Friday, November 30, 2012

Talk on Leadership Skills at SMILDA

This is the general content of a talk on leadership skills that I gave at SMILDA for their officers. Dr. Srinivasa Rao was kind enough to give me the opportunity which came my way thanks to my friend Achyut Menon who recommended my name to him.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu

Effective leadership: It is all about bringing the best out of everyone in the team to achieve the team’s goal. The keyword being – ‘the best’ i.e. the team’s potential.

3 levels of leadership
  1. Unprepared, Untrained and even Reluctant leadership: Leader is not prepared for leadership role and not secure. He/She expects everyone to know what they are doing, does not give any direction and goes with the flow.
Result – If the team is good he/she may get some positive result, else it may end up with a negative result.
  1. Process driven leadership: Leader has some idea and follows a basic process. This can be taught or learned. In such scenarios team members are more focused and committed and work for a cause.
Result – Leader gets a decent result if he/she planned for it well and executed the process well.

  1. Inspirational leadership: Leader is an evolved leader. Higher level of leadership where team members go beyond their past capabilities and deliver much higher results for team. Here the team members are willing to go that extra length by themselves. Result – Extraordinary results.
One must certainly get out of Level 1 and be at Level 2. The Level 2 is a simple enough process-driven leadership style that one can stick by and get safe results even without conviction, belief and strength of personality or stature. Some training could help young leaders achieve good results at Level 2 as well. And one must also always aspire for Level 3 or Inspirational Leadership which can make a huge difference to the world, to the team and oneself. 

Level 1- Unprepared and untrained leaders – Poor results
In most of such cases the leadership position is thrust on the leader. There is no formal training and lack of leadership experience and that makes the person insecure. Leader closes himself out, is not accessible to his team and becomes unreasonable in his demands. He/she may not have goal clarity and provides no direction. He/she cannot hold the energy of the team together.
There is no real goal orientation, no coordinated team work, no clear plan, no empowerment of the team members, no consistent effort, no feeling of team spirit. Low morale, low performance. Low motivation. Average result.
Leadership has made no difference here and it may end up having a negative impact on everyone including the leader.

Level 2 -Process driven leadership – Positive results
With some leadership experience and/or formal training, leaders who are appointed to leadership positions can follow a process and get most things right. Here I feel most employees who are in some form of leadership positions, must be given some training on the process so they do follow some basic process right. Following the process does not require an extraordinary personality. It only requires preparation and work before assigning goals, roles and targets. In such cases, the leader must look at the process from the leader’s perspective and set the process in motion (as opposed to knowing it and not doing anything about it).

Goal clarity – Why are you here as a leader? What do you want to achieve as a leader? It is important for the leader to have goal clarity - about what he/she wishes to achieve and how. As the leader he/she sets the goals, the framework, for his team and they will follow it. Goal clarity requires a clear understanding of the system, the effort required.
To do: The leader must be clear about the goal and communicate the goal clearly to the team at the earliest – probably in the first meeting itself. It is probably the most important part of the process because all thought and action will be driven towards it. It is also the one thing that can hold the team’s energies together.

Role clarity – Who does what? Who reports to whom? Where does each one’s role end and where does it begin? It is important to specify roles so people don’t step on each other’s roles.
To do: The leader must mention clearly the role of each person, and what is expected of him/her in that role. Assigning roles requires the leader to know team members and their capabilities well and to understand what makes them tick and what does not.

Target setting – What to expect from each one? By themselves team members wait for instructions. Rarely do team members find it in themselves to motivate themselves and do extra work. Hence it is the leader’s job to push them or create an environment where they work by creating targets. Leader should know what members are capable of and degree of difficulty of assignment before assigning targets.
To do: The leader should know what a good target is for each team member. The target should stretch the team gradually but it should be achievable. The targets should challenge and motivate, not discourage and demotivate.

Providing inputs – Training, hardware, sotware and other inputs to be provided if the team is not fully equipped. The leader must know what inputs are required and ensure that they are provided.
To do: Understand the job and degree of difficulty in the job and equip team fully before they get to work.

Communication  - Leader must communicate clearly what is expected from the team and get their assent and buy in.
To do: To communicate clearly what is expected, what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable, what will be tolerated and what will not be tolerated, what is the reward and the punishment. Also to communicate the extent of support one would get and in what areas. Keep all doors of communication open.

Performance appraisal – Appraise the team’s/individual’s performance periodically and take corrective action. Here it is important for the leader to be sympathetic to honest efforts and at the same time set corrective action for dishonest or low performers who are not putting in effort.
To do: Look for those who are compromising the team effort and those who are helping its cause. Understand the reasons why and take action accordingly. It’s either a competence issue or an attitude issue so deal with it. However always be clear about the outcome so it guides the process.

Level 3 – Inspirational leadershipHigh Results All Round
The guiding mantra for leadership of this type is - everyone wants to excel. How does the leader get them to excel is the question? How does the leader create that atmosphere?
In these scenarios we are looking at leaders who believe in their team and its potential irrespective of its past record, who provide a worthy goal, the correct inputs that push the team’s limits, who believe that the team can handle the responsibility themselves. The critical thing about inspirational leadership is the transfer of ownership of the team’s goals to the members themselves so they take it upon themselves to achieve it (instead of being pushed to achieve it).

1)      Transfer of ownership of achieving the goal.
Transfer of ownership needs the leader to be a secure, trusting, supportive, patient, sympathetic person who has no ego. He must be able to trust his team to have the potential to achieve things much bigger than what he can conceive. He must not insist on micro managing, on giving them processes all the time but rather, show them high targets, guide them and support them in achieving them. They will find the way once he shows them the big goal. As they go on the path, he must trust them even when they fail, and help them through their anxieties until they succeed. At times he may have to step in under pressure and set things right. He should feel no loss of ego as they fly higher than he has, as they become independent and free.

