Monday, October 30, 2023

Travel Bug - Jaipur

First visited Jaipur twenty years ago to attend Bobby's wedding. Last year I went with Vasu and Abhinay. Both times I visited Ajmer and Pushkar. This time it was a cricketing trip to watch the Syed Mushtaq Ali games. I used the free time at hand to check out a few places. On the first free day Jyo and I went around the town. He wanted to shop some and then we went sight seeing.

Jyo and Hawa Mahal

Stained glass 

Hawa Mahal frontage

Jyo had an elaborate list - clothes to buy from Gulab Chand, lassi to drink at Lassi Wala, Lashmi Mishtan Bhandar or some famous place like that - and we managed to tick them all off. The Gulab Chand guys were in the pink city or the old city which is so neatly laid out with all shops looking similar with frontages and signages - order all around. 

Jyo is an unabashed foodie. He tries all kinds of foods and particularly loves non-veg. He hardly looks his age - 68 - keeps himself fit by playing tennis and goes swimming etc. In his playing days he was a doughty batsman and it was difficult to get him out.

Loved that place. Checked out the inside of Hawa Mahal for a price of 52 bucks (why 52 bucks asked Jyo). Nice stuff. Courtyards, staircases, stained glass windows. 

Raj Mandir
Lassi at Lassiwala

We were directed to MI Road where he continued shopping while I walked around and found Raj Mandir, a huge cinema theatre which probably has a lot of history behind it. A stone's throw from there was the famous lassi wala where we drank some fine lassi - they add a dollop pf cream on top which we scoop with a spoon! And the best thing - its always in a clay matka. Onwards to Jantar Mantar, the City Palace (expensive tickets at 300 bucks but worth it), a stop at Lakshmi Mishtan which was most confusing because we did not know where to buy and get out food (lassi not v good, kachori no great). We got off and headed to Jal Mahal which as the names says is in jal or water (the Man Sagar lake mostly named after Sawai Man Singh) and all we can do is take pics from the shore.

Jantar Mantar

City Palace

Peacock motif

Spot me


Off we went from there to Nahargarh fort which was quite a sight, walked around the palace, climbed on top, went to the sunset place but sunset was a while away. 

Atop Nahargarh fort

Nahargarh fort palace
Jal Mahal

Then we headed to Jaigarh fort where we hired a guide for a price of 100 bucks (they reduced it from 400 to 100). For 100 bucks you can take your car inside and we did that. 


Saw a huge cannon, then we saw an aqueduct type which led water to the underwater storage where apparently gold was hidden and then was stowed away by Indira Gandhi during emergency, some place where humans were sacrificed and now goats are and then he led us to the store to by stuff which we politely refused and headed back. Our driver Dhanraj was keen to show us Amer fort but we were  tired and said we would like to go back to our good hotel Taj Amer!

Nice full day! But I should come back to watch that sunset at Nahargarh fort one of these days.           

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Travel Bug - Horsely Hills

 Timothy has been one of the few friends from my cricketing days who has remained a personal friend as well. It's an odd relationship since he is a few years older than I. I distinctly remember seeing him for the first time when he dropped in at the Osmania University A ground. I was playing for the varsity league team and he stopped by for a while. Handsome, rugged Clint Eastwood looks, slim hipped and broad shouldered, a distinct gait as he walked. He definitely had an air about him. I had heard about him - his name often came in the cricket scores every week.

Timothy Paul and me - the only pic we have together 

Next i met Paulie was when we were both selected for the Under 25 matches and we sat on the railings at Parade Grounds watching our match. Whatever happened then remained and we continued that friendship all through. We began meeting at Ameerpet Playground for practice. He would give me tips - good ones - like he once told me how important footwork was for batsmen and how he worked on his footwork. Another time he told me how important it was for the skipper to define roles to the players - "tell them clearly, even how many runs you expect from them'. I don't think many captains do that. Very good tip. Set expectations. One more gem - you should not marry someone you love, marry someone who loves you.

Paulie was someone you could count on to bail you out in a tight situation in a game. he always was quick thinking, finds weaknesses and finds a way to win. He may not have great technique but with what little he has, he wins. Like I would rate him 5 and myself 8 at table tennis but he would challenge me and beat me, mostly by understanding my mindset, playing with it and exploiting my weaknesses and compromising my strengths. In a game against a tough opponent in a final (some local tournament) we needed one wicket with one run left and trust Paulie to get him out!

We connected on music. He suddenly picked up a bunch of 'Best Of' cassettes and we would sicuss music. Once we even went to watch a Hindi movie at Lamba - took a bus to Patny and then hired a rickshaw to Lamba! 'Betaab' I guess. That way we also saw movies like Akshay Kumar's 'Mr Bond'a complete B grade movie twice in a row for cheap thrills at Zaheerabad. Or some Telugu movies at Machilipatnam.

