Sunday, July 30, 2017

Anjali - The Girls Team Won!

Anjali was at Rishab's house this afternoon for his birthday. These days there is a lot of girls versus boys stuff going on in their class and the competitive lasses are giving the guys a run for their money. The girl's team normally comprises of Anjali (the voice and the energy I figure), Mansi, Apurva, Divya, Snigdha, Rida and others. The boys team typically starts with her best friend and arch rival Harsh, Rishab, Yashwantt, Kartikeya and others. Not a day goes by without a boys- girls fight or a competition. Be it kabaddi, kho kho, debate or whatever.

So by the time I went to pick her up, the children were animatedly playing a game of cricket. Before I realised what was happening I was swamped by Anjali. 'We won Nanna,' she said. 'I am the wicket keeper and the captain and the girls team won.' Harsh was looking a bit lost and he said, 'But I still have to bat.' But the girls shouted him down (with help from the umpire who was Rishab's father) that the rest of the batsmen were out and he cannot bat alone.

Girls team 39 all out in 5 overs. Boys 29 in 3.5 overs. Harsh conceded the match, shook her hand and said 'Congratulations Anjali.' There was plenty of whooping, some boys wanting a revenge match etc and then we headed back.

That's when I got the full blast of the victory in the car.
'We won Nanna. The girl's team won. I was the captain of the girl's side. I am so happy. We won. Divya should be the woman of the match. She got three fours in the last over. You have not seen her. Very good at sports, very athletic. She hit three fours. Very good (full on appreciation). I got eight runs. One four. But okay. I did not bowl. Thought the others will do a better job so gave it to Mansi. She can bowl very fast when she puts her mind to it.'.

And then came small nuggets about how she went about it all.
'It was not planned as a boys versus girls match. I was made captain because Rishab wanted to play against me. He was captain of his team. I could have picked Yaswantt after Rishabh picked Harsh. But I saw Yaswantt trying to hide his face so I won't pick him. He is good but what's the use of having someone who does not want to play for my team. He will play for the other team. So I decided to pick Sahith. Then Rishab picked Yaswantt and Karthikeya and Varun. And I picked all the girls - Mansi, Apurva and Divya. At least they will play for the team. Sahith is sportive. He will play for the team even if it is a girl's team. So I picked him.'
I could not agree more.
'I don't know if I can choose like that but that's how I felt,' she said.
I told her she did well and that it is important that she must choose the right team before embarking on any mission. 'Then they will give their best for the team,' I said. She was happy.

'We batted first. I opened with Sahith. In 2 overs we were 25 for 1. Sahith was bowled. I got 8 runs. Mansi got some runs. When Divya was going to bat Harsh was making jokes and she was laughing. I told her to focus. I told her she could crack jokes after the match and that she should now shut her ears and become deaf to Harsh because he will keep talking and distract her. Divya batted very well and hit three fours and we got 39 with extras etc. Then we all went to eat snacks.'

She continued.
'Mansi bowled the first over. I said I will keep wickets. In the third ball I got Yaswantt run out. Then Apurva was not ready to bowl the second over. She told me that she did not know how to bowl etc. I told her that she was good, that we all knew she was good and that she should just tell herself that she is good. I made her say it aloud that she is good to herself, three times. Then she bowled a beautiful over and got two wickets.'
Wow. That's pretty good motivation. Making her team mate believe in herself and telling her how to go about it.

'While I was doing my wicket keeping one neighbouring uncle came. He saw me and he was saying 'Wow, a girl is doing wicket keeping. She is like a female MS Dhoni" he said. I was so happy to hear that. Then that uncle asked Rishabh's father what my role was. Rishabh's father said "she is the captain". That uncle was even more impressed. 'Wow! Captain also when there is a boy in the team (Saahith had joined the team by then). We must encourage this. She is playing like Mithali Raj" he said. I was so happy. Dhoni is good but when he said Mithali I was so proud. Girls no. I got Yaswantt run out in the first over, easy. Saahith was like 'I cannot bowl etc.' I told him to focus and bowl that's all. For a moment I thought I should bowl then I felt I don't bowl as well as the others so I did not.'

It went on and on in that vein with some brilliant little stories about how it happened.
'But we won Nanna,' she exulted. 'You won't believe how happy I am. We beat the boys.'

When the excitement abated a bit she asked me when I played my first match and what happened. i don't remember much but I told her it was not as dramatic as this.

Anjali repeated the entire story in great detail to her mom and her cousin Pooja. It's almost two hours since then and she is still going around whooping at home 'I won, I won'. To celebrate the moment she played 'Chak De' loudly on the computer and then 'Baadal ke Paaon hain'.

Wow. What energy. What enthusiasm. I loved her captaincy, picking the right people for the right reasons, encouraging her players and trusting them to do the job, not hogging everything and letting the ones who are doing a good job do it. I think all her resources contributed and her happiness at their success, her admiration of their their skill is obvious. Her happiness as being compared to MSD first and then even better, with Mithali, put her on top of the world. In  fact she said it as much - 'I feel like I am on top of the world. And the jounral entry of the match starts with - "This feeling is just unbelievable to explain."

Wonderful. Good show girls. Go show them. And good show skipper. Good stuff.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nice Link - Team Building Games

Nice Link - Thought Exercises to 10X Your Performance / Brain power

Nice Link!

To boost your brain power, creativity and energy.
1. Look at "what if" scenarios
Think the exact opposite of what was being done. If they use 20 slides, use 5. If they use words, use pictures. Think out of the box because if you do the same thing, you will end up with the same results. Break out.

2. Think 10x and not 10%
Don't think incremental if you want radical results. Think 10x and work backwards.

3. Get into the flow
Once you fix the 10x target, get into the flow. Get excited about the job. Imagine the outcome, how it will help others, how you feel after achieving it. Get complete focus, eliminate distractions, song, routine. Get yourself into good energy.

4. Write lists
Break the minds patten. Write random lists that force your brain to be more creative. Write lists about top 10 books, bands, whatever. Just get the mind thinking.

5. Change perspective
Think like how a champion would think in this situation. Watch a TED talk or read an article to inspire you to see it differently.

6. Zoom Out
Work in pods of high focus. Pick important tasks and give it 100%. Present the final outcome as if you have already achieved your result and explain how you did it.

Manchester by the Sea - Movie Review

Lonely janitor Lee Chandler, a man who speaks little and socialises little, is a recluse. He is touchy, gets into fights at the slightest provocation but puts his heart and soul into his job. When he hears that his brother Joe is in hospital, he takes leave and goes to see him at his hometown Manchester. By which time Joe dies and leaves him his teenage son to guard. Joe's wife was an alcoholic who had left him.

But Lee hates any kind of responsibility. He does not appear the right person to give the responsibility of a teenage son to. As the lawyer tells him that his brother Joe had provided for this move and wanted Lee to take care of his son, Lee's memory goes over why he does not want to come back to Manchester. It was here that a young and happy Lee, in a drunken mistake, burned down his house and with it his three children. He could not get over it and after his separation from his wife, lives alone, away from Manchester, immersed in his work, unfeelingly.

The new responsibility thaws him a bit. Lee makes peace with his growing nephew, and also with his ex-wife Randi. In the end, he stays with his nephew - something he was not willing to do because Manchester reminded him of his past.

The scene where Randi meets Lee and asks him his forgiveness for her being so harsh on him is superb in its writing and execution. Casey Affleck is brilliant as Lee and fully deserved his Academy award. Ken Lonergan the writer and director won the Academy award for best screenplay. Brilliant.  Slow, searing, intense.   

Save a Tree, Save a Life - A Poem by Anjali

Save a tree, save a life!
Anjali Paruvu
Chop Chop, Bang, Bang,
Goes the woodcutter’s axe.
It is illegal though
He’ll have to pay extra tax!

Oh, dear sir,
What has the tree done to you?
What makes you murder it?
It gives oxygen and takes in Co2

The poor innocent tree,
Has only tried to help
But still he grabs his axe
And the tree silently yelps

Oh no! he’s going to do it!
Was this written in your fate?
Now we can’t do much
It’s already too late

Bang, goes the axe,
What have you done?
Now you killed one
But soon there will be none.

