Monday, September 30, 2013

Syriana - Movie Review

I am still not too clear what and how of Syriana but this is a multi-layered, multi-tracked movie about the politics that go on behind oil. We have four tracks - an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a CIA agent (George Clooney), a Pakistani worker in an oil field and a law firm attorney. The setting is a huge US oil company that has not been given oil rights by an Arabian country - instead, the rights are given to a Chinese company.

It does appear that the US government is involved in the deal, the company certainly is, the Emir of the Arabian country is. How to get there and at what cost is what the rest of the movie about. The lesser I go into it the better because I can hear my mind boggle again. End result - oil politics wins or something like that. People can be killed, tortured but oil must be gained control over.

George Clooney won an Academy Award for his performance as Best Supporting Actor.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Small Things That Can Make You Fall In Love With Life Every Day

Now this is interesting. How often do we look forward to the things we do or meet everyday? Let me make the top 10 things that could make a difference to the day.

1) The perfectly times and prepared morning cup of tea or coffee

2) The newspaper waiting for you at the doorstep

3) Breakfast in time, at leisure

4) People who give an unexpected smile, hug, call, compliment, gift

5) Freshly laundered clothes  that make you smile at the mirror

6) Running water and a perfect temperature for the bath

7) Perfect traffic, smooth flow with greens and few reds

8) Music that peps up, unexpected songs coming up

9) The moments of solitude you grab

10) The moments of deep companionship

11) A well made bed to sink into

12) Blue skies, sunrises, sunsets, bird calls, cool breeze

14) Walk by the river, lake, park

15) Work well done

With a slight shift in perspective I feel that all these can happen more often than not. Could increase quality of life by some.

Thought for the Day - The Crackle In the Air

Something in the air has a sizzling crackle in its all the time - if you can find it.

It exists in every little opportunity that  you happen by. All you need to do is find that frequency in the environment and vibrate to that frequency.

It's electrifying and makes life come alive.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How Richard Branson Hires People - Link

Thanks to friend Achyut Menon. Kind of a long link, but let me try to give the gist before you click.

 Branson says he looks for a personality first "that fits your company culture". Personality - one who is fun, friendly, caring and loves helping others. 

Then comes experience.

And then expertise.

Then the persons ability to be a team player who is willing to try his/her hand at different jobs.

Its okay if he/she is a maverick. Qualifications come last.

Leadership is paramount - the wrong leader can destroy the company very quickly. Ideally find the leader from within and go outside only when you cannot find one.

Great line to sum up - "It's better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team." - Samir Desai

 http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130923230007-204068115-how-i-hire-focus-on-personality?fb_action_ids=10153335536925397&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%2210153335536925397%22%3A668525803158878}&action_type_map={%2210153335536925397%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map=[]

On The Waterfront - Movie Review

The 1954 movie moved so slickly that I never realised that I was already well past the 40th minute. It starts with a bang, a murder of a man thrown from the rooftop, and follows up rapidly on all that led to the murder and after. The aggrieved sister of the deceased, an honest and popular longshoreman who has decided to raise his voice against the mafia on the waterfront, sets the tone and galvanises the local priest into doing something. The girl and the priest on one hand, a penitent gang member Malloy (Marlon Brando) who was the one who drew out the murdered man on the fateful night, and the increasingly insecure and violent gang, set the dynamics, watched by a D & D (deaf and dumb) bunch of longshoremen.

Malon Brando's performance won him an Oscar. The movie won eight Oscars and has gone down as an all time great movie, ranked the eighth greatest American film of all time by the American Film Institute. It reminds us of 'Deewar', the scene on the docks, not as dramatic as Bachchan throwing away the key, but Brando has built up enough anger to fight the mafia boss Joe Friendly single handedly. The D&D gang finally finds some spirit and breaks free. Neatly done and story well told.

What makes you watch this movie till the end? You want to know if justice has been done to the murdered boy. You want to know if the penitent boxer will see reason and stand up. You want to know what will make him stand up to the vicious mob. And you want to know when the victims will stand up too. The sister starts the fight because she lost her brother. The priest takes up the fight because he believes that it's his duty to bring god's word into the waterfront. The boxer does it when he realises that he is just another bum and the mob is the one to blame - and the fact that his brother has been killed by the same mob.

Moral of the story (for the mob) - deal with the issues when they are still small, don't underestimate the girl and the priest and mostly don't ever let a dangerous ally turn against you. For the aspiring screenplay writer its the direct pitch into the problem, the unease that follows throughout and the final push that tips the boxer against the mob that makes it work.

Brando is intense in the role of an ex-boxer who lost his chance to be famous because he was asked to lose a fight. 'On the waterfront' is all I expected, which is great because the expectations were high.

Fukrey - Movie Review

Nice and entertaining. I like these Delhi youngster type movies for their complete irreverence and ability to poke fun at themselves. This one has three story lines coming together to raise money - even if it involves gambling big time on luck and raising the stakes by bringing on a dangerous and foul mouthed gangster as a partner.

Two school students, Hunny and Choocha, who have been failing school for many years want to get into college to get themselves good looking girls. But they cannot get into college unless they bribe someone and get the question papers. One halwai shop youngster needs money to get into college to show his school girl friend who is now in college and is fast becoming an ex. One failed musician needs to get money to get his father treated. They decide that the best way to raise money is to back a wild scheme - Hunny will make bets in the illegal lotteries based on his interpretations of Choocha's crazy dreams which have never let them down and have always brought them a ten fold return so far. For financing their big ticket caper they get an even wilder gangster Richa Chadda, who finances it, but subject to conditions. The scheme flops and they owe the gangster 25 lakhs now. How the young gang of worthies manage to back themselves to do it is the rest of the story.

It is entertaining despite the rather predictable stories that our comedies have begun to resemble. Money making schemes, love angle, a gang that is after the same money and how the rookies get love, money and all in some weird turn of events. But if it is told well and with control over the characters and the story, it still works as it does with Fukrey. All the characters are credible, including some which appear rather needless, the situations are funny, the characters acted well - Hunny, Choocha, Lali the Sardar, Punjaban, police walla - and alls well and that ends well. I liked it. Money well spent.

Story Idea - The Mobile World

Hook: A man's deep involvement with his mobile phone and its consequences.


Story: A young man buys himself a new phone and gets completely lost in it and its features. With his increasing involvement with the phone he loses touch with real people and the real world. After a while he completely forgets his friends and his family and is busy uploading his life to a bunch of virtual friends.

Then one day he falls ill - basically cannot use his phone to sms or use facebook and escape into his world. Slowly that virtual world fades away and he is back to reality. Alone, with only a bunch of boring numbers.

Version 1. On the verge of turning suicidal he gets a call late one night. He grabs the phone and finds an old friend that he had never called in years calling him. It appears that his friend is returning the call - the number must have got dialled by mistake. Hero feels much better after he talks to his old friend and promises to be in touch with him. His friend also tells him its great to chat with him. From then on, every night, he calls up all the numbers in his phone, one by one, in the same manner, feigns a mistake and revives his phone book and all his friends and family. 

Can he also revive his love through his phone?  What happens if he loses his precious phone?

Version 2. As he is getting suicidal thoughts and keeps staring at his phone, he gets a call that changes his life. It's a telecaller selling love. The telecaller has a scheme where everyone who has no love can buy some from the telecaller. He gives him a sample. You get one call everyday from the telecaller and that call tells you all the greatest things you want to hear about yourself - it genuinely makes you feel loved. All you have to do is listen to it for two minutes everyday. Our man tries it, likes it and subscribes.

In a while he asks for a job where he can also assist in the telecalling. While selling love he goes through a series of emotions, but the good news is that he starts getting better himself with all this love going about. When he has fully recovered he wants to visit his benefactor. Now, is he or she what our hero thought he/she would be? Twist in the tale and end with a dose of love. Flowers and smiles, tears and joy. The End.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Story Idea - Nature's Revenge

This should work as an animation story. How nature gets vengeful and hits back at those who are disrespecting it. The ones who respect nature survive in the end.

Hook: One fine day nature decides it has had enough of abuse and decides to go on strike.

