Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top 10 Ads - The Ones I Can Never Forget

Here are the top 10 ads that come to mind. Stuff that brings a smile types.

1) Wills, Made for Each Other: This was a print ad and showed a man and a woman walking on a beach. To me this was the epitome of romance then, in the early 80s. So impressed was I that I actually cut the ad out and put it under my mattress where it lay for many years. The ad and the brand stayed alive since then.

2) Amul Ads: Almost all of them - the ones on the hoardings - made me wonder how they could think of such wonderfully creative lines so consistently. Sporting events, political events, everything was fodder to the Amul ads. Instant recall of ad, brand and product.

3) Murphy baby: Even before the 80s, in the old magazines of the late 70s one would see the Murphy baby ads, and well everyone loved the Murphy baby who is now immortalised with the movie 'Barfi'. Sweet and charming, it is a face that one cannot forget. Instant recall of brand, ad and product.

4) Liril: The Liril ads, bold for those days, of a vivacious girl bathing under a waterfall, dressed in a bikini, was as fresh as the ad maker must have imagined. Th girl was spontaneous and one could feel the freshness of lemons, the thrill of a waterfall. The jingle, the music 'laa,la,laa,la...' and the ad when seen in the movies was stuff that lasts forever. Also there was that rumour that the model died after she contracted pneumonia owing to her frolicking in the rain. The Liril ad was never the same though they got other models.

5) Nirma: The ad runs through your mind and on television even today - 'Rekha, Jaya and Sushma..' and company who are thrilled with using Nirma and the little girl who twirls into a photograph as the jingle plays on in the background. Cannot ever forget the brand, the product and the ad.

6) Vicco Turmeric: The visual of the girl who is getting ready for her marriage and how her skin is glowing after being treated with Vicco Turmeric and the jingle in the background about 'Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream..' is something one cannot forget.

7) Thums Up: Perhaps the line that was so apt and perfectly researched - especially for the 80s people. Thums Up never went down so well as it did with some food and friends for anyone of those days. That was a brilliant campaign which was later killed by Coke with its adventure series for Thums Up. No one understood Thums Up better than the original creator of 'Food, Friends and Thums Up' and the ad did send a thrill up the spine when we watched it in theatres.

8) Charms: For the first time a cigarette came with a denim kind of a colour in the ad and it was interesting. the line 'Spirit of Freedom' was equally apt. Charms, the college fag, and an improvement over Charminar had the irrepressible Charu Sharma diving off a board into the swimming pool (he was a national level swimming champ then and a good looking guy too).

9) Vodafone's Zoo Zoo's and the Hutch Dog: Both in one because Hutch became Vodaphone later but both brilliant for brand recall, product recall and ad recall. Zoo Zoo's were simply fantastic in educating us on the various features of Vodafone while the Hutch pug not only educated us about those cute, ugly dogs but also that Hutch follows you everywhere. Pity the service did not match the ad.

10) Fevicol: I am always fascinated by Fevicol's ads which always come with great creatives - that of an overloaded truck with Fevicol painted on it - yeh jod nahin tootega - and others (the one where the little kid keeps wandering off until his mother puts him on a Fevicol can, the Fevikwik ones about the fishing rod) were simply superb. Will always remember Fevicol in such circumstances.

Those that missed are certainly Surf's Lalitaji, a Cavenders ad of a guy shooting at clay pigeons that used to be played in the local theatres in the 80s, Idea's rather irritating Sirji ads and so on. Next, to do a series on unforgettable ad characters (Sirji, Lalitaji, Onida's devil and others).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Barfi - Movie Review

'Barfi' is sweet - as the name goes. But not Oscar material. It is nice and good value for money and has some fine performances.

'Barfi' is Ranbir Kapoor, a deaf mute, named after the Murphy kid (needless controversy with the Murphy people but I am not sure what the controversy is about because everyone got enough publicity including the forgotten Murphy kid - where is he now?). Barfi is also a happy-go-lucky, whisky toting, heart on the sleeve chap on a bicycle who has a car driver father (Aakash Khurana) in Darjeeling. Enter Shruti, pretty face Ileana, who is also entering a loveless marriage with one corporate type (read a handsome someone who has no time for wife and is possessive and restrictive) and Barfi falls in love with her and proposes to her etc. Now also enter (sometime later after all the Chaplinesque gags with Ranbir and the local police inspector who has by far the biggest role in the movie) Jhilmil, Priyanka Chopra, the autistic child of an avaricious father and a socialite-type mother. Jhilmil is growing up in Muskaan a special place, with a special grandfatherly man taking care of the kids as his own.

Now we go back in the story to when Barfi threw his shoe in the air to catch Jhilmil's attention and they had fun as kids because Jhilmil is Barfi's Dad's car's owner's daughter. Jhilmil is brought out of Muskaan to be with her indulgent grandfather and well - grandpa dies - leaving her all the money in a Trust. Father is not happy and fires all servants including driver who promptly has a kidney attack and that ends Aakash Khurana's role, standing up. Barfi has to raise Rs. 7000 for the operation. Sometime then Jhilmil goes missing and it appears that Jhilmil has been pushed into the river in the car. Barfi is now prime accused of kidnap, murder, bank robbery and some other heinous crimes. (Barfi is however presented and looked smarter than all these hare brained schemes he comes up with and fails).

Anyway sometime before or after (I fail to remember now) Barfi rescues Jhilmil and sets up house - without marriage - in Kolkata. There these two are happily living - I found that difficult to digest - a guy who could not raise Rs. 7000 is now taking care of an autistic girl in a city like Kolkata and actually earning a living! Anyway he bumps into rich girl Shruti again who comes to his shop (that's odd too, since his shop is down market stuff) and all three are running about eating gol gappas. Jhilmil cannot eat gol gappas and gets angry with Barfi. And Shruti who is all the time flashing her sexy midriff at her Barfi. And Jhilmil goes away. Out comes the shoe and Barfi starts flinging it up and down again - but this time to no avail.

If relationships are all about who 'wants to take care of whom' and who wants 'to be taken care of''it all fits in. Ileana wants to take care of Barfi (possibly because it gives some meaning to her otherwise meaningless life). Barfi would like to take care of Jhilmil - because no one is taking care of her - or so he thinks (she's smarter than she looks considering that she chooses him to her maid). Jhilmil would like to be taken care of either by the Muskaan people who love her a lot or by the smitten-by-Ileana Ranbir. So it makes sense that Shruti takes care of Barfi who takes care of Jhilmil. All's well and that ends well.
The movie is fun. But it rambles on in a flashback within a flashback to the presnt and so on until you stop bothering about where you are. Whatever suspense they tried to create was just not worth it because at that point you really don't care too much about Jhilmil. It is only somewhere near the end that the relationship between Barfi and Jhilmil comes alive and tugs at your heart but by then the movie is almost over. The relationship between Shruti and Barfi never makes sense in any way nor  does it come alive. Frankly I would have been quite content to see the relationship between Barfi and Jhilmil - that was really cute. Now what happens when Jhilmil is finally discovered at Muskaan as 'alive' is anybody's guess. Does the old man go to jail? Does the father go to jail? How come no one knew that she was in Muskaan - you cannot really hide her? The only thing we know is that the two got married and never had kids.

