Thursday, October 03, 2013

10 Key Lessons for my Kids

I have two wonderful kids. I have a constant fear, deep down, that I may die way before I could pass on all the wisdom (really?) that I managed to learn (did I?).

What would I want to pass on to them ? Here we go...

1. Courage - it does not mean absence of fear. It means doing something, in spite of fear. It means that realizing that something is more important than the discomfort, pain and hurt.

2. Failure, embrace it.

Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times trying to invent the light bulb and after the 10,000th time; he succeed. You don't fail till you quit !!!! Its far better to attempt and fail than not attempting at all. You may be scared about failing and may make the worst decision you could make - that is to make no decision. It will paralyze you. Decide, act and deal with the consequence. Refer to point 1.

3. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Every thing will happen in its own time. What matters is what you do when you wait. Prepare, prepare and prepare while you wait.

4. For every bad man you find, there is a good man out there.

5. You have the power to choose. You may not have much control over the situations you find yourself in. You have 100% control over how you respond. Make a wise choice. Refer to points 1, 2, 3 4 and 5 while you consider your options and apply point 6.

6. The ECE Cycle (TM) - ride it all the time. ECE Cycle (TM) - Evaluate, Choose, Execute - cycle.

7. Pride is a virtue. Take pride in what you do. Be passionate about what you do. There is nothing called a bad job, but there is something called a job done badly. If you become a programmer, be the bloody best you can be. If you become a janitor, be the bloody best at it. Take pride in what you do.

8. Always choose skill over money, fame, power. Become a master at your chosen skill set. Others will follow.

9. Be selective, very selective. Apparently there was a creature similar to swan. If you feed it with a mix of water and milk, it would filter out the water and consume only the milk. Develop an attitude like that. Ignore the negatives (in people, events, ideas - in short everything), absorb the positives.


PS: There is a reason why I have not given the lesson number 10. Its for the kids to figure out.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Alleged to be a dictator, corrupt head of state - in a nut shell Alleged to have done a lot of "evil" things - he goes Scott free.

A solder, viewed by many as a hero who had the guts to expose the democratically elected government's excesses and violations of individual's rights punished.

These two news items appearing side by side on a leading news website very ironic - I find.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Problem solving

நோய்நாடி நோய்முதல் நாடி அதுதணிக்கும்
வாய்னாடி வாய்ப்பச் செயல் (948)

Rough translation.

Identify the disease. Identify the root cause. Identify the ways to treat it. Treat it.

One of my all time favorite Thirukkural. It succinctly outlines the template to problem solving. Not only does he give the steps, but he has also managed to convey the sequence in which it must be approached, with an emphasis on actually executing/acting on it by making sure he got the "Treat It" bit in the last.

This can be applied in many places. I used this kural to illustrate the art of debugging (much to the amusement of my classmates)  in one of the Seminars I gave in my post graduation days. Identify/Acknowledge the defect, perform a root cause analysis, identify solutions to fix the defect, choose the most optimal one after considering cost/benefit, fix it. 

In the context of self improvement, the most important and difficult thing to do is to identifying the problem. Most of us will not even realize that there is a problem. Even if we do realize, that there is a problem, how often do we accept that the problem is with us? We are so adept at placing the blame on others! Many of us blame someone else or the Stars above, or the "bad time", or even sometimes God! 

My earlier post about thirukkural 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

நான், நீ (Me, You)

கிரகணம் விரும்பும்
பூமி - நான்
என் நிலவு நீயல்லவா?

I am the earth
(that) loves an eclipse
For, you are my moon.

சுற்றும் என் பூமிக்கு
நீதானடி ஞாயிறு !!

You are the sun
(that) my world revolves around

விட்டில் மனம்
விளக்கு நீ.

Moth - me
Lamp - you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Great Ancestor of Tweets

Micro blogging, tweets, SMS all offer the challenge of communicating your thoughts in about 140 characters.

