Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to do things well - The MasterChef Australia Validation

To 'do' things well, one needs to declutter the mind and stick to the main idea. Action needs some coherence, some organisation, to be effective. Let's say we want to write a novel, score a hundred or take five wickets. If one is writing, write with the clear idea of following the main idea. If one is batting, bat with the idea of playing the next ball - one ball at a time. If one is bowling - bowl with the idea of merely having the thought of where and what you want to bowl your next ball. That is it. Come down to the one thought. Pen to paper, one word at a time. Bat to ball, one ball at a time. Ball on spot, one ball at a time.

Much theory can go around it to figure out how champions do it but in the end it is this - do it, one basic thing at a time. One clear idea. Organising the mind. And - do it intensely in that moment.

Great validation for this thought came from the Masterchef Australia Chef who summed up the process of good cooking today - (1) Be clear about the core idea (2) be true to the core idea even if you want to improvise and (3) organise your thoughts and processes to arrive at the core idea as best as you can.

Simple huh. You can use that formula for anything - writing a book, batting and bowling well, cooking, team selection - anything. Thanks Chef!

Thought for the Day - Hard work is simple

Hard work is really simple. All we need to do is to just do it right 'now' with full awareness. Hard work gets harder when we think of it too much - and do nothing or less about it. But the more we do it, the more intensely we do it, the less harder it gets.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Literary Day at Oakridge International, Bachupally

I was invited to be Chief Guest at the Oakridge International School, Bachupally campus today and I fell in love with the lovely environs - away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. The function started a bit late owing to my getting delayed in the traffic and the cab breaking down as well. But the children, intelligent and inquisitive,  listened patiently as I shared my writing journey, asked me many questions, and we ended up having a fine interaction. I was given a walk around the place by the Vice Principal Mr. Venkat Suresh and Ms. Suneetha who coordinated the event and we shared a few more thoughts over salad. The children gifted me a wonderful hand painting that exhorts us to 'Save Energy' and I was truly impressed by the huge paper figurine they made that represented the Olympic spirit I think. It was wonderful.

Thanks everyone, Pavan specially. I enjoyed being there.

Laudable Initiative from the AP Chief Minister

The new initiative by the Andhra Pradesh State Government to make Physical education compulsory in schools is indeed laudable. In a state where the perspective to a child's growth has taken a rather weird turn with extreme focus on academics and marks orientation, this move was necessary to restore parity and give hope to children and their real growth.

It's now well known that all children need not display the same intelligence in academics alone. Some display intelligence in sports and games, some in dance, some in music, some in other forms and all of these are recognised forms of intelligence. The child discovers himself and develops a healthy self-esteem through the intelligence that he or she expresses most or finds it easy to express through the most.

Sports comes naturally to some and I have seen in my own life that those who have played sports and games develop a healthy attitude to life through their work in teams, to leadership, to winning and losing - and thereby build a higher resilience to the vagaries of life. It also enables them to look at life with more 'empowerment' as they constantly seek to find a way to better their performance - and the only way is through more effort!

If nothing at all, sports is a time for laughter and physical activity, to release oneself by just running free and enjoying life as all children must do. The next initiative Chief Minister, would be to ensure that all schools also have access to grounds so they can express themselves freely. Well done!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thought for the Day - Change Happens When You Are True To Yourself and Your Belief

Most times we accept things as they are because we are afraid of disturbing the status quo. In many situations where certain processes, thoughts are ingrained over years of similar and perhaps stale thought, it appears seemingly difficult to bring in a new approach. The air hangs around you like a miasma, people appear distrusting, conspiracies are seen everywhere - but its just the old insecurity. It is easy to get drawn into it and fear it and do nothing about it. For example when you enter a government office, you may accept status quo and leave it at that. After all its the culture you'd say. Or any organisation like a start up too.

But change does not happen when one accepts without trying. One must be true to oneself and one's convictions and beliefs irrespective of what is going on. If everyone believes that everyone is a crook, one can still speak to the good in the other person. It exists after all in everyone and if we speak to that part, that part will respond. All one needs is just enough momentum, one tweak and things could change forever.

This is something that Gandhiji did in his most stunning demonstrations of his faith in human goodness. it is something that can change the way societies can function. It is certainly something that can change the way organisations function.

Creative Writing Workshop Coming Up at Oakridge International School

I have an interesting assignment on hand - of conducting a Creative Writing workshop at Oakridge International School, for children aged between 11 and 16, starting this Saturday. The workshop is for six weeks, each an hour and a half every Saturday morning. It is the first time I am conducting a workshop of this kind but I took up the assignment because it is something I always wanted to do - share the writing process as I have experienced it - with aspiring writers. Doing the same with such fertile, young and creative minds is an absolutely delicious challenge and I am looking forward to it. The Oakridge School calls it 'The Future Authors Workshop' and it is one among the many workshops that are being offered to students as part of the 'Weekend Voyagers' journey!

Last weekend we had a 'Meet the Interested Parents and children' session at Oakridge where I was thrust into a rather forgotten role of sitting in a stall and explaining what  would do. I really did not bargain for that when I okayed the workshop for Pavan, my participant from an earlier 'Champion's Mindset' workshop, but I do enjoy putting myself into situations that are uncomfortable and also knock some of my ego out. I met a lot of young children, parents and some friends as well. I also met a young lad Rohit who is aspiring to be a surgeon and is currently studying in Ireland, who is teaching Mandarin as his workshop, and also wants to write a novel!

Though the school wanted children from the age bracket of 9 -16, I felt that the age difference would be too vast to address them as one (even now I hope that the 11 year olds can cope) and restricted it to 11-16. Several 9 year olds came up with their parents and it was rather distressing to see them so disappointed at not being able to join. But as I told their parents and the children - it was just that I was not prepared for them. They have such flexible and fertile minds that I better be absolutely sure of what I want to take them through in the workshop. I promised to take the learning from this workshop and devise one for the 9-11 age exclusively which I would do after these six weeks. Meanwhile I told them, please write and write and write. I saw some writing samples too and they were brilliant.

I am looking at two outcomes to this workshop. One, that the children write without fear of being wrong (language, spelling, grammar) and feel the exhilaration of writing, feel it flow out of their system and enjoy that process. Another outcome is to tell that of the laws of construction and structure that can help in writing creatively - which is not some God given gift - but pure simple work. One of the greatest insights into creative writing came from my elderly friend who is no more, a man who was highly learned, one of India's best cricket journalists and a wonderful writer, the late Rajan Bala, who said simply when I sent him my first novel that 'good writing is all about good organisation of thought'. And frankly all creative process is just that - clarity and organisation of thought. I hope to get these two outcomes across in the six weeks, share the process and set them on the path. I also expect to learn much - perhaps more than they will learn from me. I realise that 25 students of a slightly wide age group might be difficult to handle and requested my friend Rasana Atreya, who is herself a published writer and an editor at that, to help and she has consented to do that.Thanks Rasana.

Another interesting outcome of meeting the parents was that a few parents expressed the desire to attend a Creative Writing workshop. I found that interesting and promised them that I would be delighted to do one for them after these six weeks were done. All in all it is rather exciting and I am looking forward to the first session this weekend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New Role, A New Responsibility

In a totally unexpected development over the past few days I have been assigned a new role with the Hyderabad Cricket Association - one that promises to be an exciting and responsible one. I have been asked to be the Chairman of the Senior State Selection Committee, or in simpler terms the Ranji Trophy and other senior side selections for Hyderabad. It is a wonderful opportunity that is coming at the right time what with the team doing well in the last one year and showing signs of bringing Hyderabad back into the reckoning as one of the premier sides in the country.

