Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Anjali - Going Through Fear

Daksha school announced a vaccination drive against measles and rubella. The vaccine would be administered at the school and all kids were asked to come if they wanted a vaccine. Anjali asked me if she was to take the vaccine and we checked her vaccine chart and consulted her paediatrician and the good Dr. Sriram said it was a good idea to take it.

There was a bit of banter at home.
'It will hurt Nanna,' joked Anjali. 'I don't want it.'

Shobha and I reminded her about a nursery rhyme she had where a small animal character who is scared of an injection runs away making all kinds of excuses until the kind doctor animal tells it to sing a song where she has to say ouch and that is as long as it needs to take the injection. It all ends well of course. In fact after reading that Anjali actually would go up to the doctor and tell him she wanted an injection. But that was years ago.

Anyway jokes apart, Anjali and I set out to school to join many others who were already queued up. Some of her classmates came out. 'Hi Anjali, it does not hurt at all,' said Harshvardhan as he left. Anjali looked at him suspiciously. Some small kids came to our crying and she looked worried. Then she spotted her friends Mansi, Keertan, Saket and went to play with them.

'Mansi does not like injections,' she came and reported. 'But Kushal, her brother, he loves injections.'

This was confirmed by Mansi's father. After a while we got our turn and both friends, Mansi and Anjali walked in holding on to our hands, apprehension writ large on their faces. Mansi went first and started to cry even before she sat on the chair. Anjali who was with me, held my hand tight and her eyes welled with tears.

'I don't want the injection,' she said. 'Let us go away Nanna.'
I told her it would be over in a minute. But she was inconsolable. The teachers got worried because she is pretty strong otherwise. The doctor took a moment and quickly finished the poke. Anjali would not stop crying. Nor would Mansi.

'It hurts Nanna,' cried Anjali.

I led her away to the car. As we walked away her friends came and tried to cheer her up. Saket, Keertan and others. Saket's father also tried to cheer her up. But she was distressed. I let her cry. Obviously she was hurting. Once in the car she calmed down. So did Mansi, who was also coming home with us. In a short while they started laughing and joking and things were back to normal.

There were several children who did not come that day. Some, mainly because of the fear of the injection. I was glad Anjali and Mansi found the courage to go to the school despite their fears and apprehensions, and went through it, crying, sobbing, and perhaps feeling foolish about their crying. But they did it. And that is what was most important. Like Mandela said, courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but the one who conquers it.'

So well done you two, Anjali and Mansi, sniffling and crying, wanting to go away but holding on, steeling yourself against the poke but hanging on, and getting done with it. I could see the other parents and teachers looking with concern at their tears, but me, I felt nothing but pride. They did it, despite that fear. And if they could do it once, they will find that courage again. When they need it. And that thought is most comforting.

Nice Link - 13 Traits of Integrity

13 Traits of Integrity

  • Value other's time
  • Give credit where due
  • Authentic
  • Honest
  • Never take advantage of others
  • Give people the benefit of doubt
  • Know when something is bothering someone
  • Believe others
  • Apologise first
  • Are humble
  • Do good when they can 
  • Are kind to those who need it.

Nice Link - The Dark Side of Positive Thinking

Nice Link - Living in India on Rs. 39 a day

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Complaints and Gratitude

What (or who) we complain most against, are probably the ones to whom we must be the most grateful to. They are normally the ones who have given us the most in our lives and - and we still want more and more. We just take them for granted, we are thankless and many times plain angry and bitter for the simple reason that they gave us the most anybody has given us in this life.

Parents, friends, government, service providers, house help - you check your list and see if it works out for you. For me it works out perfectly. People who gave me the most I complain against most. People who give me nothing also get nothing from me.

Could I just be more grateful to those about whom I am complaining about?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wag the Dog - Movie Review

The President of the USA is caught in a sex scandal days before the election. A fixer (Robert De Niro) is brought in. What can take away people's attention from the sandal? A war he says. With Albania. But we cannot go to war say the officials. Not real war, he says. We will distract the people with the war story for 11 days until the election is over. And by the time the election is done, the public should love the President again.

Who can tell such a story so convincingly? A Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman). So he gets his team of creative people in and designs Act 1, with a young girl fleeing rape, murder and destruction in Albania, complete with a song. Then they design Act 2 with a fictitious soldier left behind in Albania and how they need to bring him back, this time with symbols and songs. Then Act 3 when the soldier is finally brought back home triumphantly (but dead) owing to some technical glitches. In the eleven days, the fixer team fully tells a fake story to the public and gives the President a thumping victory.

But his best creative work will never get recognised as a piece of art and the producer is upset. Well there is no room for upset when the stakes are high. He joins the soldier the next day. There is also real unrest now in Albania but what the hell, the President won the election didn't he?

Brilliant is the word. You have to watch it many many times to catch the superb writing flowing off sleekly from every scene. And an ensemble cast led by De Niro, Hoffman, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, Kirsten Dunst and so many others  Watch.

Anjali - Save a Tree

I do not know what inspired this but Anjali wrote this a while ago. About a tree. I guess I'll save it - the poem, if not the tree.


Save a tree, save a life!

Anjali Paruvu



Chop Chop, Bang, Bang,
Goes the woodcutter’s axe.
It is illegal though
He’ll have to pay extra tax!

Oh, dear sir,
What has the tree done to you?
What makes you murder it?
It gives oxygen and takes in Co2

The poor innocent tree,
Has only tried to help
But still he grabs his axe
And the tree silently yelps

Oh no! he’s going to do it!
Was this written in your fate?
Now we can’t do much
It’s already too late

Bang, goes the axe,
What have you done?
Now, you killed one

But soon there will be none

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thought for the Day - How Gratitude Connects Everything

Ever since I have been doing the daily gratitude exercises that Shobhs is sending out to a small group, I have made some important discoveries (to me). Firstly, it struck me that without gratitude I somehow saw myself as alone - non-gratitude seems to be the first separator from the oneness of the universe. Secondly, how little gratitude I have for the things in my life - good and bad. Thirdly, the chain of gratitude is amazing - every person and experience we meet /have leads to another and to another until it almost seems like the whole world is working overtime to support us and help us. Fourthly, how I take so many things for granted (especially the big things) and am not grateful for them at all. I have conditions - what to be grateful for and what not to be grateful for!
For me - Pic courtesy Parth Gokhale
Now, after a little practice with the idea, I can see that every single call I get on the phone has something to be grateful for, every interaction, every thought, word or deed. Everywhere there are connections beyond connections, people who stood up and made life good for me even when they did not need to.

An example. When I went to the mall yesterday I tried to see both perspectives - my normal reaction - not enough parking, crib about the security check, crib about lack of choice of display in the mall, crib about salespeople who are not making me feel like an emperor.

Then I put on the gratitude outlook. I saw there was enough to be grateful for - there was parking and help to park, there were security personnel keeping me safe at danger to themselves, there was a mall which conceived this need and brought hundreds of brands and hundreds of patient and knowledgeable salespeople, the comfort of shopping in such a mall, the fact that I had the money to pay, the bank that helped me with a credit card, the clients that paid me so I had money to pay, education that allows me this, teachers who taught me, parents who gave me life and an education, incoming leads for business....on and on.

One look at the large crowd before me and I could suddenly see that the customers were all working hard and spending their money in the shopping mall, paying taxes, so we could all have the infrastructure, the power company, the road company, the clothes manufacturers, the building contractors, the lighting manufacturers - so the overall business environment looks up and there is more to buy and sell and the salespeople get more money as salaries...and on and on again.

