One of the amusing truths about the human species is that in spite of the breathtaking achievements we have made, and continue to make, in various fields, our lives continue to be dominated by superficiality. There are some manners that we have to learn and practise in order to belong to our class and the manners are, more often than not, quite silly. Even our physical appearance matters a lot. 'Fair and lovely' is one of those silly norms. What we boast of in the name of our culture too has a way of attaining superficiality. For example, we can wear the typical western attire and go to deliver sermons on the ancient Indian culture to youngsters who may be celebrating the Valentine’s Day.
Lata Subramanian’s debut book, A Dance with the Corporate Ton, is about the paradoxical superficiality of our species. The very first sentence of the book will tell us what it is about: “If you wish to be successful in your chosen career, if you desire to build a corporate empire and be known as a corporate tsar, it is not enough to be talented, honest, hardworking and committed.” What else is required? The superficiality I spoke of above is the answer, though the author does not use that word. The elite society of the corporate world has certain rules that you have to abide by if you wish to rise in that society. Those rules are about how your physical appearance should be, how friendly can you get with your subordinates, and so on.
These are not new rules, however. The author takes much pains to show us that the world has always been like this. The rules of the elite society go back to long past, to the days of the aristocrats and the royalty of the bygone eras. She draws many comparisons between the manners practised in the old world and those embraced by today’s corporate world.
Lata Subramanian knows what she is speaking about. She spent her entire working life in the corporate world. She “has over 35 years of work experience across the Advertising, Civil Aviation, Hospitality and Publishing industries in India.” Moreover, she is well-read and cites illuminating examples from classical literature, mythology and history in order to show us how certain aspects of the corporate culture are integral parts of the age-old courtly manners and practices. The corporate boss is a king in today’s world. Lata Subramanian shows us that in her inimitable style that sparkles with wit and wisdom. The illustrations in the book are hilarious at times and always splendid.
The book is sheer delight to read. Every page is suffused with humour. The inevitable ironies and paradoxes of human life wink at us constantly teasing us out of our complacencies.
The book is also highly autobiographical. We get enlightening peeps into the life and career of the author. We understand what made Lata a success in the corporate world and yet an outsider.
Lata becomes a visionary towards the end of the book. She envisages a world in which robots take over all the labour and shows us dramatically how dull such a world would be. How absurd too!
The book is an enlightening read not only for those who wish to take a close look at the corporate world but also for those who wish to understand our world better. What are we trying to achieve? How much achievement will make us happy? What is happiness? These are some of the underlying questions that the book asks and answers too.
The only problem is that the book is available only in the digital version. I find it difficult to read digital books. There may be many others like me who would prefer a hard copy.
Let me end with a quote from the book. “The sad thing is that I see little sign of society changing its measures of success or making much effort to change the conditioning of young minds. If anything, unfettered capitalism in the last few decades seems to have accentuated the ageold measures of success.” Can we take a relook at success?
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