Friday, February 27, 2015

Whiplash - Movie Review

Andrew Neiman and Terence Fletcher play student and teacher. Fletcher is a teacher who seeks perfection from his jazz band and any less is not acceptable. However his ways are abusive and his students are terrorised and demoralised. The movie revolves around Neiman and his relationship with his teacher, music conductor, going from awe to hate, to anger and frustration and finally perhaps, gratitude.

Neiman is a first year student drummer at the Schaffer Conservatory. He is noticed by the conductor Fletcher who gives him a chance, then pulls him down, humiliates him, gives him another chance and then throws him out of the band. Fletcher's work ethic and exacting standards drive the students to despair and one even commits suicide. Neiman himself quits. When he meets Fletcher later, he discovers that Fletcher was driven by his desire to push his students to greatness and was not apologetic. 'I at least tried,' he says. Fletcher says that the two words 'good job' were the worst ever. He also feels that any potential greatness that gave up is not bound for greatness. Fletcher gives Neiman one final chance at a prestigious performance and pushes Neiman over the edge. Will he survive Fletcher's desire to find greatness in his wards?

Whiplash is stressful. Fletcher, played by JK Simmons, is brilliant as the abusive perfectionist teacher. Miles Teller is good as the student. Not easy. But who said greatness came easy. Whiplash by the way, is one of the scores they play.  'Whiplash' is extraordinary - nothing like I have seen before and perhaps brings many such edgy equations to light.

Wild - Movie Review

Wild is based on a 2012 memoir by Cheryl Strayed. It recounts her experiences as she treks the one thousand mile Pacific Crest Trail all alone after the death of her mother, her divorce and years of drug binges.

Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl and does a competent job as always. Laura Dern plays her mother. The movie switches from Cheryl's trek in the wild and cuts into her past life - with her mother, her ex-husband, her childhood, her brother etc. Save from a small drama with potential rapists, the trek never held any danger to me as the viewer. Its slow, but builds nicely into the last scene where we feel the sense of catharsis Cheryl experiences after having completed her journey. Laura Dern is nice.

Slow. If you are in that kind of a mood, its nice. But nothing happens for long periods.  

Dick Tracy - Movie Review

It's a comic book come alive. The settings are exquisitely made in red, yellow, green, people who look like cartoon characters, and everything else that reminds you of the cartoons. It's the one and only Warren Beatty movie I have seen. I only remember him for one other detail I read about him.

Beatty is Dick Tracy the tough cop who is facing a bunch of mobsters headed by Big Boy (Al Pacino). Big Boy eludes Dick Tracy despite his many attempts to nab him. In his attempts to curb crime he comes upon a young kid who is witness to a key murder. There is love in his life in the form of Tess and there's unrequited love for 'Breathless Mahoney' (Madonna). A series of incidents later the good prevails over the bad.

Very entertaining. Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles is unrecognisable. All in all, falls in the timepass bracket.

50 Not Out - Links to Videos

Why Virat Kohli Is The Best Role Model For India's Youth Now

Virat Kohli is the perfect role model for Gen Y - a generation that seems to have most older people pulling out their hair. Gen Y is seen as arrogant and brash, and more than that distracted, low involvement, superficial and the worst of all, have a smug the-world-owes-me. Whether it is their fault or ours we will leave out for now but one thing we look for is the kind of role models we wish to see in Gen Y who can inspire many from their bracket. No better name comes to mind than that of Virat Kohli.

The Gen Y Giveaways
Tough as nails, highly competitive, I'll-be-what-I-am Virat Kohli epitomises all that the Gen Y is. Tattoos, brands, attitude, reputation, girl, cars, gadgets, designer clothes etc. But why he is the perfect role model for Gen Y is what he does on the field despite all this and many more distractions I could not list. In fact no Gen Y will ever be judged by his or her distractions if they perform as Kohli does.

What He Really Is About
Kohli is high performance. He is amazingly consistent. He is highly adaptable and he is tough when the going gets tough. He learns fast and makes less errors each time. He wants to win and turns in high impact performances each time, each one better than the last. Kohli is a man anyone would want in his team for the sheer value he brings, the amount of impact he carries on any game.

