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Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:51:52 +0000


Bungle in the Dangal

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 07:14:00 +0000

Like the rest of India I too - finally - watched Dangal. I laughed a little, cried a little, felt inspired and uplifted. Then, as I walked out of the theatre, I googled ‘real story Geeta Phogat’. As expected, the makers had embellished the original story. To create more tension, more drama. But the journalist in me couldn’t help wondering, “Is this correct?”

Some are relatively minor changes. The real Geeta Phogat had shoulder length hair during the Commonwealth Games. The Geeta Phogat on-screen has symbolically chopped it off. Chalega.

But what about the coach on-screen who is depicted as a complete duffer, an obstacle in Geeta’s path? The real coach was actually a competent fellow and there was no ego clash. What’s more, Geeta Phogat did not fail in all her international outings. And in the final match at the Commonwealth Games 2010, she easily overpowered her Australian opponent 1-0, 7-0 to clinch the gold.

But the poor coach had to become a villain, so that Mahavir Phogat aka Aamir Khan could play the hero. Well, you might say - don’t crib about that. Isn’t it great that an actor of his stature picked up a story like this and made such a great film out of it? It’s all about empowering women and it’s about a sport other than cricket. Bhai thoda bhool-chook maaf.

How does this compare with biopics made in Hollywood? Well, it turns out the accuracy level is as as 41% low in a movie like The Imitation Game (which I quite enjoyed) but a respectable 89.9% in Bridge of Spies (also a great movie). But none of these films is blockbuster mass-market variety, which is what Dangal has achieved.

So I guess in the movie world - anything goes. As long as the larger purpose is served. The real Milkha Singh never looked back during that fateful race nor was Mary Kom in the ring fighting for the world championship while her son was fighting for his life. But the audience lapped it up right - toh phir this is the formula that works. Facts must wrestle with fiction and ultimately... the stronger narrative prevails.

The original story was inspiring enough but now we have the super-inspiring version. This is how myth and legend must be born. Hanuman went to fetch Sanjivani booti for Lakshman. Arey ek chhota sa plant laana kaun si badi baat hai. So some ancient storyteller - predecessor of the modern movie maker - tweaks the story. Now Hanumanji carries back the entire mountain…

Now if only I could use that trick in my next book. And turn some boring young fogey of an entrepreneur into Superman!


The Difficulty of Being Good - in Journalism

Mon, 22 Feb 2016 07:59:00 +0000

I saw a superb movie today called ‘Spotlight’. It’s the true story of a team of reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper who chased a story which everybody was trying to cover up (as is the case with every great story!). In this case, the villain of the piece was no less than the Catholic Church.The efforts of the Spotlight team revealed that parish priest John Goeghan had been sexually abusing young boys and girls for close to three decades. What’s worse - he was just one of more then 70 priests who were indulging in such behaviour and getting away with it. With the knowledge of the highest officials in the Catholic Church.The story was happening right there, in front of everyone’s nose, but people chose not to see it. To bring such stories out of the Cave of Shame and the Cloak of Cover-Up is the dharma of the professional journalist.The work these reporters did is what we call ‘old-school journalism’. They started with a single lead (Geoghan), then went backward and forward. Found people willing to speak on the record and off the record. Did actual running around and legwork. Finally they got documentary evidence to back it all up (which is always the hardest part)To do this kind of journalism you need a great editor. Someone who will be your taskmaster and cheerleader - rolled into one. In this case, that editor is Marty Baron. He sets the ball rolling by asking the team to look into the Geoghan case. As they unearth more and more dirt, the editor stands by them, and gently nudges the direction of the investigation. It’s not enough to focus on the priests, he says. The bigger story is ‘the system’. If the cardinal knew about it and turned a blind eye - now that’s the real crux of the problem. So the team scrambles to get the crucial evidence which can prove this. Yes, it’s going to take more time. But the editor understands that - a great story is never done in a hurry.To run such a story you need a publisher with balls of steel. You might lose readers, you might lose advertisers, you might upset powerful people. Well, the Boston Globe ran the story anyway - hats off to them!Finally, it’s the reporters themselves who get consumed by what they are reporting. They are sad, they are angry, they feel guilty (how could we not know earlier?) These emotions are channeled into the pursuit of the story, the determination to do whatever it takes.There is also an element of fear - having worked months on this story, what if the rival paper gets a whiff of it and publishes first? That is a professional hazard which keeps reporters on their toes. In the movie (as in many actual newsrooms) the journalists appear to be married to their jobs.You do it because you want to make a difference. The Spotlight team got that elusive satisfaction which every journalist craves for. The paper went on to publish more than 600 stories about the Catholic Church abuse scandal and hundreds of victims came forward, not just in Boston, but around the United States. As I watched the events on screen unfold I thought - there are so many stories happening right under our nose, just waiting to be told. But where are the editors with nerves of steel? Where are the publishers with spine? Because when you have these two necessary elements, there will be enough reporters willing to do everything it takes to unearth the story.At present, journalism - like every other profession - is going through a crisis. Owners of media have decided their customer is not the reader but the advertiser. What they forget is that without readers - very soon - there will be no advertisers. So don’t just grumble about how newspaper brands and trusted editorial faces have ‘sold out’. The way to register your protest is to stop buying those newspapers, stop watching those channels.Stop consuming junk news, which is just as bad for your health as junk food.For the last one year I have stopped subscribing to newspapers and I have no cable TV connection. I am not ‘missing out’ on anything. In fact, I am much happier sta[...]

Playing your part

Fri, 08 Jan 2016 18:17:00 +0000

I watched the play ‘Wooster and Jeeves - Perfect Nonsense’ at NCPA earlier this evening. The newspapers report this is the first time a ‘major West End production’ is touring Mumbai. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Well, I am guessing that is for two important reasons:1. P G Wodehouse still enjoys a cult following in India.2. This production rests on the able shoulders of just 3 actors playing 9 different characters.The piece de resistance was the scene where the same chap performs as a man and a woman simultaneously (imagine a Victorian style Ardhanarishwara). I quite liked the play though I think you would enjoy in 2X if you were a Wodehouse junkie in college. There are 4 more performances at the NCPA this weekend - though tickets are expensive (starting at Rs 2000) it is certainly cheaper than going to the West End :)Years ago, when I was in London for 2 months on a fellowship, I used to buy the cheapest tickets available and watch one show every week. Many of these productions were big-budget, high-end musicals. A couple of years ago I also visited New York and saw some Broadway shows glitzier and more spectacular than anything in London!)Over the last 6 months I finally got around to watching several plays, right here in Mumbai. I realised the trick is to1. Buy the ticket on ‘Book My Show’ in advance (then you feel, I must go!)2. Do not wait for company - a good play can easily be enjoyed alone.Unlike Broadway or West End, where theatre is an organised industry, in India it’s a ‘trial by fire’. Tickets at Prithvi theatre sell for as little as Rs 150 so it’s clearly not something people are doing for the money. What we lack in spectacle we make up for with sheer passion and acting talent.In fact, I find some of the plays I like best are the ones where one actor plays several parts, or even all parts. Here are some such productions which I recommend highly:1. 9 Parts of Desire directed by Lilette Dubey - a play about the effect of the Gulf war on the lives of Iraqi women. Ira Dubey is brilliant in this one-woman show where she plays 9 different characters. These characters are women who actually existed, from Layal, the artist who survived by painting portraits of Saddam Hussein to Umm Ghada (mother of Ghada) stays in a deserted bomb shelter where her entire family perished. It is a hard-hitting play but not ‘heavy’. 15th & 16th Jan at NCPA Experimental Theatre, 730 pm2. Kambhakt Bilkul Aurat by Naseeruddin Shah’s Motley Productions - Again, you will see just one actor on stage performing an entire story, with minimal props and sets. That takes real talent! The actors are Heeba Shah, Loveless Mishra (chhutki from Hum Log) and Seema Pahwa (badki from Hum Log)Of course, the stories themselves are so good - coming from the pen of famed Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai. One of the stories was ‘Lihaaf, for which Ismat was charged with obscenity (she successfully fought and won the case back in 1942!). I do think the story is quite radical even for today - hats off to her! Keep checking BookMyShow as performances keep happening. If you are lucky you might even catch part 1 of this production called ‘Ismat Aapa ke Naam’ where Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak perform a story each.3. Einstein by Motley Productions - Naseeruddin Shah plays Albert Einstein as an old man, reflecting on his life, work and legacy. This play can be quite inspiring for kids, as the stage Einstein talks about how he had speech difficulties and teachers thought he was a difficult child for asking too many questions. In fact, his father was quite keen that he become an electrician! You also get a glimpse of how tiring it was in later years for Einstein to play the part of a ‘celebrity’. Constantly invited to give interviews and makes speeches - by people who scarcely understood science. It also looks into the guilt which the scientist felt because his work contributed to the making of th[...]

