Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Flying in the Times of COVID

 Shobha's mom fell ill and we got an SOS call from Milind. 'I think you should come,' he said. So we booked our tickets for Sunday and gritted our teeth for the journey not knowing what to expect. After all the precautions of all these months, not moving out, not meeting people etc, we finally had to bite the bullet and do many things we hadn't. Like booking a Uber for instance!

So the flight tickets were not too expensive even for the next day. We booked our tickets with no idea of what to expect. Then we booked a Uber put on our masks and headed off to the airport which was completely empty. The CISF chap asked us to show our Aarogya Sethu app which is a crazy exercise because no one knows what it means (one wonders if having the app slowly cures you by leaking in through the phone). Then we show our boarding passes etc and then we get in and do our security stuff. At the gates the airline gives us a kit - mask, shield, sanitiser and stuff and you are asked to wear and sit with those inside. The middle row which used to be empty earlier now is full and the person sitting there has to wear a PPE which is primarily a white coat that makes you look like a doctor. I don't see how the white coat will prevent the virus from moving one seat to another sideways but well, perhaps we can fool it by looking like doctors. 

A few rebels tried various things - like not wearing face shield and trying to hide their face when the hostesses came around, not wearing PPEs, wearing PPEs but not sitting in middle seats etc. After they were pacified the next thing was to eat. The girls served us some nice sandwiches and stuff and we felt it was better than what we ate before.

When we finally landed in Pune, the girls told us to alight row after row, which is something we could do when there is no pandemic situation as well. But the moment the flight stopped everyone got up and tried to bring down their cases in a rather violent manner, endangering people around. People tried to get ahead of their row in a desperate bid to get ahead in life but overall some  semblance of order prevailed and we got off.

Uber at Pune airport and home. Piece of cake. You can take the face shield home because it is quite useful, something Anjali did, but I didn't. More on the situations here in COVID times soon!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Day Out at Beauty Green

 Beauty Green is a resort set in lush and sylvan surroundings near Shamshabad. We have been going there thanks to Koni who has now got management stake in it. It's a great place to hang out, play table tennis and spend a day there. After a few such outings, we decided to spend one evening there - Vasu and me to begin with - and then Shobhs and Anjali joined in.

At  dawn

So we went late in the evening on the 22nd and headed straight into some table tennis and carroms.

Ping pong - Vasu vs Anjali

 After a couple of hours of serious work out we sat out there under the stars and drank some rum and coke as soft fog enveloped us. Some hot biryani polished off a fine day and we crashed out at midnight or so with promises of waking up early and going for a job. 6 am was the promised time.

The sylvan setting 

We did make it - Vasu, me and Anjali - and jog we did for a 5.4 kms length through the entire layout - enjoying the sunrise, the slight mist and the fresh air.

Anjali, Vasu and a faithful doggy

Anjali and Vasu in the background 

Shobhs at breakfast 

Breakfast and then some more table tennis and then some lunch before we headed back home after a very fruitful outing. 

Thanks Koni for hosting us. We had a great time.   

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Art of Choosing - Sheena Iyengar

This was a topic I really looked forward to reading about because I'm terrible at making choices - can't pick shirts, shoes, nothing. Sheena is obviously very well-read and well researched, so she quotes from many sources and studies in a patient and gentle tone that helps us to understand the theory, principle and practice. To get her point across she goes into history, culture, biology, business, psychology and delves deep into why people choose the way they do. In her epilogue, she also explains how many readers have told her that the book is so deeply researched that it somehow confused them a bit about what exactly the art of choosing was all about - culture, psychology - what. Sheena responded to their feedback and explained the seven chapters briefly in the end which helped me integrate the many thoughts she shared.

    Sheena starts with wondering whether destiny, chance and choice contribute to where we end up in our lives. However, she says that choice alone gives us some level of control, the power to make the most of whatever comes our way through destiny and chance. And even when things go wrong, choice allows us to recover, survive and even thrive. Though some feel there's a greater force determining our lives, most find strength in the idea that we can design and construct our lives. We believe that choice allows us to be the architects of our future.

Clearly, humans are wired with the need for control and choice is a powerful way of exercising control. However, we all do not want the same choices or want choice in the same way because of our cultural backgrounds and personal experiences. People benefit from choice only when it enhances our sense of control. We need to be open to learning how others speak choice - and not assume that since we experience it a particular way, they will too. Culturally choice is spoken of differently.

Most also think of choice and freedom as being associated. We can choose to be free, to do our own thing. But then choices are also about who we are. We can find out more about why we behave in a particular way by using a 360-degree feedback system that may help us understand ourselves better. I also found this a very useful tool - to keep a "choice diary". Make entries of your most important choices. What you did and why you did etc.  The record will help you understand yourthoughts and behaviour better. It could help you become aware of your biases and rationalizations.

Though we have reasons for making choices we must realise there are other factors involved too. We must be aware that we may be avoiding making choices colored by outside limitations which might note the best strategy. Instead, we are better off focusing on becoming more aware of hidden biases and preferences which push us to make choices we might not approve of if we were conscious of our underlying motivations. (It helps to go through the Implicit Association Test (IAT) she says so take it)

It is known that having a large amount of choice is frustrating. To help you decide in such cases, 

1) Cut your options to a manageable number (seven plus or minus two is considered a manageable number of options to choose from)

2) Cultivate confidence in your choices by taking expert advice and personalised recommendations

3) Categorise choices available to you because it enables you to simulate expertise and see clearly.

4) Condition yourself by starting out with fewer and easier choices and build more complex choices as you get better. Gradually increase the challenge, you'll feel more confident, build skill and improve your performance in the long run.

Sheena sums it up beautifully when she says choice gives us permission to imagine a better self. It holds the promise that we can create that better self through our own volition. Choice is possibility. Choice, however, is not the answer to everything. We must acknowledge that we don't always know how to choose and that choice has its own limitations. Be choosy about choosing she say. Less choice is ok. Choosing not to choose is fine. 

