Saturday, September 23, 2023

High School Students - Think Critically about Your Subject Choices

In the Indian education scenario, many students and their parents have to made an important decision on subject combination and stream selection. Sharing two case studies from my mentoring and counselling experience, to emphasis on the importance of decision making while opting in and opting out of subjects during 11th grade.

Generated by AI Sep 23, 2023

Case Study 1: A bright student, had decided in her 10th grade to pursue Psychology and become a Clinical Psychologist. After completing her 10th grade, she joined an international boarding school to pursue her 11th and 12th. She had dropped Physics from her subject combination while retaining Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Psychology etc. During her 11th and 12th her thinking changed and she was now inclined to pursue Medicine (MBBS). But Physics along with Bio and Chem is a mandatory criterion to appear for NEET (Medical entrance) in India. So now the workarounds to reach her goal were: a. Take a gap year after 12th, enrol in NIOS (Open schooling) to complete Physics and take up NEET. or b. Study Medicine overseas where Physics is not a mandatory criterion.

The 1st scenario will call for a lot of determination, hard work, and conviction from the student, and the 2nd scenario will demand considerable funding (budget) for studying overseas.

The point I am trying to make here is, that just the decision to drop one subject has resulted in long-term implications.

Case Study 2: A bright student in her 12th grade, during the process of mentoring and counselling, shortlisted Biomedical Engineering as one of the career options. She had dropped Biology in her 11th. Well in India, Biology is not a mandatory subject for pursuing BioMed Eng so she can prepare for the JEE (entrance exam) and pursue it. However, in my opinion, since it's application to Engineering in Human Biology, the student will benefit from a stronger foundation in Biology, by studying it for two years (11th - 12th). Once again the point I am trying to make here is, to think long-term critically before making your subject choices as the consequences have long-term implications.

In today's changing world which demands breaking the silos by cultivating a multi-disciplinary mindset, it will pay off for the student by building a foundation that is kept broad and not narrowed down too soon in the academic journey. As we see in the case studies above, interests do evolve and change, and discoveries and new possibilities are recognized as the student matures. In such scenarios, if subjects have been dropped which constitutes the mandatory subjects for pursuing a degree, the student will face a roadblock to reach their goals.

A T-shaped learning model is a good way to plan one's academics and career. The horizontal line represents the broad base of subjects during the foundational years and the vertical line represents the specialization (deep dive) on a particular stream during the advanced years of one's academic life.

Leaving this food for thought for students and parents. Think critically before opting out of subjects and taking a deep dive into the shortlisted one's. Young students are still evolving in their interests and orientation, so it may be wiser to keep an elbow room to change plans, just in case.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Faith, Hope and Love


Image credit: Cheerylight Pinterest

Last Saturday morning, Kanishk (my son) and I went to Malleshwaran for work. On the way back home, we were waiting at a traffic signal on Trinity Church M.G. Road in our car. Waiting for the red signal to turn red, our eyes feel on the electronic display board of Trinity Church. Among the many scrolling messages, one of the quotes caught our attention and made an instant connection, probably because of its relevance and powerful message.

Holy Trinity Church image Facebook

"There Are Three Things That Will Endure FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE and THE GREATEST Of These is LOVE". - 1 Corinthians 13:13

It was such a beautiful moment, felt like a God-sent message on a routine of being stranded in city traffic.

When we face adversity in our lives and going gets tough, that's the time we need to keep our FAITH flying high. We should keep complete Trust and Confidence in ourselves, in the process that everything will eventually work out. Faith is what motivates us to move forward even when the odds are against us.

When we face adversity in our lives and going gets tough, that's the time we need to keep our HOPE afloat on the rough seawaters. We should stay Hopeful and Optimistic, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hope keeps us moving forward. Hope propels us to face impossible challenges. Hope encourages us to stay on course of the journey until we reach our destination.

In one's life, LOVE can be a great force multiplier as it propels us to act for the larger good. An act of kindness, compassion, care, and benevolence to make this world a better place is driven by Love. In our everyday lives, we encounter umpteen opportunities to help someone. An act of love for each one of us can make this world a little better for all of us.

Time ticked by and the signal turned green and we merged into the snarling city traffic but with a smile on our lips and with a lofty thought in our minds.

Sometimes positivity and God send messages around us in random, unexpected places, like in our case, in the middle of the city traffic chaos. Best wishes to you for spotting yours in random, unexpected places. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Relationship between Humans and Machines


Oppy (image credit

In today’s age of technology, the relationship between human beings and machines is more intertwined and inseparable than ever. Like every other relationship, the human-machine relationship also evokes many emotions. 

The probability of machines making us redundant and taking over our jobs evokes fear in us. The rapid pace of technological progress intrigues and interests us. Remember how ChatGPT caught everyone’s attention and became a top trending topic. Technologies have also caused many concerns like data privacy, deep fake, and security state which evokes anger, disgust, and sadness in varying degrees.

Is Love and bond also possible between humans and machines?

The movie HER written and directed by Spike Jonze (2013) explores this theme. It tells the story shortly, about a lonely writer who develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

For the sake of argument, this story (movie) is a fiction. So is love between humans and machines possible in real life?

Goodnight Oppy, the documentary film directed by Ryan White (2022) tells a real-life fascinating story of humans and machines. The film follows Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Exploration Rovers (robots) and their creators (NASA scientists and engineers) 15 years of long association and the remarkable bond forged between a robot and their humans millions of miles away.

The NASA scientists interact with Spirit and Oppy (nickname of Opportunity) as if they are real people with their own personalities and feelings. The NASA team had created human-like rituals of playing songs “Walking on Sunshine” and “Here Comes the Sun” to wake up (rebooting, restarting) the robots after their power-down periods. 

Several of the NASA team members involved in this project were in their younger days and over the long period of 15 years they grew through their lives and spent this significant time of their professional life with these robots. They developed a special connection with the robots, like a parent with their child. 