There is enough talent around and our job is as simple of getting the best team to play for Hyderabad. Exciting times and I am looking forward to really doing a good job on it with my colleagues Riaz, Pawan and Jai. Go Hyderabad!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2 Day Orientation at the SMS, University of Hyderabad

I really like the kind of work that the School of Management Studies at the University of Hyderabad does to give its students all kinds of exposure. I have been associated with the institution for the past three years and have taught there as a guest lecturer, a course of Enterprise Building and several growth labs or my 'Champion's Mindset' workshops. Most times Prof. Jyothi and Prof. Venakatramana, the Dean, would have me intervene after the students have put in some work in the course already - say by the end of the first or second semester. But this time we tried something different - we had a 2 day orientation on the 17th and the 18th for the freshers - one day old.

I was pretty excited with the opportunity because it gives me fresh minds to work with. Six months down the line they would have formed habits that would have been tough to influence. But at this juncture it was a fine opportunity for me to work with them. It also meant that I needed to rework my workshop and make it simpler and easier and try out a few things for the first time. I was a bit apprehensive as it was the first time I would try this model and more so, because it was so important to get it right for the freshers who would carry these impressions with them as they go forward.

Broadly the workshop went in this fashion. After an introduction about me and my career post my MBA, I asked the youngsters to write down their expectations from the course. It was an interesting response that ranged from 'recognition' to 'social status' to 'good friends' but also several managerial traits such as decision making, leadership, knowledge, better position etc. When I divided the list of 40 attributes and ticked out the ones that they would learn in the classroom and the ones they would learn outside it, turned out that they would learn about 70% of the learning outside the classroom! A comparison with the IIMs was inevitable and I gave them a glimpse into the work that the IIMs put in and how these youngsters could easily put in the same - and some more - and catch up with their illustrious counterparts in those elite colleges in a few years.     

It was important to lay the common starting block for everyone irrespective of caste, creed, language and background - and 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck served me well as I told the students about the Fixed and Growth Mindsets and how they will always do better by adopting a learning and effort based mindset and not the fixed one. The concept of hard work and effort, of setting high standards, was probably best driven by the gist of this wonderful book. Thanks Carol, your book is serving me extremely well!

A small exercise on the attributes they have (they listed out several, and very well too - strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, attitude, interests, capabilities, aims, habits) and we decided that the starting pint was the strengths. We found out a bit about their strengths, some from their friends and some from themselves, and how it was best used. I told them that all champions put 90% effort on their strengths and 10% on their weaknesses (improvement of).

An interesting exercise which I always like is the one where the participants compile their lifestory through their achievements, strengths, qualifications, skills, passions and try to derive opportunities that lay ahead for them. We tried to arrive at a few career options for them based on a couple of their stories. We did the inevitable exercise on their goals - starting from post MBA to 20 years down the line at intervals of 5 years each and that probably provided some with some clarity. Some were quite clear and some did start thinking about how to align their goals and their lives to what they want. We worked on how goals are achieved by design and how they could do the same with their goals too.

The importance of preparation was stressed and how one must use the two main resources that one has - time and energy - well to get the edge in these two years. We constructed the Ideal MBA and his attributes and there were several of course. From among them we picked the absolute basic stuff that the Manager needs to have and how they would do better to have thorough subject knowledge, specialist knowledge, some practical application of it, communication skills, leadership skills, team skills, analytical and decision making skills, people and public speaking skills if they could develop them. Along with them other traits such as being dependable, hard working, having a sense of responsibility and so on were also discussed. Their job now, was to prepare to fill the gap between the ideal MBA and themselves in the next two years!

One last session on how businesses work and how the youngsters would fit in as professionals was rather well received. One does not really know anything about the corporate world until we see it in all clarity and I hope they did understand it in the correct perspective. I urged them to study the 2 year course from the eyes of an entrepreneur - because that would help them understand it and. When you think of everything from the perspective of money and return and efficiency it becomes much easier to understand! I also asked them to apply what they learned in real life by taking up some small enterprise- business or even running a cause - so it would help in honing their skills.

They gave me some feedback - and some glowing compliments - which I will cherish. I did find them smart and clear headed bunch and one that impressed me with their no frills approach. A high percentage were pretty focussed. It was nice to meet my old team mate from MCC, young Nagender, studying MBA in this fine institution and among the participants. I am really keen to see how they perform and hope and pray that they do justice to their potential. I am pretty bullish on them and this experiment by Prof. Jyothi. Good luck young managers and we shall hopefully meet again soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hyderabad Diaries - Rains in Hyderabad

The rains in Hyderabad are never like the rains in Mumbai or Kolkata or Chennai. Mumbai pours almost continuously for those three months from June to August - just non stop rain - where people bring out their umbrellas, 'rainy shoes', rain coast and all sorts of rain fighting gear. You just have to grit your teeth and go on. Locals (trains) will stop on days with heavy rain (the local people don't), roads get flooded a bit and rarely you get situations like the 100 mm rain that happened a few years ago. When inside the home, it is beautiful to watch. Outside in the rain, it can get rather painful. Rains in Kolkata were like nothing I have seen before. It rains furiously, like something burst, and in a few minutes its all over. The roads have filled up and chaos everywhere. Those few minutes however are heavy pouring rain that leave you drenched in a moment. It always catches you by surprise so you better be prepared. Chennia is a bit more predictable - but it rains on and on for those three months and then again in the retreating monsoon.

In Hyderabad rains are never too scary. No reason for rainy shoes here, nor even for rain coats really and few carry umbrellas. It threatens to rain mostly and when it happens it happens in a very manageable way. You get sufficient warning through long drizzles, enough time to hide somewhere without getting drenched. It does not rain too long so you don't get stuck for too long either. It is rarely furious and heavy rain. Its great for car rides and stuff like that.

But for such friendly rain unfortunately we have a city drainage system that seems to be utterly hopeless. How can roads get clogged up, main, arterial roads at that, at just a few mm of rain is what I cannot understand. While driving back from Gachibowli yesterday I found that the roads were jammed at various places due to large collection of rain water - at KBR, near Hitech city, near Madhapur Traffic Police station, and the worst being a jam opposite the Hyatt on Banjara Hills. The poor cops were trying to drain the road opposite Hyatt that had filled like a lake.  The hotel belongs to a powerful MP and is on the nerve centre of Hyderabad's posh places, the arterial road that links Hyderabad to the work areas of Madhapur and Gachibowli, and its a shame really that no one, not even the MP, could get some sense into the authorities concerned. It's way into July and its not the time to start worrying about draining water from clogged roads - it should have been done by May. Call it incompetence, negligence, total disregard or just plain stupidity but certain things make you wonder.

But if you ignore the clogged roads and the jams, rains in Hyderabad are fun and beautiful. Walk at Necklace road, eat bhutta, the chai cafes and endless discussions, the mirchi bajjis and other garam garam items and perhaps some soothing much that makes you go wah wah. Enjoy the rains. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thought for the Day - Challenge Yourself

Need to find some inspiration to do some thing that you do not feel like doing? Need to do better than what you are doing? It only means that you are not being able to challenge yourself. When stuck in a rut and you want to get out - challenge yourself - and you will see yourself grow.

It is always the challenge that excites. Even as a leader we realise that people love challenges. Challenge them and see what they come up with. Similarly, challenge yourself and see what you are capable of doing. It gets your focus, your attention. It gets the adrenaline flowing.