Fine performances, especially by Ranbir and Priyanka. Ranbir gets into Barfi's shoes without missing a step and you wonder at the talent of this boy as he leaves you with no other image of Barfi than of what you see on screen. Priyanka in a deglam role of Jhilmil is fantastic. I love the way she experiments and she is an actress that one cannot take lightly. Ileana is fine, good looking and the kind anyone would fall in love with in Darjeeling. Must commend Anurag Basu for trying something new (despite all the accusations of being inspired etc) as well and something that makes sense and for trying hard not to fall for the cheesy drama one could fall prey to with a deaf-mute and an autistic. So much so that you almost forget that Barfi is actually a deaf mute. Recommend - certainly. It's a fine watch. But the big question. Would I watch it twice? Not me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Doctor's Anguish as a Patient, for the Patient

Dr. Srinivasan Krishnan is one of the most affable, approachable and gentle doctors (he is my nephrologist) you can find around. He was in fact referred to me by another doctor and what I found of Dr. Krishnan put me greatly at ease. He is available, approachable and has this wonderful way of putting you at ease instantly.

But recently he was diagnosed with colon cancer and is undergoing treatment. He wrote about his experiences, his thoughts on how much doctors can do so much more for patients to make them feel more at ease. I reproduce what he has written (a month ago) as it is and one can hear the anguish in his voice as he worries over how much more he could have done, doctors can do.It is a wonderful, heartfelt and touching piece of writing by the sensitive doctor.



Close encounter  with Yamaraj----Lessons learnt

- Dr. S. Krishnan
Three days of symptoms -severe abdominal cramps, constipation and mild distension. That’s it. I was in for a deep shock. As the Gastroenterologist decided to do a sigmoidopscope in an unprepared bowel, my thoughts were racing. Just reassuring myself that nothing can go wrong with me. And lo behold – the next minute my world came down crashing. I could see the concentric growth on the monitor, occluding my  descending colon. The subsequent events unfolded at a rapid pace – surgical resection, chemotherapy , FOLFOX regimen in full swing. As I (and my family members) gradually accepted the reality – my moods went  through phases of disbelief, anger,denial, feeling of why me?, despondency and  ultimately meek submission and acceptance of the inevitable.

No matter how scared or overwhelmed we feel  the emotional trauma and its effect on the psyche, time is a great healer. We adapt to the circumstances and move forward. Probably that is the way it should be.
After two rounds of chemo, since my blood counts were behaving well my doctor permitted me to attend o.p for an hour everyday before I could turn insane, sitting at home.

I realized how important each complaint was, however trivial they may seem. I understood nausea, anorexia, fatigue – all these terms. I also realized my folly in ignoring these in many till a few months back. Now ,When I inspect the vascular access , the counter punctures, the minor hematomas etc  I feel the pain. I realise that this is their life-line, It certainly deserves tender loving care.

While interacting with the dialysis patients I  have started realizing the subtle signs of depression. Non compliance to the dialysis schedule and the medications/ irregular follow up, were also related to the emotional disturbances which we very often overlook.  I could see the enthusiasm with which my Dialysis medical officer would correct the UFR, calculate the spKt/v, dialysis prescription to achieve a ‘good’ dialysis. Little would he analyse the QoL.  The medication prescription written very often resembles a mini pharmacopeia . How often have we analysed their sleep disturbances,, social support and quality of life of the care givers. I feel, I could have done better .

As I look back, on the day of my surgery how well the nurses tried to pep me up, as I was wheeled into the theatre. How well they received me in the Surgical ICU, took care of all the lines with utmost care and concern. Each member of the team excelled in bestowing  that little extra tenderness.

I recollected my days in the bed with the continous chemotherapy pump set for 48 hours. I would eagerly look for the Oncologist to drop in and reassure me and my family members that all is well. That also made me ponder – how often have I sat down beside the patient and heard him or sat with the family members to tell  them about immunosuppresion.

The practicing nephrologist needs to be an all rounder – physician,well wisher,psychotherapist,and a good soft-spoken gentleman. Lets recollect our undergraduate teaching that health is defined as not only the absence of disease and infirmity but also the presence of physical, mental and social well-being. I reckon that our Post graduate training empowers us with lot of skill in tackling disease. Life teaches  us the rest – how to deal with people.




Sunday, September 23, 2012

'Stone in love' - Journey

I've been searching for a part of this song by Journey for years. This is the part towards the end where the guitarist takes off and goes off solo (you cannot miss it) and its a brilliant piece that stayed with me for some many years ever since I have heard it first. It brought much peace and focus to me in those years - in 1991 - if I remember well, when I was trying to find some direction in my life. To find sanity I would run a lot, play cricket games for MCC with utmost seriousness and listen to tons of music.

I had a cassette of Journey's Greatest (thanks to Kumar) and 'Stone in Love' was one of those fabulous songs along with great numbers like 'Separate Ways', 'Send her my love', 'Faithfully' and so many more. In fact I did not like the song - only that part with the guitar and would often hum it to myself to focus.

I most clearly remember using it to focus while playing a league match against RTC at what was then the RTC grounds in Parade Grounds - in a 90 over game and with a rag tag team - needed to get some runs and I got an unbeaten 100. For long periods during that innings I hummed that tune to myself to get out of spots of loss in concentration and if anything it was highly inspirational. Towards the end of the inning when all there is is peace, sweet sweat on the shirt, tired limbs and the slanting rays of the evening sun after a day in the hot sun. Brilliant!

I lost the song but remembered this part till date. Until the other day I searched for it on youtube and got the name of the song. Journey reenters my life with 'Stone in love'. Listen to it from 2.55 min onwards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EgeUhMy5mM&feature=related

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thought for the Day - It's not what you want, it's what you want to do with it

It's not merely what you 'want' that gets it to you.

It's what you want to 'do with it' that is the biggest factor in whether you will get it or not.

Often we put up our wish lists with all our wants. But the key factor between wanting it and getting it is the answer to this question - what do you want to do with it once you get it? If you are excited about getting it and have a myriad plans for it, then you are highly likely to get it. Then you have a story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

We Bought a Zoo - Movie Review

Starring Matt Damon 'We Bought a Zoo' is a 2011 film (based on a real story) about a family that buys a zoo and runs it commercially. Benjamin (Matt Damon) is a writer who has recently lost his wife. He has two children, one teenager son who is a rebel and prone to drawing macabre drawings after his mother's death and a six-seven year old girl Rosie. After his son is expelled from school for his continuous spate of macabre drawings and also finding that his own writing is going no where, the sympathy-averse Benjamin quits his job, sells his house, and starts looking for a new place with natural surroundings.

He finds a property that appears perfect - the only thing is that it comes with a zoo that has about 47 species including a lion, tigers, snakes, a bear and so on. He has to maintain the zoo and the employees of the zoo. Benjamin almost gives up until he sees his daughter getting along with the peacocks - and then he buys the property. So the family moves in to the zoo, meets the zoo employees, headed by the pretty zoo keeper Scarlett Johansson. Escaping animals, rebelling employees, financial troubles, personal troubles, crooked inspectors are all thrown into the plot - and resolved. The zoo opens to a fine reception, family issues sorted out, son's drawings get better, he finds a girl friend, Dad finds a girl friend (zoo keeper), animals are happy, customers are happy and all's well that ends well.

