Gaurav Tekriwal is best known for putting magic into math. What most of us see as a dreary subject, can actually be great fun. And for this, he has scouted the rich ancient heritage of Vedic mathematics as well as math traditions from countries around the world. His latest book, Maths Sutras from Around the World, outlines some of these mental math techniques.
BookedForLife chats with the math-master himself to glean how one could put the magic back into math.
Maths Sutras from Around the World describes powerful mental math techniques in a very easy to understand manner. In today’s gadget dominated world, where everyone has access to speed calculators, what do you believe is the role and importance of mental math?
In today’s world the importance of Mental Math cannot be undermined, even though we have calculators and computers to do all the calculations and processing for us.
Globally, right now we are facing a full blown Math Crisis. Did you know that 73.7% of all children in Grade 3 in India can’t subtract! (two digit problems with borrowing) according to the ASER Report by Pratham. In the United Kingdom, more than 17 million adults have Maths skills less than an 11-year-old according to the newspaper Guardian and countries like South Africa, Ghana, and Oman rank Bottom 3 in the World in Maths Scores according to the TIMSS Survey.
Mental Math techniques like Vedic Maths simplify Math to a great extent. Children love to loathe Math – but if they are shown that you can play around with numbers and that there can be more than one way to solve a Math problem – they would definitely be more excited.
If your country can’t do math, how will it progress? I was in South Africa taking a class in 2009 and I asked a 15-year-old girl student how much is 8 times 8. She solved it graphically for me by making 64 circles (8 in row) and by counting and telling me the wrong answer of 54 in 7 minutes. That’s how bad the situation is. Even though you may have the fastest calculators – you need your concepts in place too.
Math is a very creative subject. This aspect of Math is never shown in schools. Hence everybody right from students, parents and even teachers themselves are scared of it. While teaching if you can be a bit more creative and positive via these methods you can instil a love for Math.
Also, our brain is just like a muscle. You need to keep exercising it. Mental Math techniques are one of the ways to do so.
You are the Founder President of the Vedic Maths Forum India. What are the specific advantages of this ancient curriculum as compared to the way math is taught in our schools today?
Often, in schools, Math is taught in a mechanized robotic way, sapping the subject of its true beauty. You are given a problem and you have to solve it using a series of dull steps. No one shares that you can be creative about it too. You can sidestep the traditional way and solve it in a new way which is quick and fun. Vedic Math can be said to be the world’s fastest mental math system. It works in the same way the mind works. For example, we can all read left to write but when we solve sums on addition, subtraction or multiplication we always do it right to left. With the Vedic system you do your calculations left to right, get the answer quicker and you can even check your answer.
You also have a solid understanding of how the number system works using visual patterns. Armed with Vedic Math skills you can not only shine in your academics in school, but you can also apply the system to competitive examinations where you have to solve problems in less time.
In the book you have described techniques from different parts of the world. Do you believe we can move towards toward a global integrated math curriculum?
It will take time – but this is very much possible and achievable. With globalization and with boundaries to education disappearing thanks to the World Wide Web, students today have access to very powerful information. Students are looking for alternative methods to make their Math easier and simpler. Today you can use the best from the entire world to your benefit. Why shouldn’t it be done? A global integrated curriculum is a dream and maybe you can say that this book is a step in that direction.
Math is a subject that many children dread in school. What advice would you like to give parents and teachers to ensure that they approach this fascinating subject with the right attitude?
I think we need to transform the face of Math education today and that teachers be given that power and freedom to allow children to play with the subject in the first place. Teachers must use alternative means to point out abstract concepts to students. Teachers must use technology, games, math manipulatives and promote recreational mathematics via Math Clubs. Teachers should be enthusiastic in the first place and teach the subject with the right mindset and positive mental attitude. Who says Math can’t be fun?
How did your love for math begin?
In school I was lucky to have few good Math teachers who ensured I understood the concept and performed well. When I scored a little over 90% in my tenth board Math exam – the whole experience was very motivating and encouraging for me. Math was my strength and it was something I was naturally good at. It was something which set me apart from the rest of the crowd and led me to believe in myself. So when it came to make a career choice few years down the line and to take that leap of faith – I chose Mathematics and since then I never really looked back.
Gaurav Tekriwal’s Maths Sutras from Around the World is definitely one step in a direction which paves the way for math to be seen differently. Well, we’re sure it will all add up well together!
To know more about Vedic Math: www.vedicmathsindia.org
Books by Gaurav Tekriwal:
Can motherhood be a milestone that marks the beginning of a new career? For Ambika Tiku Hathiari, the experience of searching for a book for her daughter, led to the creation of a novel concept. Not only that, but it sparked off the idea of a dedicated self-publishing platform for writers of children’s books. Anyone who has looked for a self-publishing platform in India, knows that finding one tailor-made to cater to the unique genre of children’s books, would have earlier proved difficult. Not anymore!
MomSays is an online platform committed to help create beautiful and content rich books for children.
BookedForLife chats with Ambika Tiku Hathiari, Founder and CEO of MomSays to know more about the journey of the platform and how it is geared to help those who want to write for children.
And yes, we also take a glimpse into some of the books published by MomSays.
MomSays was born out of your personal experience of looking for a book for your daughter. What exactly sparked off the idea?
That’s true. My own personal desire to put something down for my daughter led to this. But, that was just one trigger. Today if I have to reflect back on that personal journey that culminated into what MomSays is today, it is not just about a book. It was about encapsulating and putting together your values and your time spent with your child. The experience was more to do with the fact that I was creating something that my child would look back at and cherish…something that I would cherish. It is more than a book. It is a passage of values, of great times, of recording a memory in a sense. Lot of parents want to tell stories- their own stories to their children. This is a physical way of expressing it.
Why the name MomSays?
I’ve discovered on the way that fathers are equally involved in writing…in fact, are probably more involved in writing! I’ve actually got a trademark for DadSays as well! MomSays is actually not so much of a “mother says” kind of platform. When I was thinking about the venture, I realized it was more about my ideas that I wanted to communicate to my daughter through the book. I realized that I often say, “my mother said this”. It is something we carry with us. It is not just about a book. When I got down to thinking, the name MomSays was a representation of that feeling of carrying forward something, remembering what was told to you. The name also has a play in terms of being a little authoritative. But if you look at the brand and the logo, we have tried to keep the colours a little more fun and very reflective of what a parent is.
