It was an overcast summer day and the Matheran air announced HORSE POOP with nonchalance. The Toy train had just chugged to a stop and as I shuffled my feet on the red stone below and walked along, there were old uninhabited and derelict buildings. One of them had a marking out in red as well: ‘Abandoned’. It seemed like a shout out to the world. In clear bold red letters.

I paused for a minute to imagine the fanfare with which this structure must have sprung to life. Perhaps there was a ribbon to cut and cakes to distribute. Surely a plan and purpose? Of course, there must have been government approval. Taxes must have been paid. Papers must have moved from desk to desk.

Maybe there were meetings here. Decisions taken. New babies or old hands mourned. Gossip. Sniffles. Smiles. Life in all its ordinary elements, perhaps.

And yet, that building stands barren and broken today. With cobwebs keeping company to the peeling paint. I wonder which corner the dreams and purpose hid themselves in. Perhaps it didnt transfer from one generation to another. Lost in translation.

Or maybe it just ran out of steam in the maker’s mind. The idea had died but the building remained as proof that there lived this idea once upon a time.

For some good reason, somebody gave it that public certificate too and painted “ABANDONED” on it. Just in case, someone mistook it for a space that awaits its owner who has gone to Nerul to fetch some water. Bright red letters painted with care. It is not a random street sprawl. Someone took care to write that.

As I stood there, two horses, one named Tom and another, Jerry, passed me by along swishing their tails and dumping some poop. Those swishing tails knocked on the doors of my memory.

For some reason, many aspects that I started off with much hope and purpose before losing steam, streamed by.

Projects. Hobbies. Books. People. Resolves. Habits. Work projects. And much else. Many of them stood there without closure. Perhaps I should declare ones that I want to shut down and write them away like Google does. Abandoned and declared so.

And for other ones, that I still have some hope, perhaps I should dust the cobwebs, clear up the undergrowth and restart.


One more time. Reading. Laughing. Friendships. Writing..

Ah! writing! I begin.

It was an overcast day and the Matheran air announced HORSE POOP with nonchalance. The Toy train had just chugged to a stop and as I shuffled my feet on the red stone below and walked along, there were old uninhabited and derelict buildings.

Staying Grounded

Holy shrines seek a ‘cleanliness’, often beginning with asking you walk in barefoot. To me, it is a poke to go light. To experience the stone and the rough surface pick supple feet. It is about staying grounded. That is the best way of staying clean!

Staying grounded involves being aware of realities as they are. Realities around oneself and the world. It necessitates a certain level of humility to accept what comes ones way yet to search for more.

Staying grounded means one is not occupied by thoughts about oneself but is innately curious about the other. And seeks to ask questions and seeks to build understanding. However sure one is about the answer!

Staying grounded requires an anticipation of uncertainty and a comfort with it. For when one is not driving an agenda, the outcomes can be many. Outcomes that will arrive at and get evolved in the moment at that time!

Staying grounded is not about ‘staying’. It is not a state of immobility. What stays behind is dynamism and change. To keep the mind alive and the ideas in the air but the feet on the ground makes a difference.

Staying grounded does not mean that one forgoes! In fact its the opposite. When one stays grounded what one is able to create far more. Both in the self and in the collective.

Staying grounded needs patience but more importantly, staying grounded needs energy. The energy to let things emerge, by staying in the moment and rummaging through with interest.

Staying grounded is to allow the idea to fly and letting the credit for the idea kiss the Earth. It means one is not wedded to the idea as much as solving the problem with the idea.

Staying grounded is about strength. It’s about awareness. It’s about calm. It’s about a sense of possibility. A sense of what can emerge.

Staying grounded is about the future!

The bowl

Ever since I can remember, the men who roamed the streets asking for alms had one thing in common. The begging bowl. Or the ‘Thiruvodu” as its called in Tamil.  Its made from a shell of a fruit. It gets painted black and its possession proves beyond doubt the status of ‘renunciation’ of the erstwhile era.

A couple of years back, while travelling the interiors of Tamil Nadu, in a small temple, there was a line up of men seated on the ancient stone floor. Sacred ash smeared all over their body, layers of beads strung around their neck, chatting around. Every one of them had the bowl in front.  As we walked by, one of them stood out. Him and his bowl, both stood out.



He smiled, wished me well and was game for conversation. The bowl was bedecked with  striking flowers, inviting an almost reverential parting of a small sum from the wallet.  More importantly, we got talking. Within a few minutes the conversation veered to his Thiruvodu or the bowl. “I am not particularly interested in how much people give, but am particularly thankful that they do give, when there is a choice otherwise”. I remember him saying, something to that effect. But this line I remember verbatim : “Whatever they give, my bowl must be worthy and ready to receive”.

That was then.

Two weeks ago, in the middle of a talent review discussion, someone in the room quipped ‘feedback must be received with a begging bowl’.  Of receiving it fully and comprehensively, sans judgement. In a jiffy the mind ran to fetch the conversation with the old man and his flower decked bowl. I wondered when last was the time I sought feedback with that attitude?

The number of people who want to ‘give’ feedback far outnumber the people who are proactive in ‘seek’ing feedback. Many want to ‘tell’ others what they think of how others are doing. Very few go out on a limb and ‘receive’ in the first place and ‘receive sans judgement’ for it to make complete sense.

In the social, connected and collaborative world we live in, feedback is ubiquitous. It keeps coming our way all the time. Every interaction is a source for feedback. My own hypotheses is this : it is dealing with this public ‘feedback’ that puts the fear into many and gets them stay away from Social tools.

Staying with real world,  here are a few aspects that the leaders who I have worked well with, do well while seeking feedback.

a. First off, they seek feedback. To commence the discussion, they ask very pointed questions. At least, that’s what they start with. Starting by directing the feedback to a defined area, on which the feedback is sought on, vastly increases the quality of the feedback received.

b. They remain very open to any and all feedback that is given. No defensive ‘but you know..’ questions. Questions, if at all, are more asked for amplification or clarification.

There is a strong difference between what they seek and what they accept and do. Listening in carefully sans judgement doesn’t mean that feedback is readily accepted in full. Its just that the processing of it takes place much later.

c. They always provide feedback on feedback. For starters, writing feedback down while it is being received, communicates a level of seriousness A business leader told me once, that writing helps him give a direction to all the energy, when all the feedback is coming his way. Simple stuff like nodding the head and staying attentive to feedback that is coming their way helps them get more!  Another business leader who I talk to more on the phone, makes it a point to paraphrase the feedback at the end of the conversation, beginning with a ‘for my own understanding..’

These to me are aspects that I have noticed in successful leaders who genuinely seek and work on feedback. To have it in one to seek, receive, process and work on the feedback sought is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that superlative leaders are endowed with. Thats something I have noticed.  I wonder what you have noticed.