Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Anjali - Parents Expectations, Said and Unsaid

I never understood the full meaning of what it meant when we say that children carry 'the burden of expectations'. The burden more or less seems to begin and ends with the parents who represent the society to the child. Children of successful parents carry this burden a lot more because of the constant comparison but it is not to say that children of less successful parents do not.
Tenzin is in Manali looking for herbs for Tibetan medicine. He sent me this pic.
Somehow it struck me while talking to one celebrity parent a few years ago that children assume this expectation, this role of making their parents proud whether the expectation exists or not. Watch any reality show, any child in his or her deepest moment and we hear them say 'I want to make my parents proud'. Their biggest fear - of failing their parents. I can get it when counsellors say - you can forgive anyone but not your parents. It's written into the code it seems.

That particular conversation led me to think that all we need to do as parents is to reduce that burden - expected or unexpected - from the child's shoulders and allow them to express themselves as they are. To tell them that we love them unconditionally and forever. And to demonstrate that in all our actions. Every parent tries hard to do their best for the child - some feel that the child needs to be pushed, some that the child needs to be left alone. The balance never seems right but long as the child is aware that this burden can be set aside and he or she will be loved despite that - it just might help that much more to make the journey bearable for the child.

So it was in a recent experience when Anjali was upset and in a quiet moment told me that she was unhappy that she was not being strong enough for us. I was surprised to hear that she felt she had to be strong for us. Which means that she should not cry or be sensitive or feel emotional when she wants to. I told her whatever I knew about being strong. I told her that it is fine to accept being weak, because weak is one end of the spectrum and strong is another and both exist in the same place. In fact I felt that accepting that we are weak is a sign of strength. It gives a kind of a resilience and flexibility that we normally do not get by putting up a facade of strength which could be rather brittle. She listened and heard me out and nodded. Hopefully it made whatever sense it did to her and she understands it the way it will help her be herself - fears and worries, joys and happiness, weakness and strength and all.

Deep inside I wonder if I am still seeking approval from my parents, somehow wondering if I failed them or made them proud. I somehow feel they might have wished that I was not so adamant in some things but in the end, be secretly proud of my naive addiction to the way of life I believe in. I feel they would be fine with whatever I have done or any of my siblings have done. I can see the joy in my mother's eyes and her pride at what my brother has achieved and at my books for she was an expressive one, and my father's gruff manner but very transparent ways of understanding our choices and trying to make them ours and not his. From up there, they would be quite happy we did what we did.

The paradox is that we are strong when we accept we are weak. We become weak when we force ourselves to be strong. It is when we are honest that we seem to find some deep reservoir of strength.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Those Musical Notes Part 6 - Grammy Awards

A big part of the musical revolution was the influence of friends. Vidyuth was one and I remember listening to Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' and 'Billy Jean' in his father's Fiat. A car with those Pioneer cassette players in those days was the ultimate in luxury especially when most did not even have a music deck at home. This was the time when we were just out of school and growing small mustaches and soft beards, struggling with hormones and freedom and insecurity. Music seemed to provide to us a language that made sense when nothing else did.

Of course, there was no way to get my hands on a Michael Jackson cassette then so it was very frustrating, more so because I'd meet Vidyuth rarely on some cricket match days. Luckily, i found another great friendship based on music, Naresh. Now Naresh owned a deck too and had an MJ album. Though he lived far away in Padmarao Nagar, I did make a few visits to satisfy the music urge. Another musical friend of mine (limited to Jethro Tull's album that had this brilliant song 'Orion') was Sai from my junior college St. Alphonso's Junior College who father owned a nice record player and a deck to go with it. Sai did not like music much, but generously played it for me when we went to his house.

And then magic happened. Doordarshan, the state-run television and the only channel available to viewers, for some reason got its hands on the 26th Grammy Awards presentation. It was magic. And perhaps it was the best music made in a year ever - Michael Jackson, Sting, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen were just some of the heavies that featured. MJ walked way with 8. Lionel got nominated for 5 and won none. But we who watched it were blown out of our minds. Check the players in the field - MJ, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Sting, Billy Joel, Irene Cara, Foreigner, Talking Head, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart, Rick Springfield, Donna Summer, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Alice Cooper, Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Culture Club, Eurythmics, Sheena Easton, Prince, Bonnie Tyler, ZZ Top. Absolute mayhem.

I do not know how but I got my hands on one cassette with some of those Grammy hits. I cannot forget 'Total Eclipse of My Heart' by Bonnie Tyler as one of those magical songs. The visuals, the magic of MJ performing, the sheer quality of performers and songs was an apt take-off. My cassette had Beat it, Uptown Girl, Total eclipse of my Heart, Karma Chameleon, Sweet Dreams, Let's Dance, Islands in the Stream and others.

