Book Review: Memoir/SUIT: A Woman on Wall Street by Nina Godiawala, Hachette India/2011, 350pp; Rs395 (Paperback)
Atleast for few, capitalism is not less than a “civilisation”, long back economist Joseph Schumpeter described it and now it’s a sort of cult. This claims an accurate description of a system of relations that reorders not just relationships of wealth but culture, civic association and the most intimate transactions that characterise our personal lives. Nina Godiawala’s memoir SUIT: A Woman on Wall Street stood with better chances to suppress those bandwagon temptations and represents a case of antidote against the maddening commercial lures that furiously conditioned lives for good or bad gains.
Two things are most striking with her work, first her memoir is written in almost oblivion, as she hardly had the “celebrity “tagline while working on the book or even after that, and her unique way of interpreting the real events in fashion of fiction. Here she succeeds well and makes high senses of experimental lingual overtures, that straightforwardly demarks her from the trend chaser generation of American writers, which is terribly accustomed to produce nothing more than “trash”. Though not consciously, but she has also not desisted to assert her Indian origin by incessantly coming in sequences under the overt impression of values, that’s originally the hall mark of east. Memories are the safest assets for leaving the actual scene and yet found chances to visit it virtually-in generic evaluation; it can be placed like the “escapist route” and in broad terms, could be taken as the “last resort of cultural connects”!
Family of Nina, like the lakhs of other Indian immigrants in the western world justifies it through living in twin world, by faithful recourse or contradiction! From beginning to the end, family maintains its centrality in the book and every action of upwardly mobile young generation too never shows off any contradictory uncomfort with this most essential institution. However, she realistically denies forming the monolithic impression of family, where different world exists but without ever getting so much intensified to break it up in parts. Again, the values rule the inner nerves here that’s more often than not appears volatile and unpredictable. Here, intricate narration leaves the beautiful impact on readers’ mind and heart.
Nina’s father and grandmother are the part of that lasting generation which still adores tradition of their land and continues living with those infallible attributes of which they were once the actual bearer. But in sharp devoid, Nina’s mother had shown upholding the American life style more avidly than the basic tenets of her imaginary homeland. That compelled Nina and her sisters’ shuttling between these two familiar worlds and finally coming out with an impressive equilibrium, which can be regarded respectable in all terms. Metaphor of varied culinary preferences inside the family, from shrimp curry, Indian style sweets to sushi or cocktails depicts something more honest than merely a beguiling display of over enjoying close family gathering. Probably that adaptability assisted Nina to move from the suburban Houston for attending the top Ivy League elite management institution and making entry into top investment banks like JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley at the exotic world of Wall Street.
More than coming across the authoritarian wills and untimely sermons of Keynes or Proudhon on macroeconomic models, it seems nicer reading the real life experiences of Nina, first as an intern and later part of the high shot corporate division of global iconic banks to know, why the recession is unstoppable through the structured folly of giant global banks? She not let chances for forming any unnecessarily fancied conception about this high street of global finance, which is known alike for making and marring the aspirations and yet continuing its charming existence intact! But few successful careerists, like Nina have decency to express the inhumane inner realities that’s the mainstream functional style in any MNCs, either in finance or outside of it. She conquered the desired world and left when she could found easy days for her, which is indeed appreciable and shows something away from the recent trend of quitting high end job for making fortune in untapped areas, for tasting the unholy resources and functional designs of NGO networks.
This book is special because it has sharper focus on the state of workforce involved in global financial system instead stating the obvious about the complex financial instruments. The shapes of global financial crisis have endless models; an economist can’t have other pastime as closer as trying counting the flawed recovery, from the easily mixable alphabet and numbers. Since the grave, ofcourse not the great depression of 1929, economists have almost played the disappointing role in putting forth the timely and clear projection. Unfortunately, same or even more acute is state of affairs in the current phase where the high technological interface and globalisation have maximized the risk of bigger and unprecedented failures. Whose ominous outcomes were visible during the recession of 2007-08, when more than seven dozen financial institutions were shattered in western world and left emerging economies too under the heavy slowdown?
The open trade with bad financial instruments, wrong credit lending, inside trading and more negatively, the degraded peoples policies among the global corporations are the major constituents of never ending risk of financial crisis. Nina could shifted from banking to capital market and lately for her own skill venture, but how many can do it so easily and without getting desperate in midway? Thousands of finance persons are living less than pleasant life at Wall Street or outside under the badly constructed designs of financial firms. Family expectations keeps floating high and meeting them requires a habit of living in troubled state. This book has universal appeal with answers for many subtle concerns and would run for long among the true finance enthusiasts!
Atul Kumar Thakur
New Delhi, February 2nd, 2012, Thursday