Tuesday, September 18, 2018

c/o Kancharapalem - Movie

Nicely done! Enough laughter, nice story, a nice new setting, lovely characters and a brilliant ending. Can't ask for more! Go watch!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Column in The Sunday HANS - iPolls

iPolls - They are the future politicians - reliable, polite, well informed, responsive and good looking! Want to vote for them?


Friday, September 14, 2018

Talk at Sultan Ul Loom College of Pharmacy - Learning Mindset and Student Engagement

As part of the Pharmacy Council of India's Continuing Education Program, Sultan-Ul-Loom College of Pharmacy conducted a three-day seminar and workshop for thirty teachers of Pharma colleges in and around Hyderabad. As part of the workshop I was invited to speak on Learning Mindset and Student Engagement on September 10, 2018 by Dr. Anupama.

Everything is a Learning Problem - Learning Mindset
I began my talk by posing the question - would a person who played first-class cricket and did not progress further, be looked at as someone with a learning problem? The common idea is to blame it on politics and lack of recommendation but I said I saw it as a learning problem. I explained why by citing and explaining the concept of learning and Fixed Mindset and how it can affect learning in the classroom.

Psychologically Safe Places that Encourage Learning - I Don't Know 
We discussed the idea of Psychologically Safe places and how learning can only happen based on questions and what we don't know - not by knowing what we already know. It's time for teachers to be more secure and thus create more secure places to learn where students can freely speak up about what they don't know, make mistakes, ask questions and provoke discussion.

ABC - Activator, Behavior, Consequence
On student engagement, we discussed how once spaces are made secure, students will get drawn to learn because they are there with a purpose. This purpose or the activator can be better set by the teacher if they set goals or expectations early and set up the students for success. Similarly being able to give process orientation on how to maximise their return with the investment of time and energy could help. Perfect practice makes perfect - not just practice with the wrong routines.

Continuous Feedback Drives Progress
Mostly I stressed on the most important factor that drives progress - feedback.  Teachers as managers and parents, need to understand the importance of giving feedback. Without continuous and informal feedback, students may go off track. It's important to set these conversations frequently and have informal discussions on their goals and how they are faring. But most times we do not know how to give feedback - we are scared to give good feedback because we are worried they may become complacent and we do not give negative feedback because we are worried about losing relationships. But there are ways to do both and prod the student to improve and progress.

Challenge Drives Engagement
We discussed the importance of finding ways to challenge the students because challenge and interest go hand in hand. We discussed how Ramakanth Achrekar challenged his students by placing a coin on the stumps. More importantly we stressed on the importance of wanting their students to succeed and of devising ways to engage them. A good pointer here - how does a smart parent engage the child? Think of ways that continuously keep the child engaged and growing.

Energy and Enthusiasm - Set Context
When Dr. Anupama, Principal, Sultan Ul Loom College of Pharmacy, a good friend of mine, asked me how to make children come to class, I could not resist telling them that high energy and enthusiasm always works like magic. People want to be with people who are enthusiastic and energetic. To illustrate the idea of how we all have more than what we need of energy and enthusiasm we did the exercise of low energy and high energy in meeting people. Conclusions - we have the same energy  - and just need to set the right context as I had set for them. Access that energy and see how their students gravitate towards them.

I enjoyed the visit to Sulan Ul Loom college, perhaps the first time I went there thanks to Anu. Met the Secretary of the Society Mr. Zafar Javeed who it turned out, was an ex-MCC player. We chatted about cricket for a while and then it was time to head back after a fruitful session.

Workshop at School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad - 2018

It is normally a two-day workshop but since the student intake is now 120, we decided to do a one-day workshop for both sections with clear objectives for the day - learning mindset, goal setting, preparation and execution. I liked the one-day format that Prof Jyothi suggested and felt it would be more focussed. The first day I addressed students from Healthcare and Analytics, and then on day 2, I addressed the regular MBA. The content was the same. The workshop was conducted on September 6 and 7th, 2018.

We first administered a questionnaire on their clarity on goals, preparation, expectations etc. The same would be administered in the evening to measure any improvement.

