Sunday, January 7, 2018

Book Review: Dream Big - Let Your Financial Plan Make Your Dream Come True by Mukesh Jindal and Arunraj VS.

Title:Dream Big - Let Your Financial Plan Make Your Dream Come True                       
Author: Dr. Mukesh Jindal
Category: Self Help (Personal Development)
Publisher: TV 18 Broadcast Ltd.
Price: Rs. 299 (Hardcover & Kindle)
Pages: 233

This book is about how to plan investments. The correct title for it is "ABC of Investment Planning".  I say this because the author begins first with highlighting the importance of financial planning and the advantage of doing so early on. While he does understand that the youth today is lured by the phrase of "living in the moment" made possible by credit cards. He just doesn't underscores the problem but gives a perspective of opposite lives, with and without saving for the future. His realistic approach to the problem at hand of us, the youth not understanding the importance of money and savings clicked the first chord with me. Everything he mentions about the generation today is true to its word. Moving on he begins to explain the future value of the current amount you have in hand and inflation. he does so by giving actual figures and statistics to make the reader understand the repercussions of keep the money as it is in the bank. Amongst my generation, broadly defined as "youth"  the best we know to save is via fixed deposits. However current bank interest rates over fixed deposits are lower than the inflation rates, so even if you have a certain amount with you, if it doesn't grow as fast as the inflation does, your buying power with the same amount of money will reduce in the future. As a result you will need more money in future to buy things on your wishlist or that elusive vacation unless you make it grow faster than the inflation rate. Keeping money not invested or at low interest rates is loosing out on the money. All these facts become clearer and more real with the statistics given in the book.

Having convinced the reader thus, the writer moves to the various avenues on funding. The focus on this book is particularly mutual funds. He begins with the history of their beginning and classifies them as per the type, risk, period, etc. This gives you an in-depth understanding of the topic, especially if you are a novice on the subject of mutual fund investments. He then goes on in detail of each type, the risks, the myths, etc. associated with them. There are also other investment options like insurance,pension schemes, etc. There is a dedicated section on things to consider while building your financial portfolio which summarizes the content above. Also specific sub-interest sections like one for women, senior citizen, child education etc. have additional ideas for these group of individuals. Lastly he delves into planning your legacy which is the major financial responsibility of every individual.

Overall the book is a must for novices to understand financial planning from the beginning. This book will certainly broaden your perspective with knowledge of variety of options, especially the mutual fund sector which the author sort of has a bias (equipped with statistical data certainly) for. It will help you make better and more informed choices when you next talk to your bank or your asset manager, helping you protect and grow your hard earned money, a dream of every individual.

RC Rating: 5/5 A must read! Highly recommended.

  About the Author:

Dr. Mukesh Jindal is Masters in Finance , CFA Charter and Ph.D from Delhi University with Vast Experience in Field of Investment and Finance

Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Review: Happiness Is All We Want by Ashutosh Mishra

Title: Happiness Is All We Want                       
Author: Ashutosh Mishra
Category: Self Help
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Price: Rs. 260/195.3 (Kindle)
Pages: 216

As far as the title of this book goes it is what life is all about "the pursuit of Happiness". It is indeed all we want. We run after creating happiness for ourselves and our loved ones, in every act of ours. In this race we often keep the subject who matters the most, the recipient of this happiness "our being". I say being because it is both the body and the mind. Our minds are constantly restless in struggle to be the best and our body the last priority. I speak not about people here but myself as well, for the last decade I have been my last priority and successful career my first. This process that started a decade ago now shows alarms as my stamina is nowhere near what it originally was leading to declining productivity. The remedy to this , I stated seeking in literature and that is when I pounced upon this book. 

I have read and am trying to now incorporate many self help books, so I would like to here highlight what the writer has done in creating it and how to use it best. So the most critical part of this book is that it is written by practice. The problems he underlines are very true in Indian context, so I could relate to them very easily. Though most of them are true everywhere, life mostly is a race and we are over-stressed as a young generation more than any before us has been. These examples are so related either to myself or people I know that I started rushing through pages for solutions. This brings me to the most important way in which to read this book is to make pointers. The writer has given some tips at the end of every chapter, which is like the mantra you should remember, making a list of these and slowly including them as priorities in your schedule and life will be more productive. He also goes into intricate details of how we behave. Say we always believe "I will get up in the morning and exercise", this never happens, not for the laziness to exercise, that may come later but the impossibility of waking up early kills it all. He therefore discusses how to watch these hindrances and gives useful tips in avoiding them. Like making exercise a habit first and then fine tuning on the time at which it is done. I found this watchfulness in particular extremely helpful.

