Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Apollo 13 - Movie Review

The 7th manned mission to the moon, and the third where man was intended to land on the man, Apollo 13 has a story worth telling. Plagued with doubt and intrigue from the beginning - starting with the number 13 - the team that finally blasts off on April 11, 1970 encounter serious trouble when the oxygen tanks explode after two days. The lunar mission is aborted and there is a slim chance that the astronauts can make it back to earth safely. James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise survive incredible odds and make it back. For the best drama - you cannot beat real life.

The film holds you on the edge of the seat - or whatever you are sitting on. My measure for a great movie is to watch for 10 minutes and then let the movie grab me. If it does its great. If it doesn't its not worth it. For a movie that I spared 30 minutes, Apollo 13 kept me hooked till the end, leaving me wanting more. The scene when James Lovell talks on television about how he survived near death once is brilliant - just as the scene when his wife loses her wedding ring in the shower. The energy shifts totally.

Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris. Gary Sinise. Superb. Eminently repeatable. Many times. Highly recommendable. Classic.

Go for it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Good to Great - Jim Collins (and team)

In 1996 Jim Collins and his team set out to answer a question - can good companies become great companies? It took him and his team 5 years, during which time they analysed 1435 Fortune 500 companies. Articles were read, interviews conducted, metrics run and finally the team zeroed down to 11 companies that fell in the good to great category (parameters include 15 year cumulative stock returns on or below general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next 15 years). These 11 companies (Abbott, Circuit City, Fannie May, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreens and Wells Fargo) returned 6.9 times the stock market in a period of 15 years, a dollar grew to 470 as against 56 in the stock market. Spectacular stuff - and Collins puts down his insights on how it works. I found it to be a riveting book.
Random House, 300 p, Rs. 899
To begin with Collins says - good is the enemy of great. Wonderful. Some quick insights about the 11 companies - they had insiders as CEOs, factors like executive compensation, strategy, technology showed no correlation to their performance, they had a clear focus on what to do and what not to do, did not grow through mergers and acquisitions, no name, tagline, launch events to announce change programs. They just did it the hard way. Clear. Honest. Nose to the ground.

As Collins says - greatness is not a function of circumstance, it is a matter of conscious choice. He also says that by applying these principles any company can become good to great. I feel they can be applied to an individual as well.

In his graph that splits the growth story of a company from good to great into two parts - 1) buildup and 2) breakthrough - Collins points out to some common characteristics -

Buildup stage
1) Level 5 leadership (leaders who are not show men - self-effacing, quiet, reserved and shy leaders who brought great personal humility and intense professional will).
2) First who ...then what (they got the right people in and placed them in the right seats on the bus and - got the wrong people off. The right people are our most important asset)
3) Ability to confront brutal facts (the ability to keep faith in the big goal while also being fully aware of the brutal facts)

Breakthrough stage
4) Hedgehog concept (Identifying areas where they can be the best in the world, where they are passionate and where the economic indicators are strong. If you cannot be the best in your core business, then your core business cannot form the basis of a great company. It must be replaced with a simple concept that reflects deep understanding of the intersecting circles)
5) Culture of Discipline - (you don't need a hierarchy when you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, then you get the alchemy of great performance)
6) Technology accelerators (these companies carefully selected technologies that helped them accelerate, not because technology was a fad but because technology helped them along in doing what they loved doing. Technology itself was not primary driver)

In simpler terms - summing it all up in the chapter on the Flywheel and the Doom Loop, Collins says "Those who launch revolutions, dramatic change programs and wrenching restrictions will almost certainly fail to make the leap from good to great'. The ones who succeeded were those who built momentum until a point of breakthrough."

I) Level 5 Leadership
"You can accomplish anything in life provided that you do not mind who gets the credit" - Harry S  Truman

The Level 5 leader evolves from being a
1) Highly capable individual (makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work ethic)
2) Contributing team member (contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group)
3) Competent manager (organises people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives)
4) Effective leader (catalyses commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards)
5) Level 5 leader.(builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will)

As mentioned earlier these leaders were a combination of Personal humility and Professional will. They were highly passionate about making their company great. It was all about the company and not about them.
A quote from one of them - "I want to look out from my porch at one of the greatest companies in the world someday and be able to say 'I used to work there'

The Level 5 leaders set the company up for next generations. They are not tyrants who are always about themselves -  "I" as against "We". When their team was asked to describe them they used words like - humble, modest, shy, gracious, mild mannered, self effacing, understated. Level 5 leaders never wanted to become larger than life heroes. But they had a fierce resolve to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great. They were fanatically driven and infected with an incurable need to produce results.

An interesting aspect about the Level 5 leaders was that they apportioned credit to factors outside themselves (when they got good results they credited others) and when things went wrong they took full responsibility. Called the window and mirror approach - throw credit out of window and take blame at self. So much so when they could not find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credited good luck. When things went poorly they apportioned responsibility

To move from a Level 4 (effective leader) to Level 5 leader Collins says - self reflect, engage in conscious personal development, seek a good mentor, a great teacher, (having loving parents helps) or perhaps undergo a significant life altering experience. In fact Collins says that by practicing the good to great discipline one can become a Level 5 leader.

Every good to great company had Level 5 leadership who brought a workman like diligence, a need to produce sustained results, whose ambitions were not personal but for the company and who set up successors for success. This was prerequisite number one.

II) First who...then what
Collins says - get the right people on the bus - and get them in the right seat - even before you figure out what you want to do and how. The Good to Great teams hired people wherever and whenever without even having a specific job for them in hand. When you get the right people on the bus - you have a self motivated bunch who want to be part of creating something great, who adapt faster, who don't need to be motivated.

Get the wrong people off the bus. Clearly the wrong people will not get you anywhere.

A quote from one Level 5 leader - 'I don't know where to take this company but if I start with the right people and ask the right questions and engage them in vigorous debate we will find out.'

Succession plan
Most CEOs must answer this single most difficult question - who succeeds them. The superstar successor needs to come out of multiple outstanding candidates, the best executive team and group dialogue. You need to have good bench strength.

Compensation was not a factor
Interestingly good to great executives received less compensation compared to their peers. The compensation system should get the right people on the bus and keep them there. The right people are your greatest asset.

Who are the right people?
When you hire, place emphasis on -
  • character 
  • work ethic
  • basic intelligence 
  • dedication to fulfilling commitments. 
Recruit people who share the corporate values, then provide them training to accomplish the company mission. Find their core values - who are they and why are they. Ask them questions as to why they made their decisions. (Like the World War II veteran who escaped twice after being captured - he can get out of anything.)

Ruthless vs Rigorous
Consistently apply exacting standards at all time, and at all levels, especially in upper management.
"The only way to deliver to the people who are achieving is to not burden the with the people who are not achieving."
Rigor applies first to the top management. To be rigorous in people decisions, first become rigorous in top management decisions.

How to be rigorous
1) When in doubt don't hire...keep looking
"No company can grow its revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement the growth and still become a great company. If your growth rate in revenues outpaces your growth rate in people you cannot build a great company.'
To transition from mediocrity to excellence, get the right people - from delivery boys to courteous drivers.

2) When you know you need to make a people change, act
The moment you feel the need to tightly manage, you've made a mistake. The best people don't need to be tightly managed. Guided, taught, led but not tightly managed.
In Good to Great companies people got on the bus and stayed there for a long time, or got off in a hurry.
Take time and make rigorous A+ selections upfront.
Also see - is someone in the wrong seat? Find the right role for them. Put square pegs in square holes and round in round.

Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to the right people.
Ask these questions - would I hire the person again 2) if someone was leaving, would you feel disappointed or relieved

3) Put your best people on your best opportunities, not the biggest problems
When you decide to sell of your problems do not sell of your best people. The good ones may disagree and fight on every decisions but they unify in decision. They are always looking for the best answer and for the good of the company.

The right people loved the job, loved what they were doing, the time at the company was like a love affair. Members tended to become and remain friends for life. These were great teams built for a cause.

