Daijiworld Media Network
Mangaluru, Dec 27: Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has released its Platinum Jubilee Souvenir to mark its jubilee celebrations spread over 2014-16. This weighty, hard-bound tome is conceived as a Coffee Table Book and a reference source. The 234-page book, printed on thick art paper, has followed an unconventional route in not carrying plethora of predictable and inane messages from all and sundry and also by pricing it (Rs 500). While releasing the Souvenir to the media for review, the current president, Jeevan Saldanha, hoped that it would enhance the appreciation among its various stakeholders of the struggles and achievements of the Chamber.
In his preface to the Souvenir, the outgoing president of the Chamber, Rammohan Pai Maroor, says: "With a sense of achievement and fulfilment, we are placing before you this souvenir which highlights the long journey of KCCI, a journey of its struggle for the betterment of its members, a journey during which it has contributed to the society without aspiring for anything in return, a journey during which it has strived for the economic and social survival and growth of the businesses and industries of our region."
KCCI's editorial consultant for the Souvenir, veteran journalist and author, John B Monteiro, who worked with Chamber’s Souvenir committee headed by Capt John Prasad Menezes, explains the editorial architecture of the Souvenir. "In its Platinum Jubilee year, KCCI conceived of a souvenir that would trace its past from its founding to the present, especially those who founded it and nurtured it to its current eminent status. Ambition grows with age and, this time around, the KCCI envisioned a coffee-table type publication that would be a broad-based reference source, not only on the Chamber but also on the environment in which it functioned and, in turn, contributed to it."
While KCCI’s monthly journal, Vyavahara, started in 1971, has been tapped for information, other sources, including Monteiro’s own writings published in the English media over the last couple of decades, account for the major chunk of the editorial content.
The Souvenir offers reading matter of current and abiding value, starting with articles on Mangaluru, which hosts KCCI and the district that is its main constituency. It traces Mangalore’s tryst with VIPs, including Mahatma Gandhi. This is followed by an inward look at the Chamber’s history and its current status with the multitude of services it offers to its members and citizens at large. It records the people who have helmed the Chamber over the 75 years and the key officials who have contributed to its growth and success.
One section focuses on twelve pioneers and leaders. These include Puthu Vainkunt Shet, AB Shetty, Alex Pai, Madhav Pai, US Mallya, Haji Abdulla Kasim, Sadashiva Rao, Subba Rao, Kittel, Govind Pai, HPC Shetty and VS Kudva. There are many business entities and institutions that have crossed the century mark and 17 of them have been focused on – to give a touch of heritage to this souvenir. These include Mangaluru's first car, Basel Mission, Commonwealth Tiles, Jeppu Workshop, Ganapathy High School, King Copper, MCC’s first 100 years, Mangaluru's Old Port, Wenlock Hospital, Sharada Press, M Pais & Sons, Soans Photographer, Aloyseum and Chapel paintings, Rosario School, Aspinhall, Heritage Flower Market and BEM School.
Many of the articles were inspired by the developments and concerns of the times and are hence not updated as this souvenir, as Monteiro explains, is not intended to be another Wikipedia on the subjects covered but to present the flavour of the times when they were written.
There is a conscious attempt not to waste chapter-end empty spaces by filling them with quotes from Gandhiji and light readings under 'Take It Easy'. Of Gandhiji’s quotes the most relevant to the business community is:
"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so."
While many businessmen might know this, their employees may be ignorant about this. It may be worthwhile to blow this up in large letters and frame it and hang it prominently at business premised – as what is now called “Mission Statement” in the corporate world.
The creative cover design and page layouts are by Anand Bhandarkar of TigerDen Solutions.
Short interview with the compiler of the Souvenir:
John Monteiro: From Author to Compiler
Daijiworld (DW): You have an image as veteran journalist and writer. Isn’t it a demotion to be a compiler?
John B Monteiro (JBM): It seems so at first sight. But, I still remain an active journalist as reflected in my frequent contributions to Daijiworld and elsewhere. But, apart from journalism, I have written three books, starting with Corruption – Control of Maladministration in 1966. It made a comprehensive case for the introduction in India of the Scandinavian institution of Ombudsman for control and punishment of corruption. The 310-page was priced at Rs 25 – a princely sum in 1966. It also came in a paperback edition.
Books – Financial Disaster
DW: Then, you must have made a lot of money as royalty when you were still in your twenties?
JBM: Benjamin Disraeli has said that "The author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children". However, money-wise my book-writing was a disaster. My first publisher over-reached himself financially. He had good authors on his list, including Nani Palkhivala whose book, India - Highest Taxed Nation, progressively brought down tax rates from their dizzy heights. But, the publisher was driven to liquidation with the result that I received hardly any cash royalties on this book.
