Sanjeev Kotnala: Review of Salil’s Agrawal’s slices of life book

01 Jul,2020

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I just finished reading ‘A chapter out of my Life, Gems from the lives of ordinary people’ by Salil Agrawal on Kindle. I was in two minds to review the book or not. The reason is simple and has a history to it.


The Background

Salil and I had a conversation on this project some four years back. When we both realised that we had a similar idea. The only difference was that I always considering people across industries and Salil was looking at Pan IIM contribution.


At that time, I was working on my first novel ‘Chimera of Lansdowne; you will hate to be in her thoughts‘ which was published in 2018.


When we spoke, I was also simultaneously working on my book of sharing real-life impact episodes. Before Salil’s book got published, by Jan 2020, I had curated and published two books on similar lines book.


Life Reloaded & Reflections. My Books

Book One: ‘Life Reloaded- Impact stories’ released in 2019. It had people from various fields sharing their life impact incidents, leaving the learning to the reader’s interpretation.

Book Two: released at the annual get-together of the 1987 batch of IIM Ahmedabad at Hyderabad. Titled, ‘REFLECTIONS- it had 19 batchmates sharing 29 Impact stories from their lives.


The Difference & Similarity

My books ‘Reflections‘ and ‘Life Reloaded’ have more stories or episodes plucked from both personal and professional life. Salil’s book, ‘A chapter out of my life, Gems from the lives of ordinary people’ is more like essay and articles with clearly stated learnings. That is the difference between the two endeavours.


There is a common link too. Ankur Mithal, my batchmate from IIM Ahmedabad has contributed to both the books.


Decision to Review

Finally, I decided I must review Salil’s book. I must because it does something that I firmly believe in and endorse wholeheartedly. These are real-life narratives. They are transparently placed before the readers to learn from jagbeethi (other’s experiences) this decreasing your dependency on aap-beethi ( self-experiences ) for all your learnings.


The Review

Salil Agrawal builds an entirely good case for you to read the book.

‘There are extraordinary people, and then there are ordinary people. People like you and me. People who are accomplished in their own way and who have had interesting lives. But they are not extraordinary, they are not celebrities. Their stories do not get published even though they are very inspirational. This book brings to you a story from the Life of nineteen such wonderful people. All of them are alumni of Indian Institutes of Management. They write about an experience from their Life that made a difference to them. 

I know, it is not so easy to make such extraordinary people contribute so openly. Full credit to Salil to have persisted with his idea and finally managing to collect, curate and publish the book.

Each chapter is an experience of the author of a phase where he or she had to take some critical decision. Mostly the kind of decisions that altered their life path. Though each chapter is penned by different alumni of IIM’s, they are smooth, easy reading. And in at least a few of them you could think of similar incidents in your Life. It is different. Most of them deal with a crisis and only a few celebrations of Life. Oh, as with all IIM project, most of them finally have a happy ending.


MY CHOICE OF CHAPTERS: ‘A chapter out of my life, Gems from the lives of ordinary people’


First one is ‘The Day I Became a Man’ by Prashant Yadav. It deals with him hating to be doing Metallurgical Engineering at IIT, so much that he gave the entrance exam again. This time he was offered Electronics. At the same time, the Institute told him that in fact if he wants he could take Electrical Engineering in the second year. A dilemma for a student. Should he waste a year and take admission into first-year electronics engineering or opt-out for Electrical in the second year and thus avoid wasting a year.

The second story I loved was ‘A Slice of Paradise’ by S. Ramachandra. And this one has gratitude written all over it. It deals with experience and interaction, and I will not even give a hint.


The third life sketch that impressed me with passion and objectivity is ‘Making Others Dream’ by Sony Goyal. It is about setting Pryass an education initiative at IIM Ahmedabad and later taking it to Bhatinda with a class for Combined Entrance Test ( CAT) and what result they have.


Special Note

Oh, I shared, there is one Author ( Ankur Mithal) who features in both ‘Reflections’ and ‘A chapter out of my life, Gems from the lives of ordinary people’ by Salil Agarwal. And his chapter is ‘How I became a writer’.

I want to share an excerpt from the chapter:

‘Thus, the second question was addressed, after which came the third, and in an emotional sense the most troubling one, “What will people think? What if they do not like what I write?” The urge to be liked has been a strong one for me. To not be told off. To not be wrong. With such a mooring, how does one do new things? New things are not safe. They are risky. There can be failure. People can take offence. How does one get out of one’s comfort zone?’ 

And in fact, the whole book is about such questions and critical moments. 

The second excerpt I will share here is from the chapter ‘Pursue Dreams with Passion’ by Pramod Agarwal

‘The power of passion cannot be underestimated. But I also learnt that the power of making choices is important to pursue dreams. Learning from mistakes is critical for growth. Success does not teach one as much as the failures do, but yes, you cannot fail twice on the same thing. People play a huge role in your success. You have to take care of them for them to take care of you. Risk-taking is essential for disruptive and breakthrough moves. Mentors are God and make sure you have one who can guide you through your journey. I am forever grateful to my colleagues, my bosses and my mentors who played a huge part in fulfilling my dream. And more importantly to my family who walked miles with me in good times and in bad times, always with a smile on their face and simple words of encouragement – we are with you, you can do it’.


Go Ahead, Read Three Books

In case you have enjoyed reading . ‘Reflections- Life Re-loaded, class of ’87, IIM Ahmedabad; primarily professional and personal life episodes and ‘Life Re-loaded- Real Life Impact Stories‘, Which has a spectrum of people sharing their impact moments of Life. Do pick-up ‘A chapter out of my life, Gems from the lives of ordinary people’ by Salil Agarwal with life-sketches that are primarily dealing with professional Life. And if you are yet to read REFLECTIONS and LIFE RELOADED- do so.

If you like these books, I can bet you will like ‘Catalyst‘ and ‘Getting Better At Getting Better’ by N Chandramouli. These two books I recommend participant in Brand-I workshop to read.


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