Always who before what (vision, strategy, organization structure, tactics), apply rigorous discipline.

III) Confront Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)
Make decisions based on brutal facts. Determine the truth of the situation and the right decision becomes self evident.
Deal with the facts - do not turn a blind eye to any reality inconsistent with your vision.
People should not fear the leader. Start all meetings with a look at the previous year and then discuss things that may impede future results.
'I had not need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams."- Churchill

Leadership is about creating a space where truth is heard and facts confronted. You should be able to 'have your say' and be 'heard'.

A climate where truth is heard is one where the leader should
1) Lead with questions and not answers. Ask questions to understand and not manipulate
2) Engage in dialogue and debate and not coercion, Have intense dialogue, argue and debate and engage in healthy conflict
3) Conduct autopsies without blame
4) Build red flag mechanisms,

Turn information into information that cannot be ignored
These teams were excited at challenging the best

Stockdale Paradox
The name comes from Admiral Jim Stockdale, the highest ranked US military officer during the Vietnamese war, who survived years of torture (over twenty times). His secret - unwavering faith amid brutal facts.
"I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.'
When asked who did not make it out he said the optimists died first.
'Never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be'.
What separates people is how they deal with difficulty.

  • Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties.
  • Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.
  • Make an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth, create a culture where people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard
  • Respond to adversity differently and emerged stronger
  • Don't spend time trying to motivate people; instead hire the right people who are self motivated and then try not to demotivate them. One way to demotivate people is by ignoring brutal facts of reality
IV) Hedgehog Concept
Know one big thing well. One organizing idea, that unifies and guides everything.
Take a complex world - simplify it. Do you have it?
Eg. Freud for unconscious, Einstein for relativity, Marx for class struggle, Darwin for natural selection. What are you known for?

Example of one such concept from one of the 11 companies of the Concept - 'The best, most convenient drug stories with high profit per customer visit'.

Prune away all that does not fit with the hedgehog concept. The Hedgehog concept is a simple crystalline concept that flows from a deep understanding about the intersection of the 3 circles
1) What you can be the best in the world at (and what you cannot be)?
2) What drives your economic engine (profit per customer etc)?
3) What are you deeply passionate about?

Hedgehog concept is an understanding of what you can be best at.

Insight into your economic engine - If you could pick one and only one ratio - profit per x - to systematically increase over time, what x would have the greatest and most sustainable impact on your economic engine?

What's your companies passion? The Good to Great companies only did things that they could get passionate about.

To clarify the Hedgehog concept some of the Good to Great companies took five years. One way to moving this tough process along is a device called the Council - a group of right people who participate and debate - guided by the three circles. They should Ask the right questions. Dialogue and debate. Make decisions, Autopsy the results and learn.
Go around the cycle - Questions - Dialogue and debate - Executive decisions - Autopsies and analyses - all guided by the 3 circles - and you will gain the understanding.

V) Culture of Discipline
Liberty on one side, Responsibility on the other.

To Facilitate a Culture of Discipline + Ethic of entrepreneurship
  • Build a culture around freedom and responsibility within a framework
  • Fill the culture with self disciplined people who go to great lengths to fulfill their responsibilities
  • Adhere to the hedgehog concept, the intersection
  • Create a 'stop doing  list'
Good to great companies have consistent systems with clear constraints, but gave freedom and responsibility within the framework that exists.

The key is that Disciplined people bring Disciplined thought (thus creating the buildup momentum). Disciplined thought leads to Disciplined actions. This leads to breakthrough.

Most lack the discipline to figure out with ego less clarity what they can be the best at and the will to do whatever it takes to turn that potential into reality.
Do not discipline the organization through force. Build an enduring culture of discipline.

A stop doing list is most important. Use budgeting to determine which activities should be strengthened and which to eliminate. Discipline - do the right thing and not do the wrong thing.

What discipline do I need to bring in?

VI) Technology accelerators
"Most men would rather die than think. Many do. - Bertrand Russell
Most Good to Great companies were the crawl, walk and run companies. They took their time and grew at their pace. When the Internet came, most paused and reflected. They decided to think instead of taking hasty decisions.

Good to Great companies thought differently about technology. Their hedgehog concept drove technology and not the other way around. Technology by itself was not a prime case of greatness.
Strategy/Performance/ become the best/ winning

'I've always wanted to see it as a great company. No justification. No explanation.' - A Good to Great company executive.

Those who built Good to Great companies were not motivated by fear. (And fear being the opposite of love - one could safely conclude that they were motivated by love.) They were motivated by a deep creative urge and an inner compulsion for excellence for its own sake. They reacted with thoughtfulness and creativity, to turn unreached potential into results.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop
Flywheel - Growth
To build anything great remember - each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. Your effort must be in one direction, consistently, until it builds enough momentum to take off. It's an accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction
  • Buildup and breakthrough
  • Organic development process
  • Evolved over time
  • No name for transformations, no tag line, no event
  • No miracle moment
One Good to Great executive said -
'Don't agree with those who say you cannot build a great company because Wall Street won't let you.'
He said his company did the following
- 'Communicate with analysts to educate them on what we are doing and where we are going.'

Commit 15% but plan to deliver 25%.
With the earnings, invest in new projects
Under promise and over deliver

Tremendous power exists in the fact of continued improvement and delivery of results
Build up momentum - The right people want to be part of the winning team. They want to produce visible, tangible results. Involved in something that works. When you produce results, point to tangible accomplishments, show how it looks in the overall context.
People see results and feel buildup. They are energised. They simply knew. They saw tangible evidence.
The flywheel does the talking.

Doom Loop - Downward spiral
  • Misguided use of acquisitions - use acquisitions as accelerators of flywheel momentum. You can buy growth but not greatness
  • Leaders who stop the flywheel
What works over long haul is the flywheel. Alignment follows from results and momentum, not the other way around. Be consistent. Coherent. - magnifying effect. Diligently and successfully apply each concept in the framework

Good to Great and Built to Last
It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction - Picasso

Good to great framework works for start ups to established companies
The central concept of Built to Last is -
"Discover your core values and purpose beyond making just  money and combine this with the dynamic of the core/ stimulate progress.'

How to preserve the core and adapt?
Embrace the key concept of preserve the core and stimulate progress on the other hand

Built to last ideas
  • Clock building and not time telling (endure and adapt through generations)
  • Genius of AND (have both not one or another)
  • Core ideology - to guide decisions
  • Preserve the core / stimulate progress
Bad BHAGs are built on bravado and good BHAGs on understanding.

'Commitment made to each other' - what made these teams outperform was that they had made a commitment to one another. By using the principles you work no harder, get better results and its more fun.

'Good to Great' is a wonderful book that has several wonderful concepts and principles that companies (and individuals) can use to better their performance right away - Leadership concepts, picking the right teams, picking the approach to survive tough times, clarity of the Hedgehog concept, building a culture of discipline and use of technology to accelerate growth.  All one needs to do is answer the questions the book poses and the path appears. It comes out of deep analyses, out of facts.

That great things are built step by step, brick by brick, by following boring routines, by being clear about the overall good of the team, that the clarity of the hedgehog concept guides many such actions is evident when you apply the concepts to someone on the cusp of greatness like Virat Kohli. In fact he has already given quotes that are startlingly akin to the Stockdale paradox when he scored 80 odd against Australia in the World Cup T20 last year. His penchant for organic growth, for a culture of discipline is evident as well.

Another parallel I can draw is the one between this book and the Mindset by Carol Dweck. Both debunk the idea of the miracle. They talk of process, hard work and belief in self when things are going wrong around you. You can only come back with more effort. It helps to combine effort with clarity, discipline and the right mix of people and thoughts around you.

Dear Zindagi - Movie Review

Gauri Shinde was draw number 1 for me. Then the stars. The title was slightly off putting but I can manage. What I like about Gauri Shinde is that she gets us back into those old and familiar spaces at home - not too happily all the time but certainly by the end of it all. It's mostly about good people who stay in their spaces and readjust to small inconveniences and get back to normal lives with a hint of better things to come.

Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is doomed from the start. The talented cinematographer has a string of failed romances, a career teetering on the border of could-be-great or could fail-without-being-noticed, landlords who disapprove of single women and a bunch of loser friends. She jumps into one relationship from another, has career issues linked to relationship issues, has home issues linked to relationship issues and has too many issues that finally don't let her sleep in her family's fabulous mansion in Goa. Enter slightly different psychologist Jehangir Khan (wears jeans and beard to conference) and he counsels her, makes jokes, tells stories, bicycle rides and repairs. Kaira gets an insight each time.

The movie makes a case for a therapist, counsellor, coach, mentor and does it well. Gauri stays inside the line and makes what is still a tabooish issue something everyone can use. If Alia can, I can. Jehangir Khan also makes it a nice experience so all's well and it ends well. Alia is brilliant as always. Shahrukh understated. The friends perfect. If I was Jehangir Khan I'd tell her to lose her friends fast and get on with her life. I'd also have coffee - after all I am not conventional. And it's not an affair. He's not Lebanese type either.

DZ is fun. Could have done without the singing star in the middle perhaps. All in all, gets the story together. My big plus - a good case for therapy and reaching out to perspective or just plain talking about the tough life in a lonely world. It's not a bad thing. Alexander did it. You could too. I wish the songs had been better.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Movie Review

Jude Law is Lemony Snicket and he is typing the story of the Baudelaire children who have been chosen to face the unfortunate events. Violet is the oldest (good at making things), Klaus her younger brother who reads up thousands of books and the youngest sibling Sunny, who bites every thing she can. Armed with these qualities they rush headlong into the first unfortunate event - their house (along with their parents) has mysteriously burned down. They are taken by their friendly banker to their Uncle Olaf who is an evil Jim Carrey and he subjects them to much trouble.

They escape his plans to kill them - by stranding them on a railway track. They escape his evil designs and the kindly banker next takes them to their neurotic aunt - Meryl Streep - who lives in a crazy house on a cliff. Count Olaf somehow sneaks back into their life in a different disguise. More unfortunate incidents. Count Olaf almost tries to marry Violet - he is trying to get their wealth of course - but she escapes again. Count Olaf is finally caught and locked away and I think its all over and the movie ends. And there was Dustin Hoffman too in a couple of scenes.

Different. The key to good children's stories and movies is to make them as horrid as you can. They seem to love it. For example - kill their parents and burn their house in scene one. Got it!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Anjali - Interview at 8 and a Half

We did this a while ago and I have not finished it then (she's now nine...I need to do her ninth year interview soon). But when I asked Anjali if she would like to complete it now she says it was an old interview and should be as it is. So it will remain as it is I guess.
Cartwheeling at Golconda

Q. How's life at 8 1/2?
A. Awesome.

Q. What's awesome?
A. Awesome is awesome.

(Ok, Rephrase the question.)

Q. What do you like about life? Tell me 25 things.
A. Ice cream. Mansi. Nanna. Mamma. Baba. Shuttle badminton. Max (her cousin's dog). TV. Kindle. 101 games. Pancakes. Tarak Mehta (TV serial). Ice and water (game). Miskil (cousin). Satish Mama (uncle). Cornflakes. School. Me. Nivedita aunty. Vidur (her son). Cooking (chai, omelette). Kabaddi. Cricket. Chitra's house. Chitra. Kalyani aunty (her class teacher). Harsh. Yasvantt. Tinkle.

Q. Who makes you laugh?
A. Nanna. Mamma. Harsh (friend). Kartikeya (friend). Baba. Satish mama.

Q. What makes you scared?
A. Snakes.

Q. What makes you happy?
A. Ice cream.

Q. What makes you sad?
A. Bottle gourd.

Q. What was your biggest achievement so far?
A. Winning International silver medal in IEO (English competition). Also becoming friends with Max (cousin's dog). Also teaching tricks to Max.

Q. How'd you feel when Mamma went to the USA for 40 days?
A. Happy and sad. Happy because I could get up late and also sad because there's no Mamma.
Long road ahead

Q. When you feel down who do you talk to?
A. I write it down in my diary. Makes me happy. I feel like I am telling someone. I tell Mamma. You. Sometimes.

Q. What do you like about people?
A. Fun people (I was writing that part left handed which she found very funny). Like this. Energetic people.

Q. What do you not like about people?
A. People with bad temper.

Q. Do you think your parents are funny? Me so tall and Mamma so short? Would you like different parents?
A. It's ok I guess. No. Don't want. Other parents are too strict.

Q. What do you think of yourself?
A. I think I am nice.

Q. Tell me 3 most interesting things you liked in the past year?
A. Badminton. Popcorn. Going to Coorg.

Q. How is life?
A. Life is interesting. SO many things to do. Ups and downs.

Q. What do you think will happen when people grow up?
A. We'll become what we want to be.

Q. What will you be when you grow up?
A. A tennis player.

Q. Can the world be more fun? How?
A. Yes. Spread more happiness.

Q. How should school be? Any better way?
A. They should have dance every day.

She interviewed me a bit
Q. What;s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Me. Butterscotch (not really..but I could not think of anything else).

Q. You favorite color?
Me. Purple.

Q. Why?
A. I just like it. It's nice.

Q. Favorite food?
A. Rice and chicken curry. Sitaphal. Pongal Vada

That ended our interview. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thought for the Day - The Connection Between Love and Ego

There are two ways to approach things. One with love and another with ego.

The harsher way is the ego driven one where we are separate from all else and we are doing stuff, despite everything against us. It's is all about me, my troubles, them and their conspiracies. I am the superhero and all else cease. Simply put, ego divides, separates, threatens, makes you feel insecure and adds tons of drama. It is rigid, brittle and hard and forces things. It makes things difficult and tough.

The gentler and easier way is to approach things with love. It merges with the rest, it is malleable, it is strong and does not compare. It allows all options to show up, allows us to flow into nooks and crannies with the world and bond with the other tightly. It allows us to approach with a smile and face setbacks with love. It's a peaceful space that allows us to feel the vulnerability of being one with the other, to build power gently, to make things immediate and forever. Love makes things easier.

How do I approach things with love?
Step back. Be ok with whatever is happening. The thing about the ego is that you have to be in control. It helps to give up control. In love no one is in control - all are equal, all are helping each other along.

Build things together with wonder. Breathe. Smile.

When you do things with love, there's a way they touch others deeply. It shows. It comes back.
In a smile.

Lovely Interview with Virat Kohli by Michael Vaughan

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Anjali - But They Are Doing it For Your Own Good No Nanna

Yesterday my publisher called and said that the current demonetisation situation has affected the publishing industry as well and that the original schedule of printing and publishing my next book 'This Way Is Easier Dad' would now have to be postponed. I was half expecting this scenario. What was to be published in December (so close!) may now go to April. It was a bit disheartening but it made a lot of sense too.

Since Anjali had asked me about the book release a few days ago I decided to tell her as well.
'The publisher said that the book will get delayed Anjali,' I said. 'Maybe April.'
'Oh, April,' she said and nodded her head.

'Why?' she asked.
I told her the reasons they gave me - slow down in sales, uncertain situation etc.

She heard me out and shrugged.
'But they are only doing it for your own good no Nanna,' she said. 'It's ok.'
I smiled and said 'Yes, whatever happens is for our good.'

This is in sharp contrast to a conversation I had with my friend in the morning. I told him that the book release was now delayed by a few months. Why, he asked. I gave him the reasons. They are being stupid he said. They are doing this to look good. How will this affect them. They are simply making an issue. I told him that publishing houses make a business of selling books and so much work has gone into this book - why would they want to look good and to whom? But I could not get him to see past a conspiracy theory, a dangerous politically motivated angle.

I think I prefer Anjali's perspective.