About few THOUSAND years ago, a poet pioneered the the art of micro blogging. His name - Thiruvalluvar

He wrote "Thirukkural" made of 1330 couplets, each no more than 7 words (technically they are "Seer" ie a blend of two or more words, example Tirukkural is a blend of two words Thiru + Kural) each. Four words on the first line, three words on the second line, and managed to convey and communicate in a condensed manner.

The poems are classified under three major Subjects, each having various chapters


The timeless nature and the universal appeal of the thoughts and ideas expressed in these poems makes it an enduring and compelling read. 

The topics/ideas discussed vary from God, Rain, Virtue, Royalty, Administration, Good governance, Parenting, Morality, Love, Infatuation.

I am thankful to my teachers who introduced and taught Thirukkural to us. Although I did not like the tests where we were expected to memorize the kurals, I now realize the value of learning Thirukkural.

There are some kurals that I aspire to live up to and there are others that I am not familiar with.

In my next series of articles I will share some kurals that had an impact on me and my outlook.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A scary future - Rain drops: அக்ரீமெண்ட்

If female infanticide continues at the same rate in Indian society, I am sure this day will come, quiet fast....

Do read the original article (it if you can read tamil) Rain drops: அக்ரீமெண்ட்

A rough translation here.

Title : Agreement

After ten long years of searching for a bride, finally Kasthuri's son's wedding is around the corner. Do you know what it would cost to get him married to a girl?

On the auspicious day, Sankaran puts the "thaali" on to Shankari's neck, and Shankari puts the "thaali" on to Shankaran's neck. It was decided between the groom and the bride, that they will exchange "thaali" and enter the married life as equals. Agreement number one.

Grooms mother, congratulates the brides parents, and says "We have raised him well with all our love, and he is very special to us. From now on, he is yours, please take care of him. We have got a dish washer, washing machine as wedding gifts. The apartment that we have bought for him, is fully furnished and ready to move in. He is undergone a one month training with Kitchen Master Dhanu. He even has got a certificate of course completion, he will cook very well". Agreement number two.

Bride's mother says, "Have no worries, we will handle him, by the way, you promised you will give 450 grams gold, 10 kilogram silver as wedding gift (dowry) to our daughter, what happened to that?" Agreement number three.

Grooms mother hands over the keys to the locker where the gold and sliver are deposited. She also hands over her son's Bank documents, ATM card, etc and requests, "Please do give him generous pocket money"

Finally, to her son and daughter in law - god bless you both, I will now leave, whenever you find time, please do visit me in the old age home, bye! - Agreement number four.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Madras, My Madras

There is a charm in the name Madras, just like the City. It is officially called Chennai, for me, it will always be Madras.

What makes me yearn for Madras? - Sharadha has captured some aspects of it here in her post on "Chennai".

I have so many memories tied up with that place. That's the place I flew to when I left my nest - so to speak. Thats where for the first time I stepped out of the protective world of my parents, and started experiencing the real world - (more or less) in my own terms. Even though I lived with my Uncle and Aunt and my Cousin in Mylapore, they gave me enough space to make my own experiences.

Madras, has a unique culture - mind you culture is a broad concept that reflects on the way of life, encompassing a wide variety of parameters like food, music, art, attitudes and values etc.

Exemplar of popular music - AR Rehman a Madras boy. Ilayaraja, made Madras his home. Madras with its "Maargazi festival" and Madras music academy before that, has for decades promoted and provided stage for wide variety of carnatic music proponents. I have had the pleasure of listening to the likes of T.N Seshagopalan, Kadri Gopalnath, Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan, Kumeresh-Ganesh, been close to tears when they demonstrated their prowess in such a majestic fashion. The display of talent does not just stop at these elite artists. You get on to a bus that serves the various collages of Madras, or the "mufusul" trains, you will be treated to the irrepressible "gana" songs. The youth of Madras, belt out one after the other, awesome foot tapping, catchy songs. Many of these songs have a steep philosophical slant. They mostly use the bus roof, or train roof or the side walls as percussion instruments. Its truly unique to Madras!