How do you ensure that the quality of the books you publish is at par with set standards?
It begins with the fact that I am a consumer. I am one of the many mothers who would buy books. I hold my brand to the same standards. Quality means a lot to us. It means the simple things like the paper quality, the binding, the printing and so on. But it also means that we give a lot of emphasis to the creative design of a book. That is where it begins for the child. We have engaged with artists who especially work with children and they are the best in the field. Whenever we engage with a designer and illustrator we share our guidelines with them. We ensure that the quality is good. How we put the whole book together also illustrates our quality. We have retailed at popular stores like Kitaab Khana, Granth, Kahani Tree and so on, and the bookstores have always told us that our books have really good quality. I think it is all about holding yourself to the same standards and not accepting anything that you would not buy.
MomSays is essentially a self-publishing platform in India. What kinds of services do you offer?
Besides writers of children’s books, our audience is parents and teachers who wish to write for children. The services we offer begin from design, illustrating, printing, editing and so on. We give feedback to the writer. There is an option to apply for an ISBN. We offer everything that needs to be done to get a book that can be at par with other books in the market. We also do many interactive sessions in schools with particular books. This is quite author driven. For example, we had a book on the theme of yoga, and we had the author actually do a yoga session with children…with all the animal poses! They loved being exposed to yoga through storytelling. Once we had a book on caterpillars and the author actually got a caterpillar for the session.
What platforms do you retail on?
The most important platform is our website, http://www.momsays.co.in. We also have some books on www.amazon.in. We retail through some independent book stores. We participate in varied book fairs as well.
Does a parent-writer have any specific advantage over any other writer?
It begins with a good thought and a good thought can come to anybody. An established author has a bit of an advantage over somebody who is exploring writing for the first time. But, if you have it in you it is just a matter of taking that first step. But it is the love for children is the common factor. If that is amiss, you can’t write a good book for children!
What kind of books do children today like to read?
We work up to the 9-10 age group. Each child is different. Children like fun. The minute there is something that is fun, or something funny, they are hooked! They are also very interested in characters. It means a lot to them, to see a character do something. That’s why they get attracted to series! They associate a lot as well. A child takes in things visually. Their world is very simple. They also like new facts and they are intrigued by it. If they hear something new they get awed by it. They like to know more. Either they like a book or they don’t. If they don’t, well, they don’t! No matter how much fun you try and make it, they will not like it.
With the plethora of book options available in the market, and with increasing number of wirters wanting to publish their stories, it often becomes a challenge to identify books that will really appeal to children. But, this self-publishing platform in India has gladly taken up the task by giving a platform to those closely connected with children, to express stories that have a deeper meaning and personal connect.
There are many books on good leadership skills, each with its own merit. Become: The 5 Critical Conversational Practices that Shift ‘Who You Be’ as a Leader by Sameer Dua seeks to invoke and evoke ‘missing conversations’ that often block the way for good leaders.
The book is filled with many practical examples that define what these ‘missing’ conversations are and how leaders must have them. It takes a very empowering approach to leadership, where good leadership skills encompass much more than textbook principles.
The book uses the COACH approach (Care, Observe, Actions, Commitment, Holding Space of Conversation) to illustrate this unique model of good leadership skills. All these five elements are the conversational domains that leaders need to work on.
‘BECOME’ is an interesting name for a book that talks about good leadership skills. What made you choose this title?
As I have stated in this book, “Leadership” is not a job category; it is a set of conversational practices. Every conversation is a new opportunity to practice and apply the critical leadership conversational skills elaborated in the book. In my assessment, as a leader you never fully arrive. You are always in the making. As a leader, you may be a beginner, minimally competent, competent, expert or even a master – at each stage, you are in the process of ‘becoming’ the next stage.
In the book “Mastery”, George Leonard states, “Mastery is not really a goal or destination but rather a process, a journey”. Masters are always in this ongoing process of ‘becoming’, by going deeper in their subject.
If you are not in the process of ‘becoming’, then you reach a dead end. And that is the beginning of your decline.
What is critical for leaders to recognize is that you don’t ‘become’ by knowing more, you ‘become’ by shifting your practices, and in case of leadership, by shifting and creating new conversational practices.
You mention at the onset of the book that “if people around us are not delivering results, we are not having the required conversations with them”. It is refreshing to see this shift toward a more internal locus of control. Yet, why do so many people in leadership positions miss this point?
It’s easy to take a posture that “I have done what I could do. Now, if the results have not happened, it is because of something or someone external to me”. This is ‘comfortable’ posture, even if this posture does not deliver results!
The posture I am inviting the readers to take in this book, that is, “we are responsible for generating any result we want that matters to us” is confronting. It challenges you. It makes you think. It makes you start to question yourself. Look around the world we live in – everyone is blaming external circumstances. Very few choose this posture.
And those who do, generate results – for themselves, their teams and their organisations.
“Become” invites people to a new practice –of taking responsibility rather than that of blame; of looking for what may be missing in their actions, rather than look for what may be missing in someone else’s actions.
This book is all about ‘missing conversations’. How would you define a missing conversation?
My claim is that the path from where you are to where you want to be is that of ‘Conversations’. You will notice every result – big or small – the genesis of that result is in conversations. So, if the genesis of every result is in a conversation, and if your results are not being generated; then there is a missing conversation.
A missing conversation can be a conversation one has with oneself, or with another. This is tied in with my response to your earlier question – as a leader we need to take a posture to look for these missing conversations. If your conversation does not give you the desired result, then ‘that’ was not ‘the’ missing conversation. Start looking again. Till your conversations give you the desired result.
We either look for the missing conversations and have them, or we face the consequences of not having these conversations.
You speak about generative practices, that are conscious practices that shape a new habit or behaviour. You also mention journaling as one of the generative practices you use. Could you elaborate a bit on this?
Let me borrow from Stephen Cope’s work in his book, “The Great Work of Your Life” where he interprets the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagwad Gita. He states, “Mastery is almost never a result of mere talent” He goes on to add that “a certain quality of sustained and intensive effort is required – a quality of effort that has come to be called ‘deliberate practice’” When you engage in these ‘deliberate’ practices, you shift your automatic behaviours and habits.