Anjali - I am Fully Both

While discussing about a classmate at school Anjali said 'Her mother's name is also Anjali. So someone said that's probably because we're both Marathi.'
She was quite thrilled with the idea.

'But you're only half Marathi,' I said gently pulling her leg.
'No, I am fully Marathi,' she insisted playing along.
'You're half Telugu and half Marathi' I said again. 'I am Telugu and Mamma is Marathi.'
'But my mother tongue is Marathi,' she said sticking to her argument. 'So I am Marathi.'

I had no answer for that. There is no father tongue. She got me there.

She felt bad for me and conceded.
'I am both Nanna.'

I smiled.
'But I am fully Marathi and fully Telugu,' she declared.

Hmm. That's a nice way of looking at it. Instead of being half-half, be full. Or even doubly full.
What was till then - half or even a mixed half, now became two fulls. How empowering is that!

If only we could take the best out of all that makes us. Wow!

Inspiring - Virat Kohli on how he Became So Fit

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee - Jai Arjun Singh

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed 42 films, a list which include classics like 'Satyakam', 'Guddi', 'Anand', 'Golmaal', 'Chupke Chupke', 'Namak Haram', Abhimaan', 'Bemisal' and a host of other films. Without knowing who made these movies I watched 12 of them and some of them have deep influences on me. They created images and possibilities that made the world bearable and somehow saner and more secure. Jai Arjun Singh's book 'The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee - The Filmmaker Everyone Loves' puts Hrishida's lifetime of movie making into perspective - for a start I was surprised that he made so many high quality films and that I'd seen so many of his films without knowing who made them.
It's also a tribute to the kind of films Hrishi da made - I actually own at least 8 DVDs of the films he made. They are memories you want to own, to share, to dip into. They are like treasures you want to hide, maybe trinkets to some, but invaluable to you. So watching 'Anand' or 'Golmaal' or 'Namak Haraam' or 'Rang Birangi' with someone appropriate seems like sharing a favorite memory. For someone to have achieved such quality in his work, he must have had great honesty, commitment and concentration.

What I loved about the chemistry graduate's life (he went on to teach mathematics at a girl's college before joining movies), is the number of films he made in his lifetime. 42 is no easy number and when we see the filmography which starts in 1957 with 'Musafir' and ends with 'Jhoot bole kauva kate' in 1998 we can see he averages over a film a year. And to see the quality of his films especially in the late 60s and 70s is wonderful. The sheer volume of work apart, two other aspects of his came forth. One his concentration on his work (he lived alone in Bombay while his family lived in Calcutta) and which he desired from his artistes also (his getting upset at artistes getting distracted by cell phones). Another, the quality of people he constantly interacted and worked with. And to top it all, he says, that he just had to be above average to get where he got. I find that statement very powerful - do that much more to get out of the rut.The technicalities and critique of the work apart, I picked these three thoughts from the book that gave me an insight into his approach.

Hrishida was a person who many felt easy to work with, talk to. He treated people like people and not stars and Amitabh, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra and others who worked with him gave some of their best performances with him and with 'ease'. He understood music and played sitar for AIR, loved dogs (and people). He brought what they say great economy to his films which I would think shows a clear mind. His sense of humour was used in many ways to convey his acceptance of the system and it seeped into the audience.

Much to learn from Hrishida. For starters, the volume of work and the concentration on requires to rise above average. I remember watching 'Bemisal' an un-Amitabh-like movie in the 80s, and being highly impressed by Amitabh's performance as well as the unusual content of the film. To date I rate it one of his finest performances and I was happily surprised to see that it was Hrishida's creation too. I am so glad to have read this book which put everything in perspective for me and contained a lifetime of work and vignettes of a person whom I admire. Now like the author says, to watch and rewatch some of those films again. For starters 'Anari', 'Biwi aur Makaan', 'Anupama', 'Satyakam', 'Anand', 'Guddi', 'Buddha Mil Gaya', 'Bawarchi', 'Abhimaan', 'Namak Haraam', 'Mili', 'Chupke Chupke', 'Golmaal', 'Khubsurat', 'Naram Garam', 'Bemisal', 'Rang Birangi'.

Thanks Raja, for the book. Wonderful stuff.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Writer's Carnival VI - A Wonderful Initiative

There are small adorable spaces created and nurtured by enthusiasts who love writing and sharing the journey. 'Writer's Carnival VI' (for the poet and writer within you...) is one such. A brain child of Nivasini Publishers (which is the brainchild of the quietly efficient Nivedita who impresses me each time with her ability to organise events, get people together and pull off such events with ease) 'Writers Carnival' is a great space for writers to just soak in and enjoy the ambience, the informal atmosphere and  the lovely energy. Today, 'Writer's Carnival' celebrated its VIth edition at the Birla Centre and I was invited to speak.
My talk on writing sports fiction
Nivasini is all the more special because it is partial to and encourages poets. Poetry, as they say, does not sell - or this is what the publishing world believes. Poets find it difficult to find audiences, publishers. Nivedita is a poet herself, apart from writing fiction, editing and publishing, so one can understand the reason to create a special space for poets and their poetry. I feel all poets must look at Nivasini Publishers to get published. It's a contemporary and young alternative to poets.

Apart from publishing and creating spaces like 'Writers Carnival', the team of friends and family at Nivasini Publishers also manages the 'Twin Cities Poetry Club' of which my friend Abhinay Renny is a part of it appears, not to mention Sruthi. The club meets every month and poets are encouraged to read out their works to an appreciative and supportive audience. All poets in the twin cities - check this out. I met Rajesh who is an integral part of the society and he told me that they normally meet at the TMI Office behind Chutneys Secunderabad. Rajesh is a poet, an affable young man with a warm smile and an easy demeanour, and works with TMI.
A fine memento from Nivasini Publishers and GP Birla Centre presented by Nivedita's mother
This year the 'Writer's Carnival VI' was scheduled to meet at the beautiful Birla Centre, next to the Birla Planetarium. What a lovely view, what a beautiful building and what interiors. I loved it. Akhila welcomed me - I was one of the speakers - scheduled to speak on sports fiction. We started the going on at 1015.

I spoke of why sports fiction (because its like a microcosm of life, about human spirit, about definite endings), then described how I went about the  process of writing 'The Men Within' (hook, structure, characters, their back stories, narrative, duologue's, humour and drama) and addressed a few questions. Though the session was titled as a workshop, it was obvious that the writers who may want to pursue writing the genre of sports fiction would be too limited to actually hold a workshop. Rajesh and Bhavna did raise their hand to the question of who would want to write sports fiction and in the end I gifted Bhavna a copy of 'The Men Within'. She did have a couple of interesting questions too so she fully deserved it. My session was limited to my talking and sharing experiences.

Following me was the impressive young poet Trivarna Hariharan, all of 18 years, but who speaks and conducts herself with a maturity that instantly puts all age-related questions and doubts to rest. She unveiled her book of poems and proceeded to give a quick insight into the world of poetry writing, writer blocks and got everyone in the room to pen a poem down. There were lovely poems as we got to hear - one about the burden a father carries for his child in the form of a school bag, one of thoughts bouncing off walls, one of glass houses and corporate offices, one on Kashmir by was lovely to hear. Trivarna left everyone with a smile on their lips, some confidence that they could also write and express themselves and just threw the energy open. Shobha was thoroughly impressed with her and so was I. Wonderful work Trivarna.

I had to leave at that stage though I wished I could have stayed all day and soaked in the atmosphere, the energy and the ambience on top of the picturesque Naubat Pahad. The comedy writing session sounded promising just as the Qawwali on Hyderabad and poetry and environment did. But I took leave after receiving a memento from Nivedita's mother who also honored Trivarna with a memento. A cup of tea with Vinod and Shobha in the cafeteria and we left.

