Monday, November 30, 2020

Canteen Fundas - Simplify and Amplify Your Life With the Four Agreements

 The four agreements - Always be impeccable with your word, Don't take anything personally, Don't make assumptions and Always do your best. This is about the fourth agreement.

Simplify and amplify life with four agreements: How to always do your best and take action without fear

Bhaiyya, you mentioned the book The Four Agreements last week,’ said Rinku, ‘What’s it about?’

‘It’s about how we make many fear-based agreements with ourselves and complicate our lives,’ said Rakesh. ‘By making the four agreements and practising them, we can reclaim the magic in our lives. We’ve discussed three agreements – ‘Be impeccable with your word’, ‘Don’t take anything personally’ and ‘Don’t make assumptions’. The fourth is ‘Always do your best.’

‘You mean, push ourselves all the time?’ asked Rinku.

‘Doing our best is doing just enough,’ said Rakesh. ‘If we try to be perfect, we cannot do our best because we judge and punish ourselves for not being perfect, which interferes with the process. We must understand that our best is different at different times and be gentle with ourselves.’

‘How do we know we’re doing enough?’ asked Rahul.

‘When we’re doing our best, we enjoy doing whatever we’re doing,’ said Rakesh. ‘We act wholeheartedly, express fully and do things because we love doing them. We don’t do things out of fear of failure or for reward. Another measure that we’re doing our best is when we accept ourselves fully, whatever the outcome.’

‘But why should we do our best, bhaiyya, if not for reward?’ asked Rahul.

‘Simply because we enjoy our life more,’ said Rakesh. ‘There’s no self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. Our every action is about living, loving and being happy. We enjoy every moment of the process and by doing so, improve our chances of rewards. On the other hand, when we expect a reward, we don’t enjoy the action and, consequently, cannot do our best.’

‘How do the other three agreements help us do our best, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.

‘We’re in our ideal state to express ourselves when our word is impeccable when we’re free of assumptions and we’re not taking things personally. We love ourselves in that state instead of judging ourselves and others, which drains our energy,’ said Rakesh.

‘Is it as simple as that, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.

‘We complicate our lives with our fear-based agreements,’ said Rakesh. ‘The four agreements simplify and amplify life. We’re here to be happy, to act on our unique ideas and to express ourselves without fear. Taking action is being alive. Make everything a ritual, enjoy every action — small and big — and the most mundane acts of our lives become grand performances.’

Pro Tip: Always do your best. Enjoy expressing yourself and taking action without fear. When you do your best, you enjoy the process and life fully

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Something Childish but Very Natural - Katherine Mansfield

 Another slim Great Loves book, but this one has eight short stories, some of which I understood and some which I did not. Like for instance the title story 'Something Childish but Very Natural' didn't finally make much sense to me. Two people fall in love and playact their future together. 'Feuille d Album'' is about a man so hopeless with women that when he finally makes a move on a girl he fancies, he picks up an egg and offers it to her - Í think you dropped it - he says.

'Mr and Mrs Dove'' is a terrific insight into human psychology and how Mrs Dove has Mr Dove all wrapped up. 'Marriage A La Mode' is of course of a woman so caught up in her fancy life with her artistic friends that she does not notice her loving husband slip away. 'Bliss' I did not understand. 'Honeymoon' is about a couple that meet, a lot of love seemingly between them, and all thrown away in a moment. 'A Dill Pickle' is about how people change, and don't change - the man remains as petty as ever in spite of the years. 'Widowed' is the anatomy of a young woman learning of her husband's death.

Some I got, some I didn't. Maybe I didn't read them carefully enough. But enough to say there is a delightful mischief in Katherine Mansfield's stories, a wickedness that only people in love have, a lyrical manner of writing and mostly a brilliant insight into human psychology. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Anjali - We Miss the Thoughtful People When They Are No Longer There

 Today Anjali and I were walking and chatting when the conversation went to Pallavi - a thoughtful soul if there is one. Pallavi does things in the most thoughtful and subtle manner - like enquiring how we are doing, getting food over when Shobha was unwell, talking to Anjali when she was put up at Milind's house in Pune, asking if she can do anything she can that any considerate, thoughtful person would do for another - or so we think. But its getting to be a rare breed with very few people enquiring about others lest they be asked something - money or help - and not wanting to even enquire just to make their friends or relatives feel cared for.

'She is very thoughtful Nanna,' said Anjali. 'And she does it so subtly that we do not even know she is doing it when she is. But with such people Nanna, we only know their value when they are not there. We take them for granted because they do it so unobtrusively.'

That was a wonderful insight Anjali and pretty sharp and deep. Equally thoughtful and considerate to understand the importance of it and the measure of it. And yes, to more Pallavis of the world to make it a better place.  

