Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Happiness Hypothesis - John Haidt

Read John Haidt's 'The Happiness Hypothesis' (Basic Books, US$16.99) for a longish time now, which has been recommended by Ram and passed on to me by him. Haidt is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and has authored 'The Righteous Mind' earlier. Obviously he is concerned and interested in matters concerning the mind and fine matters that too - where he engages with the greatest minds and philosophers, religions and gods of all time.This book however is about 'finding modern truth in ancient wisdom' and deals with 10 great ideas. Since the book is written in an flowing narrative style I really could not differentiate the ten great ideas because there were several ideas and examples, scientific research and ancient wisdom (I am the one who looks for the 10 ideas listed out and summarised so you know what you are dealing with here). Anyway I read through - nodding my head at stuff I understood and identified with, and glossing over stuff that I did not.

The book starts with the idea that we have a mind in conflict - and not merely one mind but several - a loose confederation of parts of the mind to be precise. Haidt looks at the mind(s) through the metaphor of an elephant and a rider - the rider can only guide the elephant some part but the elephant finally seems to have its own say in the matter. That is how our mind works! So we have a bias towards engaging in needless worry and towards bad things and we may try to make the elephant understand our worry but the elephant goes on regardless - until there is real and imminent danger to us.

I loved the chapter on reciprocity where he points out that we all have a tendency to mimic and we love those who mimic us (and give them extra tips) and by knowing and understanding the idea of reciprocity, how we can actually exploit people or stop ourselves from being exploited. The examples of the Hare Krishna guys who first give something and then when you are in a mood to reciprocate, ask for donations (and we give them), sticks to the mind. How often have we all fallen for that devious smile by the one we do not really know or care about and preferred over someone we know who really deserves our support! Ah, reciprocity, how devious a tool is this! (Watch Woody Allen's Zelig for a lesson in reciprocity!). Haidt also says that we are all hypocrites and that happiness does not come from within as the Buddha says but from within and without. So Haidt goes on arguing with himself, proving that he has a divided self, and concluding something in between always. But some stories are interesting. And yes, reciprocity is good.

On adversity and post traumatic growth Haidt concludes not too shockingly for us that perhaps adversity could help our growth. There is one quote by some ancient Greek about how "suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope" that I liked. Adversity typically shows us hidden ability and improves the self concept, brings newer and nourishing relationships to the fore and helps major transformations. Adversity really is a driver for growth (though he does not really advocate suffering).

Haidt concludes that changing the mind is hard (Lives are a creation of our mind - Buddha) and that we could, instead of taking Buddha's tough path, take the easier path of meditation, cognitive therapy and Prozac! And how about looking at your own faults and not so much those of others? Then you could empathise with them a little more and be less harsh would you not? Happiness, Haidt concludes, is about acceptance. (Again, not too shocking a revelation really.) But I loved the happiness formula they ended up with - Happiness (H) = Biological set point (S)+Conditions of your life (C)+Voluntary activity (V). (Give me a break guys - a formula really?) He makes a case against the Buddha a bit, saying that perhaps we also need to have some passionate attachment and live with passion - and not just calm striving and detachment from desire.

Love and attachments are good, as social relationships strengthen the immune system, reduce depression and anxiety disorders, extend life and help in speedy recovery. Have someone to lean on, to give and take and know that man cannot be an island. Haidt also argues for virtue and positive psychology, and even for some kind of a belief as in divinity whether we believe in god or not, to be happy. In conclusion, Haidt says that happiness comes from somewhere in between and cannot be found, acquired or achieved directly (from supermarkets and shopping malls). However it is worth striving for to get the right relationships between oneself and others, between oneself and work, between oneself and something larger than oneself to find a sense of purpose and meaning (and happiness).

I find many new western authors, Malcolm Gladwell comes to mind, who write well and are good to read in parts and not so good in parts. They address many diverse ideas seemingly connected to whole and give tonnes of research and stuff like that but I can never get the whole idea they are presenting. Haidt falls into that category though he sticks to his central theme of happiness. I found it rather difficult to go through the book what with so many digressions and examples and ideas.  When I did finally I was disappointed to find that in almost every conclusion he finds some middle path - the truth is in between. Ancient wisdom is well in its place here and there is much already on the middle path, on balance, on the paradox in it, and I did not really find the modern truth in ancient wisdom as the book claimed. Or even if I did, it was not something new. If one is looking to find happiness by reading this book, I doubt whether one would be successful at it, but surely, one can find a lot of interesting stuff and analyses which make for good reading. Not top of my highly recommended list but falls somewhere in between. Don't kill yourself if you haven't got it but if its around, you could read it!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview with a 4 and a half year old

I decided it's high time I interviewed Anjali again and got to know what she is thinking about the world around her. So with her permission we got down to the interview one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. Most of the time she was running around the sofa where I was sitting, pausing only to gather her thoughts or to make a forceful point.

What do you like most?
Food. Chicken. Not spicy chicken. Games. Princess games. Dressing up games, King and Queen games. I like Snow White games. I like Butterfly games, Gardening games. Mowing games. Karate games. Kung fu. (On the computer)

What do you like doing most?
Play games on the computer, ipad (her friend's and cousin's ipad and a gentle insinuation to me to buy her one), iphone (another one perhaps). Tennis on Wii Sports.

Who do you like most?
Mummy and Daddy. Attas (aunts) - Mythily atta. The other attas don't play with me. They give me toys and go off. Mythily atta plays with me and asks Ram Bharose (her cook) to cook.

I like to feed ants. Take some sugar and sprinkle. Then the ants come running and eat. I like to feed ants. I like to have a pet. Then I can play with it the whole day. A dog. A baby dog (another insinuation to me). But I need Mommy and Daddy dogs (older dogs) too. Or a hamster. They are so cute.

Or fishes (worst case scenario).

What do you like at school?
I like the sandpit. Me and Manasi dig and make a sandcastle. We make sand castles.


What do you not like?
I do not like when Mamma shouts at me (sad face). Or when my balloon flies away. I don't like it when they don't have chicken noodles in hotels. I want it with sauce.
I like to take a red leaf or any leaf and put the same colour and paint. I like to do that. Not green colour.


What do you think of adults?
I think they are nice. I like them. Because they help me.


What makes you happy?
When I wear my shiny silver necklaces. I like Chota Bheem movies.

Do you like being happy or unhappy?
Happy.

What is happy?
Your face goes smiley.


Why happy? Why not unhappy?
Shouting, shouting. Crying, crying.

How can we be happy?
Think of nice things. Suppose you like something like a sausage. You think of it. You get it. Then you are happy.

