Category Archives: Brown People Stories

Execution is Everything : An Agile True Story


Never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy teaching/coaching of any kind until a few years ago.

My younger son was in third grade and trying out for the travel basketball team in our town that was know to have  a very strong basketball following. We were there on time and as the tryouts proceeded, I sat by the bleachers, cringing as he under performed. The kid was neither fast nor accurate. After a grueling two hours, we knew he was not going to be picked.

Prior to this, I’d thought he was going to do well. He had a passion for the game and would shoot hoops every spare moment he had. That was not enough for today’s competition. He could have used an adult to have trained him. A personal coach. He needed to be taught the fundamentals of the game and ball handling. Since his father was not around to do this, I decided I had to play a bigger part in making it happen. The boy loved the game and I wanted to make sure he had all the help he could get to make it to Travel the next year.

The Story:

I signed up to coach the under 9  or U9 basketball Rec league for our city. I had no prior coaching experience and did not know the rules of the game, as it was played in America. The last time I’d played basketball was as a sophomore at a boarding school in India. The rules I remembered were different and the terms were completely new to me.

To compensate for the above, I asked the City to provide me with an assistant coach who knew the game well. The city was only too willing to accept as during that time, it was difficult to find parents who were willing to coach.

The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash
The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash

Next, I bought myself a whistle, a whiteboard and a series of Steve Nash videos. The videos helped me with planning out practice and drills. I read about the psych of a male third grader and realized they had to be kept very busy. Their attention span directly correlated to their interest and understanding of an activity. That meant I had to prepare for every minute of practice so our time was beneficial to everyone involved.

The Plan:

The U9 Team.

The first day of practice, I was nervous to talk to this group of white kids and parents. Am pretty sure they came thinking 1. That I was a guy because my name probably did not give them a good indication  and 2. That I knew the game well. Both of which was not right. I was however, straight with them. Their kid was going to be coached by a Sri Lankan, American who hadn’t played the game in over twenty years BUT I had a plan to execute and excel. Parents were going to have a part in it if their child learning the game was important to them. The boys were going to be challenged and have equal game time, no matter how badly they performed.

Sprint and Retro:

We had practice twice a week and games every Saturday. Practice involved drills and plays with suicides for mis-behavior. They were kept busy and worked hard during the hour and a half. That was essentially our sprint plan. Five minutes before pickup, we would talk about what went well and what didn’t. Each kid got 30 seconds to talk or touch base with me later. They loved it. I told them they would grow up and do this when they got a real-world job and they all got a kick from it.

When a kid missed practice, I would send them drill instructions to practice in their garage. Parents were surprised we were taking it this seriously.


None of us expected to win every game but we did. We won all but one game that season with a record setting final game of the season. Not only did they have to reset the score board to 0-0 because we were leading by 30, I am proud to say that every player on the team made at least two baskets. It was the most exhilarating moment of my life to see the satisfaction in both the children and the parents.

Gauge Results:

It warmed my heart to see the mutual respect and excitement that grew within team, coaches and parents during those twelve weeks of games.

That Fall, when my son tried out for fourth grade travel, he blazed through. He made the team and that meant I could no longer coach Rec. I did however discover that I found great satisfaction in empowering others and that with a dedicated execution plan, we end up having surprisingly sweet outcomes.

4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.
4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.

YOGA: By the Browns, for the Browns.

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This is Aly, a 20 year old self-taught yogini!

Since I turned twenty-two this year, i’ve really been paying attention to all of my habits. As a birthday resolution I decided to rid myself of 1 bad habit and create 3 new positive ones: workout six days a week, learn how to play the guitar, and learn four new yoga poses per week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about yoga when I first started, but since I’ve been getting my stretch-on. I feel better than ever! Thus, I decided to dive deeper into the practice and learn about the roots. What I found really surprised me!

History of Yoga:
For those of you who have never heard of Yoga, or for those of you who want to know more, it is defined as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice linked with Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain schools. Yoga presumably began in South India and has been mentioned in various vedic texts, the Hindu Upinishads, and the Pali Canon.



Yoga is popular among both men and women, and across all ages. It can be done outside, indoors, in a car, with weights or without.
Yoga has clearly been around for milleniums, even in the western world. Yoga gurus (instructors of the yoga practice) from India introduced their skills in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now a popular and effective form of physical exercise.
(For more info on the history of yoga, check out YogaJournal)


Benefits of Yoga:
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA)  says yoga is a “healing system of theory and practice”. Dr. Natalie Nevins (DO, board-certified osteopathic family physician) lists several benefits of yoga:

1. Increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone
2. Improved respiration, energy, and vitality
3. A more balanced metabolism leading to weight loss
4. more

Goal of Yoga: 
People do yoga for a multitude of reasons: to lose weight, to achieve peace, to stretch after a workout, or just to try something new. The origins of yoga stem from the need to achieve “moksha“, the Sanskrit word for “liberation”. The way one applies moksha to the practice of yoga really depends on your own philosophy, be it religious or not.  All I know is, practicing yoga every day has allowed me to feel more free than I ever have before.

Yoga Resources:

1. YogaJournal - the #1 authority on Yoga and the Yoga Lifestyle; It is helpful for all kinds of practicers, beginners and advanced. They have their own magazine too!

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2. Yoga U Online – Yoga “University” for aches and pains, chronic diseases, emotional health, wellness, and longevity.