That Grammy threw open a whole new world full of new sounds, fantastic performers and more and more cassettes to buy and listen. I finally got my hands on quite a few of those albums. A labour of love no doubt.

1984 was my second year of Intermediate. It was a breakthrough year for me in cricket. I just do not remember how and what, except that I did a two-week stint with Baig sir and played with a brilliant team for MCC - MLJ, Vivek, Vidyuth, Sunil Phillips, Ravan, Imtiaz, Sanjay, Chakkar and mostly Venkatapathi Raju or Lachi as we call him. Vijay Bhaskar and Umesh Soni were the others. Lots of cricket, music, the whole world ahead of me. What a feeling! Beautifully summed up by Irene Cara in her Flashdance song (above)..

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Visit to Amar's Pensieve

Amar called me last week asking me for the Jaico local sales office details. He wanted 15 copies of '50 Not Out'. Now Amar has been the single largest buyer of 'The Men Within' - the book on which our friendship blossomed if I may say so (the book, not the sale) - and has always been a big supporter of my writing pursuits (or any pursuit for that matter). It might not be far from the truth if he did end up buying 500 copies of 'The Men Within' to gift to various people. Amar was also single-handedly responsible for starting two interesting activities I never thought I would do - public speaking and workshop facilitating. As President of Hyderabad Management Association, he forced me to deliver a talk on 'Leadership and Teamwork' which was my first serious public talk and then he made me design and deliver a workshop for CoD. We did several training programs together as well.
Kamath, Vijay, Praveen, Shelina, Me and Pradeep
Amar started this wonderful new place called Amar's Pensieve a couple of year's ago. It was a work of passion because he went about developing the place all by himself. A bit of research into the word Pensieve gives you a peep into his mind. Anyway Amar''s Pensieve is his own training facility in the quiet, rustic lands near Pragathi Resorts. He was doing a program for a company - Invesco and wanted to gift the copies to the participants. And could I, he said, join for dinner and sign the books for him.
Vijay to my right
Well Amar is not a person I would say no to whatever he asks (he is quite thoughtful and considerate when he makes a request) and I instantly agreed  - more so when I have to sign my books away. Though I could not make it yesterday for dinner as originally planned, I made it for lunch today and it was fun discussing some aspects of the book '50 Not Out', sign it and give it to the participants. If I remember right - Vijay Paro, Shelina, Praveen, Pradeep, Abhishek, Arun, Kamath, Ravi unless I missed any. Priyanka and Urvi had left yesterday.
Abhishek, Vijay and Me
I spoke about why I wrote the book and picked a few chapters to illustrate - Courage (get behind the line of the ball), Creativity (catches win matches) and Preparation and shared my thoughts about them. There were some questions and some answers - and we adjourned for lunch. A lovely home cooked lunch and we bid goodbye to the team. Amar and I played a few songs from each other's playlists before I left too. I enjoyed listening to his choice of a song 'Where The Black Top Ends' by Keith Urban which he wants to be the anthem song for the Pensieve.

 I had a long drive back and I wanted to avoid the traffic. I could not, but the drive was well worth it. Sometime soon we hope to do an all-nighter at the Pensieve, gazing at the stars and listening to our playlists.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hooper Labs 3rd Anniversary Talk

Srikanth invited me to speak with his young team of about 20 at their Hooper Labs office on their 3rd anniversary. Srikanth is very articulate, intelligent, thinks well and ahead and is one of the more thorough and thoughtful people I know so I was surprised when he wanted me to speak to his team. What I do, he can easily do better. But I was grateful that he wanted me to come and immediately said I would.

The one quality I like in people who ask for any creative output from me is when they trust me and leave it to me. I know some who would drop in at the last minute and tell me how to go about my talk including what to show in the videos (when I expressly told them I don't want to show any videos). Srikanth simply said - just be yourself and that is all I want. This is high praise and one of the best compliments I ever got and though I tried to get some context in and prepared some flow, I tried to be myself as Srikanth told me to be and the result was very nice indeed. My sincere advice to all those looking to get some good creative work - do exactly what Srikanth did - trust them and they will deliver. You cannot manipulate and control creative output. From whatever I heard about the team's work in the past year, it appears that he is doing the same with them and they are responding with equal fervor.
The Hooper Labs Team and Me!
I walked in at the appointed time and it was nice to see the office decked up with balloons and looking festive. The team was being addressed by Srikanth, Umar was there and so was Kiran, and Sujatha of course, who reads my books and gives me encouraging feedback all the time. After a short introduction by Srikanth I embarked on the broad structure of my talk.     