What Gen Y (and all other Gens) Could Learn from Him
High Performance comes from Careful Preparation
To perform so consistently at all levels requires a tremendous amount of preparation and growth orientation. Its quite clear that Kohli desires to perform above his peers and is willing to work for it. What we are seeing, the consistency and the mental toughness, is the result of deliberate practice, far above his peers. Kohli is not easily satisfied and tries to approach a new boundary each time.

Match Wining Ability comes from Clear First Principles and Deliberate Practice
But then, he is also of impact. He adapts himself to the team's cause and cuts out all flamboyance and playing to the gallery when the situation demands. It is about the team, not about him, which makes him so special.

Adaptability comes from Process-orientation
To be able to do lesser and lesser mistakes when others in the team who are probably more talented than him are struggling, Kohli, reflects great process orientation and capability to self-correct. He will make a mistake, but a new mistake, which is about growth. He will analyse and understand each part of his game and this requires clarity, growth orientation and a good work ethic.

This, despite his distractions. Gen Y could well take a page from Virat Kohli's success. Don't merely adopt his flashy lifestyle, that is a perk he has earned. If you have to adopt something, adopt his approach to his work, his hard work, preparation and constant desire to perform, grow and deliver when most others are not able to. If you adopt that and start turning in match winning performances in whatever field you are in, none will deny you your right to enjoy the perks of what you have earned. Which is why to me, Kohli is the role model for Gen Y - and for all others Gens too as mentioned earlier.



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sunday Cricket Lessons - What's Natural May Not Be The Most Efficient

What's natural may not be most efficient
Chatting with Baig sir about the difficulty into getting side on, he made a fine observation. He said none of the classical positions in cricket are not natural like the side-on position. Front on is more natural, but its not half as effective. Side on is not natural but its very effective. The bottom hand is natural in life but in cricket the top hand is the key for success.

"What's natural may not be the most efficient: he said. The paradox cannot be lost. In so many ways what seems obvious is not what works best. In most ways the other way works easy and brings more result. Love against war for example.

Body alignment is the key
He also explained to me why I was not able to finish properly. The body alignment was off. As I loaded into the action I was in position but I finished slightly off alignment, my front leg fell away. He corrected it a bit and brought it back into alignment and lo behold, all was well. To explain more clearly, the back leg and front leg must be in line in the action and finish.

The finish helps direction
Once again the importance of the finish came into play. I worked on it some more and realised that it does need a conscious effort to finish in the right place, and a supple, strong and flexible body. But it is the key to getting it right, to getting-it-all right after the grand effort. If the finish goes awry, the entire effort can go down the drain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

World Cup 2015 - India beats South Africa

In a match in which South Africa seemed to have the edge, India did the unexpected. They beat South Africa by well over 100 runs. The team played as a team and everyone performed their role. It's stuff that champion teams are made of.

Rahane played the innings that true match winners are capable of. It was superb stuff to see the slightly built young man with the eyes of a sad monk take apart of the South African bowling clinically and in the process broke their self-belief. Kohli reigned himself in and lent stability to an innings which could have gone either way if he'd lost his head and continued playing as he did in the last game - much in the same way he did in the final of the 2011 World Cup. And not to forget Shikhar Dhawan who overcame his demons and came good when it really mattered. Now Rohit can take teh cue, Dhoni will surely pick up and the team looks good.

What is great for this team is the way the uncelebrated players are delivering. Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shami are all good but the way they stepped up and despite their lesser talents and reputations hassled the famed South African batsmen and knocked them into submission. The team is playing as one. It is enjoying itself. It is celebrating each others success.

Raina I suspect is the key to this glue. He looks like an unselfish player, one who makes the move. he is the man every captain wants in his side. He has also rubbed off on Rahane, a very sorted out young man, and we have two such. We have the highly intense Kohli. Now if only they can cut under Rohit's skin, we have a team that will retain the cup. At the top one finally sees a smiling Dhoni, making impeccable moves as a captain, enjoying himself as he never has.

I think much credit is owed to Ravi Shastri for bringing about this change in the team. It was never about what they could do more. It was always about how they could do more with what they already had. It was about the mindset that he talked about and well, he seemed to have somehow got them to understand how champions function. How people like Shastri function. He will make an impact wherever he goes - that is what the champion does.

