What it takes to be Number One..

19 06 2013

I read this today and I want to tuck this forever. Below speech by Vince Lombardi is what I exactly would wish to hear if I am facing a football match. 🙂

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“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”





Citius, Altius, Fortius

21 08 2008

I could be one of the most disinterested participants that I know in tracking the Beijing Olympics. I still remember the rapture with which my Mom watched the launch of Beijing Olympics when I played Solitaire in my room. Yet, the spirit of passion always lingers on those who come in touch with it. I couldn’t resist but cheer for Abhinav Bindra or catch up with the verve of the participants and their spirit to succeed against all odds.

For some, its a great example of the best of sporting spirit at display, whilst for some its just do or die. As we attempt and persist, so we excel. As we test the limits, so we bring out those incremental improvements that drive towards excellence. Some how the Olympics motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’, Latin for ‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger’ makes perfect sense. Swifter than what we are currently, higher than what we can aim and stronger than what we think is possible. Testing the limits of endurance, and teaching that excellence is when we persist in besting ourselves with each attempt, whilst respecting the spirit of sportsmanship and sharing the joy with everyone around us. The spirit of participation shimmering over the highs of triumphs and the quagmires of losses. Such a powerful message packed in such small motto. Some how, it lingered.





A Pachyderm Confession…

15 04 2008

And Indeed there is a huge reason behind this post. Just now, over one of those purposeless lazy browsing of the Internet world, I came across this news where I read about a hero Keshav Vishwakarma, whose story went unsung for the current day world either would ignore his sacrifice, or laugh at his rare moral standard. Keshav Vishwakarma tried to prevent three men from molesting a 40 year old woman in Surat, and the perpetrators BURNT him alive! Such was the strength and courage of the man, that after sustaining over 75% of burns, he walked about two kilometers to the nearest police station to report the incident and got them arrested.

Somehow, reading about his incident and the bestial brutality behind it, left me grossly unsettled. What have I become? A thick skinned Pachyderm who has no care or time for the world. How easy it has become to press the ignore button about life, news channels, media and about the happenings in the environment. How comfortable it is to get into a cocoon and believe that everything is fair and beautiful. Being a woman, I had heard my share of lectures on how to be safe, silent and muted over abuse and the uninvited groping public places. Will Keshav ever have his stand acknowledged by the women, who have come to accept the rowdy pandering of uncouth youth as a daily occurrence?

This is our pride and this indeed is our shame. What’s in there to be proud about, for this incident that happened in Jan 2008 got no great publicity. The values that Keshav espoused and the courage he showed went unrecognized, and his sacrifice died a silent death. Annie Zaidi has written a moving elegy as a glowing tribute to Keshav, which pricked my conscience to no end. I am quoting it verbatim, for I would want it to be read, and for people to spend a few seconds of their precious busy lives to say a prayer for Keshav’s soul.

“This much is set, Keshav ji – can I call you Keshav?
I feel an affinity, an ease, that is hard to explain,
Considering we’ve never met, and now, never will
Yet I’m sure you won’t mind my speaking so plain –

This much is certain: you will get no memorial, no statue
No marble slab with metal plaque, saying,‘Keshav: martyr’
Nobody will say you died that we might live, or less poetically,
That you upheld a nation’s head, honoured our civilizational charter.

What you died for – were killed for – was too much an everyday thing
So you will not go down as a human rights’ champion
Nor the leader of a bunch of people with a cause
Nor a just warrior for the aggrieved, the downtrodden

Nobody’s going to write that you’re a victim of what we’ve become
Nobody’s spine with tingle with the dread of this fact.
At least, not beyond next week, when you’ll be a statistic –
For that’s the way people keep their minds intact.

Don’t mind, Keshav, it is not on purpose that
Nobody will write you a full-length obit, or
That only one paper bothered to go and dig up
Info on how you lived, and who you lived for.

Keshav, if you knew (did you?) what they’d do
Perhaps you’d have shut up and let it be
Some insults, a woman – it happens all the time
Harassment and women – like sand and sea.

You see, we women rarely bother ourselves
We’ve learnt to shut up and stay shut; some say
Our eyes are glazed with the cataract of silence
We’re told, to live safe, there’s no other way.