The Transition From Good Health to Ill Health, From Life to Beyond

 Shobha's mom Dr Nalini Nargundkar has been ill for the past three weeks and it has been an intense experience just watching her deal with her gradual loss of control. For someone who has lived a major part of her 91 years with a great degree of control - she still lives alone in her bungalow at Pune at 91 - it will certainly be that much more difficult. So I wondered how she would take it.

For starters her stay in the hospital was something she detested totally primarily because the ICU and the restraints thanks to her electrolyte imbalance which bound her to the bed. Tubes inserted down the centre line, a catheter, saline, oxygen completely fixed her to the bed and she was a mere shadow of the normal self she is. She constantly kept saying she would like to go home and once she was slightly better the doctors did comply with her wishes after a couple of weeks.

At home, she suddenly came into her own, enjoying the comfort of her bed, despite having the oxygen supply and the catheter on. She was weak from her illness, so weak that she cannot sit up on her own. But I could sense her mind working on how to get out of this situation and bring some amount of control and normalcy into her life. For starters, she would insist on watching the 4 pm serial on TV though she did not have the energy to last more for a few minutes, asked for her glasses and her novel though she could not read nor make sense, asked for a warm water bath, asked to be taken out into the courtyard on the wheelchair, asked to play cards and at times when others were not up (like 4 in the morning) she played solitaire on her own. All the above are signs of her normal life and she wanted to experience that normalcy for a short while.

But in the last few days she is losing energy and strength and she perhaps also realises that things may not be normal though she expresses her desire that it would be nice if she could get up and walk on her own. 'How long can you all stay here?' she says with concern. 'If I can move around I can manage.' Now with the pain also comes bouts of hallucinations where she sees or remembers people and incidents and repeats those names continuously, sometimes expressing morbid thoughts like 'marun tak' (Marathi for 'kill me'!). It is not easy to see her like this, to see her pain and helplessness and more than us, to Shobha, who breaks down every now and then.

In her lucid moments she is extremely clear. 'I am trying to think how to solve this,' she said to me. I could see that desire to figure it out on her own, in spite of her weakened condition, her unclear faculties, her near total dependency, knowing that we may not be capable to that task. In so many ways she knows her body better - she said she was better without oxygen and she actually is doing better without, she said she would be better at home than in hospital and she is doing better, she said she will eat food directly and not through a food pipe and she is doing well enough there. She figured out her bed sore faster than anyone else. So she knows she may have to climb out of the pit herself but finds her body and mind not cooperating.

In her frail and fragile state, her hearing not being good, her energy not enough to explain what she is feeling, there is much we need to figure by ourselves. Like today when I asked her if she would like to eat anything she said she does not want anything. I simply volunteered her favorite indulgence - ice cream - and her eyes lit up. 'I will eat ice cream,' she said. Anjali got a bowl of ice cream, we made her sit up and she actually polished it off despite her weakness and almost falling over in the chair. If I had not suggested that, the moment would have been lost.

It has been quite a revelation to watch what's happening between Shobha and her mother. They don't see eye to eye as much and its not like a relationship like say Anjali and Shobha have. But the way Shobha dug her heels in and sits by patiently with her mother through all her tantrums, pain and demands is wonderful to see. She plays cards, cracks jokes, plays music, sits by her bedside, comes away crying when she sees her mother crying in pain, composes herself and is back at her duty, not once losing her composure. Dressing her, cleaning her, holding her, fighting with the doctors, nurses, attendants to keep her mother comfortable, she is with her every bit of the way. When the suffering increases Shobha wonders what her mother is holding on to and why she does not just let go. In fact she has these conversations with her about why she is holding on, why she is not deciding and her mother also answers or ponders over it. When Shobha cracks her jokes, her mother smiles in such a beautiful fashion, her toothless face lighting up, her eyes closing in pleasure. I wish I can get one of her smiles on camera - one of the best I have seen for the sheer pleasure. It is something I will never forget, Shobha mothering her mother like a baby. In fact her mother actually told her yesterday - you are my mother. Beautiful.   

Anjali has handled this phase very well. I wondered if she would be able to see her grandmother in this condition, deteriorating by the day, losing control of her faculties and being fed in bed like a baby, but she adapted fast. She plays cards with her, asks her to tell stories, reports what happened in school, feeds her stuff every now and then, reads sometimes, sometimes just holds her hand. 

I saw this moment the other day. After being in pain for a long time and trying to convince us to do something about it, Shobha's mom turned to her side in resignation. 'No one listens to me anymore,' she said. I could see her mind clouded by the effort, her body weakened, and in that state, she slowly reached out and held Anjali's hand. And in that, she found some solace and quietened down. I remember reading in the 'Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' how touching a sick person gives a lot of relief. I realised she would not have reached out to our hands as easily as she did Anjali's. The only difference with Anjali is that she would be non-judgmental about it all unlike us who might wriggle out. Ever since that moment, I have been holding her hand or placing a hand over her forehead when she is more agitated and can definitely see her quietening down. The body is struggling, internally and externally, her mind is not cooperating, the world as she knows is closing down, and she needs reassurance, needs love and care, needs to know people are around for her and not shunning her. I think she has a sense of that now. One day she actually counted all the people who visited her and said that she is happy that all those who could come have made it.

