Book Review: A Dance with the Corporate Ton: Reflections of a Worker Ant by Lata Subramanian

I’m happy to be reviewing the first book for Write Tribe. A Dance with the Corporate Ton: Reflections of a Worker Ant by Lata Subramanian.

Book blurb

Human nature and human tendencies don’t change easily. What held true and was accepted generations ago, is so even now. However, the names have been upgraded for our generation’s convenience.

Lata takes us on a roller coaster ride by chronicling her life experiences right from her formative years, her schooling, the lifestyle she had to lose out on, her first job, the many ups and downs in her career, her strengths and weaknesses as a person and a manager, to the time she chose to hang up her boots while being at peace with herself.

While there are moments that will make you laugh, most of the time you’ll be moved by the sheer ruthlessness with which the corporate world works. Using fashionable words has become fashionable nowadays but throwing a big word here and there doesn’t mean that you’re good at your job. This, and lot more corporate gyaan is up for grabs in this book.

My review

Throughout the book, Lata has taken the example of the snobbish and archetypical behaviour displayed by the London ton and moulded it in the today’s corporate scenario, rightly calling them the Corporate Ton.

Being a part of the glamorous advertising world but not looking the part is something that has lent much humour to her story. Since the ‘fair’ brigade is generally considered to have been descended from some superior progeny, average-looking women have to prove their mettle to be taken seriously. Lata shows that persistence and resolve do help.

While the book takes a while to get you interested, once the pace is set it keeps you glued. There are a bit too many footnotes in the book but they’re helpful in establishing a flow in reading. I liked the interesting pictures depicting the then-and-now situations between the London ton and Corporate tons.

On the slightly downside, Lata has given excruciating details about her colleagues and seniors, but has kept mum about her personal life, which I assume was by choice. As a life story, I wish she’d spoken a little more about it since as a reader I would’ve liked to understand what role domesticity plays in a female corporate manager’s life.

Other than this minor glitch, the book is an interesting read. I’ll specifically recommend it to people, especially the starry-eyed B-school passouts, who think that armed with a fancy degree climbing up the corporate ladder is a breeze.

I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

About the author

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.

The Case of the Dirty Pictures

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From a distance I could see the gang huddled up, intently looking at something and giving each other occasional wide-eyed uncomfortable glances. As I got closer, I could hear them whispering, disagreeing and discussing, all at once, in an underplayed mocking tone. Curiosity kills the cat, and since I believe I have a long way to go, I hurriedly ventured in their direction to find out what was going on.

This gang, per se, is a group of us mothers who are our kids’ ride home everyday from school. Earlier, we simply interacted with each other to kill some boring waiting time, criticising someone or something (not surprised, right?) or sharing our kids’ daily habits and activities. However, over time, after bonding with each other over cups of coffee, visiting each others’ homes for birthdays and festivals, etc we’ve all become good friends.

Now, coming back to the story in the first paragraph, I simply dug my head between two of them and demanded to know what was so interesting that I was being kept from. The answer, which I got without any deliberation but continued misplaced trepidation and disapproval, shocked and amazed me, equally.

They were all looking at some couple’s wedding reception pictures and also some intimate ones from their honeymoon. A bit too intimate I would say, assuming that you’ll understand. The pictures were shared on Whatsapp in one of the lady’s Ladies Group, so she told us. She was quite forthcoming in informing us that this picture girl loved taking selfies and willingly shared these intimate selfies taken with her husband (Authenticity of this information is highly questionable though!).

I was simply at a loss of words, owing to many things. First, while it is possible that it was intentionally done, I would like to give the picture girl some benefit of doubt and believe that they somehow got leaked by mistake. Second, while these women went on and on about her shamelessness in taking such objectionable pictures with her partner, they did look at them more than once.

Third, and worst of all, the lady who had these pictures and quite passionately and vociferously dissected the picture girl’s character, didn’t delete a single picture from her phone, at least for a week according to my knowledge. Interestingly, she also insisted that her 8yo son has access to her phone, she likes to keep her phone ‘clean’ and these pictures are kept in some hidden folder.

As much as I tried to make sense of what these women were saying, I wasn’t able to process any of this properly.

I guess these women reacted in the most common and accepted way, but the point is, is it just because it seems like the right thing to do?

What right did they have in tarnishing a girl’s image when they didn’t have the slightest idea of who she was?

If it really bothered them, why did they look at the pictures in the first place?

Why do women feel at unease when some woman uninhibitedly embraces or displays her sexuality?

Or, does everyone have some hidden fantasies which when played out by someone else are extremely unacceptable and reason enough to garner such unsavoury remarks from them?

With this blatant invasion of privacy, can (or should) we pass judgement on someone only on face-value?

Dear God, can I be a 40-something, fast?

Yes, you read it right.

No, I’m not joking or recovering from some recent blow to my head.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself, but 40s is the new 20s! While most women feel it is the onset of sunset in their lives, there are quite a few enterprising ones who’ve turned this so-called midlife crisis over its head and created their own sunshine with brilliantly glorious hues that is helping them redefine their personality and living a life that seemed like a distant dream, not too long ago.

