Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Road To Tokyo: Episode 18

The second wave (seems more like a tsunami) of Covid-19 has created havoc in India. Help for oxygen, hospital beds, medicines are all what the social media is talking about. It has also led to more and more restrictions in terms of movement and supplies. And as a collateral damage it has also severely impacted India’s Olympics preparations and qualifiers. Certainly there is more confusion now about the Games than ever before, especially about the participation and travel. 

Meanwhile on the field, these are the major updates for our Indian contingent since Episode 17. 

New Qualifiers 
  • Sailing: Through the Mussanah Cup, India has qualified in three events. Nethra Kumanan becomes the first Indian female to qualify for Olympics sailing, after earning the Quota in Women’s Laser Radial. KC Ganapathy & Varun Thakkar have qualified for the Mens 49er race. V Sarvanan qualified for the Mens Laser race. 
  • Wrestling: Anshu Malik (Women’s Freestyle 57 KG) & Sonam Malik (Women’s Freestyle 62 KG) have booked their Quota places at the Asian Qualifiers. This is in addition to the four Quota places earned earlier though the World Qualifiers. There is one more World Qualifying event in May to complete the set. India also had a good outing at the Asian Wrestling Championships but given the depleted field these results should not be an indicator of actual form. 
Other Updates 
  • Weightlifting: At the Asian Championships, Mirabai Chanu created a new World Record in Clean & Jerk section. 
  • Archery: At the World Cup stage in Guatemala, the Indian archers secured 3 of the 5 Gold medals in the Olympics events. However, quite a few of the leading teams were missing in action. 
  • Hockey: India had good tour of Argentina and secured 2 wins against the reigning Olympics champions in the Hockey Pro League. But the prevailing Covid situation has led to the postponement of their next European leg. 
  • Gymnastics: Pranati Nayak is in contention for the Continental Quota, although it is yet to be confirmed. 
Covid-19 impact 
  • Judo: The India contingent had to be withdrawn from the Asia-Oceania Qualifiers due to Covid cases in the team. 
  • Athletics: The Indian team could not participate in the World Relay championships due to travel restrictions. 
  • Badminton: The Indian Open which was to be qualifying event for the Olympics has been cancelled leaving just the Malaysian Open & Singapore Open as the final two qualifying events. 
Squad Announcement 
Shooting: India have announced a 15 member squad for the Olympics. There have been 2 Quota changes. Chinki Yadav has been replaced by Elavenil Valerian. Manu Bhaker will take the 25m pistol spot instead of Chinki. Meawhile Elavenil, who is ranked No. 1 in the world replaces Anjum Moudgil in the 10m Air Rifle category. Anjum will participate in the 50m 3 Positions instead. India has 2 entries in both mixed 10m Pistol & Rifle events. Here is the full squad. 

10m air rifle (M): Divyansh Singh Panwar, Deepak Kumar. Reserves: Sandeep Singh, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar. 
50m rifle 3-position (M): Sanjeev Rajput, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar. Reserves: Swapnil Kusale, Chain Singh. 
10m air pistol (M): Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma. Reserves: Shahzar Rizvi, Om Prakash Mitharval. 
Skeet (M): Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan. Reserves: Gurjoat Singh Khangura, Sheeraz Sheikh. 
10m air rifle (W): Apurvi Chandela, Elavenil Valarivan. Reserves: Anjum Moudgil, Shreya Agrawal. 
50m rifle 3-position (W): Anjum Moudgil, Tejaswini Sawant. Reserves: Sunidhi Chauhan, Gaayathri Nithyanandam. 
10m air pistol (W): Manu Bhaker, Yashaswini Singh Deswal. Reserves: P Shri Nivetha, Shweta Singh. 
25m sports pistol (W): Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker. Reserves: Chinki Yadav, Abhidnya Patil. 
10m air rifle (X): Divyansh Singh Panwar, Elavenil Valarivan; Deepak Kumar, Anjum Moudgil. 
10m air pistol (X): Saurabh Chaudhary, Manu Bhaker; Abhishek Verma, Yashaswini Singh Deswal. 

In Other News 
North Korea has pulled out of the Games! What happens to their earned Quotas is still to be decided. And thus improving the medal hopes of some of the Indian contingent. 

