Saturday, July 30, 2011

Aryavartham - Madampu Kunjukuttan

Spencer Wells, in his celebrated work on Anthropology ( Journey of a man : a genetic Odessey) talks about the first man (and women) , originated in Central Africa and migrated from there to Asia, Australia , Europe and to America. One group took the southern route to South India to South-East Asia and to Australia. The other ( which amounts to almost 90% the current world population) took the northern route eventually populating Eurasia and Americas. The genetic study reveals that the earliest of migration is only about 60,000 years ago ( there are some revisions in this now after a latest study in 2011) . Adding to this debate could be the Aryan invasion, or the migration of eastern Europe/Central Asian Nomads into India and spreading their culture and invading into the inner parts of the country. While there are controversies around it, among historians , the genetic study do demonstrate a possible second entry of human migratory route into India from the north at a later stage.

Madampu Kunhukuttan, explore this myth in his latest novel titled 'Aryavartham' , which recently launched at a function commemorating his 70th birthday. He goes through a hypothesis ( fictional, Of course) that the centre point of this migration of Vedic people originated at the himalayas on the shores of 'Manasasarovar' adjoining the Hindu holy site of Mount Kailas ( of Lord Shiva). The entire population decides to split themselves into 4 groups and move in 4 directions until they reach the destination of their final settlement. This book split in 2 parts confine itself into the initial decision and preparation for migration and follows one group into their early settlement at the northern part of India, which is now famous as Indus Valley Civilization.

Man of abundant knowledge and a descendant of the Original Vishwamitra ( who is called Vishwamitra II ), summoned his people near the Manasasarovar and said, "My dear people, Let us move. Let us migrate from this place for Fire and for food. Let is go to a place where the rivers flow over the banks irrespective of the season ,where our cattle have enough to eat , where the earth is young and fertile waiting to be explored.

It is obvious that the clan was forced to migrate due to changes in the nature. Evidently there is nothing to eat, the earth is barren and not yielding to the efforts of cultivation, the cattle is dying and the milk production is dwindling. There is no hope in a place which is now abandoned by the gods themselves. Hence the only way is to migrate, to migrate to greener pastures. It is important that the tribal discipline is maintained during the journey. There has to be a leader and the others had to be obedient to the rule of the tribe. There had to be division of labour. The cattle has to be taken care off, hence protected. They are not warriors by birth or by need. The only weapon they adorn is the knowledge they carry within. The knowledge in Mathematics, Fire and Wheel is the only thing makes them different from the rest of the world. It is important to preserve the knowledge. Hence it is important to protect their language. They also need to multiply and fill the plains wherever the settle.

After many deliberations and assurances, the initial group takes off, and at a fixed time delay the next until all 4 groups move away from the place of their origin, carrying representative memorabilia with each of them . The last group , which moved north after long walk ends up at the plains with fertile land enough for the cattle to eat and for the populace to live on. The place is of abundance of water through five rivers running through the plain. The group has decide to settle here. There are indigenous people of the plain and they need to work with them for suitable place to build their settlement. Slow and steady progress get the two group together. The indigenous people does not believe in owning up the land. The earth is for all and anyone can cultivate there and reap the result of their hard work. The extra is then traded for essentials. But for the visitors, they have to own their place, they need to fence their belongings and need to get the others to work in their field. They also need to establish their superiority and authority over the others and slowly and steadily take control. The birth of feudalism. The greed for more begins here. Inspite of the visitors superiority in certain fields of knowledge ( like medicine ) the aborigines ( if I can use the word) are advanced in various other fields ( construction, town planning), and a co-existence would be a better way moving forward. They had been demonstrating their superior skills at the now submerged settlement at Harayupi and mohanarupi ( Harappa & Mohanjadaro) which is now rebuilt with the same level of efficiency and effectiveness. The rest is the tale of integration and furthering the relationship with its own twists and turns.

This is non- contemporary theme and hence is not easy to grasp at first. It is also cleverly thought and executed. It is also non-controversial thus far and the journey is not over. The scope of expansion is huge and I'm sure there would be a part two or more in the series. We can see an intelligent writer here using the myth, historical, scientific and vedic data very effectively. At no point of time, the narration goes against any of the current day knowledge of people, social or historical and scientific awareness. His clever arguments on banning cow slaughter , the in-sect marriage, the tectonic plate shifts, the mixing of factual and fictional reality of migration are brilliant.