DW: So, it was a financial disaster for you?
JBM: Henry Miller says: "Writing is its own reward". But, I had collateral, non-monetary, reward. My book on corruption and ombudsman was a pioneering work then. It was well reviewed in India and abroad. One Japanese scholar recommended my name to be a delegate at an international seminar on corruption in Manila. The all-paid 10-day trip involved free travel and five-star (Manila Hilton) stay, with $ 100 a day as pocket money.
DW: What were your subsequent writings? Also, can you clarify on the piracy of your book?
JBM: When I was working in L&T as a professional communicator, I started an interactive column called Forum for readers to react to a topic-essay in a tabloid called “Powai Pageant. It became so popular that it ate into the company news and had to be stopped. I had a few hundred of these “Topic” columns some of which were selected for publication by St. Pauls in Bombay under the title of Some Current Issues for Debate. I took 200 copies for a release function in Mangalore and then the trail was lost.
I thought that the book bug in me was dead. Then, as we ended the first decade of this century, the idea of Ombudsman was revived under the Indian name of Lokpal, vigorously advocated by Anna Hazare and Kejrival. I jumped on the bandwagon writing a book titled Corruption: India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal. The 394-page book, published in USA, is priced at $21.5. I have not seen a cent in the last three years. Thus, I disprove Samuel Johnson who said: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”. Or, was he right?
Google shows me as an author of four books, including Corruption in India! Remember I mentioned earlier that my publisher of Corruption went bankrupt. He sold all his books as "remainder" (ruddy).
A Jaipur bookseller got hold of the unsold stock, stripped off the old cover of my book, printed another cover with the title "Corruption in India" with John B Monteiro as author. A case of author of corruption being a victim of corruption!
I filed a case against the pirate publisher in a Bombay court. But over a dozen court summons against the Jaipur pirate came back unserved – and finally the case remained abandoned. My lawyer for the case was now retired Justice Michael Saldanha, then a budding lawyer in Bombay. He didn’t charge a pie for drawing up the plaint and the dozen-odd appearances in court.
No Hell for Authors
DW: With such serial frustrations in book-writing, what got you into book compiling?
JBM: This brings me to Samuel Boyee, an English writer, who said: “There is probably no hell for authors in the next world – they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this”. To be frank, critics have been very kind in reviewing my books, specially the first one which was a ground-breaker on the subject then. But, as the Kannada saying goes: “Kala bandage kola kattabeku”. Compiling has money upfront compared to the elusive royalty from books. People who have read my journalistic writings have approached me with offers. Google has 30 entries on my writings, books and articles, spread over 8 pages.
One fine day, veteran advocate, Clarence Pais, scion of a family with four generations of lawyers, requested me to write his family history. It was debated whether I would write his biography or I would help him to write his autobiography and edit it. We opted for the latter route. It resulted in an impressive book titled “Dreamy Recollections”, running into 200 pages. It is for private circulation among his family and friends, specially the younger generation spread across the globe.
DW: In an autobiography what is the role of the compiler?
JBM: The subject has a vast data in memory and records. But, not many have time and talent to organise the material into a cogent, readable book. That is where the compiler comes in to present a well-ordered narrative of facts and comments. I have now come to use the term Editorial Architect. For instance, in my latest work, Platinum Jubilee Souvenir for KCCI, which you are reviewing, I am cited as Compiler and Editorial Consultant. But, instead of “Introduction” to preview the contents, I have used the term “Editorial Architecture”. In other words, I become Editorial Architect.
DW: How do people zero in on you for such work?
JBM: Word of mouth. People read my writings in the media like in Daijiworld. Those who Google have a wider view of things. The KCCI assignment followed from my work for Catholic Association of South Kanara (CASK) Centenary Souvenir released in 2014, for which Dr Derek Lobo, then President, and Capt. John Prasad Menezes then Hon. Secretary, of CASK, commissioned me. This 312-page Souvenir, titled CASK and Fellow Centurions, was released by the Vice President of India.
DW: What is special about these souvenirs?
JBM: Unlike the common run of souvenirs, these two do not carry any inane messages, with mug shots, from all and sundry 'VIPs'. Secondly, their content is of such abiding value that they have been priced – Rs 500 in each case. They are works for reference.
DW: So, now you will concentrate on compiling?
JBM: Depends on the challenge involved. For instance, you cannot make a race horse out of a donkey. There should be substance to write home about - plenty of it. Then only Editorial Architect can deliver.