A letter to my niece on her 21st birthday

some life lessons in a letter to my lovely niece on her 21st birthday

21! Wow! How and when did that happen?  Blink of an eye.  I still think of you as the little girl who cunningly sneaked into my suitcase every time I was packing to leave for the US.  Yes, I am stuck in time as most of us old farts are, but you? That’s another story.

From a naughty eyed little toddler with an infectious laughter to a tomboyish young kid. From an often-loving but sometimes-distant young girl to a warm, mature-beyond-her-years, incredibly talented artist, Illesha you have come a long way. Did I say stunningly beautiful?

As adulthood arrives, so does trepidation. And questions.  Lots of them.  Will things change now that I am 21?  Should I be behaving differently? Am I making the right choices?  What should I do with my life? Will Gus ever grow up J?  Will my family finally stop harassing me? These are perplexing questions with no certain answers except perhaps for the last one.

Leshu, as you stand at the cusp of adulthood, I thought I would share some advice with you instead of the usual expensive gift – Twizzlers cost good money you know. What’s heartening is that given your fiercely independent nature we don’t run the risk of you actually taking it.

Health is wealth – Yes, I know. That’s probably the worst start ever but since I am now approaching middle age I have earned the right to say corny stuff like that.  Seriously though, life is 10X better when you wake up feeling great.  More than sweating it out at the gym find a sport that you love and play it 2-3 times a week (Candy Crush is not a sport).  You will be far healthier and happier. It’s taken me all of my 35 years to figure that out.

Don’t define yourself – Acid will not liberate you J, being in tune with yourself will.  Beyond the physical impressions that we call the body and the mind, there is an intuition that is you.  Hone this intuition and trust it more than anything else. Some people use Yoga, others use meditation but I suspect in your case it will be your art.  Use your art to discover yourself but don’t define yourself as an artist. Don’t define yourself as a girl either. Nor as a Hindu or as an Indian.  In fact, don’t define yourself by any man-made boundary.  We have created more problems in the world through narrow definitions than we have solved. You are more than all these boundaries put together.

Stress kills, literally – More people die of stress related issues than any other disease in the world. Nothing is worth losing your peace and your sleep over, ever. Remember, our natural state of being is relaxed, not having an agitated mind. Observe a kid and you will know.  It is external expectations that put us in a restless state.  You do not need to over-intellectualize this.  Just find little tricks that can help you destress quickly and get back to your natural state of restfulness.

Claim your life – Life is not that complicated but it can be pretty confusing. Almost everybody you meet will try to tell you what is right. They have no idea. They are simply seeking validation. Look deep within. You already who you are and what you must do. You just need to realize it. Every year, take a week off for yourself. Find a place that puts you at peace and retreat to this place whenever you are faced with the big questions or feel weighed down and distracted.  When you need to get back in touch with yourself. When you need to shake off the impressions you have picked up along the way. The answers will present themselves.

Stay 21 forever – Here’s a technical fact.  If you can get old only if you stop growing, then the opposite must also be true.  Don’t stop growing and you will stay young forever.  As you achieve one milestone after another, maintain your humility and know that you have much to learn. That way you will keep exploring and keep growing.  You will become mature and become wise but you will not become old. Couple this with the enthusiasm of a child and life will be wondrous.

So, Happy Birthday Leshu and I hope you have a blessed year ahead.

Oh, one last thing – If it all gets much at times and you feel you need a rest, my suitcase awaits.  I will happily carry you along for as long as you like.


CWG – Another Lost Lesson?

Observations and a 4-point plan to clean up the CommonWealth Games (CWG) Fiasco

The CWG games have suddenly become an example of India's execution ability and efficiency and everyone is going all out to demonstrate what a great job we have done? Wow, what happened??

Being patriotic is one matter, being willful another.  All the celebrities, politicians, and regular citizens calling upon us to 'demonstrate the love for our country' by being positive about the games are perhaps forgetting two things –

1) Being in denial is almost always a strategy for failure

2) Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat their mistakes 

By simply hoping that the CWG is a bright example of India's capabilities we cannot wish away the corruption, arrogance, sheer disdain, and lack of basic human values and ethics of some of our politicians and bureaucrats.  Rather than live another lie for the next several decades, we need to use the CWG as an opportunity to learn and mold our laws, systems, and governance towards a better future.  

Sure, right now we need to focus and complete the job at hand – whatever it takes.  But by no means should we stifle public debate because we do not wish to embarrass ourselves in front of the world; by no means should we silence voices because we wish to show the world a positive image; by no means should media be ‘managed’ through politicians.  An independent media, discourse and debate are the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and in the end nations and people are judged by what they stood for and not merely the show they put up. 