Why MBA, Expectations, Approach
We looked at what the students expected from the course and whether they had any clarity about what to expect and how to go about it. We wondered if we could achieve our goals by being vague or by being clear.

Design or Hope
The example of being ready with bricks and cement and sand to build a house was looked at -  do we need a clear vision of what to build or go about it vaguely? The students understood the importance of building their career by design.

100% Responsibility is 100% Freedom - Your Best Chance
We looked at the concept of taking 100% responsibility for their careers and life. They are now full grown adults at 21 years plus with a right to vote and marry, and whatever happens, they now have to bear the consequences. So they are better off taking 100% responsibility for their lives and careers rather than hoping someone will help or something will happen because if it succeeds or not they will get blamed for it. I suggested that 100% responsibiity for their lives will give them 100% freedom and they can enjoy the consequences better.

Approach to Learning - 'I Don't Know' Is the Way Forward
We looked at the approach. I suggested that they may be feeling insecure which is not a great place to learn. All insecurity would be driven by the feeling that they do not know enough. I told them that no one knows everything so it is ok not to know everything. But to act like you know will add a lot of pressure and will stop all growth and learning. Saying 'I don't know' can be very freeing and can also be the beginning of all learning. People will help when we say we don't know and we can also do something to learn. A loud shout of 'I don't know' in the classroom and that it's ok and we were off.

Mindset - Fixed and Growth Mindset
We looked at the two governing mindsets and the students played roles of both mindsets. In the end we understood that the learning mindset can free them from a burden of 'knowing' and enable real learning. For my review on the book click on link.

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

Start With Why
We watched Simon Sinek's TED talk 'Start With Why' so the students understand their purpose. We discussed goals and how purpose drives great things - Sulabh and Goonj were discussed as ideas with great purpose and how they succeeded.

Goal Setting
We discussed the apocryphal Harvard study of students who set goals. We looked at how goals are important to bring our best. The students were told about how to set SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Then we set a 20-year vision - with all the aspects of SMART goals. A few students shared their goals and we could make corrections until the picture was clear. Position, House, Car, Bank balance, Impact on society, work involved in, were all part of the 20-year achievement.

Then we set a 10-year goal keeping the 20-year vision in mind. Only condition was that it had to be in line with the 20-year vision. Again clarity on position, house, bank balance, impact etc.

Then they set a five-year goal keeping the 10 and 20-year goal in mind. Again position, company, bank balance etc.

Then they set a 2-year goal - what they would achieve in these two years at college and achieve what placement to be in line with their 20-year goal.

The fact that they were all connected and one had to start walking on the path from now on was impressed on them. With the learning mindset technique they could achieve what they set their mind upon.

OKR Technique
We discussed the OKR technique  to make their execution foolproof. Objectives were set for 2 years, 1 year and 6 months to understand the idea of how to set Objectives. They were significant and directional, 10 x of what they could achieve and not incremental. With Objectives, less was more.

For each Objective, we set 3-4 Key Result Areas which are metric driven, had a number, were specific, time-bound. If all Key results were achieved the Objective would be achieved as well. It was therefore important that the Key Results were set well.

The principles guiding the OKR system were - Focus and Commit to Priorities, Align and Connect to Team, Track fro Accountability and Stretch for Awesome.

(OKR Technique is taken from the book "Measure What Matters" - BY John Doerr. to see my review of the book click on link -

CFR Technique
One reason why the best Objectives and Key Results do not get achieved is because they are hidden from public view. So following John Doerr's advise, I told them to write their Objectives clearly with the Key Results, share it with everyone, and have conversations about progress. C is for Conversations, F is for Feedback and R is for Culture of Recognition.

The conversations and transparency of Objectives will push individuals to achieve their results and objectives.

I ended with an exercise in the regular section which I somehow could not do in Healthcare - an exercise to show that we have a lot of energy and that the energy and enthusiasm we have will double our income. Double your enthusiasm and double your income is the formula.

Measuring feedback
An analysis of the feedback from questionnaires.