I knew South Africa was done way before they started their innings. Sometime in the 35th over of the Indian innings, the signs were clear. The body language was one of a team that somehow resigned itself. They looked clueless, looked like victims. They need someone to help them with their mindset.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Goals and Visions - The Danger of Abstractness

Anything visual is perhaps the biggest call for action. Ideas are abstract. Similarly big goals that cannot be conceived become abstract. It struck me when I read Simon Sinek's book 'Leaders Eat Last' where he talks of how we as people are visual, that perhaps this concept could be the clue to all goal setting and visualisation that could bring in concrete results.
Hyderabad? I can see far as that tree and no more.
Reaching for a distant goal can disorient us because we don't know where to go and how. Go to Delhi from Hyderabad - I don't know what Delhi looks like. But let us say we are shown a limited path along the way, lets say a hill on the horizon, and we are asked to move to that direction, its easier to act. We can see the goal, judge the difficulty and know that all that is missing is the effort from my side.

Visual and tangible goals can motivate people to act
Seeing the goal can thus be the first motivator to act. Many of us perhaps cannot vision the entire path but we can be motivated to reach the part that is visible. So one visible screen to another, we can move ahead, and as we move we can correct the path if necessary. The job of breaking down the big vision and presenting visible and tangible goals then becomes the key job of the leader.

Its like driving the car at night. Our vision is limited to the distance we can see and we drive that much forward and then a bit more and then some more until we go all the way. If we see nothing at first step, we might not go forward.

To use this idea in goal setting, especially for a team, it is perhaps important to keep the goals visual and tangible, something that can be seen. A building, a smile on the customer's face, a road that is ad out, people using the road - stuff that can show the team what they are working for. That becomes the measure for them then. They can judge the result, the effort required and get involved. Visuals are almost everything in goal setting.

Incremental screens in visualisations could help
In the other aspect of creation, where visualisation comes into play, one can start with visualising small, incremental changes in the vision. Let's say I want to buy a new car, It makes no sense for me to start imagining the most expensive car available because my mind may just skip the whole thing. But what is possible really? At this stage? Perhaps a new small car? A second hand big car? Now it appears tangible. It fits into my vision, my belief system. In that manner its better to recalibrate our existing life by one notch, create those realities and then recalibrate again. the key is to recalibrate often until it becomes second nature. All growth and improvement becomes second nature.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek makes an impassioned plea for real leaders in our world, those leaders who look out for their people first, those who have moral integrity and courage to do the right thing. He mocks at leaders who eat first, get paid fat salaries and sacrifice the people they are supposed to lead by firing them etc. It's a fascinating book and he gives many examples of inspirational leaders who 'eat last', who put their lives in danger for the betterment of the people whom they are supposed to serve - the employees. For those who are worried about the customers, the idea is that employees who feel safe and secure will provide good work and service and thereby happy customers are a natural byproduct.
Penguin Business, 216 p

Johnny Bravo's exploits for the US Air Force in Afghanistan where he risked his life many times to provide cover to his mates on the ground is a case where the team members stand up for each other at the cost of their lives sometimes. Alone in his flight Bravo realised that the troops below needed cover, and dived down with no vision, no coordinates and just a vague idea, into a narrow valley between mountain sides. Bravo achieved his goal at great risk. Sinek wonders how people like Bravo are able to do that. They do that not for anything else, but the man beside them. And they do that knowing that the man beside them will do the same for you.

In the case of Sandiacres, the new leader Bob Chapman noticed how employees felt that the moment they stepped into work (at the sound of a bell) they lost all freedom and their faces were drained of all energy. The reason - management and workers were treated very differently - workers were treated with no trust. Bob Chapman did these small changes to build trust among the workers - all time clocks and bells were taken off, spare parts were made accessible to those who needed them (and not kept in cages), everyone got to use office phones. To earn trust, he realised he must treat his employees as people. He must extend trust. Truly great human leadership Sinek says, protects an organisation from internal rivalries that could shatter a culture. Chapman finds that a leader must take care of his employees like his own children (something that Confucius and other greats also say, and thus buys into their trust and loyalty).