Sheena says Choice is the responsibility of separating the meaningful from the trivial, the disheartening from the uplifting. We must focus on the choices that matter, The art of choosing she says finally is this - balancing hopes, desires, and an appreciation of the possibilities with a clear-eyed assessment of the limitations.

For those who want to hear it from her directly, here's her TED talk.

Very interesting book with a lot of research and experiments into why we choose the way we do. I did get lost in all the research and data and points she was making to build up the case but I liked the primary ideas of keeping a choice diary, becoming more aware of why we choose the way we do, knowing the cutting options helps choose better, getting expert advice and personalised recommendations, than relying on your rather unreliable choosing instinct, categorising choice to add clarity and to learn the process of choosing assiduously. Fine read. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Josh Talk by Amit J Assistant Commandant, CISF - Failure to Success

 One of the interesting things that happened yesterday during my visit to the NISA (National Industrial Security Academy) to deliver a talk, was meeting young Amit J, Asst Commandant, CISF. Apart from being the perfect host and taking care of me, he was also a very interesting person, curious to know about the writing process, the books I read, authors I like. He told me about how he got over the fear of not being good at English and how he got so good that he delivered a JOSH talk 'Failure to Success' which has, hold your breath, 17 lakh views! (I gave  TED talk which has 2k views!)

It is full of energy, conviction and power and there's enough reason for it to get more views too. Amit told me about his interests, books he reads (Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma), his interest in Kalaripayattu which he is learning, fitness, among other things. Here's his JOSH talk and one I will remember and take inspiration from - that energy is wonderful. Good going Amit.

A Nice Message about GHS from Sushmitha!

Sushmitha Tallapalli was at Gap Miners, my friend Ramaraju's company where I would train his employees on a weekly basis. I would share all my ideas with them, come up with new exercises and even do workshops. Then she left and got married. 

The other day ti was her birthday and I wished her on facebook and he replied with a nice little story about Golconda High School.


Sushmitha Tallapally
a day ago

Actually, I thought of sharing u I went to SC and ST gurukul house for teaching English as a volunteer for 15 days.
Sushmitha Tallapally
a day ago
There they said two watch movies one is Golkonda high school and another is dhrushyam
Sushmitha Tallapally
a day ago
One movie is how u should be and another movie is how u shouldn't be in ur life.'

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Thought for the Day - How We Make Everyone Wrong to Make Ourselves Right

 It is something we all do but some of us take it to the next level. Almost to the level of gaslighting. To make ourselves right, we make everyone wrong in every way and have justifications for everything. Whatever it is, I am not wrong. I am wronged. 

I'm right, You're Right!

Fact, our experience is our creation. We cannot blame anyone else for it really!

Emergency Helpline for Child Abuse - 1098

 I didn't know such numbers existed until Pallavi pointed it out to me today. I wish there were numbers like this for animal care and such stuff too because I see animals on the road and I cannot do much except to feel bad for them. 

Talk at CISF, Hyderabad – Change Management and Leadership

(Transcript of the talk that I gave on the 21st Oct, though I posted it on 20th Oct)

Good afternoon, today our topic of discussion is change management and leadership in a growing organisation. I’ll share three or four concepts with you that you can practice and refine as you go forward.

Change Management 
Firstly, it is my belief that we don’t manage change. We manage ourselves. Change is not some distant, strange and mysterious thing as it is made out to be. It is happening all the time. It is the way of the world. In the past five minutes so many things have already changed here right under our noses. So when we say change management, I think we are trying to find out what’s constant in this change and we are trying to map that so we don’t get lost, some goalposts, milestones that we can hold on to. 

There are two aspects to change as I look at it – one where we lead change proactively. And second, where we prepare so we react to unforeseen changes best. Both are leadership issues.


Let me introduce leadership as I understand it. 

1) At its most basic form, leadership is how we influence others by the way we lead our lives. We influence people all around us - family, colleagues, subordinated, seniors, customers - with the way we are leading ourselves. Which means all of us are already leading. Some lead well and some do not. 

2) The great leaders bring in a greater vision and motivate people to achieve great things together. They come with a vision and the energy to convince, motivate people to invest in their own common good. 

3) In doing so great leaders grow everyone, treat everyone equally, fairly, justly, make people believe in things they never believed were possible. 

4) Leadership is an attitude, not a position. 

5) It is responsibility. 

6) It is about holding group energies like a vessel.

Two questions that come up - does leadership make a difference? Yes, more than 50%. Can leadership be learned? Yes, like any skill, it can be learned. But the thing with leadership is less about learning and more about practicing. 

Concept 1 - Fixed and Growth or Learning Mindset 
So let’s begin with the first concept of the day. It’s a powerful concept by Dr Carol Dweck  who wrote the book 'Mindset'. It can be the difference between succeeding and failing, between you and the topper of the batch. This is the reason why I never played test cricket.

Everyone has these two mindsets – fixed and growth or learning mindset.

Fixed mindset believes - intelligence, potential, talent is fixed and therefore our growth is fixed. Growth or learning mindset believes that intelligence, talent and potential can be learned and therefore our growth is unlimited. The more we use our intelligence, talent, the better we get. Here are some characteristics of both fixed and growth mindset told through a story of let's say two cricketers. 

Let’s take the fixed mindset person. I made it to first-class level thanks to my earlier preparation. But deep inside I believed that my talent, intelligence was fixed and cannot be improved. But I did not want the world to know my limitations so I tried hard to hide it. When I got to the first-class level  which is tougher than junior levels and needed more preparation I did not prepare harder because I believed that effort was fruitless - smart people do not work hard, only stupid people work hard. So in spite of knowing that i was not bowling well, I did not go and ask for help from a coach. Instead, I gave up  giving excuses that the selection was biased etc or that i wanted to study engineering. Fact is, I got stuck in a corner only because of my mindset which said that smart people cannot work hard, ask for help etc. When people asked me why I was not performing as well, I would get defensive and angry. I ignored feedback and felt threatened by others successes. Naturally, my career stopped after 7 games despite having talent and all the raw material to make it to the top. I was maybe in the top 20 bowlers then. i could not do justice to my potential simply because of a mindset.

