National Sports Day

Today is National Sports Day in India. August 29 is the birthday of Major Dhyan Chand Singh, the gold medalist hockey player who gave India glory not once but thrice in 1928, 1934 and 1936. Having spent over 5 years in association with business side of sports, it feels really good to see the growing awareness of Sports in India.

I have always found Sports as a latent need-based yet highly ignored phenomenon among Indians. With unrelenting emphasis on getting good marks and doing good in entrance examinations for various engineering and medical institutes of repute, sports is/was largely labeled as ‘waste of time’ activity. One observes kids getting engaged in sports from infancy but slowly drifting into more and more prescription reading as they grow. Generally after 10 years of age, sports becomes a luxury phenomenon and is not taken up seriously by many people.

Things are changing though.

Lets look at some of India’s sportsperson’s achievements in recent past that may have missed your attention. This will surely give a feeling of pride and would raise your head high.

  • 54 Medals in Asiad 2018 so far

Asiad 2018

  • Mirabai Chanu won Gold Medal in World Weightlifting Championships

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  • Pankaj Advani won the ISBF World Snooker Championship

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  • Bhawani Devi won gold medal in individual sabre event

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  • Jehan Daruwala won the New Zealand Grand Prix

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  • Ramkumar Ramanathan (No. 139)  beat Dominic Theim (No. 8) in Antalya Open

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  • Bhumika Sharma won Miss World Bodybuilding Championship

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  • Mehuli Ghosh, Anish Bhanwala and Yashaswini Singh left a mark at the ISSF Junior World Championship

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  • Indian Contingent won 37 medals in World Dwarf Games

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  • Sundar Singh won gold in men’s javelin throw at the World’s Para Athletic Championship

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  • Kanchanmala Pande won Gold in World Para-Swimming Championship in Mexico

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  • Bharat Khandare became first Indian MMA fighter to sign up for Ultimate Fighting League

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  • Davinder Singh Kang qualified for finals in World Championships for javelin throw

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  • India won 66 medals in Commonwealth games finishing third in overall tally


Man made Disaster

While the situation in Kerala after floods is certainly heart-moving and saddening, it is hard to believe that this is like an act of God that happened overnight. I clearly remember while working on some critical projects last year, we heard about a hurricane headed towards my employer’s offices in Tampa, Florida. A quick evacuation was ordered with ample amount of time to gather basic stuff and foods etc. Hurricane came and passed with no loss of human life and limited physical damage.

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So, it is hard to believe that no prior notice came to the local authorities in Kerala before the calamity actually hit. It is equally hard to believe that all the early warning systems failed to help the cause. This is a pure human failure and one so perhaps manufactured due to an inefficient regime sitting for local administration there.

This is what Dr. Amita Singh, Professor for Disaster Management in JNU had to say (italics and highlights were not part of original text):

‘I just don’t understand how people seem to appreciate the state administration & the CM for apparent leadership, when they’ve failed the most fundamental test: NOT preventing of a preventable disaster.
This flood was not caused merely by excess rain; 40% excess precipitation over 3 months of monsoons cannot have caused this, nor is it a terrible outlier. This was caused by human blunder.
The Kerala state govt could’ve prevented it but didn’t have the foresight to. They knew the reservoirs were full by July. Scientifically reliable & freely available weather forecasting systems were predicting 2000 mm of additional precip in Aug. The first function of dams is as storage. The right thing to do with any storage system is to have a proper input & output prediction & management.
They could’ve had a warning system, water management system, looked at proper weather forecasting & released water in manageable quantum over a period of 15 to 20 days yet omitted to. They should’ve realized the danger a few weeks in advance (assuming they have cognizance & sobriety). Instead they waited till overflow & opened all the dam shutters at once. Instead of heavy but manageable drainage flow, we got a deluge. No surprise. In the middle of rains. It’s the people who have paid dearly, not the decision makers who make no decision actually. And it’s the best governed state – by which metric, I wonder?
Do not praise the ignorant for a superficial display of leadership in the relief after the disaster when they could’ve prevented it but did not & clearly are not capable of. If you elect fools, you will fall with their folly.
Be clear: it wasn’t nature or God. This was man. God has given man intelligence, wisdom & memory with which he has created superb technology & management systems. The disuse of wisdom, lack of observation & ignorance of the laws of nature, is not God’s fault. The crime of omission is far greater than that of commission.’

See the video here (if you dont understand Malyalam, wait for the English part):

Amidst the claims and counterclaims about the said Rs. 700 crore aid promised by UAE to Kerala, one only loses heart to the doing of some foolish people. It is very painful that the whole thing is being quite shamelessly politicised by the local regime. The UAE itself had to come out and make statement that it has offered help but no number is in the play.

One wonders if the things have gone so bad that some people took advantage and created their own funds on top of CM relief fund seeking out donations. One such was from IIM Kozhikode Alumni association. So much was the haste and desperation of this alumni group to seek funds that they used a personal gmail ID as their nodal contact point. Also, the account that was shared was a savings account. And when people questioned the person who posted this in multiple groups on whatsapp and telegram, the firebrand messenger, claimed that she has authenticated and this is all genuine. What she forgot to mention that she is the executive member of the same alumni association. No one knows whether and how these funds will be used. I hope it reaches its home.

Similarly for the CM fund, it is managed by the same people who originally took decision on management of the dam flood gates.

While the damage caused can never be repaired to bring it back to the original shape, one just hopes the administration does not create manage the relief fund and work better than how they managed the early warning signs of the floods.

Question Everything

The famous advice from Einstein to “Question Everything” is an important one. It forces one to think about the possible causes if any phenomenon, any action or any event that happens in our surroundings rather than accepting things as they are.

It makes us more inquisitive and helps in learning more. It also helps in building a cognitive resonance with the harmonical nature.

It helps in imbibing a basic level of intellect in any form of activity that we indulge.

But there is a problem with the way questioning of things operates.

Although predominantly cultural, a number of questions asked is depleting. Often meetings end with no one asking any questions or just a handful of people asking questions.

And then there are situations where the mannerisms around asking questions are questionable.

Quite often one of the reasons is questioning being loud, pompous, rude and as an attempt to demean the opposition.

To keep the fabric of healthy intellect building in the world, it is important to understand and educate people on the ‘art’ of questioning everything.

So let’s assess what are two constructs for conversation from questioning.

  • Conversation type based question mode
  • Consequence-based question mode

Conversation type based question mode

You see, when viewed through the lens of the situation, any type of question can be categorised into one of the two conversations

  • Cooperative Conversation
  • Competitive Conversation
  • The chart below gives details of how these are identified
  • This helps in building an approach for different types of question frames that exist to handle the situation. It also details on how one should approach the questioning part. Depending on what situation you are one should ask the question. With this clarity, do ask!

Consequence-based question mode

Additionally, the way a question is asked also matter. These are driven by the need to lead to any action or in other words consequence.

Positive Inquiry – We end questions with positive words like ‘right’ or ‘isn’t it’. This prompts the user to think about the veracity of the question. Generally, this prompts the next discussion point and helps in building an inquisitive conversation.

Negative Inquiry – These are typically questions that end with negative words like ‘correct’ or ‘is it’ etc. These do not generally yield a conversation but are interrogation type of questions. These help in meeting an objective.

Again, this is something that one should look at to close the inquiry loop based on what do you want to accomplish from the conversation.

So while we strive to ask questions to make the world a better place with healthy conversations leading to more knowledge and enlightenment of people, it is important to be aware of the different questions based on what is our purpose for it.

Think and then ask so that you think again – leading to a fruitful intellectual growth.

Inspired by the HBR article here.