In the Marines the cadets move quickly from 'Me' to 'We'. I, Me, My no longer exist, We, Together and Us is the only truth. One exists only as part of the team and not as an individual. The Spartans (the subject of the movie 300) - punished soldiers who lost their shields with the highest punishment because the shield gives protection for the entire line.The sword, spear etc did not attract the high penalty because they only compromised the individual. Then there are the Whitehall Studies - stress at work is not due to the demands of the job but the degree of control the workers feel they have throughout the day. The less control they feel, the more the stress.

There was an unnecessary digression I felt into the EDSO. Endorphine is the chemical that gives us the runners high, Dopamine is an incentive for progress, (While here he makes a case for goals that are visible - we are highly visual animals. I like that.) Serotonin is the leadership chemical - the feeling of pride. Oxytocin is the chemical for love - the feeling of friendship and deep trust. While Dopamine is about instant gratification, Oxytocin is more long lasting.

Sinek cites the case of Next Jump, a company that offers lifetime employment. Next Jumpers don't get fired, they get coached. Firing is an easy option they feel. I agree. Because everyone felt secure, the performance of the team skyrocketed. They grow at 60% a year. In a similar case, after a 30% drop in revenue Barry-Wehmiller did not fire employees and instead implemented a mandatory furlough program "so all suffer a little so none of us has to suffer a lot".

The Milgram experiment is interesting - as far as we do not see, as far as it is abstract, we will go as far as kill someone. 65% people who could not see their victim administered the killer shock in this experiment that requested teachers to administer shocks on students who gave wrong answers. 65%!!

To build trust and make it visual, Sinek proposes the following ideas. Rule no 1 -  Keep it real and bring people together. Rule 2 - Keep numbers manageable, (his magic number is 150). Rule 3 - you must meet the people you help. Rule no 4, - Don't give them money, give them time and energy. Rule no 5 - Be patient. Wait till trust develops. Be the parent.

In the final part he summarises his lessons.
Leadership lesson no 1 - So goes the culture, so goes the company. Goldman Sachs, Taj and Citibank are discussed. The Taj story where terrorists took over the historic hotel in Mumbai and killed many has the fantastic story of many employees laying down their lives to protect their customers. Leadership lesson 2 - So goes the leader, so goes the culture. Give authority to those who are closest to the information. It is the leader's job to take responsibility for the success of every number of his crew. Captain Marquet and the submarine story and how he gave ownership to the people near the information by saying 'I intend..'. Instead of 'Request permission to...'
Leadership lesson 3 - Integrity matters.
Leadership lesson 4 - Friends matter. Cooperate.
Leadership lesson No 5. - Lead the people, not the numbers. Leaders who claim all credit leave organisations with all the expertise and genius. Leaders who work to distribute power across the organisation spread the strength across the organisation. Empowering leaders grow organisations slowly but outperform directive leaders in the long run. The case of Costco vs GE, Sinegal vs Welch. Costco succeeds because it recognises that employees are like family. Employees first at Costco, shareholders next. When the economy is bad Costco gives more. For customers to love your company, your employees must love it first.

"Leadership is about taking responsibility for lives, not numbers."  This standing up for the man beside you is then the circle of safety one looks for in teams. However in the corporate world we have teams that are more and more distanced by technology, by modern notions of profit and efficiency. Your mates are sacrificed ruthlessly in the quest for profitability. Sinek bashes all the profit seeking ones who do it at the cost of their employees and proves how companies that never lost an employee, that took care of employees in tough times, had a better impact on results over time. South West Airlines was one such.

I agree with the concept of the circle of safety. It is time that the world and its leaders understand the same. It is what they must aim to build. To be a leader means to eat last - not first. Unfortunately we have many leaders who wish to eat first and sacrifice the rest. In families, in societies we need to see more of this behavior. When the weak fall, or need a rest, they cannot be dropped off. In the circle of safety, the wounded will always be taken care of. Today they are wounded, tomorrow it could be you. Investing in the circle of safety is in the group's own self-interest.

