Book review of “Why the Vada Seller Refused a Sale” By Satish Mandora

‘Why the Vada Seller Refused a Sale’ is a bedside read that you can turn to during idle moments or when taking a break from busy ones.


Published by: Rupa Publications

ISBN: 978-8129135759

Pages: 152

Price: INR 200

If only sprouting wisdom teeth indicated wisdom, it would have been enough to simply declare with conviction: “Henceforth, I will always act as I’ve learned.” But you know as well as I do that this is not how life works. Those wisdom teeth are a futile pain and only a fool would call himself forever wise. A man seeking wisdom will always be ‘work-in-progress’, because learning is gathered on the go, much like fruits from a tree—they are there, waiting to be picked. Only, we need to be able to see them around us, in our days of work and play, family and friends, and even strangers who we meet.

But then one wonders, where is the time, or the patience, to just observe the wonders of nature, or a child’s pretend play? By introspecting these minutiae is how [and why] books like Satish Mandora’s Why the Vada Seller Refused a Sale get written.

This collection of short stories helps you look at ordinary happenings with awareness for their life-changing ability. Written in fuss-free language, the book is divided into five sections which, according to the author, are the five crucial aspects of life: Awareness, Energy, Action, Communication and Relationships.

Mandora asks, “How many of you on your deathbed would say, ‘I wish I was in my office’?”; a simple point about how we have lost sight of what truly motivates us to work. He emphasises the importance of inviting enthusiasm into our lives—a ‘great high’ which ‘if you can’t make it, fake it’ till the energy becomes a real part of your everyday, he says. Because we humans are wired to connect, we create the atmosphere where good cheer is as contagious as low spirits are. Then, wouldn’t it be good to be conscious of our moods when we walk into a room full of people? Or, to learn how to make an effort to create positive energy? To this end, he rejects ritualistic regularity and instead suggests embracing actions which speak to us and define us. Being obsessed with being regular because it is the ‘done thing’ dampens life.

‘Leader… do you really need a title?’ tells of his experience with a music shop staff, portraying how the value of a purchase can also be measured in the goodness of people helping you procure it, and that designations don’t count. In ‘The Discipline of Freedom’, the author explains how freedom to do what we want borders on selfishness; instead, freedom that ensures that another’s space is not violated is what is worth celebrating.

In the daily grind, we rarely remember the dream, but it never quite dies. Through slices of his own life, Mandora reminds us of things we have forgotten. A child who calls a crow a singing bird is correct in her own imagination, by her own sense of music, even if marked wrong by the class teacher. Or how important it is to ‘forget’ your phone at home when you go for a family dinner; or to know the difference between ‘eating’ and ‘savouring’. Or even to be aware of the subtle difference between discipline and compliance at work.

It is people who matter little to us who can open our eyes to important truths. From children to old people, family to strangers, waiters to CEOs, the presence and actions of people who surround us lend us with these insights, says Satish. Their ‘foolishness’ is important too, because doing things differently speaks about the creativity of the doer while nurturing tolerance in the onlooker.

As a mother, a most beautiful reminder in the book for me was what the author learnt as a co-participant from another mother in a programme by Dr. Newton Kondavetti – “Whenever she made a mistake in interacting with or understanding her daughter, the lady would apologise to her child and add, ‘I hope you understand that I’ve made a mistake. I, too, am only a 10-year-old mother.’”

‘Why the Vada Seller Refused a Sale’ is a bedside read that you can turn to during idle moments or when taking a break from busy ones. Some instances of ‘preach what you practice’ seem to have been written with very young readers in mind.

The frequent references to the author’s training workshops and their success tend to break the flow of the narrative at times. However, overall the book is replete with constructive suggestions and while some come across as simplistic and idealistic, many seamlessly become a part of the readers’ streams of consciousness.

This book details how wisdom travels, across countries and times, to strike a chord with unknown minds and add to the work-in-progress that we all are.

This was first published in the March 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.


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