Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shrivardhan, Beach Resort -Trip to Remember

The Resort

End of the year was on a high. After the hectic wedding activities that started on the 23rd December, and continued right up to December 27, we were all ready to chill out. Jui and Ashwin's wedding was one of those nice events that everyone congregated to from all over the world - Satish, Marla, Nikhil from the USA, Chhaya from Germany and so many others from all over - and why not? Milind, Neelima, Jui and Saie have always been warm and affectionate and offered their time and space for everyone to bond and stay together.
After the sangeet, mehendi, wedding and reception at Pune we hit Shrivardhan, a sleepy town on the western coast, now slowly gaining popularity for its virgin beaches. Jayant’s friends have a resort called Nivant Sagar, an MTDC recognized resort, completely set within a sylvan setting that reminded me so much of a scene from Enid Blyton, with a private beach (almost). Last year, Jayant, Suhita, Miskil, Anu, Pooja, Prarthana and others had made it there with some others and they loved the experience, so Raja decided to use the opportunity to book the resort for all of us. Jui’s wedding got a whole lot of us together and we decided to go and visit Shrivardhan.
And so we set off, Satish, Marla, Nikhil, Shobha, Anjali and me, Raja, Prarthana, Aai, Chhaya, Neha, Prutha, Jayant, Suhita, Sudhir (Jayant’s cousin), Bakul and Avani - the age range was 2 to 65. Two Tavera’s were hired, driven by two young mavericks, Santosh and Sagar, and one Santro driven by Jayant, and we headed off from Pune at 9 in the morning and headed off on the scenic Paud road to Shrivardhan which is a 180 km drive, that takes about 5 hours, thanks to the ghat section and the bad road. The road goes straight to the Tamini ghat, turns off to Mangaon where it reaches the Mumbai-Goa highway (from Mumbai it is 110 kms) turn right off the highway almost immediately to Shrivardhan (there’s is clear sign board there). Shrivardhan is about 50 kms from that highway and the same roads go to Harihareshwar and Dive Agar which are about 15 kms or so apart. The road is not the best in the last stretch but then you don’t mind all these.
The approach to the resort is through the village's narrow roads and you wonder how anyone gets across because not more than one vehicle can pass though or so it seems but as in many things in India miracles happen and everything moves on. We slowly made our way through increasing foliage, small narrow village roads and hit a white wooden fence in a scene straight out of an English novel and then voila, in the midst of tall trees, vegetable farms and coconut trees, the resort emerged.
It was about 2 in the afternoon, and the drinkers popped open cold beers and we all waited for the lunch to come. It is cooked in the village and sent by road so there is normally a small delay which can be used to drink a little more beer. The food was certainly something to wait for anyway - fish, chicken, rice, sol kadi, roti, fish curry and some more heavenly vegetarian fare.
The resort is heavenly. 'I have not seen anything like this,' said Raja, 'anywhere in the world.' And he has been around! The main resort is a well appointed one – 3 bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a huge verandah that can host about 12 - 20 people. There are a couple of common bathrooms as well for those who want everything under control. Towels, blankets, soap, its all taken care of. In fact it's so functional that it surprises you, and all the small things are taken care of, very conducive for lots of social activity if you're in a group. There is a television which no one bothered with to play anyway.
You move out of the main building and you walk into the dining area. Further up is the small path that leads directly on to the beach. There is a treehouse, a small pond, hammock, beds, and best of all, a small gate that just opens our into the beach. Thats it – 2 minutes to the beach. It's idyllic for everything – read, laze, swim, sleep, farm, clean, watch tv, (I worked on my book), listen to music, do whatever, whatever you do you're not likely to get bored in this place.
The food is brilliant, Konkani style food, that starts with sol kadi, fish fry, fish curry, chicken curry, modak, prawn biryani, bhakri, ask and you get it. Since it is contracted out to a caterer, it needs to be brought in from the town, so factor in the time.
There is hot water as well (firewood and a boiler) and its completely exclusive because you have the entire resort for yourself. The beach is almost virgin, not crowded at all.
Ideal for a group of 10 to 15 because we noticed that the kids has so much to do there that they almost disappeared and left us to our own devices. All the adults also somewhow seem to find the space to be with themselves, it offers so many corners and so much to everyone to do their own thing. There is definitely something about Nivant Sagar to be advertised as one of those places where time flies you always feel like you could have stayed longer.
Best time to visit is anytime say the die-hards, but if you're picky about the coastal weather then October to February is the best time. Go with two or three families or a group of friends and book the whole place and laze off, sleep and chill.
For bookings contact Sunil Kulkarni (Mumbai) 099690 02603 or Deepa Kulkarni
(09821681163). Next time you have two days off and you're in Mumbai or Pune, call those numbers and head off to Shrivardhan. You will never regret it!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Talk at Aksharanandan High School, Pune

A student sharing an interesting anecdote

Gauri watching on as her students interact
When I met Gauri last month in Mumbai we decided that if possible I could address the children at her school, Aksharanandan, in Pune. This was a school that Gauri started along with her friend in a quiet residential colony off Senapathy Bapat Road some twenty odd years ago. Her two sons Malay and Kalpak went to the same school, Kalpak did his entire schooling from the school while Malay did most of his schooling from here.
Gauri has definite ideas in education, has great intentions and backs it with lots of good work. I always liked her approach to life, she has what I call that learning attitude which adds value. And she is a pleasure to talk to.
So when she confirmed my talk on 24th, I made up my mind to come to Pune on the 23rd. I decided that I will address the children - need more schools to address. On the 24th I prepared for the talk and got ready by 1230. Gauri drove me to the school and we spoke about the children, the education system and what I would be speaking to them about.
The school is on a dead end, with no big banner proclaiming its existence, just a small board on the road, in a corner of the colony and opens out into a football sized ground. On the right of the ground is the main school building where it all started and on the left of the ground is where the secondary school, a temporary structure that the PMC renews lease for every year is located.
We headed straight to the secondary section and after a cup of tea with the Principal started off the talk to the 10th, 9th and 8th classes, a total of eighty students who sat in a disciplined maneer on the ground, girls to the left and boys to the right. the challenge to mE was thaT the medium of instruction was Marathi.
Gauri introduced me to the class. I introduced myself again and told them of my journey and why I wrote the book. I asked them that if they were faced with a situation where their school grounds was in danger and they have to win the championship, would they, a bad team be able to do it. There was a weak okay but they finally agreed that it was doable. I gave another example and asked them that if they all got 100% in the next exam then PMC would not destroy the building - is that possible? Yes.
Anythning is possible. If you can see your dream you can achieve it - the design has been proven many times over. People have done it all. I asked them what their dreams are. They put forth a few - IAS, IPS, artist, engineer, singer, actor - and I told them to see their dream clearly and aim for it. That is the secret to achieving dreams - to be able to see it clearly. An IPS officer is a clear dream whereas 'I want to be successful' is not because it does not mean anything (I want to be the MD of my own company making toys is a clear dream again). I told them that anything can be achieved provided we start acting on it, and improving the process to the best that we can, until we push all our limits and say YES. The key is to improve constantly and not just work 24 hours with no improvement which is what most people do. So to get 100% one must start looking at improving each day - 10% or 20 %. Once you achieve a a level of competence or perfection you will start enjoying it so much that other things will open up for you.
I told them that they are full of potential, they represent potential, and that I had faith in their abilities. Did they have faith? They must put their talents to better use and dream and achieve bigger things. But first, they must start doing small things to make a difference in their world. The must do one thing that the normally would not do otherwise that day and every other day.
One student asked me what if their parents did not allow them to pursue their dreams. I explained that if she wants to be the best in the world, why would anyone stop her?
Unless they start giving their 100% they won't know how good they are. And if they are not achieving anything it is because thy are not giving 100%. They heard me out patiently and even asked several questions. I overshot the time by 15 minutes.
One group of boys called me back to class and asked more questions. Two other boys, one whose speech was impaired and another, his friend came and asked me more questions about cricket.
Thanks Gauri for giving me the opportunity to speak and to share. I somehow get a feeling that this talk will have a bigger impact that what I thought.

