Wearing a late afternoon power T-shirt-cargo shorts combo, Suhel Seth, author of Get To The Top: The Ten Rules For Social Success, spoke to Indrajit Hazra about the need to seek out interesting people, having a broad bandwidth and why he once told someone that he ran Asia’s biggest escorts service.
What made you write this book?
Over the last 10-15 years, I have seen people and how they behave. For far too many of them, it’s about being seen with the right people, who they deem to be important. This was something that I’ve found to be not only tasteless but also counter-productive. Even when I was young, it didn’t matter whether it was an accounts manager or Russi Modi or Mrinal Sen. If they were interesting company, I would seek them out. I thought of writing this book as a corrective to the prevalent kind of thinking.
You also encourage the idea of meeting different kinds of people.
Yes. Be interesting and seek out interesting people. I have a very broad bandwidth when it comes to friends. I can drop everything and have a long adda with my old Calcutta ‘intellectual’ pals; I can go into a session with friends in Delhi about the latest power politics; I can have an equally good time at a chi-chi dinner in Bombay. It all depends on my mood.
What would you say are the big no-nos in social interaction?
One, hypocrisy. If you’re not yourself, you’re killing yourself. Why on earth would you want to be something that you’re not? The second is being ill-mannered. It’s downright rude when people ask, ‘Who else is coming to the party?’ When I first came to Delhi from Calcutta, a lady came up and asked me what I do. I replied with a straight face that I ran Asia’s largest escorts service and that her husband was a regular client. She slunk away. The third no-no is playing your friends against each other. Bitching always catches up to you.
Which one of these three don’ts do you find difficult to maintain yourself?
Well, I’ve been told that I can be rude and blunt. I am blunt when a dogma is shoved down my throat. So maybe I need to be more tolerant, yes.
What do you plan to write next?
Get To The Top is planned as the first of a trilogy. The next one will be about creating a brand out of oneself. The third, tentatively titled ‘A Tale of Three Cities’, will deal specifically with my experiences with people in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta and how to deal with them. Written in a Dickensian style.
And how would you sum up being socially successful?
Ratan Tata once said in an interview that his measure of success was having a good night’s sleep. I totally agree.