Saturday, June 15, 2019

Meeting Mony after 20 years!

Subramony aka Mony was my friend and colleague from the Business Development Division in IDBI, Mumbai. IDBI was a big conundrum to me - right from its name to the designations we got (What was a staff officer- does he go around with a staff or is he is HR?), everything was a mystery. The people even more so - v serious and supercilious! Our Mumbai office was one whole building of the swanky WTC Towers at Cuffe Parade. Our BDD was considered some kind of a plum posting. India had just tasted liberalisation and as a development bank, IDBI was keen to make a mark. It was out of its comfort zone now with the markets thrown open and more aggressive competition coming in. Creating a hotchpotch Business Development Division was IDBI's quick response and that's how we all got together.

As an MBA with Marketing as my specialisation they probably thought I was a good fit. The only thing was that my understanding of finance was lousy and especially with high finance, it needed a lot of time for me to understand what was really happening. In retrospect, if they had let me figure marketing out as they did at the Hyderabad Branch Office (thanks Mr Yesaw and Mr. Vidyasagar) I would have really helped its cause but being relegated to putting up sanction notes day in and out really messed with my mind.
Mony and I - 1997 circa
The entire fourteenth floor was buzzing with action - one half with the Merchant Banking Division and one half ours (they were the more glamourous cousins!). We'd rarely leave office on time and many times worked till 9 pm or on weekends. I soon found three other pals - Parag Pagankar, Mony and Mahender. Parag was a handsome, popular, star cricketer, having played for Dadar Union and for West Zone in the Vizzy trophy championships, and was from Poddar College, Mony was a CA rank holder and the most accomplished of the lot in terms of financial qualifications. Mony also played club cricket in Trivandrum and was a fast bowler with a big inswinger. Mahender worked his way up in the organisation from being a clerk to an officer by adding several qualifications such as ICWA etc, moved from Delhi to Mumbai. He hated cricket or any physical activity and laughed at our cultural extravagances (like buying music!). He had this incredibly funny Haryanvi response to everything that would make us all crack up,
Parag, Mahender and me and Mr. Ralhan's wedding in Nashik
Mony was always immaculately dressed and would go deep into the project he was appraising. I would have a million doubts and I would pester both Mahender and Mony with my basic questions (like the assets and liabilities actually balancing in the balance sheet!). Slowly we became friends and would go to lunch together. After lunch we would stroll around the tower or walk into the shopping arcade close by where I would sometimes buy a book or buy some music much to Mahender's mirth. Mony would be interested though and we would share that music later.
20 years later - Fine dining!
Parag, Mony and I played cricket for IDBI in the Times Shield and that year we made it to the final. Parag and I shared the spoils in the first game with five wickets apiece, he scored a century, and I picked up a few wickets and scored some vital runs here and there. It was a fun and enriching experience. I really enjoyed that particular championship.
Me, Mony and Rao
Parag was the only one who was married amongst our lot then - to the beautiful and vivacious Mamta - and already had two young children Siddhanth and Esha. On Friday evenings when the work was not too heavy the four of us would walk to Cafe Mondegar in Colaba, a nice long walk, sip beer, listen to the jukebox. Or we'd go to Alps which was less crowded and sip beer and eat some sizzlers. Or we'd head to Bade Miyan kebabs. Mahender was not much of a drinker and would throw down his beer like he would a shot and then wait for the rest of us. There were a few times when the revelry got to us and we just about made it home in bad shape.
Irani chai - mandatory halt before the flight
On most of these occasions, Mony and I would head to one of our homes - mine was at Nerul and his was at Malad. Especially when there was a weekend coming up. Mony's place had a fabulous view of Mumbai and we'd sit in the balcony, the monsoon blowing away, listening to Jagjit Singh singing 'Jhuki jhuki si nazar'. Mony had this wonderful menu - hot rice, pappu, papad, and some fabulous podi that his mother made for him. I'll never forget those dinners at his place. On occasion when he came home to Nerul, we'd do stuff like watch TV or laze about and eat Chinese food.

When BDD wound up after a couple of years I was all set to head home. I tried my hand at writing, thought I could shift careers and sought a transfer to Hyderabad. We celebrated my transfer (Alps and Mondegar again) and off I went. Mony got transferred to Pune. Parag and Mahender stayed in Mumbai and are still there. Mony met me after that - he visited me at Hyderabad and then once again after he got married, with Keerthi.
Bye Mony - see you soon buddy!
After that he got a job with the Bank of Muscat and headed away. I quit IDBI and went deeper into writing. We somehow lost touch for a short while but then thanks to Mony we got back in touch again. He realised that I had published a book, bought it, read it (and tells me that once in a while he reads it and its still relevant - I am thrilled to hear that). On his trips to India, he always calls and we plan to meet at Mumbai or Chennai. Since Parag and Mahender are in Mumbai, the plan is always to get me there. I missed a couple of their meetings. Despite all the talk, we never met.

But Mony kept in touch. Not too long ago he found a poem I wrote while at IDBI (I'd write some thought and pin it on my desk for that day) and shared it with me with a look what I found - it was lovely to find that memory. As always he asked me if I could make it to Mumbai this year too - he was coming down this June. Sensing my doubt, he made it easy for me. He booked a ticket to Hyderabad and flew down here.

After 20 years.