I liked the concept of '20 seconds of courage is all you need...' to approach any situation. If you want to propose, make a cold call, ask fro something, handle something new or uncomfortable, cannot handle the tension - just hang in there for 20 seconds and hold yourself and that is what Benjamin says helped me face the grizzly or make a proposal to his wife. 20 seconds of courage then.

Sweet and cute, easy on the eye and the ear (good background music with lots of nice songs), gentle on the heart and certainly different 'We bought a zoo' presented its biggest surprise when I read the ending titles which said that the story is based on a real story and that the original zoo, the Dartmoor Zoo, was real. Now that was something. But as a movie it is nice and feel good and certainly one to watch on a nice Saturday evening with the family.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thought for the Day - Pursue the Moment, Nothing Else

This morning while walking back from the park, after struggling for over an hour to get my thoughts fixed on things that are immediate and pleasant, constructive and creative, I realised that I was totally focused on the future or the past, on things that were of no consequence. I was trying to control what I could not.

And then it struck me that I am always in pursuit of something in the future.

It struck me then that we could pursue, if anything, the happiness available in the moment. Or for that matter, whatever is available in the present moment.

When we pursue whatever is available to us - this moment, this thought - we end up going deeper into the present moment. And going deeper into the present moment would heighten and sharpen our awareness. It would also lead to more creative and constructive thoughts, ease the unnecessary furrow on our brows and makes life simpler.

The pursuit of the moment is the key to happiness. It is, I suspect, also the road to achieving your potential.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beyond the Blues - Aakash Chopra

And now this book 'Beyond the Blues' written by Aakash Chopra before he wrote 'Out of the blue'. It is probably the first account of an Indian cricketer on a deep and honest level, on his innermost feelings and emotions as he goes through an entire season of domestic cricket. More important, as it comes from Aakash Chopra, who is hoping to get a recall after being dropped perhaps before his time from the Test side. Aakash was dropped from the Indian team in 2004 and was looking to make a comeback when he staretd writing the diary - and in this season (2007) he ended up being the highest run getter (0ver 1000 runs) and also was an integral part of the Delhi team that won the Ranji Trophy after a 14 year lapse. And many more other trophies too. From the season opener to the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Challenger Trophy, the Mohammed Nissar Trophy and finally the IPL - the book covers his journey through it all.
Harper Collins, 222 p. Rs. 295

Written as a diary spanning a period of eight months, from September 2007 to May 2008, Aakash Chopra takes us through what is going on in his mind in - a season like no other - as the book cover says. (It is no joke amassing over 1000 runs in the domestic format.) Aakash writes with alarming honesty about the state of affairs in the domestic circuit, offering suggestions and improvements at every level - from dressing rooms, hotels, transport, ground conditions, pitches, curators, selections, itineraries, IPL, travel, umpires, coaches, cricketers, media, politics, administrators, airport security - and spares no one. (I only wonder how he missed out on fans though there is one mention of a knowledgeable fan he encountered while practising with a light bat.) So candid is he that in a rather vindictive and unaccountable world of Indian cricket, one wonders if such candour also came with a feeling that he might never be considered to play for Indian again after bringing up many shortcomings in the system. But he is a better man for that and I am glad he did not mince words. And today he is the one man who knows how to crack the Ranji Trophy code with three wins in 5 years, once with a top team like Delhi and twice with a team that rose from the bottom of the championship list, Rajasthan.No one can take that away from Aakash Chopra, the one man, perhaps the  only one, who can show how to be a champion. As the one who did it, the one with all the knowledge and experience, Aakash automatically becomes the top man for the job of mentoring any Association in India towards excellence. Aakash Chopra has certainly enough on his plate for the rest of his life apart from his writing.

How self-belief and the habit of winning
I will not dwell much on the matches and all the attendant factors. But I will dwell in detail on some wonderful insights that struck me. For starters he talks of how the Delhi team had always had some brilliant cricketers but rarely played together as a team. It is also known for thinking negatively. 'Why don't we have self belief?' he rues. (Something that many teams in the Ranji Trophy feel at the beginning of the season with many unsettled players who are uncertain of the process and of their role.) Aakash feels that it is because Delhi have not succeeded as a team and don't have a habit of winning. When you don't win a lot together, he says, you  tend to slip up before the finishing line. It is something I believe in too. Winning creates belief in the individual and the team. Any association looking to worm their way up must notch up as many wins as possible under their belt as they can.

On champion teams
On champion teams Aakash writes - 'We're playing good cricket, yes, but we're still far from becoming  a champion team with everyone's role defined and followed to perfection. Champion teams generally run on autopilot with that extra reserve within that helps life themselves, individually and collectively, when needed.' So true. It can only happen with experience. With matches won as a team.

Key to winning longer versions of the game
And - 'The key to wining the longer version of the game lies in a team's ability to keep going consistently session after session. In the course of making winning a habit, they master the art of winning sessions. But habits need to be formed, so does an an inherent belief.' Wise words. And words any aspiring captain or coach needs to imbibe.

Mentoring the youth
He writes at length on the current obsession with youth in cricket. He mentions how he interviewed internationals on the structure in other countries - New Zealand, England and Sri Lanka. He was told that the chances of a good performer at the Under 19 level playing for the country were one in a million - and did not even guarantee a place in the first class side. He mentions very rightly and sensitively (shows how good a mentor he can become to young sides) how young players have growing up pains when exposed to the rigours of a higher grade when they are not ready. Most suffer the trauma - the shattering of their belief about how good they are - and some cannot pick themselves up especially if they are written off by callous administrators.

Aakash mentions that if they are picked and not supported enough (which normally happens), they generally fall off the radar and a career is lost. Ideally if youngsters are picked they should be allowed to mature, even when they fail, to become match winners. Else their careers and the careers of those that have been by passed are compromised making it a double loss for the Association.

Aakash writes - 'Dreams die young they say. A young mind, if scarred, takes a long time to heal and sometimes, it might not heal at all. And the experienced players who have done their best at the state level feel left out and rightly so. It takes only a few selections like these to affect the morale, enthusiasm and hopes of the men who have been doing so well for years at the first classs level. The younger ones who are picked to play for the country will take time to win matches not because they are not good enough but simply because they are not ready and those who are probably ready aren't even considered beyond a certain age.'

A tremendous loss of talent both ways simply because there is no vision, no personal counseling. In the Karnataka State Cricket Association, managed by honest and hard working cricketers like Kumble, Srinath, Dravid, Sunil Joshi, Jeshwanth, Abhiram and many others, the Association counsels parents and explains the process to them. I wish all Associations would take a leaf out of their book. Players and parents must believe in the process and focus on being fully prepared for the next level - something that requires hard work and something that normally shows in their performance.

I am of the view that cricketers mature late with rare exceptions like Tendulkar. The best teams in the longer versions have an average age of around 27-30 years. Several English professionals played well into their thirties. The best performances of any cricketer come typically in their thirties - including Aakash's. To drive home the point, the late Prof Deodhar, scored two hundreds in a Ranji match at 53 years of age!

Gambhir's captaincy
On Gautam Gambhir's captaincy he writes how Gautam (the shrewdest captain he has played under) 'attacks when needed with a lot of close-in fielders literally at the batsman's throat and then resorts to in-out fields (saving boundaries while having close catching fielders in place - neither an attacking field nor a defensive one) as soon as the batsman gets to double figures. 'He is miserly as does not give away easy runs and gets the best out of inexperienced bowlers.' Any captains listening?