With the robots getting older, the scientists referred to them as aging, a malfunctioning robotic arm was related to arthritis and the falling memory of the robot was relatable to a scientist’s grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s in her old age.

As a viewer, you do feel the joy, the love, the triumph, the anguish of the NASA scientists for their robots Spirit and Oppy over these long years of relationship with them. It’s a unique documentary because of the uniqueness of the topic it explores – Love and Bonding between humans and machines.

In this omnipresent era of technology, the human-machine relationship is the subject of research and exploration. 

This documentary offers us a unique lens to look beyond our commonly experienced emotions towards machines and to wonder if love and bonding are possible between humans and machines? Goodnight Oppy tells a real-life story and shows love and bonding between humans and machines is plausible.

Where to watch? Goodnight Oppy is available on Amazon Prime.

Friday, September 8, 2023

History being Made: PSLV-C57/ADITYA-L1 Mission

This is a first-hand account of my friend Shriram and his children Vedika and Vihaan. They traveled from Bangalore to Sriharikota, to see the launch of Aditya.

Big thanks to Shriram for taking out time to share his unique experience with us, so that we can relieve this rare and historic moment through his storytelling.

September 2nd, 2023, 11.50 AM IST was the moment when PSLV…fired off into the sky carrying Aditya.

I and my kids – Vedika and Vihaan, along with a couple of friends, were witnesses in person to this historical moment. My chest swelled up with pride as the 10,000-plus crowd cheered the space launch by ISRO at Sriharikota. The entire crowd cheered as the spaceship blasted off the Earth into the sky and disappeared within a matter of minutes.

The cheers and claps of the crowd were a celebration of science and India and the achievements of the scientific community of India.

We had obtained an ISRO pass for 6 just a couple of days before 2nd September. On the morning of 2nd September, we reached the launch site by 8:30 AM and had a short walk from the car park to the viewing area. After passing through a couple of routine security checks, we were in the stadium. The viewing area, much to our surprise and disappointment, is a stadium that houses a space museum and an AR/VR center, together called the Space Theme Park. The space museum houses several writeups and scale models of PSLV, GSLV, and satellites (see the photos). The disappointment was largely because inside the stadium, all we could see were a compound wall and trees beyond. There were many food stalls inside the stadium and we quickly bought food and some soft drinks as this was our breakfast.

Soon the crowds started building up with a majority of school kids coming in. There was a dais and a large screen in front of the stadium. On the large screen, one could see the visuals of the spacecraft, and the countdown to launch had already begun. Kids from various schools were invited to the dais to speak. It was good to see that many kids were brave and spoke confidently and knowledgeably on the launch and ISRO. The compere ensured that the crowd was kept entertained and involved. The carnival mood and the Josh of the crowd reached a crescendo as the countdown reached its final minutes. As the crowd roared, PSLV lifted off at 11:50 am and we saw the rocket fly into space with a roar and a blast. The roar of the rocket engines needs to be experienced to understand the power it packs!

It was an awesome couple of minutes after a scorching wait of 4 hours.

Life is lived in Moments, and surely viewing a space launch was one such :)

After 12 noon, the crowd started dispersing taking home memories of viewing history being made.

Technical Aspects (source: ISRO Press Release):

On September 02, 2023, at 11:50 hrs, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C57) successfully launched the Aditya-L 1 spacecraft, from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.

After a flight duration of 63 minutes and 20 seconds, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft was successfully injected into an elliptical orbit of 235x19500 km around the Earth.

Aditya-L-1 is the first Indian space-based observatory to study the Sun from a halo orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrangian point (L-1), which is located roughly 1.5 million km from Earth.

Aditya-L 1 spacecraft will undergo four earth-bound orbital maneuvers before being placed in the transfer orbit towards the Lagrange point L 1. Aditya-L 1 is expected to arrive at the intended orbit at the L 1 point after about 127 days.

Aditya-L-1 carries seven scientific payloads indigenously developed by ISRO and national research laboratories including the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.

These payloads are instrumental in studying the photosphere, chromosphere, and the Sun's outermost layers (the corona), utilizing electromagnetic particle and magnetic field detectors.

Traveling from Bangalore

There are 3 possible routes to go from

1. Drive of 7-8 hours from Bangalore via Tirupati and stay overnight at Srikalahasti or Sullurpet. Both these are small towns and lack quality hotels.

2. Drive of 7-8 hours from Bangalore via Tirupati and Chittoor and stay overnight near Sri City at Tada. There are a few good quality hotels.

3. Go to Chennai by road or train and stay overnight at Chennai 

Things to know

1. Carry an umbrella and/or wear a hat.

2. Carry water bottles and keep yourself hydrated. Water is also supplied inside the stadium in large canisters where you can refill your water bottle.

3. Arrive early to avoid the crowd to get into the stadium.

Gone with the wind, in couple of seconds

Just before entering the stadium

At the stadium, the spaceship is hidden behind the trees

Giant screen displaying the countdown and other parameters

My friend Shriram

Vihaan ready to takeoff 

Vihaan = Buzz Lightyear

Shriram, Vedika and Vihaan

Vihaan ready for launch

Carrying memories of a lifetime

Thank you Shriram for your thoughtful gesture of sharing your experience with all of us. The very thought of hearing the roaring sound of the rocket and seeing it fly into space, gives us goosebumps. It was wonderful to experience these moments through your eyes. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Movie for children: WORLD's BEST - Mathematics, Music (Hip Hop) and Philosophy mashup

Image: IMDb

This weekend browsing through the countless OTT content, me and my son stumbled upon the movie 'World's Best' by serendity. The description appealed to us and why not? not often do we read Mathematics, Hip Hop Music, and Philosophy in a single sentence. 

