Friday, January 31, 2020

Talk on Leadership and Team Building - MCRHRDI

This is my second talk at the MCRHRDI. Vinod asked me if I could deliver a talk on the topic and I was more than happy to. The participants were 50 Assistant Section Officers who work in the Secretariat and other government offices. I was received by Naveen Reddy, Deputy Director, a pleasant and efficient young officer, and Pavithra who is pursuing her Ph. D. at the University of Hyderabad.

We swung into the program right away and answered questions such as 1) what is leadership? ( Influencing people, Holding group energy), 2) How important is a good leader? (more than 50% impact of a good leader on results) and 3) Can leadership be learned or is one born with leadership qualities? (Yes)

Since a good leader makes a big difference and it was an art that can be learned, we decided to get some understanding of it. First, we answered the question if any of us were leaders. We figured that we are leading our lives so we are leaders in a way and that we are influencing some people so we are leading. Can we do it more efficiently was the next question.

To understand leadership we decided to deconstruct the leadership box which consisted of four boxes - Why – Purpose, Vision, Agenda
- What – Goal, SMART goal
-  How - Culture, efficiency, process
-  Who – People management

So we decided to first start with leading ourselves and set ourselves a purpose to begin with -a long term vision for our lives, say over a 20-year timeframe. We watched the TED Talk by Simon Sinek on 'Start with why'. Then all the participants attempted to write down the purpose of their lives.

Then we looked at the what - the goals to achieve on a shorter time frame of 10 years, five years and 2 years. They were professional, financial, material etc. I explained the concept of SMART Goals – and urged everyone to write goals which they did.

Then we looked at the How – the values that they want to practice. We also looked at how one can get 10x results by improving process.

Lastly we looked at the most important part, the Who - and looked at how we can manage people the best. We did exercises on the 3 As - Acknowledging people properly, Appreciating people and Asking for help. We also did a short energy exercise to show how our energy changes with the context we set for ourselves.exercise

Briefly touched on communication, importance of feedback and team work before time ran out. Next time I'll just show the videos.

I ended with an insight into secure and insecure leaders and how leaders evolve from being Insecure leaders to being Personal leaders and finally being Secure leaders. We looked at the connection between being secure and being vulnerable.

The final idea - be secure leaders, grow people and create more leaders, mentor and coach. Start with practising personal leadership. Take charge of your life, to start with.

Good luck all. Thanks Vinod, Naveen Reddy, Pavithra and Pradeep.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Insaniyat ke liye karo - Two Good Samaritans

Sunnie dropped in for chai and I drove with him to Persis at SR Nagar which has become my favourite chai adda these days. Save the fact that they do not have sitting space and serve chai in paper cups I love the cleanliness, the flavour and the chota samosas they serve. I parked as usual on the road opposite Persis and while negotiating the edge of the road, those sharp killer edges that are left after cement roads are made for someone to fall and crack their skull, I realised that the front wheel had slipped off the edge and I was stuck.
Majid, Shahid and me - the severe look was accidental! (Pic - Sunnie)
A few passersby came and looked and tried to lend a hand. We put stones under the whirring wheel, tried lifting the car, tried my flimsy jack - nothing worked. The original lot left and another lot came by to help. I loved the fact that I did not need to ask anyone to help - they were all volunteering by themselves. Among this lot came two thirty-five-year olds and it was obvious they wanted to give it a try. Said one to another 'let me see how much of a mechanic you are'. The other smiled and got into the act. He tried the jack, the stones, lifting...nothing.

It was now almost half an hour.

He looked across the road and told me -'Ask them for the hydraulic jack,' he said pointing to a car alignment centre. 'We can lift the car with that.' I walked across and asked the owner - a chap from whom I bought tires before and he told me some cock and bull story about the jack being too big etc. When I went back and told these guys that he wasn't willing to part with the jack, they went by themselves and caught hold of the supervisor and told him we need his help. 'Insaniyat ke liye karna ji,' he told him. The supervisor agreed and soon we had three young mechanics joining us with a big hydraulic jack. The young mechanics set it up, lifted the car off the side. The young man, Shahid, got into the car by himself and eased it on to the road.