As an example I must mention the experience I had at the airport the other day. Having time to kill I entered a cricket net which had a bowling machine that bowled 20 balls. I played desultorily and way below the seriousness with which I should have or could have played. While stepping out after an average performance I wondered why I was so casual about it. It struck me then that if the guy had a challenge, of not getting out, of scoring runs, or whatever, with some reward, I would have taken it up with all seriousness.It would have got me going.

Even as a business idea it should work I think. People love challenges. So challenge them and get the excitement going, Creates the buzz.

Anita Raj - Healing through Hypnotherapy

I first met Anita Raj, most fortuitously I must say, almost ten years ago when she had just moved to Hyderabad. My mother was unwell with cancer and in great discomfort and Anita, then known to Shobha, was kind enough to come by and do some reiki healing for my mother. My first impression of Anita was that she was very professional about the whole affair - no extra talk, focussed on the job, on the patient and one could see that she genuinely wanted to help and bring my mother some peace. Those days I was in some kind of a haze - clutching at any straw if it helped - knew nothing about energy healing. Anita was a huge 

support. When my mother passed away she came along with our other friends and I vividly remember the concern she and her husband Raj had for us.

We met more often later - a whole bunch of common friends - Sailaja, Anita, Anil, Lalita and others. She was the tarot expert for the Times of India in Hyderabad and had a weekly column - a celebrity of sorts really. We participated in a few workshops together and I always found her to be great fun. In fact if you met her outside you'd think she was the perfect party girl - full of fun, energy and life. Anita has a great sense of humour, is generally found laughing at something or the other, has a completely irreverent take on life and hardly the serious 'healer' one would imagine. But she is all serious about her work (and she switches on and
off instantly). Raj, she and young daughter, moved to Bangalore later on for professional reasons but we continued to meet whenever she visited Hyderabad. Even when Anita and Raj moved to Germany we would meet when she visited Hyderabad on her annual vacation.

These days when I go to meet Keerti, my editor and good friend, in Bangalore, we often stay with our friends Vandana and Ramesh who live in the same community as do two other friends of ours - Anita  and Raj and Kanchan and Anu. Life it seems keeps us in the loop one way or another and whenever we are in Bangalore we certainly pay her a visit. Over the years I noticed that she has studied and practiced many more healing and energy techniques that help people find peace. I decided to find out more about how she got into this work and how it helps the average person.

To set things in perspective - Anita is an MBA from Xavier’s Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, with Human Resources as her specialisation. For several years she managed her own HR consultancy
in Bangalore called Career Interface where she helped people find the right jobs. But over the years she gradually moved on to a slightly different route to help and empower people - something far
more deeper than merely connecting jobs to people. As a reiki practitioner, a hypnotherapist, a tarot reader, she now helps people through therapy to deal with problems that seemingly have no probable answers. I was
keen to know her how she went about this transition and how she actually helps and supports people.

What exactly can one expect when they come to you, I asked.
Anita said she uses hypnotherapy to help people find their answers and peace. Certified by the California Institute of Hypnotherapy, Anita has completed her five levels of therapy. Going by her busy calendar,
she is one of the most sought after therapists in Bangalore.

What about reiki and tarot, I asked her. Does she still do tarot readings?
Anita said she does tarot readings and reiki as well. She finds that all the various techniques and tools help her in helping and healing people. Sometimes even before therapy, she uses the tools and techniques she has learnt to settle down energies, dissolve any resistance, and create a better healing space. However, she feels that it is hypnotherapy that works best to solve any issues that people may carry.

How did this unconventional journey start, I asked.
Anita said that it started during her days as a HR consultant where she felt the need to understand people better, to find them the right jobs. Sometimes she felt that people had unrealistic expectations and were getting stuck in jobs they were not suited for. To help understand people better, she would go to well known therapist Saul Pereira in Bangalore to observe and learn as he worked with his clients. She hoped to use the learning she gained in her HR recruitment process. This period helped her in the path she later took in her life.

Anita wound up her recruitment agency when she moved to Madras with her family. That was when she saw an advertisement to join tarot card reading classes. She joined, thinking it would be a one week course.
Anita recalls how her teacher Gopal, a young and erudite person, patiently taught her all about energy, how it moves, and how it can be used for healing. He taught her much more than just tarot she feels. What started as a small foray grew into a 9 month long learning journey for Anita. During this period she learnt what it means to view the world as one, to travel in time and to manipulate energy. Anita found it a deep and fulfilling experience and it set off the otherwise light hearted and fun loving girl into taking this work seriously and help
those who found no conventional answers.

How did she actually start consulting, I queried.
When Raj and Anita moved to Hyderabad (around the time when I met her) she started reading tarot cards. She recalls that on their 13th wedding anniversary Raj gifted her a copy of Louise Hay's 'You can heal your life' – a book that she found highly empowering. She used Louise Hay’s techniques on a couple of persistent health issues and miraculously her problems disappeared - one a chronic and long standing issue - which completely vanished. Impressed by the power of the mind, she sought out Sailaja (a certified workshop facilitator who trained with Louise Hay herself) and made her to conduct a 'You can heal your life' workshop. Anita felt that the workshop really empowered her. And the seed to meet and help and heal people was sown.

What did she find in her years of work in the energy field, I asked.
Anita says emphatically that almost all psychological and neurotic problems have their basis in the person feeling 'not being loved'. She went and met the famous regression expert Dr. Newton in Hyderabad - an
experience that left her with an understanding that 'neither the king nor the pauper is different and that she has been both.' That experience expanded her world view and gave her a wider perspective to life which she applied to herself and to her clients. Regression helped her and her clients gain a different perspective to death.

How did the journey progress further, I asked.
When they moved to Germany Anita could not continue her tarot reading mainly because of the language issue. She however used her time to learn more and went to the guru of regression Dr. Brian Weiss (author or many books such as 'Many Lives,Many Masters' and other bestsellers) and attended a 5 day workshop in Boston along with 300 strangers. The experience left her with a fuller and deeper understanding of energy work and its positive effects.

Back in Bangalore after her German stint she attended the hypnotherapy course conducted by the California Hypnosis Institute and completed 5 levels of hypnotherapy. (She now proposes to do her Hans Tandard
course which is far more advanced level of hypnotherapy.) It is a structured and certified course which is monitored.

How does hypnotherapy help, I asked.
Having seen and studied many different ways to deal with people's issues Anita feels that hypnotherapy is shorter and more effective than cognitive therapy which takes longer. It helps shed baggage. For
one, it changes the frame that one wishes to look at life in, and helps look at oneself and what one really wants. It helps regress one into a happy life. It moves the person from thinking that it’s always
someone else's fault (we never think that we're like that too).

All sorts of issues can find some resolution through hypnotherapy. Especially those to do with deep rooted beliefs and blocks. It can encompass any area of life - health, relationships, career and so on. However where hypnotherapy cannot help is with schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, depression, bipolar personalities - anyone who is not in their senses such as autism, retardation, cerebral palsy. It is not advisable for those less than 8 years of age.

How does it work, I asked.
What it does is bring in the trigger from the sub-conscious mind which is considered 8000 times more powerful than the conscious mind. The triggers can come up from the past life to the present life. Therapy
is prescribed to get a better result that the client hopes to get with the issue.

Where does one learn hypnotherapy in India, I asked.
The two places one can learn hypnotherapy in India are at the Hypnotherapy institute of India, Delhi and the California Hypnosis Institute, Mumbai.

