Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Soul Curry for You and Me - An Empowering Philosophy that can Enrich Your Life

Author:       Amitabh Bachchan
Published:   2002
Publisher:    Popular Prakashan
Paperback: 128 pages
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Readers in India

This book is a compilation of more than 150 nuggets of knowledge and wisdom on a wide variety of subjects which Amitabh Bachchan -  the legend of Indian Cinema, used to utter in his captivating baritone voice at the beginning of every episode of  the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) in 2000-2001. 
 Initially I thought  these were actually written by a scriptwriter and all Amitabh was to do was to mouth them as he does in films.
But my doubts were dispelled when I read the preface of this book. Here Amitabh says " What I have written in this book is entirely my handiwork. I have expressed my own views, thoughts and opinions. I have penned it myself. It may be right or wrong, complicated or simple. But it is mine. I am happy".
Amitabh  is an a very good writer too having inherited the writing genes of Harvanshrai Bachchan his father who was a literary giant in Hindi literature. 

A good , simple and inspirational read !  Also read Amitabh's  blog at  for his daily musings.

Sample Quotes:

  • Sometimes loosing can be profitable too. It is so when we shake off our egos, ignorance, fear of criticism, dullness, jealousy and anger.
  • Appreciate the smiles of small children, notice only the good points of others. Your life will always be full of sweetness, peace and satisfaction.
  • To make others happy we need to be happy ourselves.
  • Forgiveness is the best gift you could give to your enemy and for a friend, gift a place in your heart.
  • A vehicle called willpower has valor for wheels, sweat and blood for fuel, duty for engine and faith at the steering.
  • Success comes to those who work hard. Those who wander along the beach find conches and shells. But those who dare to venture into the depth of the ocean discover precious pearls.
  • Knowledge is like a well that will never dry up.
  • In this world no man is so wealthy that he can live without laughter and smiles, and no man is so poor that he does not have the wealth of laughter and smiles.
  • You can call two people a couple only when the two are combined to form one 'we'. When we shed our ego what remains behind is the 'us' factor.
  • The road to success is a crooked and bumpy one - One wonders,  was this road also created by a government contractor ?
I Saved the best one for the last !

  • If a child asks for a chocolate to do something, then he will definitely become a government employee.
  • If the child eats the chocolate but refuses to do work, turns around and causes trouble for you, he is bound to enroll in the police force.
  • If  the child complicates the matter for which he has taken the chocolate, he will become a lawyer.
  • If a child asks you for a chocolate, grabs money from your pocket and yet delays performing the task, he will definitely become a political leader of the nation.
  • If the child eats the chocolate in front of you and yet insists that he has not eaten the chocolate, he will definitely become not just a political leader, but a minister as well !

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Buy.Ology - How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong

Author:       Martin Lindstrom
Published:   2009
Publisher:    Random House Business Books
Paperback: 256 pages
Buy from Flipkart

The sales figures are indicators of the effectiveness of an advertising campaign or a brand. But they don't tell us why they are effective. Market surveys are also not reliable in answering this question since the buyer responses and their buying patterns don't match. The terabytes of consumer demographics and buying pattern data collected  and mined using sophisticated software at the best will spew out correlations like for e.g. a young man aged between 30 and 35, driving a SUV and living in a suburb is twice likely to prefer brand X over brand Y. This may help in identifying a target market but  the question what is it that triggers the buying decision remains unanswered.

Neuromarketing is an emerging field where sophisticated techniques like fMRI and EEG are used to study the responses of the brain cells to the marketing stimuli. This will help us to learn why a buyer bought what he bought and what part of the brain told him to take that decision.  Thus neuromarketing may help in creation of Purple Cow (remarkable) products and services and advertisements that will entice the buyers and make money for the producers.

This book describes  the author's pioneering three‐year, $7 million dollar neuromarketing study conducted on over 2000 people from around the world using fMRI and EEG. The results of this study reveals  why so much of what we thought we knew about why we buy is wrong. It shatters several advertising myths and unearths some interesting facts. 

A very interesting read with lots of fascinating examples !
Visit the author's website for more stuff.