Simple huh! After this Anjali got tired of the interview and excused herself. Or rather, she ran away to the other room shouting to me that I was asking too many questions and she was getting bored. Thanks for the interview Anjali. It was very enlightening.

The Devil Wears Prada - Movie Review

Finally saw this movie that has long been on my list, as most Meryl Streep movies are. I think my love affair with Meryl Streep began when I first saw her in 'Out of Africa' and later 'Falling in Love' back in the 80s in Sangeet theatre as a college kid. Ever since I have watched most of her movies and have loved watching her in all of them, 'The Bridges of Madison County' especially. So watching her performance as Miranda Priestly, the demanding or rather, ice cold Chief editor of a fashion magazine, was fun.

'The Devil Wears Prada' is adapted from a novel of the same name by  Lauren Weisberger and about the rather demanding and different world of fashion journalism - they say Streep's character is based on the Chief Editor of Vogue. The movie has Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway), an aspiring journalist who joins the big fashion magazine Runway in New York as assistant to the exacting Miranda. From calling all her assistants Emily and expecting them to be available on call all the time and do impossible jobs (like getting the unpublished manuscript of Harry Potter) at a demanding pace, Miranda rattles Andrea initially. But Andrea soon gets the hang of it and gets it all right - at the cost of her personal life. In the end Miranda's life is going to pieces with another divorce while Andrea finds some sense and quits. In a nice scene at the end Andrea spots Miranda getting into her car and waves to her in acknowledgement and Miranda looks at her and merely smiles - enough to convey to us that Andrea is a possibility that Miranda could have been if she had not turned out so ambitious. Enough to tell us that she thinks Andrea did right. Ah, how Meryl Streep does these wonderful bits that say so much.

In being as cold as someone who walked out of the freezer, Meryl Streep, does not miss a beat voice modulation and all. Anne Hathaway looks lovely and perfect as Andrea. The film itself is generally okay and rather predictable. Good for a Streep fan for me, and perhaps a one-time watch for others too.

Fine Advise by Prof. Shiv K. Kumar

I met Prof. Shiv K. Kumar, famous poet and writer of 33 works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and Padmashri awardee, and he gave me two pointers to good writing.

The beginning must be absolutely powerful and drag the reader into the story immediately. In the first two pages you must have the reader and editor hooked, he said. You must put in much thought and effort to get the perfect beginning.

When I told him my next book was about discomfort, he was animated. He told me to keep the discomfort, the discomfiture, the questions going on within me, because he said good writing comes from that.

I have written a book on the Buddha he said, and have just completed one on his meetings with celebrities that included some of the greatest figures in English literature. Some really interesting tales there, a couple of which he narrated to me. I cannot believe the energy, the zest for life, the desire to work and finish more writing in a hurry, the 93 year old veteran has. He is fully focused on his work. Like the Dev Anand's of the world, Prof. Shiv K. Kumar, is yet another of those amazing personalities who are defined by their love for what they do. Nothing sets them back. A huge source of inspiration.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hyderabad Series - The Way of the Hyderabadi


This is a series I propose to write in honour of Hyderabad - then and now.

The Way(s) of the Hyderabadi

It is time. We Hyderabadis must proclaim to the world that we shall no longer be ignored, be denied our rightful place. Let the world wake up to the fact that we are not only the epicenter for all the biggest scams on the face of the earth, some sporting icons, biryanis and stuff like that, but we have a unique way about us that demands special mention. We are governed by a complex culture that governs us from our eating habits to our ethics, from picking our teeth to picking fights and from the sweet words we use to the gaalis that drip out in anger. I propose to lay bare all these ways in future weeks and how we have evolved as well. 
In fact, there is a raging debate going on that the famous phrase “when in Hyderabad, be like a Hyderabadi if you value your life” was coined much before the other shortened one about Rome; but what is more pertinent to the reader is how to manage oneself in the complex set of laws that guide Hyderabadi lives. Here is where this new series of mine, the ‘Hyderabadi Way’ or ‘The Way of the Hyderabadi’ comes into play and one can refer to these writings of mine week after week and find an easy and stress-free way to navigate the Hyderabadi waters (so apt in these days don’t you agree, with the monsoon’s arrival?)
The beginning is always the tough part whether in love or in writing articles like these. But for me the starting theme on ‘The Way of the Hyderabadi’ was never too difficult because like all great philosophical questions, it contains the answer within itself! What is the way of the Hyderabadi one may ask and scratch one’s brains forever. But all one needs to do is look closely at the question and one finds the way. I have decided to write about the ways in Hyderabad - the roads of Hyderabad specifically. 

The old times
There was a time when we could enjoy the sights, talk to one another and smile while driving through the traffic. We could even see the size, colour and shape of the road then and we could see the goings on around. But not anymore. Now all we see is dust and smoke, millions of people, the backsides of buses and large vehicles. Decidedly things have changed and we must change too!
Arguably the Hyderabadi roads are a rather frightening prospect – both at peak hour and the middle of the night. When I was young I put Hyderabadi roads third in the order of things that scared me – my Principal, Omen the movie and Hyderabad – in that order. (In fact so scared of the Hyderabadi roads was I that I put it third instead of first.) The reason why it is so scary is that the roads meander, dip and roll, fall and rise as if it were a live reptile in some deep, dramatic symphony, where one knows not when the next twist arrives. To make it worse we have a bunch of suicidal and homicidal drivers who rush through red lights as if they had an invitation to a red light area, come to a sudden stop at a green light as if they ran into a concrete wall, turn left or right at their whim and fancy, fall off or get on to taxies, buses, autos, scooters, cars and do whatever they please with only a prayer on their lips and divine grace to save them. My advise for anyone trying to figure out this traffic – none. Perhaps join a religious or spiritual group and hope for the best. Even as I write about the roads I can feel my breath becoming shorter already, my chest becoming tighter and I shall now veer away from the traffic to the road, on which there is much to be said. 

Good and bad things
But this is not about the traffic – it’s about the roads. The good and bad thing about the Hyderabadi roads is that they are always under repair. The god thing about it is that there seems to be some intent to keep the roads in good shape. But the bad thing is that they are always under repair which makes one wonder about that very intent. I don’t know why, but save the new Outer Ring Road, which is normally in good shape, all other roads in the city are constantly under repair, keeping a whole bunch of people busy and employed for years and years. (Most of those employed in this ‘Department of Constant Repairs’ later make it to the wealthiest people lists in the world, become corporators, ministers and such I believe. But my informants could be wrong.) 

