Animal Farm


By: George Orwell

About:
(a) Politics-from championing rising against injustices to curbing rising against injustices
(b) Power-its acquisition, manifestation and retention

Features:

Language: Satirical, with use of personification of animals. Loaded with symbolism.

Style: A post ‘coup d’état’ story, with parts on rebellions and rebuilding, bloodshed and hardship.

Summary:

The author provides the reader with vivid character sketches for each animal as the story begins.

(i)Old Major-an old wise boar- revered by all animals- sows the seed of rebellion for freedom of animals from shackles of slavery

(ii)Boxer-a strong cart horse-not of first rate intelligence-universally respected for steadiness of character and tremendous power to work

(iii) Benjamin-the donkey-the oldest-the worst-tempered-cynical-never talked never laughed

(iv) Napolean-fierce looking Berkshire boar-not much of a talker-with a reputation of getting his own way

(v) Snowball-boar-more vivacious, quicker in speech and more inventive than Napolean-not considered to have same depth of character as Napolean

(vi)Squealer-porker-twinkling eyed-brilliant talker-persuasive

These protagonists shape the story on the ‘Manor Farm’ owned by Mr. Jones- a human being. Anything with two legs are seen as the enemy and that everything with four legs is a comrade in the battle to overthrow these two-legged tyrannous masters.

Many parallels can be drawn between the actions and events as portrayed and celebrated by comrades of the ‘Animal Farm’ and human beings of the real world.

Some of the equivalencies to a nation are:

  1. Seven Commandments of Animal Farm= Constitution of a nation: A set of fundamental principles are proposed by the pigs and agreed upon by other animals upon freedom from human race. As the story progresses, one can see how in an undemocratic regime, the constitution is manipulated multiple times to the point that the society may well be better off without the charter.
  2. Illiteracy of the population is used to the literate ruler’s advantage.
  3. With the help of above two points and ruling party’s oratory and persuasion, spread of false news and false hopes is commonplace. A total lack of education leads to rulers going unchecked about their business.
  4. Along-with spread of falsity, regular brainwash of the ‘subjects’ takes place through Squealer’s persuasive talks, the unintelligent sheep’s non-stop singing to the pigs’ tunes and the old and uneducated ‘lesser animals” acceptance of what is being told and shown against their own feeble beliefs.
  5. With knowledge comes great power and to sustain power comes the use of intimidation. By virtue of being the cleverest, the pigs quickly gain a lot of knowledge. The other animals give them power by celebrating them as the cleverest. And the dog guards and the harsh death sentences of ‘traitor animals’ serve the purpose of instilling fears in the masses.
  6. The dog army, much like a terrorist group, is built by stealing the young ones from their mothers and raising them to venerate the ‘master’ and ferociously kill.
  7. A gradual increase in power distance becomes more and more apparent as the story advances. This thanks to killer dogs and rules like only the pigs can have alcohol and live inside the farmhouse and such.
  8. Ceremonies like awarding of “Citizen First-Class” or Sunday Meetings  are basically the army regime celebrating itself and parliament sessions respectively.

Another interesting comparison that can be drawn is between the relationship of pigs and other animals to that of management of a company and its workforce.

  • Napolean and Snowball are the co-founders and co-chairmen of the startup ‘Animal Farm’. Both have knowledge as their arsenel and different visions for the enterprise.
  • The pigs of course comprise of the management at the Animal Farm
  • Boxer is like the loyal employee who toils tirelessly, with the blind faith in his manager and hopes of a peaceful superannuation
  • Mollie-the foolish, pretty mare is the employee who still likes the old organisation structure where literal sugar-coated rewards were the compensation for slaving and defects to the well established competitor firm
  • Benjamin is the oldest worker in the shop floor who seldom utters a word, has seen it all, refuses to openly participate in the new ways but does in fact know better than anyone else how the newfangled ways are really just the old ones
  • The awards like citizen- first and -second class are just HR gimmicks
  • Filling of empty barrels with sand underneath and crops at the top when Mr. Whymper- the human solicitor comes to inspect the farm is false Marketing and Advertising
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How Will You Measure Your Life?


By: Clayton M. Christensen

About:

(a) Applying business thinking to manage the most important business- one’s life.

(b) Finding your own answers by management analogies.

Features:

Language: use of MBA terminologies (apt, as the article is published in HBR magazine). Nevertheless, easy to understand and imbibe.

Style: Questions have been asked and theories hinting at the answers are presented.

Plus Point:

(a) The happiness quotient, which everyone seeks ultimately, often remains a secondary in our careers. The article raises questions that revolve around this quotient.

(b) Theories used are the famous concepts that every MBA student, regardless of specialization, is familiar with. Use of relate-able literature gives a simple direction to thought-process.

Summary:

The article talks about spending time to understand and seek the purpose of life.

