Friday, July 31, 2020

Thought for the Day - To be Honest or Not

So I read a book written by a friend upon his insistence and persistent follow up to buy, read and review. I finally did, read it, found it badly written and wrote what I thought was a review which spared my friend some harsh criticism and yet said something nice. It was very difficult and consumed much time - maybe three days to read it, look for the bright spots and write it.
Pic Satish Nargundkar

When I showed it to him, my friend had some scathing critique of my critique. It was too wishy-washy he said. I listened and I wondered why I got myself into this. Why did I take the trouble of buying a book which I had no interest in reading, read it and spent all my time trying to do what I thought was a favour. 

It flashed upon me that it never works that way. The only person you can do a favour is to yourself. My deed was loaded with expectation, the wrong one, and I realised I had made the mistake again of doing a favour with 'I did this for you' written all over. Ideally, I should not have and saved my time. If I did, I should have just been honest and ripped him apart in my review.

I guess that's the last time I review anyone as a favour, or even read books I don't want to read. I have things to do for myself too.

The Wanderer - Kahlil Gibran

As with all his books, this one is full of wisdom too. Told in parables and stories, Kahlil Gibran explains the paradoxes of life -war and peace, love and hate and the many dilemmas humans face.

The story about beauty and ugliness wearing each other's garments and trying to pass off as one another shows us to go beyond what we see. In the love song, he rightly points out how a woman who reads a love song, is initially happy thinking its for her but when the poet says it is for every woman, she hates him immediately. In a similar vein, a young girl at a fair gets upset at the attention she gets from young men and shoos them off, and next time when they don't pay her attention, she gets upset again. Or of the hermit who speaks wise words but whose life is empty and when they show him up, breaks down. A lovely story of a king who shows to the people that he is a mere representation of them and they should all feel like kings themselves. Another about three dogs which are enjoying life and nature, until they see civilisation coming - in the form of a dog catcher.

I liked the dancer's response to the king who is amazed at how her whole body seems to be in rhythm - 'The philosopher's soul dwells in the head, the poet's soul dwells in the heart, the singer's soul lingers about his  throat but the dancer's soul abides in all her body." Or the one where a woman says she loves the man and he replies that it is in his heart t be worthy of her love, and when she says she hates him, he replies that it is in his heart to be worthy of her love.

And the brilliant story of laws - where a country makes a thousand laws versus a country where they have only seven laws. The country with thousands of laws have thousands of prisoners. Or the cobbler who chastises the philosopher who cannot wear another man's shoes - how can you be a philosopher without being able to wear another man's shoes? Or the one where the labourers wonder why the king was being credited with building the bridge when they had built it. Or the guy who saves up his wine for an important occasion and dies - and it is consumed by those who don't know its value. or the man who gives pomegranates for free and no one takes them but when he charges a silver for the same they queue up.

Wonderful stuff told in such small parables. Beautiful.

The Bookshelf Series 4 - Dr Satish Nargundkar

Satish teaches at the Georgia State University, Atlanta. I remember him introducing some very interesting books - 'A Whack on the side of your head', or 'Winnie the Pooh', that he gifted to Shobha when we were in college which we found very eclectic then. Later on, he gifted me one of the funniest books I ever read 'Dave Barry on Sex and Marriage', the classic 'I am that' and recently 'Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow' a year ago - few of the many books he has gifted or recommended. We Satish and I enjoy talking about various things on our many walks in Pune, Hyderabad and wherever we are. He is a blackbelt in Hapkido, an avid photographer (I use a lot of his pics on this blog), and a man of many other interests.
Pic courtesy - Marla Beggs Nargundkar

Let's hear it from Satish straightaway, about books and his bookshelf.
Note: My answers here assume that school textbooks do not count in this discussion. Certainly, many of those had some influence on me, but they do not reflect the act of voluntarily reading for the joy of reading.

HM. How did your reading habit start? Who influenced you early on to read?

SN: My brother, who is older by three years, was always a voracious reader. My preference as a kid was to get him to play outside with me, which was sometimes successful. Often, though, he would curl up with a book and refuse to play (being physically so much smaller, I must not have been much of a challenge or fun to play with!). So, I had no choice but to do the same and started reading what I could.

My parents and grandparents (mother’s side) all encouraged the reading habit and set examples with their own reading. For a short while between the ages of 8 and 12, I used to read portions of the newspaper to my grandfather, who was bedridden and had poor eyesight. We also had magazines in English and Marathi lying around the house, along with a cupboard full of books. Most of these were too advanced for me, but a kids’ magazine called “Kumar” in Marathi was an early favorite to read.

In early childhood, there were many Marathi storybooks that involved magical things that helped some poor kid or the least favored prince on some quest for redemption. The titles (translated from Marathi) were typically something like “The magic leaf”, “The magic lamp”, and the like. These were feel-good stories that I enjoyed, perhaps until age 10 or so. These as well as stories from the Panchatantra, Aesop’s fables, and other western Fairy Tales were the staple reading. We had a beautifully bound book called “The World’s Best Fairy Tales”, a Reader’s Digest collection with lovely illustrations in colour, a rarity at the time. The edge of each page had a golden veneer, so it gave the volume a distinctive look.

All these stories, apart from being a source of entertainment, usually had some moral that I am sure had an impact unconsciously. I cannot point to any aspect of my behaviour as an adult and draw a straight line to its origin as a result of reading any of these books (I doubt anyone can), but the relationship is probably there. Perhaps even more influential were stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, though I cannot claim to have read those books until I was into my teens. My early exposure to those stories was from listening to my grandmother tell them.

As an aside, I must mention that storytelling as an oral art form seems to be disappearing, as technology replaces grandparents in the role of relating stories and history. The credit for any influence that the stories I heard from my grandmother had on me goes as much to her skill as a storyteller as to the books from which she related those stories to us. Hearing them from her made the stories more real and inspiring.

HM. What were the books that impacted you most? How?

SN: Early Childhood
a) Fairy tales and other adventure stories in Marathi and English

b) Ramayan and Mahabharat

All these stories I think automatically inculcate in a child some sense of right or wrong, of treating others well, the ideas of Karma and Dharma, and even thoughts of life, birth, and death.


c) By the early teens, I was in boarding school at HPS Ramanthapur. Marathi reading had all but gone, and all my reading was in English. Enid Blyton was a favourite, as with most kids in India at the time. The various series of Enid Blyton were all enjoyable. I did not read Secret Seven much. Loved the Famous Five, The Five Find-Outers (and the dog), and the school series of Mallory Towers and St. Claire. Even though the protagonists in the school series were girls, I found Mallory Towers especially fun to read, since it mirrored my own life in many ways. There were six books showcasing the life of schoolgirl Darrell Rivers as she went through six years of middle/high school. I too was at HPS for 6 years. Darrell was shown as a girl that played lacrosse and got on the school team. I played basketball (despite my size!) and was on the school team. I was always interested in sports and athletic pursuits, and these books were inspiring. HPS Ramanthapur was modelled after the British Public Schools, and I suppose the descriptions of school life in those books really hit home for me.

d) In the mid-teens, I moved on from Enid Blyton to Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators, Biggles, and a few Nancy Drew. Of these, The Three Investigators were my favourite. Something about solving puzzles was more interesting to me than action adventures that was more the Hardy Boys style.

e) In the late teens, my reading moved in predictable ways to Agatha Christie and Perry Mason novels. By now, I preferred the male protagonists to the female ones (Poirot over Marple, and before that, Jupiter, Pete and Bob over Nancy Drew). Ellery Queen and of course, Sherlock Holmes, were the other detectives I liked.