The book also has advanced solutions to problems for those who want to go all ahead with it, like Reiki. However to those with work commitments like me I think starting with the most basic ones and going one step at the time with the list becomes helpful. All in all this book certainly helps you achieve that healthy mind and body, rendering you fit to enjoy the success you work so hard for.

RC Rating: 4/5.

    About the Author:

Ashutosh is an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. In his corporate career of sixteen years, he has been a senior banker with global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and is currently with ANZ Bank. With gruelling work schedule and plenty of business travel, he was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. He learnt and practiced many tools and techniques for his own wellbeing while balancing the demands of a high profile career and a lovely family. Based on his experiences over last couple of decades, he has developed a framework for comprehensive wellness with a fresh perspective.

Grab a copy here:

Book Review: The Search Of The Myth by Prithviraj Desai

Title: The Search Of The Myth                       
Author: Prithviraj naik Desai
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Notion Press
Price: Rs. 299/120 (Kindle)
Pages: 256

The story begins with June's grandfather Mr. Heinrich giving her an envelope with clues to a long lost treasure, on his death bed. She doesn't understand the meaning of it all as it all happens while she grieves his loss. However the presence of another man Mr. Kvoski, who claims to be her grandfathers friend appears in the scene claiming the envelope to be his. June smells something is fishy and upon going through her grandfathers emails discovers something fishy. She also discovers a man from India named Shiva her grandfather communicated with and resolves to solve the mystery. What begins next is a chase and a journey based on clues to find the message her dying grandfather conveyed. Will they find it?

The story has a very convincing plot and reasonably good clues. It is a trend these days in Indian writing courtesy the success of Dan Brown and Ashwin Sanghi's books to write about a treasure/secret emerging from clues. The writer does a decent job at setting the plot, incorporating riddles and different places.  It also has a flavor of romance, deceit and relationships. However the greatest turn off since page one is the writing style. The writer needs to tremendously work on it because the book makes an extremely unpleasant read even for the unseasoned reader. It makes me question the entire team involved in publishing this book if they ever paid attention to the way it was written while editing or proof reading. Being on selection board of publishing houses, my verdict would have been to not publish it in the first place, simply because a book isn't written in this manner to say the least. 

Hoping that this review helps the writer improve.

RC Rating: 1/5

Grab a copy here:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

Title: The Devil's Prayer                          
Author: Luke Gracias
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher
Price: Rs. 295/236 (Kindle)
Pages: 294

The Devil’s Prayer, written by Luke Gracias, is a book set in Europe, around the theme of Religious Fiction – of which there have been exemplary books in the past decade or so. This is yet another in that line – and is sufficiently different from the standard template for it to an eminently readable book. The setting of the book, the overall storyline, the trends and the writing style are all  quite engaging, at times fascinating, making for a book that is a good one overall. 
If you value a good surprise, stop reading at this point. Anything I write in plot section of the review will reveal too much; it is that kind of a book. Let it be a surprise – and go directly to the short Analysis Section of this review. I mean that.You can at best read this first paragraph. The story starts with the Suicide of a Nun at a Convent in Spain. A woman in Australia recognizes the Nun as her mother – and visits Spain, setting off a chain of events that lead from nation to nation, and murder to gory murder.  A chain of events involving a heady concoction of a tragedy, unbridled anger, and deep intrigue of the sinister variety.
The Nun leaves something for her daughter – which opens a pandora’s box, so to speak, setting off a chain of events that threaten apocalypse almost. It opens a chapter of the Nun’s life to the daughter, and the harsh history she had; and her mistake. What is the connection of a suicide to a series of murders? What was this mistake? And why did the Nun commit suicide in the first place? Why are people hunting the daughter of this Nun? What did this Nun leave her daughter, that carries so much import that it places her life in danger? Read the book, please.
First, the negative. I am an Indian; the setting of this book is totally alien to me. The backdrop – of Christianity and Western Thoughts on Religion, is also alien – given that this topic deals with the more complex or, shall we say lesser-known aspects of these two. That made connecting with the content a small challenge. Unlike Dan Brown, whose themes were on better known aspects, this book deals with things not fully known to me at least. The book I can compare it with is Inferno, which was also based on little known aspects, making full appreciation hard.
Second, connected with the first, is that the premise seems unbelievable. That could be due to my cultural proclivities, so take it with a pinch of salt. While that does not take away from the positives of this book; it did make the establishment of a deep connect with the plot, the story slightly challenging for me. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I didn’t like; there was plenty I did like – but there was nothing that I connected to. This might seem a minor point – but from the readers’ viewpoint it is mission-critical. This connect differentiates between a good book and a book that is one of a kind, a great book.
Now, the positive. The plot is well-developed, rapid and fast paced – in fact, you will be tempted to skip pages to see how it turns out, but the pace draws you in. This racy pace has been maintained right from the first page to the last page, which is a feat of tremendous skill. The plot, as I said above, is well-developed, and flows logically, with no needless side-tours and examinations. The author has remained fixated on the core story, which is a big plus.
Next, the character development. This is adequate – which is to say, to maintain the pace, the level of development of the characters is just good enough. Since this is a multi-part series, some characters, including the main character has been left under-developed – which seems to be done on purpose. Developing her here would have spoiled the pace – which is the USP of this book. The only  character that stays with you after you shut the book is this one – the under developed Siobhan, which is excellent – it will ensure I wait for the next part! The story also climaxes at a most unopportune point, leaving you angry for leaving out the most vital part! So, all in all a fast paced, well developed thriller.
RC Rating: 3.5/5.
Grab a copy here:
Vishal Kale has an MBA in Marketing with 16 years of experience in Sales, Marketing & Operations across various industries, with end-to-end specialisation in telecom sales and marketing. 

