Sunday, May 31, 2015

TEDx Talk - Tarun Singh Chauhan

TEDx Talk by my pal, ad man, Tarun Singh Chauhan. On an idea.
Some delightful campaigns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3caMncGknKw

Tanu Weds Manu - Movie Review

Not the TWM returns - but the original one. Q. Why now? A. Why not?

Good boy Manu Sharma comes to India to get married and falls in love with bad girl Tanu Trivedi who he meets on his bride hunting expeditions. Cigarette smoking Tanu bullies him into retracting on his initial, emphatic Yes to her. Manu is rejected and dejected, and goes off to attend a marriage of a friend to cheer himself up. There he meets Tanuji again and her unsavory boyfriend but in the end, true love prevails.

Slow. Madhavan and Kangana Ranaut fit the roles to a T. Nice to see Punjab and most of North India from the perspective shown by the camera.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nice Link - 6 Hill Stations in South India to Visit

Thought for the Day - We Can Do 10X Right Now, If We Own Our Lives

We are, as we are now, capable of 10x results if we own our lives. By own, I mean that if we can apply ourselves fully to what is at hand we get results that are 10x. Now. Which means being fully involved in what we are doing.

What is owning stuff?
Its feeling that its our own. Its merging your energies into what is at hand, the work at hand. It's being total there. What warrants such commitment? Pure love for oneself. for one's work. After all our work is the true reflection of what we are.

How to own things?
First, decide on what you want to own. Something 10x of what's happening at work or some private project. Once you experience the click in your head, that you have locked into the reality you want, know that it is already done. Now that its done, work backwards to remove all the obstacles that might come in the way of your outcome coming true.

Done. 10 x is just the beginning.

Now do 10x of 10x.

Just a thought. You can also do 10x of nothing if you wish.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Thought for the Day - To Get More, We Must Be Prepared to Lose What Is

To get more, we must be prepared to lose what is.


It's a choice.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Being John Malkovich - Movie Review

An unsuccessful puppeteer who needs work, applies for the job of a clerk - nimble fingers are a must. He goes to the 7 and a 1/2 floor of this building with low ceilings (it's half a floor) and gets the job. He meets this attractive woman and falls for her. He also finds a portal that leads him into - you guessed it - famous actor John Malkovich's head. After a while inside JM's head, he is ejected and falls by the side of a highway. He discloses this to the girl at office who thinks of making it into a commercial proposition (sell the 15 minutes in JM's head for 200 dollars and people are queuing up for that). He also tells his wife who wants to get into JM's head too.

Now the puppeteer's wife takes a fancy to the attractive partner of her husband, her husband has taken a fancy for his partner too and the partner has lesbian feelings for the wife. And between them all they have this portal that leads to JM. They start using JM to fulfill their fantasies with one another through JMs body. But then JM himself is a vessel for Lester, the guy who hired the puppeteer. A baby is conceived by the partner through JM when the wife is in his head because - she loves her. I will not even try to get into what happens next as many old people try to extend their lives through the JM portal and such other stuff.

John Cusack, Cameron Diaz make up the husband and wife team. Crazy. Three nominations at the Academy Awards. The most bizarre story I ever heard of and saw in a movie. How did they make this movie?

Margarita With a Straw - Movie Review

Young girl with cerebral palsy (movement disorder) encounters her rebellious side and her romantic and sexual feelings. She falls in love with the lead singer of the band in Delhi University (she is the lyric writer and music composer) but finds herself rejected.

She goes to New York for a course and falls in love with a young man assigned to her. And with a blind girl whom she meets and stays with. And she discovers she is bisexual. In many ways you cannot help feeling jealous of this wheelchair bound girl who is actually finding more love, romance and sex than most. Back to India and we find that not everyone is ready to accept certain things. Kalki is brilliant as Laila. So is Sayani Gupta as Khanum, the jealous, domineering lesbian lover.
Nice song 'Dusokute'.

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Be Something, Give Up Wanting to Be That

To be something, we must give up wanting to be that.

To be in control, give up the 'need to be in control'.
To be wealthy, give up the 'need to be wealthy'.
To be happy, give up the 'need to be happy'.
Picture this - I want to be a sunrise?
When I say I 'need to be happy' I am saying that I don't have it and that I will fight all that comes in the way of my happiness. My obsession with happiness (or in this case 'not having happiness' can endanger the very concept of being happy itself.

I cannot want it and have it at the same time. I either want it or have it. So I must decide whether I want a life of wanting. Or having. Or being.

Thought for the Day - Just Be

Whenever I meet Patrick San Francesco I ask him - what more should I do? He smiles and says - Just Be. Just be - what?

Now I think I get what he was saying.

Just be - whatever you want to be.

So I want to be healthy. I be healthy and live and feel and behave healthy. So I want to be successful. So I be successful, live and feel and behave successful. So I want to be prosperous. Be, behave, feel prosperous.

Just be.

And let it all come to you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thought for the Day - Can You Handle It If You Got All That You Want?

Our main cause of discontent (and unhappiness by extension) is this one statement - why do we  not get all that we want. He has that, she has this, I want all that too but I don't get it. Hence, I will be discontented and unhappy. Life is unfair, why me etc etc.
Can we handle it?
My observation - we normally don't get what we cannot handle. Look at it this way - whatever you are asking for and not getting - make a list. Then visualise. What you would do if you got all that NOW. Honestly, can you handle it? My theory is that we get exactly what we can handle now (enough reason to be grateful for that itself).

But does that mean I am stuck here? How do I got to the next level? How do I aspire for better?

Fist by accepting that what you have now is exactly what you can handle. Any resentment will set you back a few steps and send you in a downward spiral so get a grip on yourself and first secure this place. Be grateful for what is, for having what you can handle.

Next, start 'being' whatever it is that you 'want' to be. Happy is a choice, free is a choice, success is a choice, wealth is a choice.

Let me illustrate how two friends of mine did this. They were normal middle class guys like the rest of us but with big dreams of wanting to be rich. (We all had too but they were more focussed and honest about it.) So they figured out what rich means to them. Let's say we all normally ate in restaurants like Kamath those days. They figured that wealthy is when they hang out in five star hotels. They would go and spend whatever money they had and drink coffee in five star hotels and come back. Just being there, just expanding their minds enough that yes, we can 'be' that too. Of course they are well off now. ('Being' wealthy does not mean maxing out credit cards - it can be done sensibly by growing that consciousness). Similarly happiness and success and all else have their specific symbols to you. Find them and grow them to the extent that you are ready for. You will find its a natural process.