Anjali read out this poem that she wrote for her school assignment. It read pretty nicely so I asked her if she would like to post it on the blog. She agreed and so here it is.

Mental Conditioning Classes - ML Jaisimha Academy

Had a short session with the MCC cricketers yesterday morning at the MLJ Academy. We addressed the sudden batting collapse by the women's cricket team. While we discussed it, the magic word came up - mental strength.

The core idea is to stay in a space where you feel mentally strong, when your energy is high and adaptable and yet focussed. The idea of the exercises is to keep you in good energy so you perform your best.

Basic Unit is Thought
We deconstructed mental strength.
Firstly the basic unit of - mental. We decided that it was a "thought". The way we think is the mental side. How well we can train our mind to help us with the way we think in situations makes up our mental strength.

Thought Audit - Distracted or Focused
We did a quick audit of thoughts. The boys closed their eyes and tried to notice their thoughts for a few minutes. Mostly it was all over the place. About why, about some sounds, about going home, about what to eat, what this was about. We decided that if we can keep our thoughts in one particular direction, or one one thing that was important to us, that would concentrate our thoughts and help us perform better or find solutions to the situations.

Staying in the Present - Practicing It For Best Response and Full Concentration
We spread this two minute thought map across a day and wondered how our thought process is over a day. It could be constantly worried about the past or fearful of the future. We brought this concept of staying in the present. We did a 'stay present' exercise by merely focusing on counting numbers without thoughts interfering. Most could not last for longer than 10. We understood that if we can stay present, all our thoughts are fully focused on what we are doing. If our thoughts are someplace else, our concentration is diluted and we cannot be at our best while doing that task.
Exercise: To practice the stay present exercise many times and thus increasing ability to stay present and focused.

We discussed the power of visualisation. From visualising winning a cup, a tournament, to wearing India colors, to performing well in a match, most sportspersons go through the match in their mind before the match is actually played. The key is to see it as clearly as one can, to see visuals, numbers,and even put up posters and boards. See what you want to achieve so your mind can make it come true. Then of course you must believe it will happen.
Exercise: To start visualising even a practice session. Plan what you will do before you step into the net, spend two or three minutes trying to visualise exactly how you will play and then go to the net.

We addressed beliefs. How we all have beliefs that are positive and negative. I am not good enough. I cannot handle pressure, I failed once when I was given responsibility, others are better than me. I am strong. I am hard working, I can do anything I set my mind to, I am resilient etc. The idea is that a belief is not the truth and simply something you believed to be true. It can be now changed by changing how you think about it and acting on it. Changing the negative beliefs into positive beliefs by changing the words so they empower you helps a lot in getting out of tough situations.
Exercise: Make a list of your positive and negative beliefs. Strengthen the powerful beliefs (I can do anything I set my mind to etc) and reword the negative ones so they help you. Repeat the reworded negative beliefs until you start believing in them. Tell it loud into the mirror, play it over the phone, say it to others. But say it until your mind believes the new belief.

The Mind Holds One Thought - Break Negative Chains of Thought
During a batting collapse or a stressful situation, you must understand that the mind holds only one thought at a time. If your thoughts are negative and you are stressed out,break the chain of thought. Sing, smile, take a break, talk to the other person, do something physical like tying a shoe lace, think of a visual...something to break the thought. Once the thought is broken try and stay in neutral. You can now focus on the process fully and not on the future or the past. The moment you feel negative thoughts and stress, practice breaking the chain and stay in neutral. If you can raise your energy higher by going positive but neutral is good enough.
Exercise: The next time you are under stress in any situation, first become aware. Stop the chain. Don't let it go further down. Sing. Break. Focus on process. Stay neutral and build from there.

Using Process to Beat Stress
The process to beat stress is to stay fully present. That means you are only doing what you are doing now - one ball at a time. Focus on the ball fully until you hit the ball. When you bring all your concentration into watching the ball your ind cannot get stressed. Then go back to singing or humming and when the ball is about to be bowled, bring all your focus back in.
Practice doing that.
If you can be in the moment, and survive ball upon ball, you will be a champion.

Strength comes from practice. Repeated practice over years. Start now.

The Adventures of Stoob - Testing Times - Samit Basu

Anjali read this book and listed Samit Basu among her favorite authors. More importantly she put the book on my desk and told me to read it. So I did.
Rupa (Red Turtle), 116 P, rS. 195

Stoob is, Subroto, who is studying class five. He has a bunch of friends like Rehan, Ishani, Prithvi (who somehow prefers the easier and the dark side) and several other characters that include Caveman Kaushik and some Balvinder and even the ancient Francis. His life is full of his parents, the crow who drops stuff on his head, teachers, games and stuff. Into his happy life comes a challenge, the school has changed the testing system so he has to pass one big test instead of several small ones. Stoob finds this a big challenge and so do many others but Rehan and Ishani help Stoob along to study. Prithvi also tries to help him along but by finding out ways to cheat. In the end Stoob helps Prithvi by thwarting all his attempts to cheat, secures a decent percentage and heads home for holidays. All's well and that ends well. Including a well avoided dropping by Crowdelmort. Stoob is now officially grown up you see.

So this is what Anjali and other kids like. Samit Basu nicely gets into the mind of a ten year old, their fears, their aspirations, their likes and dislikes, their thoughts and their words. Stoob's mind is constantly wandering, looking for ways to add fun to his life, making up stories, dreaming and fantasising. The humour is what elevates the book, the illustrations are perfect, the story rather thin but good enough and overall you end up feeling like you know Stoob and his friends and want to know them some more. Samit Basu is an accomplished writer at a young age and looks headed to greatness. I liked it and I am glad Anjali liked it too - the book has spunk and irreverence and mostly has its heart in the right place.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Heartwarming Story - Chandu and His Son Suman

Chandu is shy and painfully thin; yet the light of life shines better in his eyes than in most. He walks at an angle, almost as if he is constantly shying away from the world, and wants to disappear into his own world. His gaze however is startlingly direct and his demeanour open and transparent. Chandu lives in a house close to mine.

I saw him first almost a decade ago, when I needed to replace my happy-go-lucky car cleaner, Ramu. Ramu is an old man with the heart of a child, full of mischief and fun. He also devotes only as much time as he wishes to work. My poor car languished at his cavalier treatment and that was when I noticed that a couple of cars in my colony shone like they have been well worked on with loving hands. Obviously these cars were being worked at by someone who cared about his work. I found the man behind the job - Chandu.
Chandu and Suman
I had no hesitation in offering the car cleaning job and he accepted it graciously. Ever since he has been heavily in demand. He did the job with the same diligence and care and love as he gave the other cars. I had no complaints with him. He would wish me Good Morning with a smile on days when we met at the early morning hour. I asked him once what he did otherwise. He told me he worked in a private company in Balanagar doing odd jobs. He and his family - his wife and two children - Suman and Swapna, live in the outhouse of this house close to mine.

I'd seen Suman growing up as a kid. He was a serious sort of a boy and always focussed. I don't remember when he started helping his father but I do remember him coming to help even as a young kid. When he grew older he would come by himself. He and his sister would go to school in the colony.

Sometime in 2011 when I was driving past the school I saw a vinyl poster advertising the school toppers in the Xth class. I was pleasantly surprised to find Suman's picture up there as one of the toppers. Then he joined Narayan College and excelled. Then he wrote the JEE and got himself admission in NIT, Trichy. Four years flew by and a month or two ago he told me he got a job as a Technical Analyst at JP Morgan. The boy beat all odds, all limitations and did himself and his family proud.

What impressed me most was that throughout this  incredible journey, Suman, never behaved any different. He would still come and clean the car everyday when he was in town, still does in fact with that JP Morgan job in hand. He does it with a kind of dignity that is impressive to watch. And he has the same diligence that his father has. He would sometimes ask me questions and I perhaps shared a couple of my books with him as a reward for doing a good job. Once in a while I would share what I know in the hope that it could help him.

Suman is due to go to Bangalore soon to join his new job. I asked him to come home with his father so I could interview them and share their wonderful story. They came last Sunday and we had a good hour and a half of discussion.