Paulie was someone I could never say no to. He would take me to the weirdest places to play local tournaments - Machilipatnam, Guntur, Parbani, Nanded, Zaheerabad, Bidar, Old City, Sanathnagar - we won most. I would not have gone for anyone else to these tournaments. He has this fine sense of humour, always has to have the last word, extremely competitive, loves to be Jughead. I have seen him go through his father's death, buying a lovely house at Begumpet, attending his marriage at the Church at Chapel Road. He was one of the few who attended my marriage in 1995. I somehow started visiting him on Christmas days and now its an annual ritual - he invites a whole lot of his friends every Christmas to his house for a party!

Mr Quick Wit and Always Competitive suddenly started to reveal a different side to him which I never thought existed (never thought he would show openly). He would invite all his old friends, from his school days to cricketing days to work days, without fail to his Christmas parties. they were about people he cared for and it was quite touching to see him put so much effort into the parties, take care to see each one was taken care of. A soft, sentimental side to him which i knew he had but would never show, surfaced.

But he went one step further when his son Akshay got married recently. He booked a bus and invited all the people that mattered to him, arranged food and drink, got the whole party together, put them all up at a lovely resort at Horsely Hills (after doing much research I heard). To me it was an act of love and nothing short of that. I have not heard of anyone do this - his friends from school, their families, college, cricket, work - he called all those who mattered to him. I am glad I was one of those. Despite a crazily hectic schedule I pulled off a day and went in the bus, sandwiched in the back with two heavy duty drinkers.

The happy couple!

The hotel was brilliant. Some functions during the day, cocktails at night with music and dancing. I went on a walk with Ashok to a park nearby which had a tree planted by Mr Horsely himself. We went to a sunset point after that. Late night drinking and dancing by the kids.

Next day was the wedding. After the wedding I headed back with Paulie's friend Raj who was driving back by himself. I ended up driving most of the journey and took a Uber from Aaranghar at 12!

Thanks Paulie (and Seema) for a unique experience. And Akshay, have a happy married life.


Travel Bug - Vizag

Vizag is a place I enjoy going - have fond memories of Inter varsity cricket, my cousin VV, the sea, the beach, an air of something very unique about it. So when there were matches going on I took off to watch them with my colleague  NP Singh. We were put up at Daspalla Hotel which was very comfortable, right in the middle of the town. We would hire a cab to the stadium to watch games and head back to the hotel.

With the Colossus of Cricket - CK Nayudu

We visited Waltair Club on two occasions - one hosted by Naresh and another by Prasad. Both evenings were brilliant at this club which has a nice heritage - it was established in 1883, stands in the middle of the town on a hillside, has ample space everywhere including grounds etc. On the second occassion we had the pleasure of the company of UR Radhakrshna, Balaji, MS Prasad. NP Singh. Vivek Jaisimha, Pavan and me joined from our side.

Morning walk at the beach - Pavan, NP and me

An interesting temple on the way

Radha and Krishna

Mornings were devoted to long walks by the beach. Evenings had outings with NP and Pavan. One afternoon we visited the famous Raju gari dhaba at Rishikonda. All the GITAM College students were around. Vizag has these many sights along the beach.


Travel Bug - Cuttack

 Made two trips to Cuttack in September to watch the BC Mahanti Tournament. The first trip was in the midst of heavy rains - red alert etc - but somehow the OCA kept the matches going. Brilliant job by them. The Barabati stadium is in Cuttack and is a massive structure. Crowds would come in at various parts of the game and watch and cheer. The dressing rooms were good and the food and hospitality pretty nice.

Mostly overcast skies - the boys looking on!

While going from the airport to Cuttack we go past the Utkal University with its sprawling campus. In Cuttack itself we go along the banks of the massive Mahanadi which is a sight to see. Lots of open grounds, trees, sights of commercial activity and one wonders why this state is still considered backward. There was a Film and TV Institute as well.

The ground staff fighting the rains

The tournament is named after the late Mr BC Mahanti who was an administrator, a freedom fighter, a sportsperson and someone who was actively involved in promoting cricket and sport in Orissa. It is apt that the OCA has named a tournament after such an accomplished man. 

What I loved was the visit to Ravenshaw University in Cuttack still maintaining all its old world charm. We drove past the Psychology Department, the hostels, all quaint stuff, old brick buildings. Open spaces. I visited the cricket grounds which were grassy, open...lovely to play a match there.

The people are extremely warm and emotional. The waiters in the hotel were huge fans of cricket and were following all our matches. Smiling all the time, helpful. Was a lovely visit.   

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Cricketing Life

 Some pics from a few grounds

And another




The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

 A brilliant book into the creative process, the resistance, why we must overcome it and how we must be truly what we are. The tagline - Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles!

Book One - Resistance - Defining the Enemy

'The Enemy is a very good teacher.' - the Dalai Lama

Pressfield emphasises this - sitting down to write (or create anything) is hard. Our enemy for our own good is our resistance which comes in many toxic forms insidiously, making us believe that it is our life and not the one we are born to fulfill. Basically it keeps us from doing our life's work - which results in what he calls the 'unlived life'. He says it was easier for Hitler (a serious illustrator who wanted to study the craft) to start World War II than to stare at a blank square of canvas.