Aside from these books, the teen years were filled with comic books. Amar Chitra Katha was a storehouse of knowledge of Indian epics and history, and Phantom, Mandrake, Tarzan were always devoured when found. TinTin and Asterix were harder to come by, but being in the hostel meant that someone would eventually get one from somewhere, and there was instantly a line of kids saying “after you” for the right to read it. Another popular comic book series was called Commando comics (I think) and featured stories of British heroism (typically RAF pilots) in WWII.


Engineering College days at Osmania University involved more movie watching in Hyderabad with the extra freedom, and reading did not progress too much in diversity. Generally, apart from mysteries, I read action stories, like James Hadley Chase, Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler, Leon Uris, Erle Stanley Gardner (non-Perry Mason books too, with Donald Lam and Bertha Cool as the main characters), Sydney Sheldon, a few westerns like Sudden, Louis Lamour.I must mention that Perry Mason novels did teach me a lot of legal terminology that came in handy for my GRE. The only other books outside of this genre were, of course, those by P. G. Wodehouse.

During these college days, I once ran across one aged relative (an uncle or great uncle, I forget which) who asked me what I liked to read, and when I told him, he remarked, “these are all OK to pass the time, but you should read something that has better characterization, and helps you build character. Read some biographies of famous people like Gandhi or Bose. Read Shakespeare.” I politely said OK, and promptly ignored the advice, but the words obviously stuck in my head, since I remember them to this day.
Graduate School and Beyond, in the US
Moving to the US for my PhD in Management meant a change of field of study, as well as exposure to people from different parts of the world, and recommendations for reading from professors and fellow students. I discovered Isaac Asimov, and fell in love with science fiction novels as well as non-fiction scientific books. I read several books on philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology (all expository works written for the layperson, since I was no expert in these fields). Being away from home (India) and missing home awakened an interest in Indian philosophy and thought, and yoga. What I dismissed as foolish mysticism while in India, suddenly became something worth going back to. My study of Hapkido, a Korean martial art, introduced me to Grandmaster Gedo Chang, whose lectures on Eastern philosophy further convinced me of the value of going back to my roots and examining what I had missed.

I also started reading biographies and read a few, including Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. The mystery genre remained close to heart, and I expanded to American authors like Ross McDonald and my favourite mystery author now, Rex Stout. In recent years, I have tried to read books in other genres, and read several Murakami books. Non-fiction works include books by Malcolm Gladwell, Kathryn Shulz, and others.
A closer look!

HM. Who are your favourite authors - top 5?

SN: My criterion to determine my favourite authors is simple. Can I re-read this author’s books numerous times without getting bored? These authors have withstood that test. There are several authors that have written more meaningful books that I admire, and they would make the list if I used different criteria to define a “Top” author.

i. P.G. Wodehouse (humor)

ii. Rex Stout (mystery/action)

iii. Isaac Asimov (science fiction, science non-fiction)

iv. Haruki Murakami (fantasy, slices of life)

v. Richard Dawkins (science exposition, primarily evolutionary biology)

HM. Could you share the list of your top 10-15-25 books?

SN: Multiple novels by Authors

a. Any of Enid Blyton’s many books (for the kid in you).

b. Any of several Wodehouse books.

c. Any of several Rex Stout books featuring Nero Wolfe.

d. Any of Isaac Asimov’s several hundred books. He was perhaps the most prolific writer ever.

e. Any of Murakami’s novels or short stories.

f. The Poirot novels of Agatha Christie. These, in hindsight, are not the best written in terms of literary merit or characterization but have great nostalgic value for me.

g. Perry Mason and Donald Lam/Bertha Cool novels by Erle Stanley Gardner.Again, these are formulaic but were part of my formative years, and so dear to me.

Specific Books

h. I am that, a collection of talks by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

i. Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahamsa Yogananda

j. Ramayana and Mahabharata, both by C. Rajagopalachari

k. The life of Mahatma Gandhi, by Louis Fischer

l. Roots, by Alex Haley

m. The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins.

n. The World of Mathematics, a four-volume collection of essays, edited by James Newman

o. The Dancing Wu Li Masters, by Gary Zukav

p. Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte

q. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter

r. Where Eagles Dare, by Alistair Maclean. The movie was fantastic too!

s. The Guide, by R. K. Narayan. This is another one where the movie was a classic too.

t. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Another good movie.

u. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell (with Bill Moyers)

v. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

w. Flatland, by Edwin Abbott

x. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupery

y. Poetry collections – these are different books, at least one for each of these poets/lyricists – Ghalib, Rumi, Kabirdas, Wordsworth, Shelley, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Shailendra, and several other Hindi/Urdu poets/writers, plus my grandmother’s poetry in Marathi.

z. Journey down melody lane – by Raju Bharatan. He has a strange writing style that I am not too fond of, but there is a wealth of information about music-making in the Hindi film industry during the golden era of music.

That’s my list from A to Z, but I am sure I have forgotten some classics that made a big impact on me. As I age, I am positive only of the fact that I am not at all certain I can remember everything when I want to. I left out This Way is Easier, Dad, by Harimohan Paruvu, from this list, to avoid charges of nepotism in my choices. After all, the star of the book is my niece!

HM: How many books do you read on an average per year these days?

SN: My reading for pleasure outside of my work has slowed down over the last couple of decades, as my job requires reading textbooks, student papers, project reports, theses, dissertations, journal research papers, etc. So, when it is time to relax, books are generally not the first thing on my mind. Still, I average about 10-15 books a year outside of work-related books.

HM: How many books do you own?

SN: Perhaps two or three hundred. I have not counted, but around that number is likely from a glance at my shelves.

HM: What are the books you are reading currently?

SN: I just started reading Death, An Inside Story, by Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev).

HM: What's next on your list?

SN: I have no idea. I have lately taken up learning to play the keyboard and to sing, both with the help of YouTube videos. If an interesting book is recommended to me, I will read it. I have no plan.

HM: What are the books you have been meaning to read but have kept pending?

SN: None that I can think of. Access to books is so easy these days that if I want to read something, I simply go ahead and do it as quickly as I can.

HM:. What's the one book you value the most?

SN: I am that, by Nisargadatta Maharaj.

HM: What the best book-gift you got?

