Friday, August 19, 2016

Dare to dream

* This is a spur of the moment post that might come across as long winded, rambling and possibly even incoherent. I didn't want to go back and edit and refine since these are raw thoughts and are best expressed the way I typed them. If you know me and how I think, then you will pretty much get what I am saying even if the words are not coming out right * 

While this post comes in the aftermath of Sakshi Malik's bronze medal in wrestling, it also derives its inspiration from the stories of Dipa, Vinesh, Atanu and all the other athletes who have made it to Rio which is in itself a phenomenal achievement.

I saw this gif in a friend's FB timeline and while my first reaction was to laugh it away, it really dawned on me that this was precisely the mentality when I grew up.

While many of us were encouraged as children to follow our passions and become true all-rounders (learn music or painting, play an instrument, take up a sport etc), invariably most of that was put to a grinding halt around Std 8 when we were asked to "get serious" and follow the beaten path so that we could ensure a "safe future" for ourselves. Whilst not every parent pushed their children very hard to get to the  creme de la creme of institutions (read: IIT or an AIIMS), becoming an engineer or doctor was definitely seen as a ticket to stability and success in life. After under-graduation, it was all about doing that MS abroad and settling down in Seattle or nearabouts or getting that fancy MBA degree which gave you a shortcut to climb 3 rungs of the unforgiving corporate rat-race ladder.

In school, I can't seem to remember ONE above-average-in-academics classmate or friend of mine (would love to see the report cards of Sivakarthikeyan, Balaji Mohan, Nalan Kumaraswamy - there, I plugged in 3 celebrity juniors from my alma mater) giving up traditional paths and pursuing alternate careers with the active encouragement and support of his/her family. On one of those very rare occasions it happened, outright rebellion with a threat to run away from home was the reason the parents finally capitulated :)

To be fair, to blame it all on the parents is ducking the issue. I had a very solid, if not spectacular, safety net in terms of financial security but still lacked the courage to pursue cricket seriously. Granted I was not supremely talented but with sheer hard work and grit, I could have atleast made it to the Tamil Nadu Premier League. So given the times we grew up, I am not very surprised by Indians not making their mark (relatively speaking) in the 2000s and early part of this decade in areas like sports, literature, arts or most things outside of a Corporate career. I truly believe an entire generation of dreamer and achievers was lost in this country.

Whilst much has changed in the last 4-5 years (every kid and his pet dog wants to drop out of school/college and create a start-up), I see it more as folks wanting to make a big splash, land up in the front page of Economic Times, rake in the cheddar by 35 and then retire to a village to do organic farming or teach underprivileged children. I still don't see enough people in school saying they want to take the road less traveled (which some might actually say is the shortcut) and actually do organic farming / teach from Day One because they love it for what its worth. On one hand, while it is heartening to personally see people explore left-of-field options in the entertainment industry (moving outside films, TV and radio to become a stand-up comedian or even a full-time magician), I still see parents seeking my help on how to ensure their wards become one of the 2m engineering students who graduate every year.

As a child, there were a million things I wanted to be and some I even dabbled in. I wanted to play cricket, tennis and/or golf. I yearned to learn singing and be associated with music throughout my life. As a teenager, I longed to write stories and tell it to people through the medium of cinema. I was also intrigued by the prospects of becoming a professional quiz master. As an adult, I wanted to be a sports talent spotter traveling to the corners of the country unearthing the next big thing. Did I become any of those? Nope. Why? I don't know.

Which brings me to my current predicament.

What I want for my children is to aspire high and reach for the stars. What I would love for them to do is experiment without fear of failure. I dont want them to think that anything is beyond them. I would hate for them to settle for anything less than they are capable of. What I also want to inculcate in them is a desire to want to be the best at whatever they set their hearts and minds to. I am cognizant that I should not foist my own dreams on them and live my aspirational life through them. However, I also want to be a catalyst to help them understand what they could do and provide support to realize their potential in whichever field they chose to pursue, as long as it is not engineering or medicine :P

Thanks to the support of her parents, Sakshi Mittal followed her dreams from the age of 12 and look where it has landed her. Steffi Graf was hitting hundreds of balls over the net at the age of 4 under the watchful eyes of her father and went on to become a legend. (its another thing that the media demonized her father as a hard task master who literally ruint her childhood). I dont want to be one of those parents pushing their children to practice for Spelling Bees from the age of 3 but I also want my children to start dreaming from early on.