Department of Constant Repairs
The downside of this ‘Department of Constant Repairs’ is that people keep falling into new ditches and holes every other day. The upside is that we are all much more alert and agile because our very lives depend on it. And that makes us Hyderabadis far more vigilant than anyone else in the world. We are constantly on the lookout for ditches, falling objects, falling two wheelers, drama by the side of the road, traffic cops, stopping vehicles, vehicles that might ram us from behind and so on and so forth.

Department of Laying Dividers
As if the man-made and God-made ditches and pot holes are not enough, the other ‘Department of Laying Dividers’ (a rather large sized department if you ask me) goes about adding a few more unseen and unheralded obstacles to increase the degree of difficulty for the traffic. Dividers sway from left to right as if they were kite strings stressing against a forceful breeze, dividers that start and stop suddenly in the middle of the road as if they were angry and uncompromising spouses, missing sign boards, missing traffic lights (but omni present cameras that catch you and your innocent traffic crimes) are all set to keep you ever vigilant. And safe - if all these departments are to be believed. In fact all these Departments seem to be working overtime to keep us safe and secure. Sometimes I wonder if we’d do better without all these departments around.

Things to learn
For those who are stepping anew into Hyderabad we now have the Metro guys digging up the roads, the Electricity board guys normally dig up roads as soon as the monsoon hits the city and on and on. With all these activities going on around you, a million vehicles spewing fumes, dirty looks and stares and threatening to run you over in their road rage, you have hardly any time to enjoy the sights. But what is the fun if you take the easy route and land up home without any trouble? The way of the Hyderabadi is decidedly not easy. But the remedy is simple. All you need is faith in the one above, a prayer on your lips and courage in your heart. A bit of madness also helps! If nothing else you will learn to be fully aware, totally vigilant and highly courageous. You will develop sharp eyesight and lightning reflexes.  Have a safe week until next time when I shall pick another issue about the Hyderabadi Way to discuss. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Poem by Zen Master Sen-ts'an on Nonjudgmentalism

I loved this poem by Zen Master Sen-ts'an on nonjudgmentalism as a prerequisite to following the 'Perfect Way' in 8th century B.C.


"The perfect way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between 'for' and 'against' is the mind's worst disease."

I happened upon this poem in Jonathan Haidt's book 'The Happiness Hypothesis'. I must say that now, I totally agree with the Zen Master.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bro. K.M. Joseph - The Beloved Cricket Brother of All Saints High School Heads to Rome

It was a pleasant surprise to hear from Denzil Balm, the committed coach of All Saints High School for so many years, a few days ago. The surprise got even better when Denzil told me the news. 'Bro. K. M. Joseph has become Assistant General in Rome,' said Denzil. A wonderful elevation for our 'Cricket Brother' from my alma mater All Saints High School. The first thought that struck me was one of sadness - oh God, I'll miss having Brother around I thought - in much the same way that one misses a dear friend.
Bro. K.M. Joseph being felicitated by Dhruvaraj sir, our geography teacher

But Bro. K.M. Joseph was not a dear friend really. He was our teacher - and one who encouraged sports and academics equally. Known famously all over Hyderabad's cricketing circles for his commitment and involvement in cricket and other sports, Bro. K. M. Joseph firmly believed that a child's character can only develop if there is development in all areas and not just academics. He was responsible for the building up of teams in All Saints, Boys Town and other Montfort Schools where he served all these years. All Saints, my alma mater, for example has benefited much from Bro. Joseph's presence and has built a wonderful history of sports and especially cricket, throwing up names such as Azharuddin, Venkatapathy Raju, Noel David, Abdul Azeem, Sultan Saleem and many more. Bro. Joseph involved himself actively in the administration of the game as well.
The cricketers who gathered with Bro. Joseph

But let me get to the beginning of the story. It was in 1978 or so when I first came to Hyderabad from Kazipet where I had studied in another Montfort school, St. Gabriel's Boys High School. My first condition to my father was that my school needed to have a cricket ground and we did the rounds of a few schools including Hyderabad Public School. But I fell in love with All Saints, one of the last schools we visited, at first sight. The sight of some disciplined young cricketers playing cricket with utmost seriousness in our little ground, dressed in whites, inspired me no end. Thankfully for me the Principal was Bro. Vincent who was also my Principal at St. Gabriel's at Kazipet and my admission was through as was my brother Ram's.
VVS Laxman, the Primary School Principal, Coach, Me and Bro. Saajan Anthony, Principal of All Saints High School

Hyderabad was a different cup of tea from Kazipet and I was intimidated by the boys (the language which I did not was one big factor) and I never summoned courage to go for the cricket selections for three years. I was happy playing table tennis. Many an hour passed by though, when after a round of table tennis, I would watch the cricketers practice from the ledge on top of the ground. I wished I could be playing with them too. But we heard rumours - they said our team was very strong. We heard of names like Azhar, Milton Balm and others who were our seniors, the members of our formidable cricket team. But mostly, we heard about the Cricket Brother and we saw him down there with his wards. For some reason, I missed Bro. K.M. Joseph totally in those four years I spent at All Saints. He never taught my class and I only played cricket in the final year in 1982 when he was not around. I am not too sure if he was around when he celebrated a famous win over Hyderabad Public School when we got them out for 70 chasing our own low score of121! Our school sponsored a celebration - a movie (we chose Jaws of all pictures) and dinner (biryani at Mohini and lots of ice cream!). Ehtesham was our captain, D. Suresh. Masood, Srinivas Chakravarthy, Iftekhar, Abdul Rub, Sanjay Bhatnagar who pulled off two brilliant catches, Michael, my new ball partner were all part of that team.
In the Rector's room with the Rector, me, Iftekhar and the President of ASOBA

I met Bro. Joseph finally when I was in my Engineering College at Osmania. I was called to play for an All Saints Old Boys XI vs Rest of Hyderabad XI in a one off game in Lal Bahadur stadium. And what a match it was. All Saints led by Azhar, had Khalid Abdul Quayyum, Venkatapathy Raju, Arshad (Little Flower), Vidyuth, Chakravarthy, Ehtesham, Masood, me and a small little boy named Noel David as well. Rest of Hyderabad was led by Narasimha Rao and had everyone from Vivek Jaisimha, Manohar, Anil Mittal. Sunil Phillips and almost the entire Ranji team. We won with two balls to spare when Vidyuth spanked a wonderful cover drive off his older brother Vivek in the last over when we needed nine to win. I got a couple of wickets and hit Anil Mittal for nine runs in the penultimate over which helped our team's cause. That was a wonderful win and I probably have the picture somewhere.
A moment's silence for Bro. Britto

As the years went by I met Bro. Joseph a couple more times - once in Boys Town where we played another game against a visiting English side. But I seriously met him only a few years ago when I wrote my first novel 'The Men Within' which carried many shades of the memories of my stay in All Saints. I was apprehensive of how a cricket novel would be received and wanted a testimonial from an academic who also understood the game and what it could do to school boys. I traced Bro. Joseph in Nagpur and called him up. I told him I wrote a novel and would be glad if he could read it and let me have a comment for the blurb. He was very encouraging and asked me to send it over to him and I did. In a couple of weeks I got a wonderful quote from him which I was proud to put on the back cover of the book.