SN: A Random House Dictionary of English from my friend Srinu as we were both graduating from college, and not sure if we would ever see each other again, after four years of studying, playing, travelling, and goofing off together. This was the best gift not because of what book it was, but because of the sentiment behind the gift.

HM: What's the one book you regret losing?

SN: My notebooks from school days. I wish I could go back and read what I wrote in my notes!

HM: What's the favourite book that you gift people?

SN: That depends on the age and interests of the recipient, but my favorite is 'I am that', so that is the one that comes to mind first.

HM: Your favourite experience(s) around books, if any?

SN: Curling up with a novel in bed on a Sunday morning in the hostel as a kid. The smell of books in a dusty secondhand bookstore. The feeling of turning the pages. The hiding of a novel or a comic inside a textbook to avoid the wrath of a teacher, and reading that instead of studying. Finding a long sought-after book in a bookstore. Walking the streets of Abids and Koti in Hyderabad to buy books from the sidewalk. Feeling sad when I finished reading a book.

HM: If there's an author you would like to write like, who would it be?

SN: I think it is best to write like myself since I have discovered that when I read novels by writers who take over from an original author, I don’t like those books, no matter how accomplished the writers may be. For instance, Robert Goldsborough wrote some Nero Wolfe novels after Rex Stout, the original author, died. He copied Stout’s style, but for an avid reader of those novels like me, those books were poor substitutes. This is true in other arts too. I saw a live show of Amit Kumar. When he first sang Kishore Kumar’s songs, the response was tepid. But when he started singing his own songs, the crowd cheered. No matter how well one does it, copying another’s style does not work, since it only reminds people of the original, and one always looks worse in comparison.

Having said that, I would be thrilled if I could write with even half the impact on people that my favourite authors have had on me.

HM: What's your favorite place to shop for books?

SN: Atlanta had a bookstore called Oxford Books many years ago, that was a favorite haunt. Sadly, it went out of business when larger chains like Borders, and Barnes and Noble, came along. Now Borders is gone too, and Barnes and Noble barely makes it in the age of Amazon. I enjoy shopping for books in county fairs and other locations that sell secondhand books since one never knows what one will find.

HM. Any other thoughts around books?

SN: Many people have moved on to reading books on electronic devices. I too, read a couple of them on a Kindle while on an international flight. The convenience of having many possible books in one small device was undeniable. However, I hope that paper books never go away, and that future generations find pleasure in the turning of page by hand, and enjoying the way they smell.

Thanks Satish. That was a very detailed and vivid insight into your journey with books and how they influenced you. I notice that there are a few books on your list that I haven't read and I propose to read - 'The Dancing Wu Li Masters' (most likely a gift form you that's in my bookshelf could be the first). I have benefited hugely from reading all the books you gave me or recommended and look forward to more discussions around books in the future. Thanks again!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pavan's Podcast - On My Writing Journey

Thanks Pavan!
In Pavan's words:

In this episode, while I and Hari continue our conversation on his journey with writing and his source of inspiration and many other interesting topics.  I want to talk about a very interesting book that I am reading these days - Buddha and the Badass by Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of Mind Valley.  There are many igniting points been discussed in this podcast and will be a long one for sure. Pls focus some time on this. :). Well it will be worth for sure.

Seven Sundays - Movie

2017. Phillipine family drama.

A family gathers around their widowed father who they believe has only seven weeks to live. As they meet on every Sunday, the cracks in their lives, their relationships show up and slowly heal. It could have been an Indian film. Nice.

Fear Eats the Soul - Movie

1974. West German film. Rainer Warner Fassbinder. Top100 movies of all-time list.

Post the Second World War, a 60-year-old German window cleaner falls in love with a young Moroccan immigrant. The social repercussions on all fronts, nationality, age, family pride, tell on their own relationship which is built on a simple premise of two people liking one another for respecting them as they are.

So many of those themes appear valid even today - the fear of outsiders, foreigners, the ideas that only certain people should fall in love, how cruel and greedy society can be and also how there are people who balance them out.

Circle of Emotions - Image

There are emotions beyond good and bad. I normally tend to stick to these two words that don't mean anything and tend to cover up a lot. For those of us who are emotionally challenged, here is help, in the form of the 'Circle of Emotions' with a wide range of emotions to choose from.

Check this out.


They say that emotional engagement is about being able to move freely between all the emotions. To do that, it would first make sense to be able to identify the emotions. The circle of emotions will surely help.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Books to Read List - Top 40 books for Lockdown

Canteen Fundas - Choose Your Friends Well!

Choose your friends well - they can influence your life without you knowing!

Published: 25th July 2020

Canteen Fundas: How friends, good and bad, can have a major impact on your life

'Rahul’s busy having fun, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘He’s got new friends.’

‘What’s life without friends, bhaiyya?’ laughed Rahul.
‘True,’ said Rakesh. ‘You know, studies show that people who have got close friends live longer, healthier and happier lives.’
‘See, Rinku,’ said Rahul. ‘Have more friends. You’ll live longer and be happier.’
‘Nope,’ said Rinku. ‘I prefer fewer friends who are there for me.’
‘Arre, you don’t choose friends because they’re useful to you,’ said Rahul. ‘Friends are for fun.’
‘Not so simple, Rahul,’ smiled Rakesh. ‘There’s a saying by Jim Rohn that we’re the average of the five people we meet the most. Tell me, how are your five closest friends affecting you?’
‘My new friends and I mainly hang out at coffee shops,’ said Rahul. ‘Then there’s Rinku and you. Do friends really affect us, bhaiyya?’
‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘We unconsciously start acting like the people we surround ourselves with. So it’s important to choose your close squad of friends carefully. Surround yourself with people better than you — and you get better.’
‘Should we abandon friends who are struggling?’ asked Rahul.
‘Not really,’ said Rakesh. ‘Help them, but not at your own cost. Friendships should make both parties grow.’
‘So how do good friendships work, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘Good friendships enable an equal, safe and secure space to confide,’ said Rakesh. ‘They act as a safety net. How do your friendships compare?’
‘My close friends are good, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku.
‘Errr, couple of my friends are unreliable, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘What do I do, bhaiyya?’
‘The book Change Anything offers a nice solution,’ said Rakesh. ‘It suggests that you convert your ‘accomplices’ — those who are holding you back in your current pattern — into ‘friends’ who support your aspirations.’
‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘And bhaiyya, whom should we avoid?’
‘Those who make you feel lesser,’ said Rakesh. ‘Those who betray, insult, lie, abuse, push you to take unnecessary risks, are negative, dependent, they don’t listen, meddle and break promises.’

