Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Pareto Principle - 80/20 Principle of the Trivial Many and Vital Few

This vital principle is named after Vilfredo Pareto and Italian economist who in 1906 published his findings that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people.

Based on this principle, a quality management expert Joseph M. Juran conducted more studies and specifically pinned down the findings as the 80/20 principle i.e. the trivial many and the vital few.

 The principle is simple - 20% of whatever you are working at is responsible for 80% of your results.

To apply this rule we must know what our 100% is.
1)  Write down all the tasks (100%) you do.
2) Categorise them into the 80 (trivial many) and 20 (vital few) based on their importance / desired result for you.
3) Focus 80% of your time on the vital few or the vital 20% and work on them on absolute priority basis
4) The vital 20% will bring in 80% results for you.

It will need a bit of analysis but once you have zeroed down, you can fine tune your activity better.

Do the right things first, leave out the trivial ones, and get great results. Try it!

For more info read this article

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thought for the Day - Why our dreams are not based on reality

I do find this intriguing. When asked to list their dreams (or goals), most miss out some obvious ones. Like say, getting a gold medal in their academic studies for one. Or some other dream connected to real life. I wondered why and then hit the answer.

When we base it on reality, even though its a good dream, it ties it down with responsibility. We want things to happen with no responsibility at all. Only then do we call them dreams.

My submission is that even if we do achieve such dreams, we may not enjoy them. What will we do if we suddenly land up with a jet or a ticket to travel the world or a villa? These things are only the means to express ourselves, not the end.

In segregating dreams, its probably wiser to add responsibility you're willing to take. It might ground them faster and make all other dreams come true.

50 Clever Logos

75 Iconic Pictures of the Last 10 Years

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bobby Jasoos - Movie Review

In the folds of time, this fact must not be lost that I watched a movie by the name 'Bobby Jasoos' sometime in the past few months. It is a story based in the old city of Hyderabad and I enjoyed watching Hyderabad on screen. The story did not impress me heavily though mainly because I got lost somewhere between the many young men in her life.

Vidya Balan plays Bobby, a jasoos, or a detective. She is from a conservative middle class Muslim family living in Moghulpura area near Charminar along with a horde of women (mom, aunt, sisters) and one man (father grumpy). Unlike most girls and boys who want to join call centres she wants to be a detective. Spurned by detective agencies in the locality she starts taking on a few clients who wish her to spy on people in the affairs of the heart. We get to know that she is good at her job and resourceful too.

Enter mysterious man who pays her much money to locate one lost person from that area. She finds that person based on the sketchiest of details and the most mind boggling methods. And then another and another. She is rolling in the money soon but starts suspecting that the rich man could be abducting these people she is finding for him. There is no trace of them any longer after she reveals their whereabouts to the rich man. Drama at home (father does not love this Miss Marple at home), love (romance with one journo type) and action (villain is a rich man with a mysterious agenda).

Finally all's well and that ends it well. I liked the shots where Bobby sits on the window ledge overlooking old city. Something about it reminded me of a Hyderabad I knew long time ago. Supriya Pathak reminded me of 'Bazaar' and Phir Chidi raat, and Talat Aziz and Farooq Sheikh and a girl who peeped out from behind all those years. Ah, Hyderabad.

At Wit's End - Erma Bombeck

Raja gifted me this book a long while ago. I love reading funny books. I kept this book away for later reading. I was not sure how Erma Bombeck would turn out. I don't remember reading much of her stuff and if I had, it didn't make much of an impression on me.

I liked reading this one. Its all about the middle aged housewife and the life she leads. Husbands, children, clubs, vacations, beauty, friends, social gatherings, cars, growing old, gadgets, illnesses, habits, differences etc. Bombeck writes the details with great flair for seeing the humour in the mundane, the everyday business and in people and their behaviors.

What I liked most was the way she turned serious and wrote about her children and their growing up and ho it affected her, about Christmas gifts that makes the church bells toll. Wonderful stuff. Funny writer she is but in those two pieces she wrote more about life as a parent as a human, more than anyone else.

Its not Wodehouse, not Dave Barry, not Bill Bryson. Its honest, life-as-you-get humour. What Erma has done however, is that she put humour back in my life, my writing. Thanks Erma.

The Temple Priest and the Beggars Group Outside

Walked into a temple at an early hour. Everything was just waking up. I walked up to the young priest. He was busy on the phone. Not for a moment could he take his eyes away from his phone. He completed his tasks with phone in one hand, scowl on face. He was obviously angry about something. Everything he did was hurried, half-done and with a complete sense of detachment. I am doing my job here and I owe you guys nothing was the attitude. My big idea of walking in to spend a few peaceful moments in  among the temple environs was shot. I sat awhile and then moved out. Not a good idea to meet priests I thought.

Outside the temple I saw four beggars. All old people. All of them sitting in an orderly fashion and waiting for alms. Nothing in their behavior, posture, attitude was jarring - they looked so perfect. They chatted among themselves quietly, a wary eye out for the prospect. The more I saw them the more I realised it was a delightful bunch of old people, cheery, at peace with themselves and the world. And in good humour that showed in their eyes and demeanour.

I looked in my purse and found a tenner. If I had four tenners I'd have given them all one but since I had one I decided to ask them to share. They stiffened when I stopped near them. I asked them how they would share the tenner, who to give it to. They spoke as one - 'We are all together. Give it to anyone.' Something about them was really peaceful and loving. They were all together, sharing, having fun.

It was such a pleasure giving them them the tenner. I was glad I had found these four to give what I could, glad that they gave me an opportunity to give. As I left them, I could not forget the joy in their faces, the babble they descended into. A distance away from them I thought I should have asked them to bless me. For all I know they already did. But next time perhaps I will. Just to see the love in their eyes for some more time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mangalyaan and Cricket - The Difference Really

I was wondering what the connection between Magalyaan and cricket was really. Many people including our Prime Minister apparently, if reports are true, believe that the Mangalyaan deserves a bigger applause than winning a cricket match. I am sure it does.

Only the comparison beats me.

Why cricket? Why not Salman Khan? Or Dabang? Or Deepika Padulone? Or the winner of Jhalak dikhla ja?

Why are we cheering stuff like sports and games and politicians instead of Mangalyaan seems to be the question. Let me put this into perspective as I understand it.

There are two types of performances we stand up and applaud. On that touches us spontaneously and titillates us enough to make us applaud without thinking. Its the show, the glitz, the moment and the timing that just works, makes us forget our mundane lives and hitches us on to something that lifts us if for a moment. It may not need any understanding of the craft or how it works, just what it does to us that moment is important. T20 cricket, a cabaret, a badly made movie, a popular song, book which makes no sense could all fall into this category. But hey, we can't ignore the fact that they are serving a need.

The other type of a performance is one where we understand deeply that we are witnessing something special. A performance which needs a lot of understanding of the craft to truly appreciate its greatness. Even those who may not fully comprehend its greatness, stand up in respect quietly because they know they are seeing something special. This is long term, this is stuff that requires knowledge, dedication, commitment, responsibility, pushing of boundaries. This is excellence. This is true creation. This deserves a respectful salute, not a lusty cheer. This is respect.

When a Gavsakar, Vishwanath, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag  do something special, we applaud respectfully. When artistes of the highest calibre to something special we stand up and salute. At an item number we throw coins. Different, but both exist and both serve a need.

The crucial difference is that the one that titillates may not inspire us to do stuff we are capable of. We cannot exhort someone to get inspired to do an item dance perhaps. But the truly excellent stuff is something that all of us can take lessons from and get inspired by.