Healthcare and Data Analytics (% improvement)
Regular MBA(%improvement)
Clarity on career path
36 %
34 %
Clarity on process to achieve potential
27 %
28 %
Goal clarity
30 %
28 %
Clarity on preparatory process to achieve goals
50 %

46 %

A Secure Society
We ended with my plea to be more secure as people, to be gentle and honest with themselves and to have a learning mindset, seek continuous feedback and stay on course for their goals. Their fear that by pursuing one goal they might miss on many others was dispelled - when we pursue one goal with all effort, we normally find our bigger goal.

Some Feedback From the Students

“Really sharpened our thoughts and enlightened our minds. Our goals are clear now. Came to know the importance of hard work.”

“Good to know that learning starts from saying “I don’t know”

“It was so informative. I was only 30% responsible – from now on I’ll take 100% responsibility for my life and career.”

“Very inspiring, helped remove dilemmas and fears, very interactive, clarity on my goals and ways to achieve it.”

“Helped organise my thoughts, year wise goal setting made me self-confident, showed me what efforts I need to put in.”

“Really inspired and highly motivated, whatever you said is not just for the job but for life. I know my role and responsibilities and I am sure that I will achieve them.”

“Learned the importance of why. The forms provided really helped us in self-assessment and self-discovery.”

“I was very unclear of what I wanted to do but after this session, I know what I want in my life. I am definitely looking forward to more sessions from you.”

“The most important thing I learned was to accept that ‘I don’t know’ which will help me grow.. lots of useful information.’

‘Quality of content – high, Motivation – very high, highly satisfied and motivated.’

‘Great talk, eye-opening, clear and simple to understand, Mindset, OKR (Objectives and Key results), CFR (Conversations, Feedback and Recognition), Really helpful.’

‘Will become a hard worker and will definitely achieve my 20-year goals.’

‘Made me clear about my short and long-term goals. Eye-opening session for me."

'Vast experience and vast knowledge led to a quality session. Put my goals on paper and I can feel it shape into reality – I believe in my goals much better now. Look forward to putting everything learnt into practice and achieve my goals.’

Healthcare and Analytics
‘Learned not to feel inferior and to learn from my mistakes.’

‘I only had a 2-year plan but now I am able to think of a 20-year vision.’

‘By listening to others and their goals I learned about more opportunities.’

‘Learned different ways and I am motivated to think and work for myself. Helped me to be more confident. To see clearly my goal.’

‘Learned how to prioritize things. I am more clear about myself than I was in the morning.’
‘Learned to be more responsible for my life.’

‘Perception of my thinking has changed. To achieve something big, groundwork needs to be done from the initial stage.’

‘Made me specific and practical in reaching my goal. Earlier I was not sure about the path and whether I can attain it. Helped me get a clear vision about my future goals.’

‘Encouraged us to break our shells of fixed mindset.’

‘It has given me a clear-cut aim. Helped clear the confusion I was suffering from any days. It has given me peace.’

‘Feeling very good than in the morning. Will continue my learning. Learned that success cannot be achieved in one day. It takes a lot of effort and hard work. Learned how to deal with our insecurities and learned to say “I don’t know”.’

‘I questioned myself many times during the workshop. About how many days I wasted till now. The workshop is very helpful as we have just joined the course.’

‘Helped me understand how to connect dots looking backward. Will apply the golden circle in every aspect of my life.’

‘Funful experience. I loved this day and I feel better than I was about an hour ago. Got a chance to share my views and heard how determined others are. Learned how I can frame an approach. Learned how my decision today can have an impact on my dream.’ 

Thanks all.

Talk at Reliance Retail, Navi Mumbai

When Yogesh Patgaonkar, my friend from Pune told me that Nitin Kaul from Reliance Retail would get in touch with me for a talk in Mumbai, I immediately said Yes because I trust Yogesh and his judgment completely. The talk was on September 5, Teachers Day. Nitin called and all was fixed up and I went to Mumbai for the talk. It was at the Reliance campus in Navi Mumbai.

It's a beautiful campus with the best of infrastructure. You walk around the corridors of the L&D building and wonder at the scale and the imagination. The idea behind their Learning Centre is wonderful. Some part of the building is now occupied by Jio.