The activities that elicit resistance are:
1) writing, painting, music, film, dance, any creative art
2)launch of any entrepreneurial venture
3) any diet or health regimen
4) spiritual advancement programs
5) any activity to overcome habits and addictions
6) education of every kind
8) any act of political, moral,ethical courage including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves
9) any undertaking of any enterprise to help others
10) any act that entails commitment of the heart
11) the taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity   

Resistance is always lying- its intent is to stop you. The more important a call of action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we feel towards pursuing it.
He gives a nice example of how Henry Fonda, even at 75, would throw up before every stage show. The fear would be there but he would go through it. Pressfield says that we must master the fear and conquer it.

"The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.'

Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. And also sabotage by others who are around you (for eg those who keep saying you are 'changing' and 'are not the person you were' etc). To overcome this on your own evolution he says, be ruthless with yourself and with others. Keep your focus on your priority which is your evolution.The most common form of resistance is procrastination. Other forms can be sex or any other instant gratification modes such as drugs, adultery etc. A penchant to get into trouble (to get out banish all troubles from your life), drama (banish all drama), disease, victimhood to manipulate others.

Resistance shows up in such patterns - unhappiness (starts as being bored leads to stuff like drugs or adultery to beat boredom and further leads to depression, aggressive behavior and may even lead to crime and destructive behavior), fundamentalism, criticism. However behaviors like self-doubt, fear, are good signs just as a habit of being alone is (the author would keep his characters or his readers for company during his days of isolation when he wrote). He is not  a big fan of support groups, workshops etc which he says only distract you from work.

The biggest ally for resistance is rationalisation which comes because we do not want to face our fear and create a story to justify our lack of action. But we must believe that it can be beaten.    

Book two - Combating Resistance - Turning Pro

'It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior's life,' - Telamen of Arcadia

Pressfield says - get serious, put yourself out there, don't dabble, commit. Be a professional and not just an amateur (Professionals are there for keeps, make it their vocation, are full time at it, 7 days a week, show up on time every day, go through the misery of isolation/rejection/doubt/despair/ridicule/contempt/humiliation, because the stakes are high and real. They also get paid for their job, are always seeking mastery and have a sense of humour. Professionals are patient, seek order, look at it like craft and not art, act in the face of fear, do not give excuses, plays it as it lays, are fully prepared and do not show off. Professionals seek to master technique, ask for help, do not take failure personally,endures adversity, self-validates, knows limitations, reinvents himself, is recognised by other pros. Amateurs are there for fun, make it their avocation, work on it on weekends etc.)

 Commit. Put it out there. Struggle with it. Don't take the easy way out. 

Book Three - Beyond Resistance - The Higher Realm

'The first duty is to sacrifice to the gods and pray to them to grant you the thoughts, words and deeds likely to render your command most pleasing to the gods and to bring yourself, your friends and your city the fullest measure of affection and glory and advantage.' - Xenophon

Pressfield says that heaven comes to our aid when we work with the muse. Pray to the Muse (he cites an invocation to the Muse from Homers Odyssey - TE Lawrence's translation)

Apparently there are nine muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, whose job is to inspire artists. They are Clio, Erato, Thalia, Terpsichore, Urama, Polyhymnia, Euterpe, Melpomene and Calliope. Basically Pressfield is saying - take help from everyone.

He talks of how when we learn we may soon die, the seat of our consciousness shifts. He talks of how we must have territorial orientation towards our craft which shows as - it provides sustenance, it sustains us without external input, can only be claimed alone, can be claimed by work, returns exactly what you put in.

He defines this relationship like this - on a freaky day what do you do - hang out with your friends or go to your territory for peace. That's territorial orientation.

When asked about the virtue of the supreme warrior Spartan King Leonidas said - contempt for death. 

Pressfield signs off with words from the Gita

"Give the act to me
Purged of hope and ego
Fix your attention on the soul
Act and do for me"

Perfect. And to end another quote he cites from Blake - "Eternity is in love with the creations of time"


A wonderful book that somehow manages to pull you out of a set pattern of resistance, make you aware of your unlived life, of our want to and our wariness in committing to it. Definitely pushed me in the right direction.

 "Resistance is a bully. It has no strength of its own; its power derives entirely from our fear.'

Loved this line.       

Thanks Vinod bhai. Wonderful gift - again!

Don't give in to resistance, stay the course, pursue your creative path. That's your divine gift.

The Culture Code - Daniel Coyle

 The tagline explains it all - This book is about the secrets of highly successful groups. It starts with an interesting experiment by Peter Skillman who gives groups of four these four items - 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti,  one yard tape, one yard string and one marshmallow. The challenge, to make the tallest structure with the marshmallow on top. It turns out that among the different types of groups - executives, managers and all sorts, the clear winners were a group of kindergarten children. That's because their group culture was best - they just went ahead doing the task without any egos playing in, without too much planning and trying to look smart and organised - they just used their group intelligence and went about their job. 

Why is culture in groups important? Here's a statistic. One study shows that strong group cultures increases net income by 765% over a 10 year period! Strong cultures produce amazing results and weak cultures produce mediocre results. Now that the point is made, let's see how one can build strong cultures.