I liked his last chapter when he compares the Gen Y's attitude of the world-owes-me and the social media phenomenon and its superficial engagement. While addressing the 'distracted generation' or the Gen Y he says that they know where they are and know where they want to go but what they do not know is the journey. They give short bursts of energy and effort to causes (like the Kony cause) but no commitment and grit is shown. Sinek says ..'talk does not solve problems; the investment of time and energy by real human beings does." I agree.

I also agree that we need more leaders. Everything about the leader is lie being a parent. True leadership is the responsibility of anyone who belongs to the group. I completely agree.

This book took a long time to read for various reasons. The chemicals part was rather unnecessary I felt because it kept interfering with the flow and added no value. If chemicals flow I cannot help it can I? But the book has a lot of good takeaways and certainly one to read for leaders of organisations.

50 Books - An Almost List But A List Nevertheless

I don't know why this is an almost list but as with all lists I catch myself ticking them off. I think I got 12 in this and I have about 8 that I really want to read. The rest I'll leave.
http://www.outlookindia.com/article/The-Almosts-50-Not-Out/292973

Vehicular Harassment - There Should be a Law Against This

Sometimes you wonder how you attract some people into your life. Two such gentlemen came into my life the other day and gave me a wonderful example of how close they wish to be to me, or to Carlos (my car).

It was a Sunday, so the place was empty. By the time I returned from my work, hoping for a pleasant drive out of the place, I see these two gentlemen had parked their bikes on either side, refusing to let me go. Notice the closeness they maintain to Carlos, hinting at an undesirable intimacy. And both bikes edging on so lecherously too.

Why would anyone do this when the entire place was empty?
Why would anyone do this?

The few reasons I could think of on why they (the bikers) did this was that they were
1) very insecure people and found security in numbers
2) somehow did not want me to leave the place
3) somehow thought this was a bikes only place
4) thought my car was actually a helicopter and could take off vertically.

Much difficulty later, I extricated my car from the embrace of these two bikes and headed home.

There should be a law against such vehicular harassment. Poor Carlos!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

World Cup 2015 - India beats Pakistan

Both sides have their weaknesses but India had more strengths, more match winners. Any side that has someone as passionate and as good as Kohli when the big challenge comes, will always have an edge. Kohli apart India has MSD, hair dyed, looking natty and fully in control - when MSD is there at the helm, it always appears that god can go to sleep. I will never write off the sheer energy that Suresh Raina brings and he is a great example of personal leadership and impact on the team as he goes about putting more than his 100% into his role and into boosting others. He is a perfect team man. Overall the team has more balance and is more together than Pakistan which seemed neither here no there. The experience was there but there was a big gap between the experienced players and the younger players and that showed.

Pakistan's bowling looked good as far as their fast bowling goes and they contained India well to 300. Without Hafeez and Ajmal their attack suddenly looks ordinary in the middle overs. Dropping Kohli twice does not help their cause certainly. Dhawan and Raina played their parts well - the difference between teams that look good and those that don't is players who know their roles and deliver.

On this wicket 300 was always gettable if the Pakistan team believed they could get it. I don't think Pakistan ever believed they could get the 300. The team played mostly as if it would challenge at best, not win. They hoped, not played to win. If the youngsters like Shehzad and Sohail batted on some more, if the subsequent batsmen showed more application and passion to win, they could have chased 300. But to me they never looked settled enough to win. Sending Younis Khan to open was a decision based on 'hope'. The management probably felt that the Indian bowling was toothless enough to experiment with him opening until Shami's snorter shattered the illusion. That shot showed complete unpreparedness - and reflected in Pakistan's planning. I loved the way Haris Sohail batted. What I could not understand was how they could not take singles and rotate strike - you cannot give Ashwin three maidens. Misbah was awesome, what a batsman.

The difference between the Pakistani teams of yesteryear, the unpredictable World Champions, and this one is that the earlier teams always believed they could win. This team did not look like that. So when Saurav Ganguly said on commentary that Pakistan should not collapse to 120 for 5, it did not seem unthinkable, though the score then was a healthy 90 for 1 or so. But they managed to be 105 for 5 soon. We could see Shehzad trying to hit himself out of trouble, Sohail falling prey to the pressure created by MSD and Ashwin and Umar batting circumspectly. Despite his decision, he never inspired any signs of confidence. Was it a cracker of a contest? No. Boring at best. Kohli, well done. Team India, well done. You ticked most boxes.. But go and work on your bowling Umesh and try to be less erratic.  