Transfer of ownership could include the following activities:
A Worthy Goal– As defined by the team, a goal higher than commonplace results. A goal that gives them glory and reward. Guide them on this as they arrive at a common goal and support them.
The Process of achieving the goal– As defined by the team. Again guide them, and help them prepare for next level. Be hard on their work ethic, and be sympathetic to their individual goals and dreams.
Individual target setting – As defined by team/individual. One can go by potential and then bridge the gap with current performance.
Corrective measures – As defined by the team

Factors that help in this style of leadership:
1)      Being secure as a leader. Accept yourself as you are. Do not feel challenged by their independent thought and act. You are still the boss.
2)      Be supportive of team’s effort even when they fail initially. Give them time. Tell them what to do - not how to do. They will learn to fall and get up on their own.
3)      Guiding and mentoring them when they are going astray. Coach instead of commanding.
4)      Believe and trust the team. Hold your belief. If you believe in them, they will deliver. If you do not believe, they will not deliver.
5)      To raise the performance, raise the bar. By expecting the best, you foster a team that will reach higher. Make them stretch, flow into greater space. Lead by example where necessary.
6)      Empower everyone. No favorites. Empower the weaker players.

The effective leader knows himself. It all boils down to the leader’s clarity about himself.
The clearer you are about yourself, the more secure you are as a leader. The more secure you are as a leader, the more compassion and understanding you can bring to the workplace.
Know and accept yourself. yourself. Your goals, methods. Team. Strengths. Weaknesses.
That’s when all the minor glitches go away and the team starts falling in line.

Leadership tenets
Be aware that 
-          The leader is wholly responsible for the team’s performance.
-          No one starts with best resources. It is what the leader does with the resources that is important.
-          The team reflects the leader. If members are shirking responsibility, are being dishonest, are doubting, not performing – they are reflecting the leader somewhere. The leaders own doubts, fears, lack of clarity, lack of security shows up in these incidents. The core team reflects the leader and his beliefs
-          Leaders bring vision, greater common good, greater individual good, a vibrant future, human empowerment and development, clarity and conviction.
-          They leave the team as a better unit, as better individuals with greater belief in themselves.
-          They use resources efficiently -they don’t do everything themselves.
-          The leader takes the pressure when the heat is on. Can do it himself.

Make a difference – Use this opportunity
As a leader, one can make a difference to the world so use this opportunity to make even a small difference in your area despite the constraint. The small difference you make will slowly grow into something much bigger. Empower your people, your team and achieve higher.

Einstein on Gandhi

Albert Einstein - "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anjali - On the Art of Using Only As Much Energy as Required

Now this is a slightly complicated concept that I always find difficult to explain. That perhaps we are at our best when we operate slightly within our 100% (perhaps at 80% I think, so we are in control). But while kicking some balls today Anjali explained the same concept back to me a bit more lucidly.

'Don't kick too hard Nanna,' she said after seeing the ball balloon off my foot. 'Kick only as hard as you need.'
I found that interesting and asked her why.
She said -'When we kick too hard, the ball will go somewhere or the other. So you kick only as hard as you need so it will go to the place where we want it to.'

That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. There's no point in putting in too much effort if the ball is going all over the place. Put it in the right place even if it means you use less energy. You get better results for putting the ball in the right place than for hitting it hard and sending it all over.

Thought for the Day - Good Leadership is About Holding the Energy Together

Good leadership is about many things. But mostly it is about holding and harnessing the energy of the team together. How does one do it? Normally by the leader's intent and desire, clarity of goal, beliefs and conviction, and the process he believes in. That is the framework really for the rest of the team. But that is a subtle matter and must experience it really.

But on the other hand, leadership is also about certain basics that can and must be done. These are
  • Having a clear goal
  • Having clear plans for the team and resources to achieve the goal
  • Communicating the plans appropriately to the people concerned
  • Knowing each one of the team and knowing what makes them tick
  • Assigning roles clearly to each one with no space for miscommunication
  • Assigning targets clearly
  • Monitoring the performance and looking for areas of improvement all the time
  • Being available and approachable to the team
  • Making people accountable for their jobs and ensuring that they deliver

On a slightly more evolved level it is about
  • Being secure as the leader
  • Taking responsibility for the team and its performance
  • Getting the best out of people through various means
  • Investing in people so they deliver better performances
  • Investing in people and showing them the path to reach their potential 
  • Being genuinely concerned about people's growth 
  • Trusting people to do their jobs
  • Empowering them through proper inputs and clear communication of expectations
  •  Understanding the reasons for mistakes or low or no-performance and taking corrective action
  •  Allowing the team members to make mistakes, to fall, and to rise on their own yet mentoring and supporting them fully through the rough phases
Somewhere up there it is all about holding, controlling and directing the energies of the team for optimum result.  It is about getting them all to believe in the cause, in the boss, in themselves, and making them better people for that.

On the highest level it is really as Lao Tze puts it, empowering people so much that in the end the people say, we did it ourselves.
  • Total transfer of ownership of the cause to the team so they say they have done it themselves
 You cannot, as a leader, get more committed workers than those who are fully committed to their cause and who feel it is their 'own'.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shahid Akbar - Hyderabad's Elegant Batsman Is No More

There are some - a rare few - cricketers who bring a sense of awe into the room when their name is mentioned. They command a respect - unconditionally, unequivocally and spontaneously - from everyone around. Their talent shines so bright that no one can ever question their genius, and their personalities are so large that even when they stay within themselves, they occupy a large space outside. People travel long distances to see such players play and pray that these players perform more and more so that we mortals are raised from a platform of the normal, average and mediocre, to the level of artistry and genius. These players bring a soft magic into our lives that remains with us deep within, like a sigh of longing.

Shahid Akbar was one such. He died yesterday after a long illness.

Shahid was a stylish left-handed batsman who played for Hyderabad and for State Bank of India. Handsome, enigmatic, polished, cultured, mercurial, graceful and much more, Shahid wielded the bat with as much elegance as any left-hander could, and was fully capable of tearing apart any bowling side on his day. I was a schoolboy when I first played against him but as I knew him over the years, I always knew that there was something about this quiet, wound-up, brooding man that marked him as different. Not just as a cricketer but as a a person. You could not ignore people like him. Such was the strength of his dark, melancholic personality.

I'd heard much about the legend that was Shahid from many sources before I actually saw him or met him. i had heard about his talent, his batting and about himself. I never saw him play a big innings unfortunately, perhaps one 50 against us, which showed glimpses of his footwork, eye and timing. He was a busy player and a hard hitter as well working the ball away on the on side, unleashing straight drives and cover drives in an explosion of energy. His team SBI was probably the strongest batting side in our leagues in the mid-eighties. Their batting order started with Abdul Azeem and Shahid, two of the most destructive openers we had in Hyderabad those days, followed by test cricketer Azhar, Azmath, Khalid Abdul Quayyum, Arun Paul and Kamaraju. That batting order was enough to give any bowling side the creeps.We played against them many times but one particular match that I remember was in 1985 or so, when I was playing for MCC and we put SBI in to bat on a drying wicket at Gymkhana. We got this superb batting outfit for 202 and I got Shahid, Azmath and Khalid out that day. Azhar got a masterful 86 else we would have got them for much lesser. But I was and still am proud of the fact that I got Shahid out that day, caught at short mid wicket by Sanjay.