I asked Chandu what his background was. Where he came from.
Chandu said his name was originally Chandulal and he changed it to Chandu. He was originally from Kalwakurthy village in Mahbubnagar district. He lost his father when he was young and his mother brought him, his two older sisters and one older brother, up by herself. After studying in the government school in his village for a while, he came to the city to study with some people he knew - as a 10 year old. He stayed with that family near YMCA, Narayanaguda and studied till the 10th in a Government High School. He did not clear the 10th exams and gave up on studies.

In 90-91 he got married and shifted to AG Colony with his young wife. He worked as a water boy in a company in Balanagar. Then with another company as a security guard, then with a workshop that made liners as a handy man and painter. Meanwhile his family grew and he had two children - Suman in 1995 and Swapna in 1999. He said he drew a salary of some 2000 when he first started and now draws 10000 as salary. He works in a company in Balanagar still.

I asked  him why he decided to educate his children?
Chandu said he always realised the importance of education and that it will deliver his children to a better life. He and his wife were always clear that educating the children will be their top priority. He said that he was also inspired by the teacher he lived with in Narayanaguda. She worked in a Government High School and was very particular that her children study. Everyday she would wake her children up at 4 am and they would study till 7 am. Then they would come back from school and study from 6 pm to 8 pm. The children grew up and got good jobs.

I asked him how he managed the children's fees etc?
He said he joined the kids in Shanti school which was in our colony. The idea was to educate the children as far as he could. Suman would study well by himself studying in the morning and then evening. He would top the class without tuitions etc. To increase his income, he would freelance with some odd jobs.

Suman interrupted here.
He said he was overconfident then because he would top his class so easily. All he would do was learn all that was taught by heart and reproduce it in the exams thanks to his hard working ethic. It was only when one Vikran sir joined the school in Suman's 8th class that he was challenged. Vikram sir told him that he was not as good as he thought and gave him some questions in mathematics that required application of the principles and not just blind reproduction. That caused Suman to think. He formed a bond with Vikram sir who helped him everyday from 530 to 8 pm with Maths. Though he left the school in the 9th class, Vikram sir already made Suman do the 10th class Maths portion.

In the 10th the family decided that Suman needed tuition and went to one Kalyan sir who lived in Sanatnagar, behind the colony. He was a Physics teacher from Hindu Public School and taught about 25 students everyday between 530 am to 830 am. Suman and his father would wake u at 4 am and head out to the classes. Kalyan sir also saw some spark in the boy and when the boys section would get distracting due mischief, he would shift Suman to the girls section.

Suman topped Shanti school. He did one better. He topped the constituency. That was when I saw his photo on the poster.

I asked Chandu where he learned his work ethic from?
 Chandu told me that he always believed that he should do a good job of whatever was given to him.
I asked him if anyone taught him that and he recalled a driver who guided him about this philosophy towards work.

Suman was to join a small college called NRI College in SR Nagar. When they needed signatures for admission in the college they met one Mr. Harshavardhan, a retired IRS officer and Income Tax Commissioner. Not only did he help them with the signatures he also got the boy admitted in Narayana Junior College. Suman did not disappoint, though he said, he felt discriminated against in the first year. But when he scored 463 / 470 in the first year and was college topper, they could not ignore him anymore.
Me, Chandu and Suman

I asked how they managed the fees?
Chandu said that they needed to pay Rs. 40000 in the first year and he managed to raise it from the people he stayed with in Narayanaguda. In the second year he paid 10000. Overall Suman scored 980/1000 marks in Intermediate.

Then came the Entrances for IIT. Suman secured a good rank. Lacking guidance he missed securing himself admission in IIT, Dhanbad.
'I thought that IITs had only five branches sir,' he said shyly.'If I had known better I would have got an IIT admission'.
Since his final round was at the same time in both IIT and NIT, Trichy, he opted for Trichy. This was in 2013.
'I was tempted to go for EAMCET because of the fee reimbursement program and I would  also be closer to home. But Mr. Harshavardhan encouraged us and we went to NIT, Warangal for counselling. He booked tickets, arranged for someone to help us in the counselling process. It was my first train journey. I did not even know how the seats were allotted and that there were separate bogies. We sat in some bogie and then someone told us to go to our bogie,' said Suman.

"Also the counselling hall was huge and was filled to capacity. Thankfully Mr. Harshavardhan's contact helped us and our document verification was done in a jiffy. We were out by 12 pm and took another train back home. We reached home at 4 pm."

"Then we went to Trichy. Again Mr. Harshavardhan helped us. He bought us tickets by bus, arranged for a senior to help us. He arranged for us to stay at the guest house at the college. All day we waited for the admission process with no food to eat - from 10 am to 6 pm. Once we got the admission we completed other formalities. Room, bed, bucket etc."
The journey was on course. Chandu returned by the evening bus, again booked by Mr. Harshavardhan.

Suman said he was thrilled at the facilities at the NIT, Trichy campus which were so different form his life back home. It was the Golden Jubilee batch and he remembers tiled rooms, wifi. All through he used a laptop he bought for Rs. 27000, thanks to the teacher at Narayanaguda.

How did he fare there?
Suman said he took active part in all festivals and helped seniors in organising things. He was inducted into the technical committee team in the second year. He was very clear about his role and was always there to deliver whatever the team head wanted, how to improve on the past etc. This gave him a lot of confidence.

Until then he was unsure about his English speaking. He feared making mistakes and being ridiculed. But as he organised the festival he grew more confident. He speaks well now.

Suman feels proud of having organised 9 events by himself and having to coordinate with several people and departments. In the third year he was to get internship but managed through college projects.

How did he cope with the competition?
Suman says candidly that his GPA was low. He could not understand why though because he put in the same effort. But he cracked the exams and the evaluation thanks to his friends - they told him to prepare only what the Professor taught and not the whole book and his GPA shot up.
 Though some companies insisted on a GPA of 7 and more and he had only 6.96, Suman managed to convince the placement coordinators to get him a couple. The first and perhaps the only interview he attended was that of JP Morgan and it lasted 55 minutes. It was a detailed interview and he was grilled about every subject. He was asked about the application of concepts to real life situations. Suman did his best and also convinced them that he will do his best for the company.

Suman said that the students had a code about how the placement would go based on what the interviewer said as they left. His code was not encouraging but he made it. The next round with HR was 10 minutes and easy. He did not expect a final placement but when at 430 it was announced that he got the job he was numb with no feelings. JP Morgan offered him a job as a Technical Analyst at Bangalore with a package of 5.3 lakh.
'I called my mother. She was numb. There were no feelings. Good, she said and put the phone down.'

I asked Suman what he planned to do going ahead?
Settle down sir. Do my best for the company. I decided to help other students in my village. I have some debts to clear and will do that. I propose to do some charitable work too. I want to help ease the burden on my family. And as far as the career goes, I will see if I should explore the Civil Services option and even bank jobs.

Suman leaves on July 31 to Bangalore and begins another wonderful journey in his life. In some ways he has been destiny's child (as we all are I guess). Many times he came to the cross roads and found just the right person to help him. Whether it was Vikram sir, Kalyan sir. Mr. Harshavardhan, his seniors or just his way of finding the right opening at the right time, he has come through briliantly. He is absolutely rooted in his reality, has no ego, is full of the learning mindset, carries himself with a remarkable mix of dignity and humility and is disarmingly honest. Lovely story. I am glad for Chandu who believes that perhaps his good karma and his good work ethic helped in shaping this. I am sure it has. Good luck Chandu and Suman. Here's hoping that young Swapna also picks up the baton and moves forward to fulfil her potential.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Women's World Cup - India Falters at the Final Hurdle

So near yet so far. But there is no shame in this loss. The Indian women practically won the Cup and gave it away. It was almost like they could not handle the moment, the burden of winning and chose to give it away. It was an inexplicable loss of belief that did the team in.

It happens at the big stages. There is a sudden loss of belief that it is going to come true. And if the mind has not seen and is comfortable with that reality, it is quite easy for it to throw away what is already in the hand. I believe that is what happened to India. They went in perhaps thinking that they had already done enough, that they will give it their best, gave their best and suddenly when it started coming true, did not know what to do and gave it back. Remember Jana Novotna's loss to Steffi Graf in 1993 when she was 4-1 up in the final set and 40-30 and inexplicably lost.

