Shubh Yatra and Malcom Gladwell

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 21-04-2007

Greedy about the possibility of carrying an R K Laxman cartoon in my pocket, I signed up for a designer credit card offered by State Bank of India. Yes, the silliest reason I can think for signing up for a card but let me be honest. It turned out that the card was a co-branded Indian Railways credit card and came with a free membership to Frequent Flyer Traveller programme, which I never cared about since my travel with the railways can hardly be called Frequent.

So I was at New Delhi station ready to board a long journey to Chennai and could not find my name in the reservation chart despite having a printout of my e-ticket. Still I went on sat of the berth showing on my ticket, took out the ticket one more time and pored over it for any date errors. Could not find any. There was a newly wed couple sitting there who were in certain need of more private space, and I was feeling very very awkward. The conductor came soon enough and I gave him my ticket with very eerie feeling. Then came the surprise. He informed me that my ticket stood upgraded and that I should take my place in 2nd AC. Class upgrade. What a surprise!
So, I take my small bag and move to my ‘upgraded place’. There I take out Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which was the plan. The book is about ‘How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’, claims the cover.The next few hours are spent in figuring out the subject of the book. Some facts that emerge are:
  • The book is atleast six years old.
  • Has been a bestseller
  • Is on unorthodox sociology, if I can use this term

Over the next day I discover I find that the book is about finding the small little reasons which make a ripple into a wave.The book is not a very easy to read book. Malcolm Gladwell packs in lot of facts and observations, and before you can absorb some, he throws lot more at you. Look at his reasoning of why communities should be limited to 150. He says that is the number human mind can really take without creating disconnects. But the reasoning moves from description of human mind to observation of hunter gatherer communities of ancient times and how their average community hovers around 150. Then he brings in a company called Gore Associates, which has a fascination for number 150.Wilbert Gore, one of the founders is quoted as saying,”..we put a one hundred and fifty parking spaces in the lot, and when people start parking on the grass, it is time to build a new plant“.Man, what a simplified strategic planning!
The book, as I read it, made me pretty excited as one should while reading a bestseller.But perhaps no wiser. If you have read Freakonomics and felt confused, this one will obfuscate things even more.So by evening I put the book back in the bag. Mr. Iyer and Mr. Mehta are engrossed in some discussion that I must get involved. Mr. Iyer’s ‘foreign return’ son (America, he helpfully clarifies) is getting married in few weeks. Mr. Mehta is returning home after engagement of his daughter, who is also with him. She is lost somewhere, I could not figure out where but that somewhere is infinite distance focal length across the wall towards ‘dah-ly’, while Mr. Iyer and Mr Mehta are busy discussing the nuances of the marital traditions in different parts of India. Much more interesting than the book. This is my tipping point. So I hook on, uninvited!

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