Monday, March 30, 2015

Qutb Shahi Tombs - Under Renovation

No entry beyond this point
A visit to Qutb Shahi tombs yesterday revealed that the tombs were being renovated. The main ones, of Quli Qutb Shah, and the ones near and behind them are inaccessible. The ones in the forefront are all one gets to see. But a visit to the tombs is always a nice experience and I enjoyed myself.
Mortuary baths being reconstructed
Quli Qutb Shah'stomb - The blue line is the boundary
Not under renovation
An old pic of the tombs - worth a closer look
A piece of history - rubble
Haunting views

Sunday, March 29, 2015

World Cup 2015 - Australia Completes the Formalities

Though everyone hoped that New Zealand might win, it turned out to be merely our romantic whims. The better prepared team won. The one which had lesser uncertainties in the process won. There was no shock-and-awe, no seizing the big initiative. Australia went about it with a clinical precision that left me wondering how we could even give New Zealand a chance.

I suppose the verdict was clear in the first over itself. Starc bowled McCullum who backed himself to take him on. Unfortunately that's a high risk approach and perhaps not warranted in a big game like this when the narrowest of margins could give you big advantages. New Zealand appeared strangled by the grip Australia had on it and at no stage did it look like it would get anywhere close to 250 which could have been a defendable total considering its bowling and fielding resources.

184 was never a total that would threaten the Aussies unless they were 20 for 5. Elliott batted on gamely for NZ and showed some fight but the rest were in some hoping zone. What they needed were players who could put their head down and eke out every single run which they could later defend. Instead of that they went for something big and crashed. No plan B.

Steve Smith was the biggest revelation. What amazing maturity for such a young player. he takes total responsibility, applies what he knows best and rises to the big occasion. The bigger the challenge, the bigger Smith gets. No praise can be too much for this young man. In his own quiet way he put both the semis and the finals out of the opponents reach - mind you - if he had not scored in both games in the way he did, the outcomes would have been different.

Overall it was boring fare. In fact the entire World Cup has been boring. I watched only a few hours of it, no match fully. One or two good matches - Australia and New Zealand, the semis between New Zealand and South Africa were interesting. Wahab Riaz's spell was perhaps the highlight of the tournament. I would want to typically go to watch performances with that kind of intensity when I am looking at the World Cup. But this was mediocre fare.

The good that comes out of it is this. Processes work. Go back to the basics, Build teams carefully. They will deliver.

Nice Link - 18 Spiritual Learnings

Cracking the Code - Ayushmann Khurrana and Tahira Kashyap

Ayushmann Khurrana is a known name. Most of us have watched 'Vicky Donor' and appreciated this earnest young man who also sang the beautiful 'Paani da Rang'. Ayushmann has many other talents and achievements too - he won reality shows, was a popular RJ, VJ, host etc before he became an actor/singer. He has in a way made it' though its still early days.

The book is an autobiographical journey of his tryst with Bollywood. Through the book Ayushmann tries to help all those who are trying to break into Bollywood by giving them an honest picture of what happens in this journey, how he prepared for it, how he balanced his studies (he did his Mass Communication from Chandigarh) and his dreams, how his family supported him etc. While putting together his story with utmost sincerity, he shares his nuggets of wisdom, or rather principles that seem to have guided him, on the path. They make good reading and surely can be followed in any field where one is searching for excellence.

Ayushmann comes across as one who has a balanced head on his shoulders, as one who lives by certain principles, one with a good work ethic, one who believes in the power of preparation, in his instinct, in having fun and in being a learner of the craft. Despite his tryst with fame, he went back and assisted in the making of Madras Cafe to understand the nuances of film making and this is the kind of stuff that sets him and his desire to learn apart.

A gist of his codes.

  • Value relationships. Be real.
  • Recognise the path that life has charted out for you. Do it within a time frame.
  • Never let go of an opportunity - give 100% at least once.
  • Be receptive to what life has to offer. Say yes and accept what it gives.
  • Again - never let go of an opportunity.
  • No point being one of the many. Rise above the rest. Hold your ground. Let your work speak for you. Strive for excellence.
  • No permanent friends or enemies - only permanent enemies.
  • Again, give your best to whatever opportunity you get. even the smallest ones.
  • Aspire for the next thing when you think you deserve it. Only after outgrowing your current level should you aspire for the next level.
  • Critics are your best friends. They bring out the best in you. Never shun them.
  • They will aid your growth.
  • Push yourself and avoid being stagnant. Sometimes make choices out of your comfort zone.
  • Learn from other people's experiences.
  • Sometimes you don't get an opportunity as there is a better one waiting for you.
  • Patience and wisdom helps.
  • Be at peace with your emotional side.

Ok, so you can't just hope to be star if you are part of a reality show. Or even the winner. Or whatever. What I liked about his book is this part that comes across - Ayushmann has done much in his young life. But then we don't know much of him except as the guy who worked in 'Vicky Donor' and the singer of 'Paani da rang'. I don't know of his life, his struggles, his scandals. Though he may feel the whole world knows certain things, we don't really. Nor do we care about his scandals if they ever happened (his man servant's death). Somehow those parts don't register much. What does however, is good work and he does that. I like his attitude of rehearsing, his dedication to work, his balanced outlook to life, his commitment to music, his wife Tahira who wrote this book with him.

It's an easy read and fun to peek into his mind. He has written it with a purpose and achieves it. Worth a read for anyone aspiring for careers in Bollywood. And for the rest of us to appreciate what goes on behind the screen. Good luck Ayushmann. Continue having fun, making fine movies, entertaining and making the world a better place. And as you would say Ayushmann bhava.

Friday, March 27, 2015

And India Falls - Defeated But Not Disgraced

MS Dhoni's team miraculously turned the tables on a terrible summer in Australia where they lost game after game after game after game. They won seven in a row. Somehow they found their basics, played above their weight and belief and won the big games in the World Cup. The Indian bowling which is not the best in the world, rose to the occasion, players put their heads down to their roles and they beat big guns like South Africa and Pakistan along the way. In fact I believe the loss against India dented South Africa's fragile mental make up that they built in the recent past and affected their performance in the semis.

