Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The dance of life... Book Review (A Dance with the Corporate Ton - Lata Subramanian)


A Dance with the Corporate Ton: Reflections of a Worker Ant
Author: Lata Subramanian
Kindle Edition, 263 pages

How do I describe A Dance with the Corporate Ton? It is the author's memoir, yes. So, she writes about her middle-class Tamil family. She writes about her life choices, most of them unconventional, and the reasons behind it. She, primarily, writes about her professional experiences.

Lata Subramanian is a different book. Different in a good way, that is.

What makes it especially different is the way it is written - the author's observation skill, analytical point of view, teamed with her wit, makes it a book that you'll make you think as you will smile through reading it.

The blurb says -

"A Dance with The Corporate Ton (a phrase that plays on the haut or London ton) is a no holds barred chronicle of a woman's professional saga in India."

As I read the foreword with the author explaining what London Ton is, I wondered what kind of book I was about to read. It did not read like a typical book.

There are details of a middle class girl struggling to make her place in the corporate world. The many underlying, unspoken truths spoken matter-of-factly.

The book is a description / picture of the time it portrays - 1970s is the tentative beginnning.



The tone of the book is conversational and laid-back... a little intellectual, at times serious conversations may be.

She tells a story of a female (she herself) growing up in a conservative family.

She goes from her own life as an employee in hotel and advertising industry to Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Mad Men and more. 
She has a knack for finding the connection of her story with the world of fiction. Something I really enjoyed reading.

Lata has a very interesting way of looking at things. You read her and think, that's so true, why didn't I think of it this way.


I like the pace of the book. It is leisurely, but not slow. There is a lot of information, very varied kind. There are facts and details of the author's career in hotel industry, advertising, etc.; glimpses into her personal life; many philosophical thoughts and quotes; and more. Yet it doesn't feel like too much has been cramped into it.
That's where the pace of the book helps. It you have a lot to tell that is worth telling, you take your time doing it. You don't rush into it. That's what the author has done.

The author gets distracted from the point often enough, saying what she thought of suddenly, and then going back to the original subject. Conversational, yet crisp.

There is a lot of trivia in this book and it doesn't stand out, it just blends in the narrative.

She doeosn't come across as preachy. It is as if she is herself discovering, analysing, thinking as she is writing.
She doesn't state opinions, she wonders, she questions herself. It's feels like a dialogue. And you feel like laughing and replying, "why didn't I think of that". 
Interesting way of looking at things. 
My question to the author, "How did you survive through all that with your sense of humour intact?"


A Dance with the Corporate Ton inspires
Lata Subramanian is calmly unapologetic about her unconventional beliefs. Aware of what others think of her, the author is comfortable in her own skin.

It is not a book that imposes opinions on you. It discusses, it ponders, it wonders, and you as a reader feel you are a part of it.


Management Mantra, Advertising Gyan, and more
A Dance with the Corporate Ton is a practical book on the corporate world. The author explains her path and choices and describes her experiences, all detailed with reasons. It is a book that would be very helpful to anyone who's trying to make place for themselves in this world and still trying to maintain their own identity.

"Life on the corporate front is fun when you are at junior levels. The stakes are negligible and so, the competitiveness and politics are mostly non-existent."


Playful illustrations
And then there are the illustrations. They complement the text. 
While reading the book, I'd take a break. Browse through to the illustrations, and then come back to the original page.
Huff, Puff & Management Stuff (Sketch from A Dance with the Corporate Ton)


An honest book
The author doesn't shy away from giving details, or admitting that she was wrong, or was made a fool of.

Interesting ending
Read between the lines, appreciate what you have, and smile.


I love the author's subtle, dry sense of humour and the sketches that go with it - 


"Breeding and grooming. Two words I find highly entertaining in the English language.
The origins of the words are also interesting to my mind.
Here’s how I imagine the current usage came about.
The birthplace of the English language, as we now know it, is England, the home of the British and the London Ton.
If there is one thing the British are famed for, it’s their ironic sense of humour. Is it that surprising then that the English language is full of deliciously, subtle wit and tongue-in-cheek humour?
Let’s take the word ‘breeding,’ a derivative of the word ‘breed’.
As a noun, breed means race, lineage, stock. As a verb, the word stands for ‘bring young to birth’.
Before Darwin, the human race was not aware that genes have a life and will all their own to push beyond mere survival and seek perfection...

I am quite sure that it’s the same sense of wicked humour, which probably led some British aristocrat to come up with the word breeding to describe a controlled process of procreation.