Well done Nivedita, Akhila, Nivasini Publishers. Keep up the good work and I hope to attend 'Writer's Carnival VII' next year.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thought for the Day - The Connection Between Complete Attention, Clarity and Love

In many ways the approach of love helps us to make the right decision in every situation. Even in the midst of turmoil or anger, resentment or stress, in situations that pose us the biggest dilemmas, if we ask ourselves this question - how can I approach this situation with love - I suspect we would come out winners.

A dose of love brings with it complete attention, stillness and clarity. Not to mention a soft and yielding approach which is the toughest to break.

From the customer at work to the relationships at home, dealing with the world at large with love enables sharper and clearer thinking, provides the space to think through and react or respond from a space that is not driven by fear. Fear is the opposite of love - so all decision making gets instantly converted to better decisions thanks to the love-based approach and not the fear-based approach.

What does the love-based approach feel like?

Let's say I am entering a meeting, a negotiation, an agreement. My initial reaction would be one of fear. Will I be taken advantage of? Will I lose? Will they win? Will I be made a fool of? All these questions are fear based and will restrict and mess with my thinking capacity.

But if I approach the situation with love, fear goes out of the window. I am already more secure. I am not here to  be hostile, I approach with love. It's easier for me to ask, to step back, to allow spaces, to seek soft spaces and properly address them without fear ruling my thoughts. I also affect the other person with my approach.

With love, I can give complete and full attention to what I have at hand - be it work or a person. When I give complete attention, I also have clarity of thought that is not obfuscated by fear. I can see and experience the stillness, and the answer that comes shining through it clearly. Love is inclusive, is gentle, forgiving and empowering.

In every thought and action, seek the approach of love.  

Balgandharva - Movie Review

Yet another of those wonderful movies that Marathi movie makers are churning out these days. Balgandharva is a biopic of the legendary theatre artist Narayan Shripad Rajhans (1888-1967). Narayan earns his title early in his life when his precocious talent is recognised and honored by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak after seeing him sing some bhajans. Many believe that he is born of heavenly talent.

Balgandharva is patronised by Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur who advises him to join the Kirloskar Theatre Company. He is fully devoted to his art and excels in the parts of women - those days men played the parts of women. What is wonderful to see is Balgandharva's total commitment to pleasing the audience for which he would spare no cost. He gets married, changes the theatre company, falls into financial troubles but retains his commitment to the audience - performing even after knowing that his infant child has died. He gives as easily as he gets, keeping only the earnings from his theatre performances - and donating even those to those paltry profits for expensive sets, perfumes and for deserving performers. Not for vanity mind you - but for completing the audience expectations. In later years he suffers due to financial troubles, is drawn to his second wife Gohar Karnataki and turns away royal donations to charity.

I loved his commitment to the audience and how he spares no effort and cost to please the audience. It automatically elevates his performance. The scene where he sings with some singers on the banks of a lake with Shantaram watching him is sublime. Subodh Bhave executes the part perfectly. It's the third movie I have watched in this theatre series - Natrang, Natsamrat and now this - all about artists who are greatly committed to their art, who philander and who finally end up in some sort of penury. Its a hard battle but in all cases - they were to blame for their financial state later on. But for devotion to art and the audience, fantastic tales to listen to and to get inspired.

Absolutely recommended. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Natsamrat - Movie Review

When Nana Patekar and Vikram Gokhale ocupy the scene, the energy is too much to hold. The scene when Vikram Gokhale and Patekar enact the scene in the Mahabharat between a soon-to-die Karna and Krishna is so good you'd watch it as many times without getting bored. When Nana says that his life journey finally comes to whether the potato wafer in the hands of the theatre experts travels from the packet to the mouth or stops midway - its what one can understand in terms of value that one brings into art, products or services.

Nana Patekar as Natsamrat, a celebrated Shakespearean theatre personality who retires and gives away all he owns to his children is brilliant. Soon he finds that his ways do not have many takers in the domestic front. As he grows older he is forgotten, and he finds it difficult to adjust to a life outside the stage. There are too may subtexts, layers and it is an intelligently told story that takes into into the artist and the man and the dilemmas of both.

Mahesh Manjrekar is churning out some high quality stuff. 'Kaksparsh' was one. Now this. I simply love these Marathi films. They are intelligent and entertaining and represent a real period of our times. Superb stuff. Nana and Vikram Gokhale are unbelievably good. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Cricket Lessons - Stillness Is the Key

After a long time I batted again today. This time I could see that my eyesight minus glasses was a shade worse than before. The ball was blurring but I could see it enough - so I proceeded to bat minus helmet as I am used to. The bowlers were good - Kartik, Sukhen, Shashank and Rawat. I prepared myself to settle in and find my balance and timing.

After a while, when the ball started coming at greater speeds, especially when Kartik, the quickest among all of them, bowled his first ball I realised I hurried into a shot in a hurry. More out of being unsure if I could handle it. I missed it and looked and felt pretty stupid. It was crude, shaky and inelegant.

It would never work I realised. I need a better way to handle the pace. And the spin.

The next ball by Kartik, I stopped moving about, and went into a still zone as he was about to bowl. Full concentration, but absolute stillness. I went completely still. And I realised I could see the ball coming at me clearly, and could play it easily. What a difference from that shaky, out-of-control moment a while ago. Every ball after that - all I had to do was go absolutely still for a moment before the bowler bowled, and it took over. I did not push, did not pre plan, did not hurry - I stayed and responded to the ball as it evolved. The ball was clearly visible, my movements were fully in control and suddenly I was in control.

I even ran Kartik down to third man easily - needs total stillness.

Just that - when the bowler was about to deliver - I was totally still. The fast bowlers and the slow bowlers - all became easy to play. It was incredible to see the difference in my reaction or rather, response.

Stillness heightens concentration.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Interesting Effect of the Black Money Purge

I went to watch a movie at prime time - the 6 pm show at Prasad's multiplex. 'Trolls' is an animated movie and Anjali had been requesting me for a while now. So we picked Mansi and went to see the movie. The visuals tell the story. 8 people inside the hall, not more than 20 cars in the parking.
At the screens - 6 pm show
The screens - 6 pm

The food court - 8 pm

The Box Office 8 pm

The parking lot
No money. No business. Everyone sits at home.

The good life. 

Trolls - Movie Review

Nice animated movie. Trolls are tiny happy creatures - singing, hugging and dancing. But they are under threat by the sad and depressive Bergens (ugly fellows who are dark also) who feel they can never be happy. The only taste of happiness they get is when they eat a troll. It is perhaps a myth floated by the villaness chef of the Bergens - an ugly woman who wants to become queen.

Anyways the trolls escape the yearly feast of the Bergens where they eat trolls and experience happiness. The trolls are not found for a long time. Meanwhile the king of the Bergens banishes the villainous chef. Far away from danger the trolls are happy singing songs and dancing until one day they are found, thanks to some loud partying, and some of them captured. The Princess of the trolls decides to get those captured trolls back and she is accompanied by her morose beau. Together they get their trolls back and also show the Bergens a way to find happiness within themselves - without adding trolls for taste.

Anjali and Mansi enjoyed themselves thoroughly. My job was limited to serving them popcorn, cola and stuff.

Prasad's Multiplex was deserted thanks to the purging of the black money that's going on and the shortage of cash in the market. There were 8 people in the theatre, none when we entered. 20 cars. 30 people in the mall. Unbelievable.

The Money Consciousness Game and the Black Money Purge

I played a game called the money consciousness game as part of the Radical Manifestation workshop I did some years ago. The games start and have a particular rule - but what's interesting is what happens when the bell goes off.

Your money position when the bell goes off determines your money consciousness.
Some people have more then they started with, some have less, some are even. It's totally random. It's a perfect mirror.

The government rang the bell and what you had then reflects your money consciousness. If you just got rid of your cash, or put them in the bank, you're in good space. If you just got some cash that you cannot use now, you're in bad space.

The consciousness speaketh. Be aware and try to change it.

How to change it?

Attend the workshop. :)

Matilda - Road Dahl

Anjali gave me a deadline once day. 'Read Matilda' she told me soon as she had finished reading the book and dumped it on me. I love Roald Dahl and had no problem picking the book up to read. In the process I discovered a few tips that Roald Dahl used while writing for children.