Friday, December 25, 2009

HCA - Felicitation of Ranji Champions 1987

The Hyderabad Cricket Association, on its 75th year platinum jubilee celebrations, decided to felicitate the winners of the 1987 Ranji Trophy team and announced a handsome cash prize of Rs. 3 lakh cash award. The idea was laudable, the money useful. The felicitation was on April 13, 2009 at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium, Uppal and I decided to hitch a ride with Vivek. We were part of that winning campaign - I began as one of the promising young fast bowlers who had had a good first season and was dumped after the second match after which I went off into cricketing oblivion. But thankfully, my colleagues held the baton and won the championship that year, an achievement I am extremely proud of.
The team comprised of 19 of us who played during that season - Narasimha Rao (C), Shivlal Yadav, Arshad Ayub, Abdul Azeem, Vivek Jaisimha, V. Mahohar, Ehtesham Ali Khan, Rajesh Yadav, Venkatpathy Raju, D. Suresh, Vijay Mohan Raj, Ramana Murthy, R.A. Swaroop, Md. Affan, Khalid Abdul Quayyum, Jyoti Shetty, Chetan Joshi, Arun Paul and yours truly.
It was good to meet them all. Not the hug everyone kind of a meet - we barely tolerate each other. Weak suspicious smiles, weaker handshakes, wary eyes. It is a crowd that makes me sick, especially most of th senior lot. The juniors are more tolerable.
Narasimha Rao or Bobjee is now in Ireland working with an NGO - is forgiving and wants a hug. Shivlal is active in the HCA and the BCCI as an office bearer, chewing on his gutkha, nodding perfunctorily, revealing no sign of warmth. Arshad Ayub is an office bearer at the HCA, a Vice President, and also runs various businesses of his, and he is definitely not wasting his warmth and time on people who don't count. Abdul Azeem was with the ICL and I suspect has retired from SBI, and feels like he does not belong. Vivek Jaisimha runs his real estate ventures in Goa apart from being the match referee with the BCCI - we guys are laughing about with the younger lot and keeping our sanity. Manohar is a bank employee in New Zealand and also coaches and its easy for him to forgive and smile because he has not met anyone for a long time. Rajesh Yadav runs an agency that handles in-stadia advertising and also doubles as match referee, and he is comfortable with things as they are, with people as they are, as he always has been. Venkatpathy Raju is a Vice President at the HCA and also the coach for the Ranji Trophy team, and he is still the same, rushes off with his coterie. D. Suresh is an IAS officer in the Haryana cadre and it was good to spend time with him, just the same, fit and handsome. I had not met him in 20 years, we had gone to the same school and played much cricket together in the junior days with Ehtesham, Venkatpathy, Chetan, Rajesh, Swaroop, Ramana and the others. Vijay Mohan Raj, Tony, is a coach and runs his travel agency, and he is inscrutable as ever and does not waste time on us. Ramana Murthy, Mac, is a superintendent in the excise department, articulate and has opinions and is good to converse. Swaroop is a senior executive with the Maytas group and again rather unsure. Jyoti Shetty is with the Syndicate bank and we really did not have much to talk ever. Arun Paul has done well at the SBI and is a senior officer. Chetan Joshi is with the Railways and also coaches at the HCA and we stood together as we did since our Under 15 days, joking about the rest. Ehtesham is abroad - in a good position in Dubai - in sales. Khalid disappeared, as expected, to Atlanta or some other place. Affan took up religion and was missing in action. My journey is known.
It was a motley crue of young and old, of refined and crude, of naive and criminal, of passionate and weak, and what made this team win the trophy is anyone's guess.
Anyway, we won. It was a fantastic batting performance, and when one looks at the score card it shows some great individual performances.
I remember the first felicitation at the Jubilee Hall in 1987 when NTR was the Chief Minister and he gave us a cheque of Rs. 1011/- and a citation. And now this after so many years.
Thank you HCA. I only wish that the entire thing was conducted better, and done with more grace. We finally never got an invitation, it was almost as if they wanted us to take the cheque and go away. I do wish they'd get these small things right and do things in the spirit of things.
But the good part was meeting all my old colleagues, meeting Asif Iqbal, Abbas Ali Baig, Govind Raj and some other legends.
And the cheque was pretty handy!

Ms. Meenkashi Mukerjee - Another Mentor I Shall Miss

The second mentor who I lost this year was Ms. Meenakshi Mukherjee, eminent literary critic and a towering personality in her area of work. I met her first when I was planning my book launch in 2007. Lakshmi of Akshara Book Stores suggested that maybe Ms. Meenakshi Mukherjee would introduce the book. I had never heard of her before (embarrassing!) but quickly learned about her and my jaw dropped. Why, I thought, would someone like her want to introduce a book of a nobody like me?

Ms. Mukherjee declined anyway for other more valid reasons. She told Lakshmi that she does not know anything about cricket and did not feel qualified to speak on the subject, though her husband, Mr. Sujit Mukherjee was a die hard cricket buff, a first class cricketer, commentator and author of several cricket books. But she promised Lakshmi that she would attend the book launch. I was not sure if she would.

Mr. Shankar Melkote, who I depended on to guide me through the process which he did with all enthusiasm and wholehearted support, in his well drawn up plan asked me to gift a copy of the book to her and I was so glad he pointed it out. I gifted a copy to her during my brief address just as I gifted a copy to Bro. Joseph and Bro. George (my teachers from All Saints) and Baig saab (my coach from school and the best cricket coach in the world - technically). Mrs. Mukherjee was all grace as she accepted the gift in the midst of the melee with all my family and friends pitching in and supporting me and making sure it all went off well.

Two days later I checked my mail - the new gmail id I had created for the book - and almost did not notice a mail in spam. I flicked my fingers on the spam button and suddenly noticed that there was a mail from Ms. Meenakshi Mukherjee lying there. My heart skipped a beat and I retrieved it and opened it. I will paste the entire transcript here, she wrote:

"Dear Harimohan, I have been reading your book and am enjoying it thoroughly. It is a novel difficult to put down and the short chapters with dates work very well.

Your gift was most unexpected and therefore much valued. I was touched by your mention of my husband and his cricket books. If you have not read them I would be happy to present one of them to you. May I ? Sincerely, Meenakshi Mukherjee"

My heart started singing and I was in cloud nine. I could not wait to write back and well I drafted and redrafted a mail several times before I sent it to her. I called her that very week and fixed up a meeting.

It was a wonderful thing, meeting her. She was nothing like a critic. I expected someone who would give me a headmistress syndrome, looking at me critically, making me feel inadequate, posing questions that made me say the wrong things, something like film critic I guess, or at least someone who spoke high brow and the queen's English and someone who'd correct my pronunciation or language or my ignorance at all those words they use - post colonial, neo classical whatever whatever etc.

Nothing of that sort. She spoke with no accent, spoke disarmingly simply with the curiosity of a school girl (some mannerisms actually reminded you of a school girl such as the way she flicked her neck aside at some times), spoke of things I could relate to and could contribute in. So clear and to the point, and with such interest and enthusiasm. She asked me about how I wrote the book, how I got published and how she liked it. We have too many sad stories in Indian fiction she said, I liked the happy, hopeful factor in your book. It's fun, it’s a different point of view and energetic. In fact, she said, I carried your book to a panel discussion with publishers in Delhi and told them that these kinds of books were coming out these days, from new authors who we never heard of before. I felt a knot in my throat. This sounded too good to be true.

She asked me about how I planned to sell the book since I was an MBA. I told her my plans, the publishing set up, the marketing drawbacks in the publishing set up and how I hoped to overcome them. We had a long discussion on the marketing side and she said she was interested in knowing what I was doing. It was a very nice, empowering and growth-oriented discussion. She gifted me two books written by her late husband - "Autobiography of an unknown Indian cricketer" and "Playing for India", both of which I read and enjoyed immensely.

I kept meeting her at book launches. Once I visited her again not too long ago at her house, with the express intent of learning the art of literary criticism. We spent time together and this time it was easier. I told her the concept of my book 'The Tryst'. She liked the idea, and told me some stories she knew that related to that story, asked me certain questions and probed enough to know the story at a deeper level (thankfully she was satisfied when I gave her the framework of the novel). 'I will read it when it gets published, but it looks interesting,' she said. 'Everyone seems to have a story like that hidden somewhere in their minds.'

I told her that my movie rights for 'The Men Within' were sold and she was very happy. She wanted to know about Ram's production house, Art Beat Capital, and how Ashta Chamma did. She said she'd watch it and I promised her a DVD the next time. She also recollected being on the same panel as Mohan Krishna Indraganti on some movie discussions. We talked movies for a while after that.

I offered to drive her anywhere, if she felt the need to, just so I could spend time talking to her and she smiled and said we could visit Akshara one of these days. I said we could visit the other glitzy book stores as well. We ate brownies, I got her to sign most reluctantly on my book - why should I sign in your book, you wrote it - I said there were few people whose signature means much and she was one and she finally did. I had an elaborate date planned out almost; yes a date because talking to her was like that, simple, flowing, adding value and always drawing the best out of me. That, I noticed is the hallmark of the truly great, they let you be, and by being themselves, let the best part of you reflect back to them. So I could talk at length of my plans, ideas and concepts with the same passion as I would have with some friend of mine, like say, Koni, who might not know the first thing about literature at all. Now when I have more concrete plans (workshops and value addition to the youth in some many areas including writing) I miss her wisdom because she would have enjoyed being involved in something like that.

She had a book launch as well in Delhi and was on the way to the launch when she suffered a massive cardiac arrest at the airport and passed away. I was shocked naturally when I heard, there was no indication. But then, I am not complaining, I learnt much in whatever time I spent with her and I know, like Rajan Bala she would be around, guiding me, adding to my little knowledge from wherever she is.

And I will set this marketing business in publishing right and share with you maam. Loved the brownies, the two cups of coffee we had and those two wonderful mornings I spent with you.
Thank you!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Loss of a mentor - Rajan Bala

Book launch, Bengaluru 2007 - Me, Mr. Rajan Bala and Ms. Anita Nair
This year I lost two people who I considered would remain my mentors for the rest of my life. Just when I had begun soaking in their vast knowledge and experience, they decided to move on. One was certainly was Rajan Bala, whose unending knowledge, deep insight and sheer experience and contacts in the cricketing world conjured up questions after questions in my mind, ideas upon ideas, gaps and enquiries. For almost a year now, I had planned to spend a week exclusively with him, notebook and pen in hand and learn and ask questions and questions, but it never materialised. One reason why it did not happen was that we kept pegging our meeting to the book launch of 'Days well spent', his last book, that was launched on November 30, 2009 by his family. Another reason was that despite my growing urgency, he had also taken up the TV assignment which kept him rather busy at work unlike his previous assignment.

