The Source of Creativity

A very interesting podcast from TED radio hour on NPR about the source of creativity.

Click below to listen


Veeru – The Memory-Maker

sehwag1Virender Sehwag, the best Indian batsman of all time, retired from all forms of cricket.  The cricketer who has probably given us the most amazing memories has gone. Nobody’s retirement has left me so sad and nostalgic as Veeru’s retirement.

The year 1999-00. The worst season for any Indian cricket fan. India lost to South Africa at home. Sachin Tendulkar failed as a captain. Azhar, a favourite for many like me was banned for match-fixing along with Ajay Jadeja. In India, cricketers are Gods. Our faith was deeply shaken. Then came Sourav Ganguly. A stylish southpaw with lot of attitude. Ganguly went on to become the most important leader in the history of Indian cricket mainly because he put together a team with a different attitude. An attitude that fans and analysts didn’t associate with India. Before Ganguly, an Indian cricketer was like Gavaskar-Vengsarkar, technically perfect, with a strong calculative mind, personally ambitious and with a gentlemanly attitude. Nobody associated loud, openly expressive body language and ostensibly aggressive attitude with Indian cricketers. Ganguly’s team changed it. And Sehwag was his main soldier. Nobody has given such Adrenalin-provoking moments to Indian fans as he has. Veeru was entertaining to the core. His success and his failures – were equally entertaining.

Sehwag scoring a triple hundred at Multan

Multan ka Sultan

The first such moment came when he hit his first century. There was no Tendulkar and Ganguly had asked him to open. Under an overcast Colombo sky, boundaries rained and in no time, we were speculating whether he will break Azhar’s record or not. Finally he didn’t. But all of a sudden, India had found a fluent stroke-player.

The next Sehwag moment also came in Colombo – in September 2002, in the semifinal of ICC Champions Trophy. Against a cruising South African team, Sehwag, in tandem with Harbhajan, used his temporary off-spin and chocked Proteas to another historic defeat.

Fastest Century at Hamilton

Fastest Century against NZL at Hamilton

Veeru had a penchant of hitting big sixes on crucial moments. On the first day of the Boxing Day test in 2003 at Melbourne, he was on the verge of hitting the fastest double hundred by an Indian. He was on 195 and he tried to hit a huge six over the longest boundary in the world, and he failed. He was caught on the boundary. He lost his wicket to the most mediocre bowler from the opposition, Simon Katich. But that’s Veeru for you!

However three months later, in Multan, against Pakistan he didn’t get out. When he was on 99, he hit a huge six over long-on to reach hundred, and some two hundred runs later, when he was on 299, he hit another six to Saqlain Mushtaq and reached his triple century – the first batsman to score a triple century in tests for India. While receiving his man-of-the-match award he said, speaking in Hindi, “I knew I would because my teammates, Laxman (VVS) and all used to say that if anyone can score a triple hundred, its you.” He was so talented and we had so much faith in him that even his most self-praising statements didn’t sound arrogant.

Triple Century against South Africa

Triple Century Against South Africa

From that point onward Sehwag was a consistent performer in the Indian team. Be it tests or ODIs, Sehwag always delivered. Two years after his Multan heroics, he was facing Pakistan in Bengaluru. Those were tough times for Indian cricket. It was the beginning of the end for Ganguly’s captaincy. Everyone looked ordinary against an efficient Pakistani attack. But Sehwag didn’t compromise with anything – neither with attitude, nor with style and scored a great 201, which in my opinion is his best innings in test cricket. Also a record for the highest score in a losing cause.

On 29th of March, he broke his own record of 309 and scored 319. For the first time in the history of cricket, fans were disappointed when a batsman got out after scoring 319. He looked so much in command for a day and a half that everyone thought he would score 500 runs! At Hamilton in 2009, against New Zealand, he finally broke Azharuddin’s record for the fastest century for India. He broke Tendulkar’s record and scored 219 in an ODI against West Indies. Once again, he got out trying to hit a six.  It was only fair that he was part of a world cup winning team in 2011.

That was Sehwag. He showed that you can be stylish, aggressive and uncompromising and still you can score lots of runs. I once heard Gavaskar somewhere that if Sehwag was a bit more selfish, he would score lot many more runs. Maybe he is right. But then, it wouldn’t be Sehwag. Sehwag never wanted to be a run-machine. He was a memory making machine. His cuts, drives and (mostly unsuccessful) hooks, will remain etched on our memories forever. Thanks Veeru Paji!!

Creative process – Through lens of Improvisation

annbeattieEngaging in a creative process is difficult. One has to bear the pressure of being original and constantly fight the fear of being repetitive or being ‘over-inspired’ by somebody else. Ann Beattie, has been one of the few gifted stalwarts who managed this tension effectively. I came across this very interesting interview of her in the Paris Review (TPR). Generally it’s difficult to appreciate the interviews from TPR unless you know almost entire body of work of the author (Which . However, there are some interesting insights about the process of writing which I personally find quite stimulating.

What Ann describes is an almost improvised process of creation. She says that she doesn’t start writing with a definite outline in mind. That makes her writing more challenging and interesting.

Because I don’t work with an outline, writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock. In the context of a story, a fairly boring thought in a character’s head can work better than a brilliant one, and a brilliantly laid out structure can be so much worse for a story than one that is more haphazard.

