Friday, August 31, 2018

A Priceless Gesture by Joel Wilson

Joel Wilson and I played cricket for All Saints High School in the one year that I played, 1982. He was a good off spinner and batsman, and always a fun guy to have around. Years after school we still kept in touch somehow and he came around for the book launches of '50 Not Out' and 'This Way Is Easier Dad'. Apart from meeting at school reunion parties Joel and I share our cricket connection and a few laughs about the world, over the phone. He is one guy who calls frequently and exchanges pleasantries and we laugh about it all.
Setting up for the photo shoot
So it was a lovely surprise when he called me the other day and said he wanted a copy each of all my books because he wanted to gift them to his daughter Cinderella who is studying medicine in China. I was rather surprised at this request - no one had ever asked me for all four books and that too for their children. Most seem to think I am a rather dangerous influence on their kids and some actively keep me away from their kids, so this was a huge moment for me. I said I will keep a set ready and he said he would come and pick them up.
Smile - Joel and I and my life work so far
I forgot about his request until he called me the other day and said he was coming down from Nagole to pick up the books. What! He was serious? I had to leave early so told him to come by 830. And come he did and picked up the books. We had a cup of chai, laughed about this and that, called Rajesh Chetty, another cricketer friend from All Saints. Rajesh asked me what Joel was doing at my place so early in the morning. I told him that Joel did what no one had done so far - come all this way to a set of my books for his daughter. Rajjesh said - you need one friend like that among a hundred. I fully agree. Joel - you did make me feel so happy my friend, with your gesture. Joel bought them all of course.
What a beautiful setting for a beautiful moment!
But then I suddenly realised that the last copy of TWIED that I had was now gone and wondered what to do. It did not seem appropriate that Joel's gift to Cindy should not have 'This Way Is Easier Dad' which is all about father-daughter conversations. I searched high and low and finally gave away my first copy of TWIED - something that I normally retain as mine. But Joel deserved it and so did Cindy and  I hope she enjoys reading them all. A priceless moment deserved another priceless return gesture.

In those few minutes of chatting I knew so much more about Joel than I had before. And then it was time for him to go. That's a memorable moment in my life for sure. Thanks Joel and good luck Cindy. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Parched - Movie

Four women in rural India and how they cope with society and its double standards. Powerful.

Rangasthalam - Movie

Lovely. Finally someone got the Andhra village flavour right. Ramcharan is fantastic to watch. Good stuff.

The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, America was represented by a team of nine University of Washington boys who were an unlikely crew to make it that far.  The boys go on to win the gold and upset Germany and Hitler a bit. However, the story is more about how the boys in the boat come together against many odds to achieve what they do.

The author Daniel James Brown, met Joe Rantz, one of the boys in the boat in his late years and heard from his the story of the gold medal-winning eight-man boat race from the University of Washington. Rantz has one of the toughest childhoods anyone can imagine - mother dies, father abandons the family, comes back with a stepmother, has children from her and turns the fifteen-year-old out of the house. Those are the days of the Great Depression and its a wonder Joe survives but he does. Joe makes it to school and then college. He realises that if he gets on the rowing team he could get a scholarship and gets in.

Rantz is the odd ball in the team - he seems like someone who is not a team player though he is strong and can row on and on. Going by his past, there is little chance that he will be a  team player - Rantz survived because he told himself he does not need anyone including his father. The Coach of the University team Al Ulbrickson is gunning to beat the University of California team, the favorites, and preparations begin from the first year. He forms combinations, changes combinations, tries all sorts of things and finally goes with his gut. His team, the one with Rantz and the crew, on their day, row like champions. He decides to go with them. The team beats the University of California and gets selected to represent America at the Olympics in Berlin. A time when Berlin was simmering with anti-Jew feelings and Aryan supremacy was being touted.

The boys make it despite certain issues and comfortably so. They win the goal, Italy wins silver and Germany bronze. Rantz learns how important it is to be part of the team, part of the boat to win as  a team. He marries his childhood sweetheart and settles down. The boys meet every few years after their gold winning performance and row in the University until they finally hang the boat up.

Surprisingly the book was published only in 2013 and is soon to be made into a movie. It's a lovely story. Thanks Akshar.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Kerala Relief - Thanks Goonj

The Kerala disaster and its many images flash by. Some scary, some that make your heart wonder at the largeness of human spirit. I came across many appeals for help but none that struck me more than the one by my student at the University of Hyderabad Sneha who posted on Facebook the good work that the students at the University of Hyderabad were doing in collecting material and donations for the cause. I contacted her, thinking that I could take stuff and go to the University which is always a good place for me to visit. However Sneha got busy and never got back. But what she had done was light the fire. I had diligently pulled out a lot of my stuff for the cause - and voila, Shobhs and Anjali got infected by the spirit until it made a quarter of our car's space. Now we had stuff to donate but did not know where to go with it.
A WhatsApp forward - amazing grace 
Meanwhile Shobha found out that Goonj was collecting stuff at the Nagarjuna Nagar, Community Hall. So we hauled our stuff - clothes, blankets, jackets, boots, vessels and even my prized cricket sweater that the HCA had given us in recognition of being part of the winning team or something like that.  We went down to Nagarjuna Nagar and gave the material to the manager at the community hall. When we went back later to give something we had forgotten, the stuff was neatly packed already and marked. Goonj does a great job of sorting, cleaning and repacking them.
Another forward - Fishermen leaving with their boats after their job was done
From where it began its journey in Delhi, providing warm clothing to people who suffer and die from cold, a start from a chilling story that I read in a Rashmi Bansal book, Goonj has turned into a huge movement that collects urban waste, treats it and recycles it for use. It turns waste into useful stuff, invaluable to those who need it - a blanket to the one who is exposed to cold would not think twice about a used or unused one, nor do shoes to those who have no shoes. An article I wrote about visiting the Hyderabad centre of Goonj many years ago is right now the most read blog.
Fishermen leaving

Dog rescue
Hopefully some of the suffering that the people of Kerala went through will be alleviated through the efforts of all these people who have come forward, collected and helped those in need. Some visuals I saw on social media were unforgettable. Visuals of the fishermen who came with their boats and helped rescue locals and the locals gratitude to them as they left, of Sikhs setting up a langar, of a boy who went down on his knees to help a pregnant lady climb over him into the boat, an NDRF constable dashing across a bridge with a child just before it got submerged, two ladies helping their dog through the water, a boat full of rescued dogs, one of two ladies in waist deep water both holding one leg of their dog to help it across, a young girl from Tamil Nadu donating money she had raised for her heart surgery, the military winching people up and carrying people into helicopters etc are unforgettable.
Helping - Amazing spirit
Let's hope the God's own country comes back to normal soon. Well done Goonj.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Thought for the Day - The Difference Between Hope and Responsibility

We can take up any job with hope. Or with responsibility. Hope gets us nowhere. Seizing responsibility does.