It's incredible to see how so many are connected with me directly and indirectly and make my life so comfortable. When I feel the connectedness to people, ideas, energy that goes in to support me, known and unknown. I cannot but a wee bit of the phrase 'my heart is filled with gratitude'. When I feel how everything is connected I can see how significant I am and at the same time I can see how insignificant I am. Everything now is a gift, a miracle. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Body - Movie Review

A guard of a morgue sees something scary and runs away. He runs into a car and dies. When police come they find that a body is missing in the morgue and it is the body of a very successful businesswoman. The body went missing before its autopsy. The grieving husband is called to identify the body and finds that there are notes and clues left for him - enough for him to know that his wife is probably not dead. And that she knows that he is having an affair. And that he killed her because of the other woman in his life.

Now, without the body they can prove nothing though the police believe that the husband killed his wife. Now add a highly strung police officer who is recovering from the death of his wife in an accident and we have a recipe for a crazy ride. The husband killed the wife but she seems to have known enough not to die and perhaps even set him up for her murder. Who is the killer? Who is the victim? Absolute cliff hanging stuff until a breathtaking end.

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe - Simon Sinek

Another wonderful talk by Simon Sinek






Friday, September 15, 2017

This Way Is Easier Dad - Mumbai Launch

Please come. 'This Way Is Easier Dad' Mumbai Launch.

Date : 21st September, 2017
Time 6 pm
Venue: Crossword Book Store, Kemp's Corner, Mumbai


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz - Movie Review

A hit man in UP who loves his Kishore Kumar (Nawazuddin) and kills for a mere 20k finds a fan of his who is also a rival - the young man is getting contract jobs as well at lower price. Both share a love hate, guru shishya relationship as they discuss pricing, ethics and girlfriends. Both are also being played by the local politicians who use them to bump people off.

Crux of the matter is Babu is in love - true love. Bankey (his chela) seems to have impressed his love though when he visits them. While killing off their targets, Bankey also shoots Babu saying he got a contract for his head also. Babu returns after seven years in coma and kills everyone off only to find that Bankey and his true love have set up a love nest. He kills them both and makes away with his son - who then shoots Babu in the end.

Different kind of a movie. Different kind of people. All of them die except the love child but going by his ways, he will not last too long too.

My Column in Sunday HANS - How Negative Thinking Can Save the World

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How One Honest and Efficient Officer Can Turn Around a Government Organisation

This is the story of how one person changed the fortunes of an inefficient and corrupt government department - The Civil Supplies Corporation. Given charge of being Commissioner Civil Supplies Department of Telangana, after  a fine performance as Commissioner Cyberabad, C.V. Anand, IPS, got a post normally given to IAS officers. But the government was keen and felt he was the right person to do the job. After a short span of an year, he won the Award for Excellence from the government having brought in several measures that saved .Rs. 1206 directly and several more indirectly
Image result for C V Anand
When he took over the CSC, the fact sheet read like this - Large outstanding of material (paddy - rice), Outstanding dues (loans and moneys owed to the corporation), loss due to leakages (transport, procurement, gunny bags), millers domination, , low employee morale, corruption (FPS shops), financial mismanagement, the cash credit was stopped by the bank, subsidy from Central Government was stopped due to excess of 25% levy (unexplained), a 3288 crore deficit due to non-sanction from the state government (due to non-persuasion by the department). The corporations P&L looked abysmal. The end consumer and the farmer suffered (how, any details). Tax payers money was going down the drain and in many cases was being used by unscrupulous elements in collusion with officials. In short, the Rs. 10000 crore corporation was a royal mess.

To handle such inefficiency and corruption at such a large scale the officer needed the support of the government and he got it amply.

1. Set the agenda and send a clear message
C.V. Anand had to send a clear message that the department meant business. He needed to get the right team on the bus (Good to Great- Jim Collins) which he did and got the wrong people off the bus and sent them to the field. He led from the front, set clear goals, roles, evolved Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs),  recognised and rewarded those who did a good job and kept the team motivated. Promotions were given, recruitments done, transfers were made transparent, long standing deputations cancelled, political interference reduced in transfers The message was clear - perform or perish and he would spare no one.

His team now in place, he needed to attack the mischief makers. Other stakeholders included Rice Millers, Kerosene Dealers, Fair Price Shop Dealers, Transporters other than the Farmers and the End Consumers.

2. Changing the currency
To understand the way the Corporation works better, he changed the basic unit from MTs to Rupees. The message - the Corporation had to be run like a company. What was previously discussed in MTs now became Rupees and that helped bring focus to the medium of exchange and even the way performance could be measured..A column "in Rs. Crore' was added to every single report to see the financial implication of every decision and action.

3. Dealing with the Rice Millers
He sent a clear message to the Millers (o/s of 651 cr) - who get advances worth crores of rupees from the department to process the paddy and deliver rice within two months. The average outstanding which should not exceed two months was in many cases running into years - some were taking the paddy and directly exporting them as their own and paying the corporation as and when they wished. This non-supervision and non-recovery of rice due from millers on time caused a huge loss - when he took charge it was 1.85 lakh MTs outstanding translating to Rs. 482 crore which was not being recovered.
Some millers were returning substandard rice to the government having substituted the original paddy with low quality rice.

Gunny Sacks
Gunny sacks that were given to millers with paddy were not being returned ((175 cr). It was estimated that 5 crore gunny bags were not returned which were worth about Rs. 66 crores. Transport of bags by road instead of rail bought down the cost by 6 crore.  Prices were not negotiated with millers (62 cr).

All millers were asked to pay all dues within two months and any one who defaulted was blacklisted. Four repeat offenders were arrested under preventive detention. Gunny bags sent to millers were recovered which earlier were recovered. Clear standard operating procedures were given to be followed to stop leakage and loss. This included measures like checking the electricity meter for average consumption, giving color coded bags for packaging etc. Also allotment of paddy etc was done on the basis of capacity and not on some whims and fancies.

4. Use of Technology to Monitor and Enforce
The department and the millers in place, it was time to monitor intelligence to help enforcement through use of technology. The department got GPS systems installed on the 1383 trucks with a geo fencing feature where any deviation in route (total route length 18000 kms) is alerted by sms to the top officials - Commissioner, Collector and CSO. CCTVs were put in place at mandal level centres, godowns to ensure no pilferage is done. To watch all this in real time, a command and control room with an 18 and 8 feet screen was set up which monitors transportation, CCTVs live. A team watched the operations 24/7. Thus technology was used to increase surveillance, obtain first hand and real time information on where the material was and in what shape. An Online Payment Management System (OPMS) was used to pay Rs. 8100 crores to 11 lakh farmers at one go.

5. Use of Technology to Bind Team and Motivate and Appreciate
To enforce the agenda strictly, the entire team of Officers in districts were bought together on real time through 15 Whatsapp groups. Officials used this app to report status on ground. All good work done by the CSOs was recognised and appreciated by name instantly by the Commissioner (Ken Blanchard - One Minute Manager, Whale Done). Awards were given and certificates and promotions recommended (Ken Blanchard - Gung Ho). This simple but little-used technique increased the morale of the officers on the field. Needless to say, it is a practice that consumes much time and speaks of how devoted the officer was and how he invested time in the people and backed them fully. The Millers were taken into confidence and were asked ways to cut down leakage and pilferage.

6. Outsourced Teams to Help in IT, Enforcement, Technology, Finance
To bolster the efforts of his team, an IT team, an accounts team, an enforcement team and a technology team (quality) on an outsourced basis. The outsourced teams, some comprising of retired officers and others who were qualified,  were given clear instructions to conduct raids, check and report malpractices and give no leeway for offenders. Enforcement officers in outsourced teams were handpicked after personal interviews.

