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14 February 2014

Book Review: Smart Phones Dumb People: Author: Parthajeet Sarma

Caveat: Author is a friend of mine and was my roommate for two years when we were learning Business Management...

It is tough reviewing non-fiction, Ram thought bitterly as he espied the book 'Smart Phones Dumb People' lying on his table. One the one hand, one has to read them, for you cannot do justice to a book review if you did not read the book. On the other (hand, I mean), that was the problem, one has to read them. They, these non-fiction books, can quickly get into you. Ponderous pages filled with onerous information with an author oblivious to the fact that pages can be filled with pictures as well....
The Author

Ram looked at the book innocuously lying there on the table innocence covering the malevolence of its contents, daring him to have a go. Dare to read me? the book seemed to be taunting him, you have put off reading me all these days, but you are going to meet Parths in about two weeks, what are you going to tell him? that you have not read the book that he so sweetly signed for you in your personal copy? 

What are you going to do? What are you going to do? You have to read me now, and write the review as well...

I have a better idea, Ram told the book. Why don't you tell me about yourself? A book reviewing itself, that is a novel idea (pun intended).

The book agreed, sorta....

So here goes...

Parths has spread it really thick here, said the book. I start off with an interesting anecdote where he goes to buy some fries from some place he calls 'Cardiac Arrest Nation'. I don't know why he calls it that since we were in a Burger Joint, but it is not my lot to think about stuff like that. He says, he asked for fries and coffee and the girl out there asked if he wanted fries to go with it.

Amusing start. said the book. I think Jay Leno read it here before he used it in his gigs..

Having got that amusement behind, Parths jumped right in, said the book. 

Once he got going, he laid into it. In about 200 odd pages, he let'em know his views on Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Corruption, with a prologue and and epilogue thrown in for good measure...

That is a lot of Solid Stuff to cover, Ram commented.

True, replied the book, to understand me, you have to understand him. He did his MBA, worked in Corporate World for a few years before becoming and entrepreneur in the area of affordable housing. You know what they say, being in an ethical entrepreneur in Real estate sector in India is an oxymoron. You can either be corrupt or you can be a real estate entrepreneur, you can't be both.

He has a lot of real world experience, which is demonstrated in me, said the book reflectively.

Is there an overarching theme in you? Ram asked, bit proud of having used words like 'overarching themes'. Ram digs 'Overarching Themes'. They embellish the book review. 

Parthajeet (Parths to his friends) strongly feels that even though we are in the modern, 21st century, the problems that we face are of 19th Century. Take for example the fact that many villages still do not have electricity, or the fact that in certain parts of the country we still worship 'Sati Devi' or that millions of Indians still use wide open spaces in the morning to...(book gave a disgusted look ). These are all ancient problems, as is the problem of providing affordable housing. At the other end of the spectrum (you will see many cliches like this in me, said the book, wish he had used less of that in me) you have the modern society, with their smart phones and gadgets and their facebook and twitter accounts..Definitely 21st century...

This is the conundrum that I discuss. Why are we not able to use the technology (Smart Phones) to solve our problems? Are we Dumb People? 

You will find a term called PAT (Process Alteration thru Technology) when you read me. I hold that many of the problems that we face today are related to bad processes and we can use technology to alter the process and resolve many of the issues that we as a country face. 

Wow, Ram was impressed. That is a lot of content, he said appreciatively.

The book gracefully acknowledged his appreciation. Thank you, it said before proceeding. The book was in its elements. 

You will ask me, said the book, to tell you about the best part in me. I think the best part to read in me is when Parths talks about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur. He has a lot of experiences that has culminated in me being written. I cover a lot of personal experiences in that chapter on entrepreneurship. Many a reader has told me that they were able to identify with what Parths is explaining when he is talking about his personal stories.  He should use more personal examples to emphasize his points, the book declared.

In addition, the book continued, he has structured me quite well. Parths is an architect and a management graduate. His left brained need for clarity of thought and structure is well reflected in the book. Like a good architect who designs the building, block by block, Parths has built me up topic by topic.

As an engineer yourself, you have to agree that the entire argument is built very logically, the book said.

Ram agreed that this was true.

Now you are going to tell me some areas of improvement, Ram said. It was his turn to taunt the book.

The book was thoughtful for some time. As if marshaling its thoughts. Ram let it marshal.

I think there are three areas where I feel I am incomplete, said the book. First of all,  the key idea in his book, which is PAT, comes much later in the book. When the reader first reads about PAT, he thinks of it as just another idea thrown in by the author. Only when he continue reading me will the reader realize that PAT the central to this book and is Parth's solution for many of the problems plaguing the country. 

You have to bring out your key idea much earlier in the book, may be in the first sentence itself. Remember 'It was good times, It was bad times' start of 'A Tale of Two Cities'? The first sentence held the core idea. 

Secondly, I contain many a cliche. A cliche in a book gives the impression that the author has not thought through his ideas. Of course that is a problem when you are writing a non-fiction book, you can't avoid that. Where Parths  is writing about his experiences as an entrepreneur there are hardly any cliches. I think (and many reviewers agree) this this is the section of the book that many of them liked. The lesson? in your next book, talk more about you when you discuss your ideas. Do not try to distance yourself from your ideas. 

And third, (here the book was very agitated), use 'while' dammit. Every time he types 'Whil', I am like 'not 'st' again, not 'st' again. Why this passion for 'Whilst'? Where have all the 'While's gone?

Now was the turn of the book to ask me a question. Having read me, will you recommend me?

It was easy. Of course I will. You contain some good ideas which any right thinking Indian will agree with. Also one is inspired with the accomplishments of the author. It is obvious that he passionately believes in his ideas. That make good reading.

Book: Smart Phones Dumb People
Author: Parthajeet Sarma
Published by: Good Times Publishing
Buy it in Flipkart and Amazon

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