Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Aussies - Sledging and Its Principles

I was reading about how the Aussies seemed to disapprove of Virat Kohli revealing to the world that they called him a spoilt brat on the field. 'It should have stayed on the field,' they felt. It seemed to have violated some sacred bond of trust that they follow. You see, we will sledge, we will do everything but touch you (in fact Johnson actually went over that line with a throw that hit Virat - do it when you bowl my friend), but you must keep it here.

It's bullying and it's a bullies code.

You see my dear Aussies, the rest of the world does not give a hoot about your sledging code. This ugly part of the game has been promoted and sustained by you and if we see young players getting into ugly situations its because of this way of playing cricket. In most other cultures, opponents play competitively and let their game do the talking. The West Indies were famous for that. In fact I liked what Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar said on TV. Gavaskar has conveyed that he is not a great fan of sledging. Manjrekar opined that among champion sides he preferred the West Indians because even when they totally dominated the world cricketing scene, they were compassionate.

In my mind champions are finally about compassion. Its about success and not winning, as John Wooden says. If you don't want the world to hear what you are saying don't say that - I am sure it was much more than saying that Virat was a 'spoilt brat'. When we dish it out its fine. But when you give it back, its not in the right spirit. We will hit you with the ball. We will run to the committees saying that someone called us a name. We will behave like a bunch of school bullies denied their treat. And what's their treat - bullying.

Why anyone should respect the Aussies I don't know. This behavior is not respectable behavior. This is what we see in the cycle stands after school is over away from the family, from teachers - a bunch of bullies with their own code - but don't tell Mom because she thinks we are good guys. We can respect skill. But why should we respect them as humans unless they show proof of that? Some newspaper said 'Virat stirred up stuff when he said he does not respect some of the Aussie cricketers' - why should he? Respect must be earned. By your deeds.

I have no respect for those who enforce their own codes and get disappointed that others are not following the code. We didn't sign up for your code. Just like you didn't sign up for the basic code that this game represents. This is considered a gentleman's game and if it has come to this stage you can take much credit for it. You have violated a basic code. And your code is one that no one likes, its a code that only does more harm than good. You can now deal with what you created.

As far as the Indians are considered they should also be clear what they represent. What their code is. Every act represents you, your country and culture. If Rahul Dravid is respected today it is because he has had his code very clear and has stood by it, always. He exemplified the principles of the game and lived up to them. He is a shining role model, one whom youngsters can follow. I would feel much safer in a world that has people following role models like him than all this nonsense. We stop to watch some good cricket, not some WWF-like pantomime. So get your acts right, show skill, show attitude, show competitiveness.

In the end, I do believe, we cannot be good at anything, leave alone cricket, if we cannot be good humans. I think we need to start right there. And soon.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Kid, And His Younger Brother

It was 11 in the morning. I was sitting in the car and sipping chai on a busy road in this once beautiful colony in Hyderabad. The colony is fast disappearing - old houses being broken down for swanky new apartment blocks - few are left. Little nooks are occupied by the chai walas, the vegetable walas and so on.

I noticed a young boy, can't be more than twelve years old, walk past my car in that swagger that comes out of being exposed to the world too early. If you do not show you know the rules, the world eats you up. He had a sweet and kind face, curly hair. He carried a bag and two bottles of water. I wondered if he knew some skill that he was trading - sharpening knives or mending vessels or some such thing - and carried the tools in his bag. I followed him down the road in my rear view mirror.
A Private Lunch
He picked a tree and threw the bottle down in an exaggerated motion. Then he sat down by the tree, his back to the road, and opened his bag. There was a carrier, one of those bronze ones, with three or four vessels. He opened it and settled down for lunch.

Ah, his mother must have cooked for him. And a nice meal too it looked as he started on it. Lots of rice and sambar.

He must have been out working early to have lunch at this early hour. (I used to see young kids who would work in Irani cafes come to work at 4 in the morning years ago.) Anyway, this fellow was joined by another young kid, this one no more than six or seven. He hung around the older boy, danced around as kids that age do, hummed some tune and by chance drifted near me.

'Come here,' I said.
The song stopped. He was all guilty. He looked at the older boy. That boy stopped eating and looked in our direction apprehensively. Now what?

'What are you doing?' I asked.
'Buvva,' he said indicating the older boy. (Buvva is food.)
 'Is he your brother?' I asked.
'Anna,' he said. (Older brother.)

God knows what these two were up to, living these insecure, adult lives. They were no beggars. They worked for a living, at least the older one did. I did not want to intrude on their peaceful lunch time.
I reached into the little candy bag I have in the car and drew out a fistful of candy.
The young one's eyes lit up. He looked at his older brother.

I gave as many as he could hold in his little palms. 'You will share with your brother?' I asked. He nodded.

The older brother relaxed. He had stopped eating. And then he smiled as the young one made his way back to his brother.

Such a lovely smile. 

An Interesting Situation

I was talking to a young team in a startup - the average age of which was 25. We were discussing how it is important to keep the energy up in the team and ways in which the team could keep energy high. We agreed that small victories and progresses should be shared and celebrated. I asked them to step up one by one and share their small experiences and victories in an informal manner with their team. The rest of the team was asked to appreciate, ask questions and get involved.

I told them to address their team - it was an informal sharing between them. They found it difficult to talk to their peers. The peers listened in a manner that showed low involvement. Even at times when the youngsters shared something really good there was no reaction. When the person finished, they all looked uncomfortably at each other. Some clapped hesitantly.

I asked them why they were not appreciating their colleagues small victories. Why they were not really interested in knowing how and what they did. They were silent. I realised that they were not tuned to getting or giving appreciation. Any celebration was a far cry. The words 'Wow' or 'Great' came with great difficulty. (We all had a session simply shouting 'Wow' and 'Wah Wah' and 'Great' to get used to the words.) Real victories, successes were not acknowledged and celebrated.

I wonder why.

Children grow up imitating our behaviors. I cannot see them suddenly being appreciative and interested and involved in other people if they have not been exposed to such behaviors. I cannot see them celebrating others successes, learning from them, genuinely appreciating them if we do not set the example. It was appalling to see their hesitancy, their doubt that what they did was worth sharing or celebrating.

I made my observation and then we decided to have fun. Each one of the listeners was nominated to say 'Wow' or 'Great' or celebrate the small victories of the person who was sharing every ten seconds - just for the heck of it. There was laughter, fun and energy in the room. Nothing like some fun, mischief and spirit to rev up the energy. By the end of it all we did end up having fun. The energy was good.

What I understand from this experience is that the problem lies with us - the role models - not with them.

Clearly we must lead by example. We must set forth and live the behaviors we wish to see. If we want pleasantness we must be pleasant. If we want happiness we must be happy. If we want energy we must show energy. If we want politeness and celebration we must be polite and celebrate. From us, the seniors, the youngsters will learn and imitate. Its time we quickly started living that life we want to see.

There is no point cribbing about what is not there. By doing that we promote a culture of cribbing. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

50 Not Out - First Copy Of My Third Book Arrives

I was pitching another book idea to an editor friend of mine - Sudeshna. She wasn't too kicked about that idea but she said that since I was a cricketer I should be looking at writing something like 100 lessons from cricket. To me that sounded like the easiest thing to do. I said I could do it in three months.
Jaico Books, 242 p, Rs. 250
I wrote down 100 lessons. When I finally sat and read them, some were repetitive. The idea was clear in my head but it was not coming across in the writing. I decided that perhaps I should do fifty lessons to start with and then see where it goes. The three months became six and then eight. I tried a few publishers. In about 12 months I got a response from one publisher Jaico that they are interested. I met Sandhya and Akash and we had a story going. It took another six months almost to get started on the actual ms but when it did, my new young editor Sabine Algur gave it great momentum, effort and thought. And then we waited to see how it would come out. How it would look, feel and how it would deal with the world.