If you are more favorably disposed towards dance and drama than music, you have sabhas that host great talents covering contemporary dance to classical dance. A part of my memory is going to watch dramas by SV Sekar, Crazy Mohan and YG Mahendran. You can watch all the comedy you want in telly, or youtube but, if you have not watched these "live" in a theater/sabha you have no idea what you are missing. Do yourself a favor, next time when you get a chance, watch some of these in a theater/sabha.

Thiruvalluvar said 

செவிக்கு உணவில்லாத போழுது சிறிது
வயிற்றுக்கும் ஈயப் படும்


After you have provided food for your thoughts, feed your stomach - a little.

The corner tea shops with amazing "masaal vadai" and "bread bajji" and "banana bajji" - (that you can wrap in a tamil news paper squeeze out the extra oil), "Thenga, Maanga, Pattani Sundal" at the beach, the kulfi ice at night around 8 or 9 pm hawked by a street vendor, filter coffee, kuruma that is quintessentially south indian that goes with pretty much every thing like Parota, chappathi, idiappam, appam. The idli's served in the "kaiyenthi bavans" (Road side stalls) of madras along with the "kaara chatni"...takes you to a different place!!. For the health conscious people, early mornings near marina beach (I guess opposite to IG office) you can get pavakkai (bitter gourd)  juice, arugampull (Bermuda Grass) juice, nellikkai (Gooseberry) juice etc. After a long run along the beautiful beach, these "healty" drinks are quiet a treat!

Kabaliswarar temple. Of all the temples in Madras, Kabali kovil is and always will be my most favorite temple. I have spent many a evenings, during what I considered my most difficult period of time (at that point of time). Karpagaambaal's statue, one of the most beautiful work of art, the temple in general, the murukku and the laddu you can buy as prasadam (a gracious gift) oh boy! The temple engages pretty much all the senses and helps you feel one with the almighty.

I spent my undergraduate days in Madras, in the company of my friends. I fondly recollect the carefree days, where the bills were paid by my parents, all I had to do was be wise, manage my studies, make sure that my attendance at college did not fall below the required minimum and do what a student worth his salt did. Bunk classes, chill out at the canteen, tea shop, be at front bench, watching movies in Satyam, Devi, etc. We were careful, We had a schedule. In a day we will make sure we attend at-least one language class, and all the major and ancillary classes. There will be days where we would bunk all day - but they were strictly restricted to once a month mostly on the days when we did not have practicals. I did not know and realize at that point of time, that I was learning key life skills. Like managing risk, prioritizing and stakeholder management, perception management etc.

I find that the people in Madras have a healthy mix of conservative and liberal outlook towards life and have a sense of "detached attachment". I feel that's what makes the city tick, and make me yearn for another chance to live there. I like to offer similar experiences to my children, so that they also have a chance to develop a sense of belonging, identity that I developed over the period of time.

Read it somewhere, cant remember where - From "Kaveri to Thames via Koovam". Yeah, you cant talk about Madras without talking about Koovam. Yes it stinks. Yes the city is very humid. Yes is hot in Madras. So what? It takes just few weeks to get used to the conditions, and with so many things going on you will hardly notice koovam. 

Madras, Nalla Madras
Madras, My Madras.


More Info:

Murukku - A savory snack  -
Laddu -

Saturday, March 30, 2013

வளர்ச்சி (with translation)

விதைத்த காதல் -
வளர்க்கிறேன் இன்றும்!
என் கண்ணீர் ஊற்றி!!

Rough Translation:

Love we planted
is still growing - for
I water it, with my tears.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

தனிமை - Loneliness

நீ விட்டுச்சென்ற
நினைவுப் பொறிகள் கொண்டு
தனிமைக் குளிர் காய்கிறேன்.



