Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Article in The Sunday Hans - I Know, I Know

Anjali - Acts of Uncommon Kindness

I was reading a book or watching TV a couple of days ago when suddenly Anjali sits near my feet and says 'stretch your legs out Nanna.'
I smiled and did.
She sat down near my feet and held one and examined it. I am very conscious of my feet and became even more so. They are not the prettiest of feet going around.
Sunshine and love
'Nanna, you don't take care of your feet at all,; she said. 'Don't you apply any cream.'
I shook my head. I don't. Why would I apply cream to my feet? I am not used to taking care of myself and my body parts with any extra love. And I am certainly not used to others being interested in me.

'I will apply cream to your legs ok,' she said.
I liked that. She asked me and after I nodded she went and got the cream.

Then she sat on a cushion and carefully applied cream to my feet with utmost focus. It took all of ten minutes. After she was done with both feet, she looked at my calves.

'Look at them. They are all white. You don't put any cream Nanna. You don't take care of your legs.'
I looked on with a guilty look on my face.

'Ok stretch your leg,' she said.
The calves got the treatment too. And once done she got up and went off after pointing out how nice my legs were looking. They certainly felt much nicer and looked nicer.

But frankly I am not used to such acts of kindness and care from other people who take an interest in my good. I am just not used to even look at myself for my own good so I am really surprised when others do that. I was touched when Anjali did that and for a while stepped back and let her take over. Now she is 10 years I think she has so many other things on her mind but obviously not.

I am amazed at the things kids do so easily. I am sure adults do too - only it takes a lot more stuff than the simple way Anjali went about it. Ok, seems to be a problem here, let me sort it out the way I know it.

Could one be that way? I suppose so. Seems pretty simple. To give and to take, both are possible.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anjali - On Contentment and Abundance

I was thrilled with the line I read in Tao Te Ching which said something like 'The man who is contented with what he has, is rich.' I loved the idea.

Yesterday evening I told it to Anjali and went on about it.
'That means Anjali, that one can be poor or rich, but if one is content with what they have - 10 rupees or 10000 crores - they will be rich. One the other hand if one is not content with what one has, then one rupee or ten thousand crores will still make one feel poor. See, its a matter of attitude. Richness is your attitude.'

I was trying to drive home the point that made such an impact on me. Now I can be content. And rich!

Anjali listened keenly. Then she said.
'I do not know why they say poor people are contented with little, and rich people are discontented with however much they have. All stories say that. Actually it is not about being poor or rich behaving differently - being contented or discontented. It means that you are rich or poor depending on how contented you are.'

It took me a minute to get that. But that was so nicely put.

That's an even better perspective. Why glorify the poor and rationalise their poverty with contentment and why put down the rich who have earned their money. Can we look at the attitude and not what they have?

Beautiful. That's two different perspectives in one day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu (Translated by Arthur Waley)

81 are the principles of Lao Tzu. Tao cannot be explained and can only be experienced. The only thing is that when someone puts it across like Lao Tzu does, we can only nod in agreement if we have experienced it sometime. But if there is one thing we learn from the Tao it is that the world's principles are of seeming paradoxes. Certainly of least effort, of softness, of yielding, of weak, of being supple, of bending and bowing, of egolessness, of dignity, of beauty, of receptivity, of unity, of contentment. The symbols are of supple and weak plants, of water, of low lying lands, of empty spaces, of those who stand behind and desire no war.
Translated by Arthur Waley

"True wisdom is different from much learning
Much learning means little wisdom"

He talks of doing things without doing. Of being soft. Of bending. Of being gentle. Of not having any firm likes and dislikes. Of seeing things as they are. And buy being so, achieving all and more. Some lines that I noted down.

He who rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essence.

He speaks of the danger of choosing one - because it will give rise to another. When we are attached to beauty we face ugliness, when we choose virtue we encounter wickedness - better not to be attached to one.

Rule people by employing their hearts, filling their bellies, weakening intelligence, toughening sinews; make people knowledgeless and desireless."

The way is to be empty - but can draw without needing to be filled. Valley spirit never dies. Draw as much but it never dries.

Put yourself in the background but always to fore; remain outside but always be there, strive for no personal end - to ever last.

The highest good is like water - benefits all but does not scramble, content with the places that all men disdain. Profound thought, gentleness in friendship, true words, order in government and no strife.

When your work is done, then withdraw.

Rear them but do not lay claim to them, control them but never lean upon them, be chief among them but do not manage them.

It is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel, the house, depends. Just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognise the usefulness of what is not.

He who is dealing with the empire regards his high rank as though it were his body is the best person to be entrusted with the rule. He rules his subjects as one should love one's body.

Do not fill yourself to the brim. Then you will endure all wear and need no renewal.

Strive towards void, quietness. The root of all things is quietness. Submission to fate. He who has room for everything has no prejudice.

The sage says not a word. The work gets done. And people say it happened on its own.

It is only when one thing appears that the other arrives.

It is only when there is desire that people sway. Give them things to do, that occupy them, keep them busy.

Banish learning and there will be no grieving. 

To remain whole be twisted, 
To become straight,let yourself be bent, 
To become full, be hollow
Those that have little may get more
Those that have much are perplexed

It is by not believing in people that you turn them into liars.

The small man, a man of consequence, will not be separated from his baggage wagon
The lord of 10000 chariots allows himself to be lighter
If he is light the foundation is low
If he is active, the lord and master is lost

Perfect activity leaves no track behind it.

Return to a state of infancy, to the state of the uncarved block
The greatest carver does the least cutting

Discard the absolute, the all-inclusive, the extreme

Fulfill purpose without boasting, pride, as a step that could not be avoided, without violence

Even when he conquers, does not regard weapons as lovely things.

The uncarved block is greater than anything under heaven
Once the block is carved there will be names
As soon as there are names, it is time to stop

Understand, conquer yourself,

Being content with what you have is to be rich

Tao produces but takes no possession
By not making a show of greatness, achieves greatness

Tao is to use, not see or listen

Dim the light before it shines bright, do the opposite of what needs to be done first, soft overcomes hard, weak overcomes strong

Get things done without doing
And 10000 things are transformed

After Tao was lost came power
After power was lost came human kindness
After human kindness was lost came morality
After morality was lost came ritual
Ritual is husk
Full grown men takes his stand upon the sorted substance and not husk

Humble is the stem upon which the mighty grows

Tao - the only motion is returning, weakness is the only quality, being is the product of non-being

Great form comes without shape, great music comes with faint notes, large squares have no corners

No man of violence can come to a good end

Teaching without words, action that is actionless, few understand it

He who grudges expense pays dearest in the end
He who has hoarded most will suffer the heaviest loss
Be content with what you have, none can despoil you
Who stops in time, nothing can harm

The most perfect seems to have something missing but works perfectly
Most full seems empty but never fails
Most straight seems crooked
Great skill appears clumsy
Staying still overcomes heat
Limpid calm puts everything right

No lure greater than to possess what others want
No disaster greater than not to be content with what one has
No presage of evil greater than that men should be wanting to get more

He who has once known the contentment that comes simply through being content, will never again be otherwise than contented

The further one travels, the less one knows
The sage arrives without going, sees without looking
Does nothing, achieves everything

Tao consists in subtracting day by day
Till one has reached inactivity
By this inactivity, everything can be activated

No heart of his own, the heart of the people as his heart
Good and bad he approves, and thus he gets goodness
For the world's sake, he dulls his wits
Seems dazed with fright

He who aims at life achieves death
He who has a true hold on life is not touched by animals or weapons, has no death spot

Rear but do not claim, content without leaning, be chief without managing

Strength means holding on to what is weak
An infant has the highest power, soft bones, strong grip
But to fill life to the brim is to invite omens,
Vigour invites decay

Those who know do not speak, who speak do not know

Do nothing, and people transform
In inactivity, people become prosperous
I have no wants, people return to the uncarved block

When the ruler looks depressed, people are happy and satisfied
Upon bad fortune, good fortune leans
Sage squares without cutting, gives light without shining