It's here that Mr. Modi may have missed a trick (or perhaps may even have been quoted out of context for all I know). Its not about who is applauding who and why and why not. If anything, I think we should take inspiration and learn lessons from this Mangalyaan team. To begin with Mr. Modi, we can salute the ISRO team and then ask ourselves why our roads, our public infrastructure, our toilets and all the other things we see which reflect governance and public order cannot learn from this team. If we can send this wonderful contraption at such a low cost into orbit at first instance, why cannot we lay roads, irrigate our lands, distribute food, provide employment, provide transparency? Why can't we see this type of efficiency, excellence more in our world? Why has such a wonderful opportunity been lost to inspire all the regular, mediocre tasks we do to a higher level? Instead, why choose to compare a T20 hoick with the excellence of a Gavsakar straight drive? Why demean the effort by urging people to throw coins?

Salute the ISRO. Salute all excellence. Highlight it for what it is. And urge the people to take lessons and inspiration from these rare acts of excellence in our country.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Here Come The Whatsappers!

I am not big on facebook, twitter. Come to that I never really chatted with anyone - all my life I would have chatted for about 30 minutes in all and that too when someone sprang on me when I least expected it. I am not much of a forwarder of mails, quite content to trash the ones I get and not getting all vengeful on my contacts. I am not one for instant messaging not instant updating of my status (which is not much to share mostly). So when someone added me on to the whatsapp business I had no clue what I was getting into. I had only heard of people taking pictures and sending them off using this great new invention of mankind and sending messages free of cost and chatting away because its free.

It was a group of my old college mates, people whom I don't remember much now. They were a bunch of normal, boring people so I did not know what to expect. For precisely two minutes! And then the group descended on me and one another. Suddenly I found that all my old mates had become very different personalities. Some had become extremely gregarious (Hi, how are you, long time no see, how are wife and kids yaar) which they were not in real life when I knew them. Some were actively seeking information and knowledge from all over the world and were sharing it freely (did you know that India is the only country too blah blah, did you know that you could die in a million ways after you are born etc), something which was missing then. Some were keen on improving our lives and had a bit of advise for us every morning in terms of sharing quotes and information (an apple a day keeps the doctor away, good morning friends). Some felt our lives needed humour and forwarded many jokes which brought much mirth in the group. Many had become very polite and caring online personalities (great to hear such advise from you bhaiyya). Some had become extremely clear on their political views and were fringing on the radical. Some others insisted on exposing us to the harsh realities of life by sending us the most gruesome pictures and videos they could find (share with all you care about else you will die or something like that). Some wanted to improve our libido and shared slightly naughty stuff (these got most responses). All this at a frenetic pace that I must confess I have not time to run through most. I am unemployed and I wonder how these guys are managing it all with an active job. Maybe they outsource readers.

What I was struck by really was how badly I had misjudged these wonderful people. How this awful bunch had evolved into such fun, sharing, caring, polite, knowledgeable people with so much information they want to share is something one can only credit that app called whatsapp surely. I am completely overwhelmed by this realisation. I am also exhausted from reading all the stuff these fine people are putting up there - from rare Sardar jokes to how we should escape health issues and videos of the world's greatest disasters. I am also totally complexed. While all my friends were growing up into these smart, well informed, courageous people after college days, I must confess that I have remained a rather ill-informed, less than articulate, less than polite specimen who cannot even put stuff up for the crowd on whatsapp to enjoy and improve themselves as citizens, fathers, husbands, mothers, voters, patients etc.

Hopefully I will. And soon. At the rate at which I am receiving information and tips and advice on whatsapp I will soon turn into a philosopher, self help guru, current affairs expert with a good stock of jokes. And then I can also share them with unsuspecting and unimproved blokes.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The New Age Cinema Theatre Behavior

This is theatre behavior I noticed yesterday while watching a movie.

1) Talk loudly on cell phone (and lie about where you are)
2) Kick the seat in front of you as often as you can
3) Talk to your gang of friends as loudly as you can using all cuss the words you know
4) Discuss loudly whether to move into the front rows and then start giggling
5) Stamp over everyone's feet while moving out and giggle again
6) Have cell phone with atrocious tone ring loudly
7) Drop eatables and soft drinks on any one in the way if you can
8) Eat tonnes, tonnes of stuff - popcorn, soft drinks, nachos - anything one can lay their hands on
9) Have little child scream his guts out and do nothing about it
10) Complain, complain, complain, complain - about lift, movie, people, food, prices, seats, color, sound, space to walk, timing

If you're lucky you get to see almost every single one of these behaviors.

In the good old days it was very exciting to hear the chaps comment on the movie, hear the sound of bangles when an amorous couple got busy, see paper confetti fly up and liven up the show with a magical moment, hear the sound of coins being thrown when songs and dialogues appealed to the audience and the odd time when chaps got up and started to dance in the aisles at a song.

You know, it was far more interesting really. 

Finding Fanny - Movie Review

One of the few movies I watched alone. Not a bad experience really. The last one was one Harry Potter movie if I remember right. But you got to do what you got to do. So I chose an 11 pm show at PVR, suffered the badly designed mall, watched the movie and came home the next day, bleary eyed.

If there's one thing about Homi Adajania, its that he makes movies at his own pace, through his own eyes. Its a bit black, slightly kinky and pokes at some hidden aspects of us which are just below the surface and which may not be all so nice. There's insecurity, perversion, pig-headedness, insensitivity. And there's also the nice things. All his characters are that way and all find a happy ending. Well, almost all. When the movie started to unfold I knew not where it was going and whether I wanted to go on the journey with them because it did seem like a rather purpose-less bunch with almost zero motive to go anywhere save the fully focussed Don Pedro. But after it ended, I was okay with that.

Angie (Deepika Padukone) is a young widow who has been widowed on her wedding day when her over-enthusiastic husband choked on a plastic figurine in the wedding cake. Her virginity and her dreams intact, she lives with her widowed mother-in-law Rosie (Dimple Kapadia) in a laid back village in Goa. Her best friend is the bachelor post master, the neurotic Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), for lack of any other options in the village it appears. One whacky, inspired artist Don Pedro also thrives in the place, seeking out his passions and muses, big women. The large mother-in-law with an unpronouncable name is big, as so is his passion for her. He wants to paint her, his madame. Completing the bunch is Savio da Gama (Arjun Kapoor) who also loved Angie but never proposed to her and left the village the day she married and got widowed. They all get together to find Fanny or Stephanie, Ferdie's crush, to whom he had written a letter, 46 years ago expressing his feelings. Unfortunately the letter comes back to him mysteriously, undelivered after all these years. Ferdie,  is someone who has also been a shippie with Alberto, the mother-in-law's late husband and knows a secret that not many know. They set out to find Fanny in an old car and during the trip, find many other things including Fanny. And lose a few things.

All's well and that ends well. Goa is beautiful. I could locate a couple of roads which looked familiar. The oldies are fantastic - Naseer and his neurotic mannerisms and lost puppy looks, Dimple in her obnoxious, in-your-face manner and Pankaj Kapoor who is extravagant and full of crazy, artistic quirks and passions. Naseer is never sure until the end, Arjun is concerned when Deepika says she hopes 'it' will only get better, Pankaj Kapoor discards his muse like a rag once his painting is done, Dimple Kapadia finds her self-composure ripped open and exposed at the brutality of the artist's lust for his painting - its a tale of characters who are all pretty similar to the car, rickety, unsure and not really reliable. Its patchy, rusty, can fail at any time but somewhere deep inside it is solid and well, it moves along. It's quirky. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Someone Like You - Movie Review

Watched this movie in two instalments. It's based on a novel - 'Animal Husbandry' by Laura Zigman. The movie starts with an introduction to the basic premise of the movie - that bulls do not mate cows they have mated with before how much ever you disguise the old cow. Our heroine clings to this theory to save her self-esteem and well, the movie revolves around it.