Like Jack Nicholson says - you cannot handle the truth - we cannot handle things we are not prepared for. Two ways to approach this. First method is the easy way for the trust guys -, accept things as they come and  do not label and fix, that's a great way to let things flow. Second method is the harder way for the process guys - grow your consciousness and start 'being' so you can handle it bit by bit.

Take your pick.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Anjali - My Friends Are Like Different Parts of Me

'She won again,' said Anjali. She was distraught that her friend Mansi had beaten her at chess.
After some discussion on the technicalities I gently told her to go back and play with her again.

'No, Mansi does not want to play chess again,' she pouted.
'Why?' I asked.

'She does not like playing chess so much. Harsh likes playing chess. They like doing different things.'

After  a moment she said 'They are like different parts of me. Mansi is like the active part. She likes dancing, jumping, coloring etc. Harsh is the non-active part. Like chess and such games.'

Hmm.
It took me a long time to figure that out. But you are right - people resonate to different parts of us.

Good for you Anjali.

The Paradoxes in Our Lives - To Be Strong, Be Vulnerable

To be strong (even a strong leader), learn to be vulnerable.

To have followers locked into you, show them some cracks, some chink in the armour. If you are glossy and perfect, they have nothing to do, no one to save or rescue. They feel useless.

To give them some meaning at their work, make them bigger than they are, show them they have  a great part to play. Allow them to engage with their work, out of choice.

To create that choice, give them something to hold on to. A vulnerability is a great way to do it.

You may or may not have the vulnerability. But by appearing vulnerable and seeking their participation and cooperation, you appeal to their deep instincts of being acknowledged, of being useful. By seeking their help you are saying that it is not possible without them and you value their contribution.

To lead well, it is important to show your vulnerabilities - it encourages the team to step up and help you.  

Chanakya in You - Radhakrishnan Pillai

'Chanakya in You' is Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai's first work of fiction, coming on the heels of two non-fiction books 'Corporate Chanakya' and 'Chanakya's 7 Secrets of Leadership'. It is the story of a young boy in the modern age who follows the principles taught by Chanakya in the Arthashastra and becomes successful. Since becoming successful is every person's dream, it deals with an issue that is most relevant.
Jaico Books, 240 p, Rs. 299
The idea of the book is to bring Chanakya's timeless wisdom into present day life - which in itself is laudable and interesting. Radha introduces us to the protagonist, a school boy interested in reading (one of the things that Radha passionately recommends is the reading habit and accumulation of knowledge). The young man (nameless by design) is given the Arthashastra by his grandfather, an avid reader of the 4th century Kingmaker's works. As the boy reads, rereads and imbibes the book and its contents, he is drawn into Kautilya's thought process. He understands that the Arthashastra is not some manipulative document but about how to run one's kingdom after attaining leadership through the path of Dharma (which is an area most people are clueless about in today's world). The young boy reads the 6000 sutras of the Arthashastra from translations of the original work and understands how the knowledge of principles makes the kingmaker more powerful than the king.

Many of the protagonist's own dilemmas are cleared as he grows up because of his knowledge of the principles. He completes his graduation and pursues his study of Arthashastra under a renowned guru. For 6 months he labours in the gurukul system, under the guru shishya parampara, of the system of following the guru's aachaar, vichaar and vyavahaar, and learns the Arthashashtra through intense study. He learns how leadership is about leading to a higher goal. At the ashram he meets a businessman, known as the noble businessman. The young boy understands from him that money or wealth is not a bad thing at all.

In fact the businessman says there is a process to dealing with wealth - identification of wealth (knowing your talents and strengths as your inner wealth), creation of wealth (working towards creating the wealth), management of wealth (saving and investing and growing and protecting against loss) and distribution of wealth (giving it back).

Thus prepared on the laws of good living in the world, the young boy dreams of becoming the richest man in the world (which is an interesting dream because many of us say that half-seriously without expecting what to expect - but here the young man is serious about it). He joins a business house and uses the principles of Arthashastra to excel. He rises to a high position in a company under the eyes of the Chairman. He is promoted, but declines because he has decided to start his own business. The business is a success and he is soon stuck at a place where he has to make another decision - how to grow bigger and scale. He brings his ex-Chairman as a partner and they grow the company. Soon he becomes the richest man in India. Along the way he marries, has children and writes bestselling books and eventually becomes the richest man in the world.

Apart from stressing on how we in India fail to apply our ancient knowledge to our lives, the book also tells us that Arthashastra will free us from hatred. Some of the principles that the protagonist refers to on his journey are - how thinking is the foundation of any activity, how sharpened intellect is far more powerful in its application and results, how to learn from experts in various fields, how it's important to practice what we know and to learn new things, the importance of a partner when activities need to be scaled up, how it's important to be active in the management of economy and how inactivity brings material distress, how to opt for the stronger king when making partnership choices. On children, the principle is that one must love them until they are 5 years, discipline them from ages 5 to 15 and then, treat them as friends. Nice.

On money or wealth, the young man has a discussion with his stronger partner, the Chairman who says - 'money is a powerful tool. It can help you to help others. It can liberate you. It can give you moksha." He says if you gain knowledge, wealth will follow. Also not to forget that wealth is not what is 'with you' but also what is 'in' you. To me, just for this one aspect, this book deserves to be read because like Radha says, most of us in India are unclear of our relationship with money and are guilty about having it. If we are clear, we  can get a move on.

On leadership, the thoughts are perfectly in sync with Tao principles - treat the employees or followers like children to get the best out of them. He also says that leadership is a combination of intelligence and spirit - and how a leader should inspire. (Just today I was reading an article of how Google has found that leaders should be boring and predictable - need not be fiery speakers and inspiring leaders. For me inspiring others to action can be a factor of stepping back too - and that itself makes one inspiring!)

'Chankaya in You' is a thought-provoking read. Told in an easy to read and simple style, the thought behind the book is interesting - how to use ancient principles to fulfill our dreams in today's world and how wealth is not bad at all and the various ways in which you go about attracting it. The chapters are short and crisp, four pages at the most, the style easy. Then there are the gems from Chanakya told through wise practitioners which make immense sense. I now know that Chanakya, Kautilya and Vishnugupta are the same person (or at least most agree that they are the same person).

