Sunday, June 26, 2011

125- Monday Musings Growing Down

125 Monday Musings - Growing down

Normally one grows up - the process of entering adulthood, with all its perks that appears like the El dorado of limitless freedom to a childs mind. For a decade beginning maybe at the age of 8 to almost 18, one wants to grow up fast, cursing the years for not ticking away fast enough and then by the time one is in the mid 30s, one curses the years for ticking away too fast.

My daughter is almost five and she inhabits a strange stage of her growing up - a little more than a toddler and a little less than pre-teens. We watched hers (and mine) first 3 D movie, Cars-2 the other day in the multiplex nearby. I am sure she discovered a new world called a 'big TV' as she puts her in her unique expression, but more than her, i discovered a new world of child entertainment.

I grew up on hindi comics, coming from the hindi heartland that i did, on Chandamama, Amar Chitra katha, Bahadur, Mendrake and Betal. It was only when i was past 20 and went to a college that i came to know that there were iconic toon characters in the English literature for children - of the likes TinTin, Archies, Tom and Jerry, Barbie, so on and so forth. In fact so miserable was my knowlege of what the English speaking child feasts on, that any conversation between Keerat and her mother, who thankfully had an exposure to this world in her formative years, made me feel like, if not an alien, definitely a bumkin. Last two years has been quite literally growing down years for me - the journey of an adult to understand the context of child entertainment.

It is in this context that i have come to know household icons like Ninja Hathori, Shuzooka, Doremon, and have actually seen a few episodes of Tom & Jerry, Oogie the cockroaches, and not to forget Chota Bheem, who my daughter summarily and much to my horror announced that she is going to marry. This process of not only becoming familiar with these characters, but actually getting down to watching them, as the control of the remote in most cases rests with Keerat, has been a quite an experience. I cannot remember most of these names while i am clearly expected to, and my ignorance is rubbed on by a (un)holy allaince between Keerat and my better half. Rarely i have found myself more wanting of fundamental competence than situations like these.

So we watched the 3 D movie, needless to say, something i was not asked nor expected to be asked. After a while of wondering what in Gods name was i doing wearing those funny glasses, i realised that this was one hell of an experience. Withing 20 minutes of watching technology create a magical experience and the story line suspiciously resembling a la'  James Bond plot, i was possibly more immeresed into the movie than Keerat. I know for sure that she will not the one to plot the next sojourn to the multiplex for a 3 D extravaganza.

If growing up was fantastic, my growing down is magical.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

124 - Monday Musings - Go write your book

124 - Monday Musings -  Go write your book
I was invited for by an old colleague Hariharan Iyer on the occasion of his book launch, his maiden dalliance with creative writing. Let me tell you a bit more about Hari as we all fondly call him.

Way back in 2003 when I had just joined as a training manager in Max New York Life Insurance in Mumbai,  I received a call from an acquaintance of mine asking me if I could be of any help in finding a job for a colleague of his. I asked him to send this guy over out of politeness, as I was not sure how somebody at my position could help someone. On a balmy afternoon Hari, who happened to be that guy searching for a breakthrough, came to my office. As one thing led to another, Hari joined Max New York Life as a training manager on my referral a few months later and I made a neat 12000 rupees as a referral bonus, a bounty that Hari never forgets to remind me of. Our careers moved on from there and Hari soon rose into prominence owing to oratorial talent, his ability to create human connect, and his uncanny ability to move people from their stupor and act. Not that it was easy to negotiate with the personality of Hari, as someone who loved the sound of his voice, as someone who quite genuinely believed in his own sense of uniqueness. When excited he could be garrulous and it didn’t take much to excite him. In an industry based on numbers, he would declare his disdain for numbers, something that surely did not earn him approval from his bosses. As I said, he was quite full of himself and his healing abilities, he went on undeterred. He mixed life insurance training with Reiki healing, of which he claimed he was a beneficiary and hence its proponent, with great results. As he kept on growing, his belief in his innate greatness only became stronger, something that, to put it mildly as he might read this sometime, - was not shared with as much enthusiasm as he believed it deserved.

He moved to Kerala from Mumbai and then to Delhi to become the Zone Training Head, a fairly good professional growth story. Then suddenly he quit and returned to Mumbai two years ago. He quoted different reasons at different points of time - that he was suffocated, that people did not understand him, that his leaders just did not inspire him that his frequency was different from the one that had approval, so on and so forth. He had no job at hand and I for surely thought that he had lost it. I was sure that his self love had acquired self delusional proportions. We were in touch and he dabbled with quite a bit in the last two years to keep the fires burning - from free lance insurance training, to training consultancy to Reiki healing to Multi Level Marketing business. His delusions continued because he wanted to heal the world, spread happiness, promote holistic living, and create happy spaces and other mumbo-jumbo that such people are often found quoting.

I may have had huge differences in the philosophy of what he was promoting, partly because I cannot relate to it, and partly because I thought it was too much of risk - but what I just could not disagree with was his passion. When he spoke, he spoke as a man who truly believed in what he was saying. There was no way one could doubt the strength of his belief and he pressed on. A few days earlier he called abruptly and said that he wanted me to write a testimonial for his first book. I quite literally fell off from my chair. The bugger had actually done it. I read the book, wrote the testimonial and today attended his book launch. Well, I do not think that his book is earth-shatteringly original or breathtakingly brilliant. It’s quite an ordinary book by literary standards. But what is extraordinary is the faith in his work that Hari has, that he actually got around writing a book about and getting it launched. This is truly uplifting during times when we do not tire of telling ourselves all the reasons why things cannot be done. He has demonstrated the power of will, conviction and belief in our dreams.

The renowned scholar Asghar Ali Engineer came to launch his book. And I feel like shouting at the top of my voice – Go write your book!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

123- Of Mangoes and Rains

123- Of Mangoes and Rains

There are somethings that we enjoy doing not because we like doing them now, but because we liked doing it in the past. It is the memory of it that is the real source of joy and not the activity itself.

We go to an old city or an old neighbourhood and drop in a particular restuarant for a particular dish or a tea corner with quite ordinary cookies or a paani-puri waala or a walk through a park or a street, or a visit of an old theatre, or we revisit a tourist junction we go and visit all the places we had visited in the past. The same thing is at play in each one of the above - we are not enjoying the current taste or fun or beauty as much we are enjoying the memory of that joy. This is not to say that it is not any less enjoyable today, but it is the sweet something that it creates, the lingering after taste of a time gone by, mostly romanticised as the good-old-days, that is the source of that glowing abstract feeling called happiness. Revisiting it now is perhaps the umblical cord that connects us with what has been left behind, when everything has flown by,  providing us with a sense of rootedness or a semblence of permanence, in a life where one realises that nothing is permanent.

If only Youth knew and Age could! They say growing old is not a choice, but growing up is optional. I also have a feeling that growing old is not a particularly enjoyable process. It brings along with numerous disillusionments and shattering of myths - that daddy is not the strongest, that parents are not immortal, that heart breaks, that bad things happen to good people, that relationships are not permanent, that evil exist, that good people often do bad things, that there are so many things that were taught in the moral science section that are observed more as exceptions than as rule and that being good is not a default options for human beings but a choice that is fraught with struggle and requires more courage than an average man on the street has; so on and so forth. As life moves from one painful discovery to the next, its likely that an unencumbered and unblemished soul becomes a casualty. The loss of innocence is the greatest personal sorrow for each one of us, which ironically and tragically enough we are not even able to bereave or lament publicly.

So when we reach the tea-stall, eatery, paani-puri wallah and the park, street or neighbourhood, we feel a desperate need to connect, and sometimes to our horror that place has actually moved on, just as we have. They do not have any duty towards us to remain as they were, but we laden with our own need for an anchor want it to remain as it was many years back - because its being as it was, gives us some semblence of continuity and permanence. This anchor holds us back, roots us, provides something to hold on to, when everything else around is flowing by like sea planktons. Only a handful of us can attain liberation in being comfortable in the rootlessness that i describe above. Most don't event know or understand leave aside articulate what this need for continuity and permanence is like. They suffer and agonise but cannot explain why. But when they do visit these old place and enjoy the old pursuits they feel a sense of happiness and joy.And that keeps fuelling their need to keep going back, again and again.

It is in these contexts that i become a glutton when it comes to Mangoes and when it rains incessantly in Mumbai. May the Mangoes always smell the way they do and may the rains lash on my windows forever.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

122 - Monday Musings - Futures Thinking

122- Monday Musings - Futures Thinking

Over the last week I got introduced to a new field of enquiry that has been emerging in the academic circles. This is what they call the futures thinking. What the futures thinking essentially does is to study the possible existence and creation of alternative futures include the study of underlying worldviews and myths that underlie them. Let me share with you what it basically espouses and what could be the possible significance that it holds for us.

If left to itself as things stand today, a future will unfold - either in our individual lives or in the teams we belong or the organisations we work for or the nations and societies we live in. This future is a result of the choices we have made in the past and the ones we are making as of now. But it will be naive to believe that that is the only future possible. There are distinct possibilities of alternative futures that exist. Let me illustrate that with an example. Our current state of health is a result of the way we have led our lives so far and the choices in terms of food and lifestyle we have made for ourselves. If we let things go the way they are going, we will end up with a certain health say a decade or two later. Futures thinking suggests that there are alternative futures that is possible and we can create a ‘preferred future’ (the one that we would like it to be) if we take appropriate actions today. Another way of saying it is ‘today is the first day for the rest of our lives’. Now think of the preferred futures that we want to create for our families, teams and the organisations we work for.

The pioneers of futures thinking are Ivana Milojević and Sohail Inayatullah authors of many books renowned academicians. Futures thinking has six pillars (see

1. Mapping the Present and the Future through methods and tools such as the futures triangle and the futures landscape

2.Anticipation the Future through methods such as emerging issues analysis and the futures wheel

3.Timing the Future, understanding the grand patterns of change, macrohistory and macrofutures.

4. Deepening the Future through methods such as causal layered analysis and four quadrant mapping

5. Creating Alternatives to the Present through methods such as scenarios and nuts and bolts

6.Transforming the Present and Creating the Future through visioning, backcasting, action learning and the transcend conflict resolution method.

My own inspiration from the futures thinking hinges on two points – One that it provides a framework for understanding the work that I (and of course others) do as a manager. It gives a template to put in place actions, systems, procedures and practices that will lead to a preferred future. Outlining the preferred future itself is so inspiring and uplifting that all the trials and tribulations in the course of achieving it become mundane. The second point is that it provides hope, that we may not be doomed to live with all the imperfection of our current situation and that there is a possibility to create something more worthwhile and fulfilling. The practical plausible possibility of that future is a reason in itself to give things an honest shot. Future is not opaque act of crystal gazing but a conscious attempt to reach the El Dorado of our aspirations.

May you live the future of your dreams.