But Australia at home, after winning all its games against India in the lead up, would certainly be a tougher customer than some of the teams India played. If there was one thing I hoped for it was the fact that both teams are aware that this is a one-off game. It could go any which way - the past be damned. The Indians were peaking at the right time and Australia would need an above par performance to stay afloat. Par would not have been enough.

And so it was fascinating to see the way Steve Smith applied himself to the task without seeming to really forsake his natural attacking flair. He displayed amazing composure under stress and kept the fine balance between attack and defense until he took the game away. I cannot imagine such maturity and application in many batsmen, some seemingly far more talented. Smith did what he must have made up his mind to - put the game out of India's grasp if he got himself in. With Finch hanging on for dear life the Aussies looked set for a bigger total before the Indian bowlers pegged them back.

The way India started with Dhawan and Rohit Sharma batting so easily, depositing the ball behind the ropes, finding the gaps, only showed that there were no demons in the pitch. The Aussie attack was under pressure. All one needed was to keep their cool after such a great start and apply themselves. But in a half hour of madness India lost three top order wickets - something from which it never recovered. The plot should have been 76 for 1, 120 for 2, 180 for 3, 220 for 4 if we were to be in the game. With a finisher like Dhoni supported by a Raina, or even a Jadeja and Ashwin, 9 or 10 per over would not have been much of an issue. But one thing led to another and crucial advantages were handed out back to the Aussies. Though Dhoni tried in his usual superhuman, gallant manner to pull it off all on his own, I am sure even he knew the odds were against him the moment he saw the ball leave Maxwell's hand and rocket towards the lone stump. Dhoni uncharacteristically gave up, the ball hit and the Aussies were home. They had taken down the biggest finisher, the loudest gun in the game, ironically through a brilliant young maverick sniper.

The Indians were outscored surely, but they can hold their heads high. Every single one of them played above their weight to get where they did, after what they experienced earlier. Dhoni rises even higher in the world's eyes with his exemplary behavior, unbelievable calm and unshakeable commitment. For such a young man to display such wisdom and maturity beyond his years is incredibly rare. What a role model, not just for young cricketers but for all leaders. Few players will leave the game with the respect Dhoni will command - almost everyone will stand in unison to salute this man - such is the legacy he has left behind as a human, a player and a leader.

The Indian fans have matured too. In their support to their team they were second to none and one cannot forget their joy in the success of their team. One sees a slightly maturing India, a more assured India, when one sees the fans, the players. We know our place in the sun. We may have had a bad day but that's what it is - just one bad day. This is a team of men of mettle who cannot be taken lightly. In time and with the right guidance they can become as efficient and as ruthless as the German soccer team. Rohit, Dhawan, Rahane, Kohli, Raina - they will all become better in the years to come. But there will be one huge void after that - one that goes beyond mere batting talent. The smiling skipper who soaks in the pressure which shows nowhere but in his prematurely greying locks.

But for now the World Cup goes into what promises to be an exciting final. The Kiwis have the edge in my opinion, having gone through that tough semis against South Africa and the longer rest. The Indians, well played boys. You did your best and we cannot ask for more.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life's little pleasures

So I got a few pictures. One from AP who sent me a photo taken in Walden bookstore. Ah!
50 Not Out reigns at Walden Book Store, Hyderabad
Jostling for space in the top was the hardy 50 Not Out! which is trying to find its place in the sun.

Then, young friend Sunil Shivasale from Bangalore sent me pics of the Bangalore event. One picture I liked in this was the one of me and young Santosh Shobhan, the young boy who played Gautam's part so admirably in Golconda High School. He came, smiling as usual, handsome as ever, wry humour in place. he poked fun at my phone which he asked me to replace pronto, told me about his course which combines literature, theatre and mass communication, about how he felt his acting has improved. Unlike most kids he came alone, attended the program ad left. I have great expectations from both he and his brother Sangeet, who is also a fine fine actor.
Santosh Shobhan aka Gautam of GHS and me
And there were pics too of the way Sapna Book House made arrangements for the book event.
50 Not Out!
  Most bookstores pride themselves on the way they put books on display during book events. its quite fascinating really. Some of them do make a pretty sight as well. Here's what Sapna came up with - a house of cards version!
The dais

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thought for the Day - What To Focus Energy On

In most cases I find that all we need to worry about is the present moment. What is in the present moment is really what is around you - in the area of your influence or more precisely, in the area of your work. Its like a small circle that is around you, not farther than you can see.
Cricket ground in Bangalore
Most times if we keep our focus on this area and stick to what needs to be done, life goes on smoothly. It is the needless philosophising, the pointless worrying, the extra thinking about things beyond that circle that gets you worked up a bit.

The farther you see, the more you think of what could be. The more you think of what could be, the more you feel helpless because you cannot do anything about it anyway. More helplessness, more worry, more unhappiness. The result - even the work that could be done does not get done.

Be aware of that circle around you. Stay balanced in that. Do work within that. Work gets done. Worry disappears. Along the way if something turns up, its a wonderful surprise.

Its the perfect recipe for happiness. For success. Nothing more, nothing less.

The One Minute Manager - Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

This one is slim and packed with common sense. There are three rules - if one even gets it half right, the organisation can step up 50%.
Harper, Rs. 175, 108 p

The purpose of organisation is efficiency. By being organised we are a great deal more productive.
I'm results oriented - but how can I get results if not through people. Results oriented means people oriented. You need to care about both.

The key idea then is this

"People who feel good about themselves, produce good results."

(One can hear alarm bells going off - these fellows are goofing off enough and not working at all. Why should I make them happy? It's not about making them happy, its about making them feel good through their work and that is your job as a manager - to make them reach beyond.)

Productivity is about both quality and quantity. And that can only be done through people.
One thing the one minute manager does is that he does not make decisions for other people.
Then he tells the other person not to make him repeat himself.

First up, three one minute principles.

One minute goal setting
The first is one minute goal setting.

This is important because in most organisations the job responsibilities that the boss thinks and that the sub thinks are completely different. And then they get into trouble for not doing what they didn't even think was their job.