How has her experience as a healer been?
Anita feels that in any form healing it is important to remember that the healer is only another human being. All the healer does is surrender to that person's highest good and the healing energy does its work after that.
Typically her clients come to her after trying everything else. She also feels that these days people are recognising that other forms of healing complement the allopathic medical process. Anita says a lot of doctors come to her for pain management (for themselves as well as for patients) where hypnotherapy works well. That itself is a big validation.

Where does she see herself going from here, I asked. What she considers her purpose in life.
Anita says that one of her main missions in life is to demystify death. People want the perfect death. They don't allow the person who is dying to go peacefully with their lack of understanding of death.Understanding death will improve our perspective to life.

What is her big learning that she wants to share with others, I asked.
That we are spiritual beings in physical bodies says Anita. Also that one can understand and tap into our own healing and spirituality by spending time with oneself. Sit quietly by yourself and a lot can happen she says.

That concludes the rather brief interview I had with Anita on a rather vast and intriguing subject that is finding more space in these times as we look for more ways to cope. The website of the California Hypnosis Institute of India states that hypnotherapy is a safe, highly effective method of facilitating healing solutions for most part of the century. It is considered especially useful to stop habits, manage anxiety and stress, induce psychological and emotional well being, improve physical conditions and also for personality development.

As a practitioner of hypnotherapy, but more importantly as someone who understands energy work from several view points and practices techniques and tools such as reiki, tarot and more, Anita is well on the way to help people heal and find their own peace. She is someone who has genuine concern for people, someone who acts instantly on her intuition and someone who sticks by her belief. Her commitment to people's welfare can never be doubted and I for one have experienced it first hand. (And, she is always good to have a laugh with as well!)

Here's wishing Anita a deeply satisfying, enriching and successful journey down her chosen path and I am in no doubt that she will affect many lives positively. For those who wish to contact her please call her on 097413 99482 for an appointment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thought for the Day - Our Insensitivity to Children

The case of the warden making a school girl drink her own urine in the Vishva Bharati University, Santiniketan (or lick the soiled bed sheet for medicinal benefits or for superstition or for ridding the child of the bed wetting habit as claimed by authorities) is indicative of the kind of sensitivity we have for our children. Forget the children for a moment - we are really showing ourselves as tortured souls who are devoid of love and good things to share even with children and in our frustration and anger we do things that are as abominable as this.

Of course the most abominable thing about this whole issue was the statement of Swami Agnivesh who said something to the effect of how urine drinking is part of our great heritage and how some great people did drink urine. Swamiji, it does not mean that all of us have to drink urine. Perhaps drinking alcohol, eating meat, and certain other habits could be healthy for some people but we cannot force it on people. Swamiji in fact, in his immense wisdom, felt that since the child was only told to drink and not forced to drink it, she could have refused. Amazing sensitivity again from the learned god man. It is as if she was given a choice on whether she could drink or not drink - I mean, how lucky she was not forced to do it really! Does that not show how concerned we are for her? It is a sign of senility or some weird kind of a belief that makes people like Swami Agnivesh make these ridiculous statements that border on the self-righteous. And you cannot even bring yourself to show some love and compassion to a poor little frightened child - and invest all your sympathies with a middle aged matron who could not think of a better way to deal with a child who is already embarrassed, ashamed and perhaps physically ill. I cannot believe that Swami Agnivesh is not hauled up for his irresponsible and uncalled for statements by the child rights people. Imagine justifying the matron by saying that she did not force the girl!

Add to that is the wonderful 'regret letter' from the Viswa Bharati authorities who named the child thrice in their communication - an offense that is punishable by law under the Juvenile Justice Act. They are running an entire University with this attitude - of first protecting the matron, and then mentioning a ten year old girl thrice in a public release. What are these people made off? Is someone going to punish them or will the poor girl be punished further? Where is the rather vocal Mamta Banerjee who took such offense to the cartoon when such things happen to a child? Is someone going to arrest them for breaking the Juvenile Justice Act or will the 10 year old have to file a complaint?

Take a step back and observe how we scare and frighten the wits out of little children. From our so called humour or play with children where we pinch their cheeks, pull their hair, throw them in the air, block their passage, hold them against their will, to emotional blackmail to real physical abuse that is sadistic - we go the whole range. We cannot call ourselves cultured - any ass who talks of culture here should be kicked where it hurts most. In fact we do what any one would do when we find someone powerless in our hands - we torture, terrify and sadistically hurt them. Watch any adult with a child for five minutes and you will know what I mean. How much love goes in and how much abuse in so many ways (including forcing our opinion on them). But then, sadly, our adults themselves are victims of victims and that is our tragedy.

Dealing with children requires an enormous amount of creativity, empathy and compassion. They are not adults - they are little kids with minds and bodies that are still forming. be gentle with your words, thoughts and acts. Give them a chance fellows. Use your minds and responsibilities better.

I heard this story the other day. A young 5 year old mentioned that she wanted to be a teacher. I said that it is good and that she would make a good teacher. She said that when she became a teacher she would not shout at children. I got curious and asked her what she meant. She said that she heard a teacher tell a student friend of her that if she did not stop chewing on her pencil she would staple her lips. The very thought is almost like some medieval torture. Then, the 5 year old girl continued, the young girl whom the teacher had threatened was scared. She could have told the young girl not to chew on the pencil and that it would give her a stomach ache, said the 5 year old. Then she would understand would she not and stop chewing the pencil. Why scare her?

A good reason for the young 5 year old to become a teacher. She will probably be more compassionate to children than the current one. And hopefully create a better world. Meanwhile, watch yourself when you are with a child next. Give them love. Else get out of the picture. They can do very well without you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hyderabad Bangalore Highway in pictures

This is how the ride from Hyderabad to Bangalore looks by road. It's a lovely drive though sometimes it could have done with better scenery. A good car and an average speed of about 80 will get you there in 7 hours.
One side of the highway with a huge divider on the right of the road
On the road, wide and inviting

A dhaba on the way. Neat and simple food.
A better perspective of the highway, with bougaibvilleas                 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anjali - Give Only When Asked

Another learning from the young lass. While travelling in the car I was telling her that I would have liked to give a chocolate to one old lady who was begging on the road (I normally give them toffees or candy so they can pass their time on the road in their tough profession).

Anjali instantly said - 'Give it only when she asks'.

'Why?' I asked in return, surprised.
'What if she does not want it? You see if a cat does not want to drink milk, it might push it away right? Even the old lady might not like it if you give without asking.'

I could not agree more. Give only when asked. There is much more value then. Thanks Anjali.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Growth is Within

When we go within, we grow.

Pic courtesy Pooja

When we live without, we become smaller.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Hyderabad Series - Eating in Hyderabad

Eating in Hyderabad is a great experience and everyone is agreed on that. In fact eating is a fine art here and we spend most of our time eating and refining the art of eating - just as we do with the post eating belching, paan chewing and spitting are. So when asked what about Hyderabadi food everyone here puts on a knowing look and say 'Hyderabadi biryani' and that pretty much ends all talk of Hyderabadi food. All rookies find the first guy who serves 'Hyderabadi biryani' which is now being served by anyone and everyone. From the mom and pop store biryani made by cooks who have just been imported from the Andhra region (no clue about the H biryani), to the many guys who serve biryani in the same menu along with misspelt Chinese food and idlis and vada, right up to the guys who know how to make the Hyderabadi  biryani but are suffering either from a severe case of complacency or too much competition, there is an assortment of 'Hyderabadi biryanis' thrown at the rookie. Unfortunately, today even the supposedly best biryani, does not match up to the authentic taste of biryanis you can get (try a Muslim wedding) which is to die for.

