Privilege

It has stuck me that most of the time it is the stories that we choose to tell and/or remember that shapes our views (especially on privilege) , so let me illustrate that with an example …

I am so proud of my dad’s accomplishments, principled life he led and many ways he let me make my own decisions and that is big contributor to who I am today. So bear that in mind as I tell the story of my Dad

  • Born in land owning family (few acres)
  • Grandfather tried to send get all his children educated and only my dad youngest of them all  had any inclination and excelled in education
  • He walked 2 km for middle school and 5km for high school
  • Each year of college my grandfather used to pledge Jewels to pay fees and later redeem after harvest
  • My father went on to become first graduate and post graduate in his side of the family
  • After PUC my  grandfather did not believe he could afford to send his son to college and same thing happened after undergrad (he stormed out every time family soothsayer predicted what was going to happen your son will finish UG, PG, is what I was told!)

What I wrote is 100% true as I recollect from family lore! It has classic self-made person storyline but I failed to highlight two pertinent points below that adds colour to narrative

  • In the same village probably there were 20-60 kids in my father’s age group and maybe 10% of them probably had parents who could feed them 3 days and my dad was one of them
  • He was homeschooled until 5th grade in Telugu medium and switched to Tamil medium in middle school (which is remarkable but think of privilege he enjoyed)

I could continue to slightly embellish my father’s story a bit or acknowledge reality and be grateful. Though we were landowning community, My dad side of family was   relatively  not well-off  financially and he was respected as self-made person by lots of relatives when I was growing up. So my father overcame lots  of adversity it does not diminish his accomplishments if I point out enormous advantages he had.

When we were growing up our mother is her own small way reminded us to be grateful for food and shelter we had and how so many people struggle for square meal and it is my belief that this really shaped my thinking from early age and  made me think more about have-nots  than what we did not have. Even though my father was bank manager when I was growing-up, we had our challenges and umpteen times I was upset about our financial situation but did not lose sight of the fact that I had lots of advantages. But as I went to college and started becoming exposed to more diverse set of people, this awareness has enabled me question the world around me and made me evolve continuously and appreciate “privilege” . The older I grow I have come across bunch of people who have this “Ayn Rand mind-set” notion of self-made person , that they are totally oblivious about lottery of birth .  I have seen people being raised in the same household develop a different meaning for privilege, so I never get surprised by persons view on things.

As read somewhere I want a world where there is “equality of opportunity, not necessarily equality of outcomes”, my views are unabashedly liberal/progressive  so I support reservation even though it is not perfect system ( humans can imagine perfect system but can never implement one!). I believe government should provide a helping hand to the needy (sure not deserving ones will grab some) and it is ok for well-off to be taxed but I am also pretty sure there are areas where I would like Government to not to get into and let private enterprise flourish etc.

This has been difficult one to write,  tried to re-frame my thoughts (multiple times) and condense  my 30 years of evolution on this topic into a blog post and my hope is this helps others reflect about what is their definition of privilege. this is my expression of gratitude for privileged life I continue to live …

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Matching to your own beat – I

Somehow at very early age when I was about 17 I figured it did not matter what others thought about  me, I had be comfortable in what I am and what I do.  As Yogi Bera would say “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”  I have often taken decisions based on available information and never regretted the outcome. This one of early instances of me doing something not conventional.

Somewhere after I finished my matric and was in my eleventh Std (I took one peek into IIT JEE preparation effort and said not my cup of tea!), I came to conclusion that BE Comp. in TN Engineering college was not really good and B.Sc. (Comp. Sc) was better course to pursue if I wanted to become computer engineer. I told my father this was my thought and he basically said ok figure out what you want to do (one of the many  times he gave me the freedom pursue what I wanted to do).  When I started telling this to my classmates most of them where like ” are you kidding” behind my back there was snide remarks he trying to pull a fast one (aka pump fake), the thinking was  “why would someone who scored really high (MPC was around 90) in Matric not want to pursue engineering?”.  Anyhow based on my Matric performance, I had gotten overconfident (believed in Kool-aid that it was easy peasy to do state board 12th) was clearly struggling to catch-up my favorite subjects Math and Chemistry  and scored below par MPC score of 75.

The more I did some research On B.Sc. (Comp. Sc) and found only one college in Madras University – New College offered Comp Sc.  and it would be difficult to land a seat.  My father did some checking around (New college conveniently had IOB branch), so we learnt in April time frame it would cost about 25,000 to land a seat, I said firm No as that was ridiculous amount of money to pay (college semester fees was like 1000s) and probably my dad would had to stretch a lot to pay it.  So like any city kid in 80s, I religiously collected application forms and had applied to most city colleges and got admit card from Loyola B.sc Physics and Vivekanda B.Sc. Math , around that time I saw few weeks old advertisement for B.Sc. (Comp. Sc) from St Joseph’s Trichy and told my father about it.