Running a large kingdom is like cooking small fish

A large kingdom must be like the low ground towards which all streams flow. The point where all things converge. Must be the female and get underneath to conquer the male. Large kingdoms needs inhabitants. Small kingdoms need some place to send surplus inhabitants

Tao is like the south west corner of the house, the treasure of the good man

Everything difficult must be dealt with when easy, when small

Deal in state of not-yet-being, put in order before confusion

He who acts harms, who grabs, lets up

Heed the end no less than the beginning
And your work will not be spoiled 

The more knowledge people have, the harder they are to rule
Those who rule without giving knowledge bring a stock of good fortune to the land

In order to be above, speak as though you are lower to the people

Only he that pities is truly brave,
Only he who is frugal is profuse
Only he who refuses to be foremost is capable of being the Chief of Ministers

The best charioteer does not rush ahead
The best fighters do not make a display of their wrath
The greatest conqueror wins without joining issue
The best user of men acts as if he were their inferior
This is the power of not contending

It is he who does not delight in war that wins

When you doubt your ability to meet the enemy's attack, take the offensive yourself. 
If you doubt your ability to advance an inch, then retreat a foot

To know when one does not know is best
To think one knows when one does not know is a dire disease
Only he who recognises this disease as a disease
Can cure himself of the disease
The Sage's way of curing the disease
Also consists in making people recognise their diseases as diseases and thus ceasing to be diseased

If you do not harass people they will not turn away form you
Know your value, but do not place yourself high

Conquer without striving, get answers without speaking, get things without beckoning
Coarse are the meshes but nothing slips through

He who tries to do the master carpenter's chipping will most likely cut his hand

People starve because people above them eat too much
People are difficult to keep in order because those above them interfere
People attach no importance to death because those above them are too grossly absorbed in the pursuit of life

When he is born, man is soft and weak: is death he becomes stiff and hard 
When things are alive they are supple and soft, but when they are dead, they become brittle and dry
What is stiff and hard is companion of death
The hard and mighty are cast down; the soft and weak are set on high.

Nothing under heaven is softer or more yielding than water
But when it attacks things hard and resistant there is not one of them that can prevail
The yielding conquers the resistant and the soft conquers the hard

It is Heaven's way, without distinction of persons, to keep the good perpetually supplied.

True words are not fine sounding, 
Fine sounding words are not true 
The good man does not prove by argument
And he who proves by argument is not good
True wisdom is different from learning
Much learning means little wisdom

For Heaven's way is to sharpen without cutting
And the Sage's way is to act without striving

My big lessons. About spending. About weakness. About softness. Read and reread. It's a never ending story. But more importantly, practice. Tao is not to listen and see, but to be.

Anjali- Sudha Murty-The Magic of the lost temple.

This book was a birthday present from my best friend.It is based about a citygirl from Bangalore.
Anoushka aka Nooni is a brave,courageous but simple girl. She has to stay with her Ajja  and  Ajji in their village  for her summer vacations.She learns bicycling,trekking and other things you could do only in a village with the help of Amit,Anand,Medha and the young college boy- Mahadeva.








After a few days when Nooni begs for a story, Ajji tells her one about King Somanayaka and the magic stepwell. Almost the next day ,Nooni along with her friends discover remains of the step well. As excited as Nooni, her grandparents inform the whole village. Shankar Master, Hanume gowda (head of the village panchayat) and Ajja plan it all out. The digging,the calling of certain people,the rules for the stepwell etc. With the help of Abdul Rasheed, a friend of Nooni's dad  they dig out the stepwell.


A fun book. All children must read it. :) 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dazed and Confused - Movie Review

It's 1993. It's Linklater. The movie is about the last day of school in 1976. Issues the teenagers had then - coach of the football team wants players to sign a commitment that they will not do drugs or alcohol etc, parties, girls, sex, rules, rebellion etc.

The day starts with the school closing for summer. The seniors have a practice of ragging freshmen - some more seriously than the others. The freshmen are running for cover. Seniors have their own issues. The party house gets busted because the parents get wind of it. A run in with cops, some breaking of the law, some fights, some broken hearts, some new romances. And all the time there play the 1970s hit songs for Led Zeppelin to Nazareth to Alice Cooper to Kiss to ZZ Top.

And if that was not enough well there is Mathew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Renee Zelleweger etc who were  all a bunch of nobodys then. In that one day Linklater gives a pretty good idea of what society was like then and that makes for good cinema in my book.

Anjali - The Danger of Labels

We were discussing something about dog food today. Anjali told some story about how two guys ate dog food and survived. I told her of how Pedigree, the dog food, was good enough to eat - when we did a program for Mars they has actually invited us to the plant and to eat the dog food.

'Once we give a name it changes everything,' she said.

'Labels,' pondered Shobha.

'If it was not called dog food people would probably eat it like they would eat McDonalds or something,' said Anjali.

Wow! That's a bit thing to discover. That labels are so restricting. That they change our perception and they change our actions.

And just this evening I was reading the 'Tao Te Ching' and there is a line which goes something like, the moment it is called something is the time when you must stop doing whatever you are doing, because you are stuck with the label and it straitjackets you.

"The uncarved block is greater than anything under heaven
Once the block is carved there will be names
As soon as there are names, it is time to stop"

Good for you Anjali. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Wings of Fire -APJ Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam lived an admirable life. For someone who is not a film star, a sportsman or even a controversial politician, with such humble beginnings, a Muslim in a country that has always been torn apart by religious, communal and caste lines, rose above all and entered the hearts of all Indians. His field - boring and not-understood by the common man - science. Clearly what APJ achieved was for what his life stood for. Integrity, simplicity, compassion, humanity, inclusivity and a passion for excellence. Not many in India will check all boxes today - which is what makes APJ Kalam the ideal role model for any young Indian. (True to his trademark humility he also writes - I am no role model)
Universities Press, Rs. 250, 180 p

'Wings of Fire' is co-written by Arun Tiwari, APJ Kalam's associate during his stint in Hyderabad at the DRDL and is pretty much an account of his life, more so in the scientific arena where he, under the guidance of and along with great stalwarts like Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof. Satish Dhawan, Prof. Brahm Prakash and others worked on the Indian space program and the missile program - with indigenously grown technology. The boy from the small town of Rameshwaram, belonging to a Muslim family, son of the wise Jainulabdeen, grew up, bred on the rustic yet worldly wisdom of his elders which he carried all his life. The famous story of his father and his close friend Lakshmana Sastry, priest of the famous Shiva temple has been written about much. The Muslim and Hindu, would have many a discussion on religion and custom and their children grew up together, went to school together. APJ's father was a man who, through his prayer, gave solace to many - people would come to him with bowls of water after he prayed in the mosque and he would dip his hands in them. The water would be given to the sick. Their house also fed many and turned away none. The parents were often called an ideal couple.

His father's words on prayer - "When you pray, you transcend the body and become part of the cosmos, which knows no distinction of wealth, age, caste or creed.' It's the best line on prayer I have read yet.

Or "In his own time, in his own place, in what he really is, and in the stage he has reached - good or bad - every human being is a specific element within the whole of the manifest divine Being. So why be afraid of difficulties, sufferings and problems? When troubles come, try to understand the relevance of your sufferings. Adversity always presents opportunities for introspection."

Or "One must understand the difference between a fear-ridden vision of destiny and the vision that enables us to seek the enemy of fulfillment within ourselves.'

His friend and later brother in law, Ahmed Jallaluddin, who was older to him by 15 years, encouraged him to excel in his studies, and was a big influence on him. So was Samsuddin, his first cousin and sole distributor of newspapers in Rameswaram. He also gave him his first job in his newspaper business. Some wonderful insight into the kind of people who lived in those times were of Lakshmana Sastry who admonished a teacher for separating the Muslim boy from his son Ramanadha Sastry in class and of Sivasubramaniam Iyer, an orthodox brahmin, who invited Kalam home for a meal and invited the wrath of his orthodox wife. But he was bent on making a change and the next time Kalam went home, she served him herself - the change had begun - of true wisdom, of equality and inclusivity of all God's creations. And today we have some Hindus who under the garb of religion and tradition do not hesitate to kill a Muslim or a low caste person and worse, is tacitly encouraged by the people in power who neither take action nor speak about it.