Two magic mantras from Gautam Gambhir
On the eve of the final against Uttar Pradesh Aakash mentions Gautam's words where he asks the team to remember two things for the next five days (of the Ranji final) - One, you dont win a silver but lose a gold. Second - if not me, then who, and if not now, then when." (The second mantra was credited to Rahul Sanghvi.) 

Aakash writes of the professionalism of Dravid, who is one of his heroes, on an inning where he got a double hundred against Mumbai despite high fever.  How players like him are a positive influence on many. Aakash also mentions VVS Laxman many times, on his kind and encouraging words, and one expects nothing else from the gentle and well-meaning Laxman.

Never show your emotions to the opposition
A small observation by Aakash on how Praveen Kumar reacted at the start of the second innings of the Ranji final after Delhi got the first innings lead makes us aware of how sportsmen must keep their emotions to themselves, or at least hidden from the opposition. Praveen wrecked the Delhi innings in the first and a good start was necessary for Delhi in the second. But as they start, the two openers, Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra, hear Praveen voice his unhappiness at how the UP batsmen went about chasing the Delhi total. That bit of negativity, of assigning blame to the batsmen, gives them a glimmer of a psychological advantage, a key that the opposition's star bowler will not be the same this time around. It's a huge psychological gift and the two capitalised on it. (Much the same way that the Rajasthan team capitalised on Dinesh Karthik's candid words that he misread the wicket and was in damage control mode in the year they won the Ranji Trophy first.) I liked Aakash's take on how playing first class cricket is an education where work ethics, team bonding, and discipline are instilled.

Loss of belief - Beaten in the mind
Aakash makes an important point when he menions how after listening to Ajay Jadeja's well meaning advise on his one day career (or the non-existence of one), Aakash gave up. He believed in what Jadeja said that he was only good for the long format and stopped harbouring thoguhts of playing for India in one days. A belief that he said spelt his downfall in his thinking. "Once you think you are beaten, you truly are. And I was beaten by my own thoughts.'

Dr. Parikh's sound advise
On his interactions with the psychiatrist Dr.Sameer Parikh after his disllusionment on non-selection. The good doctor told Aakash to treat that as a separate entity and focus on doing well among the opportunities he gets instead of thinking about a place in the indian team. To do his job, to score runs and prolong his playing career was his only job. I cannot agree more with Dr. Parikh. Focus on the act as Lord Krishna would have told a doubtful Arjuna before the war.

John Buchanan and his 240 moment theory
Aakash's descriptions of John Buchanan's theories are interesting. John explained to the KKR team about how the T 20 game is one made up of 240 moments (one moment per delivery). The team that controls more moments than the opposition generally wins. That is 240 moments where everyone can make a contribution and can make a difference. It is the job of the players to remain in the moment and not get carried away by the importance of the occasion. Players were asked to identify key areas while batting and bowling and to try and maximise returns on their effort by targeting those areas more often. All eleven were told to be fully aware for the length of the game -  to expect every ball to come to them and be on their toes and react when it does.

Ponting's advise
Another insight into KKR's team meetings was the use of in-house expertise. In one session, instead of John, all the senior batsmen spoke. Ponting spoke about how he prepares for his batting, how he handles lean phases (gets away from the game or practices a lot less so he is more cautious). Ponting also talks of the importance of "..volume - how one needs to play thousands of balls to master any stroke and function on auto mode in any situation. This practice to perfection is all about consistent delivery, under pressure. "It's one thing to bowl a yorker when the opposition needs fifty off five overs but quite another when three runs are needed off the last ball and that's where volume comes in handy." Reminds one of Malcom Gladwell's 10, 000 hour theory! Hussey says that even in T20 batsmen must get their eye in and then take calculated risks.

Always the learner Aakash did ask Ponting how to transform his consistency at first class level to the highest level. The advise is simple - first and foremost, believe that whatever worked at the domestic level will work at the highest level too, but one must add a few things to suit the higher standard. Ponting asks if there is a pattern in the dismissals, and that the pattern or mistake must be rectified. Ponting cites Steve Waugh's example. Waugh played all shots early on in his career but discovered it was not working if he played too many shots. He went back to domestic cricket and reconstructed and developed his game in a way that would suit the international level!

KKR's assistant caoach Mathew Mott advised Aakash who was playing too many shots in the net without much result to maximise the return. He told him to identify two boundary hitting area and look for singles, run hard and rotate the strike. Use the two shots when opporunities arise.

Taibu's advise and checklist
Then there is fine advise from Taibu who says to Aakash what is obvious to the reader by now - 'You think too much mate!. Why think of things beyond your control? Only think about your game and how you could improve. By spending too much time on why the team isn't doing too well and what needs to be done, you get caught up and your game suffers. Do not think about things that are beyond your control.'

Taibu's three point checklist to assess one's game is brilliant:
Are you working hard enough?
Are you afraid of failing?
Is everything alright in yyour personal life?
Taibu does not read nor watch the  news.

I loved all these wonderful insights that Aakash shared honestly. Ever the perfectionist, Aakash has a work ethic that would have been appreciated a lot more in more professional places. But his desire to learn and think constantly, probably also messed up his head a bit at times, though it will stand him in good stead in the long run. One can see his mindset seep through the pages as he expects perfection in the same measure that he takes his game. To expect such a high level of professionalism is tough in a place like India where sports bodies still have not evolved as ideal examples and I am sure that Aakash has also learned that over the years. (He is more forgiving in his next book 'Out of the blue'.) I have one small grouse with the editorial team though. Depite it being an honest account of Aakash's diary and a wonderful insight into dressing rooms that we are not privy to, the tone could have been presented differently by sticking to merely stating or 'showing' the lacunae and leaving it at that. That takes away a bit from the book and this wonderful season he has had - and I feel that it could have been a much better book since it has the content and the promise.

The Importance of writing in a sportsman's career
More than anything else it struck me that perhaps as he wrote the diary, Aakash  also willed himself to do better that season, to set targets for himself though his self analysis on the paper daily - in the form of his diary. I am thinking it might be a good idea for any player to write a diary as it helps self-analysis, clears the head and sets targets. Perhaps the first of its kind by an Indian player on a comeback trail, Aakash's 'Beyond the Blues' demystifies many theories and illusions people have about a cricketers life. Those inside know that the system needs a drastic overhaul to be inclusive, fair and systematic. Many can already see the difference that many Associations are making and the KSCA is a shining example. But all said and done I have benefited from his many honest insights in the book, on captaincy, team management, on the thoughts and methods of some acknowledged experts in the game and certainly from Aakash's great willingness to learn and improve. For sharing all of that and writing a fine book, thank you Aakash.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Separation - Movie review

Watched Asghar Farhadi's brilliantly written and directed Iranian movie 'A Separation' (The Separation of Nader and Simin) and am still wondering what it is with these Irani film makers that they make such brilliant movies out of such seemingly ordinary, day-to-day themes. With almost nothing but a normal house, a normal household and its attendant problems and characters that could have been set anywhere in the world, Asghar Farhadi weaves a story that is as taut and as thrilling as any crime or action thriller you could see. So taut is the tension and conflict, so perfect is the way the story is woven that one can only marvel at the genius of the man.