Keshav, stupid Keshav, what made you take on
The mantle of hero? It is not as if
Someone was looking, and those who were, looked away
(as they do). Did you think they’d help? As if!

Keshav, young Keshav (only thirty-five, good God!)
They’ll forget. Oh, they forget, they forget each time
They’ve begun to forget the mobs of new years past,
And Meher of Lucknow? Her too! This forgetting’s sublime.

Keshav, it’s true, I cried for you, but so what?
You burnt, you died, and those three will live.
Noone’s clamouring for a public hanging (women’s security
Isn’t ‘national’) so… yes, some sentence the court may give.

That is, if the police finds those three.
You actually thought they would, and you walked
After being set on fire – two kilometers!
To the police station and there, you talked.

What did you say, Keshav? What were your dying words?
Were you angry rather than scared? Or both?
That I can relate to; it’s the same with me.
That tremulous rage – frustration and fear both.

Did you wonder, as you walked, if you’d actually die?
Did someone tell you, it was your own fault?
Did they say, why couldn’t you guess at
The demons-in-waiting? That you should, by default?

That’s what they tell us; that’s how we go on.
They tell us all the time and that’s how we know
No alone. No dark street. No panga. No sharp words.
No smart clothes. No reds. No smiling. Nono.

Where did you study, Keshav? Which school?
Which blighted, mind-altering, twisted-soul place?
Who taught you? Or forgot to? What kind of friends
Did you have that they tell you the rules of this race?

This race. These people. We. Our nation.
Women. Children. Cosmic pawns playing parts.
What shall I say? Keshav, should I say something like,
You’re a hero and will live in our hearts?

Oh, who cares? Heroes! I bet you’d rather just
Have been alive and maybe all heroes feel that way
To live! That would be nice, they must think, but
They go ahead and die if they must, anyway.

Not that it matters to you any more, Keshav
The writing of this. Any words. Anything.
You were burnt alive before you were properly burnt
And maybe you never did care of what poets sing.

I’d bring you flowers if you had a grave.
I’d build you a statue, if I had a piece of land
I’d write in big letters – ‘Look! This is our shame
And this our pride. This murder is man.’

Listen, Keshav, it is too late, but listen.
Wherever you are, lie in peace, now it’s over.
And know that you stepped up higher than man.
(And lower than man… even God sank no lower)

I’ll spare you the platitudes about how you are free
Or how, in heaven, the apsaras long to kiss you
But this fight you’ve fought, I’ll fight to the death
But Keshav, brother, in the meantime, we’ll miss you.”





The Last Lecture..

6 03 2008

Here is an attempt to share something I really loved.

Do make time (about 12 mins) and view this lecture of life time by Randy Pausch.
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=ithct48cqw

The unabridged version is available here.

for those who can’t view the video, here is the transcript
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/Randy/pauschlastlecturetranscript.pdf

For the man who claims, “I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion. We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.”, I salute his spirit.





Business As Unusual..

4 10 2007

‘Business As Unusual’ charts The Journey of the Anita Roddick And The Body Shop.. I read this book and written a review about it two years back and thinking about it still gives me goosebumps. Never has I ever been exposed to such a radical business leader. Though she has passed away from this world, the fire she has ignited would stay alive forever. Telegraph got it right when it called her ‘a great heart in a tiny frame’. One of her interviews during her last days can be found here.

‘Business As Unusual’ is written by the founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick. The book is quite different and unique in its own way be it the way of presentation of the print or the power of expression of the words. The book describes Anita’s joy of the journey in the business world, where she wants to nurture “A Revolution in Kindness”. She describes how she has managed to keep an intimate part of herself alive in a business gone global. Despite the constraints of a Global Company, she always tried to to reinvent herself, tried to find new ways to push the limits of the business, to change its language, to make it a force for positive change. That’s why the title- Business as Unusual.