Pro Tip: Your close friends have a big impact on your life. Convert or drop ‘accomplices’ who hold you back, and add ‘friends’ who help your growth

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Movie

1953. Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

Gold digger Lorelei Lee and her friend Dorothy Shaw who prefers love, are dancers. Lee has a rich guy at her fingertips, only his father does not seem to approve of her. They plan a visit to Europe but turns out that he can't come and the girls go on their own. A bunch of misunderstandings later, all ends fine. Jane Russell is fabulous and so is Monroe. Top 100 comedies of all time!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monty Python's Life of Brian - Movie

1979. The Monty Python stable of movies and widely acknowledged as one of the greatest comedies of all time.

'Life of Brian' is the story of Brian who is born next door to Jesus and as he grows up, is mistaken for Jesus though he keeps saying he is not. The Judean Front is a hilarious organisation which has split from several other such groups engaged in protest - of everything. Brilliant.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Nishant - Movie

1975. Shyam Benegal. Naseeruddin Shah and Smita Patil debut in this movie about the feudal system in Telangana. Powerful story that showcases our history.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Vidheyan - Movie

1993. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's award-winning movie about a cruel landlord and his servile servant. Based on a novel. Earned Mammootty a national award too.

The Power of Full Engagement -Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

The tagline is 'Managing energy, not time, for high performance.' I am a big believer so when Sridhar suggested that I read this book I got my hands on it immediately. The authors quickly denounce work which celebrates breadth instead of depth, quick reaction to considered reflection, and spreading our energy thin by multi-tasking. Clearly, they say, its energy that is the fundamental currency of high performance.

Skilful Management of Energy - All Four Aspects
We need the right quality and quantity, focus and force of energy to perform well. Since our thoughts, behaviours and actions have an energy consequence, our performance, health and happiness depend on skilful management of energy. Skilful management of energy means that you are fully engaged i.e physically energised, emotionally connected, mentally focussed and spiritually aligned. That's the route to full engagement, full immersion in life. To prove their case, the authors cite examples of athletes, corporate executives and other high performers where they only worked on energy and the results came through beautifully in their performances.

In a diagram with four quadrants where energy is low to high and negative to positive, we ought to shoot for the top right quadrant which is high energy and positive - that's the full engagement quadrant. The four aspects require training in strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience.

Periodisation - The Mantra to Building Capacity
To build capacity in any area, push beyond normal. Stress is the key to growth, it expands capacity. Expose that area or muscle systematically to more stress, followed by adequate recovery and its capacity increases.
"That which does not kill you makes you stronger' - Nietzsche

The key to preventing energy depletion with overuse and underuse is by balancing our energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal. Normally we spend more energy than we recover and that's the first basic mistake we do as individuals and organisations. We need to learn to rhythmically spend and renew energy. We must fully engage and disengage. Instead of running a marathon, run short sprints.

It's Not Will Power, Develop Specific Rituals
Will power consumes a lot of energy and we have a finite amount of it. So we cannot rely on will power at all times. Instead, champions create positive energy rituals - specific routines and habits so we don't spend our energy (will power) forcing ourselves to go for it. A positive ritual is a behaviour that becomes automatic over time. It is fuelled by some deeply held value. A ritual is a carefully defined, highly structured routine that does not take up energy but is an automatic habit.

Change Mantra - Purpose, Truth and Action
To get into full engagement mode and build necessary muscle, we need to follow the PTA route - Purpose - Truth - Action.
- Defining purpose - how should I spend my energy in a way that consistent with my deepest value (need clarity on most important values, compelling vision)
- Facing the truth - gather credible data on how you're spending energy now, tests, diets (check
- Take action - Plan with energy rituals, food, time, know what is important vs urgent, create positive rituals that uplift

Physical Energy Management
Physical Energy management is fundamental to full engagement. It affects our ability to manage our emotions, sustain concentration, think creatively and maintain our commitment to our chosen mission. Physical energy can be increased by changes in habits pertaining to food, hydration, exercise and sleep. On the contrary, physical energy gets depleted through bad eating habits, excess weight, lack of exercise, hydration etc.

Energy is the capacity to do work. As humans, we spend energy and recover energy in a balanced manner - not overdoing by or underdoing. During the building energy phase, we must understand that oscillation works far better than linearity. This Work-Rest ratio - is called periodization or interval training. Following a period of activity the body must replenish energy - compensate.

Full engagement requires cultivating a dynamic balance between expending energy (stress) and renewal (recovery) in all dimensions. Rhythmic oscillations represent the fundamental pulse of life. Two fundamental rhythms we have in our lives are of breathing and eating. Our breathing, brain waves, body temperature, heart rate, hormone levels, blood pressure are affected by our physical rhythms.

Deep, smooth and rhythmic breathing is simultaneously a source of energy, alertness and focus, as well as of relaxation, stillness and quiet - the ultimate healthy pulse. After a physical workout where you have pushed for a period beyond normal, use breath which is a powerful tool for self-regulation. Extending exhalation prompts recovery. For a 3 minute inhale, do a 6 minute exhale and you self-regulate.

At work, you break intense periods of focus of 90-120 minutes of work with rituals like walking, meeting people, reading etc. Having meetings with no phones is a ritual that improves focus during the meetings. The rhythm - 90 minutes of work and 15-minute break helps immensely to form a rhythm and increase physical energy. A break every 90 minutes - 120 minutes has been shown to increase productivity by  30% increase. Establish times to step off the track and create time cocoons.

To build capacity push your muscle beyond limits and suffer short term discomfort for long term reward. As Victor Frankl said - 'The best moments in our lives occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.'

To improve physical energy the key things to keep in mind are
- the food we eat (kinds of food, frequency, quality, don't skip breakfast, ideally eat 5-6 low-calorie nutrition-rich snacks instead of heavy meals)
- intake of water (hydration, drink 64 ounces of water a day)
- sleep (sleep early and wake up early, maintain timings, number of hours, growth and repair period) - - exercise (strength training, interval training)

The Japanese have a term for death from overwork - karoshi. Typically you can kill yourself by overworking. The five factors that indicate you are overworking and not replenishing are - long hours at work, no holidays or breaks, working at night, high pressure and working in a demanding environment. The idea is simple - don't overwork and kill yourself. Instead, build physical energy by changing a few habits to be fully engaged with your work.

Emotional energy
High performance is possible when we are experiencing pleasant and positive emotions such as enjoyment, challenge, adventure, opportunity, self-confidence, content, social skills, patience, openness and trust. Our emotional capacity is our ability to experience a full range of feelings, the capacity to hold opposites. Many people have a very narrow range of emotions.

Emotional Intelligence is the management of emotions for high energy. The big emotional muscles to be worked on are - self- confidence, self-control, social skills and empathy. The smaller muscles to build are - patience, openness, trust and empathy.  Like in physical energy capacity building, you need emotional renewal periods to build capacity too. Emotional spend must be followed by periods of recovery. The ability to summon positive emotions during intense stress is effective leadership. So after an emotionally draining experience find any activity that's enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming which serves as a source of emotional renewal and recovery. While working on your emotional muscle, train to develop patience, empathy and confidence.

The question to ask yourself to know the quality of your emotional energy is - how frequently have you experienced joy and deep satisfaction at work? How often are you able to pursue an activity that gives you joy and satisfaction - like singing, dancing, gardening? If you don't have joy and satisfaction, make it a priority to include them in your workday.