Kalam moved from Rameswaram to Ramanathapuram and enrolled in the Schwartz High School. "Does the seagull not fly across the Sun, alone and without a nest? You must forego your longing for the land of your memories to move into the dwelling place of your greater desires; our love will not bind you nor will our needs hold you." So said Jainulabdeen and bid him on. I wish many parents would have the strength to do that. I wish that I had the strength to do that when I was younger too.
At school he was influenced by teachers with broad minds and genuine love for students and the art of teaching. Iyadorai Solomon, his teacher told him that everything he wanted could happen if he desired it intensely and was absolutely certain that it would happen. "To succeed in life and achieve results, you must understand and master three mighty forces - desire, belief and expectation.'..'With faith, you can change your destiny." APJ, who had a childhood dream of flying, did finally become the first person from Rameswaram to fly a plane.

Then APJ moved to Tricy to St. Joseph's College. He says 'I was not a bright student in terms of marks but had a practical bent of mind. Here he developed a taste in English literature but more interestingly his two science teachers Prof. Chinna Durai and Prof. Krishnamurthy introduced him to the wonders of physics. "Science has always been the path to spiritual enrichment and self-realisation.' From St. Joseph's to the Madras Institute of Technology was the next step and he as financed by his sister Zohara who mortgaged her bangles and chain. At MIT he came under the guidance of Prof Sponder, Prof Pandalai and Prof Narsingha Rao all of whom influenced him. After MIT he applied for two jobs - one in the IAF at Dehradun and another in DTD&P at Delhi. APJ wanted the former, did not succeed, and secured the later. India probably benefited from that failure.

In his meeting with Swami Sivananda, after one of his greatest disappointments at not being selected for the Air Force, he learns that
"Desire, when it stems from the heart and spirit, when it is pure and intense, possesses awesome electromagnetic energy. this energy is released into the ether each night, as the mind falls into the sleep state. Each morning it returns to the conscious state reinforced with the cosmic currents. That which has been imaged will surely and certainly be manifested. You can rely, young man, upon this ageless promise as surely as you can rely upon the eternally unbroken promise of sunrise...and of spring."

Having decided to create his own opportunities APJ forged on. In the Directorate (DTD&P) he was posted to Civil Aviation and sent to Kanpur and later to ADE, Bangalore. There APJ was given charge of a hovercraft kind of a ground equipment machine (GEM) which he brought to a good stage. 'Nandi', the prototype, was flown by him with Defence Secretary Krishna Menon. Unfortunately Nandi was shelved but a bigger opportunity came up. He was called for the post of a rocket engineer by the INCOSPAR (Indian Committee for Space Research) where he met Pof Vikram Sarabhai. The team set up a Rocket Launching Station in Thumba in Kerala, inside a large church which was given by the church authorities. A stint at NASA - which included a visit to a NASA base had a painting prominently displayed in the reception lobby - that f Tipu Sultan's army fighting the British with indigenously developed rockets! Tipu had 700 rockets and subsystems of 900 rockets and his army had rocket men, when he was captured.

On innovation APJ says "You cannot expect a person to deliver results if you humiliate him, nor can you expect him to be creative if you abuse him or despise him.'

India's first rocket launch (of NASA make) happened in 1963 from that church. "Rocketry was reborn in India (from Tipu's days) thanks to the technological vision of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.'

APJ quoted from Kahlil Gibran - 'Bread baked without love is a bitter bread that feeds but half a man's hunger.' Mindfulness.

He speaks of Prof Vikram Sarabhai's leadership skills - where he would make every man party to the decisions, would challenge every person to their limits, praise whatever was accomplished even in failure and reassigned when things got difficult. He backed young experimenters and preferred them to established experts. With his guidance APJ moved into the making of a Rocket Assisted Take off system for military aircraft to help in areas with short runways. An indigenous one was developed. Then the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) was conceived and the Sriharikota Rocket Launch station was born. Sometime after that Prof Sarabhai died. An extraordinary man, industrialist, scientist and a visionary leader.

Then came the time of the SLV and the leadership of Prof Satish Dhawan and Prof Brahm Prakash. APJ was made Project Director of SLV.  APJ, visualised his team to be a group where each member worked to enrich the others in the team and experience the enjoyment of working together (as against a 'work' or 'workers' first approach).

APJ's time management principle
"During a morning stroll of 2km I used to prepare a general schedule and emphasise two or three things I would definitely like to accomplish during the day, including at least one thing that would help achieve long term goals. Once in office I would clean the table. Scan all papers and divide them into different categories - immediate action, low priority ones, ones that could be kept pending and reading material.  Then I would put the high priority papers in front of me and everything else out of sight."

On Project Management
"We learned the hard way that project management is about achieving a regular and efficient interfacing between the different individuals and work centres. Hard work can be set at nought in the absence of proper coordination."

To modify and paraphrase Dr. von Braun a bit
"Hard work is not enough. Not only do you have to have a goal but you have to have strategies to achieve it as fast as possible. Total commitment is not just hard work, it is total involvement. But if you have a vision along with the hard work you have more than just hard work. Its is the goal that makes the difference. Make your profession your religion, your mission.'

APJ again
"Total commitment is a crucial quality for those who want to reach the very top of their profession."

"Flow is a sensation we experience when we act with total involvement. Actions need no consciousness intervention. There is no hurry, no distracting demands on one's attention. The past and the future disappear."

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the SLV 3, under his guidance, crashed into the sea in 1979. After recovering from the debacle and with the support of his superiors, the team finally launched the SLV3 in July 1980. India had joined a small group of nations with satellite launch capability. Prof Satish Dhawan announced that India was ready to explore space. A Padmashri and a Padmabhushan were awarded. APJ remembers his team and their commitment through injuries, danger, his mentors and expresses his gratitude to all. He relates it here.

Then he moved to DRDL, Hyderabad.

A nice quote
"You have to dream before your dreams can come true. Some people stride towards whatever it is that they want in life; others shuffle their feet and never get started because they do not know what they want - and do not know how to find it either.'- Prof Satish Dhawan

With support from the Indian government the team worked on an integrated guided missile development program. The program developed Prithvi, Trishul, Agni.

"God can do tremendous things through the person who doesn't care about who gets the credit. The ego involvement should go. Before God trusts you with success, you have to prove yourself humble enough to handle the big prize." - Schuller

"The trouble is that we often merely analyse life instead of dealing with it."

'Motive is a force which is internal to the individual and forms the basis of his behavior in the work environment.'

 In 1989 the missile was launched successfully. APJ was conferred the Padma Vibhushan and then the Bharat Ratna. Someplace towards the end he speaks about his dream of wanting to start a small school for the underprivileged children.

There are many more quotes and ideas presented beautifully in the book with the kind of a clarity one would associate with a man of such high achievement and stature. What comes across clearly is that APJ was what he was because of his innate compassion, gratitude, diligence, integrity, hard work, clarity of purpose, a learning mindset and a zeal to be the instrument for God's purpose. From his early reverence to his mentors and gurus to his superiors and colleagues, he takes the best part of them. It is astounding to see what he has achieved and what he has enabled in a lifetime. His ideas of leadership are exactly what Collins said in 'Good to Great' - the Level 5 leader. His comeback after his many failures paved the way for bigger successes in other areas. Without doubt, the kind of a leader who can find a place among common people because he represents love, he represents what we all would like to be.

Another book that Anjali put on my desk to read. At this rate, I will be reading more of her books than what's on my list. One of the most inspiring books I have read. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Bangalore Book Event -This Way Is Easier Dad

Please come.