And journaling, I assess, to be once such practice. When you journal, you engage in a conversation with yourself. And like most conversations, you never know what new possibilities can emerge through that conversation. Begin the conversation with yourself. And when you get stopped – ask yourself a new question. My claim is that when you sit to journal, the ‘conversation’ starts to flow. Often, you will be surprised with what you come up with. This is not just my experience, but that of many of my program participants who actively engage in this practice.
‘Become’ is a book filled with many questions. There are reflective questions at the end of each chapter. But, even during the course of a chapter you have put in varied questions. Do you feel this style of writing somehow leads the reader to assume a more active stance?
For me reading a book is engaging in a conversation with the author. When you are in a conversation, you do take an active stance. I’d like my readers to connect what is in the book with their life. And hence, the reflective pauses, the powerful questions, and the practices in each chapter. I believe it is in moments when your experience is stretched beyond your comfort zone is when you have greatest potential for real learning.
What is the next book you are working on?
I am currently working on two projects simultaneously. I am consulting a global organisation and supporting their leaders in generating a result that they have historically never delivered before. I believe the fundamentals are the same. I want to make this work a case study and come out with a book on this work. I believe it will be of value to many leaders and organisations. The second book is on certain irrefutable laws of leadership. These laws are blind to leaders within organisations. And because they are blind to these laws doesn’t mean that they are not paying a price – the price of this blindness is that they are not delivering desired results.
Well, this is not a book to simply read and put away. It is a book you need to work on if you want to get the full advantage of imbibing the good leadership skills described here. It is replete with questions for reflection and points to consider. There are several case studies as well to illustrate the points mentioned. To aid understanding, there are many diagrams, tables and relevant infographics that make the reading easier. Here’s a toast then, to good leadership skills!
It is that time of the year again when your fitness goals and resolutions are (hopefully) rolling in place. Well, it is indeed a perfect time for a book on fitness to hit the shelves! The Shivfit Way is a guide to functional fitness. The book stems from the Shivfit philosophy propounded by Shivoham, the trainer behind Aamir Khan’s muscular look in Dhoom 3, Sonakshi Sinha’s curves in Dabangg, Jacqueline Fernandez’s lean physique and Abhishek Bachchan’s fitness. The book is written in collaboration with Shrenik Avlani, a newsroom veteran with nearly two decades of work experience with leading newspapers.
If you love working out, but are wary of gym ‘machines’, The Shivfit Way is the right book to read! The book outlines varied exercises cardio, strength training and weight exercises for a full-body workout. Starting with eight basic movements of all exercises duly accompanied by pictures, dietary advice, detailed workouts and a section on the role of the mind and a nutritious diet in healthy living, here is a book that promises to get you back in shape!
Many people have the misconception that one needs to use sophisticated equipment in order to exercise, and the book clearly dispels that myth. Can you elaborate more on the “Shivfit” philosophy?
Fitness today has a very vague and broad meaning in people’s mind. Earlier on, fitness was just about aesthetics and the way you looked. Hence only complex machines were used to achieve those results. Today fitness is not just about the way you look. It’s also about how fast or long you can run, how much you can lift, how smoothly can you get through your day without reaching home and falling flat on the bed or even how often you can play catch with your children. Today you see many more people out in the open in parks, on the beach or on the roads doing all sorts of different fitness activities which were never seen before. The Shivfit philosophy is that it’s not only about the body but also the mind. Use your mind to get rid of the stress and use your body as a machine to make it functionally super fit.
What motivated you to write this book?
I have always been more into the coaching aspect of training. Yes, I have been a national level swimmer and reached the regionals in the CrossFit games. But to me, to be able to teach people what I know and what I love is very satisfying. I run three gyms in Mumbai which have over 1000 members. But, what about the rest who want to be coached at our facility and cannot reach us? The book came at the perfect time. It is the best way I can reach out to all those fitness enthusiasts who have been wanting to learn what we have to share.
You provide an excellent exercise glossary and enough pictures and workout regime tables in the book. What suggestions would you give the reader who wants to use the book as a guide but may not be able to access any formal exercise program?
The movements shown in the book are the basic fundamental movements one should know to start a functional fitness program. The building will hold stable only if the foundation runs strong. The workouts given are for different categories: beginners, intermediate and advance. Once the person has completed the workouts given he is ready to start following my daily workout blog on www.shivfit.com. The workouts are random but still have a purpose- not adapting to the exercises. This continuous change helps build fitness at a faster rate.
The Shivfit Way highlights the role of positive visualization in health. Can you briefly talk about your views on this?
I was introduced to the mental aspect of fitness by Vrinda Mehta who has been in fitness industry for more than 20 years and has trained a score of Bollywood celebrities like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Karan Johar, Kajol, Sridevi, Abhishek Bachchan, Tina Ambani and so on. She taught me how thoughts and emotions can be used to visualise all your goals. After using and tremendously benefitting from her mind program I realised how this aspect was the only thing missing in our approach to fitness today. Hence, together we started our program called Shivfit where we teach you not only how to remain physically fit but also how to remain mentally stress-free.
The mind is the most phenomenal yet the most neglected aspect of not just fitness and health but also our life. The awareness on healthy living has increased manifold. People are eating healthier and working out more. Yet there is more diabetes, more hypertension, more depression…! The main reason for this is stress. People are getting stressed but they are also eating healthy and training! This completely defeats the purpose.
Today science has proven that if you have stress of any kind you cannot remain healthy and fit for long. Simply put, stress is nothing but an untrained mind. The mind which does not know what to do with its thoughts and emotions remains a slave to ever changing circumstances and hence remains stressed. In the Shivfit mind program we teach how to align thoughts and emotions to visualise your goals in four main aspects of your life. We teach you how to remain stress-free throughout the process till those goals are realised.
I find the chapter Nutrition: You are what you eat, most interesting and different. While most books in this genre actually prescribe a ‘diet’, you say, “I have realized that there is no tailor-made diet for any of us-we need to figure out what works best for us and stick to it”. The chapter goes on to outline many popular diets and recommendations. What led you to take this approach while writing the book?
