Monday, December 27, 2021

Mahabharata: if it's in life, it's in Mahabharata

Popular computer game studio EAsports has this tagline, "if it's in the game, it's in the game". I think Mahabharata too must have a similar tagline, of which the converse is also true.

It is the one story I'll never tire reading. The version I liked the most, is the modern rendering by Ramesh Menon. That version treats Krishna like almost a human being, without divinity, facing the problems and confusions as most humans do, and doing what's needed to be done / expected of him.

I'm now listening to on audible, the book "The difficult of being good" by Gurcharan Das. It's not telling the story, it's rather a commentary on Dharma as espoused by the Mahabharata, peppered with western philosophical thoughts on similar lines, and examples from modern life / history.

Mahabharata never fails to amaze me, with the amount of character detailing for even smaller characters, or the number of extraordinary lives that it showcases, right from Yayati to Bheeshma to Krishna, Karna, Yudhishthira, Ekalavya, Abhimanyu, etc.

I, being born on the same star as Arjuna, had always imagined myself to be similar, mainly on the aspect of being under confident until someone like Krishna gives reassuring statements and prods into action. And also how much after the war and Krishna's death, Arjuna realises that he can't win against some insignificant nuisance creators without Krishna (an incident that hastened their decision to go to Himalayas) - I too feel the same lost feeling after the death of my father, who has played Krishna to me all my life.

But after many readings, I now suspect I have more in common with Yudhishthira - who the world expects to be good and perfect but has many grey areas and imperfections; the same reluctance/ pressure to avoid violence; and most importantly, being under the tremendous pressure to do the right thing or to be dharmic.

The concept of Karma also figures prominently in Mahabharata - even Krishna (despite being God) isn't spared, meeting a lowly end like a random forest animal, by someone who is actually a later birth of Bali from the Ramayana, thus completing the karma cycle.

I've always wondered about Karma, if it keeps going on, does it exhaust or keep repeating in cycles? I've myself seen Karma in action a lot of times, and I suspect life and Karma will keep going in cycles unless one picks up on the window of opportunity to break free of the repeating patterns. I personally find it difficult to break the pattern even if I'm able to spot the pattern, in self as well as others.

Indeed, being good is difficult, and maybe being difficult is good! Or maybe there's no good or bad, we just make our choices and face the consequences, right or wrong. 

On that note, പരിണാമം (parinamam) in Malayalam is such a deep word. It can mean evolution, or also result or consequence. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

When the worlds blend

Ever since my father unexpectedly passed away more than three years back, I keep getting recurring dreams of him. Somewhat a mix between how Prithviraj sees his dead sister in the Malayalam movie Koode and how Sanjay Dutt's character sees the Mahatma in the Hindi movie Lage raho munnabhai, even in these dreams I am semi aware that he is no more. Interestingly I do not want these dreams to go away, as I am truly happy during these dreamy times I get with my father now.

In the dream from yesterday morning, I saw him, and in the semi aware state I tell him, "doesn't matter if you are real or a figment of my imagination, just hold my hand and walk with me, and he does, and I wake up.

Later in the day I was thinking, it will be good if I get to speak to some of his friends who would just speak about him and his goodness ("he did so much for me and I miss him"), rather than some of the relatives who would only speak of him in an appropriating manner ("Oh he was closest to me"). My recent self does not initiate much phone calls, and interestingly today two of his former colleagues called me and spoke to me on the lines I was longing to hear!

There must be ways in which the "real world" as we understand, and the worlds beyond that blend.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Life, Death, Love and everything...

My father's untimely and unexpected death happened exactly two years ago, and it has never been the same after that. Somehow parents (or parent equivalent people) passing away forces the final plunge into adulthood, how much ever unwilling we are. Adding to my father's sudden departure, the discovery of my mother's early onset Dementia was another blow - changing her character to someone totally unlike the person who brought me up.

That same year a close friend's mother also had a relapse of cancer, and this time it was too late. I still remember the early morning call I got from my friend, announcing the sad news. I hung up, letting the news sink in. I stepped out of my room, where my mother, without knowing or understanding, showered a lot of kisses on me - this was a peculiar moment for me - my friend had lost his mother, and my mother, although the mind is lost, is there for me still expressing her love in ways possible in her now limited and different personality - I end up coming back to this moment many times afterwards, in reflection.

Beyond my younger days, though I had been closer to my father I had rarely expressed my love as kisses or hugs. It was always there, and it was granted, my love for him and his for me. After we had almost lost my mother and saved by a surgery in the nick of time in 2013, I had always been worried about my mother's health, and had ensured that I always went to meet her for her birthday, while never doing the same for my father (I had somewhere assumed he would be there for a much longer time). Now that there is no more the option to express my love, I feel having missed out the chance during the last couple of decades.