Jane (Ashley Judd) works in a talk show. There are two men who are extremes - one a womaniser (Hugh Jackman) and the other (Kinnear), a new producer, who is all charming. Jane falls for charming, who after some romance and stuff, loses interest in her. Typical bull. She is distraught and moves in with womaniser who has no such feelings for her. Jane also brings out all her angst in a column she writes in a magazine about men - which is a big hit. Now they have to get Jane on the show and resolve all the loose ends - let's see - make charming and TV show host (Ellen Barkin) pair up, Jane and the womanising producer pair up and most things are under control. A climax where we have some uncomfortable moments because she admits on air that there is no columnist by the name of whatever and it was she. All is well ladies and gentlemen, though I dread to think of their futures. What happens when the bulls tire of the old cows?

It's the kind of a movie we'd watch in Sterling theatre in Hyderabad when it was alive and around. Popcorn, warm and cosy theatre, few mice, late night cool ride back home, ahh, lovely. Now what was that movie about again? But big starcast here folks - Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd, Marisa Tomei, Ellen Barkin and Greg Kinnear.

Increasing Productivity - Do The Important Things, The Bethlehem Steel Story

There is a story. It goes like this.
A young management consultant meets the President of Bethlehem Steels and offers him his services. The President says that they have enough 'knowing'. What they need is 'doing'. If the management consultant can give him something that makes them 'do', he will willingly pay.
The young management consultant had 20 minutes. He said he'd give him something that will improve productivity by 50%.

  • He told the President to take a piece of paper. 
  • Then he asked him to write the six most important tasks (some versions say five, but consistently most says six) to be performed tomorrow.
  • Then number the tasks in terms of importance.
  • Put the paper back in pocket.
  • Take it out first thing in the morning.
  • Look at number one and start on it.
  • Do number one until it is completed and then take up number two.
  • Every fifteen minutes keep checking the list to see if you're on track.
  • By end of day if you have only completed 2 or 3, its still ok. You did the most important things.
  • In the last five minutes of your day, make a list for the next day.

Story goes that the President was impressed with the results that he paid the young management consultant USD 25,000. This was some old time number and it was adjusted to some 400000 USD. The President, one Mr. Schwab turned the company around and it became the second biggest producer of steel in the world. Mr. Schwab himself made a personal fortune of over USD 100 million. So the story goes.

The key then, seems to be to do the few important and right things and not many unimportant things. Simple as that. Try it.

Some links to the story.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thought for the Day - Keep The Balance

The key seems to be balance. One cannot overdo one area at the cost of another. It might help to look at the big areas in our life. What they mean to us, why we relate to them and how we relate to them are questions that could explain why they are fun or not fun. (The ones that are fun and easy are the ones in balance and the ones we are avoiding are not in sync.)

For the purposes of convenience the five areas that most of us engage could be these - personal growth, financial, relationships, work and health. Between them, these five areas occupy much of our life. Most of us seem to have an excess of one at the cost of another leading to a slight imbalance which could tell on our health at a later stage. Let's examine each.

Personal growth: What does it mean to you and how and why you relate to it is the question. How do you nurture yourself - body, mind and spirit? What kind of stuff do you do that aids your growth? People, books, talks, associations, music, movies...look at stuff that grows. Are you enjoying your growth? Have you addressed this question yet?

Financial health: What does it mean to you and why and how do you relate to it? How do you grow it? How do you keep your balance? How much do you need? What are you doing with it? A close look at your financial health could reveal some clues. You need to also look at whether it is controlling you or you are controlling it. Do you enjoy having it and using it?

Relationships: What do they mean to you? Are they adding to you or taking away? Is there something to learn from them? The key as always is this - are you having fun? Or are they serious and pulling you down? Are you feeling free to be yourself?

Work: What does it mean to you? Does it add to your growth? Is there more to it than the money? Do you feel like you can't wait to get to work? Is it challenging? If it is not, you need to address your relationship with work and see what it means to you.

Health: What does it mean to you and how do you relate to it? Are you feeling healthy? What are you postponing and why? Are you healthy in the mind and the body? Does it scare you? Do you ignore it?

If we can keep the perspective, keep the major areas in balance, we should be in harmony with life. If not, time to examine our relationships with them and sorting them out.

Anjali - The Spirit of Participation

It was Environment Day at Daksha school. The children were asked to dress in something green. Anjali was glad she had a green dress. There was also to be some debate about plastic use so she was all excited. I chose 'No to plastic' she said.

Sometime before we left from home I saw her busily doing something. She had cut some papers, was pulling out her crayons and paints. I wondered what all the activity was and waited outside for her to come. She was fully focused on whatever she was doing.

She came by shortly.
'See nanna,' she said pointing at her hair pin. 'A green hair pin.'
I saw then what she had done. She cut out a small paper in the shape of a flower and painted it green and somehow stuck it onto her hair pin to go with the theme.
Green Day

'How did you do that?' I asked in the car.
'I remembered the green dress so I thought I could do something more. I cut out the paper. It did not come right. So I drew again and made amma cut it. Then I painted it but it did not come out well. So I put crayon. I asked amma to stick the flower to the pin. Do you like it?'
Wow! Lot of work.

'Nice,' I said. Full marks for the spirit of participation. I love it.

I always look at the bystanders and the ones who participate. When did we become bystanders? I am sure we'd love to participate too but somehow we become diffident, we wait for the invitation. But children don't seem to have those inhibitions. There was no invitation, yet there is the spirit to add, to improvise and make the event so much more colorful. Its a comment on her own environment at school, the teachers who encourage this sort of participation. Well done Daksha. You are making a difference to the environment in more ways than one. Creating a nurturing, learning and participative space for children and encouraging them to grow is probably the greatest environmental change we can bring on in this world.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anjali - There Is No Good and Bad

There was much excitement at the school van when I made an impromptu drop at Anjali's school to pick her up. She came away happily, holding a tetra pack of pineapple juice in her hand. 'Today was B's birthday,' she said. 'We ate cake, chips and got fruit juice.'

She sipped from her tetra pack. 'This is pineapple,' she said.
'Is it nice?' I asked.
'Yes. I like it. But you know we had a big fight today about pineapple juice,'' she said.
Wow! Here's a story brewing.

'Me and S were standing with our packs when G came by and said 'This pineapple juice is bad,' Anjali said. 'How can it be bad?'
I listened intently. Where was this leading?

'I told him that he cannot say something like that. How can anything that god gives us be good or bad?' she said.
'Maybe he did not like it,' I said. 'Maybe it was bad for him.'
Was she imposing her views on her friends I thought. I waited.

'If it was bad for him he should say that he did not like it. It is not the pineapple that is bad. He does not like it. How can he say it is bad?'
I got the fine difference then. There is no good and bad. It is what we make of it. Do not label the object, label your reaction to it. Got it.
Thanks kid.

'I went and told akka and then I told teacher also,' said the crusader for god. ' She called him and spoke something to him'.
She drank her juice contentedly.

No good or bad. I looked at her and told her she got it right.