Sunday Cricket Lessons - The Rhythm Helps

The Importance of Finishing
When we get the 'finish' right, we add zip to the bowling. It takes a little extra effort at the finish but the effort is well worth the effect. It lends to direction, line and length, and that little extra that the ball does off the seam. So all the deliveries that I practiced bowling with a proper finish ended up being far more effective than the ones that I did not fully 'finish'.

Rhythm
Another insight I got was the 'rhythm' in the run up. It's important, especially for fast bowlers, to feel that rhythm because it sets up the action beautifully. Worth being aware of the rhythm and as Shivlal Yadav told me once, worth practicing at nets.

Getting Side On
The effort to get side on while bowling is demanding much of me but I can see the difference it makes to my bowling. When I am side on the effort is minimal, the result is great. I can easily notch up the pace and see the ball fly off the wicket. However I need to figure out the best way to get side on yet and I will check with Mr. Baig on that. Is it the approach or the landing?

I think, as always, that next Sunday, I will be a better bowler than I am today. Hope eternal.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Whoa! What an Ad - Finally the Cricket Fan Gets His Due

Lovely heartwarming, tear jerking ad. And Dravid is such a wonderful, credible person to be the fan's eyes. Superb.

http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/video-ad-gillette-indian-fan-ahead-world-cup

And just in time too. I was not sure what to do with this World Cup. Now I know. I will it watch with Rahul Dravid - the epitome of the complete cricketer.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Effect of Praise - Mindset by Carol Dweck

Lovely video. Can change the way we deal with children, wards. Watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY

Links of news clips of Hyderabad book launch

Some videos from the electronic media of the book event in Hyderabad now on youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXAEBuOxKe0


Watch VVS Laxman Speak at the 50 Not Out! Launch

Here's a small clip of VVS Laxman's talk at the book event of 50 Not Out! Thanks to Abhishek, my nephew, for getting the clip and posting it. I loved it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boVR2ylzgrE&feature=youtu.be

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Meeting of Old Friends - All Saints High School After 30 years

I got a call from Pavan, my cricketing pal from school days one night. He said an old friend wanted to talk to me. I wondered who it might be. Turns out it is Ved, from school.
All Saints High School - The Inside
Ved Vyas Dhar, stylish, intense, good looking and highly temperamental. Who would forget Ved. Certainly not I, since I spent a lot of time in my temperamental and lovable friend's company. We played much table tennis together, went to the library together and did some odd stuff, like perhaps talking books too.
We were an odd couple - me all quiet and introverted, and Ved, all extroverted and likely to flare up at the slightest spark. Ved had a sharp tongue and a loud voice too. But he was always gentle and courteous with me.
Ved holding fort - near the old entrance
Ved was not one of the regular rowdy crowd though he knew how to handle his end among the others. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth was his policy (I think). He had a softer, literary side to him. His father was a famous journalist who had worked with the Times, CNN etc in the USA before retiring as Editor of Indian Express. In fact the days that I met Ved must have been great times for his father - it was just after the Emergency period.
Inside the school - near the water taps

Apart from the table tennis and library phases, Ved and I also watched a few movies together. For instance we watched a movie called 'Jaguar Lives' after our tenth class at Srinivasa theatre. I met him once again briefly when he came with the VV College team to the OU campus for a match that VV played against OU Engineering College. I remember I got a big hundred and a five wicket haul that game. It was not too long a meeting and after that I lost touch.
In the canteen - Vinay, Ashok and Sanjay Saxena 

Anyway I was blown to hear Ved on the other end. His voice has the same strength, mischief and fun. Now that he has been to America and lives in Australia, he had a distinct accent. But it was unmistakably Ved. We spoke for a while, planned to meet at school and so the meeting was fixed.
Ragda samosa - Joel, Ved, Farees and Arif (with his back)

The group grew. More class mates joined. Jamshed was down here from Australia so he came. Arif was in his Optical Shop at Abids so he swung by. Ashok Sugandhi came too, between his many business engagements. Vinay Gopal, the tall basket ball player, another intense types, came. He came back from a long stint in America. (Arif, Vinay and Jamshed came to the book launch). Joel Wilson, cricketer and class mate came. Mohammed Ali and Farees came. Sanjay Saxena joined after a while - the gentle artist who ow works with Prakash Arts. And then came Ved, all bald now, with our senior and the man for all occasions - Joseph Fernandes - Head Boy for White House.

