Category Archives: Blog-o-Rendezvous
About NAKUL SHENOY
NAKUL SHENOY is “The Mind Reader” – a leading corporate speaker and entertainer based in Bangalore (India). An expert in Persuasion, Influence, & People Behaviour, this wonder-worker travels the world addressing elite audiences drawn from top corporates.
Globally acclaimed for his unique, high-impact presentations, Nakul has performed at venues in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, UK and the USA over the last two decades. He holds the unique distinction of presenting seven TEDx Talks in addition to numerous super-successful sessions at premier conferences & events.
A Master of Science in Communication with two gold medals from MIC (Manipal), he is the only Indian to be awarded memberships to the Psychic Entertainers Association (USA), the British Society of Psychic Entertainers (UK), and The Magic Circle (London), and is a Wizards Award member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (USA).
A speaker of choice at Fortune 100 and other premier corporate events, Nakul has worked his magic at coveted events of Apple, Bosch, Cisco, Dell, Ford, GE, HP, HSBC, IBM, Infosys, ING, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Oracle, Samsung, SAP, TCS, and Wipro, to name a few.
With over a decade’s experience (and multiple patents to his name) in Usability Research and User Experience Design, Nakul is a co-founder of PeepalDesign – a premier usability research and design firm. Among his various creations are the thought-provoking “Thinking Kit” and his first book “The Smart Course in Magic” which he recently completed writing.
I first met Nakul several months back at a corporate event. He did a “Mind-Reading performance” on the stage and I was one of his “on-stage audience volunteers” (I guess that’s what you’d call random people picked up from an audience and put on-stage). As the session progressed, I was the first to exit the stage . He said “I was a complete give-away on stage, and it was so easy to read my body language”
After the event, we got talking and he handed me his visiting card. All it said was “Nakul Shenoy – The Mind Reader” and that fascinated me a great deal. I mean someone with an official designation of “Mind Reader” – The first I’d met in my life!
After the small chat and general talk, we said our Good-Byes. However, the word “Mind Reader” continued to linger in my thoughts. So I read about his work, did a little research about magic and “Mind Reading” and found it to be a fascinating world of its own.
Along the way, Nakul and I continued to stay in touch – Off and on. And then I thought “Why not learn more from Nakul himself?”.
So I sent him a request on whether he’d like to feature in the Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.
Gladly for me, he said “YES”
In this rendezvous, we discuss the world of magic, mind-reading and Nakul’s foray into this world of magic.
So, let’s go on a magical rendezvous
Nischala: Nakul – Thank you so much for your time.
Nakul: It’s my pleasure! Thank you for being interested in my work.
Nischala: Let’s start from the beginning. MAGIC as a word is something which is of interest to everyone – especially in childhood. As kids, we all believe that there is magic in the world around. Somehow as we grow, the “magic” just dies. So how did you manage to keep “Magic” in your life or rather make “Magic” a part of your life?
Nakul: I have always been fascinated by magic. Whether it was a Mandrake the Magician, Enid Blyton’s magic carpets, random books starring magic, or even the occult – they all interest me.
I must have been five, when I came across “Mandrake the Magician” – I loved the fact that Mandrake could make the most amazing magic happen with just a wave of his hand! “Mandrake gestures hypnotically” captured by imagination, and right from that moment, I have wanted to be Mandrake.
I guess somewhere I did not quite grow out of that childhood dream, and so I became a magician. And I continue to try to live up to my dream of being a real-life Mandrake.
Nischala: So how did your journey into the world of magic come to be?
Nakul: Since I was so very interested in Magic and always play-acting as a magician, my dad got me a children’s magic kit and that began my journey in magic. As the years passed, I continued to learn from various books and practice magic. Yet I was too scared to perform in front of strangers.
In 1994, Udupi – where I am from – hosted an all-India magic convention. I was too shy to call and enquire about what the event was about or how to participate in it. I thought you needed some special qualifications or be a performing magician to attend the convention. So all I did was attend the public performances every evening. And I really enjoyed those performances!
A couple of weeks later, the event organizers of that conference along with Prof Shankar and Junior Shankar visited our shop and my uncle mentioned that I was keenly interested in magic. Looking back, that moment changed my life.
A few days later, Prof Shankar and Junior Shankar visited my home as promised to see me perform a magic show for them. There I was in the drawing room of our house, performing the first (and possibly worst) show of my life to two world famous magicians! They then gave me encouraging feedback, advice of the routine in a show, and other valuable tips and left.
Much to my surprise, in a few weeks they recommended my name for a public performance at a local temple for a Ganesha Chaturdashi event – and that’s how I got my first public on-stage magic show.
Before this my “performances” where restricted to the four walls and to the exclusive eyes of friends and family. I was too scared to go on a stage or perform for a real audience! Yet when I went on stage that day – at the age of 15 – to perform magic to an audience of about 500 people, I was transported to a different world. That feeling was magical and clearly set me up to the realization that “I want to do MAGIC”! Luckily for me, my first stage performance was a grand success – And there’s been no looking back since then!
During my college days, I continued to perform magic and hone my skills. We had a team – primarily my friends – eight people and we started doing bigger magic shows (for festivals, parties, events, etc.). But as my shows grew, so did my props, we now needed a van to transport all our equipment for each show – as I felt that audiences wanted to see people being vanished, produced, cut-in-half!
It was about ten years since had started performing magic, that I began to get disillusioned with the bags and baggage I needed to perform my magic. My mind and heart kept asking me “Mandrake does not use props. He has no trucks with magical equipment’s, then why do you?“
Fortunately it was around this time that I came across the field of “psychological entertainment” or “Mentalism” as it is known ; and began researching more about this subject – a genre of magic that deals with the seeming powers of the mind. And so my journey into Mind Reading began and the urge to be Mandrake continues.
Nischala: That’s an interesting journey. So you call yourself a corporate entertainer – So what does corporate entertainment include – Mind Reading? Magic Shows? What else?
Nakul: A lot of people think and believe magic is for kids. But that’s not true! And as a performer, I’ve realized that magic is enjoyed more by adults. It transports them to a magical land; and they are happy in this land of make-believe.
In 1999-2000, after my masters I shifted to Bangalore for an IT job, and it exposed me to a different kind of environment, audience and possibilities. Plus I knew that I could do things very differently from everybody else!
So I thought “Why not Magical Entertainment for adults?”. During that time I was only doing some select private engagements. For e.g., I did many shows for the IAF (Indian Air Force) and the Air Marshall turned into a big fan of my presentations. The foreign military officers who were the guests loved it. I realized this had potential; and a wider audience could be interested in it.
About 10 years back I started working on my first show called “Beyond Magic” which applied the principles of human psychology, body language, hypnosis, magic, etc. – to give a performance which seemingly works on the “Powers of the Human Mind”.
That is when I began doing exclusive shows for Corporates – for their various events, be it employees, partners, clients – and began calling myself a Corporate Entertainer. My focus is always on entertaining the audience – and so each shows is customized with the audience in mind.
I transform into “The Mind Reader” by combining all my skills, be it persuasion, influence, hypnosis, magic, body language, memory… all of which deal with the “Human Mind” – I am trying to be a Mandrake, at least on stage!
Nischala: That ONE audience response / feedback that was most memorable?
Nakul: Well, there are two moments which stand out in memory.
The first was when I was called in to give a show at Wipro to the senior leadership team, i.e., the Chairman (Mr Azim Premji) and all his direct reports. It was a small gathering, and I was informed that there is a possibility the Mr Premji would not stay to see my whole show as he had other commitments, and hence I should be prepared for this. I said, sure. Yet, after I started performing I observed that Mr. Premji was enjoying himself thoroughly and that made me really happy. Towards the end, I conjured the courage to ask him if he would be willing to be a part of one of my acts. And again, he gladly agreed and did participate. So in the end, the event was an outstanding success & I was happy to be given the opportunity to be able to perform in-front of Mr. Premji himself; and also proud that he enjoyed the show and sat through the entire performance. Also, after the show he spoke to me and mentioned that he enjoyed the performance. So that is special and will always be memorable.
The second was when I was called to perform at IIT Mumbai for a Pan-IIT event in 2006. I was supposed to go on-stage at 7 PM, but the show was running late and I finally got to go on stage at 11 PM. Now the other little detail was that just before I went on stage, there was a performance by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sivamani and Louis Banks. They had a full auditorium with a roaring crowd, and received a standing ovation at the end. “The performer ego” in me, I guess told me that I had to get a standing ovation too . And I’m happy to share that the show went really well, and when I finished – at 11:40 PM – I got my standing ovation too! So that was very special, and on very different terms from the first experience.
Nischala: So, what has been your most “magical moment” as a magician?
Nakul: Magical moments there are too many to list. Watching David Copperfield perform live was one, watching the performances and spending time with some of my idols in Magic especially Mac King and Max Maven is another. Meeting Uri Geller and then spending time with James Randi all in a matter of two weeks is really special too.
Everything I do, I relate back to magic. If not for learning magic, I would not have led this life that I am leading. I have met some wonderful people and made good friends across the globe, only because I am a magician. So today, clearly magic is life and life is magic.
As a magician, the one magical moment was performing at The Magic Circle in London, the most prestigious magic club in the world, and being offered membership right after that performance. That is special, because in many ways it was special for my country too.
Nischala : OK. Moving on, your site and work speaks about the word “influence”. So how can a magician / mind-reader influence anyone – be it a CEO or a celebrity or an ordinary soul like me ?
Nakul: “Influence” to me is really about influencing “human choices”. There are a lot of factors which go into how human-beings make choices for anything in life; and it is amazing how one can influence these choices. In each situation we think that our choice was our own and thus a free choice, yet the learning’s from behavioral psychology make it clear that we are influenced by the context, the surroundings – in fact everything around.
Using these learning’s to influence choices and persuade individuals towards changing decisions interests me a lot. Whether it is making people call out colors that I want them to or influencing their choices of playing cards or random numbers – it is fun, and a great learning too.
If I asked you to imagine a color, you may think black, or even white. But if I could make you think of blue without seemingly doing anything… Now that fascinates me. I guess that is the “communication scientist” in me trying to understand just how far you can push the envelope.
Nischala: OK. Another Question. Have you been formally trained in Magic?
Nakul: No. I learnt hypnosis by attending a workshop by Pradeep Aggarwal at age 17. Magic per se I am largely self-taught. When I began it was essentially from reading a lot of books on magic. And I continue to read and build my repertoire from books and other magical literature. I have an amazing collection of books, and it continues to grow.
I have also had the good fortune to have good friends in magic right from when I began performing. Friends like Prahlad Acharya, who is among the best magicians India has produced; he continues to be my sounding board as I work on developing any new idea.
Having said that, over the last six years I have had the occasion to receive personal training from some of the most brilliant minds in magic. And that comes at the right moment when I am vying to make my magic better and best.
I am fortunate to count many of the top performers and magical thinkers as friends and well- wishers, and consider myself most lucky to have learnt the nuances of the craft from some of the stalwarts of our field. This includes my guru Bob Cassidy whose work in this genre – of psychic entertainment – I deeply admire, and whose theories and ideas influence most of my work.
Nischala: Your profile says that you read a lot and you also mentioned during the course of our conversation that you have an amazing collection of Magic Books. So what is your favourite book on Magic? And otherwise?
Nakul: Yes! And not just Magic, I have an amazing collection of books on almost every topic of interest.
Books remain the first love of my life. I would not have been a magician if not for books – be it Mandrake, much of Enid Blyton, or even the books on magic themselves. I don’t read as much as I would like to, is how I always like to see it. I read anything and everything, although nowadays it is mostly non-fiction and behavioral topics.
I have always been a big fan of occult and magic related writings, communication theory, psychology, polity, war and propaganda, Wodehouse, Perry Mason, you name it… The joke at home is that everybody wishes they were treated as special as my books – for then they would at least get their own room!
Favorite book is always the most difficult question to answer. One of my all-time favorites is Illusions by Richard Bach, and if you are interested in learning magic you should definitely pick up a Henry Hay book.
Nischala: I also see that you have co-founded PeepalDesign – which is a usability Research and Design lab? So are you actively involved here? And are there synergies between magic, mind-reading, research and design?
Nakul: Well, I am one of the three co-founders at PeepalDesign and handle the Usability Research side of things. Given I have over 10 years of work experience in this area, and also that people per se fascinate me a great deal – I love the research work. It is a phenomenal learning experience to see and observe users in a lab set-up. And every new research project gives me valuable insights into human behavior, which again enables me to refine my on-stage performance and shows.
Nischala: I also see that you travel abroad for shows and events. So are there a global communities / associations for magicians?
Nakul: There are a lot of magic communities and a couple of prestigious clubs for psychic entertainers too. I am a member of some of these including, the Psychic Entertainers Association (USA), British Society of Psychic Entertainers (UK), and The Magic Circle (London). Incidentally, I happen to be the only one from India to hold memberships to all three prestigious associations.
The primary focus of these associations is to enable the members to exchange ideas and learn from each other, and also conduct periodic meetings and conventions. The conventions allow a lot of us from around the world to meet and perform together under one roof. The audience gains a lot as they get to see the best talent together on one stage. It is also good for the performers as we get to perform in a different country and in front of a diverse audience.
These communities / associations also have online forums for members to share thoughts, ideas and exchanging experiences based on what worked or what did not work. The other useful insight that we all share is the cultural space / context which influences the actual performance. This is very important especially in our area of work which draws a lot from behavioral psychology and cultural contexts, as what may work for an audience in the US or London may not necessarily work in India.
In some instances like-minded performers come together to perform joint shows too. For e.g: Four of my friends in Australia teamed up and did a series of stage shows. So it is definitely invaluable to be part of these communities / associations.
Nischala: OK, Moving on. Do you personally see any role and impact of Social Media in your line of work?
Nakul: Well, definitely Yes! Social media has helped in many ways. I used to be an active blogger in early 2000, but nowadays it is only occasional blogging. Twitter is now my preferred channel of communication. It is an outlet for my thoughts, ideas and activism. Even a place for me to engage in theoretical discussions.
And in terms of helping “Nakul Shenoy – The Mind Reader” it has definitely helped to creating more awareness about my work, and about me as a performer. Best of all, people know you as a person, and that helps a lot in personal networking, brand building. It also helps me get engagements, be it events / shows.
Nischala: Anything else you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Nakul: Not really. You have not allowed me to leave anything unsaid! So great work on your part. If your readers come back with a lot of questions, you can always direct the top three of those back to me. I would be most happy to answer them.
Nischala: Thanks so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure
Nakul: Thank you! The pleasure was mine too.
How did you like this Rendezvous? Did it spark some magic in you?
In 2012, I did a special series on my blog called Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous . When I conceptualized this Series, the idea was primarily to connect, learn and be inspired from the lives of others. So for the past year (2012), I have had the good fortune to connect with some amazing individuals from across the globe, get insights into their worlds, learn a little about their journey of life and of course, gain perspectives on diverse subjects. Not to mention that every one of them taught me several important lessons of life which I will remember for a long time. And then of course, some of them have become good friends today, and we have forged a special bond which hopefully will strengthen with time.