How to do it?
The manager tells his sub what has to be done and they agree on it. Then each goal is recorded on no more than a single page. A goal and its performance standard should be read within a minute. Each goal is recorded on a sheet of paper, 250 words or so for one goal and performance standard, 3 to 6 key goals (those that form the 20% of the 80-20 rule).

Once responsibilities are clear, performance standards are made clear. A copy of both sheets are kept with both manager and sub.

Both know what the responsibilities are and what performance standards are. Everyone knows what to expect - there are no surprises.

Identify a problem, put it in behavioral terms i.e. in observable, measurable terms (not in attitudes and feelings), fix what you would like to happen (outcome) in observable, measurable terms, and find solutions to cover the gap. In other words fix the ideal, articulate clearly the current status and then find clear solutions. The problem is the difference between what is actually happening and what you want to happen.

One minute goal setting
1) Agree on your goals
2) See what good behavior is like
3) Write out each of your goals on a single sheet of paper using less than 250 words
4) Read and re-read each goal, which requires only a minute to do
5) Take a minute every once in a while to look at your performance
6) See whether or not your behavior matches your goal

One minute praisings.

Feedback is essential - good and bad. After goal setting, the manager would be in close contact. The purpose - he would try to catch the sub doing something right.

"Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right."

Don't keep looking for them to do something wrong - go positive.

One minute praisings
1) Tell people at the beginning about the importance of your feedback
 2) Praise immediately after the job is done
3) Tell them specifically what they did right
4) Tell them how god you feel about what they did right, how it helps others, how the organisations benefits
5) Stop for a moment and allow them to feel how god you feel
6) Encourage them to do the same
7) Shake hands or touch people to integrate

This is done at the beginning - just enough till the sub gets confident that he has got it under control. Once he starts doing it right and knows the process, the manager can step back. Then praise becomes more difficult to earn and the sub understands that.

Those who have been long enough to understand the goal setting and praising process, can then set their own goals and are also now self-worthy enough to catch themselves doing the right things. They send their own goals and are at it until they do something wrong.

One minute reprimand
But if they make a significant mistake, then they get a one minute reprimand. A significant mistake is that which you commit on a  job you know well and are doing it for some time, then a goof up earns you a reprimand.

The One minute manager reprimands even when things are going otherwise well for him.

One minute reprimand
1) Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know

1st half of the reprimand
2) Reprimand immediately
3) Tell specifically what they did wrong
4) Tell how you feel about it
5) Stop, be silent, let it sink in

2nd half of reprimand
6) Shake hands, touch
7) Remind them how much you value them
8) Reaffirm that you think well of them but not their performance
9) When the reprimand is over, it is over

The reprimand is about the behavior only and not the person.

"We are not just our behavior. We are the people managing that behavior."

"The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people." 
Companies spend 50-70% on salaries. Yet they spend less than 1 percent of their budget to train their people.

Make them see the goal, allow them to hit it on their own.

"Feedback is the breakfast of champions." Feedback keeps us going.

"Everyone is a potential winner. Some are disguised as losers. Don't let their appearances fool you."

Hire winners. Or hire potential winners and train them. Or pray. With winners, do the one minute goal setting and let them run with the ball.

Goal monitoring process
"Take a minute. Look at your goals. Look at your performance. See if your behavior matches your goals."

Incremental approach to goals. Like children, whales. If you only catch them doing things wrong they stop producing - doing any work.
"Goals begin behaviors. Consequences manage behaviors."

Behavior and worth are two different things.
Share it with others.

I just did. Thanks Ken and Spencer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fine Piece of Reporting - K.C.Vijaya Kumar's Report in The Hindu, Bangalore, March 24, 2015 on the 50 Not Out! Event

K.C. Vijaya Kumar's reporting of the event is wonderful. Read his article on the launch of 50 Not Out! at Bangalore which came out today.

Not because the article is about me - but simply because it is such a good professional job. I have seen reporters not coming to the event at all and still reporting, who make up 'quotes' without even talking to the people concerned (a leading publication's reporter did that with the same event), who completely miss the point, the purpose, the slant of what is going on. But once in a while we come across a professional job and it makes the heart sing. Or to use Vijaya Kumar's observation 'makes me nod my head'. (That made me smile too)

So what was good about this reporting. Firstly Vijaya Kumar came well ahead of time for the event, sat himself in a place where he could get a good view of proceedings. He completely got the gist of what was on show as one can make out. I loved the title of the article 'Seaming philosophies' - a clever pun that mixes the 'seaming' aspect of the fast bowlers' trade (two on the dais) and the attempt of the book to connect or 'seam' together cricket and philosophy. You get a hint of what's to come - there's intelligence, thoughtfulness and humour on show already.

He sets off the mood when he mentions the stereotype of fast bowlers - the ones with the brains in the knees as they used to say when we played - and how Javagal Srinath was quick to say that he was happy a fast bowler wrote this book. (And not a smug batsman types.) When I wrote the book I attempted to merge the philosophies and practice of cricket and life and Vijaya Kumar took off from the perfect platform there (there's no mention of life lessons which is on the blurb until the end of the second para, and even then its to support the philosophical trait he puts forth - if he took off on the life-lessons angle it would have been lazy reporting).

His reproduction of Anita Nair's speech was perfect and I loved the way he wrote 'mental' exercises in brackets. His take on Srinath's attitude to fast bowling which was all about the outcome and not so much the process of 'aggression' and then Srinath's fine words about the importance of reading captured the essence well.

Vijay caught the small things - like my habit of nodding when a co-speaker speaks, my discomfort at the praise coming my way - and this is what heightens the story and puts you back there. For those who missed the event these story convey it well and enhance the experience for those who were there. The words he chose to write about from my speech were exactly those that would have conveyed the essence.

And like all good journalists and writers he signs off with a wry comment at the end that puts a smile on your face - the question about my writing pattern so far. A cricket fiction, a romance, a cricket self-help so would there be a romance self-help next? Asked by my friend Puppy and prompted by another friend Hari, it did put me in a spot. What the h..? So its apt that Vijay ends that with an observation on how it left me stumped which was true. More importantly for the one who reads a newspaper in the morning it puts a smile on his face and that is the hallmark of great journalism / writing - to add to it all and put some creative thought to it so the world is a better place for it.