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 12:24:00 +0000

There are some mornings when I wake up feeling like shit. I know there is only one option before me - which is to ‘snap out of it’. A psychologist once administered a lengthy test to me, which included staring at inkblots, and pronounced - you have a 'depressive personality'. Meaning I am not, by birth, a shiny happy sunny person. But that doesn’t mean I cannot be happy. It just means I have to consciously work for it.After experimenting with numerous forms of healing and self-development I have come to one simple conclusion: my state of mind must be in my control. No matter what the circumstances, what the trigger, what the ‘other person said’. We go to university and get degrees in different subjects but the one area that remains a mystery to most of us - often till the very end - is the human mind. Baar baar bure khayal aate hain… what can I do? As if thoughts are magical beings which dance around in our heads without our consent.Well, the best way to explain this is that the human mind is like a computer system and thoughts are the software. Many of us have installed faulty software (thoughts which do not serve us well) and hence the system is malfunctioning.The installation often happened when we were children. We watched our parents and teachers and learnt to be criticise ourselves. We felt alone and unwanted on the playground. We felt ashamed of ourselves. Unworthy of love.It is amazing how almost every problem in the world can be traced back to the need to be loved and yet feeling - ‘I am not unlovable’. Whitney Houston performed an amazing song called ‘The Greatest Love of All’. width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>The greatest love of all.. is happening to me.…learning to love myself.. it is the greatest love of all.Sadly the singer herself died 25 years in a bathtub after an overdose of cocaine… Obviously struggling with issues of self-acceptance and self-love. Our modern society, and in particular advertising, is based on the idea that you need to ‘have something’ or ‘do something’ or ‘be a certain kind of someone’ to feel worthy and feel good.‘Use 7-in-1 Blah Blah Cream because you are imperfect in not 1 but 7 ways’.‘Eat sugar-free Blah Blah Biscuits because you are ugly and fat’.‘Buy an expensive handbag with some French guy’s initials on it to be a part of the club’. (the club of people who are insecure about themselves)Self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love cannot be bought. You have to create this within yourself,. Through introspection, through awareness and by reprogramming all those faulty programs.Where can you start? Take out 1 hour each day for your personal self-development. To identify those bugs and to fix them. There are many ways I can recommend - from yoga and meditation to reiki, panic healing, pranayama - all of which require a certain level of training and commitment. But if you are willing to at least take a baby step forward I can recommend just 1 method: affirmations. An affirmation is anything we say or think. A lot of what we say and think is quite negative and does not create good experiences for us… We have to retrain our speaking and thinking into positive patterns if we want to change our lives.These are the words of Louise Hay which revealed a new way of living to me - several years ago. I understood a piece in the puzzle of ‘what I have to do’ to be happy and stay happy.Buy the life-changing book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ by Louise Hay. Read it and do the exercises - what the author calls as ‘mirror work’.Also access Louise Hay’s free guided meditations on Youtube. My two favourites:You Can Do It: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Change your Life Forever: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Listen to these at least once [...]

All that glitters...

Sat, 02 Jan 2016 13:26:00 +0000

This morning @AnantRangaswami, Editor of CNBC Storyboard tweeted: The only display ad in today's @EconomicTimes. Confounded by the media planner. This was what he was referring to:

In fact, I found the choice of media quite clever and tweeted back: @AnantRangaswami @EconomicTimes why confounded. It's the readers of ET (mostly men) who pay for jewellery purchases!

Pick up any in-flight magazine (80% of air travellers are men) and they are full of jewellery advertisements. Each necklace looks like it weighs 3 kilograms and the earrings are nothing less than 1 kg each. You would imagine we are all princesses living in the Mughal era!

The lust for jewellery in the year 2016 is entirely based on 2 factors:

1. The rational motive: To find a parking spot for one’s black money. (a jeweller whom I recently met in Gurgaon shared that 75% of his clients pay cold hard cash and do not want proper bills).

2. The irrational motive: To show one’s status and wealth - although there are many other ways to do that in the modern age.

In fact, at most weddings women are happily wearing absolutely blingy, 100% fake costume jewellery citing security reasons. Aajkal zamaana itna kharab ho gaya hai…

The real thing lies locked up in the bank locker, possibly completely out of date and out of fashion.

I have nothing against jewellery - I too own some heirloom pieces handed down to me at the time of marriage by my mother-in-law. But the important word here is ‘few’.

Buying your daughter or daughter-in-law multiple big fat sets is a waste! Yet every single day you see it happening.

Brides are practical birds after all - if pitaji and sasurji are feeling generous, why to object! Behti noton ki Ganga mein haath dho lo...

Grandmothers often talk of jewellery as stridhan. Well - a gold biscuit is a more sensible form of dhan than a kundan ka haar. Then there are shares and mutual funds. Even property.

But kya karein - we have our traditions.

Actually, I feel that girls from modern Indian families have already received the greatest form of dhan - which is a good education. They are fully capable of buying their own jewellery - the kind they can actually wear everyday.

But no, the act of buying jewellery has been equated with ‘love’ and ‘romance’. Thanks to a modern day advertising success story called De Beers.

If your husband buys you a diamond on your birthday or anniversary - it means he loves you.

Now if he goes for this Tanishq scheme and buys the same diamond at 20% off… it could mean ki unke pyaar mein bhi kuch kami hai ! *wink*

So think before you leap. The most precious jewel a man can give you is his heart. Do you have that or do you just have a collection of stones?


Back where I belong

Fri, 01 Jan 2016 16:03:00 +0000

My New Year Resolution is to start writing again. I mean, do it single-mindedly, dedicatedly, every single day. Whether I ‘feel’ like it or not. Whether I am ‘inspired’ or not. Whether I am ‘tired’ or not.

Because this is what I was born for.

Because this is what keeps me sane.

My target is 3 hours a day - coz it’s best to start with baby steps. Writing would include - books, columns, blogs, maybe even poetry. Depends what comes out of me once I start.

My inspiration for this resolution is Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’. A somewhat preachy but stimulating book on leading the creative life. There’s plenty of pithy advice for every kind of writer and artist - including those still in the closet. But even a published author like me needs reminding. That writing is not about ‘wanting to write’ or ‘planning to write’. It’s about actually writing. A few lines from ‘Big Magic’ which rang true for me:

‘I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work without interruption’. (it never happens - you gotta do it in the midst of chaos.).

‘Most things have already been done - but they have not been done by you.’ (yeah - there are pretty much 6 or 7 stories which are told and retold. It’s the voice which makes it fresh/ unique).

‘Most of my writing life consists of nothing more than unglamorous, disciplined labour… but sometimes it is Fairy Dust’. (what I need to get back to is the discipline and the labour, the fairy dust is a bonus).

So like Elizabeth Gilbert puts it, it’s time to ‘sneak off and have an affair with your most creative self.’

This year I shall flirt with words and seduce ideas… may the fun and games begin!

Why Shit Happens

Sun, 11 Oct 2015 06:45:00 +0000

In 2016, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is marooned on the red planet in the Hollywood sci-fi adventure titled ‘The Martian’. There are two possible versions of the future. Version 1.1 – when food and oxygen run out in 212 sols (Martian days) Shri Watney will die. But that’s not the version he chooses to believe.

Mark Watney is an eternal optimist and a ‘take that! Neil Armstrong’ kind of guy.
He says to his webcam, “Maybe I will die, but I not without putting up a fight.” Thus with nothing but his own wits, willpower and determination he figures out a bunch of things nobody has ever done before.

He starts growing food, finds a way to communicate with NASA and stays sane without any human support or company. But it struck me that the stuff Mark Watney did on planet Mars is quite similar to what any entrepreneur must do right here on planet Earth.

When you start a company, you have no company. You are marooned on a planet called ‘My Big Idea’. There is very limited oxygen (read: funding) and even less food (read: paying customers). What sustains the entrepreneur is the will to survive.

On planet Mars, Mark Watney discovers that even his own shit serves some purpose. He uses it to make the red soil fertile and plant potato seeds. When, after many weeks, he sees the first green shoots appear, Watney is thrilled to bits. In India, we call this method ‘jugaad’.

‘The Martian’ is extreme jugaad. Watney is a botanist by training, yet he must now be physicist, chemist and rocket scientist rolled into one. Our astronaut can get some ‘mentorship’ from experts on earth but kaam to usey khud hi karna padega.

But none of this would have been possible if Watney had broken down. Kaise hoga? Nahin hoga blah blah blah blah. The biggest challenge an entrepreneur faces is not in the external environment but within himself. So forget about the ‘ecosystem’, first work on apne andar ka shaitan.

Unlike Mars, this planet offers many escape routes. Cut off those options. Unless you are as desperate as Watney, you won’t be able to look at your own shit and create life from it.

Robinson Crusoe did it 300 years ago on a desert island. Mark Watney did it on a different planet. We can take inspiration from their stories and write our own stories. There is no dearth of ‘planets’ to colonise. Look up in the sky and find the one that speaks to your heart.


We all want to be happy but....!

Thu, 10 Sep 2015 04:39:00 +0000

Yesterday I attended a talk by Sunandaji, daughter-disciple of Swami Parthasarthy. It was a 4 day lecture series, of which I could attend only day 3. But what I heard was exactly what I needed to. It clarified several questions in my mind.

I did not record the talk or take notes, hence sharing only a few of the points which really made an impression. First of all, Sunandaji described life as anubhavdhara or stream of experiences. To make a building, the unit required is a brick. Similarly, the basic building block of life is experience.

The question then arises – what is our experience of life and how can we make it better? Today, many of us enjoy a far higher standard of living than ever before and yet, we are only more miserable. Why is this the case?

Sunandaji went on to give the example of a boat. This boat has a rod at the centre to hold the sail – yet the boat holds steady in the water. This is because of the ‘keel’. The keel lies beneath the water which cannot be seen. But it is designed to keep the boat afloat.

The problem with modern life, she says, is that our standard of living may rise higher and higher. But we have no ‘keel’ to keep us steady. In the human context, keel is a set of values which guide our actions.

The current values, in fact, are mostly greed, arrogance, hunger for power, beauty, fame and money. Verse 12 of Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita says as follows:

'Bound by hundreds of bands of hope, succumbing to lust and wrath, they strive to maintain hoards of wealth unjustly for sensual enjoyment'. (broadly – that sums up the headlines of our daily newspapers!)

Verse 13 goes on to say: ‘This today I have gained, this object of desire I shall obtain, this is mine, also this wealth shall continue to be mine in future’.

But nothing in this world is permanent – not dhana (wealth), not maana (fame) or yavana (youth). Living with these principles can therefore only create suffering.

Many of us wish to escape to the Himalayas to find peace but this too is a delusion. Change of dress or change of address does not make you spiritual. The dis-ease is within you and you carry it wherever you go (that is why there is politics and scandal even at ashrams).

You can find peace right here, in the midst of chaos. By using your intellect, creating strength of character and choosing to be a ‘better human being’. Not that you are superior but maybe you are contrarian. People say you are different or even odd.

You help others without doing elaborate calculations about what you get in return.

You take up work which you find interesting and not for money alone. Money is important to you but nobody can buy your soul.

You enjoy good things in life but you are not addicted. If those things are taken away you can still see yourself being happy.

I can vouch for the fact that whenever I have worked with this attitude, I have received the greatest rewards from the most unexpected sources. Lately, I thought I should become more ‘worldly’ or matlabi. That maybe people are taking advantage of me. And I found less joy and less satisfaction in whatever I took up.

Having learnt this lesson I go back to the old way. The unfashionable way. The path of giving your best and leaving the rest.

Trusting that I will be taken care of.


Banno tera BTech Laage Saxy ('She's Got the Code')

Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:06:00 +0000

Sharing a humorous piece I wrote for Outlook magazine recently on female engineering graduates. This is what they published under the title 'She's Got The Code'. Sharing the slightly longer unedited version below, with my original (Hinglish) title.Banno tera BTech laage saxyColleges offerning BTech degrees are sprouting across the country, faster than Café Coffee Days. This offers equal opportunity for girls to become frustrated engineers.Rashmi BansalOnce upon a time people who owned land cultivated rice, white, jowar and bajra. Then, they discovered a new cash crop. They started cultivating engineers.The first requirement of an engineering college is a building. If you have budget, do put marble in the lobby. Air-condition the classrooms. Orange and yellow benches in the canteen. Bhai, dekhne mein acchha lagta hai! Now you need to do naamkaran. If the college is laundering black money for the local MP, simply use his name. Another good option is a hi-tech sounding name such as ‘Hi Tech College of Engineering’. Bhai, sunane mein acchha lagta hai.As per AICTE rules, kuch teacher log bhi chahiye. In every university there are a few good-for-nothings who have spent many years of their life trying to get a PhD - and finally succeeded. Ask them to come and warm a chair in the college. Then find the recent BTechs and Mtechs who have failed to clear TCS and Infosys aptitude test. They will happily join you. Yes, their English is weak but chalta hai. Unko kaun si Shakespeare padaani hai.Okay – your college is now ready to admit students. The good news is you have a super-large pool of nerds who don’t think there is any future in Arts, Science, Commerce, Fashion Design or Reading Tarot Cards. The one and only career for the honhaar bharatiya bachcha lies in Sri Sri Cos, Mata Tan and Devi Sine.The grooming of the good son starts before he hits puberty. Engineerification starts with ‘fitji’ to hit JEE - extra classes on Saturday, Sunday and vacations. Ek time tha when eager parents pushed only their male children towards this teenage sanyaas. In the spirit of equality, some parents now encourage their female children to pursue this joyless path.Consequently like the tiger population in India, the rare species of girls in IIT has gone up by a few percentage points. Now engineering was originally about learning how to build bridges, work with machines and run factories. Luckily, now it is all about typing speed on the computer. Girls have always been good typists. So naturally you will see them in streams like computer science and information technology.The ratio of boy: girl remains 1 Zillion: 1 in civil, mechanical and any other engineering fraught with heat, dust and ziddi grease. Now back to our air-conditionwala local engineering college. This is where you will find girls, a lot of girls. 30-50% of the student population, to be precise. The girls can broadly be classified into 2 types:- Kaam ke liye engineers : They are sure that they want to work somewhere after graduation. - Naam ke liye engineers: They are sure their parents will not allow them to work after graduation. Many naam ke liye girl engineers get an opportunity to work in nice software companies while their parents search for suitable grooms. Come shaadi season and these birds migrate to New Jersey, Texas, Santa Clara and San Jose. A lucky few find liberation in foreign lands - a license to work, study further, wear tight jeans and roam free without sticker bindis. You see, the husband is broad-minded. The unlucky ones married average Indian blokes who don’t care a hoot what degree the wife is wasting, as long as the sambhar is nicely tasting.These BTechs can be classified into 2 types: - Domestic engineers : Girls who are happy to be homemakers. They see ++ in every Indian recipe they learn from youtube.- Frus[...]

Coz I Still Haven't Found... What I'm Looking For

Wed, 03 Jun 2015 06:55:00 +0000

Last week I was in Rishikesh. My original plan was to spend 4 days at Ananda – the horribly expensive, exclusive ‘destination spa’ in the Himalayas. A belated birthday gift to myself. However, due to a combination of circumstances I found myself at Swami Rama Sadhakgram. Living the ashram life.Each morning I woke up at 5 am, attended the hatha yoga session till 7 am. This was followed by silence meditation for an hour. A simple breakfast in the dining hall (where each one must wash their own dishes). An hour or two of classes/ practice sessions on correct breathing, correct posture and ‘meditative walking’. Lunch. Rest. Evening hatha yoga. Another hour of meditation. Dinner. Some walking, some reading. And off to bed.It was not easy. The first day my body ached with all the stretching and bending involved in yoga. It felt like some parts had actually rusted! I skipped the morning meditation to catch some sleep. My mind kept wandering through the evening meditation. My leg went numb and I had to get up and sit on a stool.That night I googled ‘hotels’ near Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula, thinking I’ve had enough. But miraculously I woke up the next morning at 445 am without an alarm. And at the end of the yoga session I was feeling tired but also very light. Isme kuch baat toh hai…I decided to stay. In the next 3 days I learnt many things about myself. Firstly, I need to breathe properly – through my diaphragm. Hooked up to a monitor by Dr Prabhu at the Meditation Research Centre I could actually see a pattern of shallow breathing on the screen in front of me.Pehle to yeh correct karna padega.It is said that the yogis learnt the important of deep breathing by observing nature. A dog, which is constantly panting lives barely 10-12 years whereas the giant turtle which breathes once every hour lives for a century. The spiritual head of Sadhakgram, Swami Veda, completes one breath in one minute. He is 83.“Despite having 100% blockage in the heart, 5-6 collapsed discs, lung problems and many other health issues, Swami Veda works 13-14 hours a day!” remarked Dr Prabhu. “It is a miracle as far as medical science is concerned.”The secret is the control that yogis have over their mind and body. Apparently, Swami Veda is able to control the vagus nerve – which is considered to be an ‘involuntary’ system. Of course, it takes decades of sadhana to reach that level but the fact that it can be done is pretty amazing.An important thing I learnt here is that yoga is more about the mind than the body. Yes, you learn stand, sit and bend in various ways to perform asanas. The exercise may result in physical benefits. But fundamentally, yoga is a means to make your body relaxed and your mind focused. So that you are able to meditate with ease.In Swami Rama’s own words: “Once you are healthy in body and clear in mind, you can easily contemplate on the higher purpose and meaning of life.”Another big lesson was the power of silence. At the ashram, every Thursday is a ‘day of silence’. Swami Veda has, in fact, taken a vow of silence since the last two and a half years. Hence there are no discourses or speeches. You simply sit in his presence to meditate. And receive his mental vibrations. Of course, true silence goes beyond ‘not speaking’. It is the silence within yourself.On the last day, one of the teachers remarked, “If you have come here it is just by chance… you have been called here, aapko bulaya gaya hai.”And truly, unlike Art of Living or Isha, Sadhakgram is not widely marketed or publicised. I had not even heard of Swami Rama before I came here. That could be because he left his body in 1996, and the organisation does not promote itself on letter boxes, twitter or facebook.The interesting thing about Swami Rama is that he was raised in the Himala[...]

India's Other Daughters

Sun, 08 Mar 2015 11:55:00 +0000

I saw ‘India’s Daughter’ on YouTube the day it was released online. Despite the hue and cry it had generated, the video had a mere 103, 895 views, around 8 hours after it was uploaded. A Bollywood item number would easily have crossed a million.The 59 minute documentary is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. It does not editorialise or pass any judgement. It simply gets everyone from Jyoti’s parents to the rapists’ parents to ‘bus driver’ Mukesh Singh himself to speak on camera. The viewer is left to draw his/ her own conclusions.This is what I concluded after watching ‘India’s Daughter’:1. Jyoti Singh was a very lucky girl. Although born in a traditional family, her parents had a modern outlook. They treated her ‘like a male child’ in that she was encouraged to study.Her father said, “We sold our ancestral land in the village so that Jyoti could join medical college. My brothers objected but we did it anyway.”Imagine the millions of girls out there whose parents don’t have this outlook. Their spirit is crushed so early that they don’t have hopes or dreams for themselves. The only future they have is to ‘get a husband’.2. The Pati Parmeshwar (‘husband is everything’) mindset has crossed ridiculous limits. Many people are very disturbed by the statements made by lawyers defending the rapist. As ghinaune as those gentlemen are, one might say it is their job to defend their client – no matter what it takes.If you have watched American legal dramas such as The Practice’ or ‘How to get Away with Murder’ you would see that lawyers have no ‘ethics’, the world over.What really disturbed me is the statement made by the wife of one of the rapists. She said,” Without a husband I have no life, who will protect me, who will look after me… better that I too should die.”Take a hypothetical scenario where the court acquits the man, this lady seems quite willing to accept a rapist and murderer as her husband. This is what her family and society would also advise her to do.Instead of encouraging her to walk out on him and become an independent, financially self-sufficient woman. Educating her, giving her confidence and skills to lead her own life.Because, you see, women have no life if they have no husband.3. Education is not the answer (for changing the mindset of men). For women like Jyoti Singh the pursuit of knowledge equals freedom. The freedom to think, to have an identity, to stand up and be counted.Jyoti worked in an international call centre from 8 pm-4 am in order to earn some extra money and pay her hostel fees. Jyoti benefitted from the new liberalized economy which created these jobs and did not care whether she was a man or a woman, as long as she was performing well.But look at this scenario from the man’s point of view. At home, he is treated like a raja, superior to his mother and sisters. At work, he has to treat women as equals. This is not an easy thing. It doesn’t matter whether the boy is educated at IIT or IIM. The sex ratio at these institutes is, historically, so skewed that it actually supports the theory that ‘men are smarter than women’. If someone installed a hidden camera in the boys hostels here is a sample of what you would hear:At the beginning of the course: Discussions on vital statistics of various girls At the end of the course: How X got a plum job only because ‘she is a girl’ (worse – ‘a good-looking girl’.)You might dismiss this as hostel mein aisi faltu baatein hoti hain – youthful camaraderie and all that. But conversely, I have never heard discussions in the girls hostel about so and so boy got a plum job because ‘he is a boy’. (worse – ‘a boy with thick spectacles’.)In fact said boy with thick spectacles but a very good salary slip will [...]

What I read in 2014

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 11:52:00 +0000

Amazon asked me to share my reading list in 2014 - a few old, a few new. Here goes:

Picks of 2014

1. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis - This non-fiction book reads like a thriller - the scary part is it's all true. The greed and insanity on Wall Street is now driven by technology, just like everything else in our lives. Read it to learn many dirty secrets about the world of high finance.

2. Private India by Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson - Aa book by Ashwin which has nothing to do with mythology? Now this I was curious to read. And I must say it was racy, well-plotted and the author has deftly added a nice Bambaiyya touch. A good book to read in-flight!

3. If Truth Be Told By Om Swami - This is the true story of an MBA from Australia who set up a hugely successful company, only to chuck it all up to go and head to the Himalayas in search of 'enlightenment'. Om Swami has candidly shared his own thoughts, insights and experiences - you might be skeptical whether 'such things really happen'! But you will never be bored or find it 'heavy' - and definitely some parts will move you, make you think about your own life. Your own truth.

All-time favorite Reads

1. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - Any time I am low or stressed I can pick up this book and find a 'pick me up'. This is a book packed with practical thoughts and ideas which you can actually use in day-to day life, whether it's work, relationships or money. I personally feel this is the most effective self-help book ever published.

2. The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams - Office satire is not an easy genre but Scott Adams makes it seem effortless. I love Dilbert in comic form but the book takes the inanity of modern corporate life to the next level. Ha ha ha ha ha.

3. Yuganta by Irawati Karwe - I first read this book as part of a course called 'Leadership, Vision, Meaning and Reality' at IIM Ahmedabad where we learnt about leadership principles through classic books. Yuganta is a study of the main characters in the Mahabharata and every time I read it I learn something new.

Here's wishing you all a very happy, book-filled 2015!


'Chef' - the movie, the menu for life

Sun, 22 Jun 2014 06:59:00 +0000

I saw the movie ‘Chef’ yesterday – and loved it. It happened without any planning – I was in the Fort area on a Saturday afternoon and thought of checking out Sterling. One of my oldtime favourite haunts. ‘Chef’ was playing an hour later (and the first search result on google gave the film 7.9/10). To bas, ticket le liya, aur movie dekh li.‘Chef’ is a sweet little film about Chef Carl Casper, a guy who gets savaged by a food blogger and ends up having a spat with him. It starts with a public message on twitter and escalates into a mess where Chef Carl loses his job, his temper and his reputation. The film is about how he ‘gets his groove back’ – as a chef, as a father, as a human being who is actually happy with himself. And it’s also a tribute to the power of the internet. The viral video where Chef Carl raves and rants at the food blogger destroys his career. But when he drives a food truck selling ‘Cubanos’ (Cuban sandwiches) from Miami to Los Angeles, the internet is his ally. At each stop along the way, crowds gather like magic – thanks to tweets and 6 second videos posted on Vine by Carl’s ‘marketing manager’ – his 10 year old son Percy. On the other hand, the two weeks Percy spends with his dad teach him the value of hard work, of making customers happy, of putting your heart and soul into your work.Coz you need old world thinking and new world thinking to do something really outstanding in life.Another thought that came to mind was that sometimes the lowest point in your life – personally or professionally – is actually your biggest opportunity. A blessing in disguise. If Chef Carl had not quit his job in a huff, he would never had gone to Miami, never done something crazy like Cubanos, never spent time with his son. When you reach that lowest of low points you have nothing more to lose. The only way you can go is ‘up’!The movie also brought out the tension between the capitalist and the creative soul. The owner of the restaurant was only paying lip service when he told Chef Carl ‘this is your kitchen’. What he meant was this is your kitchen to work in – the way I want you to. Because hey – I own the premises, I bought the equipment, I pay the salaries. But hey – you don’t own my soul.The creative mind wants to spend its time creating something beautiful. Whether it is with words, with notes, with film or with food. He doesn’t want the hassle of paying the bills – for that he capitalist support. This can be a partnership which creates lasting excellence - if the guy with the money and the guy with the ideas find a formula to work together – and stick by it. On the other hand we will see more and more creative people becoming entrepreneurs because – it’s much easier today. The internet has made it possible for a small, creative business to set up shop, to get customers, to build a reputation and even attract investors. So if you’re a creative soul who feels hollowed and sucked out by your capitalist employer – go watch this film. You may finally gather the courage to throw down your ‘apron’ and walk into the Great Unknown. Feeling light and free and happy because you have the power to create a Whole New Life.[...]

B for Buffett, B for Bansal

Thu, 05 Jun 2014 04:12:00 +0000

Sharing a light-hearted piece I recently wrote for Outlook Magazine on the editor's request. The context is the merger of Flipkart & Myntra (both owned by Bansals).B for Buffett, B for Bansalby Rashmi BansalThe recent merger of Messrs Bansal & Bansal (of Flipkart) with Mr Bansal (of Myntra) has created a Bansal Business of Brobdingnagian proportions. Add to that the Bansal who founded Snapdeal and the Bansal behind Lenskart and apparently 85 per cent of India’s e-commerce market is now with the Bansal Brigade.Naturally, this begs the question, ‘Inki mummy ne doodh mein Bournvita milaya tha ya koi secret potion?’ Did they simply fall into a cauldron of extra-potent arhar dal which gave them superpowers beyond ordinary oily-haired businessmen? We shall wait for researchers from Sweden to produce a highly unreadable scientific report on this subject of vast and urgent national interest.Meanwhile, the editor of Outlook has requested me to write this article off the top of my head, based on nothing but sweeping generalisations. Such a piece can be safely written only by a person bearing the ‘Bansal’ surname. Hence I take up the gauntlet on behalf of all my bania brethren and sistren.First of all, let me say, this is a defining moment for all Bansals. The Guj­aratis have the Ambanis, the Marwaris have the Birlas and the Parsis the Tatas. This is our moment to stand in the sun without affecting our wheatish complexions.You will not find a Bansal filmstar (Khan territory). You will not find a Bansal army chief (Singh territory). You will not find a Bansal chaiwallah (Modi territory). You will however find dozens of Bansal Sweets, Bansal Transporters, Bansal Jewellers and Bansal General Stores. We Bansals are the traders and shopkeepers of this nation.While Bansal is the surname of the season, let me clarify they are one branch of a larger bania community known as ‘Agrawals’. The legend goes that Maharaja Agrasen had 17 sons and one daughter, whose descendants are known as Agrawals. There are 17-and-a-half Agrawal surnames (or got­ras)—including Garg, Goyal, Mittal, Singhal, Kansal and, of course, Bansal.This information is largely irrelevant to the general public but of great interest to Agrawals themselves. When a Mittal aunty meets a Singhal one, both brains work at the speed of light to solve the Sudoku puzzle “Hamare ladke ke liye aapke dhyan mein koi acchha rishta hai kya?” You see, by tradition, you do not marry within your gotra (a Bansal does not marry a Bansal). However, these days pandits can be ‘persuaded’ to bless even such unions.The Agrawals are a fluid community spread all over north India (and now, all over the world). In every state, they tend to adopt the local language and customs. So while one Bansal may be strictly sober and vegetarian (in the state of Rajasthan), a Bansal from Punjab will most certainly enjoy his Patiala peg with a piece of tandoori chicken.Matrimonial advertisements from the Agrawal community are highly ambitious. Every boy (himself no Shahrukh) is seeking a Priyanka Chopra. The girls are more practical and settle for the guy with a modern mummyji and good bank balance.Bania boys fall under two categories: family business and nerds. The first is self-explanatory, the second are sons of banias who believed there is no future in business. The dads joined “service” and encouraged their kids to do so too.While the older generation went for banks, the younger one went for investment banks. The route to the corner office in BKC was through the Indian Institutes of Technology and Management. Ironically, the very first coaching classes for IIT ent­ra­nce were started way back in 1962 by G.D. Agrawal. For decades, Agra[...]

Do you have a Bloody Good Book in you?

Sat, 28 Dec 2013 06:38:00 +0000

An invitation to first time authorsMany of you write to me, asking for advice on how to get published. Often you say, “I have a manuscript but I don’t know who to send it to.” Or, “I have sent my manuscript to 5 publishers but there is no response.”At these times, I remember how lucky I have been to get a break in this industry. And I truly and deeply feel that I must help budding authors out there do the same.But how? I have thought about it for a long time and have finally decided that the only way to do it is to create a new platform. A platform whose purpose is to select, publish and promote the most promising new authors.The author whose work makes you exclaim: “It’s a ‘bloody good book!”‘Bloody Good Book’ (BGB) is a new concept in publishing. Traditional publishers employ a small group of high-minded editors, who sit at a desk or in a conference room and decide which book makes the cut. This method may be traditional, but more often than not it doesn’t work well.For instance, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was famously rejected by 12 publishers, and the 13th only picked it up because his 8-year-old daughter insisted, “Dad, this is so much better than anything else!”And that’s the chance we are giving all of you. A chance to read manuscripts with a fresh and enthusiastic eye, and spot real talent.Here’s how it will work:1. Authors upload their manuscripts on (exclusively, for a period of 6 months).2. The first 3 chapters of these manuscripts will be displayed on the site for readers to rate and comment on.3. We will review the top 10 books of the month and aim to select 1 book every month to publish in the electronic format.4. BGB will undertake the editing, proof-reading, cover design and all other such aspects of the selected book in order to give it the ‘professional’ touch.5. BGB will also represent these books on the author’s behalf to print publishers.Advantages to the author:1. BGB will publish a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 books in a year. If your book is selected, it means it’s ‘bloody good’.2. Your manuscript will attract a better deal from a print publisher if it can demonstrate popularity with potential readers.3. Print publishers do not understand the eBook world. EBooks is BGB’s whole and sole focus; we will move heaven and earth to excel in it.4. Even if your manuscript is not in the top 10, or selected for publication, you will receive honest and valuable feedback on how to improve your work.5. ‘Bloody Good Book’ is an idea by an author, for the benefit of authors. We will never shortchange you; the author’s best interest will always come first.Advantages to readers:1. You get a say in what gets published—it’s more democratic and fair.2. You could be the one who spots the Next Big Talent.3. There will frequently be some goodies like author-signed books and chats with well-known authors for you.4. You will be part of a like-minded community, which loves books and spreads the reading bug.3. At the end of it all, you just might get inspired to start writing a book of your own! So what do you have to do? Send me your manuscript. I am looking for the first 100 manuscripts which will launch The manuscript must be in doc or pdf form and be a complete manuscript (although we will display only the first 3 chapters).My team and I will lightly screen the manuscripts (making sure they are original, for instance) and suggest some minor improvements, if necessary.Email your manuscripts/ comments / suggestions to bloodygoodbook@gmail.comThe website will launch in February 2014.From next week, I will be sharing advice [...]