Immediately my father called-up (oh yeah we were privileged to have phone in our home ) my mom’s second cousin -a Surgeon  in Trichy and asked for help to procure application . Few days later life had bad twist my father suffered his first heart attack and was hospitalized.  It so happened that my uncle in Trichy called to say he has been able to secure a seat but in evening college in Bishop Heber College. At that time my Mom’s first cousin and close buddy of my father just called me (my recollection is this happened in the Best Hospital lobby) and  said go to Trichy pay fees for this course. I was happy landing B.Sc. (Comp. Sc) but really torn about about not going to college in Madras. Anyhow with my father hospitalized I just took a bus to Trichy and went to uncle’s house and was given an application form to fill (yep got admission without applying after admissions process was over) and go pay fees and Viola moved to centre of Tamil Nadu.

Overnight transformed from quintessential backbencher (students who do not ask questions nor volunteer answers in class, but also as tall student was seated in literally last row in school) to front row kid  ( Bishop seated students by roll number, so I was assigned seat in first row and ended-up organizing club events, so got over my stage fright etc).  It was probably one  of the best decisions that was made for me, coming to Trichy opened my eyes and made me realize my privileged background and had so many advantages in life. It grounded me in reality and made some great friends.

Upon reflection years later, this was one of the first instance of life teaching me -“that however improbable the goal might be if you put your heart into it you might ZigZag along the way but inevitable land in the neighbourhood of  the goal”.

In June 2018, we had small reunion of batch mates and as usual in a new place (not my bedroom) I woke-up @4:30am and started thinking about how I landed in Trichy then fired-up my laptop and wrote a draft of this post, required another hour to make this publish worthy. Interestingly I have struggled to recollect lots of precise details but this what I remember about what happened 30 years ago!

SathyaBishop

IPL Playoff

IPL as league (for that matter all T20 leagues) are very short-term in nature, players are contracted for season, so unlike professional soccer or American sports league (NFL,NBA,MLB,NHL) played over a longer duration.

Certain peculiarities of the league

  • not all players are available for entire season – which makes it harder to actually consistency is  team strategy over the years.
  • most of the time injury means end of season for players
  • travel by commercial airline makes it very tough
  • played in peak summer in India

Given all of this teams generally have very little prep time for the season and teams that make use of best resources are generally likely to succeed.

The table below summaries performance of various teams over the years.

  • CSK has perfect record of making playoff every year, which is reason why is #1 reason it has become most hated opponent.
  • Next best is MI which has made playoff 63% of time
  • One team has never made the finals
Years Playoffs Final Winner
CSK 9 9 7 3
DD 11 3 0 0
KKR 11 6 2 2
KXIP 11 2 1 0
MI 11 7 4 3
RCB 11 4 3 0
RR 9 3 1 1
SRH 6 3 2 1
DC 5 2 1 1
PWI 3 0 0 0
RPS 2 1 1 0
GL 2 1 0 0
KTK 1 0 0 0

Playoffs matches played for winners & runner-up

  • Since play-off has been introduced here is look at winners and runner-up (number of play-off matches played)
Year Matches Winner Matches Loser
2008 RR CSK
2009 DC RCB
2010 CSK MI
2011 2 CSK 3 RCB
2012 2 KKR 3 CSK – Eliminator
2013 3 MI 2 CSK
2014 2 KKR 3 KXIP
2015 2 MI 3 CSK
2016 3 SRH – Eliminator 2 RCB
2017 3 MI 2 RPS
2018 2 CSK 3 SRH

Finals Analysis

  • Best route to Championship Finish #1 or #2 and win the first qualifier
    • only 3 teams have become champions playing 3 matches in playoff (MI-2013, SRH – 2016 & MI – 2017)
    • only one team won after not finishing #1 or #2 during the league stages (SRH)
  • RCB  has worst strike rate in finals, having lost all three times
  • CSK
    • having made 7 finals have the distinction of most wins and most loses in finals!
    • made finals for 4 years in a row 2010,2011,2012,2013
  • Mumbai
    • won in 2013,2015,2017
    • made finals back to back in 2011 and 2012
    •  championship in 2015 and 2017 but failed to make playoffs the following year
  • Among champions KKR & RR are yet to lose in finals
  • Hyderabad teams win championship if they finish 4th in League stages (DC & SRH)!

