RRGwrites

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Posts Tagged ‘Books

मेरा हिमालय और उसका क़ब्रिस्तान

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मैं पिछले कई वर्षों से बद्रीनाथ यात्रा पर जाता हूँ। एक भक्त के रूप में नहीं, एक बाइकर के रूप में। हिमालय मेरा आँगन रहा है बालमन से और जब-जब मैं अपनी रॉयल एनफ़ील्ड मोटरसाइकिल ले कर बद्रीनाथ गया, वही पहाड़ और वही पहाड़ी रास्ते मेरे लिए पूज्य और देव-तुल्य रहे, किसी भी मंदिर से ज़्यादा।

हाल के सालों में – 2012 और 2015 – ये दो यात्रायें की बाबा बद्रीनाथ के द्वार को। आप कह सकते हैं – ज़लज़ला आने के पहले वाले साल और उसके दो साल बाद। जो देखा, और महसूस किया, वो शब्दों में बयां नहीं कर सकता। सड़कें तो बन गयीं हैं, पहले से बेहतर भी है। पर सड़को से नीचे उतर कर देखो, तो पहले और बाद का भयावह फ़र्क़ पता चलता है।

इसलिए, 2012 की यात्रा का वर्णन तो आप मोटरसाइकिल डायरीज में यहाँ पढ़ सकते हैं, पर 2015 की यात्रा के बारे में लिख पाऊँ, वो शब्द और हिम्मत अब तक नहीं जुटा पाया हूँ।

Himalaya ka Kabristanकुछ दिन पहले दैनिक भास्कर अख़बार में जयप्रकाश चौकसे साहब के लेख में एक किताब का वर्णन पढ़ा – ‘हिमालय का क़ब्रिस्तान’– ये शीर्षक है प्रत्रकार लक्ष्मी प्रसाद पंत की इस पुस्तक का। पिछले दो दिन में ये किताब पढ़ी। केदारनाथ-काश्मीर-काठमाण्डू – तीनो जगहों की हिमालय-उपजित त्रासदी के बारे में एक निर्भीक पुस्तक।

अगर आप भी मेरे जैसे हिमालय से सच्चा प्रेम करते हैं – और न सिर्फ इसे पूजते हों और न सिर्फ इसे छुट्टी बिताने का मनोरम पर्यटन स्थल समझते हों – तो इस पुस्तक को पढ़ने की सलाह मैं आपको दूँगा।

इस किताब को पढ़ने के बाद मुझे एक बात याद आती है। 2012 की मोटरसाइकिल यात्रा के दौरान मेरा छोटा भाई नितिन भी साथ था – अपनी पहली लंबी मोटरसाइकिल यात्रा पर और पहली बार पहाड़ पर। ज़ाहिर तौर पर उत्सुकता ज़्यादा थी और सवाल भी। मैं हिमालय के बारे में जानता-पढ़ता रहता हूँ और सामाजिक-भौगोलिक जानकारियां रखता हूँ, एक आम पर्यटक से ज़्यादा। जब हम बद्रीनाथ पहुंचे तो अगली यात्रा केदारनाथ की हो, ऐसी बात होने लगी। बद्रीनाथ मंदिर के ठीक नीचे अपनी पूरी शान से बहती अलकनंदा के बारे में बात करते हुए मैंने नितिन को केदारनाथ के साथ बहती मन्दाकिनी नदी के बारे में बताया। ये भी कि कैसे पहले मन्दाकिनी नदी दो धाराओं में बहती थी – पूर्वी और पश्चिमी। और कैसे समय के साथ अब सिर्फ एक धारा में ही प्रवाहित होने लगी है। नितिन ने पूछा कि दूसरी तरफ क्या है अब? मुझे जवाब मालूम नहीं था, सो बात वही ख़त्म हो गयी।

मैं आपको बता दूँ कि जब अगले ही साल 2013 में सैलाब आया, तो मन्दाकिनी नदी ने सारे बंधन तोड़ दिए और दुसरे पुराने रास्ते से भी बह निकली – और उसे रास्ते में मिले घर, दुकान, होटल और न जाने क्या-क्या – अपने रास्ते में उसे मनुष्य का किया अतिक्रमण मिला। और वो उसे बहा ले गयी… पंत जी अपनी पुस्तक के बारे में इस बारे में विस्तार से लिखते हैं… उसे पढ़कर मेरी आँखे भर आईं और भाई से हुयी बात याद हो आयी।

अंग्रेजी उपन्यासकार कजाओ इशीगोरो के हवाले से लेखक ने लिखा है:

“जैसे शतरंज के खेल में जब तक हम अपनी चाल के ऊपर से ऊँगली नहीं उठाते, हमें अपनी ग़लती का अहसास नहीं होता, वैसे ही प्राकृतिक आपदाओं का अहसास भी अचानक ही होता है जब हमारी गलतियाँ अति कर देती हैं।”

2012 में मेरे पास इस प्रश्न का उत्तर नहीं था कि मन्दाकिनी के दूसरे रास्ते में क्या है। 2013 के बाद से मेरे पास इस प्रश्न का उत्तर नहीं है कि क्यों प्रशासन आंखें मूंदे रहा इतने वर्षों से लगातार फैलते अतिक्रमण पर। हमने नदी के रास्ते में अपना घर बनाया और अब दोष नदी को, कि उसने अपना वही रास्ता वापस चुन लिया, तो वो दैवी आपदा है?