And this thought, despite the inability to connect with the person Amma is changing to be due to her illness, at times confuses, and at times makes me appreciate the opportunity to express love to people while they are alive.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The universe conspiring to help you succeed, with the right mentors

I have been wanting restart my writing for some time now - but it is turning out to be extremely difficult, with me being unable to compose anything longer than a tweet or a whatsapp message!

When an old friend Sunny Narang recently wrote to me saying that he needed a short write-up from me on the benefits I have received on mentoring, I wrote the following. My mentor Kannan however feels that this reads more like a vote-of-thanks speech! I guess so but this is what I wrote:

[originally published at ]

Sabarinath on his journey with mentors :

Coming from a middle class family with both parents working as central govt employees, no one in my family has any prior experience in setting up or running an enterprise. And I certainly didn’t have the attributes one often reads about “successful” entrepreneurs in the Economic Times, fancy degrees from IIT/IIM, nor a business plan that potential investors are already salivating at, nor a back up plan if things were to go wrong, nor a large bank balance.

So when the opportunity came up to start what would go on to become Skillveri, even the idea of the product wasn’t mine, it was just a strong feeling that if at 29 I let this opportunity go by, I may never get to really start something ever. I have no qualms in admitting it was a blind leap of faith, in this friend/mentor of mine, Kannan, 16 years elder than me, despite him providing all kinds of disclaimers (a long list of things i shouldn’t expect him to do, but in reality he did most of them when required) and pitfalls of taking the plunge.

From then on, it’s been like the cliched “universe conspiring to make it happen”. Through contacts I’m able to set up a small yet inspired team of 5 people who’d willingly work full time on prototype development without getting paid, merely believing in the mission, and find more mentors on the way, almost just in time on several occasions, who are willing to lend or invest money sufficient to keep the ship afloat till the promised land is sighted.

Out of the six years of Skillveri’s existence, 4 years were in bootstrapped mode, which combined with my lack of depth in matters relating to finance, meant we ran out of money a few times, yet reached revenue stage quickly enough to make it a cash flow balancing right rope walk.

Throughout the journey, apart from Kannan, a lot of senior mentors have contributed significantly to making Skillveri a success, be it Shivkumar sir who gave us time, materials, men and money, right from the time Skillveri was just a few slides of ppt to the time it created sophisticated simulations for multiple skills, or Prof Jhunjhunwala , Prof Bhaskar and the incubation team at IIT Madras, Paul Basil and P R Ganapathy at Villgro, Stuthi who not just put up with me throughout the pre-revenue stage till we raised funding from Ankur capital and MSDF, but also loaned me money when my ability to return it was questionable; M M Murugappa sir sharing his wisdom on one on one sessions at IIT Madras, to Keshab beginning to help me handle HR challenges and ending up being a leadership coach, to Biji Kurien sir who came in to help with spray painting simulator but ending up helping in multiple ways (ahem, yes, loaning money yet again when ability to return was questionable). It’s difficult to actually list out the entire set of people from whom I’ve shamelessly taken support in this journey!

And Kannan of course lives up to the meaning of his name, becoming Krishna to the under-confident Arjuna in me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why FB is so popular

Having been a Google+ fan compared to Facebook, I always keep wondering why Google+ have not so far been able to get the coolness factor. The crowd is still on FB. Google+, to me, is more like a content reader.

So what makes people stick to FB? I think somewhere it satisfies a core human need - the need to 'brag' to others on their 'achievements'. Sharing pics taken from foreign countries, honeymoon pics, etc and then waiting impatiently for "wow!!! so cute!!!" kind of comments - no social networking site has serviced this need better than facebook. Also, facebook is turning out to be a "second life" or alternate reality platform where even if your life sucks, you can make it appear to your peers that is is "rocking". Apparently making it appear all rosy to your peers is more important than it really being rosy!

That way, I like the crowd and postings on Google+. If Google+ were to become popular with the same kind of crowd, it would no longer be able to stand out - it would become another Orkut.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travelogue - Bangalore to Nilambur

It's been quite a while since I went on a good road trip. A sudden unplanned trip to Nilambur came as a pleasant surprise, especially not having planned it helped take the decision to drive down. Had we taken an overnight bus or train, would have missed out the beautiful route. On the flipside, the unplanned nature of the trip also meant that we traveled without taking the camera with us.

Nilambur is a small town in Malappuram district of Kerala, and the shortest route from Bangalore is just 300 km via Mysore-Gundulpet-Gudalur. Though Bangalore-Mysore road is 4 lane, there is quite a lot of traffic. Between Chennapatna and Maddur, there are some good restaurants on the highway. We had breakfast at Kamat's - food was very good, and tasty.

Though Mysore has a ring road nearing completion, it is better to take the route through the city (which we did on the onward journey, and took the ring road on the return journey - adds 22km without saving much time. Also, if you are used to Bangalore/Chennai traffic, Mysore is a breeze).

