Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thought for the day - Where do you get your love from?

It struck me suddenly yesterday as I saw people at a gathering, all stiff and aloof. All wanting some love, kindness and comfort but behaving like they can handle it all together. I see my friends in some trouble, ill health and know that all they need is some love, a hug perhaps, a kind word. But they are walled and isolated? Where do we get our love from? Most people seem to live in those islands where there is no access to love. Ask yourself the question ad see where you get your love from.

Is there someone who you can talk to about anything? Is there someone who can give you a good laugh? Is there someone who hugs you? Someone who makes you feel better when you need it? Is there someone who makes you laugh easily? Is there someone who has a kind word? Is there someone who listens non-judgmentally? Is there someone whose home you can go off and feel secure and comfortable? Is there someone who loves you unconditionally? Is there someone who you can take for granted? Is there someone who gives you little surprises and make you feel good? Is there someone who asks you advise and takes you seriously? Is there something you love doing with someone? Someone who you can listen to music with, go visiting late night, go for a drive? Or even, is there something you just love doing?

Most older people seem to draw a lot of love from their children when the children are young as children can be a wonderful source of joy and love. Most older relationships however seem to lose out on unconditional love as they seem filled with anger and resentment or just plain boredom. Most people seem to just crave for one good hug, one kind word, one good laugh. If you have not been getting your love easily its time to renew old friendships, to be more open and trusting, to be more giving and to let love flow easily. Don't stop your flow of love. Find the people in your life who always made you feel special and rediscover them - spouses, children friends, parents, grandparents, neighbours, playmates - and even new ones and let go. Give all that you would love to get and you will get it all back. It's a good feeling to have so much love coming from all over.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Only the Fully Pure Can Ask

So the government goes after Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi and they find stuff that was never found before, and send IT notices and there is so much scrutiny on every act to prove that they are not as pure. That they cannot take the moral high ground. That since they are not pure they have automatically lost the right to ask for better governance.

If they ask - their impurities will be shown - and they will also join all else in the murky waters of the impure. Since the one man they could not touch yet - Anna Hazare - has not been found with too much dirt (just a hint of saffron that Digvijay Singh sprayed on him) - they have found out the team's weakness. And so the juggernaut rolls on, crushing all those who ask, who raise their voice, who dare to talk. Look at all those who are already under the scanner and facing the heat - from Jaganmohan Reddy to Kiran Bedi - they are all guilty of one thing. Raise their voice.

Even the worst of criminals has a right to ask. He will be punished for his crime and that is a separate matter. But he has a right to ask for what he believes is the good of the society. To probe and say that he is a murderer and a dacoit and cannot ask does not hold any water. These are politics of the impure, where the dirtiest and the only slightly tainted, are both viewed under the same scanner, are given the same punishment. But whatever their crimes, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi have a right to ask, to demand. If they are guilty of crimes, so be it. Punish them. But do not take away the good that they intend. And if one feels that they do not intend any good, say it. Arrest them if they resort to unconstitutional acts. But what about public sentiment? What about votes? So let us prepare ground, dig, mailgn, taint and then drown.

It is time for good governance. For honest, courageous, responsible governance that
puts the interest of the nation in front. Not votes and power. To lead by example, not by elimination.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing 'The Misfit' - The Inspiration and the Journey

And I think this is an apt time to start blogging about the next novel 'The Misfit', my first ever attempt at a novel that started in 1997. I started writing it inspired by a terrible novel that I had read that time which made no sense to me, written by Tabish Khair. Something about pyjamas or frogs or something like that. I searched for some meaning and found none and read through till the end wondering what could come up. But it ended without giving me any answers. Perhaps it was too esoteric or way too bad.

It however gave me a strong resolve to write, that if that could get published, then perhaps I could write too and get published. So my inspiration to write a novel came not from excellence, but by the floor (in my eyes, and no offence meant to Tabish Khair nor his considerable abilities), which gave me confidence that I could do better. Tabish Khair later went on to become a celebrated writer who writes in the same way and I still don't understand him, but it is to him, the Drona, that I owe my novel writing courage.

I started writing 'The Misfit' in June 1998 and was done in October 1998, writing it over weekends and late nights. I wrote in long hand, typed and printed it, and carried the first manuscript with me on a trip to Goa with the feeling of having written a masterpiece. It was heady stuff. Some known readers and their encouraging reactions later (they are a fine lot), I sent it off to the same publisher who had published Khair, thinking that perhaps they might buy it if they had published that other book. But they rejected me in two days. I took it on my chin, hard, but decided not to give up. I had given up too many things and learnt that it does not pay.

Some 300 publishers later, several agents and all that, a thousand revisions perhaps, 'The Misfit' lay in my computer as younger ideas like 'The Men Within' and 'If You Love Someone..' got published and took off. I did not learn, nor take the hint. I dusted the virtual cobwebs off the masterpiece and lugged it along shamelessly to Keerti, my editor, last year. 'Does it have a chance?' I asked. Keerti read it (I sympathise with her, she is too nice to say No) and said it had a chance. And then she drew her pencil and made so many suggestions and changes that it boggled my mind. Was this her way of saying that it has no chance? I am too dense for these and do not understand even a straight no so I worked on it.

For six months I looked at the changes she made in pencil and wondered if I was better off writing a new novel. For the nest three months I started actually leafing through them. And in the last three months I made some changes, with the experience of ten years behind me. Now somehow after many months of doubt, I feel that I have a story (I felt that in 1998 as well, I must warn you). But this time I have cleverly employed many expert writerly devices to make the story more readable - so it has more 'narrative energy' - one of those nice euphemisms that editors use before they reject your proposal. Rehashed and shining through like a new bride, 'The Misfit' now chugs to a close. And I think, have I done enough? Only time and editors will tell.

But this time I hope someone buys the story, because it is taking up all my time. i am obsessed with it as if it were my first love, or perhaps, my first child would be more appropriate. But I would be glad to have some closure to it. Illusions of it being the next literary masterpiece have now given way and I am now nodding sagely at the prospect of it sitting on the book shelf in some bookstore and perhaps enthusing the oddball reader who might want to read books about 'Misfits'. More on the Misfit later and I will report its progress as it shows a semblance of coming to life.

Diwali - A Change in Perspective

This Diwali was undoubtedly the nosiest I have ever been through in my life. I seriously feared for my ear drums as some 'bombs' went off, reverberating painfully as they took off in a series. Some were so loud that one could feel the building vibrate and drowned all conversation even if one shouted loud. Some were so long that they went on and on until little children cried and ran inside and older people stopped their celebrations and went inside prematurely, shocked by the attack. The pollution was so thick that I found myself coughing every now and then and we could not see the sky anyway. The richer the person the bigger the sound, the more their friends, the later their celebration. I could hear people bursting loud crackers right till well past 1 a.m.

The amount of pollution - noise and air - is to be seen to be believed. The arrogance and swagger of some of the moneyed is to be seen to be believed. It is not young adolescents but grown people who seem to get into a competition to burst these crackers, to show the others how loudly they can celebrate, and that grates. There is almost no concern for the traffic as everything goes off without warning. Similarly the traffic also has no concern for little children who might be running about as it whizzes past. There was no elegance, no humility. Just raw arrogance as people burned, blew up their money in some wild bacchanalian celebration as if they had achieved something big.

For one, the festive spirit needs a relook. I did not see a single neighbour or stranger wishing the other on the Diwali occasion. It was more as a competition. Even people who lived in the same flats went about with their own groups instead of celebrating. I saw very few letting young ones enjoy - this festival is not for the young - in fact it is to terrify the young. Families overindulged in their food and sweets. The rare house had the diyas or deepams. Most made do with the minimum and some did not even bother. It is about big, about power. One could see the poor children watching as they went by - fireworks are expensive.

For the poor and hungry this might be a cruel joke as people willingly blow up money on firecrackers that would feed them. Some of those long, loud ones can feed a whole family. I am not about stopping the celebrations - just about getting the perspective back into festivals. Bring back the elegance, the spirit of festivity. Make new friends, wish them a happy year, spend a little less on polluting items and perhaps use that money for better causes. Step back a bit. Use less noisy options, less polluting options - I still don't see anyone selling stuff that is less polluting. Light the diyas, make only as much trash as you can clear (ha, that will make everyone sit up and think!), be considerate to yourself, your neighbours and the environment. Goddess Lakshmi won't come merely because you blasted more firecrackers.

We live in a hypocritical society in many ways. On one hand everybody seems very concerned about the environment and pollution etc and then they come and do this. I am sure figures will back me but last night was one of the noisiest and most polluting in recent years in Hyderabad. Perhaps the time has come to have fireworks limited to public places where people can go and watch. Things of beauty and safety, things that don't jar and scare, things that enhance the spirit of the festival, things that include everyone from the youngest to the oldest. One can see the fireworks in public places in their localities, go back home, light their diyas and burn their sparklers, speak to one another in peace, share the good and the food. And not simply stuff oneself as one can see, to a point of bursting.

