Deepavali – the Festival that everyone loves

Deepavali elevates goodwill to a whole new level. Deepavali – often called the festival of lights – is very special – it oozes goodwill and gratitude. You share sweets, gifts and greetings with your neighbours, relatives and every one involved in your life (yeah – dont forget the security folks who ensure your life is safe or the local merchants who bring the choicest delicacies to your doorstep!) and perhaps it’s the one day where smiles are truly infinite. You also buy new clothes for the occasion and stuff for your home – society and the traders benefit. Abundance, sharing and love shine forth together in this unique festival.

I love the fact that we honour our ancestors (and gods too) too. We burst fireworks and play with sparklers (yeah green ones these days 🙂 to light up the world so our ancestors can see us (and chuckle at the fun we are having perhaps) and also to illuminate their paths to the higher worlds they are transitioning to. The sarams (the string of crackers tied together) is also believed to help guide laxmi, the goddess of wealth to your home! Fun and gratitude – can there be a better mix?

Earthernware lights and kolams (fantastic designs made of edible stuff that insects and ants can digest) are a brilliant way of bringing out our exuberance and joy and sharing it with the world. Indeed, function and form come together in an amazing synergy lighting up the world on this day – and importantly – all of this is also imbued with a sense of higher purpose and meaning. Can can you think of a better way to honour mother earth?

Importantly, you take care of yourself as well. There’s a ritualistic oil bath and a home-made medicine that ensures your body is able to accommodate the wonderful sweets and savouries that will punctuate your Deepavali at frequent intervals! A prayer to God with gratitude for all the good things in your life sets you perfectly. This is enhanced further by blessings from your elders – at home and those you visit through the day.

This festival has you covered from all aspects – physical, emotional, spiritual – you name it. Kids love it – so creativity is at the heart of it. It gives a chance for everyone – elders, children, adults – to bring out the child in themselves and provide for others in their own ways. It’s also a chance to love and be loved back in return. It is a gift from our ancestors to us – a benediction from a wonderful and multi-faceted Hindu way of life passed on to its descendants and indeed the world. Let us cherish this extraordinary festival of joy and light – happy Deepavali to everyone…

Performance Management and 3 Richards!!

I am sitting at the canteen with a friend (who also happens to be a senior leader) sipping some filter coffee when a young colleague comes in looking dazed and badly in need of some super strong coffee.

We procure one for him and let him take a few sips of the strong, hot, relaxing brew and ask him what happened.

“Ran into a ghost or something?” we ask helpfully.

“Man, how do you senior guys pick goals for us?.” The lament has officially begun. “My boss started off talking about the need for upskilling, deep-learning and endless curiosity, almost requiring me to become like Richard Feynman!”

“See – we seniors help turn you into a genius!” the two of us say in unison.

“Guess that’s where I made my blooper” says he in a lower and more aggrieved tone.”At that point, I wise cracked that I understood why Feynman would come in handy to my boss – he had the knack of explaining complex stuff to even a 5 year-old child!”.

“And..”, we ask expecting the discussion to now be peppered with fireworks.

“Well, the guy just started reading out the next section of my goals – now requiring me to be a showman who could wow clients, take risks (but always succeed!), diversify the business..”

“Did he also mention about sporting a cool hairstyle?” asks my friend.

“Nope, but he did say something about standing apart from the crowd”, says our young friend looking perplexed.

“He was just asking you to channel your inner Richard Branson. Check the goal sheet – as a stretch goal he may require you to secure a Knighthood for yourself”.

“Give me a break – I need a tomato juice” says our young friend and moves to the counter.

Now it’s our turn to be surprised. Tomato juice following filter coffee is not something we see often.

Our friend returns from the juice bar, plonks down his beverage and breaks into a beatific smile.

“Just when I thought my boss was all done, he asks me to deal compassionately with my team, be inclusive and diverse, do mind-fullness meditation exercises and never show anger”.

“Eh?” we sputter. This is novel. “Did he have a role model for this – ahem – perfect citizen behaviour”.

“He did. He asked me to follow the writings of Matthieu Richard – who apparently is the happiest man in the world. He even suggested I try attending one of his retreats – he recommended choosing Sunday, since we occasionally worked Saturdays”.

We were impressed. This boss guy and his 3 Richard system was something else altogether. We wondered how the session ended.

Our young friend now smiled his first happy smile. “But I ended on a high and had the last laugh – I told him that I would give these Richard-behaviours a shot and return in a year – but if he then asked me to become yet another Richard – no matter who – I would turn into Richard the Terrible. The expression my boss sported on hearing this made up for all the grades in the world. Thank god, the guy at least reads Shakesphere!”

An emptiness that’s fulfilling – my experience with the isha shoonya program

Over the last four days, I had the opportunity to attend the shoonya intensive programme at the isha ashram in coimbatore.

Intensive is the right word – indeed it’s the first thing that strikes you about the program. Right from the consecrated hall which sends out intense vibes, the format of the program which makes sure that every minute is accounted for effectively, and the very wise teachers (who are also full time volunteers) and the program volunteers who take service to a whole different level altogether, and of course the curated videos of Sadhguru which ensure that concepts become internalised truths in you – intensity is a word that perfectly describes the programme.

The interesting thing though is this – all this intense focus does not translate into long faces and on-edge behaviour. Indeed there’s a sense of relaxation and gentle humour pervading the entire program.

At every moment there’s the sense that a good-natured-laugh and a profound learning is just a minute away.

The teaching is deep – and like all of the best things in life, the practices grow on you over time. I know this from past experience. On my very first isha program, I was surprised when the teacher advised us not to take notes.