He is an Indian Top Blogger {on ITB Website} for the past 2 years and counting; Nominated in top 5 Political Bloggers by Blogadda in Win-15 & Among the top 200 bloggers worldwide on Invesp. He specialises in deep politico-economic analysis; Books off the beaten track, and a value & fundamentals-based approach towards the Indian Economy, Corporate India - And Especially Indian Colonial History"

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Black Tiger by Srijan Pal Singh

Title: The Black Tiger                                
Author: Srijan Pal Singh
Category: Non-fiction (Economics)
Publisher: Fingerprint Publishers
Price: Rs. 163/Free on Kindle Unlimted
Pages: 198

Corruption is easily one of the biggest challenges that our nation faces; it is a drain on resources, capability, as well as morale. It is a cancer that eats into individual and collective values, ethos as well as ability and skills, as people abandon the process and the basic values & ethics, and choose to  go into a direction where they see greater personal benefit. Corruption corrodes the national capability, and creates a cancer, a festering cancer teeming in our midst, living among us as one of us. That is why, given the nature of the challenge, it is always welcome if any person contributes to the literature on this vital subject of national interest.

If this literature is written {Srijan Pal Singh} by someone who has been in close proximity to one of the finest leaders we have ever had – a role model, a person of the caliber of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam; then it creates a hunger and desire to read and understand – along with the expectation of a strong, data & fact oriented fair and balanced presentation. It was with this deep desire and passion that I chose this book; and can honestly state that it has made a tremendous value addition, as well as made me think. It took me a week to find the words to review this – and I have so far reviewed 180+ books, all of them almost on the day I finish reading.

The book blurb on the back cover calls it fascinating, absorbing, and informative – you can justifiably add disturbing and stunning to that. This isn’t hyperbole; for what is very likely the first time, someone has systematically dissected corruption and placed it in front of the public in a tour-de-force presentation of mind-blowing bluntness and numbing relentlessness in its indictment of everyone who is  a party to this cancer, this serious issue in our midst.

This book is a comprehensive description of corruption, its genesis, and its many parameters, contributory sources, as well as its many offshoots. It will have you transfixed in stunned shocked attention as the author systematically bluntly lays bare the source and the edifice or body of corruption. Let me quote a small sample of the book in one short sentence to underscore my point : The unfortunate reality of today is, inferior men have now filled up a sizeable space in today’s corporate world – men who know how to make a sale, but not how to follow values”.

The book is divided into a few chapters, which define the scope of the problem : it starts with a searing and true indictment of Modern Society, in a chapter titled Fading Conscience, Unrestrained Greed. The research on The Psychology of Corruption leaves you numbed with shock & disbelief at the capability inhumanity and depravity of the Modern Human. It is a chapter that is burned into my memory, one of the most brutal indictments I have ever read. Read the book to find out what is was!