Nutrition is a very delicate and a very scientific topic. Not everyone can be a nutritionist but every individual however can be the best judge for their own body. I’ve tried the zone diet, paleo diet, intermittent fasting, the keto diet and also no diet. All the diets were at a different stages in my life and the situations were different. It was very easy to follow zone and paleo in Australia because of the quality of meat, fruits and vegies. I tried it in Mumbai, it was possible but very stressful. The zone diet worked well when I was working a steady shift but in Mumbai it was stressful! Meetings would come up any time. Clients would change their time and workouts weren’t happening at the same time each day. Also my goals were different. A person needs to understand that if diet itself gets stressful then what’s the point? Follow the basic fundamentals of less calorie intake equals weight loss and excess calorie equals weight gain. One needs 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to maintain muscle mass and the carbs and fats will fit in according to your goals. Do a little bit of research, stay put with one diet for 8-12 weeks and then decide. But please do not follow anyone or anything blindly!
Well, no better way to start off the year than The Shivfit Way!
The Shivfit Way by Shivoham and Shrenik Avlani, 2017
Published by Penguin
Sonu Bhasin, author of The Inheritors, is one of the early and senior women professionals in the industry and had led businesses in senior leadership positions during her corporate career. She is an independent director on boards of well-known companies. She is the founder of Families and Business (FAB), a platform for family businesses, and the editor of Families & Business magazine. She shares some of her thoughts and observations on family businesses.
The interesting thing is that there will hardly be any family business owner who thinks that his business is not being run ‘professionally’! Truly, if you look at any family business you will indeed find non-family executives in the organisation. However, it is the quantum of decision making autonomy given by the business owner to the management team that denotes the degree of professionalism.
The amount of autonomy is a function of many factors including the vintage of the business to the vintage of the professional and the nature of decision. Thus, professionalization is not an absolute point in the continuum of the life cycle of a family business but is an ongoing process. At the end of the day, to be truly professional the family business owners need to make the separation between ownership and management of the business.
It is this separation between ownership and management that is seeing an increased traction today. Families like the Burman family set the example in the late nineties by completely removing themselves from the actual management of the business. Other business owners have seen the professional team at Dabur grow the business with only some strategic guidance from the Burmans.
However, to my mind, the need for external funding to grow the business is responsible for many business owners to bring in professionals into their business. They understand that a financial investor, especially if it is an institutional investor, will look for the professional teams in the business. Thus, even smaller businesses today are seeing professional teams at the helm.
‘Soaking business on dining table’ so to say, or basically being initiated informally into the business right from childhood is something that features principally in all cases. Have you observed that a lot of the lessons of entrepreneurship are indeed inculcated in the younger generation in non-business scenarios of daily life?
Business is not taught but is learnt. The best learning is by a process of immersion rather than by formal tutorials. The Inheritors in my book had an unfair advantage over many others. They grew up hearing and seeing their fathers/uncles discussing business every day. The young mind is like a sponge. It soaks up all knowledge. Thus, discussions around the dinner table help the young inheritors to get a peek into what goes on at work. As they grow older and start spending time at the shop floor or at the office the immersion becomes deeper. The discussions around the dinner table then take on a new meaning. The young inheritors are able to get an understanding of how their elders look at situations, what information and data points are processed and how does any decision get taken. This ‘looking into the mind’ can happen only when the inheritors spend time with the patriarchs. This class of entrepreneurship is certainly not taught at any business school!
What are your comments on gender dynamics in the family business arena? Do women inheritors have a place? Does patriarchy play that vital a role today, especially when many family businesses are on the route to professional management?
Let me start by saying that women are considerably under-represented across all businesses – family or otherwise. However, a recent EY study showed that the large and old family businesses in the world are showing the way for others to follow. These businesses are moving their women up the hierarchy within their own businesses and are doing so at a rate faster than their non-family counterparts. This is an important development because family businesses are the foundation for any economy, India included. The trend of letting the daughters take charge of the family businesses is being seen in our country as well. Priya and Priti Paul, the Reddy sisters, Tara Singh Vachani, Pooja Jain are all examples of women leading the family business.
Societal trends cannot be changed overnight nor in one generation alone. However, a change effected in one generation acts as a catalyst for successive generations. Thus, patriarchs who enable their daughters to take charge of their businesses need to be celebrated and be shown as an example for others to follow. Global studies have also shown that when there is a woman in the C-Suite the rise of other women in the organisation is faster!
What is the role of a strong family culture and values in maintaining and growing the family business? Does this element have a USP?
Family values form the core of any family. In a business family the values of the family become intertwined with the business of the family. Studies have shown that these values are the foundation of a successful family business. In fact, the common thread that binds all multi-generational family businesses is the focus on the core family values.
It is worthwhile to note that most family businesses fail to perpetuate beyond a generation. Only 30 percent of all family businesses make it to the second generation and only 3 percent last for more than four generations or beyond.
In this context that the Japanese family businesses stand out like a shining example for others to follow. The oldest family business in the world is a Japanese one – Hoshi Ryokan – a hotel which is owned and run by the same family since the year 718. It is a business which is 46 generations old! Further, out of the total 5,000 companies in the world that are more than 200 years old more than 60 percent (approximately 3,000 companies) are in Japan. Sudo Honke – makers of the Japanese wine sake, is another example of an old family business. It is in its 55th generation.
Is there some special ingredient that the Japanese have that makes their businesses go on for generations? Research carried out globally points out that the adherence to family values is the key reason for Japan to have the distinction of having the oldest family businesses. The core value in any family, anywhere in the world, is the trust between its members. In Japan this core family value is taken into the business very seriously. Thus, I do believe that family values play a non-trivial role in maintaining and growing the Family Business. There is no template for family values as each family is different and so are its values.
The Inheritors is a book that has clearly demanded a lot of intensive research. You have not only spoken to the businessmen themselves, but also key people from the respective industries in order to get a clearer picture. From all these varied narratives what according to you encapsulates the secret of being a good entrepreneur?
There is usually a set of qualities and characteristics that are associated with any entrepreneur. Such is also the case with family businesses. Each family business has its own set of characteristics that makes it unique. However, I discovered, after my interaction with the owners of nine of the most well-known businesses in India, that there are three qualities that run through all successful family businesses. These are the following:
The spirit of entrepreneurship: The Oxford dictionary describes entrepreneurship as ‘The activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit’. However, as I sat and listened to the protagonists of The Inheritors tell their stories, I realised that the dictionary meaning was unidimensional and somewhat dry. It fails to capture the grit and determination, the ambition and passion, and the focus on getting things done.
The spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the people in The Inheritors goes far beyond the activity of setting up a business or taking on a financial risk. During my conversations with them, I heard of their ability of being able to look at early failures squarely in the face, their refusal to stay down after their early stumbles, their ability to get up, dust themselves and move on, their conviction in their own self and their business concepts, their confidence to do things differently, their ability to force their competitors to also do things differently, their ability to treat their legacy as a blessing rather than a burden and, most importantly, their unrelenting focus on their family values.
Refusal to take Failure as The End: It is a commonly thought that children of successful family business owners are handed the business on a platter and that they lead a stress-free life. It is also assumed that the Inheritors glide in smoothly into their new roles. My conversations with the chosen Inheritors gave me a completely different perspective.
The young inheritors come into the family business with their own ideas and thoughts. They are mindful of the fact that there are professionals in the business that know more about the business than them. Each of the inheritor that I spoke with for my book went through an initial set back in his/her work life. Amit Burman set up Real Fruit Juice as a separate company which took years to turn profitable. Agastya Dalmia had to shut the first store of Keventers due to losses. However, both Amit and Agastya refused to be cowed down by failure. Instead, they took it as a stepping stone to do better. What separates successful people from the rest is their ability to look at failure squarely in the face, analyze what went wrong, take corrective steps and move on to do better
Keeping to the Family Values: Family values form the core of any family. In a business family the values of the family become intertwined with the business of the family. Studies have shown that these values are the foundation of a successful family business. In fact, the common thread that binds all multi-generational family businesses is the focus on the core family values.
Successful family businesses pass down the core family values to the successive generations. The Dhingra brothers, owners of Berger Paints – the second largest paint company in India, have built a colossal business without sacrificing even an iota of their family values. The word of the eldest in the family is law in the Dhingra family and this has been the case for over 5 generations. Sure, there is discussion and debate but once the eldest takes a decision everyone abides with it. This value, respecting the word of the eldest, has ensured that the family has grown the business without any acrimony or discord.
Similarly, it is the focus on core family values that got Tara Singh Vachani to be a pioneer in the space of Senior Living communities. Seva Bhavna is core to her and the young girl focused on this value to work in the space of providing enhanced quality of life to people much older than herself.
The focus by each business family on the above three qualities has ensured that they remain among the top business houses in India. Young entrepreneurs have a lot of learn from them!
Indeed, these are some insightful and inspirational learnings right from inheritors of successful family businesses in India.
The Inheritors by Sonu Bhasin, 2017
Published by Penguin Random House
Food art is an innovative way to express love for food! Yasra Khoker’s love for food and art have found a mélange in Food Swings, an illustrated travel journal with exceptional food art, that covers a 10-day trip Khoker took to Hyderabad, Goa and Mumbai. Bookedforlife feasts on the delightful journal as we chat with Khoker about what went into making it…
The idea behind ‘Food Swings’
While traveling, we often come across new visuals and ideas (however small or insignificant they might seem) that could be strangely appealing. I always record my findings in a journal that I unfailingly carry. This later took the form of a published book ‘Food Swings’, available for others to buy. The book is a replica of my sketchbook. The pages haven’t been designed for publication. Nothing has been omitted from the original. So, everything you see in it is what I saw and thought of and of course, ate!
Focus on food…not recipes
I’ve always been very interested in food. When I say ‘food’, I don’t just mean the cooking or eating of it but other aspects too, especially visual. There are always stories and recollections around food and a lot of times, I believe it’s more fulfilling for me to paint an experience rather than put it in words. If you take a look at my work, you will probably be left with a happy feeling (at least that’s my intention). I try to create that through food stories or events that play in my mind while I paint. The idea is that food isn’t ‘just food’. It is FOOD. Apart from being a life essential, it nourishes our senses. Moreover, it adds richness to existence.
The book is available as a paperback simply because a hardcover would cost more. Right now, the book is priced at Rupees 320. I haven’t set aside any margins for profit. The price covers my cost of printing and shipping. Publishing wasn’t planned so the target audience is just about anybody who shares my interest in food, art and travel. I didn’t think very much before doing this (or most things I do actually). So, I just went ahead after I received a number of requests for a copy of my journal.
So far, the response has been great. My first batch of 50 books has sold out. In addition, I’ve ordered a second batch. I’ve received a lot of love through mails and messages from people who bought it and some who have seen my work online. People are fascinated by ‘food illustration’. It is something unheard of.
I sketch what I see while traveling. Depending on the amount of time I have at a particular location, I indulge myself in a leisurely drawing or a quick sketch with runny paints. I have almost always sketched during flights (the videos are available on my website and other social media), while waiting at airports or elsewhere. After all, it’s a nice way to distract yourself from the ‘waiting’!
Sometimes, I begin a sketch knowing well that I won’t have time to fill in details. So, I do whatever I can with a quick sketch and either leave it that way or modify it later if I can. The idea is not to produce a photograph or even a likeness, it is to translate something of visual interest on a flat surface so I am taken back to that memory later while flipping through the journal. Often there are imperfect lines and that’s alright. It’s not about perfection.
I use a lot of other media but while traveling, I find watercolours and ink easy to handle so I stick to these. That is for my convenience mainly. Art work that is commissioned privately, is sometimes on paper, canvas, tiles or even a wall. Depending on the surface, you can choose media that suits best. I’ve used gouache, pastels, oil paints, coloured pencils, markers and so on many-a-times.
Illustrations versus photographs
Photography is a great media. Cameras and mobile phones are great tools to record a journey, an event or just about anything. Illustration is a different kind of visual expression and I can’t compare the two because while retaining a few similarities, they are very different in essence. One can’t be better than the other, I guess it’s about interest and convenience. You might come across an image of food that captures much more than its form. The same goes for an illustration. Your skill and manipulation of the medium matter.
With these thoughts, we leave you to enjoy food art in book form. Food Swings is a book that takes food art to an entirely different level! Now that we’ve got a taste, we just can’t wait for the next helping!