Everyone was happy and smiling and even as I was thanking the mechanics, they were heading back to work satisfied with their part. These two young men were also going away with a broad smile when I asked them to join me and Sunnie for a cup of chai. They were reluctant but then said ok. They were both searching for Bajaj Electronics and I guided them to the right place.

We ordered chai and samosa and they were quite happy with it all. Shahid and Majid live in Sultan Nagar near Moti Nagar and have been living there as long as I have been living here. They both drive Tata Aces and work for an uncle of Majid who has some business. They were out shopping for Majid's sister's wedding. 'We live near AG colony,' said Shahid. I told him I used to play cricket there in the early 80s and he said he used to play too when he was young. They had an easy camaraderie about them, ate only one samosa each modestly and were all set to go.

I said we should take a pic - it's rare to see such good work. 'Insaan insaan ke kaam nahin aaya to kaisa,' said Shahid. I agreed. But it's not everyone who does it I said. Shahid said he just saw us in trouble and came. 'Bas dua milta hai,' he said. 'How many blessings do you collect every day like this?' I asked. They smiled shyly.

As we sipped chai I asked him how come they came here and he said he was following the Google maps to Bajaj Electronics and got lost. 'Looks like you were searching for me,' I said. They laughed. I took Shahid's number and said I would call if I ever needed a Tata Ace. They said they would be glad to help. 'We even help move houses,' said Majid.

Sunnie took a pic. We shook hands and off they went - the two good samaritans. I love the way they came into my life, all smiles and good humour, helped me like I was their own brother and walked off happy. I am sure I have not seen the last of these two - they reminded me of Tam and Richie - the characters from Magnus Mills 'Restraint of the Beasts.'

Wonderful stuff. Thanks Shahid and Majid. God bless you fellows. My dua is certainly with you two.

Canteen Fundas - Keep Monotony at Bay With Challenges

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Sunday HANS - The Good Report Diagnostic Centre

Hyderabad Literary Festival - Session on 'Games Nations Play' with Gideon Haigh and Stephen Alomes

This edition of HLF, I was asked to moderate the session on ‘Games Nations Play’ with two Australian writers - Gideon Haigh and Stephen Alomes. Gideon Haigh is considered as one of the best cricket writers today and Stephen Alomes is a writer, poet, teacher and an artist.
At the HLF, Vidyaranya School
Apart from bowling off-spin for his club South Yarra Club, Gideon has written 40 books if my count is right, give or take a couple, 27 of them on cricket. Books ranging from coverage of Ashes, Kerry Packer, club cricket with the Mighty Yarras (about which he is very passionate and still plays), bios of Border, Iverson, Warne, Trumper, commentaries on the state of Aussie cricket including one titled Crossing the Line. He’s written business books on Office cultures, CEO Cultures, and a couple of non-fiction books thrown in for good measure. His latest book ‘The Standard Bearers’ is a commentary on eight Smith-less tests against India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Gideon Haigh, Stephen Alomes and me
Stephen is a Professor at RMIT, Tasmania and has written stories of varieties of Aussie nationalism (A Nation at last?), war memory, Australian football – the people’s game, a book on Australian creative artists in London called ‘When London calls’. He draws expressionist portraits which explore the faces of populist leaders. His yet to be released book ‘Selective Ironies’ is a collection of prose and poetry.
More us - Games Nations Play
We had a body of work of about 50 books on stage to cover in 30 minutes so we got going pretty quickly. Gideon was Games, Stephen Nations and I called Play.
Anjali checking out some books
I asked Gideon about the Aussie approach to cricket and how has it changed over the years? More so in the context of the Smith-Warner incident and how the win-at-all costs culture crept into a champion team like Australia? Gideon said that Australian sportsmen, as a culture, like to win and don't mind not being nice about it. However they crossed the line and heads rolled and it was a matter of shame and hopefully, things are now in better perspective. I asked Stephen about his work and he spoke of nationalism, populism, expressionist portraits, footy (a team in Telangana called Telangana Saints). He also expressed his desire to get more followers on Instagram and read out a bit from his poem.   On Sledging, Gideon said that Aussies played hard but left it all on the field and they cannot understand why the others can't take some talk. He also said that cricket was never a gentleman’s game? Stephen spoke about Australian footy and why it is as popular as it is. They spoke articulately, passionately and we really had very little time to do justice to anything. A couple of questions and we were off.
The area for performances
I found Gideon and Stephen extremely nice and warm people. I spent time with Stephen in the lounge and he told me all about his work. I gifted him two books of mine 'This way is easier dad' and 'The Men Within'. Apparently, he had been a slow left-arm spin bowler in his time. Gideon had already bought a copy of 'The Renaissance Man' - he said he knew Sridhar. I gave him copies of 'The Men Within' and '50 Not Out'. After the session, we headed off for some lunch.
Up the stairs to more sessions
Other writers I met were Jerry Pinto who I had met in Mumbai when he came to speak at Dilip D Souza's library, Samhita Arni, who wrote that delightful Mahabharata when she was eight and now writes fantastic stories. Anand Vishwanatha, Shankar Melkote, Prakash. Others I met were Neeraj, Vanathi, Achyut Menon. Jayesh, Vanathi, Pallavi, Arjun. Pleasantly surprised to meet a couple of MBA students there too. One lady told me she had bought the 'Renaissance Man' because she had read about it in the papers.