Story: We show man abusing nature in the only fashion he can. It is not about need, it is about greed. When the balance tilts nature decides to go on strike. So everything shuts down one by one. Certain new diseases start afflicting the greedy. The things that normally get recycled don't, smog does not clear, sun gets too hot, air becomes thinner, water dries up faster - well things are not looking too rosy. How do we win nature back and how quickly? Do we sacrifice the greedy as some say, or do we simply sacrifice our greed? How do we show that our penitence is real? And does mother nature agree? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How To Hire - Jack and Suzy Welch

I read this off Achyut Menon's forward and thought its a good one to keep filed away. Thanks Achyut. Thsi should work when you look for good people to partner everywhere - more so in professional teams.

The 8 qualities are

Must Have Qualities

  • High  Integrity
  • High IQ

Should Have Qualities

  • Energy
  • Energise (capacity to energise others)
  • Edge (capacity to take decisions)
  • Execution 
  • Passion

And the game changer

  • Generosity gene

The link to the full article
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130923225948-86541065-how-i-hire-the-must-haves-the-definitely-should-haves-and-the-game-changer

If I look around we are lacking resources with at least one of the must haves - integrity. And the game changer - generosity.

Casablanca - Movie Review

Ah, time to revisit the old classics and enjoy them. Casablanca came up - now when did I see it last? I remember me and Shobhs seeing it with Ajanta at their Begumpet flat some ten-fifteen years ago. That was the first Casablanca viewing for me. But I was such a pain those days (still am) and so full of myself (still am) that I never really could absorb the movie. Now I did, a better job than the last time.

If anything, it's a great piece of story telling. Take the World War as the setting. Pick a place which is the hot bed for people making a beeline to the USA, away from the war in Europe. Make the hard talking, smooth hero own the hottest place in Casablanca where everyone goes. And into this setting, introduce his old flame - she walks in with her husband, an idealistic revolutionary on the run. Rick, the hero, cannot handle her presence. Flashback into that idyllic period of intense love between these two in Paris where she betrays him - does not show up at the station as promised. Heartbroken once, the hero is now in a position to help her and her husband escape from Casablanca to the US. But will he do it? Or has his heart become so hard from the first betrayal?

Full of sharp one liners from the inimitable Humphrey Bogart, great situations arising out of the story and the promise of a great love story, Casablanca, can be watched many times for the ease with which the story flows. I could watch it right now again - now that's not something I could say for many movies. Great acting too, great characters and a nice ending. Now I need to see Woody Allen's 'Play it again Sam' - it got me the moment Ingrid Bergman says, 'Play it Sam'. Ah, how melody of a time gone by touches the heart with the familiarity of those same emotions only god will know. But in the list of romances, Casablanca, will remain. Made in 1942 and we still rave about it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jump Cut - Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

'Jump Cut' is Krishna Shastri Devulapalli's second novel and a worthy follow up to the the well-received and highly acclaimed "Ice Boys In Bell Bottoms", a hilarious debut novel on growing up in Chennai in the 70s and 80s. If you have read his first book, or know him personally, you know that Krishna cannot keep a joke out for long - and it is not a good idea to keep such a wonderful gift out of his work.

But as he showed in 'Ice boys In Bell Bottoms' Krishna also writes the poignant stuff well, which must be a difficult thing to balance- a dilemma he would have faced with the more layered 'Jump Cut' which deals with the relationship between a son and father, a difficult subject, to say the least. But Krishna backs his strengths, his abilities and explores a  new genre confidently and comes up with a fast paced thriller full of entertaining and highly credible characters.
Harper Collins, Rs. 299, 293 p

'Jump Cut' is a racy revenge story set in the film industry in Chennai. The protagonist is Satyajit Ray, (full name S.R. Raman), named so by his film-crazy father Mr. Raman, a screenplay writer who never finds the fame he deserved for his talents and his passion for movies. Ray, now an NRI living in the US, returns to visit his ailing father, and finds that his father's main problem seems to be a broken heart more than anything else.

How Ray, with his hugely enterprising and entertaining support cast, goes about finding out the villain of the piece and does what he does, is what 'Jump Cut' is all about. An old love interest now an activist, Padmini who flits back and forth into his life from the consumer courts where she works now, old friends Abie and his enterprising wife Sumi, Dog Raj and the unforgettable Selva add to the main drama in a new plot, a new setting. One Mr. Debdutta De pops in for a cameo and he is much like the Bob Biswas character in 'Kahaani'. Looming large in the background is the priapic, sleazeball producer RR, who cannot keep his eyes and hands to himself.

The story is told very visually and I have it entirely in my mind, scene to scene. The places, lighting, emotions, people everything is etched clearly and the movie plays on even as I write now. Good work there Krishna. The characters are strong, the narration is entertaining with Krishna's jokes coming off fast and quick (the characters cannot keep a retort out for the life of them), there's danger afoot and there's intrigue.

It's the kind of a book that could go this way or that in terms of treatment, you feel you can crank it up or down a few notches, by adding a few lines here and  there and hyping up the drama or emotion. But after a sedate and poignant start, in a highly visual hospital scene, Krishna gets back into his own style and takes it from there. I think it was a good thing he did - it would not be Krishna's book otherwise. The book cover (designed by Krishna himself) comes on strong with the theme ("Want to get even? Forget the odds" - tagline) and a worthy endorsement from India's most versatile writer Anita Nair, who found it a 'rollicking read' with a 'chuckle a minute'. I could not agree more.

There's no doubting Krishna's calibre as a writer. He is creative in many ways - witticisms, repartee, book covers, story ideas, screenplays - all underline that. I suspect he may veer towards screenplay writing given half a chance, which could only be a loss for the literary world. But long as he writes novels this much is guaranteed, he will write hugely enjoyable stuff even if he is half-asleep. Well done Krishna and I do have a feeling that this book might just become a movie sooner or later. For book lovers, more so those who love movies, a must read and a guaranteed paisa-vasool show.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Wonderful Tribute to M.S. Subbulakshmi by Aarohi Music - Well Done Sushma and Sowmya

If I had to count the hours in my life that were spent well, the one hour I spent last Sunday listening to Sushma and Sowmya Nittala and their mother Subhashini Nittala, at Lamakaan, paying a tribute to the legendary Carnatic vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi, would figure among the better ones. Representing Aarohi music, they enthralled the audience with some fine renditions of M.S. Subbulakshmi's famous pieces, but to me what was bigger was the sincere effort they made to pay a tribute to a legend on her birthday and in the way of true practitioners, tried to educate the audience with a fine commentary about the meaning and the intention behind what they were singing. They also gave a glimpse into the life of a huge personality - M.S. Subbulakshmi's achievements begin from being recognized as a musical genius at 13, being an exponent at both Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, an actress who acted in Tamil and Hindi movies, and a personality who transcended many barriers with her single minded devotion to her art. It was perhaps the most educative hour I spent in glimpsing the vast heritage that greats like M.S. Subbulakshmi have left behind. Thankfully it is in good hands with groups such as Aarohi Music who wish to take music to everyone.
From the Lamakaan show - courtesy fb page of Aarohi Music

On September 15, 2013 Aarohi Music and its fans, followers and well wishers got together at Lamakaan to celebrate the music of M.S. Subbulakshmi with renditions of her famous bhajans, keertanas and sthothras. The threat of rain meant that we had to cram into the room indoors but that was hardly an issue. The hall was packed on dot. I spotted the versatile actor Bharani garu, Professor Ram and a few other familiar faces. Shobha and I got ourselves a couple of seats in advance and waited for the show to begin. After the introduction the vocalists launched headlong into the music which was the best way to do it - let the music speak for itself.

The first visual reminded us why the event was being held - a tribute to M.S. Amma on her 97th birthday which would fall on September 16, the next day. As M.S. Subbulakshmi started her  concerts with a Dhyana slokam, so did the evening start. And then the Ganesha Pancharatnam (all the words written down and explained on the AV - great work), Malahari raagam, Kalyana Vasantha raagam, Kuntalavaraali raagam, and Madhyamavathi raagam. Onwards to Meera bhajans that started with a snippet - M.S. Subbulakshmi starred as Meera bai in a 1947 Tamil film 'Meera', later made into a Hindi movie which gave her a huge following. The songs sung by her in the movie were very popular. So we moved into another of her famous renditions 'Hari thum', a bhajan followed by sthothralu. Another mind boggling snippet - M.S.'s Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam recorded in 1963 has sold over a million copies. The sthothras - Sri Venkatesa Karavalamba sthothram, Kanakadhara sthothram, Sri Lakshmi Ashtotharam, Bhaja Govindam, Nama Ramayanam had many in the audience singing and swaying along. On to Madhruashtakam and then the Annamacharya keertanalu - Bhavayami Gopalabalam, Nanaati Baduku. Next were M.S. Ragamaalikalu - Bhavayami Raghuramam, Kurai Onrum Illai. The last part was a piece on M.S. Subba Lakshmi's signature style - which appealed to all, the masses and the classes - with Geetha Dhuniku, Maithreem Bhajata (rendered at the UN).