I for one have decided that Diwali from next year will be about diyas, meeting and
greeting family, neighbours (not simply sending long and bulky sms'es), a few sparklers and some sharing.

Happy Diwali!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Doubt - Movie

Watched a 2008 movie 'Doubt' starring Merly Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. The movie is based on a play and is a gripping story that explores human nature and what we believe as right and wrong.


The movie is set in 1964, in a catholic church in New York that is attached to a school. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is the strict and hard as nails Principal of the school while Father Flynn (Hoffman) is the priest in the church. Sister James (Any Adams) is a young and new teacher in the school. Trouble begins when Sister Aloysius is told by Sister James that Father Flynn seems to have taken a special liking to the only black boy in the school that is full of Irish and Italian kids. Sister James reports that Flynn had called the boy during class to his rectory and the boy had come back smelling of alcohol and behaving weirdly. Sister Aloysius suspects the worst and tries her best to find out what went on, she will not tolerate any untoward actions that puts her wards in danger. Flynn says he was only being friendly to the child and no wrong had been done. The boy's mother herself believes that whatever happened, even if it is the worst, is fine as the boy needs a father figure, suffering from his abusive father as he is already. Sister Aloysius leaves no stone unturned, fights the defiant Father Flynn, and extracts his resignation when she fools him into believing that she knows what happened. Things pan out differently though, as Father Flynn gets a promotion, leaving Sister Aloysius with doubts about the whole system, about what is right and wrong, whether she should have just let things be and everyone happy - the boy, the priest, the boy's mother. Despite doing the right thing, she feels that may be it might not have been the right thing.

'Doubt' is a tautly made movie that does not leave the church or the school and its environs all through. The Principal, the priest and the new teacher take up the bulk of the screen space but the short role by the boy's mother enacted by Viola Davis was stunning. Viola Davis brings out the pain, the compassion and suffering of her family, her abusive husband, her confused and hurt son. It is a fine movie and one that provokes much thought. Great performances too and all of them were apparently nominated for the Academy Awards. Must watch for the serious movie viewer.

The 100 Day Book Sharing Experience Comes to an End!

The initiative of 'Spreading Light', which Dr. Suryaprakash insists is not an organisation, not an NGO but a thought process, of having 100 people share 100 books that impacted them over 100 days came to a close yesterday. The initiative managed to bring together over 300-400 readers, writers, speakers, artists, young, old, various religions together during its 100 day period when the Telangana movement was at its peak.


From Day 1 when I saw the board at Rhapsody food court in Srinagar colony, a place where I stop by for coffee and meet some friends, I was intrigued at the quiet nature in which the activity was going on. Some people had gathered in one room, I saw posters, saw 4-5 people talking inside, and looked in. After a couple of days I walked in and asked what it was about. I was pleasantly surprised to see two friends of mine, Raghu who was my classmate at St. Alphonso Junior college almost three decades ago and Praveen, my junior at the MBA college. They explained that it was a book sharing initiative. Sagar and I joined the next session to encourage what seemed like a crazy but well meaning idea. I also spoke on Day 20 on my experiences with The Men Within.

But to sustain the energy and enthusiasm for 100 days and not miss one day whether anyone showed up or not, was amazing and it sunk into me yesterday what this man had done. It was well planned and executed in its own way. Jayalakashmi, Dr. Suryaprakash's assistant, would keep the place open from 9 a.m. for any casual walk-ins. The sessions were all taped so we had audio files. Books were displayed. Count kept. Sessions publicised and advertised. More and more people walked in. Eminent writers came and spoke. Religious heads from various religions spoke of their holy books. Padma bhushan awardees, Literary award winners, famous movie directors, students, artists, sculptors, musicians - it was a cultural pot pourri with books as the main theme. If that was not enough there was much talk on sharing, on community building, on unintended hysterectomies, on unsafe agri practices and unsafe food - there was much to learn besides the program. And the team distributed 100s of saplings for people to grow kitchen gardens - I was fortunate to get 3 brinjal saplings and 3 tomato saplings - all planted and watered by me and Anjali. A program called 'Share your dream' was there as well - which had a clear structure and was a great intent. I find it unbelievable that none of the youngsters there shared their dreams!


After the last session closed yesterday, one that was attended by over a 100 people, I spoke to Dr. Suryaprakash who conducted this whole exercise. I told him that he deserves the 'craziest person I have met in the world' award for pulling off a stunt like this. He laughed and said he had no agenda and took everything on the fly. He had no vision on how it would grow or who would come, but it all went by exactly as he would have liked. He recounted wonderful literary experiences with eminent writers who discussed Vasu Charitra and even also the many mediocre ones. 'I cannot tell you how thick skinned some people are,' he says laughing. But he says he was amazed at the reach and passion literature and books had on people, their depth, knowledge and the amount many had read. He never imagined the power of literature and books on people, When I asked him if on any day he felt tired and disheartened, he said no, he loved every day and looked forward to it. Not one session started beyond time, no solicited publicity, the good doctor had his won set of rules.

Fully supported by Mr. Prasad Raju who lent the space and his time, his family and his team, Dr. Suryaprakash certainly did something that not many can do. One of those crazy things that I can only attend once in a lifetime surely. Apart from what I learned and the people I met at the program, it is the madness and commitment with which he did it that impresses me most, and it is the kind of a crazy thing that can spark some change in the world. Dr. Suryaprakash is always in a hurry to change the world and laments at the lack of thought and concern among people to one another, he gets very emotional and sentimental, breaks down easily, sometimes talks so naively and vaguely, but backs his thoughts completely with actions that are precise, well defined and fully done. And he can look back with satisfaction at what he has done - without his knowing or seeing, he has affected many people in more ways than he can imagine and the impact will be felt in spaces much further.


We dropped in again, late in the night to bid farewell to the intrepid doctor and his supportive family and shared a cup of tea with him. 'It's like after a marriage has ended,' he said and one could feel the same vibes. The guests were leaving, everyone was tired and it was time to put up the feet. His son Bharath finished reading 'The Men Within' and we had some fine discussions on it - I gave him a copy for himself and his sister who had not yet read it.

Many people will not know what to do today, a day after the program ended, because so many had got used to walking in to Rhapsody at 4 p.m. each day to meet friends, to hear new topics, to feel welcome amidst people and most of all to see the doctor busily and passionately bustling about. Well done Dr. Suryaprakash, you truly deserve the 'craziest person I have met' award and with fond hope that you will continue these missions of yours that will certainly make this world a much nicer and more interesting place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Telangana staff strike ends - 42 days later

The striking Telangana staff ended their 42 day strike yesterday - one that reportedly cost the state 10,000 crores as reported in some sections of the press, one month in children's education and more in terms of their preparation and trauma of missed opportunities, uncertainty in the people's minds, no work in any government department including revenue, RTA and so on, huge losses for the RTC, railways, certainly for the Singareni Collieries, losses for industry and business establishments and a huge dent in the image of Hyderabad as an investment option. The common man was put to untold misery as autos and private transport fleeced them in the absence of buses, hospitals and otehr services worked half heartedly, strikes and bandhs every other day, cancelled trains and buses, blocked highways, shut petrol bunks. People hoarded food and fuel. It was medieval.

But the malls were open and so were liquor shops. What the movement leaders were particular was that educational institutions, industries, transport were shut down. Common people died. Common people suffered from loss of pay, from potential action. The Ministers and other elected representatives were fine.

The strike was called off after the government agreed to certain demands such as treating the period of striking staff as 'on duty' and appropriate leave sanctioned (including halfpay leave). It would give a special advance to compensate he salary lost due to the strike. For these and a few more demands the T staff called off their strike. Meagre gains in return for such sacrifices. Why did they give up their strike instead of intensifying it?

The allegations by the TDP on KCR brought in more uncertainty to the issue. Much of the Telangana movement was initially about water and how the region was being cheated out of it but this new twist showed a different side. I was surprised at the way the T leadership kept postponing and cancelling its rail roko agitation. I was surprised at how they let the cricket match between England and India continue. I was surprised that none of the leaders made any serious sacrifice and instead merely urged and forced common people against each other, and even to suicide. If anything the T leadership should have pushed forth, should have stopped the match, should have increased its sacrifices until it achieved its goal. The subsequent developments and their timing seem suspicious.

All that they have done is set the Telangana region back. The buses, collieries, educational institutions, businesses, industries will take much time to recover. Some may never recover. The poor man will pay again for this in more taxes. Who has benefited by this strike? It is a loss everywhere and ironically to the region most of all. The movement spearheaded by weak and minor leaders, seems to have lost its steam. More importantly, it may have lost its credibility too.

