Connecting in the 21st Century
A while back, I was recommended a self help book entitled “The Connected Age” by Sudhakar Ram by a family friend. Now being the kind of person who has a severe allergy against preaching moral science for adults, I was apprehensive about reading this but something drew me towards it.
That “something” was the tagline of the book, which reads “Being the Best You Can by Reinventing Your World”. This really piqued by curiosity and my interest, because as Indians we are generally masters of the blame others for everything game. We rant and rave about the state of the country’s politics, but never encourage our children to enter the murky field to try and make a difference. We moan and groan about how dirty our streets are, while dropping the peel of the banana that we are eating at the next street.
So, in this context, came this book that claimed to tell me how I could bring about a change in this flawed world by Reinventing my world-essentially, by changing the way I look at things and ultimately perceiving the world with all its processes, beings and components.
A word of caution here- If you are looking for some light reading, this book is DEFINITELY not for you. The author’s strong technical background (He’s the co-founder and CEO of IT services company Mastek and the winner of CNBC Asia’s India Business Leader of the Year 2007 no less!) is reflected strongly in the overall language and pulse of the book.
So much so that being a non-tech person myself, however I great my pride at my fabulous vocabulary, also got stuck at quite a few places trying to figure out what was going on or what a sentence meant. It usually took me two-three readings of those sentences to try and make sense of them! But once I did figure out what was being said, the words and the sentences seemed so apt and perfect in the context that it was tough to imagine any replacements.
Mr.Ram makes his point loud and clear in the book – one that says that individually each one of us has to be the best and “ideal” versions of ourselves in order for this idea to then percolate to the different hierarchy’s of society and living, i.e. self, family, extended family, community, work community, neighbourhood, city, continent and ultimately world.
While this may sound like a rather far stretched point of view- it is in fact true. We are all striving to do our best in day to day life for ourselves, rather, if we start thinking of a larger context for this “best” way of living, it will have a more meaningful and far reaching impact, one that will positively impact us in the longer run.
The foreword of the book, written by accomplished author of self help books Mr.Peter Senge gets two thumbs up from me for writing the most effective introduction to the premise of any book that I have ever read. For instance, this line “We are all swimming in the same river, but this is only evident when we reflect on the river and not just our own canoe or raft-which is exactly what this new book by Sudhakar Ram has helped me to do”. This is the true essence of the book- doing the best you can not just for yourself, but for society and the coming generations. Similar thought, but a slightly different approach is what makes all the difference in this “connected” world.
Four Basic Parts of the Book
The book is divided into four sections, each leading smoothly to the other to form a connected storyline of sorts.
The first section, entitled “The Twenty First Century Context” is all about the thoughts that went into writing the book in the first place and contemplation on the idea that if we don’t do anything about revitalizing and revolutionizing our current way of thinking and doing, we may not have a world fit enough to handle the future generations. It is basically a rather morbid description of the current state of world affairs and why it is important to understand that the power to change has to come from within one’s own self first and then propagate up the hierarchical levels.
This then moves on to “Individual Change”, which is the second section of the book, that in essence makes the self responsible for change, rather than passing the buck onto some other known or unknown, valid or invalid reason. Mr.Ram tries hard and successfully raises the very pertinent question that with all the technology and the knowledge at our ready availability, why we are becoming more and more lax towards our attitude towards self and community development.
Two important words, Sustainability and Consumption prop up in this section and then take the premise onto the next part, his basic idea being that if every individual performs every day to day task keeping the impact of these two words in his mind, he will automatically condition himself to consume less to contribute more towards sustainability.
The next part of the book i.e. “Structural Change” talks about taking this impact of consumption ON sustainability up the next hierarchal level, how people, families, communities, organizations, etc. can work together with the structure in place, i.e. the Government to bring about a change in which the world’s resources (both tangible and intangible) are consumed in a sustainable manner.
And ultimately, we are guided towards the Call to Action. This is actually my favourite part of the book, as it tells us about tangible things we can do to ensure a better life for ourselves and fellow humans.
What makes this bit the most interesting is the fact that this is based on real time examples, incidents and initiatives, from the authors own life as well as the people he has connected and corresponded with, from CEO’s like him to dignitaries in the world of entertainment, sports, etc. This part of the book is eminently relatable, and inspires readers to do the best they can for the cause of sustainability.
While I enjoyed reading this book (after the initial few hiccups!) what struck me was the fact that the author believes that change is possible only when we all aspire to be the perfect versions of ourselves, in an ideal society.
However, human beings are at best not perfect and at worst flawed, so to expect them to behave perfectly in all situations thus making all situations “perfect” is a bit too much of utopian ideology to manage. Perhaps a middle path needs to be suggested, when individuals need to be empowered to make decisions on right and wrong and follow them to the core and then face the consequences of those actions.
I found this book a fantastic attempt as a motivational guide for people in the so-called connected age, as it works on and builds on the idea that it is not just technology that connects people, it is ideas, thoughts and actions that work through and with this technology that connect people and will ultimately lead them to sustainability.
Once you get past the tech vocabulary and the penchant for using words that would definitely make an average reader (like me!) reach for a dictionary, it is clear that the idea of the book is extremely strong and very appealing, especially in a community driven nation like ours. Taking control of our thought process to guide them towards a sustainable future, this book will gently make you question your beliefs and your ideas, albeit in a positive, thought provoking way.