I picked him up at the airport and within five minutes he was like - man, it's like we just picked up after yesterday. Two decades had gone by. My hair's grey. But Mony looks fitter than he was then. He runs 10k runs! He told me how his life in Muscat was - he is in a senior position now. He's seen the world - some 55 countries at last count. He was amused at my shock when he said he owns 16 suits. He guzzled beer with me as we caught up on old times, took Anjali and me out to a fine dining experience, came home and played Jagjit Singh until well past midnight, came to cricket practice the next day, bought pearls for his family, met another old friend of his, Rao, who was a wicketkeeper at his club in Trivandrum, all in the day and a half. Back home we guzzled some more beer, watched the World Cup, headed to the airport, had an Irani chai on the way and finally it was time to go. We called Parag from the car and he said we should have called him - he would have come to Hyderabad too - we didn't even think of that!

Time had flown. Mony had read all my books save the last one - This Way Is Easier Dad - so I gifted him one copy. I texted him after I got home that I was glad he made time and came to see me. He said he wished he could have stayed another day. Exactly my thought too. It was a straight throwback to those days. Next time we decided we'd do a road trip - something we had been talking about for a long time.  That should be fun.

Thanks for coming Mony. See you soon!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Popcorn - Ben Elton

Ben Elton is one of my all-time favorites and he does not disappoint with this one. He somehow gets into the way we live life and makes a telling comment on it through these characters and their motives.

Bruce Delamitri, director of movies about killers, had just won and Oscar. He heads home with a Playboy model who is aspiring to be an actress. At the other end Wayne and Scout, two of the exact kind of people who feature in Bruce's movies take his movies literally and go about killing people randomly in a mall and elsewhere earning themselves the sobriquet - the mall murderers. With the police hot on their heels they head to their destination - the Delamitri residence and hold him and several others hostage. Wayne has a grand plan - he asks Bruce to tell the American people that he created these two monsters with his films and that by patronising his films, the public has also created them. Bruce turns it into a debate and this real life hostage situation cum debate cum more killings ends in a huge climax where most people die. But it leaves you thinking.

Gory and effective. Edge of the seat stuff.

Bindi Babes - Narinder Dhami

Narinder Dhami wrote 'Bend it like Beckham'. Here she writes about three schoolgirls growing up in the UK with their father (Mom died). Amber, Jazz and Geena are the coolest chicks on the block (their real names are like Ambajit and stuff).

Their father brings in his unmarried sister to take care of the growing up kids and its a battle between them and her and infuriatingly she wins all the time. They think up many schemes to throw her off but all of them fail - even to get her married off. Finally they reconcile.

All's well and that ends well. Its published by kidsatrandomhouse so you get the idea.

Charminar at 3 am - Ramzan Diaries

This time Vasu had some information that Shadab has some special delicacies that it serves only at 230 am and so popular is that fare that it gets sold out by 330 am or whatever. I wasn't as interested in the food as I was on visiting Charminar at 230 am so I gave him the thumbs up. Off we went in his Nano.
Alone in the crowd - appropriate caption on my T Shirt
The Nayapul bridge leading to Charminar was clogged so we decided to park on this side of the Musi and walk across. We parked at the back entrance of Osmania Hospital - it looked so majestic. Wonder what happened to our scale and vision as time went by.

The walk to Shadab was long and crowded. Once there we found that we were early. So we decided to jostle our way to Charminar which is great fun. You can't take a step without bumping into someone or the other. There are times when you just cannot walk. So we slip and slide, jump and hop, all the way through the street vendors selling a million things - shoes, crockery, clothes, food. We finally made it to Charminar and promptly turned back.
Find your way

Back at Shadaab at 3 am, the roads are packed with men, women, girls, boys and even some children - and at Shadaab we found many like us who were out to eat I guess - eating away through the sweaty insides of the restaurant but not willing to go away without the experience. Several of the IT types were there - slick cameras slung over their shoulders.
Our car parked near the Osmania General Hospital

Vasu did not find what he was looking for and the sight of those sweaty bodies turned me off food anyway so we had some falooda and a paan and jostled our way back.

Home by 4 with the morning milk.   

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Best of Thakazhi S Pillai - Edited by K.M. George

Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai is the author of Chemmeen, and recipient of the Bharatiya Jnanpita Award (1984) and several other awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award (1957). This book is a collection of 14 short stories out of the 500 stories that he has written.

They are dark and sad. The first one 'In the flood' is about a dog that is abandoned by it's master in a flood and dies of hunger and thirst. I saw some message somewhere that said that it is now a law that one cannot abandon their pets in natural disasters (I hoped they included relatives too). 'The Tahsildar's father' is about the father of a tahsildar who is seen as an embarrassment to the son's high status and ill treated by the daughter-in-law - and the old man vanishes after that. 'Under the mango tree' is the tale of a friendship between a boy and a girl - and how it ends badly for the girl while the boy does well for himself. There is one about an orphan who becomes a soldier and who marries a girl of an old lady he meets and dies after that. There is one of an orphan's burial - he gets more in his death than what he got when he was alive. A story of a woman who has an illegitimate baby and they both die. 'The story of Kalyani' is the story of a woman who tries to make a life and how she is exploited by people. Two urchins, one of whom goes to Pakistan after partition while the other waits for him - and they finally do meet near a garbage dump. 'The Boundary Dispute' is about an unnecessary boundary dispute that claims the life of one neighbour while the attacker gets death by hanging and how the families pay a price for a small piece of land. The farmer is about a traditional farmer who loses everything to modern farming techniques except his loyalty to tradition. The last story is about a grandma and her fascination for her grand daughter's handbag - a sign of all that is modern and progressive.