Incredibly, in one of her worst states yesterday, Shobha made her mother say hello to her younger sister Asha and her niece Jyotsna. In her weak state, she smiled and said hello into the video call and when they asked how she was doing, she smiled even more wider and said 'Uttam' (as in perfect!) Then she asked her sister how her recent recovery from a fracture was and stuff as if nothing was wrong with her at all. Not a word of complaint, just getting on with life like normal. The other day when Milind came to bid her good bye before leaving to the US, she told him of her plan to be waiting for him in May and he could meet her here at home. Milind came away shocked at her optimism, at her clarity of thought on how she would be getting over this illness.

And so she continues, adjusting to this transition, difficult one certainly, smiling through it as much as she can, asking us whether we have had our meals, whether Anjali's classes were going on, asking exactly for what she wants whether its coffee, ice cream, sheera or fruit juice. Watching and waiting, keeping her comfortable and happy, the journey goes on into the narrow end bringing up  moments that are painful and beautiful.

The Virgin and the Gipsy - D H Lawrence

 Part of the 'Great Loves' series by Penguin, this is a classic story told in DH Lawrence's inimitable style, full of his understanding if human psychology. Once again, as with all great loves, it challenges all convention.

A Rector's wife elopes with a young, penniless man leaving behind two young daughters, her husband, her husband's mother and an aunt who looks after the grandmother who is the power centre. The younger girl Yvette has the free spirit of her mother, who is made out to be a villain by the grandmother. Yvette is attracted to a gipsy man, a couple living in before marriage, all of which meets with disapproval by her family. Her attraction to the gipsy man simmers underneath until the end when he saves her dramatically from an unexpected flood, and while saving her goes through some very tender, intimate moments. Moments that are enough for her to live and to believe in a love that's bigger than her. It ends beautifully with a letter written by him to her saying he hoped to meet her again someday, and it is then that she learns of his name. Beautiful.

Thanks DHL.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Canteen Fundas - Criticism vs Feedback

 The difference between criticism and feedback is how we take it!

E-canteen Fundas: Hold on. What exactly did you just say to me?

Source: Pixabay

'Bhaiyya,'  said Rinku on their Zoom call, ‘My athletics coach said I’m too slow and I don’t know how to react.’

‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘We know feedback’s important for growth, but how do we differentiate between destructive criticism and constructive feedback?’

‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘Criticism kills the spirit, while constructive feedback transforms a person. There is a thin line in-between.’

‘What’s the difference, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.

‘The difference simply lies in how you give and receive feedback,’ said Rakesh. ‘If you’re growth-oriented and are committed to excel, even the harshest criticism can be taken as feedback. If you’re insecure, even a compliment sounds like criticism. You stay stuck.’

‘How do we give feedback effectively, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.

‘If your feedback has more damaging consequences than improvements, you’re not giving your critique well,’ said Rakesh. ‘A typical error people make when they give feedback is to focus exclusively on what’s wrong which makes the other person feel like you’re tearing their entire effort down. One way to give negative feedback is to first focus on the parts that are good, and then point out areas to improve with specific examples and perhaps, a solution. The idea is to help them improve, not bring them down. If the other person is receiving your feedback instead of resisting it, then you’re on track.’

‘Makes sense,’ said Rinku. ‘And how should we receive negative feedback and criticism, bhaiyya?’

‘By not taking things personally,’ said Rakesh. ‘Then we can receive criticism objectively. Criticism seems like a personal attack when we’re insecure about ourselves. But if we understand that it is not about us but another individual’s opinion about an act of ours, we can deal objectively with it, analyse the truth in it and make necessary changes for improvement. When we take it personally, we throw the entire message out. The measure of how well you’re receiving feedback is in how objectively you’re able to sift through painful feedback to rectify instead of justifying yourself.’

‘So it’s about how we take it, right bhaiyya?’ said Rahul.

‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘Take the most devastating criticism in the right spirit and use it for your growth, or take the gentlest, well-intentioned suggestion as a major criticism and stay stuck. By being aware and using criticism and feedback to grow, we can grow faster on the path of excellence. The choice is ours.’

Pro Tip: The difference between criticism and feedback is how we take it. If we do not take it personally, the worst criticism can be used as growth-oriented feedback to progress rapidly. We can learn from everyone.

Hayavadana - Girish Karnad

 Based on a tale from Vetalapanchavimshika and Thoman Mann's 'Transposed Heads', Hayavadana is the tale of a man with the head of a horse who stumbles into a play. He is asked to go to some temple to find a solution to his problem.

