Book Reviews

Protagonist in the Milieu

Blastoff by S.S. Kumar

Sir S.S. Kumar aka Srinivasan Sampath Kumar is an Indian businessman and the former chairman of the Council for Leather Exports. A multifaceted personality, S.S. Kumar is an eminent lawyer, dedicated educationist, committed social worker, bilingual poet, impactful orator, admirable photographer and more. The Italian Government awarded Kumar with the Knighthood of the order of the Star of Italian Solidarity in 2006.

Author of several coffee table books and poetry collections that include ‘Silhouettes of Sundarban,’ ‘Darjeeling Queen of the hills,’ ‘Frozen Waves,’ ‘they she i,’ ‘Tamils of Bengal,’ ‘Contours,’ S.S. Kumar in the preface of ‘Blastoff’ writes: “[A lot of books on succeeding in a challenging and competitive environment have already hit the markets. However, I found that basic level self-development books were fewer and populated only on the Internet. I feel that specific topics are difficult to access readily by browsing on the net unless the searches are narrowed down. A book scores high in comparison to any other medium, save live lectures in the classrooms.]”

It is a privilege to echo  the author’s thoughts and those of Suman Kumar Mukerjee’s (Former Professor XLRI, Jamshedpur) that have been reiterated in the foreword –“[The compendium of rules (40 in all), along with ideas and suggestions, strike a strong chord and form the kernel as well as the foundation of the book.  It is a remarkable attempt to synthesize on a day to day learning and changed orientation to focus on formative assessment, helping one evolve over a period.]”

S.S. Kumar’s language  is lucid, and laced with real-life anecdotes that one can relate to, comprehend concepts, gather insights, internalize them and put them to practical use in one’s  social and professional contexts. 

In the first chapter ‘Standing out in the crowd,’ the author’s opening lines serve as caveat - ‘the world is getting scarier and growing by the day.’ His candid advice-   ‘…to become outstanding, you begin by ‘standing out among the crowd,’ ‘your special skills, unless they are exceptional enough to stand out and draw the attention of others, remain unexplored and unappreciated.’ And ‘you need to perform and hone whatever you are good at…’ These lines remind me of the clichéd phrase –Fortune favors the bold!

‘Who is your best friend? ‘You!’  In ‘You are your teacher,’ the author shows a mirror – ‘If there is a part of positivity in you, there is also a part of negativity in you. Often, seemingly pious people too suffer from one or more of these negative virtues.’ So true!    ‘Think, assess, analyze select or reject….’  The author highlights the need to ‘intently listen to the inner voice to harness the ‘potential’ of the ‘most powerful arsenal, which can make a frail person brave and a well-built person a coward.’  I recall a line from Swami Vivekananda’s pearls of wisdom  –   The purer the mind, the easier it is to control. Never talk about the faults of others, no matter how bad they may be. Nothing is ever gained by that.

Having been raised in Calcutta, the birthplace of modern Indian literature, nationalism and culture, I strongly believe that the lives and teachings of several saints have been etched in every pore of Kumar’s being. In various parts of the book, he highlights the importance of ‘physical activities.’ ‘Spending too much time engrossed in books or computers might keep the mind occupied but creates fatigue in the underworked body and muscles.’ ‘For those who are fond of heights, go trekking on the hills and climb mountains.  These activities help in fostering a thicker friendship with likeminded people.’  Has not Swami Vivekananda proclaimed – Character building is impossible in the absence of physical education.

‘Choose your friends wisely’ has the poignant tale of a teenager who was weaned from his vices due to the author’s timely intervention during his tenure as an administrator. Life does not restrict itself to ‘cost-benefits;’ one earns greater goodwill through the activities that originate instinctively and are ruled by the heart.  Nevertheless, the ‘mantra’ also gives emphasis to ‘liquidity, whenever in need.’  In ‘Gender Equality,’ the author elucidates the need to ‘respect all genders and natural differences;’ without ‘mocking or taunting them, include them in your inner circle’ and ‘do remember that you are making a difference in your life too.’ 

Yet another important aspect has been touched upon in the chapter ‘Be in Romance.’ Without dissuasion or killjoy, the author observes that romantic relationships can at times ‘lead to breaching the limits of avoidable physical intimacy’ which could ‘jeopardize’ education. His ending note resonates brilliantly – ‘view romance as a way for the refinement of your life and your window for a joyous life.’   Next, he has great recommendations for introverts in the chapter on ‘Socializing.’  - ‘Smile often.’ ‘The worst form of disinterest shown is long chats on your mobile phones, while amongst a group.’  This is the sad reality one faces in most groups. Sadly, not just young adults, even the elderly are succumbing to this behavior; even in homes, people live in an electronic graveyard! 

Kumar, the litterateur recommends a popular book by Harris Thomas –‘I’m OK, you’re OK, which talks about ‘Transactional Analysis’ to understand the ‘body-language’ of people. 

Other chapters in Blastoff entitled ‘Be the first,’ ‘Be the leader,’ Be Creative’ ‘Enjoy what you do,’ ‘Never give up,’ ‘Thrive in Failures,’ with examples from great people’s lives is definite to bring along greater positivity and enhanced creativity to a receptive mind, irrespective of age, class or creed. ‘Learn to say Sorry’ touched the emotional chord greatly. Most importantly, ‘Pursue hobbies’ for ‘enjoyment as well as driving out the drudgery’ hits the nail on the head,  for, S.S. Kumar walks his talk mile after mile.  I can proclaim that after reading a few of his earlier writings. 

Likewise, ‘Staying with nature’ as the author mentions ‘is not merely a feeling of wellbeing but an elixir for all living beings.’ Summing-up chapter ‘From Good to Great’ has this eloquent line- ‘Do constantly remember that you are great and enjoy your journey of life.’ A thoroughly immersive experience!   Seemingly a self-help book, the conversational style of ‘Blastoff’ is definite to rouse the prosaic of persons, is bound to stimulate the latent talents of every individual, and open the door for opportunities that they  may not have perceived earlier.

YOU!!   You are the protagonist in the milieu, it is left for you to ‘stand out from the crowd to be noticed.’  Get ready to blast-off, ‘and stop not until the  goal is reached.’


More by :  Hema Ravi

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Views: 544      Comments: 1

Comment A superb review by an able reviwer Ms. Hema Ravi of a book by Sir Sampath Kumar, an accomplished writer par excellence. Hope to read the book very soon

Padmaja Iyengar-Paddyy
02-Apr-2023 09:54 AM

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