  1. I relate it to going to bed-meditation, where I weigh the good and bad I did the whole day. The idea is to understand why I did what I did.
  2. Another extension is this post itself. I enjoy reading and writing. This book reviewing website had been missing me since Sept, 2013 as I was chasing the tangibles- education and job. Undeniably the important things in life. But, this space on the web too holds a similar importance in my life, and I’m glad this article helped me realize this 🙂

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Doctors


By: Erich Segal

Doctors (1988)

About:

(a) the lives’ of people who take up medicine

(b) the various biases ( gender, color and religion ) that our world is afflicted with.

(c) a void that comes with the loss of child; incurable sickness; ambitious spouse; cut-throat environment; wars

Features:

Language: rich in English as well as Latin, French and Spanish ; medical and legal parlances used

Style: This fiction proceeds chronologically with real life events from 1940’s to 70’s (political, scientific and a few basketball-based)

Plus point:

(i) As seen by me, a Science student; the head-ache i.e. the molecular diagram of antihistamines, the calculation of ATP needed for glucose to glycogen conversion, the eternal battle with organic chemistry, the seemingly meaningless rote-learning and lack of practical implementation in curriculum, the sheer pleasure our professors seem to derive from our misery (read: unseen, unheard questions and surprise tests), the sleepless nights during exams, the crazy classmates with super-human mugging abilities; all these are much too easy to relate with.

(ii) For anyone who has been a teenager, and has faced entrance exams to get a college and a life; the dream-girl, the Mr. right, school elections, sports selections, impressing  your unimpressible parents ,love-life, admission frenzy, interviews etc. will make the reading of initial part of the book a walk down the memory lane.

(iii) For anyone who’s looking for a good way to build your vocabulary, this book is a good source (as mentioned in the Language above) and a good read.

Summary

The story talks about many issues that we face:

As a young boy: If the neighbourhood girl is a better player than you; or when your dad is not the hero you kind of hope him to be, while your younger sibling leaves you behind in social life…

As a young girl: If you turn out to be better at ball than all the guys; or when beauty brings you all kinds of suitors , while your parents can’t offer you their love.

As a Black child of White parents: the confusion, the discrimination, the friendlessness, the determination to stand-out and the heart-break when your skin color matters more than your brains.

As a female in the male domain: the absolute disrespect, the malicious hints of being out-of-place, the disbelief in the fact that a “beauty is on duty”, as also the ‘task’ of bearing children. Either you break down or you break down the barriers.

As a doctor: Euthanasia. Inhuman working hours to serve the fellow humans. Emotional attachment detachment with your patients. Personal life crisis v/s call of duty.

As a doctor who is a parent: 

Perhaps he had been too preoccupied with virulent cases of poliomyelitis to recognize that his own daughter was showing some of of the symptoms…….

Luis was wild with self-recrimination. He was doctor, dammit, a doctor! He should have been able to save his own daughter!

– when Dr. Luis Castellano loses his younger child to polio and as a result drifts into a life of  drinking and  self-denigration

Obstetrician Dr. Hastings was not at all flattered to have been chosen by a couple as distinguished as Laura and Barney.   For he knew physicians are notoriously nervous and difficult parents…. He was not wrong. Dr. Laura Livingston , thanks to her speciality, was a complete and up-to-date catalogue of potential disasters in (her) uterus.

-when the Dr. couple are expecting their first child, they go berserk and drive

the consulting doctor crazy with their own diagnosis of their unborn child 

What was it? The enzyme? The chinese potion? A doctor’s touch? A parent’s love?

                                               –     Dr. Barney Livingston asked himself,unable to comprehend the mystery of medicine, when a kid survived an incurable condition , after its parents had knocked every door to save their only child.

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And the Mountains Echoed


And the Mountains Echoed

by: Khaled Hosseini

About:
(a) two siblings parted in childhood
(b) people whose lives are interwoven by the Afghanistan situation

Features:

Language: simple, fable-like in the initial plot, couple of French lines thrown here and there as the story shuttles between Afghanistan ,France ,Greece and the US .

Style: “every-day life” narratives of many characters

Minus point:  A few chapters seem unrelated or mere accretions to the main theme.

Plus point: The character sketches are powerful, easy to conjure up a mental image of each character.

Summary:

(i) Abdullah is the brother . The principal-most character. Very little about him is written. Though all very consistent with the reality and easy to believe.

As a child, how he feels  what his step-mother must feel about him.

How he is protective of his baby sister Pari.

How he is aware of the reactions and actions of his father in any situation.

Later, when he is shown as an Afghan restaurateur as a refugee in the US , how he makes his daughter Pari attend Farsi lessons , tries to tell her “swimming” and school “camps” are not for her, influences her to drop the decision of going “away” for college and basically up-brings her the traditional Afghan way, as per their homeland’s  propriety.

