These days, everyone needs a little booster shot of motivation to help those quarantine blues. I decided to go to Bollywood for a dose of inspiration and rewatched one of my ever favorite films, Chak De India. It is an uplifting story of the journey of a women’s hockey team and their coach from being written off to becoming world champions.

My reaction to the movie has remained constant since its release 13 years ago. However, this time I gained a completely new perspective and appreciation for my favorite character in the movie––Coach Kabir Khan.

Seeing Coach Khan in action, I couldn’t help but wonder how he embodied so many skills and habits that we espouse at Harappa. 

Firstly, it was clear that Kabir Khan was an expert at Embracing Change. The course imparts valuable learnings for overcoming setbacks and failures in your life by developing resilience and grit. A severe blowback to his sporting career doesn’t stop Kabir from dusting himself off and getting back in the arena. The opportunity presented to him––to coach an underperforming and neglected team––would not be considered an opportunity at all by most people. Kabir reframes this challenge as an opportunity to change the face of women’s hockey in the country, forever.

Remember, Kabir comes to his team with the baggage of a tarnished reputation. He realizes that it's vital for him to win the trust of the team in doing so. If Kabir were to do our Establishing Trust course, he would score high on personal credibility, reliability, openness, and low on self-orientation, which is ideal for a good leader. He also has the ability to repair and build trust in times of conflict, another aspect we emphasize in this course.

Kabir is also a team-builder. He gets the women to shed their state identities and distrust of each other and build a national identity instead. He faces many challenges along the way, but he focuses on building on each player’s strengths to create a united team, a key skill in our Managing Teamwork course.

Kabir also knows how to read the room and make an impact. He is great at picking up subliminal cues and behaviors of his players to coach them better. So naturally, he would ace the Decoding Others course. Furthermore, he knows how to build and inspire his team. Who can forget Coach Khan’s ‘Sattar minute’ speech before the nail-biting world championship finals? Everyone keen on becoming effective speakers and building their presence can take some lessons from him.

But if there is one habit that Kabir could be the torchbearer for, then that would be Harappa’s Lead habit. His leadership style is effective, open, and agile enough to adapt to changing situations. Kabir also practices excellence in every aspect of the sport with the highest levels of professionalism and integrity.

While writing this I have realized that if there were a contest to find the ideal Harappa learner, then Kabir Khan would definitely be a frontrunner.

There’s a lot for everyone to learn and pick up from his character and then build upon those habits, skills, and behaviors. So set up a movie screening night this weekend and stream Chak De India. Along with a good dose of renewed motivation and enthusiasm, you might spot some habits worth emulating and learning. And if that happens, then the next window you can jump to on your laptop screen after the movie, could be Harappa!

Saumya is a Specialist in the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education. She is a pistol shooter and a devoted snacker who loves finding simple ways to express complex ideas.


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