A Walk In The Clouds - Movie Review

Another romance from the past. I do remember certain scenes from the movie that I saw more than a decade ago surely. Keanu Reeves is the young soldier who returns from the war to a life that has nothing to offer to him. He hopes to start a life with the wife he married on an impulse before he left for the war but realises after one meeting that the marriage is over. She and he are poles apart. As an orphan he has nothing to look forward to really.

Heading to Sacramento to start a career as a chocolate salesman Keanu Reeves gets lucky. He bumps into a girl on the train who pukes all over him and gets him into all sorts of trouble unwittingly. She is a college student heading home - but she is pregnant and is scared about what her close knit family would do to her when they find out. Keanu steps in nobly and acts the husband, suffers his father in laws taunts and well, in the end, it all works out well. Anthony Quinnas the grand old Don Pedro is cute.

A bit like many Hindi or Telugu films with an old world charm. The cinematography is dreamy and beautiful and the vineyards and the traditions are captured so beautifully that you cannot forget this movie. Nice.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thought for the Day - What We Miss When We Don't Listen

I was talking to my friend the other day. I wanted to tell him about this temple near Alampur close to Kurnool which was supposedly pretty old, 6th century or so. I was planning a day trip sometime and wanted to tell him that he could consider it too.

'You know there is a temple near Alampur,' I began, 'it's not been made popular as some others but...'
He cut in.

'How can you make all temples popular?' he said in an agitated tone. 'We cannot blame our government for some temple not being popular. There is Tirupati, Sri kalahasti, Srisailam and so many more temples to take care of. There are so many more to popularise if we wanted to but they just cannot do it for everything. Why do we expect them to do everything...,'

And he went on and on about how we expect too much from the government and want them to do everything. The insinuation was that I was perhaps blaming the government for not doing enough when they already have and are.

I must confess that I had nothing of that sort in my mind. All I wanted was to tell him about these wonderful 6th century temples which were a day trip away. By the time the tirade ended, there was no talk about the temples, why they were popular, what was special about them. It took off on an assumption that I was saying something against someone, and ended achieving nothing.

More than anything it shows how much we miss when we do not listen. Each time we cut into someone while they are talking, we are throttling one thought and taking it in a completely different direction. There is no harm done in an innocuous conversation like ours but I can imagine what happens in organisations that need new thoughts and ideas. In schools and colleges. Once snubbed, many people do not come forward to share anymore. Like they say, criticism kills the spirit.

If we are to allow new ideas and new thought, we must first learn to listen to others and their point of view. What are they trying to say? Even if it does appear similar to an old thought, they may have a slight improvisation. We can see how they think, what their thought process is like and encourage more ideas. Most may be bad, but what we need are the one or two diamonds that can make a difference. The way to find those diamonds is to listen, to make them want to share and to genuinely understand that they wish to contribute. Encourage the thinking process, do not interfere with your preconceived notions and opinions, and soon you will have more ideas than you can handle.

But first, listen. Hear then out. Then speak.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Vendor of Sweets - R.K. Narayan

Another from RKN's wonderful collection of books. 'The Vendor of Sweets' is a delightful tale of a father and his strained, strange relationship with his son. It is set in Malgudi and the usual suspects do creep into the narrative every now and then, like Natraj the printer.

Jagan owns one of the popular sweet shops in Malgudi. A man who loves making his sweets from the purest raw material, who is very Gandhian in his approach to life (he even went to jail in the freedom struggle), who loves reading his Gita and sharing his knowledge with all and sundry, Jagan has only one problem in life - his only son Mali. Jagan confides all his troubles to his cousin who comes everyday to the shop to listen to Jagan and to taste the day's sweets and savories and gets a lot of information about his son's activities from this cousin. A widower, Jagan, is not sure about his parenting capabilities. The son grows up into a sullen, reclusive and rebellious young man who gives up college to become a writer. Then he gives up writing and goes to the US to study writing. He comes back from the US with a Chinese looking girl who he claims is his wife and a scheme to manufacture story making machines. The son who would never speak much to his father suddenly starts talking to him because he wants Jagan to invest in his venture. Jagan gets more and more confused as he learns more details about the scheme, about his son and his 'wife', and after much trouble, finds peace for himself in the end.

The relationship between the father and the son, the progression of Jagan's peaceful life into one of turmoil and unhappiness, the way relationships sour and the way people use guilt to manipulate others is shown so well that it could have been a story out of contemporary India. The part about Jagan's flashback into his marriage seemed forced; there was no need except to educate the reader about Indian customs in marriages. But all in all, a fine story and one that will remain in my mind for the father-son relationship and the way it changes many shades.

Thought for the Day - Beat Stress By Taking Time Out of the Equation

Evening hour. Peak 6 pm- 7 pm traffic. Metro works. Potholes. Narrow roads.
I have promised to meet friend Suresh at his home in Jubilee Hills - exactly 26 minutes away. It's a route that could take anything between 35 minutes to 45 minutes. I hit the road and the first thing I notice is the stress in my body and mind. I am thinking - this is not going to help. At best it will make me hit someone.
Pic courtesy Chitra Karandikar

First get the time out of the mind. I cannot control it. Stopped looking at the clock,

Second, I mentally committed to the 7 p.m. deadline. I told myself I will make it somehow.

Third, focus on the controllables. Now with time out of my head I started thinking of ways to gain advantages. An alternate route that allowed me to slip past the crazy Yousufguda traffic, little traffic parleys that allowed me to creep up a bit ahead. All within the rules of safety and legality. All focus is on driving and finding best route.

Resisted temptation to look at watch.

Stopped in front of Suresh's house and then looked at clock. I knew the time even before I looked - 7 p.m. Perfect.

When under stress take the uncontrollables out of the equation. Time is certainly one. Keep the goal in mind and then refocus on the action, on somehow achieving it with all that is in your control.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thought for the Day - You Decide, The World Obeys

When I recount all the things I 'created', the big and small, I realise that the key moment for making that happen was the 'decision'. It happened in my head like a click. One moment is all it took, that's all. Whether it was scoring a hundred, getting a prize wicket, deciding not to lose, giving up a job, writing a book, nurturing a relationship - it was all based on that little 'decision'.

That 'decision' made whatever I wanted already happen in my head. Now all that was left was to make it happen. It comes from a place of knowing, not wanting. The difference is that in 'knowing', you 'know' you will do it come what may. In 'wanting', you hope someone will make it happen for you while you watch helplessly. There is a difference when we say 'I want it' as opposed to 'I'll get it'.

Now these momentous 'decisions' happen almost randomly and uncontrollably, when we are passionate about things. But many times we 'want' things but cannot find that level of passion to back it up. Then how do we 'decide'? How do we scale up the passion? What if we fear deep inside that this is something you are not sure you can commit?

This thought has been on my mind really for a while now. How do we 'decide' as a choice?

As I see it now, this is something that must be first handled in the mind. Committing to it is number one. Talking to yourself and keeping you above the outcome or object of your desire is next. Keeping yourself in the knowing space by thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, seeing pictures of it you can strengthen the belief that you can create it. All said and done, I find that by pushing the mind into a better space, into a creative space, you can start building momentum to overcome your fear or diffidence or uncertainty.

Much of this 'decision' comes from clarity. What does achieving this mean to you? Why do you want to achieve this? How does it help you to come alive? How does it seize your attention and your passion? When that becomes clear in your mind, the 'decision' becomes clear. It's not about big or small. Its about knowing that you have decided. Then all else falls into place - the plan, the effort, the achievement. It helps many times to have a good sounding board, a coach, a friend, a mentor who can give a perspective into this clarity. Clarity could be all the difference. Clarity comes from eliminating the veils of fear and doubt. From total honesty.