This mostly has to do something with the fading of the one thing that keeps any woman from doing what her heart truly wants; guilt. The misplaced guilt of not being able to give her family enough time due to her career aspirations, not being the best wife or mother in the world, not having a picture-perfect home or being the best cook in the world can play havoc with a woman’s self-confidence and age her prematurely. Mind you, most of this is only in her mind.

I don’t mean to imply that by the time a woman turns 40 these problems disappear into thin air. They are very much there, but the way she deals with them or lets them take charge of her life, changes big time! She realises that she cannot expect everything in her life to be done with expert precision. She learns to let go of the very things that made her see red at one time, to some extent. She seeks solace in things that are intimate, personal and meant only for HER.

Seeing her kids open their wings and leave the comfortable nest that she shaped for them with much love and care can be difficult, but this indeed can be the first step in her self-rediscovery. In fact, even the thought of having a teenage A Jr (who will probably wholeheartedly welcome my non-interfering absence in his life) and a grown-up Angel, who won’t need me to be a hands-on Mom for her, after some years, makes me feel light and fresh already!

The time to fret about the opportunities lost has long gone; it is now her turn to find new destinations and carve new ways to get there. She can take a breather from being someone’s someone and just be herself. If anyone needs her, she’s right there to guide and support, but she isn’t idling herself till the time she’s called upon.

The time that she spent for others, or wiling away, can be invested in getting involved in activities and hobbies that she feels closely about. She can take up that creative writing course she’d planned to, splash the canvas with abstracts, hit the gym with a vengeance, join a book club or be a part of an NGO and do volunteer work. Sky is the limit and she can soar higher and higher! 🙂

My 40 plus lady readers and even the ones getting there, do you agree?

Quick-fix Sweet Potato Starter

I wanted to try something new to ensure that this much ignored vegetable found its way in my kitchen and the tummies and hearts of my fussy family. I didn’t bother with any research but felt that its slightly sweet taste would make it an ideal side dish or starter.

Even while I was at the grocers buying sweet potatoes, I knew how I was going to whip up this simple yet presumably tasty recipe. It gets prepared in no time and can be made with easily available ingredients.
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It isn’t much, really. Take some boiled sweet potatoes and cut them in even slices. Marinate them with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and crushed black pepper. Leave them aside for 5 minutes.

Heat a pan and put some olive oil/ghee in it. Add the sweet potato slices and toss them in it till they turn slightly brown. Add lots of fine chopped coriander and mint leaves towards the end.

Tip: If you want the sweet potatoes crispy, you can add some rice flour at the time of marination.

The best part is that you can taste all the flavours; sourness of lemon, sweetness of sweet potatoes and spice of black pepper. You can create variations as per your liking.

Do try it and let me know how it was! 🙂

Bonding over Directions

The discussion between the two was animated and intense.

The tone went from incredulous to baffled to downright offended, within nanoseconds.

Each one was eager to make a point that mattered.

And I….simply couldn’t be less bothered! 😛

Assuming that I’ve succeeded in getting you interested, let me now paint a clearer picture for you. If you think handling a man behind the wheel who’s lost his direction is tough, try handling two! 😀 😉 Since asking for directions is unheard of by men, you’ll be up for a ride that takes you to unseen areas, faintly familiar names of shops or localities, but the same repetitive expressions like ‘We had to take the last left’, ‘When did this road become a one-way?’ or ‘This new flyover has made driving so confusing!’, etc.

The two people mentioned earlier are A and my Dad. Dad never lived in Mumbai but had to travel here almost twice a month for business in the beginning of his career. He loved, and still loves, driving but in Mumbai apart from the frequented Kalbadevi he didn’t explore much. He still prefers to rely on road signs and his own judgement.

Mumbai, or more aptly Navi Mumbai, has been A’s home for a long time now and he has been to many nooks and corners of Mumbai with his friends, and sometimes with me. He travels a lot for work too. Understandably, he knows his way out. However, taking any help from me or Google Maps in case of emergencies isn’t even an option for him. :-/

Now imagine what will happen when two such guys have to face the embarrassing situation of being lost! 😛 Yesterday was one such hilarious experience. We were going to Siddhivinayak Temple and somewhere in Chembur we took a wrong turn. Their male ego stopped them from acknowledging that they’d lost their way while the confused look on their faces was worth a million bucks! They desperately tried to guise their blunder by making incessant remarks about anything and everything they came across. 😀 😀

For some time both went unnaturally quiet, waiting for the other one to spill the beans first. Finally, A gave up and said almost inaudibly, ‘I think this is not the correct way’. Then began the attempt at saving face and damage control.

I, very calmly, was seated behind the driver’s seat completely uninterested in their dissection of issues like the inconvenient diversions due to new flyovers, the narrow roads that always get jammed, peoples’ bad traffic sense, etc. In an attempt to include me in the conversation A and Dad pretended to give MY point of view some importance too, really! 😀 I was smart enough not to get pulled into it though. 😉

Honestly, it was cute seeing the two most important men in my life bond over something as trivial as this (Yes, it was trivial!). For any woman her Dad is her hero and she tries to find him somewhere in her better half. In some ways A does have something in common with Dad, and in many ways he doesn’t.

Whichever way, it works for me! 🙂 🙂