The Dalai Lama once famously responded to the question (What suprises you the most?) by refererring to man.
He said man suprises him the most because he spends his entire life in pursuit of money, works hard to the point where he sacrifices his health and then during old age spends the money he earned recovering his health and dies never having really lived in the present, but worrying over the past and future.
That paraphrased response by the Dalai Lama is a relevant pretext to the question this book Kissing Ass: The Art of Office Politics asks at the very beginning: Why do we work?
And not suprisingly, the answer it arrives at is that we work for money, well most of us anyway, and that money came as an improvement of the barter system.
Prior to these times, man, it claims, had it easier, less complicated and a simpler life as his primary needs were simply food and shelter and possibly surviving the onslaught of lurking predators. But work as we now know it came with the passage of time and the author suggests that we don't really know any good reason as to why we really work.
But the book also sparks an interesting thought, in the midst of its tongue-firmly-in-cheek statements, as it suggests that had we not had to work for money we'd still not know what to do with our lives and would live perpetually in boredom.
Clyde D'Souza's Kissing Ass is an almost frivolous, casual attempt at making a guide that helps the reader make sense of the complex, sometimes ridiculous, dynamics of the corporate work culture.
It is entirely satrical in nature or atleast that is what it markets itself to be. But if you are looking for some Chuck Palnuik-like attempt to parody social order, politics and corporate work-culture then this isn't the book for you.
This is a light, modestly funny, mostly tacky, but largely honest take on the work routines that many urban folk experience over the course of adulthood existence.
It reads like a lengthy, extremely cynical rant, albeit funny and self deprecating in places, mocking all the things we do or would have to do to survive in a job. It tackles everything from your early HR interview process to what you ought to do in case your boss fancies sleeping with you.
It suggests that humans can't seem to do away with politics and hence politics is there everywhere, be it in your work place or at home with your spouse, and offers "practical" solutions to coping with it at work.
So to get a job in an arena of rhetoric speeches, fluff and fake values, it tells you that you have to "go fishing". You have to con the fish into biting your bait. And the two big fishes you will have reel in first are your HR and your would-be-boss.
It treads on sexist suggestions like pretty women with good cleavage have it easier in this arena, but its intent is just humour and nothing malicious.
On getting a job, the autor observes, you will soon discover that it is a lot like school.
You have to work by the clock, dress up according to a dress-code, work with deadlines, deal with teacher-like bosses, sit in front of a desk with your lunchbox and wait for the day to end. The only thing you are spared of is having to sing your national anthem in an assembly hall before work, it jokes.
It talks about office hierachies, the bitching during intervals, the kind of people you will encounter, the kind of attractive faces you will fall for, the crappy food you are liable to taste in the mess and the 9-5 clock you will have to diplomatically and tactfully manuever.
The concept of kissing ass and stoking egos is something you will have to do at times with people in the work places to help yourself to a bigger paycheck - assuming of course that is your ultimate aim. In attempting to ridicule this work culture it basically offers day-to-day solutions to dealing with likely-to-encounter scenarios.
It talks about the rhetoric forms you will have to fill for the HR, the boring meetings you will have to sit through, the annoying mail etiquettes you will have to dilligently follow, the fake interest you will have to show towards colleagues and the small talk you will have to do with many uninteresting people - all to just survive and thrive in this environment.
Kissing Ass describes your workplace to be a kind of a weird prison, a place you will have to endure and where you have to act with tact, but it also suggests that the human mind makes the place worse than it actually is.
It points to the fact that on an average you actually get around about 130-odd off days in the whole course of your year, assuming you utilise all your leaves and get two days off every week. It talks about bosses (the "cabin crew") as a set of people you will have to tactfully deal with to survive through the course of your time there. Tact which you will have to apply even in the office loo and in email exchanges.
It even talks about "horniness" overpowering office regulations and romance blooming among all the wrong people in all the wrong places. But that's the jestful side of the book.
It is a cheesy attempt at being a guide, stereotypically sexist with its few remarks, almost entirely Indianised in content, but all of it is only intended to make you laugh - whether you find the humour too frivolous, tacky or geninely funny is left entirely to your sense of humour.
The book overall is worth a glance if you are looking for a very light read.