His quote which was on the back cover read - The author has amply demonstrated through the pages of this fast paced novel that cricket - or any sport - for that matter, is played not only with hands and feet but also with the mind and heart. The skill with which the author has combined cricketing lessons and personnel management techniques is highly commendable. A very useful and effective handbook for every aspiring cricketer and coach. A must have for every school library. 
 
Now as I read it, I still wonder anew how perfectly he captured all I wanted to say through that book. When we released the book in Hyderabad, Bro. Joseph was one of my special invitees and I was glad to present both him and Baig saab a copy of the book. I was glad that he made it to a remote book store in Marredpally for the event - with Denzil for company.
Bro. Joseph at my book launch at Akshara Bookstore(March 2007)

My interactions with Bro. Joseph increased from then on and I spoke to him often over the phone. He was transferred to Hyderabad and I met him again when we were scouting for grounds for Golconda High School. He was kind enough to accompany us - Sashi Sudigala, Prasad and me - to Gannavaram in Vijayawada to check out grounds there. We had a wonderful conversation on the way where he shared much of how he could see the potential in Azhar even in middle school. But Bro. Joseph in all his modesty probably told me only a small part of the story.

A hint of how modest he was can be gauged from this story. I asked him during that conversation what the hierarchy of the Montfort Brothers was in India and how they managed such a large estate. He said that there were Provincials for each zone of the country and they administered the estate. I was curious to know who the Provincial was for South and when I asked him he was smiling. I was shocked - and I am sure Bro must have laughed at my expression. 'It's you Brother?' I asked. That is how modest he is. Journeying with us and sipping chai with us, chatting with us, while being the big boss of the institutions. He never ever lets you feel that he is the boss.
On stage: Principal of Primary School, Noel David, Venkatapathy Raju, Bro. Saajan Anthony, Rector, Bro. K.M. Joseph, Dr. M.V. Sridhar, V.V.S. Laxman and President of ASOBA

I asked Brother during that visit a question - what was your biggest learning in all your years as a teacher. What Brother told me is something I will always remember especially when dealing with people. He said when a child makes a mistake or fails, we should never condemn the child. We must only condemn the act and show the child how to rectify it. That was wonderful learning for me. It was wonderful to see how the school left the bottom three feet of the primary classes walls free for children to scribble what they want in that Gannavaram school. In little things like these, in the orderly way that the trees had been planted by Brother almost two decades ago, in the joy in his face and those of the people he met, we could see the difference Brother Joseph makes (and has made) wherever he goes.
All cricketers on stage

I took him along to the shooting of Golconda High School when we shot in All Saints - or rather he took me. And it was one of the best evenings we spent when Bro. Joseph joined a whole bunch of cricketers when we all went and watched Golconda High School at Prasad's IMax and hooted like hooligans. Iftekhar, Noel, CV Anand, Clement Michael, Vijay, Sanjay, Anil Kak, and many more cricketers joined us as we watched the movie and had a long long discussion afterwards in the coffee shop - almost until they shut shop. No one wanted to go it seemed and Bro Joseph was there till the end. My biggest disappointment of that evening was not having one picture of that wonderful get together. But I do carry the memory of Bro. Joseph smiling and enjoying every moment as he sat with all his wards.

When I walked into All Saints a couple of days ago alongwith many other cricketers Venkatapathy Raju, Noel David, Dr. M.V. Sridhar, V.V.S. Laxman (Little Flowers), Yuvraj Singh, Iftekhar, Abu Backar and new cricketers like Ahmed Quadri and Akshat Reddy along with many others to felicitate Bro. Joseph, I recalled a picture from the Sportstar in the early 80s that I kept with me under my bed for many years. Of an Under 15 Hyderabad team which won the inaugural tournament in Madras. Hyderabad led by Hariprasad had Sridhar, Subba Rao Abhijit Chatterjee, Bhatnagar and had won the final against a formidable Tamil Nadu side that had L. Siva, W.V. Raman and others. Sitting in the midst of this team with the Cup was their manager Bro. Joseph.
Me sharing my two bits

Memories of the years flooded me as we sat in the Rector's room chatting with one another, making fun and recalling the old days. Bro. Joseph hugged us all warmly as we came and we finally made it to the stage. All cricketers accompanied Bro. Joseph after which he was invited along with Bro.Saajan Anthony, Laxman. Venkatapathy, Noel. The rest of us watched from the audience along with the whole school as everyone spoke in glowing terms about Bro. Joseph and their interactions with him - none more emphatically than our teacher Martina who gave a dramatic speech laced with lots of anecdotes. I was asked to speak a few words and I kept it a few words literally as the kids were sitting a bit too patiently for All Saints standards.  As expected Bro. Joseph in his speech exhorted the children to not merely excel at studies because that is only one part of their growth but to play as well and play for the country.

We wound off the day with a small cricket game in the grounds. True to his spirit Bro. Joseph quickly changed and went to open the innings. He held me by the hand and dragged me down to the ground saying 'when will we get this chance again?'. I stayed for a while and watched the game before leaving the ground, shooting backward glances as Bro. Joseph effortlessly cleared the ground with straight sixes. To be the legend of the Cricket Brother is no mean achievement and one knows why Bro. Joseph rose so high and so quickly up the order. As Assistant General he becomes one of the five, who are third in the Montfort Brothers hierarchy, who administer estates in over 33 countries. For someone who had the vision to see how important sports is to the development of  a child, who never shied away from responsibility as shown in his taking up the challenging manager's role for the first tournament in Madras and his immense love for children which is exemplified in all that he has done, Bro. Joseph truly is deserving of his elevation and more.
Some more from me as Bro. K.M. Joseph looks on from behind

For me he always passes the gold standard of greatness as I read in a quote somewhere - that a great man is one who makes one who is lesser than him feel like an equal. If there is one thing about Bro. Joseph that defines him, it is this quality, this humility, modesty and complete security of knowing his place in the scheme of things. We can talk to him with the comfort of being his friend, but we all will always respect him from the deepest parts of our souls. From Azhar down to the youngest child in the school.

