‘ I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find that there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is ‘ : Albert Camus ( 1913-60)
At Dainik Bhaskar group. Pradeep Dwivedi picked the book ‘For God’s Sake: An adman on the business of Religion’ by Ambi Parmeswaran and presented that to the corporate leadership team.
I normally approach a book like a Umpire- with benefit of doubt to the author. I would rather read a book, as if there was some additional insight I would get, than not read it and later on find out that I missed a lot. It took me long to read the book. There is enough Buzz about the book. I find it over hyped. ‘For God’s Sake’ the book promises more than it delivers. I would not have liked personally spending this kind of money on this book.
There are a series of observations that are insightful but that is what every adman is supposed to do. This one zeroes down to RELIGIOSITY and how in many ways it can be celebrated / harnessed / exploited and is already impacting / influencing our lives. What better place then India, the country with complex multi layered practice in religion and rituals. The marketing possibilities leveraging the observation finds due mention in the book.
His observation and logical dialogue he tries explaining to you • Why has the bindi disappeared from advertisements? • How did Akshaya Trithaya become such a big deal? • What makes Lord Shiva so cool? And how Anish Tripathi work is contributing in doing so • The impact of matrimony economics on education degrees in India.
It’s not that you do not have eureka moments or spaces where you smile at the discoveries Ambi helps you make. My favourite being ‘How did a Chennai-based department store start the New Year’s Sale phenomenon?’
The book is written in a non-linear fashion- so you could pick any chapter and not miss the chapters you have not read. There are personal stories and observations presented in a honest transparent way- and this is the area where the book scores heavily. More so- the simple narration adds to the ease of reading- which may actually help people reading the complete book.
Here is a idea that I would easily endorse. (P182) ‘If we can build some consciousness among the educated middle class about how donations to a temple is actually getting used for the social goof of society, perhaps we can get them all to becomes more Muslim ad give zakat to their local temple.’ He then goes on to say that he is not sure if this can happen in his lifetime that Hindus start contributing 2.5% and I would say that if they really know what the business of temple does with their donations- most likely they would stop even making any donations, but that is views.
The book was born out of the Phd work that Ambi did and carries its 68 pages of Religion vocabulary and index for a 200 pages reading material. There is a perceptible lack of illustration that is felt by the reader. I am not sure how could Ambi could miss it. Like when (P138) he explains about the 3 flower logo design for Jaslok, there is no visual reference. Do we expect every potential reader to know the highly visible Jaslok logo.
As a person in Media and working with the Hindi newspaper I would like to share a part of one paragraph ( P195) where he provides a 3 step process in religiosity ‘ I also believe that the English-language publications are read often varnish the scene in monochromatic shades of secularism. The real India is revealed when you pick up an Indian-language publication and read the religious stories they tell. I would strongly recommend that all of us in corporate India should develop the habit of reading at least one vernacular publication. You will notice how all of then provide a glimpse of what English-language-publications hide: the religious India and its myriad colours and celebrations. The second step is to understand what is behind the celebration. And the final step is to enjoy every religious festival like your own.’
‘For God’s Sake: An adman on the business of Religion’ by Ambi Parmeswaran. Pages 258 INR 499. Kindle Version available at 349. PENGUIN BOOKS LTD.
You can watch AMBI PARMESWARAN at TEDxIIM RANCHI.