He had been planning the book launch from June 2009 almost, and I was always asking him 'So when saaab?' (a very irritating question to ask i realize now) because he was obviously not in control of the situation and did not like the delay as well. For some reason he chose to go with Marine Sports which is not a publishing house of any repute and not Rupa which published his earlier books. Finally when it came to print, it was November and despite all his plans to release it on his birthday (November 7) in Bengaluru with Anil Kumble as his chief guest, he unfortunately slipped away into coma and passed away. It was rather unfortunate and very cruel.
Among the things we had planned was a cricket novel where he wanted me to help. I wanted the inside thing (he was very reticent with his information about individuals, even his worst enemies, if he had any, a principle thing) and would never speak ill, just a word that explains the general situation. Wonder if he would have revealed more. But anyway, I was not looking for juice on individuals - I was looking for the general attitude in the dressing room, the frailties and foibles, the characters, the real thing that young, testosterone loaded boys reveal when thrust into the limelight, the sign of power and how they handle it, their insecurities and so on. Oh, we could have spoken to the best in the business, now in their reflective years and it would be a riot. Might still do it by myself but with him around, it would have been wonderful an we would have had a great time doing it.
Apart from that I planned on learning so much from him on the art of writing, learning, teaching, journalism, religion, philosophy, politics - he had clarity - the way he approached many subjects. He hated my guts for posing uncomfortable questions but I think we did drive the story forward.
I miss your wisdom and guiding hand much saab, but you know what, these days I do feel a new energy within me, somewhere I feel you are there prodding my thought along from wherever you are. Thank you saab for believing in me, investing time in me and prodding me on. It took me too long to recognize that when the grandmaster himself has acknowledged you, its time to move on without looking around for more confirmations from others.
Onward then!

Great start to the morning

Drove from Hyderabad to Pune yesterday. An early start at 530 am with the redoubtable Srinivas, man Friday and chap extra ordinaire, he teaches me new things everyday about myself, and we chugged in just in time. I enjoyed the journey, hated the cramps, loved the shopping for fresh fruits in all the small town markets and picked up an entire assortment of papayas, guavas, plums, custard apples, bananas - all as fresh as they can get.
Slept like a log and woke up at 3 a.m. as usual and had a brilliant start to my day with this fine, honest review of 'The Men Within' from Rajesh Shenoy, engineering/ MBA student from Australia. Loved the review Rajesh and thanks. I am looking forward to meeting you.

Amar, thanks again. You have a way of bringing these joys into my life and pepping me up.
Alright, now the challenge for this vacation / 7 days in Pune. I need to work and finish the manuscript of my ssecond book which has been rejected by all and sundry again, (why do writer's write?) 'The Tryst' and also juggle Jui's wedding, the functions, events, relatives, trip to Shrivardhan and so on, so help me God.
The reviews and good thoughts help keep the focus.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thank you family and friends

While on the health issue I must now thank all of my family and friends who have given me wonderful support through various other means. Shobha to start with. She used all the techniques she from the 'mind' area and applied them on me. The concept that all ease or disease begins at 'thought' level is completely in sync with me. I started then, with Shobhs in finding out the thought pattern for kidney issues and guess what turns in Louise Hay's 'You can heal your life' - guilt! I guess that is good enough for me because it was a good enough punishment I was going through so I took the guilt affirmations and did them with great seriousness for a while . However I did not sustain that for too long.
Shobhs and I did the 'emotional journey' where she kept asking me questions and I kept answering her patiently until I ran out of stuff. It was very emotionally draining and somethings fell into place. But I kept falling asleep and I knew there was something I was not seeing or looking at. I will repeat that process with Shobhs in Shrivardhan again.
And then she took me to the Back to the Basics program with Krish Srikanth at Kaleidoscope and he ran us through the AA program with our own issues. I did that whole heartedly and I do hope something there changed. Again I could not sustain it for too long because it was a long process (and the card is too small to read).
I found Don's 'Healing Corrections' quite nice and different. He is an interesting chap and his way of dealing with things is also quite fun. I felt the peace when he made me run through the chakras. It looks amazingly simple but I suspect it works and I use if quietly more often than not these days.
Shobhs introduced me to the NLP route as well and god knows what all. She constantly kept supporting my mind with Radical Forgiveness of which I filed many sheets and forms and forgave almost everyone I met in my life and maybe some that I did not. It must have released much baggage. I think i shall shed some more before the year ends. Thanks Shobhs for all the unconditional support in everything. Love you lots!
Sheila did an NLP procedure on me and we all celebrated that night with some home cooked food! Thanks Sheila. Its great fun these days with our book readings etc new ideas and workshops.
Dr. Prabhudheer has always been around with his patient listening and advise and warm smile. The more I see him, the more I like him. He is a wonderful guy, an accomplished orthopaedician and a very competent doctor who is open to all kinds of new ideas and thoughts. He has done all the workshops from You can heal your life to Nithyananda and enjoys himself completely. And with Kanti, it is a team to look forward to, always a laugh riot.
Vijaya has been wonderful and has always been in touch and asks after me and Shashi. She is a wonderful soul and always ready to go out of her way to help. The work she is doing in spreading Swami Nithyananda's work helps many people in healing and learning. Great show Vijaya, you are making a huge difference in your own way. I really appreciate all that you are doing and I promise I shall do my bit of work for you in my own way as well.
My family has been wonderful - Mythily especially, since I have been practically living and eating there everyday ever since I found out about the syndrome. And of course Harsha who has no option but to put up with me and the rest of us. My ups and downs and all that, she put up with all through. Thanks Mythily, Harsha and Shrinjay.
Peddakka, Bavagaru, Ajay, Radhika (her uncle's story gave me lots of hope), Gunnu, Sowjanya, thank you all for everything. And we had some great times this year at BHEL with the food outings etc.
Nalini thanks for being there and telling me that its all nothing to be scared of. It has been very encouraging to have your support (except when you said that we have many donors at home - I was not looking at that scenario at all!) But thanks again for the thought. it really means much.
Chanti, Rambabu and Shashak - thanks fellows. I know Chanti got really worried in the beginning. You guys have been very supportive in every way.
Ram has been a huge pillar of support in the way we relate to one another and saying thanks trivialises what we share. So I will not say it, and only feel what I feel which is a whole lot of gratitude for god to have given me a brother like him. We are different in our own ways and that's exactly how god made us so we are there for one another. Another of those things that we can only feel yet something that is so tangible that I know the world envies us brothers and what we share. Hah!
Sheila, you have been wonderful support (again the book reading group - Monica, Ranjani) and thanks for being there at the workshop too.
Vajju and Chims, love you guys, you always bring a smile to my face and are the most adorable niece and nephew that any mama can get.
Anjali, you gave me so much love and kept my mind of everything else. Love you. Mmmaah!
Don's been great support of course, just as Koni, Madhav, Kiri, Ranjan, Vinod, Amar, Mani - thanks guys. Suhita, Chitra, Prashant, Bhaves, Aunty thank you all.
Reason for all this thanks. Doctor Krishnan saw yesterday's report and said - this looks like a miracle. Too good to be true, he said. Readings down to 1.37. I told him I operate in miracles. He said he would taper off the steroid now in a few weeks. He really was surprised. We had a nice chat after that.
A miracle. I am still letting it sink into me. Yes. A miracle. I operate in miracles from now on. The miracle man. It took an year. I feel good. I am still on medication but I know I am out of it in a few weeks.
Thanks everyone.
Now, On to the next level!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To remember me, Dr. Krishnan's gift to me

My search for the right nephrologist got me more than what I wanted. You see, I had this habit of writing down quotable quotes from the Reader's Digest as a twelve year old and it was my greatest loss when one day during my engineering college days I lost that precious diary full of quotes and thoughts. Of particular interest to me was one which was written by someone about what to do with his body when he was gone. It was beautiful and it inspired me no end, and I searched high and low for that quote for a long time.
When I met Dr. Krishnan I heard high praise from many about his balanced, calm and neutral outloook, his accessibility and his wonderful care. What sealed my decision to stick with him when I needed a biopsy was when I found that he had pasted the one thing I had been searching for in the last 20 years on the wall outside his room at BBR Hospital.
When I told him I had been searching for it for a long time he smiled and said 'I have the full version on my door at Apollo. I got it at BBR itself and the good doctor was kind enough to let me take a copy:

To remember me
At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens don't call this my 'DEATHBED', call it my 'BED OF LIFE' and let my body be used by others to lead fuller lives.

Give my eyes to a man who has never seen a sunrise,
a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman,

Give my heart to a person whose heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain,

Give my blood to a teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car,

Give my kidneys to one who depended on a machine to exist from week to week,

Take my bone, my muscle, every nerve from my body to find a way to make a crippled child walk,

Explore every corner of my brain, take my cells and let them grow
so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow,

If you must bury something, let it be my faults and weaknesss and all my prejudices against my fellowmen,

Give my sins to the devil and my soul to God,

If you do what I asked, then I will live forever.