मैं लेखक से पूर्णतया सहमत हूँ कि यह कोई दैवी आपदा नहीं थी। ना उत्तराखण्ड में, ना ही कश्मीर और नेपाल में। ये मनुष्य के लालच का परिणाम हैं, जिसे हम दैवी आपदा और हिमालय का प्रकोप और न जाने और क्या-क्या नाम देते हैं।

2016 – मैं फिर से तैयार हूँ मई माह में बद्रीनाथ जाने को। इस बार मेरी और नेहा की माएं भी साथ जा रहीं हैं। वो 2013 में नहीं जा पाईं थी – वही साल जब सब जल-मग्न  हो गया था। परिवार ने तब चैन की सांस ली थी कि वो दोनों उस साल चार-धाम यात्रा पर नहीं जा पाईं। वो चैन की सांस जो हज़ारों-लाखों परिवार नहीं ले पाए। हिमालय मुझे फिर बुला रहा है और मैं इस बार कुछ डरता हुआ सा, पहली बार ऐसा महसूस करते, जा रहा हूँ।

‘Seek’ Your True Calling…

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Seek Finding Your True Calling

Just completed reading an insightful and extremely useful book – Seek – Finding Your True Calling’ by Rakesh Godhwani.

If you are an engineering or MBA student looking ahead to make a career choice, this book is a great investment – trust me, Rs.150/- spent on this book and one or two days spent in reading this masterpiece, albeit written simply, will fetch you a great ROI – provides you with ample food for thought – specially when you are at the cusp of making a crucial choice – what job or career to go for…

The book explores the key reasons why a large number of students leave their first job within first year of joining. However, quite usefully for the students, the author approaches the question differently … Why did they end up in these jobs in the first place?

Sounds interesting? It is, indeed. I meet a lot of young students and working professionals who battle a fierce challenge of poor engagement with their first jobs. And I can say, if not all, this book certainly attempts to provide some solutions, some guidance, and certainly forces you to make a more informed choice, rather than merely going for that great corporate brand and/or 6-digit salary offered at campus.

My first boss taught me a wonderful lesson; he said, “…find your true calling; promotions, salary-hikes, fame, and above all, an engaged work-life will follow you on their own…”

If you are a student aiming to enter the world of jobs, or a young professional trying to find your true calling yet, I would urge you to consider investing this Rs.150/-; you won’t regret spending it on learning the decision-making approach the author shares with you.

PS: Do let me know your thoughts once you’ve read the book!

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Image-credit: pagalguy.com

If you liked this post, you may also like reading these earlier blogs:

MBA की ‘मास्टरी’…

MBA at 16! A must read…

Women In India; What Has Changed Since Draupadi?

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Women of IndiaThey say, when you read something that is thought-provoking and worth sharing, do share with as many as you can. I am attempting the same with this blog.

Long ago, I had read a poem titled, ‘I Draupadi’. This was over a decade ago and I was deeply moved by it. Kartikeya Sarabhai, son of legendary Indian space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, penned this gem of a work in 1989, in an spontaneous afterthought having watched the performance of great Indian epic Mahabharata, a play directed by Peter Brook. I was in law-school when I read this, I thought it was a classic.

However, while reading a recently published book, ‘The State of the Nation’, (Hay, 2013), written by eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman, I came across this poem once again. Mr. Nariman, in his unique style, mentions about this poem while explaining the constitutional and legal position of the women-folk in India and the inequalities therein.

Same evening when I read this, I happened to meet a close friend of mine, whom I consider a quite well read and well informed person. However, when I mentioned about ‘I Draupadi’, she drew a blank. I was surprised; how come such a revolutionary work written about women is yet unknown to the most aware section of women itself! This incident made me think, and hence, I am writing this blog only to share this poem with you. It is worth a careful, slow read…

In the poem, Draupadi says:

The Swayamvara was mine,
the decision was my father’s.
No garland was worn, the garland was me.
The prize myself, the winner of the tournament
Not mine the decision whom to marry,
My heart was pledged to a bow and arrow…
My life an offering to the shooter of the fish

All rights belong to husbands, so says society,
But to be shared by five, a commodity in the market place?
Unknowingly Ma Kunti spoke: husband became husbands
In this the Pandava’s kingdom of Dharma
All this I accepted, became the wife of five,
To each gave a son
Yet was the only wife of none.

Gambling they went, invited by Duryodhana,
Lost all they had losing even themselves
I, unspared, was dragged into the court of men.
Which were these bounds of Dharma
That tied my husbands?
What kind of husbands [are] these,
That are tied by the Dharma of lies?

I asked, “What of me?”
Bhishma said, “Power is Truth, Dharma darkness”.
Robed limitlessly, I was saved by God.
The Kauravas stopped, exhausted, still not understanding.
Yes, Krishna gave me the cloth, but where was the Gita’s truth?
Was Arjuna not already in the need of that counsel then?

In words of Mr. Nariman, “The poem ends with a condemnation of the male gender for forsaking equality in practice:”

Years went by; our lives we lived together,
Started on our journey’s end towards the snow-clad Himalaya
I fell first; no Pandava stretched a hand.
Towards paradise they walked, not one stayed by my side,
Then I realised heaven too must be only for men…
Better then, to rest in the warm embrace of this snow.

Pretty hard-hitting, isn’t it? Well, I am tempted to ask, what really has changed for the womenfolk of India since the plight of Draupadi? I am asking as there are times when I find myself searching for answers…

I am leaving you with what Mr. Nariman wrote. It is indeed worth reading twice and introspecting – for all menfolk of India…

“The significance of the poem… highlights the difference between formal equality, professed by us all and, the actual inequality, which the fate of Draupadi has eternally symbolized – the inequality that women have had to bear, and continue to suffer, even in the present day India.”

This blog was straight from the heart; I am sharing this with a hope that something, at least in few of us, would change for better…

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Photo-credit: cartoon movement.com

Post-script: For those of you who may not be aware, noted choreographer, dancer and social-activist Mallika Sarabhai, (sister of Kartikeya Sarabhai) performs the role of Draupadi in Peter Brook’s play. Worth searching about it on the Youtube!

 

Intruding Dragon…Complacent Elephant!