While this is not a contemporary story , it does not rely too heavily on the mythical facts. It is constructed in an epical style with tales and sub-texts to each stories, building up the whole some narration. It is these stories and diversion makes the reading interesting, more than the theme itself. There are great treasures in them preserved through the oral tradition of the Vedic people. These little gems creates the baroqueness to the straight forward story of migration. The language, as it should be , is rich and sanskritised to a great extend. Most of the names and the places aren't easy to remember and the mythical aura of the narrative is demanding on the reader. Having said that, this is an interesting take on the spread Aryan people and language. Madampu, hopefully continue this journey with the other groups to give a completeness to the epic.
Aryavartham ( 2011 )

Green Books, Trichur

240 Pages

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Taste of a Man - Slavenka Drakulic

"I shall eat his body so that Jose may continue to live inside me. We shall be one. In spirit and in body. Amen."

Not sure if there had been any literary works based on Cannibalism as a theme. Interestingly, this had been appearing in various reading of mine of late. The new Malayalam book "Francis Ittykkora" details about an clandestine group practicing cannibalism. I was reading about Ukrainian mothers eating their kids during the famine years of 30s. Cannibalism was in discussion, with the Europeans travelling around the world discovering and conquering continents. There are numerous reports of them either surviving or witnessing cannibals. Some like the paragraph below, with some gruesome detailing.

"the head was impaled on a palisade of the village and not eaten, although the lips and eyeball ganglions went to the executioner. The brain was eaten by women and children, and the entrails, intestines and stomach were boiled into a stew. Men got the arms and legs, while women got to drink the victim's warm blood at the execution itself. The male organs were either given to women ? presumably as a special treat ? or served up to the men by the women. Teeth and bones were used as necklaces or to make war-flutes or arrow points."

However, with the improvement of travel and spread of information in the 20th century, these stories dwindled out and remained in a short circles of discussion. Slavenka Drakulic ( known for her post-communist era essays of Europe such as Cafe Europa etc) in her first novel, takes this in a different light and intellect.

Tereza, a Polish girl doing her masters in English Poetry, get to meet and fall in love with Jose, a Brazilian doing his research for a book he is writing on Cannibalism. While she had numerous relationships and has a boyfriend back in Poland, her attraction towards this married man was instant. It did not take long for them to move in together to her apartment. The days that followed were one that was meant only for them. The world stopped, time did not move, isolated from all. The love for each other became and obsession beyond sexual and physical, into the abyss of being one,inseparable from each other. As in any story, there is twist here to the tale. Jose's wife lands up at San francisco, and Jose had to leave NY to be with his wife and son. The separation, albeit for a couple of days, make her realise what is lost from her life. The obsession to get him for herself, to be in union with him, to be single in body and soul. Slowly and determined she take control over him. The meticulous planning continued for few days, with Jose himself succumbing to the fact, as if he understood the plan. The rest is the execution of the plan.

Jose's work on cannibalism, his research on the victims of the Andean plane crash , survived on their dead comrades body parts were the first to influence her. The subsequent knowledge of the tribes in pacific island, where the ladies eat the bodies of their deceased husbands, not to pollute the earth and to give their life a continuity through their own life, and similar twentieth century case studies, could have been her inspiration to get it done by herself.

"Something else had to be done, something that would definitively unite us. There was only one way that Jose could continue to live inside me. Of course, I had thought about getting pregnant - that was the first thing that would have occurred to any woman in my position. But that would not create the kind of perfect, total unity, the union of the body and spirit, that I was seeking. A child, even if it was his, would be an utterly new separate being."
Written in first person narrative ( by Teresa), it does not give out a feeling of detachment or numbness to the reader. Was it right for the Plne wreck victims to eat hman flesh to survive ?Was it write for the pacifi island woman to eat their husbands ? Was it right for the unfortunate Ukrainian mothers to eat their children ? There are no answers. The Andean survivors thought "eating the flesh of their dead comrades was an act of communion".