Our face to the world needs to reflect trust, resilience, strength, commitment & integrity not delusion, disdain & corruption.  If we truly wish to build a lasting nation we first need to build a lasting idea – an idea of unified values and ethics around which a nation can then be built.  But a lasting idea requires conviction, commitment and courage.

Being the eternal optimist though, I am hoping that our government will take action as soon as the games are over.  From my limited view, here is a 4-point plan that can change the perception of the CWG fiasco from ‘the result of an incurable corrupt nation’ to that of a ‘blip in the journey towards becoming a developed country’ –

1) Form an autonomous body comprising of the top intelligence officials in the country reporting directly to the Prime Minister's Office with the mandate to complete the investigation into the CWG Mismanagement within 60 days.

2) Take the culprits to task without delay. Whether it is Sheila Dixit, Suresh Kalmadi, Gill, Reddy or all of them, they need to be punished and made an example of.  We cannot continue to tell our kids that ineptitude and corruption are acceptable.

3) Kick-off the process of separating Sports and Politics with an aggressive timeline.  Sports is a great unifying catalyst, especially in a country characterized by youth and a multitude of castes, communities, and religions. All our major issues – communal disharmony, social & economic inequality, crime, lack of education –   can be addressed to some degree through a far-sighted sports development plan. If visionaries like Mandela can try and propel an inter-racial country coming out of apartheid on the back of sports, surely a nation which has been free for over 60 years now can be galvanized around the same. Well, Mr. PM, the buck stops with you and if you don't see the power of sports find somebody who does, and empower him just like you did for Aadhaar, India's Unique Identity Program under Nandan Nilekani.

4) Put in place a body of young sports professionals  who can contribute to a framework that sets out .guidelines on bidding for global events and subsequently managing them.  Charge this body with responsibility and accountability to administer the same and create a single window clearance system under them for managing large sporting events which are in the national interest.

Of course, the above is simply a starting point and not a comprehensive plan.  I make no claim to having all the answers, but like the rest of us, I can tell when something stinks.

Make no mistake, I love my country and nothing would give me more happiness than to see us come out of the current mess with our heads held high.  However, simply manufacturing the perception that ‘all is well’ is not something my spirit can accept.  Spare me the hyperbole, deceit and lies and let’s focus instead on our ability, commitment and passion to be the best in the world. 

Jai Hind,

Anupam Mittal

P:S – Also, let's please stop with the conspiracy theories immediately.  If it isn's Pakistan, it is the western imperialists, western media and the CIA that have conspired to bring down the games?? Incredible as it sounds this is what Kalmadi alluded to. 

I have spent 10 years of my life in the west and I can emphaitically say that westerners love the idea of India, especially a progressive India.

And You Thought The Worst Was Over

I started the year cheering ‘may the best of our past be the worst of our future’, fully
convinced that it could not get worse than 2008.  It seems that everybody I spoke to had
experienced some sort of personal tragedy in 2008.  As if that were not enough, the world itself
seemed to have gone through quite a tumultuous year – worst recession since the
great depression, oil at unprecedented levels, a food crisis and finally the
Mumbai tragedy – as if to say, this is as bad as it’s going to get.  So, with renewed vigour and hope, I looked
out at the 2009 expanse from the rapidly closing 2008 window, and imagined how
wonderful my life would be – The new year would bring with it new opportunities,
new people, new dreams and perhaps the simple passing of time would simply
erase all my troubles.  But 3 weeks into
the new year and I realize that life is not that simple. New problems have come


Raju ban gaya gentleman

 Suddenly, corporate India’s biggest scamster seems to
have found a conscience.  By grudgingly admitting
to a multi-year multi-billion dollar fraud he seems to think that he has done
the country a favor.   I personally think
that he has single-handedly eroded all the business credibility that this
nation had built over the last 20 years. 
The only industry in India where ‘quality’ was not a concern and which, through its ripple effects, lifted
the country and its people to a higher plateu, is now being looked upon
suspiciously. A shame really.


Whose land is it anyway?

 When I used to hear the word strip (no, I didn’t take my
clothes off) I used to think of  Las Vegas – the playground
for adults.  These days Gaza comes to mind.  Rather unfortunate that 2009 started with renewed
warfare and an end to the cease fire.  As
long as I can remember, the Hamas and Israelis have been at each other’s
throats.  Somewhere along the way most
people, perhaps even them, have lost track of what they are fighting for.  While 2008 offered some hope, 2009 has
brought an abrupt end to any resolution.


Oil’s not well

 Up or down, oil seems to be at the core of this world’s
problems.  At $140 per barrel it was
driving non-oil producing nations into bankruptcy.  At $40 per barrel, it is affecting the huge
sovereign wealth funds of oil producing nations which, many expected, would
finance the world out of a global recession. 
In India,
if oil subsidies don’t bankrupt us strikes by unions at the oil companies


Let’s see what Feb and March have in store.