Monday, March 28, 2016

Prisoners - Movie Review

Twists and turns galore. The perfect movie if you want to stay awake and hope that the movie will have enough going to keep you going second by second. So we have an abduction of two eight year old girls from outside their house in the very beginning and two distraught families not knowing what to do to save their girls. There is only one clue - an RV van.

The RV man turns out to be a man with an IQ of a ten year old and is let off. Now there are no further clues. As days go by one of the fathers decides to take control of the situation and kidnaps the RV man to get the truth out of him. But he does not seem to know anything.

After that the movie goes through so many twists and turns that its impossible to narrate it all here. Edge of the seat stuff. Are the girls alive? Or dead? Has the father gone too far over the line?

If you're looking for some crime, suspense, action and drama thriller here it is. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal with Viola Davis. It was nominated for the best cinematography award at the Oscars. Good one. It's the kind of a movie you'd watch in Sangeet (of the old times) for a late night show and stop at some road side joint for an ice cream.

T20 World Cup - India vs Australia

I pegged the odds at 55-45 in favor of Australia when the game started. India's batting is suspect save Kohi and Dhoni in pressure games. Australia's bowling is suspect because it does not have any classy match winning bowlers. It had to be one of those days when someone had to pull something big off to create a difference. I reckoned that Steve Smith for Australia and Kohli for India would be the guys to watch for.

The way the Aussies started was electric. Usman Khwaja was superb in the second over and so was Finch in demolishing Ashwin's first over. The powerplay ended with 60 on board in 6 overs. And then the Indian slow bowlers pulled it back with Yuvraj leading the pack. What looked like a total of 200 ended at 160. Still a good score.

But with India at 60 for 3 in 10 overs, things looked more than difficult. The usual suspects Dhawan, Rohit, Raina were back in the pavilion and let the entire responsibility fall on Kohli once again. Yuvraj did not help with his hobbling running but he did what he could. All through the innings Kohli held himself back, effectively playing himself in and letting the situation develop. At 25 balls to go and 50 runs to get, it was 12 runs an over. Kohli and MSD at the crease - India's best pair for such a situation. They can hit, they can run, they can outlast, they can mostly outthink.

You cannot write off any game when these two champion players are at the wicket. Kohli and MSD started putting the pressure on by playing safely, but converting singles into twos with some unbelievable running. It's such hard work to run three twos at full sprint in an over. But like Kohli said in his post match interview - this is how he prepares. For the toughest times. Even when there is no gas in the body left, he wants to run as if he is on 0. It takes something to prepare like that. All that we see on stage is the result of his immense preparation, great sacrifice and lots of focussed hard work. Both of them ran as if their lives depended on it, hit the odd boundary, played out Watson's fine last over and waited for the momentum to shift. For the loose ball, for the opening really.

Faulkner began the 17th over with a slow delivery, back of the hand, pitched half way across the wicket. A loose delivery for a first ball if ever there was one. Too easy for someone like Kohli who was looking desperately for something like that. He put it away and geared himself up. This was the opening he had created after all this while. The next ball, pitched up, was good, but Kohli placed it perfectly behind point for the second boundary. And to drive the advantage home he stepped out, saw that the ball was not there in his reach, but still went on to hit the ball high over long off. 19 runs in that over. The next over by Couter Nile went for 16. By now we knew that once again, Kohli, with his exceptional appetite for challenges, for greatness, had once again, against all odds pulled off a crucial game for India when it mattered. MSD coolly whacked the last boundary with five balls to spare and they walked off. The two players who deserved all the praise for India to qualify for the semis were at the crease.

No praise can be too high for this knock of Kohli's. He may not be the most attractive batsman to watch, but the way he times the ball, the positions he gets into and places the ball is something that none can match. He's the most dangerous batsman on the planet right now in pressure situations. That places him way above all else.

Like MSD said in his post match talk - the others need to start looking at playing supportive roles more effectively. They need to improve. The bowling was tested today with Ashwin getting carted all over and so did Bumrah. It's time everyone started focussing on performing their roles better and contributing thereby lessening the load on these two.

The West Indies game should be 65-35 in India's favor. Barring some crazy knock or a performance that's spectacular, I somehow think that India would be tactically superior and that in itself should get it through. But it will be a good match - WI has some exciting players and if they can get their act together, it will be interesting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Movie Review

A most unusual movie and hence must be watched just for its originality. Of course, it's entertaining as well with interesting characters, wealth, women, intrigue, a murderer, a legacy and even war. Not to mention an ensemble cast that includes Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Brody, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Daffoe and others in delightful roles.

Jude Law is a writer who land in the Grand Budapest Hotel - an ancient hotel which is slowly losing its patronage. Its old and times are tough but its owner will not sell it. Nor will he stay in any other room except a small one used by lobby boys in the past. In a conversation with the writer, Zero Moustafa the owner, relates the story of how he became the owner of Grand Budapest. He was a lobby boy at the hotel when he met the incredible man, concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), who makes old women (and everyone else) feel special, even carries on discreet affairs with them and sometimes ends up getting some part of their legacy. One such lands him in trouble because he is willed an expensive painting which the family does not want to part with. The son of the dowager sends a murderous accomplice out to recover the painting and finish off Gustave and his loyal accomplice Zero. Gustave survives everything in the only way he does - with style and finesse. In the end Gustave dies fighting for his principles and Zero gets his legacy.

Its not as much the story as the way its been told that makes Grand Budapest so different. Enjoyable.  

T20 World Cup 2016 - India versus Bangladesh

It looked like both teams were trying hard to lose. Starting with India's tentative attempt to pile up a competitive total which failed (whatever we put up, 146, was again marshalled by Dhoni in the end) and ending with an unbelievable hara kiri by Bangladesh in the last three balls, both sides did everything possible to lose. Bangladesh seemed to have made less mistakes - until the last three deliveries when they just lost it. It's the kind of a match that will haunt them as much as Chetan Sharma's last ball haunted India for years and asked questions of whether we have the capacity to win at all. The two batsmen Rahim and Mahmudulla will carry memories of their temporary madness to the end of their lives and will surely wake up at nights wishing they had just done things differently, just held back. One feels for them but like Dhoni said, all finishers go through those phases and its learning. 

One man stood out head and shoulders above all. MSD. In his sheer power of consciousness he is unmatched. He sees things with such clarity, is always two steps ahead and thinking of ways to control outcomes when it is easiest to give up. It's unbelievable calmness under duress. So some of the most creative acts also came from Dhoni in this game. Be it finishing off all his prime bowlers and giving the crucial last over to a nervous Pandya who did a good job, an incredible stumping that should surely go down as one of the most aware pieces of work when he acted in a split second at the right moment, placing Raina and pressurising a dangerous Shakib to give a slip catch off Ashwin, impeccable field placements  that resulted in catches taken and boundaries being saved. The cherry on top was the way he ran out the last man - getting Pandya to bowl in the corridor and have the batsman miss playing the delivery, gathering the ball with one glove off and sprinting to the wicket, just beating the batsman in the sprint. It was clear that the batsman was reacting to MSD and Dhoni kind of led him on hypnotically - the batsman did not dive - mainly because I think he was reacting to MSS. Dhoni did not dive too. Highly unusual but so it is. 