I also believe that when we 'decide' we adopt a life as if it is already done. This is the key. Look ahead and see what you will be doing, how you will think and behave when it is 'done'. Start preparing for the future as if it is already done.

Then all is done.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Clarity in Purpose and Communication - Can't Beat the Indian Army

I was watching a young lady News reporter who was reporting on the flood situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The intrepid girl hopped on an Indian Army boat with the personnel as they went about rescuing people stranded in their houses. It was dark already and they were using lights. The victims were stranded on the first floor and were visibly angry and unhappy. Some refused to be rescued.

The reporter asked the army man who was manning the boat how they were dealing with the situation considering that the army personnel were tired and were also facing this kind of hostility. The man smiled into the camera and said. 'We will not leave until the last person is rescued,' he said.

Absolute clarity.

She asked him again.
'The flood victims are not happy and sometimes uncooperative. How do you handle that?'

The young man had a ready answer. 'We will speak with love and make them understand we are here to help. But we will not leave until the last man is rescued. The Indian Army is always prepared.'

I was blown over at the clarity of purpose. Young man, tired, out in the floods, facing the camera for the first time perhaps, but so clear about his role and his purpose.

I heard the Army Chief a couple of days later and another senior official. Guess what? They all said the same thing. 'We will not leave until the last man is rescued. The Indian Army is fully prepared.'

Fantastic stuff. We look at the army like a machine and it operates like a machine too. In a world where there is so much inefficiency, lack of purpose and communication, lack of clarity of role, lack of commitment and responsibility, these youngsters shine through and set a fine example. Of how to be clear about our purpose and role, how to communicate it so clearly, how to be responsible and committed.

If we could only take a small bit of what our army exemplifies and bring it into our lives, we'd be that much better as a nation. For a nation that is searching for real heroes, I'd look no further than the Indian Army.

Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Grow, Be Within Your Limitations

While talking to the young cricketers at the ML Jaisimha Cricket Academy yesterday we were on the topic of how to aim for bigger performances. The key  is to know your limitations and play within them. That is the best way to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Most times we make mistakes when we try to play beyond our capabilities.
Pic courtesy - Chitra K

Playing beyond our capabilities is possible, but only after proper grounding and preparation. Not before. So it is necessary to be aware of the limitations, avoid making mistakes that come from trying things which you have not prepared for and build on it.

You grow, when you are comfortable within your limitations. It helps you expand confidently bit by bit.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Holiday - Movie Review

For the nth time I watched this delightful movie and am wondering what-a-movie. The story of the two working women girls running away from their two-timing boyfriends, Iris (Kate Winslet) from England and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) from Los Angeles, who exchange homes for two weeks and find love faraway from home is absolutely romantic, funny (in a giggly way) and warm. Nothing giggly about their predicament when they start out thought but they have the gumption to make that decision, fly across the seas and look at life anew. The good lord rewards such courage.

And Amanda finds Graham (Jude Law), the widowed brother of Iris with his two adorable daughters Sophie and Olivia, and a fine two weeks it turns out to be in England and its pubs and stuff. Iris finds Ethan (Jack Black) and Arthur Abbott, her neighbour, an ex-writer for the movies. I loved the movie, the moments, the scenes (specially the one where Kate Winslet is talking to Cameron Diaz with Graham on the line) and more.
I'd watch this movie anytime. Guess what's next on the list - Notting Hill. What's this with the British and the American romances?

Whatever it is, it's good. Hey story idea - get all the characters of these romantic comedies and make a movie. The Holiday, Notting Hill, Bridges of Madison County, Love Story, Come September...add some more. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thought for the Day - You Are Not Your Worst Part

It is quite easy for us to start thinking that we are our worst part only. If we are fat, or ugly, or dark, or dull, or poor, or unsuccessful, or unhealthy, or whatever, we can easily hang on to that label and feel that we are only that. I have buck teeth, I could think I am that only. If I am shy, I may think I am only that.

Pic courtesy Chitra Karandikar
But hey, you are not your buck teeth. Or your fat. Or your big backside. Or your paunch. Or your past.

You are much more than that. If you can look at yourself as more than just the worst part of you (as you may think), you will find that all the other parts of you may look so nice that you start looking radiant. Just look at all the celebrities; have you seen an uglier lot than them ever? But they are going about strutting whatever good they have or they have manufactured and that is what makes them so attractive suddenly.

Remember, you are not your worst part. And then, you are the star.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anand - Movie Review

Watched this cult movie, one of my three-best Hindi films surely, once again. And each time I see it, it only makes me wonder at how brilliantly it was made. The casting, the characters, the way the movie flows, its simply superb.

Dr. Bhaskar (Amitabh Bachchan) is being felicitated on the release of his new book 'Anand'. He clarifies that it is not a novel but a compilation of extracts from his diary. Anand was a real life character. Dr. Bhaskar is a serious man who is deeply influenced by the sufferings of the world. He smiles little, has no time for frivolity and is concerned with healing the world. He recounts the story of Anand.

Bhaskar meets Anand Saigal (Rajesh Khanna), a young man who has been referred by a doctor friend in Delhi. Anand has been sent to Dr. Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) who has a hospital. Bhaskar meets the fun loving and constantly chattering Anand and chides him for being so frivolous - he does not seem to know the extent of his illness. He has cancer and only three months to live. But Anand knows and he still finds it in himself to smile. Not just that, he makes everyone else smile too until he dies.

'You get angry too soon', he tells Bhaskar in their first meeting. 'It's not good to love people so much'. And before he dies he is more concerned that Bhaskar cannot withstand the trauma of his death. The story is full of interesting and powerful characters, their larger than life motives, and life changing choices. Dialogues crackle with life and wit, zest and repartee. The character of Isa bhai played by Johnny Walker is one of the best roles I have ever seen. Or for that matter that of Lalita Pawar as the matron, Raghu kaka as Amitabh's man servant, Ramesh and Suman Deo. But what steals the show is the perfect casting of Rajesh Khanna as the jovial Anand and the brooding and intense Amitabh as Dr. Bhaskar Bannerjee. How many ever times you watch Anand, you always want to watch it again. Fantastic stuff by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. In fact the dialogues and screenplay also have Gulzar's name and some other heavies in the lyrics and music department. Along with 'Chupke Chupke' and 'Namak Haraam' it stands way up there in my top 5.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thought for the Day - To Stretch People, Talk to the Level You Wish To See In Them

To challenge people and stretch them, you need to talk to the level within them that you see them achieving. You need to talk to this level within them with complete confidence. Treat it like its almost done. You cannot afford to talk to them at the previous level or the current level and hope that they will stretch.
The target that stretches Pic Chitra Karandikar

You have to put the target where you want them to go and tell them to get it. It is the level you see them achieving in your mind. Support them along the way, provide them encouragement but never move the target closer. They can achieve it, they can stretch. When they do, they will be bigger and better people.

Shakespeare in Love - Movie Review

Delightful. Young Shakespeare has a writer's block. His play in the making has been promised by a producer to someone he owes money to. Shakespeare goes to a doctor or some such who gets him a muse to find inspiration. And the play titled 'Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter' gets transformed by the torrid romance that goes on between Shakespeare and Viola, a wealthy man's daughter.