Consider this. A normal household where the wife wants to go abroad to get a new life for her, her husband and their 11 year old daughter. The husband who refuses to go as he has a father suffering from Alzheimer's and is dependent on them. A row between the two and the wife decides to file for divorce - which is not granted. She moves to her mother's house leaving the father and the daughter behind. But she gets him some help to handle the ill father-in-law. In comes a lady with her six year old daughter to help - obviously in some distress. She tries to juggle the work and the old man who suddenly becomes more demanding (incontinent) and what is more - escapes from home. She finds him though, standing in the middle of traffic. And we all heave a sigh of relief.

Next day the husband arrives with his daughter early to find the old man fallen on the floor, his hand tied to the bed post and almost dead. After he revives his father, he finds money missing from his drawer, and when after  a while the lady who was supposed to take care of the old man walks in with her daughter, calls her a thief and pushes her out. Now she falls and suffers a miscarriage. Enter her hot tempered husband who is in tons of debt and who just got out of his creditors clutches.

Faced with charges of murder, the husband says that he did not know that the help was pregnant. The parties trade charges, the wife steps in to bail her husband out, the families get dragged into the sordid affair and no one knows what is fully true. So subtly does the conflict change with one dialogue, one question, one new element or motive that one cannot help but admire how well thought of the plot was. If the plot was brilliant, the resolution is even better as everyone gets their due - poetic justice. Perfect ending as well in True Iranian fashion - go figure it out for yourself.

Every single bit of the movie is crafted with such care and precision that it is wonderful to see such work. There is no attempt to shock or to be big - just being honest to human nature so fully that it reveals itself so seamlessly, each one showing several shades of their character as the pot unfolds deliciously, layer by layer, and you are constantly wondering what happens next. The casting is perfect, the setting is perfect, the actors have done a splendid job and every moment is beautifully exploited. No doubt the movie got the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film for 2012  - the first Iranian film to win the Award. For a stupendous effort Asghar Farhadi, take a bow. And the same goes to the cast and crew for delivering such a well made movie. Do I recommend it? Emphatically. Watch it soon as you can.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Out of the Blue - Aakash Chopra

I had been meaning to get my hands on this book by Test cricketer-writer, Aakash Chopra ever since I first heard about it. It is the tale of Rajasthan's unlikely road to winning the Ranji Trophy in the 2010-11 season (since repeated last year). Rajasthan is Aakash's adopted state as he played for them as a professional after Delhi dropped him (I did not know that he was dropped - and how!) and it was a fairy tale all the way for the determined Aakash who I felt, always got a raw end. He was in fact one of the most compact openers India had ever had and he did a wonderful job against the Aussie quicks when he toured Australia back then.
Harper Sport, Rs. 299, 262 p

Anyway such books always interest me because there is much to learn form them. Did they win by some design or by default? How did they cope with doubt and fear? What was going through their minds as they went about their jobs? What did they actually do? Rajasthan after all were, till they won the Ranji Tropy, last in the Plate division (the bottom of the pile), never won the title and never even came close to a final in three decades. Like the blurb says '...you don't play for honour, you play to save what you can of yours.'

The Ranji Trophy is India's national cricket championship and a bigger brand in India than most, even bigger than the IPL. There is something solid, something secure and long lasting about it that one cannot take away the feeling of awe that registers on people's faces when they hear the name 'Ranji Trophy'. Winning this Trophy ever since it has been instituted has been every cricket playing states dream - though Mumbai won about half the times. Delhi is the next strongest contender and the others pitch in every once in a while. But in against all logic, Rajasthan, a minnow if there was one in domestic cricketing circles, made a serious bid, got its planning and preparation right and got its hands tightly on the trophy for the first time in 2010-11. Rajasthan incredibly, defended its title the next year as well and are the current holders.

What does it take to win the Ranji Trophy? Many things. Players who are willing to play for pride and who are passionate, big hearted and who are 'men'. An association that is willing to back the players full on. Preparation that is well planned and carefully executed. Passions that rise above mere words and transform into achievements. Efforts that dance all over the humiliation and rejection that many players experienced. It takes a lot to go with a half-baked team at best and then back itself fully to take on the very best. It is a wonderful story.

Aakash, who was named captain for Delhi that season, starts with the deeply distressing and surely traumatic period when he got dropped from the Delhi team without as much as an indication. It is a sinking feeling and every sportsman and cricketer knows it in his bones how it feels to be out of the dressing room - more so for someone who has contributed so much for that state as a player and a captain. One day you belong and one day you don't. Life is so fickle.

But how you choose to treat the situation is what makes you what you are - a champion or a loser. And that is what this story is about. Aakash dwells on his feelings, the insensitivity with which cricketers are treated by the management most times. One moment you are in and the other you are a pariah. He writes - "..as professionals, could you not have put an arm around my shoulder, sat me down and told me the worst?" Anyway Aakash handled this depressing situation  and was looking ahead - coaching assignments etc when the offer to play for Rajasthan came from none other than the Director of RCA, Mr. Tarak Sinha.

Rajasthan played three professionals that year (2010-11) - Hrishikesh Kanitkar of India and Maharashtra as captain, Aakash Chopra and Rashmi Ranjan Parida from Orissa. As Aakash unfolds his player introductions before he gets down to the meat of the action, one gets the feeling that almost every single one of them went through much hardship and rejection, had so many hard luck stories to tell, that it was a wonder that they were still playing. If  they were, they all had a point to prove and that is one question one should certainly ask of one's players who are playing for any state. Why are you playing? What do you want to prove and to whom and why and how? One needs that fire or else one is merely going through the motions.

Hrishikesh Kantikar also faced the frustration of being dropped by his home side Maharashtra after performing so admirably for them for many years - but he quickly got into his stride by playing for Madhya Pradesh and then Rajasthan. These days senior players still have a role to play in first class cricket as the BCCI allows three professionals to play for other states thus giving players a chance to play and prove their worth while mentoring young and inexperienced players in smaller states that have far less exposure than the bigger ones. Come to think of it even Pankaj Singh is not from Rajasthan, he being from UP originally, and who, in pursuit of the game went from his home town to Lucknow to Allahabad to Kolkata to Bangalore and then finally at the NCA where he was offered a chance to play for Rajasthan by Parthasarathy Sharma the former Rajasthan player. Pankaj had in his short life, made up his mind to give up the game, by fate it appears had and has other plans for him. Several in that team went through that phase I am sure.

Deepak Chahar, one of their leading wicket takers and stars for the season, was told by Greg Chappell that that he was "...good for nothing". He made his debut that season and his story is as interesting as any - as he fought rejection and failure and kept practising harder and harder with each rejection - until rejction and failure got tired of him. He practiced twice as hard says Aakash, working almost sixteen hours a day at the  game before he got picked by the person who replaced Greg Chappell, Tarak Sinha, who sent Deepak on RCA's tour of Australia where he performed well. Ashok Menaira, the superbly taented left hander, and captain of the india U-19 side who dealt with doubt (after losing to Pakistan Under 19 side) and injury before coming good that season. Robin Bist who was originally from Delhi but who moved to Rajasthan and played himself throuhg the grind of district matches and so on until he got picked.  Madhur Khatri, Vineet Saxena, Vivek Yadav, Sumit Mathur, Vaibhav Deshpandey, Gajendra Singh, Rohit Jhalani - almost all of them coming out of humble backgrounds, with stories of hurt, injury and rejection, of uncertainty - are among those that are profiled. No power house talent yet, if you look at that team, and one can see that it is a mix of senior players, over-the-hill (or so their Associations thought in their hurry to retire older players and play youngsters) professionals and some rookie juniors. Bits and pieces at best - but something did take over them. Perhaps their desire to prove a point. I'd like to believe it all happened because of the player-centric and process-centric processes that the RCA adopted as much as player application. Given the right atmosphere, everyone starts performing to their potential. RCA seems to have found that.