Facebook Personalities - The Harimohan Paruvu Version 1.0

After peeping into my facebook account recently, a job that I do with increasing trepidation these days (you never know what you can see that can shock and awe you), I have finalised some facebook personality types. Broadly, they are - the macabre types, the news sharing types, the video sharing types, the quotes and proverbs sharing types, the smart alecks, the this-is-my-life types, the secret service types, the marketing types, the jokes types, the alarmist types OMG you must watch this types, the taggers and so many more.

Though there are many more of such complicated types, let us now restrict ourselves to these normally found ones and try and understand what we can do with them. Of course with facebook, the mother of flaunt-it-all-whatever-it-takes, you cannot avoid them unless you go away but awareness can help you a bit. Here then are the personalities types revealed, the Harimohan Paruvu version 1.0:

1) The Macabre types: Best avoided unless you are part of their gory clan. They keep uploading pictures of macabre stuff so horrid that one does not feel like eating the next meal. The few that I saw recently were (this is for real) one body on which an autopsy was done, one chap who died in an accident with his brains on the road, one little dead baby and so on. It's amazing how they get these pics and why they upload them. Unfriend the lot the moment you identify them because they will bombard you with more (their psyche is similar to that of serial killers - they get used to it).

2)News sharing types: These are the 'Breaking News' types who come with big and shocking headlines that they have heard somewhere. Most are harmless rumours so don't take them seriously. But they are a happy lot doing their bit for humanity. Keep them for some excitement in your life. They are the types who bring those lists like - little known facts about Rahul Gandhi, or Gadaffi, or pictures of Raja's house or Janardhan Reddy's house and some stuff like that which can make interesting viewing.

3) Video sharing types: These get links to all kinds of videos and post them - coaching, music, inspirational talks, funny videos, videos of dying people, leaked stuff on the net - anything. Generally harmless but its best to keep doctor on call. You never know what they can spring on you. But I like what one guy does - he puts on videos of some wonderful old songs and I always stop to listen. The thing with videos is that you have some clue as to what it is so you are better warned.

4) Quotes and proverbs types: These are harmless types - they upload quotes and proverbs continuously having acquired a book or some source - some even from religious texts. Those who want to read do it, but I think most people ignore this stuff. There are more important things to do like people dying and shocking facts about someone etc.

5) The Smart Alecks: These types conjure witty one liners on a frequent basis that is so smart you can see the smugness dripping from the facebook page. Harmless and generally funny, so keep them. Some make you feel like whacking them but its okay.

6) This-is-my-life types: These people have a compulsive tendency to disclose every minute detail that has happened in their lives. Travel, flowers, dogs, people, sleep disorders, parties, friends, enemies, relationships, intimate health details - there is nothing that the world does not know about them or their lives - pictures and videos included. I find them incredibly bring unless they have some attractive relatives who show up in the pictures.

7) The Secret Service types: They speak in a language I don't understand at all. D, D, P, P, PD, DP, PPDD and so on. Some kind of a Morse code I guess. Can keep them - they seem generally harmless. Only hassle is if they turn out to be enlisted with some crazy left or right organisation with radical ideas and plans. In which case one can spend a lifetime explaining to the cops what DDD, PDD, DDPPP means which I can never figure out.

8) The Marketing types:
They come on only when there is something to sell to you. Generally harmless. I never see any of their posts. I wonder why they waste their time.

9) The Jokes types: These guys are the best because they make me laugh with their jokes and funny videos or even their funny status messages. I love these types and wish there was a joke facebook where everyone could only share jokes (good ones). I don't like most of the other stuff that is posted anyway. I also wish facebook had a 'News facebook' where people give out the latest news from where they are staying - that could be really useful.

10) The Alarmist types: These types are perpetually sending you alarming news. Don't drink coffee five minutes after walking on your big toe or you can drop dead in two minutes, see this video - one person died while drinking bottled water, the world is coming to an end, don't go to movies there are needles with AIDS infected needles, girls don't go out cause there are gangs kidnapping you and so on and so forth. The world is a huge conspiracy for them and they find things that scare and alarm them first and they feel compelled to share and alarm everyone else immediately. OMG you must watch this, or pass it along, if you love someone you will share this kind of messages accompany their noble deeds!

11) The Taggers: These people have a compulsive habit of tagging everyone else in weird stuff. I find myself tagged in so many unknown, unheard of applications, pictures, causes and so on that I don't even know what to do with them anymore. How can I untag myself from them? Or am I linked forever and will appear in their lists, photos and so on forever?

12) The Shock with Status messages types:
These are the kinds who work hard on their status messages that are generally intended to brand themselves as rebellious, smart, too intelligent etc. Juvenile stuff - who has time for their status messages - unless they are about their broken relationships etc.

And a whole lot of such types live amongst us. I will keep adding to this list as and when I come across some more in my path. I can see a certain evolution there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Energy and Healing

In an interesting article on Sunday by Prof. B.M.Hegde, a fromer professor of cardiology and former VC of Manipal University, in The Hindu, he speaks of the value of understanding the human body as a whole and not as just matter. He talks of how the human body is made of energy and how it cannot be treated in isolation as modern medicine does. He writes 'The human body is but the human mind in an illusory solid shape'. It all boils down to all of us emitting our own energy in a unique manner. I read this piece a week after I found myself arguing with my friend person who believes that all energy is sham.

Quoting from quantum physics and other newer areas of scientific discoveries Dr. Hegde says that we cannot treat humans based on organ based diseases, but as a whole energy field. He quotes Fritz-Albert Popp, a German scientist who defined health as 'a state where the cells are vibrating in synch with one another: disease is when they are out of synch". He points out that we now look at Whole Person Healing (WPH) in the future. He also gives out the new definition of health as having 'the enthusiasm to work and the enthusiasm to be compassionate'. He also says that ayurveda always followed these principles and those of quantum physics long before quantum physics was discovered.

Dr. Hegde emphasises on the mental nature of the universe - that studies have shown that ay drug helps only because of the faith the patient has in the doctor. He says that the right frequencies of electromagnetic waves can be used to heal any cell in any organ and such frequencies are being used to treat diseases of the heart and the brain already. More importantly he says that energy signals travel much faster than drugs and therefore, can heal much faster. He says that Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine and other such systems use energy channels to heal, which has now been proved to be scientific.

I believe in what Dr. Hegde says though I have limited understanding of it all. The human body is one, with its physical, mental and emotional aspects, and must be treated wholly. The current trend of treating only the physical by pure chemical or surgical interventions will not heal holistically. Apart from the traditional medicine which is based on ancient wisdom, forms such as reiki and other energy healing have their own place - even if it is to the extent to providing peace to the mind and putting the mind and emotions to rest. In her bestselling work 'You can heal your life' Lousie Hay shows how certain mental patterns can create certain diseases and any open thinking individual can understand the link between the pattern and the disease easily. Hay goes far beyond mere health, she talks of using and creating energy that creates a world of abundance and joy.

Ever since I lost my mother and seen other people in my life to cancer, I have felt that there is something that modern medicine is not looking at. Surgery, chemotherapy, more chemotherapy, radio therapy - it is all done in such business like, unemotional manner that no patient has a chance to survive. Even if they do, it is because of their own strength and not because of the treatment. I know what I am dong, get it done, if you're lucky you will survive and you are not, so be it, seems to be the attitude. Many times I have heard of relatives saying 'once you do surgery on the cancerous parts, the person deteriorates much much faster'.

It is not just loose talk, there are many things that one cannot prove and articulate, like love, life, death and this universe we live in itself. It is time modern medicine also realised that it does not know all the answers, that its main purpose is to find and provide succour to the ill and diseased, and that it could perhaps understand and look at healing in a holistic way. When I was first diagnosed with the nephrotic syndrome I took recourse to all alternate forms of healing, including energy healing, and I do believe that they all have their space. Each has provided me more faith in my body's ability to heal and consequently I rate my quick recovery and even the highly favorable results of the biopsy to my energy healing and alternate interventions. There is a greater design and if you fall in place and accept it, your recovery is bound to be much faster.