It all blanks out a bit. You go through the motions and hope that the other team will make mistakes and lose. When they do not make mistakes, you end up serving easy stuff and making basic errors and give back the advantage. It is here that a compelling picture of winning, of dominating, of continuing what you had done thus far which is to dominate, that is required. If you take the foot off the pedal and hope, you could lose it, especially if the opponent is not someone to give it up too.

So England laboured to a not-too-good score of 228 for 7 in their 50 overs and looked like they would make far lesser than that at one stage. It was just that professionalism that Jenny Gunn showed in adding runs cautiously until England reached a score of respectability. But 228 seemed a walk in the park for the in-form Indian batting line up. The only thing that mattered now was - did they believe they could do it.

Smriti's early loss was a blow. But Poonam Raut played a beautiful inning, going low and lofting beautiful sixes and kept going in that same spirit. Mithali Raj as always a cool presence out in the middle until she seemed to have gone into a daze in that most inexplicable of run outs. She did not take a start not did she finish. It was almost as if she was hoping that somehow she would not get out even if she did not give her best, put int he dive. But finals are not won on hope and I thought for a moment that perhaps it showed a chink in the preparation. A small one, but still Mithali's wicket is not something you give up like that.

The gutsy Harmanpreet settled in again and with Poonam for company took the game away from the English girls. They looked so confident, so in control, until Harmanpreet went after her 50. Veda Krishnamurthy came and dominated as she does, scoring a run a ball and the match was as good as gone for England at 191 for 3 which is when Poonam fell lbw, having scored an invaluable 86. What a knock under pressure. Now all the girls had to do was knock the ball around, and they had enough batting and experience to do that and get the remaining 38 runs in 40 odd balls.

For some reason they changed the batting order and sent Sushma Verma ahead of Deepti Sharma who would have been ideal foil for the attacking Veda. Sushma went for a duck which would have certainly added pressure on Veda. And Veda instead of changing tactics a bit and planning to play out the 50 overs, decided that attack was the best form of defence. Her slightly rattled mindset resulted in the shot she played which was almost a gift to the English girls who had almost given up. But full credit, they held all their catches, some of them difficult like this one from Veda, and threw down run outs. Veda was a set back but they still needed to keep their heads which they did not.

Shikha Pandey looked competent but looked like she would get run out and she did. Deepti looked capable of holding the innings together but succumbed to pressure. They just had nothing to fall back on and fell apart. Shrubsole, though not the most penetrative of bowlers, rose above her weight and kept it in the right areas to win the match for India.

From the moment Poonam Raut got out or even after Veda got out, the team could have spoken a little more, could have slowed down a bit more, and organised themselves and their thoughts. But they went on hopefully, fatalistically. It is here that the coach could have taught them how to break their thinking pattern, to change the context, or even like Sehwag does 'sing' their favorite song - anything to keep the plummeting thoughts from spiralling further down. The best way to deal with such pressure is to keep the mind in neutral, to stay in the moment, which can be done by doing something like singing, talking to oneself, or even simple focusing on the process such as keeping all focus on ball and bat. By bringing full concentration to the moment the mind gets away from the pressure of the future scenarios, the what ifs and allows you to play to you potential. That they had in plenty. They just did not visualise this possibility, that they would have to snatch the Cup from England. Because England would not give it to them.

That said, there is no shame and they played so well and won so many hearts including mine. I love the way they play, so correctly. Their batting, bowling, fielding...everything is so technically right and efficient. So beautiful to watch. The English players were so good too - Sarah Tayor was outstanding behind the stumps and with the bat, the spinners as well.

All in all, a wonderful final. Lessons to learn for the girls but they are a champion side whichever way. They pretty much won the Trophy. And there are so many champions there. Lovely to see. Looking forward for the women's IPL now.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thought for the Day - There Seems to Be a Natural Justice in the World

I was waiting at a popular counter in the super market this morning. People were jostling one another. There was no order and the man behind the counter was not maintaining any order. Whoever shouted out loudest was given the preference. As I stood at the counter, people pushed me aside and started shouting out their orders. Given a bit of disorder people push their luck. I decided to wait it out and see if there was a natural justice in this whole thing. I will not shout, I will not push. I will wait I decided.

Anjali came after 10 minutes and gave me the eye. 'I hope you placed your order,' she said. I nodded in a manner that conveyed nothing. I had not of course. The guys who had pushed past me were now shouting loudly. There was a man who joined the line behind me, but who somehow caught the guy's attention and was now half way to getting his order done. He decided to expand his order. Can I have drumsticks,' he asked. The overworked, polite salesman nodded and disappeared inside.

I looked around. There were at least three guys here who were shouting louder than each other and who were more aggressive in their intent. Another had materialised at the far end. That is four plus the other guy who had sneaked in ahead. Five people meant a good 30 minutes. Should I give up my resolve? Was I being stupid? It was already 20 minutes into this line. I could shout as loudly. I could push as hard.

The salesman reappeared with a whole lot of merchandise which he proceeded to place in their rightful places.

The pack of shouters congregated around him to shout their orders. I was left out at the far end. As I waited, a salesman joined the counter. A more experienced one, I could see. He caught my eye instantly. I told him what I wanted. And even as the other salesman was packing stuff in the counter, my order was done and I was on the way. They were all waiting in line, the guy whose order had started before me included. Brilliant.

There seems to be a natural justice in the world. If we trust it. If we allow it. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Kolkata - Through New Eyes

Looking at Kolkata with new eyes this time. And loved every bit of it. The women looked so pretty and sweet and spoke so sweetly and animatedly that I fell all in love with them again. (The men were equally passionate and animated.) Kids made intelligent conversation about books and literature with the assurance that seniors don't have in other places. Bookstores were full. Places to eat. The place reeked of history. Large grounds, old British buildings, history, history everywhere. I just had a couple of days so I kept my eyes and ears open and soaked it in as much as I could.

I spent enough time at Oxford Book Store on Park Street. It is what they say 'the best book store in India'. It has an appealing facade, and then there are shelves and shelves of books cascading on either side. Its crammed with books which is what you want to see in a bookstore and there are nooks and crannies all around where you can disappear into and browse through books. I must confess I did not go all around the bookstore which I should have. There is a lovely cafe upstairs called the Cha Bar if I am not mistaken with a lovely menu (superb sandwiches which i ate and fish and chips which I did not). People meet, discuss, eat and move on. I would have found it the ideal place to meet a date. There is a small space for a book reading at the same level.

Park Street also has the famous Trincas which I did not visit. Nor did I go to Fleurys. Nor did I as the elegant Chand Ahluwalia suggested, go to the pub at Park. But we visited the famous Peter Cat which is famous for its Chelo Kebabs. Sudeshna advised me to eat some rolls and specifically Kusum rolls. I could not manage that. The Chelo kebabs were a revelation - they are a full meal with kebabs, rice, butter and some other stuff. Delicious. In the Park street I also had the strangest of circumstances - a panwala telling us that there is no paan left. I could not believe it. What kind of a paan wala is this?

I visited Belur math, something I had not done when I stayed in Kolkata in 1991 for my first job. It is located in Howrah so we crossed the Howrah river or the Ganga (or a mixture of both) and went through narrow lanes in Howrah. After a 40 minute drive we reached the Ramakrishna Math and / or the Ramakrishna Mission, two organisations that propound the Ramakrishna Movement's thought (and the Vedanta movement's). They are named after Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886), the ascetic, who lived in the Dakshineshwar temple as the priest and who had a vision of Goddess Kali. Sri Ramakrishna had early inclinations towards spirituality, had ecstatic experiences, met spiritual masters and learned and mastered the Tantrik path and attained the Nirvikalpa samadhi. He came to believe that all routes lead to the same god and famously said 'as many faiths, so many paths'. His teachings included all religions and focussed on harmony of religions, potential divinity in every being manifested  by his acts and thoughts, treating all work as worship and treating service to man as service to god and to alleviate human suffering. The math was started by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda, who bought this lovely piece of land on the banks of the river and built the math.
The Sri Ramakrishna temple (pic from belur
Once inside the match which is a sprawling place spread over several acres we took off our shoes (despite my guide trying to make me wear them and keep them at all the 'don't keep shoes here' boards). We visited the Ramakrishna museum first, which displays several belongings, letters of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his wife and spiritual consort Sarada Devi. One thing that caught my eye was the letters - one of them written by the Raja of Khetri if I am not mistaken - and the writing is so beautiful in its expression and its handwriting. We don't see that anymore. Such lovely thoughts, expressed clearly, boldly and with no ambiguity. After a quick tour of the museum, we went to the shrines of Swami Vivekananda and Sarada Devi. Then saw the room where Swami Vivekananda lived for the last part of his life, with most of his belongings in that room, and below that room, the mango tree under which he would meet people and talk. Then the magnificent Sri Ramakrishna temple with its lovely meditation hall that is so peaceful. The temple apparently has motifs of all religions. Then the place for sale of books etc. The book to read is 'Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna' (need to get my hands on this - he apparently spoke only in parables).