Hope is what you do when you do not look at reality and then take action. Your head is in the sky while you are actually doing work that affects stuff near your feet and you hope that somehow it will all connect up. It might, it might not.

Responsibility is what makes us look at the job on hand, watch reality closely, find the pattern and work in a purposeful manner. You get an intuitive way of dealing with the job at hand when you look closely at anything. Skill, expertise, consistency are all results of that.

The artisan and the artist. But the greatest artists are at heart great artisans. They look closely at what they have to do, get the pattern intuitively, and proceed purposefully.

Why don't we look closely? Fear. Of taking responsibility for what we dish out with our best effort. But as an artist you have to take both - praise and criticism. Look closely. Then you will automatically move in the right direction.

Measure What Matters - John Doerr

I absolutely loved this book that Rajesh gave me to read when I was in Bangalore last week. Every single time I visit them, he gives me a book that profoundly changes the way I  think. Mindset, Triggers, Habit to name some. I dabbled with my own idea of 10x performances (having experienced four cases at various times in life) - and from what I read in the book it looks like I was on track generally.

The tagline of 'Measure What Matters' says it all 'The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth'. This book is a 10x idea and John Doerr gives us the nuts of bolts of how to apply the principles of setting Objectives and Key Results to achieve 10x growth. John is a legendary VC who invested in Google when it was a startup. He gave a 10x presentation about OKRs to the 40 strong Google team at Menlo Park then, and watched it grow into the 700 bn and 70000 employee company it is today. Of course, he has stories of how he helped the Gates Foundation, Bono and several others to achieve 10x results. He is passionate about taking this idea to the entire world. I fully support him in this noble endeavor and have privately enrolled myself to do the same.

10x Goal Setting

  • Some insights to 10x goal setting -
  • Hard goals are better than easy goals
  • Specific hard goals produce higher levels of output than vaguely worded ones
  • Good goals engage, while poor goals disengage. (Statistics show that less than a 3rd are involved and more than 50% of those who are disengaged leave for a little as a 20% hike.)
  • Doerr stresses that to build engagement, goals are a must, because they create alignment, provide clarity and job satisfaction.

Ideas are easy, execution is everything
"Ideas are easy, but execution is everything," says Doerr. It is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know that is important. Knowledge is secondary to execution. 10x results are all about execution. So your results are a matter of execution, not knowledge.

Whether it is Steven Covey talking of first things first, urgent and important, or Ivy Lee stressing on 6 important things to do, the idea is to prioritize what is important and be at it with complete focus until it is done. It is incredible how easily the mind wanders off from doing what it important.

OKRs belong to the same mould. Find out what is most important, commit to it publicly, be open to measure progress and voila - a lot gets done.

O - stands for Objectives and KRs - for Key Results. While Objectives provide direction, Key results allow us to measure quantity and quality of progress. Doerr's list of companies that used OKRs successfully is phenomenal with Google being the brightest student of them all so there is enough proof that is presented in the book.

OKRs - Objectives and Key Results
OKRs are a collaborative goal setting tool, a methodology that ensures that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organisation.

The Practice
The four parts of OKR practice are

  • Focus and Commit to Priorities (be clear about what you want, what you don't want)
  • Align and Connect for Team Work (open shared link OS throughout the company)
  • Track for Accountability (Data check-in, grading, non-judgment)
  • Stretch for Awesome (Big Hairy Audacious Goals BHAGs)

Setting Objectives
Write 5-6 clear objectives per cycle based on what's MOST important. An Objective is the WHAT to achieve, a significant concrete action that provides direction. A well-framed Objective is inspirational and covers far horizons.

Top line objectives should be significant enough to grab the team in its gut. These Objectives are not incremental - they are significantly big and change the way you do things! Focus on the ones that provide greater leverage.

Each Objective should have 3-4 Key Results.

Writing Key Results
KRs benchmark HOW to achieve the Objective. They are specific, time-bound and aggressive - it is not a KR unless it has a number. KRs are about execution, metric driven, succinct, specific, measurable. KRs allow us to measure quantity and quality of progress.

Completion of all key results must result in attainment of the Objective else they are not KRs. 3-5 KRs for each Objective - eg. revenue, growth, quality, safety, market share, customer engagement etc

Commit Publicly to Team
Put everyone's Objective and Key result out where everyone can see (make public your OKRs), share with your team. With OKRs - everyone can see everyone's goals. Priorities are spelled out and one can rely on OKRs to communicate clearly and get the most important work done.

Assess and Measure Progress
Realign. Every once in a while check on progress with the team. OKRs, Doerr says, promote a disregard for self-interest, a deep allegiance to the team, ruthless and intellectual honesty.

While measuring OKRs - 70% achievement is good (100% is bad - indicates a lack of stretch). Doerr warns - stress on output to increase productivity, not increase in activity. Impact, not mere activity.

OKR's differ from Management by Objectives (MBO) in the following ways. MBO - is about 'what', are annual private affairs done in silos, are top-down, tied to salary and make employees risk averse. OKRs - are about 'what' and 'how', are quarterly and monthly, are public and transparent, can be bottom-up or sideways (50%), mostly not tied to salary, are aggressive and aspirational. OKRs are an improvement over MBOs.

OKR Implementation Principles

  • Less is more - 3-5 Objectives per cycle (makes you aware of what to say yes to and what to say no to), 5 or fewer KRs for each Objective
  • Set goals from bottom up (not less than 50%)
  • No dictating goals - OKRs are a cooperative social contract
  • Stay flexible - modify/discard objectives if they do not work
  • Dare to fail - go beyond grasp, stretch goals
  • Tool, not weapon - the OKRs are meant to pace a person
  • Be patient and be resolute

The Intel Case Study
Intel was fighting to retain market leadership against Motorola and launched Operation Crush - regain Market Leadership. The specific Objective was 2000 design wins of 8086 in devices, which was a stiff target, seemingly impossible. The rules - same product - 10x results. To achieve 10x results with the same results, Intel altered the terms of engagement - sold to CEOs instead of IT personnel, went long term benefit route and played on the company's strengths. Intel brought everyone on board in the program - 100 people at top 2 levels first and then 3rd level in 24 groups

Simply put - set a big goal and find ways to achieve it. Don't go incremental - go significantly big so that you are forced to alter your model.

Focus and Commit to Priorities
To focus and prioritise, ask these questions -

  • What is most important for the next 3-6 months?
  • Where should we concentrate our efforts?

Get honest about what is important and where your priorities lie. Then cut out all other distractions and focus on it.
For organization's, it is imperative that the senior leadership begin this exercise by brainstorming top-line OKRs for company for the quarter and for the year. OKRs will not work unless there is a public commitment by leadership in word and deed. When leaders role model the behavior and urgency, others follow. When OKRs flow down from the top, everyone knows what the top priorities for the company are.

