July 29, 2012

Friends and acquaintances who know my fondness for books often ask me if there is any category of books which I particularly like. There was a time when I had a preference for light reading. Posed the above question, my reply used to be: thrillers.


But if today I am asked the same question my answer is: self-help books.


Talking about my very early years in Karachi I have often recalled that when I met my R.S.S. mentor Shri Rajpal Puri for the first time – I was in my teens at the time – he gave me Dale Carnegie’s How to win Friends and Influence People. That was really my first ever self-help book. At that age it impressed me so much that I used to quote very frequently the anecdotes he had recounted. Dale Carnegie became my favourite author.


stephen-coveyIn the last few years an author in the same genre whom I have greatly admired has been Stephen R. Covey. He passed away a fortnight back. His famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages.


The extraordinary popularity of this particular book of Stephen Covey was based on the distinction he made between the character ethic and the personality ethic.. Significantly, the sub-title of this book is: Restoring the character ethic.


In Part I of the book he mentions that he undertook an in-depth study of the success literature published in the United States since 1776.  He observes that as his study took him back through 200 years of writing about success he noticed “a startling pattern” emerging, and that much of the success literature of the last 50 years was “superficial.”


“In stark contrast, almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called the Character Ethic as the foundation of success: things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry and modesty.”


“The Character Ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.


“But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the Character Ethic to what we might call the Personality Ethic. Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction. This Personality Ethic essentially took two paths: one was human and public relations techniques, and the other was positive mental attitude. Some of this philosophy was expressed in inspiring and sometimes valid maxims such as “Your attitude determines your altitude,” “Smiling wins more friends than frowning,” and “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve.”


Other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the “power look,” or to intimidate their way through life.


Some of this literature acknowledged character as an ingredient of success, but tended to compartmentalize it rather than recognize it as foundational and catalytic. Reference to the Character Ethic became mostly lip service; the basic thrust was quick-fix influence techniques, power strategies, communication skills, and positive attitudes.”


The quotation given at the beginning of this Part I of the book is of David Starr Jordan, a leading educationist, and founding President of Stanford University, and it sums it up thus: There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living.


Talking of self-help books, I have received this week from Rupa Publications, the publishers of my own volume of memoirs, a remarkable book in this category surprisingly named after a leading Tamilian film star.


bookThe title of this 124-page book is RAJINI’S PUNCHTANTRA. The second half of the title has not been misspelt.. The ‘U’ in stead of ‘A’ is deliberate. This is a compilation of Rajinikanth’s thirty punchlines from films which the two authors of this book (both from the field of management) have prepared.


The sub-title of the book is “Business and Life Management the Rajinikanth Way”. P.C. Balasubramaniam is one of the founder directors of Matrix Business Services India, one of India’s leading verification companies. His co-author is Raja Krishnamoorthy who is one of the directors of Talent Maximus India, a Chennai-based HR services organization.  He has over 33 years of experience in the field of human resources.


In his introduction to the book, P.C. Balasubramaniam writes:


 bala-raja“Once in a while in history, there appears someone whose message provides hope, lights a spark and energizes all of mankind. It is never quite the message itself but who said it, how and when, that makes it significant. Often these messages are simple and earthy; yet, coming from this personality, they grow alive and powerful. They acquire significance, wide acceptance and are etched in public memory. So it is with Rajinikanth. His punchlines have had such a deep impact on me that it became my mission to make a book out of them.


I have grown up watching Rajinikanth films – nothing new in that, most of my generation did. But, unlike many adolescent obsessions that you grow out of as you mature, I have not been able to grow out of my fascination with his punchlines. As I grew older – and, hopefully, wiser – I soaked in deeper their meaning.  The impact they made on me and a whole lot of others is remarkable.


From a coolie to a CEO, from a small-time entrepreneur to a big businessman, from an urchin to a postgraduate, from a maid to an activist, from lovers to siblings, from spouses to in-laws – I have seen ‘Rajini dialogues’ evoke deep resonance in all, often accompanied by a sparkle in the eye, a nod of acceptance and a smile of acknowledgement. The statements have touched them and remained deep within.”



Sample the following couple of punchlines from this Rajini Punchtantra :


One:   In the film SIVAJI a punchline heard is “Paera (Name) Kaetavudane (Listen) chumma (Mere) athuruthilae (Tremors)

            The punchline means: ‘The mere mention of his name causes tremors.

            This powerful value statement, comment the authors, underscores the importance of brands and safeguarding brand equity.

Two:  From the film ANNAMALAI, the punchline chosen is: Naan (I) solrathaiyam (What I have said) seiven (will do) sollathathaiiyum (what I have not said) seiven (will do).

            The punchline means: I will deliver what I promise and deliver even what I did not.


The authors comment is:

            The true success of a person’s life is directly proportionate to his commitment to achieve what he has promised, exceed expectations and scale excellence.



L.K. Advani

New Delhi

29 July, 2012

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