Campaign India Team
Nov 25, 2008

Adland's #1 books

Campaign India asked adlanders to name the one book they would carry with them to a desert island — and why they chose the book. All the books, we discovered, are available easily through Crossword/ Landmark/ Madhvani, director, Equinox Films The Bhagwad Gita

Adland's #1 books

Campaign India asked adlanders to name the one book they would carry with them to a desert island — and why they chose the book. All the books, we discovered, are available easily through Crossword/ Landmark/

Ram Madhvani, director, Equinox Films
The Bhagwad Gita

The Bhagwad Gita. I have been reading it and re-reading it for the last 20 to 25 years. I am interested in philosophy and I carry a pocket sized version of the Bhagwad Gita in my bag. It has many things, it has a man or God who is trying very hard to use whatever powers that he can, to try and convince. With those powers he uses logic, emotion and political speech to convince somebody else and I find that very fascinating.

It's fascinating that in the middle of a war, somebody can actually stop the moment of two armies facing each other and in the middle of this, there are now people just hanging around while Krishna speaks to Arjun, which means that now, it is actually not a physical thing.

It is interesting that we have lived with an idea like that in our literature which allows this to happen. That this is a conversation that is not real. It's very real but it obviously happened in thought waves in an instant. But this message is put through to us in a very dramatic moment in a story and this story has been written to come to this dramatic moment. I am fascinated by the idea that philosophy can be told through dramatic stories. That there are moral codes of conduct are given to you through a narrative. And that's where our best stories are, whether it's the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. You are told how to live, you are told how to conduct your life. And you are told these abstract ideas.

(For more information on the Bhagwad Gita, visit


Raji Ramaswamy, senior VP, JWT Kolkata
My Name is Red

I feel that it is a great work of fiction and a fabulously rich novel. A real masterpiece. One of those books that I am likely to remember for a quite a while. I feel that it is in the league of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is an unforgettable work of fiction.

A fantasy and a philosophical puzzle, Orhan Pamuk's book My Name is Red is a murder mystery and a love story set in the world of art. It has a multi-layered plot that unfolds with a tinge of melancholy told through the first person narratives of its many characters, in late sixteenth century Istanbul. We even hear from the subjects of an illustrated book like a dog, a horse, a gold coin all given voice by a story teller in a coffee house. The murderer and the victims speak, the former without revealing his identity and the latter as spirits. Its a world of memorable characters and complex relationships.

I will remember this book for its richness, narrative style, the complexity of its characters and their emotions and the depth and the insight that it provides into Islamic art.

It takes you deep into the folds of Islamic art and debates on the form and style of paintings and the life of the miniaturists who brought them to life through years and years of work to the point of going blind. It reveals what the Ottoman style of illumination was and the significance of blindness all interwoven with the plot, setting and characters.

(For more information about My Name is Red by Orhan Pamukvisit

Mithun Roy, AVP and client services director, Grey Mumbai
The Hungry Tide

It's been a month since I've finished reading this book but it seems like yesterday. It's surely not easy to get over The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. Because the story gets over but the terrifying beauty and raw passion of the river and the forest and the people stay on. I picked it up from Oxford Kolkata when I was there on a holiday.

It's a novel set in the Tide country – the Sunderbans in West Bengal. Home to the Bengal tiger, huge crocodiles, snakes, impenetrable forests, and tribes of people trying to eke out a living. Life is difficult there with the tide water flooding the fields and the tigers finding their prey every so often.

But what kept me hooked other than the unusual setting were the three main characters, Kanai, a businessman, Piyali, a Bengali born American scientist and Fokir, a local guy who come together in Lusibari. And it's as much a story about the struggle of life set in the tide country as it's about the ebb and tide of emotions in the lives of these three.

There's a similarity that the author has drawn between the jungles and the human spirit which is as much a mystery. And what left me completely overwhelmed much like the tide that can consume everything on its way was the play of base emotions of jealousy, pride, trust that too can engulf everything in life.

(For more information about The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh, visit


Ravi Rao, partner, client leadership - team Unilever South Asia
The Little Prince

As a kid my dream was to become a painter. By the time I was 8, the names of Jamini Roy, Abanindranath Tagore, Homer and Rubens images were flurrying in my mind. My friend's mom asked a few of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. One wanted to be a pilot, an engineer and a doctor. She asked me "Why don't you have any ambition?"