Bro. Joseph and I had planned to write some stories for children based on certain ideas he had,, and that was the first thing he mentioned when I called to congratulate him. I told him that we should write those stories - he could send me the themes and I will develop the stories even now. And that I will. Meanwhile wishing Bro. Joseph a wonderful tenure in Rome and wishing him many more years of wonderful work, where he touches many more people's lives in the only way he does - with great love. Thank you Brother for everything and it shall be my honour to write those stories we had planned to! Also, I hope to always access your wisdom, guidance and affection which you had so generously given me.



Monday, June 18, 2012

The Paradoxes of Our Life - You do well what you have to learn the most

We do what we wish to learn the most all our life. In ways that appear most paradoxical. But the experts in those areas are those who seek and respect what they appear to do the opposite of.
Pic courtesy Pooja (Horsely Hills)


The teacher teaches well only when he seeks to learn.


The warrior fights well only when he seeks peace.


The musician makes music well only when he seeks silence between the sounds.


The doctor performs surgery well only when he seeks to heal.


The writer writes well only when he seeks to find his expression between his words.


The leader leads well only when he seeks to follow.


The preacher preaches well only when he seeks to discover divinity.


The businessman does business well because he seeks to respect the flow of money.

The lover loves well only when he seeks to grow beyond himself and let go the object of his love.

The sweeper sweeps well only when he seeks cleanliness.

The painter paints well only when he seeks the negative spaces between his colors....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thought for the Day - Leadership, Expectations and Support

When we expect something from someone we place them in a situation where they try to fulfill our expectations. It's rather funny but its a human need almost. As we know expectations can place a severe burden on the one on whom they are placed. But if used well, they can push people beyond their boundaries to achieve big things. Exactly the kind of things that leaders wish for.

Ordinary leaders expect people to fail or not to match up to a standard, and thereby set them up for failure. This comes from their belief that most people will work less, and are not oriented to learning. In such a case even if we give a well equipped person an average or even low standards to achieve, and from the very beginning give all indications to the person concerned that we do not expect him or her to fulfill that standard, we are setting him or her up for failure. He or she will invariably tend to satisfy your expectations, and will perform below par. Of course you are proven right and your belief is fortified!

On the other hand, a good manager, sets high standards for average people and expect them to perform as if it was the most natural thing to do. They strive to fulfill your expectations. Many times they will on their own try to learn, put in longer hours, take ownership and seek to meet the high expectations. Again, more often than not, they will tend to fulfill your expectations. For your part, all the leader needs to do is hold your thought that they will fulfill your expectations, that they will find a way, and leave it at that. No rushing in for hand holding, no showing off your superior knowledge, no telling them how to do it.

The best method adopted by the masters is to expect the best from people, and when they need it, support them with the required inputs. Most times if they are told clearly what you expect of them, and if they are equipped well, they will find the way themselves.  They will learn and they will grow. They will do it themselves.

Often we find that we label people from our impressions of them and expect them to fail or succeed based on our impressions. If we expect them to fail they fail anyway (most times at least unless they are made of stern stuff). On the other hand we could expect them to succeed without giving them clear directions and without equipping them well, and risk being displeased by their lack of success or lack of speed in their success. The above expectations are not healthy expectations. They place the wrong set of expectations on the people and set them to fail.

The best way for the leader, teacher, mentor, elder, team mate and coach to drive the ward forward is to state your expectations clearly, higher standards than what the ward can achieve normally, expect the best from them and hold the thought firmly in your head. No rushing in with judgements and help at the first sign of slipping, no recriminations and hard opinions - just state the facts and hold your peace and convey your support and confidence. By giving support unconditionally and without hesitation, providing inputs required, you allow the person to find the path to achieve those expectations. You have taught the person to fish! You are a true leader.

I love this quote:
"If you tell me, I'll listen. If you show me, I'll see. If you let me experience, I'll learn." - Lao Tsu.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy - Partha Bose

Rajesh recommended this book by Partha Bose highly (Penguin India, 264 pages, Rs. 295) and I read through it with great interest. One one hand Partha Bose takes us through Alexander's life and on the other, he intersperses the story with modern day examples in the world of business to show how these strategies hold good even today. Strategies of war, especially used by someone who conquered a large part of the globe, from the Ionean Sea to the Himalayas, one who was undefeated in battle, would certainly have timeless elements.that will hold good forever - after all war is about life and death and every single cell would be employed for the sake of survival.

In the beginning much is told about the influence of Alexander's father Phillip on his life (and on Macedonia itself). Philip was the pioneer of the building of well-prepared, coordinated fighting units (as opposed to the rather undisciplined and unfocussed armies  of those days). He trained his forces into the famous and almost impregnable phalanx formation of the Macedonians, modified weapons for maximising damage to opponents and minimising damage to self. Philip developed a professional army cadre. In fact Macedonian armies came with Alexander so far across the globe because they joined the force by choice and not by force.(as was common then). Horses were trained for 5 years, superior horsemanship was taught, soldiers were trained to withstand intense hardship and made better than other fighters. Stories of past victories were told to the soldiers to improve their morale and pride. What I found interesting was that a code of conduct was shared with the soldiers and every soldier knew it. Violators were made examples of!

Philip was an exponent of expanding his kingdom without fighting (which he used only as a last resort). Most kings were bought over by bribes, alliances and even marriage. Meanwhile Philip gave his son Alexander one of the best education anyone could have got - under the tutelage of the philosopher Aristotle - at Mieza, where a bunch of noblemen's children studied with Alexander for 3 years. In those days Alexander (356-323 BC) learned the basics of strategy, of acquiring and using information well, of using diverse sources to triangulate and get the information to plan his strategy. Much importance was given to building character through multiple rounds of self-enquiry (which showed later  in Alexander's magnanimity and his concern for his soldiers). Under Aristotle, Alexander learned to train his mind to look for patterns and facts and synthesise them to form his famous strategies, developed a risk taking culture and understood the importance of asking good questions to get correct information.

Alexander became King of Macedonia after his father was assassinated. He was the proponent of  using small armies effectively and ended the rather crude full frontal battle as was common then - a mode that had no strategy and was fought on mere strength. He rose beyond mere tactics and used strategy - choosing not to do things when the opponent expected him to, choosing where to engage in battle, planning when to enter and when to exit, and even how to do battle so it inflicts maximum damage on opponents and a minimum on his own.