Anyway, for all the first level biryani eaters, the advise is this. Please try and do some research on authentic Hyderabadi biryani in Hyderabad and then go about applauding it. Don't eat it off the guy round the corner and think it's the one. There was a time when Hyderabadi biryani was served exclusively in the Irani cafes and they all had a taste that was so 'Hyderabadi biryani like'. I can still tatse it. And over the years, from the early eighties to now, many a restaurant has claimed, by popular vote, to be the best biryani house in Hyderabad. Early on it was Alpha hotel near the Secunderabad railway station which had the honour of being the best H biryani hotel. People raced out of trains to grab a packet and race back. For many years I found no competition for Alpha. Though Paradise is the reigning queen of the Hyderabad biryani now, there were many claimants in between - Moghul darbar at Liberty, Azizia at Nampally, Asian Cafe at Nampally, Parwaaz at the same place, Bombay restaurant at Gunfoundry, Niagara in the old city, Madeena and Shadab near Charminar, Bahaar at Basheerbagh, Astoria Cafe at RTC cross roads, Garden restaurant at Clock Tower which were all Irani cafes known for their fine biryanis. There was Mohini at Basheerbagh which served wonderful zafrani biryani, and probably the best mutton biryani I ate in Hyderabad, for one short period of time. Surprisingly most restaurants find it difficult to maintain the quality and they lose out after a while. All good but for a genuine taste of biryani one must at least once taste biryani in a Muslim wedding or a Muslim house. Worst case, try some of the better hotels that offer the midnight fare.

But no Hyderabadi food experience is as simple as it was then in the eighties when one either ate a biryani at an Irani cafe or ate full meals or some Udipi fare like idli and dosa. On adventurous occassions we ate Chinese food at Blue Diamond, Nanking, Alex's Kitchen or Hi King. Or for chaat, the Koti joints. Or for fish fry the joints near Tank bund. Now one has so much choice that one does not know what to eat and where. A million biryani joins each claiming to be authentic (that word means that they are not), a million Chinese joints, Udipi's all over the place, Chinese joints from push carts to high end restaurants, barbecue joints, Thai joints, Sizzlers joints and regional food joints. There are subways, sandwich joints, chaat joints - enough to make you go queasy in the stomach. I really have no favorites left in the new order though I'd recommend Bade miyan's kababs (short menu which shows that he knows what he is doing) and especially the pathar ka kabab that he makes with the warqi roti. In my younger days at school in All Saints we used to eat the famous tandoor roti and mutton combination which was to die for. Ah, I loved that food.

Few Irani joints have their tradition left. Most menus have been corrupted by the idlis and dosa eating population. The leisurely chai and kheem roti or kaleja and other such delicacies (bheja fry being one) are fading out. Chais are extraordinarily expensive at Rs. 8 for a small cup but worth it after a good meal.

The desserts which are of Hyderabadi fame are the qubbani ka meetha (often mistakenly referred to asqurbani ka meetha by our public), double ka meetha and the like. There is the famous kulfi that Mohini serves which is wonderful and one cannot ignore the colorful falooda which must have come with the Moghuls or Persians. My vote normally goes for qubbani ka meetha which is always a pleasure.

During Ramzan time we all queue up to eat haleem which is served in the evening when the fast is broken. This is a wonderful dish, a porridge made of wheat and meat, ghee and dry fruits, and much more. It is delicious, heavy and protein rich. But it's something that I realised you don't get everywhere in India, not even Mumbai. Something of an acquired taste but I have not seen anyone stop with one haleem - they always come back for more. For haleems all the Irani cafes are in contention - some who make the haleem out there in the courtyard and serve till late at night. Pista House has claimed some sort of a legitimacy on the best haleem as I believe its haleem is parcelled abroad as well. They have many distribution centres and its well packed and easily available. A few years ago the Postal Department had tied up with Pista House to deliver the haleem but I am not sure if the arrangement holds still. All other Irani cafes and restaurants like Paradise, Red Rose, Garden, Bahaar, Melli, Niagara - you name it and they make it. In fact even Mohini restaurant in Bahsheerbagh makes some fine haleem. After six in the evening is when they start serving it.

Other foods to eat in Hyderabad - and I will stay close to that which is kind of peculiar to Hyderabad - are the snacks and street food. Along with your chai Irani restaurants serve an assortment of bakery items like Osmania biscuits, dilkush, dil pasand, tie biscuits and some more such stuff that can be consumed best with a chai. In fact the tie biscuit (so named because it resembles a bow tie) tastes like nothing on its own but when dipped in chai, tastes heavenly. Alternately one can consume chai with samosas. Typically the Hyderabadi version is called chote samose which are small in size and taste like nothing you have tasted on earth. Completely different but very addictive.

In regional food one finds little of Telangana food. The Rayalaseema Ruchulu brand has done a great service to that region by bringing forth the tastes of Rayalaseema alive wonderfully. From the ragi sankati to mutton curry and other Rayalaseema delicacies, this restaurant is really good for spicy fare. There are several Andhra meals restaurants including Abhiruchi, Bheema, Minerva and others that cater to the Andhra cuisine - the first one is non vegetarian and the other two are vegetarian. Try the meals with one side dish. There are a few Nellore cuisine restaurants with rather long names as well which complete the circle. Nellore cuisine is supposed to be one of the best in non vegetarian food with their chepala pulusu (fish curry) being the highlight.

Street foods include the mirchi bajjis and other forms of deep friend bajjis and punugulu and vadas, the ubiquitous paani puri walas, bhel puri chaps, and such stuff that is best eaten in the evening times when one is ready for a snack. Biryani, chai, kababs, qubbani ka meetha. There is enough for the foodie in Hyderabad.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My View - Sehwag on Dhoni's Captaincy

Sehwag's is a wonderful batsman but he is certainly not the greatest cricket strategist or man manager. For sure he is not a great captain, a below average one for me at best (revised from average after this year's IPL 5). His understanding of the role of the captain and the way the dynamics of teams works was once again exposed today when he commented on how the Indian team won the World Cup in 2011 because it was a strong team - backed by a captain who really did not have much to do what with such a great team going out and winning everything. It is time Sehwag (and for that matter Gambhir, who I would like to believe says it more out of modesty) learned that much of how the team performs depends on the person at the helm and not the other way round. It is the captain's job to get the team to root for the team, for him, and if he cannot do that, he is not a great captain. And if the team believes that the captain can do magic and pull the team out from somewhere, he steps into the realm of greatness. 

Dhoni's leadership record has been established and he need not even respond to Sehwag's rather immature and childish outburst. Dhoni won with a rookie team at the World Cup T20, showing remarkable leadership qualities in his first outing. He won the IPL twice with an average team. He won the World Cup against many odds (including the problem of king sized egos in the team's seniors). So if Dhoni won the World Cup, it was in spite of the strong team that he had. Among his many wonderful attributes as captain Dhoni has displayed one quality that to me is the key to the greatest leaders - he gets every player to perform as if he was the captain himself. How many times have his sides had the most unexpected heroes, has had everyone pulling their weight at the time that it mattered most, how many have benefited from his seemingly unshakeable trust in their abilities (far greater than they trusted themselves as Joginder Sharma found out in that World Cup). It is the highest form of man management. Dhoni has also shown an extremely high amount of responsibility as he constantly uses himself and adapts himself to positions in the batting order that are most difficult, sacrificing perhaps his own career statistics. The ice cool confidence he brings to the situation, the uncanny faith he has in his players, the excellent reading of the game and the situation and an incredibly clear headed and simple approach to the game makes him one of the greatest for me. He works on things he can control, lets everyone do their job without getting into their space and focuses on what he can do.