Today (In Dec 2012), I can’t help and look back at this journey, and the key lessons from this journey. Sharing it in a blog post as I think these have helped me grow in my journey as a person, as a writer and of course LIFE!
At the outset, I’d like to say Thank You to all the stars who I featured in this series – A BIG Thank You to Jessie Paul, Abhijit Bhaduri, Meeta Gangrade, Nupur Basu, Lisa Petrilli, Aishwarya Suresh, Danny Iny, Bruce Sallan, Angela Maiers, Preeti Shenoy, Dr Renuka, Prof. D.V.R. Seshadri, Dr Smitha Radhakrishnan, Sriram Srinivasan, Dr Bindu Hari and Ratan Jalan
Next I’d like to Thank all the readers of this blog – Thank you for taking the time to read, share and comment on my writings! You are the reason I publish on this blog!
LESSON 1 : From IDEA to EXECTION – Shorter the BETTER
When I came up with the idea to do this series on my blog, I personally was excited with the concept. But I also had several apprehensions and questions in my mind – Will I be get interesting people to feature on the blog? Will I be able to give it the time it requires? (Trust me! Every single interview takes significant time and effort, and time is premium for a mother with a full time corporate job!). Will I be able to keep the momentum right through the year? Will anyone read these posts? Will people like these?, etc. etc.
Had I pondered too long to get satisfactory answers to all these questions, the series would never have come alive. So here’s what I did – I just decided to plunge into execution! And the first thing was to publish this post of my blog stating that I would do a series called Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous. Then I went about identifying a list of 10 people whom I could feature on this blog (I knew them directly / indirectly). Next, I sent them a formal request asking if they’d be keen on this. Honestly, I did a math of a 30% response ratio (i.e., About 3 people will respond) and a 10% acceptance ration (i.e., 1 person out of 10 will agree to do this interview). I needed to start somewhere and hence publishing the first rendezvous was the key (Special Thanks to Jessie Paul for being my very FIRST STAR). Surprisingly, I got a response ratio of 90% (i.e, 9 people responded) and a 70% acceptance ratio (i.e., 7 people agreed to do the interview). Wow! This was awesome!
So coming back to the lesson : When an idea strikes you , it is good to think before you execute it. And the sooner you start execution the better! Worst case, you will make some mistakes. Its better to learn from the mistakes than to not execute at all. Usually, thinking too much and for too long is a recipe for procrastination or not starting at all!
LESSON 2 : If you want, ASK
Along the year, I wanted to feature several interesting high-profile successful individuals / achievers from across the globe. So I created a list of people whom I’d like to feature in this series. Some of them where people I knew personally, but many of them I really did not know (And I guess they did not know me either). So I wondered if they would even read my mails if I sent them a request; and more importantly if they would be gracious enough to accept my request.
Surpringly, all I had to do was ASK. And most of them were happy to speak with me.
So coming back to the lesson : If you want something, ASK for it! Worst case, people will say NO! Accept it and Move On! (By the law of averages, there will always be some YES and some NO for everything in life). But if they say YES, you never know what exciting stuff will come your way!
LESSON 3 : TRY something NEW every ONCE in a WHILE
Every once in a while it is so important to try and do something new. You learn, discover, comprehend, appreciate and internalize - about the world around you, about people and about yourself! So doing something which you’ve not done before (I’ve never done any interviews in my life before! The closest I’ve got is to reading them . Something which shows you different flavors and perspectives of life and the world (Speaking with people from other worlds makes you acknowledge appreciate and comprehend similarities and differences in people, cultures, life, society, systems, outlooks, opinions) . Something which connects you to real people (I’m guilty myself of being a “digital / virtual being” for many years of my life). Something which pushes you out of your comfort zone (I’ve never really been comfortable talking to people I don’t really know, let alone talking meaningful things)…
So coming back to the lesson : Trying something new can be a transformational life experience. There is pleasure and pain in it, there is learning and unlearning in it, there is discovery and joy in it, there is surprise and fun in it.. So it is definitely worth a try – every once in a while
LESSON 4 : The WORLD is filled with many GENUINELY NICE PEOPLE
Yes! This series makes me believe that the world is filled with very many GENUINELY NICE PEOPLE. People who care, people who are willing to share, people who love, people who inspire, people who lead by example, people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world – And personally that makes me happy, positive and hopeful about a better tomorrow, a better future, a better world in times to come (In spite of all the not so nice things I read, hear and see everyday)
So coming back to the lesson : The world is full of many GENUINELY NICE PEOPLE, who are doing their BIT and BEST in more than one way.. To make a positive difference and to leave a legacy which will make the world a better place
LESSON 5 : Every Life has many a story worth knowing, listening, telling and sharing
The last and most important lesson is that any one who is living today has a story worth knowing (Only if you’d ask the right questions), worth listening (When someone is sharing), worth telling (Only if someone asked you to speak about things dear to your heart or what you believe in or your personal stories of inspiration), and worth sharing (through blogs, books, words, etc.). And if you pay attention to observe, listen, think and understand the lives of those around you, and reflect quietly about your own life – there is a wealth of lessons you can learn every day of your life!
So coming back to the lesson : Take the time today to tell and share your own life story and to listen and know the stories of those around you! It does make a DIFFERENCE!
So those were my lessons…Did you enjoy the Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous Series?
Leave a comment to let me know what you liked the best.. Would like to hear from you…
ABOUT RATAN JALAN
Driven by an urge to make a difference in healthcare, innovation in business models and patient empowerment has been at the core of what he does.
Ratan Jalan is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Medium Healthcare Consulting. Ratan Jalan is widely acknowledged as a thought leader and a rare innovator in the healthcare industry.
Earlier, Ratan was the CEO of Apollo Health and Lifestyle Limited (AHLL), part of the Apollo Hospitals Group for almost a decade. He created some of the most successful and innovative healthcare formats in the country (India) such as a nationwide network of The Apollo Clinic and The Cradle, South Asia’s first boutique birthing centers. He also led some of the strategic marketing initiatives and international projects for the group.
In 1996, as President, Ratan set up India’s first hospital architecture and consulting firm Asian Health Services, a JV with ServiceMaster, then a Fortune 500 company. In a short span of three years, the firm became the undisputed thought leader in healthcare and had served leading organizations like Wockhardt Hospitals, Escorts Hospital, Max Healthcare, Aditya Birla Foundation, IL&FS and Gleneagles Hospitals.
Ratan has over three decades of experience across diverse industries and functional responsibilities. He started his professional career in the information technology industry with HCL Technologies and then moved to advertising at Lintas (now Lowe). During his ten years there, he started and headed the integrated marketing division and worked on leading Indian and international brands.
Ratan was awarded the Marketing Impact of the Year Award by S P Jain Institute of Management, a leading business school in India. He has been nominated as one of the 50 most influential professionals in retailing by Retailers, a leading industry publication. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2008 Franchise Awards for the success of The Apollo Clinic initiative. He is also a frequent speaker at leading management institutes such as Indian School of Business, IIMs and FMS and various industry forums such as, CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, AIIMA and World Economic Forum. He was one of few panelists invited from India to the Harvard Business School Global Centennial Summit.
He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and Harvard Business School. He is an avid reader (mostly, and somewhat regrettably, non-fiction) and an occasional writer.
I was introduced to Ratan Jalan a few months ago; Thanks to the kind and thoughtful gesture of my IIMB Professor D V R Seshadri.[I must confess that I did not know much about Ratan Jalan till this introduction]. After that introduction, I read all I could find on Ratan Jalan and was truly impressed with his vision, thoughts, achievements and the transformation he has brought about in the Indian Healthcare Industry. (Personally, if I had to place my bets on 2 industries which will change the face of India for the next decade they would be (1) Education and (2) HealthCare).
That’s how our journey started… Along the way, Ratan has been a reader of my blogs and has been encouraging about my blogging success. And one fine day, I asked Ratan if he would be willing to do a rendezvous on my blog. Luckily, he said YES!
In this Rendezvous, Ratan shares some insights from his professional journey; and some nuggets of wisdom for life.
Nischala: Firstly, Thank you so much for your time. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you
Ratan Jalan: Thanks Nischala for talking to me. It is indeed a pleasure to connect with you
Nischala: So Ratan, if you can share your own personal journey with respect to your career and life, that would be a great start.
Ratan Jalan : I was from a middle-class family brought up in one of the over-crowded neighborhoods in old Calcutta. Though I studied in a Hindi-medium school, I guess I was good in studies and as expected, got into the science stream. Mr Ram Pravesh Singh, who was a tutor at home, proved to be the real inspiration and made me sit for the IIT entrance exam. Fortunately, I got a reasonably got rank and found myself in IIT, Kharagpur. Somewhere during my days at IIT, I also realized that I didn’t want to do the typical shop floor or the R&D kind of engineering jobs. I got into HCL Technologies in 1978. I was one of the initial few employees then. IT was just taking off, and those were the days when companies were trying to understand what IT is all about. I continued to be in IT for the next 8 – 10 years. HCL was the best training ground I could have imagined as a fresher. It literally teaches you how to do the impossible stuff!
A meeting with Alyque Padamsee led me to join Lintas (now Lowe, the largest and the most revered advertising agencies those days) to start their direct marketing division and also offer services in areas like marketing MIS and market modeling. I really enjoyed working on some of the best brands in the country and also got to appreciate the nuances of consumer behavior and communication.
I then entered the Healthcare industry as President of Asian Health Services, possibly the first hospital architecture and consulting company in India. In less than three years, we created a phenomenal brand equity and track record of successes. Then, I joined Apollo Hospitals Group as CEO of one of their Companies. It was again a phenomenal learning experience since the industry was “new” to me.
If I look back at my own personal journey, I think what has really kept me going in my career and life is the fact that I deliberately seek zones of discomfort and enjoy working in industries which are a little ahead of their times – Be it IT, direct marketing or healthcare consulting. Moreover, getting into newer industries has created periods of extreme anxiety for me, since I realize that I don’t know enough. And that’s what got me to crash learning expeditions about such different industry segments – something, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I honestly believe that you should want to wake up every morning and go to work; because there is something new, challenging, unknown waiting for you. There should be fun and learning – Both are integral to a meaningful professional career.
Nischala: That’s interesting. Can you elaborate a bit on “seek zones of discomfort”?
Ratan Jalan: Sure. It is something I strongly believe in. Let me elaborate with an example. My wife has been making parathas for the past 35 years, and there are days she makes excellent parathas and days when the parathas are not so great. But that’s the law of averages at work. However, doing something of that kind can never create a sense of achievement or joy for her. Now if I ask her to make an Italian dish – say a pizza or a pasta, she is going to be nervous as it is out of her comfort zone. But at the end of the day, if the dish turns out great – she has learned something new, she will feel on the top of the world and enjoy that sense of achievement.
The point is there is no way you can achieve something worthwhile unless there is an element of “discomfort and fear”. So I personally advocate deliberately seeking “zones of discomfort” – and that is the only way you will exceed your own boundaries; and reach the peak of heights.
Like as a part of my own organization, I intentionally assign tasks to employees which are simply out of their comfort zone. Initially they all resist doing it simply because they’ve never done it before. And I say to them loud and clear “I Don’t Care that you have not done it before.. This is not an exam, and neither will you get a character certificate at the end of it. It is not about ‘pass or fail.’ So give it your best shot.. Put your heart and soul into it.. and then let’s see” .Whatever is the outcome, you would have learned a lot. Most of the times they do a fantastic job; and are deeply thankful for the opportunity itself. So the most important point is that you should be inherently OK with discomfort, and then put your best foot forward to achieve what you signed up for.
Nischala: Moving on, I’ve personally had several experiences in the recent past with hospitals / healthcare industry as an end-user. But never really heard of Healthcare Consulting. So I am curious to know what do you mean by Healthcare Consulting?
Ratan Jalan: By HealthCareConsulting, and specifically what we do is we provide consulting services to large hospitals, single specialty clinics and diagnostic centers or even primary care clinics on healthcare delivery. Other than business strategy, where we focus on creating new business models in healthcare, we are passionate about two other areas:
1) Marketing – And I mean this in a very broad sense. This would include Positioning (For e.g.: How would you position and differentiate yourself in the marketplace in comparison to other large hospitals or clinics), Pricing, Mass Media, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Public Relations, Social Media, Events, etc. We take a holistic and comprehensive view towards Marketing. The fact is that a lot of hospitals and healthcare clinics don’t do marketing. They mostly do only sales. And they don’t see a need or scope for marketing.
We approach marketing in a scientific manner, and also based on the wealth of experience I myself have in this space, we are able to make practical recommendations to different organizations.
2) Patient Experience – “Patient Experience” is one of the most important dimensions of the HealthCare industry, and sadly the most overlooked. The point I am making here is that the “clinical quality and outcome of your medical ailment” is very different from “patient experience”. So you can come back from after a successful surgery for one of your close relatives and still believe that it was a lousy hospital. On the contrary, at times, someone does lose a friend or a relative in a hospital, yet think that it was a good hospital.
So “patient experience” is really about softer, but hugely important aspects like trust, empathy, empowerment, fairness, honesty, caring, sensitivity, transparency, etc.
The truth is that if a hospital really focus on “patient experience” and are good at it, they can actually charge a higher premium for the same services. However, the sad fact is that most of the hospitals are “commoditized” and hence this is a HUGE “VANCANT OPPORTUNITY” which is crying for immediate attention and action – and we step in to help several institutions focus on “patient experience”. Unfortunately, most of the players tend to (and can afford to) ignore this and continue to do well despite this gap. And that’s purely because of the demand supply gap and the fact that you (as the patient) don’t even have options.
Nischala: That’s interesting. To be honest, it’s the first time I am hearing the word “patient experience”. I don’t know if too many hospitals focus on this. So any specific hospital / example which actually focuses on “patient experience”?
Ratan Jalan: Yes, There is this hospital, one of the best in the world called Cleaveland Clinic. They have even appointed a “Chief Experience Officer”, who champions the philosophy of ‘Patient First’ in everything they do. They consistently measure patient experience beyond clinical outcomes. In addition to the medical care, they focus on addressing some of the more softer aspects which most patients go through in a hospital-environment like anxiety, stress, poor decision making abilities during times of stress, etc, It is one of the best examples I can give for this.
Nischala: Thanks for sharing this. So moving on, how can hospitals and health institutes truly make a difference in healthcare?
