Keep smiling, Charlie
A book by a first-time writer, from a small publishing house, and with mediocre production values, usually evokes some prejudice. So I was happy to find that this book, though lacking in cutting-edge idiom (and the services of a highly-paid editor), is written by someone with the knack of keeping a reader engaged.
It is the story of what happened when the author lost his well-paying job at a large BPO. Losing a job is not a simple story – and here the author builds a whole context around himself, presenting a wonderful picture not just of his period of unemployment but also his family, his values, his community, and some of the important events of his life.
What happens to a person who loses a job, at which they have excelled and been appreciated and well rewarded, merely because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? What does the blow to self-esteem and the feeling of insecurity caused by loss of income do? Lakshmanan Solayappan is blessed with a reflective nature and maturity, and they enabled him to use the gap in his career not to blindly rush into the first job opportunity that presented itself, to protect his self-esteem and cash flow. Instead, he took time out, did a few really important things that he never had the time to do before, and wrote this book. In the process he also did a little research to find out how people in his position were prone to react.
His findings are useful to anyone who has just lost a job – or fears that he or she may do so – pretty much most people, that is. So this is not just a good, interesting read – it’s a useful book too and gives plenty to think about.
Here’s a photo of Lakshmanan Solayappan at my book launch in Landmark, Chennai.
We were meeting for the first time. I had read and liked his book. And what was his question?
“How do you feel – launching your book, seeing this display?” he asked.
I answered that more than anything else the whole concept amused me. That I was glad I’d written it – but it wasn’t exactly a culmination of a goal or fulfilment of a dream. “Actually, I feel like laughing,” I told him.
I thought about my response later and wondered why I really wasn’t excited about having brought out a book – and a rather good one, if I may permit modesty to step aside for a bit. There were a number of good reasons – more about them, in a separate 500 words, another time. But there is one which is relevant here: I myself have traversed this nebulous twilight zone of Being Without of which Lakshmanan Solayappan writes, and learnt to tread carefully, understanding my innermost values and priorities before making the next choice. A book like The Songbird on my Shoulder is a milestone on the path – not the end of it, and I think Lakshmanan Solayappan would agree that that’s a good feeling to have about any achievement or disappointment in life.