A fascinating imagery. It’s interesting how she thinks of rocks in a stream. : Different and distant rocks, of characters, events, images, words and underneath a constant stream of emotions – inspiration! It also reads like a beautiful description of improvisation in any form of art. Combining different elements, jumping from one onto the other, as a part of one journey, in a constantly flowing stream of emotions, weaving a story!

Believing is Enough!!

i amcreativeSo many movies, self-help books and self-proclaimed motivational speakers advocate the power of believing in self. What does social science say? Interestingly, social science says the same. At least in the domain of creativity. For example, one study by Kimberly Jaussi and Amy Randel (2014) showed that those who believe that they are creative are likely to come up with more radically creative ideas than those who don’t. Why? Mainly because people who believe in themselves tend to seek information better. A belief that one is creative actually makes one seek information from more varied sources and seek more creative solutions.

The movie ‘We bought a zoo’ is a nice family movie. Despite not being a masterpiece it has this unique endearing quality. In that movie, there is a fantastic dialogue, “….sometimes all you need is is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it. ”  This can simply be dismissed as mere drama, but science supports it as well.

What if someone doesn’t believe that he/she is creative? There are two alternatives. First, It has been shown in various studies that through creativity training, one can actually increase ‘self-efficacy’ (The first such study was published in 1984, Lock et al.). In other words, if you learn specific techniques for creative idea generation, you are likely to start believing that you are creative. On the other hand, the research mentioned above actually shows that individuals with lower levels of creative self-belief are still capable of coming up with creative ideas. However, their ideas are likely to be more ‘incremental’ in nature. So, if you think you are not creative, still you can make creative suggestions to improve an existing solution.

In summary, whether you believe it or not, you are creative! However, if you believe that you are creative, you are likely to be more ‘out-of-the-box’ than others. You are more likely to experience that momentary ‘Insane courage’ !!
Jaussi, K., & Randel, A. (2014). Where to Look? Creative Self-Efficacy, Knowledge Retrieval, and Incremental and Radical Creativity Creativity Research Journal, 26 (4), 400-410 DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2014.961772
Locke, E., Frederick, E., Lee, C., & Bobko, P. (1984). Effect of self-efficacy, goals, and task strategies on task performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69 (2), 241-251 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.69.2.241

Life while You Wait

While doing some random browsing I came across this wonderful poem by Wisława Szymborska. Noble Laureate in literature from Poland.


P1080705Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run —
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

Initial Impressions of Sachin Tendulkar’s Autobiography

indexSince the moment I bought it on Amazon, I was dying to get my hands on Sachin Tendulkar’s autobiography ‘Playing It My Way’.  Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketer my generation has seen. For me and millions others like me, Tendulkar features prominently across all our cricket memories. Now that I have the book and I have finished reading first 100 pages, I have some mixed feelings about the book. Here is a summary of my initial impressions.

Positives :

  • One question almost every cricket fan wants answered is, ‘What made him the way he is?’. One gets a reasonable idea of how he was groomed into a professional cricketer with impeccable work ethic. It’s also impressive to see the absolute support he received from his family and how strongly his family, especially his brother Ajit, believed in him.
  • The book is written in the same tone of humility that his on-field behaviour demonstrated throughout his career. There are no extravagant adjectives and none of his achievements are overstated.
  • Tendulkar’s stint at Yorkshire as their first overseas recruit is something Indian fans don’t know well. The account of his stint there is not only something novel but is also written with some very humurous anecdotal descriptions.

Disappointments :

  • While he talks in detail about himself and his performances during his initial years, he looks completely oblivious to the transition that Indian cricket was undergoing back then. For example, he talks about sacrifising his wicket at Sialkot (his second test) to let Azharuddin complete a well deserved century. However he completely ignores the fact that this was a century that defined Indian cricket for next decade. Azhar was on the verge of being dropped and this century saved his place in the team. A few months later, Azhar became India’s Captain and with some interruptions captained India for next ten years.
  • Also he doesn’t talk about the importance of his second foreign tour – to New Zealand – in 1990. This tour was a big experiment. Except Kapildev, almost all senior players were dropped (including three ex-captains; Shastri, Srikanth and Vengsarkar) and under Azharuddin’s captaincy a new-look Indian team was sent to New Zealand. It was called a team for the 90s. Azharuddin was an inexperienced captain and had huge responsibility on his shoulders.
  • He also doesn’t talk about some excellent innings played by Azharuddin during this period. Especially his 192 at Auckland and 179 at Headingley.
  • He doesn’t mention two very important tours either. First, South Africa’s tour to India for three one-dayers in 1990. This was huge. It was South Africa’s come back tour and in the first game at Eden Gardens, the unofficial number of spectators was more than 100,000. Sachin was man of the match in the first game. For the first time the world had a glimpse of Allan Donald. Another memory I have of this series is that of Clive Rice bowling to Sachin Tendulkar. Clive Rice, captain of South Africa, was 42 years old and Sachin hadn’t even celebrated his 18th Birthday. Technically it was the oldest (playing cricketer) to the youngest. Another tour he doesn’t talk about is India’s tour to Zimbabwe in 1992 where Zimbabwe played there first test. Nothing interesting happened on that tour, except for the fact that Zimbabwe became ninth test playing nation.