Aakash writes of the influence of the calm and composed Kanitkar who never shows his emotions nor shouts at his players. Aakash cites an incident when he played for Delhi against Rajasthan when the senior players abused the junior players in front of the opposition (a common thing in Ranji Trophy circles) - the season that they were relegated to plate and Aakash believes lack of compassion and mentoring was one of the chief causes for that disastrous performance. It always is!

There is a brief note of how the team planned well ahead and played the Buchi Babu tournament with a full two week preparation, with the full team, and the Moin-Ud-Dowla tournament in Hyderabad before they headed back to prepare for the Ranji season, which speaks of how seriously they take their preparation. Their own internal games and the T 20 games (not the ideal way to prepare for teh Ranji Trophy) were played on return. In the countdown to the Ranji Trophy Aakash mentions wisely that one cannot improve one's skills at the eleventh hour - you have to trust what you have and go with it. And completely believe that it is enough. (He cites the hummingbird's example - that the bird is aerodynamically not suited for flying but since the bird does not know it, it believes it can fly and does!) So it is with cricketers who must believe that they are good enough to go all the way.

The uncertain and bits and pieces team was batting-heavy with three professionals, an Under-19 India captain and some seasoned pros like Vineet Saxena, Jhalani bolstering the top and lower middle. Rajasthan's main worry was its bowling. Pankaj was a seasoned campagner. Deepak Chahar was a rookie who had not yet made his debut. Sumit Mathur was an experienced medium pacer who was steady. The spinners were just about there. The bowling was bare with little support, so Rajasthan had to bat itself out of the woods. Rajasthan went in that year believing that their bowling was weak.

The season opener was against Hyderabad. It was in that match when the record for the lowest score in a Ranji Trophy game was made - 21. Hyderabad was at the receiving end with debutant Deepak Chahar making the most of a normal surface with 8 for 12 bowling his in and out swingers. (Check that out on youtube). Writes Aakash - "Hyderabad was a strong opposition, even if they got relegated from the Elite division...teams like Hyderabad are more likely to do well under pressure and win important phases". And he writes of the continued collapse that baffled him - "Deepak and Pankaj were bowling well but the Hyderabad batsmen were also playing a little too loose." And when he played on that pitch an hour or from the toss, Aakash writes "There were no demons in the track."

And to me this was interesting when he talks of "From thinking about how we'd get through the ninety overs in a day without too much damage, we'd reached a stage where bowlers didn't get to bowl" (in context of their bowling being weak). Aakash also talks of how he noticed a healthy rivalry developing between the two fast bowlers - Pankaj and Deepak and how important it is for a team to have that. Your resources are only as good as you believe them to be.You expect them to do well, support them and they will deliver.

Aakash writes of how Hyderabad was still reeling from the shock after that game was over and done with. "New stories emerging out of the Hyderabad board became the talking point. Several senior players had been handed pink slips, while the coach had resigned on moral grounds. It seemed the season had come to a grinding halt, with at least half the side sacked." He comments on it and says "...a knee jerk reaction and ,like all such reactions, was bereft of good sense. What logic can there be for throwing out seasoned campaigners with a long history of good work behind them? How could they suspect players they had invested years in? How could they dismiss players after just one bad show?" In sharp contrast he mentions how the Rajasthan team which was last on the Plate division had kept the existing combination in place despite hiring three professionals. Interesting to see his point of view.

Rajasthan's successful campaign continued with good performances against Goa (Pankaj Singh got 5 and Vineet Saxena 133, Kanitkar 73), Madhya Pradesh (Vaibhav Deshpandey 144, Bist 91 and Parida 74), Tripura (bowled out for 95 and 55 with Pankaj Singh getting 14 wickets while Rajasthan was bowled out for 150), Jharkhand (on first innings lead Aakash Chopra 107 and Parida 190) and Maharashtra (Aakash got 301). Rajasthan got out of the Plate division with that game and entered the Elite division.

Then came the big match against Mumbai in the quarter finals. Aakash says they were far from sure before that game and looked for inspiration. Mumbai apparently did inspire them by treating Rajasthan as a practice match for the semis. Aakash mentions how Mumbai's Rahane and Rohit Sharma, despite the loss of early wickets, were treating the game like a practice game - "way too reckless for the quarter finals of the Ranji Trophy". Against Mumbai's highly gettable first innings score of 252 Rajasthan scored 589 with Vineet Saxena, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Ashok Menaria scoring hundreds. That effort by the hardworking and unglamourous Rajasthan shut out the star studded Mumbai.

Tamil Nadu in the semi finals looked over confident writes Aakash. Dinesk Kartik won the toss and opted to field on a surafce that Aakash feels had something for the bowlers. With four fast bowlers in the playing XI and one back up seamer, Tamil Nadu, started bowling defensively in the first hour. Dinesh Kartik supposedly said to the media that he had read the track wrongly and wanted to restrict damage. Hearing the opposition captain give away his game plan fires up any team (especially when they knew the surface still had some juice) and Rajasthan got aggressive knowing the mindset of the Tamil Nadu players. Rajasthan wound up with 552 with Aakash Chopra 139, Kanitkar 100 and Menaria 106. Tamil Nadi fought gallantly but ended up with 385. Rajasthan was in the finals.

The finals was against Vadodara. Rajasthan got 394 with no three figure contirbutions but the top seven batsmen got double figures which is interesting and which shows application (the least being 27) and made 394. Baroda fought hard and made 361 in the first innings handing a slender lead. Chahar got four wickets though Aakash mentions the superhuman effort the bowlers put in as they struggled to keep Baroda under control. With such a slender lead and enough time on their hands Rajasthan was still not out of the woods and its worst nightmares came true as it started its second innings disastrosusly losing the top three wickets for 12, Aakash, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Vineet. But were saved by Parida's 91, Menaria's 101 and good rear guard bating by Pankaj with 24 and Rhot Jhalani with 43 at number 11. Baroda was 28 for 4 in 14 overs in a match that was by now over. Rajasthan was the champions, the deserving winners of the Ranji Trophy 2010-11.

By all means a fantastic tale and one with many lessons for teams aspiring for the big honour. As Aakash observes - it is always about the fight in the dog. Believe in yourself. Believe in the team. Trust and support it fully. Give them administrative and preparatory support. Spend on players, on cricket. There is the heart warming incident of the team manager Mahendra Singh Khadgawat indicating he would resign if action was taken against Rohit Jhalani who got into a scrap with the coach in one of the matches. That is the kind of camaraderie that the team displayed and the support that players and teams need. And of administrative support, planning and preparation, RCA is way ahead of most. From systems to infrastructure (the RCA has facilities where players can stay the whole day with a restaurant as well) so they do not need to go home ad return in the ecening. From player allowances to finalising hotels only with pool and gym as a prerequisite, from insisting on playing the Buchi Babu even when they did not get an invitation and giving the team a two week conditioning camp with the full side as preparation for the season, Rajsthan did many things perfectly right. The support staff was retained throughout, including their manager, which was wonderful. It is important that even the manager remains constant so the team develops a bond. Most Associations send different people as Managers to appease the voting class. And then there is much more.