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Like me, you must also have been following the sad state of affairs at the India-China border in Ladakh. And I am sure, you too would be equally appalled, if not disturbed by the series of events. And not only because of the brazen incursion of our borders by the Chinese armed forces, but also because of the rather indecorous attitude of the Indian government.

An avid reader of political history that I am, I recall a masterly account of mismanagement of the Indo-China relations by Indian governments, written by the veteran journalist-cum-politician Arun Shourie – ‘Are We Deceiving Ourselves  Again’ (Rupa, 2008). I read this book in 2008 and it opened my eyes. The book is a myth-breaking one, and shatters the popular belief that China deceived us in 1962 and thus, we were caught unprepared. Nothing is as false as this, so proves this book beyond any reasonable doubt whatsoever. Scanning official letters of the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shourie writes a detailed account of un-statesman like behaviour of Nehru and brings out the truth that it is we ourselves who deceived ourselves into believing that the Chinese intentions (of those times) were honourable, that they were treating us as equals and would not do anything objectionable. And none other than our own Prime Minister Nehru rather eloquently accepted then, “Morally, I find it difficult to say that the Chinese government has deliberately deceived us at any stage. We may have deceived ourselves.”

Over five years ago, much before today’s grim situation came to light, Shourie penned this book and tore into the similarity of the lackadaisical attitude of Manmohan government, insofar negotiating the Dragon’s brazen attitude.

I don’t intend to write a book review here. Neither I intend to write an emotionally charged critique of how the present day complacent Indian Elephant is not able to restrain the overbearing Red Dragon of China. Much is already being written and said about this subject. I just wish to share with you the captivating, and thought-provoking, cover-page of Shourie’s book; I took this book out of my library today and clicked this image specially to share with you. This cover is depicts a series of 6 images from back to front; rather displays 6 frames of one photograph, where the Indian premier is walking towards his Chinese counterpart. To know how we are downgrading ourselves all over again, negating any possible learning from the inglorious debacle of 1962, you don’t have to read the entire book. The image in itself says it all.

Please observe the frames one-by-one, starting from the extreme left; you’d note the scary message it gives…

Are We Deceiving Ourselves Again - RRGwrites

Dear Indian Commoner, do you now see how we are deceiving ourselves yet again?

I leave you with what legendary top-cop KPS Gill said and Shourie quoted. It makes an alarming reading in today’s context…

“There is… one general principle that must guide our explorations, perspectives, plans and projections: the primary and most effective strategy to avoid war is to prepare for it.

It is one of the ironies of the human condition that if you love peace, you must be ready and willing to fight for it. The weak, the vulnerable, the unprepared and the irresolute will always tempt the world and call misfortune and ruin upon themselves. This is tragic, but it is the inexorable lesson of history.

It is strength that secures respect and dignity; conciliation, appeasement, and a desperation to avoid confrontation at all costs – these will only bring contempt and aggression in their dower.”

I am sure under the garb of his ‘dignified(?) silence’, our sealed-lipped Prime Minister has also shut his eyes and ears to this reality…

क़िताबियत…

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Readingआज ‘वर्ल्ड बुक डे’ है। अपने आप में अनूठा ये दिवस हर साल 23-अप्रैल को सौ से भी अधिक देशों में मनाया जाता है। UNESCO द्वारा स्थापित ये दिन पुस्तकों, लेखकों, प्रकाशकों और कॉपीराइट का प्रतीकात्मक माना जाता है। कुछ ऐसा मान लीजिए कि ये क़िताबों का, पढ़ने का, पाठन-पठन, अध्ययन का उत्सव है।

मैं क़िताबों का बड़ा शौक़ीन हूँ, बचपन से ही। अमूनन छोटे बच्चे वो सब जल्द सीख जाते हैं जो वो अपने वाल्दैन को करते देखते हैं। हमने यह आदत अपनी माँ से पाई, जो जैसे ही बाबा सुबह काम को जाते और घर का काम ख़त्म होता, कोई न कोई क़िताब, पत्रिका, समाचार-पत्र, इत्यादि पढ़ती मिलतीं। रोज़ दिन के वक्त जब मैं स्कूल से वापस आता तो ये नज़ारा सामने पाता। मालूम होता है कि उस समय मेरे बाल-मन को ये दृश्य भा गया होगा; फिर तो जो ‘क़िताबियत’ की लत लगी, वो आज तक जारी है।

मुझे याद आता है कि आठ-नौ साल का होते-होते मैंने बहुत सारी किताबें पढ़ ली थीं। न सिर्फ़ किताबें, पर बहुत सारी कॉमिक्स और पत्रिकाएँ भी। तो जो थोड़ा बहुत विज्ञान, सामान्य-ज्ञान और दुनिया-भर के देशों की रैय्यत-रवायत के बारे में जानकारी आज मुझे है या और जानने की उत्सुकता कभी हुई, उसका इल्ज़ाम स्कूल की क़िताबों पर नहीं, ‘अमर चित्रकथा’ और ‘टिंकल’ के अनेकानेक अंकों पर है। इसी तरह से जो देश-दुनिया की राजनीति के बारे में पढ़ने का कीड़ा लगा, वो किसी और वजह से नहीं पर उस ज़माने की पत्रिका ‘माया’ से लगा; और मैं कह सकता हूँ कि इस विलुप्त हो चुकी पत्रिका का मुकाबला कोई समकालीन राजनितिक पत्रिका नहीं कर सकती।

बचपन में क़िताबें पढ़ने का कुछ फ़ितूर सा था। वैसे तो हम घर पर होते नहीं थे – खेल-कूद ज़िन्दाबाद, पर जब होते तो कोई-न-कोई क़िताब हर वक्त हाथ में होती थी। रिश्तेदारी में आना-जाना होता तो भी वहां कुछ पढ़ने के लिए ढूँढ कर हम एक कोना पकड़ लेते, और कई बार याद है कि डांट खाई कि अब खाना खाते समय तो क़िताब से नज़रें हटा लो; पर हम भी एक अलग ही ढीठ थे भाई, मज़ाल है कि मान जायें। उस ज़माने में एक नयी बला भी आयी थी – विडियो-गेम्स। सारे चचेरे-ममेरे भाई-बहन उसी पर लगे रहते, पर हमें तो कुछ मज़ा नहीं आया ‘मारियो’ खेलने में कभी; हम तो बस जब भी चारदीवारी के भीतर होते, तो कुछ-न-कुछ पढ़ते ही पाए जाते.