I was to speak to winners of the L&D awards - the trainers. And I was to speak about learning mindset and learner engagement.

The gist of the talk. We began with two personal stories to illustrate the learning mindset.

Everything is a Learning Problem
"I am always asked this one question - you played Ranji Trophy but did not play tests - why? Would you consider it as a learning problem?

Another time when I cleared 18 exams at one go during my engineering college days when threatened with detention after failing to clear any (except English) in my first year. Good teachers, focused studying and a desire to achieve a particular outcome helped. But what happens to the label I believed to be true - that I was not intelligent enough to pass these exams? Interestingly a couple of my friends who were far better than me failed to clear one exam and were detained. Did I suddenly grow intelligent?

The Mindset - Dr. Carol Dweck
The answer to both questions to me came from the book 'The Mindset' by Carol Dweck. I realised that in the first case, in cricket, I had stopped growing, working hard and seeking help and had adopted a fixed mindset. My growth stopped after reaching a high level of the game.

In the exams story, I was already labeled as someone who was unintelligent and had adopted the learning mindset. I had nothing to prove and everything to gain so I asked for help, studied with focus and cleared the exams.

In both cases, the ideas that intelligence is not fixed, hard work and growth-oriented work pays and helps in achieving or bringing us closer to our potential stand proved. While in the fixed mindset we try to prove how smart we are, do not believe in effort (actually effort makes us look stupid and the opposite of smart), do not take up higher challenges, do not persist in the face of tough challenges, give up easily, do not take useful feedback, feel threatened by others success and in the long run, plateau and do not fulfill our potential. In the growth or learning mindset, we only want to learn and grow, take higher challenges, persist in the face of hardship, take feedback from all sources, growth-oriented effort is the key to mastery, get inspired and learn lessons from others success and in the long run do justice to our potential.

An understanding of the concept of the two mindsets can help their students adopt the right mindset and approach to be more secure and create a learning environment.

Learning Environment - Psychologically Safe places
To create a learning environment we must first create a psychologically safe and secure space where it is ok to make mistakes. Most cultures do not encourage asking questions or allow for mistakes. They seem to reward only the perfect answer. By rewarding only what is known they are hindering all growth and learning because all growth and learning happens in the unknown. Only when we are ok with the 'I don't know' and explore that do we grow. So classrooms should encourage more questions, more 'I don't knows' to progress. Don't seek perfection, seek progress through discussion.

Secure and Insecure - I Know and I Don't Know
In my book, people also do not seek help, or express their views because they are insecure inside. All insecurity to me is a result of hiding what we think we do not know. It results in insecure and negative behaviors. To be secure all we must accept is that we know what we know and that we do not know what we do not know. If such an atmosphere can be created and students can be told that they are ok with not knowing and that they can raise questions and seek answers, a learning environment can be cultivated.

Start With Why - Simon Sinek
We also saw the TED talk of Simon Sinek on 'Start with why' and discussed how, the why, which in this case can combine with the approach of the learning mindset or the growth mindset, can make the student secure enough to learn and grow faster and bring more to the table.

ABC - Goal Setting, Process Orientation and Feedback
We looked at the concept of ABC - of Activator, Behavior and Consequence and how in learning we can use all three to make the process of learning more efficient. Activators are goals and by helping students set right context and expectations we can prepare them to act better. Most students live up to their expectations so set clear, high expectations. Activators are followed be behaviors that help students achieve their goals. Here students can benefit by process orientation on how to utilise their time and execute. C stands for Consequence of the behavior which is feedback. The student normally does not get any feedback until it is too late. So we must learn how to give feedback - immediately, by talking only about the act and not the person, by talking of its impact and how it could be corrected and by resetting the expectations with the belief that the person will fulfill them. Normally we do not give both positive and negative feedback because we do not know how to but once we learn that, we can make the process very efficient. In giving feedback, one can follow the CFR method of Continuous feedback - through frequent informal conversations, giving positive feedback and developing a culture of recognition.