See you on the 16th December,
Sapna Book House,
Near Brigade Road Junction
Residency Road.
Bangalore

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Shashi Kapoor - Memories

He was never as hot as Amitabh was in our growing up days - but somehow he always had this nice guy thing about hi, Something that became bigger after he died - perhaps because we live in times like this when good guys are not given a thought to. But its surprising to see such a genuine outpouring of emotion for Shashi Kapoor - from the common movie goes like me - to his pals. I read an account of him by Farrukh Engineer who apparently went to school with Shashi (both charmers, and both looked alike), one by Simi Garewal (who says he was the only one who had the savoir faire to hold his own internationally - from the wines to the food to impeccable table manners) to an account by Shashi's late wife Jennifer Kendall's sister (she wrote of how shy, introverted and diffident Shashi was, and poor at that time, as he worked at Geoffrey Kendall's drama troupe 'The Shakesperians' and how badly Geoffrey behaved with Shashi Kapoor who bore it all). Shashi and Jennifer's was a lifetime love story. Jennifer kept him on a strict diet which was the secret of his dapper looks and fit physique and after she died of cancer Shashi let go and gained a lot of weight.

Simi says Shashi was one guy against whom no one in the film industry spoke badly about and despite never seen or met him, I can imagine. There was an openness in his eyes that perhaps conveyed that. Rishi's eyes do not convey that straighforwardness nor do Raj Kapoor's for all their roles of innocence.

'Deewaar' takes the cake as Shashi holds his own against Amitabh as the good guy who sticks to the straight and narrow and stays with Mom. The incredibly popular dialogue of 'meri paas maa hai' comes across with the right amount of uncertainty and confidence. There was 'Kalyug' where he plays the role of Karna and gets killed in an accident while changing the car tyre. There were several other movies too, notably one that I saw recently which he acted as an old nawab in a Merchant Ivory film - he had gained much weight but then the acting of an ageing and poverty ridden nawab was effortless.

Mostly I will remember Shashi Kapoor for being the hero in the one song I can sing fully and sing unabashedly. Saari Khushiyaan Hain... which is shot in a fashion I could not comprehend but just glad to have hear that song. I picked it off an old 45 rpm record at home, for some reason learned the lyrics and started singing it passionately for many years whenever I was asked to sing. Then I discovered it on YouTube and here it is. From 'Suhana Safar' in 1970.  Brings back memories of a time unpolluted - air, thoughts, people etc.

For a nice guy, for all things gentle and soft.

Project Management, A Comedy of Errors - Prasanna Kumar

This book was given to me by Ranjan and it looked pretty interesting. A catchy title, funny illustrations and the slimness of the book were its main attractions. I remember starting it a year ago and then gave it up for some reason but this time I marched on till the end.

Prasanna Kumar writes well and he knows what he is writing about. The book takes a young software engineer Saminathan (Sam) from Y2K Technologies Bangalore on his maiden trip to the US with his boss Bobby Reddy (Bob). They have another boss Balaji (Bill). The conversations between the veteran Bob and the naive Sam as they thread their way to the US, meet customers and return with orders, gives a fine insight into the world of the IT. Bob mouths every single management quote that one has heard of and in that sense Prasanna has done a wonderful job in keeping it tight and full of good stuff. The only problem is that the tone is tongue in cheek, whereas the content is seriously good, so we wonder if we should approach it seriously or laugh it off. But I loved the amount of stuff Prasanna packed into it - its an intelligent book and I would suggest those who read it, do so seriously. Said in a mischievous manner, they still hold good.

Prasanna is a successful IT pro and appears to have ventured into consulting and coaching. I liked the book. It's tight, full of good content and well written.   

Anjali - The Hyderabad Metro Ride

Anjali was keen to take a ride on the Metro. Left to myself I would have postponed it to a time when I had no other option. So I am glad she has the drive and initiative to push us through. On Day 1 I somehow managed to stall the proposal and felt like a real heel to hear the disappointment in her voice. On Day 2 I decided not to say No whatever the reason I had for not taking the Metro. So, for just making it happen, this one goes into her kitty.
The ESI station (surly in foreground)
So we started out at an unearthly hour of 430 pm when the soft winter evening rays were slanting across and the weather was just getting a bit nippy. Instead of doing a trip to Mansi's house (which had been her proposal the previous day) we decided to take a ride to her favorite Mythily attas house at Nizampet. There was a bit of apprehension in the air from the adults who were as usual worried about looking foolish or not knowing what to do and lots of excitement from the children who were quite happy not knowing that they had to feel foolish about things they did not know. She probably thinks that it is exciting to do things she has not done yet.
The tree cover 
So it was understandable when Shobhs wondered if we should take her bike and park it near the end of the colony - what? - the station is less than 10 minutes away. But we were nervous and we all walked off stolidly, bags in hand with some stuff for Mythily atta, books to read etc.
Shobhs and Anjali and the TB hospital forest 
The Metro guys have been laying a pavement by the side of the road and I have been cribbing about it since it is reducing road space. Now as the pedestrian I fully lauded them for the good work. We found that there were stairs from either side of the road that led up to our ESI station. There was a lift too but we did not dare push our luck and walked up instead. The ticket counters were empty and whats more, there were helpful young men directing us to the counters. The counter had some mike like thing into which I spoke and the boy inside told me to hand over Rs. 105, at 35 bucks apiece to get to Nizampet.  "The station is called JNTU,' he told me. I acted like I suddenly got an important clue into how the world worked and nodded. We got three blue tokens.
Explaining the wonders of Metro life to Anjali
Then we were guided to two security gates - one for men and another for women. After the patting etc they let us past and we came to the stiles where we had to swipe the coin - or rather place it on a red dot on the stile - and the gates to the Metro opened. (Luckily we did not have to enter our Aadhaar number there). The girls came from their side and I came from mine and we were united again as a family. Then we were guided to take the escalators or the stairs as we wished to a higher platform and there, on the highest level, we entered the station. It was empty, save for another 7 people. A surly faced fellow quickly waved us to some place ahead of where we were standing - apparently the train was coming and it would stop there. How were we to know? I felt unhappy that he showed us our place.

Apparently there is a train every 8 minutes or so. We got in at 451 pm. The sitting space was not much so we did not get a place to sit. There is a monitor above the door which shows the station we are at and the two stations either side. Announcements are made about the station which is coming up so we can get to the doors - they open and shut in 10 seconds or so I guess. Unlike the Mumbai locals, we can get off only on one side (the left side) so there is no confusion. It's quite easy to navigate and I found that my fears were unfounded - as in most cases.

We were happy to stand and watch the surroundings from that height. TB Hospital was like a forest, full of trees. Some pics and within 18 minutes we were at JNTU. We crossed Erragadda, Bharathnagar, Moosapet, Balanagar, Kukatpally, KPHB and then stopped at JNTU. Off we went and stopped at the stile on the way down. We deposited the tokens in the slot and the gates miraculously opened. We got down the stairs, walked ten minutes and voila, we made the easiest and quickest trip to my sister's place in a long time. Some chai, pakoda and some light dinner and we took the Metro back home.

It was a lovely walk back home on a full moon night. And well, it was as pleasing as it could get. We felt quite good by the end of it all. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Inner Game of Tennis -Timothy Gallwey

Acknowledged as one of the finest books on peak performances and recommended to me by our own Neelam Sreedhar, as early as when I wrote 'The Men Within' in 2007, I finally was ready for Tim Gallwey's 134 page wonder, ordered it, read it and now reviewed it. Tim talks about players who try too hard and who are too critical and how this messes with performance. He says the the normal barriers to peak performance are lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt, self condemnation and the key to overcome these lapses is through relaxed concentration. This is a state which all athletes try to attain on a permanent basis - and Tim says - the true secret to winning is not trying too hard and be in a state where the mind is calm and at one with the body. Of course this state is nothing new to us - we already know it and have used it when we were children. Like children learn - we should watch carefully, grasp the visual image, repeat image in our minds and imitate and voila, we are doing it perfectly right. With some small examples he gets the message across superbly and we wonder at how right he probably is.

Tim talks about the critic in us or perhaps the thinking and analysing part - the Self 1 as he calls it - who always wants the ideal outcome and who is constantly criticising us for what we do. Then we have our own Self 2 - who is probably the executor and who is probably falling short of Self 1s standards despite knowing it all. The gap between these two Selves is what we must work on and harmonise the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2. (For all you know it could be the manager and employee, parent and child, teacher and student.) For the overzealous teacher, coach and parent he says do not over teach - say less, notice more. Also that 'images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much  instruction worse than none, trying produces negative results".  If you cannot get Self 2 in good shape, the performance will go southward anyway. "I deliver my most effective performances when I permit the spontaneous Self 2 to be in control.'