The first copy is very special. You cut away the cardboard casings, snip through the twine, the papers and then it emerges - your beautiful butterfly. It fills your heart. You think of all those who helped, who lent a hand, a word. You think of all the work and the uncertainty. You see it all before you. I normally don't go through the book anymore. This is as perfect as it can get. This is me in all my perfection and imperfection.

This book, 50 not out, is more important in many ways in my journey as a writer. I remember a prediction that my tarot reader friend made many years ago (almost ten) when I started on this journey. I had quit a banking job and wanted to explore writing as a career. She predicted that I'd write two books at best. That number hung in my head all these years like a rock. The first two came by - 'The Men Within' first in 2007 and 'If you love someone...' next in 2010. During the uncertainty, the rejections in the years that followed, that prediction haunted me. When I signed the agreement a year ago I was elated. But nothing happens in publishing until the book sits in your hand. So I waited. When the copy rested in my hand today, I was glad that the prediction did not come true. I remembered Sean Stephenson say emphatically in his TED talk - 'Never believe a prediction that does not empower you'. Ah, Sean, how right you are.

As always it will take a few days for the book to reach the stores. I am still enjoying the feeling. I called a few friends and family - they wanted to see the cover. So here is the cover (pardon the bad pic), the first look of the book. Nothing like sharing these wonderful feelings with all my friends on the blog. Thank you all. More updates as and when they happen.

Book Reviews - Funny Stuff By A Funny Man

It will make even the writers smile. Thanks KSD.

My favorites - 3,5 and 11.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Case of the Bonsai Manager - R. Gopalakrishnan

I received this book as a gift from Crossword Mumbai in 2007. Bala was gracious enough to give me a gift after the launch of my book and recommended this book highly. (Gracious, because not many in his sector were equipped with that quality.) Since then I have made many spirited attempts to read it and never went past the initial few pages. Somehow it never got going. Until this time when I decided that I must now read it. And I did!
Penguin Books, 257 p

'The Case of the Bonsai Manager' is a book about managers whose growth gets stunted like the bonsai plants if they do not grow. R. Gopalakrishnan, a senior executive who served some of the best companies in India, uses his wide experience and his knowledge of nature to draw parallels and drive his point home. He urges managers to use their intuition - and while there gave me a good idea of how the brain finally looks like and operates. Let me share it with you. Imagine a pea, and a lemon, and then a cabbage, one atop the other - and that is your brain for you. The pea, called the cerebellum or the brain stem, has basic life functions (breathing, heartbeat etc), the lemon part is the limbic system supports emotions (fear, love, hunger etc) and the cabbage part or the neo cortex has complex emotions where you show deceit and guile, logic and analysis, working alternates etc. There is a case to be intuitive and how it helps managers grow - but nothing much in terms of how to be so. Suffice to say that when you need to, trust your instinct. The value of anecdotes, immersion and practice, are suggested.

The author says that there is no proven manager and one must always grow. I agree. He cites the case of the stunted crocodiles - a result of confining the animal to a small space. He also cites the case of the katla fish which grew faster and bigger when given space and experience. Snails reproduced when under threat where the offspring showed growth in all parameters.And my favorite story of all time - the one where fish taste good when they are threatened by a shark. (For this one story I will forgive all else.) Bottom line - put the guys in the deep end and they will learn to survive. If needed add some more danger and they get tougher (like adding a shark or introducing some piranha!)

Blue tits and robins, birds, come in handy to teach us about social propagation - the blue tits learning how to get to the milk in milk bottles by sharing info while the robins were stuck up and did not. Information is obtained by going deep down in all the good success stories. Then we meet the falcons of Arabia which are not the best types of birds to play around with but the trainer and the bird develop a close bond - an emotional connect they say. Here RG says the elements of coaching and mentoring must be based on trust, respect, commitment and faith. If one can do that with falcons why can't we do it with humans? (Humans obviously have that dangerous bit, that neo cortex which disguises all their emotions unlike the straightforward falcons!)

We then turn to turtles to understand the value of reflection and contemplation in leadership. The point is that the nurturing instinct increases with one's own mortality. There is a chapter on interdependence which is related through the biodiversity of Australia - scarce resources promote cooperation. The wisdom of groups comes to fore with penguins (watch the The March of the Penguins) where six new penguins in an enclosure drive forty six existing lethargic penguins into frenetic swimming activity. The wisdom of groups cannot be discounted he says. One has to look at the birth of the butterfly to understand the pain of change - the caterpillar feeds and grows and the skin splits five times before the pupa is formed and then the butterfly. Cave crickets  with their extra long feelers serve as an example for how one should have long feelers i.e. reaching out. The case of the homing pigeons and how they listen to sounds that come off the cliffs is important - listen to the inaudible sounds.

I loved the story of Vijay Gokhale who was the CEO of Union Carbide when the tragedy occurred and how his entire life changed. Vijay Gokhale chose the tough option, stayed, and put his heart and soul into helping the affected. During those years he saw the company's profits fall to an all time low and by the time he left the company, it was again at an all time high. I also liked the Bland's law reference - the amount of backbiting, infighting and skulduggery in an organisation is in direct proportion to the nobility of its goals. (The worst behavior he found was in a home for the handicapped while corporate biggies were all well behaved despite the profit motive.)

I understood why it took so long for me to get through the book. The style and structure does not lend to easy reading. Sometimes the examples goes all over the place and the central idea escapes the reader. With the content at its disposal and the core idea of management lessons from nature, it could have been  far more interesting and impactful. The frequent dips into the MNC culture, sometimes out of context, does not really help. If there is one thing that made me jump for joy it was my shark story - I was glad to find it in this book.

John Wooden - The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding

John Wooden (1910-2010) legendary coach of the UCLA team speaks on the difference between winning and succeeding. He says he never spoke about winning, only about succeeding - defined as giving your best, holding your head high.

His rules for the team
  • Never be late
  • Be clean and neat
  • No profanity
  • Never criticise a team mate

And the players who were ideal
  • They knew why they were there in the first place - at UCLA for an education
  • Be unselfish - pass the ball and do not shoot all the time

Never saw this as clearly as when he says this - the journey is more fun than the end result. The practice sessions as against the matches themselves.

Wooden 'Wizard of Westwood', as Head Coach of UCLA won 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. He was named national coach of the year six times. He was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and as a coach. Wooden was one of the coaches who taught his players how to succeed in life as well as basketball.

Apart from what he says on the youtube link above Wooden's maxims are shared on his wikipedia page. They are interesting too.

  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
  • Flexibility is the key to stability
  • Be quick but don't hurry
  • Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.

Of Friends, Funerals and the Social Media

In the rag tag yearbook we made for the MBA class of 1991 Osmania University, one that we titled 'Memories', we described the large-hearted, intense and ever-smiling Sharath thus (tongue in cheek):

"A cross-country enthusiast who never uses the main road and prefers life's obstacles through the Law College shortcut. The tough man with a soft heart, he has firm convictions and is prepared to argue it out with anyone who differs in view. His culinary skills outclass his other talents which include occasional wailing (oops singing), fitness, TT. His emotional involvement with things inanimate and metaphysical (like TT) lost him much of his fine black hair. Shoes, skirts, trousers, belts, bikes and sports fascinate him. An expert on expert commentary." 

Sharath Babu was not someone you would miss easily. Burly, bespectacled, intense and intelligent, he was always at the world and seemed to possess a kind of an innate unrest. Sharath could always be relied on for a laugh, an opinion and an argument anytime. He'd arrive on his Ind Suzuki, choosing the hilly terrain of the path less travelled to college for some reason, the one behind law college to reach the newly built College of Commerce and Management on the Osmania University campus. Why he never liked the smooth main road is something we never understood. The years were 1989 to 1991, which we spent in a relative paradise, away from the world (the college was away from the main road) and away from the competitive madness that most MBA colleges become (read as naive).