She does not look at these event with any analytical way. There are no Sexual, spiritual or religious angle to the theme, whatsoever, in here. Not overtly intellectual. Thus, even after reading, one is left with the same numbness as Teresa, as if nothing extraordinary had happened. However, Teresa wanted to get her house cleaned for which she takes almost 3 days, in company of the dissected corpse. Now that they are one, she has to erase the earlier memories of him. The tub has to be scratched and cleaned, the floor mopped, the kitchen table and sink wiped clean. "My idea of cleanliness had tuned into an obsessive, self punishing activity. I was perfectly aware that something else was involved here, subconscious desire to atone for sin"

 The scenes of dissection and eating are gory and gruesome and not really convey her real feeling towards him. I thought at this point the narrative and control is slightly lost. Also, this is not an easily convincing subject and hence the effort has to be so much more from the author, which might not be the case here. Hence, it did not create an experience that is sensual , religious or spiritual in a deeper sense.
The Taste of a Man ( 1997 )

Slavenka Drakulic ( translated by Christina Pribichevich Zoric 1997 )

Penguin Books

212 Pages
Other reviews : Publishers Weekly,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2666 - Roberto Bolaño

It took a couple of years and a couple of other books of Roberto Bolano, to sum up enough courage to take up this mamoth book. Like many others, I too picked up this book in 2008 when it was a sensation around the world after its launch. However, I thought it would be premature to start reading Roberto Bolano without familiarizing with his writing. However even after a week finishing the reading, I am not able to gather my thought around it. Here is my failed attempt to get some thoughts together.
2666, the last work completed ( in haste apparently, as if he knew what is happening to him) by Bolano before his death in 2003, is probably the first of the classics of 21st century ( definitely in the first decade). This one will go a long way in discussions and will be heralded as one of the path breaking novels of the 21st century. The book is written in 5 parts, and he wanted to publish each as separate books, however better sense prevailed and the heirs decided to publish this as one consolidated mega book.

Tracing back and forth between Europe and Mexico, this follows the life of a literary genius on one side and as a crime detective story on the other converging the threads brilliantly towards the end.

The most important part, the fourth and the longest ( nearly 300 pages), named as 'The part about the Crimes' is the most discussed part by the critics and readers in general. Tracing the disappearance of young women in a fictional town of Santa Teresa in the norther borders of Mexico adjoining US. Mostly written in reportage and often repetitive in nature, he traces the crime over a period of 10 years, end of the 20th century and the initial years of 21st century. May be this part makes people declare this as a novel about crime, of death , of apocalypse foretold ( especially with the name 2666 of the book). Critics says, Santa Teresa is modelled on the city of Ciudad Juarez in the US borders, where the large US enterprises sets up their manufacturing units , attracted by the cheap labour force and the proximity to the key market. Interestingly, it was noted that these large corporates employee women workers in their factories, for obvious reasons. The disappearance of working women, later found dead abandoned in the desert , brutally murdered after rape and torture. The investigations as expected often abandoned with no results and the cases were closed citing lack of evidence. Bolano, gets the readers focus on this issue of murder and the investigations linking it to the other theme with some brilliant interplay.

The main thread follows an obscure Gernam Writer Benno Von Archimboldi. Chapter One focusses on four literary critics, who were attracted by Archimboldi and his writing, Presenting papers in various international forums and literary festival the obsessed quartet follow the writer in order to find the details through the publishers and the tracks of fellow critics, eventually ending up in the town of Santa Teresa following certain indication. It is in the last part, is the life story of Benno von Archimboldi, from Hans Reiter, a WWII veteran, turning into a writer maintaining his anonymity until the last days of his life( even from his family). This chapter is one gets the various chapters together giving the book a wholesome feeling, completing with the story of Archimboldi's sister and her son. Santa Teresa is the merging point of all the threads, it is where most of the actions are. It is also the place of eventual apocalypse.

The whole novel on a different angle can be viewed as a satire. A satire on the literary academics of Europe. The efforts of few individuals making an obscure writer , the sensation and someone who is Nobel worthy. This is also a political satire on the true story of murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. Thus it is often funny, and at times ridiculous.

It is evident that he wanted his last book to be a classic , an epic : and that is what he made it to be. In every sense the book goes through the narration that befit one magnum opus. The size of the book does not come in way of the overall enjoyment. Its a fast read and is an easy one. He purposefully vary lengths of his chapters, manipulates pace of narrative, and deliberate over matters of importance. He also include intricate subtexts and stories within stories ( especially towards the end) leaving you suspended and often bewildered. Interestingly every part is a different style of writing. A reportage for the crime, a biographical style for the last, a satirical style for the first part.