The one sensible question in the q and a also came from Vijay who asked why there was not so much literature from cricketers which is an interesting question. If someone like me who has played little cricket can write about cricket one wonders what wonderful stuff the greats can come up with - Rahul, Srinath, Anil, Laxman - they all read and write well.  I am certain they will.

Well done Vijay. Its such a refreshing change to see a good job, well done. It also shows how clear your thought process is - not to dwell on the negatives, look for the positives, seek out the story behind the event and to highlight it quickly, intelligently and wittily. Writers give themselves away very easily through their writing - and if you have revealed yourself, you have only revealed a wonderful, mature, clear thinking, human side. I am sure there are great things awaiting you in the world of writing and journalism. Good luck.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Bangalore Launch - Pics

The Bangalore launch in pics - provided by my young friends Sunil Shivasale and Chokappan. Thanks guys.

The Sapna Book House on Residency Road is perhaps one of the larger bookstores which is accessible from all parts of Bangalore. It comes upon you as you go down Brigade Road and turn left - you can see it across the road from Pub World.

The event was scheduled for 6. I reached the bookstore early with Nisha and Akshar, by 515 or so. Met Sreevatsa and his team from Jaico, the Sapna Book House people, Debosmita who was in charge of proceedings. I met young Santosh Shobhan who is pursuing his ug course in English Lit-Theatre-Mass Comm at Christ College. He is of course Captain Gautam from Golconda High School and looks more assured and more debonair than before. Sridhar Narayan and his friends, Rajju (Ravi Ramarapu), Giri, Unni and his wife,  Diwakar, Ram Mohan (Infosys), Narayan and his wife, Sunil Shivasale and his cousins and aunt, Chokappan, Madhu (BEML, fast bowler), Anita Raj Narayan (dear friend), Srinivas Babu, Puppy and Hari Rao from Osmania MBA, and many more dear friends.
Guest of Honor, Writer Anita Nair speaks first
 Rashid Mohsin with whom I played Vizzy Trophy cricket arrived with Srinath at about 545 and Anita came by soon after. We started the program by 605. Much of the press contingent had already arrived by then. Sudeshna Shome Ghosh and Keerti Ramachandra were there from the literary side.
I hold forth
Chief Guest Javagal Srinath speaks

Book is launched in Bangalore!
I stayed back to meet and chat with friends whom I was meeting after a long time. Sapna gifted us copies of Pitch it Right which is similar in tone to 50 Not Out! but more detailed and corporate oriented.

Thank you all for making it so wonderful.

Book Review of 50 Not Out! in the DNA, March 22, 2015

Book review of 50 Not Out! - DNA, G. Krishnan

He may have met little success as a first class cricketer, but Harimohan Paruvu uses his vast knowledge of the game and its players to pen a book offering solutions for problems in the boardroom and out of it, says G. Krishnan


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Devdas - Saratchandra Chattopadhyay

Browsing around in Akshara Book Store the other day I found some nice old classics. I picked up Devdas, a story I never read and somehow never cared for. I always felt Devdas was a weak man and did not know what he was up to drinking away his sorrows. Naturally I stayed away from the movies too.

I picked a translated version of the original of course, translated by Sreejata Guha. Devdas was first published in 1917 in Bengali. The book is slim, stark and it told the story well. One feels for Paro certainly, if not for Devdas in the end.

Devdas and Paro are neighbours and soul mates. He is a zamindar's son and she is the daughter of a trader. They go to school together and share much love and affection. Devdas has no interest in studying and Paro stops going to school too because Devdas stops going. The zamindar sends him off to Calcutta to study and he returns a young man with urban graces. Paro falls deeper in love with him and asks him to marry her. He cannot stand up to his parents and runs away to Calcutta after having written a letter to Paro that she must seek her groom elsewhere. But soon he realises his folly and returns. Now its Paro's turn to reject him. She marries an old widower.

Devdas starts drinking. He meets a friend Chunilal who introduces him to the courtesan Chandramukhi who falls in love with him. The one clear angle of love comes from Chandramukhi who shows the clarity, strength and courage to stand up for her love. Paro and Devdas continue their cat and mouse game until the end when Devdas returns to meet her - as promised but dies before he does meet her. Chandramukhi however does all she can do make the object of her affections comfortable.

It all seems such a waste. His love for Paro, Paro's love for him,Chandramukhi's love for Devdas - unrequited love from three souls. The first two have themselves and their weakness and ego to blame for letting things go to what they do finally - I have my own problems calling that love really - but Chandramukhi stands out as a clear example of what one can do when one is possessed by love. She shows strength and conviction and in my opinion, the heroine. Devdas has not risen in my opinion even now.

But a word about those story tellers. Reading Tagore's 'Kabuliwalla' leaves me feeling the same way. These characters are authentic, flawed and in pain. How they suffer and how they make us suffer with them. Such wonderful stories. I still wouldn't see the movies because they would break my illusions of the story. I am fine where I am. But all romantics, go read.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Guts & Glory - Makarand Waigankar

I do like the kind of stuff Makarand Waigankar puts out. He puts some context, some story for future generations to read and not merely stats or overglorified bios of players. I do like to hear those little anecdotes, back stories that makes some people different.

In Guts and Glory he profiles Indian cricketers in pairs (even trios) - Pataudi and Jaisimha (my mentor and guide), Bishen Bedi, Chandra and Prasanna, Wadekar and Sardesai, Gavaskar and Vishwanath, Vengsarkar and Mohinder, Kapil Dev and Shastri, Tednulkar and Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman, Dhoni and Kohli, Ganguly and Yuvraj, Kumble and Harbhajan, Dhawan, Rohit and Jadeja.

Its full of tales and anecdotes and offers a great peek into their lives. The flair and style of Jaisimha and Pataudi did not in any way diminish their interest to excel at the game, and to think about it constantly and get results they wanted. I have played and benefited from ML Jaisimha's personality, wisdom and distilled knowledge as a rookie player for Marredpally Cricket Club and I can imagine how it must have been to meet two such people at one time. They were leaders, both, and men of extraordinary calibre. I have never had the opportunity to meet Pataudi and I consider it my misfortune.