This then becomes my offical will about what should be done when I die. My body shall be disposed of exactly as this says.
And then I would like my family, friends and all who shared my life to have a good time and laugh endlessly with shining eyes, and an irrepresible joy for life while they remember some good stories we shared until early next morning!

Hitting rock bottom - the only way is up

A wrap up sesion with the Under-16 boys before they head out to Cooch Behar for the knockouts, and we had a small ten minute chat. I need to now capture the learnings and document them which I will when we get back in January 2010. Mood is upbeat, the fellows are in good spirits and mental space, I think we have a good case. Their wish list achievement level is incredible - someone setting a 500 target and achieving it or a 20 wicket target and getting 17 is amazing!
I wandered around here and there at the gymkhana ground meeting Yuvraj, Kamlesh, Vidyuth, Baig saab until the talk. Had breakfast even and then bumped into Shivlal for the pic.
Everone was keenly watching the Hyderabad U-19 match for the Cooch Behar where the was again looking at relegation to Plate level. Embarassing stuff!
Shiv looked embarassed at the Ranji performance. 'I dont know where to hide.' he said. 'The Ranji team has been relegated to Plate.'
It can only get better I said, now you've hit the bottom. There seemed to be some solace in that for all concerned around, including Chalapathi.
I remember I used the same words in the concluding speech at Gap Miners as well in the evening. I spoke about how the year had been difficult, how we had no commensurate result, how we can make things happen, how each should take more ownership, how we can make ten people experience the site, how we can put up our stickers on our cars instead of hiding them, well there was some rustling, lots of resistance but yes, some movement I hope. I put up the sticker on my car and did my bit. There was no movement to give me any extra stickers, bookmarks.
Gap Miners, you will be my biggest teacher by the end of it all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sustaining the spirit

One response I got from some of the students and particpants of the 'Recognising Excellence Within' workshop or a lecture (and a very valid one I agree), is that one feels all charged up initially after the session or a talk but it is difficult to sustain it. It is an area I have been thinking about because it is important that you sustain it - in small ways. This is what I came up with.
Be your biggest fan, biggest supporter in this phase
The key to this entire proces is that you shift the focus completely on yourself. Stop worrying about what the others are thinking at what you do. What is the payoff if I do this FOR ME is the question? Not 'what will others think if I do this'? You must focus on adding value to yourself, creating your growth, making your own secrets, your formulas. And do that diligently, write it down, small changes, small achievements, small zones you have conquered, words you have learnt, new experiences, so you start feeling good inside. It's about you and your growth only, at this phase, so keep supporting yourself. No one else will despite their best intentions, believe me. (I will to the extent I can through these thoughts.)
You must be your biggest supporter, your biggest fan and you must believe that you will stick to the growth agenda whatever the cost.
Recognise excellence, the changes
This is very subtle, but very important and will make the most difference, so read carefully. I realised its power only recently. Keep looking for signs in your life where your growth is reflecting. Maybe you are in the company of quality people, maybe someone said something nice, maybe the nromally sullen watchman smiled at you or saluted you, some new opportunity was offered to you, you handled a situation differently and chose to grow instead of responding normally, your parents gave you a new responsibility, some new 'yes factor' - these small things are not coincicidences. They are signs that you are growing and that the world is recognising it.
Add 'Yes Factors'
Make a list of all the things that made you go 'Yes' in your life and pump your fist. And try and add one more each day. It's quite simple. The moment you do something out of your comfort zone you have grown a bit already. In that growth, if you again choose to challenge yourself and say 'alright' I did this, now let me do this in five minutes or in this method' and push for a small target, and you definitely go 'Yes'. It's so small and stupid and fun but its a 'Yes'. You have participated in life! (I will write about that later - I love the concept.)
Our 'Yes' factors are a factor of you vs you and the thrill of pushing yourself to achieve that small target.
What about my weaknesses
I know most of us are still plagued by the concept of what to do with our weaknesses. I say stick with the strengths because all you need is one strength to tide over everything. But if you are still worried about the weaknesses and want to lay them to rest, I would like you to look at weaknesses in different way. Weaknesses are not a problem or an impediment. They are always the other side of your strength i.e. they could be flipped over to become your biggest strength. Just examine your weaknesses and see how you can flip them over to become your biggest strength. It's incredible how many success stories are made that way. In fact as I write I am stuck by the realization at how many success stories have been built on accepting and turning weaknesses into strengths. As you examine your own with this mindset, you will realise that no weakness is one. At best a weakness is an unevolved, unpursued and unexplored strength. That is all.
A belief that an unfinished act or an unexplored thought was bad, could have been accepted by you when you were younger. Maybe someone said you are bad at maths, or you were a bad person or taht you will never be successful - and that could stop the growth of that strength immediately. But if you realise that it is only one unexplored act of yours, and one person's reaction to that which stopped it, you can go back and take it forward and not let those words stop you.
Write down a journal
A journal will help. Writing is the most personal way to evaluate yourself so write every day, if only for five minutes. Analyse your deeds, thoughts, observations. Make a progres chart on your scale of strengths. Check for added features, improvements, small ones specially.
Keep growing! Keep adding value to yourself! Keep increasing your self-worth!
On to the next level guys. That's where we belong.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monisha Wasu, Die-hard Naturopath, Sujok, Chakra Healer

I met the energetic, ever-smiling Monisha Wasu before my health issue cropped up and found her very interesting and passionate about what she believes in, which is naturopathy mainly. She herself had a health problem where she was pretty much written off by the allopaths when she was in the US a few years ago but she used naturopathy on herself and her very strong mind and will to cure herself completely - and after that she has sworn off drugs. Her range of naturopathy cures is simple and very effective and I feel with an accurate diagnosis, she can do wonders. Regular stuff like colds, fevers and other things go away with her concoctions and she always takes up any challenge with the fullest confidence. I do think one should meet the naturopaths for the common cures, use it to build the general constitution and stay with it. Not use it like some quick emergency cure beause it is not. Naturopathy is serious business, not a pill popping exercise.
When I first met her with the swollen foot, she treated the swollen foot and I cannot blame her because some top class doctors also treated me for the symptoms until the nephro guys caught on with the syndrome. But I remember that she tried on her own, despite the ECG etc being clear, to find a spot in my hand, the sujok way, in an attempt to see any impending heart trouble - swollen feet certainly an indication to the heart I should think. Once she cottoned on to the kidney, she got the kidney point on my hand and pressed it with that small plastic thing she has and I did all but faint. I did have a case of all things blurring out as she pressed the point, losing focus and lying down and going dizzy - but just about held myself from passing out fully. Those points she presses are potent and I am certain they work at healing the part we press. Why else would it hurt like that? Why else would I pass out almost?
All that she precribes is all natural stuff that you have in the kitchen normally, and it works for me. Her conviction and enthusiasm is very infectious. The other day she gave me some new contraptions to press at some points to flush out toxins to help heal faster, I am doing that. Press the fleshy part of my palm near the thumb where it hurts like crazy. Apparently it flushes out something that's blocked there. Try this sujok guys, its pretty simple, but its painful as well.
Another bonus of visiting the naturopath is that I enjoy talking to her son Simran who is a young healer himself and very mature young chap for someone who is only in his 9th class. Also a sportsman to boot, a budding basketball player in the Meridian school.
Thanks Monisha, for all the unrelenting support during this phase, its always a pleasure to meet you and visit you and come away with a nice, charged up feeling and some pain ofcourse after that torture you give us by pressing those points. But what the hell, no pain, no gain!

Blind, blind to life

Yet again I discovered how I could just live such a blinkered life. Carrying on with the new policy that no old path should be tread on the morning walk I suddenly veered off into the small lane that leads from Model Colony to the slum behind and onwards. It is a small uninteresting road and one that I had never gone on in the past 25 years though it is barely 100 metres from my house. Suddenly I spotted a fine little garden with a fragrance of eucalyptus, a well laid maintained lawn in the middle, tall Ashoka trees surrounding it on all sides, a huge eucalyptus or maybe more, well kept sidewalks, flowers, a gazebo, places to sit and most importantly a small gate that was wide open. I had heard about this park a few years ago but I never got here. I jumped right in and walked around, there was no one there, took of my shoes and walked on the grass, dragged my feet, sat on the benches, drew in fresh air and enjoyed the solitude for longer than I thought I could.
How blind can we get? How much of life do we miss by taking the same road? I keep telling everyone about getting out of the comfort zone and then I realise how powerful it can get. I walked on after a while, towards the slum. The entire road can be no more than 100 metres end to end, mind you, but there are another two small open spaces that can be called parks. The slum is a revelation with 25 sft plots of even 50 sft plots and a large low cost building. I smelt morning breakfast smells and walked slowly past the main road. I remembered Rajan Bala telling me that you get great food in the slums; maybe I should eat a meal with Ramu tata and his family one day. But I need to explore the inside roads, there are three lanes in all in that slum. I wonder why I feel apprehensive about it. Is if because it took me so long to go there? Or is difficult to accept life in its many forms?
And all this within 100 metres of me. Tomorrow, I cannot wait to find out what lies anew.