Generally, the proportion of movies made for children is comparatively less than movies made for adults. That's why when I come across a good children's movie, I try to spread the word around to other parents. 

World's Best is a fun movie, the protagonist a 12-year-old boy is a Maths prodigy, who is being raised by a single mother. He got the gift of Mathematics from his mother. One day at school he is given homework to think and write about a philosophical question - WHO AM I? 

Being a Maths prodigy he tries to answer this question in an equation format but then struggles to put in the variables. He reaches out to his mother for help and he wants to know about his father, who had died due to cancer when he was only 5 years of age. He discovers his father was an Emcee (rapper, in hip-hop music). 

Being intrigued by the world of music which was so different from his world of academics (maths), he goes through the phase of an identity crisis, self-doubt but eventually, he recognizes the rhythm and pattern which is a common thread in every aspect of life, be it Music or be in Mathematics. 

With his increased self-awareness he eventually manages to complete his homework WHO AM I? and he becomes confident at being a Pro in mathematics and a Rapper pursuing hip hop music. 

His mother who was in grief but was pretending to have moved on in life by shutting herself from all the memories of her husband and his music, also makes peace with herself and accepts his son's dual interest in mathematics and music. 

It's a fun movie to watch with kids, with an interesting storyline connecting maths, music, and philosophy and with ample doses of foot-tapping music.

Like all Disney movies, this too offers a positive message for children: 

So Who Am I? - There is no right answer. Listen to the beat in your own head. 

It nudges the audience to jump on the journey of self-discovery and to know, life is not a mathematical equation. It's messy, bumpy, scary and strange but that's what makes it beautiful. Life is like Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop is like life, you can't go half way, you gotta go hard!

Trailer of the movie for your viewing:

It's available on Disney Hotstar.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Book Summary: LEARN, DON'T STUDY by Pramath Raj Sinha


LEARN, DON'T STUDY by Pramath Raj Sinha

This is an insightful book written by Mr. pramath Raj Sinha. He is also known as an institution builder because of his track record of setting up ISB, Ashoka University and currently Harappa Online Learning.

In this book he picks up questions like What it takes to be successful in today's working world (4IR), the possibilities of changing careers multiple times, the gap between academic institutions and the industry and new guides and framework for embarking on professional journey.

To address these broad questions, he shares his life experiences from the world of industry (business) and education. He also shares insights collected from interviewing successful professionals from different walks of life (journalism, education, research, corporate, media, entrepreneurship etc) in the process of writing this book.

USP of this book - all the interviews conducted for this book where with professionals who have a direct connection to India, whether through birth, family, or education. 

“So much of what has been written about career development comes from the West, I wanted to present an approach that was uniquely Indian.” – the author.

I have written this blog it in first person's voice, and taing the exact verbatim (in most places) to retain the narrative style of the book, i.e., the author is speaking directly to his audience (readers).

Chapter 1 - You Can Do Anything

Most of us don’t know and that’s okay

Most of us during our lives transition from adolescence to adulthood are unsure of what we want to do in our life? We might have an inkling about what we like and dislike or about the things we are good at and not so good at, but we lack life experiences to translate these feelings into a clear vocational path.

Often many of us draw conclusion that there must be something wrong within us if we don't know exactly what we want to do with our lives. There is also a sense of fear of being left behind to our peers who seem to have it all figured out.

Sadly this fear psychosis is reinforced by the ecosystem around us parents, educators, peers etc.

Through the interviews the author presents scenarios where there were people who discovered what they want to do at a young age but there were also many who discovered it tinkering along their way and many also ended up pursuing multiple careers in their lifetime.

Don’t be overly concerned with money

The author mentions one of the primary obstacle to building a passion based career is obsessing about how much money you will make. If money is your topmost criterion for determining what you want to do with your life, it can often stand in the way of a deeper, more fulfilling and more successful career.

In India in particular the culturally conditioned fear of lack of adequate income, can lead young people to become overly anxious about their financial stability often at the expense off their long-term happiness.

In the early stages of career, the most important thing is to gain experience to discover one's passion and strength to learn and develop new skill sets and to build a strong foundation for success in the long run. Money should be a symptom of a well-rounded and successful career.

Anything is possible, with a twist

The three core principles:

It's possible to make a career out of doing something you love.

Your passion is usually something you develop.

You can have multiple loves and multiple careers.

These core principles helps you to think about yourself and your career in a more broader dynamic context, liberates you from the fixed mindset and makes you an explorer seeking to discover your passions and aptitudes as you move forward on your life’s journey.

You can do something you love

For many of us who are fortunate enough to get good education, the world is filled with more possibilities than ever before The definition of passion based career has significantly expanded and evolved to include a wide variety of options.

The author points out everyone he interviewed for this book has built at least one Career out of doing something they love. It is truly possible to do what you love if you are committed and dedicated to make it happen.

Your passion is usually something you develop

In a 2018 article for the Psychological Science Journal, authors Paul O’Keefe, Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton suggest that there are two general approaches to building a passion-based career:

Finding your passion, or

Developing your passion

The first approach represents 'fixed mindset' i.e. each one of us have a unique passion that we are meant to represent.

The second approach represents ‘growth mindset’ i.e.  viewing your passion or passions, as something you develop and cultivate.

There research points out the growth mindset approach of developing passion is more rewarding. Reason being, it opens up more possibilities and opportunities in one’s life.

So it is crucial to realize that you may not necessarily be able to know your passion without some experimentation. Passion is something you cultivate overtime.

You can have multiple loves and multiple careers 

The author drawing from his personal experience mentions that none of us are limited to just one passion or one career in our lives. As human beings we are much more complex than we often realize. You can have different passions and build different careers out of them in your lifetime.

Chapter 2 - It All Starts with Self-Discovery

 An ongoing process of self discovery

Self discovery, is a crucial element in building one's career. All the interviewees cited this ability to understand who they were, what they were good at and what they wanted to do with their lives as foundational to their meaningful success.