Coyle talks of three skills  one must learn to build to build strong cultures

1) Skill 1 - Building safety - because signals of connection generate bonding of belonging and identity

2) Skill 2 - Share vulnerability - because habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooperation

3) Skill 3 - establish purpose through narratives that create shared goals and values

Building Safety

 How important is a safe space? In the good apples experiment, a person was planted among a group to behave like a bad apple - a jerk/a slacker/ a downer - to bring down the group morale. He succeeded exceedingly well in bringing down the morale of most groups except one group where there was a 'good apple- a guy who took out the danger out of room and defused the situation by his small behaviors. He exuded warmth, deflected negativity, stepped in for someone, listened to another - small behaviors that absorbed the negativity and kept the group morale going. Turns out that small behaviors like these make all the difference and create conditions for others and the group to perform, These behaviors send the message - we are solidly connected. Most such teams behave or think of each other like family, like brothers. They make others feel that they can take a risk and feel supported by creating small moments of social connection.

Coyle found the following characteristics of strongly connected groups -

- close physical proximity, gathering in circles
- constant eye contact
- physical touch - handshakes, fist bumps, hugs
- short, energetic bursts of interaction
- leading with questions, lots of them
- humour, laughter
- small courtesies

Here are five measurable factors in such teams
1) everyone talks and listens in equal measure, contributions are short
2) high levels of eye contact, energetic exchanges
3) members communicate with each other, not just the leader
4) members carry on back channel or side conversations within the team
5) members explore outside the team and bring information back to the team

Let's take a look at the 'belonging cues '

1) Energy (invest energy in the exchange that's occurring)
2) Individualisation (each individual is unique)
3) Future orientation (the relationship will endure)

The message - you are safe

Coyle gives examples of Google's Billion Dollar Day - Larry Page stuck up a note saying 'this sucks' about ads that were thrown up in Adwords. Thanks to a group culture where everyone was considered equal (games, townhalls etc) Jeff Dean, a Googler who worked in Search, saw the note, worked on it over the weekend on his own time, solved the problem and created what later on became Google's billion dollar business - Ad words. Interestingly Jeff Dean did not think much of this and said it was normal.

Someone shares a supporting tip and it turns out that its twice as motivational. Cues must be given repeatedly to reinforce. These cues constantly underline the message that we are close, we are safe, we share a future.

Other examples of group behavior are that of the Christmas truce in the World War I when enemy groups formed a kind of truce by themselves amidst brutal fighting. In Wipro which was experiencing a high employee turnover, they experimented with a control group and two groups which were 1) given training inputs and a talk by a star performer and 2) an extra hour which was focused on the employee. The second group was asked questions that increased inter-personal closeness between the employee and Wipro like - what is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performances at work. They ended up performing 250% better. 

To build belonging, the author says that the team performs thousands of unselfish behaviors - passing, defending as in the case of San Antonio Spurs. The Coach Popovich was responsible for creating the space - he was one who told the truth but also loved you to death (always a good way to get people close). The team would eat together a lot, give high candor feedback to one another. 

The following words work like message - "Í am giving you this feedback because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them."

Or ask questions like - what do you like most about the job? The least? What would you change as captain?

The formula for building safety in teams seems to be 1) personal up close connection 2) performance feedback - holding high standards 3) giving the big picture perspective

Another way of building safety is to design for belonging as Tony Hsieh of Zappos did. He feels that his job is to architect the greenhouse' i.e. create the right environment that enables such behavior. He believes in increasing the number of collisions between people or meeting more and more people. The design of the environment plays a big role - spaced out places do not add to bonding fact a study revealed that the best bonding happens at a distance of less than 8 m, and beyond that it becomes lesser and lesser. Sustained proximity increases a sense of belonging.

Ideas for action - to build safety

Overcommunicate listening
Spotlight fallibility early on
Embrace the messenger
Preview future connections
Pick up tiny threshold moments
Overdo thank yous
Bad apples
Create safe, collision-rich spaces
Everyone has a voice

Skill 2 - Share Vulnerability

Sharing vulnerability is the glue that improves strong connections and build a strong culture in the team. The example of a flight losing an engine and heading to a sure crash is given. But the pilot, co pilot and a trainer who was a passenger got together (like the kindergarten kids) and went about landing the plane in near zero chances. The pilot knew he could not do it alone and put his ego aside and said 'I do not know what to do'. The trainer who offered to help came up and said 'tell me what you want and I will help you'. All signs of vulnerability. It also appears that when we are vulnerable we are able to smile, ask for help, create harmony in the group, give allowance to make mistakes etc. The three of them figured things on the fly and landed the flight in a one in a million chance. A brilliant example.

Or the example of the restaurant which trains its staff with extreme care for over six months and on the first day tells the full trained waitress - 'íf you ask for help 10 times you are doing good, if you try to do it alone its a disaster'. Another example of this experiment where 10 red balloons were set off in different unknown parts of the USA and groups had to find out all ten in say, a week. All sorts of teams went after the challenge but the team that won was the one that simply put out a message on a website - asking for help (and for enlistments) to track the balloons. With just a direct request for help they cracked in in under 9 hours - which otherwise was expected to take a week! Their mantra - 'need your help, asking for help'.