Key Takeaways:

  • Product placements in TV shows and movies will be effective only if they form an integral part of the storyline.
  • Everything we observe (or read about) someone else (especially a celebrity)  buying or using, we want to imitate as well. This is due to mirror neurons firing up in our brain.
  • Purchasing decisions are driven by dopamine one of the chemicals in brain which produces short spurts of seductive pleasure sensation.
  • Subliminal advertising which are designed to appeal to our dreams, fears, wants and desires, are more effective as compared to logo or brand images in stimulating our interest in a product or compelling us to buy. 
  • Rituals, superstitions and religion can exert a potent influence on how and what we buy.
  • Impulse buying is in reality built on a lifetime of associations - some positive, some negative - that we are not consciously aware of. When we make an instinctive decision about what to buy our brain summons and scans incredible amount of memories, facts and emotions and squeezes them  into a rapid response (called somatic marker) that dictates what you put inside your shopping cart.
  • Visual images are far more effective and more memorable when they are coupled with another sense - like sound or smell. (Sensory Branding)
  • Sex, beauty and celebrities do not necessarily sell products since they hijack the consumer's attention away  from the informative content in the advertisements.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author:        Stieg Larsson
Translator:   Reg Keeland
Published:   2008
Publisher:   Maclehose Press 
Paperback: 554 pages
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Readers in India

This is the first book in the Millennium Trilogy . The other two books are "The Girl who Played with Fire" and "The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest". All the three books are translations from Swedish and have been in Amazons' Top 100 Bestseller lists for several months.
I happened to read the second book in this trilogy "The Girl who Played with Fire" first and had posted my summary in this blog a couple of months ago. 
I liked this book better. It is  gripping and quite a page-turner  till the main mystery regarding a missing woman Harriet Vanger is solved by the main characters Blomkvist and Salander. However after that it drags on for another 100 pages dealing with Wennerstorm affair, in which Blomkvist was implicated in the beginning of the book. Here I lost interest.
Though a fairly good book for light reading and passing time, it has hardly any re-read value and certainly not worth buying in my opinion. However this should not discourage you to click the Buy Button in this post (so that I get my commission from Flipkart) ! Besides Opinions differ !
But I do plan to borrow  the final book (.....Hornets' Nest) in the trilogy  from a library and read it sometime later this year. 
And if you plan to read the complete trilogy, please start with this book. You will be in a better position to understand and appreciate its sequels.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Periya Puranam - The Story of 63 Saivite Saints

Author:        Saint Sekkizhar
Translator:    R. Rangachari
Published:    2008
Publisher:    Sri Ramanasramam
Paperback: 358 Pages
Readers in India:

This book is a translation of the original Tamil compilation of the lives of sixty three Saivite Saints, written in 12th century by Saint Sekkizhar.

Like Alwars (Saints who worshipped  Lord Vishnu) these saints called Nayanars were deeply immersed in their devotion for Lord Shiva . The lives of more prominent among them - Sundarar, Kannappa, Appar, Sambandhar- are described at length.

Sometime in 1895 a 16 year old boy happened to read the original Tamil version of this book. This was one of the first religious books he read. It had a tremendous impact on him. A great sense of admiration, awe, reverence and a strong desire to emulate these saints engulfed him. Later this boy went on to become one of the most revered modern-day saints. He was Sri Ramana Maharshi.

This book is a masterpiece in Tamil literature, unfortunately I don't know enough Tamil to enjoy it in original. However in my view the translator R.Rangachari has done an excellent job. You don't get an impression that you are reading a translation. I liked the picturesque descriptions of the towns ( names of  most of them are tongue twisters !)  in this book. 
For e.g.
"The glorious town of Kadavoor, high walled, situated in the country of Ponni (Chozha region), famed for its plentiful waters and fertility. The fields abounded in crops of red rice; on the bunds were heaped pearls yielded by conches; in the neighborhood were sacrificial grounds; water lilies bloomed profusely in the water held by dams; forests of arecapalms rose to the clouds;....................She buffaloes with high and long horns wallowed in the water, and dripped sweet milk on the lotus flowers when their teats were hit by flashing fish; clouds which rested in a corner of the sky-kissing mansions poured their water on the sacrificial oblations, raising a fragrant smoke"

Highly recommended read for devout people, however it will be of great interest to others who are interested in good literature and vivid stories.

A different translation of Periya Puranam can be read online at

A Trivia: The Kannada film icon Dr. Rajkumar portrayed Kannappa Nayanar (one of the saints whose story appears in Periapuranam) in Bedara Kannappa . This marked his film debut in 1954. He also won the National Film Award for Best Actor.