Typical days at the MBA college would be to get to college by 8 am for a morning lecture though I wonder why they had these early morning lectures, either take or skip the class, drink tea at the infamous Liaquat canteen, saunter in and out of classes through the day until lunch, go to Arts college for lunch, return to college and engage in discussions about how to change the world (by watching movies, planning where to drink and talking irrelevant stuff). Much of this activity was centred around the sports room where we played table tennis, caroms and bonded or on the steps where Liaquat's deadly concoctions were gulped down which steadily affected our mental prowess, negatively in most cases.

Sharath was not from our section - we had two - A and B. But we (he and I) had a decent working relationship. I had a healthy respect for him as a person for the simple fact that he had a point of view on everything. I was never sure if he liked me, in fact I got the feeling that he didn't early on, but then most people do find me rather stuck up and all (a defense for my own insecurities). But we did discuss sports, he'd tell me stuff he had experienced as a sportsman, he once even wrote a long piece on how to develop the sports facilities in our country in our newsletter (and did not want any bit edited - he really enjoyed writing that). He'd talk of his life candidly, his strained relationships at home, and typically, laugh it all off in a manner of - I can handle it - you guys can't. And that was his attitude to all of us always, big or small. I have seen a bit more of life than you guys - which was a fact.

Sharath's greatest attribute was that he had the greatest respect for life. Never have I seen this intense, big man angry or disrespectful to any form of life in all the time I knew him. He had this immense capacity to want to help, to want to make the world a better place for those around him. He would engage with all kinds of people with genuine, heartfelt interest, smiling, making the moment bearable, soaking in whatever sadness or fear or doubt the moment carried - he could handle it better than us you see. I can picture him standing so respectfully, not out of any thing else, but sheer desire to enhance the space for the people around him - smaller, fearful souls that he wished to help. And through all this, he'd continue his self-deprecating humor, a sense of humor that never had a malicious edge. Always soothing, always smiling.

Sharath had immense patience, an eye for detail and enormous love. He questioned things and did not accept them as they were. After we passed out we met a few times - once at his home. He recounted to me in great detail the drama in which he got married and more than the story I remember the joy with which he told the story. It was a narration that I can never forget for its sheer intensity. In subsequent meetings I knew more about his family, his young children. He got a job at the Central Excise and the one time that I called him to ask about some procedure because a friend of mine was returning from the US, he spoke in such a strict tone that I did not call him ever again on official matters. He seemed to be one strict officer who did not even want to talk business. But that would be Sharath typically - straight shooting from the hip.

Sharath faded away from my life after we passed out but we knew what he was up to. He had a special relationship with Shobha, one full of good humour and sharp repartee, trust and respect (something that the A section chaps seemed to share) and he would help her with selling her insurance policies etc. He'd come home on a few occassions, being Shobha's client, and we would catch up and make plans about the big meeting. Then one day, some six or seven years ago perhaps, we heard that he was hospitalised in Apollo for some rare illness which was life threatening. Shobha and I went to meet him. He laughed as usual, about doctors, procedures, his body (I have been seeing all this and more since my childhood, was his favorite line). He was in bad shape and barely alive. He was in hospital for an inordinately long time - six months if I remember right. We plied him with books - Shobha with a copy of Heal Your Life and me with a copy of The Men Within. We met him again when he started to get better. Again he laughed about himself and his condition (I don't think they saw any patient like me here, he said). Young family. Scary. But he made it through.

But the illness took its toll. His kidneys gave up. They said he had trouble going to work because of his eyesight. He started doing dialysis at home himself. He'd go to work as much as possible. He came home for a few sessions with Shobha on hypnotherapy and said he was feeling better. Then he stopped coming. I bumped into him at home a year ago. He came to visit my friend, Dr. Satyanath Patnaik, whom he rated very highly. He is a very good doctor, said Sharath in a tone of such respect that I cannot forget the way he said it. He said he could hardly see but he came home driving around in his Swift, that mischievous, devil-may-care smile on his face. Then he backed his car off and went away. But not before giving me tons of advise on which doctor to consult for my health issue, an offer to take me personally to his doctor - in his condition.

Someone with so many illnesses, so many troubles. I wondered how long he would go on. It was sheer grit to pull on as long as he could. He did it for his children perhaps, for the world perhaps. but I don't think anyone would have lasted as long as Sharath did, given the same issues. A few weeks ago my friend Ramaraju was telling me of the school reunion of Raja Jitendra Public School and how one of his friends was not in good health. They had to help him walk - but he did come. That spirit somehow matched that of Sharath's and I asked if he was the same Sharath. So it was. We called him immediately. He joked about it as usual saying that we always promise but we never visited him. He in fact challenged Ram and said that he was sure he'd never visit him. Ram said that he would, just to prove him wrong. We made plans - one a very concrete one - which we did not honor. We'll go now we thought, or tomorrow, or...
Sharath was proved right.

I got a call a couple of weeks ago from his number. Sharath never called me normally. I picked up and started off - 'Sharath bhai how are you....'. But it was his son speaking. He'd got my name mixed up on the phone with some other Hari and called me instead of the other Hari that Sharath wanted to speak to. His eye sight being what it was he must have told his son to call. I was glad that the young boy made that mistake. Sharath came on the line. He said his son made a mistake. I told him there were no mistakes and that he was destined to speak to me. He laughed as usual, his voice had not lost an iota of its vigour - from the days in college - this despite the fact that he was practically blind, could not even walk a few steps. His words were as usual strong, precise and intended to give strength and laughter. He told me of his condition in detail. As usual he laughed, made me laugh and forget about his condition, and we disconnected. That was the last time I spoke to him.

A couple of days ago Sharath moved on to a world that was long awaiting him. His battle with his illnesses was his own - his brother Vijay told me at the funeral that his doctors often said that he seemed to know as much or more about his condition. He had a fantastic relationship with life - strong, fun - and life, his partner - let him have his way. I thought he challenged life as a dear friend would. 'Come on let's see what you got.' I have not yet seen anyone carry that sort of a spirit in the face of such trouble - he seemed to enjoy it almost. In fact I told Ram that Sharath could well outlast us all, the way he handles his troubles.

I went to his funeral. His two children are young - his son is thirteen and the daughter is ten perhaps. His wife, whom he loved so much, was composed. I was surprised to find that most of Sharath's countless friends were busy and did not turn up. The social media buzzed with some RIPs for a while and then it moved on to more happier forwards. I met two school friends, Subhash and Sandeep, who were deeply touched by his being a part of his life. I also met Vishwa Prasad, another classmate from MBA who was inconsolable in a quiet way - he was Sharath's roommate for a year after college. He could not think of any reason why he did not meet Sharath all this while. He would not come away even after the funeral was over - he just wanted to stay.

One of his schoolmates said he was concerned at how people stopped going to funerals. He went to one where there were only three people he said. (I saw one where there were two people.) He wondered for a moment how we do not attend the funeral of a friend, the one last thing that our friend may demand of us. I did not know what to say, but there was some truth there.

As a community and society, we are so blissfully superficial in our engagement with our world, our perfect world, where everything becomes as simple as having participated with an RIP on the social media. I wonder what Sharath would have thought if he knew there were only two people to attend his funeral from his class despite many of us being in the same town. Knowing him he would not have cared and would have laughed it off I am sure, but I am a little concerned for the world he has left behind. I am concerned at how we all seem so connected and so caring about one another on social media with our 'likes' and 'smileys' and 'RIPs.' but like the media does with certain uncomfortable issues, we sweep the uncomfortable parts under the carpet at the earliest moment. I also do wonder how far it will get stretched now - perhaps two people at the funeral will become the norm. I wish some more friends had made the time and effort to turn up at the funeral too. This guy was special and we all knew it.

The irony of it stares you in the face - on one hand we see the extent to which the Aussies went to mourn their mate Phil Hughes and on another, this casual moving on after a brief pause. Just an observation. It's a bit sad I think.