I found Belur math one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever been to. The people who visited the math also showed reverence and an understanding of the place - there was none of the touristy arrogance or ignorance on show. People sat in meditation near the room where Swami Vivekananda lived.

I have always found Swami Vivekananda (1863- 1902) very intriguing. Born Narendranath Datta, he was precocious and was good at sports and studies. By the time he passed out of the University of Kolkata, he was already well equipped with history, philosophy and much more and thirsty for more. That was when he was directed to Sri Ramakrishna and they say he asked his question directly - have you seen God. Sri Ramakrishna said, yes, I have. And that began one of the most interesting relationships that spread so much good in the world. In 1881 he was initiated into the monastic way and before the demise of Sri Ramakrishna in 1886, also had an idea of his mission and purpose. In 1890 he set off on a tour of India and understood the reality of India and why the masses were stuck. He realised they needed secular and spiritual education to liberate them from their poverty and downtrodden lives. He advocated and preached the idea of Atman - or the idea of potential divinity in every being, which he felt was kept away from the masses. He went to Kanya Kumari and found more clarity of purpose. In 1893 he went to attend the World Parliament of Religions and impressed one and all. He stayed there for three years and returned to India in 1897. That was when he started the Ramakrishna Mission. As I write this I can see on my desk a calendar given by my friend Shiva which has Vivekananda's sayings and this one for today - 'It is faith that make s alion of a man.'
Victoria Memorial
From the math we went to the Dakshineshwar temple where the Goddess Kali is worshipped. It is here that Sri Ramakrishna's older brother was first called upon as head priest and then Sri Ramakrishna took over as head priest after his demise. It is in this temple that he had a vision of the goddess Kali. The temple stands on the other bank of Hooghly. There is a modest room where Sri Ramakrishna lived and his articles are still there for display. People sit there and meditate. On the river side of the temple there are 10 Shiva temples. Someday I would like to send more time at the Belur math.

On the last day I visited the Victoria Memorial. Magnificent structure, fabulous lawns but no great significance I felt. It is described as a 'large marble building built between 1906 and 1921 and dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria'. It somehow looked a bit hollow. But the greens, the water, the sky, the nearby cricket grounds were all so pleasing to see. Saw a glimpse of the Eden Gardens from far.

That is it for now. More of Kolkata next time. Presidency college, Coffee House.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Lessons to Learn from Harmanpreeet Kaur's Magnificent Semi-Final Knock

There are times when we face situations that require us to do something extra ordinary to win. When you could seize the moment and make it yours, when you could create a win out of a potential loss. When you display Personal Leadership at its best. These situations throw themselves at us on a regular basis. Just like it happened to Harmanpreet in the Women's World Cup semi-final. Can we convert a probable loss into a win? By design?

Much has been written about Harmanpreet's innings of 171 from 115 balls that knocked Australia out of the Women's World Cup semi-final and is still being written. That it is the best knock in women's cricket, that it takes women's cricket to a new level, that it is the best World Cup knock by an Indian etc.

Let me analyse the lessons to learn from it - on how to turn in a match winning performance when the heat is on. More so when it is a match your team has to win against a tough and supremely confident opponent. You have to turn in something superlative, something out of the world, and she did it. Here's my understanding of what she did right.

Lesson No 1. Understand the situation, Play Yourself In
Harmanpreet knew the significance of the game. India had lost badly to Australia in the earlier round and though they bounced back and beat New Zealand to get into the semis, the team was visibly wary of the strong Australian side. The loss of two early wickets for 36 and some disciplined bowling by the assured Aussies meant that she and Mithali Raj had to build the road, slowly, brick by brick. She did not try and dominate right away. She got her bearings first and understood the situation. In the first 39 balls she scored 19 runs.

Patience. You cannot get runs if you are back in the hut despite the grandest of intentions. To make a difference you must be out in the middle.

Lesson No 2. When You Start Seeing the Ball, Hit it
Once Harmanpreet started seeing the ball and realised that there were no demons in the bowling nor the wicket nor the weather, she started hitting the ball hard. Clean cricketing shots mind you. Fully in control. She adjusted her shots intelligently to find the fence more than once but always played correct cricketing shots that had low chances of getting her out. Full face of the bat, high backlift, watch the ball and smack it.

Play safe. Play hard. Push hard from safety.

Lesson No 3. Don't Take the Foot Off The Accelerator
Many great innings are marred by the slowdown near the hundred. Like her idol Sehwag, Harmanpreet did not slow down. But she went one better. Where Sehwag gets it over with a six, she hit hard shots along the ground. Not for a moment did she slow down for her hundred; she still stepped out as aggressively and hit the ball as hard as she could. No slow single, then another for her hundred. The ball was there, the team needed the runs and she was going for it.

Don't slow down the momentum for personal targets. Keep going. It's the same bowling, the same wicket, the same situation.

Lesson No 4. Keep the Partnership Going
Harmanpreet stitched a brilliant partnership with Deepti Sharma who played a wonderful supporting role. The moment she got strike the left hander dutifully took a single and gave the strike back which apparently was the plan and a very sensible one too. Such a wonderful partnership, such self less play, I have not seen in years. Harmanpreet went for a stretch two on 98 and was livid that Deepti almost got herself run out on a reluctant second. No celebration for the hundred, just livid that such a crucial partnership almost got cut short because of a bad judgment call by her partner. The two put on 137 runs that put Australia out of the game, Deepti got 25 of those.

Build partnerships. Nurture them. Care for them (even if you have to shout at them). Then put your arms around them. It's all about partnerships. You cannot do it alone.

Lesson No 5. Don't Be Easily Satisfied
Many greater players have been guilty of giving up their wickets after reaching the 100. Satisfied that they did their part. That a 100 in a world cup semi-final is a big deal and especially under these circumstances. A casual smile, a big shot, a cute reverse sweep - how many times have we seen these show off tactics in men's cricket that ended their innings. But no such cuteness from Harmanpreet. She was fully focussed. There was a job to be done and it was far from over. She knew the Australians could always threaten whatever the score - and they did. She knew she had to bat them out of the game.

Don't be easily satisfied. When you are in, keep going. Keep building. Good is not good enough. Go for great. What will make the difference is what you do after that 100.

Lesson No 6. Keep Going Through the Pain, Glory Does Not Come Easy
One inside edge and she hurt herself. The slight hobble was evident. The fatigue certainly should be showing now. One false shot was expected. One foolish shot. One small loss of concentration. But despite the pain, fatigue, sheer number of balls she was facing, she kept going, on and on.

There will be pain when you want glory. No excuse. Pain, rain, whatever. Keep going through it.

Lesson No 7. You Have Not Finished the Job Until You Have Dominated the Opponent Out of the Game
It is easy to go for a big shot and get out after her 150, when the job was almost done. No one would have minded. She was tired, she was in pain, she had done more than enough. Not for her. There is a difference between almost done and fully done. The job was still to be done. India was well past 200 and going to 250. But she still hit correct cricketing shots. She did not lose her concentration.

By now she had in some parts achieved what she set out to do. She had pushed the Aussie team into confusion; their body language was down, their confidence shattered. They had no answers. She had beaten them mentally. She still did not let go. She did not take the luxury of dragging the off side ball to midwicket - she still hit the ball through cover for four. Even in the last couple of overs.