Bishen Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrashekhar also belong to an era when we grew up. Bishen Bedi is also a prince among men. I sent him a copy of 50 Not Out with a friend of mine - Rajaraman. The next day morning at the stroke of 7, I get a call. 'Is that Harimohan? I am Bishen Singh Bedi speaking.' He spoke about the book. But again the calibre of these men - to acknowledge the smallest of gestures, to flow with the universe, to make lesser mortals feel bigger. Wonderful stuff. I would certainly like to meet Prasanna and Chandrashekhar too in my next sojourn to Bangalore.

Much of Wadekar and Sardesai is known to me thanks to this book at home - Wadekar's biography 'My Cricketing Days'.  I remember devouring every word of that lovely book, imbibing the images, feeling the highs and lows they felt. I remember the wonderful series Dilip Sardesai had in the West Indies. The book brings out the fun part of Sardesai - yeh popatwad bowler hai!

Gavaskar and Vishwanath were the heroes we grew up idolising. One wonders what mindsets they carried to excel as they did. They were extremely correct, aimed higher and higher, and took their game to another level when the Indian consciousness was still reeling under British colonial left overs and our own embarrassment at wanting anything, even to win in a game. They carried misfitting mindsets in those times and sought to excel - tough - but they did it.

Save the first two gentlemen, most others came from normal backgrounds and made it big despite their limitations. They had the same issues, challenges and rose above them all.

Lovely anecdotes. Wonderful caricatures. And once again a fine attempt at capturing a part of cricketing history and lives of legendary personalities through its stories. 'Guts & Glory' is a nice easy read with enough punch to make it a must-read if you're aspiring to do anything with cricket or with excellence.

Closer - Movie Review

Messy movie. Two couples, get mixed up, messed up. One couple gets totally trashed. The other stays but only just about. So we have this failed author (Jude Law) who is in a relationship with an American stripper (Natalie Portman) and who finds his love/lust with a photographer (Julia Roberts)  but ends up hooking her up on a random sex room chat with a slightly weird British dermatologist (Clive Owen). Dermatologist and photographer hook up, author keeps butting in, stripper breaks off, dermatologist finds stripper, comes back to photographer, who leaves author.

'Closer' is on its own trip. I could have done without it really.

Great link - Iconic photos of cricket

Ok, here's the stuff. 44 iconic photos of cricket. Nice. Missed Ambrose versus Waugh did it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Some News Coverage for 50 Not Out!

Here's some press coverage for 50 Not Out!

Vijay Lokapally writes his thoughts on two cricket books - Third Man by V. Ramnarayan, my friend, accomplished cricketer and writer and 50 Not Out by yours truly.

Some coverage for the Bangalore event. For all who came and all who supported me, thanks a ton.

Deccan Herald
"The book is a beautiful illustration what has for so long being verbal thoughts of many who have learnt from playing a team sport on a competitive level,” - Javagal Srinath .

The New Indian Express

The Bangalore Mirror

The Hindu

"Srinath said that if he had read the book in his playing days, he may have finished with 60 to 70 extra wickets while Anita Nair lauded Harimohan’s clarity of thought."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

50 Not Out! - Bangalore Launch on March 16, 2015

The Bangalore book launch event of 50 Not Out! is scheduled for March 16, 2015. The venue is Sapna Book House and the time is 6 pm.

The invite is below. All are welcome. Please do come.

A Memorable Outing - Visit to Gitanjali Primary School, Begumpet

Mrs. Shashi Musunuri, Principal of Gitanjali Primary School, and my dear friend Mohan's sister-in-law was kind enough to give me an opportunity to interact with the students of the fifth class. There were almost 140 of them. They sat well-behaved and polite, asked intelligent questions and interacted in a far more mature and sensible manner than most. Almost every child spoke uniquely, was aware of their own uniqueness and behaved such.
Me and Mrs. Shashi, Principal

I spoke of writing, how one can write, the journey of the writer and why they should all write. They all promised that they would. Then they deluged me with the greatest show of love one can experience in one moment when all 140 of them rushed up to take autographs at one go thrusting the desk, the chairs and me with the sheer force of their energy. It took a while to get them under control - they wanted autographs - on papers, notebooks, bats. I signed.

And then they did stuff that only children can do. Some of them had thoughtfully made cards for me. The last few in the line killed me - they came up and said they were sorry. I asked them why. They said they were sorry because my hands must be hurting after signing so many autographs. So much thoughtfulness, so much love, such pure intent can only come from children. And the cards were so creative, some made in a hurry while waiting surely. I loved the way some of them took autographs for their friends - they did not come that day.

Thanks Mrs. Shashi. It will remain a memorable day in my life. One that showed me what we are originally are.

Invincible Thinking - Ryoho Okawa

Ryoho Okawa is a Japanese guru and is the President of the Happy Science Institute. This booklet is a compilation of four of his lectures. Invincible thinking is a philosophy containing the power to achieve true victory in life.  He says the book will guarantee that the reader clearly visualises a path to success opening up.

No such thing happened to me, but I know that it is because I am not yet ready. However some of the ideas are interesting. The book is divided into four parts - The Source of Invincibility, Revolutionising your perspective, Life and victory and the Power of Invincible Thinking.

In the first part he discusses the qualities required of a leader - to be able to see into the future, to make followers believe that they have a bright future if they follow and have enough past achievements to convince people of your standing. Self-reflection in times of illness and distress is essential he says because it is meant to be a time to sit back and reflect. Here he talks of leaders who feel that they are so important and drive everyone up the wall and who suddenly find to their shock that the work is actually going on better when they are not around. Similarly trials and setbacks are necessary for spiritual growth and we can learn all we can from our ordeals. Invincible thinking is not for those who want to live a life of excuses - one must not attribute their hardships to others, accept what comes their way, find lessons in adversity and never rely on the support of others. . Determination and will power are the keys that open up paths - look at the qualities that people admired about you from your childhood, your hidden abilities. Devise ways to become invincible (when there are physical limitations use wisdom). transcending individual limitation, the two secrets of achieving success (finding demand and thinking about further development after initial success) and finally how financial strength provides the power to overcome difficulties. He says if you earned ten times your present income, eighty percent of your problems would disappear.