In a study by Gallup the key to sustained performance was found to be having at least one good friend at work. How many friendships at work do you have which are fulfilling, emotionally satisfying, people who you can trust, ask for help, who are there for you? One good friend can help maintain the rhythm of oscillation - giving and taking, talking and listening, valuing one another.

Emotions that arise out of threat or deficiency such as fear, frustration, anger, sadness have a toxic feel to them, are infectious and drag us down. Negative emotions are costly and inefficient.

A cause for our emotional energy depletion could be the conflict we undergo when we choose one emotion over the other instead of holding both - the opposites. If we choose toughness we exclude tenderness which is not a good thing really. Similarly, by choosing between self-control and spontaneity, honesty and compassion, generosity and thriftiness, openness and discretion, passion and detachment, patience and urgency, caution and boldness, confidence and humility, we shut out a large part of our emotional range that is available to us. The term 'anacoluthia' releases you from the dilemma of being true to one virtue which means that another will have to be sacrificed for it. Anacoulthea means a mutual entailment of virtues, where one virtue dovetails into another and too much investment in one, will cause you to lose balance in the other. We must remember that we are the sum complexities and contradictions and our aim should be to move freely and flexibly between all emotions

Mental energy
The key to maintaining a high amount of mental energy is to cultivate a state of realistic optimism - seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome or solution. Our mental capacity is what we use to organise our lives and focus our attention.

The key muscles to improve to maximise mental energy are - mental preparation, visualisation, positive self-talk, time management and creativity. Things to avoid and work on are short attention spans, pessimistic outlooks and rigid and narrow perspectives. The story of boxing champion Ray Mancini who approached them for help because he had 'one negative thought' stands out. It shows how champions work on their mindsets.

Thinking uses up geat energy - though the brain only has 2% of the body weight, it consumes almost 25% of the body's energy.  An understanding of how the left and right brains work helps understand the creative process. The left brain is the seat of language, follows a step-by-step, logical process, is time conscious and arrives at logical conclusions. The right brain is more spatial and visual, sees things all at once, relate parts to the whole, solves problems intuitively with sudden insights. Now the creative process consists of the following five stages - first insight, saturation, incubation, illumination and verification. The first three are right brain functions and the last two are left-brain functions. The process is nothing but cycles between the right and left brain.

To attain high mental energy we need to adopt the periodisation process, find oscillating rhythms between engagement and disengagement. The best creative work happens largely at an unconscious level, thinking when we are aside and not actively seeking results. So we need to work in cycles of engagement and disengagement. Leonardo da Vinci said that 'the greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish much more when they work less. Go away and have a little relaxation, when you come back your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause them to lose the power of judgment.' Changing channels helps creativity.

To strengthen the mental or the brain muscle, use it more. Unlike other muscles, the brain gets better with more usage. Do something new, learn new words, paint with colours, challenge the brain. Physical exercise helps brain growth too.

Spiritual Energy
Our motivation to spend energy comes from spiritual energy. It is a powerful source of of\motivation and preservation and drives action in all areas of our lives. It fuels passion, perseverance and commitment.

Our spiritual energy comes from a deeply held set of values to a purpose beyond self-interest. Spiritual energy ignites the human spirit. The key muscle that supports spiritual energy is character - is the courage and conviction to live by one's values even with personal hardship and sacrifices. The supportive muscles of high spiritual energy are passion, commitment, integrity and honesty.

Spiritual energy, however, requires a balance between commitment to others with self-care.

To expand spiritual capacity - subordinate your needs and go beyond self-interest. Find a cause greater than yourself. When we go beyond self-interest we find greater self-worth and meaning. (Ironically, self-absorption drains energy.) Tension of striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task with honesty, integrity and resolve, fuels our spiritual energy.

In Spiritual energy expansion and renewal are interrelated. To renew spiritual energy one can spend time in nature, read books, listen to music, meditate, do yoga, engage in service to others. Spending time with children is considered a great spiritual practice.

Spiritual energy overrides physical energy

An example of how spiritual energy works is that of Cantor Fitzgerald - a company that had its offices in the WTC towers which lost over 600 of its 1000 workforce in the attacks. The grief of losing their colleagues found an outlet when the Chairman announced that 25% of profits earned for five years would go to the families of those who died. The employees who survived worked with rare passion, even employees who left the company came back to work on this purpose. They became as they said - a band of brothers. They found a purpose, a meaning other lives.

Training system
Spiritual energy is about caring deeply. It is the first thing that we need to work on as it overrides even physical energy. The search for meaning or purpose is called the hero's journey. Our self-transformation starts with discomfort, illumination, pain, call to adventure, push into the unknown, doubt, fear, uncertainty, hardships, search for a mentor, are tested to the brink of giving up, endure the supreme ordeal, slay the dragon, faced the arkness within ourselves, calling on untapped potential and creating meaning where it didn't exist. Its a lifelong challenge, a worthy purpose.

We want to be the best we can possibly be, but we don't want to pursue the heroes path.

"You can work long hours but still be slothful. the things that keep us from finding meaning are failure to engage actively in life and a certain laziness or lack of caring that allows us to let others make our decisions and tell us what they mean" - Joanne Ciulla

Spiritual energy is a unique source of energy and passion. Ask yourself the following questions:

- how excited are you to get to work in the morning
- how much do you enjoy what you are doing for its own sake rather than what it gets you
- how accountable do you hold yourself to deeply held set of values

It helps to know our deepest values and what is sacred to us - Persistence, integrity, excellence, creativity, commitment - are good values to begin with.

Finding our Purpose:
A clear purpose moves source from negative to positive, external to internal and self to others. It moves us from being externally motivated to internally motivated. Money may not buy you happiness but happiness may help you get rich. Extrinsic rewards have actually been shown to undermine intrinsic motivation.

Ask yourself - is this life I am living worth what I'm giving up to have it?

Our values have intrinsic worth. Values fuel the energy on which purpose is built. They define an enduring code of conduct.

Ask yourself these questions imagining a hypothetical end of life scenario -
- what are the 3 most important lessons you learned and why are they so critical?
- what are the 3 qualities of someone you deeply respect
- what is the one-sentence description on tombstone that captures how you really were in your life?

Your answers can give an indication to the values you value.

Rules of engagement - Values
Values are behaviours, choices in life. A virtue is behaving in alignment with values. Self-care as a value is important. (Value-driven companies perform better in the long run - Jim Collins)

Create a vision statement - lofty, ambitious, identifying core values and what they mean in practical everyday terms. A vision statement is a declaration of intent about how to invest one's energy

Our hero's journey is grounded in mobilising nurturing and renewing our most precious resource - energy in the service of what matters most.

