Days of our Lives!

June 28, 2012

Book Review: The Game Changers – Rahul Kumar, Yuvnesh Modi, Alok Kothari

Filed under: Books — Santhosh @ 1:44 AM
Book Name: The Game Changers: 20 extraordinary success stories of entrepreneurs from IIT Kharagpur
Authors: Rahul Kumar, Yuvnesh Modi, Alok Kothari
Genre: Biography

After the wave of campus novels, we now have the era of the famous-alumni bios. The authors of this book about 20 of IIT Kharagpur’s more illustrious alumni have very recent connections with their alma mater, with two of them in fact still in their 4th year. Perhaps, that’s the reason why there’s an undertone of the fanboy throughout the book. There are also generous doses, as stated by the various subjects of the book, of stuff you’d prepare for a hypothetical “why IIT Kharagpur” question: the best college in the country, the most stimulating environment, the smartest peers, learn from the best, etc.

It’s a decent attempt and the authors have done their best to standardise the format, which makes it easy to read, structure and compare. The selection of subjects is excellent and covers a good range of fields and accomplishments. The trouble with the book, though, is that for most of these bios, with a few notable exceptions, there is not much original or incisive research on the subject’s inside story, the 360 degree perspective from associates and peers, the context, the background, the struggle, the lessons, and above all, the subject’s thought process. The biographies are thus extremely sketchy with “It was very challenging, but being young, they didn’t take the general scepticism too seriously, and took risks and decisions without much worry” and “Suhas got married and in no time his first child was ready for school.” The subjects were all “highly motivated”, “worked round the clock” with “utmost dedication”, and “achieved their dreams”. I wonder what the editors were doing.

I personally see three reasons behind this new wave of alumni bios:

  • quick fix to become a published writer
  • a bit of chest-thumping pride in their alma mater
  • if the campus novels were meant for entertainment, then these could be for inspiration.

Now, for me to be inspired though, or at the least made curious, I’d want to read the thought, intent and context behind a particular decision, and not just the decision as a statement of fact. Reading just that World War II happened is completely different from also reading about why and how WWII took place. I wonder if any constraints on the number of pages (dictated by price?) played a part in the rushed, sketchy outline of a biographies book this (and others in the genre)  turns out to be; because, duh, you cannot skip the basics in a biography, and damn!, you’re out of pages.

During my third year in Engineering, to commemorate some now-forgotten event, a bunch of us from the Lit club made a scrapbook of sorts – “Mad About Madurai” – with bios of the most illustrious in Madurai’s history, and presented it to our correspondent and mayor. I think it’s time I dug it out from my old desktop.

My Rating: 2/5, and the second star is only because the attempt’s still better than Rashmi Bansal’s “desi style” mix of motivational one-liners, verbatim quotes from the subject in the vernacular, and a steady dosage of random idioms and phrases.

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