Though everyone seemed to like the venue Vidyaranya, I personally found it too cramped, parking is a huge issue.  Anjali and Abhinay went and attended a session by Deepa Kiran and Anjali said dreamily - I can listen to her all day. 

Anjali - Daksha Academic Fair

Soon after the excursion to Pench National Park the children got busy with their academic projects. Anjali took on a project explaining the heart and the way it functions. She had got deep into the heart of the matter and soon it was ventricle, vena cava and this and that. She made a model of the heart, tried to make a working model with tubes etc from IV sets but then gave up. So it remained a figure, well-drawn which would also go into her projects.

The next project was one where balls tied on different lengths of strings when moved at one time move in a sinusoidal wave like formation. Balls were got, stand made and soon it was done. Then there was a chart where we had to guess the common Hindi words fro English words. Anyway the day of the fair came up and we visited the school.

The projects and games were interesting. A solar tracker, surface tension, wind power, ox bow lakes, li fi (light fidelity), mag lev trains, check dams, word games in Hindi, Telugu, English and other things.
We enjoyed interacting with the children and listening to them explain the projects and where they got the ideas from. Anjali explained her projects patiently once again to us.

As always a nice experience to visit Daksha. 

I'm Possible - Dr. K. Hari Prasad

Hari was my skipper when we played Under 22 cricket for Hyderabad in 1983. He was a hard hitting wicket-keeper batsman with precocious talent - he played Rani Trophy in his 12th class at school - and an astute leader who led all state sides from Under 15, 19, 22 and onwards. Then he made it to the medical college and gave up cricket. We knew he had married early and was practicing and managing his father's nursing home Sridevi Nursing Home at Ram Nagar. After a few years we heard he was CEO Apollo Hospitals and doing extremely well. Most of us reached out to him for someone in need of help at Apollo and Hari was always there and continues to be. Recently he took excellent care of our old coach Rahmat Baig in a manner few would do.

I was delighted when Hari said he was writing a book on his life a year ago when I met him. And from what I read of the 175-page book, it is a worthy effort. Hari breezes through his childhood, life at home, his family village, school, love for cricket in exactly the same fashion as he batted - no-nonsense, direct and at it right from the word go. Not a word seemed extra, in fact, his economy of words was fascinating because he did manage to get across the essence completely in just a few words. I could sense what he was thinking as he suddenly adds a line or two to describe a feeling, a visual and off we are again in a flurry of shots, scenes and events. Hari batting at his best.