Quantified self – 2017

As anyone who has known me for few years, I am big fitbit fan and thought I will share some statics about 2017. As I had posted in FB I purchased Fitbit Charge HR2 about year back and this definitely ranks as better one.

Here is the three years of 3 key statistics from fitbit dashboard (steps, hours of sleep and weight)

3yearStatistics

I record weight in withings wifi  weighing machine and wear my fitbit close to 24hrs each day! Sleep statistics is slightly misleading as fitbit on average discounts about 45 minutes of sleep as disturbed sleep.

After using fitbit for 6 plus years, i have finally hit a big milestone, average 10K steps/day for year! Also this was possible because I hit weekly goal of 70K steps a record 34 weeks. This meant literally walking few hours on Sat/Sun to make sure I round out.

Still my  best period was in 2012, where I went stretch of  23 consecutive weeks at 70K steps per week (Jul to Dec 2012).

steps2012

I am currently on 17 week stretch, hope to beat my previous consecutive weeks stretch.  Just in case you are curious, here is wiki link on Quantified self

Lost and Found

This happened couple of weeks back, I lost my wallet during my bus commute and retrieved in the next 5 minutes in  near filmi fashion.

I was seated in second row right before front door and purchased ticket and stuffed my wallet into my left trouser pocket with some effort – I was squeezed in my seat and I got to my stop (Dhandeeswaram) and got down and had taken about good 25-40 steps I instinctively checked my trouser pocket and realized I had missed my wallet, I tried to run back to see if bus was near by but it was not visible in the narrow roads. I quickly got into an Auto requested the driver to head-out in the direction of bus. The auto driver drove crazily and luckily for me Gandhi road intersection was congested like another day and we caught with my bus and I got into bus and the person who was sitting next to me, was still there and he joined me in searching and he located the wallet after some searching and I triumphantly got back in Auto for ride home! I paid Auto driver handily that he was happy!

As I was walked-up to my apartment door, I was relieved about not loosing my driving license as I just had one of my friends live thru the horror trying to get a lost drivers license replaced – could you believe replacing drivers license is 10X harder than replacing passport!

One thing that kind of stuck with me is how I deal with losing something – I actually get past almost any loss very quickly because I ask a basic question “What can I change now to recover from the loss, almost 100% of the time answers is nothing, so you figure out a way to over come the sour taste quickly and move on!”. I often have wondered why and how I have developed  this ability  overcome loss- I think mostly it how my parents dealt with me when I lost things when I was young they rarely scolded me or made me feel miserable but always told me importance of taking care of things. It is also key part of my resilience, I am never intimidated by any set-up at work or in life  my analysis is mainly because I do not brood over loss/set back and I almost always look forward – it is freaking easy to do this if one has a charmed life like me, so I am not trying to trivialize other people’s struggles.

This is used to be one of the annoying things in early part of our marriage – I would loose things and get over them by time I wake-up and it was initially hard on my wife and it will sometimes  takes week for her to get over losing something!

 

Pitchaikaran and whys of giving …

It is not often that you watch a movie and  basically change  some belief system  you have held-on for close to 30 years.

Just a couple of days before I watched the movie,  I and close friend of mine were having one of those lengthy never ending late evening conversations. I had watched him carefully take out 30 rupees for bus fare from his wallet and put it in his front pocket before we walked-up to the gate. As we were in a animated conversation, there was reasonably old lady who walked-up and asked from some alms and my friend did not think and he basically reached to his pocket and gave away one currency note, basically no judgement or even to look if the person was in need or something, he just gave. After we finished the conversation some 45 minutes later and I was walking away, I was stuck by his act and was contrasting with what I do and  I was thinking maybe I need to re-think my 30 year old resolution of not giving any one begging money. As 18 year old I was struggling to kind of figure out who to help when people approach me and it was always hard to know whether they deserved it or not and I hated to be cheated by someone  And also to me with my young idealistic Libertarian  streak it seemed logical that though there were people who were indeed, begging did not seem the right thing and I giving money might not make much of a difference so I made the decision to not give folks money period no ifs and buts. Somehow I have just hung-on to that ideal and never revisited it. There were situations when my mom would ask me to give money to someone and I would give (my philosophy has always been – “It is perfect to live by my ideals but I have no freaking right to  tell anyone but especially my parents what ideals they should have”).