Ratan Jalan: The fact of the matter is that the healthcare industry is far too “inward-looking”. And there is no competition really. But like I said before what can make a huge difference is focus on “patient experience”
We are at a very “crucial and vulnerable” phase in the healthcare industry. Historically, the fact is that the doctors has always held the status of a Demi-God, and are mentally and emotionally conditioned to having a “Godly” status simply because the information asymmetry was supreme. (For e.g.: In earlier times, you could never know much about diseases, causes, treatments, etc. – unless the doctor mentioned it.) Today, with technology and increasing awareness, information is freely available to masses, so “information asymmetry” has reduced. Of course, the doctors still know the best; and their advice and recommendations are valued and held in high regard, but the situation is different from how things were in the past. So I think it is also important for doctors and people in the HealthCare industry to recognize this fact, and re-align their own approaches to dealing with a “more informed customer”. The doctors and institutions which adapt to these changes will definitely be winners in the long run.
The other key point is that we are living in an era where lies, manipulation, negativity are commonplace. And these are also integral and systemic in the healthcare industry. Personally, I think a lot of how any organization functions depend on the mind-set / core values of the promoters / leaders at the top. So I think it is key to have the RIGHT leaders run healthcare organizations so that they propagate a strong culture of values, ethics and character. You can’t possibly start with an excel sheet, which computes ROI for different set of values and character and then select the one, which offers hightest ROI. It has to be something very intrinsic to the individuals or leaders at the helm of affairs.
Nischala: OK. Another point lingering in my mind is about the scope of Marketing in HealthCare. What in your opinion is the role of marketing here? Because honestly, if I am in a hospital, I don’t really want to be prey to marketing. And outside of a hospital, I hardly see too much marketing – In fact, I may not even be interested in knowing about things.
Ratan Jalan: Very valid point, and that is the real challenge for marketers in HealthCare. See let’s understand that nobody wants people to fall sick. But let’s say you fall sick, the aim of “marketing in healthcare” is to let you decide on what is the preferred place to go. That would be the primary aim.
Nischala: So coming to innovation which you briefly touched upon at the start on this Rendezvous. What kind of innovation in business models can happen in the HealthCare Industry? Can you give a few examples?
Ratan Jalan: Today, a typically large multispecialty hospital has presidential suites on one hand and general wards on the other. They tend to do ‘everything for everyone’. And in the process, not many end-customers (or patients) are happy. The rich complain that it is the most crowded railway platform and the poor think they are being exploited because the place is for the rich. I strongly recommend that people should think in terms of ‘focused factories’. Focus on doing something- be it a particular discipline or a procedure and focus on a particular segment. That’s what I call doing ‘something for someone’. The two best examples we have in the country are Aaravind Eye Institute and Narayana Hrudalaya. Both have become global icons of healthcare innovation.
Nischala: OK. So looking back at your own journey, can you share a proud moment or initiative as a part of your professional career?
Ratan Jalan: A long time back when I was in the US and visiting hospital beds, I saw a woman going into labor. And I realized that a girl going to deliver a child is not a typical clinical / medical activity. It is a memorable event for the whole family to welcome a new life; and this happens in a hospital. There is no way to celebrate this moment because a hospital, which is designed and run to treat ‘life-and-death’ problems is governed by central policies and procedures which place restrictions on celebrations – like visiting hours, white color everywhere, smell of medicines and disinfectants, infections, stretchers, etc. – Which is not pleasant for a women to fully enjoy her first moments of motherhood
And that’s when I came with the concept of “Boutique Birthing Centers” – Which is really a place of 10 – 15 rooms well equipped to handle the safe delivery of babies. Designed and planned to welcome a new life into the world, for joy and celebrations. Also, you can eat what you want. You can have your family and friends around for as long as you want.
And thus was born my dream project – “The Cradle” from Apollo hospitals. We have 3 centers in India – Delhi, Bangalore and Kerala. They have been designed as the first Labour, Delivery and Recovery (LDR) room concept in India. I’ve seen enough mothers deliver at The Cradle, and the joy they experience here is a moment of great pride and satisfaction. Again looking back, it took me 3 years to make this a reality, but definitely has been one of the PROUDEST moments in my professional career. We are now working on a more evolved model of the same concept branded as The Birthplace. The first such facility is scheduled to come up in Hyderabad.
Nischala: OK.. Now for the benefit of all my blog readers, one important question – What can anyone do w.r.t securing a safe and secure medical future? I am asking this purely because of your extensive association in the HealthCare industry, and also your real-life experiences in this space.
Ratan Jalan: Each one of us individually takes charge of our own health. “Knowing is not DOING, DOING is DOING” – We all know what is good for our health and well-being, but we just don’t do it. And the fact is as far as your health is concerned, what you know makes little difference. What you DO makes all the difference.
The MOST IMPORTANT things for a good health and good life are ironically free – Sleep, Water, Air, Walking, Stress Free Life. So start DOING what you have to DO today. And usually it is very simple and something which everyone knows – Eat Right & Healthy and Get some Regular Exercise. Sleep well, Laugh and Do things you Love.
Nischala: OK Thanks for these nuggets of wisdom. Your dream for HealthCare in India?
Ratan Jalan: Very simple – Everyone in the healthcare industry should look at life from the patient’s point of view. That single-minded focus will be enough to transform the way we deliver healthcare.
Nischala: As we end, any specific thoughts you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Ratan Jalan: Sure. I’ll share what I usually share in all my speeches and key-note sessions, which I think is very important message.
In life, there are two broad choices for anyone to make.
Choice 1 is to MAINTAIN – And by and large, most of us spend most of our lives in the “Maintenance” mode – Maintenance is safe, secure and comfortable. For example: We prefer to work with really large institutions, for example, where nothing much can go wrong!
Choice 2 is to CREATE – To create requires a very different “mind-set” – one in which you need a lot of self-confidence; and more importantly you should be able to work in an environment in which there is no security, no guarantee and no predictability.
So when I address young people in colleges, B-schools, Medical schools, etc. I strongly urge them to answer one question
Do you want to join a large company; and be one in 1 lakh employees – and really “Continue to MAINTAIN” what was already created OR
Do you want to join a new company; and be one in 10 employees – and really “CREATE” something for a larger cause OR
Do you want to start a new venture of your own – and again really “CREATE” something that you are passionate about and believe in
Interestingly, a lot of youngsters today don’t want to join large companies. They dream and aspire to “CREATE”.. To “CHANGE the WORLD” and “TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE”
So there is HOPE, there is SCOPE to CHANGE and there are DREAMS to make a BETTER TOMORROW!
Nischala: Wow! That’s a very unique and thought-provoking perspective. Something for me to think about! Thank you so much for your time. Truly appreciate it
Ratan Jalan: Thank you for your Rendezvous. And Best Wishes for your blogging endeavors.
How did you like this Rendezvous? Leave a comment to let me know
About PREETI SHENOY
Preeti Shenoy, named among one of the top five authors in India by CNN-IBN, weaves magic with her words and pictures. An extremely talented and versatile individual, her Twitter bio reads: “Best-selling Author, Artist specializing in pencil portraits, Poet, Yoga-Buff, Ex-basketball player, Blogger, Dobe-owner, Nature lover, Ted speaker and a Mother.”
Her interests are as multifarious and diverse as her several academic degrees which include an internationally recognised qualification from UK in portraiture. DNA has described her as a ‘Keenly observant mind’ and Times of India describes her writing as ‘Excellent story telling skills’. There is simplicity in her writing that appeals to the inherent good in all and her positivity and ‘Live life to the fullest’ philosophy finds a large number of takers, who follow her very popular blog.
Her second book ‘Life is what you make it’ was among the top selling books of 2011 in India and her third book ‘Tea for two and a piece of cake’ which was released in February 2012, continues to be on all the best-seller lists, having sold more than 25,000 copies within two months of its release.
Her pencil-portraits are life like which strike you with a realism that take you aback. She is also an avid card-maker and a poet. She has written for publications like Times of India, Readers Digest and many more. She has worked with under-privileged children teaching them English and Math. She has worked with several schools conducting workshops on thinking skills and creative crafts.
She says “Life is short. Follow your heart and chase your dreams. And yes, they will come true.”
And if you’ve read her earlier books, here’s some good news. Her fourth book titled “The Secret Wishlist” is due to for release shortly. You can pre-order this book by clicking here. Not only do you have a chance to get a personally signed copy of the book from Preeti, but also a 30% discount. You can also follow the FaceBook updates for the book here.
A couple of weeks back, during a random online browsing activity, I accidentally came across Preeti Shenoy’s book titled “Life is what you make it” – Something about the title compelled me to buy the book. I finished reading it in one night. Then I read her other 2 books “34 Bubblegums and Candies” and “Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake” all of which are National Bestsellers in India. After I finished reading all the three, I learnt that she also blogs, so naturally I visited her blogs. I liked her writings (both books and blogs) simply because they were simple, easy to read and written straight from the heart!
So I sent her a request for the Rendezvous and she immediately replied with a “YES”!
In this rendezvous, we discussed about Preeti’s journey into the world of writing and some nuggets about life which she strongly believes in.
Nischala: Hi Preeti. Firstly, Thanks for your time. It’s great to connect with you!
Preeti: Hi Nischala. Thanks for this
Nischala: So Preeti – Firstly, Congrats on the success as a writer. From what I read, all your books are national bestsellers and are doing very well!
Preeti: Yes! Thank You. They are all indeed doing well. Touch wood!
Nischala: So let me start this rendezvous with how your writing journey started?
Preeti: I have always been a writer. From childhood, I have written several short stories and poems – Many of which have won laurels and have been published in journals / magazines, etc.
But looking back, I think the big push for writing came only after I lost my father. In order to deal with this loss I started writing – Writing primarily for myself and more as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. Writing kept me busy and almost was therapeutic to help me deal with a difficult and vulnerable phase in my life. So I started posting my writings on a blog anonymously and I was happy to see that my posts were very well received. The big boost came when a radio show in the US picked up a post of mine for the “Perfect Post” Award. The traffic and reader base increased significantly after that.
I then started writing more seriously and in more respected publications like Reader’s Digest, Chicken Soup Series, Times of India, etc. One of the main reasons that I took up writing seriously was because it kept me busy and helped me deal with the loss of my father. So I wrote about things which I believed in or which I was passionate about – like life, relationships, animals, bikes, dance, art, etc. I think there are more than 60 articles of mine published in various publications.
And at the same time I received a lot of comments and suggestions urging me to explore writing a book. And that’s how my first book “34 Bubblegums and Candies” was born. It’s really a compilation of little stories from my life and some of these were already published on my blog.
Nischala: That’s an interesting journey. So looking back, what was your happiest and proudest moment as a writer?
Preeti : As a writer, my happiest moment was when my first book came out. Also when my second book was named among the ‘top books of 2011’. And honestly I write because I enjoy it; and so it has been a happy journey all along.
Nischala: Wow! Congrats. I guess there is something special about the “firsts” of anything in life – Especially your first book . I also see that you write regularly on your blog and also have been able to publish 3 books in the past few years. From my understanding, they are two different worlds. So, what is the key difference between a blog and book?
Preeti: That’s correct. I started blogging in 2006 and since then I try to blog regularly.
Blogs and Books are two different worlds simply because in a book you need to have a storyline, characters, a setting, dialogue, etc. And more importantly there has to be a central theme to your book. While in a blog, you can write about anything you want and publish it! And every blog post can be a separate theme.
Nischala: That’s interesting! So moving on, you have also given a TEDx Talk very recently. How did that happen? And what was the key message? How was the experience?
Preeti: I have given two Ted X talks –one at Symbiosis Institute for Technology and management Pune, where I spoke on creativity in daily life and another at Ted X Sona, where I spoke on ‘5 lessons for growth’. Both talks were very well received. The experience was great.
Nischala: Preeti -This is the first time I am talking to you. But in this brief interaction, you sound so positive about everything. So how do you manage to stay so positive?
Preeti: Hmm… Well that’s something which a lot of people say to me. See I think I am generally a happy and contented person in life and it manifests in my interactions with others. I believe that for everything in life you do the best you can in whatever situation you are in. And if things don’t work out the way you wanted, deal with it and move on.
Nischala: That’s a great attitude for life. So what do you think anyone can do on a daily basis to feel positive, happy and alive!
Preeti: Well, there are no universal answers. But here’s what I do and it helps me a great deal.
Do something you love everyday – It can be reading or art or listening to music or meeting friends or watching a TV program – Whatever it is, set some time every day to do what you love. You will be surprised at how much difference it can make in your life.
Laugh – Do something fun that makes you laugh – It can be that you read a joke or watch a cartoon or just fake a laugh. But laughing regularly definitely has a positive effect on your overall well-being
Nischala: Thanks for sharing these practical tips. I am sure that if anyone did the above regularly, it will have a positive impact on their lives. So, as we conclude any message that you’d like to conclude with?
Preeti: “Live life today, Follow your heart and Live everyday”
There is joy in little things that you can do every day. Most of us rush from morning to night in doing a zillion things, and we don’t stop to appreciate the beauty and the magic of the world around us like smell the flowers, enjoy our meals, spend time with people we love and care for, etc. At the end of the day, life should be about what makes you happy and contented. And if you figure this out and know how to get there, then you will end up happy and contented every day of your life.
I truly believe that life is short and so very unpredictable. I am saying this because I have experienced up close of personal what it means to deal with the demise of those who mean the world to you.
And what I learnt from all these experiences is that it is important to focus on living well and being happy today. Finally when you go, you don’t take anything with you – especially not money. And what you leave is memories for others and how you impacted their lives.
I was not like this 5 – 7 years back. But as of today, this is something I believe in and execute every single day this way. So I live life to the fullest today, enjoy every single day and am happy and content at the end of the day. That’s what really matters.
Nischala: Thank you so much for this rendezvous.
Preeti: Pleasure is all mine. Have a great day!
How did you like this rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know..
About Dr Renuka S
Dr. Renuka is a consulting Nephrologist (M.B.B.S, MD (Nephro)) who currently practices in Bangalore, India
I first met Dr. Renuka way back in 2006. It was a meeting that changed my life in more ways than one. Today (In 2012) looking back at our association, I can definitely say that she’s been one of the “nicest and kindest” doctors I’ve ever met or known in my life. The combination of her medical experience in nephrology coupled with her kindness, positivity, objectivity, presence of mind, sensible and practical ways in dealing with all kinds of medical and non-medical situations makes her a very unique doctor – One who stands out in today’s day and age. And hence, she will always be remembered by many who have interacted with her.
Over the past few years, Dr. Renuka has been a mentor, friend, philosopher, guide and confidant through the many highs and lows of my own life. Hence, I was very happy when she agreed to do this rendezvous with me.
NOTE: The primary aim of this discussion was to create awareness about the importance of kidneys in the human body.
Nischala: Good Afternoon Dr Renuka. Thank you so much for your time
Dr Renuka: Good Afternoon..
Nischala: As discussed when we met last, I’d like to have this discussion with the intent of creating an awareness of the kidney function in the human body and a high level understanding of the problems associated with kidney failure. So to begin, let’s start with the basics – What are the key functions of the kidneys in the human body?