Now look at a learning mindset person, my friend Venkatapathi Raju. His only desire was to learn, not to show he was smart. To learn, he would be curious, ask questions, be ok with saying ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand’ when senior players were around. For him, the way to grow or learn was by testing himself out constantly which meant he would want to take tougher tests and challenges. if he was dropped he would practice harder, play more games and perform. He would embrace challenges. Once he gets a challenge he would not give up and would persist because it was an opportunity to learn, not to show about how smart or foolish he is. He sought help, saw effort as the path to mastery. Learnt from criticism. Found lessons and inspiration from others success and he reached even higher levels of achievement as a result and did justice to potential. 

Fixed Mindset Characteristics

Growth Mindset Characteristics

Desire to look smart

Desire to learn

Avoid challenges

Embrace challenges

Give up easily

Persist in the face of setback

Get defensive

Seek help to find ways to improve

See effort as fruitless

See effort as the path to mastery

Ignore useful negative feedback

Learn from criticism

Feel threatened by others successes

Find lessons and inspiration from others success

Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Reach even higher levels of achievement as a result and get closer to potential

The greatest leaders have a learning mindset. The greatest organizations are leaning organizations. So, what is the single most thing that stops most of us from being a learning mindset person? Our ego. Our insecurity. 

What are the practices you can take to your life from this concept?  It is good to say ‘I don’t know'. The moment we say it, we move into the learning mindset, into a secure space. The whole world opens up for you. When a 100 of you are ok with being a learner, incredible change happens in your organisation.

2. The second concept we will look at is the Evolution of leaders (related to Mindsets)

Insecure leadership - We start as insecure leaders mostly because we have no training and are thrust into positions of responsibility and authority. Most of us feel insecure about leading others, many of them as good as ourselves, some better than us.
This insecurity makes us behave aggressively. My way or highway!
  • We do not accept that we may not have all answers (I know, I know people)
  • We don’t ask for help
  • Take credit for success, blame others for failure
  • Feel threatened and will not let others grow
  • Won’t share information
  • Won’t support, Want others to fail
  • Criticise, blame, discourage
  • Snub new ideas
  • Do not encourage feedback
  • Fears change
  • Cannot delegate or give up control
– Result –team performance goes south

Personal leadership – We find a personal spark and want to excel.
Don’t know how but will find a way and change
We expand our role and go beyond our role
We model excellence in the team and help the team and others 
Take full responsibility for own role
Open to new ideas and feedback to improve role
Self-motivated and contribute to team
Wants to change status quo

– Result – helps team through star performances, individual grows, team benefits, 2x result possible

Secure leadership –
Has a greater vision
Ok with not knowing everything but will find ways to use all resources best to find answers
Allows people to grow by trusting, delegating, supporting, coaching, grows leaders
Driven passionately to achieve results 
Takes responsibility to achieve task and grow everyone in the process
Actively supports others
Gives helpful, growth oriented feedback
Gives up control
Allows others to take responsibility and make mistakes
Grows leaders in team 

- Result - team wins, everyone grows much more as organisation wins and gets 10x results

How are you placed here? Have you moved from insecure leadership to personal leadership? Explore this part deeply, have you expanded your role? Personal leadership and then get into secure leadership. We need personal leaders who will then become secure leaders.

It ties in with the Fixed and Learning Mindset. Insecure leaders will not grow nor will let anyone else grow. Secure leaders actively look to grow others. It is a matter of which mindset they subscribe to.

3. Change management case

A company came to me with a problem. It is not growing, something had to be done to shake it up. 400 crore. 600 crore. 1000 crore.

Simon Sinek – Start with why


– What’s your purpose? Your greatest vision for your organisation or team. What are you driven by?

An audacious idea, a 10x idea, freedom for India. 
Sulabh Intl – Bindeshwar Pathak, 1970, Gandhian who went about setting up toilets, now created 35000 jobs, 300 crore, 240 towns scavenging free


Building Culture – Values, what we value, (Honesty, hard work, customer satisfaction etc) our way of doing things, what we practice as a team, shown through our behavior, we live those values (example of CEO who was not balancing his time), your subordinates follow you 

- Keep customers happy – Disney story, Mahindra story

- Customer is king – Taj story, guest is god philosophy (26/11 terror attack, 1200 guests, 600 employees, no employee left, 34 died, 17 employees, case study in Harvard) 

-Efficiency tools

- OKRs (how to achieve 10x results through execution)


- Goals

20 year goal

10 year goal

5 year goal

2 year goal

In two years the company achieved a 1000 crore target when they had set a 500 crore target.

Leadership blackbox – why, how, what

Whom - People management, energy management, Phook theory, love them like your children 

4. Project Aristotle 
. Google. Millions of dollars, 4 years. 180 teams. Who, IQ etc didn’t matter. The best teams are psychologically safe. Best teams had these.

1. Psychological safety – being able to take a risk without feeling insecure, ability to speak up, trust

2. Dependable – Can others deliver, can we depend on them

3. Structure and Clarity – Goals, roles, execution plan

4. Meaning – Do we find the work personally meaningful

5. Impact – What impact is my work doing

Practicing Psychological Safety

- All talk equally, be aware of how others are feeling tone and body language, Ostentatious listening

- Treat work problems as learning problems and not execution problems, Model curiosity – ask questions

- Share a risk taken last week, share and welcome ideas

When change happens like it did in Taj, it is the values that guide us. Values are best exemplified through stories.


