Gun Island – Amitav Ghosh

Gun Island

An antiquarian book dealer in Brooklyn, a Bengali folklore of a Merchant trying to escape the wrath of a Snake Goddess named Manasa Devi, an articulate and erudite Italian scholar trying to come to grips with a personal tragedy and a determined environmental activist steadfast in her resoluteness to save marine life from the dangerous effluents spewing out a refinery, all irrupt in a breathless, frenetic and rapturous manner in Amitav Ghosh’s latest thriller “Gun Island.”

Shades of “The Great Derangement” – Mr. Ghosh’s previous work of non-fiction dealing with the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change and its denial – unmistakably permeate the pages of Gun Island. Dinanath, a rare book dealer makes Brooklyn his home. Calling himself “Deen” a name that rolls off Yankee tongues with consummate ease, Dinanath balances his professional success with emotional hurdles by toggling between trading in stocks and talking to a therapist.

Deen’s life however takes a remarkable turn when on a visit back to Kolkata, he gets acquainted with the legend of “Bandooki Saudagar” (“Gun Merchant”). The Gun Merchant, after having fallen foul of the Goddess of Snakes, Manasa Devi circumambulates the world in a dire attempt to escape not just the vengeance of the Goddess but also her phalanx of reptilian horrors. This legend passed down through centuries piques the curiosity of Deen and he decides to be an intrepid explorer trying to get to the very bottom of the folklore. This endeavor takes him to the mangrove swamps of Sunderbans, transports him to the blazing forest fires of Los Angeles before culminating in a frenzied crescendo on the high seas leading to the shores of Venice.

A delectable mix of characters both assist and accost Deen as he plunges headlong into a journey interspersed with coincidences, imbued in myths and inundated by chances. Cinta, a well renowned, sophisticated and erudite Italian Professor, Piya, an energetic and ebullient Marine biologist who dearly loves dolphins and whales, and who in turn is loved by Deen, Rafi and Tipu two young Bengali youths who are both lovers and dream chasers are a few prominent examples.

Visitations from the dead, premonitions of the living and bizarre behaviours of animals all contrive to produce an unalloyed chaos into whose very eye Deen gets sucked into. But at the very epicenter of Deen’s experiences and enervations lie Mr. Ghosh’s pet topic of Climate Change. Exhibiting a usual aplomb that is reserved for dealing with this seminal issue, Mr. Ghosh lays out before us the devastating consequences of rising tides, riotous cyclones and rampaging refugee crises. A degradation in the environment has the dangerous potential to birth fissures that transcend the mere ecology to cover social, cultural and political aspects of our existence. Internecine conflicts, xenophobia, intransigent politics and insouciant policies can all be a direct offshoot of an untrammeled trample of Nature.

Mr. Ghosh’s book goes beyond empty rhetoric and enthusiastic pabulum. Instead it serves as a medium for expounding on one issue, which arguably is one that has spawned a vertical divide for and against it. On either side of the yawning chasm stand self-proclaimed and universally acknowledged experts, academicians of stirring repute and suspect credentials, activists of various hues and cries, and specialized bodies that are both revered and reviled. When an emotional Piya sheds unabashed tears upon seeing a bunch of Irrawady dolphins incredulously beaching themselves, she in her moment of lament rends asunder the veil of complacency and callousness that fails to acknowledge and admit that a failure to protect our climate is a failure to preserve our culture.

“Gun Island” has its fair share of outlandish coincidences, garish escapades and predictable encounters with the supernatural. But every masterly crafted surprise, shock and serendipity is nothing but a vehicle that transports the engrossed reader towards an inescapable eschatology. An eschatology that transcends religion, race, caste, creed and colour to encompass within its confines an urgent need to undertake an introspection to ultimately resolve an existential crisis.

In an interview published in Arts & Culture, Ghosh told his interviewer: “Well, I don’t actually think you can write a novel to an agenda; writing is more complicated than that – if the story doesn’t come alive in your mind then it doesn’t live. You can’t write a novel with a didactic intent because it will have the opposite effect. What I would say is that Gun Island has all my passions, interests and obsessions within its pages. Virtually everything I’ve written has been about people moving, migrating, carried away from one place to another. I’ve always written about natural environments and engagements with animals going right back to the elephants in The Glass Palace. And yet it’s very different to anything I’ve done before.”

However, “Gun Island” is more didactic (encouragingly) than dystopian. It is also a compelling clarion call for humanity to get its act right sooner rather than later before the baby also gets thrown out along with the bathwater.