The story is set in Dharmapura where two friends - Devadutta and Kapila live. Devadutta is fine bred, poetic and graceful while Kapila is dark, coarse and rough. Devadutta, prone to fall in love with every damsel he sees, falls for the beautiful Padmini, and marries her thanks to his friend's help. Padmini loves Devadutta but cannot help but be attracted to Kapila's coarse manner and strong body. On a trip out of town, Devadutta finds that the pregnant Padmini, is attracted to Kapila and decides to get out of the way by cutting off his own head at the Kali temple. When Kapila finds Devadutta dead he cuts off his own head. Padmini appeases Goddess Kali to get their lives back and in her confusion, attaches the wrong head to the wrong body. It turns out that the head of Devadutta and the body of Kapila claims Padmini, while the body of Devadutta and head of Kapila, loses out. Kapila leaves. After many years, Padmini sets out to find Kapila who has once again become a strong man. Devadutta joins them, and after the two friends realise that they cannot share their love, they kill one another. Padmini commits Sati and her son is sent to Devadutta's parents. 

As one can see, it is a fantastic tale that challenges so many ideas. The body and the mind, what makes the man? Why should love be confined to one - and as the song says ' one head to each breast. 

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin

It makes many of the 'must read' lists that I had to read it. Written in a quaint manner, the book tells a fascinating tale in a humorous yet insightful way that gives a peek into his mind and persona. A life lived between 1706 and 1790, he was a writer, printer, philosopher, scientist, inventor, diplomat, politician and many other things and mostly, among the Founding Fathers of America. 

Ben Franklin's family was from Boston and he was one with some eighteen children or so, of which he was in the end of the line. His father had two wives and the many children were split between them. Ben grew up with a curious mind that was always looking at self-improvement which was reflected in his ways to improve himself by following good practices and habits and by keeping good company that discussed eclectic topics like in his Junto club which is an idea worth emulating for young students. With his curious mind his was also blessed with a capacity for hard work and a constant search for betterment. 

One of the things he did well was to read books by the dozen and discuss the ideas with other like minded people. He picked up a lot of stuff that he practiced, the Socratic method of questioning gently instead of refuting an argument was one, and found that it helped him a lot. A quote like 'men should be taught as if you taught them not; And things unknown propos'd as things forgot' show the extent of temperance he developed in his youth by reading the works of great minds. He would keep company of people who would read a lot and would have specific discussions on topics he wanted to learn more about. By doing this, he not only developed a pleasing and persuasive manner, improved his communication and his knowledge of various subjects that the normal person had no idea about.

He had a plan for moral perfection and decided that the following virtues must be practiced - Temperance, (eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation),
Silence (speak not but what may benefit others, avoid trifling conversation),
Order (let all things have their place, let each part of your business have its time),
Resolution (resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve),
Frugality (make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, waste nothing),
industry (lose no time, be always employed in something useful, cut off all unnecessary actions), sincerity (use no hurtful deceit, think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly)
Justice (wrong no one by doing injuries, or committing the benefits that are your duty)
Moderation (avoid extremes, forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve)
Cleanliness (tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation)
Tranquility (be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common on unavoidable)
Humility (Imitate Jesus or Socrates) 

Imagine, how efficient his life would have been for following the above.

Ben took up apprenticeship with his brother as a printer when he was barely twelve and did well in that profession, going to London to set up printing business, learning the trade, coming back to the US to set up his own newspaper which he ran very well. He turned into a writer and wrote classics like Poor Richard's Almanac which became a bible of good practices for poor people looking for good advice. He seemed to have a bearing that impressed people of high standing, to do with his energy, curiosity and knowledge surely, and he was constantly given high positions and offers. 

He got into public affairs by being offered posts on committees and doing good work such as coming up with ways to put out fires. His business flourished and he writes that he experienced that - 'after getting the first hundred pounds, it is more easy to get the second'. Those being the times of war and the formation of the Union, fight against the Indians, Ben got involved in the same, as a soldier, as a military strategist, scientist, builder of forts etc. He would also involve himself in subjects such as sweeping and keeping the streets clean and how to do it effectively. He spent much time in the defense of the frontier as a consultant but never made any money off it.

Franklin, best known for his key on the kite experiment, of procuring lightning by a pointed rod, also invented the stove which he never patented because it was for public good. Other famous inventions are bifocals, hand paddles, glass harmonica, electrostatic machine etc. All in all, Ben Franklin's life was one of complete curiosity, learning and taking on new things with the attitude of a Closer. He is considered a polymath for his expertise in many subjects and as member f the Committee of Five that drafted and presented America's Declaration of Independence he was one of the Founding Fathers of the US and was titled 'The First American'.   