The Bangladesh chase seemed to have many things in its favor. Bumrah's nervous flounder at fine leg to concede a boundary, then a dropped sitter by him again, then dropped catches from Ashwin and even Dhoni. You kind of felt that the Bangladeshi earned themselves a win since they did more things right than wrong. And then you realise that you can get 117 balls right but if you mess up on the crucial 3 deliveries you could take back a horrible feeling home. They did not speak to one another at the wicket surely, did not discuss the plan and merely succumbed to pressure. MSD meanwhile held long conversations and discussions and finally walked off victorious. I loved the way Jadeja held on to a difficult catch off Mahmudulla, preferring to latch on to the ball hard and take a hard fall and roll along uncontrollably, than relinquish his secure hold of the ball lest it slip out, on his hard fall. Or the way Virat Kohli moved into cover position from sweeper cover when the batsmen changed. Ashwin's fantastic over to the lefties Shakib and Soumya (who pulled off another incredible catch in this game too).

The sight of the inconsolable Bangladeshi fans was a sad sight. They had invested so much. But yes, hopefully they will all learn to hod back a bit and by doing that, get more out of the situation.

This could set the faltering Indian team back on track and now the team could believe they have a genuine chance of making the semis. Though Ashwin walked off with the man of the match award, my man for the award will be MSD. This win could not have been achieved by anyone else.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Everybody Loves a Good Drought - P. Sainath

P. Sainath's book has been at the back of my mind for many years. The title did put me off then, when I was ten or twenty years younger and more foolish than I am now, and when i thought droughts were boring. I must admit though that one cannot miss the irony in the title. I somehow thought the book would be a lot heavier than what I expected. But it is well written with a wry humor, full of small chapters, each a well researched story from the poorest districts in India. Sainath, a photo journalist, ex-JNU student (now one can use that as an identity) and one of India's foremost authorities on drought and famine, worked with 'The Daily' as its Foreign Editor and then as deputy chief editor for 'Blitz'. In 1993 he took up a Times of India fellowship  to pursue rural poverty and did some real, solid work at that level. This book is a result of the research he undertook - but still much of it is valid surely.
Penguin, 466 p, Rs. 299
Once again to paraphrase Avirook Sen from his book Aarushi - 'this is how India looks on the ground'.

Sainath covers the poorest districts in India - in the states of Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu - and examines critical issues like health, education, displacement, survival strategies, usury and debt, crime, water problems. In every story we get to see how the poor and the voiceless are exploited many times over by landlords, moneylenders and most times authorities who are supposed to help them. Instead of getting justice they often end up - as it happens so many times in India - being accused of the very crimes they are supposed to be victims of.

Sainath keeps his tone even, and I found that admirable because he saw this heartbreaking hardship and injustice from up close. But then he lets us decide for ourselves. Its a book written in 1996 but I am sure its still valid. Nothing has changed - unless it got worse - not here not there. The same exploitation continues in the villages, in the hills and in the cities.

From a well-meaning government scheme which promised an acre of land to cultivate, a miracle cow that gives great yield by being inseminated with Jersey semen, minimum wages to farmers to the final result where the miracle cows did not yield any milk, all local bulls got castrated, farmers not allowed to use the land and no minimum wage. After all that work, time and energy the poor farmers were worse off than before. Or laying a road in MP, with Ramdas Korwa's name on it. Korwas, primitive tribes who fall under the bottom 5% of India's poorest districts, command development - which means large sums of money - which the beneficiaries never seem to benefit from. So what's the problem here? A road was laid was it not? The problem is that where this road leads to, there are no Korwas - except one family - that of Ramdas Korwa. Somebody just got the money sanctioned and later realised that there is only one Korwa - hence his name. And after spending 17 lakhs on the road, it is still a kuccha road. What can the government actually do to help poor Ramda Korwa? His real need is a repair on his well which would have cost a few thousands. In fact the road stops way short of his house.

Two brothers - one is shown in the records as an adivasi and another is not an adivasi, thanks to a spelling mistake. With that go all the benefits one has to get as an adivasi. The quacks of rural India who bleed tribals with exorbitant prices, medical doctors who never show up, PHCs that are always shut. No medicines are given where medicines are supposed to be free. In 1992, USAID gave $325 millions (800 crores) to be spent on population control - where hazardous contraceptives like Norplant would be pushed onto rural women. The same contraceptives are not in use in any Western country says the author.  It is not surprising when he says that almost 80% of people's health costs are individually borne by these poor. They raise money from money lenders, end up selling their houses and lands, and finally even as bonded labour. And the government watches.

'Article 45 of the constitution calls for the state to provide free ad compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen.' Sainath talks of 60% of primary schools having only one teacher. The then NCERT's survey shows that of 5.29 lakh primary schools, over half have no drinking water facilities, 85% have no toilets, about 20% had no buildings. Schools that are being used as cow sheds. Sainath says that the poor want to send their children to school - its their only hope for a better life for their children.

Sainath points out here that as a society denying access to knowledge goes back a long way for us. Where the Manu Smriti talks of direct punishment to sudras and untouchables (if a sudra listens to he vedas his ears are to be filled with molten lac and if he dares to recite the vedic texts, his body is to be split). Now, the rules are there, but access is made difficult. Its a chilling reminder that this book was written in 1995 and in 2016 we had to see the death of the dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. Sainath gives the stats of a school in Bihar - 8 classes, 7 teachers, 4 students, 2 classrooms, one broken chair.

Between 1951 -90 over 21.6 million people were displaced by dams and canals, cut off from their lands, evicted from houses, communities torn apart, uprooted from their histories. 75% of those displaced since 1951 were still awaiting rehabilitation at the time of the book being written some forty years later. Tribals constitute 8% of the population but account for more than 40% of the displaced persons of all projects and get no benefits from these projects. Roughly one in every ten tribals in India is a displaced person. Sainath visited tribal villages where villagers huddle together in fear as the army test fires its missiles. There is a move to acquire the land but the tribals are determined to fight it. Mukta Kadam of Chikapar who was displaced thrice from her own home, from her own lands, when land was acquired for the HAL in Orissa. Thrice she has been evicted. The sad part is that caste certificates that are often linked to domicile certificates, which are in turn linked to land holdings make it difficult for them to get caste certificates certifying their dalit or tribal identity. For all the talk of getting caste certificates or identifying students like Rohith Vemula as a non-dalit, its time the government looked into how difficult it is for one to prove his identity in a system where the community is torn apart, there are no lands and there is no further proof because they are already out on the roads trying to make a living. These people are further subjected to more torture in the name of trying to prove who they are. Once again a case of making the victims the accused. In the case of Mukta - they have been issued eviction notices because they are 'encroachers'. The villagers laugh - they have been moving about in their own land which has been gradually taken over. They are encroachers in their own land.

Or the Koyas who, the author says, 'have interacted so imaginatively with bamboo', and who have been now cut off from their love and life while bamboo is sold to private parties who do not know how to respect it.

The tales pour in. Ratnapandi Nadar who climbs palm trees for 16 hours a day, starting at 3 in the morning for as little as 8 rupees a day. Kishen Yadav of Lalmatiya of Bihar transports 250 kgs of coal across 40-60 kms on a bicycle to earn as little as 10 rupees a day. Or the women of Kantaroli in MP who pluck and tie up 100 gaddas of fifty leaves each to earn 30 rupees a day. Or how in Surguja people do not use even bullock carts because they find bullock carts too expensive. Or Dharmi Paharini who carries 40 kg of firewood on her head and walks seven kms to the haat, but she has to walk 24 kms to fetch and cut wood in the forest, all in a day - for 9 rupees. The Kahars of Bihar who are landless and among the poorest communities of India - but do not figure either in the SCs or STs list. How do these people survive? How do they fight and live and not just give up and die?