She describes her experiences of being an entrepreneur and how she is guided by passion and instinct to run the global business. Being a nomadic soul, how she has capitalized on the opportunities and how she is passionate about her ideas. She says that entrepreneurs are basically crazy. They see and feel things which others don’t. She talks about vision, creativity, energy, pathological optimism and the ability to put ideas into action as her core strengths, of course with a touch of craziness.

Born into an Italian immigrant family which is settled England, Anita has a hands on experience in working in a cafe which is run by her parents. Her work at United Nations for two years and her experience of community life at Kibbutz, Israel arouse her interest in community life. Being Married to Gordon Roddick and after running a hotel and restaurant for three years, Anita thought of settling down. She wanted to start a shop selling skincare products because she was irritated by the cosmetics industry and their pandering to unfulfilled desires. She says that irritation is a great source of energy and creativity.

Her endorsement of Ruby Campaign, her community work, her views about community as company where people work for common good and her call for responsibility revolution is truly commendable. She also stresses on communication as the key for any global business and her efforts in keeping the channels of communication open in The Body Shop. She also stresses on her community work, her campaigning for the Ogoni cause, her deals with the indigenous communities.

Reading the book, I didn’t feel that The Body Shop is a separate entity from Anita. It runs in her blood and she considers it as her child and passion, that’s how she maintained her integrity and passion in the soulless business world by holding to the indigenous way, listening to her heart and guided by passion. Its about empowering employees and continuous experimentation.. More than that, its about a burning pathological need for recreating herself in the corporate world. Anita Roddick comes out as a Maverick, Fighter Spirit and a Maniac who stands for what she believes!





A Real Life Experience..

27 05 2007

This article is written by Sudha Murthy. Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayan Murthy is her husband. I must have gone through it many times, yet everytime I go through it, it never ceases to inspire me. The humility of the Tatas and how it impacted Sudha’s life is so evident…

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It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies’ hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science.

I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a Doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US . I had not thought of taking up a job in India .

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our Lecture-hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a Standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (Now Tata Motors). It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, Hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.

At the bottom was a small line: “Lady Candidates need not apply.”

I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination.

Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers. Little did I know then that in real life academic Excellence is not enough to be successful.

After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the topmost person in Telco’s management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco.

I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company’s chairman then). I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.

“The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India , such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared for higher education in Indiasince 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.”

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco’s Pune facility at the company’s expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs 30 each from everyone who wanted a sari. When I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip.

It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city. To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed, I went to Telco’s Pimpri office for the interview.

There were six people on the panel and I realised then that this was serious business. This is the girl who wrote to JRD,” I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realisation abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.

Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, “I hope this is only a technical interview.”

They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, “Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories.”

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place. I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, “But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.”

Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married.

It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay . One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I was in his office on the first floor of BombayHouse (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw “appro JRD”. Appro means “our” in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him.

I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, “Jeh (that’s what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.

She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.” JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it).

Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead, he remarked. “It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?”

“When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,” I replied. “Now I am Sudha Murthy.” He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room. After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard. Looking back, I realise JRD had forgotten about it. It must
have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.

“Young lady, why are you here?” he asked. “Office time is over.” I said, “Sir, I’m waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.” JRD said, “It is getting dark and there’s no one in the corridor.

I’ll wait with you till your husband comes.”

I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable.

I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn’t any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, “Look at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for
the sake of an ordinary employee.”

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, “Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.”

In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused.

Gently, he said, “So what are you doing, Mrs Kulkarni?”
(That was the way he always addressed me.) “Sir, I am leaving Telco.”

“Where are you going?” he asked. “Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I’m shifting to Pune.”

“Oh! And what will you do when you are successful.”

“Sir, I don’t know whether we will be successful.”
“Never start with diffidence,” he advised me. “Always start with confidence. When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate. I wish you all the best.”

Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive. Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, “It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he’s not alive to see you today.”

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn’t do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today’s engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence.





Visionary Leadership in Aravind Hospitals..

27 09 2005

I never heard about Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy until yesterday. He is the man behind the renowned Aravind Hospitals. In this commercialized healthcare world, he comes out shining like a knight. What impresses me is his grit and persistence in his abilities even when he is suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. His principles of altruism, independence and leadership are awe-inspiring. Its good to read about such a selfless personality these days!