Ben gives some ideas about the way to wealth -
Don't squander time he says.
Industry need not wish, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting.
There are no gains without pains.
He that has a trade has an estate and he that has a calling has an office of profit and honour.
Diligence is the mother of good luck.
One today is worth two tomorrows.
What maintains one vice would bring up two children.
Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.
The second vice is lying, the first is running a debt.
Tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright (on poverty).

His essay on 'don't give too much for your whistle' is about keeping perspective, keeping the balance. All in all it is a wonderful book, one that gives great inspiration, wisdom, ideas and insights, part self-improvement and part humorous look at one of the defining moments in the history of the world. Definitely worth reading and practicing.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Soft Skin - Movie

 Truffaut's 'The Soft Skin' is about an extra marital affair between a writer and an air hostess and the consequences it leads to - not very happily for him in the end as it turns out. Good stuff. Enjoyed watching a movie after a long time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Relentless - Tim S Grover

 Tim, an authority in performance training has trained champions - Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to name two - and several more, so he knows  what he is talking about. He basically says that there are three types of people - the Coolers (who are good), the Closers (who are great) and the Cleaners (who are unstoppable). He explains through the book the mindset that a Cleaner has to be unstoppable, to excel in a fashion that one is an icon. 

He says that it takes years of tireless dedication and hard work to build a legacy. One line I loved was - the difference between feedback and criticism is how you hear it. He says if you want to excel you cannot wait to be told what to do and how to do it. You should develop a relentless drive for the end results and let nothing stop in the way. You have to shut out all the pressure and trust your instincts and natural ability and NOT THINK. A Cleaner gets to the top, stays there, climbs higher and is only judged by the results.

The formula is - Decide, Commit, Act, Succeed, Repeat. Success isn't about talent. Follow your instinct, face the truth, get rid of excuses. Get everyone to your level, don't go to theirs. Don't ever lose connection with the end result. Forget about losing and about trying. When you accomplish, don't explain.

The Cleaner you are, the dirtier you get. Greatness makes you a legend, but being the best makes you an icon. Cleaner's attitude is - I own this. Cleaners take responsibility for everything. They don't blame others, they are rule breakers, have a dark side, are self-made, know what they are worth, are never satisfied and are addicted to success. They don't believe in luck, only in circumstances and outcomes. 

Some differences between Coolers, Closers and Cleaners - Coolers wait to be told how to go about it, follow the leader, can handle some pressure and are normally the set up guy. Closers can handle a lot of pressure, if you tell them they get the job done, are uncomfortable with the unexpected, seek attention and credit and financial security over winning. Cleaners can handle anything, they just do it, they don't need to be asked, always want more, are in charge and create opportunity.

Tim gives thirteen points that explain what Cleaners are about

- A Cleaner pushes harder when everyone else has had enough 

Don't talk says Tim. Know. Train your mind first and then the body. Show up, work hard, do the work. Everyday do something you don't want to do. Do the hardest things first, no task is too big. Be comfortable doing the uncomfortable.

-  A Cleaner gets into the zone, shuts out everything, controls the uncontrollable
In the zone you're detached from everything on the outside. Total concentration. You're not thinking. Emotions make you weak - the only exception is anger. Control your feelings, don't let them control you.

- A Cleaner knows exactly who he is
Know exactly who you are. Stop waiting to be taught what you already know. People don't change. Trust your instincts.

- A Cleaner has a dark side that refuses to be taught how to be good
Instinct is one half of the formula. You need the dark side. Harness the dark side - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The dark side is your fuel, your energy.

- A Cleaner is not intimidated by pressure, thrives in it
Be always ón'. Know stress that creates results and stress that causes chaos. Don't feel external pressure, believe what's inside you.

- A Cleaner is the person who everyone looks for in a crisis
Nothing is difficult to the Cleaner - whatever happens he will know what to do. When you can laugh at yourself and not take every setback seriously, that's confidence. Don't care about what others think. A Cleaner adjusts the situation to himself, not locked into one plan.

- A Cleaner doesn't compete with anyone, finds the opponents weakness and attacks
Gets everyone on his level. Takes control and determines what to do to get results. To light others, be lit inside.

- A Cleaner makes decisions, not suggestions, has answers while everyone is still asking questions
Trust. Decide.

- A Cleaner may not love the work, but is addicted to the results
 I 'do this'. What would you have to sacrifice to become what you really want. What are you willing to sacrifice. (The two lists must match) Know what you have to give up to do the work.

- A Cleaner is rather feared than liked
We're born bad, and taught to be good. Born relentless and taught to relent. To be feared and not liked, let them know by your actions, not words or emotions. Be noticed for excellence. You don't need your friends, your friends need you.

- A Cleaner trusts few people, and they better not let him down
A Cleaner needs people around him who tell the truth, needs people who want him to succeed, who recognise what it takes to be successful. 

- A Cleaner doesn't recognise failure, finds a different way to get results 
Failure is what happens when you decide you failed. What's your vision? What does your gut tell you?