Let me to paint a word picture here for you.
Imagine an aristocratic figure in breeches. He is wearing an immaculately brushed coat over a starched shirt atop his breeches. As a crowning effect, a carefully coiffured, powdered wig adorns his head.
Now, imagine this privileged Lord standing at the door of his favourite horse’s stall in the stables he maintains.
An absolutely stiff, erect figure, he is poised in the prescribed manner, looking down his regal nose at the stable boy brushing his steed down till his coat is gleaming.
The stable tableau in front of him brings to mind an image of his personal butler bending over his back, fully engaged in brushing his lordship’s jacket till every offending crease and speck of dust is vanquished.
He cannot afford to be seen to guffaw in public. But he does so mentally at the thought that both Lord and his horse are groomed using the same techniques.
“My good Lord”, he thinks, “My horse and I both subject ourselves to grooming. What’s more, just as I am planning to carefully select a mare from good stock for my steed to ensure a good line continues; my parents are engaged in doing the same for me”.
Mentally chuckling, he thinks, “Man and animal. It’s all about good breeding and excellent grooming for the world to accept you as a worthy being”."
Polishing up the breed (Sketch from A Dance with the Corporate Ton)





"...the men folk in the Creative function looked like clones to me with identical hair styles, shoes, jeans and a penchant for wearing

pullovers over their T-shirts. Yes, pullovers in Indian climatic conditions. I guess the agency had over-efficient air-conditioning. 

It’s the same in other fields as well. Notice the surefire way to say, “Hi, I am from geekdom” is to wear a hoodie over scuffed jeans and shoes?
Ergo, the question, to my mind, is what’s the big deal about striving for a fashion statement if it is only going to end up with you looking like a clone? And, panicking when you find yourself in a room full of dressed-alike people?
Birds of a feather (Sketch from A Dance with the Corporate Ton)



Lata Subramanian plays with words. She throws in philosophical insights. Adds the spice of relevant quotes. Refers to the popular serials and books. Juggles it all. You don't know which ball is going to catch your eye next. You are spell bound, enjoying the show and more often than not, unconsciously smiling.

The thought process of this book is thought-provoking. There are many things one thinks over in the passing. But how often are we able to pen them down just right? A Dance with the Corporate Ton does just that.


The author's humour is more often than not self-effacing. Her ambition (much of it unplanned), confidence, and the sense to take destiny in her stride is inspiring, and makes for a very interesting read.


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The italicised text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



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Book Description
“What is someone like her doing in advertising?”
This was the question asked by a puzzled Britisher who was the Managing Director of a leading multinational company in India after he met her for the first time. It was a question that she sensed in the air around her right through her career.
She worked her way up from the position of Room Service Order Taker in a luxury hotel to senior management positions in the fields of Advertising and Marketing in India. But she always sensed that she did not quite fit into the corporate mould.
A Dance with the Corporate Ton (a phrase that plays on the haut or London ton) is a no holds barred chronicle of a woman’s professional saga in India.
As a manager eyeing the corporate ladder of success, have you ever felt that people who are to the manor born have a home advantage? En route your climb to achieving your career goals, have you ever felt that you need to be much more than just talented, hard-working, committed and honest? Did you feel the need to change your personality to project a perceived corporate persona? If the answers to these questions are yes, then chances are you might find your own career stories reflected in this book.
The author, Lata Subramanian, will take you on a career journey that will make you relive the excitement of your first job; the exhilaration of career breakthroughs; the highs and lows of corporate life; and your search for personal meaning. Along the way, she will also make you smile a lot as her career autobiography is full of humour, satire, anecdotes and interesting historical references to aristocratic behaviour.
The author
lata-subramanian

An Economics graduate, Lata Subramanian has over 35 years of work experience across a range of service related industries such as Advertising, Civil Aviation, Hospitality,Marketing and Publishing.

She is a voracious reader and loves to write. Her love for writing led her to accept the post of Managing Editor, The Smart Manager; a position she held between 2008 and 2010 when she was in Publishing. She is now a hobbyist writer and blogger, publishing posts regularly on her blog, Lata Wonders.
Lata has just hung up her boots, retiring from corporate life to blog and maybe write a book or two. The last position she held in the corporate world was CMO, Sterling Holiday Resorts (India) Limited – a leading Leisure Hospitality and Vacation Ownership company in India.
Lata’s favourite description of herself is that she is a student of life and herself. That lifelong interest has led to her first book A Dance with the Corporate Ton: Reflections of a Worker Ant.
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