Indian Contingent: Sports - 10, Events – 49, Entries - 64, Participants – 90 

Praying for the Covid situation in India to improve fast. Even sports is not able to provide a balm in the current environment.  

Links: 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Road To Tokyo: Episode 17

We are heading closer to the Olympics with crossed fingers that the Games actually happen. Vaccinations have started rolling out in various parts of the world and some have also prioritized their sportspersons in this regard. On the other hand, many parts are facing a second wave and mutant versions of the virus. The various qualifiers are still being rescheduled due to with lockdowns and travel restrictions of varying degree in different regions. With this backdrop, the Olympic Torch relay has resumed, and the Japanese government has decided to ban foreign spectators. A collateral impact of this ban is the reduction in personal entourages of the athletes as only the accredited support staff can be part of the delegations. 

Well, all this is still a bridge too far. Meanwhile a few more Indian sportspersons have qualified for the Games 

Fencing: Bhavani Devi became the 1st ever Indian to qualify for Olympics Fencing. Will be participating in the Individual Sabre event. 

Athletics: M Sreeshankar qualified for the Men's Long Jump event after creating a new National Record in the Federation Cup. Kamalpreet Kaur qualified for the Women's Discus Throw event with a new National Record in the Federation Cup 

Table Tennis: Sathian Gnansekharan & Achanta Sharat Kamal booked spots in the Men’s Singles from the Asian qualifying event. Suthirtha Mukherjee and Manika Batra qualified for the Women’s singles category. Sharath Kamal & Manika Batra upset the Top seeds to win the sole Mixed Doubles Quota at the Asian Qualifying event. 

In other news 
Boxing: The Final World Qualification events have been cancelled and instead the Quotas will be allocated to the top-ranked boxer yet qualify from each continental region. India had already qualified 9 boxers (an all-time high) through last year’s Asian qualification. However, in the other 4 categories, the quotas have gone to other nations. 

Athletics: New National Records for already qualified athletes Neeraj Chopra (Men's Javelin Throw) & Avinash Sable (3,000m steeplechase). Both of them nicely warming up for the Games.

Shooting: At the New Delhi World Cup, the Indian contingent returned a rich haul. Although the field was depleted but it was good to see the shooters strike a rich vein of form in the run-up to the Olympics. Special mention of the Manu Bhaker-Saurabh Chaudhary duo who have now won Gold at their 5th consecutive World Cup! 

Archery: The team has been announced. Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai & Pravin Jadhav who had earned the Quota will be representing in the Men’s team and Individual Events. Deepika Kumari will be representing in the Women’s individual event. India is yet to qualify for the Women’s Team event. 

Indian Contingent: Sports - 9, Events – 42, Entries - 58, Participants – 84 

Links: 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Corona Chronicles – WFH/Office Edition

It has been over a year since that fateful day in March of 2020, when the office issued a “temporary” Work From Home orders. It was extended by a fortnight, then another fortnight and then sine die. Over a year of working from home has been an interesting experience. 

The biggest realization has been that what is referred to as "work" comprises of sending emails, checking calendars, arranging and attending meetings and finally preparing documents (excel, powerpoint, word and then transforming them to pdfs). In short almost wholly dependent on the power of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Teams! 

The commute disappeared (not a bad thing given the Mumbai traffic) but with it also went away the buffer zone between office and home. Earlier we used to get ready for office, travel to office, settle in and start “work”. Now we switch on the laptop, connect the internet and the vpn and then maybe “get ready” while simultaneously cleaning up, preparing meals and entertaining the kid. 

Office attire has changed to Polo T-shirts & pajamas/shorts. As for the usual work clothes – the shoes are gathering dust in the shoe rack, socks have gone into the deepest recesses of the cupboards and the shirts & trousers are lying neatly ironed and folded. All of them wondering if their wearer has vanished altogether! 

And office meetings & calls keep getting interrupted. Because the little one likes to make their presence felt. Meanwhile the office colleagues actually welcome this interruption. 


Meanwhile meetings have developed their own idiosyncrasies. 

One can join multiple meetings simultaneously – one from laptop, one from phone; maybe take another call while being “present” in one meeting. Sometimes “move” from one meeting to the other and find almost the same group present there as well. It has also resulted in meetings mostly starting on time, because you don’t have to physically move. 