Yogananda garu - True Selfless Service to Thousands

Back on the health route. In January when everything was looking dark and I was clutching at any straw to make sense of the situation (post-decision to postpone kidney biopsy and steroid route due to uncertainty), Sailaja, in her typical enthusiastic manner dragged me to 'this wonderful practitioner who deals with an age old healing that comes from herbs and plants, a knowledge that has been transferred from ancient times through healers to their families, through word of mouth and through personal training of healers who show a propensity to heal'. I listened with apprehension, what will he give me? Is is ayurveda, which Mani had said will lay me low in a few days and take me to the grave (drama)? What is it that he will give me? Trust me, she said, I have great faith in him, he has treated my aunt, my father and treats many high profile patients quietly. I trusted her and off I went quietly without telling anyone.
He has a health camp every Sunday at the AG colony near ESI, close to my home. I was quite surprised to see that there were close to 100 odd people from all walks of life milling about, the list actually had over 150. The old, the infirm, the young, people with all kinds of problems seemed to be there. There were people waiting from early in the morning, people from out of town, out of state, the very poor which constituted much of the patients and some of the upper strata.
The clinic, a residential quarter of the AG office, is located right at the very back end of the beautiful campus. Not many living quarters appeared to be inhabited, most were locked. Tall trees swayed about, well laid out roads, a nice ground where children played cricket, it is a peaceful place for healing. They erected a shamiana at their own cost so patients do not suffer in the sun and rain, provide cool drinking water and even butter milk in summer and do everything to make the ill comfortable. The entire operation is driven by volunteers, mostly older.
Sailaja dragged me into a vortex of patients who surrounded a sixty year old man sitting at a desk. When our turn came (eveything is strictly on first come first basis, no exceptions), I was asked to fill in a form with details of my case and then given a number on a chit. That chit and number is sacrosanct because in all their thousands of files, they can trace mine only through that. And then we waited for our number to come.
Our turn came. We must enter the area without footwear, they are very particular that we take the footwear off even before the steps.
In the small room inside, Yogananda garu sat. A wise man with a twinkle in his eye, maybe in his late fifties or sixties, an energy that exudes confidently, a demeanour that says he knows the impermanence of life and the dramas we play with our health and most importantly the love that he bestows on each and every individual with a deep intent to heal to the best of his ability. He is assisted by a team of 3 younger healers who periodically look to him for guidance.
The entire process took no longer than five minutes. He first chatted with Sailaja, held her wrist, smiled, asked his fellow healers to hold her wrist and nodded satisfactorily. Later Sailaja told me that he always appreciated the energy flow she radiated. Then he heard me out, saw my foot, saw the reports, held my wrist and declared 'You have been losing protein for more than a year'. Which was true. I had noticed some changes in the urine almost a year ago. He reeled off a set of diet instructions - boil all food twice, no non veg, no certain vegetables, no fruit, no salt - interspersed with a 'you will hate me for this, but it is important.' I nodded dazed. 'Don't worry you will be okay,' he said and smiled and off I was.
Outside we waited until our name is called and then a packet of a powder was given, with specific instructions on how to take it and when and what to eat.
It is all free!

For all 200 patients or how many ever choose to come Yogananda does not charge a single paisa! He serves with the commitment of a person who knows that he has a healing secret and he knows how to deliver it and he will do everything in his power to take it to whoever needs it. His band of ollowers, mostly again in their fifties and sixties do their best in sun and rain to keep these surging crowds in check and control for nothing except the satisfaction that they have healed. The entire operation continues throughout the day, from 8 in the morning till late in the evening!
After the biopsy in November (I religiously went to him every alternate Sunday almost throguh the year) and told him him that I was so glad he was there in those days of uncertainty and when he held my wrist and said all was okay it gave me much confidence and thanked him for that, he smiled. 'I do it because I am only the medium. HE is expressing himself through me, the divine, I only let it happen as purely as I can. All else is in his hands,' he said and smiled. 'Now go back and write your books and do your motivational lectures and stop worrying about your health,' he said.
I asked him if he would read my book. I would love to he said. But get me a copy of those reports so my boys can see the case and do some good work.
I think of him and his band on Sundays when I pass by and wonder at the things some humans do, at the love and selflessness that they bring into this world and I think, I will also do something like that. Thank you Yogananda garu, for the thought, the act and the deed. Your healing can never go wrong with such pure intention, such spirit.
Thank you for everyting and mostly for the inspiration. I think of you and know that we can make a difference if we only we wish to in our own way, in our own corner of the world away from the glare of spotlight and commerce.
And the good God will find some way around for us!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cause for celebration!

It was something that came up many months ago. I received a mail from Annshu Mishra of Puffin Books, the children's edition of Penguin Books, that he was compiling an anthology of sports stories for children. Could I write one on cricket? I said I would be delighted to see my name in a book with a Puffin cover or a Penguin cover and so got down to writing my story. I wrote it at great leisure over a six month period since Annshu gave me a generous deadline, during which it underwent many small changes but I think it turned out well in the end. I will leave that story out for readers to read when it comes out.
But today I received the formal letter from Penguin asking me to sign the letter with the terms and I did and sent off one copy. It did feel good to be signing on the letter because Penguin is one of those imprints that every author wants to be on. First choice.
And of course first rejection for many as well. I regularly keep sending my stuff all the time, only to get rejected in a couple of days from Penguin but I do persist and am sure I will keep sending stuff there forever. Until one day they cave in and allow me inside.
One thing about the Penguin imprint and logo is that it carries many memories from my childhood as well. My father was a pretty voracious reader of English fiction for someone who came from a really small village in Andhra Pradesh. I wonder how he developed these tastes for English novels. I remember that he had wonderful handwriting as well and excellent command over the written language as well. He read everything and had many Penguin books in his wooden shelves, orange spines and the black and white Penguin which can be quite fascinating for a five year old. I vividly remember Wodehouse's 'Frozen Assets' among those many books even at that age.
And so life turns full cycle and I feel very satisfied that sometime soon I may hold this fine book in my hand and smile and take a picture and say 'Hey Dad, something here for you'. Will put it on the blog. I remember my father also being pretty unhappy about me wasting time playing cricket those days so it's all the more reason to say 'And its because of that cricket that I played'. I don't think he will complain, sitting up there in heaven probably shaking his head.
But on a more serious note, the celebration was more to do with the fact that I do think it reflects a bit on my gradually increasing self-worth. I have made it a point to acknowledge each and every sliver of a recognition of my self-worth, and I do think that signing up for my short story with Puffin in its sports anthology is huge. Well done Hari!
The dinner with Shobha, Anjali and Anuma at Our Place was well worth it. And now for the day when you sign up the big book as well!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Visit to Naresh's Farm