A little later, when his wife passes away and his mental faculties are shown to recede,  how he gets touchy and feely on meeting his estranged and long-forgotten sister (the woman is crazy; what guts: calling herself my sister).

(ii) Pari Wahadati is the sister, the other main character.  Separated from her Abollah when she was young enough to forget him quickly and adopt a new life.

Her babyhood in poverty-stricken (imaginary village) Shadbagh with her brother,the brief luxurious childhood in Kabul, the bitter mother-daughter relation and awkward dating life in Paris and finally her husband and kids and job plot a graph of how her life varied from low to high with kinks in between.

(iii) The Wahadatis are Pari’s foster parents; rich and unhappy couple; soon separate; and Nila Wahadati (the mother) moves to Paris with Pari where a new chapter of a new life unfolds.

(iv) Uncle Nabi/the chauffeur/the cook: Probably the only other character indispensable to this brother-sister story. The one responsible for the story. The chapter where he narrates is the most gripping. His passionate description of Nila, from the eyes of a servant or his relationship with his curious employer Suleiman Wahadati are the aces in this story.

(v) The story of Parwana, Abdullah and Pari’s step-mother, is an interesting accretion.

(vi) Dr. Markos Vivaris is a plastic surgeon treating kids in the present day Afghanistan. His narrative of his life in Greece , though vivid, is totally unrelated to the main plot. Also, the story of Bashiri brothers could have been avoided. The mention of young Bashiris as neighbor kids of Mr. Wahadati, who moved with their family to the US as refugees, may have obligated the author to re-introduce them later as US based Afghanis returning to sell their land in post war Kabul.

(vii) Pari, Abdullah’s daughter: Her character shows different shades. Torn between her dreams as a young US teen and her duties as a good  daughter. How she experiences a shift from an eternal love for her daddy to an inexpressible urge to escape catering to his whims or nursing when he’s ill beyond repair.

Overall, the book includes many characters with full-fledged background stories and an endearing pair of siblings lost and found.

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July 16, 2013 · 5:33 pm

The World Is Flat


by: Thomas L. Friedman

About:

(a) How the world is not just round, but “flat”

(b) Various events that led to increased parity in the world today

Features:

Language: jargons, coupled with examples; evocative at times, didactic in between

Style: Descriptive, just avoids being verbose at some points

Minus Point: The book is a like a documentary. Only, that the latter finishes in atmost 4 hours. The book tends to be drag after sometime.

Plus Point: It has it all. Analysis of growing business/technological trends from around the world have been compiled for the enthusiasts. Can be like an inspirational read for the tyro entrepreneurs

Catchy AddOns: Anecdotes; stories of business magnates, renowned conglomerates, of ‘slumdog millionaires” and some born with a silver spoon.

My fun find in the story:  (and this is on page 1 itself!)

Outside, some of the traffic signs  were also sponsored by Texas Instruments, and the Pizza Hut billboard on the way over showed a steaming pizza, under the headline “Gigabites of Taste!”

No, this definitely wasn’t Kansas. It didn’t even seem like India. Was this the New World, the Old World, or the Next World?

-in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley

Summary:

It’s like a fairytale for the digital age.

-Rachel  Green | F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Though Jennifer Aniston said this line in a very different context, I can comfortably borrow it to describe this non-fiction.

Like Snow White had her seven dwarfs, the author has his ten flatteners the fall of Berlin Wall,the opening of Microsoft Windows, software developments, Uploading ,OUTSOURCING ,Offshoring, Supply Chaining , INSOURCING, in-forming and digital+mobile+virtual+personal. 

 These are no dwarfs, they are giants: events/ advances in politics and/or technology that have “flattened” the earth to a field where now global players are reaping benefits.

Once upon a time, only the Whites had access to and benefits of technology . But , after the magic fairy (the new, current phase of globalisation) waved her wand (opening of various economies to the the world market, like India’s in 1990’s), the global market is now driven by “non-Western, non white- group of individuals”. “Every color of human rainbow” can now plug and play. We all are the denizens of such a planet where “everyone has to focus on what exactly is their value-add.

Today, news flash: news channel :: vanilla : ice-cream. Value addition is a must.

The reader is taken on a global safari (sans the exotic wildlife) , an effort to restate the obvious: “The whole world is close knit, and shrinking 24×7”.

Various accretion show how parameters like cheap labour, proximity to economically favorable locations and policies, even the presence of speakers of a particular language have shaped many markets .

Innovation in and optimization of resources have been mentioned. As also, the many misfortunes or say, the demons of this tale have been talked about that arise in this process of advancement. (READ: Breach of privacy, acts of piracy, profanity and terrorist activities)

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Filed under Analytical, Business, World