A Learning Culture - Encourage Mistakes, Process, Feedback and Discussions
We discussed how a culture of recognition will enable more engagement. Just as challenge and interest go in hand. The example of how Ramakanth Achrekar would use a coin to challenge and motivate net practice was discussed. But to think up such challenges, people have to be creative and really care for their wards. They must make things fun, challenging and tough and really care about the student's growth.

A couple of questions and we wound up the talk. I really enjoyed the entire experience. Thank you Yogesh, Nitin, Sandeep and all who attended the talk.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Premaku Raincheck - Movie

Premaku Raincheck is a movie that is produced and directed by my friend from our Engineering College days, and then a successful investment banker and entrepreneur to boot, AP Srinivas. So I won't trust myself to review this movie without bias anyway.

AP, as we know him, is a wholehearted, generous, fun loving guy with a simple, non-judgmental soul, a down-to-earth and humble personality for someone who has achieved quite a lot, and mostly, a big heart. He ticks all boxes of 'success' in every way - Engineering from Osmania, MBA from IIM, Lucknow, a sharp rise in ICICI and then a giddy high in successfully launching a software company and riding a wave. All done, one would think! AP could be sitting in some plush place sipping his cocktails and doing what investment bankers do - but then he would not be AP then.

AP talks unabashedly and with a disarming simplicity about how he used to take tuition's during college, coming from a middle-class family like most of us, and earning early in life. When I met him after all these years, at the music launch of 'Ashta Chamma' we caught on immediately. I remember an animated conversation with him about movies and realised how deeply he loved the medium. He narrated a script he had in mind (Shwetha), met Ganga Raju and other movie personalities and discussed movies in depth, and I knew then, he had this movie bug in him. In more conversations later, I understood how passionate he was about movies. But nothing in what he said or did, prepared me to handle the bombshell he dropped. One fine day three and a half years ago, AP, after considering several other options, decided to produce and direct a movie. What? Won't that be too much for someone with no experience in filmmaking? Why not first produce and then direct? These were questions for lesser mortals like us, but AP was firm. He would produce and direct.

AP was clear as he normally is and fully trusted his investment banker side just as he trusted his artistic side. He learned everything from scratch - screenplay, direction, script, dialogue, music. Software, story, team, script, actors...he went through the process meticulously like any good investment banker would and I remember meeting him at different stages in the process. He got himself a team he was comfortable with - Shashank, Raghu, Sharath. He was open to advise from everyone - met and picked everyone's brains whether they were responsive or not. He got his vision clear, his script in place, his screenplay locked. He spent months finding his Wiki, his Ramya and Tanya. He spent hours learning the intricacies of direction, music, spent hours getting the perfect lyrics in place and worked and worked like I haven't seen him work. In fact, he would always joke - those who work are not my friends. By that definition, AP fully left his old self behind and immersed himself into his project.

As the movie progressed, we kept in touch and my hitherto slightly skeptical self, began to admire and wonder at his passion at bringing his vision to reality. So deeply was he invested - he would play songs, show small snippets, the first cut, seek views. I had little to offer because he was clear about his vision and his process. Much before the movie got done I told AP - that whatever happens to the movie, you have done a great job. You left nothing in your power to chance. And just for that dedication and sincerity of effort and honesty to his vision, AP was through in my eyes. When the movie was done, AP, as only he can, invited every single person who was part of the journey and threw a lovely party where the crew and cast were also present. His eyes light up and he laughs as spontaneously as ever. Thankfully the project did not steal that from him.

For anyone who creates, it is a huge journey, because you are fully responsible for your creation. You cannot hide - praise or criticism. This is where many try to fit into the popular formulas. AP did not think twice about his off beat name, nor the idea of adventure sports, nor several other urban concepts - he went about being true to his vision. That is what matters to me. What went into it, the honesty and sincerity behind it. To me that's the only measure of success. All else is not in our control.