Me at the farmhouse top

Naresh, me and Anjali
Naresha!! Always brings a smile to my face. One of the top three people in the world who I always look forward to laugh with. I think that is what our relationship has been based on - cracking completely inane jokes that no one else seems to understand and laughing at them like it was the funniest thing in the world. Its a frequency that often goes out of range for others but always within for us. Maybe God gave us each other to laugh at!
We met during our Intermediate days, 1983, both of us scrawny, lanky and tall adolescents. And sometime during those two years, whilst studying MPC under those dangerous hay roofs which were a fire hazard, we discovered one another. Possibly because we were stuck at the back of the class because of our height. We had absolutely nothing in common or so I thought. He came with a bunch of friends from Padmarao Nagar with a life and culture of their own, while I was some kind of a loner who played cricket a lot and looked doped out on life. Not the guy your average 'good' boys mingled with I should think while he represented all that the 'good' boy was, rode his TVS, spectacles and all, looked the part of the boy next door with nice manners, well dressed and all set to study well and settle down in life. The stuff Mom's like their sons to hang out with (actually they are the most potent stuff I realised later, the next door guys).
I was pretty much like what my Principal said 'I will take a bet you will not clear this second year or go anywhere in cricket or in life.' I think he folded up his school, I cleared my Inter, did okay with both cricket and am doing well with my life. When someone laughs at you or pulls you down, I think you are on to great stuff.
Anyway, I used to go on my bicycle to college those days. Sometimes the bus. Nothing made much sense to me. All the boys buzzing with Maths, Physics and Chemistry and plans of engineering and stuff. I would shut off the buzz and dream of cricket which was doing pretty nicely, especially in the second year, western music which I found was wonderful and movies which were another great escape. On every occasion when I went on tour I would save up enough money to buy at least one cassette of western music from Madras and Bangalore where we had most of our cricket tours (that year I made tours with the HCA Under 19, Under 22, Under 22 South Zone, Under 25 teams, each a 15 day tour). Most of my waking hours went that way with music, movies and maybe books.
I think that is where Naresh and I clicked because, he certainly understood nothing of cricket. We started talking music. And then we liked the fact that we could laugh with each other. And the fact that we could watch movies like 'All that Jazz' together. So we would go to Sangeet on his TVS make-believing that it had a turbo charger, watch a movie maybe and go to his wonderful house which I love visiting, where Aunty, Uncle and Ashwini always welcomed me as one of their own right since those days, watched music videos which was an awesome experience for me because we never had a video player at home nor access to music videos, listened to new music on his huge AKAI deck. I remember listening to 'Beat it' to my hearts content on that system, being introduced with lots of love to new songs by Naresha 'Arre, yeh sun' -'Eye of the tiger', or 'On and On' or even a few years later when we were engineering students or beyond 'I just died in your arms tonight' and so many more. Or singing 'Def Leppard' loudly under that crazy fan with a huge nut with both he and Anu, or even serenading the night singing Peter Cetera passionately by the roadside at Paradise well into the night - 'Glory of love'. So many songs remind me of the times we spent - always laughing ofcourse.
We'd actually spend hours and hours discussing music on the phone! And the one thing he wanted to share so badly with me the last time he was here, when Anu was in hospital briefly recovering from a procedure, was his lifetime collection of music which he carried with so much care and love and transferred to my laptop. Thanks Naresha, that was really nice and i really appreciate it. I don't know what it is but as I write but eyes well up.
After our junior college I lost touch for a couple of years - and then we bumped into each other. Now a handsome young man, a motorcross winner and a real charmer, I was a just inducted first class cricketer and we picked up the thread as easily, and never let go again. So much happened since its almost like a dream, death, marriage, children, careers etc but in a way nothing changed - we still laughed exactly the same way when I met him last week before he went back to the US. It is also deeply satisfying to share our friendship with such wonderful people as Anu who has far more depth, wisdom and compassion than most, Shobha who brings a whole new perspective to our lives in her own way and a lot of unconditional love, Raoul who I think is very creative and a very original thinker and someone I see myself drinking chai and talking of life not too far from today and ofcourse Anjali who is busy making space for herself in this world as I write.
It is also a different kind of relationship in that we have the space to share much with the same amount of confidentiality and seriousness and know it would be understood, so we talk of almost everything that goes on in our lives, something I find I cannot do with so many others. And then we don't meet so often actually, maybe once year, though we try to, and then that one meeting makes up for the time we don't. Actually, that's the way it works I guess with us.
So when Naresha was in town for 7 weeks, announcing his itinerary, and sending out detailed mails as to when he will be free and when we should meet him (and then doing nothing on schedule of course which is one reason why I don't take his itinerary seriously), mainly for Uncle's 75th birthday celebrations, I was certainly planning on spending some good times with him. I could not meet him much at the birthday which was a fabulous affair where all his family and friends from his Dad's time came and Naresh was busy with them. Anjali had a great time on the swings though and I enjoyed talking with Uncle, Ashwini, Anil, Sujata and the others.
Time started flying and weeks rolled on so when Naresh said, I am gong to the farm tomorrow would you want to go, I said yes. the farm is about two hours away atleast near Pragnapur on the Karimnagar route, but I knew I would get a chance to spend sometime with him and so next day I carried my laptop to do some work while Naresha did his farmer act. We caught up at Secunderabad club and drove off, he playing me new songs, catching up on life, buying food, talking philosophy and maybe even singing a couple of songs including his current favourite 'Bangaru kodi petta' from Magadheera. We spent the whole day at the farm, met some agriculture officers, he got his bore repaired and then at 6 in the evening we headed back with some delicious custard apples stopped at Nanking, picked up some wonderful Chinese to top off the day and went home deeply satisfied. I am so glad I made that trip because we could catch up peacefully.
Naresh loves his farm act. He loves his farm actually. I think he practically spent all his time going up and down. It's a really nice looking farm in the sense that it's not yet a full grown orchard and actually has a kind of a hill where the farmhouse is located. So one has views of farmlands rolling of on all sides from the top of the farmhouse which is a well appointed on with all basics taken care of. We planned a night out there but that will happen later ofcourse. Bore, yield, clearing out, crops, subsidies, drip irrigation, manure, soil - these words fly off my friend's tongue easily these days and short of wearing a dhothi he fits the part. I have not yet seen him getting down and putting his hands in the mud yet, but I believe he must be doing it secretly. So when Naresha says, 'Man, I am loving this,' I know he will come back here for sure. I have never seen him say something with so much contentment and finality.
I met him once again before he left and that was wonderful too. Music again and it was intoxicating, the old memories - Pinkfloyd, ABBA, Carpenters hmm. And then to top it all, Naresh, starts playing Kishore Kumar and actually sings a few lines. I drop off the floor. Mr. English, listening to Kishore Kumar. The farmer has arrived and I am sure he will be back soon - Kishore Kumar would be perfect on the night out.
Well done Anu, you have finally done it - you brought out the Indian in Naresha! And I am looking forward to singing Hindi songs with him now. That's a promise Naresha and it already sounds delicious!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Cricketing Case Study in Progress

Vidyuth and Ganesh, watching the session

Team working at strategy

Making of champion teams
My good old friend of over 25 years now, Vidytuh Jaisimha, is a committed coach of the HCA Under-16 team for the past 3-4 years. Vidyuth always has the kids best interests in mind and works tirlessly for that. As a wholehearted supporter of the concepts that 'The Men Within' advocates, he has always calls me to address the team before it leaves for its campaign. The last two years I have had the opportunity of speaking to the team on three or four occassions and was happy that the teams performed well and reached the national stage. I was also happy to note that some of the boys had retained what I had told them in a small, intense 15 minute talk and that too, they retained points of great utility to them. To be a successful cricketer, you defnitely need to have intelligence and they showed it in plenty.
This year I decided to add more value and asked Vidyuth if I could get an hour or so. He agreed though he was realy short of time for practice since the team had only 3 days togther. I had to make his faith count so I designed a quick workshop, made copies of handouts and rushed off.
I sat with the boys and set the basic parameters in place, as to why they were in the team (no answer as usual), how it makes sense for them to perform as a team better so they can pursue their individual goal as well (hmm..yes), how important it was to know their role and to have a goal (makes sense), how their goal should always support the team goal and how they can give their best to achieve both.
We discussed experientially how the best teams are compact and tight like a fist. If one finger lets loose the impact reduces by 50%! The boys agreed after punching their fists (hey, that's true).
The boys listened and accepted that it made sense to all concerned. I then made them into smaller groups and asked them to come up with strategies on how to win the championship and they came up with all wisdom in the world which was good enough to win the championship. If you treat them like intelligent beings they will behave like intelligent beings and surprise you, that is the principle! Once the framework of the campaign was set, I told them that these were the basic principles of management of any project and that they were on scientific ground. Armies use it, companies use it and they can use it as well. The qualities of champion teams were discussed and handouts given to the boys.
I then spoke to the captian and vice captain on basic leadership tenets and how they must view their responsibilities. The youngsters listened intently and took their respective handouts as well.
I designed a handout for the coach as well which asked questions of what he was offering to the boys to keep them together as a unit, as individuals with goals etc.
Throughout the tour Vidyuth and I have been in constant touch, devising games, exercises etc for the boys so they are constantly thinking about the game, their best performances, how to get better, analysing one another etc. The performance has been good, no I am being harsh, outstanding in some, and we are one point below Tamil Nadu as we take on Karnataka today. Some performances really were magnificient so far and made the heart leap. I know the boys had grown in character just by being part of that campaign whichis so important.
I am looking forward to meet them before they head out to the national campaign in the next stage and raise the level of inputs. It promises o be an interesting casse study becasue in India there is zero input in the attitudinal side and I believe that is almost 50% or more of the game. The mind is never bought into play collectively, it is always individual, and the way things are, there is much mischief that is going on from extenal sources that leaves the kids minds and attitudes confused. Parents, selectors, coaches are all messing them up. A small input that makes sense and the kids pick up so much because they are intelligent and know what is good for them.
Once Vdyuth and the kids return, we should be able to share more on this. I do think I will have a case for attitudinal coaching as a means to improve performance by 30%-50%!
Watch the space!

Sailaja Jonnalagadda - Empowering philosophy of Louise Hay, Big difference to many lives, Wonderful soul