'What you try to remember, you do not do.'

Be Nonjudgmental
So Tim says, first be nonjudgmental about your performance. Like an umpire who merely keeps the score, you observe things as they are without assigning a 'good' or 'bad' to them. That will keep Self 2 relaxed. Only when Self 2 is relaxed will it perform to potential. So the first idea is not to make it feel like it is under or over performing. The idea is to stay objective. "Give players something they cannot judge as right or wrong. Like, watch the ball."

Visual Imagery, Feelmages
Tim says that the Self 2 is more receptive to images and feelings than words. It understands the language of imagery - images and "feelmages". So visualise the 'feel' of a perfect serve or return and the outcome after that. As an instructor, he says, words have limited effect. Words appeal to Self 1 which after the initial aspect of communication is done, starts to intellectualise the process. This is where one gets too caught in the technique and less in 'doing' or applying it.

"Get clearest possible picture of the outcome." Tim asks the player to get a clear visualisation in the mind, perhaps modeled on a role model if need be, and once that visual is imprinted in the mind, with its attendant 'feelings', tell the Self 2, or the body, to execute it. Then just do it without any further thinking. Trust the Self 2 which has taught you to walk, run and do many things without Self 1's needless wordy instructions and ideas of perfectionism.

Quiet Self 1
"Man's greatest works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. Childlikeness has to be restored." Slow the mind, less thinking, calculating. Remain thoughtless, drop judgment. Self judgments become self fulfilling prophecies. Errors are part of the development process. Watch yourself in the mirror. Let students teach themselves.

Trust Self 2
Trust Self 2 to perform at its best, learn from success and failure. It will deliver. If it does not, sharpen the picture and feeling, and do it again. The key is not to judge the results again. Let it happen and it will. The results will show up.

If there is a problem area - imagine Self 2 already knows, that it can learn, imagine the arc and details of the ball and hold image, keep at it. One experiment he did was to hit a stationary target with a ball aiming to hit. In the second method he first breathed, relaxed, looked, visualised and let the body hit it. Ask Self 2 to hit it. In another experiment he asked them to pick a bad habit and try to correct it hard. In the second method he asks you to make no attempt to change your stroke, Observe, don't analyse. Create an image. Give an image. Feel. Focus on seam of ball. Let it happen.
Ask for qualities- we normally play the role of a worse player than we are. Instead play the roles of top players, adopt their professional mannerisms, show no self doubt.

Relaxed Concentration
Tim says that this will relax the body and the mind and increase focus. He gives a few tips on concentration. Learn to focus the mind, don't fight it. Still the mind, Focus quiets the mind, stay here and now, relaxed concentration.

One way is to watch the ball - focus on the sight of it, the seam and the pattern it makes, or some subtle way like watching the bat face. You get natural focus when the mind is interested. Another way is to listen to the sound and try to find the sweet spot. Another way is to feel it, feel of the arm and hand at the moment before moving forward, imagining oneself in slow motion, every part, every muscle. Finding the rhythm. Requires body awareness.

The theory of concentration - Attention is focused consciousness and consciousness is the power of knowing.

How to take the focus on the bat swing etc and  pick a cue to which one can react. Like watching the seam of the ball, or thinking about where the racquet's head is when the ball is bouncing. Or how to focus on breathing to stay 'here' and 'now' between points. All of these are devised to keep Self 1 and its constant chatter out and allow Self2 or our natural self, or the subconscious (never uses the word in the book), to do what comes naturally to it. It knows what to do without telling it. 'Let your body hit the ball. If it does not happen, let it learn.
Watch. Absorb visually. Feel by imitating.

Tim feels the body or Self2 seems to know a lot more than we give credit to it for. If we do not put it down, or constantly berate it, and in fact respect it and allow it to function, or even trust it to perform miracles, it will. It is our lack of trust in it that restricts it.

It's there. Don't change it. Let it come out. Be aware,. Where is the ball. Where is the bat. Stop correcting faults. Let go of judgment. Stop criticising. Stop compliments. Allow them to think. No credit. No ego. Non judgmental awareness.

Acknowledgement vs Judgment

Instructions 'should' not be given. Give instructions in a way that it helps the natural learning process and not interfere with it. Understand the basic requirement - to hit the ball.

To Change habits 
Forget the unnatural ways of learning. return to childlike ways. Understand the groove theory of repeating patterns so the grooves go deeper. Do not fight old habits. Start new ones.

To change - Observe nonjudgmentally/ Ask for change/ Picture outcome/Imitate role models/ Trust Self 2/ Be non judgmental about changes and results

The traditional way is to criticise and judge, give wordy commands, try hard and then criticise results. The Gallwey method is to observe, picture, let it happen and be non judgmental about results. Watch Self 1 and Credit Self 2.

Tim says that it is about winning the inner game. The opponent must not be feared but respected because your value is only as much as the fight he puts up. Welcome obstacles, welcome competition.

Stress
Stress is a factor of being attached to one outcome. The cause of most stress can be summed up by attachment. Self 1 is threatened when change occurs - it is attached to comfort. Freedom from stress involves being able to let go of anything when necessary, and know that one will still be alright.
Look instead for inner stability. Focus your attention on the present moment. It is the art of doing anything well. Not duality or mistakes.

"I have been my own stressor. The demands i am trying to fulfill are not m my own but ones I have picked up early."

True Competition
In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their effort to overcome the obstacles presented by the other. Instead of a double fault, you are looking for a tough challenge so it helps you get into a better mental state. Both grow. In the end you shake hands with your opponent and regardless of who won, thank him for the fight and mean it.

True competition is identical to true cooperation.

The Key to Relaxed Concentration
When the mind of fastened by the rhythm of breathing, it tends to become absorbed and calm. When your attention is in the here and now, the actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished and as a result the future will become the best possible present.

So far I have written from memory of the book and have not even had to refer to it a second time. I will eventually refer to it again because it is too good a book to not read again and again. But this is the beauty of such books, that it conveys all it has to in the first read. No tables, no bold letters, no highlighting, nothing. Just plain, clean, clear headed, well intended writing. Its beautiful. Naturally its not just about tennis - its about life. Much of what is said here is applicable to the great books and thoughts - the Gita, the Zen and Tao books. His concern for the players and their psyches, for people thinking that a bad backhand makes them a bad and hopeless person is genuinely felt and more empathetic and kinder than many educationists, policy makers and even psychotherapists can ever be.

I am going to read it again and will revise this blog because it is a wealth of information and must be treated with great respect. Meanwhile I am trying to apply the practices. A bit of it I tried on the kids at cricket practice too. I am sure of the results. Makes immense sense.  

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Movie Review

When I first saw this movie I remembered nothing or I could not figure out much. All I could make out was that there were two people who met on a train and for some reason went to a company that erased their memories which must have been painful. Of course we meet many more characters in that memory erasing company, all of them either sleeping with one another or using these memories to get someone to sleep with them, including the big boss of the firm.

Upon more research I find that this movie has some resemblance to a romantic story I had written many years ago - at least the pivotal aspect of it when Kate Winslet apparently tells Jim Carrey to meet her somewhere. This is the pivotal moment in 'If You love Someone' the novel I had written. Since there is some similarity I will now concede that I will like this movie that is otherwise quite maddening in its suppositions.

So two people meet on a train and are drawn to one another. They are actually on a journey which they had promised one another but had now forgotten thanks to the memory erasing company and all that stuff. Why anyone needs a memory erasing company I don't know because people only remember what they want to anyway - and since I have a problem with that part itself - I can as well let the rest of it rest.

It is one of those movies like Inception that needs a couple of times of watching to figure but you don't have the energy to do it because the whole premise is not solid. Like in Inception they are putting ideas into the subconscious through some complex procedures when all marketing does is exactly that, and in this movie ESOTSM (sounds suspiciously close to eroticism and BDSM) they are trying to forget stuff which they will forget anyway once they find something better to do.