Viola loves to act but she cannot as women were not permitted to. She disguises herself as a man and plays Romeo. Shakespeare is already married but separated. He is drawn to Viola despite knowing that she is engaged to be married to a Lord. But Viola has to play Juliet and she does and Shakespeare has to play Romeo and he does and the way the story moves through its twists and turns and the absolutely fantastic finale is superb. We stand up with the rest to applaud the performers, the play that shows the true nature of love as the Queen wants it to and 'Romeo and Juliet' is born. Apparently it is based on many real life characters and parts of other Shakesperean plays. But it is delightfully written and performed. Joseph Fiennes as Will Shakespeare, Gwynneth Paltrow as Viola, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Colin Firth - it is a minefield of talent. An absolute must-watch and a repeat watch.

Letting Down Our Talent - Indira Gaikwad and Shweta Prasad

Two disturbing pieces of news last week. One about a national award winner in para Olympics selling off her medals to finance her medical treatment and another national award winner for acting being arrested for prostitution. Somehow we as a society have let our talent down and forced them to seek avenues far below what they deserve. They deserve our accolades, our love and appreciation and see what we have given them.

The first picture is that of 43 year old polio-stricken Indira Gaikwad who has won the Shiv Chhatrapathi award in 1991, (Maharashtra's highest award for differently-abled sportspeople)  and over 35 medals and awards in sports such as power lifting, cycle racing, shotput, discus throw, javelin throw etc. She won 8 golds representing her state. The picture shows her sitting in on the  floor of her 'matchbox-size home' in Rastapeth with her 75 year old mother, selling off her medals as scrap because her mother's medical bills were Rs. 500 last month. Her father is no more; he died of cancer. Indira has been promised a job but nothing has come of it. Meanwhile she and her mother live off a combined income of Rs. 800 a month from the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Yojana. Other efforts at work have not paid off  and she talks of suicide as an option if she cannot get a small government job.

The second is that of the immensely talented Shweta Basu Prasad who won the National Film Award for best child artiste for her performance in Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Makdee' and Star Screen Award for 'Iqbal' and nominations for other movies.There is no doubting the young girl's talent and one can only wonder how she has been led or forced to go astray. It is a tough profession, films, especially when you see the industry filled with sons and daughters of yesteryear actors and directors and producers and what not - how will an outsider from a normal background make the cut. Instead of nurturing and promoting her phenomenal talent, we, as a nation have somehow pushed her into the oldest profession. I don't know how many remember, but there was a sting operation on her last year too and people knew that things were going wrong with her. But who has the time? Today she sits in a remand home - wonder why and for what end - for a crime society committed on her. We, as a society can accept a porn star like Sunny Leone (which is wonderful), but then we suddenly turn all judgmental against this young girl. Shweta hopefully will come out of this mess and use her talent to receive what is really due to her and hopefully the industry and the society will allow her to. There is no shame in making a mistake; she has accepted it unlike some other great celebrities and powerful scions who are running away from all kinds of court cases pending against them. She can start afresh and all power to her. The mistake squarely lies on us, the society.

These are two stray cases. One wonders how many such are languishing because they are not of the right birth, of the right shape or size or color or name or fame. As long as we promote and support mediocrity, which we tend to do in all walks of life, from politics to sports, literature to arts, we as a nation will suffer from a narrow vision, a narrow representation of what we are. Just imagine the kind of performances Shweta would have revelled in if given an opportunity, a true celebration of the art form, instead of having to watch wooden faced actors practicing their skills on us for decades and still not showing a patch of the talent of such gifted artistes. But then, we get what we deserve.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Doctor Zhivago - Movie Review

The scale hits you. The movie is based on a book by Nobel Prize winning writer Boris Pasternak. There is much drama to the publishing of the book itself; apparently the Russians did not allow it to be published. It was finally published in Italy and then made into a movie by a British production house. The Americans saw it as an opportunity to use the book as a propaganda tool against life in Russia and Communism in general. With so much drama affecting the book itself, can the story be any lesser. Can't be so.

The movie starts with the brother of Dr. Zhivago, a senior person in the army, looking for a girl. He identifies the girl and after verifying certain facts shows her a book of poems written by the doctor who was also a well known poet, written for a woman called Lara. The brother (half-brother actually) explains why it is important to him - Dr. Zhivago seems to be her father and she his niece. He tells her how Zhivago was a medical student but a poet, in love with a young girl from a wealthy family, Tonya, and a good life awaiting him. His life somehow gets mixed up with the life of Lara - who gets involved with a revolutionary Pasha, and another man, who is a well-connected and ruthless businessman who thinks nothing of exploiting people, including Lara. Zhivago sees the businessman's deceit, the young girl's courage as she shoots him publicly and her fiance's conviction as he takes her away. In the revolution that follows Pasha is not found, Lara lives alone with her small daughter near the Ural mountains and Zhivago and his young family leaves for their house near the Urals. Zhivago meets Lara again and also finds that Pasha is a dreaded rebel leader. Zhivago and Lara serve the wounded in a makeshift hospital for a long period before they split and meet again. All the main characters keep meeting each other but its the love between Zhivago and Lara that somehow ends with a book of poems that he writes for her. Zhivago finally dies in Moscow, his family is away in Paris and Lara is never heard of again. The half brother finds that the girl is indeed Zhivago's daughter.

The movie is large in its scale and conception. The world war and the Russian Revolution form the back drop for the drama that unfolds in the lives of Zhivago and the people he loves. The second time I watched this movie and I am glad I did. The scenery is beautifully shown, the movie is paced gently and impactfully and its a story you do not forget. Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara are brilliant and they are supported by a large cast that includes Alec Guinness as the half brother.

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Late is Early

The ones who seem to have all the time in the world, who seem to be doing things at a leisurely pace, are the one who have prepared early.

They may appear to be doing things in an unhurried manner, as if they have all the time in the world, but the truth is that they are so because they have prepared early.

To have the luxury of leisure, be early. Enjoy the luxury of unhurried time.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Manmarziyaan- Nice song from Lootera

Liked this song. Check it out.


And then check this amazing cover version by Sanah Moidutty.


Lootera - Movie Review

Been on the list for long. Finally watched it. Liked it. It is shown very well. However the story looked rather thin and went on into a bit of a drag.

The old zamindar and his lovely building, the temple, the guest house are all so beautiful to watch. Sonakshi as the zamindar's daughter who falls in love with the looter-archaeologist Ranvir Singh does a fine job. She is a good actress; what is she is doing in those other movies. Why Ranvir Singh who has no interest or talent in painting wants to paint a masterpiece sis anybody's guess but a masterpiece he paints which is so bad that Sonakshi spots it from a mile away once the snow stops. Ranvir and his stay at the guest house are also rather suspect - I felt that their relationship could have been explored deeper.

But Sonakshi is dying of tuberculosis and is waiting for the last leaf to fall from her favorite tree. The last leaf does not and she shines through. It appears Ranvir has been taking care of her and painting his masterpiece - the leaf - instead of running away. Anyway who cares about all that? The cinematography is so good, so loving, that most images stay in my mind. Its an India we don't know. Good enough for me.

Thought for the Day - The Connection between Opportunity and Preparation

We hear people complaining how they are not getting 'opportunities'. Opportunities are seen as a lucky coincidence that happens to the few lucky ones. The rest of us unlucky ones can only crib about how the world is not giving us opportunities.
Pic courtesy - Chitra Karandikar

My take is that opportunities are waiting for you at prescribed milestones in your preparation. The better you are prepared, the more opportunities you attract. Or in other words, the more lucky you become.

Step 1. Understand preparation. Prepare on skill, physical and mental levels. Prepare purposefully so it reflects on your performance.