Alexander was known to be magnanimous in victory as is shown in his battle against the Indian king Porus whom he made King of an even bigger empire after defeating him in battle. Other traits of the man who defeated Persias's mighty army led by Darius over a period of ten years, with a much smaller force, were to minimise ambiguity and uncertainty (good business sense), appointing visible leaders, specifying clarity in roles, sowing a transparent succession process. Alexander would use overwhelming force to destroy to send signals - thus creating the illusion he wanted to deceive his opponents. He was most known for acting swiftly and decisively and for taking his opponents by surprise.  The Macedonians were known for their lightning speed and surprise tactics.

Alexander always chose to engage in land and not at sea - his strength was not the sea. Alexander would not hesitate to burn his ships so as to tell his soldiers that there was no retreat (just as he burnt his baggage and loot to help his movement). When fighting the daunting Persian army, he evoked the mythical Trojan war to spread a sense of elation among his troops. Alexander used good public relations and communications to built an air of invincibility, an illusion and created a myth of his role as divinely ordained, giving his troops even greater sense of belief that they were invincible. As a leader Alexander had many faces - trusting, inspirational, connective, aggressive, got down to the thick of the war and a humanistic style. He was always known to be in the thick of the battle, always at the forefront of his army, gave decent burials to opponent soldiers, treated their families respectfully. He would ride up and down the army before the fight and motivated his forces, calling soldiers by name and recalling past victories and acts of valour.

Alexander always believed that when possible, always attack.

On a bigger level he had a purpose and plan to globalise the world. He encouraged the mingling of communities and nationalities, hired local talent. One of the key factors to his great victories were establishing forward bases and building of logistic support. The cities of Kandahar, Herat, Begram and Samarkand were built by him as were some sixteen others, including Alexandria in Egypt. He kept his army logistics simple. They carried their own supplies themselves, set up forward bases wherever possible, planned meticulously in advance, broke his armies into small units in the deserts and hills for more flexibility and established a single point of contact.

Alexander was a master in the art of deceptive strategy. (I loved the quote - "all warfare is based on deception"). After conquering lands as far as India, going through the mighty armies of Persia, beating the dreaded Afghan tribesmen, passing the searing heat of the desert, scaling the treacherous Hindukush mountains, crossing mighty rivers and conquering lands in India, Alexander was struck down by fever suspected to be malaria and died on his return journey in Babylon.

It is an interesting book and certainly one that gets the mind thinking. Many strategies make sense even now of course, in any battlefield, sports or business. Attack, plan, implement, be ahead of the mental game, believe in yourself and the army, show integrity and generosity, prepare thoroughly. Enjoyable read though I skipped parts of the business examples which spoiled the flow for me a bit. But Partha Bose is an erudite man and it shows in his writing. Alexander's story is fascinating just as the detailed accounts of the famous wars are, complete with maps, tactics and speeches.

The Paradoxes of Our Life - What we do not grasp stays

What we do not grab at or grasp tightly, stays. What we try to grab, spills out. Like water in a palm. Like a catch in the slips.
Pic Satish

To have, let go.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Whole New Mind - Daniel H. Pink

Continuing the learning from Rajesh's library this week, I read 'A Whole New Mind' (Marshall Cavendish Business, BR 9.99, 246 p) by Daniel H. Pink. The book comes with a tag line that says 'Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future' - which explains it all. Pink talks of the future and the emerging world where the almost forgotten right brainers - the supposedly creative ones and the arty ones - will have an advantage. Pink makes a case that rather elusive "creative", "instinctive" or "right brain" stuff can be "learned" and that it is best to balance and learn both sides of the brain for the best effect in one's career and life in the future. Or rather to be more prepared for how the world would shape up soon.

For those who (like me) are rather puzzled about the right brain and left brain, the funda of the two sides is such. The left brain is about logic, analytical, detail, small picture based, sequential, of specialisation, rational and so on. The right brain (previously ignored for being rather touchy feely) is about inventiveness, empathy, joy, meaning, non-linear and so on.

Pink says that the world will need right brainers as the three As - Asia, Automation and Abundance - will drive the world (or at least the western world that he lives in) to adopt the rigth brained to meet the future. Asia - because all left brained jobs can be outsourced there for much cheaper, Abundance - because now we no longer have to struggle for daily existence and can look for the higher levels in Maslow's scale and Automation - because it will also take over many clerical or lowly left brained jobs. So all you left brained people - learn some right brained stuff. The way forward, with all this happening, is towards high concept and high touch! Pink describes high concept as the ability to create artistic and emotional patterns, to detect patterns and opportunities, to write satisfying narrative and combining seemingly unconnected ideas into a  novel invention. High touch is about empathy, subtlety of human interaction, finding joy in one self, the pursuit of purpose and meaning.

The six senses that Pink suggests one develop and pay more attention to in the development of the right brain activity (which can be cultivated) are these - design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.

Design is about seeing design in everything - in business, in good design and bad design and in getting our mind to design new stuff aesthetically. Pink suggests we note down good and bad design, get used to design, get choosy about things we buy and start the process in our minds.

Story is the art of story telling which moves away from the bullet points culture to a rounded story which people remember more. Story telling can be learnt and be used in business as well (the most left brained activity as considered by people but the one that drives the money and jobs!). Pink talks of the classical story form - of departure, initiation and return of the protagonist - and the increasing use of story in healing and medicine. To develop these skills Pink asks us to write the 50 word story, to read about story writing, to write more stories and understand the storytelling business.

Symphony is of seeing relationships - as in music and painting, and understanding negative spaces. Music and painting can be learned and appreciated and Pink gives the examples of three types - the boundary crosser (one who jumps easily into seemingly unrelated areas), the metaphor maker (user of metaphors) and the inventor (again not one who is trained specifically in that area) - as the three major types that show up in this area. To appreciate symphony better, Pink suggests one takes art and music classes, listen and appreciate, celebrate amateurishness, seek solutions to problems and so on.  A classic example that he gives and also that Carol Dweck gives in her book 'Mindset' is that of a 'before' and 'after' self-sketch - the difference that a 5 day sketching course can do is unbelievable (seeing is believing so check the net for those before and after sketches).

Empathy is that quality that will turn out to be a big diffrentiator in the future in managerial skills, decision making skills, people skills - and one needs genuine empathy (can be measured as empathy quotient) as against lip service. (Empathy being "your pain in my heart".) Pink suggests we empathise more by putting ourselves in others shoes often and understanding the world from their point of view.

Play is that part where one needs to use games, play and humour to carry along the team and the self for higher productivity. There is a statistic where Pink says that physicians who played video games fo 3 hours or more every week made 37% fewer mistakes in laproscopic surgeries and performed the task in 27% lesser time than those physicians who did not play games. Humor, seen as the highest form of intelligence, is considered right brained, and the use of humour is considered excellent to carry teams across and to send messages across. To incorporate play and humour, one can start appreciating the use of both, by watching children, reading books, meeting people, having fun, playing and so on.