Anyway I am glad I could see him off. I still don't know if Sharath liked me (he surely would not have hated me because he just could not hate anyone). But I always had and continue to have a tremendous respect for his fighting capacities, his attitude of taking it on and his ability to laugh at death in the face. He is truly inspirational in that way and his resilient spirit is one we could all do with a bit of. Have a good after life Sharath, you, more than anyone else, deserve a rest my friend.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Leadership - First Follower Transforms the Lone Nut

The lone nut is the visionary. He has the idea and the courage to dance alone. He will do it irrespective of what the world says. But for the world to buy into his story and make that great idea a movement, the first follower is critical.

Watch the video to see what the first follower does.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The 2nd Test Debacle - Who's Responsible for the 'Dressing Room Unrest'?

A good first inning total by India that promised much. A decent bowling show that broke into a weak Aussie batting - before giving it away to the tail enders. An unexpected capitulation in the second innings. A sting in the tail by taking six Aussie wickets before losing the test. Now we are in a hole as far as this series goes.

But I somehow don't see Steve Smith trying to play for draws even now. I think he will still look to win which gives India a chance to get back if they pull themselves together.

That loss is not something to worry about really. It is a young team. It will learn. What is worrisome is this aspect of 'dressing room unrest' that skipper MSD spoke about. So Shikhar Dhawan got hit by a ball in practice. So he looked okay to the team then. Then he was not ok when he had to go in to bat. So the next guy had to go in because Shikhar is not fully fit. It happens all the time. What's the big deal? What is this 'unrest'?

Do professional batsmen need a minimum cooling period before they go in to bat? What if Shikhar Dhawan sprained his ankle while walking out and returned - would there still be unrest and an unprepared batsman? Are these guys professionals or what? Here are professional players behaving like namby pamby kids who can't take a bit of stress. They get unsettled by practice pitches that may be unprepared a bit (so don't practice, its not that this one morning session will give you all the skill in the world in half an hour). They will not communicate (who takes the call that Shikhar can or cannot bat - Shikhar himself - so why was he not able to speak to the skipper? What's brewing? What is the rest of the coaching staff doing - the Director, the Chief Coach, the Assistant Coaches, the Manager? Do we now need a 'Communications Coach' in the team?) What nonsense!

The captain cannot come out and say that he did not know. If he does not know who knows? And if he did not know he was well within his rights as skipper to tell Shikhar to pad up and go in - pain or not, fracture or not. He has the right to do that. Why is he so helpless that he cannot order a teammate who looked ok and who did not communicate his discomfort to go in and bat? There have been many instances when players under severe physical stress have been told by their skippers - Allan Border telling Dean Jones to stay put in Chennai and Ashok Mankad telling his wicket keeper to not return despite a bleeding facial injury in a Ranji game come to mind. There is no excuse for this dressing room unrest - you guys have created it yourself. The practice pitches are no excuse either.

All these non-cricketing reasons show that on the field the Aussie cricket team - which in my opinion is weaker than the Indian side - has won the cricketing points. We can blame the pitch, the players, the culture, umpiring etc like bunch of whining school kids. At least accept the result gracefully fellows.

I can blame the captain for this - but only some part. That does not absolve the coaching staff - that huge retinue of highly paid staff that's hanging in there. They deserve to take more than half of the blame for just being there. The captain is certainly hinting that there are powers within the team that are interfering with the decisions - it cannot be anyone else but someone from within the coaching staff. I would like to see the Team Director say something about this. After all he oversees things. How could such things happen when someone of his repute and stature and knowledge is there? Speak up Mr. Shastri.

I agree with Sunil Gavaskar that the Indian team need not engage in verbal duels with the Aussies. It is an ugly side of cricket and one that will eventually bite the Aussies back. They have taken this gamesmanship too far and are constantly pushing the boundary. There is nothing that justifies it really - except that they may feel that they are winning because of it. The win at the cost of everything else. They can do it. The Indians need not really - not unless they feel that such tactics affect their game positively. The results so far don't indicate so. Maybe its time to take the focus off all things that are not cricket, and get back to the game. There are two more games to play. If you don't push the egos aside and get your act together, the Aussies might just run away with the trophy with a bigger margin.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mandi Biryani at Mataam Al Arabi, Chandrayanagutta

The winter in Hyderabad is as delicious as ever. It draws you out every evening. The sight, smell, taste, feel of winter seduces one like no other. I don't think I enjoyed winters in Hyderabad any more than I am now.

Last evening a bunch of old friends got together and decided to dine out late at the Old City. One of the more adventurous and well-informed among them suggested the famous Mandi biryani at Barkas. I had not heard of this Mandi biryani before. Barkas, I know, from our cricket playing days when we travelled across the length of Hyderabad - past Charminar, past Falaknuma, on to the Srisailam road - until we found the one ground where the Barkas team played their league matches. It was an open ground with a fast outfield, not much of a pitch and most times without umpires. The Barkas team did not like losing and did not like umpires coming in their way with some ill timed decisions.
Inside the Mataam Al Arabi - The main dish
Anyway the road to Barkas reads like a list of all the places to avoid when there is some tension in the air - these places are all under curfew at the first signs of trouble. But this was many years ago. I read somewhere that Barkas is actually a corrupted version of Barracks. The people who populate the Barkas are those who have roots in Africa, Yemen in all likelihood, and were warriors who served the Nizams and / or the Qutb Shahis. There were many other stories we would hear of the Barkas area - of the famous bone setters who set fractures and then ask you to eat a biryani (I heard this story but don't know how much of it is true).

Anyway we drove through the city traffic towards Shahi Nagar which is where the source Koni said there was the most famous Mandi biryani available. There was still not much information about what this biryani was about, except that there was an article in the newspaper about it. We came across one joint which advertised its Mandi biryani, went past and saw a few more joints, called a friend who could guide us and found out that he was hopeless in this situation, came back and parked ourselves at Mataam Al Arabi, Chandrayanagutta. We later found out that this was the best joint for Mandi biryani.
An Arabian setting on the walls
We headed up the stairs, left our footwear outside and went into a big hall. No tables and chairs here, so we sit around on the floor. We picked our corner. There are some stalls too if you wish privacy but we were okay on that front. We had no clue what to order so we ordered a family pack which the young lad said was good for four. It was probably good for eight.

Mandi biryani is an Arabic variant of biryani. In fact the Mandi joints serve mainly Arabic food which apparently is catching the fancy of the Hyderabadi palate. Now the hall is painted with scenes from Arabia - the desert, Arabs sitting near tents and chatting, a lamb being roasted on fire, camels etc are the themes. The menu had many items - Mandi of chicken, fish, mutton, prawns, quail and so on. It also mentioned Kabsa and Mandi - which we later found was some variation in the preparation. Kabsa was more bland and Mandi had spices.
A view of the menu, and the family pack Mandi biryani
Our family pack was a huge plate full of rice, lined with tomato, cucumber etc. On the biryani rice which was spiced with all sorts of spices was fish, mutton, chicken, quail and prawns. The sight of the huge dish got us to lose some of our hunger but when we ended, we realised we did a fair job. We all ate from the same plate like Arabs and formed a kind of a brotherhood - now we are all bound for life (not really!) We consumed 60%, got the rest packed. We tried the desserts - something called Aseet, Qubbani ka meetha and a halwa. All three were decent - though I'd give the QkM a miss here.

Well fed - the family pack costs 1500 bucks so you better order with caution - you can order the smaller portions which come for 300 bucks or so - we headed downstairs. There we found the panwala who showered his expertise on Koni. He made him a paan which he said would clear his head and other such parts - and for the first time I saw a paan being lit. Koni vouched for the slow and powerful effect of the paan.
Paan on fire 
By the time we were seated in the car it was close to midnight. We could not help noticing the time the restaurant's timings - 12 pm to 3 in the morning. Now how was the place - its ok but can improve in the look and feel - more like a B grade Irani restaurant. The food is good, they say Mataam Al Arabi serves the best. Chicken was nicely done, a full breast, the quail was tender and the taste overall nothing to complain about. I guess I'll need another trip to imbibe the true essence of this Mandi biryani but I have no reservations in recommending the experience. Drive with pals, Mandi and banter - nothing better to improve feelings of brotherhood.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We Can Overcome Hate Only With Love

Hate can only be overcome with love. If we respond to hate with hate, we are doubling the strength of hate. We must overcome hate with love.