Self discovery is something you never stop undergoing. It's an ever evolving process.

You Can't force it

Usually Self discovery is an organic process that moves according to its own pace.

The author sites example of the popular Myers Briggs test which is used to generate personalized psychological profile and the list of careers best suited for the individual. He points out several criticisms of such psychometric assessments as they depend heavily on reductionist approach.

Human beings are not so simple or binary. None of us are only defined by one thing. After all we are not robots, our personalities are not scripts or algorithms. hence the process of self-discovery can't be robotic. It requires patience, trial and error most of the times. One has to go through real life experiences, experimentation and internship in various vocations to truly discover themselves. Such organic elaborate process does need time and patience.

Resisting the pressure

The Indian education system which is one of the most competitive in the world puts extreme amount of pressure on the children to make their choice of specialization at an young age and then to stick on that trajectory. Unfortunately, this leads to premature conformity.

One of the compelling reason for the author to write this book is to make young people and their parents understand that it's OK if you don't know what you want to do right up front. He wants to alleviate this pressure from within and outside, so that people can discover their passions and their strengths more organically.

Discovering what you’re good (and not so good) at

All the interviewees in this book mentioned that they needed real world experiences to really test themselves and discover their passions, strength, and weaknesses. Unfortunately, our traditional educational journey are usually focused on grade, marks and ranks.

The key to self-discovery is real world experience. You just can't do it in a vacuum. You must test yourself to discover yourself. You need to get your hands dirty in the real working world to figure out what aspects of who you are might be valuable to the development of your career.

Self-Discovery is a lifelong journey

The author mentions one of his key takeaways from all the interviews was there is no one common path for self-discovery. Self-discovery is unique for each person. For some the clarity of what one wants to do in life emerges at the very early age and for many this becomes a lifelong journey of introspection, trial and error, coupled with perpetual growth. This is the beauty of self-discovery it's a never ending process. You will keep discovering things about yourself as long as you continue to be engaged in the process of inquiry.

Chapter 3 Balancing Breadth and Depth

The author refers to David Epstein 's book Range: Why Generalist Triumph In a Specialized World, has been one of the most thought provoking book he has read in the recent few years.

David Epstein challenges the notion of specializing as early as possible to thrive in one's vocation. He put forth research that that argues the case that those who succeed in the long run are those who developed a wide range of skills and experiences early in their lives which they can apply to the rest of their career.

However, our current education system runs contrary to delaying specialization, hence it becomes a herculean task for students to go in another direction.

The author categorically mentions he nor any the interviewees are against specialization. However, specialization should not come at the expense of learning a broad range of skills. The key is to find that balance of breadth and depth of variety and focus.

Choosing your educational path

The author provides a general guideline and perspectives from his and the interviewees life experiences:

You don't have to know (yet) - If a student is unclear of the choice of subjects, it's okay. They need not stress too much on it.

The institution matters more than your major - If a student is unclear on the branch/major, then it may be a good idea to pick up the school (reputation) over the branch. A reputed school can open many doors in future.

Liberal Arts style education generally serves you best in the long run - Liberal Arts curriculum covers four general sectors: the arts, humanities, social and physical sciences. The objective of liberal arts is to cultivate an ability to think critically across disciplines and to see the interconnects between them.

A study published by Stanford University in collaboration with HSE university Moscow in Nature Human Behavior tracked 30,000 engineering students across India Russia China and USA through their four years of undergraduate degree to monitor the development of their critical thinking skills. The study found that Indian engineering students (along with the Russians and Chinese) significantly lagged their American counterparts when it came to critical thinking.

In an article for the Higher Education Review, Mimi Roy, an associate professor at Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, explains why she believes Indian students are falling behind. “The pedagogy at most techno institutions is not thought provoking and relies mostly on route learning and exam-based lock step methods.”

Diversifying your education and experience

The author mentions attending a liberal arts college isn't the right choice for everyone, nor it is always an option. Some people from an early age are aware of their specialized field of education while others might not be able to afford and liberal arts education as most institutions tend to be more elite. It is possible to gain many of the benefits of a liberal arts education even if you don't attend a liberal arts college. Student can expose themselves by attending diverse classes beyond their core subjects, by actively choosing diverse opportunities on campus which will help them develop new and diverse skill-sets which will help them to build a wider network of peers and mentors. Such wider exposure makes students well-rounded and they set themselves for success in the long run.

Learning how to specialize

One of the interviewee Nikhil mentions, the point is that while you shouldn't be too narrow in your approach, we should also avoid being too broad. We need to strike a balance between the breadth and depth. David Epstein 's book range also articulates this key principle: generalize early but specialize late.

Striking your balance

The author concludes the chapter by stating, give yourself the time and space to experiment, pursue diverse opportunities, pursue different topics and interest. Aim for balance not expedience. Don't be afraid to take a longer and more winding path. It will benefit you in the long run.

Chapter 4 Focusing on the Right Skills

Transferable skills for a non-linear world

Outside of technical skills, the author identifies five general categories of THRIVE SKILLS (Harappa Education):



Critical Thinking

Problem Solving


Technological innovation and automation has put pressure on the workforce to evolve and adapt. Tasks that used to be performed by humans are now being taken over by computers applications and machines. But there is one domain that remains relatively immune to automations rapid advances: Soft skills or Social skills. 

National Bureau of Economic Research shows since 1980s, most of the job growth has been within careers that require extensive social interaction. Jobs that include a high degree of analytical and mathematical processing but relatively low levels of social interaction have declined. Similarly, the higher paying jobs tend to be those that require the most social skills. So, it’s crucial to develop these soft/social skills as we venture forward into the brave new world dominated by technology and machines.