7. Financial Management and New Online Payment System
The department had not claimed dues, had not recovered material and on top of it, had paid an interest of Rs. 2100 crores. No proper audit had been done since 2011. This was addressed by the finance team. The accounts were audited after many years. Outstanding loans of Rs. 3500 crore were paid out of an amount of Rs. 6000 crores. An online payment system was developed which was used to deposit a sum of Rs. 8100 crores directly into the bank accounts of 11 lakh farmers.

8. FPS Shops and EPoS Machines
EPoS machines were installed in 1400 FPS shops on a pilot basis which reduced loss by 140 crore. Now machines are being installed in 7000 FPS shops. This will reduce any mischief at the FSP shops. Also, FPS shops never showed any closing balance. They have now been asked to show a closing balance of 15%. Quality of rice is being ensured and to prevent any mischief, the colour of the sacks containing rice for hostels and schools had been changed.

9. Launch of T Ration App
On September 8, 2017 the Department launched the T Ration app which is a boon for the beneficiaries of the ration cards or the PDS system. One can download the app on their smart phone and can access details of ration shops, stocks, live activity, quotas, commodities availability, status of applications, loading and unloading details. Consumers can approach any ration shop. All shops were geo-tagged and CCTVs installed in godowns. It cannot get more transparent than that. The T Ration App also has 13 apps for the officers to access and discharge their duties from anywhere - stock, live sales, receipt, seeding status etc can be accessed at the touch of a button. What was a nebulous business earlier has now become a transparent process which benefits both the corporation, the consumers and the dealers.

Savings and Recoveries After the Above Measures
The savings and recoveries in just one year of operations are estimated as follows - recovery of Custom Milled Rice dues (Rs. 715 cr), Gunny bag dues (Rs. 175 cr), Savings through negotiation with millers (Rs. 62 cr), Savings through transportation (Rs. 71 crore), Recovery of long pending dues from GoI Rs. 1946 cr), EPOS savings (Rs.260 cr), Savings through other measures (Rs. 270 cr). Of a total savings/recoveries estimated of Rs. 4208 cr, the department has in one yer saved Rs. 1270 cr. The balance Rs. 2938 crore is likely to be recovered/saved soon.

The direct beneficiaries are clearly the end consumers - people who buy in FPS shops, the hostel and school meals and the farmers from whom the paddy was being procured. They were getting delayed, sub-standard material and artificial shortfalls were created which benefited the millers, transporters, officials, godowns, FPS owners who made merry at the tax payers expense. Now with the system in place and losses brought down by 1200 crores in one year, the Civil Supplies Department is on the way to a full recovery.

Systems In Place, Hard Work Done - Benefits of a Level 5 Leader
The biggest takeaway from this massive exercise is a great lesson in leadership and how it can cause such a huge impact in one year. To convert an complex Corporation like the CSC into a transparent one through use of technology and other monitoring measures is no joke. In fact it is exactly what Jim Collins talks about in his book 'Good to Great' (a book I recommended and he immediately ordered it). The first prerequisite to transform a corporation from good to great is ) Level 5 leadership 2) getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off 3) confronting brutal facts while being clear of the final vision 4) a culture of discipline 5) clarity of the hedgehog concept and 6)technology accelerators. Almost all in place or in process and it is only one year into operation but the results are more than 10x. Fantastic.

It is no secret that the reforms will work for a while to come. The hard work has been done and needs to be sustained. Many of the reforms in IT, Enforcement, Finance and Technology can be taken forward (or can be withdrawn) based on the vision or the whims and fancies of the next official.

But what is heartening is to know that so much can be done with one person who wants to do good and who is driven by a purpose. CV's belief has always been this - "Government is a Trust, and the officers of the government are trustees. And both the trust and trustees are created for the benefit of the people.' CV clearly is a Level 5 leader - the kind who can transform organisations from Good to Great.

How one Level 5 leader can change the efficiency of an organisation, that too a government organisation, is a case study for all to look at - private sector or government. In fact two leaders of large private corporations that I met recently and shared this story with asked if they could meet him and find out how he did it - I guess he should make a presentation on how he did it and release it as a case to study and follow.

His man management techniques are brilliant - lead from the front, use the window and mirror approach i.e. give credit to team and take all blame (Jim Collins), using appreciation and positive strokes instantly (Ken Blanchard), driven by purpose i.e. the cause (Simon Sinek) are all in place. If Google's 'way to build a perfect team' is considered - the impact they made, the meaning they have in the employees life, the structure (goal and role clarity), dependability and psychological safety are areas that need to be examined. An atmosphere of fairness and justice has been established and the team trusts him now as someone who will watch their back. His reputation precedes him and for him that bodes well.

'We can do wonders if we do an honest job,' he says. The evidence is clear as day light. Then we wonder - what are all the others doing. CV also gives full credit for the backing he got from the government and the CM in implementing the changes and measures that he did. If the Government wants to, it certainly can, because there are enough officers like CV who can do a wonderful job. CV has always made a difference to whatever job he has been entrusted - mounted police at the Tank Bund, drunken driving and traffic enforcement, Cyberabad and the snake gang and now this. His room is full of awards and pictures with the President Dr. Abdul Kalam and others. Well done CV and hoping you will be entrusted with more such challenging assignments that will help society.  And I hope you will inspire more and more people in all walks of life to make a difference as you did and continue to do.

Selected Stories - Nikolay Gogol

The book contains stories such as 'Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and his Aunt', 'How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled With Ivan Nikiforovich', 'Nevsky Prospekt', 'The Nose', 'The Overcoat', 'Diary of a Madman', 'The Carriage' and 'The Government Inspector'. Gogol is one of a kind and his characters are too, unique but universal.
Penguin. 330 p, Rs. 299

In the first story Ivan Fyodorovich returns after serving in the army for many years to his estate that was being looked after by his single aunt (and quite profitably too) and how he meets his neighbour and seems to like his neighbour's daughter. The aunt seems to want him to marry. In the second, two great friends and neighbours quarrel needlessly over a rifle and spend many years fighting the case in court and hoping that each will win the case - until they die. In Nevsky Prospekt we relive the experience of this famous street in St. Petersburg and a man's romance. The Nose is simply about a nose that appears one day in some one's bread and well the owner's search for his nose and his frustration in proving that the nose is his own. Incredible writing. In 'The Overcoat' the poor clerk finally gets a new overcoat but it is stolen from him tragically. In 'The Diary of a Madman' we have another young clerk who secretly desires a young girl who he knows is in a class above him and who slowly starts imagine he is the King of Spain - a suitable match for his dream girl. But his behavior as King of Spain causes him to lose his job and entry into the mad house. Not a false step there. In 'The Carriage' comes the young businessman who goes beyond what his brief is and tries to sell a carriage to the army officer and finds himself in a spot - in his very carriage.

The play 'The Government Inspector' is brilliant. It's about this corrupt government in a  small town and how there is a news that a government inspector was coming to inspect. As luck would have it a good for nothing young man is staying in a  hotel in town and the mayor and other top officials mistake him for the inspector and how his life suddenly changes from being broke to being plied with everything including money, food and women.

The stories cling to you briefly and lightly and many times you need to go back to find out what happened. Nothing really happens but a lot happens. Like life. That's' where his brilliance lies.

