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This book was sold last year, but somehow was prominently displayed at most book stores in my recent trip (from the US) to Hyderabad and B’bay. I had not heard about the book. I bought it just cause the author was my namesake…nothing else.

I must confess, this was the best Rs. 195 I had spent in a while. I finished the book in one sitting, on the flight(s) back, something I hadn’t done in a long long time.

The book is gripping, maintains a steady pace, belongs in the genre of Erich Seghal & the more modern hindi movies like Corporate and Page 3. For one, the language, a la sentence construction was simple, in line with what New York times calls “easy to be read”. Rarely do you get to read an Indian author who does not make you refer to a dictionary every third page or uses plentiful adjectives or superfluous prose as a part of “literary license”. The book is also efficient, every line makes sense, in the right place and forms a distinct thread that weaves the overall story. No waste of space, no waste of words.

The target audience that is most likely to “get” this book are the MBA’s or aspiring MBAs. Anyone one who was a management trainee in the early 90’s in India (your truly belongs to this category) can relate to this story pretty well. I think its one of the best times for management grads as this period was when the fruits of liberalization was creating avenues and opportunities unheard of in the past. The world was really yours to take. This generation has many many “firsts” like retail banking, retailing itself, centralized media buying, media explosion, service industry culture, information technology, H1 visa and mass immigration to the US, birth of Indi-pop, chummaries, and ATM’s.  

Ravi explores one such first , the world of retail MNC banking in early 90’s. He writes the story in a quasi flashback way – takes you through two decades by following the the careers and actions of two management trainees –  Swami, a quintessential south india tambram brain and Sandeep, a sassy smart north indian. At a philosophical level the story is good vs evil, resulting in the obvious victory for the good. Ravi explores the interpersonal dynamics of a typical young team, and how their early experiences and their own convictions shape them as leaders. He brings in many characters to lend an authentic backdrop for the book, names are well chosen.

The story illustrates the sharp tactical thinking and the fine ethical line that corporate execs are required to tow to achieve unprecedented success. It explores how power & money can corrupt young managers, how sass and savvy can take you to the top , but how unwavering integrity keeps you there. Ravi also successfully portrays bonds of true friendship, relationship and family life in the wake of a successful MNC career. There is also a realistic but heavy doze of women and how someone in power can abuse them, this forms an important but background thread of the story.

My highlights of the books are

  • Character build ups: The way each character enters the story is amazing. For example : Swami sitting on a bench outside the office early in the morning memorizing every line in the economic times 
  • Action description that portrays emotions :  This is where Ravi really scores. Here is an example. There is a line which says roughly says Sandeep hangs up the phone on his wife when Swami walks into his office, almost glad that he had a reason to hang up – This totally sums up the relationship between Sundeep and his wife at that point int he story
  • Numerous charecters yet distinct place for each of them: There are over 35 charecters in the book, each having a disctinct personality and playing a very specific part and none of them redundant. Its amazing how with so many charecters you never confuse one with the other.
  • Simple story well told: The story is fairly simple and so is the delivery : that combination has a certain finesse to it that makes it an enjoyable read.

What I did not like was that the ending was quiet predictable, but the curiosity of how the author would present the ending kept me reading. 

IGWAB is one of those books that will make a great Hindi movie : Akshaya Khanna for Sundeep and Madhavan for Swaminathan, Preity Zinta for Natasha and Vidya Balan for Kalpana, Music in typical Indian groove with ESL doing the score..super hit man!!!

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