Face the Truth
This is easier said than done because it is not easy. We are masters at self-deception. We have an active defence department - we withdraw, rationalise, intellectualise. Our shadow selves split from us because it violates our self-image. We rationalsie with a "not dead yet" thought - which is self-deception.

But we must face the painful truths and contradictions with hope and positive energy. We must gather facts and ask questions to know of our energy engagement. We must identify our common performance barriers, retain openness to possibilities. Truth frees up energy. If we don't acknowledge, we act out unconsciously.

Be open to possibilities - maybe you are wrong. Don't identify with a singular view of yourself.
Accept your limitations - don't justify.

Taking action
In a study of tennis players, there was hardly any difference in their training regimen, but the best players followed certain rituals between points which the replicated blindly. Lesser players didn't have the rituals, which made it difficult for them to recover and prepare between points. the number of times they bounce the ball, the speed at which they did that, what they touched as they went bout was also carefully cultivated.

It's not about will  We are creatures of habit. 85% is automatic and only 5% consciously self-directed. That's why the power of positive rituals is important to effectively manage energy. Reduce need to rely on the conscious will and discipline. Help translate values and priorities into action

Jack Nicklaus, the famous golfer sais that he increases focus as he goes in to tee, peaks focus as he sets up for the swing, has a mental picture of what he is trying to do, both exclusionary and positive, then drops his focus. We must increase our focus in key parts of the game and save our energy up when we don't need it.

Rituals conserve energy. We advance by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them. Rituals pull us. We miss them. Since will and discipline are limited and precious resources use rituals.

There is an example of how a writer benefited from adopting new rituals - Instead of normal workdays, he was asked to start workdays early at 630 and get into minutes of writing without any distraction (no phone, emails). A breakfast of healthy food, at 830 am, break till 1030 am, and then back to work till 12 noon. This four and a half hours focussed work achieved more than what he achieved in double the time before.) Afternoons were devoted to research and reading for the book.

Offset will and discipline by building rituals fuelled by our deepest values. Rituals require a 30-60 day acquisition period. Build serial rituals, one significant change at a time when change required is large. Rituals help facilitate change.

Key behaviours in getting rituals right -

  • Bigger the challenge, more exacting the rituals. 
  • The specificity of timing and precision of behaviour are important. 
  • At all times the focus must be on doing things properly. 
  • One must also be clear about 'what to do' versus 'what not to do'. 
  • Increase focus incrementally as opposed to overdoing it. 
  • Chart your course and chart progress

The book is a gem. There are so many things that are explained so well. The idea of full engagement being holistic, the idea of emotional being about holding opposites, the wonderful idea of hero's journey in the spiritual journey and how important it is, are deep concepts simply explained. Makes sense for individuals and organisations as always.  Thanks, Sridhar for the wonderful book suggestion. Thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend for anyone interested in high performance.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Hygge - Nice Concept of Bringing Cosiness into Your Homes

This is a concept that takes the pressure off to be perfect and focus on being happy instead.

Anjali - How to Price Your Work

o I was just finalising a proposal and was as usual, wondering about the price. I put a number, increased it a bit, and stopped. I wondered if it was more or less, if they could pay etc, and paused for a moment. Anjali was behind me doing some work so I asked her what to do.

'Anjali, shall I quote x?' I asked her.

Pat came the answer.

'Quote what you feel like,' she said. This sounded like i needed to get in touch with my intuition so I gave her a look.

'I mean whatever you thought you should quote, double that and quote,' she said. 'What will happen? At best they will reject it and ask you to reduce.'

Wow. I heard this same advice from some experts. So I asked Anjali where she had heard this from.

'Haven't heard it anywhere,' she said. 'Just felt that was right.'

Perhaps she sensed my doubt - pretty sure she did. I realised later that if I were to stop thinking from the client's perspective and thought from mine, there would be more clarity. Instead of thinking about how much they would pay, if I looked at what value I brought to the table, I was better off. I looked at my profile, my experience and thought, man, what you quoted for all that is really bottom level stuff. Even after doubling it, I was higher in the bottom range only. Now how will that help me think bigger and better? The moment I doubled the price on the screen it put me out of my comfort zone, I started to think about how I could add value to my service.

The fear that we may lose clients is illogical. Anything based out of fear is not good -, especially relationships. Some clients may drop off, but then some may accept. We want those who will accept us as we are, on our terms, not on theirs. They will see our true value, and so will we. All effort is towards growing bigger, not smaller.

It is important to have a fair assessment of the value we bring. Our price must always reflect a true value of what we bring. Clearly, if we do not value our work, no one else will. We have to decide, we have to produce and deliver. And we can reach for excellence if we believe we belong there.

Thank you Anjali. That was a good reminder.

The General - Movie

1926. Buster Keaton. Top 100 all-time great films. Based on the book 'The Great Locomotive Chase' by William Pettinger. A silent movie, 'The General' cost Buster Keaton losses and his status and it was only much later viewed as a classic. The film with its locomotive chases and stunts is breathtaking, and captures the essence of the real story, while treating it with a brush of humour. 'The General' is the name of the train that is stolen. Buster Keaton is fantastic.


Blue Velvet - Movie

1986. English. David Lynch. Academy award for Best Director.Top 100 all-time great films.

A college student finds a human ear while walking back home and turns it in to the police. He learns that a singer is somehow connected to the ear and goes to investigate and finds that there is a lot that happens behind the scenes in small-town America. Noir.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Wonderful TED Talk on 'Frientimacy' - Shasta Nelson

Wonderful. We are all lonely even if we have many friends because we are not intimate enough to be able to ask, share, feel a safety net. 'Frientimacy' is what we need - PCV - Positivity (5 positive interactions to one negative interaction is the rule), Consistency, and Vulnerability (ability to ask).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Journey to Italy - Movie

1954. Top 50 all-time great films list. Ingrid Bergman. George Sanders. Based on a novel 'Duo' by Collette.

An English couple is driving to Naples to do a property deal. The first time they are alone together. They are childless, have little time for one another and do not seem to understand each other. Their differences crop up, pent up jealousies and anger surfaces and they decide to divorce - almost.

10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace - Dr Wayne W Dyer

It's a slim book and looked like an easy read so I browsed through it. The format is simple - 10 chapters, 10 secrets. Here they are.

Secret No 1 - Hase a mind that is open to everything
Pretty self-explanatory. Don't reject anything, be open to everything. Don't judge.

Secret No 2 -  Don't die with your music still in you
Don't hold back. Give yourself a chance. Be bold and risk failure.

Secret No 3 - You can't give away what you don't have
First, get for yourself and then worry about others.

Secret No 4 - Embrace silence

Secret No 5 - Give up your personal history
Stop living in the past. The present is where the energy is. Follow the energy.

Secret No 6 - You can't solve a problem with the same mind that started it
Step out of the problem - find another way.

Secret No 7 - There are no justified resentments
Don't waste your time resenting etc.

Secret No 8 - Treat yourself as if you are already what you'd like to be
Live the illusion. Fake it till you make it. Things change.