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande explores life and death - or more precisely death from the eye of the living and the about-to-die. He looks at life from the eyes of the old and dying - the sudden oncoming of illness one fine day, the distance from people, the lack of support and care, the feeling of helplessness. He discusses roles of hospitals, doctors, nurses, caregivers and the patients. He comes to the conclusion which to me also defines what marks a thoughtful person - someone who gently helps make a decision for the other person - not seemingly the right one all the time, because the person may not be capable of handling the right choice, but the choice that is best, given the circumstances. In this case it is the decision regarding how and when you may want to die and what is important to you and what is not. Can the doctor help you decide on it yourself to some extent when you still can?
Penguin, 263 p, Rs. 399
There are so many stories and examples - of the fiercely independent Alice who suddenly had to go through many indignities of the illness because no one cared to ask and her life (and death) was taken out of her control. The case of Lou who was well taken case of by his daughter Shelley (Atul says that one is better off having s single daughter because daughters seem to go to great lengths to take care of their parents). Shelley does a great job and Lou's life after his debilitating illness recovers some. Young mother diagnosed with a terminal illness and then his own father, a doctor, with a cancer growing in his spine. Each story heads to a grim end but what Atul is worried about is the period between knowing your life is now finite and choices are now limited and how do we cope best. One example that stands out is the case of Harry Truman, the old man who refused to leave his house in the wake of a volcano about to erupt and who chooses to die with his dogs and in his house - a case where he chose and got an end he wanted.

Atul Gawande discusses nursing care, hospices, assisted living spaces, old age, medical expenses and quality of care. The extraordinary experiment of Bill Thomas who decided to add life into the lives of terminal patients for whom life was fast going out. So he added 'life' in the form of dogs, cats, birds, plants and even children visits and gave them all exposure to life and even a purpose to live. Certainly a fine experiment. Somewhere he says - we seek a cause beyond ourselves. Words Viktor Frankyl would agree with.

The three plagues we deal with in old age are - Boredom, Loneliness and Helplessness. How can we help the old and the inform to counter these productively. A little creativity and more importantly, caring and thoughtfulness.

Atul stresses on the need to have the hard conversations. To state the brutal facts and not sell illusions. That way they can make clear choices and plan their limited time better. I was guilty of not telling my mother the extent of her illness and perhaps her last years were not as fruitful as they could have been. Now I advise anyone who has a parent who is diagnosed with terminal illnesses to give them the facts - it helps them deal with it better because they at least know all the facts. Among other things Atul advocates is to figure out what their goals are - if you lose these faculties what do you want, what would you like to do if this happens etc.

Questions typically asked were like
Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops?
Do you want intubation/ ventilation?
Do you want antibiotics?
Do you want tube or intravenous feeding if you can't eat on your own?

Also to look at the trade offs. This operation is doing this to you and this is possible but what do you want? Like someone wanted to be able to watch football and eat ice cream and if that surgery enables that, he was willing to take that risk. Else not. So the doctors worked around that and took their calls accordingly.

'I am worried for you' says Atul to a patient who seems to have fully recovered and is now planning a vacation but whose reports now show that the cancer has come back. He says the words must be chosen with great care. All options presented and course of action taken then. He cites types of ways in which doctors deal with patients - paternalistic information (take it, its good for you) and shared decision making where the doctor helps a clueless and distressed patient make decisions that are most important to him.

It is a book that makes one think about old age and the decisions that one needs to make now in those years when one is losing their faculties. Old people hate losing control over their lives, anyone would I guess. So living away from home in a place that does not seem like home (regimented) makes them die before they die. But they need help because most of them start falling and hurting themselves, cannot drive or perform basic functions by themselves. The assisted living parts really took care of their needs while giving them the independence and comfort of their own spaces.

There is some talk of money and financial planning but then nothing can buy full comfort because the illnesses he describes leave no chance for recovery. A bit of love and care from some - like the Tolstoy story where the servant Gerasim takes care of his dying master with great love, seems to help a lot. Another tidbit I remember, the care of feet when one is sick. And old. Or perhaps even the young.

Wonderful writing on a morbid topic and in a way that sensitizes us to the process. This is my second in recent times after Paul Kalanithi's 'When Breath Becomes Air' dealing with mortality and our choices or lack of them. What stands out is the lack of hope, the anger, the resentment and even the violence of surgeries and procedures. Could we be gentler with our words, our bodies, our attitudes? Could we bring that into the doctor-patient relationship, or even the hospital-patient relationship? Would that then be, like Gerasim's care, an automatic balm, much better than the palliative care and the many invasive methods allopathy offers? Could we let people exit gracefully (like my friend Hari says) and completely?


Anjali - Teacher's Day

There is a deep wonder that takes over me when I see an act of thoughtfulness. So I was taken aback to see Anjali take a lot of trouble to make a card for her teacher on Teacher's Day.  I don't remember ever making anything like this in my school days nor even thinking of such things. I don't get such thoughts even now.

There is a lot of care and thought that goes into many things that she does. When we are sick she instinctively seems to know what to do, which is a hug and a quick 'I am there for you' or 'I love you'. A gentle touch, a deep caring that comes with it, makes us feel better already. Cards are made aplenty, including stuff like this - Just like that.

Birthdays are celebrated with great care and thought - secret cards, plans for cakes, little gifts and small surprises. The same for friends, for her cousins, teachers - I am so glad she has this side to her just as I am glad that she can categorically say No to those she does not wish to engage with.

Much of the credit to her shaping goes to her teachers and I am glad she  acknowledges it far more openly than we do. Good for you Anjali. 

Walk at Taljai

On Sunday morning Parth, ever the adventurer, decided we would walk at Taljai which is behind the Parvati hill. It is a forest area and has several walks that lead in and out and can confuse the first timer. We walked for the good part of an hour.
Neha and I

Then a breather.
Maria, Parth and I
And then I faded into insignificance as I strolled way behind the rest.
Taljai looming over a tiny insignificant me

The Pune International Literary Festival - Fine Experience

Attended the 5th edition of the Pune International Literary Festival held at Yashada, Pune form the 8th-10th of September. I was originally to be on a cricket writing panel with the highly energetic and enthusiastic Sfurthi Sahare (Think and Win like Dhoni) on a panel called 'Cricket on My Mind' (moderated by Dipankar Mukherjee). but was then roped into a Jaico authors panel on 'Fact or Fiction' moderated by Vasudev Murthy and comprising of the incomparable Shatrujeet Nath, a very gracious and charming Ankita Verma Dutta and the debonair and intense young director of the popular TV series 'Inside Edge' Karan Anshuman. Both went well.
Fact or Fiction - Me, Ankita (hidden), Vasudev Murthy, Shatrujeet Nath and Karan Anshuman
Day 1 began with the inauguration by Chief Guest Ustad Amjad Ali Khan followed by a sharing of their stories by Javed Akhthar and Shabana Azmi (full house so missed both). Then the programs started at four different venues - the main auditorium, two session halls and an open Book Nook. I attended Keerti's session with Rakshanda Jalil on the writings of Ishmat Chightai and loved it. Keeri really loves and knows her craft and it comes across so clearly.

Day 2 began with another session on the fine art of translation by Daniel Hahn, Keerti Ramachandra and Rakshanda Jalil which was moderated by Prashasti Rastogi and once again it was a fine session with deep insights into the world of translation. There was a session by Sagarika Ghose on her book 'Indira; India's Most Powerful Prime Minister' which I missed. Dr. Mohan Agashe was in several sessions and actress Divya Dutta was in conversation regarding her new book 'Me and Ma'. I wanted to see the stand up comedy by Rachan Singh the humour writer but then Yogesh came and took me for a lovely lunch at the PYC Gymkhana.