On loans as little as Rs. 2000 middle men buy up the entire crop and force farmers to sell only to them. Obviously at the rates they determine. Of people who are bonded labour for generations based on a small loan taken by one of the family members. Or the farmer in Surguja district who sold off the tiles on the roof of his house to repay a loan of Rs. 4800 he took from the bank to buy two cows. (Compare that with the corporate fraud we see and one gets an idea of how India really works at the ground.)

Subhaso, a Gond tribal's land is auctioned off at night, to the forest official's brother in law at Rs. 2000 an acre when it was worth at least Rs. 40000 an acre, for defaulting on a loan that she never took. One thumbprint on a blank paper taken by the moneylender was all it needed for the tribals to lose their 9 acres of land. Funnily, Subhaso's husband generously gave the same moneylender a couple of acres free to build his house when he first came. Or tribals who have been allotted lands they cannot find. Or landlords how forcibly took over 180 acres of land from tribals and harijans, who somehow fought the matter in court and regained it, only to realise that the landlord had sold the land off to some Muslims, thereby pitting the two against one another.

And when he talks of drought Sainath points out why everyone loves a good drought - around 73 % of sugar cane in Maharashtra is produced in DPAP blocks or drought affected blocks when the irony is that sugar cane is a water intensive crop. And then the famous Kalahandi starvation story when a girl was reportedly sold to fend off hunger. The author shows how everyone has figured that only by playing up certain things will the media, and then the government will take notice.

And there are stories upon stories of how the poor are exploited. How all they need is to be left alone instead of being 'developed' - which is another word of being exploited and thrown out of their lands, of their communities, of livelihoods. Its a cruel, greedy world where no one asks the displaced what they want, how they can be compensated for being uprooted. The poor illiterates are thrown about haplessly with promises and red tapism and its a wonder how they still survive. This is the story of the larger part of India and of the poorest, the most backward. When even we, who are educated cannot deal with government departments to deal with water connections, telephone bills, property taxes, I wonder how an uneducated tribal or a farm laborer is expected to. If they trust the officials they are  stripped of their possessions, they are made to run around, they are never given any information. Worse they are displaced from their own lands, made bonded labour on small loans for generations, made into criminals for crimes they did not commit. Their communities are broken, they are treated as untouchables and then we are all worried about how these people are not able to produce caste certificates, landholding proof. If we have built something of this country, a lot is owed to the poorest of the poor who have had to pay the price financially, socially, physically, mentally. And these are the people we are so intolerant of really - their sons, their daughters who dare to speak up in today's society. Hopefully there will come a time when the price for development will be paid to them in full and they get the equality, justice and liberty that the constitution grants them. With interest.

The work is a wonderful read and is a definite marker in India's story. One must read it to understand how we have left our fellow countrymen and women shattered in our quest for development. Thanks to my good friend Vinod Ekbote for sharing another wonderful book and adding so much to my perspective.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Tell-Tale Heart - Edgar Allan Poe

Three short stories 'The Tell-Tale Heart', 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'The Cask of Amonillado'. All delightfully dark, macabre and chilling in true Edgar Allan Poe style. 'The Tell-Tale Heart' is a heart that beats loudly enough in the murderers ears, enough for him to confess to his ghastly crime otherwise undetected till then. 'The Fall of the House of Usher' brings murder and ghosts into a mansion - witnessed by the author who is a guest of the Usher lineage. And in 'The Cask of Amonillado' the narrator lures a man who he believes insulted him and buries him alive in a wine cellar.

Edgar Allan Poe died when he was 40. Most of these writers started writing early and kept writing prolifically till the end. Somehow they also had early and unusual deaths. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

World Cup T 20 - India vs Pakistan

My belief that the Indian batting is brittle is proved again and again. If Kohli does not come good along with Dhoni, we are sunk in a pressure game. As expected the top three couldn't absorb the pressure and came back and it was left to Kohi to play a typically skilful, gritty and tactful inning to see India through. Yuvraj was allowed by the Pak bowlers to get away by allowing his a few runs early on and he capitalised on it.

How much ever one praises Kohli, it would still be less. He hates to lose and brings 150% to every game, every moment of the game. How can anyone bring such commitment, such intensity? He is unique and is perhaps one of the greatest competitors I have seen in my lifetime. The big occasion comes and he rises to it in true champion fashion each time. Amazing.

Pakistan, or for that matter any other team in the world, will have no chance of winning as long as Kohli is at the wicket. He has become that good.

Afridi is not a good captain I feel. Captaincy does not help his batting either. Maybe he is better without the fetters of this responsibility.

Gulaal - Movie Review

A young student Dilip Singh joins a college. He checks into a guest house inhabited by a student of the same college - a footloose and reckless student Rananjay Singh. Dilip Singh is not interested in getting into fights and skirmishes and tries to avoid the gang wars that are part of this college and his roommate. But when he goes to get admission in the hostel, he gets ragged and finds himself stripped and thrown into a room naked. He realises there is another naked person in the room who is a victim of Jadwal the kingpin of the ragger gang - a young lecturer named Anuja. Both are left out in the open naked later. In response to their excesses Rananjay, takes the young man to the local ganglord Banna, a leader trying to put the Rajputs together to claim his dream of Rajputana for the Rajputs. Banna tells the boys to attack Jadwal. They do and his gang retaliates. Banna handles the issue.

Rananjay is the son of the local King but he hates his father and his legacy. His father also has an illegitimate son and daughter who are looking to - god knows what - but they are constantly messing up every ones trip. Anyway Rananjay contests elections, is abducted and killed and his body strung in the middle of the town. Dilip is made the next candidate and he wins against the illegitimate daughter of the King. The girl however seduces him and turns him against his mentor Banna. In the end pretty much everyone dies while the illegitimate son becomes the leader of the Rajputana movement.

Gulaal is the color they use to hide their faces. Why, what, how? Many questions are left unanswered as are motives. What starts with a bang ends with a whimper. What is the story of the illegitimate son and daughter? What do they want? Anyway, some lovely little pieces - Piyush Mihra's role as a John Lennon fan is brilliant as his music. Rananjay's room. Abhimanyu Singh is fantastic as Rananjay Singh. Kay Kay Menon as Banna and a host of fabulous actors including Mahi Gill complete a great cast. The resolution was disappointing though and I felt that the Rajputana cause somehow did not drag the movie with as much energy as it should have. No one seems to be bothered about it. 

Two Days One Night - Movie Review

Delightful. A young mother with a caring husband and two kids is recovering from a bout of depression. The young family is struggling to make ends meet as it is - when she finds out that she has been fired from her job upon reporting back. The foreman and the boss have discovered in her absence that they could do without an extra hand and that the job could be done with 16 instead of 17 people. The tradeoff for the others - they get to choose their colleague or their bonus of about 1000 euros. In a  ballot where the influential foreman who does not favour her is present, the vote goes for the bonus. But the girl's friend convinces the boss to have a secret ballot without the influence of the foreman to get a fair verdict. He agrees. The ballot is on Monday. The girl has two days and one night to convince her colleagues.

Helped by her husband and friends, coping with her medication and depression, she meets all her colleagues. From circumspect greetings, to people who break down. to those who abuse, couples who break up, she meets them all. She grows in the process as she witnesses the frightened and even abused lives of her colleagues who are so fearful of losing the bonus and its benefits. She sees generosity and fear, those who stand for what they think is right and those who take a relook at their own lives.

The ballot results pose an interesting question - but its inconsequential by then because she has moved far ahead of the rest, of her fears and doubts.