Chapter 5 Picking Up (and connecting) the Dots

The author quotes Steve Jobs famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, “You can't Connect the Dots looking forward you can Only Connect them looking backwards. so, you must trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

The author builds on this further by stating, “If you want to be able to connect the dots in your own life, you have to be willing to pick them up first.” He mentions, the willingness to pick up new experiences was a universal quality among everyone he interviewed in the process of writing this book. None of their career paths were linear, they all galvanized diverse experiences and skills to create their own unique story and career path.

Your life is an experiment

Through interviewee’s Paroma Roy Chowdhury story, the author showcases the importance of willingness to take risks, try new things, to experiment, to follow one’s instincts. Every opportunity is a working hypothesis, which helps to move on to your next hypothesis and continue to learn and grow forever.

Overcoming the fear of failure

Through Uday Shankar's story the author tells us the importance of overcoming your fear of failure which in turn helps to seize opportunities and act. He emphasizes once you have made your decision, you need to do everything in your power not to fail.

So, what’s the best way to overcome fear of failure? Uday’s advice is not to take yourself too seriously.

Another way is to reframe what ‘failure’ means. Failure can be looked as an experiment, there’s no right or wrong results, there’s only more data one can use to create the next experiment. So, failure is not literally a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn, grow and refine.

Finally, the best way to overcome your fear of failure is to actually fail. You will find that you recover from failure faster than you would have expected. You will go on living and growing.

Intelligent failure

Duke university’s Sim Sitkin in his 1996 article Learning through failure: The strategy of small losses for the Journal of Organizational Learning, coined the term intelligent failure. He articulates Don't throw caution to the wind and recklessly attempt to do big things. Rather, take up initiatives and challenges that you have considered and prepared for, but that you understand might not work perfectly.

How to fail intelligently?

Be in an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and failure is accepted.

Challenge yourself by taking on difficult tasks where you will likely experience some degree of failure.

Adjust your mindset to see failure as a natural part of a creative life.

Make sure that you are not trying to fail. Rather you're doing your best to succeed, but ready to learn from any failure that might occur. 

You don't have to feel like an Imposter

In the year 1978, a team of Psychologists Suzanne Imes, Pauline Rose Clance, first identified Imposter Syndrome as a pervasive phenomenon and attributed it primarily to women. In a 2011 article in the Journal of Behavioural Science, 70% of the people surveyed reported to have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. 

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy, one feels they don't belong in this group of high achievers and they attribute their success to luck rather than their hard work and talent.

Since imposter syndrome is subjective distortion of reality, one of the best way to gain objectivity is to talk to someone i.e. approach a friend, colleague or mentor and share what's going on in your mind. Maybe experiencing imposter syndrome from time to time is a natural phenomenon and hence expect it, be ready for them and find a way to overcome it.

Get as much experience as you can

The author emphasizes the importance of experience by stating you can have all the education in the world, but it can't replace the value of real-world experience. Experience helps us in our exploration and self-discovery. So students are encouraged to participate in experiential learning programs, volunteering work, taking up opportunities your school and college such as hosting events etc.

Chapter 6 The Power of Mentorship

The author through his life story and from the life stories of all the interviewees, highlights mentorship as one of the most important ingredients in a successful career. Mentors play an important role, not only in early professional and educational decisions but also in many of the critical junctures of one's professional journey. Mentors help to identify one's trends, refine their passions and push them towards higher degree of excellence.

A trusted voice outside of your family

The author presents Indra Noogi’s story, which highlights how her mentor’s advice (voice) was accepted with trust by her family.

A good mentor’s primary interest is your future and betterment, without having any conflict of interest. Mentor can often be more objective about you than your family can. A mentor looks at you as a possibility i.e. who you will be in the future than who you have been in the past.

Helping You to Find and Connect the Dots

A mentor being an objective observer of our career can help us to see the dots and connect the dots. They play a huge role in our organic process of self-discovery, by helping us discover our strengths and make sense of our experiences and situations. A mentor also holds you to a higher standard, thereby raising your level of thinking and performance. A mentor also helps in modelling new pathways i.e., can open your mind to new opportunities you weren’t aware of or didn’t think possible. Mentors can also be role models and they can be a guide, friend, philosopher who gives you the confidence to make a career move, a career transition and to overcome career challenges.

Chapter 7 Advice for Parents: Tapping into the Secret Sauce

The author highlights the rapid change in our society in just one generation. Parents today are facing a unique generational conundrum, i.e., there is a disconnect between our experience of growing up as a child and that of our children who are growing up now.

Therefore, parents should be cautious not to project their own life experiences onto their children, because what worked for us won't necessarily work for our children.

The room to experiment

The best gift a parent can give to their child is room (time) to experiment. Help your child in cultivating a dynamic growth mindset from a young age, which will be critical to their long-term success.

They are different from you

As digital natives today's children have been shaped by a completely different world than you had. As parents, we need to acknowledge and learn about these differences in order for our guidance to be relevant and effective.

The Deloitte 2021 millennial and Gen Z survey found that among young people in India, personal beliefs (ethics based work) are more influential over the kinds of careers they choose [72% millennials and 66% Gen Z) than the global average break 44% millennials and 49% Gen Z). Mental Health is also an emerging value among younger generation.

Help them figure out what they love

The best role you can play as a parent is to help them discover themselves, gradually and without any pressure to figure it out quickly. Parents should avoid becoming overly concerned with grades. Grades, are important, especially if you want to get into a good school. It's just that you shouldn't think that just getting good grades will ensure you a successful future. Rather, having a well-rounded base of experiences and skills to draw from will serve you better in the long run. Encourage them to take up hobbies, help them to take up internships for gaining real world experience and parents should do their best to learn about how the world is changing.