3. Instagram – surprisingly, Instagram is the social media home to real-life yogis all over the world! My favorite page is one by a 20 year old self-taught yogi, Aly. She completed the famous Kayla Itsines workout regimen and decided to teach herself the art of yoga. I love following Aly because not only is she a brown babe with some amazing moves, her leggings and sports bras are cuter than ever. Some of her photos are below!

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Know that you are beautiful, just the way you are.

The new face of Dark is Beautiful – Sharon Muthu

Sharon Muthu is an American actress, voice over artist and singer. In February she also became the ambassador to Hollywood for India’s “Dark is Beautiful” campaign.

sharon muthu 2Dark is beautiful is a campaign that was started in 2009 by the founder of Women of Worth, Kavitha Emmanuel. This campaign has been highly successful in effectively changing social practices, providing outreach programs and even changing literature and content  of advertising.

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Sharon Muthu has been part of TV shows such as Glee, Desperate House Wives and recently Blackish. You can also listen to her album Muse here …

It is very exciting to see more and more people getting involved in this movement to showcase the beauty of being you. In Sharon’s words…

“Know that you are beautiful, just the way you are.”


Dark is Also Lovely

Reflections by Toronto based playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar

Sindhoori-NandakumarI won’t lie. I’ve used Fair and Lovely. I don’t want to make excuses, but it was curiosity that drove me to squeeze that supposedly magical potion out of the tube and rub it on my face. I wanted to see if the claims were true : would I really become so many shades lighter within six weeks?

This was about 15 years ago. Looking back at my childhood, I realize that I was raised not just by my parents, but also by Indian, particularly Tamil, cinema. I was the child who would happily stay home, faking some kind of stomach ache, so that I could stay home with my eyes pasted on the television screen.

During commercial breaks, my favourite female actors would come on screen, revealing to me how their lives had somehow been miraculously transformed after they started using Fair and Lovely. Click here if you would like to see the advertisement that influenced my childhood. Single ladies now had husbands; previously unemployed women now had dazzling jobs – it just seemed like a ticket to a world that was so much more amazing. Whatever shade of brown you were, you could be three shades lighter!

So, during a family trip to India, I purchased a small tube of Fair & Lovely and dutifully rubbed it on my face for about two days, until I lost interest and patience and forgot about it.

I haven’t really thought about it much since, but somewhere along the way, I slowly came to understand how many dangerous connotations and how many prejudices lie beneath the flourishing of products such as these. Millions of rupees are being poured into this “fairness” industry, and nobody is complaining. The underlying notion is quite simple: dark is bad, light is better.

Well intentioned grandmothers and aunties will advise you to stay out of the sun, or to carry an umbrella. When I went to visit my grandmother after a trip to Rwanda (a country that is really close to the equator), her face dropped in dismay. “How could you get so dark?” she wanted to know, implying that I had the choice to stay away from the sun, and that I was foolish not to do so.

But why is this the case? Why are so many young South Asian women and other women of colour around the world made to feel like they’re not good enough? Why are we letting companies sell skin lightening products that cause terrible and irreversible reactions in our skin? Why did society let an eight year old girl think that it was okay to buy Fair & Lovely so that she could see if her skin would lighten? Why are we okay with the idea that black and brown are not as beautiful as white?

The thing is, dark is beautiful. And so are all the other shades between dark and light. Yes, we all have our “types” and personal preferences, just like we would pick our favourite colours, but that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. It’s just a preference, and that’s it. If we’re fixated on the colour of everybody’s skin, then we’re missing out on all the other beauty around us. What we should be helping create is a world where people can exhibit their beauty in whatever form, whatever shade.

A tribute to my hero

We start our stories with my hero of course. My mom.

A true Cinnamon Spirit girl herself,  she should be credited with all the confidence I have and here’s why….

  • Her ability to follow through.
  • Her sense of loyalty, honesty and  fairness.
  • Her sense of excitement and adventure.
  • Her ability to give generously to those who need and be excited about it.
  • Her ability to evolve and grow younger and stronger as the years progress.
  • Her ability to inspire change and progress.
  • Her ability to love everyone and appreciate the beauty in them.cinnamon-spirit-young-mom

When I was as young as eight I remember my mother telling me how beautiful she and my grandmother thought I was. I was way more dark skinned than my siblings. Thanks to mother, I grew up thinking I was super attractive.

Mother was born into a very respected Tamil family in Central Sri Lanka. This community was cultured but fairly primitive in it’s progressiveness. It continues to be a male dominated society. So much so that she was not allowed to pursue an education beyond grade 8.


Our parents were married in 1958 and lived in a joint family household for a period before my father moved to Colombo. Her cultural exposure most likely started in Colombo with lessons in cake decorating, sewing, embroidery and other vocations. She had a thirst for knowledge that 60 years later has not waned.

As most families do, our’s saw plenty of hardship. Death, riots, disease and disappointment but through it all our mother was one constant rock upon which waves flowed.

She took life by the horns and steered us with firm love. 

Her compassion has changed the lives of not just forty of my siblings and their descendants but countless others who she hosted for various reasons.

She has been more progressive than those who were born into power and privilege. Perhaps some of her strength came from the faith my father had in her ability till the day he died. Whatever it maybe, she was a force to reckon with.

When people say I look like my mother, it makes me happy. I hope I can be half as successful as she has been.

This is a tribute to my biggest supporter and friend…

Kodainayaki Rajeshwari Ganeshan