Dr Renuka: Sure. There are 3 basic functions of the kidneys in the human body. One is the excretory function, i.e., to excrete waste from the human body like urea, creatinine, etc. Second is the homeostatic function, i.e. to maintain the acid and base levels within the body to ensure the correct salt and water balance. This ensures the regulation of the Blood Pressure (BP) within the human body. Third is related to the hormonal function of the body. The human kidney secretes important hormones – Calcitriol (which is Vitamin D in active form) & Erthyrpoietin (an essential hormone that controls red cell production. The haemoglobin is a good reflection of this measure) and also the enzyme renin
Nischala: OK. So my next logical question is what are the most common kidney related problems?
Dr Renuka: Today, there are many problems related to the kidney functions:
1) Asymptomatic kidney disease in which there is a leakage of protein urea but no visibile symotions for the patient
2) Nephritic Syndrome which is usually characterized by pedal edema, i.e., swelling of the feet and ankles due to fluid accumulation. Of course there are other symptoms which can be diagnosed with medical investigations like blood and urine tests
3) Nephrotic Syndrome in which there is usually swelling all over the body due to fluids accumulation in the body. Of course there are other symptoms which can be diagnosed with medical investigations like blood and urine tests
4) Rapidly progressive renal failure in which there is rapid worsening of the renal function in a matter of few days – So for example you’re creatinine level is 2 today and in a span of few day it reaches to very high level (say 10 and above)
5) Acute kidney injury in which the kidney does not work temporarily. And over a period of time the kidney function is regained
6) Chronic Renal Failure in which there is a permanent loss of kidney function and this happens gradually over a period of time. In most cases, this is chronic and needs timely diagnosis and medical treatment
Nischala: OK. So can you please elaborate on Chronic Renal Failure? What are the stages for this?
Dr Renuka: Chronic Renal Failure is a condition in which there is permanent loss of kidney function. It is usually a slow and progressive illness. The National American Kidney Foundation has defined the 5 stages in the Chronic Renal Failure based on GFR Rate (Glomerular Filtration Rate).
A note of GFR : Your GFR tells how much kidney function you have. It may be estimated from your blood level of creatinine. If your GFR falls below 30 you will need to see a kidney disease specialist.[ Src: http://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/understandinglabvalues.cfm ]
Stage 1 – GFR is greater than 90 Ml / min
Stage 2 – GFR is between 60 to 89 Ml / min
Stage 3 – GFR is between 30 – 59 Ml / min
Stage 4 – GFR is between 15 – 29 Ml / min
Stage 5 – GFR is less than 15 Ml / min
At Stage 2, most doctors typically start counselling individuals and families on long term treatment options. The most important aspect is to mentally prepare people to the treatment. Also early detection and timely initiation of medication can prove to be very effective in the delay of the onset of the Stage 5. So for example if it takes someone 1 – 1.5 years to transition from Stage 2 to Stage 5, if you begin medication early, you will possibly end with at Stage 5 in 5-6 years. This makes a huge difference in the lives of many patients
Nischala: What are the key causes for Kidney Failure?
Dr Renuka: There are many causes for Kidney Failure, the key ones are below:
1) Diabetis – The primary cause of in about 95% of the cases
3) Glomerular disease
4) Interstitial disease – which really means due to the lifestyle changes in today’s day and age. So for e.g.: Our day to day diet. A lot of people consume aerated drinks on a regular basis. These drinks have a very high percentage of phosphate which can lead to kidney problems. Another cause is the large consumption of medicines that we consume on a regular basis without being aware of the chemical composition and the way they can adversely affect out body internally
5) Familial or Hereditary – So if it runs in the family, there is a chance that you end up with kidney failure and very little can be done to prevent this.
Nischala: What are the trends with respect to Kidney Failure? In terms of age, gender, nationality, etc? Are there any global trends as well? Is there any research and published data available?
Dr Renuka: Yes. The US Renal Data System (USRDS) regularly publishes statistics on kidney related information. The last one was published in 2010. According to this report, 38 million Americans (which is about 10% of the total population) have kidney related disorders and about 55000 people are on dialysis. A few thousands have undergone kidney transplantation. And 88600 die of kidney failure. Also, the cost of maintaining these patients / year on dialysis is 59.4 Billion $
In India till 2005 there was no CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) registry. Indian Society of Nephrology created a registry database to collect statistics across India. However, many hospitals have not yet registered and hence the data is not updated, as of date. While efforts are underway to bridge this gap, as of 2012 following is the published statistics – 52273 of adult patients have chronic kidney failure. In terms of trends, 70% are male and 30% are female. Average age is about 50. And diabetes is the most common cause
Nischala: Thanks for sharing this. So, what can anyone do to prevent Kidney Failure?
Dr Renuka: As I mentioned earlier, the main reasons for the cause of CRF is diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of wrong food on a regular basis (junk foods especially those with high fat / sugar content). So one way is obviously through an active lifestyle with adequate exercise and physical activity and of course a balanced diet.
On a larger scale, Dr Mani from Apollo Hospital Chennai has pioneered an initiative to prevent kidney disease, rather to screen early the probability of occurrence of a kidney problem and to start preventive medical treatments. One of the most important ways that he has done this is through regular and periodic screening of key medical parameters (for e.g.: blood and urine tests, BP) which indicate potential kidney disease. So for example, he observed that about 30% of those who were screened had urine abnormality, i.e High levels of sugar and protein in the urine OR high BP. You can read more on his work here. So when these leading indicators are detected, immediate treatment is provided based on the medical evaluation and assessment.
But coming back to your question, diet and lifestyle changes need to be made. Specifically in terms of diet, it is recommended to avoid alcohol and smoking. Also, one should keep a regular check on sugar levels and blood pressure. Constant monitoring of one’s diet is also essential – so one should eat when hungry or at fixed times – And especially not cultivate the habit of eating throughout the day. Also, it is important to ensure a balanced diet which has a combination of all food types like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. Another key point is to avoid aerated drinks – They have a very high phosphorous content.
In addition, regular exercise is an absolute MUST – Even a brisk morning walk everyday goes a long way in controlling hypertension and preventing or controlling diabetes. If you cannot find time to walk exclusively, fit it into your routine as a part of your everyday activities, but do make sure it is an integral part of your life!
Another important aspect is to regularly monitor your urine protein, constantly monitor sugar levels and BP (Blood Pressure). In case of a family history of kidney related diseases, then early screening is recommended. The sooner a problem is detected, the earlier medical treatment can be initiated and this proves to be very effective is preventing further degradation of the kidney related disorders.
Nischala: What are the suggested medical treatments to deal with kidney failure?
Dr Renuka: So it depends completely on the stage at which this is detected, the patient’s age and overall health – especially if the patient already has pre-existing ailments like heart problems and / or diabetes. But broadly, kidney failure can be treated either with medical management, dialysis (haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) or kidney transplantation.
Nischala: What is dialysis? Can you please elaborate on Haemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis?
Dr Renuka: Dialysis is the artificial replacement of kidney functions in the body. It is a process for removal of excess water (as urine) and waste from the body with the help of the artificial kidney.
There are 2 types of dialysis:
1) Haemodialysis – This is a process in which the excess water and waste is removed from circulating blood through an external filter / artificial kidney (which usually has a dialysate), purified and is returned to the body. Due to the impaired kidney function, the blood has a high concentrate of blood urea and creatinine. The dialysate in the artificial kidney removes the waste from the blood through the process of diffusion. This waste goes into the drain and purified blood is re-circulated into the body
2) Peritoneal dialysis – This is a process in which the peritoneal membrane which lines your abdomen facilitates the process of dialysis. The peritoneum is rich in blood supply and it’s like a bag holding your internal organs. To do peritoneal dialysis, this bag is filled up with a special fluid, called dialysate. Wastes and extra fluid in the blood slowly flow into the dialysate.
After a few hours, all the waste from the body accumulates in the dialysate. Then the used dialysate is drained out and clean fluid is put in. This process needs to repeat several times a day.
During dialysis, blood and dialysate are kept apart by a membrane. Wastes and fluid flow out through tiny holes in the membrane. Blood cells and protein, which the body needs to keep, are too big to pass through, and stay in the blood
Nischala : Ok Thanks. Is there any online link where one can read (as a layman) to understand this better
Dr Renuka: You can check the link at Kidney School
Nischala: I will go through this. Thanks again. So moving on, what are the pros and cons of Haemodialysis?
Dr Renuka: In haemodialysis, you have to come to the dialysis centre which is usually in a hospital as the procedure is done by specialists at the centre. So the disadvantage is that you have to commute to the dialysis centre on a regular basis and usually someone should accompany you. Each sitting lasts for several hours and you have to plan your work and schedule around this. By the end of the procedure, most patients are pretty exhausted since the procedure in itself can be quite intensive and tiring. Also, there is strict diet and fluid restrictions which mean you cannot eat and drink all foods. Many patients find this toughest, especially if you don’t have self-control!
In the long term, there are chances of blood borne viral infections since the blood is being removed from the body for purification. Also, there is a possibility of Hepatitis C infection – for which there is no vaccination. Sometimes there can also be bleeding from the nose and mouth as well.
On the plus side, it is extremely useful in acute emergency and can help cleanse the waste from the body instantly and effectively. Also, since the procedure is administered by trained medical experts, you can relax (patients and family) when the procedure is being done – Of course there is stress and emotions to deal with, but physically you will be idle!
Nischala: What are the pros and cons of Peritoneal Dialysis?
Dr Renuka: There are many positives – One, peritoneal dialysis can be done at home, so there is no need to come to a dialysis centre. Two, since the process in internal to the body, there is no blood loss. Thirdly, it is continuous process. Also, there is limited diet restriction and so there is more flexibility on your diet intake. And if health permits, you can self-administer the procedure.
However, the peritoneal fluid has a high sugar concentration of sugar, so that is a disadvantage in case you already have diabetes. Another disadvantage is that you need to strictly follow the procedural guidelines while doing the procedure. So you need to wash your hands really well, sterilize the equipment and procedure area and also follow the steps for doing the peritoneal dialysis very accurately. Because if you don’t, there is a high risk of infection – This is called peritonitis. This usually requires hospitalization and a dosage of antibiotics to control the infection.
In India, a decade back awareness of peritoneal dialysis was very low and also the cost was very high – i.e., Peritoneal dialysis was almost 50% more than haemodialysis. However today, the cost differential is about 10% – so peritoneal dialysis is more than haemodialysis by only 10%; and hence is being preferred by many patients if they can afford it!
Nischala: Coming to Kidney transplantation, what are the current trends in terms of numbers and acceptance?
Dr Renuka: So the best form of renal replacement therapy is kidney transplantation. It improves the quality of life, work and day-to-day activities. The key challenge is to find the right match of kidney donors. According to The kidney transplantation act of 1994, a kidney from a living person could be considered only from the immediate family with a matching blood group – And immediate family means parents (mother / father), siblings(brother / sister), children(son / daughter), spouse (husband / wife)– who are more than 20 years and less than 60 years of age.
In 2009, this act was amended to include kidney transplantation from “near-relatives” – So as of date, as long as you are medically fit you can be considered for a kidney transplant by virtue of the following relationships – first cousins, maternal / paternal uncles / aunty and grandparents. Also, not-so-close relatives who have stayed with the patient can donate organs, provided there is no commercial dealing.
Irrespective of the relationship between the kidney donor and kidney recipient, it is now mandatory to appear before the Ethical Committee to get an Ethical Committee Clearance. And this is governed by the Health Ministry of State.
Last option for transplantation is cadavers / diseased donor transplant – For e.g.: people who are brain dead or on ventilator. The family is usually counselled for transplant. If they are willing, then the process of kidney transplantation is initiated. In most cases, family agrees because they feel that in some way they can help another human being and that their loved ones “live” through someone else. These are really heart-warming moments because one needs to make a life-changing decision about someone they love and care about, at probably one of the most vulnerable moments of life! So the role of counselling is very important in such cases!
In terms of the operational modalities, there is a centralized list of patients awaiting kidney transplantation created region-wise. In Bangalore, there is an independent body in Nimhans called the Zonal Kidney Coordinator Cell which manages this list. If anyone is keen on kidney transplantation, they need to register with this cell. Upon confirmation of registration, they are added to the waiting list. When a donor kidney is identified for a transplant, the first 10 registered patients are activated and notified on a first come first served basis. It is a totally impartial and neutral way. Once a patient is ready for the transplantation, the hospital is informed. The hospital then arranges the next steps in terms of scheduling the procedure, informing the surgeon, arranging OT (Operation Theatre), co-ordinating with blood bank, etc.
Nischala: Hmm.. So What are the challenges with respect to kidney transplantation?
Dr Renuka: The first challenge is that kidney diseases are increasing and there is an acute shortage of kidney donors. Due to the ever increasing waiting list, there is an increase in the cadaver transplant. Hospitals are also considering marginal donors, i.e., older people above the age of 60 years old if they are medically fine, or people with some malignancies which cannot spread.
Also the good news is that the success rates of kidney transplantation has increased year on year. So the first year kidney rejection has come down significantly (Chronic Allograft Nephropathy). On the flip side, many patients don’t come for follow-ups and become irregular in their medication after 1 year – which leads to different kinds of medical complications with time. So it is important to be regular with medication, with prescribed medical investigations periodically and doctor visits.
Nischala: So any specific case that you remember and would like to share?
Dr Renuka: Yes. There is one case of an employee in Central Silk Board (Bangalore) who was a 40 year old diabetic when he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. It changed his and his family’s life completely. He had to be absent from work for a long time to start off dialysis. It affected his family because he was the key earning member in the house and there was a loss of income and increased medical expenditure due to his kidney treatment. Luckily in 1998 he got a cadaver kidney. The transplantation was successful. After that, he was very religious in following a strict diet, taking medicines and also leading a healthy lifestyle. Today in 2012 almost 14 years later – he is still doing very well. His family is all well settled and children are also doing well for themselves.
See kidney failure is not just about the patient. It is the whole family who suffers and endures the day to day hardships. The patient definitely undergoes physical pain, mental stress and agony, emotional highs and lows and also most patients experience a huge sense of GUILT that they are a burden of their family – That is the hardest! Also, many times the family finds is hard to come to terms with the situation. So the first reaction is obviously shock! And then denial – most people don’t accept the results and diagnosis and keep running between hospitals for alternate medical opinions. Many even explore alternate medicine and healing – but they don’t work! Usually it takes about 1-1.5 years to accept and reconcile to the situation. And usually in this time more damage is done internally – to the kidney, heart and other organs as well.
Nischala : Any other message you’d like to share as a part of this rendezvous?
Dr Renuka: With the advancement of technology and innovations in the medical field, there is now a lot of research on a durable artificial kidney. In 2010 Decemeber, a miniature computer was designed to function as a dialysis machine – So you can put it in a belt on your waist and re-charge with a battery – It is called DAK (Durable Artificial Kidney). The good news is that human trials have been successful and as per latest data this should be available in the US market in 2-3 years’ time. It will be expensive when it is launched. Also it will take time to come to India. But yes! It was make a transformational difference in the life of kidney patients!