What a lovely movie.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Malcolm X - Movie Review

One of the greatest Afro American leaders who fought for civil rights, Malcolm X was a controversial figure who wanted complete separation of whites and blacks and nothing less. Though he changed his radical views later on in his life, Malcolm X did much in his short life of 40 years to give black Americans a sense of identity and a powerful voice that did not hold back in its anger or in calling out the injustice meted out to it. He was opposed to the thoughts and methods of other civil rights activists of his time like Martin Luther King whose non-violent methods X did not approve of.

Malcolm X grew up in a time in the early part of the 1900s (1925-1965) when racism was rampant. Ku Klux Clan members attacked his home and probably even killed his father. Taken away from his single mother by the state (she finally winds up in an asylum) and his other siblings, Malcolm Little grows up as a wayward young man. He joins a West Indian gangster and learns the ropes, gets caught and is convicted for robbery, and then finds a man who changes his life in jail. Baines, a fellow black American introduces to him the teachings of the Nation of Islam, and converts the way Malcolm sees life. Malcolm becomes a scholar as he reads voraciously in jail and devotedly follows the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Mohammed. Upon release he joins the Nation of Islam and with his firebrand speeches and burning zeal does a great lot for the black Americans. He converts many of them to Islam, advocates militant methods, brazenly opposes the white man's hegemony and demands nothing but complete separation between whites and blacks. His rising popularity makes him unpopular within the Nation of Islam and Malcolm himself is disillusioned after some negative reports about Elijah Mohammed come about. He breaks away from the Nation of Islam. Malcolm is shot dead while addressing a gathering, by members of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X (the X he says, signifies the unknown factor of his birth which will be corrected only after he knows what it is).

Denzel Washington looks good - but does not look a patch on the original Malcolm X who oozes a mysterious charm in his gait, posture, smile and that look in his eye which has a mixture of intelligence, humour and darkness. This movie came by in 1992 - we have been watching Denzel for so long! It's a really long movie at 3 hours 21 minutes or so. But it's a story worth seeing as once again we are faced with the idea of how humans exploit one another when they have the slightest advantage. And they are pretty cruel too against anyone who raises his or her voice. Now to read the book on which the movie was based - written by Alex Haley and based on his conversations with the iconic Malcolm X.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

City Lights - Movie Review

Stumbled on this movie by chance and stayed up late watching it. I had meant to watch it and had heard good things about it. Somehow I hoped it would not be a sad and tragic movie like almost all Mumbai based movies are.

I remember my initiation into the Mumbai stories from 'Salaam Bombay' - a movie I watched with a pretty girl who wanted to go to the movies with me and nineteen other guys who tagged along because they also wanted to go to the movies with me. No prizes for guessing where that story with that girl went. It went the way of the movie. But then I got hooked on to L. Subramaniam's violin in that soulful title music of 'Salaam Bombay' and forever remember the sadness and toughness of that life. The movies that followed - 'Gaman', 'Gharonda' etc went in a similar vein. '

'City Lights' starts with all that is Mumbai to an outsider - the first con job happens in minutes and the hero loses all he has almost on the promise of receiving a house the other chap never owned. Out on the roads the two are helped by a bar dancer who sets them up in n under construction building. The wife is then lured into the bar dancing job. The hero finds a job with a security agency. Things lead from one thing to another - temptation, danger and finally a less than happy and less than perfect ending. Mostly because I think the writing got lazy - the boy had options still and could have made it yet. The end is different but still tinged with sadness.

Rajkummar Rao moulds himself nicely into the role of Deepak Singh, ex-army driver and failed garment businessman. The other security guard did a fine job and in fact shares much screen space. But the movie does bring out the fragility of life across so well, especially for someone coming into a hard space like Mumbai. What it does not do justice to is how the city's steel creeps into you once you live there for a month. Which is what should have happened to this family. To me that's out of character of the city - I lived there and I know what it can do to you. It toughens you. Doesn't weaken you. The movie is based on a successful movie 'Metro Manila' - it would have worked anywhere else for me except Mumbai.


World Cup T20 - India vs New Zealand

I felt India lost the plot rather early when SD felt it was a 50-50 thing when he lost the toss. Actually he might have been right - because the ball turned sharply and bounced wickedly from word go.

But what surprised me was how well the Kiwis read the wicket and played three spinners, including two who probably have no experience in bowling on Indian wickets. Santner and Sodhi showed no signs of nerves and kept in there.

As always with the Kiwis, you cannot afford to relax a moment because they are always lurking and looking to take their chances. They did today, once again.

I somehow believe that this Indian line up is not very good when Kohli fails. Too much rests on him. That leaves only MSD as the other reliable guy. The rest of the line up is simply too unpredictable and most play some ordinary shots now and then and jeopardize the situation. Now that things are a bit tight they might clean up their act but clearly this game could have had a different result if the players were a little less arrogant and played the ball on merit. Like Gavaskar pointed out, you got to respect the opposition.

When its the Kiwis, even more so since they got our number 5 times in a row now, some respect is due. Good for Kane Williamson - good captaincy under pressure. Young spinners Santner and Sodhi were just too good on a pitch that suited them. Nathan McCullum bowled well and picked up a stunner of a catch.

For the Indians Bumrah continues to impress with his wonderful yorkers and slower ones. He is a difficult one to attack. Why could not they teach the yorkers to any other bowlers I cannot understand till date. This is what MSD has been wanting for many years now.

Now I only hope somehow in the Indian team management does not crib about the wicket. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Anjali - Pro Kabaddi League

It's a bit late in the day but I cannot forget the finals of the Pro Kabaddi League that Anjali made me watch about a fortnight ago. There is much kabaddi talk going on at home these days and she suddenly takes off as if she is on a raid with a 'kabaddi, kabaddi' zigzagging her way in. I am supposed to catch her but she slips away and well, she is delighted.

She also tells me that her entire class is divided into various teams and she keeps telling me how this team and that team play and how they dance or do the team jig before their games. She learnt the steps of every jig and showed me and made me do a couple (and was terribly distressed at my attempts). Anyway her favorite team was Patna Pirates and she marked this relatively unknown team out as her favorite team for some reason. She knew their names and their star players - Rajesh Mondal, Rohith Kumar, Sandeep Narwal, Manpreet Singh and company. A formidable opponent rose on the other side - Mumbai's U Mumba  which is the defending champion - fully supported by her friend, Harsh. So she was praying that Patna does well.

The final took off in rousing fashion and it did not take me long to figure why Kabaddi is such a rage. I got completely involved to the extent that I caught myself contorting my body in a raid or a defensive move in tacit support to my favorite teams. Patna Pirates got off to a great start and left U Mumba quite behind. But U Mumba is not the defending champion for nothing and came on par towards the end. It required a mistake, an extraordinary raid under pressure, to finally swing it to Patna.

When the teams were level and U Mumba was seemingly running away from the game I saw Anjali slip away and sit inside in my room. I could see her talking something to herself. I asked her later what she was doing - she told me she was talking to the Patna players. I asked her what exactly she spoke but she would not disclose more than a - I supported them.

Anyway looks like they heard her because they turned the game around a bit and well, it was Patna Pirates, first time finalists and rank outsiders, who won the game. I have seen people praying or getting upset or hassled but this is the first I saw a direct talk. Looks like it worked too.

