COFFEE WITH KALAM – 2


The second and concluding part of my talk at the FDP at the ITC Grand Chola on May 3.

I have spoken to you about six books; I now move to the next six.

This one is a lovely string of motherhoods. 100 of them. Each in 1.5 pages. Each page in big print so that you don’t have to use your reading glasses. None of what Robin Sharma says in his book Greatness Guide is novel. Each one of them is what your grandma would have told you. But I guess coming from an iconic world famous public speaker it calls for greater attention! You could actually apply each of his thoughts, one a day, until you completely internalize them.

I never thought that a corporate guy could write classy books. That’s the problem with us, writers. We think others can’t do it. But Subroto Bagchi’s, The Professional is a class apart. It’s the kind of book that every young boy and girl, who is beginning to make his or her career, whether in corporate or in practice or in teaching, must read and follow. Bagchi talks of many things, and amongst them all the one where he speaks of how to handle volume appealed to me the most. I have become such a fan of his that I have laid my hands on all of his books. Bravo Bagchi.

When I first stood up to speak in school debates, my dad gave me Dale Carnegie’s book on Public Speaking. It set for me the tone and tempo of my later year talks. No, I am not recommending to you that book. Instead, going to recommend his other classy masterpiece, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Many dismiss that book as being phony, as being westernized. To me it doesn’t matter. I believe many of the things that he speaks there works. Don’t get carried away by Carnegie’s controversial end, about his alleged suicide. Even if that were true, it doesn’t matter; what matters is what his book tells us and not what he may or may not have done to himself. Every young kid should read this Carnegie.

Read Nassim Taleb’s the Black Swan. As you know, there are only white swans and no black swans in this world. There are only black swines. Taleb uses the phrase Black Swan to denote the happening of an unpredictable event. An event that is so bizarre that no one would have ever thought that it would ever happen. The other day, I told the ICAI’s Commerce Summit about an IPL wager that has a 1/16,000 probability of happening; that’s almost zilch, 0%. And I showed them how in fact it could, with monotonous regularity, be manufactured to happen. 26/11 was a black swan event. The surprising thing is not that it happened. The surprising think is that we are surprised that it happened.

Like I told you, the last two books that I intend to name are amongst the finest. A couple of years back, I read the magnum opus Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. It’s a book written in 1776 but written in the writing style of the 21st century. It is remarkable that it is written with such clarity and precision. Adam Smith writes about a number of matters including say Division of Labor. And he explains each chapter in just about 4-5 pages. It’s a book every teacher of Economics and every student of Economics and every one of us must read. I haven’t really and truly come across anyone better than Adam Smith to explain economics.

I have reserved the 12th book for the best one. Whether you read the other 11 or not, you must, as a teacher and more importantly as a citizen of India, read this book. This is a history book that has been written like no other history book. It kicks off in the year prior to India’s independence, with the arrival of Lord Mountbatten; it captures the pangs of partition and closes with the tragic assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It’s a shame that such a wonderful book on the partition of India is written by two foreigners.

A few years ago I received this mail from my niece.

She wrote: “Have you read the book Freedom at Midnight? Reading the book I was truly drained by the experience. The passions, the struggles, the glut and ultimately, the tragic freedom; it just left me amazed. Before the book I just knew Gandhi as the name with the highest frequency in history books. But after experiencing that book, I utter that name with holy reverence”

Apparently the book has touched people from two different generations. That’s the greatness of the Freedom at Midnight.

One last point before I close down. Don’t don’t ever recommend a book until you have fully read them. Read the 12 that I suggested and you wont regret it. That’s what I promise you.

Thanks a lot for your attention.

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About Pattabhi Ram

A chartered accountant by profession, a writer by passion and a teacher by accidental choice.
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