Never was an hour so small. Delivered with all sincerity and passion, Sushma and Sowmya, who handled most of the show after an initial push from Subhashini, brought the crowd spontaneously to its feet in applause - well deserved. I came away enriched and have since been listening to M.S. Subba Lakshmi's compositions on you tube. I will delve some more into understanding this wonderfully pleasing form of music and I am most grateful for this fantastic gesture by Aarohi music to organise this show - free of cost and open to all. Many a philistine like me would have got enlightened. 

I looked up M.S. Subbulakshmi when I got home. Born in 1916 in Madurai as Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, in a family that was rich with musical lineage - her mother was a veena player and her grandmother a violinist - M.S. Subbulakshmi learned Carnatic music at an early age. She learned Carnatic music from Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Hindustani classical music from Pandit Narayanrao Vyas and soon earned herself the reputation of being a musical genius. In her twenties M.S. Subbulakshmi moved to Madras and acted in a few Tamil films, of which Meera was remade in Hindi - all popular hits. She gave up acting after that to focus on singing. In 1973 she won the Ramon Magsasay Award and was India's first musician to receive it, and in 1998, she received the Bharat Ratna, again the first Indian musician to receive India's highest civilian award. M.S. Subbulakshmi travelled the world, received many awards and citations, and gave liberally for charity. She passed away in 2004.

A word about Aarohi Music. It is a 30 year old organization that "contributes to music passionately - bringing out forgotten and untouched music genres and producing original content and thematic music" - and has taught Carnatic Classical and Devotional music to students in India and abroad. It has recently held a workshop at Lamakaan in Telugu Padyalu and Paatalu which was the first such attempt in the city.
Sushma and  Sowmya are Carnatic singers. They are also multifaceted personalities who deal with many more art forms - I have seen a hilarious play of theirs, with feminist overtones ("Four women and a Bill"), which I do think is one of the better ones I have seen in my life. Aarohi Music has so far released 5 albums - Subhamastu (Telugu slokas), Telugu padyalu, Jaya Bharatavani (patriotic songs), Pahimam Sreerajarajeshwari and Jaya Gananayaka Namo Namo - 'and counting' as their page says. Music certainly is their forte and they balance it well with their other creative pursuits - acting, plays and writing. I was also happy to find that Sushma contributed to the 'Ashta Chamma' music by lending her vocals to the theme music.

I highly recommend their music, more specifically the Carnatic music capsule which they can modify and enhance to suit, educate and entertain the audience. Schools and colleges, organisations and groups, could certainly benefit from their audience friendly methods of taking music to audiences in a language that they understand - something that I always felt was the big divide in our system. This divide can be bridged by the use of technology as they did with the simple of use an AV and a lovely capsule that showed a glimpse of something as complex and seemingly out of reach as Carnatic music. Such efforts must be encouraged and widely appreciated because they can become a fine way to increase appreciation of Carnatic music, and later, to help us delve deeper into this magnificent art form. Something that the AP Tourism Department could also look at in their many cultural shows. Visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aarohimusik.

All in all well done Aarohi Music and very well done Sushma and Sowmya. Wishing you both many more wonderful performances that bring wealth, fame and recognition to you and to Aarohi Music. Meanwhile I will wait for more of your performances in the near future.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thought for the Day - The Acts

You are known and defined by your acts.

So think the thoughts that lead to the acts well.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Giving 100% Effort Means Giving In 100%

To give more effort, we must give in.

It is not going harder. It's giving up and surrendering 100% to the process.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Thoughtful Gift

The art of giving gifts is a rare one. More so a thoughtful one. I was happy to be at the receiving end of one such thoughtful gift from my sister Nalini and my nephew Abhishek. She proposed and he disposed, and lo and behold, I received a fine bookshelf delivered from an online store that sounds like a fine dining dish.

It is a sleek, foldable, wooden book shelf. pretty to look at, compact and easy to handle. It has class written all over it and just by sitting there and looking pretty, it  might inspire me to be better. It is by far the most expensive gift I have ever received which makes me even more thrilled. Thanks Abhishek and Nalini - truly grateful.
Proud owner, I can see some books inside the shelf that are gifts as well

It got me thinking of the gifts I received - the ones that I remember. I got many, fortunate enough to have received love from so many who found me worthy of a gift. The first big one was one that took my breath away - an entire bag of toys when I was probably five or six. Now for someone who is used to one toy or two, a whole load of them at once knocked me out. This gift was from some uncle types, don't know who. I don't remember the toys either (save one small imitation of an open top Willys jeep that was my favorite one, am still searching for it) but I remember the thrill of a dream come true. I remember a rather unexpected gift from Sister Mercy who gave us glittering stickers when we left her class in class 2. Lovely little fairy stickers. One cricket bat from Mom, among the many others she bought for me, this one with a fish oil cover (another one that I am searching for). I remember my father buying me a proper cricket ball when I asked him for a cork ball. I just did not know what to do with that considering we only played gully cricket - but Dad knew nothing about the game. One big plane that Mythily and Chanti bought from their excursion to Srinagar.

One book 'The Art of Fast Bowling' that Nalini bought for me when I was in the seventh gave me huge insights into that art. Grip, outswinger, inswinger, cutters - ooh, it was a treasure. I covered it with a plastic cover and lost it somewhere (another one of those precious things that I still search for in my sleep). But it had the most impact on me as a cricketer and I remember using the leg cutter in practice and bowling D. Suresh. I could not believe that it worked. All thanks to that book. A cricket sweater, cricket shoes from Mom and then come the pair of North Star shoes I bought. Nifty stuff. First cool pair of shoes. But I know I stretched Mom's purse that day.

A Phillips car deck that livened up my life, half sponsored by Mom and the endless amount of music that followed. Some superb music that Rakesh Bahl bought for me from Dubai (including Uriah Heep), loads of music that Choudary sent me from Australia almost 20-30 cassettes, Subbu sent from the US, the T shirts and the sweat shirts, jackets and not to forget the many pairs of socks that Naresh gifted me which helped during my playing days. A pair of Nike shoes that Laxmipathi Raju donated for my cause which helped my batting, white with a red emblem. I must also remember the pair of expensive SG spikes gifted to me by ITC, thanks to Nishi Mukherjee, that saw me through the Ranji Trophy days. no sponsorships those days and spikes burned  a hole in your pocket. Knowing myself I'd have quit playing rather than buy shoes. I cannot forget the cricket kit that Venkat Reddy, our PD gifted me in the final year - the first kit I ever owned. Sadly, after the career had ended.

Richard Bach's 'One' gifted by Rithu and Shobhs which still lurks somewhere, yellowed and dog eared. Books aplenty and music from Shobhs - chief among which were a bunch of dictionaries, a thesaurus and a computer that cost a bomb then. All thoughtful stuff that helped me write and pursue the writing passion (I must add up and see if I have earned enough from writing to cover that computer yet). But then among the music I remember Morning ragas and On Every Street that Shobhs gifted me. Another one from Shobhs I treasure is the Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul. Superb stories in that. (Don't know where I will end up as a writer but certainly not for lack of support.)

A lovely painting presented by Mohan.

A black Titan watch, my first, from Bavagaru. An blue Arrow shirt that seemed too expensive to wear but which kind of made me experience what real comfort is -gifted by Ram. It really showed me why somethings are priced as they are - me generally sticking to the lower end stuff. A whole load of books I bought thanks to gift vouchers given by my bank - 1000 bucks got me about 10-15 books then including Ulysses, Oscar Wilde's best and some other exotic stuff.