Stories that will stay. Stories woven out of life.

Nice Link - Unspoiled Hill Stations in India

Friday, May 31, 2019

Things we Grew Up With - Telephones, Directories, Trunk Calls and PP Numbers

In the late seventies and eighties telephones were owned by a few - the rich or the powerful or the government officers. Now get this straight right away - there were no mobile phones those days - all we had were landlines. The instruments were normally black in colour and the early ones did not even have a dialer. You picked up the phone and an operator came up on the other end and helped you by connecting you to whatever number you want. Later on we had phones with dialing facilities and it took forever to dial a few numbers as the dialer would wind up full length and then slide back noisily. Phone numbers were short - 4 or 5 numbers. One rarely made phone calls, used them to book long distance trunk calls and send phonograms.

These black landline instruments were given prominence at our homes and were kept in their own holy corners. Some telephones had well embroidered cloths draped on them that gave them a look of importance. Next to the telephone was the all important telephone directory which was used to track down people and their numbers. The directories were heavy enough to kill a person. Its an amazing piece of work, that telephone directory and one must see it to believe it. Later on most authors would use the directory to find names for their characters.

Most people did not have a telephone those days because everyone was poor. So all the neighbours would give the number of the one neighbourhood telephone to their friends and relatives as a PP number which meant that the telephone owner would take the trouble to call these people over when they got PP calls! Now I forgot what PP means.

Another important aspect of telephones was the long distance call provision which was called trunk calls. If I had to call Bangalore from Hyderabad I had to call a helpline number for trunk calls and give them the name of the person to be reached and the number at which they'd be reached. The truck call guys would then call that number and call back - in a time frame that took anytime between twenty minutes to an hour for which time you just waited - and he'd or she'd tell you that the call was through. You could hear the operator telling the other person where this call came from and introducing you two almost. And then there would be a frenzy of loud hellos because time on trunk calls were money and the lines were bad. So everyone would shout the loudest and repeat one another, and speak the fastest in an attempt to save money. But it invariably would lead to much 'what, what' from the other end, or the line would conveniently go 'dead' and we had to wait for the call again which would come if we were lucky. Most deaths, illnesses, births were conveyed this way.

Telephones were used mostly for formal and short calls as they were fixed to one spot and were not very convenient to lug around or cootchie coo into. It was not until much later that phones came into public space, and then, became mobile. Now phones do pretty much everything for you.

14 Spectacular Road Trips!

The World's Best Tiny Homes

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - When We Have More Choice, We Actually Have less

I've been a firm believer of this. The more songs I have in my ipod the less I listen.

Books are the only exception.

Lovely Story - Why Bheel and Bhilala Archers Don't Use Their Right Thumbs

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mindset Coaching Group

“Organisations are about people. People are about mindsets.”


Cricket-based Workshops 
Leadership Workshops
High performance Workshops
Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring Services
Good Counsel Is essential 
Coaching and mentoring help to fast track an individual in his/her aim to realize potential. A good coach helps the individual to sharpen clarity, maintain focus, stay on track and achieve a set goal in the most efficient manner.  He or she provides the right connect between the principle and the process. 

In Coaching, the coach and coachee work together to achieve specific goals. The coach provides alternative perspectives. The coachee is always at liberty to adopt or not. More often than not, a small insight sets the course right early often with significant gains.

Program Rationale
Life coaching involves all issues relating to life – health, wealth, relationships, success, career and spiritual growth. 

Executive coaching involves specific issues with work and may look at specific goals to achieve in one’s job or career. 

Performance coaching involves specific coaching related to high performance. It will include guidance on skill, physical and mental aspects to improve performance.

One-on-one, telephone and skype interactions.

Participant profile
Any individual who perceives the need for a coach or mentor in his/her pursuit of better performance, understanding. 

CRIC X – Powerful Executive Lessons from Cricket
 “You cannot hide on the field.”
Cric X, our unique cricket-based executive programs, drive home powerful executive lessons in team building, and leadership through cricket. Participants experience people dynamics, team management and leadership in a pulsating, competitive and action-packed atmosphere in real time. It is an experiential program where participants get a chance to judge themselves and others in action. Understanding of goal and role clarity, ownership and performance, individual and team commitment are tested.

 “Winning by Design – A Cricketing Approach to Building Champion Teams’ sets a common purpose, examines factors that form champion teams and brings teams together like a FIST. It clarifies the importance of role clarity and committing to team above self.

‘Personal Leadership – Building Ownership Muscle’  questions the individual’s commitment to the team, seeks a guaranteed commitment and pushes the individual to deliver against promise. It enables the individual to calibrate commitment and test for results.

‘Leadership in Action – Transitioning to Secure Leadership’ probes the behaviors of leaders and how leaders affect teams. Latent leadership behaviors surface in live action.

Each program is of 1-day duration. An integrated program would be a 3 day residential program.

The workshops involve short tennis-ball cricket matches followed by personal reflection, storytelling, role play, corporate and cricket analogy and exercises.