Clearly exchanges of vulnerability are the pathway through which trusting cooperation is built.

Or how Draper Kaufman designed ''the trust building machine'' after watching the French Corps which exemplified trust and commitment to the team in the World War I. What seemed like a primitive set of exercises (which includes working together with a telephone pole) actually is a set of intuitively designed group tasks that enable everyone to feel vulnerable and to help one another to help themselves. In fact they say that the trust machine exercises push the team to a place where vulnerability and inter connectedness meet. Or take the case of the stand up comedy guys who invented the tough Harold act where everyone gets brutal feedback - it only helped improve them. Or the example of Dave Cooper who was on the Osama case and realised he was stuck with helicopters that were not tested before. When he could not convince the top brass that they should use tested helicopters, he worked with the team on scenarios where the copter would crash - and when the copter did crash on D day the team went about their work like clockwork. The team prepared for every eventuality. Dave says 'human nature is constantly working against us. We have to get around that barrier. 

'We need leaders who are willing to accept and own up and say - ''Í screwed that up.' Real courgae he says is seeing and speaking the truth.

Another interesting titbit is that of supporting behaviors that are most important in such cultures. In Bell labs for example, they checked on the scientists who had the most number of patents to see what made them so successful. The common factor it turned out was having lunch with Nyquist, a co-scientist. he was always supportive, nudged people along, understood their deep vulnerabilities and desires and with his warmth, genuine caring, he drew people out, got them going. He unlocked teams in his subtle ways with caring, by really listening and by nudging them into areas they were scared to go. Identify the Nyquuist's in your life and keep meeting them!

Ideas for action to share vulnerability

The leader must be vulnerable first
Overcommunicate expectations
Deliver negative stuff in person
When forming new groups focus on the first vulnerability, the first disagreement
Listen like a trampoline
Resist temptation to add value
Use candor-generating devices to share feedback
Align language into action
Promote flash mentoring
Make the leader disappear

Seek the micro event. Someone holds the door, does an unselfish act, does something unselfish for the team. Highlight it.

Skill 3 - Establish Purpose
Johnson and Johnson believed in the purpose or vision set by its original founders and it helped them  make a huge decision. When the drug Tylenol was seen as causing deaths by poisoning the company withdrew 100 mn worth of a drug, against the advise of the state. Thanks to a 311 word statement that specified why they were in business. What's this for? Why are we in business? 

An interesting exercise to get things done more easily - visualise where we are, visualise where you want to go, and then visualise the obstacles in the path. This is called mental contrasting. Envision the reachable goal and envision the obstacles. Apparently it helps. Try it.

In another example - to improve quality of calls in a call center they made the executives meet the beneficiaries so they could understand how their work was impacting the beneficiaries. Involvement levels became much higher as they had an increased sense of purpose, of why they were working and how it was helping others in real life. (In one case, a ten hour call with a beneficiary was highlighted and rewarded.) In another experiment they pitted surgeons from a better known facility against those from a small town and the small town ones worked better as a team - lesser egos, more focus on the team. 

The playbook seemed the same for teams with a strong sense of purpose - framing (learning experiences that benefit the beneficiaries), roles (explicit roles, why its important that you perform your role well for the team), rehearsal (dry runs), explicit encouragement to speak up, active reflection in real time.

Small every day moments that highlight the basic purpose - this is why we work.

In the case of Meyer's restaurants where the motto was proficiency, they used slogans to constantly convey the message to their staff. The result is that the staff is acutely aware of the needs of the customer and instinctively make the experience a warm, safe one. 

Or even more interestingly, how Pixar had developed a cure for creativity - they realised first drafts for most films (including Frozen!) are terrible. So they created a Brains Trust- people who go over the footage every morning and give explicit comments, feedback. Pixar believes that all creative projects are cognitive puzzles involving thousands of ideas and choices -you may not get the right answers at one go or from one person. So they generate a lot of ideas and on one breakthrough idea. They focus less on ideas and more on people and keeping the people in an environment where they can generate more ideas.

According to the Pixar boss, managing people is a creative problem. He says - ''we put in new systems and they learned new ways of interacting.'' For example they made film directors the people who were in charge of the creative process and not the executives. Simple, but effective.

Ideas for action for establishing purpose

Name and rank priorities
Differentiate where you need proficiency, where focus is on creativity
Develop catchphrases to communicate
Measure what matters
Use artifacts, symbols
Identify and highlight bar-setting behaviour
Capture narratives to help identify and reinforce the right behaviors

I loved the story of the hockey team which had this forty-forty rule i.e. they decided to run the full length of the court in defence all through the game. Now this strategy had few results but one time in forty times, they would create an opportunity. Brilliant stuff in terms of champion behavior. Teams with such cultures cannot be held for not putting in effort.