Sehwag, as captain, on the other hand has made some awful gaffes in the recently concluded IPL 5 despite having one of the strongest teams and the best starts in the tournament, including the one in the last game when they left out Morkel and made several other tactical and strategic blunders. Much of his approach as the captain is that of hoping for the best - go out there and enjoy yourself and hope that it all works out. Good captains close out opportunities, create openings when all else seems to be failing. They do not hope and leave it at that. Your players lose faith and confidence when they know that perhaps you don't have a plan A, forget plan B. Players can sense that and much of their confidence comes from knowing that the captain, like any inspirational leader, can pull out a rabbit from the hat. Dhoni has produced the rabbit more times than one.

Whatever Sehwag feels, it is the leader that makes the team. Going back to the old quote that it is better to have a bunch of sheep led by a lion than a pack of lions led by a sheep, one must understand that effective leadership is a fine art and a highly refined one. It requires a supreme sense of security, a fine balance between push and pull, unshakeable trust and faith in oneself (and thereby the team) and certainly being two steps ahead of the pack at all times. Few have understood or mastered this and Dhoni for one, at least knows and has shown, that he does. In recent years, one other captain who has proven this line of thought was Shane Warne, who did an incredible job with a bunch of rookies in the IPL 1st edition. One cannot find too many names in cricketing history that match up as great captains and perhaps Ian Chappell, Clive Lloyd and to a lesser extent Mike Brearley would fit the bill. Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga and Kapil too. However for me Dhoni is in the highest bracket even with such luminaries. It is interesting however to hear Sehwag's views because I know that this is an argument that for many, could go either way. But for me, clearly it is the captain who has a greater influence on a team's performance than a team having its influence on the captain's performance.

12 Angry Men - Movie Review

Finally watched this highly recommended movie by the famous Sydney Lumet. It was incredible. How he held the story so taut with 12 characters in a single room, focussed on their job of coming to a verdict on a murder accused, is something one must see to experience. I was left with my mouth open at the audacity with which he made the film in one room (almost) with no names of characters and built a drama based on fluctuating motives and human frailties. Superb stuff.

12 jurors in a murder case are to decide unanimously whether a young man has murdered his father in a fit of rage. The movie opens directly with the judge telling them that they have to establish reasonable doubt and will need to be unanimous to pass the verdict as it is a criminal case. The case is established as the jurors, all men, discuss the arguments presented by the defense and the prosecution. the case appears kind of water tight, with one eye witness and another man who saw the boy running away from the scene of the crime. the boy has a weak alibi. That he is from a minority community does not help.

The jury it appears  can wrap it up in a few minutes. One man is keen to attend a match, another to get back to work. The vote has 11 men voting guilty and one not guilty. He holds his ground and tries to reason out all his doubts and discomforts about the case and gradually finds support from one and then another. As race, social standing, professions, nativity, prejudice come into play, more and more people join the one who proposed not guilty at the beginning, as he reasons with facts in hand, and tries to eliminate doubt that the murder did take place. He does cause the others to agree that the eye witness could have been mistaken and the old man could have been too and perhaps the boy may not have been guilty. I loved the way he concluded the last scene with the last man who stands for the guilty verdict breaking down, knowing that he has been too hard on his own son which is why he has lost him. It does not leave just teh 12 men in the room richer for that experience, but all those who saw the movie too. Forever Henry Fonda's character will be an inspiration for me when I am faced with a situation that I do not completely believe in. I will hold my ground and try to make sense of my feelings and my doubts and get them across but I will not vote for what I will not believe in.

Superb casting and amazing story telling. The guys look the part, you can actually guess their professions and personalities from their looks and behavior, their prejudices and the way it colours their judgment is brilliantly shown. Brilliant stuff and one that amazes you with how much can be done if you have a good idea and are willing to work on it. Must see for anyone.

The Curious Case of Child Brides and their Education

I was reading this article in the newspaper about how a child bride was refused admission into school in Tamil Nadu at first, and later on admitted on the request of the officer concerned. But the officer had some reservations about it though. He felt that admitting child brides might send the wrong signals to society that we are encouraging child marriages. Some people feel that way he said. I am sure they do. I do laud his effort to get her admitted and also laud his honesty in saying what most do not. This is how our society thinks.

I find this an Indian way (I don't know any other way actually) that we punish the ones who have no say in the matter at all. If someone has been married off at an age when they have no say in that matter, how can you punish them by denying them education. As it is they are victims of a crime - and we compound the crime by punishing them. I find that it happens explicitly in many cases such as harassment, rape and goes all the way up or down to corruption and dubious business ethics. The culprits go free and the ones who are doing their dirty work, mostly forcibly, are arrested. Like you'd arrest the prostitute, and not the pimp. The clerk and not the officer. The officer and not the minister. The murderer and not the one who paid him the supari.

If child marriage is to be discouraged you pass laws to that effect. You hold those responsible for conducting them. You counsel the child and see that justice is done to her. You annul the marriage - or since it is illegal, do not recognise it. But no. What we do will be to catch the easiest target available which is the child and deprive it of whatever hope and justice she should get. We make her feel like she has committed the crime when she is the victim (just as rape victims are made to feel that they provoked the rapists with their behavior and the innocent rapists did what they are born to do, after that). We then tell her that she has no further access to education, a good life, because she is a child bride.

Can we grow up and become a bit more sensible? Can we understand who is the victim and who is the culprit? Can we do what is expected of us as responsible citizens and see that justice is done? If a child marriage has happened, it is the state's incompetence that has allowed it to happen. It has no further right to punish the child when it should actually be falling over to compensate the poor child. Come on fellows, get your act together. It's getting a bit tiring to see this charade going on everyday.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Greg Chappell on Rahul Dravid's captaincy

It is interesting to note Greg Chappell's comments on Dravid's captaincy - where Chappell feels that if Dravid received the kind of support from his team that he gave others, he would have been a far more successful captain. One cannot but agree with that observation, though what purpose it serves, as it is perhaps, an opinion at best (other than raise a bit of a controversy). But I would wholeheartedly agree that Dravid has been the quintessential team man, the highest in that order almost, for the sheer load he carried and the variety of roles he has performed without a murmur for India. In fact if the army wanted a role model for a soldier who sacrifices his interests for the larger interests of the country, even at the cost of incurring the wrath of his popular colleagues, fought the toughest battles in the most extreme conditions and held ends up, bled hope out of the opposition so his other glamourous teammates could look good, they needed to look no further than the tall, upright and elegant figure of Dravid.

One decision that he made as a captain says it all. His decision to declare the innings when Sachin Tendlukar was crawling to a slow double century in a careful and deliberate manner. A lesser man might not have declared but for Dravid his commitment was for his  team and his country and as captain he did what was in the best interests of the team - at the cost of a controversy in a country which is obsessed with records, and Sachin, even to the extent of sacrificing the main interest of the game to support their illusion of greatness. A bit of mud flew, Sachin kept an injured silence, when in fact he should have come out and supported Rahul's decision (he should have gone for his shotsand completed his double ideally). Rahul was calm as ice. He knew what he had done was right and he would have done it irrespective of whoever was batting.