Learning Objectives
·         Team dynamics, building of winning cultures in teams, role and goal clarity
·         Individual commitment to team purpose, owning one’s performance
·         Delegation, people management and conflict management
·         Importance of Trust, Belief, Empathy in people management

Leadership Workshop
Cracking the Leadership Code - 
Building the ownership muscle

Leadership can be learned like any other skill. A good leader makes a significant difference to individual and team performance. Leadership skills bring the best out of people, grow teams and achieve results.

Leadership does not need a position. It is an attitude and an action, a feeling of ownership. This is why ownership and leadership are linked. Good leaders understand how ownership transforms.

 ‘Cracking the Leadership Code – Building Ownership Muscle’ is a 1 day workshop that deconstructs leadership, understands leadership as a process, looks at the evolution of leaders and creates secure and effective leaders.

‘Your Team Reflects You’ is a 1 day program for leaders at the top. The program deals with using feedback mechanisms, energy management and developing a coaching style of leadership.

‘Repurposing Team Effort’ is a 2-day offsite leadership program that deals with the top leadership of the company and repurposing of goals and effort for the year.
The first two are 1 – day programs while the last program is a –day offsite for the top leadership of a company.

The workshop employs reflection, dialogue, experience sharing, storytelling, role play and activity.

Key Takeaways
·         Understanding the leadership process, evolution and role of leaders
·         Linking higher responsibility to growth, ownership to performance
·         Personal leadership and result orientation
·         Delegation, people management and conflict management

The Champion’s Mindset
The High Performance Route to Fast track Growth

The route to becoming champion material is not for the faint hearted. It requires honesty to oneself and the goal, hours of disciplined work and staying on course despite setbacks. Knowing the way champions think and achieve helps in mapping the road to personal excellence. The Champion’s Mindset cuts through layers and zooms in on clarity, responsibility, commitment, process-orientation and growth-orientation. It fast tracks performance – if one is willing to work for it.

High performance is built on a clear process. It starts with an approach, a mindset. The Champion’s Mindset focuses on finding goal clarity, strengths identification, processes to achieve the same efficiently, planning and monitoring to stay on track and minimize uncertainty and ways to sustain the effort to take your performance to the next level.

The Champion’s Mindset is for individuals desirous of achieving high performances. It requires a high amount of discipline and motivation and a sharp focus on set routines. It makes the process efficient and result oriented.

The workshop employs reflection, dialogue, experience sharing, storytelling, role play and activity.

Key Takeaways
·         An understanding of the Mindset of a champion
·         Goal clarity and setting up of milestones
·         Strength identification and dealing with weaknesses
·         Organising one’s effort for results through planning and implementation
·         Sustaining the effort and staying on course

About The Mindset Coaching Group
The Mindset Coaching Group believes in the power of the mindset to transform our performances and our lives. When the approach is right, it is easy to learn and apply skills efficiently. By gaining goal clarity and deconstructing the process to achieve the goal, we can transform ordinary talent into powerhouse performances. The Mindset Coaching Group is committed to explore, research and guide those who are on the path to achieve their potential.

The MCG believes that if we can set it right in the mind, the rest unfolds. If we can see it, we can achieve it. The Mindset Coaching Group is the brainchild of Hari Mohan Paruvu, author and coach, whose work deals with themes of excellence and achievement of potential. He is supported by a team of associates and peers.

Hari Mohan Paruvu
Hari Mohan Paruvu is a writer, speaker, executive coach and workshop facilitator based out of Hyderabad. He is a Civil Engineer and MBA from Osmania University with sales, advertising, marketing and corporate finance experience. As a first class cricketer he represented Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy during 1985-87, the period when it won the Ranji Trophy. His first novel ‘The Men Within – A Cricketing Tale’, 2007, has been made into a Telugu movie ‘Golconda High School’. His second novel ‘If You Love Someone…’ was published in 2010, his third book, ‘50 Not Out – 50 Lessons from Cricket’, connects cricket to life lessons. His fourth book ‘This Way is Easier Dad’ is due for release shortly. Hari Mohan has conducted over 50 workshops and delivered over a 100 lectures on team building and leadership. He was a featured speaker at the TEDx VNR VJIET on April 2, 2016.

You can reach Harimohan Paruvu at Email: M: 98498 17609

Meeting Govind Raj - Former India and Hyderabad Fast Bowler

D. Govind Raj was a part of the two series that India played against West Indies and England in 1970-71, both historic tours because they beat teams overseas. It marked the turning point of Indian cricket. Though Govind Raj did not play on either tour, he was fortunate to have been part of a team that won, teams that were filled with excellent cricketers. Gavaskar, Sardesai, Wadekar, Vishwanath, Abid Ali, Jaisimha, Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, Venkataraghavan were some of the players he played with while Sobers was the one name that comes up in his opposition. He was the only fast bowler in that side but never got to play.

Govind Raj was one of the quickest in his time. Born in January 1947 he played first-class cricket for Hyderabad from 1964-1975 (93 matches, 190 wickets with 5 five wicket hauls). For a long time now Jagannath Das, my friend and Sports Editor of Telangana Today has had this idea of a news article where he wanted Govind Raj in conversation with me. 'Two fast bowlers,' said Das. I said ok. Interestingly, Govind Raj and I had played a game together for MCC in the 1986-87 period when ML Jaisimha was around too. He bowled a couple of overs off a short run up. After that all we heard about him were stories of how financially bad his condition was.

