Chicken Soup for the Soul : Is Soul non-vegetarian ?

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’

I thank   BlogAdda ,   for  sending  the book for review  under their programme  for Book Reviews by Bbloggers.


Sunitha’s TED talk

Name: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan,  40,   mental health worker.

Work :  Giving voice to the voiceless sex-abuse victims ; an identiy to these ‘Anamikas’ ; helping them build up self-confidence  Has  rescued and rehab-ed  3,200 sex-abused females, aged  from three years to 40.

Motivation :  Gang-raped by eight men when she was 16 ; ostricised by society for the next two years.

Job hazard:   Has been beaten up many times by  thugs,  pimps and brothel keepers ; one of her staff members was killed in her effort to  rescue  a sex-abused woman.

Her TED talk:  12.42 mins  indictment of  our society;  scathing commentary on victimisation of victims of sexual abuse.

Her poser:   Would we accept one of these Anamikas  into  our homes as maid, house nurse or nanny ? Would we feel comfortable with  their children playing and moving  with ours ? Till such time there are not enough of us who can say,  ‘Yes, we will’,   Sunitha feels her work wouldn’t be done.

Her wish:  Each of us talks  this through to at least two others in our family and social circle. They,  in turn, could do the same with two of their contacts.

My wish:  All TV channels,  notably,  those dedicated to religious faiths, should telecast Sunitha’s TED talk.

‘Incredible India’, incorrigible automen

automen I’ve not had occasion to deal with women driving autos during my recent visit to Chennai, but then this post is about the incorrigible auto-drivers  in our  ‘Incredible India’.  I did spot an auto-rickshaw with a painted message at the back, saying ‘This is a tourist-friendly auto’.  A rare species, I believe. Tamilnadu tourism website lists  39 such auto-drivers,  giving their names, addresses and cell numbers.

Experiences of a majority of those hiring autos  have been such that a long-time Chennai resident has even gone to the extent of suggesting in a blog post  that it is time governments of other countries issued a travel advisory to their nationals not to hire auto-rickshaw while in Chennai.  A researcher in Madras University, Mr Jesuraja,  is reported to have done a thesis on the behavioural pattern of the city auto-drivers. His study is based on interviews with 130 automen from T Nagar.

My recent  experience in dealing  with these guys proved educative.  An auto-driver was the last person from whom I expected to get a lowdown on the state of recession, inflation,  petrol prices and allied economics. I found them agressively pragmatic in negotiating fares.  Did I say ‘negotiation’ ? It’s not the word; the Chennai auto-drivers have the last word, often the only word, when it comes to fare-fixing.   They know of no such thing as a fare-meter.  In terms of business ethics Chennai auto-drivers appear to be guided by the  take-’em-for-a ride  approach adopted with impunity by the likes of ‘Satyam’ Raju and Bernie Madoff. 

Like the celebrity swindlers,  autowalahs have no qualms about looting the gullible.  But aren’t out-of-town visitors meant to be fleeced?  Which, presumably,  what this auto-driver on South Boag Road (near Sivaji Ganesan’s place)  had on his mind when he asked for Rs.50 to take me to FabIndia on G N Chetti Road.  When I asked if it wasn’t a bit much for a two-km ride the automan snapped, “what,then, would you pay? Five rupees?” So scornful was he that I felt silly having bothered him in the first place. I skipped the next two automen we passed by; and  let my wife tackle the third one we came across.  He wanted Rs.40. When we asked if he couldn’t bring it down, the automan gave us a kerbside talk on rising cost of living, falling value of the rupee,  not to speak of high petrol prices.  But haven’t they brought it down ?  The auto-driver held that a reduction by a couple of rupees at the prevailing living costs made no difference to auto-drivers’ living standard. His punchline: “After all, I asked you for Rs. 40,  not 40,000”.  I couldn’t figure out what he meant by that. 

Eventually, we ran into an automan willing to take us for Rs.30. It may be well above the official minimum fare for a two-km ride. But then who follows the metered rate structure? Auto thozhilalar union president is quoted in Deccan Chronicle as saying auto-drivers could not be expected to go by the government fixed rates, and still hope to improve their living standard. 

 Such attitude of blatant defience of authority smacks of what I would term the  ‘Cooum syndrome’. It is a situation wherein you leave an issue unadressed so long that it becomes utterly hopeless.  Once a navigable river running through the city of Madras,  Cooum has,  over decades of neglect and inaction,  degenerated into a stagnant sewage dump. Cooum is  so far gone that the authorities can no longer address the issue of cleaning the river in a  meaningfully  manner. With apparent inablity of the local authorities to  discipline auto-drivers,  that  travel advisory may well  apply to  all visitors, not just foreigners.  As for Chennai residents,  they  appear   accustomed to their incorrigible automen, as they are,   to  an unflowing Cooum.

Is ‘blogger’ male or female?

This poser should interest/provoke Raji, Kalyani, Indrani, and a host of my other blogger friends. If words have a gender, what would blogger be, male or female? Brenda who blogs in verses might compose one on blogging’s glass ceiling. The consensus at the San Francisco BlogHer conference was that women bloggers are not taken seriously. BlogHer, founded by a former journalist Lisa Stone, and a couple of other women professionals, runs a website to publicize women’s blogs.

Many speakers at the conference said their male colleagues and major media groups tended to ignore women; their political blogs were linked less often by their male counterparts. “Women get dismissed in ways that men don’t,” according to Megan McArdle of The Atlantic Monthly, who blogs on economic issues. Of the top 100 web celebrities listed by a technology website there were only 11 women. The list last year named just three women on its list of 25 bloggers.

This is the kind of stuff that provokes blog posts. I read someone making a point that those raising this gender bogey should count themselves lucky that NYT covered their conference at all. That the newspaper did it in its Style & Fashion section was not lost on many others.

Making a song and dance of this man versus woman blogger thing may get us nowhere.  But it’s fun reading about it; and I wouldn’t skip it, even if it appears in S & F section of NYT. As for blog posts the NYT article triggered, my pick is cranky who writes, ‘I’m kinda glad I missed out on the BlogHer conference, if only after reading this NYT article’. She goes on to say she reads Lynne, Vallette and Hetta not because they’re women, but because they write stuff she wants to read.


Cross-posted in SiliconIndia