September 26, 2011

The best way to judge a novel is to check whether it keeps one interested enough to turn pages. On this parameter, Tulsi Badrinath's "Man of a Thousand Chances" does not disappoint. This is one novel which keeps your curiosity alive. The portrayal of a typical middle class life has been beautifully expressed with vivid details. If one has lived a middle class life at any point of one's existence, one will relate to the characters of the novel and will feel a part of the whole drama.

But this is not just a novel. It is a story entwined with art, philosophy, a little bit of business! As the story unfolds, one is subjected to heavy dose of philosophy and esoteric topics like law of karma and fate. The last few pages seem to be more focused on philosophical discourse rather than on bringing the story to its logical end. One may enjoy this or get distracted depending on one's views on life and philosophy. And in between, courtesy a mad numismatologist, you get transported on a time machine to witness history ranging from court of Jehangir to battle field of Alexendar and Porus!

"Man of a Thousand Chances" is a novel about Harihar, a middle class man, and his wife Sarla. It is a story about their struggle, duties, responsibilities, aspirations, and fate. Harihar, a man of few means, works in a museum. Faced with his responsibility to marry his daughter and arrange a respectable marriage ceremony, he steals a rare gold coin of the Jehangir era to pawn it to generate short term cash for his daughter's marriage. He intends to replace it back in museum as soon as his fixed deposit is up for maturity. Then a string of events take place - bankruptcy of the finance company where he had his fixed deposit, followed by the coin moving into the hands of a numismatologist, planned robbery in museum, Sarla making big money in day trading, and murder of the sahukaar who had given loan in lieu of the coin. By the end of this roller coaster ride, Harihar and Sarla, who had developed emotional distance during the course of their married life, became more aware of each others presence and started coming closer, emotionally.

The only problem is that at times, due to excessive use of flowery language to vividly describe situations, the narrative becomes a drag and one wants to skip and jump. Also, at the end, the story does not appear to be realistic as too many unrelated coincidences happen one after another in quick succession to protect Harihar from the charge of theft. Law of karma, fate, or a novelist's imagination? It is for the reader to decide.

Overall a good read.

September 23, 2011

There are some leaders who talk a lot and others who listen a lot. Although this is more of a personality trait, it affects the performance, effectiveness, and morale of the men and women the leader leads. This prompts a question: who is better - a talking leader or a listening leader?

The essence of leadership is empathy. Without showing a high degree of empathy, it is very difficult to lead. While leadership is directly concerned with vision, direction, decision making, building capability, and delivering results, it is empathy which acts as an enabler. And high degree of empathy is directly linked with effective listening!

The problem with a talking leader is that unknowingly he ends up alienating the team instead of aligning them to a common goal. By talking too much and with authority, he discourages diverse view points on a subject and thereby forcefully imposes his own view points. This may work where the capability of his followers is weak and his experience exhaustive. But if he is leading a strong and capable team, he may get trapped within his own world view and miss other better alternatives and get bogged down with the side effect of sending the passion within the team for a toss!

To sum up, a leader needs to be assertive and decisive but not talkative and imposing. He needs to listen to the heart of his followers and then use empathy, persuasion, and experience to help draw the best possible road map and align the entire team to rally around it. Outstanding leaders do not impose decision; they make their followers feel as if the decision is their own!