yearn for visibility; the organization is unfortunately not interested in our intelligence, only our obedience and our performance. So we feel invisible, restrained, frustrated and angry. We yearn for freedom and when that is not forthcoming, we
bitch about the organization, or indulge in politics, in order to feel special and powerful.

The sutras of the book aim to widen the gaze of the reader, understand what is actually happening at the workplace, the invisible currencies that are being exchanged. It is not just about target, tasks, rules and wealth, it is also about power and identity, something we rarely connect with the business world.

A workspace can become a battleground, if we don’t see what is happening beneath the superficial behaviour. Or, it has the potential to become a playground, where each one of us is growing as we do our tasks and reach our targets.


8. When does management begin and when does it take over what we have grown up with and believed all along?

Management today expects humans to give up all values they have at home and adopt new values in the office. This sounds bizarre but that seems to be trend. The assumption is that we have to articulate values; else we are value-less. We live in an age of political correctness where we have to say and do the right thing, whether we believe in it or not. This schizophrenic approach to work and life is supposed to make us more efficient, but it does not. It fractures us and the fault lines have started to show across organizations, industries and societies.

9. What is next on the cards?

I never interview and tell….:-) but we do have 330 million gods to write about and many more business practices to explore.

And thus ended, the fascinating talk with Dr. Pattanaik. It was truly a fantastic experience for me.

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Book Review: Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management by Devdutt Pattanaik

Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Aleph Books
ISBN: 978-81-923280-7-2
Genre: Non-Fiction, Management, Mythology
Pages: 437
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When you think of mythology and management, it becomes very difficult to connect the two. Doesn’t it? I am sure anyone would think it is impossible or close to being impossible, however that isn’t the case for Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, who when speaks of mythology, does not consider it any different from daily living. He doesn’t categorize or compartmentalize the concept at all. When Dr. Pattanaik writes or talk of mythology, he weaves it seamlessly into what we call living. He doesn’t treat it any different and may be that is the reason why we get his writing the way we do. It is simplistic and at the same time given the expertise, doesn’t come across as overbearing.

His new book, “Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management” aims at breaking all myths and vague ideas people have had about management in our country. He takes almost each concept one by one and bares it to its minimum, thereby rationally explaining to the reader, what works and what doesn’t and may be what could work. The book has structure and at the same time tells its readers to break all structures and forms of thinking, thereby learning to create new approaches, new Indian Approaches to Management, which we have probably been ignoring for a very long time.

“Business Sutra” is a difficult and yet an illuminating read. Dr. Pattanaik takes the reader through a chronological journey of his perception of management. The introduction of the book in itself is of twenty five pages, describing the need for such a book. He speaks of the design of the book and how he has tried to connect management to mythology and how it may work for some and may not work for others. At the same time, what I love about the book is that it isn’t preachy nor does it sound imposing.

The book is divided into three major sections, each section unraveling a different world for the reader. The book helps the reader read through structurally from decoding business beliefs of the Indian, the Chinese and the Western World to talking about the sutras of management and how they co-exist with mythology in the background. There are close to more than one hundred sutras and all aim at defining only one thing: To change the approach to management and at the same time talk of its connection to our roots through what is closest to our hearts and what we can connect with: Myths and Legends.

The wide gamut of the book sometimes would make the reader read it in bits and parts and that to me is the best way to enjoy this book as well. The references are way too many and that is what I enjoyed the most about the book – right from case studies which I could relate to from a working professional angle to the language which is simple and yet ensures the point is made, from a reader’s perspective. The balance that is struck is worth all of it.

“Business Sutra” is not your traditional book on management concepts. Devdutt Pattanaik takes it a step further with every turn of the page and you will realize it only when you read the book. The illustrations only enhance the value of the words and add more clarity to concepts. For instance, when he is explaining the sutra, “Mental Violence is also Violence” with an apt diagram, it sinks deep into the reader’s subconscious and from there on the reader can connect to the sutra with the story and the illustration in a better manner.

Overall, it was definitely a two thumbs up for me when it came down to reading and talking about “Business Sutra”. The approach is clear. The content is well-researched and solid and there is nothing which is out of place. The integration of mythology and the workplace is seamless and brilliantly executed. So for me the book worked well on almost all levels. A great read and again I say, you cannot read it in one stretch and one shouldn’t even try doing that. It should be read in bits and pieces and be savoured the way it is meant to be.

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