'Premaku Raincheck'is a layered movie. It is about a young man, CEO of an adventure sports company called Wiki, who believes work and romance should not be mixed. But as luck would have it, he finds the perfect girl, mature, smart and caring, in his team. Much as he fights his principles, Wiki finds that his heart has a bigger say than his mind in his actions. A complex relationship with Tanya, who fits his principles but not his heart's diktat, makes things more complex for the conflicted young man. The work environment, friends and their own stories, the conflict between themselves and the others lead to a perfect ending - all ends are well tied up (including some really tiny threads). Music by Deepak Kiran is lovely, the locales breathtaking, Sharath ever reliable. All the debutants - Abhilash, Priya, and Mounika are very credible. The support cast adds to the fun and they did a great job too. It moved at a fine pace, got me believing the characters, made me feel for them and root for them. The story comes together well in the end.

I saw a 3/5 rating on ToI today. Some other user reviews are very promising. 89% seemed to have liked the film. It's a movie for the millenials and AP never tried to dumb it down for anyone which is a good thing. I hope PR gets AP great success. All said and done like I told him, AP was a winner way before the film released. And I do hope he continues and makes more movies with stories that he believes in and are close to his heart. 

Thought for the Day - Context is Everything

Context is everything. What you want it to be and what you operate in is what makes your reality.

It is up to us to set our context. The one who can set himself a fine context lives that life. The one who cannot suffers. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Stages - A Play

Naresh bought tickets for this play and invited me. I am not much of a playgoer but decided to try it out. It was at the Westin Hotel. The play is presented by the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation, which is led by Mohammad Ali Baig, and which has a mandate of preserving the culture and heritage of Hyderabad. The play is adapted from a short story written by Noor Baig. It premiered in the US, Turkey and several prestigious festivals in India.

The play is about an old world Hyderabad family that saw the opulence, grandeur and Hyderabadi lifestyle of the old in its good days. Read as polo matches, poetry recitals perhaps, large mansions with stables and horses, servants and the works. The house is one of the last such remaining in an otherwise rapidly shrinking space thanks to apartments and high rises. The young protagonist Aziza is an artist and loves the old heritage and memories associated with the house, and her now deceased father, whose portrait she has begun but is not able to complete. Her mother is leaning towards selling the house and moving to an apartment - the maintenance and insecurity of maintaining an old house and an old servant is getting to her. The only man servant left from the old days is the aging Ramaiah who shares Aziza's thoughts. In sharp contrast is the young help, Shehzadi who cares two hoots for heritage etc and is a heady consumerist. Aziza's fiance lives in Chicago and is hoping that she will sell the old house and join him there. He finds that she is not likely to do that and is more likely to let him go than the house and makes his peace with her decision.

The cast was Noor Baig, Vijay Prasad, Madhu Swaminath, Mohammad Ali Baig, Shailaja Reddy and S.A. Majeed.

Like all good things, the play grows on you slowly. Noor Baig carries the play on her own almost and she is good at what she does. It was a fine evening with a lot of fine people including the Consul Generals of the USA, and Turkey and the High Commissioner of Britain, Director Alliance Francaise, Dr. Sahib Rasool Khan of the Shadan Group, in attendance and beaurocrats like Jayesh Ranjan and Arvind Kumar.

For all the talk of preserving heritage it was interesting to see the westerners wearing Indian clothes and the Indians wearing western clothes. There was a panel discussion moderated by Jayesh Ranjan and he did a fine job of it. It pretty much centered around heritage buildings in Hyderabad and what one must do to protect them.

Naresh knew the Baig's and went to meet them and all the others he knew up front in the stage. Very enjoyable evening. Thanks Naresha.

A Qadir Ali Baig production, Mohammad Ali Baig and Noor Baig starring play - ticked.

Into the Great Heart: Legends and Adventures of Guru Angad - Kamla K. Kapur

Guru Angad was the second Guru of the Sikhs after Guru Nanak Dev. The author Kamla Kapur writes a poetic account of how Bhai Lehna, a Durga worshipper who comes to visit Guru Nanak, gets drawn to him and makes him his guru. In the first meeting Bhai Lehna mistakes Guru Nanak to be an ordinary servant and allows him to take his horse and lead him in. From that moment on Bhai Lehna is drawn to Guru Nanak and the Guru Nanak understands his great devotion for him.

