Podcast #008 Bahrisons

Chronicle of a Bookshop

In the Khan Market area of Delhi is a thriving and busy bookshop called Bahrisons. It has been running since 1953 and is now based in the most expensive retail location in India (and in the top 30 for the world). But it has certainly not always been like that.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 14.15.29

On this podcast I have the privilege of interviewing Anuj Bahari (pictured above) about his father Balraj Bahari Malhotra and the story behind the bookshop. Its a story that goes all the way back to the partition of India in 1947. It’s also a story about the importance of relationships of trust, entrepreneurship and calculated risk taking.

Do join us as we discuss the story behind the bookshop and life lessons in handling the challenges of starting and maintaining a business in a city that has evolved and changed dramatically over the last 70 years.

The following is a quote from the book, “Bahrisons: Chronicle of a Bookshop” by Anuj Bahri and Debbie Smith that traces Balraj Bahri’s journey. Writing about 1947 and the partition of India:

“Within 24 hours the fate of millions had altered and there was no way back. Friends, those we thought of as brothers, life long neighbours refused to look us in the eyes and ask us to stay and live together as we had always done.

I was not a bookseller then, just a young man of 19 who had thoughts of doing something a little different with my life, if only in a small way. I wanted to try something other than working the land or going into service, the traditional occupations of my family in the past. An engineer perhaps or a school teacher, but the owner of a successful bookshop in an alien city – not in my wildest dreams.”

The story reminds me of a quote from Thoreau that describes in a mysterious way how Providence can work in someone’s life:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; and he will live within the licence of a higher order of beings.”

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #005 Delhi. Capital: A Portrait of 21st century Delhi

Do you work to live or live to work?

7 Lessons from a passport.

4 simple questions to ask yourself to develop confidence.

Could this be the real James Bond?

All through my life I have often been on the look out for heroes. I remember as a child first being drawn to Superman. Later on at the age of about 8 I went to the cinema with my Dad to watch the actor Sean Connery play James Bond. Subsequent Bond movies have continued to make him out to be a hero worth admiring. bond1

But growing up I found it harder and harder to identify with Bond. He was way too athletic, had the emotional sensitivity of a bull in a china shop and treated women in a way that as a growing teenage male made me feel a combination of envious, embarrassed and guilty. But Bond’s one redeeming timeless feature is his ability to overcome obstacles and challenges in amazing and incredible ways. The only problem is you have to keep reminding yourself it is all fiction!

That’s why learning about the real James Bond has been so much more enriching and meaningful. Who am I referring to?

James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005). You may never have heard of him, but his life and experiences have so much more meaningful to teach than the Bond of fiction. Here is a short synopsis of his life:

Should living in a VUCA world matter to you?

What Drucker, Dylan and a writer from 935 BC say

It has its roots in military terminology, but is being increasingly used to describe the complex and challenging world that we live in. Largely due to the exponential increase in the technological advances of the microchip, we are living through perviously unimaginable levels of change and disruption.


Here is how Peter Drucker, one of the greatest management teachers of the 20th century put it:

“We are in one of those great historical periods that occur every 200-300 years when people do not understand the world anymore and the past is not sufficient to explain the future.”

Bob Dylan has put it musically with his 1964 song, “The Times They Are A Changin”. (Interestingly around the same time Henry Moore made his prediction about the exponential growth of the microchip). Here is the first verse of that song:

Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing….

(If you want to listen to the whole song see here.)

For a long time though it may not have felt like that. Particularly in the case of  those in power and have been relatively well off, the world has been comparatively safe and predictable. That has often been the case for those of us in the affluent West.

The acronym VUCA describes the world as….

Podcast #007 Religion

The Problem with Religious Thinking

Religious thinking. What exactly is it? Is it something we need more of or less of in our world? It often comes as a surprise when I say that I struggle with religious thinking. A clue is in the bell-shaped curve below:



Do come and join the podcast discussion with my co-host Andrew Horton and I as we discuss:

  • What do we exactly mean by religious thinking?
  • The problem that this creates
  • some semi-humourous examples that illustrate this.
  • religious thinking and mental health
  • The alternative to religious thinking
  • The implications for how we should then live.