So first set company wide OKRs for the year and the quarter, and communicate the same to everyone two weeks before the quarter.
Based on company OKRs, teams develop their own OKRs and share them at meetings, at the start of the quarter.
One week after team OKRs are communicated, individuals share their own OKRs, with their managers, on one-to-one meetings.
Care must also be taken to pair key results like quantity and quality in goal setting, else employees could sacrifice quality for quantity!

Start with the leadership team which practices it
Make it a two-way evaluation
Sharper focus, clearer priorities
Measure performance against goal
Give feedback early, give enough time to correct.

The Remind Case - One thing at a time
The promoter, Brett, found studying long hours and school projects difficult and realised that when a sympathetic teacher and his mother teamed up to remind him of when to do his projects and assignments, his grades shot up. He built Remind, based on that principle to help teachers reach out and remind students. Realising that time management is key to success at college, Brett developed his model after meeting with 200 teachers. Brett and his brother built the company successfully by focusing on the essential and cutting out the inessential. The important Silicon Valley lessons - Solve a problem, Build a simple product, Talk to your users! And for success - go OKR of course.

Align and Connect for Teamwork
Having a great objective and key results is good and but what really drives the execution forward is alignment in the team and public commitment. everyone should know what the company's priorities are. Doerr cites a survey of 11000 senior executives of which the majority did not know the company's top priorities, and only half could name one - that's how aligned companies are. A lovely quote - "When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it."

Making OKRs public and accountable
Everyone can look up everyone's OKR - right from the CEO's.
Critique and corrections are out in the public as anyone can comment or correct.
Alignment - it allows anyone in the organisation to see what anyone else is having as their priority objective and realign the same if it is not aligned to their work.

To Set OKRs Within the Team
The manager sits with his report. The sub or the report decides his OKRs - 50% of the OKRs should come from the sub (not dictated by the manager), the other 50% can come in consultation with the sub. This process of letting the sub or the report set his own OKRs (at least 50%) improves employee engagement because the goals are set by each individual herself. Doerr says that high-performance teams thrive on creative tension between top down and bottom up goal setting.

Another way is to cascade OKRs - the KRs of the manager become Objectives of his team that is responsible for that KR.

Lateral, Cross-functional, Peer-to-peer, team-to-team
Unacknowledged dependencies reveal themselves through lateral cross-functional connectivity, peer to peer and team to team connectivity that this system allows. Connected companies are quicker companies with their freewheeling coordination

20% Offline OKRs
While OKRs at an individual level are great to get work done efficiently, Doerr throws up the idea of 20% offline OKRs that Google advocates. Employees can go after an offline OKR on their own, across cross-functional teams, and work on projects that inspire them, in addition to their main work. This 20% offline OKR allows employees to engage in their interests and pursue innovative ideas. Innovation dwells at the edges - says Doerr. Beautiful. This allows them space to go for a moon shot.

The My Fitnesspal Case
The team's insights when they used the OKRs - OKRs help to make cross team dependency explicit. Every OKR has a single owner. They pinned OKRs to deadlines - not revenue or users.
The Intuit Story
Intuit set up a company-wide goal setting system. Their managers met every month with subs to discuss goals. The OKRs were opened to departments horizontally across teams

Track for Accountability
OKRs can be tracked, revised and adapted. They are livingDoerr. A good platform makes everyone's goals visible, drives engagement, promotes internal networking. This helps contributor engagement. Contributors are most engaged, when they see how their work ties in with organisational goals. The days that people make progress are the days they feel most motivated and engaged says Doerr. It's important to acknowledge that they made progress.

For best results - Scrutinise OKRs several times by contributors and managers, report progress, identify obstacles and refine KRs. Do not ever forget to reflect - Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection.
(A goal study - 43% more achievement was reported when goals were recorded and weekly reports sent to a friend.)

Scoring and measuring
0.7 - 1.0 (delivered)
0.4 - 0.6 (progress, but fell short)
0.0-0.3 (failed to make progress)
Self-assessment cycle - OKR - Progress - Score - Self-assess

Stretch for Amazing
When we stretch for amazing we unearth fresh capacity, find creative solutions and revolutionise business models. Stretch goals sharpen an entrepreneurial culture or a culture of ownership. Doerr says that stretched workers are more productive and engaged and motivated. But here's an important cue - only a transparent, collaborative, aligned and connected orgsanisation can achieve stretch goals.

Stretch work is facilitated by Big Hairy Ambitious Goals (BHAG). A BHAG captures the imagination and grabs people in the gut. Harder the goal, higher the performance - the performance can only be as good as the problem it solves.

Committed and Aspirational Goals
I liked this idea of setting two types of goals - committed goals and aspirational goals .
Committed goals are those where 100% achievement is required in a given time frame. It is tied to company metric at the company level, department level and sales. These are must-achieve goals and need 100% achievement.
Aspirational goals are big picture, high risk, future tilting ideas which one must take a good shot at. For pride. These are good if even 70% achieved.

Characteristics of 10x Goals
At the start, not a single goal appears possible
They throw up hard questions
Radical high-risk routes are taken
Makes one think of stop-doing-what-actions
Makes one feel uncomfortably excited
A healthy disregard for the impossible

Google Chrome Case - Sundar Pichai 
The first Objective Pichai set - Aimed for 50 mn and achieved 38 mn users - failed.
They reset the Objective again - Set a 100 mn users target and settled at 111 mn.
Decided to reinvent the process to find a solution.
Broadened distribution deals with OEMs
Did a ChromeFest marketing campaign for the US
Developed Chrome for OSX and Linux and not just Windows
Sent passive alerts for former Chrome users who were dormant

Clearly when the goal was a stretch goal they had to do things they normally did not do. They found ways to achieve it.

The YouTube Story
As against company rule of "make it fast" YouTube strategically made watch time the core metric. This was antithetical to the normal metric of views. It was the big rock, the priority, the most important thing to focus on.

The Big Rocks story - If you had rocks, pebbles and sand what would you put first in a jar? If you do the small thing first you will have no space for the big ones i.e. if you put sand in first you cannot put the rocks in. So put the big rocks (do the big and important jobs first) and then put pebbles and then put sand. Most optimal.

YouTube had an OKR of 1 bn hours of watch time per day - a 4-year OKR. While this looked big, the leaders set it in context saying that 1 bn hours of watch time is still only 20% of total TV watching time. (On the way YouTube decided to grow responsibly and realised people liked better content.)

Anticipating the 1 bn user mark Susan went ahead and reserved bandwidth, sought infrastructure and went after new users. They cracked the seemingly impossible 10x objective that some said would break the internet.

CFR - Conversations, Feedback and Recognition
Doerr recommends Continuous Performance Management as opposed to year-end appraisal systems by which time it is too late to correct. He advocates having ongoing conversations that are informal right from the goal planning to progress and feedback stage. The CFR model - Conversations, Feedback, Recognition increases employee engagement and course corrects on an ongoing basis. Conversations help alignment and transparency. Have monthly one-on-ones on an informal basis, six monthly professional development conversations.

To evaluate contributors consider this mix
30% or less from OKR
Feedback from cross-functional teams
Context of work

Doerr cites a study where it was found that 90 minutes of conversation between manager and report improves quality of work by the report for two weeks.

Have conversations about -
Goal setting and reflection - What OKRs do you plan to focus on to drive the greatest value for your role, team and company? Which of these OKRs aligns to key initiatives in the organisation?

On-going Progress Update - How are your OKRs coming along? What critical capabilities do you need to be successful? What is stopping you from achieving your objectives? What needs to be adjusted, added, eliminated in light of shifting priorities?

Two-way coaching - Manager prepares on - What behaviors do I want my report to continue to exhibit? What behaviors should report stop exhibiting? What coaching can I provide to help report realise potential? Ask - What part of the job excites you? What aspect of your role would you like to change? What are you getting from me that you find helpful? What is impeding your ability to be effective? How could I help you be more successful?

Career growth - What skills would you like to develop to improve in your current role? In what areas do you want to grow to achieve your career goals? What skills would you like to develop for your future role? From a learning, growth standpoint, how can the company help you?

Conduct a lightweight performance review.

Give specific, positive feedback
Questions to ask - What do you need from me to be successful" What do I need from you?

Recognition (and Recognition Culture)
Doerr advocates creating a Recognition Culture in the company where everyone recognises the good in others work. A simple thank you improves performance by 31%!

Develop a recognition culture by introducing
  • Peer to peer recognition 
  • Clear criteria - values, goals, achievement 
  • Share stories 
  • Frequent and attainable recognition 
  • Tie recognition to company goals and strategies 
To inspire, motivate and value contributors, have quarterly goals and expectations, promote a culture of regular feedback and discuss career development.

To cultivate a Peak Performance culture build collaboration and accountability in the team says Doerr. A highly motivated culture normally has catalysts (actions that support work) and nourishers (acts of inter-personal support).

The Lumeris Case
The organisation first decided to change the company culture before bringing in OKRs. They sacked the old school managers, then made executive team accountable, changed 85% HR team and strengthened middle management. That indicates they were serious about 10x growth.

In Conclusion
The OKR culture of setting a significant goal that catches everyone's imagination, setting a time frame, identifying key results that are specific, measurable and time-bound, making OKRs public so everyone knows what each other's objectives are, align everyone, track for accountability, measure progress and stretch for amazing - promises 10x results.

My 10x Experiences
I had a few such experiences and thus believe in the 10x idea fully.
  • In a cricket match in 1986, I set myself an OKR of scoring 128 (the number of runs I gave away as a bowler) and ended up scoring 158 against my average of less than 10 - a 10x performance 
  • In the hazy world of academia in the Engineering College, I faced a situation where I had to clear 18 exams at one go, or drop a year, as against my previous record of having cleared 1 exam (thanks to my playing first-class cricket that season). The Objective was to clear 16 of the 18 in one month (of which 12 were mandatory). I and cleared all 18 at one go 
  • While at the bank I set myself an aspirational objective of achieving Rs. 50 crore (500 mn) in terms of loan sanctions as opposed to a target of Rs. 5 crores (50 mn). I also decided that I would target top line companies and bring 20 such into our fold in one year. At the end of two years, I achieved 150 crores in loan sanctions and added 18 top line companies to our portfolio. 
  • While at the bank I set myself an Objective of taking a Rs. 2 crores (20 mn) performance result to Rs. 8 crores (80 mn) in deposit mobilization in 2 months. We ended the six month period with deposits of Rs. 16 crore (Rs. 160 mn), Rs. 18 crore (Rs. 180 mn) and Rs. Rs, 24 crores (Rs. 240 mn) in three subsequent issues. 
  • As a writer, I had set myself a vague target of one published novel with no clear time frame. Now fifteen years later I have four. With OKRs I think I should do better than in the forthcoming years. 

I can clearly see that despite my lack of understanding and structure, I intuitively did the right thing even three decades ago. When we choose our priorities and go after them with focus, the rest falls in place. It is purely champion mindset stuff with clear objectives and processes to achieve the same.

By using the CFR method and having frequent conversations about progress, giving specific and positive feedback and using simple tools of recognition, organizations can develop a 10x culture by being fully aligned and transparent.

OKRs are a brilliant tool. Combined with CFR, it brings amazing results. I propose to take this tool of John Doerr and all others before him forward, with my own personal examples - and help people achieve as many 10x results as possible. While doing this, I would like to create another 10x example for myself. For more information from John Doerr himself, log on to

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lessons from Table Tennis - Watch the Ball On to the Bat

Table tennis is one of those things that I knew you would get better as you play more and more. The movement of the bat, the forehand, the backhand - they all get better as we practice more. There was a time when I used to practice with the big boys at LB stadium but then I became more of class champion etc and slowly faded off. At school Sanjay Gabriel and I would sneak in before school and after, by devising a way to keep the window ajar, and play for hours on end. We really enjoyed those games, just the two of us. Then off to paani puri at Stanley, which he ate with great relish while I stood a healthy distance away. The game was in its best shape then.

Don't Let the Opponent Get a Foot in the Door
My award-winning moment came when I won the TT championship on board the ship Nacowrie in 1986 when we sailed to Port Blair for a vacation with Ali, who lived there. Subbu, who is always a tough contender, was the other finalist and I had mentally given up. Then I realised Subbu was not playing his usual game - he kind of expected to win easily I suppose. A couple of loose points, an increased confidence for me, a decreased confidence for him and I won. Never let the opponent into the game I realised.

Never Give Up When Down
One more award-winning moment was when I won the doubles against a tough Electronics team in the Inter-faculty final - Meherji and Subbu played the singles and lost both the straight games. We won the doubles (who did I play with?) and then Meherji won a grand reverse game and then Subbu beat the champ in a fantastic game and we won. Woohoo!

You Will Lose Skill if You Play With Lesser Players
Over the years, however, I made many changes to the original game because I started playing with non-players. I'd twist shots and find angles and slowly but surely lost the original game. I developed a new style though which was good enough to beat players at this level.

Watch the Ball On to the Bat
One important lesson I heard which held good for all and bat games was this advise Bapat (of IDBI fame) was giving to another player. 'Watch Hari,' he said. 'He is so good because he watches the ball comes on to the bat.'. I never realised that. After the game, I asked him what he meant. Bapat, who was a very good cricketer with excellent knowledge of the game, told me that he had learned during a stint with Frank Tyson that the key to ball and bat games was to watch the ball on to the bat as closely as one could. I was thrilled to hear that. I tried to implement that at cricket and realised it worked very well. In fact its the only difference between a good player and an ordinary one.

Remember the Principles and Self-Coach Yourself Back into Form
Anyway, the other day while playing TT with Anjali, Shobhs and Rajesh at Bangalore, I tried a couple of smashes and they did not land. I wondered what happened to my game of yore and thought about what I could do to correct that. I remembered Bapat's advise and for the next couple of balls, I watched the ball on to the bat. Voila!
The forehand and backhand were back. Suddenly I was closer to the ball, the posture was better and the result right.

Thank the Gurus
Thanks Bapat. Might be a good time to reach out to him - a guru. Now to see where I need to watch the ball on to the bat to get the desired result.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sully - Movie

Lovely movie. Tom Hanks once again becomes Sully so he does not have to act. This guy should get the best transformer award - not best actor. Very engaging movie indeed.

When push comes to shove, don't mess with the experts. And Captain Sully is the last man of the boat. His one big concern - are all 155 safe?

Blackmail - Movie

Highly avoidable. Started well and then you realise that one decision can just disengage the viewer. Husband finds the wife in an extra-marital affair with her old boyfriend. He decides to blackmail the boyfriend to pay his rising bills - the boyfriend is, after all, driving a Mercedes and is married to a rich man's daughter. The boyfriend who gets no money from his corporator father-in-law (who looks like a corporator by the way) blackmails his lover - i.e. the husband's wife. Since she is broke she forces her husband to cough up money. Finding his costs rising, the original blackmailer again blackmails the lover etc. All's well until steam runs out and in a bid to be cute, the husband, who is now being blackmailed by a colleague who knows of his blackmailing ways, accidentally kills her. Some scenes are s contrived that it is not funny anymore.

Few more murders later, the original blackmailing husband lives, gets away. All is well as long as the hero is fine. Like I said - avoid the movie. If I was not so upset, I wouldn't have written such a long review.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Talk at Anita's Attic - Writer's Workshop

When In Bangalore one person I always call is Anita whose house is down the road from Rajesh's and Nisha's place. If she is in town and has the time we meet for a short while. This time, the moment I called her she invited me to speak to the participants who are attending her Anita's Attic creative writing workshop. It is over weekends, Saturday's to be precise, over a few months. As part of the workshop Anita invites writers, publishers, critics to interact with her wards.
In the groove
I got there later than promised - the chai took longer than we thought and there was heavier traffic than normal and Rajesh dropped me there almost a full half hour behind schedule. That's pretty unlikely of me because I normally show up ten minutes before time mostly, but what to do.
Anita quickly introduced me and the keywords - engineer, corporate executive cricketer, fast bowler, writer, novel made into a movie, Chairman of Selectors would have given the audience a fair idea of what to expect. I spoke about my writing journey, how I was not trained but how I enjoyed the process, how I took the leap on a whim but a well tested out whom of working for 10-12 hours on articles for 4 months, quitting the job, writing my first book, second, third and then finally returning to the one thing I was trying to escape from - cricket - and writing a novel about it. As luck would have it the novel gets published, it's my first novel (The Men Within), gets recognition as the first cricket fiction in Indian Writing in English, gets made into a movie. Then the romance (f You love Someone..), then a cricket self-help book (50 Not Out), a blog turned into a book (then This Way is Easier Dad), couple of contributions to anthologies. Newspaper columns, blogs and the above stuff - my body of work.
The participants and me - Pic courtesy Vishnu
Some highlights as I remember them - told them to choose their topics well and move on if something is not working, develop a  thick hide, write about what seems to come easy (for both Men Within and 50 Not Out, my reaction was 'It's so easy'!), what you know best, use known structures, try to get published through regular publishers because it pushes you to improve your craft, write what you are passionate about even if it is not popular, work on craft and keep getting better. Then talk went to the inevitable money and I told them that as a full-time writer my money flows are uncertain and I hope to build a body of work good enough that would perhaps ensure that flow. But that it's a choice I made and it's fine. The way to get published, agents, agreements, priorities, rights, what happens when the movie is different from your story etc.
Something that got me thinking
There were questions about how my writing process, if I get the block - write every day and make it the most important thing like how Anita does and there are days when the flow is not as good but I don't consider that a block. Keep writing anyway.

I guess I could have gone on talking but we wound up close to 1. I enjoyed the talk as always, enjoyed sharing what I knew and experienced on this lonely writing path which makes the writer feel very lonely and insecure. I hope I succeeded to some extent. Thanks Anita for inviting me over and fr the lovely books you gifted me from Anita's attic. And thanks Vishnu for the lovely pics.

Sunday Column in The Sunday HANS - The New Amma in Our Lives!

The New Amma in Our Lives - And why she is the best!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Anjali - Parents Expectations, Said and Unsaid

I never understood the full meaning of what it meant when we say that children carry 'the burden of expectations'. The burden more or less seems to begin and ends with the parents who represent the society to the child. Children of successful parents carry this burden a lot more because of the constant comparison but it is not to say that children of less successful parents do not.
Tenzin is in Manali looking for herbs for Tibetan medicine. He sent me this pic.
Somehow it struck me while talking to one celebrity parent a few years ago that children assume this expectation, this role of making their parents proud whether the expectation exists or not. Watch any reality show, any child in his or her deepest moment and we hear them say 'I want to make my parents proud'. Their biggest fear - of failing their parents. I can get it when counsellors say - you can forgive anyone but not your parents. It's written into the code it seems.

That particular conversation led me to think that all we need to do as parents is to reduce that burden - expected or unexpected - from the child's shoulders and allow them to express themselves as they are. To tell them that we love them unconditionally and forever. And to demonstrate that in all our actions. Every parent tries hard to do their best for the child - some feel that the child needs to be pushed, some that the child needs to be left alone. The balance never seems right but long as the child is aware that this burden can be set aside and he or she will be loved despite that - it just might help that much more to make the journey bearable for the child.

So it was in a recent experience when Anjali was upset and in a quiet moment told me that she was unhappy that she was not being strong enough for us. I was surprised to hear that she felt she had to be strong for us. Which means that she should not cry or be sensitive or feel emotional when she wants to. I told her whatever I knew about being strong. I told her that it is fine to accept being weak, because weak is one end of the spectrum and strong is another and both exist in the same place. In fact I felt that accepting that we are weak is a sign of strength. It gives a kind of a resilience and flexibility that we normally do not get by putting up a facade of strength which could be rather brittle. She listened and heard me out and nodded. Hopefully it made whatever sense it did to her and she understands it the way it will help her be herself - fears and worries, joys and happiness, weakness and strength and all.

Deep inside I wonder if I am still seeking approval from my parents, somehow wondering if I failed them or made them proud. I somehow feel they might have wished that I was not so adamant in some things but in the end, be secretly proud of my naive addiction to the way of life I believe in. I feel they would be fine with whatever I have done or any of my siblings have done. I can see the joy in my mother's eyes and her pride at what my brother has achieved and at my books for she was an expressive one, and my father's gruff manner but very transparent ways of understanding our choices and trying to make them ours and not his. From up there, they would be quite happy we did what we did.

The paradox is that we are strong when we accept we are weak. We become weak when we force ourselves to be strong. It is when we are honest that we seem to find some deep reservoir of strength.

Monday, August 13, 2018

My Musical Notes Part 6 - Grammy Awards

A big part of the musical revolution was the influence of friends. Vidyuth was one and I remember listening to Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' and 'Billy Jean' in his father's Fiat. A car with those Pioneer cassette players in those days was the ultimate in luxury especially when most did not even have a music deck at home. This was the time when we were just out of school and growing small mustaches and soft beards, struggling with hormones and freedom and insecurity. Music seemed to provide to us a language that made sense when nothing else did.

Of course, there was no way to get my hands on a Michael Jackson cassette then so it was very frustrating, more so because I'd meet Vidyuth rarely on some cricket match days. Luckily, i found another great friendship based on music, Naresh. Now Naresh owned a deck too and had an MJ album. Though he lived far away in Padmarao Nagar, I did make a few visits to satisfy the music urge. Another musical friend of mine (limited to Jethro Tull's album that had this brilliant song 'Orion') was Sai from my junior college St. Alphonso's Junior College who father owned a nice record player and a deck to go with it. Sai did not like music much, but generously played it for me when we went to his house.

And then magic happened. Doordarshan, the state-run television and the only channel available to viewers, for some reason got its hands on the 26th Grammy Awards presentation. It was magic. And perhaps it was the best music made in a year ever - Michael Jackson, Sting, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen were just some of the heavies that featured. MJ walked way with 8. Lionel got nominated for 5 and won none. But we who watched it were blown out of our minds. Check the players in the field - MJ, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Sting, Billy Joel, Irene Cara, Foreigner, Talking Head, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart, Rick Springfield, Donna Summer, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Alice Cooper, Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Culture Club, Eurythmics, Sheena Easton, Prince, Bonnie Tyler, ZZ Top. Absolute mayhem.

I do not know how but I got my hands on one cassette with some of those Grammy hits. I cannot forget 'Total Eclipse of My Heart' by Bonnie Tyler as one of those magical songs. The visuals, the magic of MJ performing, the sheer quality of performers and songs was an apt take-off. My cassette had Beat it, Uptown Girl, Total eclipse of my Heart, Karma Chameleon, Sweet Dreams, Let's Dance, Islands in the Stream and others.

That Grammy threw open a whole new world full of new sounds, fantastic performers and more and more cassettes to buy and listen. I finally got my hands on quite a few of those albums. A labour of love no doubt.

1984 was my second year of Intermediate. It was a breakthrough year for me in cricket. I just do not remember how and what, except that I did a two-week stint with Baig sir and played with a brilliant team for MCC - MLJ, Vivek, Vidyuth, Sunil Phillips, Ravan, Imtiaz, Sanjay, Chakkar and mostly Venkatapathi Raju or Lachi as we call him. Vijay Bhaskar and Umesh Soni were the others. Lots of cricket, music, the whole world ahead of me. What a feeling! Beautifully summed up by Irene Cara in her Flashdance song (above)..

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Visit to Amar's Pensieve

Amar called me last week asking me for the Jaico local sales office details. He wanted 15 copies of '50 Not Out'. Now Amar has been the single largest buyer of 'The Men Within' - the book on which our friendship blossomed if I may say so (the book, not the sale) - and has always been a big supporter of my writing pursuits (or any pursuit for that matter). It might not be far from the truth if he did end up buying 500 copies of 'The Men Within' to gift to various people. Amar was also single-handedly responsible for starting two interesting activities I never thought I would do - public speaking and workshop facilitating. As President of Hyderabad Management Association, he forced me to deliver a talk on 'Leadership and Teamwork' which was my first serious public talk and then he made me design and deliver a workshop for CoD. We did several training programs together as well.
Kamath, Vijay, Praveen, Shelina, Me and Pradeep
Amar started this wonderful new place called Amar's Pensieve a couple of year's ago. It was a work of passion because he went about developing the place all by himself. A bit of research into the word Pensieve gives you a peep into his mind. Anyway Amar''s Pensieve is his own training facility in the quiet, rustic lands near Pragathi Resorts. He was doing a program for a company - Invesco and wanted to gift the copies to the participants. And could I, he said, join for dinner and sign the books for him.
Vijay to my right
Well Amar is not a person I would say no to whatever he asks (he is quite thoughtful and considerate when he makes a request) and I instantly agreed  - more so when I have to sign my books away. Though I could not make it yesterday for dinner as originally planned, I made it for lunch today and it was fun discussing some aspects of the book '50 Not Out', sign it and give it to the participants. If I remember right - Vijay Paro, Shelina, Praveen, Pradeep, Abhishek, Arun, Kamath, Ravi unless I missed any. Priyanka and Urvi had left yesterday.
I spoke about why I wrote the book and picked a few chapters to illustrate - Courage (get behind the line of the ball), Creativity (catches win matches) and Preparation and shared my thoughts about them. There were some questions and some answers - and we adjourned for lunch. A lovely home cooked lunch and we bid goodbye to the team. Amar and I played a few songs from each other's playlists before I left too. I enjoyed listening to his choice of a song 'Where The Black Top Ends' by Keith Urban which he wants to be the anthem song for the Pensieve.

 I had a long drive back and I wanted to avoid the traffic. I could not, but the drive was well worth it. Sometime soon we hope to do an all-nighter at the Pensieve, gazing at the stars and listening to our playlists.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hooper Labs 3rd Anniversary Talk

Srikanth invited me to speak with his young team of about 20 at their Hooper Labs office on their 3rd anniversary. Srikanth is very articulate, intelligent, thinks well and ahead and is one of the more thorough and thoughtful people I know so I was surprised when he wanted me to speak to his team. What I do, he can easily do better. But I was grateful that he wanted me to come and immediately said I would.

The one quality I like in people who ask for any creative output from me is when they trust me and leave it to me. I know some who would drop in at the last minute and tell me how to go about my talk including what to show in the videos (when I expressly told them I don't want to show any videos). Srikanth simply said - just be yourself and that is all I want. This is high praise and one of the best compliments I ever got and though I tried to get some context in and prepared some flow, I tried to be myself as Srikanth told me to be and the result was very nice indeed. My sincere advice to all those looking to get some good creative work - do exactly what Srikanth did - trust them and they will deliver. You cannot manipulate and control creative output. From whatever I heard about the team's work in the past year, it appears that he is doing the same with them and they are responding with equal fervor.
The Hooper Labs Team and Me!
I walked in at the appointed time and it was nice to see the office decked up with balloons and looking festive. The team was being addressed by Srikanth, Umar was there and so was Kiran, and Sujatha of course, who reads my books and gives me encouraging feedback all the time. After a short introduction by Srikanth I embarked on the broad structure of my talk.     

Why are we here? 
To work. Or more importantly to use the work we do to accomplish our dreams of a good life, a secure job, a home, cars, travel etc. Certainly to prove to ourselves that we have something inside us that we can put to good use and achieve our dreams.

How can we achieve our dreams?
Clearly through our work. Be it cricket, or dancing, or designing or coding, we try to achieve our potential through the work we do. We can fulfill all aspects of our life – career, money, relationships, material things, travel, fame.  Work takes up a big part of our most productive time and one needs to get it clear in their minds that work is what we will be known for and what makes our dreams come true. We cannot take work lightly as just another aspect of life and talk too much about work-life balance. 

What comes in the way then?
Our goal is clear. Our intent is clear. We all want to work hard. But we see that people far less qualified than us seem to be achieving more. Something seems to be holding us back otherwise all this should be a walk in the park. 

What holds us back? 
From my experience, what holds us back is doubt and fear. When I made it as far as a first-class cricketer, I doubted if I was good enough to play the next level. This doubt and perhaps the fear of failure and the fear of success even, make us operate at 50% efficiency. Or even less. We doubt ourselves, we fear we are not good enough. This path leads us to the Blame and Excuse street which is pretty much the end of the journey for anybody! I played Ranji Trophy early. Had a good first season. Was dropped next year. After going that far up, I did not know what to do. I found no motivation. I gave up. There are so many like that.  

How to overcome this Doubt and Fear?
I found it difficult to work for myself. Most people find it difficult to do that. They can give their life for others but do very little for themselves. It goes back to our feeling of not being good enough in our own eyes. This is the basic doubt and fear - that we are not good enough.

But if we find a purpose, something bigger than us, a WHY, then we can give our best to it. To understand this better one should watch Simon Sinek's TED talk 'Start with why' which explains the importance of purpose. We looked at examples to illustrate the idea - the soldier on the border, the Sulabh story, the Selco story. They could also look at the impact their work could create, the one person who benefits from their work and changes her life.
There is nothing more motivating than a good, solid purpose. Now typically companies can have their purposes. Sometimes individuals may not be able to connect to it.
A selfie moment with the young and energetic team
Can we do it as individuals?
1       I spent a while talking about ownership and how once we experience ownership we become different people. I spoke of the time when I scored 158 with zero input, all purpose and complete ownership. I decided, took responsibility and made it happen. Until then I hoped someone would help me but when I took full responsibility I grew as a person, expanded my role and did a 10x performance. Until then I did not know I could do that. 
      The same decision, same ownership is available to everyone. This very moment. You just have to decide. You help your team. You help yourself in the process.

Another tool that helps get over doubt and fear - Learning Mindset
I dwelt briefly on the Mindset - a book by Carol Dweck that changed my life. One that could make a big difference to the youngsters here as well. My failure at Ranji level was because I was stuck in a Fixed Mindset. If I was less egocentric and fear-driven and fixed mindset driven I could have sought help and got back on track. More details here about the Mindset on my book review of the same

Fixed Mindset Characteristics
Growth Mindset Characteristics
Desire to look smart
Desire to learn
Avoid challenges
Embrace challenges
Give up easily
Persist in the face of setback
Get defensive
Seek help to find ways to improve
See effort as fruitless
See effort as the path to mastery
Ignore useful negative feedback
Learn from criticism
Feel threatened by others successes
Find lessons and inspiration from others success
Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential
Reach even higher levels of achievement as a result and get closer to potential

Writing - Full Ownership
I feel writing is the best way to share and make the world more secure and that is my purpose. It's an act of complete ownership to leave a secure job and jump off a cliff like this. But the pluses are that I am  1) at 100% potential and awareness  2) in control 3) brings all my past into effect 4) I learn at ten times the rate than I normally would because it is so I can help the reader. I write for that one person who I feel will get affected by what I write not just to make money. 

          Secure people - Be complete 
In winding up I spoke about why I felt why were at less than our potential, why we doubted ourselves. It was because we are all insecure. We are insecure because we are hiding parts of us which we do not wish to show. Like being 'smart' in the fixed mindset, we hide certain parts of ourselves and in doing so operate only at 50% efficiency. We don’t know. we don’t want others to know.
The paradox is that we are secure when we say I don't know. When we accept our faults and inadequacies. Then we have nothing to hide. We are free. To learn. To ask for help. I feel that if we accept ourselves as we are, we can go past ourselves and really make a difference to others, to the world.
When we are secure, we are genuinely interested in making a difference to people. And that is what any great idea does - touches people across the universe at a core level.

Let us encourage and actively create then, a secure space, a place where we can make mistakes, be our flawed but complete selves, and thus build what they call a psychologically safe workplace. That way you build the perfect team, get great outcomes.

To a secure world then.

Some questions and answers and we wound up.

Videos to watch

Thank you all
I loved this session so much more for the wonderful vibe I felt right through thanks to a very patient and attentive audience -  wonderful. Haven't felt so complete ina  long time. I loved the way Srikanth set it up, gave me the confidence and the freedom and brought the best out of me. And in the end I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts Sujatha and he and the team gave - they included Shobha and Anjali and had gifts for them too. Such thoughtfulness I have not seen for a long long time. Needless to say, the nice feeling lasted me all through the day and will remain all through my life. 

All the best Hooper Labs and here's wishing you all that you dreamed of and more.

The Habit of Winning - Prakash Iyer

I like Prakash Iyer's books. Simple yet profound. Nice stories that are easy to remember and relate. I enjoyed reading his 'Secrets of Leadership' and was thrilled when Shobhs gifted me this book the other day. The book has 57 chapters divided into eleven sections ranging from Vision and Goals, Self- Belief, Perseverance, Winner's Mindsets, Giving, Hard work, The Winner's way, Winning with Teams, Other People, Finding Balance and Take Action.

My favorite stories are the ones about the nine rabbits that Jack Ma spoke about in a seminar - how if one tries to catch nine rabbits in a room he is not likely to get any, but if he goes after one rabbit at a time, he could end up catching all nine, one at a time. The story of Karoly Takas, an army sergeant and an Olympic medal hopeful who loses his right hand which is also his shooting hand and comes back to shoot with his left hand and wins two Olympic golds in 1944 and 1948. The two dollar man idea was brilliant - next time you are about to tip someone one dollar, tip them two instead because it makes you feel good and rich. Same with the Binaca toys story - only those who experienced that thrill of getting those toys know what the story is about - but the takeaway - that we could always pack in a small little extra surprise when we deliver and people never forget you. I can never forget the Binaca toys experience ever. The one about how good you are with bad news was nice too - very imp. Cannot forget the story of Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor and an Olympic medal hopeful who is second at halfway stage and then spots two Singaporean sailors in trouble and abandons his race to save them. He sees them off to safety and then goes to complete his race, finishing 22nd, but gains the True Medal of Sportsmanship . Ah, that's what the Olympics are all about. Life is all about.