Also the point I want to emphasize again is that delaying treatment can be detrimental to patients especially in young people. Usually, we come across 2 kinds of situations – One in which there are no financial constraints – so either the patients have an insurance cover or adequate financial security. In this case, they usually go for the best treatment. What really makes a difference here is the self-discipline and quality of lifestyle they maintain after they undergo the treatment. For those who have financial constraints, it is an everyday struggle. In some cases families have to make a tough choice between basic every day needs like food 3 times a day and going in for renal treatment – These are the really touching cases! And those who make the tough decisions go through a lifetime of guilt because of their choices or because they took short-cuts.
The challenge is that there is no government hospital which provides haemodialysis at subsidized costs. And dialysis in private hospitals is not affordable for everyone. There are however a few philanthropic organizations and initiatives which aim to provide affordable or subsidized treatments in rural areas or to those who cannot afford it.
Also many of our affluent old patients and families have a huge sense of gratitude for their fresh lease of life after dialysis or transplantation– and hence send us voluntary donations so that we can help those who cannot afford it. In some instances, we also have cases of individuals and families who sponsor the education of those children whose parents cannot afford it because they are currently spending all funds on renal treatment. In fact, a group of doctors in our network also sponsor the education of 1 child every year. So we all contribute between 6000 Rs to 8000 Rs.
So as doctors, we do our bit and best to contribute and help those in need in more than one ways!
Nischala: Thanks so much for your time and sharing your views
Dr Renuka: Sure. I hope people read this and it benefits them in some way
How did you like this Rendezvous? Leave a comment to let me know…
ABOUT Prof. D.V.R.Seshadri
Prof. D.V.R.Seshadri is a well-respected and one of the most popular professors at IIMB. His teaching and research areas are Business Marketing; Value-Based Marketing; Intrapreneurship and Strategy.
He completed his FPM (Fellow Programme in Management) from IIM Ahmedabad; M.S. (Engineering Sciences), University of California, San Diego, California, USA and B. Tech. (Mechanical Engineering), IIT Madras in Chennai, India. For a detailed profile, please refer here
Personally, I was thrilled that Prof. D. V. R. Seshadri (popularly known as DVRS) agreed to do this rendezvous. Going down memory lane, I’ve been a student of DVRS at IIMB and had the good fortune of studying a new course he introduced at the institute in 2006 – VEIL (Venturing through Entrepreneurial and Intrapraneurial Leadership). I distinctly remember the course for 2 reasons – One was due to the fact that the course was designed to enable you to introspect, discover and develop your own personal leadership qualities and abilities. And hence it was really an eye-opener for many of us. Two was the fact that I scored one of the highest grades in the class
The course was immensely popular back then and in 2012 (6 years later) – I am told that it still is one of the most sought after courses by students of the MBA program for software professionals (PGSEM) and executive MBA students (EPGP) at the institute under the name of REIL (Reinvention through Entrepreneurial and Intrapraneurial Leadership)
If I had to describe DVRS in a few words, I would say that is he one of the most passionate teachers I have ever met or known, is immensely knowledgeable in his areas of expertise and most importantly is an honest, humble, kind and INSPIRING teacher that many of us will ALWAYS REMEMBER. And if you’ve ever been his student, you will probably echo this sentiment.
And the reason why most students will always remember DVRS is this – He made a “REAL DIFFERENCE” in the lives of his students. Anyone who attended his classes will vouch that they learnt tremendously if they signed-up for his courses – Simply because his courses are structured and designed to ensure that you read (probably more than you’ll probably ever read in any 10 weeks of your life ),introspect, question, reason, think and learn.
And what is noteworthy is this – I personally know of individuals who made very important life choices and decisions after attending his courses and interacting closely with him – For e.g.: Quitting a flourishing IT career and pursuing a PhD, taking up teaching as a career, serving the under-previleged full-time or starting their own venture, etc. In my view, the real TESTIMONIAL of a great teacher is one who can enable you to find your TRUE CALLING in LIFE, INSPIRE you and TRANSFORM your LIFE!
Nischala : Hi Prof. It’s so wonderful to talk to you after so long. Hope all is well. Firstly, Thank you for agreeing to be part of this Rendezvous Series…
DVRS: Hey Nischala. It’s great to speak to you after all these years!
Nischala: My first question to you really is what does it mean to be a teacher?
DVRS: Fundamentally for me being a teacher is an opportunity to enable students to think in a broader perspective – about the subjects being taught and of course, about life. So for the course I run on B2B (Business2 Business) Marketing, my role as a teacher is to introduce basic B2B Marketing concepts and open the world of B2B Marketing so that students are excited about the subject itself. When you generate interest and excitement on a subject, the students usually tend to be life-long learners. So I teach them a couple of courses while they are at IIMB, and then on completion of their program at IIMB, the students carve out and pursue their own career paths. And hopefully, years from now they can teach me, several things, based on their experiences and learnings in the real world. So the focus is really to get them excited about the subject itself.
On the other hand, the REIL course which I run at the institute is really a course on life. The focus is really to get students to introspect on the larger and more profound questions relating to LIFE itself – In terms of what you really want to do in life? And to get you to ponder and honestly answer to yourself. The fact is that many students have taken career decisions / choices in their past (for whatever reasons) – But don’t necessarily enjoy what they’re doing today. They feel trapped with their many EMI’s (for their cars, homes, etc.), lifestyles, societal pressures, etc. Some of the students say to me at the end of the course: “You know what! I value this lifestyle too much to give it all up and follow my dreams, so I will let status-quo continue. But at least I am aware of it and it’s a conscious decision”. And then there are those who are willing to give it all up and tread on unchartered waters, to where their heart takes them!
Of course I am teaching because I am passionate about teaching the subjects and more importantly because of the opportunity to possibly make a difference in the lives’ of my students.
Nischala: You’ve been in the teaching profession for so long. And you still teach with passion even though you probably have to speak about topics that you may have already spoken about several hundreds of times before. What really keeps you going?
DVRS: I think what really keeps me going is that I ask myself every day “Am I making a difference in the lives of these students?” And again, I am not being idealistic, but realistic here – I know full well that in every institute there are all kinds of students – So if I can make a positive difference to at least 20% of the class - I think I am moving towards achieving my life’s purpose!
Again, part of the challenge is to continuously revamp the course content so that it is updated to today’s context, is exciting for students and is a constant learning experience for me. And I do this in many different ways. One, I do a lot of research and reading myself. However, my research is very practice-oriented and in that sense has a strong overlap with the problems managers face in the real world. I also write a lot of practice-oriented articles, case studies, etc. myself and create the course content in tune with the needs and demands of the day. Another input which I value is participant feedback for the courses, which helps to to continually fine-tune my courses from one batch to the next. Two is that I try to customize the course content to the Indian context. Three, I keep introducing new case studies – Like now I am simultaneously working on 8 case studies – two on Mumbai International Airport, one on Tanishq, one on a great company called Polyhydron in Belagaum, etc. And working on these case studies is a massive learning experience for me. Usually, most institutes / courses use a very large percentage of Harvard case studies. But I restrict it to 40% at most.
So coming back to your question, teaching is really a two way street. I teach students and I learn along the way. Also, as you know I really teach across 3 programs (PGP, PGSEM and EPGP) at IIMB. The average work experience for each of these programs is 3 years for PGP (for the courses I teach to them), 5 years for PGSEM and 10 years for PGPX. So engaging with such a diverse student base on a continuous basis is really 50% teaching and 50% learning.
Another aspect is that most teachers tend to take themselves way too seriously. Looking back at my own career, I think for the first 2 – 3 years , I used to go to the classroom taking my degrees and all my experience in my head– and let me tell you that this is a REAL BAGGAGE which any teacher takes to the class!
What I’ve realized is that for any teacher to deliver the best education, you should go to your class with a light and empty mind. So I do prepare extensively for every class of mine, do yoga and meditation every morning. But when I enter the class, I get into what may be called “free-flow” – And that creates a positive environment to learn and engage with the class. And I’ve found this style to be personally very powerful! Getting FREE FLOW is very important for effective learning in the classroom for both the students and for me. Also, you need to throw in a few elements of spontaneous humor to keep the atmosphere light and easy. And then the focus is on engaging with the class and also to moderate the sessions, which is the role I play.
Again, as a teacher, my mantra is really this – Walk, Chalk and Talk.. Of course, no one uses chalks anymore. Also, I am probably the only professor who uses ZERO power point presentations for any of my classes in IIMB or I think probably in any B-school in India. Not one in any of my classes. Also as you know, I schedule a fair number of guest lectures so that students get insights from industry practitioners – So that’s also a tremendous learning experience for me.
The real challenge is to get people to think and to treat all students as responsible adults and most importantly, to trust them. This creates a congenial atmosphere and puts the onus of learning on the students as well.
Lastly, for the past few years the ONE WORD I have always emphasized as a teacher has been on “Customer VALUE” in my teaching of the course on B2B Marketing… And so I really ask myself one question everyday – “Am I bringing value to the student?” – I mean for starters, let’s look at value in the purely monetary sense. So the students pay a huge fee to study at the institute, and when I look at that number – I ask myself “Am I delivering value in accordance with this?”.. And then of course, the value that I bring to someone’s life! My view is if I take 1 hour of a student’s time, I should bring value to his / her life – That’s the primary orientation and driver for me. The value framework is strongly embedded in my psyche. So I try to keep promise of delivering VALUE to my students!
Also, I now think LESS is MORE. So even if I cover fewer topics, if it has a huge impact on the student’s thinking and learning – That is more valuable than covering 100’s of topics with no real take-away for the students. What I’ve recognized is that a lot of the knowledge and specialization is very industry-specific. The conceptual frameworks and foundation is laid at the institute in my courses (as well as other courses). Students can marry this conceptual knowledge with the knowledge specific to the specific industry in which they are working. My belief is that once you are interested in a subject, you will automatically be a life-long learner and then you will necessarily invest the time, resources and energy to continuously tap into the explosive ocean of knowledge that keeps changing at a frantic pace.
Nischala: Wow! Thanks Prof for your interesting insights! Honestly, it’s been a revelation for me because I don’t think I’ve ever met any teacher who speaks about teaching like this. I think all your students are lucky… So, moving on – What is the most satisfying moment for you as a teacher?
DVRS: The best gratification for me as a teacher is when my students write back and keep in touch with me long after they have left the institute – Which I don’t think they do with all the professors they’ve studied with. People write back saying that they are applying the concepts I taught. Some even write back that my courses were among the best at the institute and that motivated by my courses, they made deliberate career shifts. And then of course, there are so many who write back saying that I made a REAL DIFFERENCE in their life.
So there are all kinds of situations which give meaning to my role as a teacher – Cases of people in bad relationships, children abusing parents (and the parent was my student ), people in really BAD jobs, people stuck in a bad work environment, or people completely dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in their life – And their interactions with me through the courses I teach, helped them make peace with their past and move on in life.
What I realized is that people in corporate world are under extreme pressure – Some of this is self- created and some are definite professional pressures. So living every day in a state of STRESS is really NO FUN in the long term. And if I can help them in the larger journey of life, then that gives me immense internal satisfaction!
Nischala: That’s great to hear.. So moving on, you’ve been associated with premier B-schools in India for a very long time. In your view, what are the key significant differences in students from the past (say 10 to 20 years) to now? And differences could mean anything – from self-confidence, to optimism in life and the future, to priorities, to hunger for success, to ambition, to creativity, to innovation, to understanding of basics, to REAL interest in learning… etc. etc. etc.
DVRS: All my courses are elective courses. Earlier, the class strength was 20 -30. I knew each student by his/her name. I could give individual attention to each student and understood him/her from different facets of his life (in the class, family, work, etc.) But now with the increasing demand for management education, the class size has increased significantly. So, interactions are not one-to-one on an individual basis and it’s tough to keep track of every single student.
From student’s perspective, with ever-increasing fees in business schools these days, it puts an immense pressure on the students due to the financial pressures, since many of them would have taken loans to study here. The pressure is not just in terms of amount of money they invest in the program course, but also in the case of the executive MBA program participants, we must also include their opportunity cost because they don’t earn when they are students here. These pressures are increasing year on year.
Hence I feel that the attitude towards education is changing – It really is a ”utilitarian” mind-set for many students: ‘Here is what I invest, and now I need to get my return on investment after the program.’ Only 20 – 25% student truly learn – and I think that’s what counts for me as a teacher and that is what keeps me going in this profession. These are the students who will stand out in the long term! Hence, my view is that the onus of learning is largely on them. I do not take a school teacher approach of goading people to learn in my courses. In fact, I have a very elaborate course outline that spells out my philosophy very clearly, so that hopefully only those students who really want to learn should ideally be taking my courses. However with the growth in student numbers, that is not strictly possible.
As a teacher, I can enable them discover what they are passionate about – And I think the fortunate few who figure out what their TRUE PASSION in LIFE is will EMERGE as the REAL WINNERS!
How can I not make my point without a 2 X 2 – typical of B-schools? We all have lots of noise in the mind. And we need to recognize the noise as the underlying “drama of our life”. It can be sickeningly de-energizing to have this constant background music if the drama is dysfunctional. The drama could be things such as: ‘I am a failure’ or ‘I am useless’ or ‘I need to constantly prove myself to others’, or having a mega ego, etc. If you remove this dysfunctional baggage, it can be wonderfully liberating. I am not saying every one has a dysfunctional baggage, but whoever has it must pay heed to recognizing it and then make efforts to jettison it. The really successful ones are those who have an ‘enabling’ baggage and a clear purpose of life. In my course on Reinventing through Entrepreneurial / Intrapreneurial Leadership’, during part of the course I focus the lens on helping participants understand these aspects, help them to get a clear purpose of life, and to jettison dysfunctional baggage if any that they may be carrying.
Nischala: Thanks for sharing your 2 X 2. That was really insightful.. So moving on, you’ve seen individuals transition from B-school graduates to very many different roles – super successful corporate executives, to business tycoons, to entrepreneurs, to academicians, to social workers, etc. etc. – And each with a different degree of success. Looking back, what are the top 3 life lessons you believe that every student must take-away as a part of their B-school education?
1) To make continuous learning a part of your life. If you go away as a lifelong learner, you will do well for yourself
2) Recognise your core values and never ever compromise on them (these include a strong foundation of ethics, among others)
3) To focus on ROLE clarity in your personal and professional life
4) Alliance Building is KEY in the journey of life – Again both in personal and professional life. And soft skills play a very important role here!
5) Recognize passion and purpose of your life – If you discover your passion, you don’t have to work for even 1 day in life, because it will no longer seem like work
Nischala: Any other message you’d like to share as a part of this rendezvous?
DVRS: As a teacher, I am also evolving and constantly learning. I would like to stress that all that I have told you so far is my learning till date, and hence tentative. I would like to wish all readers of this piece peace and happiness always. Go, discover your passion, jettison your baggage and be happy every second of your life on earth!
Nischala: Thank you for your time. It was an absolute pleasure!