- A Cleaner doesn't celebrate achievement because he wants more
Done. Next. That's the Cleaner's motto.

Tim says that one can do it with what one already has. All we need to do is to listen to our voice. 

Tim says - follow those visions and dreams and desires and believe what you know. Never stop until you do. Be your toughest opponent. Remember we have zero limitations. I want to know that every move I make, every thought, every action takes me further than anyone else has ever gone and made me better at what I do than anyone else in the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book and certainly some points make immense sense. The Cooler, Closer, Cleaner comparisons are very well put. One can visualise Virat Kohli as a Cleaner but then a Cleaner looks like an individual great and not a great leader. Compassion and empathy seem to be missing from the hard work ethic, the desire and ability to grow others. The Cleaner looks like a brilliant individual, a Level 4 leader. It's a great template to follow up till individual brilliance which is what Tim aims to do. By then hopefully one gets the compassion and empathy of a Level 5 leader too.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Dark Star - The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna - Gautam Chintamani

 Milind offered me this book from his collection and I was interested to know more about the phenomenon that was Rajesh Khanna. I ended up with a better idea of the star and his life thanks to the book. Thanks to Milind too, who is a rich source of books when I am in Pune.

My first memories of RK were from 'Haathi Mera Saathi' which we watched in faraway Eluru and enjoyed thoroughly. So much did the movie impact us that my brother was adamant that he get a RK shirt stitched for him or something like that. He was only 3 or 4 years old then. Reading the book I realised that RK did that movie for a lark almost. Another movie we saw then, I fail to remember which, had a fire scene and my brother started crying a lot and we were both ejected from the theatre and sent home. I was glad to go home too. Funnily, the next RK movie I remember watching was 'Dhanwan' in the 80s. Much later, in the VCD, DVD, internet era, I watched all his hits - Anand, Namak Haraam, Safar, Bawarchi - and several others. I watch many of his hit songs on YouTube and he is very much part of my life even now.

So it was nice to know that Jatin Khanna belonged to a family of businessmen who moved from Lahore to Bombay and set up successful businesses. He grew up in luxury and everything was at beck and call, and he lacked for nothing. He found some interest in theatre and sometime after his college days entered a competition by Filmfare to find new faces - and won. His runner up was Vinod Mehra. His close pal from college was Ravi Kapoor aka Jeetendra. Jatin Khanna preferred the screen name Jeetendra but since it was already taken by Ravi, he settled for Rajesh Khanna. Ravi Kapoor seemed to have stolen a march over RK but soon RK caught up with him. As it always happens, the most unlikeliest project, made with the least amount of conviction, became a supoer hit in 'Aradhana' and the star became a super star. The stories of his super stardom are wild and RK delivered hit after hit for three years in a row before the Amitabh phenomenon eclipsed him. 

Devyani Chaubal, a journalist who took a shine to him, is credited with building the superstar image. Shakti Samantha who directed him in Aradhana gave him several hits. RK didn't think much of Amitabh when he worked with him in Anand, nor did he treat Salim-Javed right. The Amitabh and Salim-Javed combine destroyed RK in the next few years. Known to cater to his coterie, to have people waiting on him, to be vengeful on any one who crossed his path, RK was the superstar in every sense. Not too many liked him and bore some grudge or the other and it all caught up with him. RK grudged Amitabh his success, went into several relationships, starting with Anju Mahendru, Dimple, Tina Munim. His true love seemed to be Anju Mahendru, who he wanted to spite by taking his baraat past her house, and who had an affair with Gary Sobers to spite him back, and who finally spent time with him when he was on his death bed. Dimple was too young when she married him and there is a hint of physical and emotional abuse but she never spoke about it, gave up her career, and rebuilt it after walking out on him. His passionate affair with Tina Munim also flopped and she left him for Anil Ambani. RK, in the end, lived a rather lonely life and he finally had one Anita Advani for company when he died. Contrary to what people say that he was in poor financial health, he had a net worth of 500 crores, some say. 

RK had too much too soon, was a phenomenon, was unapologetic about it, and probably didn't have the learning mindset which is quite common to most who get things too easy. But towards the end Gautam Chintamani shows glimpses of his turning over and showing signs of the growth mindset, of learning to be humble, of knowing the medium is bigger. He loved the award Bachchan gave him, a lifetime award by the IIFA, and kept that one award saying - Amitabh Bachchan gave it to me. He loved his drink, friends, parties, good food. In the end, for whatever it is worth, whatever he does or did, one can never get angry with RK simply for having portrayed Anand Saigal in Anand and for having given us some wonderful songs and moments. That whole Havell's fans was a bit of a misadventure I felt, but sure, we could still see some magic in his eyes. Thoroughly enjoyed reading though I wish there was more on his affairs and stuff. Also interesting to know that Gautam Chintamani seems to have Telugu connections, related to Arudra, that he is. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Hospital Duty in Times of Covid

 Ever since we have come to Pune on the 25th, we have been plunged into a series of emergencies. We had to admit Shobha's mom to the nearby Shaswath Hospital in Kothrud as she was in a lot of pain and partly delirious. So an ambulance was called and we admitted her in the hospital and all the care and worry about COVID we took all these months, went out of the window. Luckily we knew the doctors Dr Karmarkar and Dr Mundle who were very sensitive about the way they went about treating her. 