Shudh Desi Filmmaking - 3.5 stars

Sat, 07 Sep 2013 06:22:00 +0000

Last night I went to watch ‘Shudh Desi Romance’ for only one reason: writer Jaideep Sahni. And I wasn’t disappointed. This is not your average Bollywood film.‘Shudh Desi Romance’ (SDR) is fresh and different and not just at a superficial level. It’s a portrayal of a new India where young people change boyfriends and girlfriends the way they change their mobile phones. Look around and you can see this India all around you. Yet, our movies and serials continue to portray the India we want to perpetuate. The India of chachis, fufis, shaadis and baaraatis. As if you can be carefree and crazy for just the pre-marital phase of life and then happily ‘settle down’.“Yeh poore India ko bas ‘settlement’ ki padi hai”, grumble Sushant Singh Rajput in the opening sequence of the film. You betcha. Marriage is an industry, it’s a business opportunity, it’s the only legitimate entertainment India has. Khao, peeo, naacho, paise udaao – something to plan for, something to live for. And yeah, one hapless boy and girl get Fevicol-ed in public. Courts will ensure haishaa kar ke bhi todna mushkil hai.Leave aside the few who marry out of deep desire to spend their lives with another human being and raise a family. The majority are entering marriage without thought, without clarity. Ladki achchi dikhti hai, chalo kar lo. Ladke ki family achchi hai, okay! Baad mein kya hoga? Adjust ho jayenge.After all, har ek adjust ho jaata hai. How difficult can it be?Believe me, it’s getting more and more difficult. I know of two cases in my extended family where the marriage has crumbled after less than two years. An arranged marriage, with all taam-jhaam, no expense spared. The reason, I believe, is simple. Girls are getting educated, they are working, they aren’t willing to take shit from their in-laws and husbands. And of course, threshold of tolerance on both sides is extremely low.Coming back to SDR. Imagine a film where the characters keep attending weddings but no one actually gets married. There is a love triangle but no hero fighting to win the girl’s hand (instead there are two girls and one hero, and they don’t fight either). Women actually make choices. Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) lives alone, far from her family. She is a working girl who experiments with love and life. Tara (Vaani Kapoor) is an orphan but not a bechari. She is also cool as a cucumber in any situation (which is unreal at times but okay – maybe effect of Art of Living or something!)Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) is a good-for-nothing. Yet he has not one but two hot girls chasing him. I think this is the point that most people in the audience could not digest.But hello, there are guys like this – girls fall for them all the time, especially in school. Later in life, I suppose such boys are rejected as they are not ‘marriage material’. But once girls are independent, earning, capable of supporting themselves – do they need to marry only for practical reasons? You can get attracted to a good for nothing, have a fling and move on. Or, even marry him – if you really want to. Because after all, it’s your life. You will not 'settle' and lead the life Ekta Kapoor has planned for you.Things that worked in this film: the acting of both girls & Rishi Kapoor, the dialogues (listen carefully), the setting (Jaipur city works very well for the story!). Lot of attention to detail. Toilet joke without toilet humour.What could have been better: The songs (just okay). A bit too idealistic (all 3 characters have no pressure from parents or relatives – makes it much too simple). Chemistry between the characters (could have been better). T[...]

Celebrating the Teacher-Entrepreneur

Thu, 05 Sep 2013 05:44:00 +0000

In response to my post The Teacher's New Clothes several readers wrote in to share how extraordinary teachers impacted their lives. Today being Teacher's Day it's appropriate for me to share their recollections of those who worked within the many limitations of our education system, yet somehow rose about it.I have retained the original testimony, although in some cases lengthy. Because it gives a glimpse into the qualities that a good teacher can imbibe, in order to become 'great'.1. Akash Arora writes about Dr. Rajesh Kumar (Principal of - District Institute of Education & Training - Pitampura DIET during session 2009-11)Khasiyat- His personality and way of speaking is so unique and effective – his words really affected my mind. One thing which I really liked about him is that he always connects education with spirituality. I remember a few lines he said to us: “Whatever knowledge you will inculcate in your students - God will give you reward for that. Spiritually this thing is called Karma which comes back to us. On the other hand, if we don't teach them effectively and they (students) adopt any bad habits or attitude then surely you will earn negative karma for that.”Dr Kumar is now teaching at DIET Daryaganj, Delhi and can be contacted at Devang Nanavati writes about Dr. Jagdish V Dave, , Former Head and Professor, Dept. of English, Bhavnagar University & North Gujarat University, Gujarat (1994-1996
)Khasiyat: In-depth knowledge of the subject, always prepared to solve queries with detailed explanation. Always positive about receiving questions. Total involvement while teaching and full of enthusiasm. Always insistent about original text-based learning,class notes and healthy discussion on various topics chosen from the syllabus. Enjoyed total freedom from the time frames of the formal time-table system. Sometimes talked for 2 hrs, sometimes 3 hrs- depending upon his mood and that days' tuning with the class. Offering inspirational content knowingly/unknowingly by sharing personal experiences some times. Honesty about his own short comings. Also interacted with students outside the classroom - may drop in at my home and accept my invitation for dinner very easily. He would communicate with my family members with a deep concern for my future. encourage me in presence of my parents. I used to drop in at his place practically at any time and he would receive us with fatherly love and offer us self made tea. Never talked with anyone around him in a superior tone. never insulted a student for any damn reason. Fought for justice against any top authorities of the university /other bureaucratic set ups. Note: Since 2000, our education system has adopted many changes- so far as teaching methods, content, class room situations, responsibilities/ expectations/ stress level of the teachers and students/exam and evaluation systems/ criteria of the assessment of teachers- are concerned. In this context, producing such a teacher is also a challenge for the new system. Yet, how to come out of any situation and become an ideal teacher remains a personal challenge for any individual. 3) Dilip Barad also writes about Prof. Jagdishchandra V. Dave.“I recall Dr Dave’s spirited talks, full of enthusiasm which did not allow us to budge (physically as well as mentally) from our seats for hours and hours. His wide reading, understanding, knowledge . His gentleness as human beings made us humble & caring for fellow classmates and students .Dr Dave is now retired and not on facebook etc. But his students are still in touch via phone.4) Abhas Disawal write[...]

Staying Hungry & Foolish - 5 years on

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 14:43:00 +0000

Aug 29, 2008 : The first bill of sale for ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is raisedAug 29, 2013: Over 400,000 copies sold, 9 language editions, hundreds of emails from grateful readersNever in my wildest dreams did I imagine such an outcome when I took up this project in Sept 2007. The idea of this book came from Prof Rakesh Basant of CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad), the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and Sanjeev Bikhchandani. At first they only sought my advice on how to do it with the help of two RAs (Research Assistants). Instead, I offered to do it myself.I did it for a lark, to meet some interesting people and to learn something from them. Maybe because of that purity of thought and purpose, it all came together as it did. The time given to me was just 3 months, later extended to 6 months. It finally got done ‘just in time’ for the IIMA Entrepreneurs Conference on 30th June 2008. 1000 copies had been printed to be distributed free of cost to the delegates, as well as students on campus. Yes, we did plan to make the book available to the public. But the slow channels of the book trade had decreed a release in Jan 2009 – six months later. That’s when Sunil Handa and Sanjeev Bhikchandani came together and said, “Let’s publish it ourselves.” The book was ready, IIM Ahmedabad and Eklavya Foundation could together do the job.The plan was to print 5000 copies – half of it on ‘order’ basis. The entrepreneurs featured in the book paid money upfront for 100, 200, 500 personal-use copies. The rest was to be put into bookshops. With great difficulty Eklavya managed to rope in a Mumbai-based distributor – Shree. The deal was struck by offering 5% more margin than other publishers. We had no option, as I was not a ‘known’ author.Originally, we wanted the price of the book to be Rs 95, at par with popular fiction titles. But our book had 330 pages, it was not economically viable. The price was fixed at Rs 125.The book made its debut at Crossword Ahmedabad, a franchise store owned by friend and wellwisher Mr Gaurav Shah. Within a week, Gauravbhai called to say the book is in the ‘bestseller’ list. Can we send more copies? Not only Ahmedabad, but Crossword stores across the country were the first to pick up ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ in large quantities and give it prominent display. I will always be grateful to them for this support!I sent the book to numerous editors, hoping for reviews. The result was scanty and mostly bad. One particularly mean review came from T R Vivek writing for Since the original article is hidden behind a paywall, I share what I wrote on my blog at the time.Oh and later, I also made it to the ’10 silliest books of the decade’ list along with Paolo Coelho and Rhonda Byrne.However, the feedback from readers themselves was astonishingly and overwhelmingly positive.“I read my book and quit my job to start my own company.”“This year I am distributing your book instead of sweets on Diwali.”“I keep this book next to my bed and every night I read the ‘advice’ section.”Everywhere I go, I meet people whose lives have been touched, whose hopes have been ignited. This is what motivated to write 4 more books about inspiring real-life Indian entrepreneurs (not from IIMA). Why I have made the writing of inspirational books my whole and sole career.It’s been 5 fantastic years. I take this opportunity to thank everyone who believed in me – my alma mater, which set me on this path and in particular Prof Rakesh Basant (he had some reservations[...]

Ode to India

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 18:48:00 +0000

Geeli mitti ki bheeni sugandh
Lo ho gaya phir Bharat bandh

Padosi ke pressure cooker ki seeti
Second a/c from Howrah to VT

Arnab ke cheekhne ki awaaz
Chhole bhature with sirkewala pyaaz

Office mein boss ke lafde hain
‘Bhaiyya aaj ke dus kapde hain’

Dopahar ki gully cricket
Chai ke saath do glucose biscuit

Do rupaye ka dhaniya patta
Fabindia ka overprice dupatta

Kaamwali ke gold ke jhumke
Rickshe ki ‘top ten’ sunke

Mere bua ke saale ke devar ki shaadi
Aaj phir badhi desh ki aabaadi

Laughter club ke buddhon ki khee khee
Vada pav ki hari mirch teekhi

Picture mein Vicco Vajradanti ka ad
Durga Shakti Nagpal very sad

McDonalds ka aloo tikki burger
Reliance & Reliance ka merger

Bin bulaye mehman aa gaye
Zimbabwe India ko rula gaye

Border par ho gayi firing
Suna hai Infosys is hiring?

Eid ke chand ka intezaar
Chandrayan ke launch ka samaachar

Bharat desh hai ajeebogareeb
Lekin hai mere dil ke kareeb

Ek apnepan ka ehsaas hai
Isme kuch to khaas hai

Happy 66th Independence Day
Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jaya He


The Art of Healing - II

Fri, 09 Aug 2013 10:23:00 +0000

After years of self-flagellation and self-examination I have reached one important conclusion: My battle for internal peace and stability is with no one but myself.This knowledge arrived in many bits and pieces. From books, from teachers, from spiritual practice. A line from here, a phrase from there – expanding my mind bit by bit. From the Art of Living program I understood the importance of breathing correctly. From Isha’s Inner Engineering program, the fact that you have ‘only this moment’, so live in this moment instead of the past or the future. Books which contained eureka moments for me:1) The Secret (Rhonda Byrne): The idea that thoughts create your reality is very powerful. If you change your thinking, your reality will change.2) You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hays): We are all carrying within us wounds from the past. But we can heal ourselves.3) Many Lives, Many Masters (Brian Weiss): We are born again and again and we keep coming back to learn more ‘lessons’. Our greatest tormentors are our greatest teachers.4) Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield): All human relationships are about exchange of energy. Unconsciously, we seek energy from the other and create conflicts.5) Srimad Bhagavad Gita: The soul is eternal and can never be destroyed. So far so good. But intellectual knowledge is one thing, accepting these principles and living by them is another. There is a deep resistance within me. Especially to the idea that I am the sole creator of everything that I experience. It is so much easier to blame the world. He made me angry. She let me down.Usne aisa kyun kaha.The Bhagvad Gita says: “The nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception,and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”Why is it almost impossible to do that? When I attended the Bhav Spandana program at the Isha Ashram I experienced the fact that ‘joy is our true nature’ . That love is an energy that radiates from within us. I want this experience to be my only reality. Yet a month later, it slips away from my grasp. I continue to experience that state of bliss from time to time but I yearn for it to last longer.Knowledge of impermanence is great but desire for permanence remains. The quest continues, more lessons are learnt.There is a person in my life who irritates me intensely. I used to blame this person for my irritation. I now realise it is my choice to get irritated by another’s actions or words. It doesn’t feel like a choice, it is almost automatic. Because that is my ‘sanskar’.A sanskar is a habit or belief which is deeply ingrained in us. The reason for that is it is a carry-forward from many lifetimes. I have a tendency to lose my temper. I have done this so many many many times that it is what comes to me most easily. To respond in a different manner would require conscious effort. And a deep desire to change myself.This point was driven home to me while watching the series ‘Healer Within’ with Brahmakumari Sister Shivani. It is available on Youtube and watching one episode a day is something I look forward to. Episode no 17 held a crucial revelation. width="320" height="180" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>There are 3 ways in which we exchange energy. One is that we ‘reflect’ it. Someone is good to me, I am good to him. Another is mean to me, I am mean t[...]

Who am I?

Tue, 23 Jul 2013 05:15:00 +0000

I have always thought, “I am middle class.” And growing up, I probably was.

Middle class meant the kind of family which was not deprived but you could not just have anything you wanted.

You went out for dinner on an extra-special day like your parents’ anniversary - to Delhi Darbar or Kailash Parbat. A movie in the theatre was a rare treat, as was ‘choco-bar’ and Simba wafers in the interval. ‘New clothes’ included the kind my mom stitched on an Usha sewing machine with a foot pedal. Her special forte was increasing the length of old dresses by adding a jhaalar (extra lace).

Today, we eat out just because we’re in the mall and ‘feel like it’, even though dinner is waiting at home. I can watch 3 films back to back, if I want to and spend more on popcorn than the ticket price. I can buy as many new clothes as I desire, whether ‘on sale’ or ‘fresh stock’.

So am I not ‘middle class’ anymore?

My uncles were not middle class, they were ‘business class’. They had a lot more money than my father, who was a government servant. Yet, I never thought of them as rich.

Our 12 member family lived in 3 rooms and a kitchen. Everyone slept on the floor, when guests came they slept on the verandah. The toilets had no water, let alone a flush. They had cash tucked away somewhere, I don’t know where. But they hardly cared about spending it.

Business class was different from middle class.

My parents drilled it into our brains early: “You have to study hard and make something of yourself.” In the scientists’ colony I grew up in, marks and ranks were discussed among aunties. Every year we exported a batch to IIT Bombay and another to America on full scholarship. We never thought of this as an ‘achievement’, it was just a normal.

Meanwhile my cousins joined BCom and joined the family business – often side by side. They married early, to girls with BA, and started a family within a year. They earned a lot of money and now their children want to do engineering and MBA. Move to a big city and take up a job.

Business class wants to be ‘middle class’ – hurray.

I had a friend in college who I thought of as ‘rich’. She had a car and driver, went swimming and holidayed abroad. Today, I can have all those things – and more.

If I am not ‘middle class’ – then who am I?

Because if thrift and hard work no longer defines me, that’s what I pass on to my daughter. Can I get her another new t-shirt (though she does not need it?). Should I prod her to study hard when I know that marks don’t really matter. Is an international school necessary, or was a regular school good enough?

Where do I set the boundaries, when in my heart I want her to have everything my money can buy?

And yet, I want her to ‘make something of herself’ – not stand on my shoulders. To be defined by who she is, not the handbag she carries. I want her to have lots of money and use it wisely. But also, to value all the things money can never buy.

I am ‘mix n match’ – a grand collage of values and ways of life.

I am the New Middle Class.


'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' - 4.5 stars

Sat, 13 Jul 2013 14:03:00 +0000

To make a film about a champion who narrowly lost the biggest race of his life is a monumental challenge. Nobody wants to watch a man put in his very best and yet fail, on a giant multiplex screen.That is the genius of director Rakeysh Mehra and scriptwriter Prasoon Joshi. The film starts with the Rome Olympics – a race we know Milkha Singh lost. A fact we cannot change. Yet, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ moves you, entertains and elevates you. You emerge from the theatre feeling good, feeling that winning is really really important but it’s not everything.Rakeysh Mehra decided to make this film not just because Milkha Singh was an outstanding athelete. But because of his undying spirit.“This boy, who came from a village and was an orphan at 11, actually witnessed the massacre of his family members, including his brothers and sisters. He picked a knife to survive at 11. He spent time in (Delhi’s) Tihar Jail before he joined the army. He wanted respect and to be a human being against all odds. That’s what a wonderful human being he is, and that’s what got me into the movie, not the records he made.” And that’s what makes ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’ special. It’s the story of a man, not Superman. He is vulnerable and he is flawed, like us all. He did not have a ‘vision’ for himself – at the very start. He didn’t even know what he was capable of. Why does a man run, anyway? When trials were being held, Jawan Milkha Singh ran for an extra glass of milk. When he went for the Brigade Games, he ran to earn a navy-blue ‘India’ blazer. After failing at the Melbourne Olympics, he ran to regain self-respect. At the Rome Olympics, he ran carrying the hopes of all of India, on his slim shoulders. Perhaps that burden was too heavy. The film doesn’t go deep into this aspect except to allude to personal demons from the time of Partition. A man can run into the future, or he can run from his past. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ – just three words but two different meanings, depending which track or which field you are standing on.In the film Milkha’s coach says to him, “A sportsman’s life is about discipline and tapasya.” That’s equally true of the efforts put in by Farhan Akhtar in this film. He plays Milkha Singh to perfection, right down to running stance. To get that athletic body language, the actor trained with sprint coach Melwin Crasto and physical trainer Samir Jaura on the racetracks at St Stanislaus High School in Bandra for 13 months. “When I decided I would do this role, I promised him that I would do whatever it takes for this role.”It’s a whole bunch of people working in this spirit, that make the film what it is. I must mention the child actor Jabtej Singh who is outstanding as the young Milkha Singh. And the rousing ‘Zinda hai toh’ sung by Siddharth Mahadevan, which is completely in sync with the spirit of the film. Critics are saying the movie is too long, has unnecessary songs and too many cinematic liberties. But I don’t agree. A work of art is not meant to be ‘perfect’. If it’s powerful, it carries you beyond the logical mind into a parallel universe. And lingers on afterward.‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ gets 4.5 star from me, for doing just that. The bonus is that it will inspire a few kids out there to dream big and run the race of life with more vigour and confidence. [...]

Leaning in at the IIMs

Mon, 08 Jul 2013 07:03:00 +0000

This column was originally published in Businessworld, dt Jul 1-15, 2013It's Time for Women to Dream BigThe Economic Times reports: Data from the five IIMs at Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow and Indore shows that the institutes are set to welcome a record number of women in the 2013-15 batch. With the exception of IIM Ahmedabad, which has acceptances from 80 women, the other four will all have more than a hundred women each on their rolls.The question is - what happens next? Will these women make a significant impact on corporate India - at top management and in leadership roles?My somewhat cynical answer is: 'unlikely'. Unless we address this issue as a whole.To create female leaders you need to address the supply side, which is what the IIMs are doing. But that is just step one. To keep the supply moving through the corporate pipeline is the bigger challenge. We can't ignore that and expect women to simply 'figure it out' on their own.I belong to the class of 1993 at IIM Ahmedabad, which had a record number of women. We were 30 girls in a class of 180 ( double the previous year). Twenty years later just about 50% of us are in full-time jobs. The issue is not lack of competence but the choices we made. When I interviewed Sangeeta Patni for my book 'Follow Every Rainbow', she summed it up beautifully. "A woman is a womb plus a man. There's no difference in terms of ability, or what she can achieve. But a woman needs to know how to take care of her need to nurture and raise a baby. This is the place many women falter in their careers."You are expected to navigate this issue 'naturally'. Natural is to feel exhausted and guilty and give up.What we need is to sensitise female students about the road ahead, and the turns it is known to take. So that they can navigate the twisting path of career + family. Instead of getting knocked off the road itself.You can have your kids early and jump back into a career, make a success of it. I have friends who have done that.You can have your kids late, when you have 'brand value' in an organisation.That works too.You can take a break, or not take a break. Rely on your mother. Or your mother-in-law.Find a good maid. Or a great creche.There are many many many ways to do it.The most important thing is you must believe it's possible. And that it's important. And work towards 'keeping my career' with the same intensity as you had when 'getting into IIM'.Three concrete suggestions to IIMs:1) Hold a series of talks by women (preferably own alumni) who are in leadership roles today. Let them candidly share 'how I did it'. Some of them will even take on the role of a mentor. When a young woman has just had a baby and is almost quitting/feeling hopeless, the moral and practical support of someone who's 'been there, done that' can make all the difference.2) Also sensitise the male students. Many of them will marry their own batchmates or other qualified women. But then they slip back into 'caveman' mode and focus on their own careers.The most progressive, educated couples never actually sit down and talk about this issue. Or think of out of the box solutions. It is understood that if children are to be raised, women will occupy the backseat in the family car.3) Make 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg compulsory reading for both men and women. And all professors too. All the above points are raised and tackled beautifully in the book. Women must be more confident, more assertive and dream big dreams.This h[...]

Just another 'carrer query'

Sun, 16 Jun 2013 06:56:00 +0000

'Career queries' like this one really bug me.

"... I am expecting an admission in IIT for computer science or mathematics.At the same time I am also getting an admission in IISc for BS. In future I want to do MBA from a good university. I want to work as a investment banker. I am very confused which option would be better for my carrer.

While reading your books and articles I realised you are the only person who can solve this problem with your valuable guidance... Expecting your reply soon.Thanking you in anticipation."

I don't think this is what the founding fathers of IIT had in mind when they set up these institutes! Young men who are completely focused on the idea of an MBA even before they enter a BTech.

It's clear that this dude wants only one thing in life. A good life.

Therefore, the query is a no-brainer. An IIT-IIM combination is most likely to lead him to an investment bank.

Whereas IISc would be a good option if he actually had some interest in science and was open to a career in academics or research.

Call me an idealist but I always imagined that the brightest and best minds would want to work on solving the problems of humanity. The mysteries of the universe. The purpose of life itself.

These goals are often unattainable but desirable. If people did not strive for such goals the frontiers of human life would be very limited. The comforts we enjoy would not exist.

And even at a very mortal, individual level, we are limiting ourselves. This boy - all of 16 or 17 - has no idea who he is. What he is. Does he have the capacity to work towards an idea without external incentives? Or is he merely a slave without visible chains.

I see the potential of IITs grossly unfulfilled, unutilised.

Last year, I had the privilege of visiting MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). My daughter and I took the 'campus tour'. At the end of it - we were both bowled over. Not just by the buildings but the idea of an institution that nurtures and stimulates geeks. That celebrates technical genius.

MIT graduates earn respect for creating new technology.

For discovering new particles.

For writing formulae and inventing and building.

I wish there were more IIT graduates who would wear these kind of badges and return to their institutes. To enlighten young minds about other possibilities in life.

You can aspire for more than a job on Wall Street.

You can set your sights on a Nobel Prize


Visiting West Africa

Fri, 10 May 2013 04:33:00 +0000

I am visiting Ghana and Ivory Coast between May 27-Jun 6. On the way back I will be in Dubai for 3 days.

If any of you know of interesting people - especially entrepreneurs - pls get in touch! I am keen to meet both Africans and those of Indian origin.

Also need some help in arranging a book signing event in both Accra and Dubai at a city bookshop. Or at a local university/ for a local club/ interest group.

Even though West Africa is not the most popular destination for Indians I am sure someone out there has more knowledge abt this part of the world than me. Drop me a line at rashmi_b at if you have any information or advice to share.