An excellent fielder who prowled like a leopard on the field, specially the covers, Shahid was polite and cordial and always had a good word for me. One other game when I was trying to bowl faster than what I was capable of at the RRC, I remember Shahid telling me from the non-striker end - 'What Hari, you're bowling like Joel Garner today?'. He would congratulate me on good performances in other games, had a smile (that famous crooked smile of his which was very warm) and a kind word and you never expected anything more from a senior player those days. I'd always seek him out and say Hello to him in our games, something that I did not do with many others.

After those playing days in the eighties I lost touch with Shahid. I heard from others that he had quit the SBI job, that he had become a recluse and had some health issues. I remember Vidyuth telling me that every year Shahid would call the Jaisimha residence on New Year to wish them a Happy New Year, right till the end. After all Vidyuth's father, the late M.L. Jaisimha, was Shahid's first Ranji captain. More recently I heard that he had fallen seriously ill and was in coma. My colleague Riaz told me that Shahid was not in good shape. From whatever I heard, it did not sound good. He was alone more or less in those last days - out of choice they say. I believe the Hyderabad Cricket Association helped out with the medical bills which was a fine gesture on its part.

Yesterday we heard the news that he had passed away. Sometime before he passed away, at the Uppal ground, Hyderabad's Ranji team completed the formalities against the much fancied Mumbai. I am sure that Shahid would have been pleased with the way the young Hyderabad side played against Mumbai under pressure.

Shahid Akbar moves on, leaving behind those fine memories, and some magic to cling on to. May his soul rest in peace. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thought for the Day - How Do I Give 100%

Giving 100% is not about rushing in haphazardly and going like a crazed fool and expending all your energy. It is about a planned, deliberate, application of pressure that starts from a strong, secure, confident place and does not let go.

For example, let's say you have been asked to help with opening a jam bottle's cover (or to unscrew a rather unwieldy and tough screw). 100% is not about rushing in and trying hard to open it instantly. That is a sure way of hurting yourself and not getting the result you want. Instead you first take a good look at the jam bottle (or the screw). You get a secure grip through a deliberate action. Only after you get a secure grip will you start applying pressure. And when you do it, you know that you have to sustain that pressure - until that cover or screw gives in. You try and try again without giving up. If it still slips, you use a towel, a better angle, but you go at it, even after a break, until you create enough pressure so it cracks. That is a good example of giving 100%.

Giving 100% is a deliberate, gradual, tightening. An increase in pressure from a position of stability and strength. You start from within your limitations and keep pushing gradually up as you secure your footholds and handholds. And then it opens up. And expands you.

Thought for the Day - Have I Done My Best

A question to ask when things don't go our way and before we start blaming all else is this - was this the best I could have done? Was there something else I could have done? If I could have, why did I not do it? Ask yourself this question honestly and you will find the answer in a moment.

If you had been truthful to yourself, the answer is evident even before you ask the question. But if you are looking to blame and say I have done my best, thee is still some dishonesty somewhere. Accept that perhaps there could have been room for improvement (else you would not have been in this position). And then work on those areas.

Anjali - Winning Is About Trying

And then we were playing a bit of 'catch-catch' with a ball and I was playacting with Anajli and whining - that she was winning more than I.

Pat comes the reply -'Nanna, winning is not about being sad. Winning is about trying.'

I asked her who told her that. She suddenly became all shy, said she did not remember, and ran off.

And so it is. Life is all about celebration. It is about winning. And winning is all about trying.

Celebrate we must - our lives - and the fact that we have an opportunity to be, to enjoy the moment and to drink deeply from the moment.

Win we must, because winning is about an attitude, of excellence, of responsibility, and not about the result. We win even when the result shows a loss.

And try we must, as hard as we can, for as long as we can, because that is what expands us and makes us bigger and pushes us closer to what we can truly be.

Thanks Anjali.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Married, Please Excuse - Yashodhara Lal

Yashodhara Lal's 'Just Married, Please Excuse'  (Rs. 199, 255 p)  is a breezy, funny account of her love, marriage, children, in laws and other such happenings in her life. The book picks up sometime when she falls in love with Vijay, her husband, and takes us through a nice, fun ride of all that happens in her life. There are no pretensions about the book being otherwise (serious or any such stuff) as one can guess form the cover and the tag line which states that 'Opposites Attract - Trouble'.

And so Yashodhara and Vijay marry when they meet in Bangalore, move to Mumbai, go to Delhi for her delivery. Enter Peanut or Anoushka their little baby (followed by two more children called Pickle and Papad who do not figure in this book), relatives, maids, drivers, and a whole bunch of real life characters that Yashodhara writes about in a style that stays true all through the book. What is nice is the way she wove her real life events and told it like a story (and really well) - that you check the acknowledgements to verify if your doubts were true. I found it amusing, and an easy read but what got me really laughing was the psychotherapist or marriage counsellor Laavanya Agarwal a.k.a Reema, that the couple meets and her constant references to their drinking problems. That part cracked me up.

Yashodhara is obviously a talented writer. The IIM, B graduate knows her voice, she can sustain the story and she writes convincingly, easily and confidently. She wrote the parts where the couple keeps bickering or getting into power struggles effortlessly and without losing her fun tone, which was impressive. I am sure she will write much more and hopefully she will not restrict herself to this tone and style only (not that this book is any less) - simply because she shows signs of being a far more versatile writer. A good, light-hearted and fun read.    

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Expect More, Expect Nothing

I love this paradox of expectations.
Pic courtesy Satish Nargundkar

There are those leaders who weigh us down with their unreasonable expectations. These people literally weigh us down with the burden of expectations they place on us and effect our performances.

And then there are those who make us want to perform better and better for them, make us want to do better and reach their expectations, said or unsaid. We feel obliged to perform for them. And we do.

What exactly is the difference between these two types of leaders? One that gets the best out of us and another that puts unnecessary pressure on us and affects our performance.

I think the key is this. The expectation that affects our performance positively is the one that comes with the rider that it is okay if you fail. That "I trust that you will reach those expectations somehow, in your own way. You find the way and show me what you are capable of". In a funny way, there are no expectations really except that you will do your best.