“This is not a learning of the mind, but an experience to go through. Just stay with us and you will pick it all up” he said

I have come to appreciate that there is a different way to learn – that of experiential learning. You learn through hearing, seeing, visualisation, doing and repetition. And stuff learned this way stays with you – its a transmission of experience not just a transfer of concepts.

So what I did I learn? I came back with two practices – about an hour’s worth of daily practice – which promise deep restfulness and explosive energy respectively. If these seem contradictory, its another fact I have come to appreciate about spirituality at large – its hard to decode spiritual practices with just the mind. The best approach is to try it for a while and see if it does something to you. When it comes from a true source, it will often flower into something that you cannot explain or predict – its beyond words. The little while is a mandala to start with – about 40 days of uninterrupted practice for the practice to take root in your life. Its something I will be able to do hopefully – and will look to post on any experiences.

But there’s another learning that’s stayed with me.In one of the videos played, Sadhguru mentions that every day he is greeted by tears of joy no matter where he happens to be in the world. And I believe, its these tears of joy and gratitude toward their master and the world that inspire the teachers and the volunteers to share so much and so well – with absolutely no expectations.

Indeed that’s the learning – that there’s an extraordinary way to go about one’s life – being relaxed yet attentive, intensely focused, with a smile on the face, and a joy in the heart. When you work like that, I guess you are a blessing to the world.

Its an inspired way to live and work – and while a long shot, its something that I look to internalise – stay tuned for any progress updates!

Why read the Bhagavadgita Gita?

“Why read the Bhagavadgita Gita” asked a friend recently.

There are scholars and there are gurus who can answer this best – I thought I would share my personal reasons for dipping into this book every now and then.

How do you live a life of fulfilment and joy in a world you don’t understand? With a body that’s subject to entropy and not really under your control? With a mind that’s chattering away incessantly?

The Gita provides a balm and an understanding into each of these. Feeling upset – there’s a chapter that will set you at ease. Feeling disheartened by someone’s behaviour – there’s stuff that will make the ache go away – or at least reduce it. Down with disease – again some understanding and techniques that will help the body rest (the why me question handled!).

So it’s a path to put you at ease. And what’s more over time it gets you to align these various aspects so you don’t have conflict with yourself (eg – when your intellect suggests you don’t gamble while your emotions are screaming to place the bet!) I guess not having internal conflicts is a gift beyond compare. In the brief moments the conflict disappears (during meditation/ asana/ chanting and watching your breath for instance), life seems truly “at ease”.

This to me is why I return to the book time and again. I have read but a few verses from a few chapters and my understanding is no way perfect and yet the Gita doesn’t expect perfection from you – its benediction is limitless and you can gather its wisdom unto yourself to the extent you can – and more importantly focused on what you need at that moment. If you haven’t tried it yet – I’d recommend you give the book a shot. It’s possible the book will touch your life in a miraculous way as well.

(mis)Management through nostalgia!

It’s performance appraisal time and a bunch of middle management folks are sitting around talking while working on the normalisation – the tedious job of fitting individual performances to a bell curve.

“The chaps today just aren’t like we were at their age. We worked 15 hour days, we held ourselves fully accountable for everything, we turned up for all the meetings – man, these days folks need to be spoon-fed. And their attitude – lax is an understatement. I wonder how long it will take these guys to become managers like us” and so it goes. It’s a sad conversation over some insipid coffee. Hearing them talk almost gets you worried about the future.

And that’s when a colleague – an eternal optimist – pulls a chair across and beams at me. “These manager folks dragging down your spirits with their bell curve stories huh?’ She asks.

We decide we will take a fresh stock of the situ from a data standpoint (out of say 400 freshers a decade back, these 4 have graduated to become managers) – so what does this tell us – we see not one but four possible scenarios:

1. That the managers are right, they are super men/ women. The current batch needs to step up if they want to emulate their managers’ performance. But there may have been others who were just as smart and hardworking and yet didn’t make it – so there could be a survivor bias at work here that these guys should be cautious about!

2. The managers simply lucked out! Four out of four hundred (actually fewer considering people who would have quit etc) would have anyway made it to this role – it just happened to be these folks and they are now fitting a narrative to explain their success

3. Maybe they actually un-lucked out! The rest of their batch are probably doing things they believe in/ are relevant for the future (startup’s, social work, playing tech/ business/ client roles) and these four are a few of those left behind on old-age roles – it’s just that they don’t recognise it yet!

4. Effectiveness vs busyness – there’s a difference. In today’s world perhaps the new folks are tending to effectiveness as opposed to looking busy. Maybe the managers need some reverse mentoring – it’s they who need to adjust!

We both break into a smile. The more you think about it, it’s not the world that’s getting worse – it’s only our world-views that need updates. And once our frame of reference changes, the world appears in all its glory!

Would you agree?

#Book Review – Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. A polymath takes you on a magical journey.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What do a mathematician, a musician and an artist have in common? And how does this find resonance with one of the forefathers of AI? This is a book that plays out on so many different levels – infact more than a read, its an experience you are about to immerse yourself in. For example while self-recursion is discussed at depth, its done in a playful manner and through multiple points of view (with some adorable literary characters setting the stage before handing it over for some in-depth rumination!). Its clear the book is special to the author as well – just check out the preface and you’ll know how much the book and its life mean to him.

Read this book and am sure you will find it a rewarding experience. Its rarely that a polymath will take you by the hand and show you how he sees the world. for such an intellect, specialisations don’t matter – art, literature, math and music are all fertile ground for an exploration of on patterns and how complexity plays out. It’s a meandering, long read – treat it as a walk in the wild woods and not a formal tea at the garden – and you’ll come out with a sense of wonder. Guaranteed!



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