In order to buy Food Swings or look at Yasra Khoker’s work, visit https://doodlenomics.com/buy-food-swings/
Not long ago, I chanced upon the library of the future. It is not very often that one enters a library and does not see racks and stacks of books. Instead, quite akin to a posh lounge, there is comfortable communal ergonomic seating arrangement, carrels, private desks with computer terminals, artificial plants and trees to add a dash of greenery and a huge map of the open spaces of Mumbai, on the wall.
Located on the first floor of the Discovery of India building at Worli, the Nehru Centre Library, is a place one may gently stumble upon, and never want to leave again!
Designed by eminent architect I.M. Kadri, the library and reading room provide a comfortable and welcoming ambience to the reader. Out of the sight of a visitor but very easily accessible is the other larger section of the library which houses the entire rich and diverse collection of materials. The majority of the collections are in English, but there is an enviable list of titles in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Sanskrit. The collections adhere to a diverse mix of subject areas including classical literature, fiction, art, Chinese painting, science, architecture and so on. In fact, the collection boasts of a select number of books on almost every subject. In decor and spirit, the library exudes the aura of a space that belongs to the digital age.
It is very important because librarians today are facing a great challenge. Today we have people saying that libraries don’t have footfalls, people have stopped reading etc. So there is a great challenge. If a librarian doesn’t feel challenged, he is mistaken.
The idea behind it was to provide a form of literary activity to promote reading. As a part of the library’s services and to reach out to the community we conduct these literary activities. It could be a discussion on a particular book, a conversation with an author or a talk on any literary topic. Our options are endless and we don’t limit ourselves to any particular theme. We could have a book that has been recently published and received good reviews, or we have a book launch or an author interaction.
The idea is to have a variety of events, all based on literature. Over the years, since a decade in fact, we have had at least one literary event every month. We have a database of about 1000 readers on our mailing list and, over the years, we have reached out to a diverse group of people who have evinced interest in the events. The book club is informal. It is free for all. Interested people have to register their attendance. We do, however, insist that people should register for the event only if they plan to attend.
Only those people who are really interested in the subject attend, and they go back really enriched. In the recent past, we have organized talks on Amrita Pritam, Munshi Premchand and Jane Austen.
Just for your information, apart from the book club, we also organize meet-the-author workshops for kids wherein those children’s authors living in Mumbai can present their book to children, read from it, and also conduct interesting activities based on it. In the past, we have hosted, among others, some famous children’s authors like Katie Bagli, Deepak Dalal and others.
Our library is a hybrid library. We have a traditional collection of books as well as a digital database of information resources. We have a digital catalogue which is an open source catalogue. This means, a reader can access the online catalogue from any part of the world and search it for his/her subject of interest.
Options to search by are author, title, subject and series. An ‘Advanced Search’ option also helps the reader look for any specific information. In addition to books we have listed all the other information resources such as DVDs, maps, magazine and journal articles listed in a keyword thesaurus, art catalogues, comic strips, board books for little children, archival audio recordings of lectures held at Nehru Centre and so on. The home page of the OPAC has some interesting features. Front covers of new arrivals, some useful links to other libraries and a fast link to the Amazon Books page when you click on a book cover are some of these features. We subscribe to about 200 plus journals and 12 newspapers. These are scanned everyday for articles of probable interest, after which the article is indexed in a specially devised alpha-numeric index.
At present, we have about 2,50,000 magazine and newspaper articles in 200+ subjects which will be soon made available to the reader in soft copy. Of course, the reader will only be able to see the metadata on his subject of interest and full articles will only be available in the library.
As a futuristic and innovative infrastructure plan, we already have an online catalogue, digital services and a beautifully landscaped reading room. We started thinking about what more could we add. Since most people like to read on portable devices these days, we thought we should also ‘keep up with the Jonases’, as they say!
We thought of taking an Amazon Kindle subscription to about a million books in which we provide readers with Kindle stations, that is, fixed Kindle devices and give them an opportunity to read books of their choice from a huge selection. Of course, this is still in the planning stage. Hopefully, we should be able to implement it soon.
Collection-wise, the library is 30 years old. But, space-wise it’s relatively new. We moved into this new space about 4 years back on Children’s Day. Since then the idea has been to increase footfalls and get the community, the neighbourhood, more students, more academicians and scholars, more people involved. This has happened. We are more visible now, and people just love the reading room! We have had all types of positive responses!
People tell us that the reading room looks like an airport lounge or a five-star hotel foyer! Anything but a library’s reading room!
Now, we want this to grow. We want to reach out to more people. Like libraries in the west, we don’t want to have any rules. You may have noticed that we don’t have any board saying “Silence please”! We allow readers to get in their portable devices. As long as they don’t disturb others around them, it’s ok! Although we provide internet wired connections for a nominal charge, we plan to go wireless soon. For scholars and researchers, we have provided special carrels. A scholar working on thesis, a researcher researching a topic, a writer working on his/her new book – all can use these for their work. They only need to write to the librarian explaining the nature of their research or writing and its duration after which a carrel is allotted to them. It has been our pleasure to have some eminent scholars/writers work on their thesis/research at the Nehru Centre Library and we are happy to say that they have gone back completely satisfied with the facilities that were offered to them. We want more writers, scholars and researchers to also come in.
We have had very interesting reactions from different kinds of people. We are a public library. This means that we do not limit people based on age, academic or economic background etc. Thus, we get kids right from 2 year olds to senior citizens who are over 80! We like to attend to and interact with all of them and address their specific requirements. The library staff tries to understand the needs of each and every reader, which is unique and reader-specific and challenging. We show all first-time visitors to the library and give them a detailed orientation about our services. Our aim is that the reader should come back again.
A senior citizen from Bandra who is an avid reader and was looking for a good library where she could read a book, a magazine or a newspaper in comfort had this to say. The minute she entered she exclaimed, “Wow! Can I live here?” I will always cherish this reaction. We have a beautifully curated collection. We go through each and every book that comes to us from our vendors and select it to be added only if it is going to add some value to the collection. To further explain how curated our collection us, we had another reader who spent a long time going through the books on the shelves. When he was done, he came out and told us that he felt depressed! On being asked the reason for feeling so, he replied, “It will take me a lifetime to read this wonderful collection!”
When people come in they ask us, “Are you sure this is a library?” This space is indeed unique as it is landscaped beautifully, the lighting is comfortable, there is air conditioning and the furniture is ergonomic. Thus, we keep getting these heartening reactions as new readers keep visiting us!