Aakash Chopra should write his sequel certainly (I hope this book sold well - it should be a guide book for most Associations and Ranji Trophy players). Once could be a fluke but twice is not. How Rajasthan shut out Tamil Nadu this year in the final by batting out two days is stuff of the folklore. Rajasthan certainly won on the back of process, of picking the right players, of  a system that worked, of players who wanted to prove and achieve and of stout hearts and big dreams from ordinary men (no longer). Certainly there was much honesty and integrity as players played above their class and kept up churning performances that required great concentration and effort. Reading the cricketing parts were fanstatsic and you could feel the tension building as the team played the final. I only wish the player profiles had more depth or were handled differently - something about them was lacking a critical dimension. (It was as if I knew the player but only some parts of him.) The support of families was evident as in the support that Aakash's wife provided by being on the road with him.

Great job RCA, great job Team Rajasthan and well written Aakash Chopra. This is perhaps the first of its kind - a players account of the journey to the final (not many can do that - either they have not won or if they have, cannot write). Here's wishing that you write many more. As an ex-first class cricketer who writes (there are not many in the field in India) I fully endorse Aakash's writing and the book.

I must say that I found the excerpts from the reviews on the book disappointing and downright mediocre - to say it was honest (you'd expect writers to be honest, at least good writers) or that it was rare (come on boss, it is a first) or about how tough it is to be a ordinary cricketer (Aakash and ordinary with 10,000 first class runs and a Test career?) or how it is about dressing room gossip or field tactics (ordinary fan-on-the-road stuff) is to miss the point completely. 'Out of the Blue' is much more than that - it is about human endeavour to find its potential, to best itself against all odds. The least we can do is to recognise it for what it was worth when we review it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hyderabad Diaries - The Cop Farce

 There is much activity going on in the twin cities now. Apparently there is a COP II or something like that going on (and I have no clue what it is about). I tried to find out and got bored and let it be. I heard someone say it is about biodiversity - saw an ad about a sparrow. It's apparent that people have realised that we need to live and let live - and surprisingly - there is now an awareness that there are many other species alive around us. Can you believe it? We are not the only ones here? And I guess the conference is all about that with a whole bunch of ministers and other very important people waxing eloquent about biodiverisity.

I really don't have a problem with that. But I do see these hurried efforts to beautify the city at the last minute (and make it all up like we have always been 'biodiverse'). Suddenly small plants are being planted along the road medians with little patches of grass being stuck around it to give it all a green look. This is going on all over the place and in a couple of days the entire city will perhaps be full of plants and grass. To make it more realistic we may even see some sparrows being let loose and some other extinct birds and animals as well. For a city that has no regard to saving up green spaces, a city that has become a concrete jungle thanks to callous laws and greedy officials and politicians, it is really the most hypocritical thing to do. I do wish some of the delegates take a tip down the 'not your normal routes' to see why this conference has to take place at all.

It will not change by putting up a few plants and sticking some grass and putting up emotional hoardings. We need to create new lung spaces. We need to reclaim the lost and encroached parks and maintain them. We need to create more playing areas for children. We need more water bodies to look at. We need more peace and tranquility and spaces within colonies for the old and the young. We certainly need more trees and greenery all through the year. I'd rather half the cost of this conference goes towards such initiatives that go towards creation of green facilities immediately. Biodiversity will happen automatically if we respect all that is around us - not by having conferences and painting the city green.

Anjali - But we are all Different

The walk in the park saw us checking out some birds busy doing their own thing. I told Anjali that it appeared funny that birds seem to have a life so different - they build their nests, search for food, eat it and just go on. And the same with the animals. 'They don't have to go to school, no tv, no brushing their teeth etc,' I said trying to drive my point home.

After listening to my rather impassioned argument Anjali decided to put it to rest.
'But we are all so different no nanna,' she said. 'Birds will do their things, animals will do their things and we will do our things. Even you and I are different because we do different things no. That's all. Everyone will do what they can.'

I agree. No point trying to club and categorise. Let each one be.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Doghi - Movie Review

'Doghi' is a Marathi movie set in rural Maharashtra and revolves around two sisters who are very close. It starts sometime when the older sister Gauri (Renuka Daftardar) is scheduled to be married and there is great festivity in the household. Relatives coming in and much talk that reveals the household's share of troubles - debts and other troubles of a farmer and so on. The sisters go to visit a temple on the advise of their elders before the groom's party arrives and they go accompanied by their uncle from Bombay (Sadashiv Amupakar). On the way back the uncle notices in the newspaper that the groom's party had an accident and that they had all died while coming to the village.

The incident causes a stroke to the father and he becomes an invalid. People shun the older girl as an ill omen. Money dries up. As things go from bad to worse, the uncle tells the mother that he will take the older girl- the one with the bad luck to Bombay and that he would send her a money order every month. Without as much as showing a thing the director conveys the decision with great effect - the girl would be a prostitute in Bombay. Money starts flowing in and things look up for the family. The younger one Krishna (Sonali Kulkarni) is now in line for marriage and the uncle finds a young idealist working for an NGO for her.

All's well until Gauri decides to join the festivities and the mother feels the pinch of her unfortunate daughter's shadow on the marriage. She tries to discourage her from coming and does not welcome her - despite knowing the tragedy that befell her stoic daughter. Gauri feels left out and walks out as the marriage is about to take place when she is refused the bridesmaid's jobs. Krishna however convinces her to stay, convinces her guilt ridden mother to accept her daughter and also finds her older sister a groom from the group of young social activists. Gauri stays back in the village, never to return to her life as a prostitute in Bombay.

'Doghi' is a simple theme told very powerfully. It addresses so many issues that lie underneath and that are not told or discussed and it does that wonderfully. The only thing that struck me as odd was that the girl had to become a prostitute - could she not have worked as help or something else? But perhaps that is the truth, perhaps it is based on a true story, because truth is certainly stranger than fiction and there is certainly no logic to how truth unfolds. The girls did a wonderful job and so did their mother and all other characters. 'Doghi' is slow and intense and powerful. Watch it if you get a chance.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Indicators of Inefficiency

The general indicators of inefficiency as I see them.

1) When all talk is about others improving their work and responsibility - and not about one's own.

2) When there is no plan and all that there is is hot air.

3) When there is no clarity of role, no concrete action - just bombastic, impractical and unviable proposals.

4) When sweeping statements are made without any basis with a lot of unnecessary but popular emotion.

5) When there is no logical, well thought of or reasonable discussion and only argument and anger - the idea is to obfuscate.

6) When one gets angry when questioned or when one diverts the topic.

7) When one avoids the main issues repeatedly

8) When one looks for excuses, shifts blame all the time and does not take any responsibility.

9) When one does not listen to expert advise.