One classic line I learned from some great children's writer is - "Never talk down to children. You must always talk up to them." Superb. Let's see what Roald Dahl did with this book.

The story is brief. Matilda is a small kid who appears low on confidence. Quiet too. Her family is rather loud. In fact her entire environment is loud - school, principal etc. Her father is a dishonest used car salesman, her brother dotes on his father and her mother is an overbearing and loud woman. Matilda likes reading her books and devours book in the library by the dozen and is way too intelligent for her age. Her teacher Ms. Honey spots her intelligence and tells the principal to reward her. But instead the cruel principal finds fault with Matilda. In the end it turns out the Ms. Honey is saved from the Principal's designs thanks to Matilda's super powers.

Dahl has made all the characters who are authority figures really black. Matilda's life is lonely and sad and only Ms. Honey and the librarian Ms. Phelps are nice. The others are really horrid to her - perhaps that's the way we come across really. The villains are especially cruel. The story moves here and there and suddenly finds some course by the end. My big lesson - get into the child's shoes and don't preach. Make black really black and white really white. And don't over dramatise the sad parts.

My normal instinct while writing children's stories is to make them goody goody. They are not into goody goody - they have a clear sense of good and bad, white and black and that's what makes sense to them. Nice.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Too Had a Love Story - Ravinder Singh

Ravinder Singh is a hugely popular romance writer. Whenever I ask the Landmark Bookstore salesmen about the biggest book events they have had, they always mention Ravinder Singh as a popular draw. The girls just love him.
I saw this book lying at home and decided to read it. It's his first. Not too far into the book, you get the feeling that there is something real about it. There is an honesty, an authenticity that fiction can never achieve. The only part that does not stick is when Ravinder Singh tries to make light of his huge tragedy. Ravinder Singh's novel starts with his college days, slips quickly into his job and then a search for a marriage partner which ends with his meeting the effervescent Khushi. An intense long distance affair later, they meet. Parents, escapades, a deeper connect and we are all set for love when tragedy strikes.

It's a tough story to write and Ravinder Singh does full justice to it. He is honest and keeps it honest. He deserves all his success. No better tribute to Khushi and his love, and for all such loves.

Nice Link - John Berger's interview

An Exile - Madison Jones

The book is slim at 155 pages and was made into a movie (I Walk The Line) starring Gregory Peck. More importantly it was hand picked by the master who knows all the masters, Vinod Ekbote, and given to me to read. So I read.

Madison Jones has a distinct way of telling stories. For someone like me who cannot always make the connections until I see a clear proof, its a bit challenging. So people say something and not say something, people do and not do, and we must infer.

Hank Tawes is a fine character, forty year old and a sheriff, who prides himself on his honesty and integrity. But he's fallen for a woman, not of the high morals that he is used to and is completely smitten by her. The woman is the daughter of a known moonshiner. Lust overpowers his clarity and he lets the law breakers go. He even wants to divorce his wife and marry his lust. So smitten is he that he lets the criminal gang go even after he suspects that they killed his deputy - a corrupt one - and another associate. Tawes lust seems to  finally claim him but that is not shown clearly. I'd have liked a doctor examine him and pronounce him dead. The lady of his affections makes off with the villain. But then, who is the villain?

The paradox between the righteous and the not righteous, their actions and their words, stands out starkly. Finally, we are all made of clay and can only have the best intentions it appears. If we identify too much with something, we are missing something really big there.

Why is it called 'The Exile?' It was published in 1967. It cost 5 p in the UK.

Nice Link - 20 Genius Business Cards

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thought for the Day - When You Mess Up, Hold On a Sec, Else You're Really Dead

The other day I wrote a long blog post while writing a review of the 'Decision Book'. There were 50 decision making models and I wanted to capture a whole lot of them in a couple of lines. It took a lot of effort that spread over two days. Just as I was easing into the final draft and fine tuning a word and a phrase, I did something that I had not done in years - I brushed against some key on the key board and the entire lot of some 2000 odd words and a few hours of concentrated work just disappeared off the screen.


My heart went cold.

I messed up. And colossally. It's a feeling I am familiar with.

My typical reaction when I mess up colossally is this - Cover up. Run. (If I can.)

And even as my mind tried to tell me 'hey pal, there is some undo function somewhere so don't panic, just hold on, hold yourself, don't do anything stupid, don't do any knee jerk stuff, hold on, we can do it, trust me...' and while this rational side was talking to me gently and trying to convince me not to do anything stupid - my let's-run-away aspect frantically hit some back button without thinking.

The entire browser disappeared. And with it, I realised, with a sinking heart, all chances of any recovery. I had followed one stupid act with a bigger stupider act. Why had I not listened to that voice and held my hands and kept them away from the key board. I reopened the browser - the post was empty.

The truth came home. I have to write that post again.

I then noticed the back button in the blog screen. Over that was some other back button that took me out of the blog screen and shut me out of any sort of recovery.

In my calm anger, later, after the horse had bolted, I told myself. Next time, keep your hands off in such a situation. Just stay off. Relax. Act very carefully, very deliberately. This is when you have to think and think and think again and only then, when absolutely sure, act with great deliberation.

If you cannot hold yourself for that one second, when you feel like quickly covering up before anyone (including you) can see, against what all your senses say, you've pretty much lost the situation.

Here are the steps when you mess up colossally.
Mess up.
Heart goes cold.
Tie hands behind your back.
Close your eyes.
Then start, slowly.
Very slowly.
Think. Think. Think.
When absolutely sure - untie hands and act.

That's the only way to get out of the ditch. To retrieve the situation with minimum losses.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How I Survived My TEDx Talk at VNR VJIET

It started with a mail in my inbox on March 12, 2015. The mail came from Abhinay Renny, the young novelist and final year student from Vignan Jyothi Institute of Technology, who had invited me as a guest for his book launch. His mail said that he was proposing to hold a TEDx event at his college with 'Unshell' as the theme. Could he propose me as a speaker and could I furnish an idea that he could submit to get the license? He had read my writing, my blogs and thought my ideas would be worth sharing.

Wow! A TEDx talk. Flashes of all the great TEDx talks I had seen and that I had forced upon many other unsuspecting people flashed through my mind - Simon Sinek, Sean Stephenson, Ken Robinson, Josh Kaufman, Derek Sivers etc.

I wrote back the next day - something to this effect  "Abhinay, I am not an expert at anything - let me think if I have anything worthwhile t share." Abhinay was all patience. Sure sir, he replied. It was too preliminary so I stepped back too. Did I match up to the TED stage?

I had some time to think. Undoubtedly TED was a fantastic brand to be associated with and it certainly was a great opportunity. But was I ready for it? What do I speak about? The more I thought of it the more I was inclined to decline. Thankfully there were no further mails from Abhinay for a while.

I waited for the next mail from them to give my final answer (then, a No). Sure enough, one fine day after a couple of months, a gentle reminder came - any ideas yet? No, none. I stayed silent. I was not sure I would even want to participate.

Confirm please
Finally on March 12, 2016, a dreaded official looking mail with the TEDx logo appeared in the inbox - "Mr. Harimohan Paruvu, we need to finalize, are you on?"
I hated the mail. I hated the fact that I had to make up my mind now. I was mentally oriented to saying No. For greater clarity I asked Anjali, my eight year old (then), what she thought I should do.
"Wow!' said Anjali, her eyes going wide. "A TEDx talk? My art teacher shows me some talks Nanna. They are really nice. You must do it Nanna." she said all excited.
That decided it.

I called Abhinay saying Yes.

It Has to be My best talk
Things got moving rapidly after that. I got another mail in a couple of days thanking me for agreeing to be a speaker. There was a formal tone to it. It had two attachments with 1) speaker guidelines and 2) the TED commandments.

Speaker guidelines told us to talk to a smart audience, be youth oriented, creative, use music, pictures, videos etc to make it all more eye catching and engaging. But mainly wrap up the talk in 18 minutes.