एक और किस्सा इसी क़िताबियत का ज़हन में है – लखनऊ का बाल-संग्रहालय और उसकी लाइब्रेरी। उत्तर प्रदेश के शायद आखिरी सभ्य और जनपालक मुख्यमंत्री, स्व. चन्द्र भानु गुप्ता जी, ने अपने विशाल सम्पति दान दे कर ऐसी भलमनसाहत से प्रेरित कई संस्थाएं बनायीं थी, जो आज भी चल रही हैं और उन अरबों रुपयों से बने ‘माया-स्मारकों’ से कहीं ज्यादा समाज का भला और ‘परिवर्तन’ कर रहीं हैं। खैर, मैं विषय से भटक रहा हूँ, बात तो क़िताबों की हो रही थी ना। आठ साल की उम्र में माताजी ने हमारी किताबें ख़रीदने के चस्के पर लगाम लगाते हुए हमें इस पुस्तकालय का रास्ता दिखाया, जो कि आना-जाना मिला के पूरे 6-किलोमीटर लंबा था। और इस ग़लतफ़हमी के बिना कि आज के ‘साहबज़ादों’ की तरह कोई लेने-छोड़ने जायेगा, हमें माँ ने कुल दस पैसे का सदस्यता-फॉर्म और सिर्फ दो-रुपयों की ‘कॉशन-मनी’ (जी हाँ, आपने ठीक पढ़ा; अमां मियाँ, तब सस्ते का ज़माना था!) दे कर लाइब्रेरी का मेम्बर बनवा दिया। अब हम जा पहुँचे एक ऐसी दुनिया में जहाँ एक विशालकाए लाइब्रेरी की बरबस मदहोश कर देने वाली महक थी। अब भाई, पुस्तकों की दुनिया कुछ ऐसी ही लगती थी हमें। याद पड़ता है कि दो-तीन महीनों की 1988 की गर्मियों की छुट्टियों में हमने कितनी ही किताबें घोट डालीं – भारतीय और विश्व साहित्य दोनों। अपने राम रोज़ सुबह 9:30 बजे घर से निकलते, पैदल चलते हुए ठीक दस बजे लाइब्रेरी के दरवाज़े पर। और फिर सीधे पांच बजने पर बाहर आना होता। ये कवायद पूरी गर्मी चलती, और बस जिन दिनों क्रिकेट-मैच खेलने के चक्कर में हम ना जा पाते, उन दिनों के लिए एक-दो क़िताबें घर ले आते। ये सिलसिला 1990 तक चला, तब तक हम दस साल के हो गए थे और एक दिन हमें ‘बाल-संग्रहालय’ से बाहर कर दिया गया, यह कह कर कि अब हम ‘बाल’ नहीं रहे! क्या बताएं आपको साहब कि कितना गुस्सा आया; मन हुआ कि पूँछें कि किस नामुराद ने यह तय किया था। पर कुछ लाइब्रेरियन का डर और उससे ज्यादा माँ-बाबा की इज्ज़त के लखनवी लिहाज़ ने मुंह सिल दिया और हम मन-मसोस के रह गए। बड़े दिनों तक इस लाइब्रेरी से बिछड़ने का रंज रहा; आज के ज़माने में शायद ‘ब्रेकअप’ होने पर कुछ ऐसा ही महसूस होता होगा।

Cathedral Library Card

क़िताबों से इश्क कुछ यूं ही परवान चढ़ता रहा; और बहुत से पुस्तकालय जीवन में आये और उनसे बहुत कुछ सीखा और पाया। लखनऊ के कैथेड्रल स्कूल का ‘लाइब्रेरी पीरियड’, जिसके दौरान निराला, नागर और बच्चन से परिचय हुआ और जहाँ लाइब्रेरियन-मैडम सिंह ने अंग्रेजी साहित्य से दोस्ती करवाई। या फिर Symbiosis Law College की लाइब्रेरी, जहाँ दिन के आठ-आठ घंटे बैठ हमने क़ानून से दोस्ती की। उसके और भी फायदे हुए; एक दिन प्रिंसिपल साहब, डा. रास्ते, ने हमे क़ानूनी क़िताबों से पेंच लड़ाते देखा, ना-मालूम कैसे उन्हें हमारे ज़हीन होने का शक़ हुआ और फिर हमें प्रतिष्ठित ‘Symbiosis Law Journal’ का संपादक चुन लिया गया। इस बड़ी ज़िम्मेदारी को निभाते हुए हमने महान वकील ‘नानी पालकीवाला’ के ऊपर एक संस्करण छापा, जो आज भी देश-भर की क़ानून-सम्बंधित पुस्तकालयों में रखा देखा जा सकता है। ये सम्मान भी हमारी क़िताबियत के शौक़ में मिला। एक और बात इस समय की मुझे याद आती है कि वहां की लाइब्रेरियन-मैडम, जो ऊपर से बड़ी ही सख्त-मिजाज़ थीं और जिनसे सब डरते थे, मुझसे एक अबोला स्नेह रखतीं थीं और जब मैं कॉलेज छोड़ कर दिल्ली आ रहा था तो सिर्फ वो थीं वो कुछ दुखी मालूम हुईं थीं।

दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय आने पर मालूम हुआ कि दिल्ली स्कूल ऑफ़ इकोनॉमिक्स की रतन टाटा लाइब्रेरी का तो क्या ही कहना, मानो क़िताबों का अथाह समंदर। ऊपर से लॉ-फैकल्टी के पुस्तकालय जाने का जुगाड़ भी हमने ढूँढ लिया था। VKRV छात्रावास में भी प्रो. मित्रा के मार्ग-दर्शन में एक बेहतरीन लाइब्रेरी बनाई गयी थी, जो ज़्यादातर उन छात्रों की दान की हुयी पुस्तकों से बनी थी जो पढ़ाई पूरी कर के ‘कॉर्पोरेट-जगत’ में अपना भविष्य बनाने निकलते थे। इन तीनो जगाहतों के सायों में हमारी क़िताबों से मित्रता चलती रही।

नौकरी में आने के बाद भी यह इश्क़ कम नहीं हुआ; पहले बॉस ने बहुत ही सख्ती से समझा दिया कि मैनेजमेंट में अच्छा करना है तो अपनी जानकारी दुरुस्त रखो। अब हम तो जी खुश हो गए; ‘अँधा क्या चाहे, दो आँखें’ वाली मिसाल मानों सच हो रही हो। सो पढ़ना बदस्तूर जारी रहा और बॉस से भी बिना चापलूसी की ज़हमत उठाये दोस्ती सी हो गयी और फिर उसके बाद बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिला।

सालों बाद जब जीवन-संगिनी से मुलाक़ात हुयी तो मालूम हुआ कि उनकी ज़हीनियत का राज़ भी उनकी क़िताबों से दोस्ती है जो उन्होंने अपने वाल्दैन से विरसे में पायी थी। फिर क्या था, दो क़िताबी शौक़ीनों साथ आने पर और भी कई नयी पुस्तकों से दोस्ती हुयी, और पिछले 6 सालों में अनगिनत क़िताबें पढ़ डाली गयीं। कुछ समय पहले बीवी ने इस शौक को लिखने तक बढ़ाने का मशवरा दिया, जो इस blog की सूरत में तामीर है।

क़िताबों का प्रेम भी अनूठा है। मशहूर इसरायली लेख़क, अमोस ओज ने अपनी आत्मकथा – ‘अ टेल ऑफ़ लव एंड डार्कनेस’– में लिखा है:

“…जब मैं छोटा था, तो मेरा सपना था, बड़ा होकर मैं एक क़िताब बनूँगा। लोगों को चींटियों की तरह मारा जा सकता है। लेखकों को मारना भी कोई मुश्किल काम नहीं, लेकिन क़िताबों को नहीं। आप कितना भी योजनाबद्ध तरीके से किसी क़िताब को ख़त्म कर लेने की कोशिश करें, एक संभावना हमेशा बनी रहेगी कि उसकी कोई एक प्रति दुनिया की किसी न किसी लाइब्रेरी के एक कोने में जिंदा बची हुई है।”

अब ज़माना बदल रहा है और उसके साथ पढ़ने की कला भी। पिछले कुछ सालों में लोगों को नयी तरह से किताबें पढ़ते देखता हूँ – ebooks! कितने तरह के तकनीकी उत्पाद आ गए हैं; Kindle, Google Nexus, iPad ने मानो क़िताबों को एक नया स्वरुप दे दिया है। दुनिया भाग रही है, तो क़िताबें पढ़ने का तरीक़ा भी बदलता जा रहा है। और फिर कहाँ है आज-कल के सिमटते घरों में क़िताबों की अलमारियां लगाने की जगह? और फिर ये क़िताबें सहेजने की ज़हमत उठाने की ज़रूरत क्या जब एक Kindle हज़ारों-हज़ार पुस्तकें अपने छोटे से आकार में समेट लेता है…और ये भी देखता हूँ कि ebook-reader बनाने वाली बड़ी-बड़ी कंपनियों ने अपने उत्पादों को असल क़िताब की शक्ल-सूरत देने की कोशिश की है, शायद मेरे जैसे कुछ बीसवीं सदी के क़िताबी-कीड़ों के मद्देनज़र…

आज मेरे एक हाथ में एक क़िताब है जो मैं एक बड़ी-सी क़िताबों की दुकान से खोज कर लाया हूँ, और दूसरे हाथ में एक iPad, जिसमें कई क़िताबें समायी हुईं हैं। मन बारहां असल क़िताब की तरफ़ भागता है; उसके पन्नों में मेरे बचपन की महक है, उन पुस्तकालयों की यादें हैं जहाँ मैंने अपने सैकड़ों दिन बिताये, उन दिनों की याद है जब पैसे जोड़ कर मैं क़िताबें खरीदता था और सहेज कर रखने का जतन करता था। इस बेगानी सी ebook में वो बात कहाँ…

गुलज़ार साहब की एक नज़्म आज पढ़ी, जिसका शीर्षक है – ‘क़िताबें झांकती हैं’। शायद यह पंक्तियाँ उन्होंने किसी ऐसे ही मौके पर लिखी है –

क़िताबें झांकती हैं बंद अलमारी की शीशों से
बड़ी हसरत से तकती हैं
महीनों अब मुलाकात नहीं होती
जो शामें उनकी सोहबत में कटा करती थीं
अब अक्सर गुज़र जाती हैं कंप्यूटर के परदे पर

बड़ी बेचैन रहती हैं क़िताबें
उन्हें अब नींद में चलने की आदत हो गयी है
जो ग़ज़लें वो सुनातीं थीं कि जिनके शल कभी गिरते नहीं थे
जो रिश्ते वो सुनातीं थीं वो सारे उधड़े-उधड़े से हैं

कोई सफ़ा पलटता हूँ तो इक सिसकी निकलती है
कई लफ़्ज़ों के मानी गिर पड़े हैं
बिना पत्तों के सूखे ठूंट लगते हैं वो सब अल्फाज़
जिन पर अब कोई मानी उगते नहीं हैं