Sailaja, is much more than a metaphysical teacher (as her visiting card says), and is someone who has changed thousands of lives by bringing the 'You can heal your life', workshops of Louise Hay to them. I regard her highly and respect her contribution and always talk to her when I am faced with an issue. As a good friend, she was concerned about my health issue too. She spoke directly, in the only way she does, and asked me why I was doing this to myself.
'Ask yourself why you are punishing yourself,' she pointed out.
'Me? Punishing myself?'
'Your life is going smoothly, you have a wonderful family, people are appreciating your worth and now, you want to get into this drama. What is it that you want?'
This is what that workshop does to you (it can get on your nerves but it's bang on target all the time). So let me tell you about this workshop called 'Love yourself and you can heal your life' by Louise Hay that Sailaja conducts (or used to conduct, now she has her own workshop with her own content).
To begin with one can read the book 'You can heal your life' and one gets an idea of the almost divine content it possesses. It is written by Louise who went through much trauma in her life (don't miss her story) and how she changed it all with the power of her own thought. Cancer was her challenge too and she overcame it along with money, relationships, fame and whatever else she wanted. Right now she has a good life, be assured of that.
Pretty much the idea is this. What is happening in your life is reflecting what is going on in your mind. If something is happening to you - from the merest accident to the biggest health issue or universal calamity - you have created it with your thoughts and beliefs.
You. And your thoughts.
From the stubbed toe to the ill-tempered neighbour to the unnecessary accident, to 9/11. So your poverty, your bad relationships, your poor health, your bad boss, your sad life, your bad relatives, your oppressive spourse, your irritable in laws, your unfortunate situation at home and work and personal life, your never having money, your chronic health issue, your incredible bad luck at traffic, the bird dropping on your car or your's all your creation. A creation of what is going on in your mind.
How empowering huh!
Else, it would not have happened to you. Or even affected you.
The very fact that it is happening to you or affecting you is confirmation. So the first step is to take responsibility for that and say 'hey, I seem to have caused it.' It is easier said than done. But I knew when I did the workshop, or much earlier when I read the book, that it is true. You get exactly what you want.
It's actually very empowering because it throws the responsibility back to you. You can use it to change your thought. And you can start changing the outside experiences as your thoughts change. (Only, you need to start recognising the changes without pulling out the thoughts you have sown every few minute to see if it is working which is what most people do and never get any results.)
What Louise has done is that apart from writing so wonderfully and with such love that I constantly keep comparing it to one of the holy books, is that she has almost exhaustively listed all the related medical conditions that a human could have and has also listed thought patterns that could cause it, and more improtantly an affirmation or an empowering thought that could replace the old victim thought. The idea is to change the thought over a perod of time and create a new reality (which she did to herself and maybe several others).
I flipped those pages. Kidney problems are to do with guilt. Guilt is to do with punishment. I was now punishing myself for god knows what. It's incredible as I saw what I had done - with this condition several of the things I normally like to do were taken away - no good food (no salt), no exercise, no walking and running because my foot swells up, no playing cricket, no travel, no long drives, no drinking (all fluids to max at 1 litre), no non-vegetarian etc etc. So it was pretty much punishment. I inflicted it on myself to atone for some sins I had done (or felt I had done) and only I had the power to either release myself when I was sufficiently punished.
It was that clear. So now I started working on my mind. I did it with a sense of urgency and fear at that time, I remember, which was not the way to do it. I had to go down into the expericee and find out why I felt guilty about anything. Apart from random incidents that come to mind, I must say that I always carried an excessive sense of guilt, always going round life like someone who has been found with his hand in the cookie jar, or even a stained hand like Lady Macbeth's (both victims of our own minds) that someone would find out. I still have not made the connection between why I had this feeling (it's slowly fading off now, maybe enough punishment or maybe just getting tired of doing that drama) but that seemed good enough to pile on guilt to me. Anyway, there are several tools to work on your guilt, from affirmations that you write and try to force your mind through your belief system (works if you do it seriously), to Radical Forgiveness worksheets where you fool your mind (it works like magic), to regressions where you actually visit the place where it began.
I did all three. The regression was done by Sailaja but nothing came of it (stubborn me) so I have nothing to report. The process is quite simple though for those who are interested. You are always conscious, lying in a state of deep relaxation and facilitator asks you questions that transport you to the time frame and descriptions etc. Normally people are transported to periods in their life where their problem originated and they can catch wisps of the incidents and make the connection why what is happening now is happening at all. From the past incident you can then disentangle with awareness and that normaly releases you, if you wish to, or else you can continue your drama.
I discovered this wonderful book and the workshop throgh Shobha whe did it when she was in a low phase. It was during a time when much was going on in our lives I guess, so I guess I must have contributed as her spouse to her stress. After that she went on to join Sailaja when she set up Antharyaami independently, to run these workshops and did wonderful work as well in taking out these messages. I resisted the workshops for years, but then it was Harish, who appears to be some kind of a divine messiah now that I look at it, who tips me over the edge through some act or thought and makes me do some crazy things.
Harish, the scrawny, intellectual youngster who we used to play cricket with, who did his engineering from Osmania and upped it and went on to build a successful career in Silicon valley, came back into my life years later with a life threatening health issue, a searching heart and much wisdom for his young soul. I told him about this workshop (though I had not done it) and it just happened that they were looking for enough numbers to get that minimum going in. In comes Mr. Rescue, (that's the only way I would do it, pattern of my life) and I finally did that workshop which was good for me and which set many things right in my mind. Harish remained in touch and still does, I think he is curently the only one who reads the blog other than me, gives me books like 'The 3 cups of tea' and sets me off on a mad journey and so on. That's why the divine messiah stuff. Thanks Harish.
Anyway, fact of the matter is that illnesses can be cured through the mind route. There are enoguh cases there but it needs a mad belief. There is enough proof to say that you can back your medicine delivery well with the mind work so you can heal faster (if you want to). Whatever it is, it gives you a much better shot of healing if you get a bit honest about it all and look at what you are doing to yourself.
Cannot but help ending this by thanking Shobha for all the wonderful work she does with me and others, Sailaja, for being there, Louise for the book and all else who are doing such good work in promoting such empowering thoughts and philosophies in times such as these. The Louise work can be applied to anything in life, though she focuses a bit on health, and people who have understood the philosophy and used it with conviction have released themselves from pretty grim situations I know, and have flown off into the high skies into successful careers, relationships, money and what not.
The others can go when and if they want to.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Homeo route - Dr. Guravaiah

We took the early morning flight to Tirupati, Harsha and I, on January 15, 2009. He had a car pick us up at the airport (quietly efficient as always) and we stopped by at a hotel for a couple of hours as we freshened up. I was still reeling under self-pity so I merely ate an apple and made a big show of eating an idli with no chutney and sambar. Me, the adult nephrotic syndrome affected! The dramas we do.
At about 1030 am we turned around the corner and went and met Dr. Guravaiah. He just walked in casually, tall, smiling and very reassuring. Could not be more than 50, looked 40 and had a boyish smile and charm. Something about him made me warm up to him instantly. We were led into his small homeo clinic at 132, TP Area, Tirupati, that goes under the name of Dr. Boenninghausen Computerised Homeo Hospital and sat in a small, rather cramped clinic. The walls had large photographs of Lord Balaji, his parents and a few other pictures and a state of the art desktop that had an amazing homeo program with symptoms, cures, combinations and what not. It was amazing to see him use that to get to the drug.
After his prayers, he smiled and asked me what the problem was. I showed him the reports and told him the story. He examined the reports and looked at me and smiled again. He asked me several questions about my preferences, my tastes, my nature and wrote them down in a file.
'Nothing,' he said. 'Don't worry. We will take care of this. Don't need the biopsy.' I told him my previous experience with homeo and he nodded. 'It works,' he said.
'I will start you on some basic drug. Sometimes those work instantly. Then we will see. The main thing is not to feel you are a patient. Though you need to take these diet restrictions seriously and keep your BP etc in check, its important to feel and be like a normal person because the mind can work havoc. I have treated several complicated cases and have seen wonderful results so I see no reason why you should not stage a full recovery soon. Just be normal, exercise a bit and you will be fine. We can meet once in a month since I come to Hyderabad every second Sunday, or you can come here. Else call.'
The way he said it, I was elated. After all those doomsday predictions this was incredibly good news. I took the medicine he gave, thanked him and left with Harsha, a much more happier man.
Dr. Guravaiah, I came to know him much closer, was a much deeper, sensitive, philosophical, caring soul than what he appears. He believes in healing and in treating those who need healing when all else seem to be closed. He has tremendous faith in his ability to cure, 'sitting here under Lord Balaji's photo, I feel that he is guiding me in healing. I am only his medium,' he says.
He studied in Tirupati and got a government job. He worked in the job for several years before he decided to move on to heal more people. 'It looked like a bad decision to everyone, to leave a government job when I had a young family to support, but I was clear,' he said. 'If I had to heal more people I needed a clinic. So I set up a clinic and for several years I did not make enough money. But I kept going because I believed in this. I would almost do free service, charging only those who could afford. There was one figure in my mind though, which was the target income that to me, made sense that I have succeeded. I achieved it after about five years and that day I was so happy.'
'Somewhere, things changed, money started come, fame, people started calling me to Delhi, Mumbai and even abroad, sending me flight tickets, five star hotel bookings to heal their near and dear. But my basic commitment remains to heal the needy. Now I am TTD consultant and go every Thursday to Tirumala.I have plans of a hospital so the poor can get this cheap and no side effect medicine.'
'India needs homeopathy,' he says emphatically. 'It's cheap and can reach out and cure several common ailments quickly. There are so many who can benefit.'
I came away from him feeling very relieved. I decided that I will use this as the main healing and support it with allopathy for my BP. I will keep a check on the readings and see where they are heading. For the time being the kidney looks fine and with these diet restrictions and medicine, I might cut the protein loss.
I needed to keep a clear head and stick to my plan. In my mind I told myself 'Whatever I use, will only heal me. All these wonderful people will only heal me.'
In my experience, homeo has worked for me. From my adenoids which completely disappeared in two weeks, to common colds (wonderful medicine), coughs, fevers, headaches, migraines, and several others, it offered almost immediate relief. In some cases like migraine, it offers slow yet sure cure. Homeopathy has that quality of slow but sure build up of the body constitution as well, so any chronic problem can be addressed on a long term basis. I'd go for it because it has apparently no side effects and the results are most often there. In complicated cases, it is always best to go with the proper diagnostic reports because then they can pinpoint their diagnosis and drug. Else they are a bit in the dark and the treatment may not be as effective. And the best thing is that you can continue allopathy as well because they operate differently.
I met a lady who had cancer in April 2009. Her doctors gave her the surgery route and she refused. They told her she would not live beyond three months. She told them to go to hell and started off on homeopathy. Her family and friends thought she was crazy. 'I isolated myself from all those who would criticise me or break my spirit and surrounded myself with only things and people that supported me.
'On the last day of the third month I lay awake waiting to die. Nothing happened,' she said. 'I was petrified though.'
Its been four years since, she said, and look at me, can you believe that I am a cancer patient. She most certainly did not look like a cancer patient. She did pretty much all the stuff that we did in that workshop (which was very physical). She spoke loud and clear and was very articulate, in fact she seemed more alive than most of us there.
Case for homeo there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Year That Was - A Health Issue!