Prepare them, don't instruct them

Srikanth Shastri, one of the interviewee, calls this approach to parenting as ‘guidance with the light touch’. He believes the best advice focuses on the process of making decisions rather than the decisions themselves. He advocates of teaching young people how to approach the decision in their life that is how to break it down into its component parts, how to weigh the pros and cons, how to think through all the potential outcomes and how to ask all the right questions. In short, teach children how to think, and not what to think.

Ofcourse parenting has to be sometimes heavy-handed and prescriptive but these should be reserved only for instances when the mistakes are of a catastrophic nature.

Building Agility and Resilience

In a rapidly changing world, where change is the only constant, young people need to be made comfortable to embrace this brave new world. Agility and Resilience are two qualities today’s children need to inculcate, to thrive in this new world.

Expose your children to diversity (new skills, new experiences, new environments, new scenarios) so that it develops adaptability and agility in them in due course of time. In-short as parents help to diversify your child's toolkit so that they have many more skills and experiences to draw upon in their future.

As parents, give your child the opportunity to fail, especially early in their lives. As parents we first  need to overcome our own fear of failure. Parents who exhibit this in their own life will be a learning model for their own children (learning by observing/role model). Secondly, encourage your child to take up challenging assignments so that they can taste disappointment that comes with failure and learn why they failed and learn how to bounce back e.g. try learning a musical instrument, try learning a foreign language, apply for a challenging school, take up sports etc.

As parents, we can provide our children a safe space, a safety net, so that they can experiment with their life, learn to fail in a safe environment and eventually build agility and resilience for the long run.

The Secret Sauce

“Parents can instill in their children the values that help them to succeed, but do it in a manner that doesn't project their own worldview, which was shaped in a different era.” – Monica Hariharan

According to Monica, the secret sauce for everyone looking to succeed in today's world is to take all of those deeper values and find new ways to express them.

The author sums it up by stating, this secret sauce is infact the age old ethical template defined by hard work, excellence, rigorous thinking, dependability, resilience and adaptability. The key for parents today is to give their children this template without being too prescriptive in how to apply it.

Conclusion unlocking a Growth Mindset

The author connects Growth Mindset (by Psychology Professor Carol Dweck) with Marc Randolph (co-founder of Netflix) 2022 commencement speech at Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts.

Marc says, “follow your dreams” might be the worst thing to tell young people. He continues, the advice perse is not bad, but no one tells you ‘HOW’.

He advocates that young people should ‘Stop Thinking and Start Doing’. He believes it's more crucial to learn how to execute your goals so that when you do discover your dreams, whatever that may be, you will be in a position to practically make them come true.

The author states instead of telling people to follow your dreams we should say discover your dreams. Which means your dreams are in some fixed entities rather they are dynamic and changing. They are something to be discovered through the process of your own career journey. Discovering your dreams requires experimentation. It requires throwing yourself into new situations and over time, figuring out what you are best at and what gives you the most sense of fulfillment. In other words, it’s about inculcating a growth mindset.

A growth mindset propels us and makes us break away from stagnation of fixed mindset. It makes us a person who is ‘work in progress’, who can learn new skills, gain new knowledge, continue self-discovery, explore new opportunities and continue to pivot through their lifelong journey.

Pramath Raj Sinha (image courtesy - Harappa Education)

The author Pramath Raj Sinha, concludes in his own unique style – “I want to leave you with a nugget of wisdom. As you peer into your career, whether it be from the vantage point of a high school student, a college graduate, or a mid-career professional, it's imperative to do so with patience and curiosity. Don't fall victim to the pressure from your own peers or teachers or family or society to prematurely figure it all out. If you're not certain about what you want to do with your life, that's OK. The world isn't certain. So how could you be? As you take the next step in your career journey, try to see it as a learning opportunity. And one day, you’ll look back, connect the dots of your squiggly career and will be amazed at how much you’ve achieved.” 


I highly recommend checking out the book 'credit' by Pramath Raj Sinha and published by Penguin Publication. This book summary is intended for educational purposes to spread the ideas and knowledge presented in the book. However, I strongly suggest getting an in-depth reading and gaining deeper insights by purchasing the book. It's definitely worth it! 



Monday, August 14, 2023

A School, I Wish I had gone to

Remember the iconic scenes from Rancho School in Ladakh, from 3 Idiots movie's climax? 

The school Rancho (scientist and educator) had established in Ladakh, on the principles of innovation, free thinking, creativity and pursuit for knowledge rather than pursuing marks/grades/numbers and ranks.

3 Idiots movie is one of my favourite for many reasons. I am a fan of Aamir Khan, Raju Hirani and I have always been passionate about education. So a movie made by them and on the topic of Indian education system, makes it a movie to feature in my list of all time favourites.

The 3 Idiots Wall, in the school campus

So when we are in Leh Ladakh on a family trip, we made sure to fit the Rancho School in our itinerary. Thanks to our taxi/tour guide Tashi bhai for mentioning about this school's location.

This blog is my travel memoir, to make your visit to the school easier. Also to introduce you to this real school outside of the filmy image. The school is doing lots of good work and this awareness may motivate some of you to volunteer and contribute to their community causes.  

At the school entrance

Real name of Rancho School?

Druk Padma Karpo

How to reach?

The school is located in Shey, the old capital city of Ladakh. It is 15 kilometers to the south of Leh city, a 25 minutes drive by cab or local bus. 

SHEY (image from Thrillophilia)

Founded in the year?


Founded by?

His holiness Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, a Buddhist Spiritual Leader of Ladakh. The design was created in association with Arup, Architectural firm. 


The students study Bothi (the local language), English and Hindi languages, Science, Social Studies, Creative Arts and Sports. The school provides education in the age group of 6 to 16 years. 

The school is a not for profit institution, which provides education to children from this remote Leh valley region. Many students in this school are first generation learners. Through education the school aims to empower the local community, with new knowledge and skills for betterment of their life. 