Why are we here? 
To work. Or more importantly to use the work we do to accomplish our dreams of a good life, a secure job, a home, cars, travel etc. Certainly to prove to ourselves that we have something inside us that we can put to good use and achieve our dreams.

How can we achieve our dreams?
Clearly through our work. Be it cricket, or dancing, or designing or coding, we try to achieve our potential through the work we do. We can fulfill all aspects of our life – career, money, relationships, material things, travel, fame.  Work takes up a big part of our most productive time and one needs to get it clear in their minds that work is what we will be known for and what makes our dreams come true. We cannot take work lightly as just another aspect of life and talk too much about work-life balance. 

What comes in the way then?
Our goal is clear. Our intent is clear. We all want to work hard. But we see that people far less qualified than us seem to be achieving more. Something seems to be holding us back otherwise all this should be a walk in the park. 

What holds us back? 
From my experience, what holds us back is doubt and fear. When I made it as far as a first-class cricketer, I doubted if I was good enough to play the next level. This doubt and perhaps the fear of failure and the fear of success even, make us operate at 50% efficiency. Or even less. We doubt ourselves, we fear we are not good enough. This path leads us to the Blame and Excuse street which is pretty much the end of the journey for anybody! I played Ranji Trophy early. Had a good first season. Was dropped next year. After going that far up, I did not know what to do. I found no motivation. I gave up. There are so many like that.  

How to overcome this Doubt and Fear?
I found it difficult to work for myself. Most people find it difficult to do that. They can give their life for others but do very little for themselves. It goes back to our feeling of not being good enough in our own eyes. This is the basic doubt and fear - that we are not good enough.

But if we find a purpose, something bigger than us, a WHY, then we can give our best to it. To understand this better one should watch Simon Sinek's TED talk 'Start with why' which explains the importance of purpose. We looked at examples to illustrate the idea - the soldier on the border, the Sulabh story, the Selco story. They could also look at the impact their work could create, the one person who benefits from their work and changes her life.
There is nothing more motivating than a good, solid purpose. Now typically companies can have their purposes. Sometimes individuals may not be able to connect to it.
A selfie moment with the young and energetic team
Can we do it as individuals?
1       I spent a while talking about ownership and how once we experience ownership we become different people. I spoke of the time when I scored 158 with zero input, all purpose and complete ownership. I decided, took responsibility and made it happen. Until then I hoped someone would help me but when I took full responsibility I grew as a person, expanded my role and did a 10x performance. Until then I did not know I could do that. 
      The same decision, same ownership is available to everyone. This very moment. You just have to decide. You help your team. You help yourself in the process.

Another tool that helps get over doubt and fear - Learning Mindset
I dwelt briefly on the Mindset - a book by Carol Dweck that changed my life. One that could make a big difference to the youngsters here as well. My failure at Ranji level was because I was stuck in a Fixed Mindset. If I was less egocentric and fear-driven and fixed mindset driven I could have sought help and got back on track. More details here about the Mindset on my book review of the same  https://harimohanparuvu.blogspot.com/2012/06/mindset-carol-s-dweck.html

Fixed Mindset Characteristics
Growth Mindset Characteristics
Desire to look smart
Desire to learn
Avoid challenges
Embrace challenges
Give up easily
Persist in the face of setback
Get defensive
Seek help to find ways to improve
See effort as fruitless
See effort as the path to mastery
Ignore useful negative feedback
Learn from criticism
Feel threatened by others successes
Find lessons and inspiration from others success
Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential
Reach even higher levels of achievement as a result and get closer to potential

Writing - Full Ownership
I feel writing is the best way to share and make the world more secure and that is my purpose. It's an act of complete ownership to leave a secure job and jump off a cliff like this. But the pluses are that I am  1) at 100% potential and awareness  2) in control 3) brings all my past into effect 4) I learn at ten times the rate than I normally would because it is so I can help the reader. I write for that one person who I feel will get affected by what I write not just to make money. 

          Secure people - Be complete 
In winding up I spoke about why I felt why were at less than our potential, why we doubted ourselves. It was because we are all insecure. We are insecure because we are hiding parts of us which we do not wish to show. Like being 'smart' in the fixed mindset, we hide certain parts of ourselves and in doing so operate only at 50% efficiency. We don’t know. we don’t want others to know.
The paradox is that we are secure when we say I don't know. When we accept our faults and inadequacies. Then we have nothing to hide. We are free. To learn. To ask for help. I feel that if we accept ourselves as we are, we can go past ourselves and really make a difference to others, to the world.
When we are secure, we are genuinely interested in making a difference to people. And that is what any great idea does - touches people across the universe at a core level.

