Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali and a prosperous new year!

While you enjoy the fireworks and sweets, do spare a thought for the child labour in Sivakasi. Dhanunjay captures their plight in his Diwali blog here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Whale of a time in Wales

One sunny Saturday, we set out for Wales from Reading. After a few initial hiccups, the journey started off enthusiastically. 3 cars-15 bachelors- a splendidly smooth M4 motorway....needless to say was the fire-cotton-oxygen combination. Once we were on the highway, the straight stretch of smooth silky asphalt compelled us to test the cars' potential. It was hard to keep the dictum 'Speed thrills but kills' in mind. Almost everyone was envious of the one in the driver's seat. A rotation policy was set in place, so that everybody gets to control the car for sometime before reaching Wales.

The huge hanging 'Severn Bridge' across the Atlantic was our gateway to Wales from Bristol, England. After a burger break at wayside service 'Welcome Break', we were on our way to Swansea. Trying to interpret the English meanings of welsh signposts and traffic rules on the road, kept us engaged and entertained till Swansea. We gathered and remembered that 'Araf' means 'slow down' and 'Arafwch' means 'Slow down now' by the time we reached Swansea(still unsure on how to pronounce that).

Swansea is a beautiful city with a few beaches, green landscape and mainly the cliffs directly opening into the sea. The sea breeze at Swansea Marina with the vast expanse of water for a view was pretty relaxing, considering, the usual other scenic encounters we have are the windows screensavers. We learnt that Swansea is also called 'Abertawe' or the mouth of river Tawe! Photographs in ‘poses like our Darwinian forefathers’ and a beer or two later, everyone decided to head to Cardiff, the Welsh capital.

The drive again was a heavenly endeavour and we reached Cardiff Bay. The Cardiff bay was in midst of a summer festival. The folks were blithe listening to live band and carousing. The Wales Millennium Centre was the most dominating structure of the bay. It is a centre of Welsh performing arts. The bronze colour of the dome was beautifully different from the regular buildings, it being created with steel treated with copper oxide. The welsh words on the dome proclaimed "Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration" and in English it said "In these stones, horizons sing". Though it looked a jumble of letters when read there (thanks to the alien welsh language), a simple search on Google cleared the clouds. A wishing well in the compound was a good place to spend some one penny coins we abhor to carry around.

We went around the Cardiff Bay taking in the gala atmosphere. Cardiff bay was lively with every pub, bar and restaurant overflowing with crowd in festive mood. When our stomachs reminded us of their existence, we found a fantastic Italian restaurant called ‘Bellinis’ near ‘Signor Valentino’. The chardonnay we ordered was best we all had ever had and was enough for couple of us to say no to car driving for that night. After gorging on a sumptuous dinner, like sharks in Wales (pun intended), we made the two birthday boys with us, cut the cake.

We were on the road once again. This time, the destination was ‘Blacksheep backpackers’ in a small village of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire town. The adventure was about to begin. We knocked (and later banged) on the door of the hostel, called them on the phone, but to no avail. Couple of us managed to peep through the back window and bang on it to awaken the sleeping watchman while the rest were revving the cars and discussing the features as if they were to appear in Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson. After about half an hour of toil, the watchman woke up but swore he would never let anyone of us enter. As we were planning to drive back to Reading, the cops appeared out of nowhere and parked their cars so close to ours, so we couldn’t move without hitting it. Luckily, for us, we had the booking printouts handy and cops managed to get us inside the hostel while the watchman apologised (supposedly, the manager hadn’t informed of our arrival). Whew! The double decked bed was inviting after a rapid day full of interesting adventures.

Sunday morning brought with it clouds and showers, though it was quite bright luckily. With 15 of us in one small backpacking house, it was almost felt that we had taken over the place. The owners gladly filled the empty racks with cornflakes and bread and made us feel at home. Our next plan was to see Pembroke and head back to Reading.

Pembroke castle was worth a visit as we were able to access the towers and view the panoramic beauty of Pembroke. Though, this was not among the best of the castles we’ve seen, castle with river flowing beside them always is a treat to see. Castle done, we reached the airfield where we had booked a helicopter ride. The anticipation of being in a helicopter for the first time was big for all of us. Weather played a spoil sport and only four of us could get a ride in the helicopter. The incessant rain hampered the flight and due to safety reasons, pilot decided against taking anymore on the bird.

Plenty of photographs later, we were off to Reading stopping by at the Pembroke beach to adore the scenic beauty of cliff falling straight into the sea. A drive on M4 was again exhilarating. Raring to have a go, all the cars raced against each other, though keeping safety first. The gang in Volkswagen Golf got a free picture taken by the speed camera.