I loved the book. Its a nice suggestion from young Nitesh Kannala who seems to be an avid reader himself. I have not seen many readers among cricketers but he is one. Coyle puts it succinctly into three skills we can work on and gives enough ideas and examples to take it to work. The benefits are clear. The best thing is we can take these practices to any size group - from a group of friends, to families, to work - any group we are part of. We can only make things better with such cultures. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Wonderful Session by R Sridhar with the Hyderabad Mushtaq Ali team

 Our Mushtaq Ali team was practicing at Gymkhana and I invited my old friend R Sridhar who has partnered Ravi Shastri and B Arun in coaching Team India and honing them into a fine winning unit. I felt it would be criminal not to use his time and he was kind enough to oblige.

R Sridhar with the Hyderabad team for Mushtaq Ali tournament 

Let me try and capture some highlights of his talk. 

The difference between Professionals and Amateurs 

He said that the difference between amateurs and professionals is that professionals are accountable and as such they behave in such fashion. They come 15 minutes early to the ground, because for them being on time is already being late. They have a hunger to perform, to prove, to be the best. He told the boys that they are all professionals and should behave like professionals.     

Another difference he said between pros and amateurs was that amateurs do not ask questions whereas professionals are hungry for knowledge and ask questions.

Winning Culture - Fearlessness and Honesty 

I asked him about the winning culture and he said it was about two things - fearlessness and honesty. He said teams that are fearless tend to be more aggressive (as they do not fear losing) and that in turn brings out other qualities like creativity and so on. On the other hand teams that are honest to themselves show a sense of purpose and that breeds resilience and character. Teams that are honest are good at giving and taking feedback, at helping one another.

I loved this messaging - fearlessness and honesty!

Right Men In, Wrong Men off

He conveyed this well through the story of soccer coach Pep Guardiola who would look back at the bench to see who was involved in the game and who was not and those who were not involved, were given marching tickets. 

Be Selfish so You Can Help others 

He spoke about how players should be selfish - which to me translates into taking their roles seriously and fulfilling them - not bout playing for themselves at the cost of the team. Only when you have fully performed your role will you have the bandwidth to help others. 

Team Before Self

Of course he touched upon how one should align with the team purpose - the team is always higher than your individual goals.

Be Vulnerable

He spoke about being vulnerable to the entire team and how being vulnerable builds deep bonds within the team members. He started by sharing his own story of how he messed up once as a coach in a juniors match and they lost the game. He asked the others to share their experiences and be vulnerable and they all shared. I found R's lines most touching as he spoke with utmost honesty and revealed how a few seasons ago he was under pressure to perform and how would not even try because of the pressure. 'How will I succeed if I don't even try?' he said.

It was a beautiful session and R conveyed some really complex concepts so easily and relatably to the boys. Coach Ravi gave a vote of thanks and we made Aman gift him copies of my books and then we all assembled for a pic.

Thanks R. Wonderful stuff.   

Month of Madhu - Movie

 I guess we watched it for Swati but it turned out to be a very interesting movie in a different way. Haven't seen the different shades of love being explored so - it seems like a real story with real characters and has a dreamy and hazy feel about it.

The scene in the end when Madhu gives the ring back to Swati - the expression on her face - brilliant. And when he gives her the papers. Swati is unbelievably good. Thankfully there are those scenes when she plays her mischievous self and we are reminded of her as we know her.

'Can't blame you - you loved the way you knew how to love and I did the way I know how to'.

And the way the mother tells her son - everyone has grown up and moved on and you have remained exactly the same. How many mothers feel that way. How many sons feel like they have remained that way.

And how many remain that way really.  Something there reminded me of my mother who used to worry about me and my idealistic ways. I think I managed ok mom though I feel I have changed and not remained like Madhu.

But the way he wove a beautiful, disconnected tapestry and made it all come together is what's beautiful about the movie. Complex emotions of love - each has their own way. Loved it. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Murakami

 It is a well known fact that Murakami has a set schedule to write, run, swim etc and there are writers and creative people who try to copy his style of living in the hope of uncorking the kind of creativity he unleashes. In this 170 page book Murakami writes in a manner that I can understand and remember - I love the way he writes but I can never remember the characters or the story afterwards. He simply writes about running.

Murakami says he started running rather late - 34 I guess. Since then he has been running non-stop, several miles a day, has run marathons, has entered ultra marathons (running, swimming, cycling) and writes about it all. Why he started I do not remember but I do remember that he started a night club before he became a writer. Murakami has this great love for music - western music for sure -as he quotes songs left and right in his stories. He writes somewhere about the number of records he has and how he has spent a large fortune on buying vinyls and CDs.

While running the night club, he was married then (speaks very little about his wife and mentions once or twice about his fear of her coming to know his secrets - neurotic like most writers!), he has the same issues we have in India. I do not know how to run a business he says. But he had the clarity of mind that he would cater to a certain kind of customers and he would not worry about keeping everyone happy - just his type of customers. Sometime then he started writing - a couple of short stories that got published and got his some acclaim. He then decided to sell his night club and write full time. Of course he realised that he cannot do both because he was exhausted by the work at the night club and decided that he needed to fully concentrate on writing. I liked that - and also liked that he followed up on his plan properly.