What I really hope to do through this post is stimulate/start an honest debate on how parents can help children dare to dream and support that pursuit.

PS: I know a parent who sent his daughter to 2 full summers of Pencil sketching, Carnatic music singing, Taekwondo, Swimming, Maths Olympiad & Origami/Arts & Crafts classes and she came back disinterested in everything....and before someone asks, she is a very smart kid. Is it just by trial and error that children find out what really floats their boat?

Forever young

At work, we have this G-100 program where we hire 100 students every year from some of the worlds best B-schools. As part of their induction, they travel to India and get to know about the company and also meet India based teams. I usually enjoy interacting with these guys as it makes me go back in time to think of where I was 13 years back and how such interactions helped me connect to some great leaders and gradually build my network within the company.

Last week was fun as I met with this year's batch and spent a good 20-25 mts with them formally. This was then followed by a more personal and informal 1-on-1 interaction where I formed a quick friendship with a really smart, young American newbie. We had the most interesting 45 mt chat that I have had in the last year and needless to say (ok have to boast now), looks like I made a very very favorable impression on him. He went back and wrote saying he was extremely impressed by how someone like him could related so much to someone as "old" as me. I am just going to take that as a compliment :)

So what did we talk about
  • Politics/Business: Why Icahn backs Trump
  • Sports: US College tennis and Tom Fawcett's chances of becoming the next John Isner or Steve Johnson
  • Entertainment: Why Marvel trumps DC any day
  • All things hip: slang like IAmA, Netflix and Chill, Catfish (In the context of my id card), IIRC
Areas where I could not hold my own
  • Obama's playlist, Brexit (Hmmm), GoT (Is there anyone who does not want to talk about this?)
The only flip side to all this was a FB request that I have to turn down now :P

PS: When I delete a FB Friend request, does it notify the other person? 

Monday, August 08, 2016

How the mighty have fallen

Its only when a true legend like SAF moves on that the void his departure leaves us truly shows up in epic/massive/gigantic proportions. If yesterday's Community shield game is any indication of the year to come, Utd fans can expect silverware by Feb/May but can kiss their hopes goodbye of seeing A-N-Y entertaining football. Yes, it is still early days but there were 4 things I CLEARLY CLEARLY saw yday which backs up my claim

  • During SAF's reign, if a match was 1-1 going into the last 10 minutes, you very much knew what was going to happen. SAF would throw all his fwds in and give his wingers / full backs license to attack and there would be an almighty seige at the opposition goal. Jose Mourinho has never/can never/will never do that and he did nothing of the sort yday. 

  • One of the earliest to be substituted was the superb Jesse Lingard. Despite Jose's ridiculous claims that he has brought through youngsters (am still dying laughing at that), he will never place his trust in youth. PERIOD. A leopard does not change its spots overnight.

  • The minute Ibra scored, Jose let his guard down for 3 seconds and celebrated but his immediate next reaction was to summon Schneiderlin to replace Rooney. That would have never happened under SAF. Protecting a lead was anathema to the master. He would have gone for the 3rd goal. How joyless must it be playing for Jose. No wonder Ronaldo hated Jose.

  • Minutes after Ibra scored, there was a throw-in for Leicester near the players' bench and Jose was furiously gesticulating to Ibra to fall back 20 yards into his own half and defend a throw-in coz of his height. (That was Jose at his best - marshaling his troops to park the bus). The great thing about Jose Mourinho is that Ibra actually did. Imagine Ibra's voice in the head saying "Ibra doesn't defend" and then Ibra coming to his senses and overruling his inner voice and actually doing his master's bidding. Ha Ha Ha !!