Not at all! The digital infrastructure is supplementary to the print. Print will never die. As you know, even Amazon has opened physical bookstores a few years ago! Everything comes full circle.
Some years ago, we saw people veering away from the printed word. But there are instances where we have seen families coming closer because of books. In our ‘Let’s Read Together’ initiative which is held in entire month of May every year, we invite parents to bring their children’s own books and read to the children in the library. They can even bring along their children’s friends with them. We’ve had instances where the mother or the father, even grandparents, read out to the child or the child’s friends. We have seen parents motivating their children to read in different ways. Sometimes they read to them. At other times, they pick up a book of their choice and read. The child observes the parent reading and picks up a children’s book from our collection and reads too. So digital can be supplementary and can only act as an add-on to one’s love for reading. I do agree that a digital device has advantages of portability. Yet, it cannot ever replace the physical book!
The swanky and peppy place defies the ‘old-school’ conception of a library as a silent place where one can read books in isolation. With its enviable collection and great infrastructure, the Nehru Centre Library is the modern hub of knowledge where access to information is provided free of cost (being a community library) even while offering the best of digital facilities. Yes, reading has become fashionable once again…and the library is a ‘cool’ place to be!
Puffin Books India’s Junior Lives series starts with an engaging book on Mother Teresa. The biography, by Sonia Mehta brings the saint to life.
Bookedforlife chats with the writer…
I read up a lot of books already published on Mother Teresa. I then looked for facts that are not already mentioned in books for this age group. I also read personal accounts of people who knew her personally, to get facts and snippets that would be otherwise unknown.
It took about 2 months.
In an era that is becoming more and more material, kids need role models who break the mould and go beyond. Mother Teresa is one such person who truly went beyond. She went from a comfortable life in her country, to one of struggle and strife in another country. Another aspect which is relevant today is the importance of breaking geographic barriers. She didn’t choose to do good only in her country. She chose a country and a people based on their need.
The most challenging was to not be repetitive and write what kids already know. So while ensuring that all the base facts and narrative are covered, I needed to find information and facts that were lesser known. Another challenge was not to be moralistic – because that turns children off.
We have another four lined up: Gandhi, Buddha, Rani Laxmibai, Subhash Chandra Bose. These have been chosen with the same objectives as mentioned above.
Above all, I was deeply impacted by her utter selflessness. The fact that she fought a male dominated order, that she completely put aside her personal life and needs as a woman, the combination of ruthless discipline and gentle care.
Mother Teresa lives on in the minds and hearts of the younger generation through books like these!
I’ve been teaching a variety of students from all age groups for the past eight years. I’ve realized that teachers in general have to improvise by adding new teaching aids and techniques to gain the attention of the ultra-modern 21st century child.
However, I can say very confidently that despite all the odds, it holds true that a child who reads using either a physical book or an eBook is definitely a much more empathetic, patient, diligent, and intelligent human being than one who does not read.
Such children who read for pleasure, as I have seen, are not only top rankers in their schools, but also better individuals who are broad-minded, righteous and dedicated. This is because unlike other entertainments like playing a game on a tablet or Xbox, or watching a 3D movie, reading, using any medium, teaches a child many lessons and shows them different points of view which enhances their intellect and develops their creative and innovative thinking abilities. I make it a point in my tutorials to make sure that my students read at least one book every week. I’ve seen the difference in grades and behaviour of pupils who read on a regular basis and those who don’t. So yes, readers do and will always have an edge over children who do not read for pleasure, but teachers and parents will have to find many innovative and creative ways to get children to read these days in the new millennium.
Start them young, is what I always say to parents. Start reading to your children from the time they are born. Books should be associated with love and respect right from the time the child is able to think and reason out in the new environment its born into. If, however, you as a parent have missed the bus and your child is a preteen who hates to read, don’t nag him or her to do so.
Start reading on a regular basis yourself to set an example for your children. Remember, children are constantly watching their parents and will always be influenced by what they see.
To give an example of myself; I am a person who loves to read, as well as, who reads to live. Whenever my students are doing a test or a writing assignment, I sit beside them with a book in my hand and read, keeping an eye on them. Watching me, now my students too during a class break, get out their novels or non-fiction books and read. I never touch my smartphone at all when I am in class, and though my students are not my flesh and blood, they have imitated me for their own betterment. Think about how beneficial therefore it will be for children to see their own parents reading voraciously, instead of constantly working on the laptop, or talking on the smartphone even at the dinner table.
I read a very interesting and thought-provoking book a year ago called The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, whose father made a promise to read to her every night for one hundred nights, but once they met their goal they couldn’t stop. One hundred became one thousand, and the reading streak continued for 3218 nights, finally ending when the girl was in her twenties. Father and daughter made it a point in any circumstance never to miss a single night.
The book reminded me of my dear uncle, who used to read to me stories every night when I was a toddler and also when I was a preteen and teenager. When I was between twelve and fourteen years of age, my uncle read to me all the Sherlock Holmes titles, until school homework and late-night study made us stop very reluctantly. To me therefore, there is no such thing as an age bar to be read to. We are humans, and we all are storytellers. In the past stories were told to us around a fire by every member of the community, these stories encompassing the whole of humanity.
However, if you want to make a child an independent reader and wean him off being read to, for discipline purposes, then the right grade would be the second or third when the child is intellectually capable of reading a book by him or herself. The age however varies greatly from child to child and family to family. My uncle still reads to me articles, stories and blog posts from his smartphone, and I am twenty-eight years old!
The classics are the repository of wisdom and knowledge, which according to me a student must read to learn from the past and to shape his or her future.
In my book I’ve mentioned numerous techniques that I have used, to impart the love of reading classics to my wards, like the movie first method, reading snippets in class, the PowerPoint method, etc., which can be adopted by parents in their homes.
I would like to mention again here, where parents are concerned, nothing works best than the parents taking an initiative and reading the classics along with the child. Another technique I can think of right now, is the use of abridged classics to first introduce a child to read, as it is easier to read and comprehend, and the child feels he too can read an adult book. Later, when the child gains confidence, supply him or her with the copy of the original unabridged version.