I still see the fear and apprehension on many people's faces when they are faced with a decision of going and trusting modern medicine completely. If they can avoid it they do. That is how far modern medicine is alienating itself from the ill. I am still looking for that one person who will combine it all and direct a patient to what may be appropriate - homeo, ayurveda, energy healing, modern medicine - and so many other branches of medicine which may act together or individually. But for the time being this world would be a better place if the ill were treated better, given respite and peace, and allowed to heal completely instead of being hustled into unwanted and unnecessary procedures, chemical attacks and psychological debilitation. It goes against the basic principles of the healer, however scientific.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thought for the Day - Theory of Relative Happiness

This is a theory of mine that I think many couples can identify with (I have seen many go through this so i know). It is a theory that says that one is not really happy by oneself in a relationship. They feel that since they are in a relationship they must feel the same level of happiness, sadness, anger, desire etc etc at the same time, all the time. Though they know that it is not possible they cannot give this thinking up (what is a relationship about then?). So to maintain the power balance in the relationship one falls back on the simplest and oldest way to be happy. Relative happiness.

How it works is simple. If you find the other person looking or feeling genuinely happy, or even remotely happier than what you are, you instantly feel unhappy. You give out a response that is a fitting reply - how can that person be happy when you are not? Your powerful reactions instantly dull that person's happiness. The smile fades, the laughter subdues, the demeanour becomes sombre, the spirit dies and life ebbs in deference to the violence or venom in your response. A look, a dull response, a sharp retort, a banging door, a phone that is cut off midway, a change in the tone...any number of those happiness-eaters are thrown at you. When all traces of your happiness, which you have gathered carefully elsewhere (how dare you?), are wiped out, then the other person is happy. Or happier. Relatively.

Then comes an olive branch which may be taken reluctantly or whatever, but overall the happiness balance is maintained. The corollary to this is that no one can be happier than the other. Or, the happiest a person can be is limited to the highest amount of happiness that exists between the two.

This is not about men or women - this I find is universal in couples. Everyone finds a way to lessen the happiness of the other to find their own happiness. Rarely do we find anyone able to manufacture their own happiness and be content in that. These rare people are also those people who enjoy seeing other people being happy too.

Some people live their whole lives being prisoners to this relative happiness principle. Prisoners of the others responses. Their entire life is spent prying on the other person's life, their sources of happiness and cutting them off, so they feel happier. They have no life, just a reaction. For these people it is apt to use the phrase - get a life! It is unfortunate that they cannot find the courage in themselves, the self-esteem to find something worthy of their attentions and having to conviction to be happy with it.

Happiness does not come from the outside, from another person, from things. It must come from within. One must find the pleasure in the small things that make one happy. It requires honesty, love. If books give it to you so be it, find your books. If exercise does it, so be it. If solitude does it, so be it. Find your small pods of happiness and live that, be that. When you find that you can be happy by yourself, you find that you don't need relative happiness to be happy. Your happiness is your own and it spreads like a wave. On the other hand relative happiness, reduces the overall happiness in the world. Go, find your happiness in the things that make you happy, not in things that make you unhappy. And make the others even more unhappier.

Hyderabad at Sunrise - A New Perspective

I have been inspired by my good friend Vinod Ekbote who makes these solo visits to Necklace Road once a month and catches the tranquil sunrise there, followed by a cup of steaming Irani chai as he browses the news at Adarsh cafe. My plans to join him never took off though we planned it many times. But when Anjali told me that she had not seen a sunrise yet in all of her four years, I thought that maybe we should venture out this Sunday morning.


So at 530 a.m. we got up and stole off in the dark towards Necklace Road, Shobhs, Anjali and I. We had to wait awhile for the sun to shake off some persistent clouds but it was a wait well worth the time. Anjali. meanwhile, had a great time shooing the hundreds off pigeons that were around on the lawns (and getting frightened by the noise of their wings as they took off). The sunrise was beautiful and we watched as a clearly defined sun, red and full, rose sleepily over the horizon, lighting up the lake with its rays. In a short while the sun had risen enough to make it seem blurred as it got down to business and we went across to Eat Street in the hope of grabbing a bite. The guard there said that the joint opens at 730 so we decided to go to an old favorite, Taj Mahal at Abids.


On the way we passed by so many sights that never make sense as we drive past in traffic. The road past the Secretariat was serene, wide and beautiful. Rag pickers were brushing their teeth peacefully and enjoying the morning sun. A young girl clenched her teeth and was all concentration as her father tried to teach her the first lessons of driving in an old Fiat. If she can learn to drive that she can drive anything. A couple of cops looked peacefully and kindly at the dull morning, content enough to allow people their minor transgressions like playing cricket on the parking lots etc. Trees were green and were shedding those yellow flowers that look so pretty.


As we approached the Abid road I suddenly saw all the Impala cars, the red ones that are lined up beside Bombay cafe for hire for weddings. It took me back many years to my school days, almost three decades ago, when we would see huge cars lined up there waiting for 'giraak'. And right next to it a brightly painted Bombay cafe that was my first initiation to Irani cafes, a place where we had to eat lunch during our Sunday league matches at All Saints. Our worldly wise Abdul Rub would order Tandoor-mutton there like an expert. Two of the biggest tandoor rotis and a bowl of mutton curry, hot and lovely - I can still smell it, taste.


I turned off to All Saints to show Shobhs and Anjali my alma mater. The huge church where a Sunday sermon had already begun.

The church and the school were together those days but due to some litigation between the two parties they erected a wall, chopped off some of the most beautiful parts of our old school and proudly show off their divided status. As stupid as anything else we see around us.


We saw the ground where some private match was going on. I remembered all the matches we played, felt my yearning to play for the school before I got selected in my tenth as I watched the game exactly from the same spot that I would sit at and watch.


We walked into the school premises and I showed my classrooms in Xth C and IXth C, both on the ground floor, our canteen where we polished off many rugda samosas and chikkis, the Rector's office, staffroom, library, table tennis rooms etc.


At the church I showed them the famous 'tunnel' where boys and girls would crowd into to get on to the Gunfoundry road after school - leading to much mischief that only adolescents understand.

And then we went to Taj Mahal hotel at Abids which still looked like it had the soul of Hyderabad of some fifty years ago. There was an old weighing machine, the likes of which abounded all railway stations those days, which would gobble up two rupees and throw out a card with your weight and a message for you (and a film star's face at the back).


Anjali was keen to weigh herself and was quite happy with the result (we were not with ours). The patrons at Taj Mahal were all old timers and you could see that they probably come to the place everyday.


By 730 the place was noisy and crowded with people coming back from morning walks with newspapers. The old waiters were so polite and old school that it made us smile. The breakfast was excellent and we unanimously declared that the sambar was the best in Hyderabad.

All in all, a very satisfying morning and one that made me wonder how much we miss out by falling into a routine. If we change it ever so slightly, look at the world differently, every moment seems so wonderfully fresh and new. It's all in the perspective - so get up early tomorrow and do something you normally would not. It will make you feel so alive and so good. It did to me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

After putting off this thick book for long, one that I had wanted to read for many many years now, I picked up the 533 page 'top 100 novels of the century' book by John Steinbeck, borrowed from my nephew Shrinjay. Not even ten pages into it and I knew that the road ahead was one of great learning and pleasure, for me as a reader (the novel is all about suffering though). Steinbeck's genius is evident in the narrative, dialogue and description in this acclaimed work from the Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author. But what hit me most was the immense wisdom, the stark honesty that comes through from this story in the form of dialogue or narrative - saying so much in so few words. It was a great pleasure to read this book ranked high up in the top 100 books of all time.


'The Grapes of Wrath' is the story of sharecroppers, the Joads, from Oklahoma, who are driven out of their lands by the landowners or banks during the years of the Great Depression. The proud, honest, hardworking peasant family falls into great hardship as their house is broken down and there is no work. They eventually leave as their money is running out and chase a dream, along with thousands of such people, based on some handbills that promise them a wonderful life in California where they can live in lush green farms, pluck oranges and grapes and build houses etc. The family is large comprising Pa Joad, Ma Joad, Granpa and Granma Joad, Pa Joad's older brother John Joad, Pa Joad's children - a slightly dull Noah Joad, Tom Joad (the protagonist who is just out of jail on parole for murder), Rose of Sharon (pregnant), Connie (her 19 year old husband), Al Joad (16, likes cars and girls), Ruthie (12) and Winfield (10). The family invest in a run down truck to drive them to California and pick up Casy, a quiet ponderous, ex-preacher who travels with them.

The journey is long and beset by many problems. Their dog is hit by a car on the highway and dies, Grandpa dies, Grandma dies, Noah walks off at a river and does not join them, they run out of money, start seeing desperation, hear stories of how the Californians don't like them Okies, experience dishonesty and disrespect, loss of dignity and injustice, and hold themselves together through it all. From Hooverville camps to large hearted neighbours, government camps where they get clean toilets and warm water to unemployment, they see it all. Connie runs away, Tom gets hurt and is hunted, Casy is taken to jail and finally murdered. But the family goes on together, still helping, still staying honest, still true to their old world values.