And one of the top most in the list - a 2 GB ipod that Ram gifted me which I still use, which has given me endless hours of pleasure on the road and at home. Rugged, weather beaten but still on. That was another of those very thoughtful gifts right up with the computer, the dictionaries, the bookshelf and others. Sun glasses from Ram, t shirts and several garments from the US from Ratan Raj. I do like the way Jaleel drops in at book launches with his thoughtful gifts - a swiss knife at the Men Within and a lovely shirt at If You Love Someone. Satish and his sweatshirt (still around after more than a decade), tracks and several other forms of sporty clothing that we put to good use in our walks when he is in town.

The delicately carved wooden crane, made by the deaf and dumb boys of Boys Town, which they gifted me when I gave a lecture there.

I still have a little panda car hanging that Vajra gifted me. One expensive pair of Reeboks Suvarna Raj brought. Sunnie gifted me a laptop and also one of the most valuable things - a contraption to fix up the ipod in the car. That really set my life on fire. And much more - last time he was here he gave me a pen drive just lie that - fine fellow Sunnie man. The kind who gives you the shirt off his back. Cute coasters from Lords from Shubha, a history of the cricket bat from Geeta and Vasu, Cross pens from Monica and an expensive watch. One pen from Tharian that he gifted me in Mumbai - with a lovely note - still have the note, pen long gone. A Glen Fidditch recently from another nephew Avinash, but since I don't drink I threw a party.

The lovely Auli trip thanks to Vasu where I saw snow for the first time.

A Levis from Ranjan recently. The many little notes that I get from Anjali professing her love for me and declaring that I am indeed the world's best nanna. You know, I am only getting started. Oh, the list is endless - but I seemed to have got books, music, clothes mainly.

But what one remembers about gifts is the thought behind them really, the manner in which it is given, more than the gift. I can't forget the manner in which Mom would give me an apple every birthday - somehow when I think of a gift the apple comes first for some reason, and then the top 10 follow. But seriously, for every smile, every good word, every prayer, every thought, every deed, every admonishment, every worry, every single moment each one of you have sent my way, along with all those many gifts I have not mentioned here for sheer want of space and time, I cannot tell you how truly blessed I feel. And this is only the material gifts - if one adds time spent, happiness shared, burdens halved - there's much more. You know what, this is not a bad exercise for everyone to do - write down all the gifts you received and you can see what you really are getting from the world, how truly blessed you are.

But for now, let me revel in my abundance. In the love that is directed at me. Makes a nice change from the usual cribbing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Anjali - Move On Pop

Anjali was busy writing something on the white board. After a while she tapped me on the knee and pointed at the board. "Things my father taught me" - was the heading. Under it she wrote 4 of the commandments I seem to have impressed on her. They ranged from "be happy" to "keep practicing" to "don't be afraid" to "give your best".

I felt the burden of having unconsciously shaped some ideas and beliefs in the young one with some banter of mine suddenly. I examined the 4 commandments and found that I perhaps needed to qualify some more to get the perspective across more clearly in some. It could be this, but it could be that also. As I started to embark on the corrections to enlighten the young soul who was so impressed by my teachings, I noticed her heading to the white board again. Oh, is she writing more of my stuff? I cleared my throat to begin my discourse when I noticed something that was very deflating to my ego.

What I had thought was going to be stuff written in stone was being rapidly erased by Anjali. For some reason I thought she'd write my commandments and preserve them till they become fossilised. Why this sudden erasure? I asked her. "I want to write something else now," she said in a rather distracted manner and moved on.

Ah, the importance we give ourselves in our minds I tell you. The board became white in no time. My commandments went into nothingness. New shapes and thoughts took over on the board. Over and done pop.

Don't take yourself too seriously Dad. Don't get attached to something because it looked good Dad. Move on Dad else you will get stuck with a fossilised board that could be used for so much more.

Thanks lady. Are there any mental erasers in the market?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Story Idea - The Great Tech Meltdown

Hook: In one deadly alien invasion, all technology in the world melts down irretrievably.

Story: The world is happily plugged in, connected, linkedin and all that sort of words. Everything is driven by technology - so much so that people cannot go from A to B without technology, cannot identify their spouses without technology and so on and so forth. And then when it is all at its peak, the aliens strike. Technology freezes. Melts. And is gone. Becomes dust.

People are totally helpless. How now? How to go anywhere? Who to call? Who to sms? Who to google? What to hold? The cities have gone nuts with people on the verge of a breakdown as they are unable to cope without technology.

Enter hero from village. No technology for this fellow. Only common sense and use of five other senses. He is doing perfectly fine. All the tech-starved chaps realise that they have lost the power of the five senses and the biggest one - common sense. Village bumpkin becomes a messiah. The hero who has to deliver them. How does he do that? How does he get their senses activated? Watch the latest blockbuster to find out!

The Graph Is Up - India Today

As I write this the graph is up in India today. The petrol prices are at an all time high (in Hyderabad we pay Rs. 83.70 or something like that). Onion prices are also high (they are offering separate onion salads in restaurants for the affluent). Prices of electricity is up (never paid so much in my life thanks to all the new power projects we have I suppose).

Fruits and groceries as well (don't ask). Number of vehicles on road is up and so is pollution. Number of people is up. Number of hospitals is up and so are patients. Number of credit cards are up and so are the chaps who owe everything to the cc companies. Movies are all doing 100 crore plus. BCCI is earning tonnes. The crime rate is up as well. TRPs are up.

NPAs in banks are up. Defaulters are up. Number of projects funded by bribes are up. Number of projects with overruns is up. Subsidies are up. Cases in courts are up. Maybe even divorce rates are up. Bills are up. Number of crooks in politics is up. Number of people whose sentiments are getting hurt are up. Number of people in pandals are up. Number of pandals are up. Generally its a rosy picture. Well done sirs and madams - we have done it.

When was the last time we heard of words like unemployment, corruption, education, health? Not in the near past. That's because the government has been able to knock that off by simply adding so much pressure on the people that they cannot think of useless things like the above mentioned. What use nara baazi if we are all in debt and have less and less to earn and more and more to spend?

At least we have a good graph to show. What are we cribbing about? If given a chance we would have statistics to prove that we are a happier nation than Bhutan.
Can't you see me smiling?


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Story Idea - Project Hope

Hook: A deadly new disease has come over. People are just giving up on their lives.

Story: Doctors cannot make out what is wrong with a small group of people. They are infected with total hopelessness. They have stopped working, stopped bothering, stopped existing almost - they are too gone even to commit suicide. Though it was observed to have originated in a small area, it was spreading rapidly.

The disease is not taken seriously in the beginning. But as businesses report loss of revenue, loss of production, the government wakes up. By now the disease is spreading like a raging fire. People have stopped coming out of doors, stopped buying things, stopped bothering about everything.

The governments of the world are in a tizzy. Who will they govern if no one wants to be governed? They need to get this dreadful disease out and get hope back in. Else they are all out of business.

How does one infuse hope back into life? A team of doctors and scientists and philosophers and learned men get together. They need an antidote to counter this hopelessness. Hope.  How does one get people to hope/ So evolves a grand plan to get people back on the track of hoping.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Anthaku Mundu, Aa Tharavatha - Movie Review

I find Mohana Krishna's works interesting. He is a thinking man and takes pride in his work and craft. He wants to tell a story and stick by it - not merely pander to 'popular' tastes. So when his new movie 'Antaku Mumnu, Aa Tharatha' hit the screens, I pencilled it down in the schedule.

I finally got to see it at Cinemax, Inorbit. Unfortunately Shobhs and I got the  first row seats so it was not very comfortable viewing. Next time, no more acts of desperation. It was not easy on the neck nor the ear, the eye nor the back.

It was an interesting theme - worthy of Mohan - the doubts and fears of unmarried couples about the 'real' experience of being married. Will I still love him or her when we are not on best behavior? So the two youngsters, Anil (Sumanth Ashwin), an MBA from a village seeking a modern girl who is the exact opposite of his mother, and Ananya (Eesha), a city bred girl who writes creative cards and does such other creative things, plan on living together as man-wife to experiment and find out. Points for that itself - gutsy decision. Good for you. Both have some baggage that they carry from their families - she has a quarrelsome couple of parents and he has no respect for his mother who he thinks is a village bumpkin. Anyway they live together and find out that - you cannot really judge a movie by the trailer.

The youngsters did a really good job I thought and handled some intense scenes well. The movie works. To me the good parts were the idea itself, Srinivasa Avasarala (is a class apart), the debutants themselves did a confident job, the many issues that were discussed and the one hugely dramatic scene in the end with the boy's mother. Made me realise that sometimes, however cliched, however needless, cinema is about drama, about getting under the skin of the audience and making them feel. So you have wet eyes even when you know you are being set up. But she was good all through, Rohini.