In the second part he discusses how to revolutionise your perspective by creating new ideas - change your outlook and look for new possibilities without approaching life with preconceived notions. Finding a third alternative when faced with two choices. Thinking in the opposite way to create positiveness - instead of finding limitations in the situation, see how you could transcend it by approaching it from the opposite side. He suggests that if you do more at one time, it would leave you free for yourself. I believe a lot in this though I cannot always do it., there is some story here. How to use failure as a springboard - he says nothing in your life is wasted so see how you can use your failures as your lessons and springboards. There is no waste in the world created by god. How to confront your karma with a positive attitude and give it your best shot. How people assess you differently - in things that you see negatively about yourself, see some positive. Life can be extended through effort - he says plan to live for a hundred and twenty and things will become clearer to you.

In the third part where he deals with life and victory we discuss how to live a healthy life (how physical conditions restricts the mind, how to control your physical body, the relationship between the body and the mind). He says how we are all spiritual beings in a human body. He talks of the  creation of wealth and using wealth as a means of happiness for a greater number of people. The three basic principles for the creation of wealth are - frugality, knowing how to use it and making it earn. Expect to meet the 'noble person' - those whose encounters help you emit light - but you must seek these people and expect that they come into your life.  These are encounters that will change your destiny. When you listen humbly to what you are told you are being humble and understand that it was not you alone but many others who have contributed to this journey of yours. Always be grateful he says, in the good and the bad. Live with integrity and leave it behind as a spiritual legacy he says.

In part four which deals with the power of invincible thinking he links self reflection to progress. He says we are here to grow, and that setbacks are ways that help us grow. As we handle setbacks positively and grow, we soon come to a stage when we can help not only ourselves, but many others. In fact he says, you can create large and positive undertakings. transforming difficulties into strength for your soul. Being the master of your own time - keeping time under your control or using this resource well to grow continuously. Think like a long distance runner and pace yourself. Prepare for the next step instead of waiting for luck, and when condition are favorable sow the seeds of love. aim for one goal higher, think flexibly to turn difficulty to your advantage.

 The book has nice words of wisdom. It stretches normal thinking into invincible thinking - using wisdom to grow, to push limits, to think of wealth, health etc in perspective. It talks of growth mindset mostly. Its told in a very rudimentary way but packs enough stuff to make a difference. I agree with all he says.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World Cup 2015 - India beats West Indies

I have some catching up to do with the World Cup matches. India beat the West Indies last week but not too convincingly. MSD kept his head and guided India home else The West Indies bowled well enough to cause an upset. India needed a bit of a jolt and they got it.

The wicket was bouncy. It was evident from the first over when Dwayne Smith tried to pull and miscued twice. Now on a wicket like this you back off, get the singles and look to punish loose balls. But no, Smith had to keep trying to hit the ball and got out. Gayle refused to take singles and finally perished to a pull shot - after a catch was put down. I mean, it looked so amateurish, so bull headed. Its our way or none at all! Come on guys, you have been playing at the top level for so long. Anyway the innings folded up poorly mainly due to many bad shots and it was only due to young Jason Holder's fifty that they reached a half decent total.

Now when they bowled, India struggled too. Once again one has to take into account the way the batsmen tried to handle the bounce of the wicket. We slipped into a precarious position and it was only thanks to Dhoni and Ashwin keeping their wits about that India got home.

Overall India showed more signs of wanting to win, more intent. West Indies showed less purpose, less intent and paid the price. They make so many basic errors when things are not going their way, so little application, that you wonder how they will win at all. Anyway that's a problem they have to sort out.

The Connection Between Radical Forgiveness and the Growth Mindset

These are brilliant thoughts - Radical Forgiveness and the Growth Mindset. While Radical Forgiveness may appear to be in the spiritual space (and thereby not so much to do with us practical and material people), the Growth Mindset gives us a clear approach to live a life of purpose and growth. They appear far removed from each other at first glance, but I find that they are indeed quite closely connected in their thought.

Radical Forgiveness - Gratitude Dissolves Bad Energy and Creates Good Spaces 
Radical Forgiveness is a tool developed by Colin Tipping that uses gratitude as a way to dissipate negative energy. If there are patterns that create negative spaces in your life,  they make you look at those life situations as 'bad' thereby creating a downward spiral of negative thoughts. This is conventional thinking. That's why Radical Forgiveness is radical - it makes you look at the circumstances gratefully, as tools that are aiding your growth, spiritual or otherwise, and by being grateful, you cannot hold the same bad energy about them. You cannot be grateful and angry or resentful at the same time can you? Its a wonderfully devious way of breaking this bad energy shield and allowing good energy in your space that can really propel your growth materially, relationships wise etc.

Growth Mindset - Grateful to Obstacles as Opportunities for Growth
Growth Mindset is a path breaking theory by Carol Dweck as mentioned in her book 'Mindset'. In this book she says people fall into two types of mindsets - the fixed and growth mindsets. Fixed mindset people look at all signs of trouble of obstacles as avoidable and therefore they tend to take easier options (which inhibits their growth). They plateau early. Growth mindset people look at obstacles or hardships as opportunities for growth and learning. They do not look at them with resentment and find excuses or blame them. They are grateful for the tough challenges because they allow them to grow, to learn. By being grateful to the opportunity to grow and taking tougher challenges and working harder and consistently, growth mindset people fulfill their potential.

The key in both approaches is the approach. That of gratitude - which is the game changer in our lives. In both approaches, hardships and tough circumstances are seen as opportunities that have come their way. They opportunities to learn. So they say yes to them gratefully and get down to work. In Radical forgiveness, the tool has an almost immediate effect upon feeling gratitude - the  energy quality improves and enables flow. In Growth Mindset too, the commitment to growth keeps the energy in good space and allows faster growth. Both need you to say yes, to identify patterns and to want to overcome them. Both lead to a life of authentic, purposeful, passionate living.

