As long as there is life, there will be trouble coming to terms with it and as long as there is doubt in the human mind or soul there will be space for self-help books. The combination of the human tendency to believe in miracles, as much as the unflagging belief it imposes in self-doubt, is perhaps then the reason why self-help books are thriving. Juxtapose that with the dwindling attention span amongst humans, which in this age of smartphones is shorter than that of a goldfish, you not only need help, you need it pronto. So, where does that leave the troubled soul? Well, in a bad place and it is here that books like Dude, It’s About the Attitude promise to help but how far do they deliver is a different thing altogether.
Written by Bubbles Sabharwal, this one is said to be ‘a youngster’s guide to faith, love and courage’ and is designed to give tips to reiterate to the young that concepts such as happiness, courage, compassion and love exist within. In a research done by the University of Calgary it was found that most people read a self-help book directly due to a transition that happened in their lives and Sabharwal deliberates the book’s chapters to cover the four most prominent transitory phases—career, relationships, health or general well-being, and a combination of the above.
While the chapters are mini-guidelines in their own right; for Relationships they range from ‘Relationships can be an unending pleasure’ to ‘Keep it simple and straightforward’ and the chapter called Attitude and Gratitude has one called ‘A smile is an inexpensive way to look beautiful.’ Now, who doesn’t need such simple mantra to deal with the perils of life, right? There is even one chapter called ‘The Art of Love’ and a segment in it is called ‘True love can make your life meaningful.’ Perhaps this is the only way to address a generation that grew up with smartphones and is happy having a short attention span. But in the end, things simply do not sum up.
It is always fascinating to see every generation delve deep into its arsenal to come up with a weapon that would commensurate the problem they were engaged with. Imagine then trying to tell them, like Sabharwal quotes her grandmother, that there is nothing that cannot be made better by a nap. In fact, this writer is now intrigued to see what the reaction of the supposed target audience of this book might be to such a suggestion.
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which has now come to be seen as a catchphrase for empowering women, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Office of Facebook, had asked a very simple question—“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Sabharwal has good reason to try and put together the things that she talks about in the book; she is a businesswoman, a playwright, and a mother and tries to ask that same question but misses the mark to pass on the learning of life as a mantra for any and every situation.
The ingredients are all there and so is the desire to serve the meal of a lifetime but the result veneers between being perfunctory and uninspired. The book is for the ‘now’ lot and according to a study by Microsoft, this bunch is supposedly “better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.” Perhaps books that talk about life, style, and substance need a bit of it all and yes, a good editor always helps.
Gautam Chintamani is a film historian and the author of the best-selling Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna