Monday, December 30, 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Open My Eyes, Open My Soul - Yolanda King and Elodia Tate

A compilation of stories, essays, poems that celebrate our common humanity. Black, White, Asian, underneath we are all the same is the theme. Contributions include those from Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou and others. Yolanda King is Martin Luther King's first daughter.

The first poem 'Human Family' by Maya Angelou.

I note the obvious differences
in the human family,
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones,
can confuse, bemuse and delight,
brown, pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
Although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine,
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

The stories are about black and white Korean and Japanese, how people overcame these barriers of colour and culture and created lifelong bonds and relationships. One story about a Mexican babysitter (so similar to the movie Roma), of black African American soldiers and their experiences - one where the entire bus of white people gets off when the bus driver asks the black gentleman to get off because one white gentleman refuses to let that happen to a soldier, little children not noticing their colour but being amazed that their hair is different, a white girl who does not go out on a date with a black boy because her parents would not approve and not able to get over the hurt she sees in his eyes, the Catholic doctor not being allowed to marry a Jewish girl, a Korean mother taking home her child of mixed parentage and finding love and acceptance and not hate, Muhammad Ali finding inclusiveness in Islam and all religions and same with Stevie Wonder, a black doctor from Africa and his white wife forced to live apart all their lives - she in England and he in Africa, and so many more.

Wonderful stories. Easy read. 

The Sunday HANS - How to govern the government

How to govern th government well!

Problem is You, Solution is You - Swami Dayananda Saraswati

The second booklet gifted by Bakul.

Humans have two types of problems - one where the solution lies is outside and one where the solution lies inside. Humans also seek two things - what they do not have and what they have but think they don't know they have. Chiefly humans seem to want to live longer, gain happiness and acquire knowledge.

As long as there are facts, negative thinking will exist along with positive thinking.

All limitations are objects of my knowledge.

Sadness is centered around the I. This division is resolved when you recognise yourself as a whole.

I-notion is the problem.

You are the solution because once you accept yourself fully you realise you are limitless. You are consciousness, fullness.

'I am unhappy' is the problem. 'I am free from unhappiness' is the solution. It is not delusion. It is the reality to which one needs to become alive.  

Vedanta 24x7 - Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Bakul gifted me two booklets - 'Vedanta 24x7' and 'The Problem is you and the Solution is you'. They are short booklets. I picked up the Vedanta book because I had no idea what it was. It's explained right up front - that Vedanta is a form of inquiry where one discovers the meaning of the word 'I'. Of course, he says it does not happen unless you are prepared for it. But there is a clue - he says the prepared mind is one that has in relative means what it seeks. Not easy to get right but it means that if you have some contentment in you, you are on the way to gain contentment in absoluteness.

There is some talk of how one must accommodate others - let them be instead of trying to change them. Don't interfere and accept things are they are. Human choice is over action, not reaction. To exercise more of action, heighten awareness.

He says that the Vedas give a plan to make us mature. He talks of a duty-based society - based on the varnas which he says is beautiful and not caste-based as people mistake it to be. One must perform one's dharma. Sweeping is not inferior to performing puja. Varna he says is our duty to society, humanity and we must strive to do it the best we can. And it is better to die following our dharma.

If we have our dharma to guide us and there are no birth-based varnas, I fail to understand why there is so much discussion on the varnas. People will be born and will choose their varna based on their - dharma, like/dislike/propensity/talent? Or is there something or someone who will tell a person what their dharma is? What if someone believes that their dharma is to mess with other people?

Swami says that the Indian society is non-aggressive because of their emphasis on duty. We are duty-bound he says and also gives the example of how all other countries had a civil war after the second world war except India - because we are duty-bound.

While talking of the duties of the citizen towards the state and vice versa he quotes
"Let there be happiness for the people
Let the king rule the earth with justice
Let there always be happiness for the brahmanas and the cows
Let all the people be happy' 

Here he specifies that brahmanas as 'thinking people'

"Let there be rain at proper time
May the earth bear good crop
May the country be free from disturbance
My the brahmanas be free from fear'

Clearly, the brahmanas must be kept happy and free of all fear. And of course, all the others too.

Somewhere towards the end, he says that the varna system is not about caste system. (Fine, that makes sense. But who will slot people into varnas if it is not about birth then? Are there systems or schools that are expressly doing the job of finding what varna a child should belong to?)

One must understand that the same person cannot do all the jobs he says. But they can, with some education and training. I have several problems with this line of thought. Anyway, thanks Bakul for gifting me this book.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Management Tips - Harvard Business Review

HBR is bringing out their wisdom in books. I saw several books - highly-priced - on leadership, management etc. I found this book 'Management Tips. interesting and picked it up.

It's short, one para tips for managers and leaders. It is split into three sections - Managing Yourself, Managing Your Team and Managing Your Business - each with about 50 tips.

'Managing Yourself' includes stuff like
Create a new vision
Take ownership
Take responsibility for growth
Learning mindset
Work on your weak areas
Be open to criticism
Schedule meetings with yourself
Manage your energy (breaks, thank, do what you love, reduce interruptions)
Keep it simple
Decrease tech dependence
Trust your Decision Making
Manage and find extra time
Increase your productivity (to do list, ist things ist, schedule time for non-urgent issues)
Prioritise work
Give up control
Beat burnout
Manage stress by facing it
Have fun at work
Take mini-breaks
Fire yourself (what would you do if this was your first day)
Decipher and achieve success
Learn from mistakes
Identify your unique style (your reflexive actions, compliments, confluences)
Become a thought leader
Remove your mental barriers
Craft the job you want
Develop your leadership brand
Become tomorrow's leader. 
Fire Yourself

Managing Your Team
Become an inspirational leader - be human, intuitive
Become a creative leader - coach, facilitate, gain respect
Lead confidently
Keep it simple
Don't be a bad boss - self-delusion, heedlessness
Be a both/and leader - try and achieve all possibilities instead of rejecting some
Don't be a martyr
Give people what they need - love, growth, meaning
Improve team performance - offer perspective, focus on success
Support team
Bring out their best - look for ideas from them, encourage openness, challenge them
Pat them on their back
Forgive but don't forget
Avoid unilateral thinking
Embrace diversity tension
Build a culture of trust
Resolve conflicts - team norms, shared agreement
Drive real change - joy, not fear
Assess behaviour, not results - separate them
Give better feedback - specific, timely, business-oriented
Explain, not just communicate
Be assertive
Develop a mentoring culture
Focus on what they are best at
Identify hidden talents - ask them their dreams, whey they prefer certain jobs, where they get complimented the most
Participate in their stories
Manage the stars in the team
Leverage the best people - push them to next level, let them shine, let them go
Gift them time and space
Lead and manage - both
Engage - ask questions
Give direction - don't assume, connect the dots
Don't cry wolf too often - they'll not take you seriously
Rid negativity
Battle change resistance
Align employee and company priorities
Don't assume they won't understand
Refocus on new strategies

Managing  Your Business
Assess change readiness
Create strategies with stories
Generate next breakthrough
Kill more good ideas
Involve front line in strategy creation
Take risks
Prep for crisis
Fail cheap
Stretch marketing dollars
Think like a small business
Tell your company's story
Define your purpose
Win hearts
Speak their language, focus on them
Attend to customer complaints, develop services that customers want

Though all ideas make immense sense, I liked a couple of ideas - one being the idea of 'Firing yourself'. The idea is to ask yourself what the next guy would do if you were fired right then. Then fire yourself and do that. This is what Andrew Grove did if I remember right. It's wonderful.

The ideas make a lot of sense. Needs practice. CEO's with a big fat head will not even see the wisdom in this while those with a learning and growing mindset will pick up specific areas and work on those. I felt that the information could have been more organised, at times it seemed like there were the same concepts coming up. More concise, specific order of things, better organisation would have helped. Come on HBR, pull up your socks.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Canteen Fundas - Use the Appreciation App!

The Winning Way 2.0 - Anita Bhogle and Harsha Bhogle

It's about the business of winning - using lessons from sports to win in the corporate race. The second book with the same title. Anita and Harsha conduct corporate programs called 'The Winning Way' and have done over 500 such. This book brings in more insights from corporate leaders.

The book deals with the business of winning which is about getting good talent and retaining them by winning which they call the winning cycle. If the team loses, talent leaves, so its necessary to win. Interestingly they touch upon the fear of winning as a factor - I would think even more than fear of losing. The chapter on goals talks of how goals should be out of reach but not out of sight, about performance gaols and result goals and how setting up a goal is as important as scoring a goal.

They discuss the winning triangle of ability, attitude and passion - in that order. Talent alone does not cut it. One needs both resources and resourcefulness to get the best out of the team. One needs to win in all conditions to be a champion. The Burden of winning is discussed, and what goes on behind the scoreboard is discussed. People need to stay relevant, upgrade, else they will fall for the 'third-year syndrome' which many international cricketers do. Winning has its own side effects and the authors quote from Pat Riley's 7 dangers signals of a winning team losing it. In fact, some skippers say that a healthy paranoia is necessary to keep winning teams on its toes  - much like Andrew Grove said in his book 'Only the paranoid survive'. One has to manage success to achieve longevity or greatness.

The subject of learning while losing is addressed on how one can learn from failures, the symptoms of losing teams and how to turn them around. One should be aware of the crab mentality and not get dragged down by past failure. Change is dealt with and it is best headed by maverick ambassadors who turn the thing on its head. A positive intolerance to change the status quo must be built into the culture. When trying to innovate it is best to spend a lot of time in defining the problem first, then trying to find solutions. Once again, it is best that mavericks introduce change.

Tam building is all about talent, team climate and common pride. one must instill all these with a team ethic of interdependence. One must be aware that stars can make or break teams so one must be aware of building a climate that holds teams together. As Rahul Dravid is quoted - we must know who is adding to the pot and who is taking away.

While on leadership understanding players is most important - as individuals who are subject to team priorities. Leaders must have a vision, build trust, back team and take them to places they have never been to before. It helps if the leader is positive, unflappable and oozes confidence in all circumstances.

That's a lot of lessons. For the perceptive, quite useful and a good reminder. The content is absolutely bang on. However, the constant shift between the concept and the cricketing or sporting example breaks the flow a bit - perhaps because of the change in context. Lots of wisdom from the business gurus. Each of the chapters, however, can be dealt with as a separate book and that I think is what Harsha and Anita should do next - pick the magic elements and write in-depth about them. The resources at their hand are phenomenal.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Charminar at 8 in the morning!

Went to Charminar yesterday morning at 815. It was the first day the scaffolding came off. The new traffic-free Charminar is brilliant.
Bakul and Anuraag - first time in Hyd

View from Charminar

Another view

Looking down

On the way down

Steps - climb down the minaret

Mecca masjid

Chai, pauna, tie biscuit, veg and egg puff at Nimrah cafe - me Shobhs, Anuraag and Bakul

Monday, December 23, 2019

Tharian Peter - My Anytime-for-a-Laugh Pal!

There's a special equation we share - Tharian and I - he will always be on the top of my lists for having a fun conversation. Quick on the uptake, sharp, yet kind and polite repartee, non-judgmental, easy to laugh with - conversations are always great fun with Tharian. It's easy to joke and laugh with him, and that's huge for me. It also helps that we vibe perfectly (something he will contest immediately surely!).
Tharian and me - Early morning post U2 - Dec 16, 2019!
Tharian and I first met when we joined as officer trainees in the Bharath Petroleum Corporation at Calcutta back in 1991 - our first job. I had almost completed my MBA from Osmania and he had given up his MBA after his Mechanical Engineering from Cochin University to join BPCL.

He arrived from Cochin, fresh off the Coromandel Express. I remember someone had flicked his brand new sports shoes at Vijayawada station on his way there. Anyway, he shook it off and walked into office next day, all ready to get on with the job. There was no hanky panky with Tharian - a rule is a rule and he would stand up for it. Not like us who would uphold the rule when the odds were in our favour - he would uphold it even when the odds were not in our favour. This made life in those parts a bit risky and I was glad he was sent back to more civilised places like Bombay while we were sent to Bihar etc where they follow their own set of rules.

We had a short orientation course at Calcutta overseen by the inimitable P.K. Ghosh - there were some 12 or 13 of us - Tharian, Raju, Ramesh, Sunil Iska, Gopikrishna, Adithi, Priya, Sridhar, Krishna Kumar, others whose names I fail to recollect. One Malayalee, one Assamese.
Tharian and Sanjana - Mangalore, 2004 
After the short orientation course groups of two were formed - so it was Gopi and me in one. The two pretty girls Adithi and Priya were attached to who else but Tharian. That gives you a sense of the chap. One look at him and you know he is a guy to trust (even with two pretty girls), someone who can be relied on to do the right thing. He is polished, polite, compassionate - all the qualities we did not have - nor did we evoke any confidence from the powers that be. And so Tharian was placed in the enviable position of being in the girl's team - or they were in his team - we didn't know. The girls were quite happy to have this cute, funny, serious, responsible, trustworthy gentleman with them.
Rahul, Marina, Sanjana, Tharian and me in Mangalore, 2004
All of us were sent off to different locations. Gopi, me, Tharian and the girls were sent to Budge Budge, a place on the outskirts of Calcutta for a month-long training on an installation. We boys got a place to rent, ate meals at Bharath Jalpan hotel (Tharian would refrain from eating too much mutton fry there also) and got through that one month. During this period we had a great time - I realised he loved a good laugh, and our frequency matched. He enjoyed reading Wodehouse. Of course he wouldn't overdo anything which I was likely to, but we were okay with that. In that whole batch, and later on in my whole life, I found few with whom I shared that frequency, that comfort. It was like god felt I needed someone to laugh with and sent Tharian along. A lot of what we share is unsaid, different blokes with different aspirations and patterns and likes, but something deeper connected us. So when he was sent to Bombay after one month, I was pretty devastated (but didn't show it). Tharian took it as he normally does, with a smile and a wisecrack and headed off to Bombay.
Shobhs and Rahul - He was comfortable with small people then (just like me)
I am pretty certain we wrote to each other then.  yes, we did. Somewhere early on I figured he was a good one to write letters to - he wrote well, had a funny bone - so his letters were always welcome to laugh aloud. I keep telling him to write even now but he doesn't take his writing seriously. Tharian has the best sense of humour I have seen and heard. That poker-faced joke type.

After Tharian left, the two pretty girls were attached to Gopi and me, and we travelled all over West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa for some four or five months. Then I quit, fully trained as an officer and headed off to work in a private firm in Hyderabad. In 1994 I got a job in IDBI Bombay and one day quite by chance I bumped into Raju, who was with us at Bharath Petroleum, of all places, in a crowded local train. Now Raju and I were to report at Raipur before I quit. Raju was now in the IT wing of BPCL at Mumbai. The first thing I asked him was about Tharian and he said he was hale and hearty and in Bombay and he gave me a number. I called that very day and we fixed up to meet that weekend. We met, a famous meeting, at the iconic Cafe Mondegar where much beer was consumed and all tales updated. We connected as simply as before - this time for good.

I'd visit the BPCL quarters in Goregaon quite frequently where he shared a flat with Manoj, one of the classiest chaps I have known, for his minimalistic practices even then. His room was like a museum - few things, all in place, all classy. Tharian would cook some tomato bhartha or something which was his speciality he claimed (it was brilliant!). My speciality still remains eating. We'd drink beer. Once or twice he came to my flat in distant Nerul which was in the boondocks then. He gifted me a pen with a lovely note that I still have - "This is something to remind you of me when you write your memoirs". I kept the note. The pen I used to write my early articles for the AP Times - the first time I attempted life as a writer. I would run my articles by him. One particular article about biryani upset the Malayali in him - he did not like the tone I used when I wrote about the biryani I ate in Calicut and how I felt that only Hyderabadis knew how to make biryani. Apart from that one article, he was supportive of my writing forays. I got married during that time and invited him. He didn't come. He got married during that time too. I didn't go. Though I seriously thought of flying to Cochin. But then the thought of dealing with all the air hostesses put me off.

Tharian's cooking and our jokes on it. Hanging out at Goregaon. Him helping out with our gas connections. Our meetings at Mondegar. Him telling me how he burst out laughing while reading Wodehouse on the way to his office in Mazgoan much to the surprise of the truck drivers there (he was reading Wodehouse while walking!). Me staying with him before the final of the Times Shield which I played despite a bad injury, had a big role next day but couldn't fulfil it. I remember Tharian telling me when I told him I was sleepy before heading off for the match that he read that Napolean's armies would also say they were sleepy before war. Fear does that he told me. Me gifting two of the finest towels from Welspun to him and Manoj for putting up with me. Playing shuttle with him and realising he was not easy to beat at all despite his looks - he was very crafty with his drop shots and made me look like a fool. Lots of laughs. Some serious moments - especially before our marriages. Then I left Mumbai in 1997.
The note Tharian gave me when he gifted me THE pen!
We stayed in touch. The odd call. Maybe a letter. He sent me his wedding pics. I still have them. Then we met again after many years in 2002, the day my mom died. He was on a long drive from Bangalore or Cochin with Marina and the kids and that was the day he was in town. It was rather surreal to meet like that, but we were all rather cool about it - Mom had suffered for a while and was in a coma-like state for the past month so it was more of a release for her. And then, in 2005 or 2006 Shobha and I drove to Bangalore, Calicut, and then headed off to Mangalore where Tharian was. By now both Rahul and Sanjana were slightly older. We spent two or three days with them and headed back home.

In 2007-8 Tharian and Marina dropped in from Vijayawada where he was stationed and I cannot believe I never visited him there in all the five years he was here. I made many plans of visiting the Konaseema etc and the only time I met him in Vijayawada was when I went to promote Golconda high School and he came and met me in the middle of the movie after his work.
With Anjali - 2008
Another couple of times, once when Anjali was born, another time, when he came for some work.

And now, after a gap of ten years or so we met again thanks to U2. Tharian is now based in Nerul which is so different from what it was in 1995. U2 played in Nerul so I called him and caught up with him, Marina and Sanjana. Sanjana is now 16 and studying in her 11th and Rahul is studying Economics in Milan, Italy. When we visited them in Mangalore in 2004, Rahul asked Tharian a question before giving up his room for us - 'Are the guests big people or small people?' he asked. Tharian replied that one was big and one was small. Rahul quietly told him that he liked small people. Throughout the trip he would not talk much to me but he was quite happy with Shobhs. Rahul was a huge soccer fan when he grew up a bit and we even connected on facebook where I watched him cheering his fav teams for a while. Tharian was/is totally bowled over by Sanjana then as one can see in the pictures (and even now I suspect) and he would not let go of her even for a moment. Sanjana has now grown up into a lovely young lady and she asked me questions about my writing etc. She's training on her singing and I am sure has a whole bunch of other talents.

Marina is so well organised that there's not a speck out of place at their home. It blew my mind to see everything so well organised. And she is one of the most composed people I have met - always a pleasant demeanour, always involved in the conversation. She says just enough, just the right thing, takes life as it comes, almost meditatively. And not to forget to mention that she's a fabulous cook. I loved the appam and egg curry, the chicken biryani, the prawn curry everything

Tharian and I made plans to drive to the North East. I am serious about it and am looking forward.

Good fun as always Tharian. And dude, with this blog, you're already starring in my memoir!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The 5 am Club - Robin Sharma

The title says it all - get going at 5 am. Own Your Morning, Elevate your Life. The book is written in the same style that all Robin Sharma books have - a loose fictional story. In this book, an artist and an entrepreneur go to a life-changing workshop by someone called a Spellbinder and meet an eccentric billionaire Riley, who offers to teach them how to change their life. The book is about how they unveil this secret. The 5 am Club secret.

First, let go of mediocrity. Cultivate the Mindset, the Heartset, the Healthset and the Soulset - knowledge, emotion, health and soul.  Change is hard at first, messy in the middle but glorious in the end. To change their lives they must be aware of what distracts them from creative production, what excuses they are giving, how they must do what 95% are not doing and how when you feel like stopping, don't.

The four focuses are - Capitalising potential, Freedom from distraction, Personal mastery to train the best parts of us and Day stacking to improve 1% every day.

The 5 am habit installation
It requires will power, which is a skill. Like a muscle, it grows, when we stretch it. Recovery is important too, so don't overdo it. Be consistent, follow through and finish what you started. How you practice in private is how you perform in public

The 66 Day Process
One must look to go through the 66-day process to install a new habit. 22 days to destruct old patterns, 22 days to install the new habit and 22 days to integrate it into your life. Once you integrate it, your will power becomes available for the next change.

Pointers to habit installation.
Never install it alone.Get group support.
When you feel like giving up, advance.

The 20: 20: 20 principle
From 5-520 am - MOVE - Get moving, intense exercise he says, sweat hard, breathe
From 520-540 - REFLECT - Journal, meditate, plan, contemplate
From 540 - 600 - GROW - Review goals, read books, do growth-oriented stuff

Sleep is important
Between 7-8 - have your last meal, get off devices, isolate from over stimulation
8-9 - conversation, recreational stuff. read
9-10 - prep for sleep, gratitude, organise thoughts

10 tactics of successful people

  • TTBF - Create a bubble of total focus (5-6 - build your solitude)
  • 90/90/1 - for 90 days, do 90 minutes of work on one focused goal
  • Daily 5 - Create 5 victories every day, tiny targets
  • Second wind workout - have a second workout at the end of the day
  • 60/10 - After an hour of intense work, take a 10-minute break
  • 2 massages per week - invest in 2 massages per week
  • Traffic University - Use the time in your traffic well by listening to audio
  • Dream team - Delegate to a dream team all those activities you don't need to work at to get to your highest potential - trainers, etc
  • Weekly design system - design your week
  • 60 minutes student - study for sixty minutes

The twin cycles of elite performance are High excellence cycle and Deep refuelling cycle
The time you feel least like doing it is the best time to do it.

Set your GPS as joy. Follow your joy.

Billionaire Riley's mantras

  • To create magic in the world, own the magic in you
  • Collect miraculous experiences over material things
  • Failure inflates fearlessness
  • Use your personal power
  • Avoid bad people
  • Money is the fruit of generosity, no scarcity
  • Optimal health
  • Raise to world-class
  • Deep love
  • Heaven is a state
  • Tomorrow is a bonus, not a right

The idea is pretty simple. Get going at 5 am. Mornings are great for deep work. The 20-minute pockets of intense exercise, reflection and growth activities are what give you an edge. This is also the TTBF - The Bubble of Focus. To install this habit do it for 66 days. That is far as the main idea is. Then Robin Sharma gives a whole bunch of advice we have heard from others in bullets.

After the 5 am habit installation, I'd think it makes sense to practice the 90-day practice of devoting 90 minutes to the one big priority. A practice of 60:10 - taking 10-minute breaks after 60 minutes clashes with this but it's ok - take a break after 90 minutes. The daily 5 - having five small targets to achieve every day is a great one. It gets a lot of small stuff going. I tried that today.

Exercise two times a day - possible. Massages are what I haven't done, so let's see. A weekly design system is a great idea - will start with a daily system and then move up. The Dream Team is a great idea. Need to get going there.

Of the billionaire ideas, I realise that abundance is an inner game and am working on it. I realise that I am far from being a generous soul still in many ways - need to start being generous to myself. I am conscious of the miraculous things. There's failure - but to fail while trying something new is the key I guess. Growing personal power is something I am working on. Health is something I m working on. Deep love is also something I am working on. Certainly don't take tomorrow as a right. I know it's a bonus.

I journal, which is good. Distractions are certainly avoidable and I can do better.

Overall, the book could have been a 100 pages shorter and stuck to the main points instead of the story and the needless attempts at drama (like the entrepreneur's life being in danger from assassins which peters out in the end or the needles romance between the artist and the entrepreneur). Still enough to take away and enough to practice. Thanks  Robin bhai. Thanks Jaico.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

U2's Joshua Tree Concert in Mumbai

I heard U2 was coming to perform. I was not a huge fan of U2 though I liked some numbers. The video where thy play 'Where the streets have no name' on a rooftop remains etched in my mind. Other numbers one can't forget are 'With or without you', 'I still haven't found what I was looking for' 'Pride - In the name of love', 'Mysterious ways' etc. Their music had some unknown angst, some lonely element, of a life incomplete. It was somewhere there - not up there, nor way below. Anyway, it looked like it was too much effort, the ticket prices were high, so all in all I decided to drop the thought.
Until Malay called me from Pune a couple of months ago and said - keep yourself free on Dec 15, we are going to the U2 concert. He also told me that I had introduced him to U2 when he was much younger, so he was buying me the ticket. The concert was one thing but this story was lovely so I said yes. Also this was their last concert - for the Joshua Tree!
Waiting for the action to begin!
So off on Dec 15 to Mumbai. Headed off to Tharian's place in New Mumbai - haven't met him in ages. Met him first in 1991 as a trainee in Bharath Petroleum, got to really know him but within a month he was transferred to Mumbai. Years later met him in Mumbai when I was posted in Mumbai and we have been in touch since. He came home to Hyderabad, I spent many days at his flat in Mumbai. Met his wife Marina and Sanjana, his sixteen year old, who is doing her 11th. A great lunch with beer and biryani and off to meet Malay, Sarah, Kalpak, Shraddha, Bhavna and Nicola at their hotel. Spent a while there and headed to the concert close to the gates closing time. DY Patil stadium was huge, the stage was huge.
The Joshua Tree
We were in the standing front crowd and the youngsters headed off to the front. I am not a big fan of the crowd up front so I found a place to sit at the back and waited. There were many fifty plus people - men and women - who had grown up with U2 in the 80s. All of them trying hard to be young again in their clothes, self-conscious dance moves, outrageous behavior with a few. In all this one sees a complete fan who is not bothered about what is going on and is fully immersed in the experience, singing it word by word.
Super impressive screen
There were no cover bands and sharp at 730 the band came on and started singing some numbers. The screen was unlit. And then the act picked up and the popular numbers came on one by one. When the screen came on it was beautiful - the biggest stage and screen I ever saw. Bono was full of energy, said al the right things - vote carefully, women and minorities must be safe etc. When the lights went off the entire stadium lit up with the mobile candles. Nice sight but nothing spontaneous about it anymore.
The band is a speck at the bottom
Somewhere in the stadium were Shrini, Nandita, Ram, Chandra and LV and some others I knew of later. The music got louder and louder until my ears hurt. But Bono went on and on without a break for the entire period. In the end came 'Ahimsa' with AR Rahman and his daughters. The background was peppered with women heroines - Kalpana Chawla, Arundhati Roy, Rana Ayyub and Smriti Irani. What was the idea I wonder. Perhaps it's better to stick to the music and let that speak than send out confusing messages.
Lights off, mobiles on
Magic moments - 'Pride' for me. And the visuals on the screen. Not the best I've experienced overall, but glad I was there. (Pride - In the name of love!)

My best U2 song (Mysterious Ways)

Roger Waters, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Guns N Roses, Enrique Iglesias, Yanni.


Anjali - Daksha School Sports Day Dec 14, 2019

Daksha School veered away from no-competition Sports Days so far, to one where there would be competitions in addition to drills etc. The school has grown much bigger so they split the primary and the upper classes this time - into morning and evening batches. Anjali was chosen to compere the morning show along with Kaniyan of the 8th class. It was a first for her, so she wrote her script, ran it by her teachers, fitted in all the names of the participants, practised reading aloud many times and went at it.
March past!
Apart from this she made the sprint finals for 7th and 8th class girls, participated in the march past, yoga, Kung Fu and a very lovely cloth drill. So she had her hands full all day. Shobhs and I went in at 1245 and found ourselves a seat at the indoor stadium at Yousufguda, and were soon joined by Ramesh and Kushal, Mansi's father and brother. There were races, hurdles and kho kho games. This time they even had houses - red, yellow, green and blue. Anjali and Divya were in red. Mansi in green.
The march past was nicely done. Then the yoga, races, kho kho, lezim drill, cloth drill. Most of the drills were superbly choreographed - lezim, cloth, umbrella to name some. I loved watching the kho kho games. Some of the races were fascinating with close finishes or superb runs. So was the skating show, yoga show and the Kung fu show. Overall very good.
Kung fu
As always Anita introduced the helpers and the teachers and it was fun to watch the kids cheering their favorites teachers and helpers. The program was so packed that they had to cut short a couple of events including the kho kho match.
All kung fu children!
It was good to see the spirit in which the games were played. I do not agree with the philosophy that children should not enter competitive games - which some schools have. What the children could be taught is to find the right spirit - of participation, of competing with others and finally of competing with oneself. By keeping one part away you cannot grow a whole; they must also know what competition is and find the right method to deal with it. This is how children realise that they need not be good at everything - they have their unique features while others have their own. In this acceptance of things, this celebration of excellence in ourselves and others, we grow as a team, a society.
Yoga - they displayed some really tough asanas
Watching some of the athletes playing kho kho or running the races, was such a pleasure; their athleticism, grace, strength, body movement, instinct, were a sight to behold. To hide this aspect of them would be unfair while the other children who may be good at academics, music, quiz etc get a chance to showcase their intelligence. As a case in point, Anjali, Divya, Mansi competed in the race while Brahmani was in the hurdles.
Watching the proceedings and discussing 
Divya and Mansi raced away to a gold and silver while Anjali came in behind. It must have been disappointing for her but she would in time accept her present limitations, work on them and prepare better for the next race, if she chooses to. Alternately, she may pick another area of her strength and liking and excel in that. While she celebrates the victory of her friends here, they celebrate her victory in her areas. As a team, they win. Each fulfilling a role.
The umbrella drill
Nothing captured the joy of teamwork as the moment when it was announced that the red team won. They erupted in an explosion of joy and it continued unabated until the pictures were taken. But as children are - it was heartening to watch them all walk away - reds, greens, blues, yellows  - hand in hand, discussing what happened, leaving their effort behind on the field.
The final celebration!
For this, well done Daksha.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A New Experience - Life Without a Phone

The other day I was off for a three-day trip, planned rather suddenly. We were driving down to Nellore on some work. I was to take my car to Vasu's house at five in the morning and leave it there so we could drive from thereon. In the darkness and while talking to each other I left my phone in my car and we headed off. At Malakpet I realised I had forgotten my phone and told Vasu that. He suggested we go back but then I figured it's ok - I could have lost my phone or damaged it. It would be a great way to detox. Anyone desperate enough to reach me would surely find a way, or wait.

It was a very freeing experience to not have the phone with me. I had no time, no alarm, no photos to shoot, no calls to make or receive, no messages to check or send - bliss. While all else were checking their phones I was blissfully on my own. Didn't miss it.

When I came back I was surprised to see one of my friends, someone I know very little of in reality but someone who sends me thoughtful forwards every day (the only one whose forwards I respond to because they are thoughtfully selected), was worried and had sent some messages and called. Otherwise the world did not miss me at all! Funnily, the ones who I thought might possibly get concerned, weren't. My family was dying of mirth with the normal jokes of - how will he survive without his phone and how will the phone survive without him stuff.

Very freeing indeed. We do worry ourselves too much. We give ourselves too much importance. It just doesn't matter! So chill.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Cricket Lessons with Baig Sir

So I am experimenting with this new idea of syncing the mind and the body, especially in motor skills like games. The video game gave me some pointers and I felt I could try it on the cricket game as well. So I went in with the idea of slowing my mind down to the pace where i felt it was under control - i.e. where the body was in sync with the mind.

The way I did it was to mentally calibrate my mind as if I had a virtual speedometer - I pulled it down from 80 on a scale of 100 to about 20. It somehow allowed me this feeling of more control. And with that slowed down version, I ran in with a clear idea of what I wanted to execute. And it worked very well indeed. To the left-hander I decided a particular line just outside the off-stump moving in to hit the off-stump and after some ten deliveries, it happened exactly as I visualised it. And again and again. the feeling that you have that in control was almost there. I never felt like I could crack the zone, until now. After a long time I got everyone out and that too bowled.

There is something to this theory of slowing down the mind to sync with the body.

Back home when I met Pallavi who had dropped in, and was telling her of my theory, she gave me another insight. About the magic quarter second, the time between the mind deciding and the body acting. The time when you can change your mind they say. I am thinking of actually using it to sync my mind and body. More on that later but this could be one of the most significant findings for me ever.

Baig sir - Swing Session
Baig sir had a wonderful session with the seamers and got them to swing the ball prodigiously. Later while chatting with the kids I told them a few things from my experience. What to keep in mind when using the new ball - keep it up and allow it to swing. don't hit it, give air, make the batsman play, don't make too much adjustment for the swing. Once the ball gets slightly older polish it with great care, one side, the ball swings to the rough side and not the shiny side (conventional swing) and when it swings to the shiny side (reverse swing).

I talked about the importance of shining the ball, of forming a relationship with their equipment, the ball, the bat, all else around in their environment. It was a nice session in the end.

Daddy's Boy - Shandana Minhas

I have no idea where this book came to me from but I finally decided to give it a read. There are a few books on my shelf that had been there for years, and once in a while, I zip through them. 'Daddy's Boy' was one of them.

It starts with a young man who comes from Lahore, a man with an unpronounceable name, to Karachi. He has a mother in Lahore and a fiancee called Lalrukh. In Karachi, he meets three friends of his father, a retired navy man who loved the sea. There are three friends of his father who speak a bit like the witches in Macbeth. They hustle the young lad through the last rites of his father, get him drunk, take him on a boat next day, tell him they actually want to bury his father at sea because he liked it so much (the other body was that of some homeless man), have him meet the beautiful Alina with whom he loses his virginity. Soon he finds that the three friends have conned him, the girl is a prostitute and goes to confront her. She has a young son who shoots at our hero and the girl comes in between and dies. The son goes with his father to Lahore.

That's the story. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Time Machine - HG Wells

I remember reading this book when I was in school - All Saints High School had a wonderful library thanks to Dhruvraj sir and a huge collection of illustrated short classics we could read during lunch hour - and picked it off Anjali's table. It's considered the first science fiction book, written in 1895. Wells launches directly into the story of a few nameless people who gather around a man, who tells them his theory of how one can travel through time - he explains how time as the fourth dimension is accessible. He even shows the others a model of his machine.

Soon after, he takes off in his machine and returns too, in startling circumstances, to the awe of his audience. He narrates the happenings after he heads off 800, 000 years into the future and finds that earth is still ruled by two classes, the upper and lower, the Eloi and the Morlocks, finds a young Morlock lady Weena who falls in love with him, loses his time machine, finds it finally, goes up and down in time and finally lands up back at London, safe and sound.  He narrates his fantastic story to a disbelieving audience. In the end, the Time Traveller takes off again, but this time he does not return.

Rupa Publishers did such a bad job of proofing this classic that its a shame. Enjoyed reading it again.

Dreams of my Father - Barack Obama

Barack Obama writes his memoir, his roots from his father, a black Muslim from Kenya who comes to Hawaii on scholarship to study and escape his poverty, and his mother, a white Christian from the USA, who is also studying in Hawaii. They seem to have divorced pretty early as Barack Obama senior went to Harvard and then to Kenya again where he already has a family and children. Obama's mother falls in love and marries an Indonesian man and after a few years there, they come back to Hawaii. When he is ten years old or so, Obama's father comes to visit and for the first time he meets him before his father returns to Kenya.

Barack is one of the two black boys on the island so he is not too happy with how he is treated. A bit of the history of the blacks, the discrimination he faces, hurt him. He studies well, goes to the mainland, to Los Angeles and then to Chicago to work for the blacks as an organiser. (Sometime in those years, he starts fasting on Sundays and brings a severe discipline into his life, towards the end he even gives up smoking.) The work is tiresome and he does a fair job of it too.  While there he meets many people of the Church of the Nation of Islam, and understands the difficulties and aspirations of the poorer sections of blacks. While here he meets his stepsister Auma who visits him from Germany and they plan to visit his father's family in Kenya.

Obama meets his father's sisters, wives, and his many cousins. He learns about the life of his grandfather, how they used to tend to farmlands or fish before the white men came. then his grandfather works for the white man as a cook, puts some money away, buys land, builds a house and educates his son Barack (Obama's father). Obama's father and his sister once run away from the house of the disciplinarian father who is a stickler for rules and cleanliness, then come back. Their mother cannot handle her father and she runs away too. Barack senior finds two American ladies who tell him how he can apply for scholarships and get out of the mess he has landed in - his father disowns him when he does not pay heed to his advice after school. Admission in Hawaii and the story ends.

By the end of the book I felt that however much he achieved, Barack Obama will always carry that sense of not belonging. (It's not a nice feeling - I hope it's not true.) And like Barack Obama himself said, the book was written when he was younger and would have been 50 pages shorter if he had written it when he was older. There are many times when he goes inward, and the pace and action slows down, while he pretty much repeats himself. However, it does offer a fine perspective into the life of a mulatto - the son of a black and a white - with roots in Africa. I enjoyed reading the Kenyan adventure the best, especially that of his grandfather and his life. Thanks Abhinay for a lovely birthday gift.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Nagarjuna Sagar - A Trip Down Memory Lane

So the rebellious Aruna Manyam studied in Nagarjuna Sagar from her 5th class to her 12th class. When she came from the US recently with her son Varun and husband Sunnie, she wanted to visit her alma mater. I was not doing much that day so I joined them. Aruna was my junior at Engineering college and Sunnie was my classmate at the Management college and there's some reason to suspect that they might have met thanks to me and Shobha (whom I met at the management college and married!) According to hazy recollections, it was when Shobha and I visited Sunnie at Bangalore post our honeymoon, that Aruna had come to visit us and they kind of hit it off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Pic by professional photographer hanging around the bridge - Krishna river downstream
Anyway fast forward 25 years and here they are from Atlanta where she is a senior IT officer at Delta Airlines and Varun is a 6 foot 3 inch sixteen year old who is coping with his juvenile diabetes wonderfully well supported by Sunnie who has devoted his life to that. So off we went in an Innova to Nagarjuna Sagar where I had been a few years ago. Never saw the gates open though.
Aruna with Sister Prabhavati, Principal
I know Aruna from 1985. She is one year junior to me and was in the famous Electrical Engineering batch which had som 20 girls or so. Now Engineering colleges those days had four of five girls here and there at best and we were not used to seeing so many girls. It was a spirited lot and many of them did very well after their studies. Aruna was part of a troika with Shobha Meera and Aparna being the other two, all hostellers, and they were quite popular. I did not know them personally till my final year by which time Shobha Meera was seeing another friend and junior Aqueel, and Aparna was seeing the inimitable Prasanna. Aruna was not seeing anyone, being the rebel she always was. However we all had some good times those days - the juniors treated us seniors to some Chinese food and we treated them to some home parties. They'd come to watch cricket matches, maybe we saw the odd movie. Then we graduated and moved on. However Aruna somehow stayed in touch through all these years, became good friends with my wife Shobha Nargundkar, married our good friend Sunnie and now some 30 odd years later, is still in touch. Always the rebel, straight-talking, good-natured, good for a laugh, good sport, adventure-loving, something going on deep inside her that only she seems to know, some dilemmas that only she wants to handle herself, Aruna remains a loveable enigma. Varun's juvenile diabetes took a toll on her as she coped with her job and her only son's condition. Yoga, hapkido, Jaggi Vasudev, she seems to have found her peace now. But you can count on her. She will gamely wade into a noisy rock music party because we are all having a good time though she may not like rock music, take on any argument however strong the opposition and definitely takes the trouble to stay in touch. Once Sanjay wrote a letter completely in chaste Telugu when she had gone home for holidays. A week later he received a reply from her - in chaste Telugu! She is one of those few with whom you feel you share a lot, without anything being said.
At her Junior College, huge campus, run down
Sunnie was the baby of the class when we joined the MBA course. Shobha was in the A section while Sunnie and I were in the B section. The three of us put together a sort of an editorial board and got a newsletter and a book about the batch called 'Memories' with brief sketches of everyone in class. Sunnie played cricket with me for the college team, the three of us played table tennis, watched movies. When Sunnie moved to Bangalore and set up a successful advertising agency called Spur we visited him and the three of us went on a long trip to the Karwar coast in a hired car - just took off with no agenda. It remains my best trip so far - none of us were married then. We did another couple of trips - Goa, Salem. Sunnie visited us in Pune later that year.

Then Shobha and I got married and then Sunnie and Aruna got married and ever since they have been in the USA. Sunnie taught at the Georgia State Univ, taught hapkido, wrote. He is always one to share a laugh with, have an intelligent conversation, one of the few people you can trust with your life. Once Sunnie and I did a biryani evaluation trip and tasted all the popular biryanis in Hyderabad - we voted Mohini as the best then. Varun's juvenile diabetes has kept Sunnie on a parallel life - he does voluntary work for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Reseach Foundation) and raises funds through grueling 100 km cycling fundraisers every year. Some info about JDRF for those who wish to contribute.
The house where she lived perhaps
While we sped down to Nagarjuna Sagar in the Innova, I realised how careful they need to be with Varu's blood sugar levels even though he is hooked up with some monitor in his arm that sends signals about his levels, another contraption that releases insulin when required. All three get updates on their mobiles and there is continuous monitoring of what to eat and how much. Varun puts up nonchalantly with all this - a few years ago he had to prick himself every now and then to check blood sugar levels which he would do stoically, but now he does not need to. As a thirteen-year-old he came for cricket coaching with me, and learned all he could gamely. Now he has shot up and is taller than I am, an inch easily, jokes with his father and mother in a semi-adult manner. He is smart, has a great sense of humour and is a transparent, good kid. Someone you can talk to.

We visited Aruna's school first, St. Joseph's High School which is on the Telangana side. It was well maintained, they welcomed us warmly. We walked around, met the Principal Prabhavati who was remarkably patient and loving with all the children, and some other teachers. The school was maintained very well and they were looking for funds to do some more work. One of the teachers somehow got us permission to go over the dam which is otherwise not permitted so that was a plus. Across the dam in Andhra Pradesh we grabbed some lunch at the  AP Tourism hotel, checked out her old house and then her junior college, crumbling down.  The town seems frozen in time, almost as it was then I guess.

We saw the theatre where they would watch movies the headed out. We stopped on the bridge where an enterprising photographer coaxed us to pose for a picture with the river in the background. Then we headed back chatting away about this and that. Glad I made the trip.