Dominate the opponent, beat them into dust when you can. Don't let them get up. Show no mercy. Always be wary that the one extra run could make the difference.

Lesson 8. Balance Aggression With Caution
It was not pure aggression. Aggressive she was but this knock was more about how she blended it with an amazing amount of caution. No false shot, no unnecessary risks, just pure clean hitting. Nothing fancy ever, no deVilliers like fancy footwork though it must have been tempting.

Aggression with caution. Push without losing your position of safety. Don't over reach and yet don't take the pressure off.

Lesson No 9. Do What You Know, Do Not Attempt What You Don't
Harmanpreet backed her strengths, her strong areas and kept going. She never tried things she did not know, never played those net shots you do once in a while when ego and pride takes over after you piled up a big score and you desperately want to show the world your expertise.

Follow the process. Do what you can do. Don't do what you cannot. Remove all that is not you.

Lesson 10. Always the Team, Never Herself
Harmanpreet, if anything, played for the team and not for herself. Clearly that was the only thing on her mind. Not her six hitting prowess, not her shot selection, nothing. She just wanted enough on the board and did everything she could - hobbling through her uns, hitting through, keeping the partnership going, right till the last ball.

If you play for the team, a bigger purpose, you hit your best form far more often than otherwise. You hit the zone when you go past the ego, the I.

Those are my 10 lessons from Harmanpreet's knock. In times when you are faced with a situation when your team needs you to bail it out, when it needs you to do the impossible, think of what this young lady did, and you could pull it off too and cover your team with glory.

Good luck and go for glory!

Last Holiday - Movie Review

Delightful little movie. Queen Latifah is perfect in the role of Georgia Byrd, a shy unassuming, cookware department salesperson who secretly longs to become a chef - sometime in the future. She is also secretly in love with a colleague who she hopes to hook sometime in the future. But the future comes closer to her than she expects in the form of a rare brain disorder and she is told bluntly that she has four weeks to live.

She liquidates all her assets and heads off to live up her life in some exotic spa in Europe. The rich and mighty are surprised to find the unknown free spender among them who fears nothing - not the casino jinx, not jumping off a huge dam, not skiing off the deepest slopes and landing on a restaurant table. She wins admirers, chief among them the elite chef of the spa, who loves her appetite for food and for life. It has a nice uplifting ending.

Simple. Funny. Charming. My idea of a movie. Don't need much more. I loved her Book of Possibilities. Very interesting.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What Impressed Me About Harmanpreet Kaur's Knock

Big match, big hearts. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. After a bad loss to Australia in the league stage, India needed a big performance to win in the semi final.

The body language of the Aussies was assured when the match began. They somehow believed they would win it seemed. The Indian girls were on the back foot, finding their way for most of the inning until Harmanpreet Kaur decided she was seeing the ball well enough and started hitting it really hard and high.

Deepti Sharma sensibly gave the strike to Harmanpreet and she obliged with a four or two, a six or two. Ok, this cannot last long is what one would think. At some point the Aussies thought that too. But when that did not happen, one could sense them panicking, lacking a plan B. It was clearly evident when they brought in a part time bowler like Villani to bowl in the power play. Harmanpreet had completely demoralised the Aussie mindset by now. That was her first big achievement. What looked like 200 became 281.

The most impressive part was that she knew she had to drive the nail in and deep. She did not give away her wicket after 100. as 99 out of 100 players would have done  (As Villani did on 75 for Australia when she was toying with the bowling.) Harmanpreet went on and on despite the pain and fatigue, not losing an ounce of momentum, hitting proper cricketing shots with minimum risk, until the very last ball. And if we thought 281 was a safe target, think again. Despite a bad start and losing 3 top wickets, Australia came within 30 odd runs of the Indian total.

What was the final difference was the effort Harmanpreet put in after her 100. Every run after that was gold and took it further and further away from the Aussies. The willingness to go on and on, to not be content, to give up hoping that this was good enough was what showed up clearly. Good enough is clearly not good enough for her. She returned only after she got the best score possible and that to me was the most impressive part of her innings. Not a false shot, no silly indulgences after 100, 125 or 150, she was relentless. Now that is something to learn from her. In fact there is something neat and clean about the women's game. They play correct shots and it is pleasing to watch.

As for her hitting the ball, she hits it so powerfully and cleanly. Fabulous to watch. Deepti Sharma and Veda Krishnamoorthy supported her well. It looks like a comfortable and compact unit like Mithali said in her post match interview. Looking forward to the final on Sunday. With three or four players getting important hundreds and bowlers hitting wickets in the tournament already for India, England have a handful to deal with. They will have to come up with something special to stop this train.

Rinse Your Cottage Cheese - Dave Scott

A story I read in 'Good to Great'. Fantastic.
Dave Scott's routine of 17 miles run, 20000 mts swim and bike 75 miles everyday burned 5000 cal/day and helped him to win the Iron Man six times
That did not stop him from rinsing his on

Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence understands human psychology better than most and has the ability to articulate the most complex human emotions and situations lucidly through his writings. After 'Sons and Lovers' I was keen to read his most controversial work 'Lady Chatterley's lover' and was glad that Abhinay had a copy which he lent to me.

Lady Chatterley is young Constance Reid, married to Sir Clifford Chatterley, into wealth, fame and position. But Sir Clifford, a soldier, suffers a war injury in World War I which leaves him paralysed from waist down. Lady Chatterley dutifully takes care of him, neglecting her own life. Sir Clifford seems to enjoy her attentions and the power he has over her. It is all fine until Lady Chatterley's sister, Hilda, comes to visit and finds her sister looking pale and undernourished. Hilda, on the verge of divorce, tells Clifford to get some help because Connie is wasting away. Despite his reluctance she gets him a  female nurse, the buxom and worldly wise, Mrs. Bolton.  Connie finds time to breathe and also find love in the arms of the impertinent and impudent gamekeeper, Mellors, who is an ex-soldier who served in India, married and separated and somehow seems to have a bone to pick with the world. Lady Chatterley does the unthinkable an has an affair with Mellors and it is like love she has not known. In the backdrop of Clifford wanting her to have an affair (decently) and give him a son for his fortune, it does not seem a bad idea except that Mellors does not belong to their class. Mellors, despite his rough ways, is only pretending, because he is well read, well built and does not give a hoot for the world. His lovemaking also has the same quality, of roughness and tenderness.

The conversations between Clifford and his friends, affected and yet explorative, pitch forth some ideas, while the conversations between Clifford and Connie and even Mellors and Connie, explore all possibilities of love, sex, lust, men and women and their relationship. Connie finds the act of love making especially the man's actions ridiculous and even laughable. Mellors finds women easily but not one who enjoys the act as he does and when he does find one, finds she comes with other aggressive behaviors too.  He thinks nothing of Hilda and tells her that she is the kind who will never have a happy life nor give her man one, tells Connie that she has the perfect body and the sensitivity to her lover (which his wife did not have and who used sex as a power tool), tells Clifford that his incapabilities do not mean that Mellors suffers from any such. A conversation between Mrs, Bolton, who finally draws Clifford to her bosom, and Connie, reveals the nature of her understanding of men. They are like children and you can get them to do whatever you want if you make them feel like they thought of it first - she says. And how she maintained peace when push came to shove with men. Superb insights into the male mind.

Connie risks everything. One wonderful scene where both she and Mellors gambol in the rain, stark naked is brilliantly written and visually evocative. She goes to Venice, by which time most people somehow know of the affair thanks to Mellors combative wife, and Connie comes clean. Mellors works at getting his divorce. Connie works at hers though a revengeful Clifford refuses to give her a divorce and the novel ends with both waiting to live a life out on the farm together.

D. H. Lawrence once again is brilliant at his understanding of the often opposite emotions attached to intense emotions and dips into them effortlessly. What is forbidden is also pleasurable, what is pleasure is also pain, what is love is also hate and what is hate is love and so on. It is almost as if he explored almost all elements of love, lust, sex in this book and discussed all that he had in his mind. The characters are pitch perfect and true to themselves - Clifford, self obsessed and wanting to control despite his lack of control, Connie, somehow feeling guilty about Clifford's condition until she realises that there is a life to be lived, Mellors, brutally honest and intense, constantly fighting  the world. Mellors comes across as a 'real man' as opposed to the other men who are weak in their aspirations and their wants.

