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The Mysterious E-mail by Anirban Basu

A part time detective Aki Ray is approached by a businessman Banibrata Mazumdar who wants him to investigate a phishing email . Soon afterwards the detective is told by the businessman's son Chayan that the businessman has disapeared, probably kidnapped. Initially the main suspect is the US based nephew of Banibrata Mazumdar,Abhishek who is in Kolkatta for a holiday.

But closer investigation provides more clues to the identity of the real suspect. On the day of the "kidnapping" ,the businessman's spinster sister wakes up very late, later it is found out that she has been given a dose of sleeping pills. The son claims to have registered a complaint with the Shakespeare Sarani police station, but on checking the records, it is found out that no complaint was recorded. On further investigation, it is found that Banibrata Mazumdar had actually faked his own kidnapping and was hiding in his own office.

The reason behind this "fake kidnapping" was to ensure that Banibrata Mazumdar's US based brother Chittabrata Mazumdar did not claim his share of property. It was also apparent that the fake email id was created using the .com extension, when the actual email id used a .edu domain name corresponding to the university where Abhishek studied.

Unlike most fiction books in India today, which are stories of every day life, relationships, travel, this book includes technical/internet related content. However, the real life stories in the internet industry are far more entertaining and unpredictable. Please post a comment or mail pr@useful.in if you wish to be updated on our latest releases on the Indian internet industry.

The Mysterious E-mail by Anirban Basu
Published by Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd. in 2010
No. of pages : 146

Note : This blog post was originally posted in December 2012, but by January 2013, it had been deleted by some unauthorised person(s). We are trying to trace the persons involved, any assistance will be greatly appreciated.

Review:The Best of Ruskin Bond

The Best of Ruskin Bond is a collection of short stories by Ruskin Bond. The stories have been divided into different categories like Tales of the Macabre, Love and Friendship, From a little room (Essays & Vignettes), On the road ( Travel writings). Most of the stories are only a few pages long and are predominantly set in small town India where the author spent a large portion of his life. Some of the stories are autobiographical, others are related to the his large extended family. Adventures of a book lover is a story which a bookworm can relate to. Getting the juices flowing is a simple story on how taking walks is a very effective way to exercise and get back in shape. Some of the stories involve train travel, which most modern Indian authors do not cover. This author uses simple English which an Indian reader can easily relate to. Reading this book is an easy way to spend free time and to forget other problems.

The Best of Ruskin Bond
by Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Year: 1994
Pages : 428

Magic tricks by James Lion Tubro

Unlike most of the books reviewed in this blog, this book is not famous, but is nevertheless a good read because it explains scientifically how many of the magic tricks performed by magicians can be replicated by a layman. This is especially important while working online, as identity theft is becoming increasingly common, and the gangs behind identity theft and online scams have perfected the art of creating illusions ,spreading rumours to ruin reputations by putting their targets under surveillance and using their knowlege of human psychology.

Magicians use a combination of accessories, a very good understanding of physics, chemistry and biology (especially human physiology) . For each trick , a short description is provided ,followed by an explanation of how it is performed. For many tricks,usually involving cards some amount of practice is needed before it can be performed convincingly before an audience.

Others like the holy water trick, use different types of chemicals.A black colour drink contains ferrous sulphate, chebulic myrobalan and water. The magician will tell the audience that he will convert the drink into holy water magically. He will pour it into another empty glass (which contains citric acid invisible to the audience) and the liquid will turn colorless. The audience will think it is magic, but actually the color change is because of the chemical reaction.

In real life too, from a distance, it is easy to create an illusion and have people believe in it, but only on close examination, can a person find out what the truth is.

Magic tricks
by James Lion Tubro
Publisher: Sahni Publications
Year: 2010
Pages : 184

Review : What Young India Wants by Chetan Bhagat

The non fiction book "What Young India Wants" is a collection of essays on different topics. Some of the essays are very generic, but some highlight issues which are not featured in the mainstream media. One is how young India wants to be spoonfed , and does not value hard work. This has been my personal experience with many "young" and often mediocre freelancers, who want everything to be taught to them,and are unwilling to spend any time and money to experiment and learn the hard way.

In another essay "Sparks" is how the spark in a person is killed by unfairness and frustration.To quote "Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with , but unfortunately this is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree, find it easier to make it - not just in Bollywood, but everywhere." This explains why some industries attract talent and grow rapidly, while others do not. The engineering industry is comparatively fair, as it acknowledges talent and hardwork, an experienced engineer is valued. In any industry, the industry leaders should decide, do they only those connected to them/good looking persons to grow or is merit more important?

"Where's my Nobel Prize?" talks about why India doesn't excel on the world stage consistently. Unlike the US where talent is respected, seen as something to be emulated, in India talent is not valued. To quote "a talented person's stature is below that of someone with connections, hereditary entitlement, pedigree or even experience" The reason could be the traditional caste system in India, which still makes its presence felt even in urban India or how individuals with "genuine talent or merit are criticized because it elevates them above their peers" . As he correctly points out a society where well connected individuals do better than people with ability results in a lot of talent being unused, a waste of national resources, and frustration in people. Most large companies in India are family owned where connections matter, but there are a few professionally managed companies , where talent is also a consideration.