To be secure, to create psychologically safe places, to practice values - WE must change. As people we must be secure people. We must adopt the learning mindset. We must practice the values we profess. 

'Good to Great' The Level 5 leaders - build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will, all about the company/team and not about them, result-oriented, humble, self-effacing, modest, understated, shy, gracious, window and mirror approach (eg. MSD)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Canteen Fundas - Draw Your Gratitude Chart!

 We cannot do it alone. There are hundreds who have helped us become what we have become, who support us as we live today. Draw a gratitude chart to find out who all have been in your life.

This is why you will be grateful for the gratitude chart. Here's how it helps

Feeling alone logged into the Zoom call.

‘What’s up Rahul,’ said Rinku_Topper.

‘No one does anything for me,’ said Rahul. ‘Or cares for me or supports me.’

‘Why do you think that?’ asked Rakesh.

‘Because everyone’s only bothered about themselves bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Even I should bother about myself. Be selfish.’

‘You should definitely care about yourself first,’ said Rakesh. ‘But that bit about others not supporting you may not be true.’

‘Well, people have helped,’ said Rahul. ‘But not enough. I always struggle alone.’

‘Aha, the ‘not enough’ syndrome,’ said Rakesh. ‘When someone gives, we judge — enough or not — instead of accepting it gracefully. We focus on what’s not there and that energy expands and consumes us. Rahul, to get you out of your hole, let’s first see what you have and if it’s ‘enough’.’

‘How?’ he asked.

‘By doing a gratitude exercise,’ said Rakesh. ‘Take a paper and a pen. Write your name in the middle and then write the names of all the people who helped you and how. How many are there?’

‘Ten…fifteen’ said Rahul.

‘Get started,’ said Rakesh. ‘Parents, siblings, ancestors, relatives, friends, teachers, doctors, colleagues, coaches, employers, helpers, those who shared an encouraging word, a gift, a smile, an idea, an inspiration, drivers… leave no one out. What else?’

‘We could add all our possessions, gadgets,’ said Rinku_Topper. ‘Institutions we studied in, organisations, stores, service providers, utilities, government services…’

‘Whoa,’ said Rahul. ‘Why should I thank institutions, service providers and government? I’m paying them right?’

‘We are,’ said Rakesh. ‘But when we imagine life without them we understand how much we take them for granted. Hundreds of people support us to provide us a good life. None of us make it alone.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku_Topper in awe. ‘That way, the whole world’s supporting us,’

‘‘We can either embrace it and feel supported or reject it and feel alienated,’ said Rakesh. ‘By being grateful for what we have, we focus on the treasure we have and expand it. In fact, by being grateful for people who have ‘done enough’, we can even change our relationship with them — and get even more.’

‘Thanks bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘That’s a lot to be grateful for. I’m not feeling alone anymore.’

PRO TIP: When you’re grateful for what you have, it expands. When you’re not grateful for what you have, it diminishes.

Born to Run - Christopher McDougall

What an amazing book! I loved reading it and could hardly wait to keep up the scorching pace it set throughout - just as the Tarahumara tribe runs through their Sierra Madre canyons in Mexico. A runner, journalist,  himself, Christopher McDougall begins this journey when he has severe pain on his heel after running a mere three miles. His doctors ask him to stop running because they say humans are not designed to run etc. But Chris's mind goes to an assignment in Mexico when he hears about the Tarahumara tribe that lives up in the canyons, in caves, away from civilisation. They are shy, kind, happy people who are almost invisible and extremely sensitive. But what interested Chris was their name, the Raramuri, or the running people. The Tarahumara Indians run 100 km runs easily without any sign of fatigue and enjoying every bit of it. They run in their regular gear, do not train and run in thin sandals and not shoes. Chris thinks that if they can run hundreds of miles and still be fine and healthy, why can't we be? There must be a secret. But they are not easy to approach so Chris finds out about the only other man who has had access to their running, a man called 'Caballo Blanco' or the White Ghost, a white man, who runs like the wind, has no fixed place and is difficult to trace. Caballo Blanco has the Tarahumara's extra endurance and their invisible trait. Chris tracks him down and they begin an audacious plan.

How come the Tarahumara never won races, Olympics was a question? The answer is that they are quite content living up in the hills. Running is for them a way of life, a joy that nature gave them. There were attempts made in the past by an American journalist named Fisher who recruited a few Tarahumara and raced them against some of the best ultra runners in the USA at the Leadville 100 km dawn to dusk race. In the 1990s he first raced Victoriano Churro, Cevildo Chacarito, Manuel Luna and others who hung back in their shy style from the pack, did nothing of any significance until the 40 mile back and then picked off the trained ultramarathon runners one by one and came first, second and fifth in times that were unbelievable. Encouraged, Fisher did another race, this time pitting Ann Trason, a 33-year-old ultrarunner with a huge reputation against Manuel Luna, Juan Herrera, Martimano Leivantes (42) in a 100-mile race. Ann takes them on and pushes the shy Tarahumara by setting a tough pace and taunting them by asking them - how does it feel to be beaten by a woman - she asks. Martimano retires with an injury, which he attributes to a curse by the bruja or witch Ann, and with him, his runner Shaggy stays back too. The other proud Tarahumara runners take off to beat the bruja and from way behind Juan Herrera comes up like the wind and cruises past Ann Trason who looks on in disbelief at the way Juan flies past her, hardly showing any sign of fatigue. Herrera beats her by 30 minutes to the winning post having won the 100-mile race in 17 and a half hours.

Shaggy, the runner, an ex-prize fighter, follows the Tarahumara and sets up his house in the canyons and learns how to run like them. He is Caballo Blanco. Fisher meanwhile staged more races, grew richer before the Tarahumara realised he was exploiting them and never came to race again.