The next chapter is on Governance; this chapter is a mix of Socio-Psychological realities admixed with Administrative realities, looking at how corruption starts in an officer, how it grows and is supported by internal factors – all in the backdrop of a solid sociological study that enables a deep understanding of the problem. These first two chapters are the finest in the book, as they enable a deep understanding of corruption and its genesis in our hierarchical society, and in the backdrop of an all-round drop in the value belief matrix of our society. This is an important point – keep it in mind.

The next three chapters are on The Political and Legal system of our country, an in-depth internal look at the hard truths of our nation’s key institutions of Governance. Here you will be on familiar territory, but the content will still draw your breath away. It looks at the need for and the role of Black Money; and includes a plaintive lament asked by a legislator– how can I work with integrity and succeed in such a situation? Nepotism, lack of inner party democracy, etc other factors have been well supported with facts and solid analysis to buttress them. On the Legal System – I much prefer the reader reads for himself; I am silent on that. Suffice it to state that this chapter is very thought-provoking with real workable solutions and deep insights; not meant for a review article.

The next two chapters are, alongwith the first two, defining chapters of this landmark tome :Corporate Corruption, and Ethics and The Media. For the first time in my memory has someone in the mainstream taken on Corporate India and The Media in so blunt a fashion; enclosed here is a no holds barred, ruthless and brutal stripping of these two much vaunted segments of our society. The systematic takedown spans theCorporate-Political / Corporate-Corporate / Corporate-Government / Corporate-Employees / Paid News / Fake News / Cartels or Conflicts of Interest / Greed aspects of the transactions and relationships in these two sectors.

The book ends with a chapter on Black Money Stashed Abroad followed by two heart and soul searching chapters on Righteousness and What Each Of Us Can Do, wherein an attempt has been made to find a solution of sorts, alongwith the many many suggestions in the previous chapters. But the question that comes to mind is that we have already seen how Corporates, Media, Politics, Society is corrupt; we have seen the acceptance of corruption in society; we have seen how it is hard for people to uphold values both in our real lives, as well as in the at time terrifying examples given in the book. In the light of that, will these solutions suffice?

These points covered pretty much cover all aspects of life; this paints a picture of corruption as a deep seated endemic issue –reaching into our homes, places of work, governance – all of it. This we have already seen, as I talked of in my recent article on Fake News as well. The book suggests a series of eminently feasible, doable solutions  - such as the Costa Rica Example on the Judiciary; or the example on Corporate Governance. But will these suffice, in the light of the nature of the problem that is confronting us as a people? Will this bring about a change in the basic nature of the people? In order to answer that, we have to understand the nature of the beast: corruption.

Given its endemic nature and sidespread support as well as systemic tentacles, we need deep seated reform – true. But not one of the reform steps can check the problems emanating from peer pressure, task hindrance, ability to deliver, intra-dependency with – the corrupt people, who are people like you and me, just like you and me. How do we ensure that we, as a society, can ensure the righteous get their just rewards in an environment where someone who is incorruptible is not considered foolish. Where the price of righteousness is a lesser pay, higher risk and ridicule? And in all points of interaction that an individual has in his daily routine – keep in mind Governance, Politics, Legal, Corporate and Media is a comprehensive look at society, leaving nothing? These are the questions we as a nation have to answer and it is a high time now.

In summary, the book admittedly is a start in the right direction; all of the problems it identifies are almost spot-on accurate. Some of the suggested solutions are actually excellent, and workable – provided we find the will for the same. The straightforward data-based analysis leaves no scope for much debate insofar as the problem description & diagnosis is concerned. The solutions aspect, though, is another matter. Take the examples of Property, or Manifestos, or party whips; are the changes implementable? I fear not. The only place where the book falls marginally short is in corporate governance and corporate corruption. The problems are systemic, deep-rooted and endemic, and will need deep change at entire organizational systems and processes level. The problem identification is incomplete, as it looks at only one small aspect of Corporate Corruption – the reality is far scarier, and virtually endemic… all the rest is spot-on, and the author deserves a standing ovation for putting together this masterpiece…

The Readers Cosmos Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author:
Srijan Pal Singh is a gold medallist MBA holder from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and has worked with the Boston Consulting Group. He is a social entrepreneur who has been involved in studying and evolving sustainable development systems with a thrust on rural areas. From 2009 to 2015, he also worked as an advisor and an officer on special duty to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam on promoting the concept of energy independence and Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), and co-authored with him three books, Target 3 Billion (2011), Reignited (2015), and Advantage India (2015). He has been named as one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow by the St. Gallen Leadership Symposium in Switzerland in 2014. He has also co-authored Smart and Human (2015) with GRK Reddy.