But the fact that relationships between youngsters has been explored differently, more honestly and certain perspectives shown, is well taken and appreciated. I could have easily done without the kid's angle which would have made the film easier. (Or was it the first seat that got to me?) Srinivas Avasarala was brilliant in his role - this boy is one to watch out for - and I saw Sagar in a scene, just as I saw his paintings adorning the house. Srini should have had a bigger role really to lighten up the mood.

The show was full on Ganesh Chaturthi day and the audience was certainly enjoying it. It's a story that poses certain uncomfortable questions, not just about love between the unmarried couple but about love between the married ones as well.

Certainly worth a watch and despite my nitpickings which I must say are purely technical, definitely way above the hundreds of dumb, crass, brainless flicks that get released in Telugu. In fact it could well make youngsters explore their more mature and intelligent sides - signs of which I am desperate to see.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thought For The Day - Unlock The Magic

It struck me today that in every moment there lies a delicious opportunity. An opportunity to unlock magic in that moment. All we need is to be aware, to seek, to look for that magic in the moment and bring in the glitter, the twinkle, the star dust into otherwise humdrum lives.
A rather puzzled Mr. Guava (one of those inspirations)

It is one of the most powerful thoughts I have ever been seized by in a long time. One of those things you can't wait to live. Why is this powerful? For one, this thought is creative because it urges to look for ways to unlock a hidden magic in the situation. It is proactive because you are looking to act first, not react - and even if you do react you are still looking to create magic, the highest potential of the situation. Third, it is made of all things nice and fun, because one can only think of creating magic with a kind, fun and love filled heart. It certainly makes me look forward to each moment with a new enthusiasm. What can I do with this moment? How can I unlock the magic that exists within it? See what happened to the peels of Mr. Guava - instead of adorning the trash basket he did come good with some magic in his dying moments - with the tiniest of his leftover peels.
Brilliant sunlight

It could be a thought, a word, a smile, a touch - anything that can slide between the folds of a seemingly ordinary moment and unlock all the magic that it has been holding within it. All the potential within it. Isn't it lovely? It's got me in a total tizzy. And I never felt so good about my own power before. I think this is what true creative living is about. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Macaulay , Pioneer of Indian Modernization- Zareer Masani

After the history books in school where one became acquainted with British officials Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, William Bentinck, Thomas Macaulay - I revisited that part of my history again thanks to Harsha who insisted that I read about Macaulay. Zareer Masani's book recreates the person that Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) was and the impact he made (if I am writing this blog in English and if you're an Indian reading it in English, we have Macaulay to thank for as the blurb on the book goes - he was the champion of making English the medium of instruction and introducing western education in schools in India). Macaulay learned languages at a rapid pace, memorised many details, read a lot, wrote abundantly, spoke voluminously, convincingly, had a vision and worked as hard as any to rise from a common and humble background to the higher echelons of British society. He served as Secretary at War and as Paymaster General. In later years he was a regular on the list of the Queen's parties.
Vintage Books, 269 p, Rs. 450

Macaulay apparently showed signs of his extraordinary talent in his childhood - and Masani begins his story being known as Clever Tom. He must have done more than the average clever things but one thing he could do well was write very convincingly. He wrote much to his sisters, of whom Hannah and Margaret, were very close to him and from their letters Masani recreates the man from his private writings. A bachelor all his life, Macaulay spent much time in the company of his sisters, even forcing Hannah to accompany him to india where she met her husband Trevelyan. A sharp mind, a powerful speaker, a clear thinker and a belligerent attitude made Macaulay scale the highs of officialdom without any special connections with the higher classes. His Indian trip earned him much money and he was finally a rich man from his travels, his posts in the Government, his own prudence with money and to top it all, royalties and advances from publishers for his writings - a collection of poems and his magnum opus, 'History', which apparently sold next only to the Bible those days, selling upwards of 100, 000 copies! Staggering stuff.

Anyway Macaulay had some fine arguments about educating the locals in India as he felt that the British should not fear loss of control over the locals - it is better to educate them, he argued. And from that line of thought emerged the Minute which proposed English as a medium of instruction and which reduced the barriers between not just Indians themselves, but Indians and the British and now the world. It is interesting to see India through the eyes of the British official - his trip to Ooty from Chennai taking some months as he had to be carried over in a palanquin. His exposure to the double standards and hypocricy of the babus, his dislike of Indian food and fruit, even culture, and funnily his quick adjustment to the Indian weather and food - he fell ill only once, a mild fever that lasted a few hours.

Macaulay was an intelligent man and craved for intelligent company and conversations and certainly did not suffer fools. Among the people he really loved were his two sisters, of whom Margaret died pretty early when he was in India, and Hannah who was his companion for most of his life. There seems to be no love interest in his life. A lonely life otherwise, one that he filled with work, books, writing and conversations, Macaulay made some hefty contributions especially in India. He played a big role in introduction of English and western concepts in Indian education, replacement of Persian by English as official language and trained English speaking Indians as teachers. His Minute on Indian Education in February 1935 is a famous document which is still discussed and researched. His contribution to the Penal Code as Member of the Law Commission was also significant. Much of his Penal Code is followed in British colonies till date.

For someone so well read, well spoken and intelligent Macaulay was considered uncouth by the high society in London. He did not care much for them either, preferring to dine quietly with his friends and family. But good to see things from the other point of view. What amazes me is the ease with which all these foreign powers came, mingled, settled down and then ruled. Bribe a few, fight a few, and they were in. And started controlling kingdoms, cultures. Fascinating people. I found many names that are now used for places - Auckland, Lansdowne were two of them.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Ideal PM

It was interesting to see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's endorsement of Rahul Gandhi as the ideal PM after 2014. I am not aware if Mr. Singh  elucidated any special qualities that Rahul Gandi possesses which make him the ideal PM of the largest democracy in the world. For someone in such a responsible post to endorse someone so strongly, specially someone as erudite as the present PM, it takes a lot. It is the kind of a statement that forces us to think about two things - whether there are some unknown factors about Mr. Rahul Gandhi's leadership skills of which Mr. Singh is so effusive and, Mr. Singh's judgment itself in putting forth his endorsement. I have not seen any case yet for Mr. Rahul Gandhi to claim leadership position yet, specially of our nation. Anyway, that can be debated, and I'd rather not judge him fully. Perhaps Mr. Singh has seen some spark in the past few years.

I am more concerned about the ideal PM we need to have. It is an important job I suppose and one that must not be given away frivolously. It is picking the leader of one billion and more people, one who can hold their lives, their futures, their hopes and aspirations and give them wings. A leader who belongs to all of us, who represents all of us and who understands all of us. The leader we can all respect, we can trust and someone who has, by his words and deeds, already earned it. Here is a list of attributes I will look for.

1) Vision: I need a leader with a clear and uncluttered vision that will drive us towards self-sustenance, prosperity, equality, balanced growth. Someone who does not weaken the structure by giving away freebies for votes thereby making people lazier and greedier but who makes it stronger by rewarding a good, honest work ethic, - by gradually convincing the nation that there is indeed no substitute for hard, efficient work. A vision that can leverage our strengths with opportunities . Chandrababu Naidu, ten years ago had this vision and the energy, but now I find no one who seems to have a vision for the country as a whole. If they have, I have not heard it yet.

2) Knowledge: I need a leader who has a genuine knowledge of our problems, our histories, our hopes and our complex cultures. India is not an easy nation to lead primarily because we are a fragmented bunch of people who came together as one, each with our own cultures and histories. Without an understanding of the people and our past, all future plans will be mere essays and good rhetoric because they come out of a brittle foundation. This understanding would require at least twenty or thirty years in knowing, studying, meeting and dealing with people and their problems across India. I am sure there are some worthies out there in the parliament but they are subjugated, by their own volition, being happy to be the supporting cast that I am not sure they have the spine to be a leader any more. This knowledge again must be on public display through papers, speeches.

3) Commitment: I need someone who is committed to the good of the nation, of the people, and will fight for that, even at the cost of power. We need the kind of commitment that will risk all, that may make enemies. The moment you compromise once, your commitment is shot. Someone who has shown a record of having stood up for the people's good in their public career, more than once and has remained committed until that cause has been brought in as a law. Anna Hazare, Naveen Jindal did that, the people behind the RTI did that.

4) Integrity: I need a leader who responds first to a crisis, who has his first principles clear, and who acts on those first principles. Long term or short term, the right thing is always the right thing and the wrong thing is the wrong thing, and one must have the integrity to stick by these principles. It's not about strong allies or weak ones - its about right and wrong. A leader who can stand up and say that the US, Britain, France or any other super power is wrong if it is treading down that path and not servilely toe along. I need them to show spine, pride and not fear saying and doing the right thing. A life is a life, whether it is in some unknown land in West Asia or in a developed nation. Again, a record of having stood up for what one believes in. A consistent record of having stood up for the right thing irrespective of alliances.

5) Technology friendly: I need someone who understands and who can leverage technology to break down our traditional barriers, to simplify, to make more transparent, to make more equal. Right now all administrative processes are still too complicated and they will remain so until someone has the will and understanding to use technology and make the system transparent. Using technology to educate, to simplify is something the leader must understand - it is the new power structure. Outsource the answer to the red tape - we are the outsourcing capital of the world. You may lose some power, but you will make the nation more efficient. Someone who has a vision here, a record of having used or propounded the use of technology in administration, in any of the big issues we are facing - security, education, health, governance. We had that wonderful eSeva in Andhra Pradesh which suddenly made the government appear as a single entity, not some multiple, hydra headed monster.

6) Administrative experience: I need someone who has a record of being a good administrator, of having brought in developmental ideas and implemented them well in the past. I need someone who will promise good governance, who can get the administrative body functioning and well. This needs to be backed by a record of the same, of one game changing policy statement, or experience in the past, that has made a difference. Even a head of industry who has built a corporation that ennobles these values, one which has made a significant difference, can present himself. A Narayana Murthy, a Ratan Tata are certainly people who have the experience. Any more names here?

7) People-centric approach: I need someone who is genuinely people-centric in approach. One who feels for the most marginalised of the people and takes care to see that they are not disturbed or left out or trod over. One who feels for every farmer, every woman, every child, every small businessman. The leader must not be partisan, must rise above caste, communal, regional biases, even people and party biases. One who can rise above dividing people on demographics and targeting his vote base on such divisions. Someone who can unite with his ideas and not divide, who convinces us that in our unity lies our prosperity. The leader must feel for his people and if he cannot, he is not fit to lead. Again, we would like leaders who have shown this quality in their work, who have drawn people of all backgrounds because he understands them and their problems.

8) Communication skills: I need a leader who can communicate and strongly, verbally and non verbally, who is visible and active, who has clear views on the direction and strategy. A leader who cannot communicate is leaving his people in the dark. That said we do not need leaders who always put their foot in their mouths. Someone who can express himself, his vision, his convictions, his maturity, his capability - through his communication. On who is constantly assuring us of the path he is leading us on - not making boring statements and repeating the obvious. Not merely telling us stories well, but impressing us with content, of new thought. Visual demonstration through public debates on television is a must.

9) Healthy and vibrant public image: I need a leader who is healthy and vibrant, someone who has a positive bent of mind which reflects in his disposition, his countenance, his every act. Someone who feel we can trust to handle a crisis. Someone who makes us feel strong by reflection, makes us energised, happy. It is the public image that we carry and if that can keep us happy, positive and energised, the leader has again done a lot. Again, where are these heavies who like a Lord Krishna, smile in adversity, stand tall and confident, who makes us feel that he/she can handle whatever situation comes up in the most mature, sensible manner. It is clear that this person must already be a recognised name for these qualities by now if he/she has to be the face of India in 2014. I cannot think of anyone who fits this bill as of now.

10) Strong: I certainly need a leader who is strong. Who has strong ideas and who has the strength of conviction to carry them forward - alone if need be. This would mean that he is proactive and not merely reactive as most leaders have become. Someone who acts on his own, and not at someone else's behest. If he has to listen to someone, he should listen to the people closely and guide them in the right path. I see strength in Narendra Modi but can he carry the others with him yet? Does he have the maturity and roundedness, the patience and wisdom that one needs at the top position? He has many good qualities that one looks for in a leader but I will give him another five years in which to make his case stronger.

I look at the national scene and I find almost no one out there who can fit the bill really. We are woefully short of leaders. What we have is a bunch of sycophants, followers, narrow minded bigots. Some leaders that come to mind who come close are Nitish Kumar, Prithviraj Chavan, Raman Singh, Narendra Modi - but each one of these worthies also appear that they need some more time - some are reluctant. The other leaders we see on television are nowhere near a state-of-readiness. The younger lot is too young, too brash and too inexperienced. They are not able to break out of their party, regional or family bondage yet.

But despite the lack of a talent pool we must be careful not to have dummy leaders thrust on us, because they will never be able to do anything of their own. Time to think of who we wish to entrust our futures to. Time to think of how we can make our political parties think about who and how they wish to entrust their leadership to. I do wish that a short list is made of 10-12 names across the nation, and each be analysed publicly in our ever so willing media, so we can choose our leader better. These leaders must be nurtured.

I cannot think of many names. Can you? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Story idea - The Hypocrites

The Hook:
It is about a land filled with Hypocrites. They say one thing, do one thing. A new bunch of people who come to that land by mistake find out why this abundant land is stuck where it is. But can they get away?

Pic courtesy: Prarthana Nargundkar
The Story:
A group of adventurers chance upon a land of plenty. Everything about this land is perfect. The people make all the right noises and they all seem perfectly sane too. The new bunch cannot figure out what is wrong with this new land. Why can it not move forward? Why is there so much unhappiness, strife there? Soon they realise the problem - the place is filled with hypocrites who say one thing and do one thing. Everything they see is an illusion - there is another story behind it.

Can they find a way out for themselves from the land of Hypocrites? Can they find the formula to get out of the land? Is there hope for the love that they found there?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Beggars Mafia

It's aggressive. It's in the face. But  what makes it most distressing is the fact that you know that its an organised racket.

The Sanjeeva Reddy Nagar junction is a big junction these days. It has grown bigger over the years and one can see a large number of vehicles restraining themselves on all four sides, pedestrians trying to sneak off to the other side, with not an inch available for the good old push carts. These days you cannot even stand edge ways on that road.

In the old days there used to be a couple of old men and women beggars, I remember a polite old Muslim, who would beg in an orderly fashion and move on. But now it appears to have been upgraded in the records of whoever controls the beggar mafia. It is obvious from the kinds and the number of beggars that abound the junction.

There are two couples now a days. Two young women, carrying two young men, clothed in no more than a loin cloth (the guys), each without one leg, one without a hand as well. The men are perched on the backs of the young women, who are attractive as well, and they walk around among the vehicles. When the light turns green, they drop their baggage and the men hobble off to the pavement.

Then we have a group of young mothers who carry their children and beg around. Again, non locals, from the look of them. The children look dazed and are generally sleeping. Most children have bandages on their arms, legs and other parts. The mothers again are well chosen - they are not ugly.

On the pavement, one year olds are playing, precariously close to the streaming rush of heavy vehicles that zoom about. One slip, one stumble and they are pulp. One young mother somehow saw me looking at them. She came and started knocking on the window. So hard that if she kept it up for any longer it might have broken I felt. All the time looking at me with fiery eyes, spouting some unheard invectives. probably did not like the look in my eyes.

The maimed, the unfortunate, the injured - they are showcased in the worst possible manner that degrades that bit of life. Feel for this and pay your guilt money - that's the offer. One day I was going on the bike and Anjali looked on in amazement at the maimed beggars. Yes, that's life. But it's not as simple as that. How come these specialised cases have come here? Why is there a pattern? Where are those old men and women? As the beggar couple passes an SUV, they knock on the window. The glass rolls down and a crisp note passes into the young woman's hands. The cops watch, the public watches.

Who brings them all here? Who keeps the others away? Who brings the guy with no legs and hands and puts him  on the side of the road where he thrashes along all day? Who takes away all the money that they collect? Who maims them? What kind of people live off this existence? It's not a secret. It has been shown in movies, written about in books. And we look on and pay them for bringing this bit of life into our lives.

I watched the man with one arm and one leg drag himself  across the pavement into the mess that the Metro Rail chaps had made - using his right hand and his left leg to propel himself forward. No padding, obviously an effort. When he looked back at the traffic, one could see a crazy defiance in his eyes, or eye, he seemed to have only one good eye. Can't be more than thirty or thirty five this young man. I feel for him and wonder why god has made such an existence for this man. Then I remembered the beggar who lies on the road totally helpless - near Whisper Valley I think, who has no arms and legs and cannot even drag himself like this man. And then I see something interesting. A well built guy in the clothes of a priest comes into the scene, you know those guys who wear kurtas, beads etc. He is talking to this beggar and asking him to return to the pavement. Is he the one? He did look the part - or maybe I am mistaken.

One child gets a chocolate from a kind lady on a scooter. She is no more than three or four. Her face is radiant as she flashes her chocolate. The other kids watch indolently. The mothers are hardly bothered. It's a small bar of Cadbury. How come no one is even looking at that bar? You'd think they'd fight over it. The kid tires of showing off her bar after five minutes. But for five minutes her face was heaven.

On one hand we promise schools, food, dignity, right to life, safety. On another we watch mutely as if this was a drama being played for us, in the middle of one of the busiest junctions in Hyderabad.

I heard a story a couple of decades ago when we were in college. There was an old beggar woman who lived under the Kukatpally flyover. When she died they found that in her belongings she had close to one lakh - a huge amount of money those days. Back then people did not have so many needs so they probably did not kill her. But now I see, as the beggars go around picking cash off the vehicles, there must be many in the audience who must be calculating how much they'd make by the end of the day. It's my wager that the beggars would probably have more on them than most of the people on the road then. And from the apathetic look in their eyes when they knock on the windows, they probably know it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Story Idea - Love Affair With Luck

Hook:
Man who has been unlucky all his life decides to have a love affair with luck. Now all his living moments are spent wooing

Story:
Pitch in the regular guy full of bad luck stories. Take it to a limit where he breaks. But he wakes up on the other side - he feels that something he has always wanted, something that has rejected him all the time, this Lady Luck, must be wooed, if that's the last thing he does. Now how does one woo luck - that's what we need to figure out.

But interesting scope. In every situation now, our hero sees Lady Luck and her poor cousin Lady Unlucky. In every situation he chases and woos luck until he does find her.

Too abstract? I guess. Maybe we can put in a girl who represents all that luck means to him and there's a romantic angle there too.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Teachers Day - Teachers I Remember

On Teachers Day I remember with gratitude all the teachers who have taught me and made me. More so the teachers who left a lasting impression on me by their words and deeds, their intensity to teach and impart knowledge by being themselves.

1) L.T. Ramasarma: My first teacher at Eluru, when I was all of five. He would come home in his dignified yet friendly manner, well dressed, clear about all he wanted to teach, strict when he needed to be. Perhaps my early grounding was based on watching him - the epitome of a principled teacher, most concerned with imparting the right knowledge to his wards. 'Sir' as he was known was a headmaster at a government school, rode a cycle, and remained a close family friend for over three decades. Much gratitude is owed to him for all that he taught me with such patience and love. I lost touch with him after he moved away from Eluru.

2) Sister Mercy: The one who epitomised kindness, Sister Mercy taught me at St. Joseph's, Nellore or Fatima High School, Kazipet I fail to recollect. But what I do recall is her warm nature, her perpetual smile and her kindness. On the last day of school at the completion of the year, the sentimental sister gave us all lovely little stickers, glittering with gold and silver, of little angels and fairies. It was such an unexpected gift that we were all floored. We were so sad to leave the smiling sister's class. And she did have tears in her eyes that day. I do not know where she is, but wherever she is, she will always make people happy.

3) Bro. K.M. Joseph: The Cricket brother of All Saints, mentor of many great cricketers including Mohd. Azharuddin, Bro. K.M. Joseph never taught me when I was in school. But these days I seek him out when he is in town and we talk about this and that. I learn from him how the mind of a teacher works. One who has taught me much by just being himself, Bro. Joseph shares openly his methods in teaching children. Never punish when you are angry, Tell children that the action was bad, not them, Give them space to grow up by themselves, Show them right values by living them yourselves - and so many more wonderful little lessons that he shared with me. Thank you Brother Joseph. He gave me a testimonial for my first book, attended the launch and even watched the movie Golconda High School with us. We had a fun outing then. I met him last week, the day he was leaving for Rome, where he is stationed now.

4) Bro. Vincent: The strict disciplinarian Bro. Vincent was my Principal at Warangal and then at All Saints Hyderabad. I best remember him for being kind and strict too, but mostly for calling us, the All Saints Cricket team and urging us to beat the HPS Begumpet, team - a near impossibility. He promised us a treat if we won. We did. We asked to see a movie, a dinner and he readily funded that. "Jaws" at Maheshwari followed by dinner at Mohini's, with a double round of ice cream. Bro. Vincent became bitter in his later years, and sick. I met him in Boys Town in the late 80s while playing a match. He died shortly after.


5) Dikshit: The loud mouthed Physical Director at All Saints brooked no nonsense from anyone. He was the man who picked me in the cricket selections in the tenth and pushed me along as I represented the school, state and South zone. The lovable old man did much more than he revealed for us behind the scenes. Inside that loud demeanour he had a kind heart.

6) M.R. Baig: My first cricket coach and one of the greatest teachers ever for sheer commitment and knowledge. With the slightest effort and correction, he set right the biggest of issues, tells you only as much as you need to know. He is kind, he is strict. He is stuff that books can be written on. Sadly for all his commitment and love of the game, he is shunned into oblivion, his great knowledge, left to the winds. Cricketers from out of Hyderabad seek him out, this BCCI Coach who is well renowned all over.

7) M. K. Joseph: Tall and kindly, one with a good humour, Bro. ML. Joseph taught us in Warangal. I have no specific incident to relate of him except that he would let us play table tennis with him after school and was a good sport. I have no idea where he is.

8) Sastry sir: The stylish English teacher who taught us how to pronounce 'tortoise' the right way, and so many other things, a great dramatist and stylist, and one who held the class in absolute silence. Mr. Sastry was the first to find a spark in my writing skills - upon seeing me write an essay in English in the tenth he called me over and told me in his inimitable style - "You have talent you know. You could make a career as a writer." I was flummoxed to be in his presence, mumbled something and ran away. Sastry sir is no more. he would have liked the idea that his student wrote a novel or two.

9) Mrs. Luthra: The beautiful and kindly Mrs. Luthra taught us Hindi and was even class teacher for us  one year. One day she punished me unjustly - I protested. The next day she realised her mistake, called me to the staff room, apologised and gave me a small gift - a book of 100 sayings by Dada Vaswani. She was kind, taught me the value of accepting one's mistake, and gave me a gift I really cherished. Lost touch with her.

10) Joshua: Our English sir at St. Alphonso's, stylish and lively, he made the classes come alive. He also bought style to our lives. I remember him roundly flogging me for using the word 'facade' in an essay - insisting that I used it wrongly. I contested and he flogged me even more. I backed off. But years later when I met him, he still remembered me much to my surprise and was rather emotional too. He is someone one can never forget.


11) Jagannath Mishra: One from the North and a puritan as far as Hindi goes, he was a wonderful teacher. Full of anecdotes and some cheesy jokes, Mishra ji, our Hindi teacher at St. Alphonso's Junior College, revealed a soft side to him by crying uncontrollably like a baby on the last day of our class leaving us all in shock. We never thought he cared for us that much.

11) M.L. Jaisimha: Though he was never my coach or teacher, the very fact that I shared time with him on the field was a huge education for me. One was the manner in which one can conduct oneself, the way one can be at ease with life and people, to have that perfect balance that few of the assured are blessed with, he shared his amazing knowledge on cricket among many other things in such a simple and effective manner - a quiet word, a joke and that was it. Perhaps one of the biggest influences on me and many more of our times. I learnt not just a subject from him, I learned about life. Jai Uncle is no more and I really miss his wisdom now when I have so many questions to ask.

12) Sampath: For sheer commitment none could beat Sampath, the coach for the Hyderabad team for many years. I got along well with him. When I got dropped he came all the way to Osmania University and sought me out. 'Give me one year of your time and I will see you will play Test cricket,' he said. I have no doubt he would have - Sampath knew what he was talking about. He was a tough taskmaster. I did not have the sense or maturity to accept. But I am eternally grateful to him for showing me how teachers can go to that lengths for their wards. No one has ever done that for me. Sampath died soon after in an untimely accident.