Thankfully, everyone was smiling at the time!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The unsung great of Twenty20: RP Singh

Why is nobody talking about RP Singh? This lad showed potential par excellence, scalping wickets with fantastic variation in line and length. Three crucial Pakistani wickets were his gift to Indian cricket team in the finals and he did it with a temperament like a cucumber. His contribution throughout the series cannot be overlooked.

I have been googling to find out the awards showered on him and I am sorry to say there are barely any. UP Govt has announced one award(Manyavar Kanshiramji International Sports Award) which holds a cash award of Rs.10 lakhs and this is the only individual award he has been conferred.

The cash awards being recieved by the other players completely overshadow Rudra's achievements. Joginder Sharma, who was a dream bowler for any batsman, gets Rs. 21 Lakhs from Haryana government. This award is not because, he did his job right in the last over, but because Misbah commited a cricketing crime. The poster boy Yuvraj gets a deserved cash award for 6-sixes but isn't Rs.1 Crore a wee bit excessive?? These are but a few examples of cash and kind awards for the few popular ones.

If I was a certain Mr.Modi, I would have split Rs. 1 Crore between Yuvraj, RP Singh, Rohit Sharma and Irfan Pathan. Yuvraj and Pathan are mainstays of Indian Cricket for a long time now but RP Singh and Rohit Sharma should be encouraged.

We would not be so elated today if the contribution from RP Singh and Rohit Sharma was missing. Rohit Sharma atleast stole the thunder in Semi finals by hitting 50 runs but RP did his job to keep Australia from reaching that score. RP Singh is one of the most prmomising bowler in the phalanx of Indian pace bowlers and yet he is being neglected like a hockey player(yes, they are neglected in our country). RP Singh's reticient approach to cricket is the distinguishing factor. RP’s figure in semifinals 4-0-13-0 were the key in India reaching the finals.

Are the rich and famous, who can sponsor awards listening? Is BCCI listening? Is the government of UP listening? RP Singh is here to win matches and be a mainstay in Indian cricket and looks as bankable as any excellent cricketer can be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

T20 World Cup: Is there any other news today?


Adding to the copious amount of digital ink understandably spilled over India winning T20 world cup, here is my part. In the sheer ecstatic state of mind, I congratulate every Indian in the world. It was our day without doubt as lady luck was beaming at the well prepared team. Though Misbah almost vanquished her, she came back to give us glory by dropping the ball in Sreesanth's hands. Everyone in the team played their part, and everyone excelled.
Hearts skipped a few beats, blood in veins froze, when Misbah launched the ball skywards off Joginder in the last over. Only after the ball came down into Sreesath's hands, the bodily functions restarted normally but this time, adrenaline flowed with the blood. The high-decibel sound of victory which rose from my apartment in a quiet place in Reading sure did send the english neighbours scurrying to their phone to call the cops. But they would have understood the state of mind if they switched on sky sports.
I am not the one of those hyper enthusiastic fans to criticise Indian team whenever they lose but when then win, and win with dignity, I cannot resist a skip, a hop and bhangra!! I am sure there was a prayer going skywards from every cricket fan.

Malik and Pak team need PR coach

I really admire the way they played yesterday and almost snatched a winning match from India and I respect Malik's captaincy. But Shoaib Malik, shouldering the huge responsibility of being Pak cricket team captain, needs his PR skills or atleast his interview skills honed. The statement thanking all "muslims" in the world for supporting Pakistan Cricket team was so uncalled for. This could have been a slip of tongue or ignorance, but neither is a defence in court of law, in this case on 'international podium'. Ironically, Irfan Pathan came immediately after Malik's interview to collect man of the match award. Did a muslim send three top Pak batsmen back on the bench for 16 runs...nah, an Indian did.

The television channels

All programs were postponed and every advertisement put on hold, or so it seemed, when all you could see on screen was a shirtless Dhoni, a dancing Bajji, an assaulted but grinning Sehwag, calm(??) Sreesanth and ecstatic Pathan brothers. Yuvraj, RP and everybody else, needless to say, were over the moon. Any other day, I would hate Star news and Aaj tak to the point of revoking their licenses if I had my way, but I didn't mind their crap headlines and pathetic news presentation as they showed the jumping jacks in the country and fireworks being bursted as if to announce the win to the world. Aaj Tak even made Kapil praaji dance to their DJ's tunes. NDTV bought in Imran Khan, who had to put on a plastic smile, but as usual spoke sense. Sidhu went berserk on NDTV and asked everyont to become 'talli' and claimed he would have given Yuvi the 'man of the tournament' award instead of Afridi.

I know, you all know what I just wrote, but duuuudess!! (and dudettes too), I am over the moon too!
Sidhuism: 'Today was a colossal moment in the Indian cricketing history and I am as proud as a cat's whiskers!'

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Greatness Guide: Book review

Robin Sharma, the leadership guru, who was catapulted into worldwide fame with his book ‘Monk who sold his Ferrari’, has added another feather to his cap with his next book ‘The Greatness Guide’. This book will appeal to his ardent fans while broadening his admirer base. His compilation of keen observations and inferences make it worth a read and a re-read. The ideas in the book are provocative and high-impact challenging one to lay claim on greatness. Contrary to the extremely idealistic ideas presented in the previous book, ‘The Greatness Guide’ is practical and the ideas detailed can be effectively put into practice in daily life.

The ideas in the book are divided into 101 chapters thus proffering a to-do list of ‘101 things’ for achieving greatness. This is not a book to be read like novel but a chapter a day can give you daily dose of greatness. Each chapter is self contained and discusses an idea by illustrating them with germane quotes and adages by the greats of the world. The content of the book is a good collection of practices of the known greats and anecdotes from author’s own experience. He delivers small but priceless tit-bits in a platter where you just need to pick and choose the dish you want to commence your meal of greatness with.

The language used in the book and the way of writing is admiringly "simple". The book is easily understandable as it is written in a manner that seems like Sharma wants to personally sit and talk to you over a cup of coffee. Sharma’s wisdom is framed in an accessible way and can influence a reader at any level. Sharma reconfirms that there is no Prof. Dumbledore’s magic potion with the help of which one achieves greatness but at the same time, his ideas emphatically tell you that no Lord Voldemort has to be vanquished to attain greatness. Doing the few simple things excellently and regularly is the key.

On the downside, there are plenty of repetitions throughout the book. This might feel like a flaw but it does help in drilling down the more important points. Further, though the small chapters keep the lessons precise and simple, you may soon forget few as you read ahead for the reason that lesser the time you linger on an idea, sooner you forget. Furthermore, though the book has its singularity, it is reminiscent of few other self help / motivational books.

I suggest you to read the book with the purpose of knowing what you need to be like ‘Bono’, a brand like ‘Diddy’, speak like a Superstar and act like a rock star. Also read it to think like a CEO while leading without title, adding value to clients and be a “Merchant of wow”.

You would have already heard lots of advices in the book before like I have and thus to me, the book was a wake up call to just do what I already know. This book in plain and simple terms told me to stop procrastinating and start climbing the ladder to greatness. If you are the kind who just brushes off counsels, then this book will not be of much help. It tells you what to do and how to do it but doesn’t force you enough to do it. The person with a little motivation in himself can go great lengths with the ideas in the book.

There are a few counsels I disagree with like “Work Hard, Get lucky”. This mantra alone will not suffice to get stuff done; you need to add a dash of smartness to get lucky. I would rather say “Work smart, Get lucky”. Though I closed the book with my own doubts on few things he said, I had a clear picture and an adequate list of things to do.

The author, being a leadership guru for various multinationals provides massive inputs on customer satisfaction and enjoying work. Sharma says “Customers buy with their hearts”, which can be understood as “move the chords of human emotions and they will be with you forever”. Give the clients what they want and something extra, add a freebie, celebrate the clients’ achievement and you are guaranteed projects.
Contrary to the popular notion that leader is one who is liked by all, Robin claims in “Leadership isn’t a popularity contest” that being a leader is not about being liked but only about doing the right things. No wonder the majority hate their bosses.
In “The Innovator’s mantra”, the author says ‘The enemy of the best is good’. A brilliant thought. This statement bluntly dares one to make things better than before. The bottom line is let innovation be your heartbeat.

From the personal viewpoint, there are many perfect ideas to be instituted in our system. Sharma’s quote "As you live your hours, so you create your years. As you live your days, so you craft your life." made me realize the moments I have just let pass by lying down and staring at the ceiling. It should be action time every minute. He stresses as much on slowing down sometimes to think ahead and meditate but he never mentions the word ‘stop’. I learnt that my hours make up my life rather than days and years.
I have learnt that I may do best when I am faced with the worst as Sharma so wisely says "Great achievement often happens when our backs are up against the wall."
In “Drink Coffee with Gandhi”, the author says that reading a book by someone you respect allows some of their brilliance to rub off on you. In "Your Schedule Doesn't Lie," Sharma pin points the need to schedule and prioritize the things you really want to do in your life.
“Be a merchant of Wow” says Sharma. This is something I knew and reading it in the book repeatedly in different styles just made me wonder what all can be achieved by just making people around you happy, not to mention the customers.

To make a prĂ©cis of Sharma’s book of ideas, each of these chapters can be considered as groundwork to construct your monument of greatness. Reading each chapter either will implant a new idea in the brain or refine an old one.