This meant he had to reduce meeting people and he started to spend specific hours writing and then going out for a run to clear his head, a swim. Gradually he started to run longer. One mantra of his is not miss running more than once. He listens to music - some fav bands of his which suit his running mood he says. He meets certain people - an old Indian lady in a sari is one of them. He writes how many miles he ran each month, talks about his run from Athens to Marathon in a hot environment, his progression to running marathons and ultra marathons.

He talks of how he would not do things if someone told him to - only if he owned it would be do it wholeheartedly. That's something I think we all identify with. H talks about his wife finding out his secrets. His love for challenges. He talks about how he realised he had to write original stuff and nothing else - and how it worked for him. He talks of editing his drafts, of his comfort with being by himself.

And again, like Joseph Campbell. he also heads off to Hawaii which seems to be the place all these writer types seem to go to and have a good time. Perhaps its the peace and quiet. Or whatever else they find there.

Anyway, it was a good insight into his mind, his thinking. I liked it enough to ask Prarthana to buy me a copy of Murakami and his music which also appear to be non-fiction. I found myself agreeing with most of his thoughts. I hope I can get hooked on to running like he did and hope I can continue it like he does. Hopefully that will get me to be as productive as he is too!

Good stuff           

Friday, October 13, 2023

Benaam - Movie

 For some reason I liked this movie when i first saw it. I especially liked the scene when Moushumi Chatterjee sew a button on the MCP Amitabh character standing on the bed. Later when I found that Jayant co-wrote the screenplay, my liking for it increased. When Ali would sing the title song I made an effort and learned how to sing it. But this time when I watched it I found many holes in it - the casual way in which the villain is introduced and connected to the original crime, why he wants Amit to kill the guy he already tried to kill, why he is followed by weird people from the CID - and so on and so forth. When you go backwards, i makes no sense, but when you go forwards, it seems to be ok - mainly because of the actors I feel. Overall a loss of an illusion and I will not watch Benaam again I feel.

OMG 2 - Movie

 These days we just pick any random movie and watch and one such was this. I liked the premise of OMG and this was as good as the original one. Starts with a religious man finding himself in a pickle over his son's sexual awakening and how it threatens to disrupt his entire belief system - or is it the other way - does he change the entire belief system once god shows him the way. Quite likeable.

Akshay fits the role of Mahadev.


2018 - Movie

 2018. Based on the 2018 floods that devastated Kerala. The picture shows several threads and how they are all bound by the common enemy and the need to survive. It reminded me of the picture of people applauding the fisherfolk who were returning after helping those affected by floods. One of the most poignant pics i have ever seen.

Good stuff. Tovino Thomas is good as always.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Discipline - Novak on How to Be a Champ

 Says it all!

South Wins Duleep and Deodhar after 21 years

 Proud to be part of the selection committee that chose teams that won both Duleep and Deodhar Trophy this year. South Zone apparently won both last some two decades ago. Vihari was brilliant as captain of the Duleep Trophy team and Mayank was equally good with a slightly weaker Deodhar team. They dominated the tournaments which was brilliant for us. Dhiraj Navrekar (Goa), J Abhiram (Karnataka), UR Radhakrishnan (Chennai), Prashanth (Kerala), Thalaivan (Pondichery) and yours truly (Hyderabad).


South Zone team - Winners of the Duleep trophy 2023 

The South Zone team that won the Deodhar Trophy

Anyway, a good winning streak. More boys will now be in the national reckoning now. 

Ms Shetty Mr Polishetty - Movie

 Much hyped about movie and Naveen Polishetty is quite bankable to make things lively so we watched it. Started off blandly, picked up after Naveen enters the scene and generally stays the course. Anushka was wooden and very unconvincing as a chef, a mother-to-be, as someone anyone can fall in love with.


Monday, October 9, 2023

RIP Baig Sir - 1940-2023

 And just like that Baig sir is no more. His warm smile, twinkling eyes, his sense of humour, his discipline and mostly his love for cricket and his wards which we took for granted for all these years - now gone. 

Baig sir - the one and only

It is uncanny how he managed such a last ball finish but he did.Let me explain.

Hemanth (author), MSK Prasad, Baig sir and yours truly
Baig sir never fully recovered from his illness of a few years ago. Then came Covid and he seemed fine and then again his health deteriorated. In this period, his student Lt Crd Hemanth Kumar of the Indian Navy, egged on by his friend Prakash, embarked on a project - of writing a book on Baig sir. Exactly an year ago.

Hemanth is a first time author but it was just his love for his old coach that made him keep at it despite the demands of his job, his family and the distance  -he works in Delhi/Goa. So he started, shared a draft and I loved the emotional appeal of it and asked him to continue and so he did. Stories, pictures, testimonials, interviews - Prakash and he did it all between them. The books started to take shape and I advised him to take the services of a professional editor and he contacted Gouri Dange who is an excellent editor.