The Road 2 The Future – Glimps East Forward

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An extremely ambivalent book that attempts to explain the Hubris of the Middle East that led to its relinquishing early civilization advantages to the West. The pioneers of Cuneiform system of writing and the populace that birth the cradle of civilization is now a detritus of civil war and internecine strife. What might have been the reasons for the relinquishment of power from the East to the West?

This issue of Geographical disparity has been tackled at length by various luminaries such as Robert Solow and Jared Diamond. In fact one of the gold standards in this sphere has been “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson. “The Road 2 The Future” is an extremely concise work that raises some relevant and pertinent questions but leaves the research totally in the hands of the readers. 

Also the interchangeable phrases “Middle Eastern Countries” and “Muslim Countries” create more confusion than lend clarity.  While the broad symmetries underlying the socio-economic strata of the two geographies might be the same, the nuances and intricacies underpinning the workings of them are vastly different.

“The Road 2 The Future” – An interesting albeit an incomplete read.




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The Indian judicial landscape is a veritable kaleidoscope of the profound and the petty. An accumulated debris of pronounced verdicts spanning more than 7 post-independence decades hides within its messy confines, precocious pearls as well as a phalanx of perfidies. While there have been decisions that have influenced the very societal progression in a positive aspect, there also exist renderings whose very regressive nature put paid to the genuine aspirations and hopes of a multitude. Some judgments find a place in the pantheon of immortality for their prolixity alone, yet there are others carving out an indelible niche courtesy their brimming substance. Hence listing a “Top 10” ranking from this sprawl of maze and mess is something that takes more than just courage to attempt. Yet this is exactly what Ms. Zia Mody, one of India’s most renowned corporate attorneys and the co-founder of AZB & Partners does. Ms. Mody executes this attempt with neither rigidity nor laxity, but with a sense of purposiveness and alacrity akin to that displayed by various judges themselves during the course of discharging their business.

In her book, titled, “10 JUDGEMENTS THAT CHANGED INDIA” Ms. Mody navigates her readers through 10 mercurial judgments that have transformed the legal façade of the world’s largest democracy. Excoriating in their sweep, ebullient in their wake and effervescent in their narrative, these ten extraordinary judgments constitute a bouquet of ten unique flowers, each with its own fragrance, colour, size and shape. Yet in their distinctness lies their unity. Spanning a diverse range of issues, each of the ten cases have had the same cumulative impact in so far as that all of them capture the imagination of the broader public, drawing them in an inclusive manner to a platform that encourages debate, discussion and deliberation. Capturing the sense of imagination of the Indian citizen, these cases bestow upon her a knowledge of rights and obligations, thereby investing in her a perception of belongingness.

Ms. Mody sets us on our path by opening her book in a resounding manner with the epochal Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala case. This path-breaking judgment that expounded on the “Basic Structure” of the Constitution was a painstakingly exquisite exercise in elaboration. “Thirteen judges of the Supreme Court sat en banc for almost five months to consider questions that stood to define constitutionalism and the exercise of democratic power in India. This judgment was so lengthy in its construct that it has been designated the ‘longest appellate decision’ of the last century. Spread over an unimaginable length of approximately 800 pages and comprising of 420,000 words, the decision had eleven out of the thirteen judges issuing their separate opinions. A convergence, as to what broadly constituted the intractable, indispensable, and inviolable structure of the Constitution was however reached and it is now a given that the tenets of supremacy of the Constitution, separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary, sovereignty of India and its democratic polity, dignity of the individual and the mandate to build a welfare state and an egalitarian society all represent the basic Constitutional Doctrine;

The Olga Tellis case disseminates with great resonance the fundamental essence of the very right to life and personal liberty. The Honourable Supreme Court took on the fetid plight of pavement dwellers leading an abject existence of utter squalor, and who were threatened to be evaluated under the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act. The Supreme Court coming down heavily on the high handedness of the Bombay (now Mumbai) State Administration declared that every human being enjoyed the fundamental right to live in circumstances, that at a minimum signified a modicum of dignity. This decision had ripple effects that transcended India and has the distinction of being quoted liberally in manifold judicial precedents, especially in the region of South East Asia.