Let us encourage and actively create then, a secure space, a place where we can make mistakes, be our flawed but complete selves, and thus build what they call a psychologically safe workplace. That way you build the perfect team, get great outcomes.

To a secure world then.

Some questions and answers and we wound up.

Videos to watch

Thank you all
I loved this session so much more for the wonderful vibe I felt right through thanks to a very patient and attentive audience -  wonderful. Haven't felt so complete ina  long time. I loved the way Srikanth set it up, gave me the confidence and the freedom and brought the best out of me. And in the end I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts Sujatha and he and the team gave - they included Shobha and Anjali and had gifts for them too. Such thoughtfulness I have not seen for a long long time. Needless to say, the nice feeling lasted me all through the day and will remain all through my life. 

All the best Hooper Labs and here's wishing you all that you dreamed of and more.

The Habit of Winning - Prakash Iyer

I like Prakash Iyer's books. Simple yet profound. Nice stories that are easy to remember and relate. I enjoyed reading his 'Secrets of Leadership' and was thrilled when Shobhs gifted me this book the other day. The book has 57 chapters divided into eleven sections ranging from Vision and Goals, Self- Belief, Perseverance, Winner's Mindsets, Giving, Hard work, The Winner's way, Winning with Teams, Other People, Finding Balance and Take Action.

My favorite stories are the ones about the nine rabbits that Jack Ma spoke about in a seminar - how if one tries to catch nine rabbits in a room he is not likely to get any, but if he goes after one rabbit at a time, he could end up catching all nine, one at a time. The story of Karoly Takas, an army sergeant and an Olympic medal hopeful who loses his right hand which is also his shooting hand and comes back to shoot with his left hand and wins two Olympic golds in 1944 and 1948. The two dollar man idea was brilliant - next time you are about to tip someone one dollar, tip them two instead because it makes you feel good and rich. Same with the Binaca toys story - only those who experienced that thrill of getting those toys know what the story is about - but the takeaway - that we could always pack in a small little extra surprise when we deliver and people never forget you. I can never forget the Binaca toys experience ever. The one about how good you are with bad news was nice too - very imp. Cannot forget the story of Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor and an Olympic medal hopeful who is second at halfway stage and then spots two Singaporean sailors in trouble and abandons his race to save them. He sees them off to safety and then goes to complete his race, finishing 22nd, but gains the True Medal of Sportsmanship . Ah, that's what the Olympics are all about. Life is all about.

Prakash takes much sports analogy and a lot of cricket analogy. I remember him being CEO of the Mumbai Indians or some team. So there are the stories of Sachin playing after getting his face hit, Kumble bowling with his bandaged and broken jaw, Sidhu coming back to be a palm tree hitter (nice to see my old friend Rajan Bala being mentioned here), Atapattu coming back after scoring 2 runs across six years (scores of 0,0, 0,1, 0,0) and scoring 5000 Test runs with 16 centuries and 6 double centuries. Some of my favorite stories - of the starfish on the beach, of the Chinese bamboo, of the butterfly trying to break out of a cocoon, the building  a cathedral story, eating the frog first thing in the day, Gandhi and his one shoe, people who seek information about the town ahead and get contrasting information, the water bearer and the leaky pot,  the Great Wall of China and how despite the magnificent wall attackers could come through because they could bribe the guards.

Overall, a lovely, well written, useful and informative read. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All Saints School Reunion 2018 - Batch of 1982