In the cold loneliness,
All I have is, sparks (Your memories),
To keep me warm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

படித்ததில் பிடித்தது

ஆழி சூழ்
உலகு போல
எங்காவது தட்டுப்பட்டால்

- அருமையான சிந்தனை. செல்லும் இடதில்லெல்லாம் என்னில் ஒரு பகுதியை விட்டுசெல்வதாய் பொருள் பதிந்த இந்த கவிதை என்னை மிகவும் கவர்ந்தது. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rain drops: மோரோ மோர் - More

அப்படியே கண் முன்னே கருப்பாயி வந்து நின்றது போல் ஒரு உணர்வு. லபக் என்று கட்டித்தயிர் ஒரு வாய், மண்பானையில் பிறையூற்றிய தயிர், காளமேகப் புலவரின் பாட்டு, எங்கள் தமிழ் ஆசிரியர் சிலேடையின் உதாரணமாக எங்களுக்கு உரைத்தது, என் நண்பர்களுடன் அமர்ந்து ரசித்தது, பழைய நினைவுகளின் சாரலில் சில்லென்று நனைந்து, சிலிர்த்து நின்றேன்.

Rain drops: மோரோ மோர் - More: அம்மா 'மோர்' வரையிலும் போய் வரலாம் வருகிறாயா? கொஞ்சம் சாமான்கள் வாங்க வேண்டும் என்றாள் மகள். மதியத் தூக்கக் கலக்கத்தில்,'மோரைக...

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 Whys

When I was about 6 or 7, My parents encouraged me to do some recital/mono act of some famous scenes from movies about powerful personalities from history. "Veera Pandia KattaBomman" one of the first kings in India refusing to accept British rule and "Socrates"

While I remember the Dialoges from Kattabomman, I able to recollect only the first line from Socrates -

It was something like "Yen?, etharku? endru kel" - Meaning "Ask why and what for"

Such a powerful dialog!! The first step twowards knowledge and wisdom is to ask Why.

Sakichi Toyoda took asking why to a new level. He suggests that when you want to understand a problem or trying to find the root cause, don't just ask Why once, ask it five times.

More on 5 Whys here.

The Jallikkattu Identity

I saw a slide show in The Hindu, about Alanganallur Jallikattu. The slide show can be found here. It outlines the tradition and Animal Rights groups' opposition to the event.

I remember in 2004, there was an attempt to "ban" the event, resulting from a law suit filed by a parent who lost his young boy, and from then every year there is a lot of noise from the Animal Rights activists and other activists to do away with the ancient tradition of Jallikattu.

Jallikattu is part and parcel of Tamil identity. Hardcore Tamils, might not consider me as "Tamil" but I feel as "Tamil" as any "Tamil" can ever be, and it is part of my "Identity".

I grew up listening to stories and poems from "Sanga Iilakkiam" ("Sangam literature" dating back several thousands of years) extolling the virtues of valour and honor. Its an honor to be scarred in battles and Jallikattu (aka Yeruthazuvuthal). Its an honor to be killed in battle, mind you if you got stabbed in the back that's the worst disgrace you can bring to your family, and so on....

The views taken by animal rights activists, I suppose stems from the fact that there are acts of cruelty perpetrated by some Bull owners and more importantly the poor bull that is trying to get the hell away from the mob and the trauma associated with it. (I wonder how many of the animal rights activists are vegetarian? and what is their position on "Animal farming")

To me, the issue is slightly different. Due to the ever changing nature of the demographies and shrinking world, the conflicts between cultures and values are becoming more and more prominent. It is not a new phenominon, its been going on for centuries, but now its more acute than the previous centuries.

Jallikaatu is just one instance. We can find many more instances at a pan India level, where the progressive and liberal face of India is taking to a western value system and start marginalising, trivialising and dare I say, ridiculing the traditions rooted in some key principles that encourage values like Honor, Valor, Loyalty, Community to name a few.

I dont mean to accept and follow the traditions just because they are traditions, but to seek an understanding, ask why (5 Why's), re-engineer it to suit mordern times without compromising on the principles and values the tradition embodies.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

புதிய விடியல்

எத்தனை எத்தனை ஆண்டுகள் தான்
சுய சிந்தனை இன்றியே ஓட்டளிப்பாய்?
பித்தளை ஈயப் பாத்திரத்தை - நீ
தங்கமாய் வெள்ளியாய் பார்த்து ஏம்மாந்திடுவாய்?