The other kind of expectation, the one that affects performances negatively, is the one that expects more from you but cannot tolerate any failure. Any deviation. It puts pressure from word go, and is constantly on the lookout for failure. There is an amazing amount of pressure - and focus on failure (even if it is about not failing) - that it is bound to end up as a failure. In this case, it is the fact that there are expectations for everything, from scratch, that make it impossible to meet those criteria.

Expect. But without setting all the criteria. With no expectations really - but the one expectation that your expectations will be met or exceeded. Expect, and give them the freedom to deliver even if they make a few mistakes.

They will deliver far in excess of what you can ever dream of.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thought for the Day - First Accept That You Want It

One reason why things we want seem out of reach could be that we do not even get to the first stage - of 'accepting' that we want them. Instead we 'hope' that something will happen and that what we want will somehow fall into our lap. But that 'hoping' does not give enough energy to our wanting anything. The least we are expected to do is to honestly 'accept' that we want that. It is like wanting a girl but not wanting to tell or show it and hoping she will somehow notice and come to you. Say it, feel it. I want that girl, I want to win, I want that car.
Pic courtesy Satish Nagundkar

Accepting is all about seeing things clearly, about taking responsibility for your decision to want that. Accepting is telling yourself that it is now your responsibility to go for it. Whether it is a win, a girl, a job, or any other goal, you have accepted the burden, taken the ownership on your shoulders. If you advertise the fact then your responsibility increases that much more. But even if you have decided for yourself, you are on the path.

Once we accept, the goal, the picture, becomes clear in our head. The path becomes clear. The effort required becomes clear. The reason becomes clear. And then we begin the delicious 'process' or journey towards attaining what we want. Chances are you will now get that or something better.

Acceptance to me is about honesty with oneself. It is also about courage. It is about taking ownership and responsibility to get what we want. If we cannot even accept that we want, we are being dishonest and that is certainly not the way to get anything. So got for it. Accept it. Say it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Facebook girls Shaheen and Renu - Forgive them, You've Done No Wrong

The case of the two facebook girls Shaheen and Renu is one among the many such 'cyber crimes' that our politicians and police are unravelling every other day and punishing under sections of the IPC that are getting more and more complex to understand. In the recent past we've seen cartoonists being jailed, email jokes being treated as some serious anti-national business and other such stuff. Why should a comment on an event, a fairly harmless viewpoint which is perhaps voiced by many, be targeted and the girls be arrested against all logic, all rules, and harassed by the law and order system is something I cannot understand. Either the system has no understanding of this social media business or it is perhaps just too happy to punish the soft targets and let the goons go.

For those who are not familiar with this case I will I quote an excerpt from the Hindu's report on the event which pretty much explains it all: (
“With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on,” read the message posted by 21-year old Shaheen Dhada and ‘liked’ by 20-year old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, her lawyer Sudheer Gupta told The Hindu. The post continued: “Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

There is a huge gap in our system. On one hand there are young girls like Shaheen and Renu who are part of the youth, the educated and uneducated, the expressive, the literate and illiterate youth, which is just about finding its voice on the social media and other tools of mass expression. It is wonderful for a democracy like ours and should be encouraged because we need all viewpoints and not just those of people who shout the loudest. On the other hand we have a system which is on the other end of the technology spectrum and further shrinking away from reality, a system which still believes that one can by sheer power, by picking soft targets, by using false interpretations, sides with a misguided and temperamental people and commits a crime. This ever widening gap is one that the IT boom has brought in - technology that the old cannot use nor fathom the power of, technology that the new generation cannot do without. It is only a matter of time before India's sizeable youth chunk devours the old through these very tools of social media, technology, transperancy and free expression. But until then we will have to put up with these laughable attempts by the system to muzzle free and fair expression by force. For all those who are involved and who are supporting this, go pick on someone your own size. Don't bully the small and helpless, the soft and the sensitive. If you are strong, go and protect the weak, the helpless. That is the real show of strength.

For me this is also a case in point for the youth of India to wake up to.This is after all about your expression. Technology, social media offer you the power to express which you must. But as with any real power and freedom, there is much responsibility that comes with it, so exercise as much restraint as you can - without hiding the truth. Without the fear of saying it as it is. In fact that is what Balasaheb Thackeray did all his life. He said things as they were, as he saw them which made him so popular.

As for Shaheen and Renu, from what I have read in the papers there is nothing wrong in what they have done or said. They did just that. It is an individual's viewpoint and a genuine one at that. But to make that an arrestable crime is shameful. To see that no political party, no leader has commented on it is even more shameful. Perhaps everyone is trying to figure out what this social media is and what it does. But for me, Shaheen (and Renu) you have done no wrong and you need not step back nor apologise (something which you have already done as per the news, and in doing so, shown greater maturity than those who have wronged you). You have done what the little boy did in the Emperor's New Clothes while the entire lot of adults and advisors, ministers and wise men sat in the court, and it requires courage and clarity to say that. I am glad that the new generation has both - courage and clarity. It augurs well for India in the future.

Hold your heads high girls, you are icons. The Facebook girls. For that matter, I do hope Facebook celebrates this event and its fallout and honours the two youngsters. From me, a big 'like' for you two.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Hussaini Alam House - Huma R. Kidwai

Huma Kidwai writes beautifully. And she brings alive a part of Hyderabad that I never have been to but one that I want to visit as soon as I can now - Hussaini Alam in the Old City - and she evokes a time which I can never visit but which I dearly want to. The 'Hussaini Alam House' is set in the Old City of Hyderabad, sometime in the late sixties and creeps into the twenty first century. It is a story that continues for about thirty years or so, during a time when the young protagonist, the rebellious, studious and watchful Ayman grew up in that house. It is probably also the time that the author also grew up, so there could be biographical traces which if anything, only make the book delightful to read, especially if you are a Hyderabadi.