Secret No 9 - Treasure your divinity
You're divine, believe it, just as every being is.

Secret no 10 - Wisdom is avoiding all thoughts that weaken you
Fully agree. Banish all thoughts that weaken you.

Nice and short.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Battle of Algiers - Movie

1966. Top 100 all-time films.

About the battle between Algerian rebels and the colonial French who occupied Algeria. Brilliant.

My Fair Lady - Movie

1963. George Cukor. Rex Harrison. Audrey Hepburn.

Absolute delight.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams - PG Bhaskar

It's been lying in the bookshelf for a long while and I remember picking it up once to read and for some reason did not progress further. But this time it flew like a shot. Bhaskar has a nice easy style of telling the story and has complete control over it from beginning to end so there was nothing to complain about.

Jack Patel is a Gujarathi boy living in Chennai. After completing his IIM from Bangalore he lands a job in an investment firm in Dubai. How Jack rises to the top of the Myers Corp, his client calls, his colleagues, family etc made an amusing read. There is a small romance in the middle with a client's daughter which works out well so all's well and that ends well. The financial jargon was a bit heavy or me and I had nightmares of the time I spent with the IDBI at the same time that the book is set in. The characters were all likeable, the girls in the office Peggy, Melissa, the Sardarji client, Kitsch and others. I could visualise the entire story in my mind.

Bhaskar writes well. I haven't seen any other book by him. I remember my friend Krishna Shastri Devulapalli recommending the book to me. Coming from Krishna, that's high praise. Nice, easy, funny read.

Canteen Fundas - Knowledge vs Skills

Knowledge or Application, Marks or Knowing, Knowing or Doing!

Canteen Fundas: Apply your knowledge to learn some new and valuable skills

'Rinku studies only for marks, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘I feel bookish knowledge is only for pleasing others. What’s useful is practical knowledge.’

‘Good marks clearly indicate better understanding,’ argued Rinku. ‘How can you practise anything without any knowledge? This argument of practical knowledge versus bookish knowledge is an excuse to not work hard, bhaiyya.’
‘What’s the use of topping exams if one can’t cross the road or deal with vegetable vendors?’ poked Rahul.
‘Thinking about our actions and consequences is scientific,’ said Rinku. ‘And crossing roads and buying vegetables won’t change the world.’
‘Bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Who’s right?’
‘There’s partial truth in both arguments,’ said Rakesh. ‘You need both. And both these arguments are limiting you by 50%.’
‘How, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘Those who justify the lack of practical application of their knowledge argue that excelling in exams is proof of their expertise,’ said Rakesh. ‘They memorise without understanding and are clueless when it comes to the basic application. There’s a difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ It’s only by ‘doing’, that you realise how much you ‘know’.’
‘Hehe,’ smirked Rahul. Rinku made a face.
‘On the other hand, Rahul,’ said Rakesh with a smile. ‘Champions of practical knowledge use their argument to stop growing their knowledge. They’re happy changing light bulbs or car tyres without knowing the principles behind them. So we have gold medalists in mechanical engineering who cannot change a car tyre and mechanics who can repair the car but don’t know the science behind it.’
‘So what are you saying, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘Make learning your only goal,’ said Rakesh. ‘Acquire knowledge and apply it on a daily basis. That’s when knowledge transforms into a marketable skill. When you match knowledge to application, magic happens.’
‘What magic, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘You top the class, can solve complex problems and can demonstrate the practice too,’ said Rakesh.
‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘So, what should we do bhaiyya?’
‘Instead of choosing between what’s comfortable for you — ‘thinking’ or ‘action’ — choose both,’ said Rakesh. ‘Transform knowledge into skills at every opportunity and acquire and grow people skills, technical skills, leadership skills and other skills.’

Pro Tip: True knowledge includes ‘knowing’ and ‘applying’ knowledge in your life. When you apply what you know, you gain valuable skills

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Interesting LInk - 30 Famous Tales from Greek Mythology

Late Spring - Movie

1949. Japanese. Yasujiro Ozu's second movie in the top 15 of the 100 greatest movies of all time.

Ozu uses the same actors, even the same names and perhaps even the same locations - the house is the same as in 'Tokyo Story'. Setsuko Hara's name is Noriko in this movie as in Tokyo Story. The story of a daughter who loves her widowed father so much that she doe not want to get married. The father has to resort to a lie to get her married fro her own good.

Setsuko Hara's story is fascinating - born in 1920, she started acting when she was 15, started working with Ozu in te 1940 in her late twenties by which time she had already acted in 67 films, worked on six films with Ozu two of which are world classics, and stopped working or being in public in 1963, the year of Ozu's death. She never married and died in 2015, aged 95. She's beautiful, graceful and elegant. Watched it on YouTube.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Meghe Dhaka Tara - Movie

1960. Bengali. Ritwik Ghatak. Based on novel by Shaktipada Rajguru.

It features in the top 100 Indian films of all time. A post-partition movie about a family of refugees living outside Calcutta, with the constant fear of eviction, lack of employment and opportunity. The story revolves around the eldest daughter of a family who is the sole earning member and how the family takes advantage of her goodness. She ends up sacrificing her relationships, health, education, career and in the end, is left pining for a life of her own. A movie that haunts you well after it's over.

The Bookshelf Series 3 - Dr Rajendra Nargundkar

Raja is a Professor, author and an avid reader of books. What I like best about Raja is that apart from buying, owning and reading a wide variety of books and enjoying all genres, he is very generous with his books. I have several of his books on my bookshelf today that he shared with me after he finished reading (unlike most people I know who don't share books at all). This book sharing is a very rare trait and I found it a refreshing change, something to emulate.

Raja and one of his many bookshelves
Mostly Raja loves funny books and all sorts of fiction and non-fiction (biography especially). I also remember him liking the MAD comics. Like most book lovers he also loves watching movies. Now, without further ado, let's dive into his bookshelf.

HM. How did your reading habit start?
RN: Books lying around at home, and the fact that my parents subscribed to magazines for kids in Marathi. I read anything I could lay my hands on, including magazines in Marathi, newspapers, ...

HM: Who influenced you early on to read?
RN: Parents first, friends in school (we had a good library too) and cousins later. Some teachers, much later.

HM. What were the books that impacted you most? How?
RN: The truth be told, it was comics- Mandrake was an early favourite, with Phantom second. Later, it was Asterix..that continues. Then it was pulp fiction, mainly mysteries by Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and action mysteries by Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout. Non-fiction came fairly late. Osho and J. Krishnamurty were most impactful, many others at different points in time. Biographical books. One about Leela Naidu, another on Michael Caine, one on SD Burman, Kishore Kumar.