DVRS: You know what? Some of your questions were really tough and made me think too.. So I must commend you for this… Thanks again!
How did you like this Rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know
Angela is the founder and President of Maiers Education Services, a consulting firm headquartered in Clive, Iowa. Her company provides just-in-time consultation services to schools, organizations, and individuals seeking to use technology and social media to leverage human capital and production goals.
Under Angela’s direction, schools and businesses within and outside the education industry are implementing the proven practices that accelerate their desired outcomes.
To her credit, Angela has been involved in several national and global initiatives centered on education. She is also a TED speaker ; and has also been a keynote speaker at several events across the globe.
Three of my favorite blogs of Angela are below:
12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter
12 Most Genius Questions in the world
12 Most Innovative, Inspiring and Unmissable TED Talks
I was thrilled and honored that Angela agreed to do this rendezvous with me. Primarily because if there’s one TED Video which made a REAL DIFFERENCE in my life, it was Angela Maiers TED Video on YouMatter . And of course, the fact that she is probably one of the most respected educators across the globe…
As a part of the Education Special Series that I am running on my blog, I conducted this Rendezvous with Angela to get her insights and views on education, the evolving face of education and what it means to be an educator?
Nischala: Hi Angela.. Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to speak to me today in spite of your hectic travel schedule. Truly appreciate it! My first question is really around an observation that I’ve seen in your profile. You call yourself an “EDUCATOR” and not really “TEACHER” as most people I know call themselves? What in your view is an educator?
Angela: Nischala – Thank you so much for reaching out to me. That’s a great question and the difference is really subtle. But educate really means “To change the mind”. And the reason why I call myself an educator is because my goal whenever I enter a classroom or interact with students is how I can elevate their thoughts and make a lifelong impact so that the minds of students are stretched. And the fact is that once a mind is stretched, it never really goes back to its original state. It then grows evolves and stretches itself further!
And from my experience, most good teachers do just that! But many teachers deliver just what they know. So if you are in their classroom, you can sense that the message that they really relay is this “I know this… this and this.. And as I share that with you.. you listen and learn and of course do as I say”. And there is teaching here, but there is no LISTENING from the teacher.
And in my view, education is about teaching, listening and learning… So education is really about “WE”. You come into my classroom as ME , but really leave as WE.. So WE are smarter together.. And the focus of an educator is to enable empower and elevate each other.
Even if you look back in time at history and revolutions of the globe, most transformations have been due to the power of communities – people unite and learn together, thrive together and survive together!
The focus of education has to be on our ability to listen, learn, change yourself, change the community and change the world! And change really is a positive impact or difference that you or anyone can make
Nischala: That’s a really wonderful way to put it Angela. So can you elaborate a little on the many roles you played as a part of the Education System?
Angela: I’ve been part of the Education system in the USA for 14 years. And during this tenure, I have been in all parts of the system and played several roles. Right from a teacher for pre-schoolers, to 8th standard students to Under Graduation to Graduation to School Administration to Higher Education to eLearning. So I have a very good understanding of the many nuances of education system and I have learnt tremendously in each of these roles – By my experience and most importantly, from my students!
Nischala: That’s great to hear.. I think such a diversity of experiences makes you understand the system really well inside out… So moving on, there’s always a lot of discussion around the “literate mind” and “educated mind”. What in your view is the difference between an “Educated Mind” and a “Literate Mind”?
Angela: This is again a subtle difference.. But really you must have a Literate Mind to have an Educated Mind.. And by educated what I really mean is this:
One is an ability to understand the world around you.
Two is an ability to convey what you know, see, hear or read.
Three is the ability to rally around others towards a specific message or cause. And that’s where the real power of the web lies – To engage with people across the globe to take action. So earlier, education was a power and privilege. But today with the power of the web and availability of free information to everyone it has become a human right!
Nischala: That’s a very interesting response! You’ve been associated with the education sector for more than two decades now? In your view, how has education really changed?
Angela: The fact is that the world has changed in past few years in ways beyond imagination! But the reality is that the education system has not adapted in tune with this pace of change and this can prove detrimental to the system and society at large in the long run.
From my experiences what I observe is that the education system is really holding on to age old best practices than embracing the next practice – as relevant in today’s context! In fact, some of the best practices of 100 years ago can actually be classified as a malpractice today – Not just in the context of education but any discipline. For e.g: In Healthcare, the way you treated illnesses 100 years ago cannot be applied today!
And the fact is that many schools have virtually the same structure, systems and practices as they had 50 years ago. And that is not OK for the system and for society at large!
Education should really focus on learning continuously – both students and teachers! And even though there are several passionate teachers and educators who are waging daily battles to ensure that they do the best possible for their students, the systemic problems are hard to work around!
And the reality is that education cannot anymore be about sharing and building a Body of Knowledge in individuals. It has to go beyond that as this knowledge is free and available for everyone to consume! It is no longer really about content – But the focus of education should really be on :
1) How to build and mold a CHARACTER?
2) How can you enable an individual to be CONTEXTUALLY relevant?
3) How to enable the BEST possible performance for an individual?
Nischala: That’s interesting.. So can elaborate a little more on the connection between the world of the web and the world of education?
Angela: The ecosystem of education is hierarchy driven. So the higher you go in this hierarchy, the more “elite” you are considered – and you are a member of “The CLUB”. And you earn a spot here for what you know or rather what you are known for. So if you get an “A” in university, you keep an “A” for the rest of your life. And one is not honored adequately for your contributions back to the system, to your students and to society.
While the web is a completely different ecosystem – It transforms and challenges the fundamental premise of everything – including education. The world of the web really nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit – It really does not look at your degree, but values your pedigree. So as an educator, you need to be open-minded to get off your pedestal and embrace the web. And let me tell you that it’s not easy to get an “A” in the world of the web.. And if you do, you need to work hard to retain the “A” – It’s a continuous journey; not the end to the means!
Nischala: That was such an interesting and insightful answer. So moving on, what is the role of parents in EDUCATION?
Angela: Interestingly, the role of the parents has really not changed. All parents what the BEST for their children – And this has been constant 100 years back and will probably be the same 100 years from now.
But what one should recognize is that the reality which many parents fail to acknowledge, accept and adapt to is the mind-set that what worked for me will work for my children. And the answer to that is NO! So the traditional school of thought is that you need to study to be successful! The point is that the measure of success in today’s world is different from what it was 50 years back. And so it is a rude awakening for many parents when they see that their children successful very early in life (and also possibly with limited formal education in many cases) – Way beyond what the parents ever achieved for a lifetime! And the conduit of information on the internet makes it possible for kids of today to dream, conceptualize, create, build and also sell one / many products and services in the new economy.
I think the call of the time for parents is to constantly upgrade their own self-awareness on the changes happening around them and also support their children and the education system based on what is required to ensure growth and progress for their children
Nischala: Ok.. So I’ve been reading a lot about education for this series and have come across a lot of interest and acceptance of Home-schooling and its rapid adoption. So really what is home-schooling? What are the pros and cons of it?
Angela: Home-schooling is really customized personalized education. It really stems from a deep belief that the system of formal education available is broken or inadequate. So individuals / community provide the required education to children on their own. The underlying belief system is that education is really about experience.
Home-schooling has evolved to be a sophisticated network and with new technology it is becoming more feasible to home-school children. The earlier premise of the education system was that the teacher only knew and controlled the knowledge and its dissemination. But in the world of the web, information and knowledge is free and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Also, the whole concept of just in time learning has disrupted the old premise of memory based learning.
In my view, it is a choice parents need to make. Data suggests that children who are home-schooled are as competitive in the world as those students who received formal education.
Home-schooling is evolving to an organized system and there is infrastructure to support it. It is definitely a huge responsibility on the parents and you need to be prepared for it – physically mentally emotionally and financially. Some children get home-schooled at the elementary school level, some at the mid school level and some at the high school level. For some it is a combination of home-schooling and formal school – So it is really blended learning!
I’m not advocating home schooling, but it is definitely becoming a serious contender to public school education. And philosophically, the premise here is that we are smarter together.
Nischala: That’s interesting to hear! So moving on, what are the 5 life lessons that every student should learn as a part of formal education?
Angela: Not five, but really 7. The real lessons are the lessons of character or Habitudes as I call them – And they are important for any learner, working professional, citizen or a global contributor.
1) Imagination is fundamental to learning and life. The world is built on dreams and has evolved based on collective dreams of those who dared to dream. All potential of world is due to dreams. And the web is the land of the dreamers!
2) Curiosity is the most important attribute you need to keep alive. I have to quote Alert Einstein here “ I’m not a genius, I am passionately curious” is what he said
3) It is critical to build and enhance your own self-discipline in life
4) Perseverance is critical – To succeed, you have to be tenacious to stick to your dreams and not take NO for an answer. If you cannot dream, you dreams will never be a reality
5) Passion is really not about what you like or what is good.. But what you must do – And sometimes you may need to suffer for this.. But that’s what passion is all about
6) Adaptability – The world is changing at a rapid pace and in a blink of an eye, the context changes. You need to be inherently adaptable to survive and succeed in today’s world
7) Self Awareness is important – It is critical to learn with and for others. You need to ask yourself constantly “What is the value I bring to the table? What is my genius with respect to others? What are other’s perceptions of your role?” and the answers to these questions will show you the TRUE MIRROR, and several times burst your bubbles!
The key to genius is consciousness and conscientiousness.
You need to practice these habitudes and understand that in the long term these will define your success.
Nischala: That’s been a great learning for me Angela! And so very profound! So how do you bring in so much passion energy and excitement to your work and life?
Angela: That’s a very good question! I am passionate about learning and am constantly in a state to embrace being an amateur. I am never worried about being an expert. And the distinguishing mark of an amateur is that he / she is in love with the discipline and with studying and learning..
And I don’t think I will ever reach the stage in life when I can say “I’m DONE”. And even though I’ve been in the education sector for 2 decades, I find myself saying everyday Oh my God! I know nothing about X, Y and Z… And I love the process of discovery, learning, asking questions, observing others, listening, growing and being part of others growth.. And the truth is that The more you know, you realize how much you don’t know
Nischala: But does this not put undue stress on yourself if you keep saying I know NOTHING!
Angela: You know that it such a profound and wise question. And I’d love to answer it with all honesty. Looking back, it was the most freeing feeling when I figured out that I don’t know everything there is to know and that I don’t have to know everything. And it was only at that moment that I finally accepted and embraced WEness instead of MEness.
So I stopped going into class as the teacher, but really entered as the lead learner. Also, I don’t call myself CEO of the company, but the Chief Learning Officer – So everyday my focus is on learning. And it’s not really about what I know, But how I came to know it which is important to me
Nischala: Thanks Angela for this honest answer. So my BEST QUESTION (in my view) of the Rendezvous is how can anyone be a life-long learner?
Angela: I think as an individual you should focus on problem solving and problem learning. And this evolves along the way. The TRUTH of the WORLD as I discovered in my journey as an educator is that there is genius in everyone and the power of the world is in the collective genius.
The trend that I see around me is it’s become fashionable for everyone to be an expert or guru; and that’s great! But the minute you / others call you a Guru, the learning usually ceases or reduces significantly.
So you should be committed to learning and be really transparent in What I know and What I don’t know. And if you don’t know, try to figure out the answers. And the better smarter and more efficient process should be embraced for anything in life. You don’t have to be perfect, but try to be the BEST you can in a given context!
Nischala: So Angela.. What has been the BEST moment in your life as an educator?
Angela: Being around young kids (say 4 year olds) where every experience is new. And to watch the amazement and wonder in their eyes when they experience something for the first time. And I get to watch and witness the genius of the world every single day through their eyes, questions, thoughts, ideas, laughs.. What is more amazing and wonderful than these precious moments with the genius of the world! Trust me – They are the BEST, most SATISYING and WONDERFUL moments of my day and my life – The moments which give me the passion, drive, zest and joy to contribute and do my bit and the best I can!
So what I do is that I invite students daily to join me on a roller-coaster ride where I watch their breath being taken away.
Nischala: That’s so beautiful Angela. You know I would love to sit through a class of yours to be a student and have you take my breath away .. So any other message that you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Angela: :). You are welcome to join my class anytime you are here. So as we conclude, a couple of key messages I’d like to end with are:
1) It is important to live life like a child. And the reality is that children have so much to teach us.. If only we are open to learning! Simply because children are the embodiment of learning. Every single thing a child does is learning. And if you closely observe children, you will understand what I mean!
2) Ask brilliant questions.. See the wonder and genius in yourself and the world around you!
3) The most powerful words at work, at home or in life are You Matter
4) Practice the Habitudes
5) Live life in awe – Every moment is unique precious and wonderful!
6) Adaptability should be your second nature
7) Self-discipline in mind-set and disposition leads to constant improvement
8) Encourage everyone to be a TRUE EDUCATOR
Education has to be 360 degrees. Education is not about entertainment, but it is about engaging minds in conversations. And really, learning has to be mutual between the student and the teacher
Nischala: Thank you so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure and I have enjoyed this learning experience. Best wishes for your continued efforts and contributions in the
education sector. The world definitely needs more educators like YOU! You Matter!
Angela: Thank You
Nupur Basu is the featured STAR in my Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.
ABOUT NUPUR BASU
Nupur Basu is an independent journalist, award winning documentary film maker and media educator from India.
For the last three decades Nupur has worked in both print and television journalism and reported and filmed extensively from different regions in the world like India, UK, Uganda, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal ,Bangladesh and Afghanistan . She reported extensively on politics, development, gender, child rights, issues of livelihood, hunger, health and environment in print, television and documentary films. Her longest stints in print was with India’s leading national daily Indian Express (1982 to 1991) and in television, with New Delhi Television (NDTV) (from 1994 to 2006) where she was Senior Editor.
In 2010 Nupur was visiting faculty for the spring term at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley teaching a course on ‘International Reporting: India”. She is an Associate Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at Bangalore and also on the executive committee of the Delhi based Media Foundation. She is also on the Board of Panos, London.
Nupur has also made five independent documentary films between 1995 to 2008:
”No Country for Young Girls?” (2008- produced by TVE ,UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Lost Generations” (2000 – produced by TVE,UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj” (2000 - supported by Media South Asia and IDS, Sussex and Ford Foundation.)
”Mothers of Malappuram” ( 1997 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)
”Dry Days in Dobbagunta” (1995 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)- award for Excellence in Television at IAWRT Festival at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997.)
Nischala: Hi Nupur. Firstly, thank you so much for your time. It’s indeed a pleasure and honour to talk to you.
Nupur: Hello, Nischala. I am impressed with your patience and perseverance. You would have made a very good journalist – it is the hallmark of a good reporter to chase their story, till they get it.
Nischala: Thank you, for your kind words … So let me start this rendezvous with a subject and topic dear to your heart – Empowerment of Women. What does empowerment really mean?
Nupur: Empowerment of women is simply about giving girls equal opportunities in life to learn, grow and evolve. It is about instilling self-confidence and belief in their own strengths and capabilities.