Apart from writing with great precision and poise and describing the house in such detail that you are actually transported there, Huma writes with tonnes of feeling. The house is one where the young protagonist experiences death, chauvinism, illness, misery, poverty, helplessness, unfairness and injustice as the rich Muslim family is suddenly reduced to near penury after the Hyderabad state is annexed to the Indian Union after the Police Action of 1948. The head of the house, Syed Aminul Hussain, the maternal grandfather of the protagonist, also known as Sarkar, dictator, Bawajaan etc holds the house together until he dies. The oldest woman in the house is Sarkar's mother-in-law Qamar-un-Nissan, and then Sarkar's wife and the grandmother of Ayman, Meher-un-Nissan. and then there is Khalajaan, foster sister of the the protagonist's mother, Ayman's mother herself, a communist, a rebel and a writer, and then the protagonist and her older sister Aapa or Mariam the beautiful. With these women lived Khalubawa, Khalajaan's much older husband and an ex-jagirdar, and Naveed Ahmed who marries Ayman's older sister Aapa. Ayman's mother's brother, Mamu or Dr. Hidayat Hussain lived close by and constitutes the fringe cast along with the girls' cousin Altaf. These people and the pets, the maids who work for almost nothing, make up the story. But looming big in all their lives is the House.

The male dominated decisions that affect the lives of the three generations of women, their marriages and the impact of these marriages on their lives forms the innermost thread of the story. Huma describes the inherent weakness of males and effortlessly makes the women much stronger, shows them handling greater responsibility and suffering. She captures the various personalities in the women - the strong and silent ones, the generous ones, beautiful ones, the creative ones, the rebels, the ones who compromise easily and ones who gave up too easily. Through the eyes of the young girl it all comes together with all the emotions intact, heavy and silent, dark and brooding, and deeply and disturbingly real.

Huma chooses an interesting structure as she unveils the story in a non-linear manner through each character of the house. The story goes forward and backward but as you find in the end, it does span a period of thirty or so years in the life of the protagonist and is always moving forward. From being without money and a huge estate, the illness and the deaths of Sarkar, his mother-in-law, Ayman's own father, her grandmother (to throat cancer), her mother (to temporary insanity), her Khalajaan, the discovery of some hard facts about her family, the slow dissipation of culture, values, heritage, communal harmony and mostly happiness, Huma holds each thread delicately and strongly. I read Orhan Pamuk's 'Istanbul' where he endlessly talks of the huzun or the air of sadness that hangs over Istanbul, but nowhere has that huzun been brought out so well than in this house. To me, with no disrespect to Orhan Panuk, Huma captures that air so well that it seeps under your skin in that house much more than what Pamuk attempted to do in his book. The house has a life within it that carries this sad, silent spirit which is not entirely depressing because it does strengthen everyone of them, especially the women.

By the end of the book you feel as if you know every inch of that house, every facet and secret of each person, every pet, every maid and you feel really sad as the protagonist walks through that house for one last time before it is sold. I wanted to ask Huma if it was biographical but I realised I don't need to now. It does not matter anymore. Because once you read the book you know that even if she had not really experienced the emotions in her life, she has more than made up in creating and writing them down. The pain, the sadness, the longing all flow through with such authenticity and permeate you, that it does not matter if it really happened - Huma has lived them again for the reader - and this is the greatest strength of the book. Well done Huma, you deserve a big hug for writing so honestly, so deeply and so starkly. The last part of the book, of the dream sequence of the protagonist walking nude by the beach, sums it all up just as the words 'I have made my peace - with myself and this world' make for a perfect climax and the final 'I am willing to embrace' makes it all so uplifting in the end. Wonderful stuff.

Huma writes beautiful, well-crafted lyrical prose. She is an accomplished writer. Her writing is rich and textured, well-researched and full of authentic feeling and emotion. Many scenes are described so beautifully - such as the one where the protagonist dreams of the death of her grandmother in the early part of the book - which straightaway enters a part of your soul that knows the feeling, but has not been able to find the words to describe that. Huma does that for you.

I loved the words of wisdom her Khalajaan gave her - 'It is important to start on a road and trudge along regardless of the pain. Every step is one less and then you will be there. If you fall, don't look around for help. Pick yourself up. If you fall at the same place twice, consider yourself a fool. You've been walking in a circle. Time to break the line.' Perfect advise for anyone.

'The Hussaini Alam House' is of a Hyderabad, a people, that seem to have disappeared but still exist. Some aspects may have gone but the emotions and feelings are very much there. Huma's book is very visual and I do hope that someone makes a movie of it. On the negatives, I only wish the editor had done a better job and cut out a few repetitions - such wonderful writing deserves better editing. Also Ayman never comes before us fully and clearly somehow and I was left wanting to know more about her, what she does, where she lived, what her husband was like etc. But overall, it's a book anyone who enjoys good writing will enjoy. I did. Congrats Huma and may you write many more such books and find greater peace, joy and success.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thought for the Day - Don't be Easily Satisfied

I did like the ad campaign for one of the colas 'Yeh dil maange more' for various reasons. Not so much that aspect of greed or of indulging oneself mindlessly through the 'maange more' slogan but more in terms of not being satisfied easily. The difference between the two can be clearly seen when we apply it to ourselves as opposed to what the world is giving us.
Pic courtesy: Satish Nargundkar

When we apply it to ourselves, we can see how easily we are satisfied. How easily we give up.

But when we realise that there's always more to be achieved, more to be squeezed out of ourselves, we face the fact that there is much to do within. That beyond every limit we push there is more to achieve. And that is when'..dil maange more' makes sense. Push further, achieve newer limits and don't ever stop thinking you've done enough. It's never enough when you are growing. In a career, a game, anywhere.

On the other hand, a 'dil maange more' where you are simply blaming the world or expecting all else to do things for you while you only keep asking for more is plain stupidity. Its like us wanting to get rid of corruption or the other things we want to go away in our life by blaming all else. To get those results, there is work to do. There is a stand to take. There is a steadfastness in face of opposition. There is ownership.  At least in the mind.

And then, we get to that state of having the right to ask for more. Because you worked for it. Because you owned it. Now you deserve it.

10 things for a Medium Pacer to Keeep in Mind before a match

These are ten things that a medium pacer can hold in his head before a game.

1. Visualise: 
Before the game visualise yourself bowling in a good rhythm. Videos, pictures help.

2. Understand the conditions:
Take a ball or two to understand the conditions - climate, pitch behavior and bowl accordingly.

3. Work up a rhythm first:
Work on getting into a rhythm when you start bowling. Start at perhaps 80% of your fullest and focus on keeping the ball there in the right places.

4. Bowl up:
Pitch it up (does not mean overpitch) so the batsman is caught in an unsure place with his footwork. Needs controlled pitching of the ball in the right areas and not mindless overpitching which can backfire badly.