Godavarikhani market - fresh as it can get!What an year! It began with much uncertainty due to a health condition and continued through the year. I guess I started noticing the changes in myself - the sudden increase in weight and several other factors such as blood pressure shooting up (I could feel it) etc but what pushed me to see the doctor was a huge swelling in my right foot. I was all set to drive off to Pune after a nice little two-day visit to Bellampally with Satish when I checked about the swelling with Vardha - it was rather huge and I was having difficulty wearing my shoes and sandals. He asked me for a BP reading and it was absurdly high.
Vardha suggested a series of tests and asked me to cancel the drive. I got the tests done next morning, collected the reports. All the readings - cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides - were all absurdly high. Thankfully the ECG was normal. We took the flight to Pune the next day. I was kicking myself for neglecting my health, and saw the good Dr. Sethia, Anu's doctor in Pune. She came with me for her own medication and was much support. He ran a series of tests himself and concluded that I needed to get my act together on the BP, cholesterol, thyroid and some other issues and precribed many medicines. I decided to follow all that he said and returned after a quiet, worrisome trip post-New Year.
The swelling persisted, which needed more tests. Ram was concerned. He fixed up a meeting with Dr. Gopichand. Visits to the cardiologist, scans of the abdomen and then an exploration of my varicose veins, led my doctors, now Dr. Prabhudheer, my good friend and a wonderful soul, to conclude that there was a grade 4 leak in my valves at the thigh which was good enough for a swelling. Another problem! I met Dr. P.C.Gupta, a true professional if there was one, and he said it involved a surgical procedure and that he would shut these veins off and start off new veins and all should be fine. However he wanted to rule out one possibility and asked me to do a creatinine-protein test.
And then all hell broke loose.
Turns out I was losing large amounts of protein through the kidney. There was a hush at the reading 5.42. Normal level is 0.2! He advised me to see the nephrologist. My thoughts were a bit hazy - kidneys, why me, why now, what is this. I waited a while at the CARE Hospital nephrology department and while waiting called Dr. Prabhudheer. Do you know a good nephro I asked? He said there was one at Sai Vani, Dr. M.V.Rao. I rushed there with the gang in tow- Ram was driving my entire show now. Another series of tests and scans and one look at the reports and Dr. Rao said, 'This is adult nephrotic syndrome'. I looked on in a daze not understanding what it was. Sounded complicated. 'But the good news is that the kidney function is perfect - your creatinine levels are normal. However you are losing protein. We need a kidney biopsy and we can start off on medication. Get the biopsy done at Apollo.'
Things were spinning out of control. Kidney, biopsy - whoa, these were big words. The fear of death started looming. I was already watching the state Rajan Bala was in, with his kidney failure condition and wondered what it was all about. These doctors seemed quite casual about the way they spoke of it all but my world was turning topsy turvy. No stop salt intake, non-vegetarian, low protein diet, only one litre of fluid etc etc. Life jerked to a stop. Why, why?
Anyway, with long faces, we returned home, Ram and I, and fixed up with Vardha, who stood like a rock all through, (he always does, good old Don, despite all the ribbing we give him) to meet the Apollo chaps and get the biopsy done.
We met Dr. Ravi Andrews at Apollo, who told me that the biopsy was safer than crossing the road, that I could live with this syndrome a full life or take the risk of not getting treated and going into kidney failure, and we did everything including a test run of how the biopsy procedure works, some pre-biopsy tests. The admission slip was issued and only room availability was to be checked. We decided to do it after the Sankranti festival, two days later. There was much uncertainty, each test showed something new, this entire nephro area seemed a bit hazy not just to laymen but to doctors as well. I was really keyed up.
That evening Koni dropped in and we were talking about the condition. He started talking of how homeopathy helped his daughter Sagarika over the long run. It suddenly hit me that when I was young, Mom had used homeopathy from Sivananda Murthy garu in Warangal to cure me of adenoids (I was scheduled for a small surgery just as in this case). The adenoids had vanished in a week. No trace of them ever after! Hey, I said, not a bad idea. It worked once so it will work again. Ram, who was there, also agreed, which was pretty uncharacteristic. I thought he might rubbish the idea (normally he does with such ideas) but he felt that this biopsy business sounded rather aggressive and we could try the homeo route. That gave me some more time to find my feet (pun intended).
I met the good Dr. Mohan, my regular homeo doctor and a pretty good one at the job, at Musheerabad the next day. The normally composed Dr. Mohan gave me some medicine but he looked a bit flustered and gave me the number of Dr. Krishnan, a nephrologist at Apollo, Vikrampuri, and asked me to meet him. He was not too sure it appeared. While going home, again wondering what to do, with my homeo doctor sounding uncertain, I dropped in at Mythily's house for dinner, and out of the blue, Harsha started telling us of this high profile, miracle homeo cure doctor from Tirupati whom he had met a few weeks ago. He treats high profile patients and had treated Harsha out of a condtiion which needed surgery. Could we see him I asked? He called him. Yes. But at Tirupati. Tomorrow first thing in the morning. It was nine in the evening. We booked our flight tickets. And flew.
And the the journey began! Into homeopaths, naturopaths, ayurveda, spiritual healers, kriya yoga experts, energy healers, healing correction healers, a regression, affirmations, radical forgiveness healers, alcolohic anonymous methods to heal, sujok and so on.
It was a fascinating path and I met several incredible people. More on them later!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Change in perspective

Vardha's home!

Where's the swamp?

Where's the ground?
As I move towards the most delicious part (which I cannot even wait to begin, it fills me so) - to write about my experiences through the year, I also wish to write about the small things I am doing, changes I am making to grow as a person. One of the things I did was to take a walk in the morning, and yesterday, I decided to make a small change. Instead of walking through the beaten track which for me for several years was a run around KBR, strictly regimented, same route, military precision, show off the sweat and sinew and return. But now it seemed rather pointless so I decided to stroll around in the neighbourhood.
I cannot believe that I had not walked into the ESI hospital compound for almost 20 years now. This is where we grew up playing our childhood cricket matches every Sunday. This is where I got my first six in my ninth class, a huge soaring shot that is still etched in my mind and I wondered how easy it seemed, my first brilliant, left handed catch that got the entire team falling over me, my seven wicket haul, and so many more exploits. This is also the place where our childhood friends Madhav and Vardha lived with their parents (father was the Director of ESI), and Trigger, a huge dog, in a nice quaint bungalow standing beside two others on the edge of a huge ground (where we played). In their house we have memories of wonderful meals, great warmth and love from aunty, can't forget to mention that uncle was very tolerant to all our transgressions, a garage party in our final year engineering days where all the good looking girls came, but suffice to say that enough had happened there to warrant at least an occassional peek.
But I had not. So when I suddenly turned that route, it struck me that there was tremendous activity going on in the ground. To my right were the quarters where the ESI cricket team boys lived - Anil, Sunil, Santosh, Razee, Ganesh, Vishnu - and I swung by to see if there were any familiar faces. None. I came back to the road that led to the ground. There was no ground. Several buildings are coming up there.
I suddenly remembered that old English style house, where a young muslim family lived, apparently of noble blood, which showed in their one foreign car, clothes and behavior. But what was obvious was that they did not have the money for the upkeep. It was a huge mismatch, their appearance and belongings looked aristocratic but the maintenance gave it away even for kids like us. It stood royally, on the highest part of the ground, and we dared not go too close to it.
That is gone now.
The well laid road has buildings both side now. Hostels, offices, Vardha's house still there, thank god for that, and led into a huge sprawling colony that blew my breath away. This was a swamp! What happened? And when? The entire swamp had become a colony for the ESI employees with well laid out roads, quarters, playgrounds etc that I just stopped open mouthed. I asked a man who was sitting there, what the colony was and when it had come up and he looked at me rather weirdly but gave me the details. Obviously it had been built almost 20 years ago.
For 25 years then almost, I had not walked that path, and missed out on what was happening under my nose. One small turn, one moment of not thinking of myself or showing off (of wanting to impress the world by being in the middle), and I would have seen this. I wonder how much more we miss. This was too huge, so itcannot be ignored, but what of the millions of gestures, smiles, waits, friends, family, thoughts, words that we miss because we do not have the space. It is part of the process of growth but it is worth a thought. What if the ground recognised me and said, hey, welcome back, where were you?
My learning for yesterday, reiterates what I have been practising recently, take that little turn and move out of the beaten track - it took me the smallest bit of hesitation to veer into the gate from the main road (you can guess, that was my original plan) and I did it. It opened up a whole new world of fantasy to me. That moment of hesitation, of discomfort, choose the discomfort. You will never regret it. You will grow.