Post Lunch Vasu (Vasudev Murthy), a very interesting person and our moderator for the panel discussion on 'Fcat or Fiction' launched his book 'Sherlock in Timbuctu'. A high profile session with Sagarika Ghose, Anu Aga and Nemichandra on 'I am what I am' on women empowerment followed by our session on 'Fact or Fiction'. We discussed whether there is a method to writing fiction, how mush research is involved, the process of getting published and I spoke about the genre of cricket fiction. Couple of questions about how possessive we are about our works when they get made into movies. It was interesting to hear the views of Vasudev, Shatrujeet, Ankita and Karan on the subject. It was well received and Shatrujeet made it very lively with his sense of comic timing and high energy as also some fine moderating by Vasu. Our session was followed by a panel on 'Vpoice of Women in Movies' which had Pooja Bhatt, Divya Dutta, Kirti Kulhar (of Pink fame) and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari (of Neel Battee Sannata and Bareilly to Barfi fame). I was keen to listen to Ashwini and she spoke much sense in the time she got because the entire session was hijacked by Pooja Bhatt (who was entertaining and loud mostly) and the rather boring monologue by Kirti. Badly moderated or rather no moderation. We quickly joined a small audience who gathered to hear a talk 'Writers under threat' moderated by Jayant Kripalani with Manjula and Sreemoyee.
Cricket on My Mind - Me, Dipankar Mukherjee and Sfurthi Sahare
On Day 3 I skipped most morning sessions and joined after lunch to see Keerti in conversation with Daniel Hahn again on translation and it was once again a fine session. It should have been for an hour.  There was a Kavi Sammelan and then my session with Sfurthi Sahare on 'Cricket on My Mind'. Since there was Ekta Kapoor on another panel at the same time and another high profile panel that included Sachin Khedekar, Kinjal Goyal, Dr. Mohan Agashe and Deeksha Kalyani on "No Kidding" we did not anticipate much crowd. But the session was well moderated by Dipankar Mukherjee and Sfurthi bowled everyone over with her confidence and her energy and passion. She told the story of how she was impressed by MSD's mindset and then travelled to meet Sourav Ganguly and then MSD himself and many of his pals and family before writing her book on 'Think and Win like Dhoni'. SI shared the process of writing cricket fiction and cricket non-fiction, the challenges and the aspects of leadership, team building etc as I saw them. The festival wound up with a session on the Hit Girls with Asha Parekh that was moderated by Khalid Mohamed.

I met several new writers and people on this journey. Sfurthi, Vasu, Shatrujeet, Ankita, Karan, Dipankar, Mina Rao, Sudha, Amrutha, Neeti, Varsha, Siddarth, Roswitha, Kulpreet, Koral, Daniel, Rakshanda Jalil, Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, Manjula and I am surely missing a couple. Path, Maria, Raja, Milind and Medha came to support me and to participate. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and so did everyone else. It was fun hanging out with the Jaico team - Sonal, Reena, Akash and the rest.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Digital Nirvana - The Cricketing Way of Sustaining Excellence

A talk for four hours, on how to motivate teams and individuals through tough teams, using cricket analogies.

Why me - My experience with winning teams
I was part of winning teams when I played - at various levels, a little more than what normally is experienced. We won every level - Under 15, Under 19, Under 22, Under 25, Buchi Babu, Subbaiah Pillai, Ranji Trophy, Inter varsities, Vizzy Trophy. So I understood some dynamics.

Losing teams characteristics

But before winning, I was very familiar with losing. I understood what was called bad dressing room atmosphere. I asked the participants to name some characteristics - insecure spaces, everyone for himself, no trust, no inspiration, low morale. We lose and sometimes we win, by chance. Or because the other team played worse.

Change - A Product of Losing Over and Over
After losing for a long time, one gets sick of losing. Change happens in two phases - one at individual level, and another at team level.

Personal leadership - I Will Do It
Until then I looked at others to help me win. Then I decided one day to put an end to this. I will make a change personally, even if the whole team did not cooperate. I owned my space, decided and created a victory on my own. I thought it, planned it and executed it. I expanded my role and did the unthinkable. As a Number 10 batsman who had not even scored a 50 till then, I went and scored 158 in a big run chase as an opener and won the game. I decided first, then found a way to achieve in an error free manner. I did it. We won. I knew I had created this moment. By design. I felt I could do anything.

For more lasting and larger change – need a bigger purpose than personal individual glory.


The Team - We Will Do It
Having got used to winning I began to set my sights higher. Now I did not just want to win a match but a whole tournament. Which means I definitely need the whole team with me. I cannot do it alone. So when we went to play Inter-varsity cricket for Osmania University we first shared the vision for the team. We asked for help and sought the team's cooperation. Together we decided to go for it. We could not do it without their help. There were serious team meetings, everyone contributed. Now that the team was bigger than me, I even offered to bowl second. We won game after game, celebrated and then put our heads down until we won the final. Not surprisingly I was the top wicket taker for the tournament, but that was hardly an issue. All that mattered was that the team won. I had promised my captain that I would help win and we did it.

We watched a lovely video of Arnold Schwarzenegger telling us that the self-made man is a myth.

Higher purpose - Bigger and Outside of Us
Why did we win? What made me sacrifice my ego and my survival instinct? What made me run every single run like my life depended on it? It was simply because the purpose was clear - that the team comes first. And our glory lies in the team's win.

Impact of Putting Team First On Personal Performance
Funnily, when I played for the team and not for myself my performances were the best. My best performances in tournaments – league championship (45 wickets), Inter varsity (14 wickets), Vizzy Trophy (12 wickets), OUCE (169 and 5 wickets). Because the team was first I could go through pain, injury, used myself best. The purpose, the bigger purpose outside of ourselves is the best motivation ever.

The magic formula for motivation is just that – the why is so important – the team is greater than us. The team is here to win and we will do all we can to make it win.

We watched the TED Talk - Start with why – Simon Sinek

Exercise
We did a short exercise as we tried to find the why. Eight teams worked together to come with a statement that explained the why.

Bringing About Change in Teams
We looked at the How - Process and Culture (values). In cricket I explained how we set ourselves a goal of winning the championship for the league championship one year. Then we picked the right people and dropped the wrong ones. Only the best team played. We developed a team culture - time to report, practice sessions, team meetings. The team was bigger than anything else - no reputation, no seniority, no pity. We invested in team rituals, we were fair and just with no compromises. We won. MCC - Winners 1994.

Some learnings About Leading
Apart from the How i.e. the 10x process (decided the end first and then work towards it) and the importance of team culture, we discussed a few things about captaincy. How a captain was best if he was a secure person - he need not know everything. He needs to know what he knows and accept that he does not know what he does not. When he expresses his vulnerability, the team steps in to help. He is interested in getting the best out of his team, so he invests in them, makes them feel secure and allows them to express themselves. He holds the space - does not control them nor does he let them loose without caring about them. He steps back, allows them to find their way, does not control, tells them what they need to achieve and not how, allows them to express themselves, listens, lets them feel in control, like they own their space. He builds a culture of pride.

We briefly discussed different captaincy styles - Sachin, Rahul Dravid, MSD. We discussed leaders who inspire.

Secure and Inspirational Leadership
I shared my thoughts on Personal leadership, Secure leadership and Inspirational leadership.

Briefly discussed the Level 5 leaders of Jim Collins - approachable, vulnerable, asked questions, listened, loved their team members, invested in team, grew them, brought out their best. Level 5 leaders were known for their fierce determination to make the team succeed and for their incredible humility.. We discussed the window and the mirror approach that they were known for.

The Google Study on Perfect Teams and Psychological Safety

Briefly we discussed the Google study on Perfect teams - and the five factors - Impact, Meaning, Structure, Dependability and Psychological Safety. To aspire for a space of psychological safety one must build an atmosphere of trust.

Amy Edmundson’s TEDx talk on Psychological safety

No one has explained TRUST better than Brene Brown in her talk - Anatomy of Trust
So we watched it.

Motivating Your Team – How will you do it? How will you make them want to do it?
Bring them together with a common purpose, a higher purpose outside of us, hold the space, challenge them, make them feel like they did it, let them do it but watch over them, come together, Like a FIST.

Recap and End
We did a quick recap and I realised that I had not planned as well as I should have - I had material for another two hours and I was just past the 4 hour mark.