The way he quit captaincy after a successful English tour was another brilliant and almost unprecedented of act in the power hungry and egoistic land of Indian cricket. It is no secret that many aspirants in the Indian dressing room nurture the desire to be the skipper - most without as much as a clue of man management or strategy, one must add. Greats in the game but clueless about leading - from the brash youngsters to wise old veterans - everyone wishes to be the captain and not let go. In fact some seniors do resent the fact that others have been made captain and make life miserable by their taciturn and slightly uncooperative attitude - 'I am doing my job so what else do you want from me?' What a captain wants is wholehearted support, enthusiastic players who are willing to die for their captain, and not just performing roles woodenly. Rahul unfortunately, and this was his failing as a captain, could not elicit their support, nor deal with their egos.
To his credit he also realised that it is best that this era of egos and superstars now moves on, and in a classic sacrifice, after a stirring series victory in England's tough conditions, announced that the seniors would not be around for the T20 World Cup thereby paving way for Dhoni, India's Captain Fantastic in one  move. In that one single selfless act Rahul freed Indian cricket of a burden that it was needlessly carrying and would have carried for some more time.

If the first act is of courage and putting the team interest first, the second was of immense love for the country and the game where you sacrifice your own glory because you see the country needs a change of guard, a change of thought. And as always the change of thought requires a revolution, a violent end, and that was the price that was demanded of Rahul - a seemingly suicidal end to his captaincy. Akin to an army officer who sacrifices himself because he knows that his younger and more able bodied soldiers have a better shot at completing the mission and of securing their countries position.

But where I do not agree with Chappell is that in my mind Rahul was not yet fully evolved as a leader, primarily because he was not exposed too much to it. He was not the kind of a captain who drew unconditional support from his players. They respected him for his deeds, his thoughts, but perhaps found it difficult to penetrate the wall around him. In my opinion Rahul was a brooder, a thinker, a soldier who was best operating alone and in his zone, one who thought nothing about giving his all for his country. He knew his role extremely well and always fulfilled it. But he expected others to do the same merely because he was doing it. Here, as a captain, he had a failing of judging, perhaps, everyone by his high and seemingly perfect standards. It is not easy for most to identify with such high standards, such noble thoughts and such evolved actions and so the person who could have been India's most successful captain did not become successful because he never had the time to figure the trick of getting his team to die for him. A longer stint, and he, one who who is intelligent enough to, would certainly have got there. Captaincy as anything else, takes a bit of time, to understand unless you are a natural like Dhoni who brings such a clear head to the ground. Would Rahul have become the most successful captain? Yes, with more time because he needed to still develop the art of getting his players to believe that they were responsible for the team (as much as he was). Did he have the raw material to be the greatest? Yes, he had the stuff that legendary leaders have. Of courage, clarity, compassion and wisdom.    

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Science versus Nature - Higgs Boson

I like the way the Higgs Boson (whatever it is) story is unfolding. I am even more impressed by the CERN scientists and what they have done. But what they say is rather funny.

To begin with they said on finding evidence of game-changing discovery of subatomic particle.
'We have now found the missing cornerstone of partcile physics' said Rolf Heuer, Director of CERN. 'As a layman, I think we have it. But as a scientist I have to say 'what do we have?' Not too convincing huh after the 10 billion effort.

The report says that the leaders of the two CERN teams presented in complicated scientific terms what was essentially extremely strong evidence of a new particle.
'We can only call it a Higgs Boson, not the Higgs Boson,' was another conclusion.

But what took the cake for me was the final quip that drips with an arrogance that can only come from scientists 'Thanks, nature.'

You see, we got it all figured out! Almost.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Curious Case of Pinki Pramanik

I have not heard of anything as bizarre as this. An international female athlete middle distance runner from India, a Railways employee, who won a gold in the 4x400 m in Doha Asiad and a silver in the same event in the Commonwealth games in Melbourne, three gold medals in SAF Games Colombo in 400m, 800 m and 4x400m relay, is now being repeatedly examined to know whether she is a man or a woman (after a neighbour complained that she raped her). Several tests have been done and apparently they are inconclusive. Now they are doing a blood test to know her chromosomal pattern tests.

If this humiliation is not enough someone recorded an MMS of her test being done and circulated it. The tests are still inconclusive.

It is unbelievable. What is it with these people? Can't they find out a person's gender without so many tests? How come she has been on India and Railways teams and no one knew then? Are those officials to be blamed for not knowing her gender? And what of these MMS chaps? Where do they come from?

My question today is not so much about the outcome of the tests as the manner in which it is being conducted. If Pinki does turn out to be a woman as certified the competent (?) authorities, we can pretty much take the responsibility for her going suicidal (unless she is a very strong woman). What of womanhood being suppressed and being humiliated and all that? Forget womanhood - no human can be treated like this.

India's tennis ace Sania Mirza brought out the issue of how Indian sportswomen have been humiliated in last week's clash of super egos in our tennis arena. Here it is much more. And then we have cases of players being raped by coaches, harassed by selectors and administrators, driven to death (as the young tennis player  who died after being harassed by the Punjab police official who was also the tennis body chief). Before this malaise gets worse, it is time to get more vocal and and bring attention to these issues.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thought for the Day - Is Love the Antidote for Stress?

When one feels all stressed out and feels like one is going to pieces there seems to be no escape. It all appears to be hurtling down a one way street with no way to slow down. One is barking at people, looking at things to go wrong, situations to crop up and not expecting a single thing to go right.The BP is shooting through the roof and you don't see how you can stop it. Much less reverse it.

But if one flipped the perspective ( I tried this the other day) and instead of barking into the phone, actually speak with love, really feel it, there is a huge change in the way the entire conversation goes. Same goes with the way we approach things, situations, people. We stress things out with our own stress and we expect them to react normally. If we do approach life with love, I suspect there would be no stress.

Life through the trees (Pic courtesy Anjali)
Love, I believe, is the antidote for stress. Approach life with love. Not with tension, taut nerves and bloodshot eyes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Amazing Andhra Pradesh

I guess it could be the way with most other places but I also am willing to wager a bet that we in Andhra are ahead in most. For example we have a funny situation where most big wigs in society are all in jail. From the YSR Congress party chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy to IAS officers like Srilakshmi and B.P. Acharya to judges like Pattabhi and businessmen like Nimmagadda Prasad are all in jail. I might have missed out a few names. Most of these people somehow seem to be connected to either Jaganmohan or Gali Janardhan Reddy and we don't know who is involved and how and what. We have had the funny situation of a senior IPS officer running away like a petty thief to avoid being caught. We have had the biggest corporate fraudster in Satyam's Ramalinga Raju - now out on bail.

Everyday we have the cream of society here visiting the jail to meet these people. We have had President-to-be Sangma walking in to jail to meet a party chief for support. What if Sangma really wins tomorrow? But its winning the support that matters after all. We have also had a landslide victory for Jagan after he landed in the jail causing most to wonder what went wrong.

Now who else is there in the cooler and who is likely to go there? News was that Nagarjuna the actor went to meet Nimmagadda Prasad in jail. Our papers these days are full of pictures from the jail only. The jail might soon turn out to be the new status symbol, the hottest spot in town.

In days gone by (most youngsters would be actually surprised by this I am sure) politicians or ministers would resign taking moral responsibility if anything untoward happened in their ministry's purview. Most went to jail in support of a noble and public cause, fighting the public and not on charges of corruption, forgery, bribery and so on. It's truly amazing how our Andhra has managed to remain ahead at this game of corruption, low politics and unchecked greed.

The Hyderabadi Series - Lessons from Traffic

Many of the Hyderabadi's deepest desires are exhibited in the way he behaves in traffic. In fact this behavior reveals more about him than having him lying on a couch in a psychiatrist's room deep under hypnosis. There is a distinct perversion, a kink in the mind that kicks in when the Hyderabadi steps into the traffic that shows him up for what he truly is, or what she truly is too! Forget social strata, education, wealth, type of vehicle, age and so on - the animal of enterprise and risk seizes him.
Orderly scenes at the SR Nagar junction. Heroic traffic cop manning junction at 1 p.m. in searing heat.