If you would like to explore this subject further please also see the following blog posts:

Why I struggle with religion

What is so good about Good Friday?

Is this the best news you have ever heard?

4 personal implications of the resurrection.

Do add your comments, thoughts and ideas on this provocative subject.

3 more life lessons on turning 50

In other words I'm not quite finished yet!

Thank you for your messages, texts, calls and kind words this last week as I turned 50. I was truly blown away by them. Armed with that encouragement I feel inspired to add a few more life lessons!
Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 11.24.37So please bear with one further indulgence this week. I am continuing to reflect on the implications of turning 50 with the hope that it may help some as well as at least provide some guidance away from mistakes I have made.

While there is a world of difference between 50 years of experience and 1 year of experience repeated 50 times, these are lessons I am continually having to remind myself of (to at least avoid another year of bad experience repeating itself up to 50 times!)
So here goes:

Life Lessons on Turning 50

3 of I am not sure how many!

Well its finally happened. I’ve turned 50 today! On reaching such a milestone its good to pause and reflect on lessons learned and I am still learning. Hopefully this is not just a vain exercise, naval gazing, or even the ramblings of an old man! My intention is that they may provide some good food for thought for you the reader that you can then apply in your own life.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 09.10.36Some quotes and reflections that have guided my thinking:

Soren Kierkegaard said, Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’

Also according to J. K. Rowling, whose quote from her speech to Harvard graduates we have used in the introduction to the podcasts:

“Life is difficult and complicated and beyond anyone’s total control. The humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.”

So while its great to learn from the experience of your own mistakes, how much better to learn from the experience of other people’s mistakes!

With that in mind and in no particular order here are some personal life lessons on turning 50:

Podcast #006 Rediscovering Joy

"There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious"

Joy. Its a great subject, but why is it important and so fundamental to your life and my life? In this podcast we try to make sense of joy and distinguish it from happiness.



Do join my cohost Andrew Horton and myself as we discuss the following:

  • How as a psychiatrist practically all my training has been on the negative rather than the positive in life.
  • The dangers of the “if only…..” mindset
  • Why personal circumstances only account for 10% of your overall level of happiness.
  • The importance of training yourself to be a happier person
  • The difference between happiness and joy
  • Joy as  “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. Anyone who has experienced it will want it again.”
  • The hunger for joy as a desire for spiritual experience.
  • Naive primary strategies for joy such as do your duty, follow your dream or be successful.
  • Secondary precarious strategies for joy such as switching track, being busier and cynicism.
  • What the hunger for joy points to.

If you want to understand this subject more then please look at the following blog post:

Why I am working at becoming a happier person.

Why is joy more important than happiness?

The search for joy.

The lies we tell ourselves about joy.

Moving from disappointment to joy.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please do comment below.

Podcast #005 Delhi

Capital: A Portrait of 21st Century Delhi

I have been travelling to Delhi on a regular basis since I was a child. In the last 25 years or so I have gone almost yearly, sometimes even more often. During that time I have personally seen the city go through enormous transformation, some of it welcome but a lot of it disturbing. It was for these reasons I was fascinated when the book “Capital: A Portrait of 21st Century Delhi” was released in 2014.
The 5 minute video below gives a glimpse of the book with the author Rana Dasgupta.

In this podcast I have the privilege of interviewing Rana about his book and the changes that Delhi has experienced and is continuing to go through.

Rana is a globally acclaimed author:

“Rana Dasgupta is the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation.” (Salman Rushdie)

“An astonishing tour de force by a major writer at the peak of his powers.” (William Dalrymple)

“Lyrical and haunting.” (International New York Times)

What is unique about the book is how Rana weaves together the history of Delhi with conversations with such a variety of people. In many ways it is quite a bleak book showing how greed and rampant materialism is tearing away at the heart of society. But it is a story that needs to be told, not least because, as Rana assets, ‘Delhi is a prophecy of the world we may well find ourselves living in the coming years’.