It's difficult but we must find this love in our hearts. If all of us can fill our hearts with love we can drown out the hate.

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

If we choose to get provoked and respond with hate we join them - and create this scenario.

Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate.Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate.Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate.

One hateful act can seduce us to multiply it and further its agenda. It makes us unwittingly give it more power. We become its vehicles. Its dubiously evil.

Choose to find the love in your heart. Grow it. Show it. In small acts. In small thoughts. In small feelings. Drown out those big acts, thoughts and feelings of hate - righteous or not.

Suffuse the world with love. That's the only right thing to do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How To Treat Tennis Champions - Make Them Do Push Ups and make Them Dance (and perhaps throw some money)

How do we celebrate two great legends of tennis? By making them do push ups and paying them 500 dollars per push up (for a good cause, but we'd like to see you work for it, for us). The request came from some chap from Micromax who must have thought it fit to make two champs do this and probably tell the world that he did this. You know, I had them dance. The champions - Federer and Sampras. The occasion - some celebrity dinner full of those people. The host - Prannoy Roy.

Oh, we have another wonderful champion moment. Prannoy Roy of the impeccable manners and good grace and sense, and all the maturity and sense we associate good media with, cannot but stop himself from mentioning that he has interviewed Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries (why?), cannot but make the champions do push ups and (thankfully the audience did not have dollars to throw on them, else they might even have - if it was rupees they might even have) and worse, cannot let the two champs without doing our Indian bhangra. What's wrong with you guys? Is that how you treat champions? Do push ups? Do the bhangra?

Imagine what would happen if someone TV channel in the US or the UK made Sachin Tendulkar do push ups for 500 dollars, or made him do the salsa or whatever.

Does the audience want it? To see Federer and Sampras being subjected to this? I don't know. Certainly not me. I'd like to see them being treated like champions, all time greats, great sportspeople and fantastic ambassadors. I'd like them to be treated with respect. We seem to have lost the thin line between being respectful and being over-friendly to the point of pushing them too hard. We are Indians you see. I mean, you can't even make a South Indian do the bhangra against his wish my friend, so why would you impose that on two champions as if it represents all things Indian and its imperative for them to prove their acceptance of all things Indian.

This is not the first time. I saw the same behavior on some football league opener recently - they made the poor football players dance to some Bollywood songs. I saw them wrap up Kevin Spacey in a lungi and made him to the lungi dance. This is only what I saw - I am sure there must have been much more.

There's a difference. There's grace and love and respect when a tribal dance troupe invites a visiting dignitary to do the dance with them. They are saying - this is what we are, we respect you enough to share our culture and heritage with you. It is an honor. There is grace. In this other instance there is arrogance. We are Indians. We can buy you, make you dance. We can ask you dumb questions, have dumb requests. I mean two legends sit up on the stage and all we have is such lame stuff.

In the audience we had the man who is best described as a Delhi socialite who has just come off an incident where he called Viren Rasquinha, former Indian hockey captain, the 'bald guy' (what's he doing here or something like that), in the recently concluded Literary Festival in Mumbai (Kalaghoda was it?). Now this socialite cannot wait to get into the limelight and pops a question - in one word or one sentence (see, we are Indians, we will set you conditions and you perform), describe your Indian experience and then we will use it shamelessly to promote...blah blah blah. Why was this socialite here and what is he doing asking questions?  He is fresh off an offence - he could pretty well ask of Sampras 'who is this bald guy?' too since he has this incredible talent for finding bald people. If he somehow got in, at least keep him away from the mike. Someone.

But then the entire lot in the audience looked a bit like that sadly. If Mr. Roy could lead this show on, why deny the socialite a chance? I'm now dreading to see what they will do to Barack Obama when he comes to the Republic Day. I really am. We are Indians Mr. Obama. If I were him I'd head for the tribes and steer clear of these junglees.

Anjali - But We Don't Know

I asked Anjali.
'So was Mamma happy when she saw you off to school?' (Mamma looked a bit hassled, hence.)
Anjali thought for a moment.
'She looked happy,' she said.

Then she thought some more.
'But we don't know,' she continued. 'Sometimes people are something on the outside and something else on the inside.'

I looked at her.
'Can you sense that?' I asked.
'Yes, we can make out when they are not fully happy inside but they are smiling.'

People can see through. People can feel. We really don't know.

Personal Leadership Program Through Cricket - Upto75 Team at ML Jaisimha Academy

I tried this program out for the first time using cricket as a medium to experience 'Personal Leadership'. The core idea is that people perform better when they think like leaders. Leadership gives them more responsibility, an overall picture, concern about others' performance and mostly concern about their own performance with team in focus. Since everyone cannot be leaders, it was always a challenge to pull this program off.
The Upto75 team - Raj, Dayakar, Vijaya, Rama, Raju, Santosh, Kishan, Me, Roopesh, Jawad, Sharath, Tej, Ramaraju, (sitting) Harsha and Sushmita

All leaders have one problem - how do I get everyone to work with the same kind of madness I do. At one end we have armies where these situations are more magnified because it is a question of life and death, of honour and pride. At another extreme are businesses where people come with options for employment i.e. work or no work is an option (it is not life and death for them, only a choice). In sports and games there is an in-between area where it is an option to lose, but the effect is felt immediately. You feel the pinch of losing, your performance is under scrutiny.So what better way than to play a team game like cricket to bring these aspects out?
In serious thought - Think like a Leader
Ramaraju was kind enough to agree and take an afternoon off from work with his team. Everyone turned up dressed smartly in the Upto75 t shirts. Ram, Tej, Jawad, Roopesh, Sharath, Sushmita, Raju, Kishan, Raj, Santosh, Vijaya, Rama, Dayakar and Ram completed the team. Sagar assisted me.
Sharing thoughts on ownership
The three games had three distinct themes;
- our attitudes to work places
- thinking like a leader and taking more ownership for our performance
- thinking like a leader and taking more ownership for the team / others
All down on the grass and discussing personal leadership
The participation was excellent. Though the time was short, they enjoyed themselves, participated fully and took away many learnings. More importantly they gave me an opportunity to learn many things about how to fine tune the program before I take it out in a full day program later.

Some learning they shared.
1) The team leader plays an important role in directing the team. By understanding, supporting and respecting one another we can perform better. Must understand one's role in the team. 

2)The team excels when each member mentally commits to give 100%. Team must  enjoy the process.

3) Team's goal is important. So work as an individual to achieve that by giving your best.

4) Personal leadership helps in team building. Focus on team.

5) Constant support and encouragement from team helps immensely. Taking personal initiative and leadership helps us to perform better as individuals and as a team.

6) A mediocre team if it comes together can start performing. Be part of the team, lead from the front.

7) Analyse own skill and others skills and share to improve as an individual and a team.

8) Encourage lower performing guys and team performance will improve.

9) Build an environment in the team where everyone can perform. Always move forward.

Nice! Thanks everyone.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anjali - On Good Teachers and Bad Teachers

The other day while driving to school Anjali and I chanced upon this topic. Of the teachers she liked, and the ones she does not so much fancy.

Teachers she likes are:
1) Funny
2) Kind
3) Interesting - they make stuff interesting
4) Not too strict - then they go around with faces like this (scowls)
5) A little strict - else there would be confusion

Teachers she does not like
1) Get too angry
2) Send you for time out for no reason - unjust
3) Are boring
4) Do not understand her problem and stick to only one way of doing things - she told me an example of how her music sir kept trying to make her change the 1,2,3,4 even though she was not able to do it and would get upset with her. Patience perhaps.

The formula then, from a seven year old's perspective, seems to be to - be fun, be interesting, kind, compassionate, patient, a bit strict, not get too angry and scowl and certainly not be unjust.