Guru Nanak's companion through his years of travel is Mardana, a Muslim. Now Guru Nanak and Mardana live in the same town with their families. Guru Nanak's sister Nanaki stays with him, as does his Sulakhni and his two sons who vie for the position after Guru Nanak - Lakhmi Das and Sri Chand. While Sri Chand has a following of seekers who call themselves Udaasis, Lakhmi Das has a different style of living God's life, of hunting and killing birds and animals. Both sons wish to follow their father to his psosition but Guru Nanak is not convinced. Bhai Lehna's devotion impresses him more.

The story is driven by conversations between Buddha, a follower of Guru Nanak, Aziza, daughter of Mardana and the various women mostly. Mata Sulakhni is angry with Guru Nanak for what he subjected her to by leaving her alone with her small children. Nanaki supports her brother. The discrimination of gender, of religion even to play a musical instrument is shown gently through the narrative. We get a fair sense of how the society was then, the situation in their house and Guru Nanak's philosophy.

Two stories I remember of Guru Nanak. The first when he sees some Hindus praying at Kashi and giving water to their ancestors by facing East. He turns West and starts pouring water upon which the priests ask him what he is doing. He tells them he is watering his plants in Punjab. In another story he tells an ascetic who closes his eyes and says he has found all the secrets of mankind inside him. Guru Nanak hides his lota behind him and the man gets furious. Guru Nanak asks him how he found the secret to mankind when he could not find his lota.

As the story progresses we see that the family of Guru Nanak does not like the presence of Bhai Lehna and get him removed from their house. Bhai Lehna leaves with a heavy heart. The two brothers Sr Chand and Lakhmi Das fight one day leading to Lakhmi Das's death or rather, disappearance. Upset that his father will not make him the next guru Sri Chand leaves with his band of followers. Soon after, an ageing Mardana dies. Guru Nanak chooses his follower in a drastic manner. He calls all hopefuls, takes them to a forest, shows them a decaying corpse and asks the one who wants to follow him to eat the corpse. None touches it but Bhai Lehna asks if he should start with the head or the foot and if he could share it with the others. Just as he is about to eat it, it turns into a prasad. Truly, Bhai Lehna proves he is worthy of his guru's affections. In the end, Guru Nanak leaves his earthly abode and Bhai Lehna becomes Guru Angad, the second Guru of the Sikhs.

In one chapter, while mentioning that Guru Nanak disapproved of the Hindu rituals after a person's death because they frequently put poor people into debt, Kamla Kapur describes the entire process that takes place when a Hindu dies. The person is carried from the bed to the floor, feet turned towards the North to ensure he doesn't become a ghost, body bathed in curd and ghee, clothed in best outfit, covered in a shroud, widow and children touch the feet, lamp lit near the head of the deceased to light up the journey to the other word, men shave heads, women take of jewelry,  body taken to cremation grounds to the sounds of drums, stringed instruments gongs and conch shells. Flower petals and dry fruits are thrown over the body. The body is carried out feet first, as against head first from the womb, on the shoulders of four close relatives. The body is placed on a pyre. Wood piled. A pot of water is broken to symbolise that the form has broken and shapeless water has returned to the soil. The eldest son sets fire. Midway he lifts the club and breaks the deceased's skull.
Mourners bathe at a pond or well, wash their clothes and wear new ones to purify themselves from death. The bones are collected and consigned to a river, always to a river that takes away and brings. a feast follows to ensure the deceased has a good afterlife. A cow is given to Brahmin priests so that the deceased can clutch its tail and cross over to the other shore. You can imagine what Guru Nanak might have said about such rituals. But it was interesting for me to see it all laid out like this. I saw several, did a few, but never made sense of it all.

'Into the Great Heart' is poetic and easy to read. There are so many references to it which use the word 'poetic' and though I cannot put my finger on why, there is a lilting quality to the prose. Though simply told in a very accessible manner the characters stay with you. The philosophy and lessons are deep and clearly show that Kamla Kapur knows far more and far deeper about the philosophy and the story. Kamla Kapur is a poet, author and playwright. She taught play writing, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, mythology at Grossmont College, San Diego and currently divides her time between Kullu Valley and California.

'Into the Great Heart; is written with much love by a person who knows what she is writing and wants to share her understanding with her readers. An enjoyable and enlightening read.