Nischala: That’s an interesting response. So can you please elaborate on these?
Nupur: All of the above really start with making a daughter feel wanted and special from the time she is born. It’s about how you condition her to perceive a role for herself in life. In a fundamental sense, in our country, it’s linked to survival itself. As you are aware in India we have the shameful sex- ratio distortion due to a son- loving society. As per published data, 70 lakh girls (seven million) have been aborted in India in the last ten years alone through sex-selective abortions.
The situation has got worse year upon year. In the 1991 census, there were 945 girls in India to 1000 boys. Ten years later, in the 2001 census it was 928 girls. In the 2011 census, it is down to 914. Only in the state of Kerala the sex ratio is in favour of women. The Prime Minister of our country has described it as a ‘national shame’ but there is no political will to do anything to stop this genocide. The PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) Act which makes sex selective abortions illegal was passed in 1994. After 18 years, the number of convictions for pre-natal sex determination is abysmally low- only 80 cases have so far resulted in conviction.
Aamir Khan’s recent episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ brought this into national focus. Let’s hope it helps our society break the silence on this national crime. I have editorially described it as a very positive effort and a missed opportunity for the national media. Here is the link for that article in the media watch website-The Hoot
Nischala: You have also made a film on this for BBC World on this subject- Tell us about it.
Nupur: Yes, I made a documentary on this subject in 2008 titled: No Country for Young Girls? . In the film, the protagonist is 27 year- old Vaijanti , a young married women with two young daughters. Like lakhs of women in India, this young married woman too has been rejected by her husband and in-laws for giving birth only to girls. Ironically, Vaijanti lives in Agra just one kilometre from the Taj Mahal , the monument that symbolises eternal love for the world. When we started filming her story, she had returned to her mother’s house and was in a legal battle with the husband. The film begins with petite Vaijanti sitting alone on that lover’s bench in from of the magnificent Taj Mahal saying: “I grew up in the land of Rani of Jhansi and I wanted to give birth to my daughters… my husband threw me out of the house for that but I will fight for my girls till the very end” . Princess Diana had sat alone on the same bench at the Taj and it had symbolised the end of her marriage with Prince Charles.
Vaijanti then leaves Agra with us and travels across the country meeting women from different economic backgrounds to find out whether she is alone in her suffering. From women ministers, to women construction workers to IT women CEOs- she meets them all and finds that she not alone in her suffering. One woman who particularly inspires her is Jasbir, a nurse in Ganganagar who was rejected by her husband and in-laws because she had triplets- all girls. She had resolved to work and bring up the girls and today they are three lovely 13 year-olds who are studying in school and who adore their mother. No Country for Young Girls? is a story of deep despair and utmost hope.
Nischala: Was the film well received?
Nupur: It was on BBC World as part of series called Living on the Edge and it had a worldwide telecast to good reviews. The very first day it was on the BBC website it had 87,000 hits. There is enormous interest in the subject as people cannot understand why a country like India which is supposed to have a vibrant democracy and wants to project itself as an economic powerhouse, should be eliminating its daughters in the 21st century. It is really mind boggling. In the film an expert on Gandhi pointed out to us that “Gandhi would most definitely have fasted unto death if he had known Indian daughters were being killed in this manner“. Unfortunately there are no Gandhis in our country today who find this practice morally abhorrent. It’s really crazy that as a society we worship women goddesses – but we abuse women in real life.
Nischala: Has it always been this way ?
Nupur: Not really..thanks again to Gandhi, Indian women took part in large numbers in the Indian freedom struggle. By coming out of their homes onto their streets in thousands, to take part in a national political movement, they made a huge statement . If this was the case in 1946-47, you would have imagined a rising graph of emancipation of women in free India in 2012. Sadly, as you and I know it, that’s not been the case. Although India had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi for double digit years, and although women are in power at the helm of politics in India even as we talk today – the President is a woman, the Speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman, the head of the Congress party is a women, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha is a woman, we have three women Chief Ministers- yet, ironically, our elected MPs in the lower House of Lok Sabha refuse to pass the 33 per cent reservation Bill for women in Parliament .In January this year it was once again turned down in the lower house. These are the dichotomies we are grappling with as a society/nation.
The truth is that in 21 st century India, both in rural and urban India, many women are not safe in their homes, on the streets or at their workplace. Everywhere there are instances of abuse of women. Honour killings, dowry deaths, rapes of women and minor girls…the list is long and depressing. This is not restricted to specific communities or any particular economic segment. It is endemic, cutting across class, caste. It is as if the whole eco-system is conspiring to keep women down. And the political class and the judiciary is looking the other way. The nation’s capital, Delhi, has a skewed sex-ratio. When we had filmed in 2008 it was 821 girls to 1000 boys. If elimination of daughters through sex selection can happen in Delhi, where the Parliament and Supreme Court are located, it can surely happen anywhere in the country.
Nischala: So, what in your opinion is the cause of this abuse?
Nupur: We still live in a feudal and patriarchal society in the 21st century. Having shiny metros and IT parks and glitzy cars does not make us modern. In No Country for Young Girls , women IT professionals (who comprise 33 per cent of the workforce- at least you all have breached the figure that Indian Parliament will not allow women Parliamentarians to reach) tell us that they too are still subjected to harassment for dowry and also harassed by their in-laws to part with their own income etc. A woman IT Manager told us on camera how the men in her section openly asked for placements to Dubai and the US, saying it will increase their dowry. The Burns Ward at the Victoria hospital in India’s IT city, Bangalore, used to have an admission rate of 90 women a month. Three a day. As a journalist I have covered this and I can tell you that some of the cases are simply heart-breaking. Several women are burnt in dowry harassment cases. Another woman was set on fire by her husband ostensibly because she could not conceive after marriage – she had been married only for three months. The list of horror stories could just go on…
One huge problem in our system is that daughters are brought up believing that marriage is the be all and end all of their existence. Marriage should be one thing you do among various things in life. Not the only thing you do. It is this age-old- ‘ladki to paraya ghar ki hoti hain’ (the daughter is reared for someone else) which is the genesis of the problem. It is this conditioning that instils the feeling of inferiority and lack of self-confidence in girls. Adding insult to injury, this message is accentuated by the mass media. The gender stereotypes of a patriarchal society that we see in television serials, makes matters worse. And women are the largest consumers of these TV serials which are reinforcing stereotypes about themselves and it has an adverse impact on them.
Nischala: So any specific observations that you’d like to highlight based on your research as a journalist over the past several decades?
Nupur: While urban India has benefitted from liberalisation, it is the poor – both urban and rural poor who have been hit badly. Just look at the canvas that we celebrate as India Shining – 840 million people live on less than 20 Rs a day .Ninety three per cent of India’s workfoce works in the unorganised sector and is not paid minimum wages, a large number of whom are women. Thirty-three per cent (one in three) of children in India are born low birth weight (less than2.5 kgs). In the year 2000 I had made a documentary again for BBC World titled- Lost Generations- in which I showed that the cycle of malnourishment of underweight mothers (some of them actually girls of 15 who had been married off) giving birth to underweight children. Research showed that malnourishment at birth leads to diseases like diabetes in later life among other problems. While looking at these children filming in rural Maharashtra, the title of the film came to us. We felt that these malnourished children, many of them girl children, have no future unless there are policies in place that help them – And these have to be proactive.
Nischala: OK.. These are interesting insights and perspectives.. Thanks for sharing.. Moving ahead, you’ve spoken a little about “financial independence” for a woman. Why do you think this is important?
Nupur: Financial independence is absolutely crucial. Lakhs of women are forced to endure abusive marriages because they have no financial independence. When I talk in colleges in India, I literally plead with women students not to see university education just as a ticket to a acquiring a husband. Instead think and focus only on your career ahead. Marriage should take place when they are ready for it and on their own terms. Marriage needs to climb down the priority list for women in India. A career and financial independence can ensure that to a large extent.
The flip side is that many a times when women do become financially independent, the irony is that many of them do not have control over their money. Their salaries are taken away by their husband or in-laws. This may sound really crazy, but it’s true. A multi-metro research conducted in India recently showed that working women in Delhi had the least control over their finances. Other metros too revealed this shocking trend. Kolkata was the only exception. Women there had control over their earnings.
Nischala: That’s a very interesting response.. And very profound advice.. So What are the three skills that women of today need to build?
Nupur : Well, left to a man a skilled woman is one who brings a huge dowry when she marries, obeys him and his parents, produces his sons, cooks and maintains the house well , entertains, works and hands over her salary to him at the beginning of the month. First of all we need the skill to reject this role for ourselves. Instead we need to build our confidence in ourselves, have the courage to walk down a different path and learn to negotiate life on our own terms.
Nischala: So any specific woman / women who is an inspiration for you personally?
Nupur: Women who have inspired me the most in my 30 -year journalistic career are poor women from rural India. The courage of these women in the face of such gruelling poverty, deprivation and an indifferent government is truly inspiring. Examples that come to mind are women like 60 year old Rosamma who led the struggle against liquor shops in the village of Dobbagunta in Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh . It was one of the most amazing grass-roots women’s struggle in India against the government’s cynical policy on liquor (reflected in a documentary I made in 1995- Dry Days in Dobbagunta). Women like Jasbir from Ganganagar who dared to go ahead and give birth to triplets-all girls- and bring them up as a single mother. The widows of dozens of farmers who had committed suicide as they could not pay back their debts. Even as we speak these women have to struggle for a livelihood so that their children do not go to bed hungry. Their resilience has left a deep impression on me and also left me feeling frustrated with myself, the government and the society I live in, for leaving them out in the cold.
Nischala: That’s really touching Nupur.. So if you had a look into a crystal ball and predict what will make a difference in India 50 years from now with respect to women in modern India… What would be your response?
Nupur: Crystal ball gazing is not my forte. But as a journalist since 1982, I have documented many trends in this country and I think you may not have to wait for another 50 years to feel the impact. To be honest- the dreams in the eyes of girls from towns like Ganganagar, Salem, Kanpur, Aligarh, Pondicherry– will provide the trigger for change in India in the next twenty-five years. Do you know that the rank holders in some of these places are girls from the government schools? They want to study. They have dreams in their eyes and are willing to work hard to make them come true. These girls will source the strength that lies within.
Nischala: Great to hear Nupur.. That’s really promising! Looking back at your own life, what do you think really made the difference to where you’ve come today?
Nupur: First I think it is how my parents raised me and my two sisters. They made us feel loved and wanted and gave us the best education and opportunities. The one thing that my father drilled into us three girls was : “Whether you marry an emperor or a beggar- you must be independent and stand on your own feet”. That shaped us to what we are today. Today, in the twilight of their lives, we three sisters try and do everything we can to nurture our parents. Choices of marriage were also on one’s own terms. I have been married for the last 31 years (it was a love marriage) and also have the most wonderful relations with my in-laws, despite all the feminist lectures I have given them over the years.
In one’s professional career, one always pushed the boundaries, innovated, never-took-short-cuts and believed in the old school of journalism that ‘good journalism can change the world’.
I believe that the personal is the political and have lived my life that way.
Nischala: Nupur, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts through your rendezvous.
Nupur: It was good to talk to you Nischala. All the best with your passion for blogging and your career in IT.
Sriram is the Senior Vice President for Banking and Financial Services at Wipro. He is responsible for business from banking customers globally for Wipro and focuses on bringing in non- linearity in the software services industry.
Sriram is Chartered Accountant with broad experience in all aspects of accounting, auditing and financial management and in-depth understanding of information technology as applicable to the Banking and Financial services industry globally.
Currently, he has taken a sabbatical from his close to 25 year IT career to set-up D3T (Dignity and Dreams for Dogs Trust). In this rendezvous, I discussed with Sriram about his new initiative and the future plans
I’ve personally known Sriram for more than a decade now. Going down memory lane, he was probably one of the first senior business leaders I have interacted with in my professional career. And though we had the opportunity to work closely years back, we lost touch along the way. An occasional mail, greeting or Hello is what we shared for the past few years. Thanks to my blogs, we were able to re-connect. Sriram has been appreciative of my blogging success – with a kind acknowledgement, appreciation and a dash of humor (which is characteristic of him) along the way.
To quote a specific example on his wit and humor - The one that I will always remember is that Sriram mentions with a naughty smile and twinkle in his eye that “His life is driven, controlled and influenced by 9 women – His mother, wife, 2 sisters, 2 nieces and his 3 pet female dogs – All of whom he loves dearly.”
Hence I was excited about this rendezvous. One, to speak with Sriram after years and Two, to hear about his new venture. I knew always that Sriram loved dogs, but his current initiative is taking this love to a new level…
Nischala: Thanks for your time Sriram for this Rendezvous.
Sriram: Hi. .. Good Morning! It’s my pleasure. Hope all is well
Nischala: Firstly, great to speak with you after so long. And Congratulations on your new initiative. Would like to learn a little about your new initiative… So what is D3T all about?
Sriram: As you know, both my wife and I love dogs and have always been passionate about their welfare. We’ve had several dogs of our own over the past few years. My fascination for the wide world of dogs started some 30 years back with a gift of a Alsation- German Shepard pup whom we had named Tina ( There is no alternative and we did not know that acronym then). She must have been one of the most travelled dogs in the railways at that time .
Over the last 5 years we have adopted three more dogs who stay with us. The first one (Browny) followed us during a walk and we didn’t have the heart to let her go. The second one (Wags) walked herself into our compound and stayed on. The third one (Ginger) we again found during a walk. She had been ill-treated and could barely talk. She’d lost her voice and was unwell – So we brought her home and gave her the required care and attention. Today, she’s perfectly fine and in fact, makes the most noise at home . These three have got us to understand loving the world of dogs and their needs.
Over the past few years, the more we observed dogs in our locality and other parts of Bangalore, we felt there was crying need for active work to be done for the welfare of dogs.
Personally, we do our bit and best at every opportunity we get. Every day when we go for our walk, we feed atleast 10 dogs (Langdu, Scruffy, Scratchy, Scardy poo, Tall and lanky, Eager beaver ,Blacky, Lambu, Stripes and Karia) and we have got our domestic help and driver also to adopt two dogs – Scuby and Rocky. And what we realized is that dogs are essentially creatures of habit.
They really need only basics things – 1) food at fixed intervals 2) Love and affection. 3)health care both preventive and reactive.
So this initiative was really born out of personal passion and the current URGENT NEED for ACTION to be done in this space. And D3T was conceptualized to do just that! D3T stands for Dignity and Dreams for Dogs Trust. The idea of the initiative is take a holistic view of all issues that a dog could possibly face from Cradle to Grave; and to provide the required aid / support / assistance to address these issues.
Nischala: That’s good to hear. So what are the real goals for this initiative?