It is an epic. Written in 1939 'The Grapes of Wrath' could hold true of many places in the world even today. It is the pride, the honesty, the naivety, the inner strength of this poor family that stays together, that never leaves you. Ma looms larger than everyone as she holds the flock together and is easily the single biggest hero of this novel for the scale of sacrifice, strength, power and clarity she brings as all else seems to fall apart around her. Without her the family would have long fallen to pieces. Tom's maverick character, a person who is strong and quick to act, one who cannot tolerate injustice of taunt is wonderful. Casy wonderful character and the nuggets of wisdom he spews when h talks are fantastic. Just as the fine essays Steinbeck writes in between to describe a situation, a place.

Steinbeck's style of writing captures the language of the Oklahoma 'fambly' as they call themselves wonderfully. The family comes to life with their dialogue and Steinbeck stays true to them all through. The way he uses the essays in between chapters to describe conditions is unique - I have not seen this technique before. For the detail, richness of language, tightness of narrative and beauty of description itself it has many points in its favour but it is the wisdom, the little gems that hit one hard in the gut in a few well chosen words of peasant wisdom that leaves an everlasting impression and takes this book to a completely different level.

Wikipedia quotes this one gem - “This is the beginning—from "I" to "we". If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I", and cuts you off forever from the "we".

Steinbeck's quote that 'I've done my damndest best to rip a reader's nerves to rags' i printed on the back of the book. Besieged by misfortune to an extent that one would not think possible, the Joad family shows the power of human spirit as they face their fate squarely and proudly, taking each hit on the jaw. But in reality, they say, the lives of migrants in those times were far worse than what were described. To me the book reminded me so much of 'Kanthapura' by Raja Rao, who described the lives of migrant, low caste labourers in pre-Independence times in some part of Karnataka and the fantastic use of the English language that makes the people and their essence come through.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ashes and Diamonds - Polish Movie

'Ashes and Diamonds' is the second Andrzej Wajda movie I have seen after 'Kanal'. Interestingly this movie is the last of a war trilogy he made. 'Kanal' was made on how the Polish civilians try to flee from the Germans using the sewer system. (One of the main characters of 'Ashes and Diamonds' wears glasses because he was down in the sewers during the uprising for so long that he has to protect his eyes from harsh light.


'Ashes and Diamonds' has many interconnected plots and was apparently based on a novel. It is set in a small town on the day Poland is liberated from German occupation. In the ensuing confusion, Poland struggles with the communist and the right wing ideologies. As all action takes place on the first day of liberation, the confusion is even more palpable.

Two right wing soldiers are hired to kill a left wing leader and kill two other workers instead. Thinking that they killed the right man they move on to the next job in the city. They discover that the the left wing leader is alive and staying in the same hotel and plan to kill him again. Meanwhile it so happens that the left wing leader's son has grown up with his right wing aunt and joined the right wing army. In fact, the leader pays a visit to the aunt, the same place from where the order to assassinate him had been sent. As one of the two right wing killers prepares for eliminate the left leader he falls in love with the bar maid, sees hope and wants to quit. It all ends with no hope - the left wing leader is killed, the right with soldier dies though he fulfills his duty.

It is an interesting movie as many characters keep coming back through various connections. The two bodies of the young men killed by mistaken identity suddenly turn up in a crypt where the drunken killer and his girl friend go for a stroll and he sees their bodies. The left wing leaders killers and his sister-in-law and even his son are on the side that wants to kill him and they keep bumping into one another. The double agent secretary of the town Mayor who gives information to the right wing soldiers also ends up with no job in the end. 'Ashes and Diamonds' shows the pointlessness of war, the perspective of the soldier who loses belief in the cause, the danger that love for the girlfriend, for the son, for the land gets these men into. It was almost like a play to me, with few characters that keep bumping into one another. Interesting movie.

Magic Bus - Seminar on Sports as a Catalyst for Social Change

I was asked to speak at a seminar at COD, Madhapur by Magic Bus, an NGO that promotes sports for development. Magic Bus and NGO has already done much good work by creating models that are low cost and easy to do where they work with children in the age group of 7-15 and use sports to bring a change. They also train young volunteer 'coaches' in the ages of 17+ who become role models for the younger ones. Their initiatives are in the areas of formal education, gender sensitivity, health and nutrition, livelihood, leadership and right to play. Magic Bus works in urban, rural and interior areas and gives organised training to children deprived of games and sports working through its five pillars of fun, participation, experiential learning, safety and mentoring. Magic Bus hopes to develop qualities such as self-esteem, respect and hopes to make its work self sustaining.

Yesterday Magic Bus organised a conference titled 'Sports as a catalyst for social change' and I was asked to moderate the first session named after the same topic. The inaugural was presided by Chief Guest Amala Akkineni (who looked almost exactly as she did 20 years ago when she acted in 'Shiva' and 'Pushpak'), Guests of honour Dr. Chellappa, I.A.S., Ms. Vasudha Mishra, I.A.S., Special guests Ravikanth Reddy, former Indian volleball captain, Mr. Vivek Ramchandani, Coordinator India, Australian Sports Outreach Programme and Ms. Anuradha Prasad of Dr. Reddy's Foundation. ASOP and DRF were the chief sponsors of the program.

After the inaugural speeches, we got into the session on social change and i was joined by a panel that consisted of Pratik Kumar, CEO Magic Bus, Jerome, MRF, Vijay, Deccan Chronicle and Venkat Rao, TGV. It was a shortened session owing to the length of the previous one and the panelists spoke of their experiences and views in using sports as a catalyst.

Let me add the gist of my thought on the subject. "I have always felt quite strongly that sports should not merely be treated as an optional extra curricular activity – that it must be an integral part of a child’s education. Sports puts into practice all values and beliefs that we try to shape through theory. To me sport, is a true representation, a microcosm of life, that teaches through its unforgiving and uncompromising manner, much more than education, more than degrees. To me education gave me only doubt, when at twenty, I was really not equipped to handle the world - something that sport did. In fact sport taught me all that is sustaining me today, shaped my world view. Honesty and excellence, winning and losing, discipline and compassion, diligence and sacrifice, faith and belief, trust and empowerment, resilience and equanimity - were all learned from the sports arena. Reasons good enough why a child should be given a choice to play organised sport. And mostly because one learns through experience and not theory.

Some reasons why I consider sports a better way to impact the child/youth is that the results are immediate (you compete and you know), results are not subjective and are measurable and quantifiable (the only truth is whether you have crossed the line or not), winning and losing become a reality (one learns to accept that).

I feel that our main purpose in life is to express ourselves the best and sports to me is the most natural way of expression – of all forms of intelligence - to a child or youth. Give an open space and see how their energy explodes.

Typically the space to express is denied to children once they start going to school. Sadly the time when they need to express themselves the most, the are completely suppressed. Children and adolescents are torn between the either / or situation created by parents where sports and games are looked down upon. They start feeling guilty about expression (and then parents crib about not being able to communicate with children). The young ones make hard choices and either give on on the family or on sport. Children lose a wonderful form of teaching because of this guilt. All they need is space. All parents need is an understanding that playing is good for their child.

For those sportsmen who rise rise through this system unfortunately their knowledge, their understanding of human dynamics, of human pursuit to excellence goes waste. Society treats their knowledge as almost useless. Most become sports quota people, the has beens. The experience and the learning they bring from the grounds is wasted. (I hid my sporting credentials when I started looking for jobs because recruiters seemed rather disapproving of my long list under cricket). They bring more to the table.

Corporate world, our society needs leaders, managers, people who understand human dynamics, teams, leadership . Sadly most of our leaders come with theory. Sport teaches human dynamics best. Naturally. It makes people work together, get the best out of them, in real situations that demand immediate answers. It rises over caste, creed, colour. Empowerment, trust, teamwork, leadership is all experienced really - not in classrooms and workshops. Even the best managers from the best management institutions are not good at handling people because they never have.

In the end sports is about self esteem more than anything else. If we can give a child a healthy self esteem, we have more than done more our job."

We limited our discussion to creating a level playing field for every individual to access sports through a change in mindset about sport, creating opportunity for children to play in by creating spaces, self sustaining models, use of sportsmen and providing recognition through competitions thus helping in building of self-esteem through alternate means.

Magic bus is doing wonderful work as we could see from their young and enthusiastic coaches and I am sure they will do a wonderful job in the future as well. The conference was of course to sensitise the CSR departments of some corporates to support Magic Bus and there were quite a few who showed up. If anyone wants to chip in, please do contact Magic Bus.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10 Books that Impacted Me

Here are 10 books that had a deep impact on me by being the first to puzzle or awe my mind in terms of a particular thought or emotion.