जबां पर जायका आता था सफ़े पलटने का
अब ऊँगली क्लिक करने से बस एक झपकी गुज़रती है
बहुत कुछ तह-ब-तह खुलता जाता है परदे पर
क़िताबों से जो ज़ाती राब्ता था वो कट सा गया है

कभी सीने पर रख कर लेट जाते थे
कभी गोदी में लेते थे
कभी घुटनों को अपने रहल की सूरत बनाकर
नीम सजदे में पढ़ा करते थे
छूते थे जंबीं से

वो सारा इल्म तो मिलता रहेगा आईंदा भी
मगर वो जो उन क़िताबों में मिला करते थे
सूखे फूल और महके हुए रुक्के
किताबें माँगने, गिरने, उठाने के बहाने जो रिश्ते बनते थे
अब उनका क्या होगा।

UNESCO ने इस दिन की स्थापना इस उद्देश्य के साथ की थी कि लोगों में पढ़ने की आदत बनी रहे, ख़ास तौर से इसलिए कि युवजनों के मध्य यह प्रथा और भी विकसित हो। मैं कितना भी असल क़िताबों का पक्षधर हूँ, कहीं मन खुश भी है कि ebooks और Kindle ने नयी पीढ़ी को पढ़ने की ओर खींचने का काम किया है। तो आईये, हम आज पढ़ने का उत्सव मनाएं, अध्ययन की कला को जीवंत बनाये रखें और सम्मानित करें उन लेखकीय योगदानों को जिन्होंने क़िताबों के ज़रिये मानवता के सामाजिक और सांस्कृतिक उत्थान का मार्ग प्रशस्त किया।

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Photo-credit: squ.edu.om

TATA Log

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TatalogI wish to share with you all a superb book that I just started reading – ‘Tatalog. Today, I completed the first two chapters and am impressed! Written by Harish Bhat, MD of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, and published by Penguin, this is a collection of “hitherto untold…eight modern stories from a timeless institution.”

For readers who don’t know ‘Hindi’ language, ‘log’ is a hindi word for ‘People’. I got drawn towards reading this book only because the foreword was penned by one of my all-time favourite authors, R Gopalakrishnan. You would recall Gopalakrishnan through his bestseller books – ‘The Case of The Bonsai Manager’ and ‘When The Penny Drops’. However, now that I have read the first 50 pages and learnt about the untold story of the ‘Tata Indica’, written so aptly by a Tata insider, I am so looking forward to reading further… about Tanishq, Tata Finance, Tetley, EKA, about ‘second careers of intelligent women’ and Tata Steel.

I will surely come back with a detailed book-review in few weeks’ time for you. Till then, I am leaving you with what Gurcharan Das opined about the book; do note the power of the last phrase:

“This is not a hagiography. In the tradition of the best business books, it teaches something about the way the world works. It explains why the Tatas have endured for 150 years: not because they did not make mistakes, but their errors were portals of discovery.”

 So apt, isn’t it?

I would recommend this to all who follow writings on organization & change and who wish to learn from the massive human effort called ‘TATA’.

My Learning From Alice In Wonderland…

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AliceRight since my childhood years, and even to date, I am deeply fascinated with Lewis Carroll’s legendary character – Alice. Immersed in her very own Wonderland, she always intrigued me – some of my finest learning of life comes from this book ‘meant for the children’! Carroll was a rather gifted man of diverse interests in logical reasoning, science, philosophy and mathematics; to my mind, his words have much deeper meaning than merely intending to be a children’s book. Celebrating ‘curiosity’ at every available opportunity, Alice is a truly timeless character and some of her words occupy my thought process to date; I have found them really useful every time I have read them. Sharing seven of them with you:

  • “But”, said Alice, “the world has absolutely no sense, who’s stopping us from inventing one?”
  • Alice laughed, “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
  • “Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?” 
    “I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
  • “If everybody minded their own business… the world would go round a deal faster than it does.”
  • “You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity; “it’s very rude.”
  • “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
    said the Cat.
    “I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,”
    said the Cat.
  • “Tut, tut, child!” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

Through the words of wisdom above, Alice leaves an indelible impression on the mind, shaping character, instilling values like power of imagination, trying & risk-taking, finding sense amidst chaos, managing self and that nothing is impossible. All through, she tries to interpret everything around her in a logical manner, and you’d often note the conflict between her desire to be mature, rational & grow up and her natural ingenuous whims; a skirmish that most of us adults face almost daily in our lives.

Now that you’ve looked closer, don’t you agree with some of the deeper messages Alice delivers to us adults too, specially in the chaos of the corporate world?

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Photo-credit: weheartit.com

Are You A ‘Professional’?

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ProfessionalNearly everyday, I meet scores of gainfully employed people, not only those who work with my organization, but also from several other companies, self-employed ones, students, doctors, chartered accountants, et al (that is inevitable if you are based in the corporate district of Gurgaon!). And more often than not after such interactions, I am left gasping about the ever-increasing gap between just any working executive or entrepreneur and a real professional.

In the mad rush of the working lives we live in, I often find people mistaking every working person to be a professional. How incorrect now that would be?

theprofessionalFew years ago, Subroto Bagchi, or Gardener as he is titled and fondly known as, wrote a very compelling book redefining workplace excellence – ‘The Professional’. In many ways, it was a path-breaking work, and in this book, he gave all of us what I call the true meaning of the word ‘Professional’. (Subroto is Chairman and co-founder of Mindtree Ltd.).

Here is it: I am quoting from Chapter 2 of the book; pp 3-6.