This is the third reunion of our batch in the last couple of years. I missed the first two and wanted to make it this time. A lot of my old friends were coming. Chiefly my old pal Kamran Ali Mirza, my benchmate for the last three years at school and co-sufferer of the rowdy pranks of Sanjay Gabriel and other last benchers. Kamran and I shared some fabulous times and competed for the most polite boy award in class (read as quietest).  Kamran pipped me to the award always. We shared a love for cricket, books, he was better at academics than I was, but mostly we bonded over our tiffins - he loved the dosas (which I hated, after a lifetime of eating them) and I loved the kheema parathas he would get (he obviously shared the same sentiments I had for dosas). The quiet walks to the library, to the school grounds where we walked serenely while the rest of the non-contenders for the most-polite-boy award played, to Ashok's canteen to celebrate with a ragda samosa, our conspiracy to attend cricket selections in our tenth class. In fact, a whole chapter of 'The Misfit' my first book (unpublished) was about this secret exchange of our tiffins and how there's a gold mine right next to you if you stay patient and keep your eyes open.
Standing: Vinay, Shyam, Ghanshyam, Farrukh, Charles, Jala, Archie, Ramana, Ashok, Me, Viquar, Ammar, Nasir, Arif, Ra, Nusrat, Haji, Nirmal, Meiraj
Sitting: Mohd Ali, Farees, Azhar, Sultan, Joel, Sanjay Das, Kamran, Zaki, Dr. Faiz
I have not seen Kamran since 1982, all of 36 years now, though we somehow made contact through Facebook. He told me that he saw me play a Ranji match - my last one as it turned out - where I got whacked by Abdul Jabbar in a suicidal last spell. I wish he'd seen my better spells.
Kamran and I catching up after 36 years - he remembers the dosas and I remember the parathas - thanks Moms
Farrukh Azam was another whom I met once after school and was keen to meet. Arif, Nirmal Singh Bagga, Vinay (our basketball champ), Meiraj, Ashok, Charles, Archie, Ramana, Sultan, Shyam, Joel, Ammar, Ghanshyam, Jalal, Mohammed Ali, Farees, Ram (he owned a leather shop in Abids), Sanjay Das (owns Karma, a pub in Banjara Hills where we met), Nusrat, Haji, and others are local and we meet sometimes. Arif, Vinay and Jamshed had actually made it to the book launch of 50 Not Out! Kamran, Zaki, Azharuddin, Naser, Viquar, are from Dubai and Saudi while Farrukh and Dr. Faiz are from the US. That's about 28. Not a bad number for a reunion.
Arif, Archie, Charles Kamran and Me
The ones I am in touch with and who did not make it are Abhijit who is in the US, Pradeep (US), Ved (Australia), Rajshekhar (US), Narender (US), Deepak (Brazil). Rudra is in Bangalore and I am in touch over FB. Chandu is in Kolkata. Narayan and Suresh are in Hyderabad but both could not make it. Vasu and Choudary are in constant touch. So are Ehtesham and D. Suresh. I met Farrukh Ali Khan at D's home a year ago. I believe Dr. Chakradhar is a busy ortho now.
Arif, Ramana and Me
Anyway, the party was to start at 7 pm and Ramana was the only one there. I walked in at 710. Ramana is an architect now but he told me he had composed some seriously good music for the Telugu industry including Gulabi, a huge musical hit. We entertained each other until Arif, Mohammed Ali and Charles arrived. Ammar came next and went to attend a wedding. And then came Ashok Sugandhi, who owns a dairy, a farm, an age-old agarbatti brand and a jewellery shop. Jalal is a lawyer. Ammar now a CEO of a school after a long career in finance - Stanchart mostly.
Iconic pic - sums it up - Farrukh and Nirmal
Nirmal has this hugely popular Bagga Wines. Arif runs Crown Opticals and always has. Vinay is back from the US and runs a successful pest control and facility management company. Farrukh works for the US Federal government. Faiz is a doctor and writes wonderful poetry as I could see on the messages on phone - and also wrote a book on Internal Medicine for the Medical Council. Very accomplished and he looks it too. Zaki is General Secretary of the Saudi Indian Business Network and gets felicitated and featured in the news for some great work. Azhar, Nasir, Viquar are also from the Saudi and work. Kamran works in Dubai in operations.nothing. Charles does a marketing job and Archie is with Yatra at the airport. I think that's as much as I could gather.
Lovely setting - Md. Ali, Charles, Nasir, Vinay and Faiz
Shyam and Ghanshyam run their leather businesses. Sanjay Das has a franchise for veterinary products and this beautiful pub overlooking KBR -'Karma'. Nusrat said he was doing nothing or was that Meiraj - both seem to be leading retired lives.
The cake being cut by Sanjay and Azhar - Host and organiser
Lots of talk about the teachers - Sastry sir, Naidu sir, Dixit sir, Bro. Thomas, Kusuma teacher, Jugta teacher, Mrs Luthra, Rafat Muneer, Martina teacher, Dhruvaraj sir, and others, mischief makers and some memorable events.
Sanjay Das at the Karma love sign
The place served some great food and we took lots of pictures. A cake was cut late in the evening, we posed for some more pictures and then I came away. I caught up with as many as I could, spent lots of time with Kamran. Wonderful.
Vinay doing a  nifty step or two watched by Azhar and Nirmal
Missed Abhijit, Deepak Uttam Singh, Rudra, Deepak Dhanani, Jamshed, Ved Vyas Dhar, Farrukh, Sanjay Gabriel (now no more), Abdul Rub (Madina), Maqsood, Satpal (who was an ace at  Maths and now runs a family business in the old city says Nirmal), Venkat (cricketer), Rajesh Chetty (cricketer), Nayeem (football champ), Suresh, Chandu, Narayan, Narender, Pradeep and so many others from the C section. Fill me up if you guys remember others.
Sanjay, Arif, Ashok, Nirmal, Nusrat, Mohd Ali
Wonderful meeting. Azhar did a great job of organising it and pulling it off very well. Nirmal seems to have played some part in it too and much thanks is owed to Sanjay for his hospitality and the lovely place. A bunch of old men, onlookers would have thought. It was a bunch of schoolboys really. You should have heard some of the conversations that floated about. Enough to make a sailor blush. But we always prided ourselves in being the rowdiest bunch around anyway!  Until the next then.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hichki - Movie