Caballo Blanco tells Chris how to run like the Tarahumara. It is about character he says - about love, compassion, kindness. Don't fight the track he says, take what it gives you. If it offers 1-2 steps, take 3 he says. He tells him to follow the formula of  'Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast'. If you begin with easy and then move to light then to smooth, fast will automatically come. Caballo reveals his grand plan - a race in the Copper Canyons of the Tarahumara for which he will invite some of the greatest ultra runners in the world. From the Tarahumara, he is confident of getting Arnulfo Quimare, Manuel Luna Silviano and others.from the US. He contacts the reigning champion Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted, Eric, a trained runner, Jenn and Billy, two party kids who run like crazy. Chris helps Caballo, who himself will run just as Chris will too. It will be a 50 mile run in the treacherous canyons, not just for the topography but also because of the drug cartels who kill. 

After doing his research on shoes and running, Chris comes to the following conclusions - the best shoes are the worst for your feet, humans are designed to run without shoes and our feet like a good beating. The researcher Lois Lieberman says - 'You could halt epidemics with running. Run. Move your legs. You cannot deny history. You can't deny who you are.' Lieberman actually lived with an African tribe that could outrun a deer and catch it when it dropped. Chris proves how Nike and the other shoe companies designed all kinds of footwear that actually damaged running feet and finally came down to the barefoot wisdom.

The 50-mile race begins in the mountains with about 25 runners form the Tarahumara showing up. El Coyote - Luis, Young wolf - Billy, Brujita Bonita - Jenn, Deer - Scott, - Monkey - Ted, Oso - Chris taking off in a dawn to dusk run after a rousing speech by Caballo Blanco on how loco all these runners are. The runners take off and by the end of the day, Arnulfo drives home, beating Scott Jurek, followed by Silviano. Jenn is a big star with all the locals loving her spunk, the bruja. Caballo discontinues the race to see who will win - Arnulfo or Scott. 

The book ends with Caballo's story and how he came out of the USA as a prizefighter and settled into a life in the mountains sustaining himself on the barest things in life. When he needs money he works for three months moving luggage and stuff like that and then it is back to running in the mountains. when my time comes, I will just go and lie down someplace he says.

The book is simply brilliant and fully converts you to running barefoot and if not, at least on the cheapest shoes. And it makes you fall in love with running, with life itself as it careers through and pounds through just like any classic race would. One of the best I have read this year. All-time. Read!

Run, run, run. Beautiful!

In Conversation with Vedam Jaishankar - On his Book 'Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket'

 The Hyderabad Literary Festival organised an online book discussion of Vedam Jaishankar's third book 'Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket'. I was in conversation with him on the 16th evening at 7 pm in a zoom call which was attended live by a secret, unseen audience.

We began with Vijay Kumar of HLF introducing us both and leaving the stage for us. Vedam is a well-known journalist with three decades of experience in covering sport so it was great fun discussing cricket with him. My network was bad initially and I could hardly hear him for a while and then I lost connectivity. But then with some quick support from my technical support head Anjali, I was back online and this time we went ahead without a hitch.

I quickly introduced the book to the audience. It had about 40 stories covering controversy, courage and conviction and we started with why he wrote the book in the first place. Vedam said he thought about writing about one controversy and going deep into it but then he realised there were some 250 controversies that he found worth mentioning, picked those that changed policy and stayed with 40. To not make ti a dark book, he added courage and conviction stories. We began right at the beginning with the Bodyline series and I asked Vedam whether it was a gentleman's game ever and he elucidated on how the British had a public house connection and made a 'gentlemen' and 'amateurs' distinction and how they would twist everything to their convenience. We spoke about other controversies like the Smith-Warner ball-tampering issue and how much the Boards are also culpable by setting the wrong values. Vedam agreed that values have to be clearly set by the Board and then the captain and others must practice them. He also spoke of how the administrators were vilified but how they have actually transformed the game and how the Lodha Committee recommendations may have messed it up further instead of making it better. We briefly discussed Paddy Upton's controversy about his sex dossier which was written with all good intent but blew up unnecessarily. There were questions on how to stop corruption at school level and Vedam was very passionate that the right values have to begin at the school level itself.

Overall a very nice and animated discussion that I enjoyed and from a couple of reactions that I got, some of the audiences also enjoyed. It was absolute fun chatting with Vedam who knows his cricket and I am very keen on reading his other books on Rahul Dravid and on Karnataka Cricket. Thanks, HLF for giving me an opportunity to be in conversation with another cricket writer once again.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Helpful to My Rescue

 I noticed that decided that I was not doing justice to my blogging potential. In recent times I found that soon as I open the blog there is a new feature - ideas for me to write about. Almost all the ideas that gives me are about IPL -- who will win the toss, who will win, who will lose, highest run getter etc. If I scroll down it slowly gives me ideas about all my other interests - mindset, teaching, Marathi? etc.


I think it might just starting writing blogs in my name too in the near future and present me with the 'Publish' button to click. Come on dude, this is what we are willing to do for you. Surprisingly, I haven't written about cricket for a longish while, so I am wondering why it's giving me all cricket related ideas. It obviously knows what's better for me more than I do I guess.

I am waiting! To see what you'll come up with next.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Increase Your Self-Awareness with One Fix - Tasha Eurich

 To stop getting stressed and trying to be self-aware, stop asking 'why' and instead focus on 'what' you can do to get the outcome you want. If something happened to you, instead of getting all analytical about 'why' it happened to you, focus on 'what' you can do to get what you want.

I loved the tip. It's a gamechanger. Thanks Tasha Eurich.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

My Ideal Image of Romance in the 80s - Made for Each Other

 If there was one image that caught my fancy as the epitome of romance in my life, it was this 'Made of each other' ad of Wills cigarettes,  of a boy and a girl walking on the beach. So taken in was I by the ad that i cut it out and kept it under my bed hoping I would walk the beach like that someday with someone.

Here's the ad. Found it on the net.

Aah. Nice.