1) I Touch the Earth, the Earth Touches me, Hugh Prather


I read this book, gifted by Ram to Shobha for her birthday, sometime in 1995 when I was in Mumbai, and was blown away by what it said. Hugh Prather's 'Notes to Myself' was probably his better known work but this book introduced me first to the concept of living in the 'now'. And it was fantastic reading it and looking at life differently. For a long time I kept pondering over what he said in the book.

2) You can heal your life, Louise Hay


Shobhs introduced me to this book (sometime in 2002) after she read it and did a workshop. though the title sounded 'healy' and 'self helpish' (which we thought we never needed then) I found a lot of common sense and empowerment in the book. For the first time I started to think of thoughts as creators of the reality we create, the connection between our beliefs and our experiences, and the way one can choose to create one's own life through thought selection. It is wonderfully written and has much to offer to the lay reader on many fronts - health, money, relationships, career, dreams - well, life itself. Now I find the title apt.

3) The Godfather, Mario Puzo



This fat book gripped me so that I could not even put the book down (circa 1983) as I sat through the day, the afternoon, the evening and the night and found it very difficult to let go until I completed it. I could not believe that novels could be like this, it was better than watching a movie (I still prefer the book to the movie). Vito Corleone, Luca Brasi, Sonny Corleone, Tom Hagen, Michael Corleone, Kate, Solozzo, Nino, Johnny Fontane, Tessio, Clemenza...I remember almost all the
main characters to this day though I read it only once. It is as if they were alive and I never felt so much emotion, adrenalin course through as I did that summer evening with Donna Summers playing 'Wanderer' almost all through in the background.
Kickass! Mario Puzo wrote it like he was there.

4) Wooster and Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse

My first tryst with Wodehouse was when I saw my Dad's enviable collection of books which had one prominent PGW - 'Frozen Assets'. I however started on another of his books (sometime in 1982-83) and was completely befuddled by the first few pages as Wodehouse went around and around in his inimitable way. What was this, I wondered? And then as the pattern fell into my head, as I started laughing out loud, sometimes rolling on the floor, I realised that no one has the power to tell you that joke in the way that Wodehouse can. It's very private and you laugh loudly, seeming foolish to the rest of the world. I never knew that humour could be so subtle and so wicked, never saw such turn of phrase ever again, though I spotted many imitators, myself included. None can compare though. Even now when I see people laugh out loud in public laces in a certain way I know they are reading PGW. And so many books - my dream one day is to own the entire collection and read them, laughing myself off the sofa as I grow old.

5) Many Lives, Many Masters, Dr. Brian Weiss
This book about past life regression (circa 2004) and more importantly one patient's journey through her past life regression put certain things in perspective to me. I always wondered about the power certain people had over me, about the power I had over certain people, some relationships that seemed to happen with some reason, and the way the same people or circles of people seemed to happen to be around me. It was vague but I could not put my finger on it until this book which made certain things clear. As we go through the patient's past lives we notice the same people coming up (or rather the same souls), commanding the same power equation, some weird quid pro quo or karma kind of an equation. Interesting for its perspective.

6) Animal Farm, George Orwell



I could not imagine how simply George Orwell wove this story around a farm with animals and explained through them the mechanism of society, of power, politics, class struggles and so on and so forth. Though I read it around 1995, it will always continue to amaze for the way he told the story with such clarity and simplicity and conveyed so much through it. A classic. I hope to someday come up with something that imitates this book in some way.

7) The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

An eternal classic (read it around 1995) that contains all of the world's wisdom in its slim structure. I have gifted Kahlil Gibran to countless number of people and have read it so many times. Each time it was different and new to me. It still tops the list of my gift books especially to newly married couples, parents and the like.

8) Love story, Erich Segal


Erich Segal's 'Love Story' impacted me most because it presented romance in a manner that was so different to what I knew. I read it around 1985 I guess. It was somehow more relatable than the movies we were watching then. Though I might have read better books later on, this book will always remain etched in my mind for its being the first to occupy tat romantic space in my head.

9) The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle


One of the most powerful books I have read 'The Power of Now' is also one of those books that I gifted to many. I read this in 2004. I was blown away by Eckhart Tolle's clarity as he speaks of only one subject - the now. And he approaches it and dissects it from as many points of view as he can and still comes up with clear, concise, perfectly rational explanations. There was so much that was new that I felt compelled to write down extensive notes about it, something that i have not done for many years.
Certainly Tolle and his writings have a clarity that appeals to me.

10) Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
My friend Harish, who lives in a far off place now, gifted this book to me in 2009 and said that this could make a difference to my life. I was deeply influenced by the work of Greg Mortenson, the American mountaineer who went to Pakistan to scale the K2 and who landed up in a village on the Indo-Pak border in delirium and ill health. Nursed back to health by the small village population Mortenson promises to build
a school for them. the book is about how Mortenson struggles to raise funds, builds not one but many schools and changes the lives of many in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It gave me a deeper purpose certainly and had the effect that my friend wished it for me.

Among those books that narrowly missed the list are 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' and I am sure some others which I would remember after I post this blog. But for now, this is the top 10.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Great Debaters - Movie

Watched an unheard of 2007 movie called 'The Great Debaters' yesterday. It is a film inspired by a 1930 true story of the debating team of Little Wiley College, an all black college in a time when racism was rampant, and how the team rises to challenge the best debating teams in the USA. Starring a heavyweight cast of Denzel Washington who also directed the movie and Forest Whittaker, it is a wonderful movie that keeps you engrossed with a sharp screenplay and fine performances.


Tolson (Washington) is the debate coach of Little Wiley college and he chooses a four member team that includes a precocious 14 year old James Farmer Jr, a girl Samantha, and two lead debaters Burgess and Lowe. Tolson puts a lot of effort in picking his team and coaching them. He is also actively involved in fighting racism and bringing the collective together by talking of unions among sharecroppers etc - something which does not go down too well with the authorities. The debating team does a wonderful job and soon becomes the leading college in the black colleges. As its reputation spreads the team is invited to debate at common debates along with white colleges. Along the way the team splits, Burgess leaves as he is concerned about Tolson's activities which may harm his career prospects, Farmer and Lowe fall for Samantha, who chooses Lowe's affections. Finally, Little Wiley contests against Harvard, the premier debating team in the US, where Lowe, the captain lets James and Samantha debate, and wins. Interestingly James speaks of Gandhi and the Jalianwala bagh incident in his debate supporting civil disobedience.

I found it riveting stuff. I loved the debates, the background of racism and the danger and circumstances that blacks lived in those days as they struggled to live with dignity, the razor sharp dialogue and the intellectual orientation of James Farmer senior, Tolson and the debating team. In the mould of the 'Dead Poet's Society' and such movies, 'The Great Debaters' is a must watch for some fine performances and racy story telling. Almost everything they talk of could be true of India as well - sadly, the movie was o 1930 and we are talking India as it is today.

The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi (Interpretation by Leo Gough)

'The Book of Five Rings' (Research Press, Rs. 150), a classic in war strategy, was written in 1645 by a Japanese samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi. The samurai warrior wrote of his experiences in combat and expertise in kenjutsu (the art of the sword). In this book Leo Gough, an author of 20 books on management subjects has written his interpretations of the original.


There are 52 ideas or strategies of Musashi that are interpreted by Gough for the reader with a small exercise to do at the end of the page. 'Go to the capital' says the first idea, urging one to go to the pace where the action is if one wants to go to the top of one's profession. I really liked this. On the aspect of preparation he emphasizes the need to 'Be honest with yourself', 'Keep on learning' and 'Don't waste time' - all very relevant and basic to the preparation. He talks of having strategies but also to be 'Be adaptable (like water)'.

While preparing he talks of 'Remembering the basic aims and objectives' of battle which is to win. Also in learning to 'Prepare to fight with a disadvantage' or in compromised situations. There is emphasis on 'visualization' of how you would want the battle to end.

In attack he says 'Don't be predictable' and don't get stuck with favourite weapons and strategies. Before attacking he says it is best to 'Be in higher places' to get an advantage over the enemy. He asks one to 'Think like the enemy' and think through every detail as in 'Think forest, think trees - both'. He emphasizes on 'Research' and on 'Paying attention to what appear to be seemingly trifles'.

In the fight he says 'timing of the attack' is most important. You can 'Control the mood and agenda' by your demeanour. In action there is no further thinking - 'Act, when you perceive the time is right' and 'When the enemy is collapsing, finish him off' and 'to attack by overwhelming' wherever possible. In the battle he says 'Be fully aware'. One should 'Push the enemy to show his hand' and also realise that 'Few can beat many'. On leadership he says ''Allot work according to ability'. And he finally finishes off with the 'Importance of mastering one's skill by tough training' to achieve miracles. I completely, completely agree with Musashi's philosophy as it is the state of a mind of a warrior who is always facing death.