Naina Mathur is a teacher with Tourette's syndrome (which causes her to make barking sounds and have some physical tics like jerking her head violently every now and then) who gets a chance to teach an unruly and unwanted bunch of students. How she becomes the teacher she never had is the story. It is based on an autobiographical book 'Front of the Class' by Brad Cohen.

Nice watch. Rani Mukherjee does a brilliant job of a teacher with TS.

Wise and Otherwise - Sudha Murthy

Another one of Sudha Murthy's books and she has now probably become the author I have read the most. 'Wise and Otherwise - A Salute to Life' is a collection of 51 insights into people and how they react to life situations. Most stories are related to the work she does as Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation.

There are stories about honesty -how a poor scholar returns a small sum of scholarship money that he has not used and how another person lies to her about winning the gold medal which Sudha Murthy won that year, about an old man and his son who cheat the old age home by lying that the old man is a destitute when in fact he has enough money with him, about people with material dreams, an author trying to sell his books to the Foundation by lying that he knew Sudha Murthy when he evidently did not, about students who do not remember our history, how two of her friends who were so different at twenty turned out differently at forty - the beautiful and smart one withered away and the ordinary one blossomed, how a headmaster feels that the independence day celebrartion is a waste of time, how ministers hogged the limelight in a hospital wing inauguration and an old woman recognised Sudha Murthy and gave her flowers in gratitude for helping build the new building,  an educated  friend who could make no decisions and an uneducated lady who took equal decisions with her husband, a pessimistic woman, a woman who constantly bad mouths everything and everyone, how the next generation is both good and bad, a rich man's boy who wanted an idea IT job versus a poor fisherman's son who studies and sells crabs, a headmistress in rural Orissa who lives in the school building and runs the school in dilapidated rooms, a rich woman who does not give to charity and a poor man who donated 4 lakhs for charity, a woman diagnosed with a fatal disease who decides to enjoy her life because she never did and her phlanthropic husband - and how they chose to react to the same situation, the principal's wife who went into depression because of his rigid behavior and the three young men who had benefited form the Foundation but who responded in different ways when they met her - one gives her a gift and another does not give her a discount on the dental work.

The stories that I liked were the one about the head of a small tribe who insists on giving her something in return for what she gives them and concludes with 'there is a grace in receiving also'. Wisdom of the highest order. He was clear that he would not take anything without giving something in return. The nurse who stuck to her guns about the missing mop in the Operation Theatre. An old man from Kalahandi who says that this is God's earth and we cannot buy or sell it. The story about dowry deaths. About the leper colony where an old lady had no clothes to wear. Zubeida's cancer treatment and how her father and daughter return the unused money after she died. How a couple get married after reading her novel 'Mahashweta'. The family that travels to Kutch after the earthquake for the disaster benefits and find much happiness and a new life thanks to the earthquake,  The young mother in Ahmedabad who was happy at being treated as a human and gives back a return gift.

Simple yet profound stories that she witnessed or experienced first hand. My one grouse is that the theme forces the author to differentiate between wise and otherwise. She has to paint one white and one black. Most times we are otherwise, driven by our circumstance, ignorance and do not behave in a manner that is best perhaps. But the fact that we are all evolving, we all have our own motives for why we do certain things in our insecurities or because of our limitations cannot be forgotten. The good person may not be good to all people, nor will the bad person be bad to everyone.