The bottom line is clear - all kinds of 'bad' stuff and people - actually present opportunities for growth. If we can change our approach and see them as such, we can move ahead. Else we can stay stuck and let the downward spiral lead us down into the hole.

We can choose now. Choose gratitude to the negative. It breaks down bad energy to good and keeps you focussed. It makes things easier. Thanks Carol Dweck and Colin Tipping.

A Moment of Bliss - The Perfect Feedback

When you write, you have an idea you wish to convey to the reader. Sometimes the idea gets lost due to bad writing, bad reading? and / or some other factors. But the one thing that I have always cherished is the kind of feedback that makes you go YES, that's exactly what I hoped would be the takeaway for the reader. One such brilliant moment happened the other day when I got a mail from my friend Srini Raju. 

Raju and I worked in Bharath Petroleum way back in the 1990s. He loved his cricket and when I saw him bowl faster than me and more penetratively with a tennis ball, I knew he was a serious talent who never got its opportunities. If he had pursued the game, and got the right exposure, Raju would certainly have reached a high standard of the game. 

After a two decade hiatus he came back into my life when he visited Hyderabad last year. Now a very successful professional,  Director of a large petroleum company in the Middle East. We met and I gave him my books.

This is what he had to say after he read 'The Men Within' in a mail he sent me last week.

"I wanted to share one event with you.. I read your book ( I rarely read novels ) and it inspired me
to take up captaincy. I retired from Cricket captaincy almost a decade ago. I just wanted to be a 
senior contributor to the team.

We have an annual cricket championship in our company (400 people) and we form 4 teams
including management, staff, workers and cleaners etc..We play league and the top two teams play finals ( T20 ).

We played the tournament this year as well.

After initial selections etc, I got the weakest team and your book really inspired to me take this as a leadership lesson and implement it.

You won't believe it, we won the cup to everyone's surprise. I am not saying that this would always
happen, but I am sure leadership and teamwork is critical and you nailed it in your book. - Srini Raju' 

This is the perfect ratification. It is also a moment of pure bliss. Thanks Raju for sharing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

And Then One Day - Naseeruddin Shah

This is one of the few hard cover books I bought. They are expensive. I did hear good things about the book and also had an ulterior motive which never worked out. But I felt compelled to read it after I bought it which is a good sign for any book.
Penguin, 316 p, Rs. 699
'And Then One Day' is a memoir, so one gets a glimpse into Naseeruddin Shah's life, as it went along slightly parallel to our growing up days, always connecting with him in his efforts, and always loving his self-effacing mannerisms. So this was what happened during 'Masoom', or during N'ishant' or 'Sparsh'. The memoir is perhaps as honest as it can get and one only hopes that there are no regrets for having said what he felt about people and their work. I don't think I'd have said half the things he did if I ever wrote a memoir and perhaps that's one reason why this book scores.

With some people you get a feeling that they are from a certain place. I always identified him with Delhi (Chasme Buddoor?) but also thought he had some Parsi background (looks like one). So it was a bit of a surprise that he comes from a well-off family with a large estate where hunting etc was practiced (he was pretty good at skinning the birds and animals he says). He went to fine convent schools and was exposed to theatre and cinema there, and somehow found his calling. He did badly at academics and had issues regarding that with his father. Plays etc apart he ran away to Mumbai when he was 16, was 'rescued' by a relative of Dilip Kumar, lived in the great man's house for a week, and was shunted back to his hometown. From there to Aligarh Muslim University, NSD, FTII and so on.

Naseeruddin Shah was pretty popular with the girls and wore his heart on his sleeve. He got married very early to a lady of Pakistani roots and has a child from her who now lives with him. But then he moved on quickly from there, to others. He is particularly severe on himself in these periods when he saw less and less of his wife and child and more of other women. .

What interested me most was his approach to his work, something that comes up in his NSD days. The feeling that he was weak on diction made him work on his habit of speaking nasally. He talks about how only failures in the profession came to teach at the NSD and they had nothing to teach simply because they did not know their job (the importance of a good teacher!). He talks of how the belief that 'some can act and others can't', held sway at the NSD then (a mindset issue). And that 'great acting just happens'. He laments the fact that there was no structure and words like 'talent', 'inspiration', 'involvement' were tossed about without actual stuff being shown or taught on how to deliver through proper preparation.

The inflection point comes at NSD in the final year, when he watches his friend Om Puri, someone who puts in a lot of effort to prepare for his performances, pull off a role in a Kabuki play with consummate ease. Naseeruddin Shah is disappointed at not getting the role but he also admits that as he watched Om Puri perform, he realised that he could not have pulled it off the way Om Puri did. He observes how Om Puri had 'quietly persevered in self-improvement through the time he had been at the NSD'. Naseer realises when he watches the performance that there 'was no magic formula involved'. He had been 'so astoundingly good because he had gone for broke and expended every ounce of his energy in his preparation'. Great words on the virtues of preparation.

In another play directed by Srilata Swaminathan Naseer recounts how he had 'contributed nothing but has also mistrusted the faith she had in him and messed up an opportunity to explore a new and exciting way to approach acting'. 

To quote him as he prepared for a big play - 'I had by this time been converted to Om's approach and way of working, or rather I was compelled to adopt both, considering the nature of the role in The Lesson. Without burning the midnight oil I could see that this time I wouldn't be able to even memorise the lines, there were so many. So for the first time in my life I found myself walking early without being compelled to and doing what was expected of me The results that this kind of application produce were not long in coming. Most exhilaratingly of all, for the first time, I felt I was in complete control of what I was doing onstage.'

On learning the craft.
'The tumid conviction when I entered NSD that I knew it all and was going there to finally start plying my trade had deflated completely towards the end of my stay. My first attempt at working hard had yielded results. I began to suspect there was something more to this acting business that I knew, but hadn't a clue what it was, nor where or how to learn it. The stint at drama school gave me immense confidence in strutting the stage but had not really taught me the nuts and bolts of the job and I could see it was high time I tried coming to grips with those.' 