Sriram: The ultimate long term goals of D3T are to ensure that every dog in Bangalore:
1) Has a place to live – home / foster home, etc. So, this will include identifying people who would like to adopt a dog and co-ordinate for adoption
2) Is sterilized so that they don’t breed excessively / on the road
3) Gets the RIGHT food everyday of their life
4) Has access to preventive healthcare – Gets timely vaccinations so that it leads a healthy life and also does not harm / injure anyone and medical attention in case a dog is injured or infected
4) And really to give a dog a befitting burial
So to summarize, the aim of D3T is:
1) To give Dignity to every Dog – Essentially a home when it is alive so that it does not have to scavenge for food or is not teased, injured or harmed on the streets. And then to bury it with dignity
2) To fulfill the 2 Dreams of a dog – One is really to get the right food during the day. And let me tell you that dogs are hungry all the time. Two, to give and get love and affection
Nischala: OK. It’s great that you’ve taken such a holistic view of the issue itself. Many people I know look at welfare of dogs in a very siloed manner and at a very micro level and one day at a time. So this vision is really very well thought out and strategic if I may say in business terms. So, what is the short term plan?
Sriram: The short term plan is to focus our efforts on the area / locality that we live in – primarily Indira Nagar and C V Raman Nagar. And what we want to achieve is this:
1) No stray puppies on the road – So basically, every new born puppy should have a home
2) All unhealthy / injured dogs in the area should have access to medical care – So basically, they should receive medical attention and care from an agency like CUPA, Blue Cross, etc.
3) All dogs should get the right food – And I emphasize on right food because if they are fed wrong / unhealthy food, the chance that they get infected is high. A lot of people feed dogs with a good intent, but end up doing more harm as they don’t know what is good for dogs.
Essentially, dogs need balanced food. Human food may not always be the best for dogs.They should not be given excess salt and sugar in their food. Excess sugar as in humans has the potential to cause diseases in dogs, and also leads to other side effects like hair loss, etc. And excess salt can cause urological problems, etc. Also if you give them stale food – It is unhealthy. So the focus is to ensure that they eat the right food at regular time intervals.
Nischala: OK. Great to hear. And also very informative. Many of us probably are just not aware of such simple things. So what after you’ve done this?
Sriram: The long term plan is to expand beyond the areas that we live in and ensure that we are able to institutionalize a model in line with our ultimate goals.
Nischala: So moving from the corporate world of 25+ years to starting out on your own. How do you feel? And how difficult was it to make this decision?
Sriram: It was a very difficult decision. Something which I have been thinking about for more than 1.5 years. Let me tell you it’s not easy to leave the corporate world, especially if you are doing well.
So, I think looking back there were really a few considerations:
1) Most importantly is the fact that we are deeply passionate about the cause and believed in it
2) There is an URGENT CRYING need for work to be done in this area. So even if you are passionate about something, if there’s no BURNING problem to address – There’s no compelling need to probably devote your full time and efforts here. But since there is a burning need for action in this cause and we were really passionate about making a difference, we decided to embark on it
3) Also along with me, my wife has taken a sabbatical from work. So in addition to the cause, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to also get some personal and family time. The last few years have been invested in our careers. So this is a golden opportunity for us to work together towards a cause we both believe in. Also, in India – Giving up your corporate career for a social cause is still not the norm and probably not so well accepted yet. And so there’s the element of societal pressures as well. But I think if you believe in your dreams or a cause, people will eventually support you!
4) The organizational reaction and support - So I’ve been in discussions for several months now with the Wipro leadership team. And once everyone recognized the need and also realized how passionate we were about the initiative, things became a lot easier. I’ve received phenomenal support from the entire senior leadership. .
So in the end, the passion, vision and personal commitment to the cause overtook everything else. Also, it needed to be done full time with dedicated effort and commitment and hence the decision to take a break from the corporate world.
Nischala: That’s great to hear! So, what are the key challenges you envision here?
Sriram: The first is probably to build the RIGHT team of people – Basically people who are equally passionate about this cause and are willing to work with us. Interestingly, ever since people in my network have heard about this, I’ve received a lot of calls and messages. Some people who are already doing work towards the welfare of dogs and are willing to extend the intensity and contribution towards our initiative or some who were interested but never really did anything for very many reasons! And so as of date, we have about a dozen people who have expressed keen interest in working with us.
Second is in terms of identification of the right organizations / agencies and teams that we can collaborate with to ensure that we are able to cover all aspects of our goals. So as of today, I don’t yet have a sense of how much we’ll need to work with the Government and other agencies. But we should be able to figure this with time. Based on our research, we have found that there are some parts (5-6) in Bangalore where there are other agencies who are already doing similar work. We’ll need to engage with them and work out a collaborative model for working.
So the point is that during the initial 6 months, the focus will be on ironing out the organizational aspects of the initiative – basically setting up the legal entity through which we can operate, get the paper work done, set up the banking accounts, financial models, commercials, etc.
One of the key aspects obviously would be to identify the funding mechanism. Interestingly, I am not too worried about this as of now as a number of my well wishers have offered to contribute without me reaching out at all.We will cross this bridge when we get to it.
Second is really to figure out the way to institutionalize the model of operation. It cannot be an individual based model for it to survive and sustain.
In other words – The proof of the pudding is in the eating. So really, the yardstick for success is in being able to have a long term sustainable model to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves.
Nischala: Great to hear this Sriram. Also, a great part of your success will be primarily driven by the awareness among people. So, any thoughts on how you plan to generate awareness about this initiative?
Sriram: You are so right! In the long term, awareness is the KEY to our success.
One of the immediate areas that we’d like to focus on is to generate awareness in school-going-kids. So we do intend to collaborate with schools so that there is an awareness session / class as a part of their school curriculum. The biggest benefit here is that we are building this awareness at an impressionable age and stage in their life. So these lessons they will probably carry through life.
Second and also very important is that children are great ambassadors of positive change and are increasingly the key influencers at home. So for e.g.: If your child mentioned this to you over a dinner or when you are driving past an injured dog, chances are you will take note and also probably act on it! (Atleast better chance than if your spouse told you .. Something as basic as when you see an injured dog, you can call CUPA or Blue Cross to inform them about the same.
All you need is
1) Awareness that such agencies exist and
2) their contact details stored in your mobile.
Two, is that in terms of a larger reach – we need to figure a way to reach a larger audience to make them aware and also, ensure that they take the right action within their sphere of impact and influence. So, for e.g: May be through your blog we are able to generate some level of awareness and interest in D3T. And hopefully, over a period of time people do take the right actions.
Nischala: Sure Sriram. I’ll be personally happy if my blog(s) can make a difference here. So every time I publish my blog, I have no clue on who’s reading it from which part of the globe – But do hope that this post can make a positive impact and difference to D3T. So coming to my next question – Given that you have been in the technology world for more than 2 decades, how do you intend to use technology for your initiative?
Sriram: Sure, technology will be an integral part of our initiative. We do plan to have our own web-site / blog, etc. in the next few months. And we also plan to leverage the power of social media – for generating more awareness and for wider audience reach
Nischala: That’s excellent Sriram! Thank You for your time! It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Best wishes for success. And hope D3T achieves the goals it set out with and every dog has its dreams fulfilled and gets dignity in life and death! Good Luck!
Sriram: Thanks for your time..
A personal request for you.. – Kindly do share this in your network to create awareness about the D3T initiative…
Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan is a sociologist, and dancer, and a mom. Her professional work in and out of the classroom focuses on questions of gender, globalization, nationalism and development. Her newly published book, Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class (Duke University Press, 2011) examines the culture of Indian IT professionals in urban India, Silicon Valley, and South Africa. She is currently in India conducting research for a new project on educational programs aimed at microfinance borrowers. In her previous research, Smitha has studied meanings of race, ethnicity, and femininity among South African Indians in Durban (South Africa). Her work has appeared in journals such as Qualitative Sociology, Theory and Society, and Gender and Society, among others. A more detailed bio can be found at http://www.wellesley.edu/Sociology/sradhakrishnan.
Smitha has studied Bharatnatyam for most of her life, and has performed in the United States, Canada, India, and South Africa. Since 2008, she has been dancing with Navarasa Dance Theater, based in Boston and directed by Dr. Aparna Sindhoor. Under Dr. Sindhoor’s direction, she has expanded her movement vocabulary to include yoga, kallari, modern dance, and theater. Previously, in California, Smitha co-founded NATyA with Vallari Shah, which choreographed and produced original classical dance productions from 2003-2007. Over the years, she has studied dance with Asha Gopal in Arizona, Padmini Ravi in Bangalore, Girija Chandran in Thiruvananthapuram, Prakriti Bhaskar in Mumbai, and Katherine Kunhiraman in California. Currently in Bangalore, she is reconnecting to Bharatnatyam under the tutelage of Chitra Dasarathy. In 2009, Smitha became a mom to Medha, who now takes up more of her time than all her other interests put together. Before Medha, she had time to produce Desi Dilemmas, a popular podcast that ran from 2005-2006, and also blogged occasionally for UCLA’s online magazine for Asian-Pacific Arts.
Nischala: Smitha – Thank You so much for your time to do this Rendezvous. I really appreciate it.
Smitha: Thank You. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you
Nischala: Smitha, you have an incredible Bio. One of the most impressive I’ve read in a while. For many reasons – One I don’t know of too many PhD’s in my peer group – An abysmally small number of people even tread down that path. Two, A PhD along with a passion and active involvement in performing arts is really commendable – Not to mention, a rare and unique combination. Also, the additional credits you have in terms of your book, research work and your articles that I’ve read about are impressive. So looking back at your life, how did it all come together for you?
Smitha: I was raised in a fairly traditional Indian family in the US. I enrolled into dance at the age of 5. So dance and performing arts is a part of my identity. To be honest, I can’t imagine life without dance. For a long time, I had to internally deal with the what seemed to be the unique difficulties associated with “multiple identities” – Being raised in an Indian home, but also participating in everyday life in the U.S. My experience seemed unique at the time. But as I grew and got more educated, I realized that there’s nothing so special about my personal situation. History is filled with examples of people migrating and dealing with multiple cultural affiliations. Cultural change is the norm, not the exception. Embracing this perspective was liberating, and allowed me to do my research and travel with a sense of wonder and humility.
Nischala: That’s an interesting way to put it. And from all your travel, research and writing, I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many people across the globe – which is really exciting and can be a great learning experience in itself. So what has been the real lesson that you’ve taken away here?
Smitha: What I’ve realized based on my research, reading, interactions and introspection is that engaging with the personal experiences of others is the key to learning and growth. Shifting the focus away from my own personal issues to a broader world makes you see things differently. I was privileged to be in a position where some of these lessons emerged from my research. What I really learnt is this: Every one of us has a story to share – based on our own personal experiences. So, life is really not so much about me – or my struggles, issues or successes. But it is really about every individual’s journey in life. And when you wear that lens, you world view changes. I find it very humbling to engage and connect at a personal level to people from diverse walks of life – and to have the opportunity to listen one-on-one to their life stories. And each person’s story is rich – When I say rich, I mean it is rich with their life events, memories, joys, sorrows, achievements, trials, etc. What’s important is to step back and listen, to ask the right questions, and to give importance to the insight and wisdom that each person you meet possesses. So it is worthwhile to extend one’s point of engagement beyond yourself, to observe and reflect upon the experiences of others as well, so you can frame and re-model your own views and perceptions. At times, I am astonished about the things I don’t notice! But these realizations keep me humble and keep me looking to find out more about those things in my environment that are not completely obvious.
Nischala: That’s a powerful thought and a very unique way to look at people and life. So, coming back to your PhD. What was the motivation to pursue your doctoral studies?
Smitha: Since high school I had an interest in research, which I pursued through my undergraduate studies. At Berkeley, the exposure to an amazing intellectual and social environment was truly rewarding and satisfying! I learnt so much by being a part of such a great institution, working with some amazing faculty and having wonderful classmates. Coming to the PhD, I think it was just a logical step for me – I was passionate about research and writing, and sociology gave me the opportunity to pursue research and writing on social topics of my choice! So, it’s everything that I love – and if someone was going to pay me for this, then how could I turn down the opportunity? The main attraction for sociology was the possibility of doing fieldwork, which would allow me to interact with people I would never otherwise have the chance to engage with.
Nischala: So, what was the topic of your doctoral research?
Smitha: My research was centered around the cultural impact and role of the IT industry on Indian women, and the role of the IT industry in transforming “Indian culture” as a whole. I conducted extensive research over several years across 3 places – US, India and South Africa. The issues which most working women deal with are probably somewhat similar all across the globe. But what I found to be very unique to the women in India who are part of the IT workforce is that there is an “expectation” that women need to preserve the “Indian” character of the home and yet display a “global Indianness” as a part of their professional IT jobs. So this puts them is a difficult position and brings forth several dilemmas for women to deal with. Women find their own ways to deal with their specific situations. Some quit working, some make compromises in their professional life, some let-go of many things in their personal life. So there all combinations, but each of these compromises has to deal with the dilemma of being a professional woman while at the same time feeling a normative pressure to maintain an essentially “Indian” home. And the reality is that although there’s a lot of data on the increasing numbers of women in the Indian IT industry which are positive and encouraging – If you look a little closer, the numbers are still abysmally small, especially at the top tiers. Although women enter into the IT industry in equal numbers as men, most women still do opt out of their corporate careers once they become mothers. These decisions are always framed as “choice,” but are often not as freely made as we would like to believe.
Nischala: So any specific trends that you have seen in women living in India and part of the Indian IT industry?
Smitha: Throughout the industry, there is a moment of crisis for women when they have a child. This is a point at which many women make difficult decisions in their professional careers in IT. IT companies are still figuring out the ways in which good policy arrangements can allow women to continue their careers and there is a lot of effort in this area. It is still too early to say whether these new policies will prompt women to make different decisions. Men do not face the same dilemma when they have children because even though women have become equal earning members in many cases, men have not had to shoulder an equal burden in the area of childcare.
Nischala: In your personal case, how have you dealt with balancing all your responsibilities and passions?
Smitha: I have a 2.5 year old daughter and I have been able to somehow manage raising her with my work and dance. This is possible because my spouse shares an equal duty with regard to caring for our daughter. Equal responsibility at home has been a fundamental understanding of our relationship. Still, it’s difficult for us to manage both our careers, personal interests, and our daughter. Especially after living in India for the past few months, I’ve realized that we really need to take things one day at a time, it’s impossible to plan everything and budget every moment of every day. You have to be open to deal with changes and challenges. But in all this, I’ve found it most important to be true to myself. In this sense, dance is not a “break” for me, but a part of who I am. I won’t be a good mom, a good scholar, or a good partner to my spouse if I don’t dance! So, for each person, in whatever way it fits, I think it’s important to know who you are, what you need, and be true to yourself.
Nischala: That’s such a profound and valuable advice. Thanks for sharing your personal journey and insights on topics close to your heart. This was an absolute pleasure. Thanks again for your time
Smitha: Thank you for this opportunity. Have a great day!
Photo Credit : Ganesh Ramachandran @ Purple Ganesh Photography