Once again fun comes up. It's a good companion for interesting. Interesting itself could be an off shoot of knowing the subject well and understanding the audience well enough to facilitate learning powerfully through various ways. Kind and compassionate do make for a trusting atmosphere just as being just is an absolute must for trust.

Thanks Anjali. 

India vs Australia - Close 1st Test Match

A superb Test match. High level of competition. Good captaincy and a fine advertisement for the game. Well done Australia and India.

Two classy centuries by Virat Kohli, two by David Warner, a patient and dogged spell of spin  bowling by Nathan Lyon. And so many more support performances, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Murali Vijay.

The aggressive declarations by Australia set the game up despite losing time due to rain. Fantastic. There is no fear of losing, it is about wanting to win. Brad Haddin's handling of the captaincy in the crucial last session was good to watch.

As far as Australia was concerned they wanted to win the match - for their dear mate whom they lost in a most unfortunate accident. (Lyon patting and stroking the number 408 after the win was nice to watch - it was very private and personal and one could feel that it was authentic and not manucfatured for the television as most do.) Australia were a jittery lot but held themselves together in their endeavour. The opponents were tough and were not giving in easily. In fact the Indians showed that they wanted to win as much as the Aussies did which made it all worthwhile. In the end they held their nerves, believed in the process, did all the basics right and got through, just about.

What interests me is the situation which India was in (the part when I started to watch it from). Kohli was batting with Saha and 60 were needed in 18 overs with five wickets in hand. Your number 11 is Ishant Sharma who is no bunny with the bat - he can hold his own. One would like to ponder over what could have been done right to ensure a win from that stage - instead of losing their heads.

What is it that makes us lose our heads and focus? Saha gets almost 15 runs in an over and shows that there will be balls to hit - obviously Lyon simply cannot go on and on forever. How about rotating the strike and getting Kohli on? How about putting the pressure back on Lyon by taking just three or four singles and wait for the loose ball? How about thinking - "Hey, Lyon and the Aussies are under pressure now, can I just hang around and get used to the situation and build pressure some more?' A partnership of 30 between him and Kohli at that stage and everything would have been different.

For me, this is what the coaching staff needs to be doing. How to handle the situation? How to think in such situations? How to out think the opposition and outlast them? I don't expect this heavy coaching side to give them tips on skill - they are the most skilled in India perhaps. Its now in the realm of the mind. How can Shami, Aaron, Ishant also get into a their minds that they can play around Kohli and still pull it off? Or even they can pull it off by themselves if they applied themselves?

The J&K team that beat Mumbai said that the recent experiences with floods made them all tougher. That's a cue for our coaching team. Put them through the paces with the army, the commandos. Think out of the box.

I see the Indian dressing room. Team director Ravi Shastri, team coach Duncan Fletcher, coaches army Arun, Sridhar, Sanjay Bangar and god knows who else all watching with grave faces. Team manager Arshad Ayub is a test cricketer too -and so many more experts around. Each word and gesture from these people will weigh on the boys. If I was the Indian team captain I'd tell the boys - don't listen to ten guys, just hear and let go. Focus on your game. What is the point in having so many coaches if they cannot teach them to be mentally tough and use their discretion to make decisions that help you cross the line? It's my theory that one coach and a good captain are good enough. Let them figure it out. They will do better.

I disagree with Gavaskar's statement today that India should have played for a draw. I agree with Kohli that if they had played for a draw they would have lost by 150 runs. This is the way forward even if you lose. Don't fear losing. Go for wins. You will win more often than you will lose that way. For Kohli, his batting, his attacking captaincy and a very gracious few words at the end, a big thumbs up. Well done lad and keep going. You're on the right track. You will win more often than you lose in the end analysis. More importantly you will grow more winners in your team like you.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Link - Sensational Cover of Stairway to Heaven

Sensational is right. Check this out.
The cover version is sung by Heart, one of my all time favorite groups.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Virat Kohli - Tough As Nails

This guy is probably the toughest we have seen in recent times. Certainly among his contemporaries. And today's incident proves it once again. Skipper Kohli walks in with India in a spot of bother and gets a bouncer first up from the most feared fast bowler on the planet now - Mitchell Johnson. He ducks, but only manages to get into the line of the ball. It hits him straight on the forehead. Ball is travelling upwards of 145 kmph (I assume).

There is silence all around. Mitchell Johnson slows down and you can see it all going cold. The memory of last week's incident is only too alive. 

Kohli stands straight. Takes off the helmet, checks it, does not give an inch. No smiles, nothing. The Aussies crowd around him. Johnson walks up softly, peering of see if there is any trace of damage. He looks relieved that Kohli is fine. The Aussies peel off. Kohli is ready for the next ball.

Johnson is shaken. Clarke walks to him and pats him on his back. Next ball please.

Kohli scores 115 of the most solid and confident runs and pulls India out of the woods. At least temporarily. When he gets to his hundred he kisses his helmet. Not the protective gear, but what he is representing.

Tough as nails. You have a captain who is like that, everyone stands up. This should be an interesting series. 

2 Minutes to Make you Happier at Work and In Life - Link to Article by Laszlo Bock of Google

There is immense sense in this. It is about gratitude. Be grateful for about two to three minutes a day and you will be happier at work. Given below is an article by Google's Laszlo Bock.

The formula for those who are too lazy to click on the link.
1) Write down three things for which you are grateful for
2) Spend two minutes praising or thanking a person you know
3) Do this for 21 days


What one cannot understand is this statement - "It has been recently found by Google's People Operations Analytic team that being grateful and expressing it could be the secret weapon to workplace happiness.." Is this the new great discovery or what? Will it be copyrighted - gratitude? I hope not. It's a good thing. Let's keep it free - and I mean from ads etc too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Final Test, Exit Sachin Tendulkar - Dilip D'Souza

Did you miss the last Test match Sachin Tendulkar played? His 200th Test match ? If you have not been there in November 2013 (or even if you have been there) and wish to be in the Wankhede stadium again, read Dilip's book 'Final Test - Exit Sachin Tendulkar' The book picks you up from Bandra - pick-up point Dilip's home - which is opposite Sachin's, and takes you into the Wankhede stadium. Tickets, trains, journalists, die-hard emotional fans, institutions, noises, smells, tastes, feelings and sights engulf you in this ride as the book chugs on. You are overwhelmed by it all but there's a rational voice next to you, the author's, unobtrusively and inoffensively putting forth arguments and thoughts that could offend, if said in any other way. You cannot argue with cold facts, intelligent arguments and logical observations, especially if they come served on an honest platter. So you nod your head, wonder why nobody had the guts to point out some of these issues before and why everyone is bending over to make this happen, and yet, the author has not lost sight of the real thing, the exit of one man who held the reigns to our wildest hopes over many years and made many things seem possible.

The phenomenon of Tendulkar began in the late eighties. Dilip writes beautifully on how the phenomenon impacted us socially, psychologically and economically even. You can read it in the book. Let me tell it from my viewpoint as I experienced the way he impacted us in the past two decades. The late eighties was a time that was hopeful at best. We were all hazy twenty somethings who had just got used to the huge idea that we were lucky enough to be World Champions in 1983. (Amitabh Bachchan fought our wars on the screen till then but he was growing older and we could still not relate to real success except that some injustices were righted.) If that one win in 1983 proved to us that we Indians could be looked at kindly by the gods (who seemed to be white by the way), we started hearing news of this run machine who dominated proceedings in school cricket matches. He was not limited by our fears; instead he seemed to think that we should be winning the World Cup every time, every day. Play him anywhere and he'd attack. His approach threw off any aspects of fear, of subservience, of wanting to survive. He wanted to dominate. He blew away all concepts of good - he wanted to be the best. He had developed the skill, he had the attitude and he had the courage and burning desire to drag a whole nation of negative thinkers, timid people who settled easily, divisive people into what seemed to be the light. The entire team bent itself around him as he became the nucleus, bowlers and oppositions started fearing India as an opponent and a new energy crept in. Could we all be like that?

