Review: Job Be Damned by Rishi Piparaiya
Rishi Piparaiya injects humour into Indian business and management literatureUpdated: Mar 01, 2019 17:59 IST
It’s enormously hard for any author to write a humourous book in the Business & Management genre. The cardinal rule is what’s humourous ought to be funny too. It often isn’t. Writing funny prose is deadly serious work!
Besides, to add to his travails, Piparaiya’s chosen a subject species, namely B&M, that’s inherently humourless. The be all and end all of business is to make money and then more money. The ultimate aim of management is to get hired hands to do the dirty work. Either way, there isn’t much that sounds remotely funny.
I suspect this explains why there is total absence of humourous management books in India. There exists a solitary work – The Wit and Wisdom of Ratan Tata – published in January 2018. Here’s a glimpse of the “wit and wisdom” of the celebrated head of the House of Tata (current annual business revenue US$ 111 billion).
Says Tata, “You can either steal yourself away from the situation or steel yourself up towards it.” If guffaws followed, I didn’t hear them.
Searching overseas markets, the only one I found with promise of humour is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Boardroom: Using Humor in Business Speaking written in 1988 by Michael Iapoce. New York based comedian Iapoce has chosen to never write another book, whether serious or funny, in 31 years since.
Theoreticians in English prose say the pitfall in humourous writing is that an author’s excited effort to be funny leads her to being facetious, frivolous or flippant. Therefore, her fun-laden text loses its quintessentially important task of maintaining consistent flavour.
I appreciate Piparaiya’s stupendous effort to write a pioneering book relevant to managers at all rungs of the corporate ladder. His style is fierce yet impish: “You are merely one amongst hundreds of millions of people, festering in a corporate world that is filled with average professionals. Take a walk around the office and observe those robots, mindlessly staring at computer screens oblivious to your presence... stand at any bus stop, taxi stand or train station and witness the suited rats scurrying with their laptop bags. Look everywhere around you – everyone is average. Average professionals in average jobs with average companies in average industries doing average work for average pay leading to average bonuses that will be spent on average holidays. And by swimming in the same salty sea of mediocrity, you are automatically average as well.”
Well, what about advice for about those near or at the top? “Forget the long-term perspective and focus on the present. Stay concerned with the month’s performance, quarter’s share price and year’s appraisal. Any seed that takes years to bear fruit is not worth planting, and in any event, be a lumberjack not a gardener. Other professionals will be there to deal with the effects of your reactive and myopic decisions.”
The author’s insights are serious yet entertaining. For instance, he urges the reader to be a Rock Star Boss: “She is an inspirational, secure and communicative leader. She cares about you as a professional as well as an individual and knows that in your success lies hers. She is an effective decision maker, delegates efficiently and steps in when required to iron out issues. She is liberal with her praise and balanced in her criticism.”
In sum, though this book drags at times when the author tries to keep wit intact even as he noses his way across corporate life’s quicksands and rocky terrain. He keeps up with roguish, even mischievous, chatter but can’t sustain the tempo. At these times mirth gives way to droll. It does subtract from the book’s value but I pardon an author who’s equally a pioneer. The reader starts as an average employee but by the time she’s done with reading, she knows how to be the best average employee because perspectives are puckishly offered including ways to handle tricky BS-doling situations that challenge her to survive in a spectacularly unexciting job. Even so, the charm of possibly rising to be a Rock Star Boss endures.
True, Piparaiya’s store of wit and wisdom does pall at points but warts and all, he’s done well to inject humour via Book # 2 in India’s no-fun B&M literature.
Sujoy Gupta is business writer and corporate historian