Book review

This book will make many women feel the chaotic, confusing and very happy life in it is their own

Lalita Iyer’s memoir shows that breaking off – and away – makes you the happiest.

When a book reads like a sparkling conversation, you know you are in good company. Writer Lalita Iyer’s The Whole Shebang: Sticky Bits of Being a Woman, is the book version of a long chat with a wise(r) and awfully witty friend who’s been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. How do you make sense of the chaos while living ––or at least trying to live – a largely unfettered life? Let Iyer show you how.

Being nothing but effortlessly blunt, she covers nearly everything that matters: growing pains, body image and the “art of maintenance”, dating, work-life, marriage, parenting, keeping friends, dealing with parents (and in laws!), divorce, going solo, managing your money. The Whole Shebang is pitched as “the little black dress of books for women of books”, and I wouldn’t disagree in principle, except that an LBD is actually pretty boring.

Iyer’s memoir-style handbook is closer to a very forgiving, very flattering, cleverly-tailored empire waist dress bursting with colour that makes you sing every time you wear it. It’s also a lot like the never-fail cocktail that’s got a balance of all the gorgeous fruity flavours, while being deceptively potent. Whether you’re fumbling through your days or not, it’s likely you will find bits of yourself in some of these pages.

Mentioning the unmentionables

It begins with the basics of “womanhood”, as it were. So we’re introduced to a school-going Iyer who met her period at 15, far later than the others in her all-girls convent school – a source of unimaginable embarrassment – which made her desperate for the “assurance that I was ready for bearing children which I never wanted to have. ‘Give me this day my fertile ovaries’ was my prayer.”

Anyone who has ever despaired over finding the right bra or how to do thongs will find great relief and a heightened sense of sisterhood with Iyer concluding that “thongs must be weapons of torture in some parts of the world. If ordinary panties give you a wedge, thongs take it to another level.” Bras get a whole chapter to themselves – as do “things they don’t tell you about sex” and figuring your finances – with the underwired kind highlighted as the chief villain in the twisted game of bra searching and bra wearing, which apparently does not get any easier as you age.

I don’t know many women who can go on about panties and bras with as much elan and wit line after line. Iyer’s got this carefree, deliciously biting way of writing about uncomfortable and unspoken things that is disarming while being utterly inclusive, no matter what your age, body type or gender. After all, as Iyer admits, she is still figuring out her own life as she goes along, so she’s no one to teach anyone “how to be a woman”, but she’s got a thing or two to say about finding an honest version of yourself while navigating high waters and weathering the storms.

It helps that she sees things for what they are, and how they make her feel, without conforming to what one is conditioned to think or believe or behave as women. Having struck out on her own decades ago, gone job-hopping every few years, dating both kinds of men – shampoos and conditioners (read the book to find out what that means!) – finding “the one” later than most others around her and then losing him to find herself while making solo parenting work, gives her story many layers with rough edges, never really treading the conventional line.

The rule: there are no rules

Ever since the personal narrative acquired a great shine, no matter who the writer, just anyone with a story to tell, dozens of memoir-cum-self-helpish books have made it to press (including what they call mommy lit). The Whole Shebang stands out in the crowd, because here is a writer who has a novel perspective, and she tells it with some sparkly writing, rarely missing a beat.

This, for instance, is how Iyer warns the young ones: “Losing your virginity is the most un-memorable detail of your sex life, one that you want erased from your memory as soon as you start getting some real action. No one wants to talk about the first time. It is really bad copy.”

Moving on from the bodily predicaments, I loved reading about Iyer’s food memories and the “art of feeding”, about talking to her eight-year-old son – as well as her parents – about death, about not feeling alone while moving on from her marriage and her easy love for spaces within the many homes she has lived in, about letting her son be and not “curating” his entire childhood.

Not to be missed is Iyer’s very valuable guide to managing the in-laws by, well, not managing them at all. She highlights the perils of doing “the in-law dance” early in a marriage and adding new moves (top tip: stop adding any moves), which is clearly a slippery slope. Setting boundaries and managing expectations, she says very wisely, is key, having not done this herself as she candidly confesses to the looniness of her own equation with her ex-in-laws.

There’s an arc to Iyer’s story which could sound a lot like the story of the woman next door – or even your own – and that’s exactly why it’s thoroughly engrossing. This book is really about an ordinary woman fumbling through an ordinary life – but with extraordinary spunk. Now if all of us had half of it, life could be a lot more fun.

The Whole Shebang: Sticky Bits of Being a Woman, Lalita Iyer, Bloomsbury.

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Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

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Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

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Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

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Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.