The book makes a lot of sense and is made relevant by Leo Gough's interpretations to the modern world. The little exercises at the end are good and could help anyone who is serious about preparing to master any craft or to achieve a clear goal. For sportsmen specially, captains of sides and even for leaders who have applied some thought to their roles, this book could be invaluable. It is easy to read as each idea spans over two pages but the exercises would certainly take time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Now a Bandh to protest Arrests

After many false starts the Telangana 'Rail Roko' got off the rails yesterday - I mean the trains were off rails, mostly, and the agitation, got on rails. For some vague reasons the 3 day 'Rail Roko' was postponed a couple of days first, and then a couple more. Allegations flew that the 'Rail Roko' organisers stayed off the agitation because they were in cahoots with the BCCI and were paid some crores as hush money. Raises a legitimate question. Wonder why the agitators did not disrupt the cricket match as it would have got them world wide attention. That is what some of our other separatist organisers normally do - dig up the pitch or threaten to disrupt the match - everyone will sit up and ask why across the world. But no, the match went on peacefully. It appears that the Telangana agitators or rather their leadership are keen that all forms of entertainment and other unproductive activities can go on. What must be shut down is the productive sector - education sector, industry (with power cuts), trains, buses, autos and so on. I fail to understand this strategy as they will inherit all this if they do get their demands.

What was most intriguing was the sequence of events that happened. Firstly the state government woke up from its MONTH LONG slumber and realised that it must do something. They decided to run the trains with police protection. Second the Telangana protestors, including several people in power - Ministers, MPs - and such tried to stop the trains by squatting on the rails. Third, the police arrested the people - Ministers and all. Fourth, a hurt Telangana leadership called off the 'Rail Roko' (what is it with this 'Rail Roko cat and mouse I fail to understand) and instead decided to call for a bandh tomorrow. The reason - police arresting the Ministers and others who stopped the trains.

Now, if you and I stopped trains I have no doubt what would happen to us. We'd be locked up certainly under several criminal cases. If elected representatives go and stop the train, they should be dealt with even more severely because it is such an irresponsible way of registering protest. It causes inconvenience to the people, causes loss to the government exchequer and obstructs the dictat of the very government of which they are part of. Why anyone would want to protest such an irresponsible act, which these people in power have committed knowing fully well that they are breaking the law, is anyone's guess. Why should all business establishments, schools and colleges and general life stop to protest this behavior?

I am not sure what and where this is leading but as always I would like the Telangana movement to show this - a movement arising from the people that is not provoked by these few leaders with false stories and promises, responsible behavior from the people in power to press forward their case without inconveniencing the general public and most importantly, sacrifices that are evident for the leaders who have so far not sacrificed anything. If you need to be anti-social and radical in your quest, please do so. But resign first and then do so as a common man. You have every right to protest and demand.

Meanwhile we gear up to the bandh tomorrow in Telangana to protest the arrest of our elected leaders who have gone to obstruct the railways and who are fighting against our state police and putting us, the electorate in all sorts of trouble. I wonder if such things happen in other parts of the world!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Patrick San Francesco - Healer from Goa

A few days ago I got a call from my sister-in-law, Sheila, that there was a healer from Goa and I could consult him if I wanted. He was in town but only till 1230. Consultations are free and you only donate to his NGO if you wished. It was already half past ten and I had a few more things to do that day but I decided to do it, feeling a bit adventurous, and seeing the call as a signal and so on and so forth. So Shobha and Monica and I, carried our respective bags of health woes and headed to the swanky Hotel Lemon Tree in Madhapur.

Now this Lemon Tree hotel is right opposite the TCS building as one heads left from the Hitech city and is an intriguing hotel as it is two hotels in one - Lemon Tree for the 4 star deluxe crowd and Red Fox for the budget crowd. But they are part of the same building, same premises. Never saw any like that.

Anyway we headed to the mezzanine floor after many security checks and saw Patrick who was in conversation with Avantika, who we were to meet and who was handling his visitors. Procedure is pretty simple - write your name and mobile number down in a simple register and go and see Patrick in the room. There was no one else there. Now there was no room really as we were in the restaurant where the lovely Avantika sat and an outdoor area with plants etc partitioned by glass (like a greenhouse or a smoking area) where Patrick stood, a chair in front of him.

I knew his name was Patrick but I was surprised when Avantika told me that his full name was Dr. Patrick San Francesco. Now that was the first time I heard a name like that. Tall, slender, hair that grew past his shoulders, wearing a casual white t shirt and jeans, unshaven, kindly and intense eyes, Patrick San Francesco is not your regular healer. You could meet him on Baga beach (where he has his clinic in Goa by the way, next to a Nani's and Rani's shack as per net reports) and would have thought he was a musician, a writer, a philosopher, a yogi or just a regular guy walking the beach. But his eyes are different as are the gentle movements of his body. Peaceful, a gentle smile in the eye.

Patrick is a doctor who studied medicine. But somewhere along the line he realised that he had the healing power and started his healing clinics. On the net there are several articles on him in Midday, Times and some blogs that describe how his clinic always has about 100s where he treats the poor and rich alike (same procedure, write name in register and see him) for free. People swear by his healing and say that it works. What Patrick does is "remove negative energy and direct positive energy to the parts that ail" as per the Midday article which I think is fairly accurate.

Having tried all sorts of things in the past, I personally believe that energy healing does work, just as allopathy does, and believe that everything has its place. If there is an emergency run to the allopath who can sort you out and put you out of pain in a few minutes. If there are symptoms, and things that need support, energy, alternative medicine, they could all help. All healing is good and in the right hands it does work wonders.

I watched him through the glass pane as he did his energy healing with Monica, a few minutes is all it took. I went in next. A gentle namaste and he asked me to sit in the chair opposite him. I told him my history and my health woes. We spoke of Goa, of food, of health and then he directed his energy. A couple of minutes. He reassured me that all is well and that he will take care. I normally don't have too many questions - he knows what he is doing - and pushed off. Belief is important and I am a big believer. Another gentle namaste, and I exited to chat with the dapper and handsome Aruni Ray, GM of Lemon Tree and the husband of Avantika. He explained the concept behind the two hotels being in the same place. Avantika has been seeing Patrick for two years and hence the connection as Lemon Tree gave him the space currently for his visits. We donated some, picked up a couple of CDs and headed home. Healed.

Back home I looked up the enigmatic and peaceful Patrick San Francisco on the net and found some stuff on him. All positive stuff. As I saw the 'Samarpan' website I was amazed at the work he has done with his NGO.

(http://www.samarpanfoundation.org/website/)

The work 'Samarpan' does spans education, food, health, water supply, orphanges, old age homes, disaster management, rural development, urban development. There is one project where they build low cost houses with 1 litre PET botles filled with sand used as bottle bricks. Check out the video on you tune at the following link.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPxXH7rCSHQ&feature=player_embedded).
It is an interesting view.

But as I see the amount of work involved, the number of people who step out to help be it education, tree plantation, food distribution or whatever, you wonder at the power of what one person and a vision, a thought, a purpose can do. And there is so much to do. Patrick is hardly visible on the website, (he is happier merely doing it seems and not talking about it and having his pictures all over) save a few quotes here and there, and the smallest picture of anyone I have ever seen. He does not talk of his NGO nor donations when you meet him, only about you and your problems, a small box outside the consultation room and we either donate or not.

I have met many healers, medicine men, yogis, mystics. What amazes me is their capacity to do so much good to the general public in their own way. If it is by giving hope and comfort, so be it. That is more than what people need anyway. There are those who charge nothing and those who do not. But the amount of work that goes in behind what we see as conventional development work is truly wonderful. Forget the healing part, even if one were to take the work 'Samarpan' is doing, it is amazing. I wish Patrick and his band of followers well and may join in some project when the time comes myself - plant trees, talk to school children, spend time with the aged.

My interaction with Patrick was for less than five minutes. Maybe when I meet him next I will talk more and know and understand more about him and his mission. But for now it is interesting to cross my path with a man like Dr. Patrick San Francesco, the Goan healer. And yes, my medical reports today confirm all is well within limits. My regular doctor would be pleased with these reports. I am.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Revolution 2020 - Chetan Bhagat

I am not a great fan of Chetan Bhagat's writing. However I am one of the biggest fans of his success. I am amazed at the number of books he sells, at his popularity and at how, almost all his books get made into movies. If there is one superstar writer we have in India, it is Chetan Bhagat. The numbers support him, the movies support him, his following supports him. I have read all his books to date - funnily never bought one for myself and was always gifted the books by someone. I found 2 States to be his best in all. They are easy to read.