Das finally got his appointment with Govind Raj a couple of weeks ago and we went to his coaching camp at Kothapet near Dilsukhnagar. It's not easy to find the coaching camp - it's inside a school campus for mentally challenged children - Radha school. The owners have given space for about four nets to be set up and some 50-60 boys and a few girls were at the camp. With the ubiquitous lot of parents around.

Govind Raj looked quite healthy and in good spirits. Last I saw him was when the HCA had given us some cheques for being part of the winning Ranji Trophy team in 1987. He was honored too as were all Test players and I remember he had trouble climbing the dais. Now he looked far more at ease.
Das, Govind Raj and me
'I started playing for Keshav Memorial school as a batsman who bowled off spin,' he said. 'We had no coaches. I played for Hyderabad schools as a batsman. It was Jaisimha who told me to try my hand at bowling and that too at fast bowling. It seemed to work as I could generate good pace and get a good outswinger going.' He showed the bowling action to a few kids and it was just perfect for an outswinger. Can't go wrong with that action and finish.

He recalled the twin tours of West Indies and England and the victories there. 'I should have played a
game in England. It was a green top and we had Abid Ali bowling the new ball who got four wickets but on the other end, Gavaskar bowled. We lost the game. But no regrets. I played with some of the best.'

His favourite memory is getting Gary Sobers bowled in a side game on the West Indies tour - bowled. 'Jaisimha told me to bounce him. I did. Sobers was surprised and let it go. Jaisimha told me to bounce again. This time Sobers hit me for a six over mid off. The West Indian players joked saying 'you bouncing Gary with these shoulders maan.'

Heart over head, he did not go to play county cricket in England because they did not give him a ticket for his wife, someone he had met in Guyana. And then in 1975, after his first class career was at an end he went to England and worked in SBI, London. After retiring from the SBI he took up a job driving buses in London. The joy on his face is visible. 'I loved driving so when my wife said why don't you drive instead of sitting at home I went to the bus company that operated buses. They gave me training and I drove for five years. Lovely huge buses. That was the best part of my working life. It was financially very lucrative too. Then I had some problem with my sciatica and had to stop driving but I really enjoyed that period.' Obviously, he just does what his heart tells him and gives a damn for all else. When Das tried to get an angle at the driving part he said - I loved it. I am not ashamed of it. That ended that angle.

Back in India, he gets a pension of 22500 from the BCCI for first-class cricketers who played below 75 matches - something which he disputes - he played 93. Cricinfo says 93 too. BCCI is like a brick wall or a black hole - his representation for the last five years are heading straight into the black hole. If they do recognise the 93 games, he is bound to get a 25 lakh one-time payment too. Apart from the BCCI pension he also gets a monthly pension from the UK government where he worked for 30 years. 'I am pretty comfortable,' he says. 'If I get the 25 lakh from BCCI that is good. All I want is clarity on that issue and if I have played more than 75, I don't see why they should not pay me.'

'I came down to India because my children told me that I could do what I love here,' he said. 'I know the game and I love the game so I will give back to it. I have not been able to play so my purpose is to make at least one cricketer from this camp play for India.' He reels off names of some of his wards who are good prospects, is full of energy as he coaches them and is certainly burning with the desire to make a difference. The parents of the kids seemed to have realised they are onto a good thing. This place is the third one they have found for Govind Raj. 'They did everything, found the place, cleared it up, set it up. 120 kids come here. We charge only 500 bucks a month. I have four coaches assisting me, need balls, all that comes to 45000, so we just about break even. We are not doing this for money.' It is not the usual lackadaisical camp with bored and uninterested coaches, there is a serious energy there.

Das did not let me have the conversation as he promised and instead asked all the questions himself. I squeezed in a couple. Das seemed more interested in the hard-luck story. But what I came away with was a man who had a clear purpose in his life and who wanted to give back. His eyes showed that purpose and the energy in his movements belied his age and his sciatica related issues (for which he takes painkillers every day). 'I go home after practice, eat lunch, rest and am back by 430. Once every January I go back to London for a month. I am pretty happy with my life.' He is remarkably articulate and clear in his communication and recalls things very lucidly and with an amused smile in his eyes.

What more do you need? A life purpose that is related to doing something you love, being with youngsters who have dreams in their eyes and supported by people who love and respect him. Whatever you do, I'd say don't ever pity Govind Raj. He has something that most people don't have - a life purpose. Good for you Mr. Govind Raj. And all the best with your coaching camp and your purpose.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Surprise Visit(or) - Preneeja

This is the kind of a call you would like to get on a hot summer afternoon. A strange number showed up on the phone - I was not sure if I wanted to pick it up but I did. A young woman's voice on the other end introduced herself as Preneeja and that she had read 'This Way is Easier Dad' and identified with it. She had put it up on her Instagram post and a school friend of hers, Sneha Nambeesan, who was also my student at the University of Hyderabad, told her that she knew me and gave her my number. And Preneeja called rightaway and said she would like to meet if it was possible. All this she conveyed in a clear and articulate manner which in itself was an achievement I thought. (I can imagine myself trying to explain the exact same thing!)