Shamitabh - Movie Review

Young lad Daanish, with speaking disability, but great desire to act - and he can act - wants to be a star. Supportive Assistant Director (girl) likes his intensity and helps him. She finds a technology where another person can be his 'voice'. Enter Amitabh, an alcoholic vagrant with a deep voice who lives in a graveyard. The new persona is called Shamitabh - from Danish and Amitabh.

Success is guaranteed. Acting and voice become famous. Egos arise - voice or the body - but one cannot survive without another. Can they make peace and continue or will they give in to the ego and self-destruct?

Interesting - the movie was not really - but the idea of how we are so inseparably bound to the world but still try to break away and damage ourselves.

Anjali – Do Bad And You’ll Get Bad

I don’t know why this talk of good and bad came up but it did.
But Anjali was adamant in her conclusion.
‘Do bad and you’ll get bad,’ she said.

I asked her how she knew.

‘I know,’ she said. That’s all.

Good enough for me. Another teacher once told me, what you give you get. Fits!

Theory of Everything - Movie Review

This is an adaptation from the memoir (another book!) "Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen" written by Jane Wilde Hawking (on her life with her ex-husband Stephen Hawking). The story starts at Cambridge where Stephen is studying astrophysics and Jane is studying literature. That's when Stephen's motor neuron disease is discovered and he is given two years to live as his body atrophies. Jane decides to marry Stephen despite the disease and the death sentence. Within a year, they have a child.

Stephen Hawking's disease gets progressively worse but he continues to make great strides as a scientist with support from Jane. They have two more children - the third child causes some speculation as Jane gets a music teacher Jonathan to help her and tongues start wagging. Stephen meanwhile gets involved with his nurse Elaine. Jane leaves Stephen and marries Jonathan. Stephen marries Elaine.

You get an idea of the way such a brilliant mind coped with life and its limitations. Eddie Redmayne won the Academy Award for best actor and deservedly so. But Felicity Jones as Jane is a revelation. The scenes when she displays her intense love for Stephen, her strength, come through powerfully.

Stephen Hawking continues to live at 73 - which should give much hope to all those patients who are given death sentences and statistics on how long they may survive. Don't buy into someone else's statistics - you could always be the exception. Interestingly Stephen refuses knighthood.

Jane Wilde's immense love and commitment is the kind of stuff that epic love stories are built on. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Still Alice - Movie Review

Julianne Moore won the Best Actress at the Academy Awards for this role. She plays Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics Professor who discovers she has familial Alzheimer's disease. At first she forgets one word in a conference first (that one black moment - happens), then gets lost in the campus while on a run. Her neurologist confirms her disease and she has to break the news to her husband and three grown up children. When the doctor gives her a test you can sense everyone in the audience takes the test too - and I wonder how many get it all right. Anyway the doctor tells her that good exercise and plenty of water to keep her memory good (thanks doc!).

The disease grows worse and she forgets things more rapidly. She has a few questions which she keeps on her phone reminder to check her deterioration. She also makes a plan to commit suicide when she gets to a stage where she cannot remember a thing (as a file in her computer). More words are forgotten, she forgets the way to the bathroom once, forgets people she has met before, and on and on until she forgets her own children and has to be reminded who they are. As her condition gets really bad we see her youngest daughter, the only one who does not have a steady career choice and perhaps the one who never got along with her, choose to come and stay with her mother.

Moore does a fine job. It's a movie that wakes you up to the disease. It's based on a book by Lisa Genova - same name. Nice, slow and linear. 

Love in the Afternoon - Movie Review

It's a 1957 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper. She is a young cello player living with her widowed father, a well-known private investigator specialising in investigating domestic issues. One such case finds him discovering his client's wife meeting the rich American tycoon Flannagan at a hotel every afternoon. The client wants to go to the hotel, catch them red handed (the pictures are not conclusive) and shoot Flannagan. Ariane (cello player) is aghast and tries to alert the police. The police tell her to contact them after the murder is committed.

Ariane goes to the hotel to warn the playboy. When the husband arrives, the wife is hidden and Flannagan and Ariane pretend that they are together. Husband leaves. No murder is committed. But Ariane also finds Flannagan interesting. On his next visit to Paris she meets him again, and tells him stories of how they are both alike and how she also has a long list of lovers (stuff she borrows from her father's files). Though initially amused Flannagan cannot help but fall in love with her. Driven to desperation and jealousy by her list of boyfriends and her lack of interest in him he seeks help from the best detective in town - her father. The detective takes less than a day to figure out that its his daughter, finds out her game and tells the playboy to leave her.

The last scene is at the railways station. Train is leaving with Flannagan. Ariane is running beside it telling him how unconcerned she is about him. Until he sweeps her off the platform and into the train.

Charming little movie. Flannagan's style of having a live band play while he romances is brilliant. The band comes on time, takes positions and starts playing. Flannagan dances, picnics wherever he goes the band is there. Even on the day he gets drunk when he is upset by Ariane the band is there playing sad music, and drinking along with him. Lovely piece of work as they push the bar cabinet with wheels to one another and gets drunk. Audrey Hepburn is brilliant in her role of an intelligent young girl who knocks the rich playboy down. Her father is equally charming as the detective. Lovely movie. Compares with the Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Launch - Chanakya in You

Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai studied Chanakya's 'Arthashastra' as a young man in a gurukul fashion from a master. In many ways he applied his knowledge of Chanakya's principles in his life and has devoted himself to spreading this knowledge through his books, writings, workshops and speeches. After writing two bestsellers 'Corporate Chanakya' and 'Chanakya's 7 Secrets of Leadership' he has now launched his first work of fiction 'Chanakya in You'.

I was invited to speak with him on the occasion of the launch at Hyderabad at Landmark Bookstore, Somajiguda, May 23, 2015, 6 pm. Radha is a young man of 40, full of energy and fun, a large infectious smile, many easy anecdotes and a transparent demeanour. The moment I met him I asked him - how do you write a bestseller? He smiled and gave me an answer that he gave in his book - I first write the book and then make it a bestseller.
Hyderabad launch 2015

'How do you make it a bestseller?' I persisted.
'I do activities around it,' he said.

I really got what he was saying when he said this while interacting with the audience.

'I am doing 100 events,' he said. 'This is my fourth. I will be speaking in colleges, corporates and other audiences.' Wow! And I did two!