Overall achievement - ticking one of those 100 movies lists but seriously. Ok, for Kate Winslet, I will let that go. No point erasing her memory.

Her - Movie Review

Fellow works for a company called 'Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com' or something like that which was something I loved. I would have applied for a job there having written many such for myself and for others. But then Theodore Twombly, man of a failed marriage, and a lonely life with video games etc finds an Operating System called Samantha.

Samantha understands him well - minus the pokes and sarcasm and bickerings - so he loves her and lays his heart bare for her. Samantha develops feelings some other weird wants and desires. Theodore agrees to meet her wants - he is a weak fellow who does not know what he wants anyway - so it all ends in a disaster. In a heartbreaking scene Theo finds that Samantha has been deeply involved with some 6000 people and intensely involved with some 600. Luckily he is part of the 600. One would think he would be happy to share her burden with so many more but he is unhappy and jealous. The OS goes away one fine day and Theo is left mending another heartbreak.

Moral of the story - a loser will remain a loser. Even an OS will leave him. Or rather he will make her leave. Needs therapy - and predictably he will fall for the therapist too - so best left to video games. However the movie received several nominations and stuff and is an engrossing watch.   

Coco - Movie Review

I don't think I should call them reviews anymore because I plan to keep this super short. 3D animation. Mexican movie. Young fellow wants to be a musician in a family that abhors music - great grandfather left family and went off. Great grandmother forbids music and family becomes shoe makers.

But young Miguel has music in his genes. On the festival of their dead Dia de Muertos, the Riveras are getting ready to invite the dead by putting up their pictures in an ofrenda. Miguel wants to attend a competition. Grandma breaks his guitar. Miguel tries to get his great grandfathers guitar (by now he knows the old man is the most famous musician in Mexico). But he soon finds himself transported to a space between never never land and earth and after some ups and downs returns - music and healing and all.

I liked the music. Nice story with a nice twist. Coco is saved from going completely loco thanks to all this supernatural stuff.  Ghosts, skeletons and families. Some introduction to the Mexican culture. Watchable certainly.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Anjali - The Signs of a Great Coach

50 years of coaching experience, some of them with the best in the business, a burning passion for the game - all of which translate into greatness as a coach. Baig sir qualifies fully. While reading 'The Inner Game of Tennis' by Tim Gallwey, I realised how similar his approach is.

So I could totally relate to what Anjali said the other day.
'All he has to do is just stand there,' she said. 'He does not say anything. But everything happens right when you know he is standing there and watching. The ball falls in the right place, everything is right. But when he moves away, we lose it all again. I don't know how he does it.'

To teach by not saying anything, by not giving feedback and not even a word of encouragement, is the highest way of teaching according to Zen. Gallwey says the same thing, of how he was able to make drastic changes by not using words and allowing the student's Self 2 (or the subconscious to take over) and they quickly start doing the right thing when the Self 1 is not self conscious.

The sign of a great coach then - he speaks little, corrects rarely, allows the student to find his own way and voila, magic happens. He is as tough as he is soft, as disciplined as he seems distracted, but nothing escapes his eye, no source too small for him to learn from.

This coming weekend, I will spend all my time just watching Baig sir. Amazing.

Writers on the Prowl - Doing What We Do

Here I will let out some writerly secrets. So we went to Crossword the other day to buy some books for Anjali who got her a gift voucher from her cousin Miskil. The first thing obscure writers like me do is to scan the shelves to see if the book is someplace. Obviously when you are looking you will never find it. A stab of disappointment will course through. The marketing and sales department comes to mind and after a small mental conversation with them I moved on to other things.
Life's little pleasures - TWIED prominently placed (by me) in bookshelves
Anjali came running. 'Nanna, Jaico books are here.'
She showed me a couple of books, from people I know or have heard of. Hmm. Too bad.

The initial disappointment over I moved on looking at other books, sending pics of my friends books on the shelves to them and adding to their joy and happiness.

In this slightly elated state I noticed that a copy of 'This Way Is Easier Dad' was lying in one of the bottom shelves well hidden from public eye. But my eyes saw it and I pulled it out. Aha. The heart leapt skyward. They have not forgotten me yet. There is a copy, hidden, but somewhere in the book store jostling with the others. I felt happy.

Of course the first thing we do when we see our baby lying in some obscure corner is to pick it up, dust it and surreptitiously place it in some prominent position. I suspect the bookstore fellows are used to this kind of stuff all the time and they probably have some in house detectives who instantly go and replace the books to where thy originally were but we have to do what we have to do.

I quietly glided over to another part of the bookstore feeling very pleased with my work. Anjali was still busy checking out books and fountain pens.

Surprise, surprise, two more copies of TWIED showed up in two separate places, well hidden from the public eye once more. Why would anyone want to hide such a beautiful book? So I called the family and showed them the book in all its glory. We placed them in prominent positions in the shelves and feeling very pleased with our work paid the bill and left. I am sure all three would have been picked up within an hour after we left and sales is now rising rapidly to the million copies mark.

Such are the things that we do. We are unhappy if the books show up - no one is buying. We are unhappy if the books are not there - how will we sell if there are no books. We are unhappy if they are prominent and unhappy if they are not. Only after we do what we do, are we happy.

We celebrated with some ice cream. Job well done. Now for the next book store - it is always one book store at a time, one shelf at a time, one copy at a time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Heart of a Woman - Maya Angelou

Finally a Maya Angelou (1928-2014) book, thanks to Sagar. The Heart of a Woman is the fourth in a seven book series of her life, immensely popular autobiographies and one can get a sense of why they are. There is tremendous energy and honesty as she tells her life story between the years 1957 and 1962. A time when she is living as a single mother with her son Guy who she is trying to bring up to question and never accept anything as a given. And for the record, Maya is black, and champions black causes, was a civil rights activist, and writes so powerfully about the black people tat when I saw a bit of a movie last evening and saw the white actors, I wondered how much of history has been subverted by movies. How we associate notions of beauty and power, fairness and justice with whites. Maya builds a black world that is so beautiful and honest and real with all its imperfections.
Bantam, 272 p
Maya is then making a living as a singer and a dancer. The book opens to a sudden visit to her home by the famous jazz singer Billie Holiday and how she and Guy survive Billie's mood swings and bouts of alcoholism. It's a delightful beginning and one can see Maya's honesty, spunk and before the chapter ends. Billie of course tells her that she will never get anywhere as a singer, stands up and shuts Maya down in a public performance saying she cannot bear to hear her and moves on after breaking Guy's heart with a scathing account of how racism is in reality.

Maya moves on to New york, after a small tryst with her mother, another incredible scene, described with tremendous energy, as the two ladies walk regally into a whites only hotel and Maya's mom teaches her how not to show fear - with a gun in her purse and intent to shoot of course. In New York she joins the Harlem Writers Guild and they tell her to write and when she reads it, tears her apart. Maya survives them and continues writing, finds a place to sing to pay bills and even finds a man, Thomas, a bail bond guy. She is unapologetic about her sexual appetite and about how she steps back for her security and sexual needs.

Guy is growing up, picks up fights with gangs but tries to be what Maya brought him up as - honest and brave. A stint with the SCLC where she and another friend promise a play, enact it (Cabaret to Freedom) written by the over-promising and always-delivering Angelou, a play watched by Sydney Poitier himself and applauded by him standing on the tables. She works for the SCLC, meets their leader Martin Luther King, and puts in so much of work. She also meets Malcolm X, describing his radiant energy and also puts up a protest in the UN which goes horribly wrong as hundreds show up where they expect fifty. Black anger is real and bubbling and Maya does not know how to channel it.

Maya then falls in love with the enigmatic African freedom fighter Vuz Make and breaks off her engagement with the staid old Thomas. Vuz has notions of how African women should be and Maya falls into line, and puts up with all that Vuz imposes on her, an African code of sorts where wives merely nourish their men despite their infidelity. Vuz stops her form working in the play, 'The Blacks' and as the man of the house fails to pay rent so they are evicted. But still Maya is hopelessly in love with the man who is so good to her in every way, including the bed. There is a line which goes something like - Intelligence gets my pornographic mind working.