Speaking up and making a point and then wondering why no has responded, and realizing you forgot to "unmute" yourself. Then repeating the same point after unmuting (with lesser effect) while the the opportunity has already sailed away. 

Using backgrounds when you switch on the camera and realizing multiple people in the meeting are in the same setting. After all not everyone has the luxury of a well-stocked cupboard filled with photogenic books in the background! 

Multi-tasking in meetings is something we have become adept at – working on another document or reading something else or watching the game on TV or maybe chopping vegetables.  

The golden words oft heard during the past year – “Am I audible?”, “Is my screen visible?”, “I am sorry I was on mute”, “Are you there? You seem to be on mute”. “Can those who are not speaking mute themselves”. See, getting the hang of the mute button is the skill!

Meanwhile the responsibility of the HR team has increased as they have to now organize virtual Fun sessions as well! 

While these are the fun aspects, there are a few on the flip side as well. 

Somehow the meetings have just multiplied. And more meetings leading to more fatigue. The number of visitors to the ophthalmologists would have seen a drastic jump given the increased time spent staring at a screen. 

Then there has been an exponential growth in Webinars (a parallel pandemic in itself). Can’t even give the excuse of having a meeting in another city these days! Attended more conferences and industry meets – without leaving the chair/desk/floor/bed. Yet what we got was just the boring part of the meet – listening to presenters & not the fun part – going somewhere! And all this while still being in the regular day job environment. Overall, making things more tedious. 

Increased hours and disappearing holidays. How to take a leave is becoming a challenge in itself? And there is the lack of informal connects, in the absence of face-to-face interaction it takes more effort to ping/call someone than just corridor talk. 

Then there is that MS Teams ringtone – tun tung tun tung tun tung! Sometimes coming from multiple devices simultaneously. There is simply no escape! 

And finally no coffee and snacks! If you want to have a hot beverage go and prepare it yourself, a process which starts with cleaning the bartan! 

Not for nothing is this being referred to as the “New Normal”. Wondering how it would feel when we return to office and actually see the same people face to face!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

BookMarks #81: Think Straight

Title: Think Straight 
Author: Darius Foroux 
Published: 2017 
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help 

BookMarks 
The book keeps it short providing a mix of ideas on thinking straight, focusing on whats important and touching upon the philosophy of pragmatism. Although the book hardly goes in-depth on any theme there were a few ideas which I liked, . Here are some key takeaways. 

Cogito Ergo Sum - I think therefore I am. Hence thoughts should serve a useful purpose. That’s why it is critical to control your thoughts or rather decide what to think. Certainly not an easy ask, given the way our thoughts have tendency to run all over. But "watching" them and deliberately making yourself focus can be good starting point. Achieving this is not easy but one can always start. 

Getting a clear purpose out of the chaos of thoughts cluttering the mind should be the chief goal. After all, the quality of our thoughts determines our decisions and subsequently our actions. The author suggests to focus on useful thoughts which he has categorized into (a) Thinking about how you can solve problems and (b) Understanding knowledge for improving your life, career, work, relationships, etc.

While not easy, the author has given some actionable points which need to be reinforced.
  • Before making any decision/commitment take time to think. (Very useful in chess.com games where you have a day to make a move)
  • Read & take notes. Also keeping a journal of thoughts and going back to them. After all what is not written is forgotten. 
  • When the learning hits a wall, take a break, recharge and come back to the task.
  • Visualizing ideas before detailing them out.
  • Learning to relax. Something which most of us forget.
  • The choice of "this or that" vs "this and that".
  • Look back, learn and move forward (don't live in the past)
  • At the end of the day, thinking by itself is useless without action. But actions must follow thoughts.
And finally finding inner calm or as Master Shifu would say "inner peace"

Overall an interesting book from which a few ideas resonated well. 

Previously on BookMarks: Biting the Bullet 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

BookMarks #80: Biting The Bullet

Title: Biting The Bullet 
Author: Ajay Raj Sharma 
Published: 2020 
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs, Crime-fighting 

BookMarks 
Biting The Bullet is the narrative of the professional life of retired IPS officer Ajay Raj Sharma. During the course of the book, he tells the stories of his career journey, in different parts of Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and finally to the Border Security Force. The prominent cases from his time are covered in the narrative. 