They admitted her in the ICU and soon found that she suffered from dehydration, anorexia, electrolyte imbalance, gastritis and a variety of other issues. She was in pain and not cooperative so they gently gave her saline and other fluids and slowly got her to a state where she could talk more coherently. But progress was slow and painful to see. 

The stay extended to eleven days and once we were faced with the possibility that her chest infection (which was finally concluded to be pneumonitis) could possibly be COVID. She tested negative and the CT was negative. But the period of waiting for the test results was a bit stressful considering that Anjali was isolated with Shobha's cousin Milind and me and Shobhs were exposed to the hospital environment. We all heaved a sigh of relief.

How much ever gloves, sanitisers and masks we wear, we are still aware of the ever present danger of infection. So when the doctors finally said that the treatment for the chest infection was not showing any improvement, we decided to shift her home. She was very happy to come back home and the happiness showed on her face, in her appetite, in her speech. She saw Anjali who came down to meet her Ajji, and said Árre Wah, Anjali' and that was so nice to see and hear.

Home is like a mini hospital with an oxygen concentrator, a suction machine, nurse and an attendant, but she is happy and that is great to see. One realises that there is a lot of stress around these situations whether anything is happening or not, decisions to be made, uncertainty, lack of information, and now added to that, the fear of infection. But we have to do what we have to do and it's nice now to hear her planning on going to Hyderabad for a checkup for her pacemaker and stuff. Maybe she turned around the corner. Whichever way it goes, seeing that smile on her face as she drank her coffee and chatted to Shobhs and Suhita was well worth it.

Lord Edgware Dies - Agatha Christie

 Anjali suggested I read this book so I picked it up. Poirot meets Lady Edgware, one Jane Wilkinson, an actress. She wants Poirot to speak to her husband Lord Edgware and get her a divorce so she can marry someone else. Poirot volunteers to do so and meets the Lord who tells him that he has already decided to grant her divorce and has written to her about it as well. But Jane Wilkinson has not received the letter and she keeps joking publicly that she would love to kill her husband. And then Lord Edgware is found dead, stabbed to death. All evidence points to Jane Wilkinson who had been to the house and met him.

Poirot examines many angles and comes to the conclusion that only one person who have committed the murder. As dramatic and interesting as any Poirot books can get.

Canteen Fundas - Be Neither Selfless or Selfish, Self Care is the Way!

Canteen Fundas - Not Selfish nor Selfless! Selfcare is the key.

Canteen Fundas: Why self care is a priority to reach a stage where you can help others

Bhaiyya, typed Rahul on their WhatsApp group eCanteenFundas. ‘My friend wants me to help her with her project but I can’t because I haven’t prepared for my exams yet. Am I being selfish? Should I put my exams aside and help her?’

‘Good question,’ typed Rinku. ‘Should we be selfless heroes or selfish villains?’

‘Neither,’ typed Rakesh. ‘You practice self-care. You must nurture and take care of yourself first and foremost — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Don’t hurt yourself thinking you have to be ‘selfless’ and try to help others when you’re struggling yourself. How can you help others when you need help? So, first study for your exams, Rahul. You are your primary responsibility.’

‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ typed Rinku. ‘That’s a relief. But how do we know the difference between self-care and being selfish?’

‘Self-care is about healthy boundaries,’ typed Rakesh. ‘When you’ve taken care of yourself and are healthy and secure, you can help your friend better because you’ve prepared well and are in good space to give. You circulate good energy and both benefit. Whereas, being selfish is an insecure behaviour like taking more than you need and at others cost. This is unhealthy because you’re always comparing yourself with others, feel like you don’t have enough and are driven by a malicious intent to deprive others for your gain. You stop the flow of energy which stops you from giving yourself too. Self-care makes you feel good and supported and benefits everybody involved. Selfish behaviour leaves you feeling isolated, excluded and helps no one.’

‘And what about selflessness, bhaiyya?’ typed Rahul. ‘Everyone says we should be selfless.’

‘Most of us try to act ‘selfless’ to appear good in other people’s eyes,’ typed Rakesh. ‘But any truly selfless act is wholehearted and instinctive with no consideration in your mind as to cost or benefit. When we practice self-care well, we learn how to care for ourselves and for others, and then, selflessness comes naturally. Don’t ‘try’ to be ‘selfless’ without practising self-care first because you’ll only hurt yourself and others involved. It helps no one.’