Anyway, I was in a state at the end of it all and quite relieved. I am now a huge fan of PKL and look forward to watching it again. I like the simple and rustic nature of the players, the spirit in which they play such a physically demanding and bruising game and the many aspects of machismo, heroism and team spirit that they display. More on that later. But for now, just a celebration of the game. Thanks Anjali.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Fly Away Home - Movie Review

Uplifting is the word. 13 year old Amy and her father Thomas (Jeff Daniels) fly ultra light planes to lead a flock of wild geese on a migration route some 500 miles from Canada to North Carolina on a 4 day trip. The geese  have been brought up by Amy (who is herself motherless) and since they have no mother, they believe she is their mother and learn everything from her. Except, how to migrate.

It's such a beautiful tale and the sight of the geese flying around the ultra flights makes your heart soar. The story is loosely based on the story of another Canadian inventor and sculptor Bill Lishman who actually led 16 geese on a migratory route with his ultra light flight. In Bill's case, 13 of those geese flew back on the migratory route all by themselves next year.

It's a movie you cannot miss. It will join my list of all time uplifting movies to watch.

Watch. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Elysium - Movie Review

It,s 2151 or sometime in the future like that. The rich have made a separate place in the skies called Elysium for themselves with all luxuries and left the poor to die in diseases and pollution and no food. The rich also have medical bays that can cure any disease in a few seconds.

Matt Damon quickly gets sick as he is hit by a blast of radiation and is given five days to live. Add his girl friend's daughter who is also dying of leukemia and we have two people who need to go to Elysium for treatment. But hey, no one is allowed on Elysium, specially these people from earth. As proof, the Elysium guards shoot down two loads of refugees trying to enter Elysium. Can Matt do it for himself, for all the people on earth and for his loved one's daughter?

Watch it to find out.

(The answer - he does. And you can thank me for it. Watch something else.)  

Kanhaiya and Kans - Act III

Finally the third act. Kans wins.

Kanhaiya is not a hero. He is anti-national. He is also a public urinator and misogynist.

That makes a whole bunch of us really relieved (forgive the pun, but this is a sophisticated kind of relief you know). Now, we can all be happy that some kid from the boondocks has not made the headlines due to any kind of merit. This is a fraudster with stale leftist ideas. Aren't we glad that the guy has been shown his place. Doesn't matter if he was not guilty or not, if he was booked wrongly for sedition or not. How can he speak so about India, about Modi, about the Sangh - when none of us who are so much better than him cannot utter a word?

And by the way - Rohit Vemula is also anti-national. And not a dalit as he claimed. He is an anti-national masquerading as a dalit sympathiser (not a dalit mind you) which makes him equally bad. Though all evidence points that he is probably a dalit or grew up as a dalit its imperative that he does not become a dalit because of the implications it could have for a few people in the power chain. Anyway he has no one to blame but himself - see, even his suicide letter says so. Whatever we did was purely procedural especially when it comes to certain type of people who look a certain way and speak a certain way and even dream a certain way. Carl Sagan? How dare he have such aspirations?

The verdict - you fellows should be out there working - being coolies or whatever else - instead of asking questions or even dreaming such stupid dreams like being writers and wanting azadi.

Anyway both undeserving cases have been laid to rest. Kanhaiya is alive but will have to forever face the stigma of the charges of sedition against the country. However the real 'culprits' (the ones who actually raised the offending slogans that bought the nation to a halt ) will probably roam free because the institutions - government, police and the judiciary also - have somehow painted this boy conveniently with the brand. (Is anyone even asking who those masked people were? Or was it Kanhaiya in those masks as well? And how much longer will it take for the police to find out if it is such a serious anti-national offence to catch culprits who are bent on breaking down India?)

The general idea seems to be - why do we need anyone else when we can whip this boy Kanhaiya for all others crimes instead? He fits the bill perfectly. No one will also mind. In fact we will bay for his blood and get our fair share of flesh too because he is a soft target. And like all bullies, we prefer soft targets. Women, writers, children, poor, farmers - this is the type we will show our anger upon.

Questions still remain.
What was the crime committed at JNU?
Is that an act of sedition or not?
Who committed it?
Where are the culprits who shouted the slogans? Why are they still not apprehended?
What makes both boys - Rohith and Kanhaiya - anti-national?
What is anti-national and how is it defined by the judge, the police and the government?
Is Rohit a dalit or not?

I expected the government to deal with these questions sensitively and make it clear to all of us. In the absence of any clarity on all these questions, my understanding of the picture is this.

Rohith Vemula
Rohith Vemula was a dalit. All records seem to prove so. He however was a dalit who was outspoken. Instead of merely studying and taking advantage of the tax payers money to become a government servant, he actually has the gall to raise issues against the government. He also tried to discuss Yakub Memon which no one in India should discuss - when in fact we should also be discussing why Dawood and Tiger and others, the real masterminds, are out roaming freely and what the government is doing to apprehend them.

So Rohith is shut out of the college, the hostel, the mess, his stipend cut off after letters written by a student faction (I'll tell my big brother!) went to a minister who forwarded to the ministry who forwarded them to the University which somehow reversed an initial enquiry which found the boys not guilty and sent them out.  When he cannot handle it anymore and kills himself, he becomes a non-dalit. Why concerned and unconcerned ministers should step forward to make it clear he is not a dalit was rather odd because when a person dies, we normally mourn his death, more so when a young person is driven to suicide. Not rush to find out his caste. Clearly the SC/ST Act would place some of those people in some uncomfortable situations so its better he is not a dalit

Motives are ascribed to his death. It is a death that is seen as a conspiracy to come in the way of progress, of Modi.

Rohith Vemula will now be always remembered as an anti-national - thanks in no small way to the efforts of the government and its functionaries. He is anti-national because he must not be a dalit. That is what we have achieved finally. In my understanding his big mistake was that he spoke out. How can he? Who is he? A dalit or now in the modified terms, an anti-national dalit sympathiser, speaking? Against Modi?

Final verdict - Rohith Vemula is anti-national. A casteist who misrepresented his origin. His mother, illiterate as she is, a liar who is not a dalit. Rohith himself, is not a scholar who died because the ministry and the University authorities acted unfairly against him, but someone who just got depressed and died.

But in the end Rohith was an Indian. His mother is an Indian. They belong to the same body of people as we are though not as fashionable as some of us are. They are trying to make a living, trying to contribute as hard as they can. They are facing difficulties too as most of us are. Why are we so harsh on them? On some parts of us?

Kanhaiya Kumar
A student meeting debating the death of Afzal Guru is reported for some anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans that were raised. Kanhaiya Kumar is not the organiser nor is there any proof. In fact he is arrested on what later came out as doctored proof. All others, almost a hundred students,are let off and Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNUSU, (leader of a group that defeated the ABVP in student elections) is charged with sedition based on a complaint by a BJP member. The issue is taken seriously by the Home Ministry and the police are summoned and told to deal with the issue in tough manner. The police catch the most easily available target without checking if he was guilty and charge him with sedition and put him and his career and life in jeopardy forever.

His real issue -- he also spoke. But in an unplanned twist to the tale, it turns out he can also speak better than most. He is clear on his fundamentals whether it is the constitution, sedition - he will score far higher on most counts in terms of knowledge and approach than most. (But hey, he is also a rustic Bihari who probably belongs to some not too fashionable community - who is he to talk of azadi? Isn't he having enough azadi to study and roam around JNU instead of working the farm fields?). Kanhaiya however added two twists of his own which were unforeseen - two speeches one before his arrest and one after which were seen by millions. Speeches where he casually flung aside the politics of a certain line of the thought - the right wing and spoke against the PM himself.

Anyway final brand - Anti national. Public urinator (how dare he piss away our tax money?) Misogynist.