Then we move on to Cairo where Vuz takes Maya. Once again he provides a rich house where he has paid small advances and people start coming to collect stuff back. Maya starts working, their marriage starts cracking and finally they separate. Guy finishes school, and Maya wants him to study in Ghana University and before he joins the university he is involved in a serious accident. Guy survives, goes to college, and Maya moves on with her life.

Fabulous writing. Angelou's six feet frame, her intelligence, her passion, her anger, her pride in being black, her many talents, her courage and her fears, her raw sexuality all shines through in her writing. Only few people can do that - those who know themselves well and those who are themselves with nothing to hide. There can be nothing but respect for such people and whatever they do. Poet, singer, dancer, actor, playwright, music composer, writer, activist and a big voice for blacks, its a pleasure to know a person like Maya Angelou (through her work). Of course one cannot forget her presence when she recited her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. 

Daring Greatly - Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a Houston based research professor at the Houston University. She has researched courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame and had authored four books 'The Gifts of Imperfection', 'Daring Greatly', 'Rising Strong and 'Braving the Wilderness.' She says "I believe that vulnerability and willingness to be 'all in' even when it can mean failing and hurting - is brave. Brene Brown's TED talks on shame and vulnerability have been widely watched. She is on a mission - the Wholehearted Revolution.

The phrase 'Daring Greatly' after which the book is named is from a Theodore Roosevelt speech, sometimes referred to as 'The Man in The Arena'. Here's the bit.
'It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly , who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end of the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...'

The Culture of Not Enough
Brene talks about the 'Never Enough' syndrome. But we can say 'Enough' - which also means Enough of that and also I am Enough.

Shame categories - Appearance and body image, Money and work, Motherhood/fatherhood, family, parenting, mental and physical health, addiction, sex, ageing, eligion, surviving trauma and being stereotypes or labeled. From bankruptcy, to boss calling us an idiot, infertility to flunking etc.

Our source of scarcity (not enough) causes - Shame, Comparison and Disengagement. Shame leads to fear. Fear leads to rick aversion. Risk aversion kills innovation.

Culture and Shame
Shame - Is fear of ridicule and belittling used to manage people and keeping them in line? Is self worth tied to achievement, productivity or compliance? Are put downs and name calling rampant? What about favoritism? Is perfection an issue?

Comparison - Is there constant comparing and ranking? Has creativity been suffocated? Are people held to a narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions? Is there an an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used a measurement for everyone else's worth?

Disengagement - Are people afraid to take risks or try new things? Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences and ideas? Does it feel as if n one is really paying attention or listening? Is everyone struggling to be seen or heard?

The Disengagement Divide
Disengagement is the issue underlying many problems in schools, families, organisations. We disengage to protect ourselves from vulnerability shame, and feeling lost and without purpose. We also disengage when we feel like people who are leading us - bosses, teachers, principal, clergy, parents, politicians, aren't living up to their end of the social contract.

Value Gap - Disengagement Divide
The space between our practiced values and our aspirational values is the value gap, or what we call the disengagement divide.

Aspirational values - Honesty and Integrity, Practiced values - rationalising and letting things slide
Aspirational values - Respect and accountability, Practiced values - fast and easy is more important
Aspirational values - Gratitude and respect - Practiced values: teasing, taking for granted, disrespect
Aspirational values - Setting limits - Practiced values - Rebellion and cool are important

Culture questions
What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
Where are how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
What rules and expectation are followed,enforced and ignored?
Do people feel safe ad supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stand s the cows back up?
What stories are legend and what values do they covey?
What happens when someone fails, disappoints or makes a mistake?
How is vulnerability perceived?
How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
What's the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalised, or is there high premium put on comfort and how does that look?

Signs that shame has permeated the culture
Blaming, gossipping, favoritism, name-calling and harassment. A more obvious sign is when shame becomes an outright management tool. People in leadership roles bullying others, criticising subs in front of colleagues, public reprimands, rewards that shame and belittle people.

Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we're disengaged, we don't show up, we don't contribute, and we stop caring. On the far end of the spectrum, disengagement allows people to rationalise all kinds of unethical behavior including lying, stealing and cheating.

The definition of Connection and Belonging:
Connection:Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment.
Belonging: It is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are hollow substitutes for belonging and are often barriers to belonging. True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

"I see the insidious nature of race, class and privilege playing out in one of the most historically damaging ways possible - the server/served relationship. When we treat people as objects we are dehumanising them. We do something terrible to their souls and to our own. "When two people relate to each other authentically, God is the electricity that surges between them.' I am suggesting we start looking people in the eye when we speak to them."

"Nothing has transformed my life more than realising that its a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reactions of the people in the stands. The people who love me regardless of the outcome are there within reach. This realisation changed everything."

Vulnerability Myths
Brene debunks the Vulnerability Myths and behaviors such as - It is weakness, I want to experience your vulnerability but I don't want to be vulnerable, I don't do vulnerable, vulnerability is letting it all hang out and We can do it alone

Combating Shame
To understanding and combat shame Brene says, watch out for the same tapes in your head that keep playing messages of self doubt and self criticism. Stop the tapes and replace them with some better tapes. Also, Brene says shame hates having words wrapped around it - so when you talk about your shame, it withers. Shame is pain.
Brene differentiates between guilt and shame as
Guilt - I did something bad
Shame - I am bad

"People believe they deserve their shame, they do not believe ther deserve ther humiliation - Donald Klein"

On the low vibrating emotions we have Guilt/ Shame/ Humiliation/ Embarrassment.
Brene talks about building shame resilience by recognising shame and its triggers, practicing critical awareness, reaching out, speaking shame. She says practice, courage, reach out. Own your story.

Women and Men on Shame
Her research on women on shame reveals this - stay small, sweet, quiet, pretty and modest. While for men shame is - Do not be perceived as weak.

Vulnerability Armory
Our Vulnerability armory consists of - Foreboding joy (imagining bad scenarios beforehand), Numbing (completely numbed to the experience with no feelings), Perfectionism (it is an armor against being vulnerable).
Practicing gratitude is an antidote to foreboding joy. There is a definite connection between joy and gratitude. Be grateful for what you have and don't squander joy.
Perfectionism is a shield against vulnerability and we disguise it as striving for excellence, self improvement. It is not. You are better off practicing self kindness/ common humanity/ mindfulness.
Numbing yourself to emotions is another way of shutting out vulnerability.

Shame and Innovation
"If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanise work. When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure if not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation.
The secret killer of innovation is shame. You cannot measure it, but it is there. Every time someone holds back a new idea, fails to give their manager much needed feedback, and is afraid to speak up in front of a client you can be sure shame played a part. That deep fear we all have of being wrong, of being belittled  and of feeling less than, is what stops us from taking the very risks required to move our companies forward.
If you want a culture of creativity and innovation, where sensible risks are embraced on both a market and individual level, start by developing the ability of managers to cultivate an openness to vulnerability. in their teams. And this requires first that they are vulnerable themselves."

"I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure."

10 Guideposts to Cultivating Culture
To cultivate
Authenticity - let go of what people think
Self compassion - let go of perfectionism
Resilient spirit - let go of numbing and powerlessness
Gratitude  and joy - let go of scarcity and fear of the dark
Intuition and trusting faith - let go of need for certainty
Creativity - let go of comparison
Play and rest - let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth
Calm and stillness - let go of anxiety as a lifestyle
Meaningful work - let go of self doubt and supposed to

Power of Vulnerability - Example
A great example of the power of vulnerability - is an approach taken by Christine Day. In a video interview to CNN Money she explained that she was once a very bright executive who majored in being right. Her transformation came when she realised that getting people to engage and take ownership wasn't about telling but about letting them come into the idea in a purpose-led way. That her job was about creating the space for others to perform. The shift was from 'having the best idea or problem solving' to 'being the best leader of people'.