 I thought then why is it that grown-ups never look at things and understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining them. Then I stumbled upon this small book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery at the local watering-hole. My long-time friend went philosophical with all the work pressure he faces in advertising and wished that he became the little prince.
"Men", said the little prince, "set out on their way in express trains, but they don't know what they are looking for. Then they rush about, and get excited and turn round and round..." Every time I read this book, I get a fresh perspective on life, work, relationship and all. I don't have to stay marooned in a desert island for long.

The painter in me is still on a slow-burn waiting to blend colours with imagination.

(For more information about The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, visit

Shefalee Vasudev, editor, Marie Claire
The Soul's Code-In Search of Character and Calling

The book that I keep going back to and in all likelihood would carry to a desert, is The Soul's Code-In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman.

It is a profoundly insightful book written by the maverick psychologist on how our character decides our occupation, our choices, our relationships, in fact, everything we choose to do. That our destinies have a DNA and how that becomes our calling in life; why some choose altruism, others violence and yet others celibacy or denial.

Hillman has explored this anecdotally by analyzing the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Charles Darwin, Tina Turner, Henry Ford among many others.

I find myself meditatively lost in the arguments of the book. To me, it is the most convincing and influential reasoning on why "it takes all kinds to make a world."

(For more information about the The Soul's Code-In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman, visit


V Sunil, partner, W+K
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

To the desert island, I will carry Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. I bought it about six months back at the Chennai Airport. I get bored with books really fast, but this one I could not put is so real and exciting. This book is like a thesis on Mumbai from the beginning to now. It's an insider's perspective on Mumbai, how exciting at one level and how cheesy at another.

(For more information about Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta, visit

Shubhajit Sen, VP marketing- consumer healthcare, GSK
Lyrics: 1962-2001 Bob Dylan

Ignoring the "How to survive being marooned on a desert island" cliche, I'd say Lyrics: 1962 – 2001 by Bob Dylan. I was introduced to Dylan while in school… an example of reading the audio book, before the print version. Later, in the perpetually–cash-strapped college days I got hold of a second-hand copy of the book (admittedly the 1962 – 1985 version) at the Daryagunj Sunday flea market. I fell in love with it immediately – not just the words and the songs but the actual copy.

Since then, I've gone back to the book repeatedly. You can dip in and out or read it at a stretch. It can inspire you, make you laugh or think. There's something for any mood you are in. As a marketing guy, I find nuggets of insights (She may know what you need but I know what you want) and soundbytes for presentations (Hard to tell if anything's going to sell). It's a link to my past and yet holds some of the lessons I want to teach my kid when he grows up. It's all there…

(For more information about Lyrics: 1962-2001 by Bob Dylan, please visit

Elsie Nanji, managing partner, Red Lion Publicis
The God of Small Things

I was told about it sometime before it was awarded the Booker prize, and the how and when becomes insignificant once I laid my hands on it! Why does the book make such an impression on you? From the very first line... 'May in Ayemanam is a hot, brooding month', it was as if my own life was unfolding, and the vivid descriptions of characters etched in my memories of our summer holidays with my family in Ayemanam were suddenly in another story, one that drew me back into the land where I come from.... Kerala.

The deep dark sad story is haunting and stays with me forever. Never before did the sky blue plymouth with chrome tailfins came alive as much as when Arundhati describes her landscape of sensory imagery where the 'countryside that turns an immodest green where boundaries blur, where tapioca fences take root and bloom, where the slippery stone steps lead you down to the Ayemanam river. Every image grew robust and alive and I was so taken aback.

Stuck on a desert island, I would relive all of these senses and recreate her wonderful analogies of sound, smell and sight with everything around me. Maybe the water will be brown and murky, full of weeds and darting eels and slow mud that oozes through toes like toothpaste.....

(For more information about The God of Small Things, visit


Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media
The Fountainhead

It has to be The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I don't remember how and when I got it but as its been with me since I got married, guess it belongs to my wife Sagari who is a voracious reader. The Fountainhead has been one such book which has left a lasting impression on me.

Though it has been penned in the early 1930s, the depiction of characters are true to even this day. The world today has changed from what it was when the book was written, but what it brings out is the fact that people have never really progressed in their basic instincts and survival politics. Even today, I identify the characters of the book to real life examples around me, whose attempts to become they set out to be, are similar to the characters in the book. Reading the book did make me sit up and think how I choose to live my life. Should I build my career as per the norms set by the society like the characters of Peter Keating or Gail Wynand in the book, or should I do what I love and let that be my career and work?