 

“What are the chances that you work in an entry level position or even a middle level job in a hotel, a hospital, a software company, or a government organization? Or, for that matter, you could be a self-employed professional like a doctor, a lawyer, or a journalist. In all probability you are educated, know English, and are working with (or have interacted with) the corporate sector. Perhaps, an MBA, or a student at an engineering college? You probably consider yourself a professional, or on the road to becoming one. Definitely your station in life is well above someone whose job is to bury unclaimed corpses from city hospitals.

I want to introduce the idea of who a professional is through a man whose life is dealing with dead bodies. Unclaimed dead bodies. This is not someone who is conventionally associated with the term professional.

His name is Mahadeva. He came to Bangalore as a child when one day his mother simply walked out on her entire village and her own family in a huff. Mother and son lived on the streets; she worked to support him. Until the day she became very unwell. She brought herself and her son to the government-run Victoria Hospital. There she was admitted in a state of delirium and her little son, Mahadeva, made the street outside the hospital his home.

He found many playmates among the urchins there and soon that world engulfed him. It was the first time he had had anyone to play with. For little Mahadeva, it was his first experience of kinship and he lost himself completely in this new world. It was pure happenstance that one day someone told him that his mother had died. Where had he been when that happened?

Died? What was that?

The hospital had been unable to wait for him and has disposed of the body.

Now Mahadeva had nowhere to go. No family.

A few people in the hospital ward where his mother had been admitted raised some money to help him go back to his village. He refused. Instead, he grew up running errands in the hospital. The hanger-on, who had helped with his mother’s admission process and made a living by running errands for patients, asked him to move in with him. He was an old man who had no one either.

Mahadeva grew up under his tutelage; the hospital became his universe. And then, one day, the cops asked him to bury an unclaimed body and paid him Rs 200 for the job. This was when Mahadeva entered his profession and eventually became the go-to-guy for burying the city’s unclaimed corpses. Every time police picked up a dead body that had no claimants, Mahadeva was summoned. He had to do a turnkey job: Pull the stiff body in it and take it to a burial ground, dig the ground to bury the dead – all by himself, and for only Rs 200. After doing the job, he would hang around in the hospital to be summoned to dispose of the next unclaimed body.

Mahadeva did his work with such dedication, focus, care and concern that soon he was very much in demand. His work grew and he bought his own horse-drawn carriage, and between his horse and himself he was the undertaker to the abandoned.

One day, the horse died.

People who had watched Mahadeva all these years came together and bought him an auto-rickshaw. The white auto-rickshaw, his hearse, carries the picture of the horse in the memory of the animal who helped him take thousands of people to be laid to rest. It became the logo of his business and appears on his business card today.

Mahadeva has buried more than 42,000 corpses in his lifetime and his dedication has earned him phenomenal public recognition. Local petrol pumps do not charge him when his hearse is topped up and the chief minister of Karnataka felicitated him for his selfless service to the abandoned citizens of Bangalore. Mahadeva is proud of his work and his business, and today his son has joined him.

Mahadeva: the high performer, and a true professional.

What are the two qualities that Mahadeva has which differentiate a professional from someone who is simply professionally qualified?

One, is the ability to work unsupervised, and, two, the ability to certify the completion of one’s work.

Whenever Mahadeva got a call to reach the morgue, day or night, hail or high water, he arrived. Most of the time, it was a gruesome experience dealing with a dead body; there was no telling what had been the cause of death or state of decomposition.

In his business, Mahadeva does not choose his clients. He accepts them in whatever size, shape or state they come. He treats them with respect and care, with due dignity, covering them with a white sheet and placing a garland around their necks before burying them. The day he buried the man who had taken him home after his mother died, he had cried. He was special and Mahadeva had bought a garland as a mark of his respect. That day, it occurred to him that he should be garlanding all the bodies he buried, not just his benefactor’s. Everyone deserves respect and no one should feel ‘unwanted’ in death, even if life had treated them that way.

The cops do not supervise Mahadeva. He is not an employee of the hospital; he is the outsourcing agency the hospital has engaged for disposing of all unwanted cadavers. He does not have a boss who writes his appraisal, giving him constructive feedback for continuous improvement.

In most work environments, people who produce anything of economic value usually need supervision. A person who needs supervision is no professional. He is an amateur, maybe even an apprentice.

Whenever Mahadeva picks up a corpse, it goes straight to the burial ground – no place else. He completes the task with immediacy it demands. And he certifies his own completion of the task: between the dead and the living, there is no one to question him.”

 

Thought provoking, isn’t it? What do you think?

True Feedback

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Over the last few days, the whole world heard a victorious Barack Obama thank his wife of 20 years profusely for the encouragement and support he received from her during the presidential elections he contested in the USA. While he proclaimed his much stronger love for the first lady, we observed a thunderous uproar, cheers and applause, not only from those who watched this incident unfold while being present at the ceremony, but billions who watched it glued at their television sets.

This is arguably the most powerful man on the earth speaking. And mind you, he is speaking in the full public view, acknowledging the role that only a spouse can play. This is not the first time we have heard Obama express his thankfulness towards Michelle – and don’t you mistake him – he is not only expressing gratitude for her being a wonderful wife or a mother or a homemaker alone. He recognizes the role of a strong person backing him; aiding him not only with reinforcement, but also with feedback and most probably, with much needed constructive criticism at times. Well, we all know how much we need that one in our lives and careers…

I am a big fan of one taking well-intended criticism in his or her own stride, and working upon bettering self. And trust me you, no one gives a better, sometimes harder-hitting feedback than a spouse. In the times we live , chances are that our spouses are far more educated and successful than us, and chances are even higher that they are wiser ones, specially in the moments when we choose to lose it!