What Young India Wants
Author : Chetan Bhagat
Pages: 181
Publisher : Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd
Year: 2012

Devil in Pinstripes

The book Devil in Pinstripes takes a look at the operations of foreign banks and NBFCs in India .The main protagonist of the story Amit Sharma initially works at a bank, New York International Bank and then switches over to a Non Banking Finance Company(NBFC) NFS. An employees loyalties usually lie with the person who has selected him during the interview, who acts as a godfather,( in this case Aditya Bhatnagar) and this is highlighted throughout the book.

In the NBFC he is drawn into a power struggle with Gowri Shanker who has built the sales team . The ego clash which was caused by differences in operating styles as well as personal values, adversely affects the personal life of the Amit Sharma as well as his wife Chanda who also works in the same NBFC. The process of borrower evaluation, DSA's , graft while both sanctioning loans as well as recovering payments is highlighted.

The book is written in flashback mode, alternating between the time when Amit Sharma is served an arrest warrant when a borrower Tulsiram (and later his family) commits suicide and his career path in the bank. The author has clearly demarcated the hero and villian in the book, every person has his positive and negative points, and balanced characters would be more believable.

Like 'Devil in Pinstripes', 'Keep the change' is another of the many books set in the Indian banking industry highlighting the work culture and office politics. However, there seem to be none set in the Indian internet industry, highlighting the ethics, value systems and their attitude towards smaller businesses.

Devil in Pinstripes
by Ravi Subramanian
Pages: 279
Published by Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd. 2010

Review: Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve is the story of Rukmani the village headman's daughter. It traces her life as she marries a farmer Nathan, raises crops and vegetable, has children. The book shows how farmer's lives are affected by nature, how floods can destroy their crop . Drought also leads to starvation, as small farmers do not have any other source of income. The construction of a tannery leads to an increase in employment opportunities, but after some time, the workers go on a strike protesting against the perceived unfair wages. Due to the lack of opportunities, her elder son's are forced to migrate . Later, when the land they are cultivating is sold to the tannery, they are again forced to look for other opportunities. They learn to earn money by breaking stones, and they are paid according to the volume of work they do. This book offers a glimpse of the limited opportunities available in post independence India.

Nectar in a sieve
by Kamal Markandaya
First published in 1954
Published in 2009

Review: Revolution 2020

Revolution 2020 takes a look at the education system today, where crores of rupees are spent on first getting admission to a reputed college and then a degree , but in reality getting a degree has little to do with how much money you make in life.The main protagonist of the story Gopal Mishra fails to get admission to an engineering college despite spending money and a year of his life attending coaching classes, but becomes the director of an engineering college in his twenties with the backing (and investment) from the local MLA Shukla. His idealistic school classmate Raghav clears JEE, studies at IT BHU but becomes a journalist, working at the local newspaper Dainik. He loses his job after writing a story exposing corruption, and starts a newspaper Revolution 2020. After another story exposing corruption, the office of Revolution 2020 is attacked, computers and other equipment damaged. Since Raghav does not have sufficient funds he returns to working at the local newspaper Dainik again.

Parents spend a lot of their hard earned money , so that their children can study at a reputed college, but often admission is determined by how a student fares in a single exam. In reality, a degree is important when an individual applies for his or her first few jobs, it matters when you are holding a job and academic qualifications are a consideration. Today, one comes across MBAs who flaunt their qualifications but are incompetence personified and cannot complete simple assignments , which others with lesser degrees can. Instead of spending time and money chasing degrees, it is better for students to develop skills which are in demand, to do what they are interested in.

Revolution 2020
by Chetan Bhagat
Pages: 296
Published by Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd. 2011

Review: The Resignation (Tyagpatra) by Jainendra

The Resignation is the story of Mrinal born in a well off family, whose husband leaves her after marriage. She is expected to return to her family , but prefers to lead her own life. This story is set in preindependence India, when there were few career opportunities for women, but many of the issues covered in this story are relevant even today. A single woman however blameless is often subject to a malicious slander campaign based on lies, especially if she does not have powerful backers or a support system. She is expected to adjust, keep her family member's happy, even if they have not done anything for her. The book touches upon the topic of domestic violence which is rarely discussed.

As Mrinal says"Those who live within society also carry the responsibilty of keeping its structure intact" Most people live with their family or in the same place all their life. If you live away from home at a very young age, live alone for a very long time, or work online (where you do not have to interact with anyone personally), it is difficult for others to understand your lifestyle, unless they make an effort to. The narrator of the book is Mrinal's nephew Pramod who is a few years younger to her. It tracks her life through school days, marriage, life after she leaves her husband, her teaching job, her illness and death.
The original Hindi book Tyagpatra has been translated into English by Rohini Chowdhury. The writing style in the book is lyrical , a change from fiction books available today.

The Resignation (Tyagpatra) by Jainendra
Pages: 178
Published by Penguin Books India

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Nine Lives in search of the sacred in modern India has stories of individuals who renounced a conventional upbringing and lifestyle to do what they were interested in. The author has spent some time with each of the protagonists,observing their lifestyle and trying to understand the mind of each of the protagonists of his stories. The Nun's tale is the story of a nun born into a well to do Jain family, who decided to renounce the world and take Diksha against the wishes of her family. Her lifestyle is described in great detail including her travels and diet. Though the nun is supposed to have no attachments, she misses her friend who died some time ago. Other stories include that of dancer, singer, monk, a lady who gives up her family life to live on a cremation ground. Often, it is better to do whatever makes a person happy, instead of bothering what other people say and trying to please them.

Nine Lives in search of the sacred in modern India

by William Dalrymple

Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing Plc , 2009

Pages : 284