Prakash takes much sports analogy and a lot of cricket analogy. I remember him being CEO of the Mumbai Indians or some team. So there are the stories of Sachin playing after getting his face hit, Kumble bowling with his bandaged and broken jaw, Sidhu coming back to be a palm tree hitter (nice to see my old friend Rajan Bala being mentioned here), Atapattu coming back after scoring 2 runs across six years (scores of 0,0, 0,1, 0,0) and scoring 5000 Test runs with 16 centuries and 6 double centuries. Some of my favorite stories - of the starfish on the beach, of the Chinese bamboo, of the butterfly trying to break out of a cocoon, the building  a cathedral story, eating the frog first thing in the day, Gandhi and his one shoe, people who seek information about the town ahead and get contrasting information, the water bearer and the leaky pot,  the Great Wall of China and how despite the magnificent wall attackers could come through because they could bribe the guards.

Overall, a lovely, well written, useful and informative read. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All Saints School Reunion 2018 - Batch of 1982

This is the third reunion of our batch in the last couple of years. I missed the first two and wanted to make it this time. A lot of my old friends were coming. Chiefly my old pal Kamran Ali Mirza, my benchmate for the last three years at school and co-sufferer of the rowdy pranks of Sanjay Gabriel and other last benchers. Kamran and I shared some fabulous times and competed for the most polite boy award in class (read as quietest).  Kamran pipped me to the award always. We shared a love for cricket, books, he was better at academics than I was, but mostly we bonded over our tiffins - he loved the dosas (which I hated, after a lifetime of eating them) and I loved the kheema parathas he would get (he obviously shared the same sentiments I had for dosas). The quiet walks to the library, to the school grounds where we walked serenely while the rest of the non-contenders for the most-polite-boy award played, to Ashok's canteen to celebrate with a ragda samosa, our conspiracy to attend cricket selections in our tenth class. In fact, a whole chapter of 'The Misfit' my first book (unpublished) was about this secret exchange of our tiffins and how there's a gold mine right next to you if you stay patient and keep your eyes open.
Standing: Vinay, Shyam, Ghanshyam, Farrukh, Charles, Jala, Archie, Ramana, Ashok, Me, Viquar, Ammar, Nasir, Arif, Ra, Nusrat, Haji, Nirmal, Meiraj
Sitting: Mohd Ali, Farees, Azhar, Sultan, Joel, Sanjay Das, Kamran, Zaki, Dr. Faiz
I have not seen Kamran since 1982, all of 36 years now, though we somehow made contact through Facebook. He told me that he saw me play a Ranji match - my last one as it turned out - where I got whacked by Abdul Jabbar in a suicidal last spell. I wish he'd seen my better spells.
Kamran and I catching up after 36 years - he remembers the dosas and I remember the parathas - thanks Moms
Farrukh Azam was another whom I met once after school and was keen to meet. Arif, Nirmal Singh Bagga, Vinay (our basketball champ), Meiraj, Ashok, Charles, Archie, Ramana, Sultan, Shyam, Joel, Ammar, Ghanshyam, Jalal, Mohammed Ali, Farees, Ram (he owned a leather shop in Abids), Sanjay Das (owns Karma, a pub in Banjara Hills where we met), Nusrat, Haji, and others are local and we meet sometimes. Arif, Vinay and Jamshed had actually made it to the book launch of 50 Not Out! Kamran, Zaki, Azharuddin, Naser, Viquar, are from Dubai and Saudi while Farrukh and Dr. Faiz are from the US. That's about 28. Not a bad number for a reunion.
Arif, Archie, Charles Kamran and Me
The ones I am in touch with and who did not make it are Abhijit who is in the US, Pradeep (US), Ved (Australia), Rajshekhar (US), Narender (US), Deepak (Brazil). Rudra is in Bangalore and I am in touch over FB. Chandu is in Kolkata. Narayan and Suresh are in Hyderabad but both could not make it. Vasu and Choudary are in constant touch. So are Ehtesham and D. Suresh. I met Farrukh Ali Khan at D's home a year ago. I believe Dr. Chakradhar is a busy ortho now.
Arif, Ramana and Me
Anyway, the party was to start at 7 pm and Ramana was the only one there. I walked in at 710. Ramana is an architect now but he told me he had composed some seriously good music for the Telugu industry including Gulabi, a huge musical hit. We entertained each other until Arif, Mohammed Ali and Charles arrived. Ammar came next and went to attend a wedding. And then came Ashok Sugandhi, who owns a dairy, a farm, an age-old agarbatti brand and a jewellery shop. Jalal is a lawyer. Ammar now a CEO of a school after a long career in finance - Stanchart mostly.
Iconic pic - sums it up - Farrukh and Nirmal
Nirmal has this hugely popular Bagga Wines. Arif runs Crown Opticals and always has. Vinay is back from the US and runs a successful pest control and facility management company. Farrukh works for the US Federal government. Faiz is a doctor and writes wonderful poetry as I could see on the messages on phone - and also wrote a book on Internal Medicine for the Medical Council. Very accomplished and he looks it too. Zaki is General Secretary of the Saudi Indian Business Network and gets felicitated and featured in the news for some great work. Azhar, Nasir, Viquar are also from the Saudi and work. Kamran works in Dubai in operations.nothing. Charles does a marketing job and Archie is with Yatra at the airport. I think that's as much as I could gather.
Lovely setting - Md. Ali, Charles, Nasir, Vinay and Faiz
Shyam and Ghanshyam run their leather businesses. Sanjay Das has a franchise for veterinary products and this beautiful pub overlooking KBR -'Karma'. Nusrat said he was doing nothing or was that Meiraj - both seem to be leading retired lives.
The cake being cut by Sanjay and Azhar - Host and organiser
Lots of talk about the teachers - Sastry sir, Naidu sir, Dixit sir, Bro. Thomas, Kusuma teacher, Jugta teacher, Mrs Luthra, Rafat Muneer, Martina teacher, Dhruvaraj sir, and others, mischief makers and some memorable events.
Sanjay Das at the Karma love sign
The place served some great food and we took lots of pictures. A cake was cut late in the evening, we posed for some more pictures and then I came away. I caught up with as many as I could, spent lots of time with Kamran. Wonderful.
Vinay doing a  nifty step or two watched by Azhar and Nirmal
Missed Abhijit, Deepak Uttam Singh, Rudra, Deepak Dhanani, Jamshed, Ved Vyas Dhar, Farrukh, Sanjay Gabriel (now no more), Abdul Rub (Madina), Maqsood, Satpal (who was an ace at  Maths and now runs a family business in the old city says Nirmal), Venkat (cricketer), Rajesh Chetty (cricketer), Nayeem (football champ), Suresh, Chandu, Narayan, Narender, Pradeep and so many others from the C section. Fill me up if you guys remember others.
Sanjay, Arif, Ashok, Nirmal, Nusrat, Mohd Ali
Wonderful meeting. Azhar did a great job of organising it and pulling it off very well. Nirmal seems to have played some part in it too and much thanks is owed to Sanjay for his hospitality and the lovely place. A bunch of old men, onlookers would have thought. It was a bunch of schoolboys really. You should have heard some of the conversations that floated about. Enough to make a sailor blush. But we always prided ourselves in being the rowdiest bunch around anyway!  Until the next then.