That apart Radha backs his marketing effort. Book launches, talks, workshops - he seizes every opportunity to market the book. 'I spent a long time deciding on the book cover,' he said. 'We looked at over 350 designs before deciding on this one.'
Chanakya Series and 50 Not Out
Radha spoke eloquently on why he wrote the book, why he thinks it can reach out and influence many people, how much of this book s about wealth creation and many more aspects of his writing. To my question on whether he was the leading expert on Chanakya this is what he said. 'Many say I am the expert on Chanakya but obviously there are many more much better than me,' he said. 'The gurus who taught me are far more knowledgeable.'  
The audience and the press
'We Indians feel guilty about having money. It is not a bad thing.'

'It's also wonderful to see how many Indian writers we have these days. Everyone should write a book.'

'Chanakya has been misunderstood. It's a work full of principles to live our life well.' 

Aqua Magica - A Day Trip

This time in Pune, Anjali and I decided to get done with Imagica, the entertainment park built at Khopoli by the Adlabs group. Anjali was keen to go. Somewhere along the way the idea changed to Aqua Magica, Imagica's twin sister, which is a water park and adjacent to Imagica. That was fine by me. Water in May sounds good. To watch. I'm not much for parks etc.
The Imagica rides from the parking lot
Booked tickets online. Imagica tickets are priced at some 1500 bucks a person (what?). Aqua Magica is priced lower at 950 bucks. All rides are free though some have age and height restrictions. Also the dress code is given on the web site (saves us some ghastly sights). Anyway we booked online, got some idea about how to go there and set off in our Brio (thanks to Malay who generously let me borrow it). There was the three of us and Anu and Pooja. Right at the start I stopped to fill air in the spare and the suspicious looking character tells me that one of the tyres looks flat. Check it I said. He got to work on it and picked out 6 punctures in one tyre!
A huge funnel where rafts are flushed into
One or two did seem genuine but I felt he simply kept poking and removing stuff that was not there. I told him I never saw a single tyre have six punctures. He charged me a princely 700 bucks! Anyway, he did not look at any other tyre after that and we set off.

The Expressway is crazy. People zoom by from all sides at speeds in excess of 140 kms. After those 6 punctures I did not dare do more than 80 kmph which is the prescribed speed limit. But on the expressway it appears that they consider it the minimum speed. Why they don't have a speed gun there is what I cannot understand. I mus confess that if there is one road on which I feel unsafe its the Pune-Mumbai expressway with its bullying traffic. Anyway we stopped at the toll booth near Khopoli, partook of some nice morning breakfast - sabudana vada, vada pav, buttermilk etc.
The restaurant where we sat for hours and hours

Then we went past the toll and turned off onto to a road which had no boards. We just had to keep on asking and hoping we were in the right direction. Come on Aqua Magica guys, why cannot you have more boards? After seeking directions from some twenty people we landed up at this huge entertainment park. Turns out that Imagica and Aqua Magica are in the same premises - only separated.
Imagica rides at 6 in the evening
Anyway we found a huge parking lot and looked on in amazement at some huge rides in Imagica. Scary stuff. People were already screaming etc and I was glad I was nowhere near that place. We got checked by security, went to the next check point, were told to go back to the ticket counter and get new tickets and wristbands, went back, waited, got new tickets, got bands, went back to the counter, were told to keep bands carefully, waited for bus, got on, got off and finally went into the park. Inside the entrance there were shops selling swim suits and stuff like that, on one side there were lockers to keep your stuff. All those who were to hit the water changed while Anu and I stayed back. There was constant friction between Anjali and me for my refusal to enter the water.
Pirates!
It was rather hot so we found a restaurant and drank some stuff. Then the three riders went away. Anu and I sat around chatting and eating and drinking. There are some 22 rides, some pools, rafts etc. Some rides are pretty challenging and some were simple. There were two restaurants. And there was a rain dance place where everyone danced like crazy.

Pooja describing a ride
Lunch time. Pizzas, pasta and stuff. Had a nice experience there. The queues were as usual not marked clearly, so everyone stood wherever and the restaurant guys served whoever they pleased. While we were in the queue two kids, perhaps 12 years old, went into the next queue and got ahead. I let the boy go ahead with his order. But his sister made him come back. She must have been 14. She was like - you were there before us so please go ahead and order. Rare. I told her it was okay and for just being thoughtful enough, I'd not mind if they went ahead.
Couple of water rides from the restaurant
More rides. More eating, more drinking. It shut off at 6 pm. We got down to the car, drove back, stopped at the eating joint at Khopoli and picked up some stuff, played some nice music and went straight home to some Chinese food.

Pune Diaries - Traffic and Personal Leadership

In Pune recently I was surprised to see how much the culture had changed over the past twenty years. What was a peaceful law abiding town then has now turned into something vastly different. (I am basing my observations solely from the viewpoint that the traffic of the town mirrors its culture - here Hyderabad has cornered a unique place for itself!). According to my new observations, the moment a red signal comes on its almost as if someone has given a signal to go. Motorists, scooterists and all else rush through the red signal like a bull that has seen a red signal. Wrong side riding and other similar maladies were on show too.

Deep anguish.

I expressed my regret to all those in the car in my usual fashion. How can they do this? What's wrong etc? They listened patiently. What to do?

And then I saw an incident which I thought was the limit.

One side of the road was clogged with traffic. In such situations its normal to see some enterprising youngsters go on the wrong side in the empty road and catch up with the others in the front at the signal. Its their way of being smart. Now on my empty road I find two bikes stopped near the median - a lady and her scooter pointing in the right direction but only that she had one leg on the median and was talking with a young, well-built Sikh who was on his bike with a leg on the median too but on the wrong side. A love story in the middle of traffic, on the median? What the..?

And then as I passed them I realised what was happening. The lady (she must have been middle aged) was counselling the boy who was on the wrong side to go back, take  U turn, and join the right side. The boy was clearly resisting. She stopped her bike right in front and would not let him go any further. He did not know what to do.

I could see in my rear view mirror that she made him turn back and and join the traffic on the right side.

Now that is what I should be doing or what all of us should be doing if we have a problem with the world. Set it right. Not crib about it. It's a great story about personal leadership, about taking responsibility. If we cannot do anything about it, I think we should shut up and save ourselves and all around the trouble.

But if you really want to change something, take inspiration from the old lady.


Stillness Speaks - Eckhart Tolle

I rate Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Power of Now’ as one of the books thought that opened my mind up to viewing life differently. That book have had profound impact on keeping me grounded in the present. I read ‘Stillness Speaks’ after that and have been reading it on and off. The last vacation in Pune gave me an opportunity to read it again and mull on some of the thoughts it presents.