13) Prof Shamraj: The big hearted, sporty Professor of Mechanical Engineering Prof Shamraj knew his sports as well as human nature. He helped me in every way as I struggled to balance cricket and engineering, as he helped every other sportsman he came across. One that I have great regard for, Professor Shamraj played tennis and cricket equally well. He'd share a smoke with the boys, a joke, put an arm around the shoulder and was immensely popular. I sought him out and gave him my book in Muffakamjah a few years ago. When I met him last he congratulated me on becoming the Chairman of Selectors and assured me that I was doing a good job. Eternally grateful to him as well.

14) Venkat Reddy: More of a friend than our teacher, the young and ever smiling Physical Director was a big hit with us. He was really affectionate, fun loving and helpful and we have many wonderful stories about him. Generous to a fault he offered me every help including giving me expensive kits when I played for the state.

15) B. Trivikrama: Again, stylish and dramatic, clear in his concepts and sweeping in gesture, BTV as he was known to us made a big impression and impact with his teaching style and methods. The three day pre-placement training at NAARM where he along with Balaji and Hanumantha Rao taught us several wonderful concepts through personality development games was brilliant. Much learning. BTV left the campus for a corporate assignment and then, to the USA.


Many other gurus of course. Many more to thank. Thanks all. And another time, the bad teachers should be listed too.

Anjali - We Don't Know What Will Happen In the Future

I guess I got what I was asking for. In one quiet moment between a game of cricket with the young lady I asked her - "Anjali, when you grow up, will you fight with me?" I would not be telling the truth if I said I did not expect her to say that she would not fight and that she would love me forever and all that.


But she took a rather simplistic view of the whole thing. "We don't know what will happen in the future na?' she said very practically. "We only know what happened in the past. So I cannot say if I will fight with you or not. I may or I may not. So what is there. Okay let us play."

Thank you Anjali my dear. That does make immense sense. Live the present. And shut up.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In Bruges - Movie Review

Fantastic stuff. I loved it. There's not a moment when you feel you know what's going to happen and its the weirdest plot, the most original of characters and motives. And its dark comedy which I love. Super stuff.

Two hit men are sent to Bruges (where's that?) in Belgium, by their boss. One older, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), and Ray (Colin Farell), a new recruit who has just botched his first attempt at murder, killing  a little boy by accident. He is completely remorseful and has turned suicidal. The older man consoles him and comforts him but not for too long - the boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) wants Ray dead. It's a matter of principle you see - cannot kill small children. But the younger hit man had found some love in Bruges (a town he finds unbelievably boring) a drug dealer with a psycho boyfriend. She is peddling stuff to a movie being shot in Bruges - to an American midget.

Ken goes to kill Ray, finds him committing suicide, and stops him. He sends him off, confesses to Harry that he has flouted the orders and is willing to die. Harry comes to Bruges to find and kill Ken and ends up in the end killing the midget who he thinks is a little boy too. Will he kill himself on principle?

Brilliant, brilliant stuff and wonderful screenplay. The way he introduces the two hit men, their back stories, their inner feelings, the principles of their boss and the irony of the entire thing is fabulous. Must watch.

Thought For The Day - Slow Down But Don't Stop

"Slow down but don't stop", is one of my favorite lines from 'The Men Within'. And I experienced the full meaning of that recently. Aren't we learning all the time?

Recently I set myself a one hour walk-jog routine for 21 days. Typically one of my main excuses to skip the walk (and thereby muck up the whole program) is the time constraint on days when you hit the park late. "I can't do the entire one hour if I go now. Let me go in the evening," is one of my favorite excuses. It never happens of course.

So this time I set a new rule. Whatever happens I go to the park. Even if it is for 5 minutes.

The day came. 5th day. Very little time. But I stuck to the new (and empowering rule). Went for 5 minutes - or that's what I thought. You never stop at 5 do you? Once I went there I saw that I really had fifteen or even 22 minutes if I squeeze in every moment - chuck the newspaper time, the chai time, the breakfast - and I could get myself another twenty minutes. And I did fit in as much as I could in that time.

Fact of the matter is - once you go there, you will find ways to make it happen. The mind needs to be sold the idea exactly as we sell these ideas to little children. The key then is to slow down, but not to stop.

I think I can do anything now - for 5 minutes at least!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Story Idea - Egoistic Lovers

Hook:
Two super egoistic lovers and the lengths to which they go to boost their ego after a petty fight.

It's about two people who go to great lengths to prove they are in love and finally find out that they are not. They are in love with themselves!

Story:
The story dives headlong into the romance and makes it sizzle. Its the ideal romance, and the two lovers are so pleased with themselves. But all through this romance there are indications that give away their real selves - Mr. and Ms. Egoistic. And then over a seemingly small issue they take off on their egoistic journeys, going to great lengths to boost their egos - each wants to prove to the other that he /she is capable of great sacrifice and in the end they find, after losing everything, that the only person they loved was themselves. The treatment most certainly has to be funny - the type where telling the truth is the funniest type.

Need to push the envelope of course and show them both for being what they are - hollow. I remember the 'War of Roses' but that's about married people. This is a cliched theme too but the only thing that is probably different is that the entire story dwells on their egos.

The Best of Maupassant - Book Review

Another one that I got from Indialog's nice collection of classics. "The Best of Maupassant" has 37 short stories of the most delightful kind, each with a gentle twist at the end that stays with you. Guy de Maupassant, born in 1950, died young,  at 42. Having served in the army in the Franco-Prussian war, he has a few stories set in the war time. His body of work includes 300 stories, six novels, three travel books and one volume of verse, according to back cover. He was rich but led a tortured life apparently and even tried to commit suicide and finally died of syphilis.
Indialog Publications, 270 p, Rs. 145 

The first thing that struck me was his style of writing which has a nice, soothing lilt to it. He also dwells deeper into the man-woman relationships, something that O. Henry did not, and with a softer and nicer approach too. Be it the unwed mother who was cheated by her boyfriend, the suffering husband in the Jewel, the object of affections of the pig of Morin, women are a central theme and so is man's attractions to her. Maupassant is equally understanding of human nature, man and woman alike. The story of the army lads who find a hidden reserve to make it back home because they find the company of a young girl is nicely told, just as those poor souls who invite women to the party and are horribly disappointed at what the priest gets along. The son who negotiates on his mother's death, the solitude of snow and the tricks the mind plays on one who is alone, the paradox of having a wife of easy virtue who actually keeps the husband happy and the home fires burning as opposed to the wife who is virtuous and makes the husband's life hell are brilliant stories with characters that somehow stay on like ghosts. His stories are very visual too for someone who uses few words.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the stories. Inspired now to write some short stories based on my story ideas. 

Thought for the Day - Match Ability With Belief

If you have ability, but no belief, you will under perform. You will be seen as talented but not good enough for the big league. A loser.

If you have no ability but have belief, you are better off than the first lot. You will use your limited ability to its maximum and do better than you are expected to. You will rise above your weight. You will be successful.

But if you have ability, backed by equal or more belief, you will soar. You will be a champion.
(Assuming that hard work is constant.)

Anjali - Art of Gratitude

Once again a knock on the head. Ever since my barber for the last three decades passed away last year, I have been on the quest to find a suitable and convenient replacement. Not having found one who fit my exacting requirements (i.e. my old barber), I have been complaining, cribbing since then. The saloon near my home does a fair job but unfortunately they get the most of my cribbing.


But I went there again last week and got my hair cut. On my return I showed the new development to Anjali and asked her how she liked it. She is never one not to like anything (except vegetables) so she enthusiastically said "It's very nice nanna. It's looking good." I nodded, skeptically.

Sensing the despondent mood and my persistent unhappiness perhaps, she shot off the next question. "Did you thank the barber?" That got me started. Frankly, that was the last thing on my mind. Though he had done a good job, I must admit grudgingly, I was still caught up in my drama of not finding the right barber.

She was not done.
"You could not have got your hair cut without him na? You should thank him," came the whack on the head.

How many times do we ignore these things in our lives? Taking the small things for granted and not expressing our gratitude for that. I silently sent my thanks to the barber who had done a good job. And a not-so-silent thanks to Anjali who was already busy doing something else.