Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Don't send me Diwali gifts"

Don't send me Diwali gifts: PM

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Friday, October 28, 2005 at 1635 hours IST
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2005 at 1640 hours IST

New Delhi, October 28: In view of the destruction caused by the October eight earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday appealed that no gifts or sweets should be sent to him this Diwali and people should rather donate money to the Prime minister's national relief fund.

"Don't send me gifts, sweets or flowers for Diwali. Just donate money to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund," he said, according to his media advisor Sanjaya Baru.

Singh asked people to donate to the relief fund to help victims of the Jammu and Kashmir earthquake and other causes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Good people shall save the day

"Some months back a poor fisherman named Jaykumar came to the office of ‘Ananda Viketan’, a prestigious Tamil weekly, accompanied by his wife Rajavalli and 10 year old son Udaykumar, with the request that the editor help him in returning an amount of one lakh, which he had received as a consolation money, because his son was thought to be dead, to the govt. He said that his request had been turned down in all the govt. offices. Now that our son has returned please help us in returning it to the Govt. Our family and people of Todvai village have come to the conclusion that getting back the son is our greatest pleasure. Hence we have no claim over this money.” In today’s atmosphere, seething with corruption, the existence of such enlightened souls is the guarantee for a bright future for Bharat."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mr. Narayana Murthy on Empowerment of India

The tragedy of India is that we shy away from bold and tough decisions because we do not want to displease anybody. To push these decisions through, we need strong political leaders. We need leaders who have the courage of their convictions: the courage to dream big, to take difficult decisions, and to make sacrifices.
- N R Narayanamurthy

Leaders, leaders, Leaders - The need of the hour!

Please read the complete text of this wonderful holistic analysis on how to make India Empowered by Shri N R Narayana Murthy here.

This is part of India Empowered to Me is series from The Indian Express group
One can find the complete series of these expressions here .

Some of my favorites in this series are expressions by:
a) The Prez (how can one miss him!) (Click here)

b) Shri L K Advani [Nationalism to the core](click here )

c) Affable SRK [This IS awesome] (click here)

d) Shri Azim Premji [Education is the key] (click here )

e) Shri Fali S Nariman [This is really interesting, andaaz zara hatke type] (click here)

f) Shri Subroto Bagchi [Dignity of Labour] (click here)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sharma Leadership - A meeting with Robin Sharma

Robin Sharma is one of world's top experts on leadership, elite performance and personal growth. Further, he is the author of some of the International best sellers like The Monk who sold his Ferrari.A great motivational speaker and I can keep on continuing.Those who visit his website are sure to find good number of adjectives and nouns that tell about what he does/he can do/he did.

By some stroke of luck, I happened to meet this highly regarded person. By the way, I have not read any book of his, so all the comments in this post are all centered on my experience of witnessing a session by Robin.

It does help if when you go back home; visit your cousins who you have promised earlier to take them on a movie; and, you end up getting an invite from your uncle, to listen to a talk by a person like Robin Sharma. The talk was organised by EMT (a term which I have gotten used to of late - it stands for Event Management Team) of my uncle's company for all their employees and their families.

The talk was titled "Living Life Fully" - a talk in which we are told that Robin would talk to the employees and their families of this company about how to make their life happy (ha! this seems to be the order of the day), how to be a leader at home - an essential to being a leader at the workplace and so on...

In a sense, this was not my first encounter with such kinds of speakers, for some time back I remember our Brand Manager inviting some professionals to give us some pep talks. Surely, Robin has got his own style.

Robin was cool and yeah, he was likeable. Since he is a motivational speaker and the talk was meant to be so - there are some words that are repeatedly used to generate that special effect, sample this - Robin begins his talk saying - All of you - say this to yourself aloud - "Robin's right, We're amazing!" .

This talk started a li'l late, and to involve his audience into what he is doing - he started with what he called - Three Breaks -

I. Everybody Stand Up and Give a Massage to your immediate neighbours
II. Each of you, go around and hug whoever you like (yes! this is your chance ;))
III.Okay, now each of you start dancing, hmm... there seem to be some old people as well, why don't you all wave your hand this way (waves his hand)

Now then once the warm-up is over, then came the best of the things that he said in the evening, at least according to me.
People keep asking me if I am a Guru, I just want to tell them - I'm not a Guru; I am not any type of a Guru I am like any other person;

Now from here, he starts getting into the core of his talk - conveys to his audience that he is one among them and makes them comfortable in his presence. Tells us that he learnt a lot from his two children - (if am not wrong) Kolby and Bianca. "Children are twice more mature", says Robin. Gives us some nice anecdotes, though they sound a little cliched at times, the way they are conveyed does create the required impact.

Telling more about his experiences, he recalls his humble beginnings and tekkys ys how life is a lot of struggles along the way. One of the important things in this time is to know how to face fear. Then suddenly came this mike problem. Mike was replaced twice, yet no change in the situation upon which he said - "Not everything happens in the way you want it to" - :)

He referred to ways of overcoming fear, one of the important things in that sequence is to face the stress. Then came an interesting anecdote which I still have it in my notes:
A mother was shopping along with her baby in a perambulator at a store. The baby started crying upon which, the mother started saying - "Don't scream Jennifer, don't cry Jennifer" and repeatedly!

One of the assistants in the store said: " Madam, this may not be the way you ask your child to stop crying", upon which the mother replied: "No, I am Jennifer"

He goes on to get to the main part of his talk - wherein he says it is very necessary to gain the love of one's own family - and asserts that one can't do good unless one feels good. His talk from now on concentrated on how to have a good relation with one's own family which he says is so essential to one's productivity.

According to him, "Developing one's own children" - is a Wind of Opportunity which one needs to seize. Building the children, is a great way of self-development. He tells us that most of the people who come to him tell him - "I've got all the money that I need for my living; I've got all that I want; but Robin, my heart is broken. All my children are off to Universities and they do not recognise me today :(" - One of the most important ways of being happy is to work on being a great parent, says Robin. He reminds us that this can lead us not to lament "If youth only do, what age only could".

Robin tells us that according to a study done, three biggest regrets that people had were:
o Didn't spend enough time thinking
o We didn't take enough risks
o We weren't loving enough to our families
Robin says, we need to spend One-third of our time thinking, One-third of our time doing, One-third of our time communicating - "Think, Act, Communicate" - these are the buzz words.
Robin further reminds us that Greatest Risk taken is not taking a risk and the reasons why one fears taking a risk is the fear of failures. Now he gets back to his point on fear. He reminds everyone that Failure is a price of greatness. Failure is a great opportunity.
And while referring to the people, he tells us that he reads a lot of obituaries - and that too on purpose. Just to see if he would find this statement - he died peacefully in his sleep with all his close friends, family and relatives by his side - and if this is what one needs to attain in the end after our death - then Robin says we need to talk of full-life cycle leaders. [Till this moment, I spent my time listening carefully where he is trying to lead us to]

Robin asks us to be leaders of a culture - culture is one of the most important thing to make you're self great (oh! he seems to be venturing into our territory, was my first reaction! - shall come back to this later). He asks us to see ourselves as a leader. A leader at home. He repeats that there is a leader in each in one of us and to ignite it one should start thinking.He asserts that one does better at work if he's a leader at home and that one'll also be able to strike a balance between work and home.

How to become a leader at home? Robin's answer - Develop your children - expose them to different cultures, variety of books - he diverts his attention to spend some time on the importance of collecting books, if not reading them. He tells us that all great men, when you visit them the first thing that they would like to show you is their collection - their library! He asks his audience to build their own libraries for it is going to enrich them - you may not read them now, but at some point of your life you might want to get back to them - listening to which I just got reminded of my own experience with my father who once told me when I asked him Dad, why do you buy all these books - I haven't seen you read most of them; to which he replied - so that you would read these books if not me - so when Robin was saying, my Dad's words flashed across my memory lane. Robin tells us about what Shimon Peres told him once - I read, and read 3 times a day - and tells us that that would make one wise.