900 pages of shear magic. May be kept the best for last. This will not be the last ime I'm reading this and not the last time I talk about this..
2666 ( 2004 )

Roberto Bolano ( Translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer in 2008)


898 Pages
Rs 750
Other Reads : Complete Review , Wiki , Latin American Review of Books

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sozaboy - Ken Saro wiwa

"Although, everybody at Dukana was happy at first"

The post independent Nigeria was marred with sectarian violence lasting over three decades. Literary works around this theme had been around the world for many years from Nigeria,and even until recently ( half of Yellow sun etc). What makes this book different is that this does not glorify the struggle or violence but depicts the story of those suffered with out the least of knowledge for what the fight is for. Mene is a grown up boy, living with his mother in small village Dukana far from Lagos. People in Dukana greeted the news of ousted government by the military as they thought this will bring down corruption and those who 'chop' the money from poor people like them will be dealt with sever punishment. They welcomed any such changes with their way of celebration, drinking and dancing the whole night.  The only way they know how to react to anything, be is happy or sad occasions is by losing themselves in dance and liquor. The initial days were encouraging with the new government, but soon the old ways of 'chopping money' came back with vengeance. The difference is that now the Soza ( Military) itself is 'chopping money' from the people and they have nowhere to go.

Young Mene, paid some money to the driver of the motor bus, who ply between Dukana and the local town Pitaka daily, to be his apprentice. His mama's hard earned money was required to get the driver agree to take him as his assistant. He wanted to learn driving and get a license for himself ( he need money again to attend the test and get license). It is on one of these days, where the motor was in the garage for maintenance, he met Agnes with JJC ( Johnny Just Come - for a girl with pointed breasts ) in the local bar. Agnes is a shameless girl, talking cheap talk and had been to Lagos on work for many time. It is at this bar that he hear the talk about war and a man speaking about the need to fight the war.

The Dukana is a safe place and far from the troubles. Why does someone want to attack Dukana ? "Dukana is far away from any other better place in the world  all the houses in the town are made of mud. There is no good road or drinking water. Even the school is not fine and no hospital or anything."

 However, the Soza arrived at Dukana in their lorries and the Village Chief Birabee , weak-kneed against the Soza, summoned people and chopped them off whatever they could give. Mane's local friends, a WW II veteran, who fought 'Hitla' in Burma, and had a white woman before returning crippled to Dukana , had him filled with those glorious stories of being a Soza. His mother was against it. She did not want her only son lost in the war. All she wanted him was to marry and produce 'pickens' in many numbers. The compromise idea for Mane was to agree to marry and later leave on a mission to be a Sozaboy. But money is needed for both marriage and to join soza. It was easy to get Agnes agree for wedding though her initial reaction was “You foolish man. All your friends are making soza, you want to stay here and marry with that your thing standing like snake wey no get house” . It was much persuasion he got the permission to go and join the Soza. 

The initial training and the depute was easy and uneventful with his pride in wearing the uniform and rifle.  However the trouble soon started with an ambush on their group by enemy planes which killed most of the members. Sozaboy escaped with minor injuries and he escaped to the nearby bushes under the darkness. Caught again by a different troupe. His little knowledge of driving saved his life as he became their messenger to the various parts of the war, often doing the job all by himself.  Under these difficult conditions, where his pride of being a Soza vanished, he continue to survive only to be back with his mother and wife.  It is in one of such trips he decided to change paths and go visit Dukana to meet his mama and wife. What he sees there is destruction with not a souls in sight. It was devastation every where. It is evident that the war had reached the village and the entire village was ran away. Two old crippled soldiers hiding in the edge of the village was the only souls that remain, as they were unable to travel.

"Dokuna is not like Dokuna again. Where are chief Birabee them and all those his chiefs who every time will take bribe from the people ? Where is Pastor Barika singing his song in the morning and in the evening and every Sunday telling all his lies from the pulpit to the women of Dukana ? Where are all the young men with their long prick and big blokkus ? And where are all the young young girls with JJC just waiting for the young men ? Sozaboy, Dukana don die. The war have buried our town."
Now the search for his wife and mother intensified as he was directed in various refugee camps run by Red Cross and other voluntary organisations. What he sees in these places were worse than what he experienced in prisons.