Step 2. Understand that the key is your mental preparation. You must know the process, your context and mostly you must know your limiting beliefs. These beliefs can keep you in a self-defeating loop. Being aware of those patterns can release you.

Step 3.  Keep your thoughts creative. Instead of feeling like the victim keep your thoughts on what you wish to create. Constantly be in the learning mode.

Step 4. Be aware of how much value you bring and back yourself on that. You are unique and bring a unique value. The more you back yourself the more opportunity comes to you.

Step 5. Enjoy the process. Keep the humour going. It is what makes the mind creative. It makes you look at possibilities that you don't normally see. Even if you joke about being number one, keep at it. Makes you think constantly.

By keeping a learning attitude, by looking to grow with each instance, by knowing your intrinsic value and by keeping yourself happy and in a state of enjoyment, you will find that opportunities are coming your way. Smile, receive them joyfully and thank them.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now You See Me - Movie Review

Four magicians are picked by a calling card from a rich benefactor to be a group called the 'Four Horsemen'. The four specialise in different tricks of the trade and are obviously the best in what they do. From one piece of magic to another the movie takes you higher and higher. Their first big act - pick a random chap from the audience and rob his bank in Paris through a teleportation mechanism. The money is transported to the USA and showered all over the audience. Next the man who fronts them finds a hundred million of his money being transferred electronically to an audience comprising entirely of people his insurance company cheated. Next a safe is made to disappear and the money appears in the car of a man who is trying to hand them over to the insurance guy. Who do they work for and why this personal vendetta?

Chasing them rather not too well is an FBI officer who teams up with a good looking officer from the Interpol. They don't stop anything from happening though. Action, big large scale action, all through. Won't get bored for sure. Slick and smooth.

Nice Link to an article on Frederick Forsyth

This is a link to a fine article / interview with Frederick Forsyth (the writer, and if you didn't know it, no point clicking on it). Truth is stranger than fiction.

Good Bye Lenin - Movie Review

It was in an entirely different language and there were no subtitles. I tried to watch it five times before and aborted it each time but this time I was resolute. I sat through it all.

I guessed it was Germany - the football players and their flag colors gave it away. The wall is broken between East and West. The mother slips into coma and when she wakes up the wall is gone. Communism is out and Macdonalds and Burger King are here. However she must not be told anything that might upset her because she has been a staunch communist supporter. So her son and daughter create an elaborate show to make her believe it is all as it had been, including faking news. One day the mother wanders off and sees a giant Lenin statue being transported by a helicopter - the statue seems to talk in that scene. Super stuff. Anyway she comes to know of all that happened and alls well and that ends well. The mother dies peacefully after the reunification.

It had a documentary kind of a feel to it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club - Movie Review

Another movie made on a real life story. I always knew that - truth is stranger than fiction so why waste time trying to create something new when all the best stories are around you. But this story of rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof from Dallas, Texas who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 (when everyone cringed at the word) and how he lived on for 7 years using his own treatments when he was given 30 days to live, required some doing. For one, its an old story, then it takes on the pharma giants and lastly the way the movie takes off on the FDA and the medicare system against maverick patients like Woodroof.

Mathew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof and does a great job of playing the boozing, cocaine and sex addicted electrician who discovers one day that he has AIDS. He abuses the doctor who says he has 30 days to live and walks off and starts living it up again. But the fear gets to him and he doe some research on his own to try and cut his risks. Since the trials of AZT, an experimental drug are in early stages he bribes an attendant and steals some. Though the AZT, alcohol and cocaine prescription fails, he finds hope in a Mexican doctor who asks him to take vitamins and minerals and stay away from AZT. Woodroof finds good results and brings back this stuff into the USA and starts giving it out to AIDS patients through e membership scheme called the Dallas Buyers Club. The FDA disapproves and runs into him but Ron keeps finding ways of beating the system and helping AIDS victims with his vitamins and minerals along with his two friends, Rayon, a cross dresser and Dr. Eve. Ron drags the FDA to court and though he loses the case earns sympathy of the court and gets the FDA a reprimand in overstepping its line. Ron finally die sin 1992, a full seven years after he is diagnosed. As he says - if I stayed in the hospital I' have been dead by now.

It's a movie that makes you think about many things. I am glad they made the movie. Mathew McConaugney and Jared Leto won Academy Awards for their performances - best actor and best supporting actor. One wonders about the profit-driven medical system and whether it is really in our best interests at all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Anjali - Is Hugging Bad?

Ah, the first of the gender battles.
'You know, I was very upset today,' said Anjali when she hopped into the car.
'Why?' I asked.
'I went to class and met H. We hugged each other. We normally do. And then G came and asked why I hugged him. I said I hugged him because we were friends. What's wrong?' But G made a sound as if something was not right.'
She was quite agitated by now.

'After sometime G came and asked me again. I told her hugging was good. G said  hugging girls is ok but not boys. But I said he is my friend. So what if he is a boy said I. And then H came and he said that I hugged him first which was not correct. I told him that he hugged me first and I put my arms around him. Then Harsh accepted and said that he hugged me first.'

More agitation.

'Then teacher came. She saw my face had become small. She asked me what it was about. I told her and asked her if hugging your friends was wrong. She said it was not and told me not to be sad for such small things. Then she took G aside and spoke something to her. G said S told her about this. And then S came and said that she did not. So what if we hug another person said S. Why did G tell teacher my name?'

By now it had become a full blown drama.

'So what if he is a boy nanna? We cannot treat them differently because their gender is different. What if someone's color is different? Should we treat them differently?'

'No,' I said. 'In fact hugging is good. Give me a hug.'

And onwards we move into a world of diverse beliefs, of rights and wrongs.

Thought for the Day - Your Eyes are the Entry to Your Heart

Ever looked into your eyes in the mirror? I did once, as part of a workshop I attended. I found my eyes were hard and unforgiving, full of suspicion and perhaps even anger. The one thing I asked for in that workshop was that my eyes soften and see the world as a better place. To let it enter my heart more easily and with more trust.
Picture courtesy - Chitra Karandikar

I don't know how much I succeeded after that. But while walking by myself today in the park I got this thought that the eyes are really the entry to the heart, the portal through which the heart connects to the world and vice versa. It is my eyes that show my relationship with the world and through that, allow or deny entry to the world.

Being aware of that thought makes me soften the hardness in the eyes. I don't need to be on guard all the time. I can allow the world access to my heart. And the heart, access to the world.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bombay Boys - Makarand Waingankar

When I recently met Vijay Mohan Raj, my team mate in the Hyderabad Ranji team and a senior whom we all respected and admired during our playing days recently I had this one question - why is the Bombay side so good? He gave me his views based on his experiences in playing with the Bombay team in the late seventies and also told me to read this book 'Bombay Boys' by Makarand Waingankar, one of India's leading cricket writers. So I got a copy and read it to understand what makes the Bombay cricketer what he is.

Makarand Waingankar profiles 60 odd cricketers from Bombay and from their profiles and bits of conversations, I could get a hang of what it must be like playing for Bombay. There is no shortage of talent in Bombay and that makes it hard for everyone to get a place. There are many stars around which has its ups - playing with them you learn so many things. The cricket atmosphere is serious as is reflected by the commitment and quality of cricket coaches, seniors and mentors. They talk knowledgeable cricket, play tough, focus on work ethic and correct technique, play to win and pride their Bombay cap more than anything else. The only thing that counts in the end is this - have you won the game and how have you contributed to it. Its all guts and glory stuff and unbridled passion. It makes you think that one must be fortunate to have been born in Bombay to experience cricket as they play it. I am glad I played two years of Times Shield cricket for IDBI in the mid nineties and cherish those days.

