Of prison, business, mystery and Madras

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New Delhi–Wade through a searing memoir and a chilling indictment of the Indian prison system; get an insight look into what motivates exceptional companies and how they are a cut above the rest; read a mystery story that revolves around diamonds worth millions; and flick through a book full of stories from Chennai.

IANS bookshelf has varied fare to offer to its readers for this weekend.

1. Book: Comeuppance: My Experiences in an Indian Prison; Author: James Tooley; Publisher: Speaking Tiger; Pages: 256; Price: Rs 299
In March 2014, James Tooley, a champion of low-cost private schools across South Asia and Africa, was enjoying a break in Hyderabad, where he reunited with his girlfriend Sara and niece Alissa. One evening he was visited by a friendly Deputy Superintendent of CID, who was concerned about alleged irregularities in the funding of his NGO, the Educare Trust. Tooley clarified that he had already given a statement to the CID and shut the NGO down years ago. However, not to be brushed off, the Deputy Superintendent returned to his hotel later that night — this time with a posse of subordinates to arrest him without a warrant.

Conditions in the prison were dire, and the jailers typically cruel and violent, but the other prisoners were extraordinarily kind. Appallingly, many had been inside for years, never charged with anything, often victims of police corruption and too poor to go to court.

In this disturbing yet gripping book, Tooley recounts his time in prison and his Kafkaesque struggle against Indian bureaucracy. Even after securing bail, he was subjected to humiliating interrogations, threats from armed goons and demoralising visits to the court.

A searing memoir and a chilling indictment of the Indian prison system, the police, and the judiciary which allows them discretion to act with impunity, “Comeuppance: My Experiences in an Indian Prison” is a timely reminder about the terrifying reality of 21st century India.

2. Book: Win Win Corporations; Author: Shashank Shah; Publisher: Penguin; Pages: 438; Price: Rs 599
Why did Ratan Tata decide to pay for all the victims of 26/11 whether injured in the Taj or anywhere else? Why did HDFC’s Aditya Puri insist that employees leave for home by 5.30 p.m.? How did HUL develop a cheaper, better product to beat its competitor, Nirma? What do Taj Hotels, HDFC, HUL, L&T and BPCL have in common? They are the win-win corporations. Based on over a decade of research, Shashank Shah takes a look at these truly outstanding Indian companies and how they do business.

Each of these companies has exceptional practices when it comes to stakeholder management. Whether the stakeholder is an employee, customer, investor, vendor or even society at large, these companies reveal how looking at everyone else’s interests doesn’t really mean compromising your own. Often, the two complement each other and that is what makes a win-win solution for everyone. The book provides an inside look at what motivates exceptional companies and how they are a cut above the rest. Full of fascinating anecdotes, leadership philosophy and background stories of the organisations, “Win-Win Corporations” is an inspiring read about what makes companies great.

3. Book: Diamonds Are For All; Author: Surender Mohan Pathak; Publisher: Harper Black; Pages: 400; Price: Rs 299
Taxi driver Jeet Singh is cruising for fare when a man being tailed by a bunch of goons blocks his way. Entrusting him with a briefcase full of secret, classified government documents to be delivered in lieu of a huge sum to a girl in Jogeshwari, he jumps off the moving taxi.

His body is found by the railway track in a Mumbai suburb the next morning, while Jeet Singh finds he has nobody to give the briefcase to: The girl died mysteriously the previous night. He opens the briefcase, and a free-for-all for diamonds worth millions is set into motion.

4. Book: Madras on my Mind; Authors: Chitra Viraraghavan and Krishna Shastri; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 207; Price: Rs 350
Once upon a time by the sea, there was a story and another and another and some wandered into these pages to make up a city.

So meet, among others, a travel guide who falls for a French tourist, a rice merchant with Kollywood dreams, a god whose editor proves elusive, a portly musical lawyer caught in a noir plot, and a man in search of family in the Great Madras Flood.

Find yourself, among other places, in Town, at that gastronomic oxymoron, the Udipi cafe, in Velachery, looking for pot or maybe for love, on Kaanum Pongal day all across Madras, even in a fast car on East Coast Road, fleeing the city till it lures you back with its lovely lies.

It’s all here: The salt in the breeze, the eternal summer, the swing of the sea.

It’s Madras on your mind. (IANS)

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