The highlight of the book is its crisp narration. And the repeated focus on the fact that policing is many a times just a waiting game and not all action (as the many crime shows would have us believe!). 

The book is not an autobiography but more of a narration of major career achievements. 

Overall, an interesting read with insights into actual job of policing the country, a herculean task in itself!

Previously on BookMarks: The Nice Guy Who Finished First 

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The Human RAM

Remember the early days of "Computer Science" teaching in school. Amongst others there was also a list of abbreviations to be remembered. And also differences between things like RAM & ROM. 

RAM - Random Access Memory 

Not sure about computers but human brain certainly work in random fashion. Memories & names just flit in and out for no apparent reason and without any trigger. Something the philosophers and scientists have pondered about since time immemorial. 

Now why this sudden realization? Because suddenly three random unrelated names popped up in my head.  Carl Uwe Steeb, Floris Jan Bovelander and Madhusudan Tantubai. Except being sportspersons of varying ability in different sports, couldn't really link them up. 

Now who are they? 
  • Carl Uwe Steeb (Wikipedia) - German tennis player of the early 90s, who reached a career-high singles rank of 14. 
  • Floris Jan Bovelander (Wikipedia) - Dutch hockey legend known for his penalty corner conversions. Part of Olympics & World Cup winning teams and over 200 international goals. 
  • Madhusudan Tantubai (Cricinfo)- Jharkhand wicket-keeper who replaced Dhoni when he got his first national callup. 
An above average tennis player, a hockey legend and a first-class cricketer. Now I know who the names are but why did they jump out of the subconscious mind into the active one? And in a series at that? I guess the eternal unsolved mysteries of nature and human mind. Truly the human brain sometimes works in the most random fashion, accessing memories buried somewhere in its recesses. 

Funny to recall and write about. And having a quizzard's mindset, surely more such will names will burst out in the future. Certainly made for an interesting rewind. 

All this while there is pile of work waiting to be tackled!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Road To Tokyo: Episode 16

The Covid-19 pandemic still prevails but the world is taking tentative steps to return to normalcy. But it’s a case of two steps forward and one back as with every new outbreak, some new restrictions come in place. However, the vaccines roll-out will certainly be a confidence booster to the organizers. 

Meanwhile, the Olympics qualifiers have resumed although the calendar still keeps getting disrupted. The chances of the Games not being held are still very much there. As one headline read, the Olympics are still on, till they are cancelled! The organizers have released a playbook for athletes which they will keep updating as we come closer to the date. The Olympics torch relay is also being held with onlookers been advised to not cheer! 

Meanwhile, in Indian news, following additional names have qualified 
Athletics: 
  • Sandeep Kumar & Rahul Rohila in Mens 20 km walk taking India to full quota of 3 along with KT Irfan who had qualified earlier. 
  • Priyanka Goswami with a new National record joins Bhawna Jat in Womens 20 Km walk 
So after a hiatus like the Indian contingent, which is back on the qualifying track, so in this Road To Tokyo series! 

Indian Contingent 
Total Count – Sports - 7, Events – 35, Entries - 50, Participants – 77 

Links:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

BookMarks #79: The Nice Guy Who Finished First

Title: A Biography of Rahul Dravid: The Nice Guy Who Finished First 
Author: Devendra Prabhudesai 
Published: 2005 
Genre: Biography, Cricket 

BookMarks 
Once when I had to fill out an overall career goal, I wrote “To Be The Nice Guy Who Finished First”, borrowing the byline of this book. Sailed through that presentation and interview, reaffirming my belief that one can’t go wrong with an apt sports analogy. However, I hadn’t yet read the book. An aberration which has been corrected! 

The Nice Guy Who Finished First is not a conventional biography. It barely tells us anything about the persona of its subject. All we get is a collection of match reports. For the Dravid fans, it’s a good way to re-live the roller-coaster ride that the 90s and the early 2000s were for Indian cricket. But hardly anything else. There are some comments about Dravid from his contemporaries but hardly anything from the man himself. Only the very last chapter which lists the different “schools” of India batsmanship shows some insight. Otherwise it’s like reading a highlights reel of Dravid’s first decade in international cricket with barely a mention of what happened around him. 