Those thoughts that made me think again, I noted down. The book has ten chapters.

      1. Silence and Stillness
"Stillness is our essential nature. When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself."

"The equivalent of external noise is the inner noise of thinking."

"Only through stillness can you be aware of silence. When you become aware of silence, you are present."

"Whenever you accept the moment as it is, you are still. Pay attention to the gaps."

"Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found. Wisdom comes with the ability to be still."

The Now is where we are present, where there is no pain. To be in the Now we must be still. To be still, accept the moment as it is. To know that we are still, we must be aware of silence. Then we can access creativity, solutions and wisdom.

      2. Beyond the thinking Mind
"Don’t take your thoughts too seriously."

"Wisdom arises through the act of giving your full attention. Attention is primordial intelligence, consciousness."

"The realm of consciousness is much vaster than thought can grasp."

"The next step in human evolution is to transcend thought (not to be completely identified with thought, possessed by thought)."

"Feel the energy in your body in every cell. Your body becomes the doorway to a deeper sense of aliveness."

"Become at ease with the state of ‘not knowing’. Go beyond the mind."

"Mastery in every field implies that the thinking mind is not involved or is taking second place. There is no decision making process anymore. Spontaneous right action happens."

"Danger can give you a taste of the present."

Go beyond thought and into awareness. Feel the energy in every cell of your body. Give in to spontaneous action. Be present fully.

3. The Egoic Self

"When you give more attention to the 'doing' than the 'future result', you could break the egoic conditioning. Every ego contains an element of ‘victim identity’ (resentment and grievance form an essential part of their sense of self)."

"Become aware of your compulsion to think and talk about your victim story. When you live through the ego you reduce the present moment as a means to the end."

"Complaining and reactivity are favourite mind patterns. Egos identity depends on comparison. Egoic sense of self needs conflict – its sense of separation gets strengthened."

"Your unhappiness arises not from the circumstances of your life but from the conditioning of your mind."

"You say you want happiness but are addicted to your unhappiness."

"Set goals but know that arriving is not all that important."

The mind draws you away from the present moment. To break its cycle, give attention to the doing  and not the future result. Do not be identified with your victim story. Do not complain and react.

4. The Now
"Life is only one moment – Now. There is no escape from Now – so welcome it. When you make friends with the present moment you feel at home wherever you are." 

"The only reality is Now. You are not taking responsibility for life until you take responsibility for the Now."

"When you say Yes to what is, you become aligned with the power and intelligence of life itself. Only then can you become an agent for positive change in the world."

"I am not the content of my life. I am life."

You are only responsible for one moment – Now. By saying Yes to the present moment you are aligned with life. To live is to say Yes and be present to the Now.

5. Who you truly are
"You are the awareness in which phenomenal existence happens."

"Joy is vibrantly alive peace."

"Most lives are run by desire and fear."

You are awareness.

6. Acceptance and surrender
"Be. Do not label."

"NO strengthens the ego. YES weakens it."

"How total are you in what you are doing? This is what determines your success in life, not how much effort you make."

"If you detect ‘not wanting’ to doing something, drop it and be total in what you do."

"Do one thing at a time – its the essence of Zen."

"By letting go of inner resistance, you often find circumstances change for the better."

"Acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world."

"Surrender is giving up trying to understand, comfortable with not knowing."

Your complete attention to what you are doing takes you into the present. It gives you success. It is also about letting go of inner resistance.

7. Nature
"Nature shows us the way home." 

"When humans become still they go beyond thought."

8 Relationships
"Don’t label. Don’t judge."

"Meet people with full attention."

Let things be. There is no right or wrong.

9. Death of the external
"Opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal."

"Learn to accept and welcome endings in your life. By learning to die a little, you open yourself to life."

When we accept death we live.

10. Suffering and end of suffering
"True freedom is living in such a way as if you had completely whatever you feel or experience this moment."

"Suffering is necessary until you realise it is unnecessary."

"Remove time from unhappiness."

"Just allow a feeling to be."

"When suffering, unhappy, stay in the now."

"Don’t name things. Let be. Completely accept the now."

"Resist not evil is one of the highest truths of humanity."

"Accept non-acceptance."

"When you suffer consciously, physical pain can quickly burn up the ego in you, since ego consists largely of resistance."


Let things be as they are. Accept the now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Alone and Crowded

We start with wanting to feel complete when we are with a crowd, and getting lonely when alone.


The paradox is this.

When we are with a crowd, to feel alone. When we are alone, to feel complete.

When we can do that, it does seem complete.


How Google Works - Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

I am fascinated by the astounding growth of Google as a company and of what it has achieved. There are innumerable positives that Google has brought into our lives (not to mention a few causes for worry too - the amount of information it has about me being the prime one). But overall it's well in the positive and still growing. So, a book that gives an insight into its thinking is something I just could not resist. Just as I have my reservations about certain things Google does while also admiring many other things it does right, the book had its pluses and minuses. But who is looking at minuses right now - let me take away all that it did right.
Hachette India, 260 p. Rs. 650

To start with I liked how the two authors, top managers at Google say they relearned everything about management in their years at Google. And the way they put company culture first up - its the key to how the company functions. It's amazing how many companies miss that part and do not give much thought to nurturing the culture they'd like to see in their company. 

Culture
The authors advise companies to first believe in their own slogans (and not simply write stuff  that no one knows or believes). They cite a classic example of how culture reflects in ownership at work. Larry finds certain ads that don't match the search parameters. His response - a note on the board with the offending ads and a comment that "These ads suck". (No calling the teams responsible for a meeting etc, just a simple expression that something was not right with the whole.) The response to his action is even more interesting. A team of Googlers totally unrelated to the product team that was responsible for the offending results sees the note, comes together, works over the weekend, builds a prototype and comes with sample results. These guys were not even on the ads team. Now how many companies can boast of such passion, ownership and freedom is what we need to concern ourselves with. Not many I'd say. It boils down to culture.

I can see many HR professionals and managers jump up and say - its easy for Google to do that because they pay well etc and how its not the same for everyone. (How companies go anywhere with such negative HR people I always wonder.) But look at the founding principle google works on - if the culture is right, the right people will come. Its the culture that attracted people like the team that worked on something that was not their headache really. The authors term such people as Smart Creatives – those who value the culture of the place more than other things. Now hopefully the significance of culture drops in.