Vulnerability Check
We can tell about vulnerability when we hear people saying
I don't know / I need help / I'd like to give it a shot / I disagree - can we talk about it? / It didn't work but I learned a lot / Yes, I did it / Here's what I need / Here's how I feel / I'd like some feedback / Can I get your take on this? / What can I do better next time? / Can you teach me how to do this? / I played a part in that./ I accept responsibility for that / I'm here for you / I want to help /Let's  move on /I am sorry / That means a lot to me / Thank you

"Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.  This scarcity makes leadership valuable...It's uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. Its uncomfortable to propose an ida that might fail. Its uncomfortable to challenge the statu quo. Its uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. When you identify the discomfort you have found the place where the leader is needed. If you are not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, its almost certain you're not reaching your potential as a leader."  - Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Wholehearted life
Practice wholehearted living - by learning how to feel. staying mindful about numbing behaviors/ learning how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions

Wholehearted Parenting

  • If Wholeheartedness is the goal, then above all we would strive to raise children who
  • Engage with the world from a place of worthiness
  • Embrace their vulnerabilities and imperfections
  • Feel a deep sense of love and compassion for themselves and others
  • Value hard work, perseverance and respect
  • Carry a sense of authenticity and belonging with them, rather than searching for it in external places
  • Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable and creative
  • Don't fear feeling ashamed or unloveable if they are different or if they are struggling


Parents are called upon to

  • Acknowledge that we cant give our children what we don't have and so we must let them share in our journey to grow, change and learn
  • Recognise our own armor and model for our children how to take it off, to be vulnerable, show up and let ourselves be seen and known
  • Honor our children by continuing on our own journey towards wholeheartedness
  • parent from a place of 'enough' than from scarcity
  • Mind the gap and practice the values we want to reach
  • Dare greatly, possibly more than we've ever dared before


Childhood experiences of shame can change who we are, how we think about ourselves and our sense of self worth.

It is very interesting work. The idea of putting oneself out there and failing, and worse, dealing with the shame and its brothers and sisters, can be an obstacle for our growth. But Brene says that its ok to be vulnerable, it makes you stronger to be vulnerable, that shame withers away when we speak of it and when we don't, it stops our growth. Being wholehearted, being gentle with oneself and others, being comfortable with progress and not perfectionism and most importantly knowing that we are perfect as we are, and a little improvement is fine.
I liked the analogy to innovation and how shame blocks all innovation. Insecure leaders will breed more insecure leaders, use shame as a management tool. The greatest leaders are secure - with their imperfections - which is what makes them great.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Owl and the Sparrow - Movie Review

A Vietnamese film. Three lonely and separate lives, each with their own set of problems, come together and find closure and happiness together. The movie spans five days.

A young orphaned girl Thuy, lives with her uncle who makes her work in his factory. She runs away to big city Saigon and sells roses for a living, sleeps near the riverside. She meets Lan, a flight attendant in an unfulfilling affair with a colleague, at a  noodle shop. Lan takes her home. During the day Thuy meets Hai, a young zoo keeper who is about to lose one of his favorite animals, a baby elephant, months after he lost his lady love. The three meet and it is a happy family. But Thuy is taken to an orphanage by the police who catch her in the streets without a license and is reclaimed by her uncle. Thuy runs away from her uncle, with money enough to keep the baby elephant and goes back to the zookeeper. Hai returns the money, makes a deal with the uncle and arranges to keep the young girl with him. All they need is to woo back Lan who is all set to fly out of Saigon to complete the family again. In the airport, Lan sees the gift given to her by Thuy and turns back.

Sweet little movie. A nice uplifting touch with little of the fears that movies that involve runaway children normally have. Thuy was brilliant. Lan is beautiful.

The Magic Drum - Sudha Murthy

This Puffin book sold over 1 lakh copies which makes her one of the biggest selling authors in India.  'The Magic Drum and other stories' are a collection of 37 short stories that the author's grandparents told her when she was a child and some that she heard from her friends.
Penguin, 200 p, Rs. 250
I loved the stories. 'The Supermen' is about a bunch of lazy men boasting about their greatness until they are reminded that nothing gets done without hard work. 'The seed of Truth' is about the king choosing between his four sons and picking the honest one - thanks to the roasted seed. 'Haipant the Wise' is about the danger of suppositions. 'The Nine Questions for a Princess' is about an intelligent man getting the better of an intelligent princess. 'The White Crow' is a about how communication gets distorted and how it is better to keep one's mouth shut. I loved 'The Very Expensive Coconut' which is about how a miser tries to save money by going further to buy a cheaper coconut and instead pays a heavy price for it. 'The Bottle of Dew' is about how a wise man teaches a greedy man that the route to riches is through hard work. 'Nakul's First Lesson' is about presence of mind. 'Where did it go?' is a fine story about outwitting a cheat. 'The Tired Horse' is about how we get misled by others opinions. 'A Cure for Laziness' is about doing one's own work to stay healthy. 'The Magic Drum' is once again about outwitting a cheat.

A fine collection of stories and one of the more diverse and engaging collections for children and adults alike. Stories that can be told to children easily. There are three more books by Sudha Murthy in Anjali's collection and I plan to read them.

Weekend Cricket Lessons - Aarav's Fighting Spirit

'Sir, Aarav cannot play to day sir,' said Hardik. 'He is badly hurt.'
Young Aarav had apparently been pushed by someone at school and his elbows and knees were badly bruised. So badly that he was in obvious pain while walking or throwing.
He looked forlorn. I thought maybe it was because of the pain.

'I told him not to play today,' said Bhupinder who was coaching them. 'But he wants to play.'
Wow!
That was what he was sad about. That he could not play despite his willingness to endure the pain. What an opportunity for him.
'Can you play? Do you want to?' I asked.
His face lit up.
'Yessir,' he said.
'Then play,' I said. 'Do as much as you can.'
Bhupinder was intrigued. I waved him on.
And so Aarav played the entire session, bowling with a straight leg, hobbling around and even wanting to take dive catches. Finally it happened that the bruise got rubbed against something and it bled. But it meant nothing to young Aarav while all other boys were running about shouting 'it's bleeding sir'.
But not a peep from the young hero who merely winced and smiled and took it in his stride.
Unbelievable spirit.

GN is one of the older boys. While Aarav is in his fourth class, GN is in his eighth. GN is a very talented cricketer with lots of time to play the ball and an easy action while bowling. He was a natural and his basics were in place. In fact I had told Baig sir to watch him and take him under his wing. Now, GN was bowling a nice long spell when Baig sir nodded to me.
'Tell him to pad up,' said Baig sir and I told GN to pad up.
'Sir I cannot bat today sir,' he said.
'Why? Didn't you get your kit?' I asked.
'No sir,' he replied.'But my leg is hurting slightly. I cannot bat.'
He had bowled for the past 45 minutes with no sign of discomfort. He walked normally. What was wrong?
'Pad up,' I told him. 'If you can bowl, you can bat.'
He padded up and batter completely normally.
After his stint I told him to look at Aarav struggling to walk but bowling in the next net for juniors.
'Know why he is walking like that?' I asked.
GN shook his head.
I explained. I told him to bear some pain if he wanted to be a cricketer, a hero. We looked for that kind of a spirit in champions.

It is not about talent finally. If GN has ten times Aarav's talent, I would still pick Aarav in my team first. No two ways about it. So many talented cricketers lose it because they do not have the guts to spill, the courage to stand up and bear some pain. They want to return to the pavilion when the team most needs them. And then there are cricketers who stand there with broken legs, hands, noses and give their all for their team. The choice is easy.

I remember playing with a broken nose, a fractured finger, with a nail sticking up my shoe that drilled a deep hole in the eight overs I bowled in that pain, bowling with a back condition gritting my teeth knowing that my spell with the new ball was important, staying on field with a torn hamstring and bowling my quota and helping my side win - it gives such pleasure to recount those stories. And of my many mates who performed such heroics - Suresh batting with a broken nose and scoring 97, Vidyut taking a taking straight on his chest while fielding in a tight game, Tony batting with a stitched up eye.

In the end when I told the rest of the kids that this is what we look for in champions - they all clapped for Aarav today. We voted him 'Hero of the week'. He was mighty embarrassed and pleased with the idea.