The school has won several prestigious awards. To name a few:

  • It won the BBC Award for World's most Beautiful School in 2016. 
  • WB Honours for Innovation in Public Washroom Design in India in 2015. 
  • World Architecture Award for Best Green Building in 2002. 

Ongoing project?

  • In 2010, the school campus was severely damaged by a mudslide, because of the fragile ecosystem in the Himalayan region. A project called Dragon Garden was conceptualised in collaboration with Architecture students from University of Greenwich. The Dragon Garden is aimed to transform the barren desert school campus into a lush green sustainable garden which will be used for learning, playing and growing vegetables and fruits for self-consumption. 
  • Sesmic upgrade and mudslide repair of the student's residences.
  • Construction of the senior secondary school complex.

Getting involved?

Image credits: TOI, Solaripedia, Business Khabar

The school welcomes volunteers who would like to teach, raise funds or contribute fund for supporting any of the above mentioned ongoing projects.

There is also a visitor zone, shop and cafe in the school premise. The purchases made there is also a way of making contributions for the school fund.

Do find the link for volunteering and for making contributing funds for a good cause:

For so many of us, Leh Ladakh is in our bucket list :) So when you plan your visit, do take out time to drop in at Druk Padma Karpo - The Rancho School at Shey, to see their positive, impactful work of imparting education, knowledge and skills, to the children of local communities, who have very little access to the things which you and I from big cities take for granted. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Empowering Palates and Communities: Nilza Wangmo The Woman Entrepreneur Behind a Local Cuisine Sensation

Sonia and me, with Nilza Wangmo Mam (centre) at Alchi Kitchen, Alchi Ladakh

Self discovery

Those who have read the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, would remember the profound realisation which draws upon Siddhartha after decades of life experiences that he didn't necessarily had to leave his home in search of spiritual enlightenment. Through his life experiences, Siddhartha understands that true enlightenment and spiritual fulfilment can be found in everyday life and in the present moment, rather than through external pursuits or ascetic practices. 

Drawing parallel from this quest for seeking enlightenment, we do see the quest for seeking success, also sets sail for so many Siddharthas (metaphor) pushing them far away from their roots into a lifetime spent in a distant world. 

Only a handful Siddharthas transform into Buddha, so does very few Siddharthas attain meaningful success at their roots, by breaking the norms of work related displacements in today's globalized world economy. 

I came across one such Siddhartha during a family holiday in Ladakh - her name is Nilza Wangmo a resident of Alchi.   

Life's journey

Alchi is a remote village on the banks of river Indus, surrounded by the mighty Himalayan mountains, about 70 kms to the west of Leh district. It's the home to one of the oldest monastery in Ladakh, build during the 11th century. 

Nilza had lost her father to a critical illness when her Mom was carrying her in her pregnancy days. She was raised by her mother in Aamei Khampa, her maternal grandparents residence. Financial struggle was a constant factor in her life, as her mother did her best to raise her with a meagre earning she made at a NGO. Nilza studied in a missionary school and then moved to Jammu city for pursuing a college degree. She was forced to quit her degree mid-way and to return home, due to financial crisis. Battling depression and overcoming it, Nilza went to Alchi (her father's village) asking for her equal rights on her father's home for sustaining herself. She and her mom, was turned away by her uncles without any help. 

Stranded in Alchi, no where to go, no money in pocket, her grandfather (maternal) stepped in to help and they managed to secure a small accommodation to live. 

Women Entrepreneur 

The twists and turns of life, forced Nilza to become an accidental entrepreneur. She took a loan of Rs 8 lakh, to start a home-stay business for tourists. This is when she stubbled upon an idea "Why not introduce tourists to the world of Ladakhi cuisine?" With her conviction in this idea, she changed her business plan of constructing a home-stay to building a kitchen (restaurant).

Through the year 2015, Nilza's mother and her aunt got into a relentless brainstorming session for curating the Ladhaki menu for her restaurant. They decided to curate a special tea - Apricot Tea (apricot fruits grows in abundance in Ladakh) and 'Tashi Tagye' tea. They experimented trying out different flavours and options for the beverage segment. Among food, they introduced the world to Khambir (local Ladhaki breads), Mok Mok (Dumplings), Chhutagi and Skyu (pasta stew) just to name a few. It was a project of culinary conservation of sitting together with the women of the local community and archiving their recipes in an era of fast food. Her restaurant Alchi Kitchen opened in the year 2016.

Nilza proudly says, she didn't go to any formal training school but self-taught herself by observing and learning from her mother passionately cooking food. Alchi Kitchen has even opened up new branch in Leh. Nilza employees women and trains them to cook, serve and manage restaurant. She encourages girls to become self-reliant by taking up a profession and making a career. 

Success and Community Impact

Fast forward to today, Alchi Kitchen is featured on National Geographic and Nilza Wangmo is recipient of Nari Shakti Puraskar from the President of India 2020 (highest civilian honour for women in India), recipient of Vogue Women of the Year Award 2020, Nilza is featured in various magazines like India Today and Vogue. Alchi Kitchen has turned out to become a must visit place for tourists visiting Ladakh. It draws international tourists from South East Asia, Europe among travelling Indians and celebrities.

Nilza Wangmo and her Alchi Kitchen is a shining example of one such Siddhartha who discovered her entrepreneurship, success and community impact by going back to one's roots, reviving the lost tradition, instead of uprooting oneself in search for success. 

Personal Anecdote

I had the privilege of meeting Nilza Mam, when we visited Alchi's Kitchen for lunch during our trip to Ladakh in May 2023. What struck me was her simplicity and hands-on approach. In spite of all the success and recognition, she was personally involved in taking orders and helping out the cooks in kitchen. During intermittent free time, we even struck a conversation with her. When I enquired about her mother, she shared her Mother, her life-long companion is no more in this world. I could feel the grief inside her as she choked while talking about her mom. Nilza - "These are all my mother's recipes, she taught us everything and she was a friend and constant support to me in this journey. I miss her a lot." As more customers poured in, she jumped into her duty of hospitality and introducing them to Ladhaki cuisines. After our heartfelt lunch, she obliged to our request for a photograph with her. We left Alchi Kitchen with special memories of local cuisine and of meeting a special person.         