I can understand her point of view when she mentions somewhere that when people invite her to an event it is with an ulterior motive and at some point will seek a favour from her. She must be getting dozens of such invitations, in fact, she says the Foundation gets 10000 letters annually. Here I must confess that even I was guilty of prompting one such invite. When launching 'This Way is Easier Dad' in Bangalore last year, my editor friend Keerthi, to whom I had given the responsibility of helping me find the right guest to launch the book, decided to approach Sudha Murthy, whom she knew. Sudha Murthy was busy then,  and we finally went with the wonderful Malavika Kapoor. But if I had read this book then, I would have told Keerthi not to take the trouble of bothering her simply because she is far too busy with much better work to do.

That said, of all the books I have read of hers, this one comes across as being a mite judgmental and harsh on human behavior. I feel it's because of the black and white theme of the book. I normally find her writing gentle, humble and compassionate. But notwithstanding that small element of discomfort for me, these are wonderful stories I also deeply admire the wonderful work the Foundation does. Very readable. as always.

Sunday Cricket Lessons - Most Don't Even Know What They are Good At

I was chatting with Baig sir about the seam position and how some swing bowlers get the seam to be upright after release and thereby get a pronounced swing movement in the air. 'I envy those bowlers,' I said. 'My seam wobbles in the air.'

'No no,' said Baig sir. 'You have good seam position. 9 out of 10 times the seam is upright and going well. This is the problem with most people. You don't know what you are good at and what you are doing right.'
I was taken aback. All my life I thought that the seam wobbled after I released it. This was news.

And then I wondered, how much such stories I believed about myself - good and bad - which were probably way off the mark. 

Anjali - Handling Unfairness

It was one of those days when I picked Anjali from school. She got into the car and started with the good stuff that happened at school. And then suddenly her face crumpled. 'For the second week in a row, our PT sir kept me out of the game. It got so bad that all my classmates told him to let me play instead of them. But he still would not let me play. I can understand one week, but two weeks?'

She is a big one on fairness.

I asked her if she asked the PT sir to give her a chance. She said 'He knows. But he kept me out. It's unfair.'

I could fully identify with her. Many a time, when I was left out, I felt exactly like her. So I told her how I had many such experiences and how I had felt bad too. But then I told her, I ended up feeling bad but never got what I wanted - play or whatever else I wanted. I told her that now I feel I could have done things differently because the outcome was perhaps more important than feeling the unfairness or injustice. Instead of expecting the teacher to understand my situation and be fair, I could have insisted.

One way was to complain and feel the PT sir had been unfortunate. We parents could get involved etc but was there a better way. Maybe she could tell her teacher in the next class, politely and respectfully, pleading or requesting or whatever, one way or another, that she should get her chance now because she waited out for two classes. Somehow find a way to get the outcome while she was still there, while she had an opportunity to set that right. Could she think a different way to get what she wanted?

I drew her attention to something similar when she had the same unfair behavior by her teacher - a few years ago. When Anjali forgot her fruits on her designated Fruit Day, her teacher had taken her off the list. But Anjali resolved the situation by putting her ego and hurt aside and pleading with her teacher until she relented. 

She heard me out and nodded.

Yesterday she came home and said she put her case across to her PT sir before the class began. She asked not to be made to sit out for the next two classes because she was the only one who missed two in a row.

Good show Anjali. If the outcome is not what you want, adjust the process. Most times it is about putting our ego aside. 

The Ministry of Love - My Column in the Sunday HANS

It's time for a Ministry of Love to handle this love business!


Friday, August 3, 2018

Those Musical Notes Part 5 - Olivia's Greatest Hits

It was soon after I bought the 'Grease' cassette and also the fact that Yuvavani never let us forget Olivia Newton-John. It was but natural that I got my hands on this one -don't know from where. Perhaps it was a barter or a cassette someone gave me and forgot to collect but I do not remember buying it. Olivia's Greatest Hits. I did not see Grease - though I saw a few clips of the famous songs so all I had was Olivia's playful voice. Much later I realised that she sold 100 million records and was one of the world's best selling artists of all time. Glad to be one of those 100 million!

The cassette had all the big numbers of Olivia - 'Physical' which played non-stop on Yuvavani those days and which I never liked. (Check out the video - very sexy.) 'You're the one that I want' was and still remains a great hit. I certainly remember listening to the slow number 'Xanadu', 'Hopelessly Devoted to you' (Grease), 'A little more love', and 'Magic'.

Listening to Olivia is a personal experience because I did not watch the movie with anyone, nor did I listen to these songs with anyone. With Yuvavani, I remember the mornings clearly. The radio in the hall, the morning sunlight streaming through the white lace curtains on to the dining table, and life seemed perfect in a place where parents could not reach nor could society nor could anyone else. So it was just Olivia and a 15-year-old me perhaps in the tenth class at All Saints High school or younger. Olivia had a devastating effect on me with her voice.