5. Make the batsman play:
The more you make the batsmen play the more the chances of getting him out. But here, don't bowl so much on the stumps directly which makes batsmen defend solidly as bowling a slightly on and outside the offstump line where the batsman is in two minds - whether to play or not. Make hi play in that uncertain area.

6. Line is mandatory:
Keep the line constant on and outside the off stump. Keep it tight.

7. Stay in control:
Always seek to stay in control - your body, your mind, your rhythm - even if it requires you to cut your pace. I have found that my best performances have come when I was in full control of the run up, action, and knew exactly where I was pitching the ball. Visualise it and implement it.

8. Keep some reserve in the tank:
Save your fullest bursts for periods when you can really go for the kill. Mostly keep some reserve and bowl within yourself, so you have both control and the gas to bowl longer.

9. Work up to peak gradually:
Work up to your peak speed and rhythm gradually.

10. Know exactly where you want to pitch the ball:
You must know exactly where you are pitching the ball. Focus on that spot and keep it there. It requires concentration, control and focus. This will fetch you more wickets than simply coming in and bowling fast or bowling without thinking.

Strategies for helpful and unhelpful wickets:
If the wicket is helpful do not get carried away and bowl short which is totally ineffective but rather, bowl a fuller length that makes the batsman play. When the pitch is doing something the batsmen must be put in unsure frame of mind and the best way is to bowl up and make him play so the ball can do something.

On unhelpful wickets, bowl up. Keep a steady line. Keep it tight. Think the batsman out by understanding his mind, his anxiety. All batsmen are susceptible to the fear of getting out early, to pressure on their mind, to tactics that distract, to lapses in concentration. It is for the team to work on these areas and put more pressure on the batsmen. But the basic idea is to build pressure by good, tight bowling and not wayward stuff.

Keep at it all through. Push for two wickets if you get one. Five if you get three. Seven if you get five. You may not get this opportunity so grab it now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lessons to learn from Bal Thackeray

Lessons that one can learn and imbibe from the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

  • That it is never about your size, but about your courage and your conviction, even in taking on the biggest institutions.  Fight tooth and nail for your convictions and the world notices and gives you the power.
  • That if you say what you feel and express yourselves without holding back, the world listens to every word and takes it seriously. Say it as it is, loud and clear, and the world listens.
  • That you can live life exactly on your terms and never on someone else's. When you have the power you make the rules - even for the King.
  • That you can live to please yourself and no one else. You maintain no false images and no one asks any questions.
  • That the power of aggression can make the entire system think twice - for a lifetime - and the most powerful to seek your help. You have the power and the whole world comes to you.
  • That your name and reputation itself can be far more effective than any law and order system of the government and that alone can stop and contain much mischief making.Your reputation if big enough can itself be a deterrent.
  • That when you give your people a sense of security, pride, well being and belonging, you gain so much of their love and support that is difficult to erode in a lifetime. You can give a new identity to your people and they will always be grateful to you for that.
  • That you can still be as powerful or even more by yourself, than what the support of a high post, a system or an institution can give you, if your people love you. You do not need the support of an institution or the system if you have the love of your people.
  • That people watch their words and actions if you defend what is important to you fiercely. You shut up much useless talk if you are clear about what is important to you.

Book Launch - The Hussaini Alam House by Huma Kidwai

I had been meaning to blog about this book launch for more reasons than one. Raja had told me in advance that his classmate from Osmania University Engineering College in the late seventies, Huma Kidwai had written a book and there was a launch. He sent me the details by mail and I made up my mind to attend for several reasons. One, the timing was perfect, at 530 in the evening. Second, Huma becomes my senior from Osmania Engineering too and we Osmanians always support one another. Third, it was at La Makaan which is always a pleasure to visit. Fourth, Vinod was also attending so we could crack some stupid jokes about everyone and laugh. And perhaps, the fifth reason was that Elahe, someone whom I always had a great affection for, for being the warm, open and loving person she continues to be for over three decades that I have known her, was also reading from the book. So it was then that I landed up, alone, having invited Ramaraju also to join - knowing that Ram was a huge La Makaan fan himself.

I walked in to meet a few regulars and friends, and listened to Prof. Sachidanand Mohanty speak about the book. Now Hussaini Alam also has a bit of history from my early school days because our classmate Ashok had a house in this Hussaini Alam. I have no clue where it is and how it looks, this Hussaini Alam, and I have now made up my mind to go and see this place soon. Maybe with Huma's help!

Anyway there were readings from the book from a pretty young lady whose name I did not catch, Elahe and Prof. Mohanty. Huma Kidwai the author chose not to read (something that even i refrained from early on but now I am convinced that the author must read - there's something else when the author reads however badly!) There was a signing and I got myself a copy signed for both me and Raja by  Huma. I ate some delicious samosas that Ram insisted on buying, drank some wonderful chai and ate an Osmania biscuit or two and headed off home. I did get to briefly meet Elahe on her way out which was a bonus. All's well and that ends well and I hope Huma's book does extremely well. The readings sounded very promising and it has the old world Hyderabadi charm to it - something I am totally hooked upon right now. I will shortly review the book.

Borat - Movie Review

Watched Sacha Baron's 'Borat'. The real name of the movie actually is rather long - "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan". The movie revolves around Borat Sagdiyev, who is a television presenter in Kazakhstan. He has been sent to the USA to interact with Americans and make a documentary for the Kazakh Ministry of Information. He travels with Azamat, the producer and his pet chicken. Clearly there is a big cultural gap between the Borat and the Americans.

The movie had no real script apparently and many characters that appear in the movie are not actors but real life people. Anyway Borat and Azamat go to New York first where Borat discovers Pamela Anderson while watching Baywatch on television and falls in love with her. He also hears of his wife's death via telegram, that she was attacked by a bear in a  forest near their home, and feels that he can now take Pamela as his new wife. He convinces Azamat to shift the shooting to California. Azamat does not understand why but they finally start their journey in a second had ice cream truck. Along the way Borat meets many Americans - the young, the gays, the religious, the etiquette coaches, a prostitute, radio stations and so on. Until one day he has a naked fight with Azamat whom he catches masturbating over a Baywatch picture. A disgruntled Azamat disappears with Borat's passport and money etc. Borat meanwhile discovers that Pamela Anderson may not be a virgin while travelling with a bunch of college going boys and is totally distressed. Anyway he does meet her at a book signing and tries to kidnap her to make her his wife. He is caught and sent back. Before all this however he meets Azamat again. Borat goes back to Kazakhstan with a new bride despite not getting Pamela Anderson - he takes home the prostitute he meets on the way.