He tells us about the importance of reading books that books are those which contain ideas. And an idea can transform your life.

He asks each of us to lead by example. This he says is very much essential in developing one's own children. Taking his own example, he says this is what he tells his children every night: what he calls Four Lively Ideas

o You can do whatever it is you want to do in your life
o Never ever give up
o When you do something, however small it is, do well
o Never ever forget how much Daddy loves you

(The moment I heard these, my interest in the talk slowly started waning)
He says that his children keep complaining that Daddy, It's getting boring, but he assures that one day they'll come back to him thanking him for those words.

He then gave a nice anecdote from John F Kennedy's life.

John F Kennedy's father was a great man, a great visionary. His name was Joseph Kennedy. Every day for the evening meal, he used to invite an extra-ordinary man to share their dinner table. And this helped his children in a great way.

This is a way which one can emulate. Get some interesting people for dinner and that shall be great education for your children. It'll also enrich you. Building a world-class human being is what we are looking at. One should commit oneself to continuous learning .

He stresses the need to maintain good health yourself in order that you do well. Generally, people put their Health at the Bottom of the ladder, and this is not good for that is the most important thing for you to achieve anything. Put our health above everything, says Robin. [rmr, Robin's Right :) ]

Talking of leaders, he quotes G B Shaw:
I'd like to be the person what I could've been, but never was.

He reminds us these words "I cursed the time when I had no shoes, until I saw a man with no feet" and reminds us how blessed we all are. In order to be a leader, we need to drive fear away. Fear makes people not to reach the scales that they can reach. Tells us that whenever there is a huge task, many people won't venture at all to do it whereas only a few would go on to take it up and complete it. They are the people who are the successes which people look up to. And everyone must remember that they can as well do it if they are ready to face the challenge.

In the process he reminds us of the importance of discipline Price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret. And so it went on...

I was feeling uneasy to continue listening to him. I am generally skeptical about talks like these which talk on Living Life Fully.

Yet I wanted to see what Robin had to say. I would have been happier had he kept in mind that he is addressing an Indian audience and not a Western audience. He said he has nothing to tell about Indian culture which the audience would surely have known and says that he has learnt a lot from the lives of M K Gandhi and Mother Teresa among others. He addressed the audience in the same style as in my opinion he would have addressed his European or American audience and that is where I am unhappy with him as a speaker.

It was more than irritating during the Q & A session where there was something like what one would call as Hero-Worship of Robin. I do not want to be a bit more harsh in terming it sycophancy, or servility to the success of Robin.

With all these thoughts in mind, during the Q & A session, I asked him a question - this is what went on approximately:

Me: How essential do you think is one's relation with one's own language, religion and culture for all that you've been saying? In my frank opinion, if my relation were strong,I would not have come here to listen to you.

Robin:I can't get the question, could you repeat it for me?

Me: |same question|

Robin: As far as the second part of your question goes, you not listening to me, you are perfectly at liberty. I would not mind that.

Me: But it's the first one, importance of one's own language, religion and culture to living life fully -

Robin: Yeah, culture is important, language.... I need some time to think. Give me my one-third of the time to think, I shall answer your question. Or may be we can meet off the stage by which time I hope to answer your question.

Me: Thank you, Robin.

So we met after the talk. There was a long queue of people who were longing to take his autograph on their newly bought Monk who sold his Ferrari copies. And I was there, as a hindrance to them. This is what went on between me and him:

Me: Hi, Robin, hope you had a nice one-third of your time thinking. It's me who asked you this question -
Robin: Yeah, I think it helps to know the language, religion am not sure and I do not know (he seemed to be in a hurry)
Me: (I began) I feel that our sense of understanding of our own language,religion and culture give us enough exposure to lead a happy life according to what you were saying- for example, there is this nice poem in Telugu which talks of the different kinds of people and their reactions to a difficult task.

aarambhimparu neecha maanavulu vighnaayaasa santrastulai
aarambhinchi parityajintururu vignaayattulai madhyamul
(Robin: Can we do this quickly? I've got this huge line of people waiting for my autographs. I definitely seem to like what you are saying)

Me: Sure, ...
dheerul vighnanihanya maanulaguchun dhRityunnatotsaahulai
praarabdaarthamulujjagimparu sumee prajnaanidhul gaavunan.

Which translates to - People in the world are classified as three different kinds.
The first kind is those who do not start a work for fear of facing obstacles/ difficulties who are those of the lowly kind, the second kind, who start a work and leave it in the middle the moment they face an obstacle - they are medium kind and finally those who despite all difficulties stand up to the task and finish it - who are the noble ones.

Robin: Oh, yeah, I perfectly agree with you. That's a nice poem. I am definitely interested. (I was with my young sister along my side) Oh hi, who do we have here? what's your good name? (My sister replies) Would you like to have an autograph ?

Me: No, Robin, thank you. (We move out)

Thus ended my tryst with Robin. I am not sure if Robin got my message in his busy schedule. But, I did what I thought I wanted to do. One of the most important reason why I did so was the people around me who listened to my question or for that matter listened to this conversation would have realised the greatness of Indianness which they seem to be losing or have no idea of what it is.

To give you a sample of my thoughts on what Robin said - Let's take his way of going to his children every night and telling them that he loves them. In India, it may not happen. Parental love, especially a father's love is never expressed to his son/ and the story of Bhaaravi is a great example of this. And this in no manner means that he does not love them. The parent-child relationship that Robin talks of is alien to India. And his means of talking on the developing a child is something that we do not need.

Another instance - Robin says "We need to grow as world-class human beings" - I fail to understand what he means by "world-class" - I am always happy to be a human-being. The talk seems to try and mix two things which follow different paths - a profit oriented motive based in one direction (I think I did not mention it earlier - He says "I really am worried when I listen to someone who says that he is perfectly content with what he has. There should be at least some amount of discomfit somewhere to have some productive development") and the second a life in which a person has a peaceful death and is hailed by people around as a good man - the notions which speak of the differences between the Eastern and Western Cultures. Trivialising these, is something that made me feel sick. It appeared like a talk meant not for those who were thinking and those whose thinking is a reflection of the Indian culture. It was talk for those who were not doing that and who have western model of thinking. When I told a friend of mine about my question and this talk he replied saying:

he's just capitalizing on what the western world is lacking & the indians are losing

I couldn't have put it better. This is definitely something in my mind. And now you know, why I was very happy when Robin said - I am not a Guru. I am not any kind of a Guru.

I think I should add this. Robin may be good at what he normally does - motivating people into action, making them locate opportunities and all that is required for businesses to run, but,if he is talking about personal life, then I think it is very much necessary for him to note the cultural traits of the land he is speaking, for yet again, putting Robin's words in a different light from what he said "culture is one of the most important thing to make you're self great". Needless to say when he was referring to culture, he was referring to work culture there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Principles, Experience and Education

If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.
- Chairman, Wipro Corporation Azim H Premji
There comes a great sense of reassurance to one when great men say or convey something that you have always believed in.

I first heard a similar kind of argument in one of the stories in the book Baalala Baba Sai Baba . The story goes like this - There used to be a Brahmin - forget the name - let's call him X who was a great devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, and one who was proud about his knowledge in various sciences. He had a doubt in his mind about the meaning of a sloka in Gita and he was in a state of unease about it. He did not want to go and tell anyone, including Baba about his doubt - but resisting his temptation of avoiding his doubt, he went to Baba and asked - "Baba, I have understood the meaning of every sloka in Gita except this one, and it really hurts me for not being able to understand it" - then Baba smiled and asked - "My dear X, glad to know that you have understood so many slokas, but tell me one thing, have you ever tried to follow what is conveyed in at least one of the slokas?" to which the reply from X was in the negative. Baba continued - "Forget understanding everything in Gita. Pick any one of the slokas - the sloka that you like the most, try and put whatever is said in that into practice and stick to it, you'll find that in no time you'll be able experience all the situations that are explained in the Gita - it is as good as you being able to come up with Gita from your own experience". X felt ashamed and was about to leave the place when Baba called him back and explained the meaning of that sloka he did not understand.

Of course a single sloka in Gita does contain at least 5 ideas. So in that sense, you can replace Gita with anything of your choice.

In a sense, I have a belief that each person in the world and each and everything in the nature has so much to offer to us that once we start living those 5 ideas you realise the complexities in doing so, and finding a way out to ensure that you stick to the 5 ideas gives you a great learning place. If people say that hands-on learning is a great way of learning - then what else is the the world, if not a platform for hands-on or sometimes even life-on learning?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Gandhi through my eyes

136 years have passed since the man hailed by Einstein in the following manner was born.

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth. (said of Mahatma Gandhi)"
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi - hailed as the Father of the Indian Nation, revered as Mahatma - was born on this day, 2nd of October in 1869. Typical start to something on Gandhi, right? Year after year, we celebrate these three of our National Festivals - the Independence Day, the Republic Day, and Gandhi Jayanti - with the same kind of rhetoric, which sometimes signifies a dearth of ideas - the lack of spirit - and at times this sounds alarming. It sounds sick when the rhetoric cherishes those ideals which are no longer followed or whose richness or the lack of it not identified. Hypocrisy starts working on the minds. The Constitution of India states that it is the duty of each citizen - to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom . As an attempt towards performing my duty as a recognized citizen (I'm currently an Indian Passport holder) - I felt for long to start knowing what those noble ideals were which inspired the freedom struggle.

It is claimed that Gandhi's thoughts have had a great influence on the way the struggle shaped itself. And since he also happens to be called the Father of this Nation, it is indeed my duty to know what is behind all of the thought. I shall start my story of how things moved on.

There used to be vague sense of patriotic thoughts and nationalistic feelings whenever I came across stories on Gandhi tata (Telugu for grandpa). I do not think if they had any firm ground at all. It used to be more like a routing affair. My first proper encounter with Gandhi was through a two book series from Nehru Bal Pustakalay - Bapu I and II. I think I was 9 years old then. There were certain things which I think I liked about him at that time - the Dandi March. It really impressed me that such an old man could walk for such long distances. I have always liked walking for long distances. Used to like anyone who walked for long. I used to lament at my lack of intent or ability to walk for longer distances at that time. All that I could manage was a travel from Narayanaguda to Koti - which probably would be a distance of 3 and a half kilometers.Knowing that someone could walk greater than that, that too when he was more than 60 was definitely something which challenged my young thoughts.

I could not quite understand what could possibly be the reason this man kept harping on non-violence - and the Chauri-Chaura incident - but who cares. All I wanted to do was walk like him. A desire that I still have. Walk on, walk on.., keep walking :)

And then, I moved on to the Autobiography when I was 10. My first encounter with an Autobiography was My Experiments with Truth - how boring it was! I struggled hard to read through the pages. Skipped certain sections, and somehow finished it - so to say. My first experiment at reading an autobiography was an utter failure in that sense. Gandhi is not someone who wrote things like Nehru did. At about the same time, I read the Letters from a Father to a Daughter - something which was far more interesting to read.

One thing that really did impress me whenever I looked at Gandhi was his glasses. It felt like heaven when I first wore my glasses - which I selected to be similar to Gandhi's - at least I imagined them to be so.

Of course, there was one other thing that impressed me. Being truthful, to oneself. Saying nothing but the truth. Right from my childhood, this was driven into my brain that truth will be the ultimate victor and if you want to be an ultimate victor - then always say the truth and never lie. I tried to be so. And reading Gandhi's life, there were instances where I could liken myself with him at times - that made me feel like - okay, be truthful and it is as good as you have read through all that things that Gandhi described in his autobiography.

Then when I was in sixth standard I believe, I was asked to don the role of Gandhi for a Independence Day parade. I did not have glasses at the time. The next year when I was called in for this role of Gandhi, I went on to get my head tonsured so that I look as close to Gandhi. That was more or less a decision which I took on impulse. From that time, it more or less became common for me to play the role of Gandhi every year. Thankfully, my physique always cooperated :)

Playing Gandhi somehow was never difficult for me. It was quite natural. And in a sense I guess at times it brought a false sense of familiarity with him and it also breeded considerable amount of contempt for him. Especially, as I came to know more about him, as I read more about him. One thing that I always had in my mind was Gandhi was never a Mahatma. I could see flaws in his way as I have grown up on the thoughts which clearly question his understanding of ahimsa as the supreme Dharma. And calling him one only makes him someone who cannot be followed.
Gandhi was a great man. Gandhi is a great man. The reason that made him great was his constant effort to be truthful to himself at all times. Though at times I fell for the argument that Gandhi's greatness arises from the influence that he was able to wield on an entire nation; I still feel his simple living and sticking to truth as the reasons for his greatness.

My next encounter with Gandhi was through the eyes of Godse. I happened to carefully study Godse's "May It Please Your Honor" - Godse is one person who surely has dissected Gandhi's Political life in his own style. The way in which he goes about doing that, is absolutely interesting. I still feel that whoever wants to know Gandhi's political life better would do well to read Godse's version. Godse's charge main against Gandhiji (he always respected him for all that he did) - that Gandhiji has made the whole country as his laboratory; and Indians as guinea pigs - this is what I condemn - I agreed with Godse in all of his argument. I definitely feel that this argument is of great validity even today. The limitations of any argument are things that I was not yet aware of and to me things were still that one argument has to win over the other. All this when I was in 9th and 10th standards.

For the next few years the connection was almost lost. The yearly celebrations continued. Once I ended up in IIIT-Hyderabad, Gandhiji knocked my mind's doors again, in some sense, I should say. The Director of the Institute, Prof. Sangal inspired by Gandhiji's thoughts has conceived the progress of the Institute to tread the path set on the ideals that Gandhiji stood for. And I came back to study Gandhiji in a different light. My interactions with Dr. Anindita were in a sense directed towards a change/deeper understanding in the earlier Godseian thought of Gandhiji and all the earlier thought. "We love Gandhi for all his failures" - was a statement that is often heard from Dr. Anindita - and she often advised me to go through Hind Swaraj, or the Home Rule which personifies Gandhian thought. I definitely did not go through it deeply and continued with taking positions based on my previous understanding and a little opening towards the flow of a different thought.

Later on in B Tech III year, my association with Prof. Sangal interested me in the study of Gandhiji. And it resulted in me going to the Gandhi Ashram at Sevagram, and my stay there for a few days (yet to be penned or should I say typed), and finally a study of Hind Swaraj is something that made me come to my own conclusions.

Gandhiji is possibly the most dangerous critic of the Western Civilization (probably the main reason why Gandhian thoughts have a great commercial value in the west) and his work towards energising the enervated Indians from their submission to the Western Civilization was something that was supported by the whole country. Unfortunately for India, the way the thought to action took place did not have multiple viewpoints and there was no one who could challenge Gandhiji intellectually over his methods of implementing the ideas and ideologies. History does not show any such instances as well.This was before the Independence.

After the Independence, it was Nehru's time where the very Western Civilizational roots took over the country's course in history. Probably it is time we look, with a sense of respect for this man who said "My Life is my message" - it may not be possible for us to study his life, but an instance of his life which can represent the whole of his thought stream is sufficient. As I made a promise to myself, I intend to go ahead with holding one week of study in our campus to debate over Hind Swaraj. Hope I have good number of takers.