And why to only speak about the need of feedback when one is at the wrong end of things and needs what is now most fashionably termed as ‘developmental feedback.’ Criticism, well meant one, is most crucial at the times when one is rather powerful, successful and flowing with the good times. That is when the chances of converting our 99% good-looking results into a solid, sustainable 100% performance gets overlooked. Along with support and care that a spouse extends, that moment of her pointing at a new way, guiding towards that blind side, hinting at newer risks to be taken and higher reward to be achieved, showing that under-achieved angle of personality, hitting on hard towards that one key area of focus that we may have been missing inadvertently… all these moments and feedbacks in turn become the seeds of our future success as a whole.

R Gopalakrishnan, the celebrated author of bestseller, ‘The Case of the Bonsai Manager’, in his latest marvel ‘When the Penny Drops – Learning What’s Not Taught’, lays considerable stress on the role a spouse plays in explicit feedback, much differently than all other people you give you feedback:

“It is often said that if you really care about somebody, you give them constructive feedback. If you do not care about somebody, you say only positive things. However, in reality, that is not the way the world works.

He explains:

“Very little is told to you by your boss or colleagues about the negative manifestations of your bonsai traps. Why should your peer do so when it is none of his business? And why should your senior do so lest he be regarded as a nagging senior? Why should your subordinate risk his career by doing so?

Gopalakrishnan asserts further:

“You can become aware of your dark spots by someone holding a mirror to your behavior and by looking deep into the mirror…

…Wives are known to render a unique service to their husbands by telling them what no one else dares to. The explicit feedback that a leader can get from the spouse can be harsh, but very valuable…”

Now, isn’t that so true? I am sure, deep inside our hearts, all spouses agree to this one. Think of it, who would in Obama’s staff, dare risk giving a critical feedback to THE President of THE US of A! The same feedback, I am sure, the first lady would render so easily to, what we now know, much willing ears…

I lead a pretty large team – women and men who are strong & competent individuals. To every one of them, when I interviewed, asked a question…

Have you gone back ever and asked your spouse this question – Hey mate, what are the two areas of mine that if I work upon and improve, I would become a much better professional?”

Every time I asked this question, I have observed amusement writ large over the face of the person. Nearly all of them don’t answer, as they have never asked this question to their spouses. And yet I can tell you, all well-meaning ones have gone back that day and asked this question for sure…

I am sure, they heard something really sound and useful that time…

I am leaving you with what R Gopalakrishnan calls the Clementine Mirror; he produced in his book a letter written by Clementine Churchill to her husband, Sir Winston Churchill – the Clementine Advice.

It is indeed a worthy read:

My Darling,

I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something I feel you ought to know.

One of the men in your entourage (a devoted friend) has been to me and told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner…if an idea is suggested, say at a conference, you are supposed to be so contemptuous that presently no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming. I was astonished and upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with and under you, loving you – I said this, and I was told ‘No doubt it is the strain’.

My Darling Winston, I must confess that I have noticed deterioration in your manner; and you are not as kind as you used to be.

It is for you to give the Orders…with this terrific power you must combine urbanity, kindness, and if possible Olympic calm…I cannot bear that those who serve the Country and yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you…

Besides you won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness…

Please forgive your loving devoted and watchful…

Clemmie

(June 27, 1940)

Now, isn’t that the most sound business advice a leader can get? Do think about it.

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Photo-credit 1: skillsconverged.com || Photo-credit 2: Flipkart.com || Photo-credit 3: Lettersofnote.com

PS: You can access the complete letter here.

MBA at 16! A must read…

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Just completed reading the latest book from Subroto Bagchi, ‘MBA at 16; A Teenager’s Guide To The World Of Business’, Penguin 2012. This is an absolutely path-breaking work! The Gardener pens a very crisp, captivating and insightful piece for the 16-year olds, taking them through the world of business. Like all his earlier works, in this book too, he doesn’t preach, doesn’t load you with information. Contrarily, he ventures into the real world of 31 students, all in their teens; spends months with them, becomes a part of them, and finally comes out with this very simply-written, yet a well-researched work.

All of 157 pages, you would assume that it’s a 3-hour read at best. It could have been, yes. However, once you start reading, you’d not simply pass through the pages. Despite the fact that the book is written in form of a simple story, every page offers learning to 16 years and 32 years old alike! He takes us in the life of a teenager and helps us view business from their eyes. Much contrary to the prevalent opinion that teenagers are only hooked on to MTV, X-Box, dating and masti, the book captures the promise this GenY-minus-10years would bring in the world of business.

I have tutored a lot of students – during my education years and thereafter at some MBA schools while working now. However, I always missed the business-orientation in them. They were simply – students! Somehow, the rat race of Indian education overlooks this factor completely till you don’t enter college. Many lack this orientation even when they enter the ubiquitous & pathetically mushroomed ‘management schools’. Amongst the plethora of text-books, career-counseling books, self-help books, et al, what we lacked was one such work, which takes teens through a real-world of business, in the manner they want to learn. A manner, that brings glint to their eyes, whenever they think of the business-world…

As a 32 year old, I found this book equally useful for me. It made me ponder, introspect; am I equipped with skills and attitude required to manage this generation? Or, to be managed by this generation, one day not very far? I found a lot of questions to answer, many a things to learn.

I am purposely not turning this blog into a proper book-review; I would like the readers to experience first-hand the concept this book offers, without any pre-conceived notions. The reader needs to pick her own takeaway…I would recommend this book to you – if you are 16 years old, if you are entering/passing out of a B-school, if you are 30 and climbing the corporate ladder, if you are parent to a teen and if you are 50 and a CEO – it has a learning for all of us. Certainly, a must read for every high-school teacher, management-school professor and Talent Managers of every learning organization…

I am sure that at the end of the book, you’d also like to thank Subroto, for his appreciation and efforts in the direction of creating a smarter corporate India. I believe all of us share the responsibility.

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You can read this review, and many more, on Subroto Bagchi’s website, at:

http://www.mindtree.com/subrotobagchi/category/book/mba-at-16/#reviewscategory

Photo-credit: penguinbooksindia.com

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