But the nagging suspicion that I had been kidding myself was fuelled by watching Om's steady growth from being a modest insecure wallflower into an actor and person of considerable assurance. I, though, was exactly the same arrogant loudmouth I had been when I joined NSD, had found nothing new, had learnt nothing in three years...I being incapable of that kind of genuine humility (as Om had) had frittered away the time... If I wanted to survive as an actor I had to bring more than just competence and cleverness to the table and I suspected that I didn't have very much than those. It was time to learn the job.'

The aspect of how to improvise, to respond to stimulus spontaneously as shown through the class of Roshan Taneja hits home. In FTII he had to throw characterisation out of the window. In a scene they had to know where they were coming from and going where. He remembers how Roshan Taneja looked at him and said - some of you have a lot to unlearn. 'The elusive word 'method' was beginning to reveal itself at last. The thought that the craft can be deconstructed, the process uncovered and replicated instead of waiting for a 'good day' or for 'luck' was something that Stanislavsky tried to bring. Now, for me this was exhilarating stuff because this is stuff that they discuss in the Mindset by Carol Dweck, in the route to becoming an expert and all such important documents. It makes as much or more sense to the artists.

His growth as an actor soon showed up in opportunities that came by his way. Nishant was his first film. He says he received the most valuable piece of advise regarding film acting he has ever received from Shyam Benegal - "The camera is the eye of everyone watching the film". But success did not follow him instantly. He was rejected as a newsreader for Doordarshan.

I liked his approach to looking for work. 'I knew that the only way work would generate itself would be if I grabbed every opportunity I got and wrung it out till it screamed for mercy. Work would come only if I could demonstrably deliver the goods.' 

His friendship that soured with Jaspal, his relationship with Om Puri (that episode with Anupam Kher is one of the best I have seen on TV), experiments with drugs, his dalliances at Falkland Road, his love and marriage with Ratna Pathak, Kulbushan Karbanda's snoring, his not-so-complimentary views on Sholay, and his adaptation to the Hindi film industry complete the story.

His search to get his craft right comes through as the greatest part of the story to me, and I think I was looking for that only. Thankfully he has dealt with it in great detail and honesty. His relationship with his father, his family, his romances etc are all written honestly and wittily and show many dimensions of a man whom I would always relate to as the character in Chashme Buddoor. Then you realise that those were mere roles and that this person has his own story, his strong likes and dislikes and one gets a bit wary of the construct we have created. Naseeruddin Shah is unforgiving, ruthlessly honest and believes that what he has embarked on is right. Of course, many times he has in retrospect said that he had been wrong. But the intensity of his conviction on where he stands, his views on people, relationships etc dulled the sheen off my illusion of him. However, it did deepen my respect for him as a person.

I cannot help thinking what I would have done if I'd read this book when I was twenty. I think I'd have approached both women and drugs differently. But in retrospect, maybe the timing of the book is better for me. Would I recommend it. Emphatically yes. Specially for all learners, whatever they are doing.

All The King's Men - Movie Review

The 1949 classic is based on a Pulitzer prize winning novel of the same name. The story is that of a small town idealist, a good samaritan, who wishes to do good to society. Being one of them, a naive and innocent chap with only good intentions and commitment to lead a change, Willie Stark sets off on his journey. Its a bit like watching Arvind Kejriwal and AAP - the idealists trying to take on seasoned politicians. Only here with Arvind Kejriwal the story has just begun and he can watch out for the pitfalls.

But the path is not easy and it takes its toll on Willie. He compromises on his path and though he is able to fool the public, finds that he is losing respect and love at home. Told from the eyes of an idealistic journalist the story takes many twists and turns - love, loss - but holds true to a linear narrative. But its packed with stuff - you can't help but stay riveted to the screen. Powerful writing. I can't forget the story just like I won't be able to forget a similar movie called 'Mr.Smith goes to Washington' also about a rookie politician.

Lovely piece of work. Why can't they make movies like that? Simple, direct and clear. And great storytelling. They are not joking when they say its a great motion picture.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Flirting With Disaster - Movie Review

Why I have this movie with me and where I got it from I don't know but on the third attempt, it got off. I mean until then, I could not figure out what it was really about and stopped it some 20 minutes into the show. But then there's Ben Stiller and some kids and adoptions etc so I guessed it must be funny. However, one must note, I never laughed even once in the movie.

Ben Stiller has neurotic parents who adopted him. He is neurotic too, has a neurotic wife and a child. Ben wants to find his real parents and the adoption agency seems to have zeroed in on them. They send an attractive but dumb researcher along to help the young couple along in their endeavour. So we meet wrong parents, meet people who attract and distract the couple and finally find the parents who are - neurotic, drug addicts and all sorts of stuff. Throw in a couple of gay cops and we have it all.

Certainly flirting with disaster if you're watching this one. 

Thought for the Day - The Link Between My Consciousness, Gardening and My Life

Or how to improve my consciousness:
If I can make my consciousness fertile, using the fertiliser of no thought (and thereby giving us a chance to escape my own depraved and egoistic thoughts and seriously giving me a real chance), I can perhaps attract what is the highest good for me. Simply put, I have to get out of the way to be who I can be.

My thoughts are creative. They fertilise my consciousness. What my thoughts focus on grows, and populates my mind. They attract similar stuff.

Negative thinking patterns create a downward spiral. Creative thoughts, where you create positive thoughts, create upward spirals.

That said, it is not easy to see or focus on what we want, especially if we have trained our minds to think negatively. It is scary and burdensome.

So for a start I suggest that we get out of the way. I mean, get the negative thoughts out and get into neutral space. No thought. Remove barriers first and then create.
So no thought it is for now.

It means that I do not paint bad scenarios, criticize, blame, be self-critical, be cynical etc. (I have a friend who is constantly talking about how everything is bad - education, talent, values, intelligence etc - and guess what, he gets it in abundance.) I tell him to not talk about it. But he cannot stop himself. From scary, critical, insecure thoughts to no thought is first step.

From that space, it is automatic that we progress to creative. Nature abhors a vacuum they say. In the absence of fear, criticism, blame, lack of space we can see creative thoughts flowing in. We have a consciousness that is fertile.

That is a creative life.