I was glad to hear that someone was reading TWIED and told her that since she liked the book she could as well meet Anjali if she came home. So she did, braving the hot sun and made it in time, a big bar of chocolate in hand for Anjali. There were so many things to like about the things she did already - calling to say she liked the book, making the effort to meet and bringing along this bar of chocolate. Thoughtful - it's a quality I like. I don't remember ever being like that - am not even now.

Preneeja has studied psychology from St. Francis and has worked as a counsellor. Now she is shifting to a new job in Vizag with a company. She related her many experiences, gave Anjali tips on art and craft, had fine opinions on several things. She has also written and published a book which is available on Amazon called 'An Anonymous Soul'. She also writes a blog - and I read it and found that she does write very well and has some fine points of view too.
You could check it out here.

Good luck Preneeja. Keep reading and keep writing. If your blog is any indication of the kind of work you do I am sure you will do a great job of whatever you choose to do. And you certainly made our day!

Anjali - Meeting Harsh

Harsh and Mansi have been with Anjali at school since they were in play school. They were really thick. And when Harsh had to suddenly move to Mumbai a year ago there was much sadness. Once in a while Anjali would call him up and they would have long chats about what was happening at school and other stuff.
Harsh and Anjali 
So when we were planning a trip to Mumbai in April, Anjali's first condition was that we should meet Harsh one day. While at Pune we went out and she bought him a gift - the first Harry Potter book which she wanted him to get started on. She will insist that she buys it form her own money.

Harsh's family was living in Kandivli, a big two-hour ride for us almost. We went with Anjali, met the family, dropped Anjali there and came away. The moment they met they disappeared into the room inside and were chatting away like crazy. She stayed over and I picked her up the next day.

There's something so fragile and innocent about these friendships and I like the way they build them. I would love to be a bit like that too.

When I asked her if they had taken any pictures so I could write about it, she said they had not. They were busy playing or chatting. Luckily, an aunt of Harsh, whom these two met at the store had taken their picture. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gone With the Wind - Movie

1939 winner of ten Academy awards, it runs almost to four hours. But not for a moment do you feel like taking your eyes off the screen. Interestingly Margaret Mitchell's book was released in 1936 and the producers waited for two years to get Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (picked from 1400 aspirants who were interviewed!). They are both worth the wait.

Classics any day. Remember watching it in Sangeet thirty years ago. Different kind of impact now.

My Musical Notes - Rock Hits 86

This was one of those albums that compiled hits. When I bought this I really didn't know many groups or songs. But it had some great numbers like 'These Dreams' by Heart, 'Rock Me Amadeus' by Falco (never heard of them again), 'Manic Monday' by the Bangles (big hit). I liked 'Calling America' by ELO, 'Beats so Lonely' and the biggest hit in this album 'Let's go all the way' by Sly Fox (another one hit wonder).

What I am loving about this exercise of pulling out my old cassettes is that they give away tell tale signs of the times when I bought them - sometimes I wrote the name of the place and date on the cassette cover. But this tape has great memories as we played 'Let's go all the way' many times in our parties. My all-time memory of this was Venkatapathi Raju telling us how much Azhar loved this song on an England trip that they had made then.

Nice stuff!

The Newspaper Vendor Mafia

I like my newspaper to come in at 7 am. This is something I specifically ask of the vendor and they normally humour me. When they do not deliver on time, I seek an alternate vendor who can comply. Things were smooth with a couple of vendors being changed over the years for some reason or the other.

My current vendor is a pesky one. He is not always sharp in following my instructions. The one time when I had a problem with him and tried to change the vendor he somehow came back - perhaps he had a chat with the other guy and sorted things out.

Now once again he started messing up delivery. After a few attempts to call him I asked another vendor to deliver the paper. He agreed. The next day morning we had a grand spectacle of the old vendor threatening the new one and the new one making off without delivering the newspaper. I was livid. How could this guy force himself on me like this?

I asked my friend who works in The Hindu if he could find me another vendor. Turns out that this vendor of mine had 'bought' off delivery to all the houses in our row of the colony and no one else had the rights to do it. Which means I either buy it from him, however lousy his service, or go without a paper. I told them that I cannot subscribe to this kind of a blackmail. I would rather go without a paper if need be.

The Hindu's team spoke and negotiated with the guy and finally got the other fellow who had delivered one paper to me to continue with the delivery. Who'd think that so much lay beneath the simple newspaper delivery story? Newsworthy!

Gundamma Katha - Movie

The 1962 classic was NTR's 100th and ANRs 99th film. They looked so young. Savithri and Jamuna make up their romantic leads in a fun adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Taming of the Shrew.' Enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Alladin - Movie

Nice to revisit the tale we read as children. Will Smith as the genie and a bunch of well-cast actors and characters make it an interesting watch. Some songs were too loud and I thought the lyrics could have done with some work. Slightly loose I felt, here and there!

Out of My Comfort Zone - Steve Waugh

This is 720 pages long and took me a month to read. Steve Waugh kept a journal throughout his playing days - as he mentions in the book and that probably helped me recall minute details of all that happened during his long career at the top for Australia. There are interesting insights into his own approach to the game, player profiles, leadership and other areas.

