Diversity Beyond Tokenism: By Swati Jena and T.N. Hari, Sage, 308 pages, ₹550.
In this intriguing, provocative book, Jena and Hari call out the fundamental flaws in management and organisational systems that make workplaces deeply unequal and unjust. In the past 15-18 months, we have seen corporations issue statements of solidarity against racism and injustice but also take down advertisements with messages of inclusion that caused outrage among conservative groups. Corporate India does need a reminder that diversity is not about ticking boxes for the annual presentation but truly understanding inclusion and equal opportunity, which build stronger, more successful, companies. While this is a timely book, it restricts itself to discussing women in the workplace. The biases in Indian society, and offices, run far deeper—caste, gender, sexuality, religion, region, even food habits can be reasons why someone does or does not get a job, or even a fair chance. The book’s lessons could apply to any of these pet hates but it would have been good to see the authors address the many ways in which we discriminate.
Murder On The Menu: By Nirupama Subramanian, Juggernaut, 208 pages, ₹399.
A work of keen research and reportage, this book aims to tell “The Sensational Story Of The Tycoon Who Founded Saravana Bhavan”, as the subtitle puts it. P. Rajagopal, the “tycoon”, rose from rags to riches, becoming one of the most successful restaurateurs in India, building an empire that saw franchises opening in Dubai, Malaysia, the UK and the US. Popularly called India’s “Dosa King”, Rajagopal was also a notorious “sari chaser”, drunk enough on power to believe he could get away with forcing married women to leave their husbands and re-marry him. While he successfully achieved this aim with his second wife, the third time, a feisty young woman fought back, especially after Rajagopal had her husband murdered by his henchmen. In Subramanian’s meticulous reconstruction, the story is rivetingly told and has an especially sharp bite in the MeToo era.
The Full Platter: By Abha Iyengar, Hawakal, 136 pages, ₹250.
Long before “flash fiction” became a social media trend, it was honed by great masters of the shorter form, like Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut and Kate Chopin. The form’s crisp brevity doesn’t mean it’s easy to pull off. Rather, good flash fiction is like trying to describe a whole new world, populated with well-rounded characters, in 280 characters on Twitter, without giving in to the temptation of a thread. Abha Iyengar’s new collection rises to the challenge bravely. In the best of her stories, there’s quirky comedy (Bringing The Bacon Home) and flashes of violence (Avatar). A few appear anodyne in their formulaic neatness (Blue Sky) but every other story makes you pause, re-read, and engage.