His cricket consumed a large part of his school days and he was certainly in line for big things if he continued. He had this innate confidence in himself that radiated to one and all. Something in his mind as he went about crafting his innings or his life with an uncanny decisiveness. It showed in his shots -  for example, most batsmen merely tap the sweep shot whereas Hari would launch into a full-blooded shot with all his strength against the turning ball. Now that is what someone said about talent and genius - talent is what others cannot do, genius is what talent cannot do. That was how he approached his game and his life I guess. Another time there was a player who got into the team through some shady route - Hari's response to this unfair practice - he gave me and the other fast bowler new balls and asked us to liberally pepper him with short balls in the nets. Decisive.

The same decisiveness made him fall in love in his first year, give up cricket and also marry his love and classmate Suma at the end of his first year. He managed to convince everyone to this unconventional wedding when he was 19 and she was 18! Children a few years later, his MD in anaesthesiology at Mangalore, practise at his father's nursing home show how he immersed himself in his new chosen way of life. The parts where he wrote about his experiences as a doctor are moving insights into how he cared for his patient's health and the ways many of his patients remain grateful to him. Hari not only treated them, he also counselled them.

Then a move to Apollo Hospitals thanks to another decisive move by him, and his entry into emergency medicine which he pioneered in India. His rapid growth to become the President of the group and a busy lifestyle. The busy lifestyle was also an unhealthy lifestyle - he smoked 30-40 cigarettes, weighed 115 kgs and ate indiscriminately without any exercise - all the things he would probably tell his patients to avoid. To give up smoking he started chewing tobacco - both habits passed on to him by his pal Pankaj, who I hope is healthy now (one of the few Hari mentions by name in the book). Diabetic neuropathy, high blood pressure were all early signs and he started to work on his weight, his diet and health. Just when he thought he had come out of it came another shocker - leukaemia.

Hari dealt with it in his usual manner - looking at the problem dispassionately, taking charge of the situation and doing what needs to be done. The same way he chased a 500 odd run score against Tamil Nadu while compiling 217 - keeping out the danger, chipping away bit by bit, attacking when it needed to be attacked. Soon he came out healthier, lost 50 kgs and now looks like someone who is less than 30 years old. It's an incredible transformation and one can only laud his grit, determination at achieving this turnaround.

It is an inspiring story and I will certainly take many lessons from it. The sight of Hari, looking almost like a schoolboy at his launch day, when many of his friends could not recognise him, was a clear pointer to how we can take care of health by eating well, exercising well and resting well. It is well written and I found myself glued to the narrative. Great story, well written and I am sure the book will do very well (it's already in its third print run and sold over 2000 copies according to the publisher). Good luck Hari and well done once again.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Hyderabad Literary Festival - 10th Edition

The Hyderabad Literary Festival is into its 10th edition. Moderating a session with cricket writer Gideon Haigh, who many say is the among the greatest cricket writers today with 30 books to his name and Stephen Alomes, who writes on nationalism, war memory and Australian football.

See you there on the 26th, 115-1255 pm, Vidyaranya School.

Book Launch of "I'm Possible" by Dr K. Hari Prasad

Dr. K. Hari Prasad, President, Apollo Hospitals, wrote his auto-biography and launched it today in the midst of family and friends in a glitzy event at the Taj Deccan. Hari was my skipper at the Under 22 tournament in Trichur in 1983, and I have immense respect for him as a person and a cricketer as do so many of the cricketing fraternity. He has had an intense journey and has recently survived cancer, lost 50 kgs, gave up tobacco addiction and is now looking thirty years younger than his 55 years. Hari's story is worth telling and I am glad he wrote it.
Book launch by a host of celebs - Hari's father Dr. KVR Prasad, Mahender Reddy, Dr. Sangita Reddy, PV Sindhu, Sanjana, Ananya, Ramachandriaih, Mohammed Mahmood Ali, Kiran Kumar Reddy, Hari Prasad, Dr. Pratap Reddy, Md Azharuddin, Gautam Sawang, CV Anand among others
Mahmood Ali, Dy Chief Minister, P.V. Sindhu, Azharuddin, Kiran Kumar Reddy, Dr. Pratap Reddy, Dr. Sangita Reddy, CV Anand were some of the celebrities who graced the occasion.
PV Sindhu being honoured by Dr. K. Hari Prasad
 I contributed a few lines to the book and was pleasantly surprised when I was asked to read a few lines. Thanks Hari, it was an honour.
Dr C. Pratap Reddy, Chairman Apollo Hospitals releasing the book
It was a wonderful turnout. Met some old friends - Das, Venkat, Ananta Vatsalya, Chamundi among others. Spotted Swaroop, Jyoti Prasad among the crowd. It was a wonderful event. More later. 