Funny thing, the writer chose 2005 as the stopping point of his work. After all the entry of Greg Chappell into the Indian dressing room has to be one of the more interesting phases in Indian cricket history. 

Previously on BookMarks: An Indian Spy in Pakistan 

Monday, February 08, 2021

BookMarks #78: An Indian Spy in Pakistan

Title: An Indian Spy in Pakistan 
Author: Mohanlal Bhaskar; Translated by Jai Ratan 
Published: 1990 
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs 

BookMarks 
The book is an autobiographical narrative of the time spent in Pakistani jails by the author, Mr. Mohanlal Bhaskar. He was an Indian spy who was betrayed by a double agent. He was accused of getting Pakistani nuclear secrets – an accusation which he neither confirms nor denies during his narrative. While behind bars in his tenure in various Pakistani prisons he witnesses historic events – Bhutto’s arrest, Sheikh Mujib’s jail tenure, IAF bombing Mianwali. 

At times,  it is just a tale of torture. I wonder how anyone could survive almost relentless abuse and beatings for years with seemingly no end in sight. And reading this harrowing tale why people are motivated to go in this dangerous line. Yes, they are serving the nation’s interests, but they also know that they will not be publicly acknowledged in case of capture. 

In between the narrative Mr. Bhaskar also presents the socio-political narrative of Pakistan. And it is one bleak picture of a society whose political and military leadership have destroyed it from within. However, the people are different, some kind souls, some rotten to the core and some just doing their duty. Mr. Bhaskar presents an excellent recall of his many conversations with them. This are the bits which humanizes the tale. 

And then there is the last chapter of the story where he talks about the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The extent of bitterness of their meeting is unbelievable. Even the double agent who betrayed him nor his Pakistani torturers are not shown such hatred. In fact, this lends credence to the rumours of why Mr. Desai was conferred with the Nishan-e-Pakistan. 

Overall, an interesting read. However, the book needed a better translator. At times the meaning is lost in translation and there are quite a few typographical errors as well. These are especially irksome at the beginning of the tale. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Leader In You

Sunday, January 03, 2021

BookMarks #77: The Leader In You

Title: The Leader In You: How to Win Friends, Influence People and Succeed in a Changing World 
Author: Dale Carnegie & Associates 
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help 
Published: 1993 

BookMarks 
A self-help book, a category which I generally try to avoid reading. But this one turned out to be interesting. The key reason being the real-life success stories built in the narrative. These are not the big, famous names who have reached stratospheric heights. Rather these are normal, everyday people who you can see around and probably model your behaviour upon. There is no overnight success formula, but behaviours which can be imbibed so it becomes part of your nature. 

Best way to remember anything is to note it down. After all, what is not written fades away. So here are my short pointers from this book. 
  • Keep your mind open to change all the time. It is only by examining and reexamining your opinions and ideas that you can progress. 
  • “Never stop being yourself.” The leadership techniques that will work best for you are the ones you nurture inside. Hence the question “What personal qualities do I possess that can be turned into the qualities of leadership?” 
  • Leaders need to have a keen ability to anticipate change. 
  • Make communication a top priority by being open to other people and creating a receptive environment for communication. Communication is built on trusting relationships. “We are interested in others when they are interested in us” 
  • The only way to get anybody to do anything is by making the other person want to do it. Make people feel respected and important. 
  • Show a genuine interest in people and find out what's important to others 
  • Listening to others is the single best way to learn and people respond to those who will listen to them. 
  • Treat individuals as individuals. 
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Respect dignity for others. Acknowledge that they're human beings who exist outside the work environment. 
  • People work for money but look for recognition. Share Glory but not blame. Be quick to admit mistakes but slow to criticize. 
  • Goals keep efforts focused. Goals must be challenging but also realistic and measurable. Work one day at a time. Try to set daily target for yourself. 
  • Keep time for leisure - balance from work. life doesn't need to be dull or uninteresting. We all need goals and experiences worth looking forward to. 
  • Our life is what our thoughts make it. You are what you think. What matters is how you react to external influences 
  • Don't waste time and energy worrying about the things you cannot control. No problem is worth all the worry in the world. 
  • Genuine enthusiasm is contagious 
These are all little pointers which can be easily implemented. No big trainings/workshops required here. Just constant reinforcement. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Unusual Billionaires