Book Review, Just another day

Book recommendations: 2020

Every year, I take a target to read 20 books a year; and as you might have guessed, I fail miserably. This time around, I decided to try out something new.

I whatsapped my friends, well wishers, guides, seniors and my Gurus to recommend me a book that they feel that I should read in 2020. A book that is close to their heart and that will help open a few doors and some windows in my head. A book, that will help me think, a book that will open new avenues and will help me make some inroads in areas that were forsaken for reasons unknown. Irrespective of the genre and the barriers of language (only English & Marathi, though I had not mentioned), everyone wholeheartedly gave me a list that is close to them.

So, I think that it is my moral responsibility to share with you the list of books that have been recommended to me.

I will try to write a few words about each book, but at the same time, please feel free to drop in your comments & replies below about any books you have read or found interesting.

Wish you a Happy New Year 2020

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Just another day

It’s OUR TOWN now… [Part 1]

Long ago, but not so very long ago
The world was different, oh yes, it was
You settled down and you built a town and made it live

And you watched it grow, it was your town
Time goes by, time brings changes, you changed too
Nothing comes that you can’t handle, so on you go
You never see it coming when the world caves in on you
On your town, nothing you can do

Main street isn’t main street anymore
Lights don’t shine as brightly as they shone before
To tell the truth, lights don’t shine at all
In our town

Sun comes up each morning, just like it’s always done
Get up, go to work, start a new day
You open up for business that’s never gonna come
As the world rolls by a million miles away

Main street isn’t main street anymore
No one seems to need us like they did before
It’s hard to find a reason left to stay
But it’s our town, love it anyway
Come what may, it’s our town

– “Our Town” by James Taylor

Only a few days back when I was going through my old hard disk which I found while shifting my house, I found a video which was named 12345. Confused by it’s name, I opened the video which in turn opened a stream of memories. For the next five odd minutes while the video was playing and around ten minutes afterwards, I felt numb, and in no way could I describe the emotions that were flowing through my mind. A combination of sadness and happiness, of loneliness and togetherness, of pridefulness and humility, of suffering and enjoyment mixed in bittersweet memories which made me smile and cry at the same time.

Then a couple of weeks back Facebook reminded me that eleven years ago on 17th of July 2005, I had embarked upon a journey along with 112 others, a journey that would change the course of our lives.

These two events forced me to write something about this experience of mine, which shaped me into a good professional that I am and enhanced the way I look at things.

Born and brought up in Pune, I had completed my twelfth from S P College and engineering from Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, and was still oblivious to hostel life. After working for two years I was looking forward to continue my studies. For company work I had been away from my home for a couple of weeks a month, but apart from that I had not lived alone and words like hostel, seniors and ragging had no meaning in my dictionary. I really didn’t know the meaning of being home sick when I left for college with my mother and father, to a place called Nagpur which though was 700 kilometers from Pune, still in the same state of Maharashtra, and more or less equidistant from Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Bangaluru, Mumbai  and Pune. After reaching the college I was allotted a room. My parents talked with some of the professors and even some students in the second year (seniors) of the same course that I was admitted to. The Devils painted a rosy picture about the college and about the support they would provide me. After a few hours my parents left and my new journey started.

The Devils who had promised to take care of me and help me out in any way possible started to show their true colours.

They used to keep us (our whole batch) awake at night and order us to do some nonsense things. Though I have written the word “ragging”, I assure you that no limits were crossed and the professors too had an idea about what was happening there.

All we used to know was that someone from our batch went to city, or disobeyed an order and for that our whole batch was being punished. Then there was this guy called “bal ki dukaan” (Sandeep Singh) – with long hair who did something which resulted in the whole batch getting a hair cut, for Rs 10 each at a village shop in Mausa Dorli.

When we came to college for the first time, we were asked to bring a presentation with us which we had to present in front of the seniors. Someone from my batch (Amit Khanna) who I knew not by name but by face at that time, had presented on the topic of ragging. He had used some photographs from the net in his presentation. Well, coincidentally two of the photos that he had shown were of our seniors dressed in girl’s clothes and those two were on the receiving end during their engineering days. Some of the seniors recognised their batch mates, and that night, hell broke loose.

I remember this specific instance during the ragging period very clearly. We were supposed to salute the seniors in a special way during the ragging days, and by mistake, I raised my arm and gave a salute to our College Director. He called me, and told, “There is no need to salute us, only your seniors.”