My first impressions of Waugh were during the Reliance Cup when he bowled a critical last over and helped Australia win over England in the finals. He never looked like he would lose his nerve and that was something that gave everyone an indication of what he was made of. He would be there in critical moments and turn the momentum decisively in Australia's favour. In the next World Cup's opening game he dropped a crucial catch off the last ball of the inning and recovered quickly enough to run Venkatapathi Raju out. (In this book he says he saw Raju raise his hand in celebration while turning for the run and that spurred him into firing a rocket return that ran him out!) India lost by a run that game. One does not forget the innings he played against South Africa in the World Cup to qualify for the semi-finals under tremendous pressure as the only top batsman left. He was tough, hated to lose. He was one who instantly earned the fan's respect with his deeds.

So it was interesting to read his biography. His early days with his family, his twin brother Mark, making inroads as young cricketers into the local sides, not knowing if he was good enough, taking time to score his first test century. The fitness regimes, the desire to give his all for his baggy green, his lucky red rag, the time spent away from his family point at the sacrifices one has to make to remain at the top. One gets a good peek into the Aussie dressing room which was a fun, beer swigging bunch early on that became very disciplined and focussed on winning later. Their penchant to take off clothes and do nude laps or sing nude during team wins is another interesting aspect.

He talks about how he gave clear roles to his players which was interesting. There is a blueprint he shared with his team when he was captain which read like -
1. Stay a strong unit and enjoy each others success
2. Play each game as if it's the most important of your career
3. Don't hesitate - always back yourself
4. Never believe the game is lost
5. Aim to be man of the match every time you play
6. Improvise - think on your feet
7. Learn something from every match
8. Do the little things right and the big picture will fall into place (training, talk on the field, backing up the stumps, calling)
9. Enjoy the fact that you are representing your country - have pride
10. The best fielding side nearly always wins
11. Know your own game and what your role is
12. Have fun, have a laugh
Any kid can take these and use them to succeed.

Other things I liked were a point he made about how John Buchanan as the Coach would ask his players to commit what they would do and put it up there for everyone to see. It made them more responsible. A passage about leadership was very well written and covers almost everything a leader should know.

Steve Waugh used his travels to grow as a person by meeting people, travelling, taking pictures and understanding cultures. His work with Udayan, an NGO in Kolkata, where he helps the children of lepers to get an education, especially girl children is truly commendable. As a player, a captain there is never a moment in the book when you feel he has not given enough for his team.

That said, there is this huge bias to the Aussie side and all their transgressions which are almost always with some justification - brain freezes etc and all other things done by others coming out of some conspiracy. This is a tone I noticed in Brett Lee's biography too - maybe it comes out of competing so hard but it does leave a sour taste in the mouth. As champions that everyone respects, a little more grace would have rounded it off. Also I wonder if this habit of looking at themselves lightly came to what finally happened with Steve Smith and Warner - this desire to win.

Many iconic matches just get glossed over in a line but perhaps he did not want to dwell on them much - Sachin's back to back hundreds in Sharjah for one. He however, credited Sachin with the win in the Champions Trophy when Sachin scored a strategic 38 or so - an inning which to me ranks among his best - his 98 against Pakistan in the World Cup is another.

His relationship with his family - Lynette's note at the end gave a wonderful perspective into his life from her eyes. He has unabashedly mentioned how she was his rock in all his tough times. A wonderful love story. His love for his children comes through.

Overall it's an honest, straight from the heart piece of storytelling and thankfully, by the end of it, our respect for him does not grow any lesser which means he did a good job of it. I have read biographies of people I admired and after reading the book, wished I had not. Waugh's did not make me feel that way. Thanks Gunnu!

India's Most Wanted - Movie

2019 - Hindi. It's based on a real-life story surrounding the capture of Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of Indian Mujahideen and accused of serial blasts in several parts of the country. A small team of Intelligence officers with help from the Bihar Police follow a lead and capture that most wanted in India.

Well made.

Terror - Movie

2016 - Telugu.
Not a moment of boredom. Tightly knit. All the good work shows. Lots of interesting characters, good dialogue, performances. Great job Satish. The best part is the way Satish grows with each movie.

How to Become Money - Gary M Douglas

This is a workbook. It's a series of conversations, questions and answers, about money and it gives some wonderful perspectives into life itself. After a whole bunch of questions about what money means to us, what emotions come up when we think of money, what it feels like, look like, tastes like, which direction do you see it coming to you from, do you have more than you need or less, what color, what's easier - inflow or outflow and what 3 things would sort your current financial situation - we move into the conversations.

One of the first concepts I liked was that of allowance as opposed to acceptance. He gives the example of a rock in a stream of water. In a state of allowance, the water goes around you. In acceptance you get washed away with the water.

Another concept that I found interesting was how when we align or resist with anything, we make that a 'solidity'. Instead, the idea is to lighten it -make all points of view interesting points of view. He classified acceptance as having three stages - alignment, resistance or reaction. Look at everything as 'interesting' and do not solidify it.

He says 'be' what you would have. Hence BE money. Money should be within you. To be that create yourself as money, power, energy. Pull in energy from everywhere through every pore - flow it out.

The key mantra is to be - power, creativity, awareness, control, money. Be ready to receive.

If you are worried about security he says there can be no real security or guarantee for anything. The only security is the truth of us as a being, a soul. As one of the light. BE money.

To be money we must have the following
Creativity -  a vision of our life
Awareness - being aware that the world is exactly as we see it
Control - that the universe will bring my vision to me if I maintain my power and my awareness in alignment with what I do
Power - the energy pull it all in

It is we who create happiness he says, not money. The idea always comes first. For eg. I must work to have money. But that is an idea that came first. (He says it makes immense sense to throw our brains away because it limits us with this kind of thinking.)

