Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Immortals of Meluha" by Amish Tripathi

Verdict: Decent read for a reader with patience. Be prepared to buy the next 2 titles of the trilogy, as even after finishing the book, you may feel that this book is just a sub-plot (a critical one, nonetheless) to a bigger story, which is yet to be told.

In its own way, Amish brings forth a intriguing concept of "duality" with an apt story build around it and challenges the way we look at good or evil. I feel all Indian scriptures tell us the same basic things by personifying the forces at play in our mind & heart weaved in grand larger-than-life stories. It is ironic that we have become too rigid in our reading, to look beyond words and consider all our scriptures as a read for spiritual flight only to be pursued after we have lived our real life. The concept could have been elaborated more in the book, though. I hope the same is taken care of in the sequel/s.

Look n feel: The feel of the pages is just fine (not great) unlike the cover which is crisp & inviting but it's not a deal breaker. Expected the book to relate (in between the story) the story in the book with our present day understanding of history or mythology about God Shiva and thus, to provide the real context and reasons thereof, but to my disappointment, it doesn't happen.

Writing Style:
- the language is simple; writing style is straight forward with hardly any suspense plots. Story flows on a linear plane at a constant pace.

- Amish goes into absolute details (No, Shobha Day is still beyond his reach which I feel is good !) and successfully creates a visual of every person, place or event across the entire story. In the hindsight, it is necessary for the plot of this specific book.

- request you to practice patience and read till the last page before forming an opinion about the book :) . after sometime, i had started giving up the hope for the story to unfold beyond pure fiction, which doesn't happen until last few pages.

Time: Finished it in 4 days as I had some spare time early last week.

Other observations:
- A map of India in 1900 BC is provided inside front cover of the book. This is a welcome (very concise & crisp) piece of information which helped me to 'see' the book through!

- While, I was tempted to know several times, Amish has put no attempts whatsoever (no mention in the preface; absence of any disclaimer/s) to relate the plots, events, locations and names mentioned in the book to today's knowledge of the same in history or mythology. It remains a mystery whether Amish is telling a pure fiction (I really don't hope and feel so) or explaining a historical / mythological understanding based on research using fiction. I really hope Amish captures this in the sequels (Yes... I've already ordered the next title !!!).

My Rating: Shiva Trilogy - 7/10; The Immortals of Mehula - 6/10

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Will public sector banks become mainstream banks again?

Firm, effective & a REAL response within 2 hours of sending a mail to email ids mentioned on Bank's website, plus a call directly on your mobile (while you are travelling out of town) from the Zonal Officer... wonder which Bank is this? 

Settings: A real life incidence in Indian Banking Industry (retail business)

Hint: Try your wildest guess!

Even a child in India would tell you with confidence that this is possible only from a really good private sector bank, if at all, and can, at best, be someone's dream to even expect such a response from any public sector bank in India.

But to my own surprise, time and again, several public sector banks have made me feel otherwise... Bank of India, point in case above, sets a wonderful example of service standards as early as today morning. While, a bank manager in a remotely located retail branch acted Godly for a small problem faced by one of my family members, the bank did convert a sour experience into a moment of delight with swift and effective response. 

Another intriguing experience I had was with State Bank of India some time ago, at a retail branch while I wanted to close a bank account. The branch manager spend half an hour to convince me not to close the account. By the way, I closed that account not for any problem in services but to consolidate my banking transactions to my salary account (which happened to be a private bank). The conviction with which the branch manager spoke and interest shown to keep a normal customer with the bank was phenomenal.

There is no doubt that public sector banks still have a long road to travel for providing a robust and reliable infrastructure, facilities and allied services (e.g. 24x7 customer care help, online services, credit cards, insurance, D-mat account etc.) which banks in private sectors boast of, especially for a retail customer. But I am talking about the change in the intend and conduct, which is noticeable over the last few years. I have been banking with private sector banks for over 10 years now and don't remember a single incidence where a request was catered to in less than a day. Another biggest problem I face with a private bank is that all employees consider themselves a party other than bank and feel proud to convey this in every 3rd sentence (whether it is the customer care representative or the so-called personal banker allocated to you!).

While, some may argue that these are sparingly seen cases of little or no expectations met unexpectedly (and probably, I agree to them to some extend), I want to draw the attention to the fact that in these cases, public sector banks are providing more effective and concrete services at much personal level. 

While, a lot has to change at grass root operations of a public sector bank like branches located in remote / small areas where, employees still consider themselves God and the zeal to serve its customer is still amiss, I have to admit, in all fare-ness, that a Branch Manager of a public sector bank in a city will treat you better than any of its counterparts in the private sector. He will not try to sell you D-mat account when you are looking for fixed deposits. :)

With such incidents happening more often the question keeps coming back to my mind - will public sector banks regain their lost sheen? Will public sector banks become mainstream banks again???

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book review: "The Krishna Key" by Ashwin Sanghi

Verdict: A must read for anyone interested in exploring the truth (and context, more so) of Hindu Mythology & History. Mind you, the book is not boring or impractical just because it talks about history or mythology.

Look n feel: Thought that it will run for a month or even more, when I picked it up, but finished it in about a week just because it is difficult to keep it down.

Writing Style:
- Felt like I was reading a Dan Brown book (Da vinci Code, Angels n Demons, The Lost Key) written for Indian settings from the moment I picked up the book till the very end.

- Characters asking questions just to ensure that all details may be provided by author (sometimes at the cost of repetition) was too obvious. Reminded me of what CID does to murder mysteries! Meanwhile, this only resulted in me flipping pages at greater pace. Plot & the story remains gripping at all times.

- Interestingly, the book can be made into a movie, as is, scene by scene.! Looks like, Ashwin is already expecting bollywood producers to buy its movie rights just like Chanakya's Chant! BTW, I might still go for that movie :)

Other observations:
- The disclaimer in the beginning is a spoiler, as I expected Ashwin to own up some of the research work and facts. (Dan brown claims all details and facts to be true in his books!!!)

- While I advise to take specific details with a pinch of salt (but that's true for any book), it may be an interesting read (may be even an eye opener) for anyone who feels that our ancestors were uneducated dumb guys and that it's high time that we take our history also seriously and stop re-inventing the wheel..!