As a story it is simple and at times it feels that there is a lot of blatant exposition of certain ideas through the characters but as a theme in 1928 it is beyond bold. He printed it himself, a limited edition, despite the obscenity laws. Penguin fought a famous Obscenity Law case in 1960 when it was first published in UK and won and then some feel, sexual freedom of some sort was allowed. But then these were also men with conviction so they would back up their work with all they had. The writing is insightful providing deep insights into the complex human mind, relentlessly and shamelessly keeps at the love and sex aspects and keeps it as honest as raw as it could be.

In the end it could be seen simplistically as a forbidden love story between an upper class girl and a lower class man. But it is much more than that of course. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anjali - The Art of Caring

I was down with a slight fever yesterday. But more than the fever the body pains and a bad head ache bothered me. It was not so bad that I had to take medicine but no so easy that I was in comfort. So I twisted and turned under the blanket, feeling cold and achy, needing some TLC.

Somehow Anjali senses the right thing to do. First she came and gave me a hug and told me that I will be okay. Then she went inside and got her blue monkey cap (which does  not fit me at all) and tried to pull it on my head. "For the cold,' she explained. Then she went off again and bought socks. I did not realise what she was doing when she pulled off the blanket. But she struggled and got those two socks on while I lay shivering. Properly got them on.
'Now you won't feel cold,' she said and gave me a hug again.

I think I started to feel better right then. How much trouble and how much thought for a young kid to do all this when all else were comfortably doing their own thing. She sensed it, felt she had to do it and did it. And trust me. I believe she healed it too.

I remember when she was a three year old, I had lost my voice after a strenuous workshop. For five days I could not even get a squeak out of my throat. All I could do was nod yes or no. But all adults would ask me questions which required me to write on paper or gesticulate wildly. They did not even put enough thought to reframe their questions considering my discomfort. Only Anjali had the sense and the thoughtfulness to ask me yes or no questions. Every single one of them. I would hug her each time then. It was incredible to see her perception and thoughtfulness.

And to see it now. Perhaps children are more other-centred. I can clearly visualise adults saying - but you could have told us. Ah, my dear, it is not the same is it?

Two Lovely Gestures I'd Like to Pay Forward

At a time when I was getting cynical about life - I noticed two fine gestures that happened to people I know a few weeks ago. Upon closer inspection I noticed that I was opening up my life to miracles too.

The first when my friend Suresh stepped in while I was struggling with the Hyderabad book event. Landmark bookstore had not confirmed the place (they kept poor Sonal waiting in a most unprofessional manner I must add) so we were struggling to find the right place. I was somehow banking on Landmark so it upset me a bit.

As luck would have it, I was meeting Suresh that day and instead of our usual route, we decided to stop by at the Press Club which was an option. It looked decent. However it was not suitable venue for one  of the guests, so we had to look for another. That's when Suresh simply said - "Leave it to me. I'll book the Park.  My expense." Somehow I could not see this book fitting in with Park Hyatt or Grand Kakatiya (which was his other option) where I felt the grandeur of the venue might take the shine off the book so I went ahead and looked for more. Finally we found the most perfect venue, Saptaparni. Landmark would not have been a patch on this venue - it was so perfect.

But then Suresh insisted on throwing an after-launch party. I remember throwing a party after 'The Men Within' but since then watched out for expenses because there will be more costs concerned with book marketing (even if it is just tickets). So Suresh just went ahead and booked a private place for 30 people without even confirming with me. It was a fun gathering at Sailing club with Venkatapathi regaling us with stories of his cricketing days. AP, Ram, Srikant, Bhasker, Narayana Raju, Pavan, NP and a whole lot of friends came by. When Naresh dropped in later in the evening he was shocked that Suresh had thrown a party for me. 'That's amazing,' he said 'That someone is actually throwing a party for someone else's celebrations.' I think so too. I am not used to anyone doing things like this for me and I can only thank Suresh for his generosity and love. I am also watching keenly at how thoughtful and loving the world is. And how, despite his busy schedules, he is always keeping a watchful and thoughtful eye. I loved the fact that he just went ahead and did it - he did not need my permission for the after-party!

Within a couple of weeks of this event, Anjan came to town. He had been telling me since "50 Not Out" days that he would organise a launch in Delhi (where he was posted then). But this time (Kolkata now), he said he would fix it all up. I thought he meant he would help me with the launch and the logistics etc. But no, he wanted to organise the entire thing himself. He fixed the date, got me to get the publishers Jaico involved, took over from there, blocked the place, got everything organised and took such wonderful care of me that I told him - I don' think my family would do so much for me. He was also my Chief Guest, hosted an after party dinner and just took care of me like he would his own brother. I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was a wonderful experience and once again my faith and belief in humanity and its goodness got firmly asserted.

There is something in the way they just took it up and went ahead with they felt they should do. I am immensely humbled to receive such love and affection from my friends. They are both nonchalant about it and wonder why I am going on about it. But to me its simply wonderful to experience something like this.

And these are stories that I would be able to tell Anjali or so many others, when people may doubt humanity in a particular low moment, that the world has some other shades too. These are real stories. And we could aspire to be just like them. I for one would like to pay it forward, this generosity of spirit, whenever I get the chance, and keep it going and growing. The world needs more Suresh and Anjan. 

This Way Is Easier Dad - Feedback From the Youngest Reader Yet

Punyasloka, all of 7 and a half, from Sydney Australia, daughter of my friend Sreenath, read the book and even wrote a lovely review. I am thrilled that a seven and a half year old could read the book and relate to it. 

Thanks Punyasloka, you write very well. Your handwriting is very neat and your thought process clear. This is the best review I have got for this book.

I am impressed with the fact that you finished reading the book before your Dad. Good for you! Thank you for taking the trouble to write the review.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nice Blog - 'The Men Within' Shows Up in The Second Hand Book Market at Abids, Hyderabad

A blog on the second hand Sunday book market at Abids, Hyderabad
I have one reason to post this - I spotted 'The Men Within' in one of the pictures. Nicely displayed along with other greats.
These second hand guys know their business. I love them. :)

The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding - John Wooden

This Way Is Easier Dad - Review in Plusminusnmore

Nice, detailed review. The kind I like. Thank you Sujata Sahoo.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thought for the Day - The Outcome vs 'I Told Him To Do It'

I was conducting some team bonding exercises with the young MCC cricket team for this season last week. Every member of the team shared one strength and one area to improve for everyone else. Rudra, senior player and skipper potential, said that young Vijay was a fabulous asset to the team with his attitude. In areas to improve he said Vijay had the habit of hitting out when he should defend and that weakness had cost the team a few matches.

'I told him to stay a the wicket and we could save the game. But he went for a shot and got out.'
I told Vijay to bear that in mind. He nodded.
I asked Rudra if he had something to learn from this experience.
'What else could I do?' he asked genuinely flummoxed. 'I told him three times. It is up to him. He has to do it now.'

As far as Rudra was concerned, he had done all he could.
I asked him to score a hundred or a double hundred. Would he be able to deliver? If not what does it mean? If I told him ten times - would that help?
Or - should I find ways to actually help him score that hundred? Would he like that?

"I Told Him" - My Job Is Over
'I did my job', 'I did my best', 'I told him so many times, I gave feedback, now its up to him'. Instead of helping him perform better, you have increased pressure on that person by pointing out what could be done (and by default, what he was not doing). Maybe, he would have been better off if you had not told him anything.

Feedback Should Lead to Better Results 
Coaching and mentoring, or even having a genuine interest in making the other person perform better, involves finding ways to actually improve the performance or behavior. Not merely dump information or targets or observations on the other person which only disturbs their morale and upsets their mental state.
If your advise is not adding to the performance, maybe you are better off not giving advise.