Nrityam Dance Academy - Bharatanatyam Workshop

Suchismita is one of my students from the first batch of students I taught the Arts Management course at the University of Hyderabad. She was always a keen student and benefited the most perhaps from the sessions we had.

She imbibed the marketing aspects of what we had discussed and combined it with her passion for dance and has progressed in leaps and bounds. Many times I feel she is doing a better job with the lessons we discussed than I myself am.
Guru Erika and pupil Suchismita
She uses the concept of a mentor really well - she is frequently in touch with me and update me about what's happening and listens to any suggestion I may have. Most others call me only when they have good news - I tell them the mentor should be called especially when things are bad and even otherwise - every now and then.

So the other day when she invited me to a function to mark the end of a Bharatanatyam workshop conducted by her guru Erika Ingrid Nani who had come to India in 1969 when she was 22, learned dance, and has been teaching in Assam since, I decided to go. Suchismita runs a dance academy 'Nrityam Academy' which is quite popular.

It was a lovely function with about 40 children  of 6-14 performing what they learned, Suchismita honouring her guru and then giving ghungroos to graduating students.
Guru Erika, Mr Nandi and me
I enjoyed the program a lot. I met Suchismita's husband Shuddha who is very supportive of her endeavours and guru Erica and her engineer-turned yoga guru husband Mr Nandi.

Wonderful evening. Thanks Suchismita

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Wanted! The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog - Jeremy Strong

Every once in a while, I rummage Anjali's collection and find stuff to read. I love the children's books - the fun, simplicity, innocence. So when I found this book by Jeremy Strong I picked it up for a quick read.

It's about a boy Trevor and his hundred-mile-an-hour dog Streaker. Trevor has a girlfriend Tina who is very cute and they are constantly battling to keep an over enthu Streaker out of trouble. On their side, they have their parents and on the other side the police and dog catchers. It's a fun ride.

Jeremy Strong is called the 'King of Comedy'. I sometimes wish I could write like this and not get too intense about life. A simple life of kids, dogs and adventures. I'd love that. Maybe I should give it a shot.

Thanks again Anjali. Your bookshelf keeps me sane.

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

Is there a god or not? Richard Dawkins says no - god is a delusion. He is a man of science, an atheist, and goes on to elucidate on the subject and makes a cogent case. He is also an ethologist and an evolutionary biologist apart from being an author and a Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins most famous work is 'The Selfish Gene' which is about gene centred evolution.

'When one person suffers from a delusion it is insanity, but when many people suffer from it, it is called a religion', quotes Dawkins of Robert Pirsig. He says how atheists who don't believe in god can also be happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled. He debunks the god-hypothesis and says that natural selection and other such ideas are superior. If god is the great designer he asks who designed the designer.

Dawkins gives many examples of how the religious texts have many gaps and says children should not be labelled by parents on the basis of their religion. This would subject them to persistent false beliefs from a very young age. he says atheists should be proud. He is not very kind towards agnostics and feels they should make up their mind.

On morality, Dawkins says we don't need religion to be moral and good. We all have altruistic genes. He says religion divides, fans fanaticism, is anti-gay and has even been accused of abuse. Science, on the other hand, does not do that. Good enough argument to begin with.

Thought-provoking. If I was wan agnostic, I am now converted.

