Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Talk at the The Nephrologist's Convention "Batting on Two Wickets"

Dr. Krishnan kindly invited me to talk at the monthly Nephrologist's Convention on the 20th of January at Leonia Resorts. I was more than happy to oblige because he is one of my favorite doctors and people. The talk was to center around the two main themes of my life - cricket and writing and was part of a new initiative - to introduce topics beyond Nephrology.
Me and Dr. Krishnan

The talk flowed on these lines.

The Joke
I heard this joke when I was young and never used it. This is the perfect place to tell this joke. Three inpatients of a psychiatric ward are due for their review. The first one goes for his review and is asked to show where his feet are. He points to his hands and is rejected. The second is asked about his hands and he points to his feet and is rejected. The third is asked the same questions and he surprisingly points to the right parts. When he goes out the other two ask him how he did it when they failed. He points to his brains and says proudly – kidneys.
Batting on two wickets

I cannot speak at a Nephrologist's convention and not tell a kidney joke. But I love my kidneys and I am sure everyone here loves their kidneys as well – wherever they are.

Cricket and Similar Organ Transplants
There is a reason why I began this talk with that joke. Because in cricket we suffer from similar ailments where the wrong organs end up in the wrong place.. For instance, we fast bowlers are also referred to in ways that neurosurgeons and orthopedicians might find interesting. The general saying is that fast bowlers have their brains in their knees. Or in Hyderabadi "Dimag ghutnon mein hai".

Fast Bowling and Writing
Now fast bowlers are considered dumb by sportsmen standards. Sportsmen are considered dumb by normal standards. If society were sitting in a lecture hall like this, the smarter ones would be sitting up front, like the writers etc. The sportsmen would be occupying the last benches. And if the hall was to be filled exclusively with sportsmen, fast bowlers would still be among the last benches of the last benches. That’s how far we are from writing. Why a fast bowler become a writer.

The Curiosity Factor - How Can A Fast Bowler Also Be A Writer
I think the curiosity factor is how does a cricketer chooses a career like writing. And not just for a hobby. I gave up a nice paying job to write. Proves what they say about fast bowlers again. And again.

The Cricket Story
In the first part of my life, my interests lay with cricket. However I played with no creativity. I'd show up and hope things would happen. But things did not happen by themselves and we lost many times. It was a painful experience. After many such losses I decided one day to create.

Creativity in Cricket - Created a Win
That incident changed my life. I relate it everywhere – on talks on ownership, on process, on 10 x performances, on quality control. This was a match played between Osmania University and VST in 1986.

I had just been dropped from the Ranji Trophy side. I was desperate to get back in. The first match after being dropped I got six wickets. A five wicket haul would help my case further.  VST was a good side. I bowled my heart out 28 overs 2 maidens 128 runs and 2 wickets. VST got 350 in 90 overs. I was distraught. Something went in my mind. I decided to get the 128 runs I had given away. I told my captain I will open. He said yes. I went straight home to minimize distractions. I planned on playing all 90 overs. I planned on how not to get out - straight bat, no improvisations, no airy shots, no playing at balls outside my stumps, no letting ball hit pads, no cheeky runs. Every single way in which I could get out I tried to negate in my head. I did that until I got the picture clear in my head. Once the template was clear I slept. It took me six hours to get each detail in place - mentally.
Next morning I woke up early, picked my most comfortable clothes, my cap and headed to the ground. I warmed up, picked my kit and set out to bat.
I made one mistake when I was 28 - I poked at a delivery outside the off stump. The next mistake I made was in the 66th over. I tried to improvise a straight ball to the onside and was bowled. I got 158 not out by then in a score of 266. we won the match.

I had created the win. I designed, planned and executed it to perfection. I felt I could do anything after that.

A few things happened that day.