However recently when I saw her performance with John Travolta reprising their 'You're the one that I want' it made me fall all over in love with Olivia again. But listening to 'Physical' in 1981-82 remains the lasting memory, and 'Xanadu' later on when I bought this cassette.

Olivia and her sunlight tinted voice.

Botham - My Autobiograpy - I.T. Botham

Botham's autobiography, gifted to me by Abhinay, starts off on a note that threw me off what I was expecting. Most autobiographies I feel somehow shatter the illusion we have of the person by revealing parts of them that we do not know. My impression of Botham was that nothing would affect him and he would just go out and have fun and live life up. But Botham starts with how he felt upset over his sacking from the English team, how pathetic the selectors were and how bad he felt. As a reader we all want the heroes to accept their injustices gracefully and get on - the world is imperfect but you are not. But then he quickly moves on to his life and things become normal again. As a kid he was mischievous and as a school kid, he loved playing soccer and cricket, especially when it came to making money that was put out as a challenge. as he grew older he played well enough to get a job as a ground staff at Lord's, the mischief of young lads who are broke and live in tough conditions - it's all pure fun. Growing up, Botham loves his life, his drink, and his practical jokes. Always on the edge. And they called him Beefy.

When he starts playing cricket in second division he falls in love with his wife Kath when they were nineteen (Kath) and eighteen (Botham). Botham's career skyrockets (something to do with his marriage) when he enters the Test arena scoring runs and taking wickets and winning matches. Astounding stats - hundreds and five-wicket and ten-wickets hauls. Botham takes the world by storm and the worst hit are the Aussies against whom he seems to reserve the best he has.

As a person, he is quick to use his fists, loves his drink, loves practical jokes, loves trying new things and pushing life to the limit. His stint with Somerset, his friendship with Viv Richards, his dabbling with drugs, sex and rock n roll (Mick Jagger, Elton John, Eric Clapton are all his personal friends), his many run-ins with the administration all show Botham as he was. Then the burden of captaincy, a dip in form and fortunes, sacked from captaincy and a miraculous return to form all make the fairy tale.

But things are changing and the administration wants more hard work and not just results. Gower and Botham are the casualties and soon the fairy tale comes to an end. Botham's famous 900 mile walks to raise money for leukaemia are well described as his dabbling with Hollywood, stage, flying, racing, soccer, adventure sports etc are. He dabbles with the rebel tours in South Africa. Somehow his marriage survives it all - and he confesses several times that it is no credit to him and all because of Kath who puts up with a lot. A love-hate relationship with tabloids keeps his life spiced up.

Botham's cricket is interesting. He does not believe in nets. Only believes in having a good time which is a drink with the boys - and he could drink a lot. He is hopeless at man management as he himself accepts and says that the players need to be suitably motivated when they are playing for England. Another aspect he mentions is that he had a knack of picking up wickets with deliveries that normally would have got hit for four - a happy knack some have - I believe it's their attitude that does it. Wonderful to have such guys in your team. Botham also said that he always believed that anything could be done - sometimes to the point of being bull-headed about it. But it served him well as his career stats show - 102 Tests, 14 centuries at 33.54, 383 wickets at 28.40, ten 5 wicket hauls and four 10 wicket hauls.

Some of his best pals were the Aussies - Border, Lillee, Greg Ritchie. Viv Richards of the West Indies. Bob Willis and David Gower in England. Geoff Boycott is not a favorite with him though he admires his batting immensely. Gavaskar finds a place in Botham's all-time World XI.

He sued Imran Khan when the latter speaks about ball tampering, agreeing that he has done it, but in the same breath says it was not tampering as far as he is concerned. Botham is not too pleased at the insinuation that he may be among the many players who may have tampered the ball and sends Imran a legal notice. Botham is convinced that what Imran confessed to was tampering. He is equally clear that he has never resorted to tampering. He is also very clear on the subject of racism and detests those who differentiate based on color. Botham quit Somerset when they sack Viv Richards and Joel Garner on flimsy reasons. Modeled after Brian Close the gutsy Somerset captain, Botham breaks bones, suffers injuries and lives through it all to tell his tale.

It's an interesting and unapologetic version of his life. For me, lasting impressions are of his taking 13 wickets and scoring a hundred in the Jubilee Test when Vishwanath recalled Bob Taylor and that signaled doom for us. Botham has favorable memories of India though. Nice read. Thanks Abhinay.