·         

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Jasper Industries - The 10x Workshop and the Winning Mindset

A day long program on 'The Winning Mindset and Achieving 10x Performances' was conducted on September 2, 2016. About 20 of the top management of Jasper Industries attended the program with Sumanth and Srikar. We did the program at MLJaisimha Academy, keeping it cricket-based instead of classroom based. Everyone landed up in their track suits.
Off we go!
The brief was to understand the winning mindset and achieve 10x performances individually and as a team.

We started with a small sharing of everyone's personal favorites - movies, books, meals, people, heroes etc. One of the ideas was to break the ice between the participants and bring some element of vulnerability and trust.
Game 1
Facing Brutal Facts
The teams looked at the brutal facts they were facing as a company - current situation and the challenges that were threatening the company on a day-to-day basis. We listed them.

Cricket Game - Revised targets 
We played a  short cricket game with tweaked rules where the second team was given a doubled target (like DL) and asked to chase it. We discussed the possibility that such things happen in life - circumstances in life are not always fair and we must be prepared for a 10x challenge sometimes.
Ball game - 10x is possible

Then we wondered if we could overcome such challenges where we need to come up with 10x performances. We decided it was possible We saw videos of such performances and analysed them.

Simon Sinek - Start with why
Then we looked at how to make such efforts sustain. The Why. So we looked at Simon Sinek's 'Start with why' (unfortunately it did not play so I had to give the gist of the golden circle"). The teams tried to find a why - a cause, a purpose, a belief - that drives their effort. Something bigger than them, something outside of them.
Sumanth and I in conversation
How
Now that the why was attempted, we looked at the how 10x can be achieved. 10x Process and the way we played - i.e the 10x Values.

10x Process - The 10x Ball Game
To understand the 10x process we played a ball game where we proved that with creativity and team work we could achieve the impossible - 10x. We cannot do it by doing the same thing - we needed to think out of the box. Another important factor is that here the target was preset - we first set the target and then found ways to achieve it. It was important to try all perspectives, to not give up and to work like a team.
How can we crack 10x? They did not give up
10x Values - Practicing the IDOL
The 10x process works for individuals and team. Similarly we also looked at one more how - the culture of the company. Jasper already had a strong values - but were they being practiced. The IDOL - Integrity, Dedicated team work, Ownership and Loyalty to customers - pretty much encompassed every thing. We looked at where we fell short and decided that the gaps would be addressed. The culture has to be non-negotiable. If the seniors flouted it a bit - the people reporting to them will do it much more.

If the core values are practiced with the spirit intact, the leakage will reduce by 50%.
Sumanth addressing his troops
Cricket Game - 10x Rules
We played the second game of cricket and with similar rules as the first.

The What - The 10x Results 
Then we looked at the what. What does Jasper want to achieve as a team. The groups sat and made team targets. Sales, Incentives and Customer rating. Then each individual committed to the team pie by adding their commitment. They committed individually and asked the rest of the team for specific help to achieve the targets.
Game 2
The Jasper Story - Visualising and Creating Happy Endings
In the end we wrote a story - the Jasper story. the beginning in 1965. The growth. The problem and the slow down. Then we looked at the ending and decided to create a happy ending. Having written the ending down first (as in the 10x exercise), we found the ways to get there.

How each of the team members would get affected by the end result was discussed and shared.
Happy endings
A group picture and we ended the day. It was a good exercise that captured a lot of data and intention. However like all exercises it must be sustained through regular and frequent inputs, however small. It depends a lot on how the seniors drive it.

Thanks Jasper, MLJaisimha Academy, Sagar, Abhinay, Ann and the staff.

Gauri Lankesh - Death of A Voice

If one has a clear, loud and unapologetic voice should it be silenced? Who cannot listen to that voice and why? Why should a voice be silenced?

More importantly, who supports this silencing of this voice by their silence?

In the case of Gauri Lankesh, and others before her, voices are being silenced. Because their voices were loud and fearless. And one such voice silenced, will automatically shut many more voices.

Or so they think.

See what we can do, say the nameless supporters. We can cut voices so easily. What can you do?

Not many will stand up then. Not many will have the courage that Gauri and her breed had. To stand up for what they believed in.

That said, stranger things have happened. Sometimes all one needs is something like this.

Sometimes, one mistake too many, could just end a dream. One silence too many may speak louder than a voice.

The errors of omission are more dangerous than the errors of commission - especially if one is in a position to act.

For more voices then, even a murmur, but a voice. Enough to be heard. Go on, murmur, but don't be quiet. It's better than the silence of the helpless.

Bareilly ki Barfi - Movie Review

It's based on a novel. Tomboy (girl - Kirti) in Bareilly is not getting married - because she is a tomboy. So she decides to escape the small town. But she finds a book on the railway station 'Bareilly ki Barfi' and finds that the heroine of the book is exactly like her (smokes, watches English films, does break dance). So she returns to find the writer. The writer is a printer (Ayushman) who wrote that book in memory of his ex-girl friend who has since married someone else and moved on.

Of course he does not want to tell the world that he wrote the book because then his ex would be exposed. her that he is the author so he makes a fall guy friend (Raj Kumar) of his the author - with his permission of course. (Hasn't he heard of a pen name?)

Girl starts writing letters to the author and gives them to the printer who in turn writes letters back to her and gives them as letters written by the author. Now girl wants to meet author because the letters have really got the heat going. Printer decides to have her meet the author. The key is that the non-author must behave in  a fashion that puts off the girl. The non-author is a very docile character whom they transform into some bhai type of a guy.

Bhai expectedly wins her heart - instead of putting her off. Also scares the printer away. On marriage day all is revealed. Don't let me give away the suspense.

Nice in that small town sense. But the characters did not make much sense to me. Rather inconsistent. And no big guiding emotion that led the film. But that said, I like these kind of movies. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Interview by Rushati Mukherjee - One of the Few I Really Liked

Young Rushati Mukherjee is a writer-blogger-poet-student at Jadavpur University. She came to attend the book launch at Kolkata in July and did an interview of mine. I read her blog - she writes so well. Even the interview - very well done. Thanks Rushati.

https://spiktinot.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/interview-blogger-author-harimohan-paruvu/

Normally with most interviews you feel like changing something after it gets published - you haven't expressed the idea properly or the other person has not. Here all goes well and like they say 'it all fits perfectly'. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thought for the Day - The Art of Gratitude and How it Unfolds

While doing a month-long gratitude program that Shobha has started, I had the following realisation. That if we look deep enough we have the entire universe to thank for its efforts to sustain us. In fact this is the closest I felt to the concept of being one because everything seemed interconnected completely.

If I look at the screen of he computer now I can see the people I am grateful to - the makers of the screen, the thought that went into it, the actual making, the ones who sold it, the ones who distributed it, the ones who helped me buy it (Sagar or Vasu), the ones who helped me finance it (Shobhs or some timely clients), the comfort it gives and helps me to write, to see what I wrote, and by extension I see the key board, the computer itself and I remember the people who keep it going (the repair men), the CPU, the storage which allows me to do some many things, movies, music, all other stuff I have and use, the table, the chair, the power company, the many people who work for the power company to supply me the same, the lights at home, the glasses of mine, doctors, opticians, money to buy all this, vision, health, those who sustain my health, doctors, life itself, parents who have gifted me this life, money in my pocket, home I live in, comfort I experience, support I have....the chair I sit in, the time I have, the choice I have, the leisure I have...its immense. More than anything, I found that its endless, this story, that nothing I experience comes by itself, and is sustained by so many people now and in the past. How can I even think I can survive this life by myself, that I am separate.

Nothing is separate. Every moment I am alive I am sustained by a million things, people. It's an endless ocean - and I wonder how ungrateful I have been by not recognising this. All I can say now is - thank you, thank you, thank you.  

