Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why do Indians love Sachin Tendulkar?

Sachin - The GODI watched his farewell speech with moist eyes. Sachin Tendulkar was a phenomenon for Indians.He achieved milestones in cricket that one would have never imagined. No wonder his retirement from cricket was a national event. I was quite emotional. I liked all those Facebook messages from my friends who said they have started feeling a vacuum in their life or they had a parallel life in his cricket career which got over etc. etc.

I started wondering why is that so? Why would everyone stop their work to watch him bat? Why would people cry when he stops playing a game?  Why would people call him God? How can a sportsman with a wooden willow in hand who can hit a leather ball very skillfully create such a strong bond with a billion people? Why do Indians love Sachin Tendulkar so much?

Most of us noticed Sachin Tendulkar in a friendly match against Pakistan where he got sledged by Abdul Qadir, about 2.5 times age, challenging him to hit. This curly haired, baby face teenager happily obliged. The arch rival were overawed. Instantly, Sachin had made an emotional connection with the viewers. Then came Hero cup match with South Africa. Someone needed to bowl a tidy over, main bowlers hesitated, Sachin volunteered and completed the job. Indian fans were overawed. Everyone wanted something like this to happen but they had never seen it happening before. He was the guy who believed in himself and made it happen.

It was not all fairy tale. There were bad patches, lost opportunities, careless dismissals and injuries. He battled injuries like never before. There was a time in his career when he could not grip a cricket bat because of tennis elbow. He emerged stronger. Opponent teams found out his weakness, devised strategies. He counter attacked, invented new shots, new techniques, mastered them. He won respect from opponents. Most of his opponents had nothing but praises for him off the wicket. Bradman saw himself in his batting, he came in Shane Warne's dreams, Brian Lara wanted to be his son in next birth and President Obama who does not understand cricket had backhanded compliments for him. Indians love international appreciation. Sachin got it for them.

But the story does not end there. Despite all this heroics, he stayed humble, rooted to the ground. Somehow, humility is an essential quality to become a legend in India. Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachhan initiated this, Sachin proved it further.  He was an impeccable combination of on-field aggression and off-field humility. He showed the world he could be aggressive where he needed to but chose to be humble. Despite all his mega milestones he never boasted or showed the opposition down. Some opponents mistook humility for weakness and paid the price. Yet off the field, Sachin had good words to say about them. Despite all the international accolades he remained perfectly Indian. He personified Indian values.

Sachin Tendulkar came from a perfectly middle class background, chased his dream against all odds, achieved it without any God father's help. He was brave, skillful, perseverant. He dominated the world unarguably for 2 decades, earned respect and limelight globally and yet stayed humble, rooted and a proud Indian. This is exactly what a common man in India wants to achieve. His emotional connection with 1 billion Indians comes from there. Its not just about cricket. Its about believing in yourself, fighting against all odds and succeeding, unarguably. Be it a player, be it a student, a corporate executive like me or that poor man on the street who has set out to earn something to make his both ends meet Sachin is a role model. Sachin is a dream in motion. Sachin is not just about cricket. Its about success in life.

Indians love Sachin Tendulkar so much because they want to be him in their own field.
Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Indian Jugaad

20131112-142322.jpgJugaad, a Hindi word, means finding a solution to a problem against resource constraints by devising a solution which usually out-of-the-box. This solution is specific to the situation or problem involved, a spark of brilliance originating out of unstructured innovation.

Indians at home or abroad not just own but relish Jugaad. Many of them attribute ability to do jugaad as the important quality that helped the succeed in education, career, a particular job or life in general.

But, Indians tend to believe that only they have the ability to do jugaad. They own this concept so much that they forget that this concept thrives in other countries, regions and cultures too. David won against Goliath by jugaad. Trojan horse was a jugaad, Greg Chappel asking Travor Chappel to bowl an underarm bowl to win the match was a jugaad. There are several examples of jugaad in resource starved countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina which are nicely listed in the book called Jugaad Innovation.

Developed countries and western countries look down upon this. They think it is a low quality unscaleable solution that lies on borderline of the morality or legality. They believe it originates out of resource constraints and therefore irrelevant in resource surplus situation.

I am not sure whether Indians are generally better than rest of the world in coming up with jugaad solutions. However, one thing that clearly stands out is - there is no other country in the world where jugaad solution designers command respect or are looked up to. The glamor and authenticity for jugaad stands out starkly in India. This in fact draws more and more people to relent actively to jugaad solutions and it becomes a perpetual cycle.

What makes Indians good at jugaad? Or why does it have the legitimacy & glamour in India?

The popular answers include lack of resources & inefficient system. Some say propensity to break the law or presence of high intellect. But none of these reasons are unique to India or Indians. None of them explain why people look up to jugaad. I always thought this question needed a time taking research or advice or serious soul searching. But then I accidentally stumbled upon a possible profound answer. Take this.

As usual I was reading a story to my son. This time it was Ganesha and his bother Kartikekya. Their parents asked them to race around the world. Kartikeya rode a peacock and Ganesha rode a mouse. As soon as the race started the nimble and agile Kartikekya flew on his peacock and was sure to win. Ganesha was fat and his mouse moved very slowly. He was sure to lose till he thought of an out of the box idea. He went around them three times (called pradakshina in sanskrit. done in temples to the God to pay respect) Ganesha then declared that doing 3 pradakshinas to parents is as good as going round the world. This flattering explanation pleased his parents Shankar and Parvati and they declared him the winner.

"How unfair is that!!!!", exclaimed my 5 year old. "He didn't even run the race "

I had heard this story since childhood without questioning it. I had believed that Ganesha was intelligent and therefore he could think of such a brilliant idea. But the fact remains that he actually DIDN'T RUN THE RACE.

I started thinking about all the God stories I had listened to. To my surprise every single story involved jugaad.

Ram gathered an army of monkeys to challenge Ravan the mighty demon king. He built a make-shift bridge to reach Lanka.

Pandavas killed all commanders of Kauravas by jugaad under Krishna's leadership. Bhishma was defeated by putting a non-male warrior Shikhandi in front and Arjuna throwing arrows from behind him. Drona was killed by spreading rumors that his beloved son Ashwaththama was killed. Whereas Bheema had killed an elephant of the same name. Karna was killed while he was unarmed, trying to resurrect his chariot. Duryodhana was killed by hitting gada on his thigh which was entirely against rules of the war. Each and every strategy that was adopted was a jugaad.

All these stories are foundation of our childhood thinking. We tell these stories to our children to help them decipher what is right and what is wrong. No wonder jugaad is considered legitimate. No wonder we look up to it.

I am not qualified to comment on whether jugaad is positive or negative, right or wrong, a transient phase or trademark problem solving approach of Indians. All I know is, it is glorified and deeply ingrained in our psyche. It is certainly a differentiating unique survival skill possessed by most Indians. It is a gift from Gods... literally!

Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book