HM: Could you share the list of your top 10-15-25 books?
RN: The list

1. My Family and Other Animals,
2. Almost any book by Agatha Christie (The ABC Murders recently),
3. Down Under by Bill Bryson,
4. Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,
5. Any book by P.G. Wodehouse (Summer Lightning?),
6. Sherlock Holmes mysteries,
7. Any book by Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe as a character is a favourite),
8. Erle Stanley Gardner/A.A. Fair (Perry Mason, and Bertha Cool mysteries),
9. Norwegian Wood and a few others by Murakami,
10. Marathi humour by Pu. La. Deshpande (Vyakti ani Valli),
11. Marathi sci-fi I read early on by Narayan Dhaarap,
12. Humour collection- Mulla Naseeruddin stories,
13. Asterix (all of them),
14. Almost anything by Osho.
15. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
16. Some books about music, like on RD Burman, SD Burman, Kishore Kumar, Pran, Helen, Mehmood,..a surprise was a book by Woody Allen (Without Feathers)
17. Zorba the Greek
18. The 100 year ol man who climbed out of the window and disappeared 

HM. Who are your favourite authors - top 5?
RN: P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Dave Barry (in Marathi, Lai bhaari), Osho, Rex Stout.

HM: How many books do you read on an average per year these days?
RN: 12-15 these days. Some are bought and remain unread/partially read, so I buy around 30-40. (In the lockdown since March 2020, I read more..two or three per month).

HM. How many books do you own?
RN: Too many, and counting..

HM: What are the books you are reading currently?
RN: Re-reading Agatha Christie, Gardner, Stout as I can't go to bookstores due to a lockdown. Have read a few about Digital Media (The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki is a good one) and Digital Marketing in the last year or so. Also, The Shooting star by a solo woman traveller and blogger, Shivya Nath.

HM: What's next on your list?
RN: Nothing in particular..I generally browse at a bookstore, and buy whatever catches my fancy.

HM: What are the books you have been meaning to read but have kept pending? 
RN: All those fat ones.
HM: What's the one book you value the most? 
Another angle
RN: I used to value a Rex Stout collection of stories I had, but I lost it.

HM: What's the best book-gift you got?
RN: A Rex Stout collection (6 in one), from my uncle.

HM: What's the one book you regret losing?
RN: Two, actually. Flatland (a Mathematical comedy), and Class (a satire on our class systems-upper, middle etc.)

HM: What's the favourite book that you gift people?
RN: Depends on the person- a recent one I gifted was The Man Called Ove. I have also gifted Murakami's books, and Dave Barry's in the past.

HM: Your favourite experience around books, if any?
RN: Friendships that have been made because of them, from childhood in the coal-mines till today. I met a friend for the first time in a bookstore in Bangalore last year..we had only met online earlier. Reading reviews of books is another good experience, though I rarely buy one because of a review-it's an independent hobby to read reviews.

HM: If there's an author you would like to write like, who would it be? 
RN: No doubts about this. P.G. Wodehouse.
HM: What's your favorite place to shop for books?
RN: Any physical bookstore that does not just stock "bestsellers"..some airport shops have surprised me. Church Street, Bangalore is a current favourite. It has two stores I like-Bookworm and Blossoms.

HM: Any other thoughts around books?
RN: Yes. I hate reading online or on devices. Haven't done a single book that way.

Thanks for sharing Raja. Your shelf is one of those that has a wide variety to suit all tastes. I can happily spend a month or two just reading up the books on your shelf. Must do that some time.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Tokyo Story - Movie

1953. Yasujiro Ozu.

An old couple from a distant seaside village go to Tokyo to visit their children - a son who is a doctor, a daughter who runs a beauty parlour and a widowed daughter in law who has lost her husband to war. A younger son lives in Osaka on the way to Tokyo so he meets them at the station. The youngest daughter lives with them. How the old couple realise that their children are not as well settled as they thought they were, and how they have changed and become selfish people, while their daughter-in-law treats them with kindness and thoughtfulness. The old couple leaves for home earlier than they planned, disappointed with their children.

Gives a wonderful insight into life of those times.

Sight and Sound's BFI's 100 Greatest Films of All Time

I was searching for the 100 greatest all-time films made and found this list.

I watched 33 of the 93 films and was thrilled to find some 10-12 on YouTube. So I started with 'Tokyo Story' yesterday, by Ozu Yashijiro. Ah, you cannot forget such movies.

Big thank you goes out to Sagar once again for educating me in the world of cinema and most movies I watched on this list are thanks to him And Pallavi who recently introduced me to 'Breathless'. Have fun watching. Several are on YouTube.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Asuran - Movie

2019. Caste atrocities story based on the Kilvenmani massacre of 1968 when 44 farmers (let's not address them as dalits and reduce the import of the murder - even dalits are people!) were murdered by a gang of landlords and 200 of their henchmen. Of the 44 dead, 23 were children, 16 were women. They hid in a hut when the landlords attacked them and the hut was burned down, the fire systematically fed. The courts acquitted the leader of the landlords (the Paddy Producers Association) Gopalakrishna Naidu - who was subsequently killed in a revenge killing in 1980.

'Asuran' uses caste inequality as the core theme, leads into the farmers forming a union to seek better wages and conditions and how the landlords take revenge on the poor farmers. It gives a glimpse of how  the poor were treated - cannot wear slippers (if you do, they will beat you), fall at everybody's feet for any perceived misdemeanour, how the police, landlords, government, judiciary are all together against the poor.

7500 - Movie

2019. Hijack film shot almost entirely inside the cockpit of a plane. Edge of seat stuff - though kind of predictable. Entertaining. Watched on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Story of a Love Affair - Movie

1950 Italian drama. Two confused people in love (if one may call it that) have a secret to hide, split because the girl marries a rich man, come back together because someone is investigating them, and once again repeat their old pattern - almost.

The Mule - Movie

2018. Clint Eastwood.

Inspired by a news article about Leo Sharp, a world war II veteran who became a mule for the drug cartel when he was in his 80s. Eastwood plays Earl Stone who becomes a mule (drug courier) in his 80s for a drug cartel.

Nothing much. He makes a lot of money carrying drugs that's all.

Pavan Parimi's Podcast - A First For Me

I met Pavan a decade ago when he attended a workshop that Amar and I conducted for corporate executives ambitiously titled 'The Champion's Mindset'. It was full of conviction and passion and Pavan was fully engaged throughout. Thereafter he left his company 'Great Sports Infra' but has been in touch with me. In fact, when he was with Oakridge he offered me an opportunity to conduct Creative Writing courses which was a first for me then. We have been in touch, on and off. Pavan shares his writing, his ideas and ambitions.

So when he came  up with the idea of a podcast where we could talk about my life as a cricketer, writer and a workshop facilitator - I said why not. Here it is - the first part of the podcast.

In Pavan's words:

He didn't explore his passion for cricket. Cricket explored him and his passion in the sport.  This first episode of the two takes the beginnings of Hari Mohan as a cricketer in the 1980s - his stint in Ranjih cricket, some of the great friendships he could make in that journey - all the while, till he ignited his writing career.

Do check out my podcast ( search for writer ghost in Spotify, anchor and all the official podcast channels) for upcoming interesting stories