Watch the traffic at the traffic signals tomorrow and you'll know what I mean. For starters no one stops at the red signal and everyone rushes in headlong as if it really were an invitation, even as the hapless commuters from the actual 'green side' wait helplessly. RTC buses rush in and push onwards as they entertain themselves in day long games between themselves, like little boys, racing each other. Two wheelers zip by avoiding the helpless traffic cop, the odd car goes ahead unable to miss out on all the fun and soon everyone follows. But since the guys who have the real green signal are also concerned about making progress in life, they tend to somehow, in an almost suicidal manner, manage to get into the thick of this flow of traffic and manage to slow them down and mess it all up with a jam. This is when the helpless traffic cop comes into the picture as he cajoles both the right guys (who are now wrong because the lights have turned green) and the wrong guys (who are now right) and asks them to either move on or pick someone randomly to fine and punish. Between the righteous green guys who are now red, and the enterprising wrong guys who are now right, there is much honking, altercations and great fun and drama. If you are in the middle of it, pray, bull doze your way through or just doze your way through. If you've been here long enough you'll bulldoze your way else you are stuck forever!
See what I mean? Where is he going?

Watch more carefully and you will find two wheeler riders with their a penchant to talk on cell phones, even sms while driving two wheelers sometimes (how anyone can do this on a two wheeler where one needs one hand on the accelerator and another on the clutch beats me), escape the oncoming traffic cops with a dexterity and skill few can match, zig zag through traffic on two wheelers in triples and somehow squeeze into the most impossible spaces between large vehicles. They zip over dividers, zip on the wrong side of the road, jump medians, rush headlong into one ways, travel with about ten times the load they can legally carry, turn and stop at whichever place they feel is right. With their constant appearing and disappearing act as if they were some artistes in a magic show, the two wheeler guys leave us with our mouths agape, our hearts tipping over and our blood pressure shooting up. Such acts can only show that God is alive and well and he is also very alert. If you've been around long enough you would have developed some fine sensors that pick up the slightest movement of these two wheelers and that will save you. If you have not, be very scared.
Not the best pic but an indication of things

Talking of magic and circus, one cannot ignore the auto rickshaw wallahs who go around with a huge assortment of arms and legs sticking out of them, careening madly and wildly like a drunken bull, seating passengers to the right and left of the driver, seating four to five mashed people in the back and heading off at great speeds. They can turn at right angles, stop dead, jump and spurt, cut across and behave like a live dragon - something like those bulls they ride in the rodeos. To me nothing is more stressful than these guys.Why anyone would want to take a ride in these autos is something that beats my mind unless they have suicide on their mind or a perverse liking for danger. These overfilled autos are worse than those amusement park rides which have everyone screaming at the top of their lungs - only here, we do it with live traffic. Believe me, the auto rickshaw driver really appears to have no control beyond a point but he goes on at top speed, spinning and weaving between heavy buses and trucks. One cannot but admire both the drivers and passengers here. If you have been around long enough, you will keep a healthy distance for oncoming legs and hands which stick out of the rick.

Late at night one witnesses an invasion of sorts on Hyderabadi roads especially if you are prowling the Kukatpally to Lakdikpul road. A thousand and more buses invade the city in an organised manner, like the elephants in armies of the old, standing shoulder to shoulder as they inch their way forward, menacing us with sheer bulk and size, numbers and strength. It is an awe inspiring sight to see buses cramming the almost six laned highway, hardly an inch apart from one another, moving ahead in a phalanx that would have made Alexander and his Macedonians proud. What this formation does is strike fear in my heart because for about an hour between ten and eleven, these roads are so choked up with these bulls, these private buses or tourist buses as they call themselves, move on like a motorised juggernaut, unstoppable and relentless, leaving no space even for a strand of grass between them. Wait. Turn back. Retreat. Come back later. But just get out of their way.

Four wheeler chaps in Hyderabad range from those who are new learners, L boards and all, who stutter ans stop and drive everyone bonkers, people who have been gifted their cars (look out for Mom's gift and Dad's gift stickers) who really don't feel the pinch of banging into your car,  the ones who are so concerned about their car that they get off in the middle of the traffic and mourn every single scratch and non-scratch, the bullies in SUVs, the stately luxury car guys who swing and sway. Some kind of a crazy equilibrium is maintained between the Rs. 60000 second hand car to the 2 crore luxury item and they all somehow survive. But what one needs to watch out for is the youngster in the car who has been given the car by his blackmailed parents - they just go bonkers and drive suicidally sometimes under the influence of their youth, sometimes alcohol, sometimes women friends under the influence of alcohol and so on..And the call center vehicles which have a different speed limit, a different set of traffic rules and a different set of turbo charged engines. These are clear and present danger and they could just come and hit you from behind with no provocation - that's it!

Then there are the little three wheeler commercial vehicles which carry goods within the city which also move rather dangerously, like knights on a chess board. I can never get a hang of their edges, their movements, quirky and whimsical, as they zip past. Their metal bodies pose great threat to my fibre glass car and I am really wary of them. The other category is that of the tippers that are normally carrying loads of rubble and boulders which also move rather disconcertingly for me, lurching like a slightly imbalanced chap under a heavy influence of alcohol. They could just drop their load on us so keep some distance from their backsides, as one would do with donkeys.

Compare this with the life in the 80s - I must add that for comparison. We did not have a flyover at Begumpet - there was a rail crossing at the Begumpet railway station remember? The road was a regular two lane road for a long time. We did not have the flyover at Khairtabad and we certainly had no Necklace road. The entire area was a marshy land so everyone went to Lakdikapul and then veered off to Tank Bund. You pretty much parked wherever you could in Hyderabad and Secunderabad and there was no problem with that. Not a single No Parking sign. And for many years there was no such thing as a parking fee on roads or any other place if I remember right. The traffic lights were few, traffic cops were not fainting from noxious fumes and a scooter ride from Erragadda to Osmania University was a maximum of 30 minutes or so. We had double decker buses for a while and even buses that had trailer buses at the back which were fun. The roads were full of Ambassador cars and Fiat cars and the odd Standard Herald. Fiats were the status symbols then and those with music decks were to die for. Most people took the buses, a few cycled (I cycled to my Junior college), short distances were covered in cycle rickshaws, slightly longer distances in auto rickshaws and two wheelers mostly consisted of Bajaj Chetak scooters, which were the common dowry item of the middle class, Yezdis and Javas which the stylish lads rode and the Lunas and other mopeds (like the Suvega). If there was danger on the road it was generally from the Setwin buses that had then been newly introduced and they rode a bit rashly. All roads were two laned, there were no dividers and traffic went by. We however had rules for lane discipline and helmets which were deeply resented by the general public.

What this week's roundup shows shows up is a small glimpse into certain wonderful qualities of Hyderabadis. That the Hyderabadi is intrepid and  enterprising and goes ahead into dangerous zones without a second thought as the first wave of wrong guys prove. That the Hyderabadi is one who is willing to lay down his life for the sake of something noble, for greater good, and for what is 'right' as proven by those gentlemen who arrive in the thick of the traffic on the one fact that they have a green light to support them (but not for long). And that justice is alive and well and that the traffic cop does not merely seek to punish but also to serve with compassion bu letting all the wrong doers go along because he cannot afford a jam. Also, that God is alive and well and we all must go ahead with faith in the heart and a song on our lips.