There are also cases that expose the inadequacies and seemingly inexplicable positions adopted by the Apex Court that goes against the very grain of reason. A classic case in point being the infamous Union Carbide Corporation case.  In December 1984, the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked over forty tons of the highly poisonous gas methyl isocyanate thereby leaving nearly 3000 people dead and 50,000 people permanently disabled. What’s more, 15,000 people died subsequently from exposure to the poisonous gas. In 1989 the Supreme Court approved a settlement of the civil claims against Union Carbide for a paltry sum of $470 million. On 2 August 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding a more stringent punishment for the accused.  This petition sought to reinstate charges of culpable homicide against the accused; a September 1996 order had reduced the charges from culpable homicide to criminal negligence.  In May 2011, the Supreme Court rejected this petition and declined to re-open the case to reinstate the harsher charges.

However, the most harrowing case in the book and one that rends the very soul is that involving a sprightly nurse named Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug. Poignant in its plea, philosophical in its context and perverted in the facts leading to the very genesis of the protagonist’s plight, this case dealt with the controversial yet topical sphere of legalizing euthanasia.  Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was subject to a granular and microscopic review by the highest Court and after intense scrutiny, passive euthanasia as against active euthanasia was deemed to be legal subject to the satisfaction of a set of stringent conditions.

The book also dwells on other vital cases such as the Shah Bano case wherein the Supreme Court caught itself in a bind attempting to wax eloquent over an issue that not only stood at the cusp of two laws but also coalesced them. In a noble endeavor to reconcile the provisions of personal law with Sections 125 and 127 of the Civil Procedure Code, the Supreme Court unwittingly inflamed a range of communal passions whose reverberations echo even today.

Ms. Mody also highlights the Herculean efforts put in by the Supreme Court to prevent and prosecute sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The far reaching propositions forming the cornerstone of the Vishaka judgment rule the roost even today in the absence of formally promulgated legislative statutes.

Ms. Mody does an admirable job in imparting the core and crux of each judicial decision. At the nub of every single judgment lies principles of far reaching implications, which unfortunately in the original judgements are obfuscated by length and obscured by some scintillating although avoidable prolixity. Ms. Mody however does not attempt to couch her narrative in ‘legalese’, opting instead to employ a crisp and matter-of-fact narrative. She however supplements her simplicity with copious footnotes that reference all materials and bibliographies that are relevant to the topic on hand.

Since the writing of this book, India has been rocked by quite a number of earth shattering verdicts that have been revered and reviled with equal vigour. The Aadhaar judgment and the right to data privacy, the Nirbhaya case and the decriminalization of homosexuality by way of annulment of Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code, amongst others occupy a key pedestal in the annals of Indian judiciary. Sincerely hoping that Ms. Mody would include these in what would be a much awaited sequel to her stirring book.

We, The Survivors – Tash Aw

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The best-selling author of “Five Star Billionaire”, Tash Aw, is back with yet another taut and gripping book. While the earlier book compellingly dwelled upon the get-rich-quick ploys of newcomers flocking to Shanghai, “We, The Survivors” – an equally engaging work – is predominantly set in Tash Aw’s motherland, Malaysia. Bristling with shades of Albert Camus’ “The Outsider”, Tash Aw’s protagonist – first person narrator who also happens to be an ‘accidental murderer’ – keeps the readers glued to the pages as he takes them on what can only be described as a cathartic ride.

Ah Hock narrates his unfortunate story of misplaced confidence, misdirected hopes and mismanaged priorities to Su-Min a sociology post graduate. A murder that he inadvertently commits – the why and how of the murder would detract from the very essence of the review, not to mention the disservice such a revelation would cause to the potential reader – results in not only a short prison sentence, but also in the wider context of things, the very uprooting of what until now had been a comfortable life.

The novel courses through the multicultural society of Malaysia that has as its underpinnings the not so seamless yet not so uneasy co-existence of three distinct races, Malays, Chinese and Indian. The glue that binds the troika is more of symbiosis than sentiment. Ah Hock and his disturbingly eccentric friend Keong move through the lower strata of society, trudging through days desperate for hope and a change of fortune. In this visceral journey, Hock and Keong encounter social complexities, simmering interpersonal tensions and a deep seated xenophobia. Tash Aw bestows an electric local flavour to the book. Whether it be the mouthing of the choicest of expletives in the Cantonese dialect by Keong, or the offer of Chee Cheong Fun (a thin crépe roll made from a wide strip of rice noodles, filled with shrimp, beef, vegetables, or other ingredients) by Ah Hock to Su-Min, the Malaysian influence on the novel rears its bold head throughout the book.