Thanks Anjali for lending me this book!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Anjali - Daksha's Excursion to Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh

The first major school excursion for Anjali was this one - to Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh. As always Daksha School did a thorough check and proposed the idea. Wild Ventures, a firm that organises these tours was the chosen one. They came and gave an orientation to the parents. To Nagpur by train, to some camp nearby for ice breaking, games, adventure sports etc. Overnight stay at camp in tents. Morning trek, activities, quizzes, bonfire. Head to forest accommodation. Early morning safari, visit to a nearby village. Safari again the next day. Head to Nagpur and back. No gadgets. Call in a given time slot. Drop and pick up from school. Sounded cool.
At school - pick up!
The kids were pretty excited. Woollens, thermals (it was pretty cold out there), last-minute shopping and Anjali was all set.
Burmah Bridge at camp
We dropped her off at school at 730 pm where a whole bunch of nervous parents and children shuffled about.
Rock/wall climbing
After a while we realised we were not helping the kids or the teachers by hanging around and left.
For the first time, Anjali would be away for five days from us. New.
Yoga with Viola

Anyway, the teachers were considerate enough to send pics on the WhatsApp group - children standing and talking to one another, queued up at the station, on their berths etc.
Nerves settled down - they didn't forget anyone behind!
Another one
On a trek

Next day onwards the pics came in a flood. The camp. Various activities at the camp. Food at the dining room. The time to call came and we found that there was no network. So WhatsApp calls etc.
Visit to local village

The same routine continued for the rest of the days.
Anjali and co did not see any tigers thought one bunch did.
Time to go - with the Wild Ventures team
In the Gypsy 
Overall they seemed to have had a lot of fun! Good show Daksha, Good show Wild Ventures. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Gudi Sambaralu - Seetha Rama Chandra Swamy Temple

Every year Parampara, promoted by Srinagi and Srimani, organise temple performances called Gudi Samabaralu. It's a wonderful concept and they rope in some fantastic performers and pick great venues. The Seetha Rama Chandra Swamy temple at Ammapally, Shamshabad is one such with a beautiful old temple and a grand venue outside for performances.
The Seetha Ram Chandra Swamy Temple, Shamshabad
Srimani sends an invite every year and I make plans to go and watch the performances - the venues are fascinating and viewing classical performances in such settings is a fine experience. This year I made up my mind to watch the performance at this venue - it's something I pass by every time I visit Choudary at his Shamshabad home - and so I set out with Shobhs, Ram and Ranjan.
The venue before the show
Lit up

Performance begins

While Shobhs and I went to the venue Ram and Ranjan occupied themselves with Choudary. The day's performances were by Pooja, Akanksha Reddy - disciples of Guru Deepika Reddy, ABHA by Punyah Dance Company and Bharatanatyam by Pashwanath Upadhye and Troupe.
A close up of the stage

Srimani was there - the gracious host - receiving everyone. The Governor of Telangana was expected so there was a lot of police.
The entire program - tomorrow's is a good one too!

We went into the temple because the program got slightly delayed. Then we saw a part of the program. It was beautiful. 

And a Thoughtful Gift - Thank You Radha!

Radhakrishna Vootla is a pal from my MBA days. These days he is a software engineer in the USA - he went there 25 years ago. Whenever he comes Radha gives out a shout and we try to meet and we end up having some interesting conversations. This time we met him and Venkataramana, another pal from the MBA days and his wife Gayatri at an impromptu coffee, beer, lunch, coffee, mirchi bajji meeting. It was great fun.
Venkataramana, me, Vishwaprasad,Vijay, Radha, Sanjay, Shobha and Gayathri
Radha messaged me saying that he had brought a pen as a gift for me. It was very thoughtful of him. We met again a day after and he gave me this lovely Cross pen.

In return I gave him a copy of 'The Men Within'.
My new Cross pen!

Thanks so much Radha. I am always bowled over by these thoughtful gestures. Now to use your pen and write some good stuff. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Irishman - Movie

Long but gripping. Al Pacino, de Niro, Joe Pesci.