"My dear brothers and sisters, I will not try to tell you how I was moving from one camp to another.Or what I saw in the camp that I went to. Because, true true as Zaza have talked, this camp is proper human compost pit and all these people they are calling refugees are actually people that they have throwaway like rubbish......I am telling you, the first time that I went inside one camp, I almost run because I think that I have reached the town of ghost, or ghost town as some people call it."
His search resulted in no finding. his wife with JJC and his beloved mother was no where to be seen. It is in one of these camps he found the pastor and the old Village chief. He with his new status of being a soza was treated differently, only to be caught ( with some tips off by the Chief and Pastor) and send to the opposite army who controlled this area. It is then he realised the nexus of those in power with the traders.
"Some people have chopped the people food and sold the cloth that the Red Cross people ask them to give all the people. They are selling this food and cloth and afterwards they will preech to the people... these bellymen are friends of the sozas and of the politicians and the traders. And they are all trading in the life of men and women and children. And their customer is death."
Again in prison awaiting death, they kill one prisoner per day, the only regret he has is his inability to meet his wife and mother. The fate was again on his side as soon the enemy lost the war and the war was coming to an end. The attempt to kill all the prisoners had to abandon with the end of ammo and he was spared once again. Now freed, although devastated and tired, he comes back to Dukana with the hope of finding his beloved there. However he was not welcomed as expected. The village is under the attack of Cholera and hoards are dying every minute. People shut the door to him and not willing to answer his calls. Disillusioned with this response, he once again take refuge in the destructed church trying to get some sleep. It is here he meet the old friend and understand the fate that attracted his family and the reason for the reaction from his people.

 "You see, Dukana people are saying that although you have already died, you have become ghost and sometime you can appear as proper porson and go to where Dukana people are staying and begin to ask for you mama and your wife Agnes"

The language ( the use of it) itself is a character in this book . The novelist claims this as a novel in 'Rotten English', mix of Anglican English, the Pidgin English and all those local expressions. He says these are not prevalent in the country, but used it to create the impact. There haven't been many that I know which uses the language so effectively. Ken Saro wiwa tells in his foreword,
Sozaboy's language is what I call 'rotten English,' a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and occasional flashes of good, even idiomatic English. This language is disordered and disorderly. Born of a mediocre education and severely limited opportunities, it borrows words, patterns and images freely from the mother-tongue and finds expression in a very limited English vocabulary. To its speakers, it has the advantage of having no rules and no syntax. It thrives on lawlessness, and is part of the dislocated and discordant society in which Sozaboy must live, move and have not his being.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a writer, television producer, human right activist and environmentalist. in Nigeria. He was arrested and put to trial by the Nigerian Authority accusing him of creating communal disturbance and of inciting riots. He was sentenced to death by the special court and he was hung to death along with 8 others on the 10th of November 1995.

Its a book about war, the senselessness of war, the atrocities, the human disaster or more precisely it is an anti-novel. Those who fought did not know for what they were fighting for and for whom ? They were recruited en masse and often paid meager salary living under pathetic condition. Many a times, they fought for both the warring parties. Winning or loosing war had no meaning to them.

"Well, I don't think it is good thing or bad thing. Even sef I don't want to think. What they talk, we must do. Myself, if they say fight, I fight. If they say no fight, I cannot fight. Finish."
As the last words spoken by Sozaboy, tells it all..
"And I was thinking how I was prouding before to go to soza and call myself Sozaboy. But now if anybody say anything about war or even fight, I will just run and run and run and run and run. Believe me yours sincerely"
Sozaboy is a masterpiece of African Literature.
Sozaboy (1985)

Ken Saro-wiwa  ( Kenule Benson Tsaro-Wiwa  )

188 Pages

Longman Publications
More read : War, violence and language in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy , Felix Online Review , Solidarity,

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Wandering Falcon - Jamil Ahmad

The soldiers of an isolated military out post somewhere in the borders of three countries ( Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran), spotted "two figures and a camel" movingly slowly and hesitantly towards the fort where they camped. It was cold winter months and the wind rages continuously during these four months. 'The wind had been blowing with savage fury for three days' and the soldiers, who remained inside the closed shutters while the wind blew came out for some fresh air and water noticed them coming up the hill. "Water", was the only words came out of the man and the subedar 'pointed wordlessly towards the half empty bucket'. The man took the head of the women in his hand and tenderly squeezed some drop of water on to her face, wetting the edge of her shawl. As she sensed the water, she started sucking his hand and fingers. All of a sudden she lunged towards the bucket and plunged her head into it until she choked. Once recovered the couple requested refuge as they were running away from their tribe, the Siahpads, weathering the terrain and the cruel storm. Refuge was refused as the soldiers do not want to get in the wrong side of the tribal law, but a shelter was granted. The stay however continued for 6 years , and it is here their child was born. However, the tribe had their way and the couple notices the tribesmen on hunt coming towards the post. The attempt to flee did not take them long, before the hunters caught up with them in a couple of days. As was decided earlier, they ended their life ( women being killed by him and he to the deathly blows of their pursuers. The kid was spared ( and live to take us through the rest of the tales as a participant and witness in the rest of the tales. The boy known as Tor Baz ( the black falcon), continue his journey all over Pakistan, the mainland, the delta and more often in the hills bordering the countries through the eventful years of turbulence.