மறு கன்னம் மீண்டும் காட்டி
இரு கன்னத்தில் பதிந்தது கைச்சின்னம்.
கொள்ளேன் என்பது உயர்ந்தன்று - கற்றதை
பள்ளியில் ஏனோ மறந்து வந்தாய்?

எழு ஞாயிறு தந்த எச்சதையும்
இரு இலைகள் தந்த மிச்சத்தையும்
ஜன நாயகம் என்ற போர்வையிலே
மானம் தொலைத்துப் போர்த்திக்கொண்டாய்!

பாரதத்தை பாஞ்சாலியாய்  பார்த்தான் பாரதி!
ஏ நடுத்தர வர்க்கமே! இன்று
பாரதத்தில் பாஞ்சாலி நீ - விழித்துவிடு.
உண்மை தெளிந்துவிடு, கண்ணனும் நீ!!

அறுபது ஆண்டுகள் கடந்து வந்தாய்
காந்தியின் குரங்காய் கிடந்தது வந்தாய்!
சந்திர போசினை மறந்துவிட்டாய் - பகத்
சிங்கினை கூட தொலைத்து விட்டாய்!!

குனிந்தது போதும் நிமிர்ந்துவிடு - உந்தன்
மெத்தனப் போக்கினை களைந்து, விடு.
சிந்தனை, செயல்தனை இணைத்துவிடு - இன்று
புதியதாய் ஓர் விடியல் சமைத்துவிடு!

ஜெய் ஹிந்த்!!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

பிடித்தது - Something that I liked.

கேட்டதில் பிடித்தது

பூனையில் சைவம் கிடையாது
ஆண்களில் ராமன் கிடையாது

புரட்சிகள் ஏதும் இல்லம்மல்
பெண்ணுக்கு நன்மைகள் விளையாது
கண்ணகி சிலை தான் இங்குண்டு
சீதைக்கு தனியாய் சிலை எது?

சுதந்திரம் மட்டும் இல்லாமல்
சுவர்க்கமே இருந்தும் என்ன பயன்?


Rough Translation

Vegetarian cats do not exist (like that)
There is no Lord Ram* amongst men.
Without revolution,
There is no Womens liberation
Kannagi** has a statue of her own
Sita*** does not have a statue of her own

Whats the use of being in heaven,
Without any freedom?

* Lord Ram - was an Ideal symbol of Monogamy - in his time, it was common for the Kings to have many wives. More on Lord Ram here on Wikipedia.
** Kannagi - a Legendary Tamil Woman who symbolizes "Hell hath no fury" - She destroyed an entire city in order to avenge unjust execution of her husband by the Pandiya king. More here on Wikipedia.
*** Sita - Wife of Lord Rama, despite being treated badly by her Husband, she chose not to stand up for her rights. More here on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One rule - for a rewarding life

There are rules, and then there are rules.

What is that one rule when followed promises you a rewarding life?

Make a habit of doing something that you have never done before. Simples!

On Dec 2010, One of my friends introduced the rule to me. I toyed with the idea for a few weeks. After lots of introspection and internal debates I narrowed down on the one thing that I have never done before and wanted to do. Let me elaborate.

I used to workout 3 to 4 times a week, in an attempt to manage my weight and in the hope that it will compensate for my less than desirable lifestyle choices I had made earlier. I was not particularly happy with my level on consistency and commitment I showed in my gym visits.

Thats when I saw the promotion material for Henley Triathlon. Immediately it caught my fancy and guess what, I had NEVER participated in a triathlon before!

I slowly internalized the idea of me, a pleasantly plump, unfit, lump of flesh participating in a physically demanding task of swimming, cycling and running in quick succession and decided to give it a go. The six months leading up to Henley Triathlon 2011, I learned many lessons and I will always remember the moment, the feeling, and the effect of crossing the finish line, cherish it for a long time to come.