Now, we can rest in peace. These fellows have been shown their place.

But what's the connection? Even the most hardened criminal in India should not be punished for a crime he did not commit right?

Why so much anger?
Where does this anger come from?

I think we all know who is anti-national and who is not. We know that these boys were probably only as guilty as having organised a program with a misplaced idea of the freedom of expression. But the anger that came against them, against Rohith Vemula, is worth looking at for our own sake. One day Rohith is a child, one day an anti-national. One day a dalit and one day an non-dalit.

Punishment has to be commensurate with the crime. If we are all part of the same body - as Indians - we do not seek to cut off one part for a small illness. We don't cut off the nose for a cold, our toe for a sprain. We try to heal them. All healing within the  body will happen only with love - not by alienating the body parts. Or by not offering the distressed parts help and forcing those parts to self-destruct. As doctors taking care of the body, we must treat all our parts alike, keep the harmony going.

Else we will not be a whole and complete body. We are in effect cutting our nose off to spite the face.

Don't we realise this? Where does this anger come from?

It comes from the fact that these people come from the back of beyond. These unknown, uncouth people are asking questions that they should not be asking. That they are somehow seeking to claim equality as provided by the Constitution. But obviously their faith is misplaced. There is no equality to be had here. Not for those who don't look the part, don't talk the part.

The right way forward for all these people, especially these types, is that they should go back to studying and completing their programs and start repaying our nation for all that the nation has spent on them. Until they pay off their debt they should remain silent, or only shout slogans that we wish to hear and be forever grateful that we are tolerating them. Maybe with lowered heads and voices too.

They cannot join the mainstream because they still don't look the part even if they want to - one cannot conceive these people becoming leaders of any political party with their backgrounds and looks. It's best they stay in the background and leave politics and running the country to us because we know what is good for you and what is not.

Equality. Justice, Liberty. Fraternity. For all.

Kanhaiya and the Constitution
One thing I liked about Kanhaiya's speech was his faith in the constitution. The cut off line for the republic should be the Constitution and what it prescribes and says. We cannot go back to a timeline before the Constitution and say that at some point in time this was the case so this is what should prevail now because we believe history says so. Then what is the sanctity of the document and what is the cut off for?

The Constitution should guide every action because it is the accepted rule book for us. Anything that challenges what the Constitution says - including not providing justice, equality, liberty and fraternity shows that someone is not doing their job. Someone is not honoring the Constitution.

Modi, BJP and the rest
It is amazing how it has become Kanhaiya and Rohit Vemula versus BJP and worse, Modi. By extension it has become Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal and a whole bunch of pseudo secularists versus the BJP and Modi. By being against Modi you also become anti-progress. By being anti-progress you also become anti-national. By being anti-national you are liable to a wide variety of abuse and a free advise to go and join Pakistan.

However it is not so. It is not about Modi or BJP or progress. The idea is that Kanhaiya (despite his other defects including his birth) and Rohith (same case) have been wrongly dealt with, and there is enough evidence to point to that. All it takes is to fix responsibility. In one case a student committed  suicide and in the other a student has been charged with serious charges of sedition. Can we simply fix responsibility and ensure justice is done, as the Constitution asks us to, instead of trying to prove that the boys were wrong - if not of this charge on some other charge?

Why should a Union minister or a party in power of running the show on such high numbers pick a fight with something as trivial as students and lead seemingly small incidents into issues of global interest? How does a party with such high promise and even such potential to do good things get stuck with jibes at someone who is clearly not in their class like Rahul Gandhi or even Kejriwal?

My big concern is why the government reduced itself to the level of fighting RG, AK, KK. Why does it compare every act of its to the Congress and its past? The majority BJP has or the potential Modi has to do great things that they promised should not be wasted on comparing themselves with the worst acts of the Congress. The BJP should set the highest bar, not compete with the lowest acts of the opposition. Needless to mention, it has to find ways of doing this and manage the opposition better.

That is the disappointing thing about it all. Instead of showing more compassion, more maturity - the ruling party embarked on a chest thumping mission against small adversaries - students like a Rohith, a Kanhaiya. Political rookies like RG.

It is inexplicable to see such a strong party with such numbers constantly think of itself as the victim. As someone suffering from conspiracies. The way the government dealt with these issues shows that its not about conspiracies - they are to blame for the mess themselves. All people want is for you to sit down and listen and talk and say this is what we think. That we are all in it together. As the leadership, you cannot afford to be insecure. You must find the strength to include everyone with their diverse views. Then, the real story of India's progress will begin. Not with some parts cut off or alienated.

As long as this insecurity persists, the government will look at the country as us versus them.
It's not. It's us only. How much ever you want to wish away certain parts of us - the ugly, the dirty, the poor, the lazy, the criminal - they are all our brothers and sisters too.

And the onus falls on you to win the confidence of the others since you have the leadership and the majority. Don't force. Step back. Allow space. Everyone is with you - RG, KK, AK included. But do you want to take everyone and everyone's views along?

You must. Much can be achieved. There is no leader of the calibre of Modi currently in the country. No one questions his intent nor his commitment. He is the best we have, all his flaws included, and even better, he is in power. But he should pick his fights carefully and ideally, not within the country.

All he needs to do is look at the process and make it more inclusive. Listen. Understand. Take everyone along. We can do far better than make anti-nationals of our students. We can in fact use the power and idealism of our youth in far more productive ways.

Anjali - A Creative Act, Personal leadership and Some Swachh Bharath

Anjali got into the car after school and said exceitedly, 'Today something nice happened.'
'What?' I asked.
'After class was over all the class children were making a lot of noise. So I said, instead of wasting our time why don't we clean up the class?' she said.
'Ok, so what happened?' I asked curious to know what happened.

'I told Harsh and he told Yasvantt and slowly everyone joined in. We picked up the papers and other stuff lying on the floor. Then we set right the library books on the shelf. We cleaned the windows and doors with rags of cloth that Akka keeps in the class, dusted the blackboard. Then we straightened the chairs and tables. Everyone got involved. Almost.'
'Wow, that's nice,' I said impressed by the work. 'What did your teacher tell you?'
'We went downstairs and told Anita aunty our Principal that we all cleaned up our class. She told Radhika aunty, our vice principal to give us all stars. She said we all did a good job,' she said happily.
There was more.

'Then Yasvantt told Radhika aunty that it was Anjali's idea. Then aunty gave me an extra star.'

Anjali she realised she did not have the extra star on her hand right them.
'It fell off but she really gave me,' she told me.
I told her I believed her anyway.

'Then Yasvantt, Suven and I were packing our bags when Suven said - Anjali didn't do it. I didn't do it, Yasvantt didn't do it....'
I listened waiting.
'Then we all said,' she concluded. 'We all did it. Akka was very happy and she let us play all over the school for a change.'

Hmm. A creative idea. Got support. Good participation. Shared credit. Good ending slogan on unity.

Nice leadership traits Anjali. Good work

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Mirror - Workshop for Senior Leadership Concludes

Today, participants from Gap Miners, Stratapps Solutions and Options joined us. Last minute dropouts due to short time frame were expected. I was however keen to get this workshop going and start the first senior leadership program. This was the first.

As another first I invited Shobha, who knows far more about energy work than I do and is a regular practitioner as a Radical Forgiveness Coach and a hypnotherapist. Her job was to talk about the mirroring session in some depth and help participants identify their issues while looking into the mirror.

Another first was that I made it a half-day program to make it more convenient for the busy senior leadership.