I had not read detailed review of the movie and had no clue about the plot-line and so as I watched the movie and thought on the topic few days back was fresh and it became clear to me I had to change my ideal for  it is very hard to figure out person in need but even if I can help 1 in 10 person or 1 in 25 person then I should be doing my bit. I may not give to everyone that asks me for money but I am going to help as many as I can.  So I have started training myself to just help people without judging about their needs and I have started to give money when people ask me …

Now let us get along to my review of the movie!! Movie’s basic premise is “we all will almost to do anything if we know our beloved ones life can be saved by our acts”. Movie shows those begging on the streets and other marginalized people as human beings and how they lead life in realistic manner but without making them caricatures. There were multiple hilarious sub-plots that are well executed and logical – Traffic cop, radio show call-in advice,  The movie as such maintains momentum and tight script helps keep movie moving along nicely. Even the way director kind of paused right before the anticipated climax and gives a brief interlude , which  kind justifies his cinematic reason for miracle at the end.

I think it is probably not surprising for folks who know me that I have stubbornness and ability to stick to something for ever but at the same time I am willing to change and evolve with ease.

irudhi suttru – state of sports in India

What prompts me to write a movie review ? – generally either something really touched me or I am spending a lot of time thinking about a movie after I have watched it.I do not review technical aspects of a movie as  Movie making mechanics is not something I have tried to learn about  but it is incredibly hard thing to do is something I appreciate. To me often movie is snapshot of happening in society  around us at this moment in time –  filtered thru directors life experiences and what and how he/she chooses to present them in less than 3 hours.

First the review, Movie Irudhi Suttru was very crisp,  and made its key point very clear “In country that does incredibly poor in International events, we have raw talent that is sometimes not discovered, not nurtured even worse stopped from attaining great heights”. It depicts lives of folks living on the margins while maintaining a cosmopolitan touch to the movie. It shows inner working of sport governing body without dwelling too much on theatrics. A woman director handling sexual exploitation of young athletes without giving it more than the necessary screen space  was refreshing (if anyone thinks this is limited to developing countries read this long form on Swimming coaches in US). It depicts the ego of fading star who feels he does not have to bow but ultimate the system humbles him until he is vindicated. Sports body head show in this movie is not fictional – > 70% of sports associations are run like this is a fact we need to freaking bow our head in shame (there are lots of well meaning but less capable folks like Nazer character or even coaches and official who do not hesitate to spend their own money who sustain in sport in India, not demeaning them)

After having lived in US, one thing that has always resonated with me is that you can make professional career in lots of sports even after your active playing career ends and the system has openings at various levels from school to college to development league to pro-league, that is big contributing factor (+economic might) for US to excel in lots of sports. While the earning potential of men and women is still very lopsided at least men can make a career focusing on Sports. I have always wanted this(sports being professionalized) to develop in India, this movie has made me thinking about what will make sports more mainstream in Indian middle class psyche, so here are my thoughts. One could argue Public sector  and private sector sports quota did provide some help, while they helped it is not same as sports persons making a career in sports.

So I was very happy when IPL (a professional domestic sports league) happened but cricket (men) was successful even before and even if you performed at state level you could make a decent living. For the past 20 years cricket stars from Urban centers are trainied systematically and they produce >80% of  Cricket stars ( we seem to stumble on fast bowlers from hinterland – Munaf , Praveen, shami ). IPL was squandered opportunity make cricket structure more professional and created a crony capitalism in Cricket. But IPL  success has create whole bunch of leagues but these are not building any echo systems just cashing on popularity of existing stars and these are narrowly focused on couple of months in a year but still these organizing bodies are controlled  by same old vested interests that stifles talent than enables them.

I have stared playing recreational badminton about a year back and observing some interesting development. First some recollection of Badminton in India early  recollection from my childhood when Prakash won all England (1980) it was great deal and he started an academy in 1994 because he mostly practiced in Marriage near where lived and wanted to create facilities he enjoyed in Denmark in India as there was only one decent facility in North – Lucknow was other badminton powerhouse in India.  Next big jump was Gopichand winning All England (2001)  (he got to refine his talents in Padukone academy and so Gopi started this academy goodwill of  CBN in Hyderabad. In the past 15 years these and other academy has started throwing a stream of budding talent Saina, Srinath, Sidhu etc which kind of creating ripples in sport dominated by fellow asian and couple of Scandinavian countries.

An interesting phenomenon is people who used to play in open courts in public parks have migrated to playing in Indoor stadium and number of these facility in South Chennai unbelievable (I need to check but I am pretty sure Bangalore & Hyderabad have similar facility). Lots of folks in all ages are playing the sport with reasonably good facility, which means children have more facility to play at and parents are more likely to persists with training regime for kids  giving longer shot at talents to surface and reach their full potential. I personally think Badminton has reached a tipping point and we going to keep producing a stream of young talent that is going to keep winning in international level.

This movie made me think this is way forward for other sports in India, we can learn from proliferation of Badminton  and replicate in other sports. We need to move away from Government run facilities for sports to excellence-in.