As always when I see these old ads or pictures or movies I wonder what these people are doing now, what happened to their lives and if they will ever know how they affected me or kept me company under my bed. They would both be grandparents now. Would be nice to have a cup of tea someday with them.

Conversation with Vedam Jaishankar - Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket

 An online discussion with senior sports journalist and man of many passions, Vedam Jaishankar, on the 16th evening at 7 pm. See you there.

Airplane - Movie

 It ranks in the top three of the 100 funniest movies and with good reason. Loved watching it. It's one crazy flight.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Th Untethered Soul - Michael A. Singer

This is a slim book written by the author, mindfulness expert, entrepreneur and seeker Michael A Singer and it contains a wealth of wisdom. Singer begins with telling us how to dissociate with the voice in the head - the mind that is continuously talking - and instead, merely watch it. You are not the voice he says - you are the one watching it. The voice only keeps talking to make the external world more comfortable to your internal world. It's a job we have given the mind to make us feel secure. If we transcend the need to protect ourselves, we can get past this noise - and see the world as it is. The mind is like your inner roommate, who is always complaining, seeking drama and being disturbed and offended and frightened at the slightest opportunity. Now it is time to break free of that.

To change things around and not get caught in the drama of the mind, we need to take the seat of consciousness. We need to change the frame of reference so we transcend this i.e. we must realise that we cannot change the outside, we can only change the inside. The moment we realise that it's our dramatic, neurotic roommate that's upset, we transcend this need to get upset ourselves. Just watch your roommate getting upset. To get a good understanding of how you are different from the roommate he suggests that you give your roommate a separate personality - which is when you realise that you have made your roommate's life yours. Take your own life back. Get out of the roommate's drama as if your life depended on it. I loved this. I know my roommate has fully occupied my space.

Singer addresses the question - who am I? He says we are not the body nor the mind, nor the history we created with our body. We are the consciousness which is the highest mind - nothing's deeper or higher. From that seat of consciousness, a world comes through our senses. Consciousness can focus and make you more aware of certain things than others - so watch where your consciousness is getting drawn to.  Meditation is the way to the root of yourself. Singer says you are the answer - not the mind or anything external. Be the answer and everything will change

Consciousness is about inner energy. The same energy that wells up in our heart when we are in love. We don't feel that same energy which fills us up most times - because we block it. We close our heart, our mind and pull ourselves into a restrictive space inside. We need flow of energy always. It is always there, available to us but can't get in because we block it.  When we love someone we trust them and our walls come down, We feel high energy when they do things we like and when they do something we don't like, we don't feel the high of love. We have closed our heart. When energy can't flow through we experience darkness - a tremendous disturbance or lethargy. 

Since we all have our energy inside us, all we need to do is open up and let it flow. Our energy needs openness and receptivity. Opening allows energy, closing blocks it. Singer suggests that we do the opposite when we typically close our hearts. Keep opening. Our inner energy is the most important thing in our life. It brings us love, enthusiasm, excitement, energy and creates vibes and harmonies. 

The heart is an energy centre. Our senses send images of the world, and when we resist them, we block them. Just let them pass through, don't store. When we experience them, we grow. When we resist, it gets stored. These energy patterns get held. When energy can't make it through the mind because of conflict with other thoughts, it tries to release through the heart through emotional activity. It stays as samskaras or unfinished energy patterns. To avoid this, energy must keep moving. Clinging to positive thoughts or memories creates positive samskaras. Release them and create positive energy. Let them pass. Don't cling or push it away. Just allow life to pass through your being. Its a process of purification. Let go. Flow. Open your heart. Don't close.

To grow, there should be only one of you inside. One you that contains all parts. When you're no longer willing to identify with that part of you that separates into a million pieces, you are ready for real growth. The reward for not protecting your psyche is liberation. Freedom. Consciousness has a tendency to focus on disturbances. Thoughts and emotions are just objects of consciousness. Let go when energy shifts to defensive. Relax and release. Letting go means falling behind the energy instead of going into it. Your centre of consciousness is always stronger than the energy pulling at it. Be centred with small things. 

If you have a lot of fear, you won't like change. Change can be frightening as well as exciting. We keep our fears safe and try to keep all things that poke that fear away from it. It creates a me-versus-you situation. Our attempts to protect ourselves from our problems create more problems. Don't fight with life. Accept that it's not under control. That which is blocked within you forms the root of fear. Fear is caused by blockages in energy flow. Spiritual evolution is removing the blocks that cause fear. It will defend when you do stuff that disturbs it. If someone stimulates fear in us they did something wrong. You make sure they don't do it again. Let the pain come up and pass through. 

Surrender yourself to the process of emptying yourself. When your stuff gets hit, let go right then because later it gets harder to let go. Become aware that there's something in you that needs to be released. You are separate from that presence. If you don't let go immediately it becomes the focus of your consciousness. When a blockage gets hit, open up. 

Our spiritual journey is about constant transformation. Don't struggle to remain the same, embrace it. Take out the thorn. It completely ruins your life. Don't keep it and work around it. Don't make allowance for thorns. You don't want the weakest part of you running your life. Sit in the self. The world cannot touch you then. Decide that you don't want to suffer, that you want to enjoy your life. Shut out suffering. Stop having constant issues with your psyche which is always about me me me. Get out of that insecurity,  stop protecting yourself. Make a healthy psyche.

External changes won't solve the root of the problem. Success is never having to think of your psyche. Your psyche is an addiction - making demands of you. Live without fear of the psyche. Stop expecting the mind to fix your problems. Don't fight it. Just don't listen to it. Be quiet. Watch the mind. Begin with little things. Just be. You don't have to do anything. 

Pain is the price of freedom. Make peace with pain. Don't avoid pain. Psyche wants to avoid pain. If you avoid pain, then pain runs your life. View inner pain as a temporary shift in energy flow. Pull back. Let the disturbances pass through. Accept their pain in your heart. When you are comfortable with pain, you are free.