Nowhere have I heard this said so emphatically - that culture is the most important thing. And I believe it is right. If cultures have to be built the cultural pillars and codes must be carefully identified and behaviors clarified.

The next question, how do we set culture? The solution the authors give is simple - ask the core team these questions. What do we care about? What do we believe in? What do we want to be? How do we want our company to act and make decisions? The best cultures are aspirational. 

Some of Google's own founding principles - "Focus on the user" "Long term focus" "Don’t be evil" "Making the world a better place" etc.

To me, cultures are shown at the door, at first level of interaction like the security guard, the receptionist, the one who takes the call. Are they innovative and service oriented. If they are not, you're only talking.

Office Spaces
If you have Smart Creatives (SCs), keep them crowded because they like the energy. They like interacting with one another so facilitate that energy buildup by creating facilities that maximise interactions. Not distant isolated cabins that separate everyone. In fact the authors ask - keep them so crowded so you hit someone if you swing your arm. At the same time give them quiet spaces to reflect and rejuvenate and be by themselves.

The key idea is this. When at work be surrounded by team members, work, eat, live together. Don't worry about messy, just let them go with the ideas. Be stingy with things that don’t matter and invest in stuff that does. And Google expects people to work at office and not at home. Makes sense.

One of the things that struck me during cricket workshops was this. The same people who work in quiet solitude and isolated behaviors at office, come together and bond with high energy in the cricket workshops. The energy is some 20 times more. My question was always this - can we take this energy back to the office and if not, why? Now I got my answer. It's because offices are not designed to be energetic. They separate energies. Now if my cricket dressing room was like an office with the captain in a big cabin on the highest floor and all others in faraway cabins, can you imagine how the energies would be. What Google has cracked is that - keep the layout like a dressing room and the energy comes automatically.

Also to be stingy with what does not matter - great story. Reminds me of two promoters I saw during my days in the bank. One who spent all his money building electric fences and guest houses and ran out of money for the main equipment. Another who used all his short term monies to build the main assets and was already into production and revenue generation. 

Decision Making
The authors talk of the dreaded HIPPOS – the Highest Paid Person's Opinion. It's common sense that decision making quality and experience may not always go hand in hand. But its a cultural thing again if one has  to look at data and not mere opinions. Clearly, its the quality of idea that matters and not who suggests it. 

Now most companies will find it difficult to accept this. On one hand they want fresh ideas but on the other hand they will not like juniors to come up with fresh (perhaps half baked ideas). These are the insecure leaders. They ask for ideas, trash everybody's ideas and then impose their ideas on the rest of the team. Most creative guys will leave such teams.

To be able to take ideas at face value you need to have confidence in your people and to do that you need to have enough self confidence (secure) to let them ideate a better way. For a culture of meritocracy managers must understand and build a culture where dissent is an obligation, and not an option. They must empower juniors to come up with and defend their ideas. Wonderful stuff and truly aspirational.

Team sizes
Google (or the authors) suggests flat hierarchies. They recommend a minimum of 7 direct reports. They quote Bezo (Amazon?) and his 2 pizza rule - teams must be small enough to be fed with 2 pizzas. The principle - small teams get more work done.

People Principles 
To get great work done find impact people who run the company by performance and passion. Organise around them. Invest in people who do what they think is right- whether or not you give your permission (you'd think that was a basic rule but then most times its only lip service ).Okay once you find impact people who will run with your ideas, push them. Give those people more work to do. Push them until they tell you its enough. Whoa! The 20% of the Pareto's lot?

Now Impact People will come with their own quirks. Google differentiates between knaves and divas.  The rule here - exile knaves, fight to keep the divas. Both may seem alike but here are the differences. Knaves  are arrogant, have no integrity, are sloppy, selfish, jealous, take credit. Once a knave always a knave so get rid of them. Divas are good because they think they are better than the team but do not harm the team. They may actually push the team.

In technology companies the authors recommend the top management ought to have 50% who are product experts. Finance and sales are 2nd.

Overwork?
Work is an integral part of our life - it takes up most of our waking hours, keeps us paying bills, feeds our aspirations. But most people (I did too) seem to think that work is something we do until some great big fortune happens and our dreams come true. To me work is where you hone your attitude, skills  etc on the path to making your dreams come true. I'd actually like to see a system coming where people actually pay to work in good companies!

Anyway overworked in a good way is what the authors suggest because work is an important part of life and is not separable. Give responsibility and freedom to these Smart Creatives (works for all teenagers too! or anyone else). Make them own things for which they are responsible and see how they run with it. Most surprise you. 

As for burnout, I like the perspective that it happens not by overwork but by resentment at giving up what matters. Nice insight. So it helps to give the employees control. Once again the onus shifts back to having secure leaders who are willing to trust and mentor and care. Find the right leaders and much can be done right.

Establish a culture of YES (this is for the Managers)
Facing NOs from their managers repeatedly is a tiny death of Smart Creatives say the authors. Enough NOs and Smart Creatives stop asking and exit. Saying YES as a manager leads to new experiences.

My experience with the NOs has been the same. There are people I know who say they are always open to new ideas. The moment a new idea is brought to the table it is cut short and a long lecture on what is wrong with the new idea follows. New ideas first come to the table as work in progress - not as full grown trees. By cutting down the ideas when they are young my manager friend effectively stopped his entire team from opening their mouths. 'When I ask you for new ideas you have nothing to say,' he says. 'See, we have such useless talent.' It's self fulfilling. If only he had that much security within himself to nod and  listen and say go on, so many of those ideas would have come out. Some may fail but so much new thought could have come. Now the team works like it is dead. They know it does not pay to give out any new ideas.

Fun-Not FUN
When Ian Chappell said that the way to bring the best out of the team is to make the cricket interesting, I could not agree more. Here the authors think on similar lines. A great job should be fun they say. Certainly future success is fun. But most fun comes everyday things - laughing, joking and enjoying company of one's colleagues. Ho can we keep it fun is the question? Loosen up.

I have a problem with the ways many company try to engage employees. Big parties, big hotels, booze, food, event managers who don't have a clue - its all so tacky and trashy. It somehow shows the unimaginative culture of the company. Fun can be in so many different ways, so many enriching ways. Book clubs, walks - use your head fellows.

How To Find Talent
Create the culture and the talent will come. To find the people you want, find one of those types first and then ask for the people they know. 