The book rattles your belief systems which you grow up with and you will question the following: What actually is the measure of success? Are the people who we perceive as successful really successful and what is level of sacrifice I am willing to make in my life for others?

(For more information about The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, visit


Partha Sinha, partner, BBH
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

This book was loaned to me by a senior when I went to my undergrad hostel. I ended up bunking one full day of class thanks to this book. It was really difficult to leave this book and do anything else (especially mundane things like attending classes) - I carried the book to the canteen, to the mess and finally to the classes as well. It's not an easy read and took me a few days to read it - but it was all really worthwhile.

GEB deals with three of my favourite subjects - mathematics, structure and creativity. And for the first time in my life, someone opened up the underlined connection between these. In terms of content, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between Bach's music, Escher's art (the confusing perspectives and puzzling geometry), and the mathematics of Godel. And in that process explains the true meaning of consciousness and stuff that's at the center of cognitive science - meanings, reductions...and more. This was an eye opener for me - it almost gave me membership to a new club of thinking. Whenever anybody says creativity is not rocket science I wish I can make that person read this book. It takes the underlying rocket science behind creative achievements and opens it up for the reader. It's also an example of how a difficult topic can be dealt with ease and comfort - each chapter presents a dialogue between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters (in a Lewis Carroll manner) who dramatize the topic . It makes the reading kind of entertaining (though lot of people will kill me for using the term 'entertaining' for this book). But the best part of this book is the elevated feeling you are left with after reading it - but I suppose that's true of all great books.

PS : This is definitely one book I will carry to the desert island. But can I cheat and also take The Tao of Physics, Magic Mountain, Neruda's Memoir....

(For more information about Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, visit

Anuja Chauhan, ECD and VP, JWT
A Suitable Boy

The Catcher In The Rye, Yes Prime Minister, Catch 22, The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch – these are all favourites - but I'd pack A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

Partly because I may get homesick, and ASB captures the soul of north India perfectly. I love Brahmpur and Purvi Pradesh and Baitar. And partly because - to quote an ad - its not just one book, it's many. Ten stories run parallely in ASB and each one is brilliant.

It has sly humour, insightfully drawn characters, history, politics, hot Muslim nawabzadas, rural arcadias and beautiful description of seasons and flowers and trees. It is supremely rereadable.

(For more information about A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, visit

Sandeep Vij, president-north and east, Mudra
Life of Pi

"To a desert island I would definitely carry Life of Pi by Yann Martel - a book I read almost five years back. I loved it for its absurdity and incredulity. It's a fantastical outrageous survival story that is unbelievable yet compelling and charming. Life of Pi is about a 16-year-old Indian boy named Pi who has been cast overboard in high sea in a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra (which the hyena is eating alive) an orangutan and a 450 pound hungry Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker! Being in a cramped boat with hungry wild animals for company does call for nifty survival techniques that would make the desert island look like an oasis! And of course the fact that the book has a happy ending is certainly an optimistic thought in a desert!

(For more information about Life of Pi by Yann Martel, visit

Vatsala Pant, associate director-consumer research, Nielsen
Bhagwad Gita

That would have to be the Bhagwad Gita, not the abridged, short cut versions that you see at check-out counters of regular bookshops but the real thing, with English subtitles. The underlying assumption of course is that like any religious text, the real understanding of this book lies in its interpretation. At the very least, I would love to figure why the 'do your best without worrying about the results' was a valid philosophy during those strife torn times and examine its relevance to our era. Hopefully being on that desert island will also mean no connectivity and hence all the time in the world to read, interpret and absorb this timeless classic!

(For more information on the Bhagwad Gita, visit


Suvrata Gayan, integrated marketing & communications manager - consumer & online international, Microsoft
The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank

The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck is the book I'd carry with me. I laid my hands on it at a friend's place by accident. This book reveals the humorous side of life. Our life will seem incomplete if the lighter side of life is missing. Hence, it is very important to reignite the smile in our lives. Today, we have lost our innocence and peace of mind with the kind of lifestyle and social stress we have. At the end of the day, I should feel happy about the things I choose to do. This book makes me smile and this is the most important emotion I value today.

(For more information about The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck, visit

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