Blog

Ikiru : A movie for the cinephile

Most people like watching movies that entertain. A few are open to being more patient. These people will strive to engage with the movie on a deeper level, at least to begin with. Later on, it of course, pans out differently for different people. And the few who are in this category, make peace with that. If you are among this select few, you should surely watch Ikiru. And if death and the meaning of life as cinematic themes sit easy with you, you cannot miss Ikiru. It will be a movie you will cherish forever. So, what is Ikiru about? Ikiru means ‘to live’ in Japanese. The story is simple. A lifelong bureaucrat comes to know that he has cancer and has only 6 months or so to live. When death stares him in the face, he realizes he has never truly lived. Caught up in a system that has reduced him to being a cog in the wheel, the man, Kanji Watanabe wonders whether he will ever get a chance to do anything that makes him come alive before…

Thoughts on the TATA Group challenge

As a teenager, 23 years ago, I remember being struck by something unsual in the newspapers one day. All of them were carrying one single news story on their front page. It was the obituary of JRD Tata. And on the rest of the page, there were vignettes or anecdotes from JRD’s life. Usually, political icons got such coverage. Why such a coverage for an industrialist then, I asked myself.  As I read and devoured everything in multiple papers and magazines, I got my answer. JRD was so much more than an industrialist & a business leader. JRD showed how much a business can contribute to a nation and society if it is driven by values & enlightened leadership. In your teens, you are moved more by ideas of justice and equality than by those of making money. To know that a business can reconcile such values & make money was a revelation to me. Reading about JRD made such a huge impact then. As I read about what is happening at the TATA group now, I am not dismayed…

Leadership this month : Taking time-out

The volatile Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte was asked about his response in an anticipated meeting; should Barack Obama, the US president, talk about rampant human rights violations and extra-judicial killings under his regime. In his native tongue, he said he would call Obama, ‘son of a bitch’. Obama’s response? All he said was that given the less likelihood of a productive and constructive conversation, he would call off the meeting. Which he did. No grand riposte. No grand-standing as the President of the United States of America. The Srilankan cricket team won their Test cricket series against the mighty australians 3-0, a whitewash. In the process, Australia lost their Test no.1 ranking. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith was sent back to Australia during the one-day series on the grounds of rest and preparation for the upcoming South African series at home. Of course, the decision was criticised as a sign of weak leadership. How can the captain of a beleaguered team go home like that? Well, he did. Under new captain, David Warner, the Australians won the one-day series…

Living in the now : An everyday opportunity

Right next to the gate leading out of the renowned Yoga institute in Santacruz is this inscription, “Mindfulness is Yoga” It also urges us to close the gate as we walk out. A specific example indeed for being mindful. But, “what is being mindful?” I carried this thought along with me as I walked over the railway bridge and stood along a road on the Western side. I was now waiting to hail an autorickshaw. The words ‘living in the now’ had now hopped onto the mindful train of thought. So, now I started thinking, “What is living in the now?” I was getting late. A few autos were on their way. An ordinary moment became extraordinary in a flash, moments later. Why so? See if it makes sense to you. Yes, it may even seem nonsense. I experienced something for a few moments. Then, the mind took over and I found myself asking, ” Can you be in the moment without reaching out for the auto- in the mind?” That is, can I be completely content in the present moment without my mind…

The Olympics at Rio : Inspiring achievements

The curtains have fallen over the Rio Olympics. The applause is yet to die down. The adrenalin is still surging through my brain. After all, our mind can soak in the glory of sport even when the body is not in the contest. Which is what I experienced when the Brazilian volley ball players were on the gold medal podium. This is Rio. This is their home. And their anthem is being played. Can anything top this?! They are weeping tears of joy. Clutching each other. Hearts beating as one, and stuttering because the moment is one to die for. Who doesn’t know that feeling?! Everyone does. Each one of us who has played team sports has that one electrifying experience of a closely fought game, be it any sport. When we know the contest has chiselled something within us, something deep and lasting, that goes beyond the game. Call it Self-belief or the power of We or by any other name. It is near impossible to define it and no definition is required for those who have experienced it. All we can say is that, it…

Leadership This Month : Missed Opportunities

Institutional Leaders with a historical legacy are faltering in the present. The International Olympic Association (IOC) & the Republican party establishment in the United States, in particular. The International Olympic Association (IOC) Russia, a sporting superpower was recently indicted in an independent anti-doping enquiry for establishment-backed doping by Russian athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Imagine hosting the Oympics and playing dirty on the side to help your country athletes win. This goes against the very spirit of everything that the Olympics stands for. With the Rio Olympics so near, the IOC had to respond and act fast. What did it do? The bare minimum was to bar Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016. And that it did, though even here, there is a provision to get them in. But the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on all Russian participation in Rio. A blanket ban would have sent a very strong, but much needed message to all member nations and their sports-establishments that the IOC is uncompromisingly committed in its fight against doping and any other…

Why Feedback falters

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker As a trainer, as you grow older, you may not become wiser. But you begin to think and wonder if you ever thought about things before! What was I thinking of when I asked people to use ‘sandwich technique’ for feedback years ago?! Praise first, Criticise again, End with Praise. Who was I kidding when I asked people to not focus on the person, but focus on the behaviour. That keeps it specific and makes a person less defensive, I said. Both are specific suggestions, much lauded. Both reduce things to a formula. And formulas and human interaction; never have the twain met! What is wrong with the ‘sandwich technique’?  As a feedback recipient, do you consider yourself a thinking person, someone who observes, learns and predicts? If you do, you know soon enough that here is a practiced technique on its way. Mechanical, contrived, and utterly predictable. And once you know what’s coming, you stop listening. I can very well…

Leader-ship : Lost at Sea

We live in a turbulent age. The democratic system of the world’s most powerful country, the United States, is being trumped up by a dangerous demagogue. A continental community ushered in to unite a continent ravaged by two world wars is being torn asunder. We have the highest ever number of refugees sequestered in camps because the countries they wish to enter have shut their doors on them. We have a terrorist group that wields state power in terms of – the territory it holds,the scale of violence it can unleash, and the identity it provides to its adherents. And we have a fragile environment that is breaking down to the point of no return, thanks to human depredations and excesses. First, the United States. To imagine Donald Trump having access to the nuclear button is a most fearful exercise. And this concerns the whole world, not just his country. The world’s most powerful democracy, the place where the world’s best intellects choose to live and work;  this very place has seen the rise of a dangerous and manipulative demagogue. The world’s…

Goals : Ain’t as simple as they look

Even after knowing how important goals are, we are none the wiser in our pursuit of them. We sit down with a blank piece of paper and ask, ‘ What is my goal?’. The simple assumption is that because we were not consciously having a goal, there was no goal in our life until that point. Goals & goal setting are multifaceted topics. They have many layers & multiple interpretations. Here are just two observations to get a handle on them. First, You are already pursuing a goal that you are unaware about. A more helpful way is to assume that my current reality is an outcome of an unarticulated goal.  Even if I knew nothing about goals in my life. For example, Ranbir Kapoor’s goal in the movie, ‘ Wake up Sid’ should he have articulated it was – live on my father’s money. I haven’t seen the movie, just a few scenes. In those scenes, I did not see him articulate that goal. It is not that he was living a goal-less life till he changes. The implicit goal…

Monday Morning Blues : Normal?

Monday Mornings If each day is a “gift”, I’d like to know where to return Mondays.                                                                       –  ( Put your name here) On Monday morning, you can’t hide it from yourself anymore. You are either happy to go to work or saying, ‘life sucks!’ And what is it you end up doing : look forward to the week-end. The ratio is 5:2. After five days of doing what you do not want to do in a place you do not want to be, you get two days to recover for the next five days of the same, old routine. And if your personal life is in shambles, you spend those two days seeing to it that is not going to pieces. There is no recovery, just damage-control. Am I painting too bleak a picture? I don’t think so. Here is the bleaker picture. You do not even know…