The book also highlights in stark albeit uncomfortable detail the pervasive nature of social inequality prevalent in Malaysia. While at one spectrum of the civilization continuum lies the hustle and bustle of an effervescent, vibrant and dynamic Kuala Lumpur, the city of magnificent sky scrapers, coiffured socialites and affluent mansions, at the other and extreme end of the scale, lies villages in the hinterland that are emblematic of squalor, starvation and endemic disease. Tash Aw leaves us with a scarring example of the plight of the people populating the bottom of the pyramid in the form of a matter-of-fact, yet profound comment made by Ah Hock in response to a question posed by Su-Min. Upon being asked as to why the migrants continue to work in spite of a dangerously failing health, Ah Hock responds, “You get sick, you get the sack.” This arresting conflict of contradictions forms the centerpiece of Ah Hock’s existence as he swings between desperation and delight.

In this fascinating duel between morality and materiality, it is pointless to attempt an unraveling of the winner. It is easier counting scars and tracking eventualities than identifying the victor from the vanquished. It is this very quandary that makes Ah Hock’s experiences memorable as well as macabre.

Indian Super Foods: Change The Way You Eat – Rujuta Diwekar

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Rujuta Diwekar in addition to being India’s leading nutrition and exercise science expert, is also a courageous contrarian. For there is no other suitable word to express the outspoken yet riveting views which she expresses in her book, “Indian Superfoods: Change the Way You Eat.” Inimitable and irreverent, she may well be the Nicholas Nassim Taleb of the dietary and nutrition world. Rooting for consumption of food that is traditionally produced in the region in which the consumer is based and also a ferocious advocate for the employ of common sense than hankering after fad diets, Ms. Diwekar is both a nutritionist as well as an outlier.

“Indian Superfoods” is all about destroying the myth about, and according the rightful recognition to a few Indian Superfoods which have either been relegated to the confines of doubt on account of the misconceptions attached to them or on courtesy the ‘Westernization’ of the choice of ingredients that make their way onto our plate. As Mark Twain once memorably remarked, “the only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”  In a world going bonkers in alternating between Atkins and Keto diets, this book by Ms. Diwekar comes as a welcome antidote. As Ms. Diwekar states at the very beginning of her work, “statistics though prove that less than 20 per cent people are successful in keeping the weight off after they have lost it.”  If Bollywood starlets such as Kareena Kapoor and Alia Bhatt can trust Ms. Diwekar on this, we all surely can as well!

So, accompanied by drum rolls, here go the list of Indian Superfoods, which Ms. Diwekar insists that we must gorge on paying scant heed to pessimistic opposition:

  • Ghee: “The Fat Burner”;


  • Kokum or Garcinia Indica: “The Natural Antacid”;
  • Banana: “The Recharger”;


  • Kaju or Cashewnut: “The Antidepressant”;


  • Ambadi: “The Stomach-Soother”;


  • Rice: “The Grain That Sustains”;


  • Coconut: “The Calmer”;


  • Aliv: “The Beauty Pill”;


  • Jackfruit: “The Fertility Booster”;


  • Sugar: “The Anti-Ageing Secret”

Adherents of crash diets and gym animals alike would go apoplectic reading the words rice, sugar and banana in the above list. This is exactly what separates Ms. Diwekar from the rest. Diffident in her resolve not to jump onto any contemporaneous bandwagon, she gives two or even three hoots to received wisdom and topples convention on its head. But she does not do this in a rustic or suspicious fashion. Diving into empirical evidence and traditional wisdom, she dissects the properties of each superfood before expounding on their merits, to her readers.

According to Ms. Diwekar, to qualify as a ‘super food’, an ingredient/product must satisfy the following criteria:

  • They grow naturally in the same land you live;
  • They are rich in micronutrients and taste;
  • Every part of the crop/plant can be used in unique ways;
  • They encourage diversity in your diet; and
  • They lead to a sustainable lifestyle, help local economy and make sound ecological sense

Ms. Diwekar also has some advice for her readers on the behavior to be adopted whilst partaking one’s food. Drawing on the fount of ancient wisdom, tenets of Ayurveda and the practice of our forefathers, she expounds:

“Staying silent while eating is the most undervalued aspect of good nutrition. Don’t talk, don’t read, don’t surf, just eat. It will actually put you in touch with yourself and then you will hear the voice of your stomach. Your stomach will guide you in eating the right quantities at every meal. It will slow down the pace at which you are consuming. It will make you feel lighter, younger, calmer with every bite. The space will reverberate with inner peace and you will hear a voice in your head go: Pakakarta tatha bhokta, annadata sukhi bhava. May the person who cooks, the one who eats and the one who provides the food, may all be happy. And just like that, peace will return to the world, at least to your world.”

