Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh, Nawab!

Yesterday was undoubtedly a very sad day in Indian cricket. The day marked the departure of one of the most colourful cricketers in Indian sporting history - the Nawab of Pataudi, or fondly called as the Tiger.

I never saw Tiger play, but I have heard about his game from my dad, who has seen him play live at Chennai in test matches (in uncovered pitches!). Of course, the media has gone on & on about his legacy and his contribution to the game, which means, I have learnt that much more about the great man.

I remember seeing an interview of the Tiger with the effervescent Harsha Bhogle in his iconic show, Harsha Online a few years back. Though the Tiger was well past his playing days, he was extremely articulate about the current state of the game, and had his firm opinions on how the BCCI functions, on how the game needs to be revamped at the grassroot level et al. And for as seasoned a cricket commentator as Harsha, even he couldn't stop himself from telling the Nawab that he was a huge fan of the Tiger & was actually a bit scared to do the interview. In his inimitable style, the Tiger responded with his dry humour, 'see me more often; familiarity does, whatever...'.

Thanks to you, Tiger, India found its way in the international arena as one unit. Whenever I see a journalist or a past cricketer say that it was Pataudi who united the Indian cricket team i.e. made the 11 players believe that they were playing for India and not for Karnataka or Bombay or Calcutta or Punjab etc, it just reminded me of the movie, Chak De. That's exactly what Shahrukh Khan did in that movie i.e. assemble a bunch of of rookies who were thoroughly at loggerheads with each other, and got them to play as team, represent the country as one unit and go on to win the hockey world cup! Tiger - I wonder, if you were the inspiration for that award-winning script!

Of course, what we will remember the Tiger best for, will be his incredible credential of having been in the first Indian captain to have led an Indian win overseas in 1967. In that era of non-believers (in Abid Ali's words) i.e. Indian cricket teams never ever believed that they could win abroad, it takes something to not only unite a bunch of disconnected players into 1 team, and to lead them to victory overseas. Hats off, Nawab!

I learnt class, poise, immense style and panache, not to mention thorough courage of conviction from whatever I saw of the Tiger on television. The biggest takeaway that he gave me was, be hard on the field, but be a better person outside of it and of course, enjoy the very good things in life.

Thanks, Tiger. I will miss your incredible class (even if only on TV).

If learning stops, career growth stops

I always used to wonder about the skills required to have a successful career. All these years, I learnt about things such as domain knowledge, practice hard, network hard, play the game hard on the field & enjoy life outside the field, play to win, never let yourself compromise on your integrity, build respect via performance and doing things and so on.

I still maintain that each of the above attributes are incredibly important and hold true even in this day and age of instant gratification and overnight celebrity status. But what I did not know all these years, is something I have learnt only in the last few months. And that skill is, the skill of learning & learning continuously. This is potentially the most important skill that is needed to have a growth-oriented career.

During 2011, I have learnt that there comes a saturation point in one's career, if there are no new avenues to learn. That is the time when you realise that you don't have too much growth in your current line, as the learning has either dwindled or has stopped. This is also the time that you realise that you have been in a particular stream of activity for a pretty long time & have reached a particular stage in that stream. It is at that stage that you discover that learning is increasingly reducing. It is the first trigger to identify that, something is not right (like it used to be all these years).

I don't have all the answers on how to get out of a situation where there is very marginal level of learning & thereby potential slow/low/nil career growth. But I do know, that where learning stops, career growth stops. It is up to the individual to chart a new course of action, to locate newer ways to reskill and find a way to re-organise a way to grow all over again. What is needed is the ability to identify the skills that are transferrable from the current domain into newer areas and to use the foundation of a particular stream into other areas.

Never knew that the skill of learning is so alive and critical even in the modern era. Glad, that it is still relevant.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tarun Tejpal in office!

There are some literary writers which are just in the classics, and then there are others who are more 'in-the-face', here & now. One such character is the famous journalist, Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka fame.

We had the honour of hosting this man in our office on Friday. He came across as a person who is extremely radical in not just his views, but in his general approach to life. I mean, where else will you find a man with a regular middle-class background in his growing years (1980s), to have focused just on reading, bunking college, playing basketball twice a day and trying to woo a girl! Seems like this script is taken out of a movie,but that is exactly what this man did in his growing years.

At the same time, those very formative years lent itself to a man who was able to articulate himself on the national stage. He talked at length about the changing India, about his view that the Mahabharata is the greatest book ever written in the history of mankind, his view of a complex India where distortions live in harmony etc.

Obviously, the crowd was hooked on to his every word, when he talked about how he started a journalistic revolution in the form of Tehelka. But, little did all of us realise the impact that, that movement would have on his life i.e. 24 hours security, death threats, 120 of his 124 member staff quitting Tehelka,no bank loans, no funding from anywhere to keep the ship afloat etc. But to the credit of the man, he hung in there and fought his way through. His single message to us was, if he had given up Tehelka, it would have meant that people cannot voice anything in this country. But, the fact that he managed to revive Tehelka is a lesson to everyone that revolutionary systems for a good cause, irrespective of hardships, are a great thing for the country.

The man was extremely jovial, conversational and had a command over the English language (as you would come to expect from a journalist). It was particularly interesting to learn that he uses his network of the rich & famous, for the betterment of Tehelka and investigative journalism i.e. he uses the money from the rich only to expose every single bit of possible mayhem that the high & mighty could potentially be resorting to. I guess that is called courage of conviction! In his own words,' I take money from the rich, but I tell them, that I am not on their side'. For example, he exposed the corruption in the office of the BJP President in 2000 (Bangaru Laxman), but had Mr.L.K. Advani come over to one of his book launches! I guess, that is what is called managing professional expectations well!

Great session...! I also managed to eke out a complimentary copy of his first book as well, The Alchemy of Desire - with his personal autograph!

15000 kms in my car

One of the recent highlights in life is that I just finished traversing 15000 kilometers in my Swift car. Feels good to have hit that sort of a landmark, particularly since I use the car for less than 15 days in a month!

Keep going, Swift! I have enjoyed your company for the last 2 years and look forward to more memorable times driving you around magical India!

The art of keeping quiet is actually a science

I am convinced that there are enough and more nosey-parkers in the world, who are more interested in learning about what you are up to. And this is not necessarily out of concern for you, or any extra affection, as is made out to be. These are characters who are out to glean information from you, on the key happenings that have occurred or even potential events in your life that are may or may not occur, only to use that information to broadcast it to the world at large.

Perhaps, it hits hardest, when you actually want to keep something supremely confidential to yourself. Yet,in the garb of consultative advice, these nosey-parkers get all the information from you and use it to tell the exact folks in the world who need not be informed of such developments in your life. Such nosey-parkers seem to be enthralled by the idea that they were the first to inform everybody else about something that may not yet have even happened in your life.

The big learning from all this is that, one needs to exercise supreme caution while divulging information, even to folks who appear to be the 'regulars' in your life. These nosey-parkers are potentially more dangerous than professional auditors who investigate corporate governance standards or insider-trading in a public company!

At the end of it all, one needs to draw a fine line between sharing information and not letting the 'affectionate party' feel let down. After all, when the 'affectionate party', in the garb of care for you, is out to destroy you with information that should simply not go out, caution is the only thing you can exercise. I am not at all referring to any illegal stuff here, but only talking about regular professional or personal opportunities that appear to be in the offing, but are not yet a reality.

Having had such personal experience from such 'affectionate parties', I am convinced that there are tons of people out there who only want to engage in 'free marketing' for you - especially with regard to information that is not yet a reality in your life. While I am not great believer in bad omens etc, I do believe that one should be wary of such 'free marketers'. It is better to keep quiet about all happenings in your life, rather than believe people who can make a fool of you - in the garb of caring for you.

Like I studied in my Law 101, 'caveat emptor' - which means, let the buyer beware. Similarly, Life 101 has taught me, 'just be beware of free marketers/affectionate parties/reliable ones', in your life. I have begun to appreciate the value of the corporate NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) a lot more in the recent past.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Medical science and taste buds

The implications of a doctor's advice can be devastating to a human being's taste buds. A well-equipped hospital, with all the medical technologies at its disposal, can run a few machines on your body for 4 hours - across 4-5 tests and ruin the food habits for the rest of your life.

The medical reports, churned out using great templates and designer software, will make you wonder whether you should believe those reports at all. You almost begin to wonder, what are those white paper reports worth after all? The results of such reports are so seemingly damaging - the doctor will take a look at them, consider your age (if you are in the 20s or 30s, you are lucky), and tell you to reduce consumption of all your favourite dishes.

That hits hard. Things that you have loved having in your mouth for so many years, are thrown out of the window in 4 hours. Reduce consumption, be careful, eat items of your liking in lesser frequency, are the stark realities of a goddamn expert doctor's analysis.

Medical science may be advanced, but it has absolutely no clue about the impact it has on people's interests, taste buds etc. Sad, but true. Anyway, that is what it is supposed to do I guess i.e. tell people to focus on the exact areas that is bringing down their health. To that extent, I would give credit to medical science;but, I realised today, what a ridiculously tragic effect such diagnosis can have on taste buds.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

10000 kms in my car

At the turn of the decade (2010), I crossed the 10000 km mark in my lovely Swift car. Been a journey for sure. But, miles to go, in every way!

Met cousin at station & NRN

One of those things - a passing train in Bangalore on a Saturay night. And my Mumbai cousin and his wife in that train in a tier-2 AC bogie on their way to another place. They had informed us earlier that they would like to meet us at the railway station, as they would only be in transit elsewhere.

Pretty normal, one would think. But, when we reached the station and the train arrived, we learnt from my cousin that Mr. N.R.Narayana Murthy had gotten off the same train in the previous station! Now, NRN travelling in the Indian Railways was news enough. But, the fact that he got into the train in the middle of nowhere (Mantralaya) was even bigger news. I mean, the man could easily fly down in a helicopter to Bangalore; or hire a Merc or a BMW and get back home by road.

But, he chose Indian Railways. I guess that talks about the character of the man - the simplicity, the practical way of looking at his life i.e. Indian Railways has the best transport network in the country & he was able to use the time in the train for himself; as against his regular schedule of being perenially busy and surounded by a slew of people. Apparently (according to my cousin), NRN was clad in white kurta-pyjama and was scheduled to leave to London on Monday.

For my own satisfaction, I saw the ticket chart outside the bogie that my cousin & NRN were travelling in. Sure enough, both their names were there. Only that, the famous scion of the Indian IT industry had his name printed as NARAYANA. Nobody would have guessed - by looking at the chart - that it was the name of the face of the Indian IT industry. I guess, it is pleasant to say, Narayana, Narayana, as in the old epics.

Good experience - for my cousin. And great insight into the practicality of the great man.


That's the thing with calendars. They are one of the most static items in the world. We probably underestimate the value of a calendar, given the busy schedules in our lives these days. I know so many people just longing for the weekend, or ever so often looking forward to a long weekend.

But 2011 is different. We are not going to get too many long weekends. Worse, we are not going to get too many public holidays as well, given that many holidays this year fall on weekends. Hence, it is going to be tough to club that weekend getaway with a Friday or a Monday and make sure that you cover that many more places than before.

Such scheduling in a calendar year only means that one needs to be extremely well planned in chalking out one's holiday plan. Remember, you plan on the handful of long weekends, are going to be the same periods in which many others would be making similar holiday plans. Hence, you need to be sure that you are smarter in the planning of your holidays, and quicker than the rest.

The other great thing about calendars is that, while one year(like 2011) will make all of us feel miserable at the paucity of public holidays, there will be other years when long weekends will be the norm, rather than the exception. So, bide your time, save money, and plan for those particular years, starting now. After all, inflation and calendars(long weekends) will come and go. But the number of places you want to see is endless. So, plan for the long weekends in maybe 2014, starting now!

Sticking to your roots

I am increasingly observing a particular pattern i.e. the number of show-offs and folks with attitude that I am encountering seems to be on the increase. And I am not referring to folks I don't know at all. If anything, these are people who I have seen through all my growing years, and infact, elder than me. They were then pretty much from the same background that I was from, but, credit to them, the efforts in their professional lives has yielded them stellar results. Good for them, and credit to them. And glad that they ended up being successful people.

But, that success seems to have gone to their heads for sure, albeit in different ways. Some of them are still in India (and hugely successful), while others have ventured abroad and made it big. Fair enough. However, their success has changed them in ways that I had not fathomed or expected. They have become people who find immense thrill in ridiculing India, while others seem to be living the life of a foreigner, living right here in India.

Imagine this - you are invited to somebody's house and you tell them that you will be there after a particular time on a Sunday evening. Now, given the traffic conditions, almost every Indian I know understands a delay. The least you expect is an sms reminder at the designated time, saying that they are expecting us! How ridiculous is that for an Indian living here in India? Maybe, I cannot blame the person, as the expectation in foreign countries is to be on time, even for social visits. However, our host conveniently forgot the travails of getting through tough traffic that make our best attempts to be on time, rudderless. And this person I am referring to, goes abroad every month on projects etc and hardly lives in India. As far back as I can remember, he was NOT like this before he became the big shot that he is today. But, at what price?

Or, take the example of folks abroad who now hold senior executive positions that I know personally. This person has totally forgotten his roots, in the sense, that, he has the audacity to say, 'some bloody Indian stuff', and has changed his very Indian name to a totally anglicised version, speaks in a tone that makes you wonder whether he has even seen India, and even manages to be nasty with other Indians I know who may not be that successful (YET). Again, a person who made it big, but lost all Indian values (and my respect thereof).

I write this blog in wonderment, at the price many Indians I know are ready to pay, for their success. Is it even worth it? I can only compare a person like Tendulkar (who I don't know personally). But, the great man - based on ALL his stupendous achievements on a cricket field - appears to be humane, and grounded. And, in parallel, these folks I know personally who are not even half way to where Sachin is, have so much attitude.

Just not worth it. The biggest takeaway for me in all this, is to never forget my roots. If & when I become successful, I will make sure that I take extra precaution to be humane, approachable and courteous; rather than being, rude, arrogant and a person full of attitude. To hell with such people and their attitude!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Classical 33rd birthday - with cricket at the fore

I just turned 33 today. But, as ever, I only feel younger. If anything, I feel like I am only 20 years old today.

One of the last memories of my 19th birthday (in 1997) was a fantastic cricketing gift that I received from Tendulkar and Azharudding. This was on 4th Jan, 1997 at the Newlands ground, in Capetown against South Africa in a test match. It was a Saturday afternoon, when the magic of Sachin and Tendulkar just brought endless smiles to Indians, and specifically to me on my birthday.

On that particular day, the South African fast bowlers were on fire - Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock in particular. But, the customary flicks on the on side by Azhar and the straight drives and cover drives on the off side by the Little Master, were a treat to the eye.

13 years later, at the same venue, one of those 2 gentlemen, Sachin Tendulkar is still playing. He is still taking on the might of Dale Steyn and Morkel on a very good cricket pitch, with India having to bat extremely well to stay in the game and force the issue. The manner in which Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar handle the pace and fire of Steyn and Morkel, was a lesson in that, if you stick at the wicket and keep trying, you can negotiate the toughest of conditions.

I somehow, get excited if India is playing a test match on my birthday in Capetown. Almost everytime that they have played there, the quality of the sport has been of the highest order. And each time, I have learnt that the toughest conditions bring out the best in you.

Newlands, Capetown, the Indian test match cricket team with the likes of Tendulkar, Azhar, VVS, Rahul, share a unique rapport with me on my birthday. The more they play there on that ground on 4th Jan, the better I feel. It's one rare birthday gift, if they play well there. Thanks guys!