Can one man pull a whole nation and its collective consciousness out of a hole we had dug ourselves into with sheer application, skill and dedication to the medium? It cannot happen overnight. But it did- it happened slowly. We started to believe that we can dominate, not by talking of the past, but by our current actions. But we also found that it was difficult to sustain such levels of excellence because it is hard work. We tried in many ways to blame  and pull down this newly constructed tower of excellence. This we-frogs-will-pull you-down effect told on Tendulkar surely as he changed his game to be more responsible, to look for outcome than mere dominance, to change his technique and his psyche. In the end perhaps, he wanted to prove that he was right. Slowly but surely, through his injuries and the sheer length of time, his love for the game, his surrender to the force that he was blessed with, he did pull the psyche of the negative Indian upward and sent it soaring. To the other extreme now.

Even as he tired, slowed, he never showed any signs of not being capable. He was still the wicket to get. It all came through diligent and intelligent work, an attention to detail, work ethic and humility. But the nation that grew around him and his exploits, that could now look the white man in the eye, was not reflecting these. It reflected words, empty threats. It basked in the reflection of Sachin and many such stalwarts who grew in this period, not just in cricket, But it chose to ignore the path they took. It showed an ugly side to it.

The game grew exponentially in the years that Sachin played. the money, the media, the exposure, the entertainment, the advertisers, the craze for the game increased phenomenally and it all seemed to hang on to the shirt tails of this one man who led it like a Pied Piper. BCCI grew into a monster and started bullying cricketing bodies all around the world. The game itself transformed. The IPL saw the white man now being at the beck and call of the brown man. Cricket had reached a stage in India, where it was fully drunk on its own power. We can bully anyone. We can do anything. We are India. We are cricket.

This is a dangerous stage to be in. If the spirit of the game is trampled, it will lose its charm. Its quality to draw people.

Somewhere in this stage, Sachin's final test match was organised. It was a special occasion. Sachin, god to millions, will exit. He will choose when to exit. He will choose where to exit. He will choose how to exit. Everyone bent themselves over to give him the perfect farewell. The match was organised hurriedly, the opponent was picked, the venue. Sachin played. All else is forgettable about these two matches (which were highly forgettable anyway) and were a bad advertisement for the game. All one remembers is that Sachin played, people poured their hearts out as if a part of them died. Sachin spoke the near perfect speech, the team carried him on its shoulders, the crowd roared, cried, he almost got a hundred (I loved the way Dilip introduces Sachin's dismissal), his mother watched, a billion people watched. The game - well it was forgotten. It became a mere vehicle for this grand farewell.

And this is the space where Dilip sits, at a corner of the Wankhede where he cannot even see the game properly thanks to some wonderful engineering to build these swanky new stadiums. Why was this being done to end one of the most stellar careers we have ever seen? Why did he agree to it? Why did he want it this way? It was not as if his capability had diminished. He could still hold his own. It was not like the way we all waited for Kapil Dev to overtake Hadlee's haul in the most laborious, saddest manners and heaved a sigh of relief when he did. We don't want to remember our heroes like this. We want our heroes to be heroes forever. Not illusions to be shattered. We were part of the story too - you cannot take it away from us. You cannot burst our bubble. We have invested in you. We created you.

Dilip wonders why this match was held and in such circumstances. Would world greats like Nadal, Jordan opt to go out like this? Would such thoughts be entertained? He wonders at the crowd and its delirium. He sees the boy who has come from Chennai for two days just to watch Sachin play, the people who want a glimpse of their god outside his home, the messages that flash across the big screen, the irony of the naming of the Press Box. He sees the aggression in the fans, remembers what they did to poor Maria Sharapova, sees them pile up garbage, mess up the stadium, heap praise lavishly and embarrassingly. Dilip remembers small incidents from each players cricketing life, adds life to the proceedings with his keen powers of observation and honest questions. How the BCCI now swaggers, the money in the game, the people on the inside, the people who want to get there, the people on the outside and what it means to them. He wonders what the West Indian greats would say if they saw their team surrender so abjectly? He connects cricket to math, quotes from cricket classics, shows glimpses of his life. You want to meet his friend who blocked the full toss and lost a game for them, friend Praveen Rastogi who ran the best three runs ever, Dilip's love for fast bowling, his admiration for the game and Rahul Dravid (and his straight lines), his take on the advertisements notably Fair and Lovely and his experience while adopting a child. He sees the Ambani's car (that car!), he ponders over the irony of releasing a postal stamp in an age when his students questioned him innocently about what post boxes are and how they transport post, he wonders as most of us do at what the politicians are doing there, the not-so-loved BCCI strong men as they muscle their way into the frames, he looks back at the way the nation stopped to participate in this event. Dilip packs so much into the book that its racier and spicier than any cricket book I have read in a long while.

To pack in the details to make a book interesting is done in two ways. One way is when you want to make the book sell at the cost of everything else, truth and integrity be damned, in which case you look for the stuff that sells and try to stuff it in. Another, is to look at the truth that haunts you. and try to uncover it, without losing judgment or perspective, to put forth an intelligent and uncompromised viewpoint and to fall in line with the greater truth. This is an act of love to the medium of expression and Dilip stays true to that. I am so glad he did. In fact I am so glad he writes and expresses himself so because we need voices like his. How many have dared to look at Sachin, the cricketing institutions, the fans, and written so honestly. Not too many as I know. It is not done whimsically to raise controversy, it is put forth intelligently without ever taking away from the brilliance and luminescence of the man or the game. In a world that seems to favor the former approach, I am glad we have Dilip, and people like him, who bring intelligence, maturity and integrity to the table.

'Final Test - Exit Sachin Tendulkar' is as good a eulogy to Sachin as any to me. An honest one,  and one that could well show the mirror to the cricketing world. Well done Dilip.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Richest Man in Babylon - George S. Clason

This book has sold more than two million copies and contains success secrets of the ancients. It's something that Suresh read a long time ago and he was kind enough to gift me a copy. I only wish i'd read this book some twenty years ago - not that its not too late to start now - I just can't get over the fact that we missed such simple and practicable wisdom. Thanks Suresh.
Penguin, Rs. 350, 194 p

The Babylonian parables have a wealth of wisdom concerning how to 1) acquire wealth, 2) holding it and 3) making it earn. It pretty much deals with all things concerning money and in my opinion this book should be made compulsory reading for anyone who is about to embark on a career. If I'd known this when I passed out of college, I'd be much more financially stronger, way beyond what I can express.

The first parable is apt. A bunch of friends in Babylon, all hard working fellows who expected to somehow grow rich in their old age find that they are still struggling. However their friend has become the richest man in Babylon. He was like they had been, not even the brightest in the class. How then, they ask him, is it that you are so?

He tells them that they had 'failed to learn the laws that govern the building of wealth. or you do not observe them.'

1) Save 10% of all you earn. Pay yourself first.
'a part of all I earned was mine to keep", he said. Not less than 10%. How is it that you pay everyone but yourself? (This strongly resonates with the thought of how we have love for everyone but ourselves. It's so simple, pay yourself first.)

2) What you save must earn.
"Wealth, like a tree, grows from a tiny seed. The first copper you save is the seed from which your wealth shall grow. The sooner you plant that seed, the sooner shall the tree grow. And the more faithfully you nourish and water that tree with consistent savings, the sooner you may bask in contentment beneath its shade.'
(Put your saved money away someplace where it earns and is not idle.)

3) Take advice from those who know
If you have to invest your money take advice from those who know. Seek advice from those who are competent through their own experience to give it.
This means go to the expert even if you look foolish - they make speak the truth and harshly but they will give good advice.

4) Don't eat the children of your savings. Make them earn for you.
Don't spend your earnings. Reinvest.

5) Live upon less than you earn
Simple enough but we just seem to miss this. Live on less or earn more.

6) A small return and a safe one is far more desirable than risk.
Don't get carried away by stories of easy riches, be safe.

7) Let not yourself get niggardly and afraid to spend. 
Spend on yourself 70% of what you earn and make your family happy. Life is good and rich with things to enjoy.