One of the things that really impressed me was Ashok Mankad's great captaincy. I wish Ashok Mankad had written a book about his captaincy - it would have given Brearley's book a run for its money. Maybe Makarand could still do it for him with the resources he has at hand. Ashok Mankad was a captain who could motivate people beyond their capabilities by giving them chaavi, or motivating them. His sharp mind looked for weaknesses in opposition players and he employed his mind in trapping them. He was quick with his wit and strategy which made him lead Bombay to several Ranji Trophy wins. The same sharp brain that picked out weaknesses in opposition players also picked out exactly what each of his own players needed to make them perform better. For some a quiet word, some admonishment, some a plea - each was dealt with differently. Once he bowled Raju Kulkarni for 34 overs against Delhi by bowling him in short spells of 3-4 overs and egging him on to get a wicket in each - Raju ended up with 8 wickets. He made Yograj Singh believe in his abilities as an opener in a game and told him that he was his Viv Richards - Yograj got 136. He promoted Sandeep Patil to bat at number 5 and when he failed and was disconsolate, Ashok Mankad asked him to watch the game and learn to fight it out. He made his wicket keeper Sanjay Hazare keep wickets through a bleeding injury on his face for three days during which Sanjay Hazare only had liquid diet but still pushed himself to win the game with the bat for Bombay. And the same Ashok Mankad pushed Rakesh Tandon with jibes like 'Two or three wickets won't do. When will you ever win a match for Bombay?' in a key match against Hyderabad. Tandon got 6 wickets and won the game. He was supreme. In fact much of Bombay's spirit is reflected in this deep thinking, this mischief, this thinking beyond what the normal cricketer does. Fantastic stuff.

Another skipper who impressed was Vasu Paranjpe whose humour made everyone love him. He'd take away the pressure, give confidence to the youngsters and keep their minds active with his wit. Manohar Hardikar was also considered a great captain because he seemed to know his players capabilities better than the players themselves. It takes great love to do that.

In the legion of coaches and mentors we have the fantastic story of Achrekar going to Chandrakant Pandit's home in the middle of the night and giving 1000 rupees to his father to put the boy in Shadrashram school so he could continue playing cricket. Amazing stuff. Or Vasant Amladi who treated nets like a classroom, kept things simple and trained himself in Marathi, English and Hindi so he could communicate better. Also he encouraged his wards to question the 'why' and made them think. VS Patil who would make the boys practice long to sort out their own mistakes. Ramnath Kenny who discouraged discussions on non-cricketing matters. Polly Umrigar who would want to know why he failed because he was not prepared to accept that one can fail. Joe Kamath who made fielding so interesting and made the team so good that the team hardly dropped a catch. And so many more surely. I remember having discussions with Madhav Bapat of IDBI who had a fine cricketing brain himself and would touch on finer points like watching the ball till it hits the face of the bat or keeping a still head. 

Other stuff that hits you is the commitment of players for the Bombay cap. Whether it was Eknath Solkar who turned up at the match to bat after he lit the pyre of his father and won a tight game, Sudhakar Adhikari who married at 903 am and arrived at the ground at 1015 am to play a game, Sanjay Hazare playing with a bleeding mouth, GK Sunderam who bowled his heart out to the extent that he got injured and cut his career short - Bombay cricket is full of guts and glory stories. They are tough, they are intelligent, they know their game and they will fight like hell to win.  Mostly they will give up everything to play for Bombay. There is much to learn from the Bombay Boys.

I looked at their cricket also from the dressing room atmosphere. Bombay never had time for politics when it came to cricket because they wanted to win. Hence you had merit shining through. If Vijay Merchant and a few others were from a wealthy background, many came from backgrounds which were humble. Abdul Ismail was the son of a taxi driver who benefited from the love of a Hindu Kerkar family, Budhi Kunderan who slept on the wall in a garden the night before his first test match because he lived in a chawl with six siblings and had no kit, no gloves when he played his first match for India, Solkar himself whose father was a groundsman, Sharad Diwadkar who sold wrist watches and many other great cricketers who came through on sheer talent. Bombay did not discriminate on any other ground but merit because the city cared about its cricket. As Shishir Hattangadi says, they learned to fend for themselves the hard way.

Its amazing how many school boy cricketers in Bombay have scored triple hundreds and even quadruple hundreds - Ramesh Nagdev is one who scored 427 at the Harris Shield level. It is also amazing to see how many cricketers still actively serve the game in many capacities. Many played Kanga League well past their fifties -Madhav Apte played until he was 71, for 55 years, Sharad Hazare still plays at 67, Bapu Nadkarni stepped on to field in a first class match at 41. How many cricketers play even till 50 in other cities?

I am so glad Makarand Waingankar wrote this book. One can see the effort and love that went into the making of this book and the genuine respect that he has for both the players and the game. He is all for the players and takes on the system, the selectors, and even fate to defend the players and their troubles, their difficulty in life or at not having played more than their share. Its true, many Bombay players lost out in the quota system because they had a talent that was simply too overpowering. Much to learn for all aspiring cricketers from this book as it sets the tone for how to prepare and how to commit. Wonderful effort and I'd like to get him to sign on my copy someday soon.

I could recall playing with some of the players - I bowled to Ravi Shastri just after he returned from the famous Champion of Champions tour, Dilip Vengsarkar, Vijay Mohan Raj (who also played for Tata's in that game at Arlem), Raju Kulkarni, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Shishir Hattangadi, Ramnath Parkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sandeep Patil and even Ajit Pai later on in the Times Shield while playing for IDBI. It has always been a lesson playing against them, or even listening to them. I saw many names missing from the list - Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli and their lot, Sanjay Manjrekar from the earlier lot, and several other names. I wonder why.

I have two theories about why certain players do not play beyond their capabilities. I come from my own perspective too here. I think it is a question of belief in one's own capabilities. Many times the world thinks we are good but we may have many limiting negative beliefs on our own lives that could make us the hard luck stories. The ones who sail through somehow rise above such beliefs and ones who cannot, make the hard luck stories come true. Its you and yourself, no one else can help you. Self-belief is a tough thing and one gets lucky to have mentors like Ashok Mankad do help - whether it was writing a letter to Sandeep Patil in England to pep him up or telling a distressed Ravi Shastri after he got a pair in a Ranji match that the light at the end of the tunnel is the brightest. Shastri played for India soon after. But much depends on the player's own belief and courage to push forward on his own to be the best himself, to trust the game and put his best step forward. The real seekers prosper, the others stay back. However there are ways and means to counter these limiting negative beliefs and mental conditioning coaches can help.

Thanks Makarand Waingankar. And thanks Tony a.k.a. Vijay Mohan Raj, for referring me this book. Now I know why you came to Hyderabad to play first class cricket! I also believe as Makarand does, that Tony could have played for India had he been in Bombay. But then we might have had a tough time claiming that Ranji Trophy in 1986-87 when we did, without him, a win that I take so much pride in. Tony epitomised the spirit of Bombay cricket - hard, tough, playing within limitations, not being satisfied easily, pushing limits all the time, calling a spade a spade, bent on winning - and its a trait that earns respect. I always found him above petty politics in the team, had a good word for us when we did something right and certainly showed grit by example. In the end, I guess all of us cricketers in India owe a big thanks to the Bombay Boys for the standards they set and the work ethic they exemplified.