The TED commandments told us to dream big and make it the best talk we ever delivered in our life. It must be an idea that can change the world. We were to show the real us. Show our passions, fears, vulnerabilities. Speak of our success as well as failure. Make the complex plain. Tell stories. Be specific and give examples. Connect to the emotions and make the audience go with you. Focus on one single aspect. In short deliver a fabulous talk.
Also, give us the details of the talk in two weeks.
What would you like to talk about?

Ah, that was what I did not know.

And - I had to give the best talk of my life. That was the expectation. Deep breath. Okay.

Choosing the topic
I wrote back in a couple of days - on March 5, 2016. I decided to talk about high performance. I gave a structure. For 18 minutes. It is my biggest story - where I scored 158 as an opener and won the match for us - and some nice insights. How we could raise our performance with sheer focus. It would have been an entertaining and powerful talk. Yes. This was good I thought. I sent off the basic structure in the mail.

The reply came after a couple of days.

The Team did not approve of the topic. They were nice and all that but felt it was an idea that was not new. How about another idea? Like 'How a cricketer thinks while writing' or even 'The struggles of a writer'. In fact Abhinay gave me a topic from the blog about Anjali and her business venture. I felt that was not a great idea to share on TEDx. To help me along he sent me a talk by TED curator Chris Anderson on what makes a great TED talk.

But I was taken aback. Even irritated. Now what do I speak about? I went into a shell. I did not respond for almost ten days after that. They needed a topic though. The event date was two weeks away.

So I called Abhinay and we discussed. We decided that maybe I should talk about the stuff I knew a bit about - cricket, writing, and the connector - creativity. It was pretty much the first idea he had proposed. I put down a loose structure for the 18 minute talk and shared the idea on March 20, 2016. Is this ok? The response was immediate and over the top. Superb, said the team spontaneously. This idea represents the theme of the TEDx talk - Unshell. I was also blown away by their response. Ok topic set - Cricket, Creativity and Writing. Most of the structure done. Some fine tuning and I should be fine. I had delivered 1 hour talks and even 2 hour talks till then - so 18 minutes should be okay I thought.

Use a Presentation or not
Then came stuff like - if you have a presentation, could you send it? I have never used a presentation in any talk. So I asked if I was ok to not use one. Abhinay liked it. That's the best way he said.

Preparation for the talk of my life
As the date came closer, I realized I could not let it go too late though I had much of it under control. It had to be the talk of my life. So I sat with my first draft - a full week ahead of the program.

10 Drafts
I wrote and rewrote the draft 10 times. I was clear I wanted to talk to those who felt they were somehow disadvantaged - size, colour, gender, sex - and made a symbol of the fast bowlers to represent that section.

Each draft became sharper, ideas got clearer. I wanted to get three clear ideas across - that creativity was hard labour to me be it in cricket or writing, that anyone could create if they worked hard at it and took complete responsibility for it and that creation could be done easily as one evolves, with love, and not just through sheer strength. Each draft brought a sharper thought, an image, a joke, a finer idea. Until I felt I had it all under control by the 10th draft - a day before the event.

Writing vs Speaking - Practiced delivering the speech thrice a day
Everyday for the whole week, I also delivered the speech aloud into a mirror - to even it out, iron it out, three times a day. Each time I'd adjust the talk some. It would read oddly some places. The opening would sound weak. Some lines would not fit into the next and I'd not remember the sequence. I had to keep the beginning and ending strong and have enough content in the body to keep the flow going.
Whatever happened, I would have to live my speech. I would leave no stone unturned for the preparation.

My Slot on the D Day 
As D day came closer I asked what was my slot. Abhinay asked me when I would prefer to speak. i said I could go early. Get done with it. I asked how many speakers were there? Who were there? What was expected of us? Should we be there all through? Yes, he said. Please listen to the others too.
The air was getting heavy.

Shirts, Shoes etc
There were no decent clothes to wear so Shobha and I bought a pair. All other stuff was okay.

2 Days Before D Day - Problem
I realized that I would be speaking directly with no props. No presentation, no cards, no cues. Since it was just 18 minutes I packed in a lot into the lines, I could not ramble. I needed to have my thoughts absolutely clear and the flow fully sorted.

That's when I realized that there was a problem in my preparation. Normally I have three main points, with three sub points each and I can go on for hours with those points in my head. But here I realized I had written the speech such that each sentence led to another and if I forgot one sentence, the entire structure could collapse. But I was too deep into it. I just had to prepare better.

Ice Breaker - Speaker Meet
The team called. They were having an ice breaker party. Could I attend?
Amidst all this, Shobha's mother was getting her pacemaker fitted so we were travelling up and down to the hospital in Kondapur. I skipped the ice breaker for two reasons. One was the hospital duty but more importantly I didn't want anyone to mess with my head. I wanted full focus on the job.

Forgetting Lines - Panic
As I worked harder, I found myself forgetting my lines more frequently, far earlier into the speech than I liked. I forgot the main points, the punches. If I remembered the jokes I'd forget the next line or an important point. It was just the way it was structured and written.

I decided to try my 18th delivery on Anjali, who was my first live audience.

She sat on the bed as I stumbled and stuttered through the talk. It was appalling. I forgot stuff, I hemmed and hawed. But I finished it. Credit to her, she listened to the whole thing. At the end, I asked, how was it.

'Awesome', she said. I knew clearly that she saw my messing up, that she got bored. But she also realized I needed that encouragement.

Just what I needed. Was I glad I did not try this in front of an adult? I gave her a hug.

I knew all the gaps and went to fix them. On and on. Next day was the D day. I was at a stage when I felt it could all just crash. Maybe I should have used a presentation?

D - Day - April 2, 2016
In the morning I got a call. We will send the car early. I asked when I was speaking. They said I was speaking last. You're the show stopper, Meghna said. I was not sure. I would have to wait all day. I asked if I could come a little late so I could prepare some more. They were incredibly flexible for such young organizers.

More preparation.

I delivered the speech to an adult audience. Raja and Shobha listened as I delivered my speech emotionlessly and unconvincingly. I knew it did not fly. But I also knew where I was missing things. They gave me a couple of suggestions. At this stage I could not change more than a couple.

At the Venue
I dressed up. I stuck to my favorite shirts however and not the new ones. I was all buttoned down, not my usual style. Stiff. I went late as planned.

I met Chakravarthula and Abhinay and the others in the committee. I was given a  kit, an id card. I had tea. There was the first break. I saw Ramana Gogula and his star presence as the children flocked around him. I went back to the room to prepare. I was getting worse. Now I was skipping lines from the beginning itelf. I told Abhinay I would like to skip all the morning sessions and prepare some more. He said it was fine.

Just when it looked like I could not do worse - Rooh came. Shreya, Sruthi, Nitin and Vivek, members of the band Rooh, were playing at the event. They spoke to me and talking to them took my mind off the speech. They told me how nervous they were feeling. I smiled. Little did they know my state. Then we had lunch.

The afternoon session started at 2 pm. I could not skip any more talks because the doors to the venue would be shut. Now, it was show time. I found a corner to sit in and watched the talks and the performances, mentally running the lines.
Nope. I was still forgetting.

Panic Rising
I watched a band perform. Prasad Kantamaneni spoke about design. A fine talk. But I thought of my speech. I was forgetting the third line. I wished I had a presentation like he had too. Most of what he said was washed away in the sounds of my panic. Seetha Murthy spoke next. She had a presentation too. I was getting worse each time I tried to think my opening lines.

My turn next.

If I forget the lines, the flow, which I was most likely to in my state, it would be a colossal disaster. My best talk would be the biggest embarrassment for me. I looked to see if all the doors were really shut. For a  moment I wondered if I should make a bolt for it.
It was really that bad.

Rooh played. They did a wonderful job. One song stayed with me - of how hope comes out of despair. from the darkest pits to the grandest heights. All is not lost. Ever.
Wow! They were singing to me. (Check out the part 3.01 - 3.40)
Somewhere I found a flicker.