The first part about 'The Mirror - How The Team Reflects You' went on well. This is the key part that needs some explaining, with exercises and examples to drive home the fact that seemingly random incident outside you, is somehow triggered by you. The penny drops when you also realise that you can undo the same by being aware and by changing your energy about those issues. The elegance of the idea is just the same as timing the ball in cricket and trying to whack the leather off the ball. Minimum effort and maximum result.

Some feedback:
"The way I look at the team now has changed. Before I look at the team, I will look at myself. Will try to make a habit of catching them do things right. Will give more space and empower the team.' - R, CEO

"Loved 1) the demonstration of the Mirror - point driven home 2) the appreciation exercise 3) gratitude and releasing energy 4) connection to the law of attraction. Will set expectations, give feedback, let go, address when others become insecure ad be the change.' - A, CEO

"The concept of mirroring yourself is amazing and practical. This program actually made me 'feel' the reaction of others when we appreciate them and realised how much it impacts them. I wish leadership programs like this help in bringing simple and new concepts into lives.' - L

"Overall I like your concepts and approach.' - PK

"Can implement appreciation, looking for good in others and improve situations by looking int he mirror.' - V

"Liked the - secure/ insecure aspect, appreciation, law of resonance and energy levels, change yourself to see the change in others, leadership is about ability, power and energy, team growth and the ABC concept." - T

Thanks all for your time and your feedback. Like Blanchard says 'Feedback is the breakfast of champions'. Keep it coming!



Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Mirror - A Program for Senior Leadership (Your Team Reflects You)

I am conducting 'The Mirror - Your Team Reflects You' - a leadership program for senior leaders in organisations tomorrow the 11th of March 2016. It's a half-day program, designed to be continued over a month through coaching sessions (over phone) and a follow up session after 30 days. 

Background (The Idea)
Senior leaders are role models that organizations look up to and imitate.  Senior leadership teams make a significant impact on organizational culture and performance. Consciously and unconsciously, senior leadership shapes the destiny of organizations and people.

A common understanding among your leadership team of the role and responsibility of a senior leader, the effect their actions on the rest of the organization and building a culture that brings out the best in people, can take organizations to the next level.  Senior leadership teams are best equipped to make subtle changes to their own styles and behaviors and reap ten-fold results.

It needs some openness, awareness and a desire to lead the change by taking some feedback that could be unpleasant.

Program Rationale
‘Mirroring the Organisation – Senior Leaders and Change’ is based on the philosophy that your ‘team reflects you’. If your team is doing well, that’s you. But if you have complaints with your team, that’s you too. Every time senior leaders have an opinion on the team they are saying something about themselves. The art of recognising instant feedback, the way energy works in teams and relationships and knowing how to influence behavioral changes would help senior leaders create a productive and fulfilling environment.

Learning Objectives
1. Understanding how leadership and teams reflect one another
2. Using feedback to bring in positive changes
3. Man management, conflict and energy management – bringing the best out of people
4. Role of the leader – growth orientation

Methodology
The workshop is a reflective, experiential program. It combines storytelling, role play, corporate and cricket analogy and exercises. It involves reflection on leadership traits, leadership styles and practice of leadership.


Who Should Attend
Senior Executives who influence change in the organization. Individuals who wish to build a strong organizational culture and improve efficiencies.

Program Structure
The program consists of 4 sessions
Session 1- The Leadership Mirror
Session 2 – Understanding feedback
Session 3 – Energy management, conflict and people management
Session 4 – Roles and responsibilities of a leader, rewards and growth

Key Takeaways
Participants will be facilitated to
·         Integrate leadership attributes to enhance personal leadership qualities
·         Understand leadership process from a growth point
·         Examine personal leadership, high performance and higher responsibility
·         Practice secure leadership, delegation, people management and conflict management
·         Importance of Trust, Belief, Empathy and Energy in people management

Date and Venue
The program will be held from 9.00 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. on March 11, 2016 at the Training Hall, Terrace, Pancom Chambers, Raj Bhavan Road,


I find this idea pretty exciting and am sure I will find many interesting challenges that senior leaders come up with in their daily life. Looking forward to it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces - Edited by David Davidar

39 stories. 39 authors. Some amazing writing. You can see why they are masters and why they are masterpieces. However all of them are not masterpeices in my opinion. Some belong to the old boys club. For me a masterpiece must dazzle you, shake you, trouble you and stay with you. The best ones infect you. Others merge into your story and shape your outlook. The ones that do neither, the ones I do not remember clearly, I do not put in that category.
Aleph, 513 p, Rs. 695
Which of these stories impressed me most? The start is electric. Tagore's 'Hunger of Stones' is about a haunted house and a government official who chooses to live there. Somehow by the end of the story you feel that the ghost has entered you, that you know that palace well enough. Munshi Premchand's 'Shroud' is a story I read before - of the father-son drunkard duo who drink away the money they raise for the funeral of the son's wife who died that morning at childbirth. Premchand takes you by the hand into their dreary lives, the hut, the dead body of the poor wife. R.K. Narayan's 'A Horse and Two Goats' is a delightfully mishievous story of an old shepherd and his communication with a foreigner - neither can speak the others language and both conclude a deal by which they are richer - a deal about a statue that neither owns. Buddhadeva Bose's 'A Life' is a tiresome journey of the man who makes it his life mission to write a dictionary and we see his whole life span out. The writer however finds success at the end of the road which makes for a happy ending. Saadat Hasan Manto's incredibly powerful story of a man who loses his sanity, and his country during partition, and prefers to die in the no man's land between India and Pakistan. Sivasankara Pillai's 'Flood' has an unlikely hero - a dog - that is left behind by its master during the flood. Its desolation as the flood rises, its hunger and its loyalty as it fights a band of robbers who loot this master's house before dying in its noble fight is hard to bear. Ismat Chughtai's 'Quilt' is a young person's initiation into adulthood quite by accident. Amrita Pritam's 'Stench of Kerosene' prepares you but is still shocking in its end as a young lady who does not bear children faces exclusion and then a final escape. Anna Bhau Sathe's 'Gold from the Grave' is an unusual setting for a common problem and an unusual ending that is so hopeless. Tilak's 'Man Who saw God' marks a man who has his own rules and lives and dies by them. Harisankar Parsai's 'Inspector Matadeen on the Moon' is quite a story that pokes fun at our policing system in such an endearingly tongue in cheek way. Matadeen himself is a character one cannot forget as he trains the moon police on how to arrest the witnesses and make them the prime accused. Mahasweta Devi's 'Draupadi' is an in-your-gut style of storytelling that leaves you gasping - a woman naxal who is captured by the police and is raped as part of the punishment. Vijaydan Detha's 'Countless Hitlers' has a chilling end and makes you wonder at how simply certain things can end. U.R. Ananthamurthy's 'Mouni' captures the subtle differences of a man of principle and his neighbour, a man of the world. Ruskin Bond's 'The Blue Umbrella' is such a delight that I wondered why Vishal Bharadwaj messed it up so in the movie. Gulzar's 'Crossing the Ravi' is as tragic as any partition story but the end makes you angry at him for drawing you into a world that is so unnecessary, an end that is so hopeless. Paul Zacharia's 'Bhaskar Pattelar and My Life' shows a mirror into how life must have really been, probably is. Devanoora Mahadeva 'Tar Arrives' is vividly visual and a world we all understand. Githa Hariharan's 'Nursing God's Countries' is a tale of a Malayali nurse who leaves her family and young child to earn money and slowly grows old and probably dies before her dreams of her family settling down come true. Cyrus Mistry's 'Proposed for Condemnation' is a familiar story in a delightfully different setting. Shanaz Bashir's 'Gravestone' has a classic twist in the end, and you realise some poeple just never get what they want.

