Jack Canfield who co-founded Chicken Soup for the Soul said the title was inspired by his grandma’s tale that her chicken soup cured anything. I wonder what Jack would have done for a title, had his grandma been a vegetarian. Chicken-soup-for-soul books have been such sure-fire sellers worldwide since 1970s that it was merely a matter of time before we had a desi avatar - Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul. Westlands are now at it, bringing out Soup editions for Indian armed forces, women, mothers, fathers, teachers, teenagers, and desi brides.
The latest ‘soup’ edition, for Indian corporate souls, is required reading for office-goers. It’s the kind of book you read on cummute to work; you talk about with colleagues at office canteen. The book talks about corporate souls experiencing spurts of success, stifling setback, and life-long strife to maintain proper work-life balance. The blurb mentions 101 stories of entrepreneurship and creativity at the workplace. I haven’t counted the chapters; nor have I read them all.
It’s kinda book that invites readers to taste it, in bits and pieces picked out at random. I remember the school days when we played ‘book cricket’, with a book in hand, to be opened at random for the page number (denoting the runs scored). With the Chicken Soup book I picked chapters, as I picked up ‘runs’ in ‘book cricket’. Reading this way was fun.
In his piece Sunil Agarwal wondered if company executives would do well to have appraisals of performance at home – as spouse, parent - just as they have work appraisal at office. Author Agarwal is an investment banker in Mumbai. Akhil Shahani, born in a business family and an MBA from Kellogg’s School of Management, writes of the lesson he learned from failure of his software start-up. Shahani has an ally in Sabeer Bhatia . In this BBC interview (Hotmail) Bhatia said Indian business community lacked the mindset to accept failure as learning experience. In the US, he said , business failure was seen as a badge of honour, something that spurs you to try again. The story of Silicon Valley has been that nine out of ten products failed, but the one that makes it more than makes up for all earlier losses.
In the chapter – A professional Hug – interviewer Juhi Rai Farmania, of a corporate recruitment agency, writes how she came to give a hug to a job applicant at the end of the interview. I visualised in her account a touch of Jaadu Ki Jappi, from the Munnabahi movie featuring Sanjay Dutt. We get to read about how Sridhar Seshadhri got his dream job with Facebook; how Sanghvi(Bali D), along with her Nishi Aunty (Nishita Garg) opened an online library in Kolkata; how a pipeline maintenance engineer Goutam Datta was saved by his technician from a charging bear in Orissa’s Mahargiri forest; and how his office peon Rozario continued to hand out Christmas cake to his office colleagues , and to Datta even after he quit the company.
And then we have this dog-eat-dog story by media person Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon. As a has-been in the print media myself, I would think media-eat-media stories are a factor of today’s corporatized media, in which branding and market share appears to be the driving force; and editor is reduced to a name that appears in the newspaper printline. In the newspaper I used to represent the name appears in the finest of fine-print. I wonder what Ingrid would say. Wouldn’t it add value to the series, if they publish a Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul in media ?
Editor of the book under review Juhi Rai Farmania says her first soup-for-soul story, on the loss of her dear friend, was done to share with her readers the beautiful message that changed her relationships. This reminds me of a ‘feel’ piece my friend Vidya Sigamany did on death, explaining why she couldn’t bring herself to attend the funeral of a person dear to her soul. Sigamany’s piece - Deepest Condolences - would merit inclusion in a chicken soup book for those mourning the loss of their dear ones.
And if Chicken soup publishers are considering language possibilities, say a Tamil avatar , I would recommend as editor-contributor the likes of Chennai-based IT professional and weekend writer LakshmiSudha (no friend of mine). Her writings can be accessed at Sangapalagai. Writer Sivasankari comes to mind, if Westland-Tata wants to set up a ‘soup-kitchen’ for the Tamil souls under Knit India’