  • I felt I seized control from god. It looked like god also gave me the power to change circumstance if I willed it and if I prepared for it. I realized I had this formula to pretty much pull off anything. An impossible, seemingly impossible thing.
  • I can pull off 10x performances with no further preparation, no further skill, just a reorganization of my thought. 
  • If I take full responsibility, I get full freedom
  • I realised that if I needed to find a solution I needed to look deeper into the problem - however complicated it may look

It did not sink in immediately otherwise I would have done better at cricket. It sank in slowly that I could decide and pretty much pull off anything.

So after about two decades, I decided to bid my well paying, finance job good bye and jumped into the world of writing. Where I’d left cricket midway I decided I would not abandon my love story with writing. I am prepared to write for life.

The Writing Story
Writing is also a bit like the fast bowler's story. I work hard at it. I am not trained - have minimal skill. My first novel was written almost two decades ago. It had 1 lakh words. I wrote and rewrote it for five years, approached and got rejected by all the publishers in the world. Its still not published.But unlike cricket I had decided not to give up writing after one (hundred) rejections. So I wrote another which was also rejected, then another which was also rejected and then came the fourth which got published. 'The Men Within- A Cricketing Tale' was also made into a Telugu movie called Golconda High School.
Two more books after that and another one on the way.

You may ask, but what about the fine thoughts. How about creativity? Writer's block?
I work at writing as I should have worked at cricket. Very hard. I do not get my best thoughts upfront. Its only after several drafts, almost at the final drafts that I get the finest thoughts. That I can get the idea together. Writer's block or not, we write those three thousand words every day .

I do not believe creativity is a flash of inspiration. It’s that thought I get after I have explored the entire field of possibilities. As we write more, we get more honest and we get better as we work at it with an attitude to grow. The same thing happened to me in cricket - after many losses I got that urge to create that win.

Creativity and Responsibility
To me creativity is responsibility. It is ownership. Not 50%, not 90% but 100% ownership. That is when you understand the relationship between ownership and freedom, and creativity.

The Process Grows You - Betters You
From feeling no control at all over the process, we realize we can create something if we take ownership and go after it. After some experience of going hard at creating what we want we know we can do it simply, without struggle. With love. We can do more with less - as cricketers do with timing. We can say more without saying anything - as the greatest writers do.

What Helps me In Writing That I Learned from Cricket
Optimism, resilience, persistence. I am here for good. I will do what is required to learn the craft of writing. I will explore various mediums of expression for writing. I gave up in cricket when I was rejected once, here I will not. we will see it to the end of its line.

The Two Wickets Are The Same
That’s how the two wickets are not really different. I don’t think any two crafts can be different. The more I study the aspect of expertise, the more I realize they talk of putting in the number of hours to learn and get better, a learning mindset, a scientific approach that can replicate the process in the lab, concrete results.  Cricket, writing, nephrology are all the same. We can use the process to produce 10x performances.

Why Am I Here?
You seek out people who vibe on your wave length. A few years ago, almost seven years ago, when I had a kidney issue I was looking around for nephrologists. After meeting two doctors I chanced upon Dr. Krishnan. Even before I met him I saw this note on his door. It was something I read in a Readers Digest when I was young and had written it down. When I lost that diary I felt absolutely shattered.  When I saw the note printed and pasted on Dr. Krishnan's door I knew I found who I was searching for. Let me read it out to you.

To remember me
At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens don't call this my 'DEATHBED', call it my 'BED OF LIFE' and let my body be used by others to lead fuller lives.

Give my eyes to a man who has never seen a sunrise,
a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman,

Give my heart to a person whose heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain,

Give my blood to a teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car,

Give my kidneys to one who depended on a machine to exist from week to week,

Take my bone, my muscle, every nerve from my body to find a way to make a crippled child walk,

Explore every corner of my brain, take my cells and let them grow
so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow,

If you must bury something, let it be my faults and weakness and all my prejudices against my fellowmen,

Give my sins to the devil and my soul to God,

If you do what I asked, then I will live forever.

I wrote it on a piece of paper while I waited for Dr. Krishnan and when he came I told him how significant these lines were for me. I had been searching for them for 25 years. He gave it to me. And that began a fine relationship with one of the most compassionate men I have met.
And that’s why I am here as well.

Thank you

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