7 Cures for a lean purse
1st cure:
Start fattening the purse. Spend one less than you earn. Put back one more coin than you have used up. (Save!)

2nd cure:
Control expenditures. expenses grow with desires.
Write down all you desire. Get 100% value demanded for each coin spent.
(Spend wisely.)

3rd cure:
Make the gold multiply. Put each coin to labor that it may reproduce.
(Invest wisely)

4th cure:
Guard thy treasures from loss. Secure the principal in investments where it can be reclaimed if desired and collect a fair return on it.
(Don't lose what you earned or gained.)

5th cure:
Make a profitable investment of your dwelling. Build and own a home.
(Build a home and in a way that it becomes a good investment too.)

6th cure:
Provide in advance fro thy growing age and the protection of your family.
(Pensions, home, savings, royalties.)

7th cure:
Increase your ability to earn.
(Be more creative in how you use your abilities to earn.)

How to create wealth
Preceding accomplishment must be desire. Desires must be strong and definite. To be rich is no purpose.

The process in which wealth is accumulated - first in small sums, then in larger ones as man learns and becomes more capable.
For eg. Desire 5 pieces of gold - find the strength of purpose to achieve it. Then desire 10 pieces - similar ways.

To succeed over the others, be the best. Skill is required. The more wisdom we know, the more we may earn. The man who seeks to know more of his craft shall be richly rewarded.

Seek greater skill that you may better serve those upon who patronage you depend.

Things a man must do:

  • Pay his debts promptly
  • Take care of his family
  • Will of record
  • Compassion and aid to those who need

There is abundance for all.

Meeting the goddess of good luck
Procrastinator waits. Opportunity passes by. Crush the spirit of procrastination.

Make payment immediately when you are convinced that the bargain is wise. To attract good luck it is necessary to take advantage of opportunity.
Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck.

The 5 laws of gold
Gold comes to any man who:

  • Puts not less than 1/10 of his earnings to make an estate for his future and that of his family.
  • Finds for gold profitable employment and multiplies it
  • Invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling
  • Stay away from those who invest in a business or purpose with which he is not familiar with or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep
  • Does not force it to impossible earnings, follow the advice of a trickster or trust it to his own inexperience and romantic desires.

The gold lender of Babylon
In this story Rodan the spear maker is given 50 coins of gold by the king. He wishes to give it to his sister whom he loves but seeks advice from the gold lender. Rodan has, through his efforts, only earned one gold coin a year from his savings. This reward is for a new design for a spear that he gives his king.
The advice on lending is thus:
The descending order of safety to lend is those
-  whose possessions are of more value than they desire
- have capacity o earn, human effort
- those who have neither earning capacity nor property

Keep the treasure safe. Make it earn. Be conservative.
Better a little comfort than a great regret.

On repayment of debt
In the camel traders parable where he cites his change in fortune from being burdened by debt to transform into a wealthy camel trader.

Debts were my enemies. Pay them back.
Where determination is, a way can be found.

The wisdom of the clay tablets from Babylon
1) 10% of all one earns to be saved - plan for future prosperity
2) 70% of all that is earned must be spent to provide a home, to take care of his wife, clothes to wear, food to eat and not lack in pleasures and enjoyment.
3) 20% of all that is earned to go to repay debts. Engrave names of all to whom one is indebted.

The luckiest man in Babylon
In this they talk of Arad Gula, who became a rich man from being a slave.
Work is the best friend I have known. If you find a master - work as hard as you can, even if he does not approve of you. Work makes you a better man.
Others will see your spirit.

There is no short cut. No sudden fortune. One must be wise and postpone gratification. Make use of skills to earn. Sharpen the skills to earn more. Pursue wisdom. Work as hard as you can and seek opportunity to earn more.

From what you earn, save 10% and no less. Make this money earn on safe investments guided by people who talk based on their experience. Look for safe investments and incremental growth. Don't be greedy and seek high return and lose your principal. Be conservative in investing.

Be careful with the money you earn or gain. Do not lose it. Do not lend to people who cannot repay you or who do not have the earning capacity nor properties that exceed that amount of the loan. Continuously increase your capacity to earn. Spend less than you earn. Don't lose what you earn.

Provide a good home. Provide for your future. Provide for your family. Spend wisely. Don't be niggardly though - enjoy the pleasures of life but within what you earn. Get value for every coin you spend.

It's a wonderful book. Thanks Suresh.

Paradoxes of Our Lives - It's Not The World That's The Villain, It's Us!

Every time we blame the world for something that is happening to us, it's not the world at fault.

It is us. We are doing all that we are blaming the world for. The world is merely reflecting it back to us.

For example, let's says we think the world is unfair, unreasonable, unloving, untrustworthy etc. Surely all of us resonate with that somewhere - at work, family, relationships.

The truth is that we are being unfair, unreasonable, unloving, untrustworthy - to the world at large, or worse, to ourselves.

Let us say, that the world is actually full of nice people with all good intentions. These nice people are also taking the trouble to mirror to us our deepest issues which, if resolved, can sort our lives out and move us towards a more peaceful and joyful existence. So the world and people in it are actually inert mirrors. What we put out, it instantly shows back to us. If we can see and feel what it is showing us (i.e. if what it shows back affects us, irritates us, makes us angry, upset, victimised etc), then we must understand that the world is being a good friend, showing us where we are going wrong. Gently.
If we can step back and accept that and be willing to make some changes, that's a start.

The cycle starts with us. If we start with being nice to ourselves, then we have something to give to the world. When we are fair, reasonable, loving, trusting to ourselves, we look at the world with those eyes. Then the world appears so.

When we are blaming the world, we are in a way blaming ourselves.

Take it easy. Go easy on yourself. Be nicer to yourself. Less harsh.

The world reflects this thought, this feeling, back to us. Everything is all right.

(Thanks Shobhs for somehow getting this across to us!)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

When I Talk, I Am Talking to Myself

Consider these four greetings.

Hiiii. - This from a person who is feeling great.
Hi. - This from a person who is just about there.
Hmm. - This from a person who is borderline in the negative and slipping.
Get out of here. - This from a person who is down there, totally negative and in a huge hole.
Infuse life
Or they could be the same person. (In fact, they are.)

Here's the story.
I caught myself saying an unusually cheery hello the other day. This came as a big surprise to me because this person who benefited from it was the usual pain - one I normally reserve for greeting number 4. But I continued on in this vein and the person was surprised etc etc.

After I left I wondered if I was beginning to like this person. Or perhaps, I was becoming like that person. This was a sad thought.

I thought some more. I noticed that my mood had been upbeat that particular morning owing to various other factors. The first person I encountered after my elevated mood swing was this - and all my love was showered on this person.

So it appears that when I am talking to someone, it is not that person who is affecting how I behave. It's me! In a good mood I am all cheer and happiness and charm and in a foul mood (the normal one) I am all fire and acid. In a mopy mood I drip self-pity. The other person is merely reflecting it like a mirror.

Which makes the other person almost irrelevant. Almost neutral.

On the other hand, in my world, my entire exercise seems to be to infect that person, whichever mood he or she is in, with my current mood. If I succeed we can both sail in the same boat pleasurably, miserably. If I don't I don't like that person much and leave instantly.

My existence seems to be to convert as many people I meet into clones of what I am feeling. I want more of myself. It's like some crazy alien horror movie. Only the alien monster here is me.

Ok, this is when I am infected by a mood and I carry on passing it. Huge plot point here. How can i use this information to save the world? Is it possible that I could, affect the others person by faking the emotion? Is it? Is it really possible?

Maybe by faking the emotion (the Hiiii one is preferable) I could uplift myself. I could address that part of me in others and it comes back to me through them (they are mirrors remember). I could then feel happy that some good is coming my way (little knowing that it's my fake Hiii that actually started it and is coming back to me magnified) and cling on to it.

We have a chain reaction here ladies and gentlemen.
Happiness, it appears, can be manufactured. Go forth then, and multiply it.