It was fun reminiscing. We all remembered the teachers, the class mates, the punishments, the fun. We entered the school, met the acting Rector. Walked around the quadrangle. Ved and Arif drank water at the taps. we ate ragda samosa in the canteen. Ashok, our canteen man, the one who made all those wonderful ragda samosas was no longer there, down with cancer they said, and in bed. That was sad. Ramesh, our friendly clerk passed away last year someone said.
Inflation - Ragda was Rs. 2 then, now its 20 bucks
Ms. Martina married Manoj, a student of the school, and one of the great love stories of our times. We remembered Bro. Thomas and his dalliances. Ved has many recalls of how he got busted for pranks and coming late. Once he got his older brother and introduced him to the Rector as his father apparently. All Saints was like that.
Nice!

We looked at the Rosary Convent windows and wondered who we would wave at. I asked if anyone had a girlfriend from Rosary for all the talk we did.
Sanjay the artist and Vinay the basketball player
None of us had even a whiff of a girlfriend. But Joseph said he had four and Joel said he had one from Rosary so we concluded it had to be a church steps romance. So much for all the adrenaline rush the girls gave.
Arif and Jamshed sharing a tender moment watched by Joel 

Most of us split after spending a couple of hours. Ved, Vinay, Joseph and I went for lunch and extended the meeting a bit more.
Time to go home fellows, another day
The fact that the old criminals are back bodes for some fun times surely.

Terms of Endearment - Movie Review

Debra Winger was this amazingly pretty lass in 'An Officer and a Gentleman', her curly hair falling all over her beautiful face. It was so easy to fall in love with her and I must confess that I never resisted that. In 'Terms of Endearment', a 1983 movie, she plays Emma, daughter of Shirley Maclaine and the mother - daughter story is shown so beautifully. When I saw the tough choices the impulsive Debra makes in her life, I felt the desperate urge to give her a hug, to hold her. Debra Winger gave an Academy Award nomination performance surely. Shirley Maclaine got one for her portrayal of her mother. Jack Nicholson got one for being himself.
Isn't she pretty?

Much of 'Terms of Endearment' brought back the 1980s to my mind. I don't know if it was the nostalgia or the story of Winger's portrayal but it did make me feel a sense of loss. They use landlines - it looks so archaic now - like watching a black and white movie almost. What was I getting sentimental about? Then I saw the poster and I realised - it was for Debra and all the women she represented - the ones I'd fall in love so easily with. I should make a list.

Shirley Maclaine is a powerhouse actor I realised. Its a movie I could watch again.

A Short Visit to Tadepalligudem

I visited TPGudem as Tadepalligudem is known for short with Ram for some family business. The town is a trading hub, close to Rajamundry and is about 380 kms from Hyderabad. Now its part of Andhra Pradesh and its the first time I am travelling to Andhra Pradesh as a new state since the bifurcation. The road is in excellent condition - which is the biggest danger - because the road makes you drive faster while the traffic behaves as in the old days. It comes from all sides, many times in the opposite direction on your side of the highway. So one must be more than watchful on these roads. We made it in seven hours which shows that driving on these roads is not as easy as it may look - if you wish to drive safe.
Transports you to Malgudi - hope they never lose this place
A dear old uncle of mine lived in TP Gudem. We remembered the smells of dosas and pesarattus that they would bring back to the guest house in those large carriers. Ram and I found that Udipi restaurant easily and partook of the said delicacies. Its still so old world and wonderful. We went again the next morning.
The airfield in TP Gudem - Can you believe that?
After the family business was done, Ram told me there was an old airfield in TP Gudem. That was news for me. He showed me the place. Crazy.
Bible Missionaries

A huge gathering was going on - Bible Missionaries or something. Thousands of people. It was like a fair. Only bigger!
Huge crowds
But what caught my eye was the fruits and food stuffs. They looked so fresh that I could not resists picking them up.
I picked up lots of guavas and the root they call tegalu, lovely to chew on. They really kept us going on the return journey.
Common Godavari district sights

And then the green fields that stretch for long along the highway. Stuff you don't get to see in Telangana.
Quiet evening moments - Led Zepelin & Co for company

And then the drive back home. A lovely sunset.