Written by drawing upon my personal interaction with Nilza Wangmo and articles in India Today and Vogue.


Receiving Nari Shakti award from President of India:

Nilza Wangmo Vogue Women of the year 2020 Message to Women Entrepreneur:


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Movies That Will Motivate You - Pursuit of Happyness


Image credit: Sony Entertainment

Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis the brilliant mathematician born in France in 1792 (the time of French revolution) is credited for introducing the term 'WORK' into the lexicon of modern day science and society. 

Apart from his famous contribution in meteorology which is known as 'Coriolis Effect', he was keenly interested in Table Billiards, dedicating hours in research while playing it. His research published in the book Theorie mathematique des effets du jeu de billiard, is still invoked with biblical solemnity by aficionados of billiards descendants, snooker and pool. 

In 1828, when describing the process by which energy is transferred from an arm and through a cue to send billiard balls scuttling around the table, Coriolis first introduced the term 'Work' to describe the force that needed to be applied to move an object over a particular distance.'  

This term 'work' caught the imagination of all scientists and it was used to describe the key concepts of Europe's Industrial Revolution (workings of steam engines, water wheels, automotives etc).

'Work' is now used to describe all transfers of energy, from those that occur on a celestial scale to at a subatomic level. 

Science now recognises that the creation of our universe involved colossal amount of work. 

Also work, differentiates living things from dead things. Living things actively harvest and use energy (Work) which sustains them. When they stop doing (work) with no energy left they die. Put in another way, to Live Is To Work.  

At the intersection of Anthropology, Science and Technology, human beings relationship with Work has constantly evolved from it's hunter gatherer days, through industrial revolutions to today's fourth industrial revolution. 

The closest thing to a universal definition of 'work' - is that it involves purposefully expending energy or effort on a task to achieve a goal or end. 

We work to live and live to work. We are capable of finding meaning, satisfaction and pride in our jobs. Our work also defines who we are, determines our future prospects, dictates where and with whom we spend most of our time, mediates our sense of self-worth and moulds many of our values.  

The French word for work, 'Travail', has a poetic quality in it absent in many other languages. It connotes not just effort but also Suffering. This does resonates with our modern day culture - TGIF (Thank God It's Friday), Monday Blues, Burn-out....the other aspects of humans-work relationships. 

To counter these negative emotions through this Blog series, we are putting forth Motivation through movies, whose stories are based on work and work-place. The Hope is that you find the inspiration, motivation and lessons in them, to change your work engagement from TGIF to TGIM (Thank God It's Monday), Monday Blues to Monday Rainbows and Burn-out to Positive Energy.  

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) makes a remarkable commentary on how happiness can be attained only when someone pursues it while going through the ups and downs in life. While the film dramatises the professional life of Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness lays a huge emphasis on the need to trust your own self when you are to make a difficult decision. You always begin a new journey with experiences from your past, and it is these experiences and skills that will help you succeed in life. All you need is a dream, a dash of grit, and a bit of courage to take that leap of faith.

"The Pursuit of Happyness," directed by Gabriele Muccino and starring Will Smith, is a biographical drama film based on the true story of Chris Gardner. The movie highlights several valuable lessons that can be learned from Chris Gardner's inspiring journey. Here are some of the key lessons:

1. Perseverance and Determination: One of the most prominent lessons from the film is the power of perseverance and determination. Chris Gardner faces numerous challenges and setbacks, including financial difficulties, homelessness, and the responsibility of caring for his young son. Despite all the obstacles, he remains steadfast in his pursuit of a better life and never gives up on his goals.

2. Belief in oneself: Chris Gardner possesses a strong belief in himself and his abilities. He consistently demonstrates confidence in his skills and refuses to let others' opinions or negative circumstances define him. We learn, Believing in oneself and maintaining a positive self-image is crucial when facing challenges and striving for success.

3. Sacrifice and Hard Work: The film emphasizes the importance of hard work and sacrifice. Chris Gardner takes on unpaid internships, endures long hours, and makes sacrifices in his personal life to create opportunities for himself and his son. The story reminds us that achieving our goals often requires dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to put in the necessary effort.

4. Pursuing Passion and Goals: Chris Gardner's ultimate goal is to secure a stable job in the competitive field of stockbroking. His pursuit of this goal represents the importance of following one's passion and striving for personal fulfillment. The film encourages viewers to identify their own aspirations and pursue them with determination and enthusiasm.

5. Resilience in the Face of Adversity: Throughout the movie, Chris Gardner faces numerous hardships, including financial struggles, homelessness, and personal setbacks. However, he maintains his resilience and refuses to be defined by his circumstances. The film reminds us that setbacks are a part of life, and it's essential to develop resilience and bounce back from challenging situations.

6. Never Settle for Mediocrity: The film challenges the notion of settling for mediocrity and encourages viewers to aim for greatness. Chris Gardner refuses to settle for a life of poverty and unhappiness and strives for a better future. It serves as a reminder to continuously push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and strive for personal growth and fulfillment.

7. Importance of Parenthood: "The Pursuit of Happyness" also explores the significance of parenthood. Despite his struggles, Chris Gardner prioritizes his role as a father and works tirelessly to provide a better life for his son. The film underscores the importance of being present for our loved ones and the impact that positive parental influence can have on a child's life.

If it's been a while you watched this movie, may be it's time, for another weekend watch, to seek inspiration for your pursuit of happyness!


Work (a history of how we spend our time) - James Suzman (Bloomsbury)

Movie: Pursuit of Happyness