Jose Mourinho and his ego (or) How Man Utd have sold their soul in their quest for success? - PART 1

So Jose wants Schweinsteiger out. Why? There are many reasons being bandied about and the one that Jose would like the world to believe most is that Schweini doesnt fit the new style that Jose has come up for Man Utd. Bollocks.

Schweini has played at the highest level for club and country and can fit into any system and style of play. The simple answer is: Jose's massive ego. Jose demands absolute dedication and adherence to his methods and he typically likes to operate with players who will NEVER EVER question him. Schweini is a serial winner (and in my opinion achieved more than Jose) and an intelligent footballer. Jose can put up with 1 prima donna Ibra but too many strong personalities in the dressing room are not his style. By relegating Schweini to the reserves, Jose has made a calculated attack on Schweini's pride hoping that he will  take the affront personally and leave....and I just think it might work, more so if PSG come calling, as life in Paris (despite the bomb blasts) with Ana Ivanovic must surely be better than working in dreary Manchester with nasty Jose. In all this drama, Man Utd have just lost a lot of goodwill as KH Rummenigge rightly pointed out.

Schweinsteiger's trophies

  • 8 Bundesliga titles
  • 7 DFB-Pokal cups
  • 2 DFB-Ligapokal cups
  • 2 DFB Super cups
  • 1 Champions League
  • 1 UEFA Supercup
  • 1 FIFA Club World Cup
  • 1 FIFA World Cup 
  • (2 3rd places at WC and 1 runner up in Euros)

Jose Mourinho's trophies

  • 8 league titles (2 in Portugal, 3 in UK, 1 in Spain, 2 in Italy)
  • 10 Cup titles (2 in Portugal, 4 in UK, 2 in Spain, 2 in Italy)
  • 2 Champions League
  • 1 UEFA Cup

Thursday, August 04, 2016


If you're a fan of the series, you are gonna see it anyway so this mini-review should not dissuade you. If you're not a fan of the franchise, then you might just want to reconsider your weekend plans again.

First off, Jason Bourne is NOT to be watched on 3D. NO NO NEVER. 3D makes absolutely no sense and it is nothing but another money grubbing exercise from crazy studio bosses working in collusion with multiplexes who have invested in this technology. Having said that, I saw it in IMAX 2D - now, IMAX is something worth paying extra for and Jason Bourne is definitely a better experience in this medium. People who have a problem with Paul Greengrass' shaky-cam & constant zoom-in-zoom-out style should steer way clear of the movie coz he amps it up to insane levels, so much so that the chase scenes are mostly a mess playing havoc with your senses. I liked the riot scenes in Athens a lot but trouble was I felt like i was actually in the middle of the action on the streets and that was not a very comfortable feeling. People who still remember this iconic scene from Ultimatum will find something very similar in this latest installment - a superb set piece at Paddington (bang near my Wipro office....wowwwwwwwwww) - but the problem here is that the scene absolutely goes nowhere. There are some howlarious sequences vis a vis technology, hacking etc which has been absolutely ripped to shreds by Reditters here.  All these aren't as much of an issue as the fact that there is absolutely no reason for this movie. I wont talk about the disastrous Bourne Legacy but the first 3 movies took this series to a logical closure point and Part 5 feels like a needless chapter with no solid story line and quite a few  meandering sub-plots.

Now for the good parts - the performances. Matt Damon is in fine form despite the long break from this character, Alicia Vikander is truly scrumptious, Vincent Cassell makes for a chilling villain and I can't have enough of Riz Ahmed at this moment. The pounding sound track keeps you on the edge and the last scene with the signature Bourne tune does bring a smile to your face. The movie is only 2 hrs long so doesn't test your patience but one can only hope that they end it here. The last few Bond movies have been nothing to write about and with Bourne winding down, it leaves Ethan Hunt with the unenviable task of giving me my guilty pleasures every 2 years.

Overall rating: 3/5 (more importantly, weakest of the Matt Damon Bourne films)