Borat apparently got good reviews and nominations. It was not very funny for me. Passable.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli

This is a slim Bantam classic and a must read for anyone who is into power and politics. Machiavelli wrote down this practical treatise on 'seizing and holding power' in 1512 as an offering to Lorenzo de Medici, the reigning King. Incidentally the same Medici kings threw Machiavelli in jail and tortured him, before he was set free, upon being exonerated of the crimes he was accused of.

I found it difficult to read it initially as Machiavelli describes the happenings in his time and uses them as examples - something which confused me- and it took me almost two or three weeks to figure out how to read it. Cut to the parts where he is giving the advise to the Prince and you get the gist without complex names and situations in the sixteenth century.
Bantam Books, Rs. 199, 166 p

Machiavelli is disturbing. He challenges all that is good and honest and says that to hold on to power one needs to be practical and not idealistic. It is so and one can understand that few want power and even fewer can hold on to power one way or another. To retain it one must be ready to fight, ready to deceive, ready to be ruthless - in order to achieve the end - of ruling a happy and satisfied people. It does take a while to let it all sink in but one knows that for the greater good (or for the greater perceived good which is more important) the one in power must hold on to it, use it and be ready to fight for it and retain it. I totally think it is practical (and not devious as the name evokes) and agree with all that he says. Machiavelli has been synonymous with all that is deceitful but it is not so - he really brings forth a view that rulers and diplomats must know.  

Some stuff that interested me.

"One may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence the harm that one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge."

"Dominions thus acquired have been accustomed either to live under a prince or to be free; and they are acquired either by fortune or ability."

"That states accustomed to the family of the ruler are easily kept than new ones, because it is sufficient if the prince does not abandon the methods of his ancestors and proves adaptable when unforeseen events occur."

"He who causes another to become powerful ruins himself, for he brings such power into being, either by design or by force, and both of these elements are suspect to the one whom he made powerful."

"All principalities have been ruled in two different ways: either by a single prince aided by servants functioning as ministers and governing by his favor and concession; or by a prince with barons holding title not by his grace but by right of inheritance."

"To keep a state used to live in freedom there are three ways - destroy it, live in it or let it continue to live under its own laws taking tribute from it.  The surest procedure is to either destroy them or to live in them."

"Men always walk in paths beaten by others or act by imitation. A prudent man must tread the path of great men and imitate those who have excelled so that even if his ability does not match theirs, at least he will achieve some semblance of it."

"Those who become princes by virtue of their abilities acquire dominion with difficulty but maintain it with ease."

"People are by nature changeable. It is easy to persuade them about some particular matter, but it is hard to hold them to that persuasion. Hence it is necessary to provide that when they no longer believe, they can be forced to believe."

"The wise prince must provide in such a way that in whatever circumstances, the citizens will always be in need of him and of his government."

"Men are always opposed to ventures in which they foresee difficulties."

"It is the nature of men to feel as much bound by the favors they do as by those they receive."

"Experience shows that only princes and republics with troops of their own have accomplished great things, while mercenary forces have brought nothing but harm. No state unless it has its own arms, is secure."

"A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession than that of war. He must devote himself to military exercises in time of peace even more than in time of war."

"The Prince ought to read history and reflect upon the deeds  of outstanding men, note how they conducted themselves in war, examine the causes of their victories an defeats and thereby learn to emulate the former and avoid the latter.  Above all, he ought to do as some wise men have done and take to imitating some celebrated predecessor whose deeds and actions he may keep before him."

"Every wise prince should never submit to idleness in times of peace, but rather endeavor to turn such time to advantage so as to profit from it in adversity. Thus when fortune turns against him, he will be prepared to resist it."

"A man who strives for good in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good. Hence it is necessary that the prince who is interested  in his survival learns to be other than good, making use of this capacity or refraining from it according to need."

"A wise pince will not object to being reputed a miser. With the passage of time he will come to seem more generous."

"Of all the things that the prince must guard against, hatred and contempt come first, and liberality leads to both. It is better to have a name for miserliness, which breeds disgrace without hatred than, in pursuing a name of liberality, to resort to rapacity, which breeds both disgrace and hatred."

"Every prince ought to wish to be considered kind rather than a cruel."

"He ought to be slow to believe what he hears and slow to act. Nor should he fear imaginary dangers, but proceed with moderation, prudence and humanity, avoiding carelessness born of overconfidence and unbearable harshness born of excessive distrust."

"Men are ungrateful, fickle, dissembling, anxious to flee danger and covetous of gain. So long as you promote their advantage they are all yours."

"A prince should make himself feared in such a way that, though he does not gain love, he escapes hatred; for being feared and not hated go readily together. Such a condition he may always attain if he will not touch the property of his citizens and subjects, nor their women."

"The prince who has little regard for their word and had the craftiness to turn men's minds have accomplished great things and in the end, have overcome those who governed their actions by their pledges."

"Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions."

"A prince cannot observe all those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion in order to preserve the state. He must be disposed to change according as the winds of fortune and alterations of circumstance dictate. He must stick to the good so long as he can, but, being compelled by necessity, he must be ready to take the way of the evil."

"Men judge by the eye rather than the hand, for all men can see a thing, but few come close enough to touch it."

"I approve of those who erect fortresses and of those who do not. But I condemn anyone who, putting his trust in fortresses, will think it no great matter if he is hated by the people."

"A prince gains esteem when he acts as  a true ally or a true enemy, that is, when he declares himself openly for or against one of two conflicting parties - a policy that is always better than neutrality."

"A prince should also demonstrate that he loves talent by supporting men of ability and by honoring those who excel in each craft. Moreover he ought to encourage his citizens peacably to pursue their affairs, whether in trade, in agriculture or in any other human activity so that no one will hesitate to improve his possessions for fear that they will be taken for him and no one will hesitate to open a new avenue of trade for fear of taxes. Instead the prince ought to be ready to reward those who do these things and those who seek out ways of enriching their city or state."

"Minds are of three kinds: one is capable of thinking for itself, another is able to understand the thinking of others, and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent and the third is worthless."

"A prince should always seek advise but only when he, not someone else, chooses. He should discourage everyone from giving advise unless he has asked for it."