The inner breakthrough comes when you realise you are only defending your walls - there's nothing else to defend. True freedom is on the other side of the walls. Go past where you are beyond boundaries, limitations. The mind tells you to stay in the comfort zone - inside boundaries. go beyond the borders of the cage. No mental boundaries. Spiritual evolution is when you decide you never stop trying. You end up loving the edges. Let go of false solidity.

Our thoughts, emotions etc are not solid. We live our entire life based on the model we built for ourself. Our only way out is as the witness. no need for false solidity. 

Follow the path of unconditional happiness. Be happy - that's all. Commit to unconditional happiness. To stay happy understand your inner energies. Don't close your heart.

When we resist the flow of life. it causes stress. It is the fearful mind that resists. Let go of your resistance. The way to work with resistance is through relaxing. When you have trouble with something - think of death. Appreciate what you have. Live as though you are on the verge of death. You waste your energy in the extremes. When you don't participate in the swings, energies will find their balance. You have no preferences. You are in effortless action. Find the balance of the centre, harmonies.


Singer puts across the fundamental idea of the cause of our suffering and how to transcend it very lucidly in simple ways. To know you are not the mind, you are not the drama, and be the witness. To not fear and protect ourselves and thereby live in fear all through. To not close our hearts, but open them. To not resist, but to flow and to relax and release. It makes immense sense and can change your life almost instantly if you practice the fundamental ideas.  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Canteen Fundas - Move Forgiveness to Next Level, There's Nothing to Forgive

 There's nothing to forgive - be grateful for the lesson!

Why we simply cannot afford to hate our friends who don’t do right by us

Rinku messaged Rahul on their WhatsApp group: eCanteen Funda Friends.

 ‘What happened with your forgiveness exercise last week, dude?’

‘Brilliant!!’ replied Rahul. ‘Worked like magic.’

‘Wow!’ typed Rakesh. ‘Enlighten us.’

‘Rakesh bhaiyya,’ typed Rahul. ‘Post our discussions, I did the forgiveness exercise on my brother and on a lot of other people. I visualised good things happening to them until I felt lighter.’

‘Woohoo,’ typed Rinku. ‘What happened?’

‘Anger and unforgiveness dissipated,’ typed Rahul.

‘Your energy changed?’ typed Rinku.

‘Yes!’ said Rahul. ‘Calm, peaceful. Even loving. After the exercise, my brother, who never wrote to me in my life, wrote a note to me. He was sorry he hurt me and that he did that because I use his earphones without his permission. Our relationship, which was all messed up, changed magically. We’re closer now. One other person on that forgiveness list who owed me money also returned it after the forgiveness exercise. Just because I mentally forgave them. Forgiveness zindabad.’

‘Fantastic,’ typed Rakesh. ‘Now you’ve experienced how forgiveness works, take it to the next level.’

‘What’s this next level?’ typed Rahul.

‘Stay in this good space forever by developing an attitude of gratitude,’ typed Rakesh. ‘Be grateful to everyone, everything, including those whom you’re forgiving.’

‘What?’ asked Rinku. ‘Why gratitude? Too much.’

‘When you forgive them you still feel you’ve been wronged and you’ve done them a favour by forgiving them,’ typed Rakesh. ‘When actually they’ve done you a favour.’

‘How?’ typed Rinku.

‘Every difficult experience is an opportunity for our growth,’ typed Rakesh. ‘By creating that opportunity for you at the cost of appearing bad, the other person is teaching you something valuable. What’d your brother teach you, Rahul?’

‘To be clear about boundaries and to know I might be doing the same thing unknowingly,’ typed Rahul. 
‘And the money-chap taught me I was more interested in blaming than in my money.’

‘Important lessons to learn,’ typed Rakesh. ‘Did you realise our major issues are with people who’ve actually helped us?’

‘True,’ typed Rahul. ‘Never saw it that way.’

‘So, there’s nothing to hold a grudge to or to forgive,’ typed Rinku.

‘Yup,’ typed Rakesh. ‘Be grateful when difficult experiences arise. Life will be a series of delightful surprises then.’

‘I’m sensing a delightful coffee surprise now,’ typed Rinku.

Pro Tip: If we can look at our difficult experiences as lessons to learn, there’s nothing to be upset about or to forgive. We can choose to be grateful instead, for having been taught valuable lessons.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Vijay Lokapally's Sensitive Article - How Literature and Love Helped Me Deal With Loss

 I loved this article by Vijay Lokapally today - an honest look at his depression and how he deals with it.

Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson, a friend of Brene Brown, aka the Blogess, writes about her life with depression, anxiety, OCD and avoidant personality disorder in a furiously funny manner throughout the book. Her blog is what caught the attention of many it appears but then her first book 'Let's Pretend It Never Happened' became a bestseller and she became a bestselling author. 'Furiously Happy' is her second book. She has written more and doesn't look like she is stopping by the looks of it or by the way her life is going.

Jenny takes us on a wild rollercoaster of her thoughts and her free-flowing life where she does exactly what she pleases in her desire to be furiously happy and she pretty much achieves that while wearing koala costumes or having stuffed animals or many cats at home or several other such things. She definitely appears to be having a better life than most who are stuck up and are not attempting to be happy at all even went they have reason to (me for instance). It's a big lesson I learned from Jenny though, that there could be something to this being happy and furiously happy at that. I cannot attempt to review the book because it is so full of how her mind goes here and there. And then she suddenly makes a poignant point and it all sinks in. But she is so honest, so furiously happy, that many times I wondered if she actually did all those things she said she was doing and she puts a photograph to confirm that she actually did more crazier things than one can even imagine.

I liked her Folder of 24 - about 24 people who were on the verge of committing suicide but didn't because someone who read her blog talked them out of it. 