Vikram Seth's 'The Elephant and the Tragopan' is a poem about animals who rise up in a strike against the local politicians who plan to build a dam. The small tragopan is angry and is seen as the leader and is marked for death. After a lot of going to and fro, the poor tragopan gets killed. Things cool off after but the Tragopan dies needlessly. I liked the lines Seth winds up with

'As quasi morals here are two: The first is that you never know
Just when your luck may break, and so
You may as well work for your cause
Even without overt applause;
You might in time, achieve your ends,

The second is that you'll find friends
In the most unexpected places,
Hidden among unfriendly faces
- For Smallfry (someone who helps them) swims in every pond,
Even the Doldrums of Despond.'

Reminds me of the Kanhaiyya issue. Angry Tragopan Kanhaiyya. The might of the government and the establishment on the other. Go back to your job young man and do it, and do it well. Y
ou will finally make the chage you wish to see. Vikram Seth's storytelling prowess makes you sit up. That's talent for you. Makes you wonder - how can anyone make it look so simple.

Wonderful reading. So many more stories have now expanded me so much more.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Give More Responsibility to Make People More Responsible

If we want others around us to behave in a particular way, it is mostly because we are not giving them enough of that in the true sense. For example if we want people to behave responsibly, we are probably not giving them enough responsibility. We probably have preconceived ideas of responsibility and thereby do not give them any responsibility. Maybe we even think we are the only ones who are responsible and cannot let go of this thought or way of doing things.

There are many other ways of doing things. Let them do it their way.

Someone who is irresponsible becomes responsible when we give them responsibility and trust them with it. When we tell them to handle something on their own - and stand by to support without interfering. A child who is given the job of handling another knows what it means to be responsible. A  student who wants freedom understands the true meaning of freedom when he is given more freedom to express himself more constructively (give the JNU students freedom to address the issues that bother them - they have the fire, energy and the clarity to use that opportunity - they will also not speak of freedom anymore because they have got it and now have to exercise it).

The tragedy is that we shut them out when they behave in a particular way that is not 'our' way. Irresponsible people become responsible when given responsibility for someone or something. In jobs, in homes, in society.

But are we secure enough to do that?

Most times we cannot do that because we fear a loss of control. But the biggest danger is that by denying them, you only make them more irresponsible. You do not use their energy constructively. It becomes destructive to the self and those around.

And by letting them be like that, we are being even more irresponsible than they are. They are young. They do not know. We know.

As those in power, as those who can teach and mentor, we must first find the security within ourselves to let them handle it, to let them make mistakes, and guide them to be the best they can be.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Kanhaiya Speaks

Spotlight - Movie Review

Winner of the Best picture and best Screenplay in the 88th Academy Awards, 'Spotlight' is based on the true story of the investigative journalistic team 'Spotlight' of the Boston Globe that uncovers child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Boston. The new editor of the Boston Globe asks the 'Spotlight' team to look into a news item in the Globe where a lawyer indicates that the Church knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

The 'Spotlight' team of four, Robinson (Michael Keaton), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and others start work on the one case they have some information on. Soon they find that there is a man who is running a victims rights association that there could be 13 priests who have been accused, with names and stories of victims who have come forward with their stories. The number grows to 87 and the team sees a pattern of how the priests were systematically shielded and protected and how victims were muffled by the church and the community. The top man in the church, the Archbishop of Boston, knew of it all and helped the abusers get away. After garnering enough information and proof, including documents submitted to the court by the Church of letters written by victims. the Boston Globe starts publishing its story. The next day, hundreds of victims, call in with their stories of abuse by the priests. The number of priests stands at 249, the abused at a thousand. Under fire, the Archbishop of Boston is transferred to a far better assignment in Rome.

For this story the 'Spotlight' team won the Pulitzer Prize for 2013. For a movie that runs on pure journalistic action 'Spotlight' keeps it tight and taut. Good clean, storytelling.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thought for the Day - It's About Justice, And Love

In the end it's about the key words in the preamble of our constitution. What people want is justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Of them all, first comes justice. People in a society almost always want to be dealt with justly. That's all. They do not want riches. They want justice.

In a just society everyone gets the same treatment. Some do not get preference over the others.

In a just society the strong will take care of the weak. The strong will not trample over the weak. The strong will listen to the weak when they raise their voices to complain. The strong will not throttle them. The strong will allow the weak to have their say, to ask, to even shout their frustrations out. The strong will not beat them senseless for asking.

Only the really strong can do that. Because they know that the weak want but little. They only want justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. They only want to be heard. To be given a fair trial. Then they will go back to their empty stomachs - satisfied and pledging allegiance to the king.

That is how the strong are identified. By their care, their love, their kindness, their gentleness. The strong know they are strong. They do not try to prove that they are strong.

They go after tough targets. The real culprits. Not after soft targets.

To mistake those who deal with the weak through hate, disrespect, harassment, harshness, manipulation, would be a grave error. They are not strong.

They are weak. They feel like they are the victims. Always the victims.

They are insecure. Nothing that is strong justifies its inability to stand first to protect the weak, the soft targets, the innocents. One cannot say why someone is insecure - its just one thing they have deep inside them. Their insecurity breeds insecurity in others. They bring in more insecure people, more mediocre people who share their mediocre and victimised thoughts. In their paranoia they all thump their chests, beat up the weak, trample the innocent, throttle the silent. And feel strong.

The language of the insecure is violent. They do not listen. They are insecure about debate. They are irrational. They want to keep things divided. They do not wish to include. They spew hatred openly. They come as a mob and beat up individuals. They trust no one and see conspiracies everywhere. They have no honor - even of a fight. They do not pick on someone their size. They do not challenge openly and fight fairly. The insecure hide in a mob. Under lies. Under decoys.

They feel, like the white governor in Selma that - the blacks are never satisfied, they want more. First they occupy the parks, then the jobs, then...

But there is nothing to be insecure about. One does not lead a society to some predestined goal. Society will find its way. All one has to do is facilitate that. Do not manipulate the way. Do not meddle with it.

If there is one way to find balance, find love. One will find that the approach works wonders. One will find that one can include everyone, one can tolerate all points of view.

One can find love for everyone.

If society is ruled by someone who does not understand love, the society will grow up to be harsh, sullen, violent and difficult. It is time to find the love within, to dissolve the atmosphere of insecurity and distrust. It can go in a moment if one chooses. Let go of the insecurity. Show your vulnerability. Your fear. Include. Unite. Draw everyone closer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Interesting Personality - Would Love To Meet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra Someday

Goodwill Store, Hyderabad - A Shop Where The Poor Can Walk In and Take Things Away for Free

Lovely initiative. Go give stuff like clothing and household goods that can be better used by another team mate of ours to the Goodwill Store, Mehdipatnam. Anyone, can pick up stuff they need from this store for free on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Thanks Omana for sharing.

http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/hyderabad-shop-poor-where-everything-free-38711

The address (courtesy Omana) for those of you in Hyd who would like to visit and give clothes and all other stuff.
LSN Foundation Good Will shop
Dr. 12-2-790/67/3 - Plot No 67, Flat No 3
Aditya Apartment-Ayodhya Nagar Colony,
Mehdipatnam -Hyderabad - 500028
Telangana -India ; Tell : +9140 23511488 / 9949563967
Opp : DMR international school
Land mark - Pillor no 28 lane and then Fourth left.