Porn Filters to Image Searches
Good insight here. While attempting to filter porn images the team realised that there could be a broader use of that application - image searches - where you drag an image into the search bar and it throws up similar images. The lesson - start with a solution to a narrow problem and then broaden its success. You never know where it could go. (It happens a bit like that when writing - a small sliver of an idea grows into something much bigger.)

Back Technical Insights 
For tech companies or startups, the advise is to back technical insights. What is the Tech Insight that gives you an advantage? What aids your growth? What keeps the energy growing? 

Google's original idea was to share as much as possible and to keep improving their search engine. Their focus was to get great at search which they thought they were good at (resisting the idea of becoming a portal which many did). They backed themselves on what they felt they were better at than anyone else. (Which is backing your competitive advantage anyway!)

Default to open, not closed
The google policy is to default to open. In fact they make it easy for customers to leave. Another useful tip - don’t follow competition. It's limiting.

Eric’s notes
Start by asking what will be true in 5 years and work backwards.

Once you put your head inside, or go to the finish line first, all you need to do is walk backwards and address the possible blocks. It is done!

Another important tip. Get input from everyone in the room. Start soon and iterate – iterations can follow based on learning.

Successful companies that grew large all solved problems and used the solution in its products success. They solved a problem for society that way.

Talent Management
This part got me all awake. The authors feel that hiring is the most important job one does. That's because the best talent takes the team places. Though the authors feel that no amount of strategy can substitute for talent I feel differently. In the end its a mix and much depends on the leader.

The authors recommend a committee-based hiring where peers are involved. Google promoted their culture with their hiring line "You’re brilliant. We’re hiring." That kind of an ad attracts all those who think they are brilliant.

What do you look for when hiring? Passionate people (be aware that passionate people don’t use the P word. They live it.) Learning animals. Character, Passion, Intelligence, Growth mindset and how Interesting they are (this through a test - what if you were stuck at an airport for 6 hours with that person).

The list grows longer - Cognitive ability, role related knowledge, leadership experience, googleyness
Ambition and drive, service orientation, listening and communication skills, bias to action (I like that), effectiveness, interpersonal skills, creativity and integrity. That's a lot.

The authors feel that diverse cultures are best (unlike the Indian company that rejected Muslim candidates recently). The idea is to respect - not necessarily like. Look for potential. Everyone knows someone great so get everyone to recruit - referrals, interviews, metrics.

Interviewing
Interviewing  is the most important skill they say. To interview - Prepare. Find info about the person. Ask challenging questions. Test limits of capabilities. Insights.
Schedule interviews for 30 minutes. Hire for passion
Don’t compromise quality of hiring. Ever.

Retaining Talent
Google gives disproportionate rewards when people do a good job. That said, you need to keep their jobs interesting. But when you lose them (which you might if you keep loading them with work) let them go. However try and retain the innovators, the leaders. Counsel them. Seek information on why they are going. Ask them their elevator pitch and if they are not ready ask them to postpone their decision until they are ready. If nothing else get them on the alumni network.

Qualities to Look for when Hiring (Again?)
Smart, knowledgeable, adds value, gets things done, enthusiastic, passionate, self motivated, inspires and work well in the system, well rounded unique interests and talents, ethical, communicates openly,

On Career
The authors feel that it's like surfing. The right industry is like the right place to surf, while the right company is the correct wave to catch. 

Model Employee
Should know his elevator pitch about what he is working on. Combines passion with contribution.

Nice. Shows how much thought he has put in and how engaged he is.

On Decisions 
Decide with data. Show the evidence. Make fewer decisions, meet everyday

On Focus
On spending 80% time on 80% revenue. (how few get that!)

Coaches
Google believes in having coaches for their players. Makes sense. I agree with that. A perspective always helps.

Communications 
Share information. Default to open – transparency. Repeat 20 times. Reinforce core themes (Google's are - user first, think big, don’t be afraid to fail). Make communication fresh, effective, interesting, fun, inspirational and authentic. Check for the right media, for right people.

Self Review
This is something most managers might fail - would you work for yourself? Most just don't get it that its people like them who do the work finally and what works for them works for others too mostly.

Relationships
Business should always be outrunning the process which means constant chaos is good. To foster good people relationships listen, make people smile and use praise. (I can see many going - why should I?)

Innovation
Innovation is the next big thing. To get innovative ideas find and attract optimistic people, give them the space to create change and culture. Ideas come from anywhere –reward workers for inventions and improvements

Think big, Think 10x 
10 X is what I believe we are capable of when we are fully engaged. With support and platforms, it could grow even more. Give your Smart Creatives more freedom, bigger challenges. The work and responsibility should induce joy, not anxiety - that's the check for a Smart Creatives and fakes.

Set Unattainable goals
Objectives and Key Results – look at the big picture with measurable key results, should be a stretch to achieve. Then go for it.

Resource Allocation 
70/20/10 – Core business, Emerging products and new things, Big failure risks

Creativity loves constraints
I agree. Lack of resources forces ingenuity. It's a paradox but like all p's, true.

20% time
20% time where employees work on whatever they choose. Actually it becomes 120% of time because its outside their regular work timings. So employees can try their hand at something new, build a prototype and work together with a team. Helps them understand ownership and develops many aspects of their personality too. In fact I think its a great idea to grow people. 

Failure 
The authors stress on creating an environment resilient enough to take on risks and tolerate failures. But the key is to fail fast. With a long term vision.

Imagine the unimaginable
This requires a culture that encourages innovation. Most innovative things look like small opportunities. People are not rewarded normally for taking risks and are penalised for failure which is a sure case for missing opportunities.

And there is so much more in the book. From the look of it Google seems to have practiced what most preach and have the results to show for it. The book is easy to read especially because its written for the lay person, complete with the dummy jokes etc. It does give credibility to their idea of defaulting to open. Though the authors debunk some of the old school management ideas, one can see that many ideas are in fact refinements of the old structures. You still need vision, plans, people etc. But where they have been great is at managing something so fluid by reacting fast and keeping it all under control (by giving up control). Many thoughts and more importantly practices are aspirational without doubt. Many could learn and benefit from it and one can only thank the authors for sharing so transparently. If you're looking to become a Google, worth a read.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami

Another Murakami down. There's the narrator, a young conscientious lad out of college and now teaching in a school. His friend Sumire from college perhaps, an aspiring novelist, with a very handsome father (why is that important?). These two are great friends. She calls him at early hours to discuss some vague ideas. She has no interest in him as a lover, only as a friend. In fact her only interest is in becoming a novelist and not in love or sex. He however would not have minded an affair with her. They complement one another well.