It's About Them - Not You
If you are really interested, keep the other person in focus, not your self. Every sentence that begins with 'I did...' is about you. If you can find sentences that start with 'He did...' with something positive to say about the other person, you are on to something.
Saying it, or giving feedback, does not absolve you of the responsibility. Think through and say stuff that causes a shift in energy. You can sense the increase or drop in energy almost immediately.
If the energy and performances drop, you have not thought through enough, and can do more harm than good.  

But My Intent Was Good
'But I meant well,' is another common refrain. It's like standing on the bank of the river and telling a drowning person that he is drowning and he should try harder to save himself. If you can save him do it, else shut up. Good intent should result in good results for the other person.Otherwise the only good this intent has done is for you and your ego. It's easy to feel like you have done a lot of good by pointing out all that is not right about the other person and by setting them lofty targets without really empowering them with the knowledge to do it. If performances are falling, your good intent is obviously no good.

Don't Mistake Half-Baked Coaching for Giving Tough Feedback
There are coaches who are tough on their wards because they want the wards to perform to their potential. They guide, facilitate and allow the player to reach his potential. Then there are coaches who are tough without showing the path, without any improvement. Wards love the first types. We always loved the rigour and the discipline that our good coaches subjected us to and are always grateful to them for making us tougher. The second type of a coach can kill our spirit and many wards actually stop enjoying the sport or game or work. Some quit.

Evolution of Coaches, Teachers and Managers
In the first stage of a coach's evolution, the coach is all too pleased to have the power of teaching someone and downloads all that he knows on to the poor wards. In this case he may not even know the craft well enough to teach its practices well. The second stage of evolution is when he knows the craft but does not know how to impart it. Here he talks so much about himself and how good he is and how much more the others need to do to get better. Consequently it only demoralises the wards. In the third stage, the coach knows his job (to transfer knowledge of the craft, not knowledge of himself and his greatness), and it shows in the wards performance. The coach prepares in a way that the ward imbibes the right practices and gets the right results - knowingly or unknowingly. The results speak. The ward is empowered. The coach has done his job.

Next Time - Think Through
The next time you wish to give free advise, ask yourself this. Is what you are saying empowering the other person? Can you see the concentration increasing, the light shining brighter in his eye? Can you feel a shift in energy, and improvement in performance? If yes, you have empowered the person. If not, maybe you should work on yourself some more.

Stop Saying 'I Told Him'
Each time we say 'I told him but he did not do it', we are accepting failure. If he fails, we have failed. If he is unhappy, we have failed. We need to go back to the drawing board and find that one elegant solution that will produce results. It may not always be words that empower (I Told You So). If you love your ward, if you know your job, if you love your craft, you will invest enough to find a way to better that performance. To bring a smile to the ward's face, to see him enjoy the performance. Just by being there sometimes. With a small input at others. Mostly by making him feel good about himself in the end.

A Fine Piece of Advise From Sagar's Dad

We set out in the rain this afternoon to buy some electronic items that were not easy to source. The rain pelted down, roads flooded, traffic jammed. The first stop was a disappointment. That's when Sagar remembered his late father's advise.
'My father would tell me that if I was a man, I must not come home until I finish the work I set out for. Even if there was difficulty I must find a way to complete it and only then return.'

'A fine piece of advise,' I said.
'Let's not go home without finishing this job sir,' he said.

So we found an old friend who runs a music store (Full Volume, near Chutneys) and Anjani was kind enough to find that missing adapter and give me a huge discount. In pouring rain we headed out to Model House where all the telephone shops are (for another adapter for the cordless). It was knee deep water and I almost gave it up. But then Sagar's father's advise rang in our ears and we rolled up our trousers and waded through the knee deep water. Our efforts paid off and we found a lot of stuff we needed in that one store.

On a roll then, we stopped at a Vodafone shop for some long pending work and that got done too. Wet, cold but victorious and fully satisfied we returned home.

What a line - don't come home until the job is done. A piece of advise I will hold very close to my heart.

Thought for the Day - When I Say The Words, They Become Mine

When I say someone else's words, they somehow become mine.

The key to transfer ownership then is to make others say your words as if they are their own. It will require a bit of nudging, a bit of clearing the space, a bit of allowing that to happen.

But when it does, the words become their own. And when they become their own, they take a whole new life.

It is a big art. Of transferring ownership.

Three Dog Night - Gouri Dange

Read this delightful little book 'Three Dog Night' by Gouri Dange and woke up to how lovely good writing can be once again. It's lyrical, teasing, tongue-in-cheek and so alive that I caught myself thinking - this is how good it can get. The novel starts off with a bang and goes on and on in that fashion with nothing more than just a feisty outlook peppering things up incredibly on ordinary lives. Character after interesting character breezes in and waltzes out - all as unusual and common place as they could be, as any human could be - or wait. In the hands of someone who knows her craft they become unforgettable, vivacious characters full of life's highs, lows and unique perspectives. Gouri builds them as  effortlessly as she builds this frothy tale and you put your original thought of how she wrote a novel called 'Three Dog Night' aside and dip into this delightful world and when you turn the last page you know the title could not be anything else. Of such a rare, mad world do these people belong.
Harper Collins, 153 p, Rs. 250

Sixty one year old Vibhavari Pradhan, not long since widowed, lives in Mumbai and deals with a family that is as dysfunctional as any - son Rishabh and daughter in law Dharani and grandson 13 year old Dhruv (Dhruvlet) form one unit and her daughter Shruthi (Shruggy Shru) who goes about improving lives in faraway Rajasthan. Vibha loves dogs, possesses a feisty spirit and loves adventurous recipes it appears. From dealing with her young friend Moni's obsession with an insensitive boyfriend to handling an imprudent financial investment that her husband made in association with his friends, Vibha  is a delightful paradox of a modern mind stuck in a time warp. She has trouble with mobile phone ring tones, credit card callers and stuff like that and deals with them most creatively. Stuck with a piece of land she cannot sell she meets another wonderful character Gautam-Gafoor and between them they find a way. Her daughter adopts a Tibetan child. Meanwhile a Scotsman appears on the scene to document Indian dogs and together they meet in faraway Ratnagiri to consider possibilities of potential company. On and on float this loosely bound group of impossible and completely endearing characters each dealing with life in their own way, and enjoying its ups and its downs. One so wants to meet them all.

There are some interesting recipes thrown in. Like coconut prawns. Should try them.

Frankly I haven't read such delightful prose in years. Simply beautiful. In one line Gouri destroys you with no explanation or sympathy for Shruthi whose kidneys pack up in the prime of her youth or the sudden death of Ashwin Pradhan, and in the same manner she goes to Nepal to bring back the child her daughter has adopted with no questions asked. Life just goes on for Vibha, and all its shades seep through without seeming to make any effort;  she handles it all sanely, keeps her perspective and her sense of humour.

Well done Gouri. As for the three dog night - how cold can it get out there in Scotland? How else would a dog lover measure the cold - one dog, two dog and a three dog night which is time to head to India. 

Kenny G and Lionel Richie Live - Lady

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Anusual - Anu Agarwal

While in Kolkata, Anjan plied me with a ton of books. I picked three - Anusual, a collection of stories by Tagore and another one. I flipped through Anusual which is actress and model Anu Agarwal's biography and flipped and flipped until it ended.
Harper Collins

It starts with her car crash where she broke many bones and almost died. What I didn't know was that she was in a Mercedes Benz when the accident happened in Bandra Mumbai. She drops little tidbits like that about her successful career as a model, her disinterest in movies and how Mahesh (Bhatt) almost wooed her to act and how she finally condescended to. Then some yoga and a yogi who takes a liking to her. Someplace in between comes a list - of people she had affairs with - with small descriptions on their backgrounds and their traits and in some cases sexual preferences. Then the yogi and his six month long foreplay and the amazing sexual experience (I think it was that or some other spiritual experience that seemed to me like that). Kicked out by other inmates one fine day when smitten yogi was missing. Accident. Recovery. Path of gratitude. Sell of things. Start afresh. Work in NGO. Write book. Find life.

Anu Agarwal was at HLF a year or two ago to promote this book. I did not meet her but saw her. She did not look like the Aashiqui days but then I don't either. As for her writing prowess, she can write surely, but what was she trying to tell. It goes all over the place and we finally know very little of her or what happened to her. It could have been much better perhaps with some editorial help.