So what are some of the attributes of these ‘super foods’ that make them an indispensable part of anyone’s diet according to Ms. Diwekar? Here are a few selected examples of the extraordinary properties which some of the superfoods that are listed by her possess:

“Garcinol, the most active ingredient in kokum, is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antioxidant agent. It’s for this reason that kokum is considered a functional food, that is, food (not pill or capsule) which besides having nutrients also possesses health benefits and disease prevention properties. The ORAC value – oxygen radical absorption capacity, a measure of the antioxidant score of any food – of kokum is very high. Hydroxyl citric acid (HCA) is a characteristic ingredient of kokum which is a well-known weight-loss aid. One that regulates appetite and optimizes fat-burning, and occupies an unchallenged position in every fat-burning pill out there. If you ever wanted Garcinia cambogia for its weight-loss effects, well, look no further than our own kokum for it is this same HCA that you find in kokum. Besides weight loss, HCA is also used to reduce cholesterol and anxiety, all three important for the typical urban lifestyle.”

“Rice is almost the only grain to have high levels of an essential amino acid called lysine…It is an essential amino acid, which means it cannot be produced by the body and has to be consumed through the food we eat…Cooked rice has less than 10 percent of starch left. Rice has crucial amino acids, vitamins and many Phytonutrients along with carbs.”

“The Medium Chain Triglycerides (“MCT”) in coconut will help cut down the risk of cholesterol, and by the way, coconut is a plant food so it has no cholesterol. You need a liver to produce cholesterol. Fact check.”

Lest I reveal all the vital points of interest embedded within the confines of the book, thereby robbing the readers of their deserved pleasure I will bring my review of this intriguing book to a close. In conclusion cocking a snook at received wisdom and bringing a refreshingly novel perspective to bear, Ms. Diwekar changes the way we think, feel and act about the ingredients that we put on our plates.

Those granules of sugar will never be the same again once you are done with Ms. Diwekar’s book!

THE ONE THING: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller with Jay Papasan


Gary Keller and Jay Papasan set the theme for their bestseller, by alluding to a dialogue between the late Jack Palance and Billy Crystal from the hit comedy, City Slickers. The conversation between a dour cowboy and a city slicker revolves around distilling the secret of life. Curly, the cowboy (Jack Palance) expounds to Mitch, the man from the city that the secret of life ultimately comes down to just “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s**t.”

Personally I scoff when it comes to self-help and self-enrichment books. More often than not they are symptomatic of scenarios where a shadow is greater than substance. However, Keller and Papasan’s work constitutes a refreshing exception. Embodying practical ideas that are implementable, measurable and justifiable, “The One Thing” is a portable checklist for ushering in changes in life that have the potential to bring about enriching outcomes. So what is “The One Thing” all about? Keller urges us to distill our goals in life in a segmental manner. This segmentation results in bestowing attention, providing direction and employing razor sharp focus to the “ONE THING” by doing which “everything will be easier or unnecessary.”  So how does one go about doing the one thing?

  • ·Line up your priorities in the same way one would line up dominos. Once the first one is tipped over, there is a geometric progression between the tipping over of the succeeding dominos. “So every day, line up your priorities, find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time”;


  • Identify the six culprits or lies that pose an intractable barrier between you and success. These perpetrators are notions that tell us:

1.     Everything Matters Equally;

2.     Multitasking;

3.     A Disciplined Life;

4.     Willpower is always on Will-Call;

5.     A Balanced Life; and

6.     Big is Bad

  • ·As has been illustrated in great lucidity by both Vilfredo Pareto and Joseph M. Juran, “the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.” Hence instead of getting entrenched into the swamp of equality, identify the one task that actually matters, and say “later”, “never” or “not now” to everything else;


  • “Multitasking is a lie.”  Clifford Nass, a Professor at Stanford University conducted an experiment involving 262 students to determine how often they multitasked. Post ascertaining this facet, Nass and his team split their test subjects into two groups of high and low multitaskers. The result was a shock to the adherents of multitasking. “…. Multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy” said Nass. “It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”  In order to put the principle of ONE Thing to practice, one needs to banish the received wisdom that attempting to do two or more things simultaneously is a feasible idea;


  • ·“You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.” Diagnosed with ADHD as a child, Michael Phelps was written off as a personality without any future. 22 Olympic Gold medals, and the most-decorated Olympian distinction later, the world was privy to the secret of this astonishing swimmer’s astounding success. Training 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Phelps reckoned that by training even on Sundays, he got a 52-training-day advantage on the competition. So Phelps did the one right thing instead of attempting to do all things right;