In the last of the five senses, Pink argues for the importance of Meaning in our lives. He quotes Victor Frankl, a holocoust survivor, and a psychiatrist who lost his family in the Nazi camps at Auschwitz - "man's main concern is not the pursuit of pleasure or avoiding pain, but to see meaning in life". Pink also quotes His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as saying that "the purpose of life is to seek happiness...as we are all seeking soemthing better."

After every chapter, Pink gives a portfolio or exercises to do, references and tests to take, books to read, websites to visit and so on to practice the six senses. It is a fine insight, of this whole new mind, and one that I agree with. But its not new in the sense that the more evolved leaders or people of all time were the ones who always had a healthy balance of the big picture and the detail, the vision and the tactic, the need for discipline and empathy, the eye on team victory and on individual growth, the maintaining of morale through happiness and the imparting of responsibility through trust. In short, the use of both the left and right brain were always emphasised at higher levels of leadership. It has always been the case that the two parts of the brain need to be balanced and developed well, and one cannot stay stuck, saying that one belongs only of one side and not the other. Studies have proved that both can be developed and one need not fall into one label or anorher - all it needs is some work! To bring play, creativity, humour, joy, empathy, spirituality and meaning into our lives is a huge step forward for mankind and I totally endorse Pink's ideas and views and hope that people embrace these ideas not so much for progressing in careers as for being fuller and more complete and joyful  people. 'A Whole New Mind' is a nice easy read and one that is enjoyable and informative as well. Recommended read for its nice and interesting perspective that is well preserved.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mindset, A New Psychology of Success - Carol S. Dweck

The debate between whether talent works best or hard work with a growth mindset works is finally over. 'Mindset - The New Psychology of Success' (Ballantine Books, USD 16, 246 p) addresses these issues precisely and presents convincingly the case in favour of hard work and the growth mindset. Another good one from Rajesh's collection, Carol Dweck's book 'Mindset' is an interesting and engrossing book that focuses on the two governing mindsets that rule our lives and how one mindset can help us grow to our potential and how the other may not. The well-known Stanford psychologist has researched enough to know what she is talking about and she gives examples from sports, schools, colleges, business, relationships, teaching, coaching and it is fascinating to see the fine differences and conclusions she presents. The book primarily is about the two mindsets - fixed mindset and the growth mindset - on which she dwells in detail.

The book states that anything can be learned and that hard work and growth-oriented learning is more likely to take you closer to full potential than simply relying on 'talent'. The author brings out the basic differences between learners and non-learners and states that learners are the ones who are likely to fully achieve their potential. But the two mindsets - fixed and growth - seem paradoxical and appear to be the opposite. For example the fixed mindset makes a person want to always succeed (so they do not try anything new for fear of failure), so they do the same things again and again, because "smart people always succeed". The growth mindset person sees success in stretching themselves and in learning, and thereby becomes smarter in the long run. Most people who believe that talent can see them through without the need to work hard and constantly learn, fall into the fixed mindset.

Primarily what the book says gives hope to everyone and pushes them to do better because it is a question of learning constantly. Intelligence is not fixed. One failure or success does not define you. The more you use your intelligence the better it gets. So the person who is constantly challenging oneself, who does not worry about hiding shortcomings and who is playing with bigger and older people is constantly bettering himself. Challenge and interest go hand in hand for the one with the growth mindset. And the harder the challenge the harder they work. Clearly the Fixed Mindset gives short term results while Growth Mindset is for long term.

In sports, where the concept of the 'natural' is most common, the book pretty much proves that there are no such thing as naturals. Talent is the starting point but there is an enormous amount of hard work required. The case of Wilma Rudolph, the fastest female sprinter on the earth in 1960, winning 3 Olympic golds is one such case (she had braces on her legs till she was 12 and was not expected to survive her illness or even walk). Apart from some (like McEnroe who has not had the growth mindset and a few others) the author talks of James Marshall, an American football star, who scored an own goal in a big match but quickly got out of the mindset and made his team win by scoring two goals after recovering from the horrendous mistake he made. She cites Mohammed Ali who was not built like a boxer but trained on his strengths, and Michael Jordan who worked twice as hard as any, as cases of sportsmen who put in lots of hard work to get where they did. It is really about understanding that talent is not everything, and hard work and growth orientation is the key. People with talent as their main weapon stopped working hard.

While on how these mindsets affect the fortunes of companies, the book cites companies that did well, those that did not and those that did well and sustained it. The leaders of companies that did well - leaders with the growth mindset - were not larger than life, were not ego oozing, not highly talented but self effacing people who asked questions and confronted the most brutal answers, looked failure in the face and maintained faith they would succeed in the end surely. They did not try to prove that they were better than the others, surrounded themselves with able people, looked at mistakes and deficiencies, added skills needed for the future. They were not worried about measuring and protecting fixed abilities, looked directly at their mistakes, received feedback and altered their strategies accordingly. For growth leaders, success was about learning and growing, and failure was motivating, and a wake up call to put more effort. Iacocca and Welch are compared and other leaders such as Lou Gerstner and Anne Mulcahy are analysed for their mindsets. Leaders are made and not born concludes the study (I agree). And the best thing is that they are made by themselves. In the corporate scenario, the book says, we have bosses and not leaders. Leaders are the ones who have genuine empathy, who mentor and guide their employees and peers, and not boss over them.

In the areas of relationships as well, the issue of the mindset can make or break the relationship. In the fixed mindset, people seek revenge and in the growth mindset they look at forgiveness and moving on. Most seem to think that if you have to work at it, the relationship is not for you. In fixed mindset we tend to look at  relationships as mind reading exercises. The mindsets also explore the connection between problems and counselling, shyness, bullies and victims.

The chapter that interested me most was the one on parents, teachers and coaches who have the biggest impact on students, children and wards. The book emphasises the attitude of developing and conveying the fact that you are interested in the child's / ward's development. It warns agains giving the child and ward needless praise as it conveys to the kid that he / she is more talented and can set them off on the fixed mindset path. It is better to keep the child pushing his / her limits each time, than giving up. (Make them push limits a bit each time without demeaning them.) Instead of protecting them from failure by lowering standards, it is better to talk of bettering their preparation and of effort. It is important that we convey the right messages, clearly and honestly and mean what we say because children learn and pass on messages. Coming from Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh where achieving the IIT or Engineering rank is paramount, I can identify with parents who appear to want the best for the child in the worst way. "We love you they say but on our terms". Great teachers, Dweck says, believe in growth and intellect and are fascinated by the process of learning. They set high standards and a motivating atmosphere. (There is the amazing story of a group of disadvantaged children doing amazing things when standards were set higher - 3 and 4 year olds reading vocabulary for high school students, 7 year olds reading the "Wall Street Journal" and older kids reading Plato's Republic, Animal Farm, Machiaevelli. 5th graders reading the Mice and Men, Joy Luck Club, To Kill a Mockingbird and having discussions as well.)