Where is The Friend's Home - Movie Review

1987. Abbas Kiorastami. A village school has some discipline issues. Boys come late or do not do homework in their notebook. The teacher asks them to do their homework in their notebook or they will be punished - if they continue making the same mistake they will get expelled. One boy is given a final warning.

That evening the boy's close friend Ahmed realises that he has taken that boy's book home by mistake. He also realises that his friend could get expelled if the notebook is not returned to him. So the ten year old sets off without telling his parents to the next village to return the book. The young boy has no idea where his friend lives and has nothing to ask for except his name. No one helps him and in the end he finds an old man - perhaps the only person who listens to him properly - and tries to help him. However despite all efforts, the boy does not find his friend and returns home after a heroic effort.

The next day the boy who has misplaced his book realises he does not have his book. All other boys have come to school except for Ahmed who may be tired after his exertions while he tried to return the book. The teacher starts checking the homework and once again threatens to expel anyone who makes the same mistaken more than three times. Just as he reaches the boy who has lost his book, the young hero comes, a little late. He slips the note book to the owner and tells him he has done his homework as well. The teacher checks the notebooks and finds a dried flower - gifted by the old man.

Heroes are made of such stuff. Irani movies are brilliant in the use of metaphors.   

Point Blank - Movie review

Man is wounded and is being chased by two people intent on killing him. But before he can get killed by these two, he is hit by a motorbike and taken to a hospital. He survives. Another attempt is made on his life and he is saved by an alert nursing aide. Before the aide can tell the story of his heroics story to his pregnant wife at home, he is attacked and the wife kidnapped. The ransom - deliver the injured man.

Meanwhile the police find out that the injured man is a criminal, a safe breaker. Even as they zero in on him there is news that the murder of a prominent man in the city is perhaps linked to this injured criminal. Now, both the injured criminal and the nursing aide become fugitives as they escape the cops. The action is relentless as they try to find the one piece of evidence that can save them and expose the truth. Can they save themselves again cops who are not willing to listen to their story?

Edge of the seat stuff. So much happening that you miss some angles but that's ok. It's worth the exhilaration.

Tell No One - Movie Review

A doctor-social worker couple is at a lake enjoying a midnight swim when the lady is attacked and abducted. The doctor is also attacked and thrown back into the lake but miraculously survives and ends up in the hospital. The wife's body is found and identified and buried.

8 years later the doctor gets a hint that perhaps she may not be dead. And thus begins his search to uncover why his childhood love has gone missing for 8 years. Also the connection between her disappearance and the death of the son of a powerful man in the city. Superb chases, action sequences and twists and turns and we find there is more to the story than meets the eye. And there are heroes and villains most unexpected.

I like the French movies. They go at break neck speed with little action (as in exaggerated beating up of a 100 people kinds). Normal people in extraordinary situations and how they emerge from it. Very nice indeed.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Arjun Reddy - Movie Review

Arjun Reddy is a man with his own rules. He lives life like Virat Kohli lives his cricket - full blown intensity that does not diminish ever. He has anger management issues they say but I feel he probably has very firm ideas on what is good or bad and mostly cannot understand that there are other people around who also seem to have their opinion of good and bad. He is also very organised in his mind in one way, like topping exams, and very disorganised as in not understanding simple connections which gets him into trouble most times.

The doctor to be falls in love with a new student in his medical college. He likes her, so no one else can claim her else...No one has a say in the process, including the girl. She seems quite happy to be saved from ragging thanks to the rather influential Arjun Reddy Deshmukh. Of course there is a price to pay like being kissed by him, manhandled by him (he loves her and she is his) and stuff like that. He takes her along on his bike everyday and it develops into what would naturally develop between young people. Anyway they are in a relationship in every sense of the word. Except for another equally deranged character called Amit, all else is fine.

In a rather complicated series of events, the girl gets married in the space of one day (she cannot say no to her parents), the boy gets hooked to morphine and also manages to get himself kicked out of his home. He sinks into alcohol and all kinds of stuff to escape the pain. And in the end he finds her and they get married - she is pure after all. Left her husband and is actually pregnant by Arjun who was her only one. So the family gets together.

Vijay Devarakonda is intense, good looking and complete hero material in a superstar sense, and takes the film to where it gets. His friend Dr. Shiva is an able foil as the perfect friend. Well crafted and written and made with a lot of care and love. For the effort and the honesty, Arjun Reddy worked for me. Would I see it again - no. It's too intense. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gaslight - Movie Review

A 1944 thriller about a new husband slowly leading his new wife to believe that she is going insane - all to get to the prize jewels of her aunt's which have been well hidden by the aunt. Turns out the aunt was also murdered by the same man and he was stopped before making off with the jewels by the coming of the young niece, then a child. Slow but gripping.

Ingrid Bergman is wonderful as the wife who almost believes she is going insane and won Best Actress award at the Academy Awards. Charles Boyer is brilliant as the controlling husband.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mindset and Preparation for 1st year MBAs - Workshop at School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad

We did the Growth Lab in the University of Hyderabad, School of Management Studies again this year. I was associated with it from 2010 to 2014 . This year again I was fortunate to be invited to do the workshop thanks to Prof Jyothi who firmly believes in this 2 day intervention. I believe it has immense value because it is done before the students form their mindsets, form patterns and gives them enough time to use their two years on the campus well.

The workshop typically comprises of - looking at the student as a product, setting clear goals, knowing the the process of achieving goals, preparation and sustaining the effort.
The class strength was 60.
30 of the 60 - The survivors

Questionnaire - And Results 
A questionnaire was administered on Day 1 and Day 2 seeking a 1-10 rating on clarity on a) career path b) strengths c) goals d) process e) how secure one is as a person and f) how much responsibility will one take to fulfill their expectations from the course. There were 25 completed questionnaires out of the possible 60.

The analysis revealed an improvement of - Career path clarity - 39.69%, Strengths and how to use them - 26.76 %, Goal clarity 35.34%, Process to achieve goals - 38.78%, Security as a person - 39.14% and 10% increase in responsibility to achieve their expectations.

Expectations of students from the 2 year course ranged from -
To gain more knowledge to live the right way, to learn how to manage people and resources, get a government job, learn to be a better person, to learn, gain clarity on career goals, get a good placements,  open up as a person, opportunities, self confidence, mental stability for professional life, help fulfill vision and mission, to help contribute to society, develop skills, knowledge of corporate life, management skills, improve strengths and gain clarity on path ahead, gain different perspectives and friends, explore myself, develop skills, gain clarity on professional life, all fundamental and technical knowledge to excel, how to be professional, exposure to various fields and to improve inter personal skills.  

The Program August 28 - 29, 2017 
Being secure people
We started with relieving the students of the burden of 'knowing' more than they do. We agreed it was ok to not know everything and that it was ok to say 'I don't know' when we don't know. We also agreed that we feel secure when we have nothing to hide - so an attitude of saying 'I know' to what I know and 'I don't know' to what I do not know, helps to be secure as a person. Having identified what one does not know, one can make efforts to learn and fill those gaps.

The Mindset - Fixed and Learning
We discussed the highlights of the book 'The Mindset' by Dr. Carol Dweck and called two groups of three students each to represent the two mindsets - Fixed and Growth. I gave them three scenarios where both mindsets had to face tests with increasing difficulty and how each mindset reacts. With the help of the students we built some important characteristics of both mindsets. We agreed that the learning and growth mindset was a better approach to adopt. It is the one that can make the one who is last in the class beat a topper. (Reading material given)

The Student - The Product
To build a champion product one must know what its strengths are and the value it brings. The students looked at themselves as a product and tried to find answers . It's a tough one. They looked at their strengths and their unevolved strengths or areas of improvement as one aspect (They were made to call 3 people who knew them well to give them a list of 5 strengths including one call to a parent). The formula of working 80% of really strengthening their strengths and 20% on their weak areas was stressed. First get really good at your strengths and then address the other areas. (Typically we approach it the other way)

We saw the powerful TED talk by Simon Sinek 'Start with why' and his golden circle of Why, What and How and why it makes sense to start with the purpose in mind.