‘Okay, bhaiyya,’ typed Rahul. ‘So we practice self-care and nurture ourselves first. And when we are strong enough, we help others, so it benefits all. Whereas being selfish is just being greedy at others cost and helps no one, including us.’

‘And we don’t have to fake being ‘selfless’,’ typed Rinku. ‘Selfless acts are wholehearted and a result of being in a good energy space which results from good self-care.’

Your first responsibility is towards yourself. Practice self-care, nurture yourself and get to a stage where you can really help others wholeheartedly.

Monday, November 2, 2020

How to Think Like Da Vinci - Daniel Smith

Somebody whose suggestions I value (I forget who) suggested this book and I bought it. I was surprised to see that the author Daniel Smith had written a series of  'How to think like...' books - Mandela, Sherlock, Jobs, Einstein, Gates, Churchill, Hawkins etc. Smith is definitely thinking well.

Da Vinci is from the place called Vinci, so we are effectively dealing with Leonardo from Vinci, the illegitimate child of Piero, a notary, and what Smith calls - a low class woman. Incredible. Anyway Leonardo is not given much love or anything, nor even the status of his seemingly high class philandering father, who somehow sees promise in Leonardo's paintings and takes him to a well known artist Verrocchio to train his illegitimate progeny. Leonardo learns well in the 13 years he spends there and outgrows his master, who is quite accomplished himself. Leonardo finds great patrons at regular intervals after that and offers them all sorts of expertise - from painting to engineering to sculpture to military design. His patrons include Lorenzo de Medici to the Duke of Sforza to King Louis XV to Francis I. 

Leonardo, thanks to his illegitimate status, does not get formal education so he teaches himself. And he learns all sorts of things - painting, sculpture, maths, science, engineering, architecture, military design, anatomy and some 18 skills. He sells his expertise depending on who he is selling to. Clearly Leonardo's disadvantages of his birth did not come in his way. He was a learner. 

Da Vinci's works were inspired by nature. He loved nature and was known to buy birds just to set them free. He was no romantic and was practical enough to know that when opportunities present themselves he had to seize them. 

Leonardo believed that painting embraces and contains within itself all the things which nature produces or which results from the fortuitous actions of men. Painting is intrinsically related to the divine. He was committed to breathing life into his paintings. and because of this desire to excel he was fiercely critical of his work.

Da Vinci went about his work very methodically. He would gather data, make detailed notes, stock up on ideas to use later, and then construct and deconstruct his creations in a manner that left nothing to chance. It was all process driven. Da Vinci believed that the artist must remain solitary to create his best work else he would be distracted. He also believed that companionship can only be found in the studio. 

The process of learning to him was this - the youth should first learn perspective, then proportions of objects. then copy from a good master to accustom himself to the forms. Then from nature, to confirm by practice the rules he has learned. Then works of masters. Then put his art into practice and work.

He was not all work - he enjoyed play. He dabbled in writing, in bawdy jokes, and was an excellent musician. he had  huge library and devoted an enormous amount of energy to studying and self improvement through a mighty work ethic. nothing was left to chance, everything was carefully analysed. in fact much of his time while working was spent merely watching his subject. He spent time with some of the greatest minds who were part of his inner circle. With this base, he could attempt and imagine the impossible like designing flying machines etc because what was possible in nature could be duplicated by man. He went into the study of anatomy and understood the science behind it, civil engineering, military design etc. 

Da Vinci also knew how to talk and convince his clients - "words which do not sstisfy the ear of the hearer weary him or vex him, and the symptoms of this you will see in their frequent yawns. You therefore who speak before other men whose good you desire, when you see an excess of fatigue, abridge your speech, or change your discourse, and if you do otherwise, then instead of the favour you desire, you will get dislike and hostility.' He was into self-improvement and 'how to influence people and make friends' way before our time. 

Da Vinci believed that one should never let money be their master. 'That is not riches which may be lost. Virtue is our true good and the true reward of its possessor. As to property and external riches, hold them with trembling, they often leave their possessor in contempt and mocked at for having lost them.'

Da Vinci was on a mission to capture his subjects. He endeavoured to add excellence to excellence, perfection to perfection - and in this quest, many works remained unfinished. He kept his friends close and heped those in need. He was inspired by professional rivalries. 

On eating he had this philosophy - "Do not eat when you have no appetite and dine lightly". He could have made a killing on the weight loss market too. Another great habit of Da Vinci was that of keeping notes - 12 manuscripts of his lie in the world, one of which was bought by Bill Gates for 30 million. And he wrote his notes in his unique mirror writing style - you can only read the reflection in the mirror.

The book is an interesting analysis of the man and his habits and how he achieved what he did. a very clear and analytical mind was at the base of his achievements which led him to pursue many subjects with great energy and commitment. His ideas on everything - from eating to painting to charming people are invaluable.  Interesting read and much to learn.