  • Researchers at the University College of London established that a new behavior becomes automatic or ingrained when pursued over a period of 66 days on average. Do the one thing right and keep doing it until it is ingrained as a habit;


  • “On any given day, you have a limited supply of will-power, so decide what matters and reserve your will-power for it. Do what matters most first each day when your will-power is strongest. Maximum strength will-power means maximum success;


  • The clichéd notion of “work life balance” is almost as good as a myth. Instead, “separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets – not to compartmentalize them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own counterbalancing goals and approaches;


  • It is essential to get rid of the notion that big is bad and intimidating. A classic case in point being the now famous “Think Different” advertising campaign featuring greats such as Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Picasso et al. The ad’s tag line was “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do it.” Avoid incremental thinking and think big. Do not fear failure;


  • Identify the “Focusing Question” to aid and abet the performance of the ONE THING. “How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.”  Keep asking “What’s the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


  • It is essential that the Focusing Question be made into a habit. This is absolutely essential for deriving and enjoying the complete benefits of the outcome. The Focused Questioning process has to be routinized until it becomes innate in the questioner in the form of an ingrained habit;


  • Live with purpose; Live by Priority and Live for Productivity. Identify or discover your purpose by introspecting what is it that drives you. Prioritise the One Thing that you can do right now. Break down your goals into milestone slabs and block your time each day to do the ONE THING. Be digital and technology averse by turning off all your mobile devices, shutting down your emails and exiting internet browsers whilst doing the ONE THING. The most important task deserves 100 percent attention;


  •  Avoid these Four Thieves of Productivity like the plague:
  1.        Inability to Say “No”;
  2.        Fear of Chaos;
  3.        Poor Health Habits; and
  4.        Environment that doesn’t support your Goals
  • While the aforementioned points try to capture the essence of the book, a thorough reading and re-reading (wherever appropriate) is an indispensable necessity for one to reap the full benefits of the ideas detailed out by Keller and Papasan


  • “The ONE THING” is pleasantly the ONE THING to be read, digested and savoured

Our Iceberg is Melting – John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

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From the leading expert of organisational change and leadership comes an endearing fable that undoubtedly will – in fact it already has, since 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of its publication – stand the test of time. John Kotter in tandem with Holger Rathgeber takes his readers on an extraordinary journey involving a colony of threatened penguins.

Fred, a penguin who is intrepid by nature notices that the iceberg which his colony calls ‘home’ is in peril. Caves of water formed deep within the iceberg pose a potential threat of melting.  Being a penguin of little consequence and also being aware of the ridicule which a fellow penguin was subject to earlier on account of elucidating a similar potential threat, Fred finds himself in a confounded state. Finally mustering enough courage he presents his findings to Alice, an aggressive but logical penguin who is also part of the Head Penguin Council.

What follows is a riveting tale of organisational intricacies. Politics, leadership, decision-making, change culture, moving away from entrenched dogmas, mentoring, and managerial skills all coalesce together to form the cornerstone of the measure which the penguins hatch to protect and preserve their legacies.

It is easy for the reader to associate himself with the adorable cast of penguin characters, each of which is emblematic of attributes and traits representing variegated frames of thinking and perception. Louis is the greatly respected Head of the Penguins who while accommodating everyone’s suggestions, is firm on the ultimate decision to be made. Buddy is a genial penguin, who while not an intellectual behemoth by any stretch of imagination is the most loved in his colony on account of his transparency, selflessness and an uncanny ability to make friends – and attract lovers! Sally Ann even though a little penguin demonstrates ingenuity and innovation in making things happen. Jordan is the Professorial penguin who can ramble on and on in a purely technical vein but with facts that are astoundingly clear. Finally there is NoNo a pessimist par excellence who is rooted to the status quo and seeped in stereotypes, unwilling to accept change.

John Kotter using the medium of this unforgettable fable reiterates the need for an organisation and its personnel to commit to what he terms “The Eight-Step Process of Successful Change.” In a nutshell, these eight processes are:

  1. Create a sense of Urgency;
  2. Pull together the guiding team;
  3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy;
  4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-In;
  5. Empower Others to Act;
  6. Produce Short-Term Wins;
  7. Don’t Let Up; and
  8. Create a New Culture

If you think that a fable involving a group of Emperor Penguins is the preserve of bed time stories for getting your energetic child to sleep, then please think again. Kotter and Rathgeber’s penguins may change the way you go about your professional business – and for the good!