The students were asked to build their profile around their 'why' or their cause, purpose, their 'how' (values, beliefs, ethics, ownership) which is ways of adding value to their 'what', and then the 'what' or their features (qualifications, strengths, history, past achievements etc) The idea is that the what pertains to the features, the how is the application of the features and the why is the guiding philosophy that holds it all together and drives it.
My interpretation of the why, how and what as applicable to the student
The students were asked to refine the idea of their product and come with a 30 word statement. Some did.

The Goals - Where the product can go
The students were asked to list 50 things they want in their life - without any limitations. The goals could be short, medium and long term, material, personal, professional, spiritual. Then we applied filters - Belief, Desire, Effort, Responsibility and Time to see which goals stand the test of these filters. Then we arranged the goals into Enabling goals (the one goal that enables the others to come true) and Aligned them so they could focus on that goal and it would lead to the others and not end up in a mess. (If you want to become a millionaire and also own a Lamborghini - it seems to make sense that if you put your effort into becoming a millionaire first, you could own a Lamborghini, whereas if you put your effort into buying a Lamborghini with no money in the pocket, it might stress you out). Then we chose two goals each in short, medium and long term.

We focused on the immediate, short term goals - what to achieve in the two years at college and what kind of a job or career we are considering after that.

We applied SMART goals (reading material given) to that and tried to get as much clarity on where we should put our efforts so our shorter term goals are achieved - in line with our longer term goals. For eg. A student who wishes to do skill training in Shillong could consider joining a company employed in skill training to know the way they go about it, even get a franchise, and then starting off. No point joining a company that deals with retailing or some other unconnected product or service just because it pays more.

A Plan
We discussed the importance of detailed planning as a way to address gaps in information, as good information leads to better decisions. We picked the first goal and wrote six steps to achieve that. For example if a student looked at securing a gold medal and a job in Google by the end of the course - she would have to write down six steps towards achieving that goal. The sub goal desired to be achieved (being best in class in 1st semester to start with), number of hours to work at to be first in class, desired help required in which subjects and milestones achieved every week to see if she is on track. Similarly for the job, to research about how one gets into Google, plan to meet any employee already working in Google, developing those skill sets or attributes required on a milestone basis etc.

End of Day 1 I asked them to work at their self-image with all the information they had with them.

Day 2
The Way to Achieve Goals
Since the way we achieve goals by design is the same process, we shared our success stories. Everyone in class shared three success stories of theirs and it was wonderful to hear of their academic excellence, the way they broke through emotional barriers and achieved excellence, team achievements, prizes and accolades, baking even. Fabulous stories and I think everyone felt nice to share. It also gave the others an opportunity to know their mates. I shared my stories too and then we figured the process on how we did it. We decided the outcome, big or small, had a clear goal, planned to eliminate all all obstacles, acted on it with great care and persistence, handled difficulties even when we felt like giving up and then - we found light. After that, we picked another challenge and went after it.

The Link Between Preparation and Performance
Our performance is equal to the preparation we put in, knowingly or unknowingly. Ideally if we know the process of preparing, we can prepare well and perform well. Preparation is on three fronts - skill (must), physical (must) and mental. The mental component is about 80% of the champion mindset and involves knowing the context, knowing process and understanding beliefs.

We looked at how experts are made and discussed Anders Ericsson's 10000 hour rule and deliberate practice. Since the 10000 hour rule was for world class performers we also looked at the other end, a more viable end, where one can be competent at skills and above average, by being good in 20 hours. We saw a wonderful TED talk by Josh Kaufman on 'How to learn anything in 20 hours'.


Deconstruct the skill (cannot do it by yourself so get a good teacher), learn enough to self correct, remove barriers to practice and practice 20 hours. By putting in 20 hours of practice the students could well be more than competent in 20 skills if they chose to be.

Then we looked at their current level of preparation various skills - knowledge, inter personal, problem solving, self motivation, efficiency, detail orientation, ability to prioritise, leadership, communication, team play,  reliability, public speaking, presentation etc. They rated themselves on a scale of 10, visualised the ideal scenario and wrote down steps to get better at that skill (join class, put more effort etc).

Price, Value and Self-Worth
We looked at another P, Price. What is your price? What is the value you bring? How do you know your value? How much do you think you are worth? These were the questions that were raised. Much of it had to do with our self-esteem, self-worth so it was decided to add more value by adding skill, by bettering performances, by gaining confidence by doing things out of one's comfort zone. By pushing our limits in small ways every day, confidence and self worth increases and that will enhance value. Students were also asked to look at the Product again - their own why, what and how and fine tune aspects that will increase value. A skilled person who can tell the employer that she can bring in x value, can command that price. Also students were asked to look for their ideal placements and not merely wait for the college to place them which could be a limited range. There are bigger and better companies too. And one can choose the company and prepare accordingly since one has time and process.

Inter-personal skills
On the inter-personal skills we decided to work on the AAA model - Appreciation, Asking for help and Acknowledging. By appreciating others and the self for the good we do we shift our focus to the positive, by asking for help we make life easier for us, lower our ego and by acknowledging we see how much good we already have.

We saw the powerful talk on 'The Anatomy of Trust' by Brene Brown.

BRAVING - Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non judgmental and Generosity.

Vision and Mission
The students were asked to write a vision for their life. Out of all the possibilities that are possible for their life, the many paths that are open to them, what would they like to see it become. What would they like to see their world be like and how would they contribute to make the planet better through their work. For some reason we could not get enough vision, somehow got stuck at individual level. A Mission statement was also asked - a five year plan that was somehow in line with the vision. We did get a few pointers - a world full of peace, a world free of child beggars etc. The idea is that if there is an issue bothering us, if we have a vision of a world free of that issue, we would do something towards that whichever work we do.
Hopefully the students will refine their vision and their mission.

Feedback and Good bye
The students wrote their feedback. I asked them to come up and say a few words. Some left the class quietly at the prospect of speaking in front of their colleagues and lost a valuable chance to speak on a friendly stage and find out how to get better at it. The others, about half the class strength, spoke and gave their feedback, some good and some iffy. I collected the questionnaires and since it was raining, the students said, they would not mind watching my TEDx talk on 'Cricket, Creativity and Writing'. the essence of the talk was that 1) to create anything we need to work really hard and cover all possibilities 2) add purpose to hard work so we are working at the best possible result and 3) to learn to work with love which makes things easier. After watching Simon Sinek and Brene Brown and Josh Kaufman mine was pretty lame but for me the content reminded me and put me back on track in certain areas where I was slipping.

We took a group pic and then it was time to go.

It was physically quite taxing. But the prospect of making some impact on 60 potential leaders and managers who could become secure leaders and create a secure world was too much to let go. There was some feedback about being more activity based etc but this is not stuff that I believe can be done through fun activities. I like the hard questions - in class and at work no one is going to make work fun and interactive. That's something you must find out for yourself. But the discomfort - you need to go deeper into it and understand it to banish the discomfort. A few students braved the discomfort and sat through every single session with equal intensity and participation and that gives me a lot of hope.

As always I hope, even if it makes a difference to a few, my effort has been worth it. To some the impact may be now, to some next day, to some next month and to some years down the line. But all those who attended will certainly carry some impact of it. They would not have been there otherwise. Good luck students and thank you Prof. Jyothi for the opportunity once again to interact and share some insights with young minds.