It was quite by accident that I picked up this book last week from Ranjan and even more that I am finishing it today, which apparently is the World Mental Health Day. Wonderful stuff Jenny Blogess, keep writing, keep inspiring and keep making people laugh. I am also now going into the make-people-laugh mode. No point being stuck up and I will owe it all to Jenny Bloggess.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket - Vedam Jaishankar

 Cricket has it all, doesn't it? Vedam Jaishankar a senior sports scribe with over three decades of experience in covering sports for major dailies like Indian Express, Times of India, Deccan Herald among others, compiles a pretty comprehensive list of all the controversies and also peppers the dramatic narrative with some feel-good moments with stories of courage and conviction. Interestingly Vedam is a man of many interests and that is most fascinating as his interests cover history, golf, heritage, travel and current affairs. He teaches journalism in the National School of Journalism and is a sought-after speaker in corporate circles. This is his third book after 'Rahul Dravid - A Biography' and 'Casting a Spell - A Story of Karnataka Cricket' -both fascinating books I hear. 

Vedam begins at the very beginning with the mother of all controversies - the Bodyline series. England, desperate to counter Aussie dominance adopted a bodyline tactic, targeting player's bodies instead of the wickets and drew much flak for it. Then there is an interesting story of about a team that kidnapped an umpire for a lark and poured some drink on his head, Tony Greig's sneaky run out of Kallicharran, Roy Gilchrist being sent home by Gerry Alexander, the furore over the dropping of Bishen Bedi, the bloody tests against the Windies, India conceding an ODI to unsportsmanlike play by Pakistan supported by its umpires, Greg Chappell's underarm tactic, ball doctoring by Paki players, Lever's vaseline incident, Gavaskar's near-walkout in Sydney, Packer series, the Raman Lamba and Rashid Patel incident and so on. Most cricket fans would have a fair idea about these controversies but Vedam manages too surprise you with some details we did not know which shows the amount of research he has put into it.

Then we take a break from controversy and step into courage. Most are stories of cricketers who rose above physical injury or disability - Chandrasekhar who overcame polio, Pataudi who played with one good eye, McCosker batting with a jaw broken in two places, Marshall bowling and batting with one hand and winning the test, Sachin batting with a bloodied face, Kumble bowling with a fractured jaw, Kirsten batting with a broken face and Yuvraj winning the world cup while fighting cancer. Superb stories. On conviction we have Vishwanath recalling Taylor who had been given out which cost the Test, Dravid's declaration when Sachin was on 193, Bell's run out and subsequent calling back by MSD, Kohli and Dean Elgar's let off.

In controversy part II - we get into the murkier areas of off-field politics. Bindra Dalmiya and how they captured BCCI, Sidhu's return home from England due to a misunderstanding, Darrell Hair calling Muralitharan for chucking, Cronje's match-fixing, Ganguly-Greg Chappel spat, Monkeygate, Slapgate and sex and the Indian cricketer which comes at the end. Hopefully, there will be a full book written on it sometime.

The book is very well-researched, presented and is easy to read. Vedam takes great pains to quote all parties concerned and also gives notes at the end of each chapter to give some direction to what was done and what was omitted. The Greg Chappell and Ganguly spat was covered extensively and Vedam does seem to favour Greg's position a bit which is well substantiated and which I read about for the first time. All other controversies and well covered, analysed and put forth with some fine details we have not heard about before which provide new perspectives. A fine read for cricket lovers - which in this day and age includes pretty much everyone I guess. It has all the drama, human frailty and intrigue one needs in a bestseller.

Anjali - Her Own Blog!

 So Anjali got down to writing her own blog, something she had been meaning to do for a long time. On her 13th birthday, she got herself an email account and then a blog account and off she is, like a rocket. The blog is titled 'Anecdotes and Realisations' and it has a nice tag line that says it's a 'blog about running thoughts connecting to people and life'. 

Within a week, she's written and posted 9 blogs on her Blogs that started with one on her birthday and the people who wished her, the books she has read in the past one year, a 'things in my room series' with stories about them, thoughts about symbiotic relationships, on simple living, on clutter and some reflective thoughts on dealing with people. I liked reading all of them because they are interesting topics but I especially liked the last one which I will share here. It is about the thin line between holding back or speaking up when someone is in distress.

I suddenly realised that Anajli's blogs could be a good source of material for my columns which deal with the dilemmas of young students. Thanks Anjali.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A New personal Milestone - 5 kms Run

 It's been years since I have been able to run more than a couple of kilometres, at any pace. From a slim 78 kg weight during my playing days thirty years ago I slowly gained weight in the after years pushing 80 kgs, 90 kgs and then finally the 100s which didn't help me much in terms of fitness. With all this weight I could not run or jog without causing myself injury. Every time I lost weight and pushed myself, I'd pick up an injury. Mostly the knees would give in and I'd be back to gaining weight.

A couple of years ago when Sagar introduced me to juicing I lost some 6 kgs and went under 100 kg after a long time (not counting the time I went to 88 kgs once with an illness). But I could not, even then, jog or run. Whenever I tried I could do about 2 km or so and then something happened.

Now after all these years, thanks to the pandemic perhaps, I got some inspiration from somewhere (many that I can attribute to) and began intermittent fasting and walking around the colony block. This helped me lose some weight initially and then I started to jog - at a very slow pace mind you (like I would do 3 km in 35 minutes or so). But slowly I increased it bit by bit until I finally hit 5 km which to me was a huge landmark. 

The last week I have been doing 5 km in under an hour and my best time has been 55 minutes which I am immensely proud of. I had kept this as a major goal and I am thrilled I achieved it. 

I looked back at how difficult it seemed all this while and how doing it slowly, bit by bit, helped me to increase it. 500 mts, 750 mts, 1 km, and then 1.5 km and so on. You need to be patient, you need to be gentle and you need to be persistent. What seems impossible at the beginning becomes possible. It's the same with everything that looks impossible I guess.

Thought I'd share with you all!