Do join us as we discuss:

  • Rana’s Asian-British- American identity.
  • How Delhi for centuries, from the time of the Moguls, has been discarding its past and continually keeps moving on.
  • The exponential acceleration of change since the liberalisation of the economy in 1991.
  • How the title of the book refers both to the political status of the city it chronicles and to the avalanche of money changing its character.
  • The rise of decadence, drug abuse, sexual licentiousness, marital breakdown and the impact on the extended family system

The 2015 edition the book has been renamed “Capital: The Eruption of Delhi”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the book are those of the author. Also the language and stories used in parts of the book some may find disturbing and offensive. 

You also might be interested in:

The Power of Connecting with Your Past (for a lighter feel-good video and discussion of the impact of globalisation in India and Pakistan)

A Long Way Home (how technology re-united a family)

The Power of Human Connection


5 Simple Steps To Finding Courage For A Tough Call

A tough call is a  decision you know you should make because in the long run it will help you or your family or your organisation. But you find you find yourself hesitating to make it for a whole variety of reasons – some good and some maybe not so good.

1 The Need For Courage

In my life I’ve faced tough calls on a whole variety of issues – some apparently minor and some major:

– to commit to regular exercise.

– to start a regular prayer and meditation routine.

– to stop watching TV and the daily news so as to improve my mood and free up time for more meaningful activities.

– to call an end to friendships and relationships that were one-sided and not going in a positive direction.

– to end the connection with certain organisations or teams that I had come to the conclusion were not going in a direction I agreed with or were incompatible with my values.

Making these tough calls for enduring a certain amount of pain – and that is why we all hesitate to make them. Although the pain can never completely go away, there are 5 simple steps John Maxwell suggests that we can take to make the process easier to handle:

Podcast #004 Combatting Depression

Through The Dark Woods

Joanna Swinney is a remarkable young lady. She is a writer, speaker and editor. She is married to Shawn, an associate vicar and is the mother of two young girls.

DSC_0010She also has a life-long battle with depression. 

Jo is author of the book “Through The Dark Woods: A Young Woman’s Journey Out of Depression.”

On this podcast I interview Jo about her life and the lessons she has learnt and is learning about the dreaded D word.

Jo is refreshingly frank and honest about her life. Quoting from James Jones (previously Bishop of Liverpool 1998-2013) in the foreword to the book:

“Jo is fun, she’s serious, she’s open yet protective of her own identity, she’s an adventurer but doesn’t forget where the safe places are, like a strong swimmer always with an eye on the beach. She writes engagingly and takes you to places that are familiar to every human being. Herein lies the importance of her story. Depressive feelings, as well as moments of elation, are the emotions of being alive and form the experience of us all, and clinical depression affects one in five of us. All of us will in our lifetime either experience depression or be intimately affected by someone who is depressed. This honest testimony of a young woman will help you identify and name these episodes and to know with a little more wisdom how to be and what to do when they happen.”

So do come and join us as we explore some answers on to how to combat depression in our lives. We are looking at:

What depression can personally feel like

The importance of the right support and relationships

The tragedy of suicide

Specific survival ideas and tips that really do make a difference

A spiritual perspective to depression

For all this and much more do listen to the podcast!

Also it would be great if you felt able to rate the programme on iTunes as well as pass it on to those who you think would benefit from listening.

If you would like to understand this subject more, please see the following previous blog posts:

Is the rate of depression actually increasing or not?

Lincoln: How depression moulded a great leader

Did Churchill’s depression make him a great war-time leader?

Facing up to depression

Why I am working on becoming a happier person

9 Reasons why you could be feeling down. Particularly #4

Could your lifestyle be what is getting you down?

What are the forms of Major Depressive Disorder?

Rick Warren and the secret anguish of Major Depressive Disorder

Why has there been a 400% increase in the prescribing of antidepressants?

I had a black dog

The search for joy

The transcript of the podcast is here..

You can order Jo’s book below. Her website is here.