10) When one does not ask or think of ways to improve and grow efficiency in one's area.

11) When one fails to implement any system that is directed towards transparency and accountability

12) When one obscures roles, misinterprets boundaries - and does everything but their work.

If you come across any of the above in you or around you - beware. There is inefficiency around and you need to ask some straight questions or think of other ways to get your work done.

Not surprisingly, one can see that most of them apply to political leaders.


Monday, September 10, 2012

A Walk in The Park

There is a little park that I visit every other day. It is interesting to see the goings on in the park at various times during the day.

Early in the morning, even before dawn, we have the really serious walkers  and yoga practitioners walking about and contorting themselves silently like ghosts. This is a time when everything is really tranquil and no one dares to even switch on their mobiles and their music players. All music is heard through head phones - the silence is so intimidating. The lake is deathly still without a ripple, the only sounds are those of bird calls and soft footsteps and perhaps the breathing of a desperate pranayama practitioner.

As the sun rises and we go the other side of 6 a.m. we find the noisier public joining in. Encouraged by ambient sounds of traffic and people talking and wishing one another loudly, some of these walkers start playing music on their mobiles, loud enough for a kacheri. Devotional songs, suprabhatam, Hindi film songs, Telugu film songs, FM radio - everything is game as they walk around with loud music in their hands, No one can escape it. Some play this music while they exercise, the music playing loudly by their side. Some carry it along in their hands.

And then come the party goers who normally walk in a pack and who have old friends in their regular places. Their general talk is about how the party was last night, how the drink was, how much more to drink and so on. They occupy the entire walkway and do not move an inch lest they miss out some golden words of wisdom on the drink and food. Others normally duck and weave, swear and suffer, slow down or choose alternate routes to avoid these. These gangs also get upset if anyone occupies their regular space. By now there is much raucous banter, less walking and more time pass. Also this gang has a lot of health issues that they keep discussing. In sharp contrast to this loud gang is the quiet and well behaved yoga gang which goes about with utmost and sometimes rather overtly supercilious humility, content in the knowledge that they are healthier than the others.

There are young lovers who come on the pretext of an early morning walk or a game of shuttle but they are all flirting with one another. There are old people trying to extend their lives through some exercise. There are those who are struck down by some debility already and are struggling along. There are young joggers who fly about and there are middle aged uncles who huff and puff behind fat tummies tucked into tight t shirts. And by the side are those who are doing their own brand of exercises, some weird ones that we have never seen, some breathing exercises that are a hybrid variety of all one has seen where men and women snort like horses and then some who insist on clapping or making such harsh sounds. Much activity goes on during this hour.

Slowly as the hour of exercise fades and people go back to their homes to get ready and go to their workplaces, the lazy ones who wish to sun themselves troop in with their newspapers. They make no effort to walk or run and merely park themselves in the park and read the newspaper in complete silence. These are the unemployed people and are quiet content with their current state in life. A few couples might catch up on an early morning rendezvous but then that is about it - perhaps a couple of aged people at best. The sun is now beating down and the birds have beat it as well.

As the day progresses the park is generally taken over by lovers and their faithful followers, the voyeurs. Couples find excellent spots to express themselves. Some neck openly with boys trying to go further and the girls trying to prevent progress, some are content at holding hands, some merely talk and some do not even talk. You can easily make out which stage the relationship is in by the number of smiles and tears and angry faces. Voyeurs also find excellent spots, like combat soldiers, to view the amorous activities without being disturbed. And so continues the time of intimacy which leaves lovers hot and flushed and wanting more. Same with voyeurs.

The evenings are for families. Little children, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, prams, toys, food, ice creams, running etc takes over the park. Some lovers, some exercisers, still remain. But now there is total chaos. Pickpockets have a field day and slowly the park drifts to a quiet end except for some rustling behind the bushes that the security guard investigates and lest off with a small personal fine.

The night belongs to the boozers or the more adventurous. And as the day turns into night much drama happens to the human life while the animal and plant life go about smoothly with their lives in an unaffected manner, undisturbed by the prospect of death, not worried about hypertension or diabetes, yoga or walking.

Back to another day at the park!

Needed urgently - A sense of humour, a sense of honour

The way we are arresting cartoonists (and even people who forward cartoons) and putting them away in jail on charges of sedition shows our sharply deteriorating sense of humour. Cartoons are all about caricaturing the perceived truth. So our anger at these cartoons is an indication that it has certainly touched a raw nerve somewhere.

The way we are targeting soft targets and letting the big bullies go scot free - those who uproot communities and rock societies with mass murder through hate speeches and outright divisive comments, shows our lack of a sense of honour. We fear their backlash and let them rant and rave, let them beat up and bully innocents, treat them with kid's gloves and arrest a few menials - if at all.

I think its time we got them both back - a capacity to laugh at ourselves and a capacity to stand by and do the right thing and not get scared by bullies.

Anyone game?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thought for the Day - The Creation of Belief

The most important part of any campaign is the creation of 'belief' within the team. Belief to me is the thought that one get handle any situation.

How does one do it is the question. How does one believe that they can wriggle out of any situation? How does one believe that he can do it? It certainly has a lot to do with (1) a mad desire that one would achieve the goal at whatever cost and (2) what the individual or the team has done before. The first is about belief creating the experience and the second is about experience creating the belief. One about thought preceding action and the second about action preceding or shaping thought.

Thought before action
If one believes strongly in a particular outcome  as in telling oneself that 'I must win this game at any cost' or 'I must do climb Everest at any cost', the thought has set in firmly even ahead of the experience. The 'I' is the person's ownership for the goal and he or she has 'decided' first and clearly. What follows next is the logical following of all the right steps, followed though with extreme diligence by the person because he has already taken 'ownership' for his goal and is now going through the process of experiencing in a logical and purposeful manner. he or she will then prepare accordingly, gather knowledge, simulate the experience and be fully prepared. Preparation that adds a lot to the creation of 'belief'. The feeling of having been there and done that.

Experience before thought
The other way is to have been in a situation or have 'experienced' it first. This could happen as a result of a plan or could have happened by chance. But in such cases it is important to understand the exact process of how one went through the process - simulated or real. Just having been there is huge (being on the Everest is huge) and you probably have greater belief than someone who has not been in that situation.You can, if yo can recreate the process in detail create the plan and understand the various aspects of it. By doing so you can compare what you have experienced to what you believe is the 'process' and you can then make sense of it all - including the areas where you made mistakes and areas that you could have handled more efficiently.

To have experienced the toughest opposition and understood the process with some expert help (coach) is best (like Arjuna did). To have experienced it even in a simulated manner and then make sense of the process is second best (like Ekalavya did). To have the wisdom of those who have experienced it and then try to simulate it or understand it is third best.

For a cricketer simply it is about playing more matches against the toughest oppositions in the most extenuating circumstances that creates the belief best. (I have been there, I know.) Or simulate the same situations and practise again and again until the mind feels that you have prepared enough and for the toughest opposition.

Belief is created by stretching one's known limits. Only when you are out of your comfort zone, when you are against the best, when you are in a system of total uncertainty are you questioning your belief, what is known to you. And when you ask questions and come through, you have greater and stronger belief. So stretch those limits all the time, go out of your comfort zone, deal with the best and understand what you did right. You have then created belief that you can 'handle it', whatever it is.