Focus, Focus
I talked to myself. This is like any tight situation in a game. I had once saved my team from a 20 for 7 chasing 120. Same situation. Relax. Then I ran over the facts. I thought of my preparation. I could not have done more. 10 drafts. 20 odd rehearsals. I knew that stuff I was speaking about intimately. It was my story. With so much preparation behind me I cannot go wrong.
Unless I messed the delivery.

Less than 3 minutes to go. I needed to pull myself together.

The Self Talk and the Visualization - Pulling it back 
So I told myself that I was prepared more than needed. Now, all I had to do was to deliver what I had prepared for.

First, I told myself to stop the panic, the negative thoughts in my head and focus on the outcome I wanted. Just like I had written in the speech that one should hold on to that beautiful outcome they wanted.I saw in my mind the outcome I wanted for the briefest moment - the entire audience clapping, the best talk of the day. I held that vision.

Second, I looked at what I was worried about. That the audience may not like it. I decided I was not going to seek or play for their approval. I will own that stage. Those 18 minutes are mine. I will tell my story from there. That thought shifted the balance of power. It was about me and not them.

I stopped trying to remember the speech. I trusted my preparation.

As a mark of the change in my mood, I rolled back my sleeves. I wore my glasses on stage which was a first. I was now in that space where you feel you are being carried on some light space by some angels. My introduction was given. I walked up. I was relaxed.

My stage. My talk.
I will make it worth your while.

The Performance
I started tentatively
'My cricket coach of thirty years...'

The room was dark. The spotlight was on me. I could see no one. But I could sense the audience checking me out, my nervousness, my talk. After the first few minutes, came the first murmur, and then most unexpectedly a laugh when I least expected it. It was to be a turn in the flow.
'You get it, I said 'fast bowlers are slow'. It was a surprise. They laughed tentatively at first and then long and hard.

Then the talk went on. Line after line came magically to me from my subconscious. One point I missed the flow, for a few seconds, that was a tough place in the speech. I waited it out and then caught the next line. 12 minutes into the speech and I was well and truly in. I could feel a connection with every singe member in the audience. I knew I had their attention fully. The story unfolded. They wanted to hear me. They could sense the preparation. I forgot nothing. All the points I wrote got through and well. I slowed down in the final stretch. It was a performance - and I knew by then the verdict.

"...Clean bowled!" Ah.
The applause I had visualized.

The talk.

The Peace
The act of delivering of the talk was everything that I spoke about in the content of the talk. I literally walked the talk. The hard work, the patience, the trust and finally the love. ' need courage to see the outcome..till the entire field of possibilities...from being the victim to being a it with love...' As I went back to my seat Rao garu came over to congratulate me. Other speakers did. Ramana, Sandhya, I met them. Some members of the audience. A lovely memento - an illustration of mine by Kittu, some pictures.
Kittu's illustration - Beautiful memento
In his speech Abhinay referred to a few points I had made in my talk so I knew that I had got the message across clearly enough. That little talk he gave was a wonderfully mature talk and a great validation for me.

I heaved a quiet sigh of relief. It was over. We were over the line. The same feeling. A nice emptiness.

Did I give my best talk? I don't know. But I gave it all I had. Maybe now in retrospect I could have done better. Someone said 'hey you did not move on stage'..'you could have held a prop'... Yes. I could have. Maybe next time. Right now I'll take this. That if I could get out of that situation, I think I can back myself to get out of most.

Someone got me a cup of coffee. I met the band members again.  Couple of pictures. And then I was in the car, heading home.

Job well done.

Anjali - And the Cat

After many attempts at getting herself a pet dog (and after some dead pet fish), Anjali adopted a stray cat. A small one she calls Maya. Maya comes every morning (I think she lives there under the washing machine - by the back door) and looks rather sadly into the house all the time. Anjali gives it some Whiskas (she made me buy it) and milk at some preset times.
Maya is a tiny speck on the far right - but that expression cannot be missed
One of those times is 7 in the morning. It is a common sight these days to see Anjali rushing out of bed and hurrying straight to feed the cat (who is already waiting with big, sad eyes). There is another time in the evening. She did some training as well - by not giving Maya food until she stayed back. Some research also was done on how to identify if Maya was a male or female cat and it appears that it is female. I don't know how.

Currently the arrangement is working out well for Maya. And Anjali of course. She is quite happy with this situation.

Radical Manifestation Workshop – The Fine Art of Creating All You Want

The tag line says it all – “the fine art of creating all you want”. As with everything else, there is a process to manifesting things and getting what you want. There is a reason why some people manifest things easier than others and why some do not. The ones who do, follow the process.

We can all benefit by understanding this tried and tested process. With constant practice and an understanding of how it works, we can master the method and create what we want.

The ‘Radical Manifestation’ process is developed by Colin Tipping and has been in use for the past 20 years. It uses tools and techniques that prepare the mind and improve its consciousness. It helps you to ask for what you want and to receive it. The tools taught in the workshop supercharge the Law of Attraction.

What would you like to manifest?What if someone asks you - what would you like to manifest? It’s always difficult to answer this question. I find it extremely difficult.

Money. Material Possessions. Relationships. Peace. Happiness. Abundance. And more.

How clear are you about what you want, how comfortable are you with the idea of asking for it and how prepared are you to receive if it does become a reality?

Is it possible to manifest them by ourselves?
Though we’d like many things (including all of the above) we also have a sinking feeling that we are not destined to possess them. There is a reason why we feel so – our conditioning, our beliefs – make us believe that it is not within our power to do so. But there are ways to overcome these obstacles in our way. The Radical Manifestation workshop shows how to create what you truly want, how to bring peace around your money and material possessions and allow abundance to flow into your life,

The Radical Manifestation Workshop
The content of the 1 day workshop is developed by Colin Tipping of the Radical Forgiveness Institute of Atlanta. It includes the following
· Assumptions, Theory, an introduction to RM Tools, Practice of the tools
· Six Steps to Radical Manifestation
· PowerShift Group Experience (Group Activity)
· Meaning of Money - Your Money Personality
· Practicing the Money Consciousness Worksheet
· Raising Your Income Set Point
· The Money Game (Optional)

The ‘Money Game’, an optional aspect to the workshop, shows you how your money consciousness plays out when you deal with money. It requires you to actually play the game with real money. Since it is a game, you must be prepared to win or lose. You may end up with more or less than you came with. It is about the flow of money and provides an understanding into your unconscious relationship with money. It is exciting, fun, and very, very enlightening. It prepares you to deal with money once you start manifesting larger amounts.

Why This Workshop?
The workshop gives practical, down-to-earth methods, tools and useful information to manifest. It is experiential and helps you to fully integrate the material at the deepest level.

The Facilitator
Shobha Nargundkar is a Radical Forgiveness and Radical Living Coach, Integrated Clinical Hypnotherapist and Workshop facilitator. She trained with Colin Tipping, at the Radical Forgiveness Institute at Atlanta, USA and has coached and helped hundreds of people through her workshops, individual coaching and therapy sessions.

Workshop Schedule 
Time : 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM ( 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm Money Game)
Date : 12th November, 2016, Saturday.
For more details call/email : 9848344671,

Radical Manifestation is a process and the workshop provides a powerful introduction to your beliefs about money. With increased awareness of your own beliefs and of the process, you can, by practicing it, improve your money consciousness.

My ExperienceI did a 3-day Radical Manifestation workshop a decade ago. It was money very well spent. I learned many things about my money consciousness (non-existent), my money beliefs and it made me aware of an important aspect of my life - money. I was wanting things on one hand and was actively working against them on the other hand. My awareness since the workshop then, has been constantly growing. In material terms much of what I had wanted to manifest has been created in the past decade and of course there is still much more to learn. I am happy to say that the practice is getting more and more fine tuned. I’d recommend the workshop without reservation. It will change your life in more ways than one.