The hilly areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are inhabited by various tribes with their own distinct life style and tribal law. The bureaucratic efforts to bring them to be the national law abiding citizens are often resulted in conflicts and as their law demands, they ended up in armed struggle with the authorities. Each tribe and multiple clans within the tribe has definite sets of boundaries of living , moving and existing and any breakage of this is dealt with killing. The authorities on either side of the Pak-Afghan border continue their effort to bring them to justice, often treating them as criminals, subjected to torture and capital punishment, many a times even without proper trial ( as a case of 7 surrendering tribal men in one of the story here).

The life up the terrain is difficult and demanding. Often the weather is unbearable and the tribe move in caravan from one place to the other. However with the birth of the country states and international boundaries, curtailed their freedom of movement as they have to cross the "border", which is prohibited without 'permits'. But to them, these are not in their books and wouldn't understand, often getting into armed struggle and loosing cattle and human lives in the end.

Though these writings belong to the period of 50s and 60s , before the Soviet occupation, it gives us the glimpses of the real issue of the region. The strong tribal grouping and hierarchy , with inability of the Governments to understand and appreciate these inner power politics ( or the non-willingness to accept) could be one of the real back ground of the never ending conflicts in that region. They are simple people and the life is more or less predefined. The life is tough and often have to deal with harsh realities. Hence taking up arms and killing for honour of the tribe is not considered as a crime. Interestingly, religion is not a strong force.

This is a collection of tales, loosely held with the Tor Braz as a silent witness. Each story is powerful and is an eye opener. Jamil Ahmad had spent long years with the Pakistan administration working in these tribal areas and have a first hand knowledge of their life, which is brought out brilliantly in these pages. The language is beautiful and the set up and the characters are new to the general readers. Very picturesque and subtle shift of emotions and the underlying reality of their existence against every thing against them ( the place, the weather, the people, the authorities), they continue to struggle through their life from generations to generations.

Fantastic work of fiction by the 78 year old debutant.
The Wandering Falcon (2011)

Jamil Ahmad

Penguin Books India

181 Pages

Rs 399
Read : Guardian , Penguin India Page

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Influence : Science and Practice - Robert B Caldini

For all those who are involved in sales and marketing , the issue of demand generation is an ever discussed topic. As marketing managers try one strategy after other to continue create the demand for their product or services that are to offer. In that context it is important to know what makes the person be influenced. What are the basic human nature that can be identified and manipulated to get the 'message' across. Robert Caldini in his fabulous book "Influence: Science and Practice" looks at these six major forces that are the key in influencing decisions by individuals.

People are poor in making decisions. They rely on factors that help them to arrive at a decision to act. Caldini calls this as a 'Click-Whirr' behaviour. There is a response to every events, based on an automatic 'tape replay'. These responses are conditioned and are immediate influenced by these indirect factors.

He categorizes these into six elements as :

1. Reciprocation

2. Consistency and Commitment

3. Social Proof

4. Authority

5. Liking

6. Scarcity

While he explains these topics at lengths with appropriate examples and discussions to substantiate these points. Instead of getting into the typical academic discussion, it is elaborated with some fun reading and few readers experiences. What is interesting is that these phenomena is not isolated to any specific countries or groups. We see the reflections of these all around us glaring ( now, especially after reading the book). We feel the obligation to return the favour in whatever form. We are also wary about changing from our known 'position' on any subject or issues. There is also a tendency to go after what is the world doing or using. What is popular with many should be good for me too. We are also believe in experts, and blindly follow the authority. There are also specific liking to certain individuals or organisations influencing our decision. The fancy for 'limited editions' or ' offer until stock lasts' of ' last 2 days' etc also seems to be a great influence on our decision.

On the blind following of an authority, Caldini cites a case of a patient who followed the instructions from the doctor, treating him for ear infection. The prescription read, " Please drop in R ear", obviously meaning right ear. You can decide for yourselves on the actual usage and result.

Of the non-fiction books that I've read in the recent past , this is one of the best read I've had. It doesn't get too verbose moving from one example to the other to substantiate his thoughts. The book has been an easy and engaging read structured and presented beautifully.

Influence : Science and Practice (2001)

Robert B Caldini

Pearson Education

259 Pages
More read : Six weapons of Influence