The route gets interesting from a little beyond Gundulpet, when you enter the Bandipur National Park. There was thorough checking for plastic items (but surprisingly none on the return journey. Inside the park, you can spot a few animals including deer, peacock, wild boar, etc - there are signboards warning against wild elephants, and that you should not take any of the interior roads without permission. The place is spotlessly clean.

Though the park is one single continuous entity, the interstate border comes in between, so it is officially Mudumalai National Park on the Tamil Nadu side.

The drive through both National Parks is a very refreshing experience - clean air, no noise, very less traffic. Soon after leaving the parks, we reached Gudalur town in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, a crowded town, from where we take the detour for Nilambur from the Ooty road. The portion of the ghat roads closer to the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala was the best part of the ride - at 12:30 noon we encountered thick fog, so much that visibility was reduced to a few feet, and we drove with headlights & hazard lights on, not because we could see better, but in the hope that vehicles on the opposite side could at least see the lights and avoid collision. This fog, called as Koda Manju in Malayalam, was the first time for me not just for any roads in Kerala/TN but also not encountered during my trip to the Himalayas.

The roads then enters the Kerala plains very soon, but the scenery is still beautiful.

The next day we went on a short outing to a lesser known waterfalls, called Adyanpara. It is not very popular, and hence not at all crowded except for some 10 local tourists. The beauty of the place was more than worth the trouble of climbing up the narrow hilly roads.

I knew photographs could not capture the full feel of the place, so I shot a video on the mobile phone as well.

The key places we missed during this trip was going to the Teak Museum, Nilambur Kovilakam, and taking the train journey from Nilambur to Shoranur. That's for the next time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another 'Social Business' Idea - Mosquito Killing Contest

Yet another crazy idea which is hardly a business - a slight tech modification on the ubiquitous 'kosu-bats' of Chennai.

This product can be called KillVeri, a spoof on my real company name, SkillVeri. Some electronics added to ensure that each real mosquito killed is counted (and some other means to ensure that wires being shorted don't count) and a mechanism to send each bat's kill number to a central server: I'm sure a business can be built around a game which rewards the person who kills max mosquitoes in a locality, region and so on.
This business also directly encourages eliminating mosquito menace, thus indirectly help eradicate malaria, thus helping improve health of people, and such blah blah to call it a 'social business' and hence call myself a 'social entrepreneur'. Yes, I know this is stretching things too far, but then what else are MBAs meant for?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Potential Market - Content Development for Spiritual Gurus

This is written in jest, but who knows, this could be serious business some years down the line!
Most of the spiritual gurus say ambiguous and confusing this such that if you openly admit not understanding them you are considered to be a fool by the others. While they're doing a decent job right now, I think they'll run out of more ambiguous statements pretty soon.
And who's better than MBAs when it comes to generating paragraphs of content without meaning much? Huge potential indeed!

Update: The same day I had written this blog, famous spiritual guru Deepak Chopra tweeted something like this - "Forgiveness is attention without judgement". Now you get the drift better, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Changing perspectives & being back in school

I got the fortune of getting admission to a short course for entrepreneurs, which essentially refreshes a few things I should have studied properly at my b school.

The two main teachers are from London Business School, and I did come here with a prejudice that what they teach may be more from a British context and may not fit into Indian situations.

Also after reaching here I was a little dismayed that most of the peer group was too young and felt initially that peer group learning may not be as effective as I wished it to be.

I can't explain how wrong I've been on both counts. The professor Mr Jeff Skinner is just amazing- the contents of his course is very appropriate and the energy he brings to a highly interactive session is tremendous. Among the bunch of youngsters there are quite a few really talented people from whom I've learned quite a lot.

Just a few days into the course has brought about a good amount of change in the way I think, both from classroom discussions and late night hostel discussions, making me feel a lot younger!

I'm really glad that I made the effort and spent money in coming all the way to Ghaziabad to attend this programme.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Film Review - Kahaani

What a movie! I'd read rave reviews of the movie and had gone with very high expectations, that too with two friends who'd already seen the movie, threatening to reveal thhe suspense everytime the movie took a turn. Yet I found the movie very thrilling, with very powerful and convincing performances.

Vidya Balan has been fantastic, playing the role of a pregnant woman with keen attention to detail like style of walking, getting tired easily, mannerisms, etc. Other supporting roles- especially that of police officer Rana and intelligence officer Khan - have also been excellent.

In spite of having two friends cracking jokes now and then, the spookiness factor was not lost. Then, like mentioned in two contexts towards the end, a pregnant woman, whom no one sees as harmful, can get to information normal people cannot.

Yet another bonus of the movie is the way Kolkata is captured in a very natural way.

Initially it is difficult to keep connecting the seemingly disconnected incidents, but the dots gets connected at the end.

A very good thriller, in short a must watch. Hats off to Vidya for carrying the entire movie on her shoulder, and hats off to the director for the right casting, including for people with minor roles like the LIC agent cum serial killer.