Pages From My Life – A Publisher’s Autobiography


Author: Subhash Sethi;
Publisher: Viva Books
(Pp 214, ISBN 978-81-309-1771-9, Rs 495)

Pages from My Life – A Publisher’s Autobiography by Subhash Sethi is story of evolution of a victim of partition of India from a salesman in a publishing house to become a cynosure of Indian publishing by being secretary for about seven terms and its president for fourteen terms of premier professional body- Federation of Publishers and Booksellers’ Association of India.

Great trials are necessary to prepare for great duties; in case of the author trials began when he was in the lap of his mother. The book begins with his memories of ‘Trials and Tribulations.’ The author reminiscences that he was barely able to talk and walk when the ‘sharp sword of partition fell’ upon the family. The pages recounts the circumstances where the author and his family had to undergo the suffering, his father jumping from the running train to save himself from the rioters who had entered the compartment and were killing people. He got multiple injuries and subsequently the family reunited in a refugee camp. Subhash has successfully aroused the sensation of pity and fear and has succeeded in arousing emotions.

Pages From My Life is also a story of a publisher who has worked on a very wide canvas, having spent over fifty years of his life serving selflessly and with dedication for the betterment of the publishing industry. The journey of the author through this period if full of experiments and achievements. While genius and literary mastery are rare, Subhash Sethi has mastered both. Every event described moves like a kaleidoscope as if you are not reading but watching the incidents happening in front of your eyes.

A common perception about a publisher at large is that he is a shrewd businessman. This autobiography will change the perception as here is a publisher who always believes in counting his blessings. Subhash Sethi says that, “God has been kind enough to me and today I am blessed with choicest of clothes. But the importance of clothes bestowed on me as reward during my college days remains unmatched, unappalled.” (p17)

A special feature of the book is that it is not a chronological account of one’s life and achievements. Here each chapter deals with a different experience and brings out various facets of his personality. A man of strong convictions always listened to his conscience. When he started his own publishing house, he had touched sixty.

His faith in God almighty and his sincere love and appreciation for family members only exhibit that besides being a worldly person he is thoroughly a spiritual man. This trait of the author is effectively portrayed in two chapters on his family and his disease.

The chapter ‘Hello, Young Men’ is full of advice to the budding publishers when he says that, “The publishing industry is meant for those who have patience and are prepared to work hard”. (p154). Profusely illustrated with pictures from his college days to meeting with Indian dignitaries enhance the archival value of the book. The chapter on ‘Partners and Friends Speak’ gives a glimpse of high esteem the publishing fraternity has held Subhash Sethi.

The book also has a lot to learn for younger generation of publishers. Publishing industry is meant for those who have patience and are prepared to work hard, for it is not a cake walk. The shortest definition of philosophy is to ‘see things through’. The message is study yourself and introspect, observe your actions, realize your fault and appraise your virtue. His message to the upcoming publishers is enshrined in the last chapter “My Philosophy of Life” which accentuates the importance of training, motivation, attitude management coupled with quality management, the art of decision making at the right time are the guiding stars of achieving high goals. Profusely illustrated, the work is the result of persuasion of his industry friends who prompted him to write down his ‘five decade journey in publishing industry’.

Autobiographies let you think, feel, act and experience as the author, through his first hand narration of his own powerful life story. As you read the autobiography, you get closer to the author. The truth is this autobiography is so much easier to tune in with the thoughts and feelings of the author. A dedicated reading of the Pages from My Life is going to open your mind to a new direction leading to believe that here is a publisher with a heart of gold.

– GS Jolly

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