Last week I was waiting for Samhita Arini, to swing by the store to sign a copy of her … Mahabharata a child’s view. I pointed out that she was wearing a really beautiful dress, she mentioned that she was going to the book launch of Sam Pitroda’s autobiography Thinking Big, maybe one can learn something about the evolution of Indian telecom, would I like to join?
Would I like to join? Being a book and author junkie I said yes and we left right away in an auto to the venue.
On the way we got to speak about Sam’s new project and some really interesting things that she had been up to in her life besides writing, she was a film journo in Afghanistan for a bit and juggles a few other hats to earn a living. I asked her why there were pictures of her on the internet looking through a plastic ruler, she said most pictures are boring and serious while smiling that sweet smile that she has. You can read more about her on her blog (here)
We reach the venue The Windsor Manor and undergo security checks to get into the place. Is that the norm in five star hotels these days? Do we really live in a nation of insecurity today? Why? One might ask, think about that for a moment. We enter the hall for the reading and get seats in the front row which were held by an aunt of hers Indi who is the founder of Out of print magazine, check out their site (here).
There was a round of introduction of the panelists CN Rao, another science dude some congress member of Parliament dude and the man Sam.
If you are wondering who is this dude Sam and why is he getting all this attention? He is considered to be the father of Indian Telephony through C.DOT and C.DAC (ever heard of Indian supercomputers?). The impression of Dr. Strangelove came on with the panelists talking about Sam lovingly, talking about his selfless nature, his visionary thinking, his humble upbringings, his work in the states and in India.
Sam went through the the book in phases which echoed his life. One cannot begin to explain how moving the whole spiel was. He started with his humble beginnings, his journey to the states by boat, his work over in Chicago, his return to India, friendship with Rajiv Gandhi and his future plans. I am not going to get into details as the whole point of this post is to get you to read his book and be inspired to do a little more for your country. What struck me the most was his closing where he said the system that is currently in order does not work, the whole thing including the IMF and WB, he said he is working on something to change that, Dr. Strangelove is a man exudes love.
Post his introduction to the book there was a Q&A session which included questions about his vision, Modi’s vision, his black beard and one beautiful sari clad mathematician who said (total Bollywood filmi style with her right hand raised towards Sam palm open facing upwards) “For you Sam I am willing to do anything” I thought that was really hot, a talented woman willing to work for whatever Dr. Strangeloves mission is, can you begin to imagine what an inspiration the man is.
Post that there was a frenzy of C.Dot folks getting on to take photos with the man. I got a copy of his book signed and headed out with the ladies for a round of decadence in the hotel. We asked for a smoking table and were directed to a cozy corner outside facing the moon and the pool.
During the course of a beer with these two lovely ladies we talked about the launch, Dr. Strangelove, what we do individually, I was trying to convince the lady to get a printed copy of OutofPrint (:P) possible options of taking a dip in the pool and lo and behold Sam walks out with a much smaller entourage and signs Sam (Arani’s) copy of his book, I shook his hand and said that he is such an inspiration and wanted to give him a hug (having read his book, in hindsight I should have given him a hug.)
Here are a few things which you can take home as lessons from the experience, Sam is a workaholic – 15 hours a day, he does not party or socialize – there is no time for that, he is an odd ball, in times of hardship he looks to Mahatma Gandhi as inspiration and his issues seem trivial, his other role model is Albert Einstein (he even dons a crazy white mop), he is a congress person (UGH), ALL of his co-workers hold him up in awe (wanna know why? read his book!), he calls it as it as he sees it – no window dressings and he genuinely cares about our country – who would work for 10 years at one rupee a year salary for service of the country? Sam has.
In conclusion, I find the book hard to categorize but the following headings come to mind – Inspirational/self-help/biography/life of Indians in the states/life of Indians that return from the west/business/ and plain out awesomeness. Put down whatever you are reading, go out buy this book, read it and feel a little bit of awe, a suitable candidate for a role model if your mission is super-awesomeness and love for Dr. Strangelove – Sam Pritodia – an accomplished inspirational odd ball.