"No one should ever allow himself to fall down in the belief that someone else will lift him to his feet, because it will not happen; or if it does happen, it will not prove to be to his advantage. Such a means of defense is cowardly, in that it does not derive from one's own initiative and only those methods of defense which depend on one's own resourcefulness are good, certain and enduring."

"Since fortune changes while human beings remain constant in their methods of conduct, I conclude that men will succeed so long as method and fortune are in harmony and they will fail when they are no longer in harmony."

"It is better to be impetuous than to be cautious, for fortune is a woman and in order to be mastered she must be jogged and beaten. And it may be noted that she submits more readily to boldness than to cold calculation."

"Whoever organises a state and establishes its laws must assume that all men are wicked and will act wickedly whenever they have a chance to do so."

"The welfare of a republic or a kingdom does not lie in its having a prince who governs it prudently while he lives, but rather in having one who organises it in such a way that it may endure after his death."

And much more.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cricket - 10 Things a Medium Pacer Can Try on Flat Wickets

Here are 10 things a medium pacer can try on a flat wicket. For the uninitiated, a flat wicket is one where one gets no assistance at all for the wicket and the bowler has to use his imagination, intelligence, guile and skill to get batsmen out. Most medium pacers are short in this department hence the advise.

1) Stick to the basics: Bowl on one side of the wicket i.e. bowl on or outside the off stump if you have an off side field. The line is important. And since the wicket is flat, even the length is crucial. You cannot over pitch the ball or bowl short else you will be punished . (If you bowl on the middle and leg or outside the leg, unless there is a plan to bowl that way, you are dead.)

2) Keep it tight: Since the wicket is flat, the margin for error is little. So keep it tight and frustrate the batsman by not giving any runs.

3) Vary the angle of delivery: Change the angle of delivery. Bowl over or round the wickets, but stick to the line and make the batsman play. Or go wide of the crease or close to the wicket, again keeping the line constant, but changing the angle.

4) Bowl cross seam: Bowl one delivery holding the seam across as you would for a bouncer. This way you have a better chance of hitting the seam and making the ball get some extra bounce. This ball you must bowl in an area where the batsman would be surprised by the extra bounce, say a length delivery, just on the off stump, so he is forced to play the ball and not leave it - as he would a bouncer.

5) Bowl from a short run up: Cut your run up to five paces and bowl one odd ball just to surprise the batsman and catch him off guard. Kapil Dev used to do that. Especially if the ball is semi new it will deceive the batsman because he will be surprised with the change in run up, the length (which will be fuller) and the nip off the wicket. On and around the off stump will fetch maximum results - either a snick or a lbw or even a bowled if you are on off stump.

6) Bowl bang on the off stump: Focus on the off stump and try to hit it with a good length delivery. If the batsman makes an error in judgement he could leave the ball or even play the wrong line for a wicket.

7) Use cutters: Use cutters to deceive the batsman. A slow leg cutter or even a fast leg cutter can either get a batsman bowled or get a leading edge. An off cutter can get an lbw decision. Use the cutter after a couple of tight straight balls so you catch the batsman off guard.

8) Keep the ball up on the middle and off for an lbw or caught and bowled: After a few balls which are short of length (and thus keep the batsman on the backfoot), this ploy could help. Or once in a while keep the ball up, a tad slower though (use one finger to grip the seam), so that the batsman hits the ball back at you. After many tight balls he may want to go after a loose ball and may just knock it back to you or get lbw if he plays across.

9) Go wide of offstump and aim for the offstump directly: More effective if you are a left arm fast bowler bowling to a right hander but even right arm medium pacers can try it. If you have been bowling a different angle all through, just switch the angle, go wide of the crease for one ball and aim straight for the off stump. (Left hand bowlers bowling over the wicket must go around the wicket and bowl from wide of the crease into the right hander's off stump. Alternately use the cross seam for more effect because the angle will hurry and discomfit the batsman.)

10) Slant the ball across the batsman towards the first slip from a length: This is a specific variant of the 'change in angle' ball. In this, (as a right arm bowler) go close to the stumps, bowl length or just short of length but aim towards the first slip, so the ball, by nature of its angle, is leaving the batsman when it passes him. Since the angle is tight, he will normally play at it, and if it all works out, you should get an edge.

Happy bowling and hope it will fetch more wickets for you guys on flat tracks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thought for the Day - Importance of Belief In Children

This is for all those parents and mentors who are highly proactive about pushing their children ahead - many times out of turn - in various areas of life. For your own child's sake - please don't. You are taking away the most important part of your own child's armoury - self belief. Without self-belief, it gets difficult for the child handle things on his or her own in the times when it counts.
You have to walk the path yourself (Pic courtesy - Satish)
Performance at a higher level is based on the child's own self belief - that he or she is equipped to handle it. By giving the child a crutch, a supporting hand, when the child is supposed to learn to get up and find his or her way and build belief, you are taking away a huge part of the child's growth. The child will start looking over the shoulder for help whenever he or she finds the going tough, and believe me, the going will get tough as the child grows higher up the ladder. So in a way, by giving a helping hand in this manner, you would have ensured that the child will never be able to perform to potential at a higher level.

For example let's take someone who is a good hockey player. The child is talented which is a good thing. But let us say he or she fails at a higher grade. The best thing to do would be to put him or her in a place where he or she trains harder and prepares harder for that grade. Few parents take that route.

But by pushing the child ahead when he or she is not fully prepared ahead of the ranks, the parent deprives the child the opportunity to introspect, to understand what it takes to go to the next level, to prepare accordingly and to build belief to perform at the higher grade the next time. Many times it also happens that the child feels completely out of sorts at being a non-entity at the higher grade - and may develop a dislike or aversion for the sport that he or she loves so much. After all sports and performance arts are about honesty and no honest sportsperson or artist would like to play under a shadow of doubt.

The higher levels are not so much about talent as about belief in oneself. It would be interesting to know how many talented sons and daughters of celebrities do not fare well in the same line as their parents. The feeling that their growth and recognition, the ease of access, is primarily due to their parents' status or stature makes many of them perform under par as they constantly feel 'judged', feel inadequate and sometimes plain give up that line. Most do something totally different to prove a point.

One understands that this form of parental love is but natural, but the truth is that no child will learn to walk or run without falling. If we insist on carrying them all the time because we are scared that they may fall, we deprive them of learning how to walk and explore the world. They will always look at you instead of growing and going ahead to meet their destiny. Let your child grow. Let them understand and prepare for the process. It will make them far better performers and far better humans for that. These are lessons best learned early.