Sumire meets an older woman (almost 17 years older) and falls in love with her. Miu (the older woman) employs Sumire and mentors her into a life of sophistication. During this period our narrator loses touch with Sumire and finds himself a lover, the mother of a boy he teaches at school.

One fine day he gets a calls from Miu. Come to Greece is the message. He goes. Sumire is missing. They have no clues. He finally reads some stuff she writes on her computer - about an experience Miu has had of being out of her body and watching a parallel life playing out in front of her. Then something about a cat that vanishes from the top of a tree. Then the narrator returns back home.

Meanwhile the boy whose mother he is seeing is caught for shoplifting. The narrator tells him the story of Sumire. His affair with the mother ends.

Between Sputniks, Beatles, Huey Lewis and the News, beer bars, dis functional youngsters, the plot moves towards an ending that does not happen. Some scenes drag on - the way Miu and the narrator talk of everything except the disappearance of the girl and stuff like that.

As with all Murakami I may not fully remember the story but some scenes will remain etched in my mind. 

Anjali - Money Will Come, Money Will Go

I was trying to engage Anjali one fine morning on the vacation in Pune.
‘Shall we go to the mall tomorrow morning?’ I asked tentatively.
‘Yes!’ she jumped up. ‘Yes, yes.’
I was apprehensive at her enthusiasm.

‘Why are you so happy?’ I asked. ‘So you can buy things there?’
She made a face and shrugged her shoulders.
‘Yes, we can buy things. Food, toys, things..’
‘Ah my money will go,’ I said.

She shrugged.
‘So what? Money will go. Things will come.’

I wish I had that bit of wisdom when I was younger. Now I read the Tao of Abundance and understand that money is about circulation. 

It makes perfect sense.

Money will go and things will come. Keep the flow going. Don't stop the flow.

Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh

Another classic that has long been on the list but has eluded me somehow. So when I saw this little book perched on Mythily’s bookshelf I picked it up.  The story is set in a little village Mano Majra on the border of Punjab. The time is when the country has been divided into India and Pakistan and people are crossing over – Muslims to Pakistan and Hindus to India. The village has one main attraction – its small railway station through which trains pass by and rarely stop.
Orient Black Swan, 207 p, Rs. 90

The story begins with a dacoity in the house of the village moneylender. The dacoits murder him and on the way out throw some bangles in the house of the village dacoit Juggut Singh, a known offender. Jaggut Singh is at that very moment making love to a young Muslim weaver girl in the fields, flouting orders from the police that he should be in the village after sunset. A western educated communist of unknown origin and religion arrives in the in the village at the same time. The next day or perhaps the same evening a train arrives from Pakistan full of dead bodies. The local police and military quietly cremates the thousands of innocents. Meanwhile the educated young man Iqbal and Juggut Singh are both arrested in suspicion for the murder of the money lender. Another train arrives with dead bodies. The village which has lived harmoniously with its Muslim inhabitants still sticks by them, but now outsiders come into the picture. We must retaliate, we must send trains full of dead bodies to Pakistan they say. The plan is hatched.

The Magistrate is in love with  a Muslim nautch girl and he feels sad she will be killed too. He plays a wild card knowing he cannot do anything to stop the planned massacre of the train to Pkistan. He releases the idealistic, educated communist and the young dacoit in love with the Muslim weaver’s daughter. Both have motives to stop the massacre. But would their motive be greater than their life? Whose purpose drives him to sacrifice himself to save that train full of Muslims and thereby save his own love? The story ends dramatically. I loved the way he ended it though and in a way grateful too.
“Train to Pakistan” is considered a classic. The writing is beautiful as he describes the villages, the situation. The characters are interesting and clearly etched. You can visualise everything and to me it’s almost as if I was part of the crowd in Mano Marjda watching everything as it unfolded. Also it was an important story that had to be told – of what happened during partition. One can see the humongous error or mischief played by the British government in making two countries with such lousy plans of executing it. If the Nazis were guilty of so many deaths of innocents, the British have on their hands the blood of as many with their ideas of Partition.

If there is one lack in the book I felt it was that of emotion. Probably because it was a raw wound and far too fresh – Khushwant Singh published it in 1956 – and he perhaps kept it understated for a reason . One does not understand the educated man’s motive for being in such a dangerous place at such explosive times with such low convictions. The love of Jaggut Singh never rises above lust and one cannot see him making sacrifices for anyone – he is a dacoit after all with no scruples. I wonder what a canny person like the Magistrate Hukum Chand was thinking with all his experience and power in finding the solution he does for the girl. If each of these stories had been given more depth and meaning their motives could have been clearer and more powerful.


But it’s a book we must all read to understand our history. Partition is not a mere word and things did not happen smoothly. It’s a page in our history not many talk about nor write about and it’s something everyone wants to forget. But it’s a truth that shows people for what they can be– the good and the bad, the trauma and the pain – and our capacity to heal and rebuild. Questions that come up are these – are people the same or are they different? Are some people not to be trusted? Are there no stories where some communities have shown that they also stand for what is good? Who leads these campaigns? Who kills and who wants to loot and rape? What happens to sanity and rational thinking? And most importantly, if it can happen then, what will stop it happening now? 

Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov

A forty something man falls hopelessly in love with a twelve year old (his idea of beauty is young girls of such tender age) and manipulates things to an extent that he marries her mother to get close to her, then somehow wills the mother’s death, takes off with the twelve year old daughter and engages in a lustful incestuous relationship with her. It does not sound like a book that would be considered a classic and sounds more like stuff that should have a law forbidding it surely (and those were my initial reactions to it too). But as you read Lolita you understand how well he has written such a potentially explosive book that can go over the line, and kept it always under.

You can feel the old man’s desire for his nymphets, as if it’s something alive, and actually feel for him and his helplessness in dealing with this secret desire, the young girl’s initial rebelliousness and her coquettish and mischievous nature that pushes the old man over the line, and then her helplessness as he takes over her life and controls it completely with his possessiveness. As the story grows on you past the initial stages of mere fantasy into a sordid reality, a reality you are secretly accomplice to as as a reader, you really want to know what will happen to them. Will she escape him? How does she cope? Does she find true love? How does the old man deal with her loss? The story goes to a logical conclusion but its not about that really. It’s a book one cannot write about much because the balance is so delicate, the writing so exquisite – one must read it to appreciate it.


Happy I finally got this one done with. Thanks Prarthana.