According to me, it does not matter at all through which medium the student gets to read a story; reading is reading whether you read an eBook or a physical tome. We must adapt to the changing times and not be rigid. Remember, in the past we used to read from papyrus, palm leaves, and goat skin, and it was the Chinese who invented paper and changed our reading habits, which we use even to this day. Change is inevitable. Change is dynamic. We need to see and analyse the positive and negative aspects of change and see if it is beneficial to our children or not.
Most of my students read physical books, but there are a growing number of younger students, born post 2005, who are more at home with a Kindle or iPad. As long as they are reading and not finding it a strain, who am I to complain? However, I know that where younger students are concerned, the physical act of turning the page of a regular physical book, touching the pop out images, smelling the pages, makes them better readers than e-readers would do.
Reading and the modern child have a complex and dynamic relationship. Times are changing and reading trends will follow suit, but it is heartening to know that a love for reading is still alive!
Illustrating children’s books is an art in itself. It requires a completely different skill-set. Mihir Joglekar, an Illustrator and Art Director, talks about his experiences in the fascinating world of children’s books.
Joglekar has illustrated Ruskin Bond’s latest book, “Looking for the Rainbow”, that talks about Bond’s close relationship with his father. We all know that Bond’s beautiful prose touches the heart. Here, Joglekar’s thoughtful illustrations somehow catalyse and facilitate this process.
You have illustrated a number of children books. What is it about this field that appeals to you?
Books make an impact on our minds right from childhood. They’re colourful, vivid and imaginative. In short, they are everything a child wants. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that books can influence a lot of our likes and dislikes from a very early age. Moreover, books grow with you. There are books for every age group making them a constant companion.
As a child, I read, subconsciously observed and absorbed a lot of illustrations in children’s books. I was instantly inspired. The idea of creating visuals to go with the story is so fascinating. What I love about this field is that I am able to create characters, environments and tell stories visually. Interpreting and creating the world which an author writes about and putting it in front of the world is a joyful experience.
Your recent work, for “Looking for the Rainbow” by Ruskin Bond was particularly poignant. The book deals with loss. What kind of preparation did you do for this project, besides of course, reading the book?
Ruskin writes, in one of the chapters that his father told him “Paddle your own canoe”. This is a very important line in the book. I felt that the illustrations mostly needed to be about him and how he dealt with his life, then. So the preparation involved trying to sketch out how a situation can be shown, with Ruskin as the focal point and all the other things secondary. In most illustrations I’ve done just that. Whether Ruskin is singing in the choir, or whether he is entering a new school or whether he is at the cinema hall, Ruskin can mostly be seen amidst silhouettes. Showing where Ruskin stands in a situation and how he reacts to it was more important. So when Ruskin’s father told him to paddle his own canoe, he obviously wasn’t talking about actual canoeing. I decided to illustrate this message. I felt it was a window for me to mix imagination with reality to convey the meaning subtly. I showed Ruskin canoeing, amidst flying books (his companions) moving through abstract clouds hinting that he is gently making his way through blinding, troublesome times into the light, on his own. Figuring out how to best convey what I felt was a big part of the preparation.
How does the children’s book illustration process differ from other illustration work you’ve done?
Any book or story requires a buildup of the world the story is taking place in. The characters and environments may change as the story progresses. So, all the illustrations need to be planned beforehand. I also try to keep the illustrations at specific intervals so that the book has a nice balance of text and visuals. Otherwise, a part of the book might have 2 illustrations back to back and then 6 pages of just text. That disturbs the textual and visual flow of the story. While illustrating for advertising, one mostly has just one illustration to convey the message of the campaign. If the message is not conveyed properly through it, the campaign fails to reach the target audience. Illustrations for concept art and storyboards on the other hand are mostly made just to determine the look and feel of a scene, an environment or a character.
What is your creative process? Do you start off with sketching or is it digital illustration?
I first visualise and figure out what needs the come across from the illustration the most. After that I make extremely rough sketches. I try to work out the composition, the angle, the interaction between characters, the light, environment and many other such things that build the scene. Once I am satisfied with what I have in front of me, I make a digital sketch. This sketch too is rough, but good enough for the client to understand and give feedback or approval upon. Once I have the approval, I start with the final illustration keeping in mind the technical requirements as well.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is all around us. I constantly make visual notes in my mind if not always in a sketchbook, about everything I observe. One can be inspired by a certain way the light falls on a subject. Simple things like the constantly changing sky, or a person walking or standing in a certain way, a cat stalking a bird, or a bird perching on a branch is all inspiration to me. I try to incorporate all of these observations into my art.
Do you have a study background in design? Since how many years have you been in the design field?
I have a Government Diploma in Applied Art. I’ve been in this field for the last 8 years and have been involved in numerous projects for films, television commercials and print media as an illustrator. I have worked on several brands in advertising campaigns and have won a few awards on the way. My first fully illustrated Children’s book was ‘The Magic Rolling Pin’ written by Chef Vikas Khanna. It was launched in 2014 and published by Penguin Random House India. In the past 3 years I have illustrated 4 books, two for Chef Vikas which includes ‘The Milk Moustache’ and two with Ruskin Bond, ‘Cricket for the crocodile’ and the latest being ‘Looking for the Rainbow’.
Aside from the commissioned artwork, how much do you draw for practice?
Well, I get very little time for personal work. Adequate commissioned work is in a way practice, since it involves a lot of constant experimentation, sketching, colouring etc. However, I believe that no matter how much one practices, it is always less. Apart from commissioned work I sometimes make sketches from the set of reference photos I keep gathering while roaming around.
What has been your favourite project in terms of book illustrations so far?
It’s hard to pick a favourite. I always bring variations to the style of the illustrations for each book. So, each book has its own uniqueness from an artistic point of view. If I am to pick one, I think it would be Ruskin Bond’s ‘Cricket for the Crocodile’. I had a lot of fun making the illustrations. I got to experiment a lot with the style in terms of colours, compositions and angles and bring something to the table that I hadn’t before.
Are there any specific trends in the children’s book illustration space in India today, that you would like to point out?
There’s a lot of scope for experimental illustration. I feel that there’s definitely a need for the artists to be thinking out of the box with their visual depiction. Overall, I feel that colours, form and quirkiness seem to have gained a lot of importance. With how one’s work can go beyond a book and be seen from people over the internet, it’s a good time to be bold with the approach towards art and illustration!