Revolution 2020 has a tag - Love. Corruption. Ambition. So if you have followed Chetan Bhagat's opinions and columns you know fairly well what to expect. The novel is set in modern day Varanasi, the place where everyone goes to cleanse their sins (I liked the setting and the irony behind it) and has three youngsters who grow up together from school days on - Gopal Mishra, the loser who made it big through some corrupt practices, Aarti, the girl who keeps shuttling between the two men, and Raghav Kashyap, the brilliant and idealistic student who lets go a possibly lucrative career as an engineer to be an honest journalist. The novel begins with Gopal Mishra, the 26 year old Director of Ganga Tech educational institutes who has invited the famous writer Chetan Bhagat to a talk at his college. This bit of self-indulgence by Chetan Bhagat always jars - I think he used it in 'One Night at a Call Centre' where the co-passenger is telling the story to Chetan Bhagat the writer.

Anyway love first. Gopal loves Aarti. Aarti loves Raghav. Gopal lusts for Aarti. Aarti does not lust for Gopal. Raghav loves journalism.
How the most beautiful daughter of the District Magistrate of a town like Varanasi has only two guy friends, one of them living in really impoverished circumstance and is a self-confessed loser, is a mystery. But the girl does behave as if she is in hostel and away from all kinds of supervision, and goes on boat rides, CCDs and has no other friends other than these two. How the triangle ends up is what you must read the book for because Aarti behaves like a schizophrenic, two timing the guys, hanging out with losers, sleeping with the one whom she does not love etc and you have no clue what she will finally do.

Corruption. Gopal Mishra, the loser, teams up fortuitously with the big bad MLA Shukla and starts an Engineering college. Chetan Bhagat tells us in great detail of how to go about starting an educational institution - including getting land, clearances, permissions, approvals from the AICTE, affiliation from the University, recruiting staff and the amount and kinds of bribes involved etc. For all those who want to start educational institutions or colleges specifically, this is a must read. MLA Shukla and his protege Gopal bribe everyone to get the job done and that is no surprise, in India everyone bribes everyone and everyone knows that. Why Raghav is shocked is a mystery. MLA Shukla is also steeped in corruption by swallowing the funds meant for the Ganga Action Project.

Ambition is limited. Raghav Kahsyap the idealist has an ambition of rooting out corruption single handedly and to me his life span appeared limited with the kind of risky work he does by taking on all the big corrupt people like Shukla. But he gives up his ambitions quickly and joins back a job. Aarti's ambitions, surprisingly for the daughter of a DM, are very middle class - she wants to be an air hostess, marry a loser and cook - or a variant of an air hostess like a 'boat hostess' and finally settles for a guest relations executive job in a 5 star hotel in Varanasi. For the most beautiful girl in Varanasi (she is shown as being rather dumb as well, which is the saving grace) this was a comedown I felt. Gopal Mishra has no real ambition and shows no inclination - he is just pitched into the scene because he has the land - and after that Shulklaji takes over. Left to himself he would not have done much in my opinion.

Frankly there is no revolution, only the promise of one. Raghav has dreams of a revolution which he names his newspaper 'Revolution 2020' but he winds up being the son-in-law of the DM and contesting the elections because his father-in-law is being asked by various parties to contest. Where is the revolution in this man who does not have clarity about whether he wants the girl, the career as a journalist, the elections? So this is not about revolution for sure because he goes back and joins the newspaper after his small R2020 joint gets smashed by Shukla's men. Of ambition I found nothing. Of love I am most confused. What Aarti, the most beautiful, sees in Gopal who always displays signs from school of being a loser is anyone's guess (but she is shown as getting 20 marks out of 80 which explains it). What Gopal wants from her is also not clear - love, sex, marriage - for he is all the time trying to kiss her despite her obvious lack of interest in him. Why these three have no life, no interests, specially the girl, apart the other two is not clear either. Aarti shows no character as she flits between the two clandestinely, jumps into bed with one while still calling the other her boyfriend. Gopal has no interest in women save this girl as the two interesting call girls realise late in the book. Raghav has no interest even in the most beautiful girl. Their love is a mystery.

The plus point is that this book can be read like the wind. I finished the 293 page book in about 4-5 hours which means that you can skim through and skip generous portions and still stay on course and even predict like we do with some Bollywood movies. I was hoping that something drastic would happen to Raghav who to me was the sole hope of the book, or that he would do something like killing someone by the end, but Raghav tamely goes back to work and being some kind of a ghar jamai, in all likelihood taking the tickets offered to his father in law. How can I expect a revolution from someone like that? To make Gopal Mishra seem like the victim, or the sacrificing hero, was not really what I expected - why he does what he does in the end is a mystery to me. Does he want the girl or not? Or by some chance, is the revolution about him and his new found purpose of making wonderful educational institutions?

Chetan Bhagat does not explore the characters deeply enough to get to their feeling level. If he had, this book would have had way more potential. Gopal, if the bad guy, should have remained true to the character and not turned over a new leaf. Aarti, should have had some reason, something that makes her do what she does with these two losers. Raghav remains true to himself and looked to me the only redeeming character until Bhagat decides to make Gopal the sacrificing hero and makes Raghav join the band of losers.

Another 100 pages, deeper darker emotions, love, passion and ambition that burns the characters, that puts them in dilemmas, and in destiny's hands, of youngsters and their choices - now that would have been the book it could have been. But we are left with no feeling - not when there is death, when there is failure, when there is betrayal, when there is love. (Like for example their first sexual encounter - and the two feel nothing! We never know what they are feeling at this intimate encounter except that Gopal has a tough time getting her jeans off her.) Sadly to me, Chetan Bhagat wastes a wonderful opportunity to make something really big and instead chooses to indulge himself, his fans and Bollywood directors looking for scripts by making frivolous and superficial characters when in fact he could have made firebrand characters. For someone of his following who could have really sparked a revolution, Chetan Bhagat chooses the easy way out and stays in his territory, safe. R2020 to me, goes to the bottom of his list so far in my ranking, more so because '2 States' showed much promise and R2020 promised much too. Unless you are planning to start a college, nothing much in the book for the reader. Skip it unless you are a Chetan Bhagat fan or a basher.

The Under 19 HCA Motivational Session

A couple of days ago my old friend Vidyuth Jaisimha who is now the coach of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) Under 19 squad called me up to do a motivational chat with his wards. It was the first day of the camp before they went into a South Zone league format so he decided it was a good time.

We met at 930 a.m. at the Academy. It was a fine side led by Vaibhav and had some really good talent. Rayan, Rohith Rayudu, Abhishek Ashok, Arun Deva, Vamshi, Akash Bhandari, C.V.Milind, Zeeshan, Mallikarjun, Vinay Rao, Amit Veer. Ahmad Askari, Pattnaik and a couple that I don't recollect. I had seen almost all of them and we had done similar sessions last year when they gave a wonderful performance in the Under 16 last year. They are prolific scorers, high wicket takers and have attended some important camps. Akash Bhandari is one contract with the Deccan Chargers. Milind was in the India Under 16 camp, Rohith got plenty of runs as did Mallikarjun, Vinay Rao and the others. Compared to how we were when we were Under 19, they look mature, rounded and well prepared.

We ended up having a longer session than I planned for. After the initial clarity on why they were here (to win the cup of course, though most are not clear about it), how it benefits to play for the team (get to play more games), why they should win (to give each one a chance to play and achieve greater glory), why pride of being awarded the HCA colours was important (because it is the point of departure) and why they must all feel secure and play so the team wins (they get a bit of the glory). These issues may appear small and may also appear that they don't need to know of those - but it is amazing how few answers one can get for these questions in any team. People are just not oriented as to their duties, their roles, their jobs. There is too much assumption. It is best to clarify.

We spoke about how they can win (if they give their 100% each of them), how they should get into a state of mind where each of them supports one another to give their 100% (support, feedback), more team interaction to get the many veterans to express themselves. I asked them what their best performances to date were and they answered hesitantly. I told them that they could all better that performance - in this coming tournament itself - if they prepared for it. We made them state their targets, off the cuff, about wickets they would take in the five matches, runs scored, catches taken and run outs made. They all gave out their own targets, and the rest of us negotiated better for them if we felt they were being too conservative. It was good to see that almost everyone else felt that most estimates were conservative. Vidyuth wrote down what they promised themselves. A target - just to egg them on.

And then I asked them all to state one or two strengths of each player. All of them spelt out what they thought was the strength of each team mate and it was nice to see the concerned player listen carefully. Some were surprised when the others mentioned certain attributes but I told them to analyse that seriously because obviously someone had seen or felt that attribute. It was a fun exercise and everyone got involved a bit, and hopefully helped bond among each other a bit more. Certainly they would talk about it among themselves.

It was a fun and fruitful experience. The session went an hour longer than I thought and I felt I could have done much more but good enough for now. Now to see what the boys do when the tournament starts on the 20th.