The growth mindset is about hard work and more hard work. Talent is good but to rely on it entirely is useless. With hard work you are likely to go a long way in the long run. But hardwork and growth is the real clincher. We need to set high standards for wards to work with (or colleagues, or team mates even) to work with and equip them with the right tools to handle it and guide them. It's always beter to tell the truth and show them how to bridge the gap and not leave them in the middle. The best teachers are about learning.

While dealing with coaches, the book cites hard driven coaches who got results, but who did not help the players grow in other areas. The cases of Bobby Knight, the coach for the successful Indiana University and that of JohnWooden, the coach for UCLA are examined. Wooden taught his players to be successful in life while Knight restricted himself to the Championships - even sacrificing the players self-esteem to achieve that goal. Success was seen as being full preparation and full effort - "you may be outscored but you will never lose". I love that statement. All you need is to make your best effort.

The best coaches never differentiated between their wards and treated everyone equally. They were non-judgmental in their talk on developing the ward (not simply praise, but feedback). They set high standards and give process feedback and the growth framework. They believe that everyone can learn, are tolerant of mistakes, do not judge, show the process, ask for commitment and full effort, give respect and coaching and develop the players potential.

While on changing one's mindset the book dwells on the importance of asking for help, doing those small acts that could change things, working on beliefs and mindsets and get a process orientation. One has to get over the-world-owes-me and denial (as in my-life-is-perfect syndrome). One should work at the mindset by pushing gently to find something harder to do when something is easily achieved. One should also remember that champs are people who work the hardest and constantly challenge themselves. The best way of course is to learn and help learn.

When you think of any failure, says Dweck, feel it, then get over it after taking any feedback worth taking. One must understand that it is about high effort and high risk (what if we make the effort and its still not enough). Certainly low effort has no chance. On ability and accomplishment there are examples of Edison, Mozart and others who learnt and practiced for years. Research showed that the ones who did well were the ones who were treated like geniuses - and they performed. The key is in being treated like geniuses with clearly stated standards, with help and hardwork and not simply by attaching positive and negative labels.

In a wonderful visual at the end of the book Dweck condenses the two mindsets and explains it all in a nutshell. Simply the Fixed Mindset is about guys who desire to look smart, who avoid challenges, who give up easily, who get defensive, who see effort as fruitless, who ignore useful nagative feedback, who feel threatened by others successes and as a result of all this, they plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. The growth mindset guys desire to learn, to embrace challenges, to persist in the face of setback, to see effort as the path to mastery, to learn from criticism, to find lessons and inspiration from others success and reach even higher levels of achievement as a result. The growth mindset takes you closer to your potential.

The book slams the basic idea that intelligence and superior output cannot be cultivated. It talks of how exceptional individuals have a special talent in identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Success is learning and not about proving that you are smart. It is about stretching, about self-esteem, learning, preparation and effort.

I loved the book because it validates much of what I feel. I do a workshop called 'The Champion's Mindset' based on my experiences as a cricketer, writer, lecturer and coach, and my years in the corporate arena, and can see  how wonderfully Dweck has put the fine ideas of talent and hard work in place. I identify with almost everything she says, in each arena that I have been exposed to, As the book's blurb says it is a good book to read for every parent, coach, teacher, corpoate leader to have, to own. Wonderful stuff and a must read for everyone.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thought for the Day - It's not the money, It's how we use it

It is not about how much money we want that is the question - it is always about what we plan to do with it when we have it. Because the equation is that unless we have the uses for it, we will not get the money for it! So the key really is to begin at the other end of the pipeline, as all entrepreneurs do, and not by merely wanting money because everyone says we should have money!
Pic courtesy - Satish

A vibrant enterprise (read as career, life, business) is always built because of the outcome and what it means to you. It is never begun as 'I have so much money so what should I do with it' because that's a sure way of losing your money or running a low energy business - the kinds that wind up after a few months because you're not getting the kind of money or return or fun you expected. If we only want the money and have no use it will end up rotting in the locker instead of giving you pleasure of creation and acquisition.

So then, if we know pretty much what we want to do with the money and why, the money presents itself. In innumerable ways - equity, loans, investments and so on and so forth. Money really is never the problem - it is what you can do with it or rather, what you really want to do with it. The more we use the money, the more it gets energised and the better the flow. But the key as always is the end - how am I going to use the money.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vicky Donor - Movie Review

Finally watched Vicky Donor after much wanting-to and thoroughly enjoyed this completely off beat, whacky and funny movie of a prize sperm donor Vicky, his greedy and businesslike infertility doctor Chadda and a cast of quirky characters who step in to make it all the more enjoyable.Dr. Chadda (Annu Kapoor) is an infertility doctor who is facing the heat from his clients who are unhappy at not getting the results they want. Chadda says its all about luck but since his business appears to be endangered, he starts seeking out some stud types who can donate good strong sperm. His research yields Vicky, a young lad who does nothing but play cricket, hang out with his friends and go clubbing. When approached Vicky finds this whole idea disgutsing (despite Chadda trying to convince him that its an ancient science and that rishis and munis would do that in the days of old). Vicky is offended when Chadda says his sperm all going waste anyway. But enticed by the money he is offered and the taunts of his beautician mother to earn money, he donates his sperm and its a hit - or as the tag line says, Vicky's sperm is lakhon mein ek.

Vicky becomes rich soon in his unconventional and rather pleasurable career, and so does Chadda, as Vicky's sperm brings great results. Chadda pays handsomely, his own graph is on the upswing and now top businessmen and politicians are now queuing up for his services. But Vicky falls in love with a Bengali divorcee and marries her. But he does not tell her his source of income, lying that its all exports and imports. When the girl learns after marriage that Vicky is a donor and is technically a father already (and by some quirk that she cannot have children of her own) she is upset and wlaks out. But all is well finally and one of Vicky's own (one of the 53 he has fathered) is adopted and all is well.

It is a fun movie and money is well spent. I liked the way the team handled relevant issues of marital stress, of sperm donation, of adoption and so on in a light and yet responsible manner. Great performances by Ayushmann Khurana, Yami Gautam and Annu Kapoor. If you haven't seen it do! It is as it claims - lakhon mein ek.