Gouri went through the book in a very professional manner, made some suggestions and best of all, fell in love with the book enough, to even find him a publisher which we thought was an impossibility. And thus came in a publisher and the book became a reality. We were racing against time as Baig sir's health was deteriorating.

The day Hemanth got the first copy of the book in his hand, we planned a launch, but first, we thought, we should get a copy to Baig sir. Hemanth planned a visit to Hyderabad on the 30th of September. MSK Prasad, Hemanth, Prakash and I visited Baig sir at his house and handed him a copy of his book. He was weak, could not speak because of the ulcers in his mouth, but the eyes shone bright. He looked at the book lovingly, laughed at our stupid jokes, held our hands lovingly in gratitude. It was such a full moment.

I told Baig sir that one chapter was incomplete -his girl friends. He smiled and showed one finger - he loved only one woman in his life. I told him he was producing writers and philosophers instead of cricketers and he smiled mysteriously. MSK said that Baig sir's words conveyed the philosophy of life so it was no surprise.

We left after an hour, making plans for a grand launch.

The next night, at around 10 pm, I got the news. Baig sir passed away.  He was fine till 830 and suddenly collapsed. He had read his book all day. 

Hemanth was in shock that night when I met him. I told him he could not have given a better gift to Baig sir, bigger than any award, than any amount of love. His book was the work of love any teacher would dream of getting from a student.

I have written so much about Baig sir, so I will simply put those links here.

For now, I will miss Baig sir immensely. Its been over forty years of knowing him, of sponging off his knowledge, of learning every moment I was with him.

If there is one thing to learn from him -it is the fierce passion he had for cricket. He breathed cricket - with a passion that frightened me. I know I can never be that, but there is no harm attempting it.

RIP Baig sir. You will always live on through your teachings, your values, your students who are spread out all over the world.           

The Hero's Journey - Joseph Campbell (on his life and work)

 Joseph Campbell's book is often cited to understand the essence of script writing. He is considered one of the greatest mythologists of the twentieth century and certainly one of our greatest story tellers. This book however is a series of interviews between Campbell and some of those he inspired - poets, rock stars, writers and so on.

Campbell's journey is interesting. He spent almost all his life teaching at a girl's college in the US and moved to Hawaii at some point (or did he frequently vacation there?) Much of the conversations are centred around his book 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' which I propose to read soon as some loving soul gifts it to me. Of course the book starts with 'The Call to Adventure'. To quote Campbell - 'The Call to adventure signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity within the pale of this society to a zone unknown. This fateful always a place of strangely polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds and impossible delights'

Campbell was an athlete of repute, was part of a music band, went to Europe and perhaps to India later because he learned Sanskrit and then went deep into the vedas, yoga and all sorts of stuff. 

'The secret of art is love...Art brings out the grand lines of nature.' - Antoinne Bourdelle

'What is it that we are questing for? It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself.' - Joseph Campbell

'If you are gong to describe a person as an artist, you must describe the person with ruthless objectivity. It is the imperfections that identify them. It is the imperfections that ask for our love.' - JC, Pathways to Bliss

JC describes his writing and how he went about it - 'you can get a lot of work done if you just stay with it and are excited and its play instead of work. I would write one book in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. There were three things going on at the same time.'

'Our highest god is our highest obstruction. It represents the consummation of the highest thoughts and feelings that you can have. Go past that.'  - JC

'Mythology is an organisation of symbolic images and narratives metaphorical of the possibilities and fulfillment in a given culture in a given time. Mythology is a metaphor. God, angels, purgatory, these are metaphors.'

The conversations are delightful and easy to read. Joseph Campbell comes across as a kind, loving, wonder struck person who is in wonder with the world around him. I liked the Indian connection, the Sanskrit connection, the vedas and the connect to the Orient. But mostly he comes across as a normal person, one who is looking at himself and his journey with wonder. Thank you so much for the gift. It's precious.           

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Maturity - Osho

 The tag lines that go with the book explain them very well most times and so does this one - it says maturity is the responsibility of being oneself. 

In the first page he says 

- 'listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that's what maturity is all about.'  


'maturity means the same as innocence, only with one difference, it is innocence reclaimed, it is innocence recaptured.'

Two ideas stayed with me from this book. One, that time is a horizontal line - with a past, present and future. Intersecting this line is a vertical line which is eternity and when they meet, which is rare, he says that meditation has reached ripening, maturity, and you have touched your innermost core. Bliss, I guess.

Another idea I liked was the one where he says - just do what you enjoy and when you stop enjoying it, stop. Like for example he says he would go walking and when he stopped enjoying the walk, he would stop. He says that if you tune into this more, you will start to listen to yourself more. I liked the idea and have been trying to follow that. (Though when I was reading this book there was a time when I was not enjoying it but ploughed on and found this gem about doing things you enjoy!)

Finally he says, awareness is the method; maturation is the result. The three steps to maturity - become aware of your body every moment (walking, chopping wood, whatever), then your mind (one percent thought, ninety nine percent awareness, more awareness, less thoughts), and then your heart (love grows, hate disappears, good grows, bad disappears).

Glad i finished reading it. Thanks Ajji!