Book Reviewed by Vishal Kale and edited by Nimi Vashi

Vishal Kale has an MBA in Marketing with 16 years of experience in Sales, Marketing & Operations across various industries, with end-to-end specialisation in telecom sales and marketing. 

He is an Indian Top Blogger {on ITB Website} for the past 2 years and counting; Nominated in top 5 Political Bloggers by Blogadda in Win-15 & Among the top 200 bloggers worldwide on Invesp. He specialises in deep politico-economic analysis; Books off the beaten track, and a value & fundamentals-based approach towards the Indian Economy, Corporate India - And Especially Indian Colonial History"

Friday, November 17, 2017


As we grew also grew the distance,
we were made conscious that we were different,
something we never felt while playing those games,
now we are two different genders,
the smiles we attracted when we played together are now stares,
the distance grew further everyday,
until one day when it was impossible to reach you,
ironically this was called "life".

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: Europa by Hywel Pinto

Title: Europa                                  
Author: Hywel Richard Pinto
Category: Science Fiction
Publisher: Story Mirror
Price: Rs. 225                                                                  

Snapshot: The year is 2250 and we are witness to a historical trial of one of the Silver Fleet’s youngest and most promising captains - captain Richard Sparks, who has been accused of murdering a fellow crew member during the Silver Stars lengthy trip to Jupiter’s moon – Europa. But the crew are divided as to whether the captain is to be blamed for the fiasco or whether there was a bigger conspiracy on board?

Can another murder on board the Silver Star be attributed to the unusual mission that the ship is on? Does someone want the crew of the Silver Star to fail in their mission to locate one of her sister ship, reportedly lost near Europa? And just how many of the crew can captain Richard Sparks can trust, if he is to be believed as being innocent?

Meanwhile, a shadowy organisation back on earth contends with a dangerous, corrupt and ambitious Indian politician, with the Europa mission being used as the counter weight. Will this affect the crew on board the Silver Star?

All trials are not as simple as they seem – not when the accused has a story to tell and some people will go to great lengths to protect what actually happened on EUROPA.

Review: Europa by Hywel Richard Pinto is a space science fiction. The moment I laid my hands on it, the enchanting cover seemed to promise a feeling of wonder and adventure of travel among the stars. I expected a space opera with modern technology and Europa partially delivered it. I applaud the author’s extra ordinary imagination brimmed with adventure, action, aliens and suspense. But the problem is I was not enchanted completely.
The story set in year 2250 begins with the historical court room trial of captain Richard Sparks who commanded the journey of Silver Star to Jupiter’s moon Europa to restore help to the crew of Silver Wind. Suddenly few crew members along with Captain Sparks are awoken from their medical induced hibernation. 

To add more mystery and misery, there is a death of a crew member that puts guilty charges on Captain Sparks. Eventually, the team soon realises about a foul play in store for them on the ship. During the time of the journey, there were some bad high profile influential men like Draco and Pramod on earth who planned to influence and play their own dirty games secretly into Mission Europa.  The author has pulled the strings on the conspiracy from US to India. The course of the journey of the book reveals the truth and states the actual facts that occurred during Mission Europa.

It won’t be wrong to say that I liked the book in bits and pieces. It had a breath of fresh air but could not hold for long. Some parts were simply too dragged and were dull while some were interesting. For instance, the moment the crew and Captain Sparks lands outside their ship and discover aliens was written well. Nominal glitches in the book were printing errors and repetitions. I wish it had been edited well. Writing was plain and lucid. The characters like Duncan, Draco, Mario, Jewel, Robbie and Pramod are sketched well with their back stories. However, too many characters were noisy and annoying. The author has carved a well crafted story but I wish the loopholes were stitched well too. 

Rating : 2.5/5

About the Author:  Hywel Richard Pinto, born in Bombay and brought up in Mumbai has always loved reading, right from the time he was in school, beginning with Enid Blyton's Famous Five and moving on to The Hardy Boys once he had exhausted all of Enid Blyton's series of mystery novels. Hywel works full time in a Media agency as a Sr. Director - Media Planning. In addition to this book, he has also written a murder mystery set in Mumbai by the name of "The Monday Murder" which was shortlisted in the top 20 manuscripts from nearly 300 entries by DNA-Hachette India in January 2013 during their Hunt For The Next Indian Bestseller contest.

Grab a copy here:

Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:

Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush.