Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Clear Eyes Full Hearts Cant lose

Past month had been richly rewarding for my personal growth. I took a 10-day break during year-end to relax and do lot of things. I ended up reading couple of books, resumed running daily and watched all seasons of Friday Night Lights. Friday Night Lights, eh? whats that? Yes it doesn’t figure in the usual suspects of TV series like Friends, Big Bang Theory, Prison Break, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones etc and none of my friends heard about it. Chances are that you might not have even heard about the movie by the same name by the same director or the book on which it is based. Both TV series and movie are based on the book by H.G. Bissinger which rotates around the life of a football coach in a small town in Texas, USA where the whole town is obsessed about their high-school football team. Although the TV series did not get tremendous commercial success, it is critically acclaimed and has very devoted followers. So what makes this series so special?

A coach trying to transform an underdog team to make them champions is a tried and tested formulae for a great story. Remember the Titans, Any Given Sunday, Coach Carter or our very Indian Chak De India, all are examples of successful movies on the similar storyline. So inherently Friday Night Lights has a storyline that makes it naturally likeable where Coach Eric Taylor builds up a team from Dillon, Texas - a small town where football is the widest conversation topic - to win State Championship. But the series is about much more than that - actually almost every significant issue from teenager issues like drugs, pregnancy, alcohol, racism, love, rivalry to family issues like parenting problems, taking care of sick old people, couple fights or other societal problems like unemployment, education. Each and every issue is portrayed in a very realistic way on how they affect people of a small town. The book actually is a journalistic work where author stayed in Odessa, Texas and covered 1988 season for the high school team Permian Panthers.

The story starts with Coach Taylor joining the team and first few episodes built the context on how integral is Football to the town and practically everybody is obsessed on every Friday Night’s game. The town has radio programmes to discuss football and everyone has an opinion on the game and players. Coach Taylor oscillates between being Jesus to Judas to the town where “For Sale” boards are seen in morning in front of his house after every significant loss. In first episode the team loses their strongest player - quarterback and captain - to a paralyzing injury and the team suddenly found itself fighting hard to survive from being the top contender for the championship. The coach then develops a mediocre player to be the new quarterback who successfully takes team to win the championship.

The series displays lot of struggle by the players, the coach and their families and how they are able to cope up with them. The good part about this series is that there are more than ten strong characters at any point of time whose lives and hardships the story revolves around. It has been real treat watching it and I am already doing reruns. I also watched the movie and the movie doesn’t even come close to the TV series. So highly recommended watch - especially for American Football fans or if you have like TV series based out of small towns in past.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I was not feeling like writing book reviews from a long time now. But how can I miss writing on this wonderful masterpiece. I saw someone reading this book in a train and we had a chat on what this book is about. The way he described it, I felt it was like a Kafka dark novel but he assured me it is more readable. Now I feel lucky to have heeded his advice.



First of all I was bamboozled by the way this novel was written. It follows a third person narration with a lot of philosophical thoughts, observations and opinions of the narrator interspersed in it. Not only narrator but the characters of the novel also keep on making brilliant philosophical comments and raise mind-boggling observations. I have to give some examples here as no matter how hard I try my words will fail me to describe the beauty:
"People usually escape from their troubles into the future; they draw an imaginary line across the path of time, a line beyond which their current troubles will cease to exist. Tereza saw no such line....."
"What happens but once might as well not have happened at all."
"When the heart speaks, mind finds it indecent to object."
" There is no particular merit in being nice to one's fellow man..... We can never establish with certainity what part of our relation with others is due to......constant powerplay among individuals."

And I can go on and on. I found gems on every page.

The book's plot is about a couple where the guy used to love his wife a lot but couldnt control his longing to have physical relations with his many mistresses. The story is intertwined with communism and one another couple involved in infidelity. But do not at all expect the book to be erotica. It is a pure philosophical artwork which makes u thinking at the end of every chapter. On the topic of infidelity also, the author tried to develop a thought process on how physical involvement was not at all similar to the emotional attachment of the protagonist to his wife. Also the book has parts which give you chill like in "1984 " about the Big Brotherly nature of government in communism.

Overall I think no one should miss this book. I definitely want to read it again and rethink over the various thoughts highlighted in the book.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Intezaar

उनकी रांहो में बैठे समय रुक क्यू जाता है
पर उन्हें अपने काम से लगाव भी कुछ ज्यादा है।
इन आँखों को उनकी गैरहाजिरी पर रोष आता है
क्यों न आये आखिर आज मिलने का जो  वादा है।

सिलसिला यह जो शुरू हुआ है तेरे मुस्कुराने से
डर लगता है इस दिल को उनका यादें बन जाने से ।
यू तो यादें भी तेरी काफी हसीन है ज़माने से
पर क्यों लगता है जन्नत मिलेगी मेहेज़ तेरे आने से। 

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Musical World

I remember there was a question in the old-forgotten-orkut profile page – What are five things you cannot live without? Not very sure what I actually answered then but I am sure books and music were pretty much there. If you ask me today the other three will be phone, laptop and iPad (I know how materialistic). Anyway so I am going to write about my only pure passion – music. I don’t even consider my other hobbies to be as passionate or even as pure as music has been to me. I always tell my friends that I think of myself to be a mercenary. I am always focused relentlessly (at times even robotically) on getting better. Almost all of my time is spent on work, books, reading, sports and exercise – each of these activities I do for the sole aim of getting better physically, mentally or monetarily. I watch movies, TV series or any other time-pass is just a break from the bigger agenda. To a large extent meeting new people and old acquaintances is for knowing something more. In all this pursuit for perfection, music is the only thing of which I did not expect anything, did not feel anything else but love and could not leave it for anything in the world. It has been my solace in troubling times, my friend who shared my happiness and gloom with equal ownership and a teacher who exposed me to poetry, art, beauty and never experienced emotions. So on this eve of world music day I will write about the two aspects that I love about it – ability to transcend into different world and poetry.

A few years back I happened to witness a painting by an artist focused on women’s different avatars and problems at her exhibition. While staring at that painting I suddenly went into a very gloomy, emotional phase and then into a deep thought about the issue at hand. I was close to tears at a point of time relating that painting to people in my life. That night thinking about that incident I defined in my own terms what an art is. To me good art is any form of expression which can transcend you to different world, make you feel what you weren’t feeling before that and probably not even related to your current state of affairs. And good music does exactly that to me. I listen to Yellow by Coldplay and I can feel love for a non-existent girl being single, I listen to Mumma by Kailash Kher and I start missing my mom while working at office or when I come all exhausted from long day and I am all charged up after grooving to any Linkin Park song. Try listening to This is Home by Switchfoot and feel as if you have just died and it is you singing that song or can you feel the slow life from your grandpa’s perspective while listening to Gran Torino by Clint Eastwood & Jamie Cullum. The range of emotion is endless and if only I had a song to feel everything possible.

And poetry…ah…where do I start in that!! Don’t we all want to use the perfect word in our conversations, at least in the conversations that matter? And I so envy and also admire the lyricists who end up touching us so deeply. I am a very impatient reader and if left to read poetry on my own I think I would find it very hard to finish something. Because of music I have had good fortune to witness the work of poets like Irshad Kamil, Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar sahib. Most of the English songs that I love, I have been amazed by the level of maturity and depth in their lyrics. I guess our musical cultural background makes us relate good lyrics to slow songs like gazal, sufi and soft soundtracks and fast numbers are more equated with mindless words. In English track I have found some amazing word play with very fast numbers in rock bands like Creed/Linkin Park or rappers like Eminem. Good music improves the beauty of a good poem further and I understand that it’s a shame that many a good poetry is undiscovered because of the bad music associated. I do not want to highlight examples of amazing poetry as I am sure we all have witnessed that but I request that next time you like a song just find out who has written it. Lyricists go so unappreciated and singers hog all the limelight.


Happy World Music Day and Happy Listening!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Getting Past No by William Ury

Being recently introduced to the books related to negotiation, I feel more enlightened about how human mind works and how emotions play a role in its working. Negotiation is a game where human mind and emotions are at their peak and hence gives more insight into our behavior. What makes negotiation important is that at the end of this there is a decision which has to come out and that decision is going to determine who is going to get what! But a sharp person looks much beyond the simple how-much-I-get question. He knows that much more is at stake in a negotiation – your future relationship with the other party, your reputation/perception as a negotiator and the benchmark for any future negotiation. And what happens when the other party is not ready to listen at all and is hell-bent on getting what it wants?

 

Getting Past No is answer to this problem but first I will advise you to read Getting to Yes as it sets basic but very effective guidelines for all negotiations. You might very well be doing something wrong and that is why the other side is stubborn because of being genuinely concerned. The author has stated that there are five parts of the strategy of getting past no – going to the balcony, stepping to their side, reframing, building them a golden bridge and using power to educate. Out of that the first three are corollaries of the basic guidelines set in the amazing book “Getting to Yes” and that’s why didn’t impress me much. But the last two parts were uncovered in that book and amazingly clear in this one. Your opponent needs a respectable face to show to whomever he is going to answer about the negotiation. And if that is not the case then the person has high chances of not budging from his stance. So it will help if you can show your opponent how this deal will look good to his boss/coworkers/friends/wife. Also too often we try to use our power to threaten the opponent in accepting what we want. This might work or might not work but in either case your future relationship is spoiled already. There is a graceful way of showing your opponent what will be the consequence if they don’t agree and if he is clear and convinced about it then it is safe to walk out. If he is ready to face the consequences then your threat might not have worked also and this also gives him time to think and come back to you.

I do believe that everyone should be reading the two books mentioned above and also Difficult Conversations . These books will invariably help you in every aspect of your life and will make you a more mature human being. Difficult Conversations and Getting to Yes are the results of Harvard Negotiations Project and the quality of language and advice speaks for itself. Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl


Before starting this book, I thought the book would be another story how author suffered through holocaust and concentration camp. I don’t mean that story of somebody’s suffering is not worth reading, but it is not a read which leaves you with nice feeling during and after the end. But I was in for a surprise this time. Firstly only the book’s first half deals with the story of concentration camp and other half is about author’s psychological theory hence derived. Secondly, even in the first half the author just does not give a simple account of what happened but a psychological analysis of the people, system and the events which was very interesting.

 

There are quite a few amazing tidbits I found in the story about concentration camp. The author tells how certain jews were selected to do most of the administrative and controlling work in concentration camps and those jews were more cruel, apathetic and sadistic then the officials themselves. There is an account where the author tells that prisoners could buy few things from the money they got from doing certain laborious jobs. Most of them chose to buy bread from that money to stay fit because unfit people were not sent to gas chambers. The moment anybody has given up hope on surviving, he would be buying cigarettes from the same money and instead enjoy the short-term pleasure of smoking. Here author built up the preface that those who had a “why” to live found their “how” to live and anybody who wasn’t able to find meaning to this suffering just gave up.

It is interesting to note that Viktor Frankl has been one of the first credible counter-voices to Freudian psychology. Before Frankl Freud was psychology and psychology was Freud. But Frankl has given two strong arguments against two of the theories of Freud. First theory that he disregarded is that the man is the product of its environment and it has scarce control over what he becomes. Frankl quotes one of the statements of Freud that all the men might look different but keep them hungry and you will see that they all are one and the same. But Frankl goes on to explain that still in that situation man has control over its actions as seen by him closely during his camp years. There were saints, crooks, pessimists and optimists amongst inmates who acted very differently. The second theory of Frankl that the Man is in search of meaning and that meaning gives him happiness. This is in contrary to the belief of Freudian school of thoughts which focused on past to search for reason for unhappiness and Frankl sees the answer of happiness in future. Overall it’s a must read. I will recommend it to anybody and everybody.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Conversations with Millionaires by Mike Litman


If I would have read the book, it would have made it in my books-i-didn’t-finish shelf in few pages only. Good God!! I listened to the audio book and to say that I was mesmerized would be an understatement. Well, this is not any regular audio-book which is just a rendition of the content, it is the collection of the original radio interview recordings which led to this book. You have to listen to Mike Litman hosting radio show to understand how mediocre and numb Indian radio hosts are. He is so full of energy, well-read and smart that even some of the TV hosts would not be able to match up by his side.

 

Ah, coming to the content side of the book. Well if you take nine cheap self-help books having the most promising names from any of the railway station bookstand and bind them together, it will not be very different from the current book. The millionaires selected for this book are not any millionaires or even the most successful millionaires – they are the millionaires who are into motivational-speaker-and-self-help-books business themselves. And all throughout the interviews they are establishing how their work is groundbreaking and how they are better than others into this business. By the time you reach fourth or fifth part, you are already sick of their know-it-all-achieved-it-all attitude. Come on man, you are not Bill Gates or Larry Page!! Have some humility.

The ‘millionaires’ are divided into two parts – those who coach about success and others who profess about financial freedom. You can definitely skip the former guys but you can still go through the latter if you have not read any books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Overall, I highly recommend giving this book a skip as well. Maybe you can listen to one or two interviews of Mike Litman to understand to what extent he is better than the rest. Continuously two bad books is making me want something meaty now – have high expectations from the body language book I am reading.

Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin



The Dip is a book about quitting or not quitting depending on where you lie. I am not quite sure what significant I got out of the book. The part where he explained why you should be the best and how there are disproportional rewards for being number one was really good. So was the part where the difference between active perseverance and passive sufferer was highlighted. But all else was very generic. The fact that you should quit when it is right time rather than keep on hanging or similar stuff about when you should be perseverant – I mean we know all these stuff already, dont we? There are few good pointers about when you shouldn’t quit – when long term seems better than short term. I believe I expected more out of the book – something thought provoking. Maybe that’s what happens when marketing writer tries to venture into behavior psychology with few of his observations. But probably my views are so because I went through the abridged version and that too an audiobook. I recommend you can give this book a skip.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Polaroid


It was the same old world
Things haven't changed really
But 'unfamiliar' is the word
When I look around slowly

They say happiness is a pursuit
Then why I don't wanna go anywhere
There are thousand possibilities
But where have you gone my fear

Why suddenly I feel complete
When I am sure I saw a void
I thought of it as so many things
But I forgot its also a Polaroid

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Good to Great by Jim Collins


This book is about 11 companies who made a leap from “Good” to “Great” and what caused them to make that leap. And what is the definition of Great? Continuous 15-years highest stock market returns is the definition author uses of which I was highly skeptical about. I am sure there can be many other data and non-data points like Revenue growth, Innovations and Self-disruptions made by the company that can be used or even a longer time horizon wouldn’t hurt. Except this reservation of mine, I liked the way the book is researched and the conclusions are drawn. The book is divided into nine chapters and each chapter is about the common things that the research team found in the 11 companies and did not find in the other non-great companies.


The book makes an interesting read definitely. Though I did not find it ground-breaking but I am sure in 2001 when it got published it must have been. I would give 4 stars to the book and put it in “Can-Read” category.