Another conversation he has is when he asks a student if she wants to pay off her debt and all her debts. She sounds hesitant obviously because she does not see herself in a position to pay off her debts. He tells her that she must realise that she is functioning from a place of 'not enough' and 'not having enough' and also congratulates her that she has done a great job of not having enough. She could change the story and create a new one where she has enough.

Make money 'light'. Don't make it some hard thing - lighten it, so it is easy to pull inside of you. What you could have had must be within you and not outside you.

You as the unlimited being that you are, have access to all the knowledge in the world. You are but a pipeline for the awakening of cosmic consciousness. Don't live in the fear of success, of your power and your ability. Know that you are connected.

If you want to have something - it must be inside of you. To get more clarity of your life, live life in ten-second intervals. Only ten seconds. It's beautiful.

He also makes the students eliminate 5 words from their vocabulary - Want, Need, Try, Why, But. These are the words, especially the first two that make everything be outside of you. They create the separation between you and what you could have. 'Need' is saying you do not have it. 'Want' is saying I lack. 'Try' is saying I do not do.

He says money is not a necessity, it is the breath of your life. You cannot alienate it or make it outside. So you are your own boss. Create your life and allow it to come to you. Allow yourself to make 100 thousand dollars. Do your work from love, be not work but fun, in anything you do. Enjoy your money, your relationship with it.

Create. Be willing to change it. Be that loving to yourself and you are money and you are at ease.

The tools he reiterates are

  • Create the vision of what you will have by connecting the power and energy to it. It is a reality already in existence.
  •  Be in gratitude for all that you manifest.
  • Live life in 10 second intervals

The ideas are profound. Live in allowance. It is all inside you. Believe it. Live in 10 second intervals. Lighten everything.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Eega - Movie

2012. One thing that got away. Ticked. V nice. I liked what Rajamouli said in an interview he gave after this - that he had understood the craft of telling a story and he could now tell it interestingly with a fly or a mosquito even. Interesting.

Sajarur Kanta - Movie

2015 version of the film based on a novel by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay. 3 hour long and pretty boring. In the end, it makes no sense and a lot of dots are left unconnected.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Sonar Kella - Movie

Satyajit Ray's classic. Lovely.

Sultan - Movie

Nice. Sports drama.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Sunday HANS column - The Commentators Selection Committee

The Commentators Selection Committee!

The Book Sharing Initiative - Sundar Nagar Colony

Secretary Govardhan garu is an open-minded man. When Anjali wanted to check if the colony Ganesha was a clay one and environmentally friendly he took her, removed the cloth and showed it to her and assured her that they will buy only environmentally friendly ones.

Last year, inspired by the idea at TEDx VNR VJIET to have a bookstall where the guests can pick any book of their choice and walk away - free, I proposed such an idea to him during some event. Govardhan garu readily agreed and gave me space. I put up some 15 books with a small poster that Anjali made that these books could be taken away. It was interesting to see how suspicious and wary people were (just like I was at TEDx VNR VJIET) that they could simply take away the books free of cost.

The idea was to make sharing simpler, easier and unconditional. Yesterday, Govardhan garu sent word to me - he had set up a permanent stall inside the colony office and had contributed 20 books. I loved the idea and gave some 15 books myself. The other office bearers could not get their head around it. They all started saying 'library' and who will take care of it etc until we finally said there was no control required. Take book and go. I picked up two books - Rich Dad, Poor Dad and a biography of Einstein.

They found it difficult to understand that. But I hope that some of our inhibitions and suspicions disappear with such sharing. Hopefully, at some point, we can make this initiative bigger and share other things as well.

The Matrix - Movie

Finally off the list. Man saving the world - the one - Neo. Good stuff and ahead of its times for 1999.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Movie

Watched with Anjali. Fun as usual what with many bits of trivia she provided throughout the movie.

Kesari - Movie

The real story on which the story is based is inspirational - how 21 Sikhs fighting for the British army held back 10-12000 Afghan tribesmen at the Battle of Saragarhi on September 12, 1897  for most part of the day, and by doing so set back the plans of the attackers to occupy three strategic forts in one day. All 21 died fighting - they chose to fight against such odds and under the leadership of Havildar Ishar Singh engage the attackers and inflict severe damages - 180 dead initially and overall 600 dead after the reinforcements arrive. One of history's last stands. All 21 were awarded the India Order of Merit the highest gallantry at that time.

Photograph - Movie

Interesting premise. As an ode to Mumbai it works, but as a story, didn't.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Anjali - What Vacations Look Like

Anjali's vacations started with a trip to Waffles where we both ordered our regulars. Anjali liked hers apparently.

Some fun and play in Hyderabad before we headed off to Pune to stay with her grandmother. Playing cards is something they both like.

Hard at work on Harry Potter

Chicken sandwiches at Marz O Rin
Ice cream joint at Kothrud

Book reading at Kitab Khana
Back at Cafe Mondegar after years - just as good
At Kalaghoda on way to Jehangir Art Gallery
In the mood to fly off - back in Pune

Checking for the Potter movies
Helping Ajji in the kitchen

Breakfast at Good Luck with Kalpak
Books read

Checking out more books with cousin Saie
Watching Bishu and his Amigo