Friday, February 6, 2015

50 Not Out! - A True Picture of the Event

Was searching for a true representation of the event. Finally - Thanks Sagar.
The event in progress

A cross section of the crowd
 
Now I know who came

Raghu holding fort

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thought for the Day - Why Negative Feedback Does Not Bother Me Too Much Now

Feedback was always bothersome. Especially negative feedback. I guess it is so for most of the world.

You get 9 good comments and one iffy one out of 10, and it mucks up the day. In early days (when I used to seek approval - far more than I do now perhaps) it was even worse. I am sure people could play me by just looking at my face. They'd feel pretty much in control of my emotions - all they had to do was say something that was negative and I went into a spiral.

But over the years I learned that feedback reveals as much about the person who is giving it as it is about you. Sometimes it is not even about you or your work and is entirely about the other person. (You know these - they are the completely biased, out-to-hurt feedback.)

So a person who is vicious in his or her attack is revealing a vicious side to himself/herself. Only a person who is deeply insecure about himself would so resent you and your work. Everything reflects that insecurity and inadequacy and when that person sees that opening to judge someone he or she lets go. In early days this feedback hurt much, but now I really sympathise with those who give such feedback. Poor souls - what must they be going through to give such feedback - about themselves.

Then there are those who know everything and easily get bored. They think the world is out here to entertain them and feedback forms are their opportunity to play god. They miss the whole point that in that trash they experienced they could find something of use - if they didn't shut themselves off so soon with their judgements and opinions. One again has learned to nod and say, hopefully someday. This meeting was no accident.

The ones who are compassionate and secure see the effort, the honesty and sincerity of it, and give their feedback. The points for good work and the gentle words of advise for improvements which are taken in the right spirit because they are given in the right spirit. They understand that everyone is on the journey.

These days I tell my workshop participants unabashedly - give me good feedback, because in many ways it reflects you - I am beyond hurting. So don't waste your time. If at all, look at what you are revealing of yourself. Your feedback is more feedback about you than me.

(PS. In case you are wondering, it is not based on any negative feedback I received recently but an idea that has been simmering in my mind for long - an extension of the projection idea that I wrote about earlier.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thought for the Day - Your Words Give Your Innermost Discomforts Away

This is a theory of mine. People talk most, or rather use words while speaking, about what bothers them most. When I say bother, it could be a discomfort of some sort.
Silence - Nothing to say, nothing to do
Try to catch people while they speak. Listen to the words they use. What kind of words do they use to describe their relationship with life, people, money, love etc. The words give them away. Too much talk of love shows a discomfort with the concept of love (explore relationship with love), of money, of truth, of people, of honesty, of integrity etc etc.

The less one speaks the more one is sure of that space. The more one speaks, the less one is sure of that space.

Still early days but I think there's something here.

G Force - Movie Review

Anjali gets a bit bored with the not-so-good movies these days so I was wary with G Force. Four mice, super spies, all armed with the latest gadgets like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and capable of feats no less, are a part of a government spy team that is somehow on the verge of being shut down. As a last ditch effort they try to uncover a conspiracy they have been pursuing, one that involves electronics and all things that I don't understand.

But the mice are cute. They do everything earnestly, love, fight, separate, get disappointed, find belief and find redemption. Great animation. Fast action. Not funny as in funny but as an adorable action flick, it works. Anjali saw it too - though she did not say much about it later.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cheap Thrills - Bookspotting In Bookstores

Spotting your book in a bookstore is a big thrill. Spotting someone reading the book or even looking at it (or even looking in the direction of that shelf) is another big thrill. Taking a pic of the book in the bookshelf is the ultimate cheap thrill.
50 Not Out - Landmark, Somajiguda
I realise that I cannot read any other title.
Nice!