Another instance involves a senior of mine, Vasu Gopal. I had a moustache back then, and as a part of ragging, he asked me to remove it. I replied him that this is one thing that I will not do, whatever the consequences. I didn’t know how, but he agreed this and left at that. After some days, I removed the moustache and he thought that someone had forced me to do it. He became very protective and asked me to name his batch mate who had asked me to remove it. I told him that it was my decision, but he was not willing to listen. In the end he did agree to what I said, and as a punishment, he gave 2 of his shirts and one bed sheet for washing.

Now, no way was I going to wash those clothes. So, the clothes were lying on the table in my room. Vasu came after two days and enquired whether I had washed the clothes. I told him that the clothes are washed, and its the best I can do, though I had not even touched them. He said that he will come again after two days during which I had to wash them. Same day, my friend Alok came to my room and asked about the clothes lying there. I told him that they belonged to Vasu. He took one shirt with him and went. Vasu came after a couple of days and after seeing that I had not even touched the clothes, took them with him, forgetting that one shirt was missing. Meanwhile, Alok washed the shirt, ironed it and started wearing it himself, even in front of Vasu. Alok from my batch and one of the senior (his name was also Alok) were school buddies. Rumour has it that Alok from my batch had gone to senior Alok’s marriage wearing the same shirt, and there Vasu had come with his wife. Now, Vasu’s shirt which Alok was wearing, was a gift from Vasu’s wife who was his girlfriend at the time the present was presented. And obviously, Vasu’s wife recognised the shirt, and the rest as they say is history.

Sometimes, ragging was fun, even for us (those being ragged), and at times, it was difficult to keep a straight face with so much comedy of errors happening. The “Dedh Inch” episode of Ashish Nagpal for instance was one where I could not control my laughter and only the remembrance of the episode brings smile to my face.

All in all, that time, when we were new to our college, that ragging helped us unite as a batch, and also created a special bond with our seniors. What was to follow after a month of ragging, was going to be an exciting time, a journey of a lifetime, with many twists & turns. But lets wait, for some time for that episode to unfold.

Meanwhile, enjoy the video…without the song, as it is copyrighted material

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Consulting, Just another day

Important… But Not Urgent

Though famous, I was completely ignorant of “The Eisenhower Decision Matrix” which is popularized by Stephen Covey in his best-seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. A friend of mine, gave a very beautiful perspective of this matrix to me a few days back, which he in turn had received from his manager. I would like to discuss the same perspective here.

Urgent-Important

The matrix consists of a square divided into four boxes, or quadrants, and labelled as: 1) Q1 – Urgent & Important, 2) Q2 – Not Urgent But Important, 3) Q3 – Urgent But Not Important, and 4) Q4 – Not Urgent & Not Important

Now we always find time to work on something that is Urgent as well as Important (Q1). And, similarly, whether we have time or not, we need to find time and work for something that is Urgent though Not Important (Q3). Most of the time, we don’t even bother to work on Q4, something that is Not Urgent and Not Important.

What remains, and is sidelined is work that is Important But Not Urgent (Q2). We never find time for it as it is not urgent, and when our boss asks for the same, we don’t have it. But this is the work that is really important and can get you in a soup.

So, takeaway from this article is always make a list of activities that are IMPORTANT but NOT URGENT.

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Just another day

A Fair Play Sports Award to Alejandro Rodríguez – a 6 year boy

Sometimes, on the internet you come across a news that makes your day.

I came across a similar news today about Alejandro Rodríguez, a six year old boy who received a Fair Play Award from Princess Elena at a function that was attended by King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain at Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, Spain on 04 December 2014.

He received the award because he stepped in to break up a heated quarrel/discussion between the referee and his coach during a children’s soccer match. The reason for breaking up the argument was simple for young Alejandro Rodríguez.

“He wanted to Play”

He received the award alongside Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone.

Watch the video here

A great moment of joy for a young boy. Kudos also to the authorities that gave him the award. This is indeed a proud moment for sports fans.

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Just another day

A beautiful state

State of Mind

State of Mind

I was lucky to have a chance to visit Jammu region, as a part of my consulting assignment, if I am given the liberty of calling it ‘consulting’. There, on my last day of that visit to Jammu, I, along with my colleague was asked to go to Sunderbani & Rajouri, though Rajouri was not the part of our deal, and we as consultants, didn’t have any say, about whether we could go, whether it was possible, whether it was required or whether it would have any impact on the study that we were conducting. Yes, it did fit the process of making concentric circles (more about it in the later blogs), when the center was known, and for the company, it was the only thing that mattered. So, our journey began, through the chilly terrain (that’s what it was called in the presentation to the client). Now, for someone, who has spent 80% of his life (now close to 30 years, with wonderful experiences and substantial achievements does give one the right to use a term as heavy as life) in a peaceful city like Pune, and remaining part in Nagpur, Chennai & Gurgaon, you can guess the feeling he would have staring at real machine guns, AK47s, rifles & shotguns, tanks and military areas & military posts made up of sacks of some sort (cement probably) & couple of army men with guns, after every now and then. Now, if James makes a 3-D war film, after Avatar’s success, then it would be a different ball game.

While traveling through Akhnoor which shares border with Pakistan, we went on a very beautiful bridge which was over the blue & pure Chenab, which was on its way to Pakistan.

The view in the steep ghats from Sunderbani to Rajouri, was very beautiful, passing through green valleys and mountains. Every now and then, we could get a view of snow-clad mountains. The chilly weather, the beautiful scenery and the freshness in the air was incomparable to any hill station that I had been to. Only because this place is so close to Pakistan, ‘Man’ has not invaded the natural habitat & changed it to a white jungle (using the same cement, maybe), the natural beauty is still intact. Had this not been the case, we would have tried to level the place, just to make more houses, cut down the forests and used the stone from the mountains for construction purposes. I am not sure, whether it was only the Jammu state or also my state of mind which was influencing my decision about it being a place to visit.

On the road, we could see more military vehicles than even the number of civilians. There, somewhere after Akhnoor, we saw a boy in his teens, in a military uniform, sitting in a military truck. The look in his eyes, was what really caught my attention. Still in his teens, he had figured out what he wanted for his life. Boys & Girls of his age are more crazy about Roadies & Splitsvilla, but he, just didn’t care for these things. People are more worried about whether India would win the forthcoming Test Series, or whether India holds to its recently achieved No. 1 status in Tests. Realistically speaking, how does it matter.

For me, I look up to people like Lance Armstrong or Roger Federer to get inspiration and motivation. For me, success stories of Manchester United mean something. He has reached that state of mind, where he doesn’t need these individuals/teams to get motivated. At the age of 16 odd, he has reached a state where many people might not reach, even in their whole lives.

When I was doing MBA, I had studied something related to Maslow’s hierarchy. I now remember it somewhat, and I feel that this boy, was on the tip.

SO, it was not just Jammu as a State (taking nothing away from the serene region of undoubted purity), but even the state of my mind, that this journey was a remarkable one.

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Just another day

A fine old day at Wimpy’s

WimpyAs we were working for a couple of months in an AC manufacturing company, living in good hotels & guest houses, adorned with best products of the same manufacturing company, after coming back to Gurgaon, on the first weekend, it was just impossible for us to stay in a room having just a cooler. No, it wasn’t an attitude problem that was holding our shift from an AC to a cooler; but the real problem was moving out of an energy surplus place, to a place having five to ten hours of daily power-cuts.

So after working on Saturday, just to enjoy the AC of our office, on Sunday we decided to go on a “Delhi-Darshan”, obviously in an AC cab to beat the heat. After going to some historic places, we found abode in the air conditioned Palika Bazaar. After an hour, we got completely bored, and took some pamphlets, just to make sure that we won’t come out of Palika Bazaar empty handed.

As we came out, after a long days work, we saw Wimpy’s in front of us, and we were all set to eat tasty burgers, not knowing the company that we were going to have in there. To give a background of my two friends, with whom I was, that fortunate day; one of them had just returned from Saudi Arabia where, every female looks same, he said, if you are able to see one (for that matter); and the other, who has been in the business as a consultant & counsellor for too long apart from being an astrologer, was wanting to have a closer look of the scenario I am about to discuss, to know the way in which this new generation & their parents take the most important decision of their life. Now is it or is it not the most important decision can be debated about, but after seeing the world, the way my astrologer friend has, I was not about to open my mouth & utter a word.

The best I could do, was order a big Chicken Burger meal for me, and a couple of Vegetarian Burger meals for my grass-friendly & animal loving friends. On the table behind us were a couple of boys, so engrossed in the discussion about India’s victory over Ireland, that they wouldn’t have noticed even if a dinosaur was sitting next to them. The big table opposite to us was still unoccupied, but a person was coming every two minutes, to make sure that it was not taken. Just then a girl in her mid twenties accompanied by her parents and the big table caretaker came and occupied one half of the table. There was a striking similarity in the way in which the big table caretaker was talking to the girl’s parents, and the way a property agent tries to convince the prospective tenants that the house he is showing is the best house available in the whole city. For next ten minutes nothing happened, apart from the tension mounting on the face of the girl. We then got an idea, what the meeting was going to be about.

Now, get a closer idea of this scenario that I am explaining. Go back to your engineering days. You have a project viva at say two o’clock in your college. You go for the viva at ten thirty in the morning, so that you can have a proper understanding about what the examiner is asking, what you should prepare, and what part of your project & the theory underlying should you study in order to correlate it to the project. But bloody hell. The college knows this and they put every single student in different room. Now you are alone, all by yourself, and the clock is ticking. It’s One Forty Five, and anytime, they would call you, and grill you. Same was her condition.

We had finished eating the burger but as we were all interested in what happens in such meetings scenario, we ordered coffee to pass some time in close vicinity of these people. Just then the door opened and a handsome boy entered the place. The girls eyes popped up, with the look on her face of an business analyst. Very quickly was she conducting an impact analysis, of whether the expectations she had in her mind were being met by this final product. She seemed satisfied, as he was waiting at the door for his parents to enter. We then started looking at the big table caretaker, who we had understood to be the “Madhyasta”. He was unmoved. This was a false alarm, we noticed it, but the girl with her eyes glued to the boy, was starting to stand up from her chair as she saw someone was coming through the door. She thought that his parents would enter, but entered instead, another beautiful girl, who smiled at the boy holding the door, gave her shopping bags to him and sat on the table adjacent to us. Our heroine, fell in her chair like a pack of cards, with all her dreams vanished into thin air. Luckily for her, her parents didn’t see all this, as they were being kept busy by the Madhyasta.

Just then another elderly couple entered, and they went directly towards the Madhyasta. Entered after them, another boy. Now was he better than the first one, or was he not didn’t really mattered. He came and sat before her. They looked at each other just for a second, smiled a bit and then looked at each others parents. The introduction of the parents was done by the Madhyasta, but the two main characters weren’t so lucky. Their introduction was left to them only. Their parents were talking and they were listening, as the Madhyasta ordered some Coke for everyone. Someone finally noticed that the boy & girl need some time to be alone, ask questions and understand each other in more details. So they were sent to a table behind us, which the two cricketing brains had finally vacated after complete analysis. They sat and waited for a couple of minutes, when the sound of silence was broken by the Madhyasta who had brought two Cokes for them. The new advertisement about Aamir Khan telling us that how youngsters who want to marry, introduce their parents to each other these days, came into our mind. We were surprised that for an avant-garde & ultramodern city like Delhi, the condition was so different.

The boy asked the girl about her education, the company she was working in and her hobbies. The girl answered to the questions, and didn’t even ask a question. When she said, that she was a post graduate from a very renowned B-school and working in an MNC, it was very unexpected of her, not to ask any questions. When moved on to her friends circle, when we thought he was an Idea salesman asking her the count of her friends. He then asked her about any past relationships, but the question was similar to what Harvey Dent had asked Alfred about Rachel (Any psychotic boyfriends that I should worry about…) in the Dark Knight. She answered in negative. Then came the question that everyone must have by-hearted for all the interviews, be they for job or for a B-school admission. What are your goals, and where do you see yourself five years from now and ten years from now. Before she could really answer them, they were told that their five minutes were over. The only thing that came to my mind was a scene from a film in which relative of a person in jail is told that his/her five minutes of talking with the prisoner are over. They went back and sat with their parents. Within five minutes, a decision was taken, everyone was happy and they dispersed from the scene.

Five long minutes were given to them to decide whether they would spend lifetime together. Well living in the 21st century, in an advanced city, we thought the things would be quite different. But only the looks & views have changed, from inside everyone is the same conservative & old-fashioned as sixty years back. Not much have changed in India after independence. I was completely unhappy of the system, but then, Federer’s French Open final match came to my mind. Whether Federer wins his first French Open, was more important for us, than some odd, to be, couple making the most important decision of their life.

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