8 Lessons from first triathlon

1. Public declaration helps in motivation

For the first few weeks of training, I was not as regular as I would have liked. It was cold outside, I had a long day at work, I had too little sleep last night...The excuses were nearly limitless. I decided to raise some money for cancer research, and asked my friends, relatives, colleagues to sponsor me. As slowly the money started trickling in, there was no turning back. I HAD TO COMPLETE my race. The mere thought that I had took money from so many people who in good faith have parted with their hard earned money plus the fact that I have to go back to them give it back saying that I did not compete kept me on my toes.

2. Little and often - goes a long way

First challenge was to do a full 400m of swim. (I did a "fun" sized triathlon 400m Swim, 12.5 KM Bike and 2.5 KM run) I could barely swim for 12.5 meters (thats half length of our local swimming pool). First couple of weeks, I targeted 10 laps (8 would get me my 400m). I could not finish even 3 laps. I knew I had to change my approach. I focused on one full lap without any stop, did that for few weeks. Then moved to 2 laps without stop, then 3, and so on.

It so happened that on the day of the race, was the first time I finished 8 laps without a stop.

3. Tread mill is no substitute for open space

Tread mill is just a mill. Open space - engages multiple senses, its fresh, allows you to notice the chirping birds, scurrying squirrels, the beautiful butterflies and wonder what sort of a storm are these fragile wings cooking up elsewhere. While you are at it, ditch your music player, you would not need it since you can tune into the rhythm of life.

4. Exercise bike is easy (relatively)

The biggest learning for me was, training on an Excercise bike only get you so far. I do wish I had spent more time practicing on my bike on the road. I could have better understood my bike, the terrain and the appropriate gears to use.

5. You can do more than you think

Often when I trained, particularly running, the first few minutes will be allright, and soon there comes a phase where I would feel that this is it, I have to stop. The first couple of times I did stop, but then one day, I just didn't stop. I kept going. Once I was past that uncomfortable phase I could go on and reach my goal.

Once you muscle your way through the initial "quit now" reflex, I guess all kinds of possibilities open up.

6. Dont run for distance - run for time.

This was key. Foolishly I decided to practice my runs by targeting distance. I wanted to go for 1KM mark. As you might of guessed, I could not. Inability to reach your target, in a strange way, instead of motivating you do better next time, totally puts you off from trying.

Now I could not afford to give up. When I looked around in the forums for running/triathlon, I learnt that for newbie runners the trick is to run for time. Ie, Make a note of how long you are able to run at a steady pace, and simply aim to run longer than last time.

Combined with the next lesson, I was able to complete my 2.5 KM run.

7. Interval training rocks

I can not recommend it more. Instead of running or working out at a steady pace, alternate between a very high intensity run followed by a medium pace run works your body harder and a very good tool to increase your stamina and also good for "after burn".

8. Act, observe, adjust

The most important lesson of all, I learnt a major thing about problem solving. It does not matter what problem you are trying to solve, you need goals, and a action plan (avoid analysis paralysis). Here comes the important bit. Act, observe how the consequences of your action are playing out, and make adjustment to your execution plan and continue act, observe and adjust till the goal is reached.

I finished my race in about an 1h and 27minutes.
In my category I was the last but one.
The winner of the fun sized triathlon finished the race in 45 odd minutes.
2 Ladies, who looked much older than me over took me in cycling part of the race.
This year I am starting my second triathlon training - Not decided between the fun sized one or the sprint triathlon (800m Swim, 25KM bike and 5 KM run)

Gireesh Triathlon Teaser.
Gireesh Triathlon promotional video.
Selected images from Henley Triathlon 2011.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

வெண் பனிப்பொங்கல்

இங்கிலாந்தில் இந்த வருடம் பொங்கல் திருநாள் அன்று பனி பொழிந்தது. இந்த கவிதையும் பிறந்தது.

விடிய விடிய நடுங்க வெச்சு
விடிந்த பின்னே உறைய வெச்சா
வெண் பனிப்பொங்கல்  வெண் பனிப்பொங்கல்!

(Inspired by போக்கிரி பொங்கல்  song from போக்கிரி)
போட்டோ உபயம் Chef  ராமு.