Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sunday Cricket Lessons - Leave on a High

It's been a few months since my last outing as a batsman at the nets. Despite the ball and bowlers getting more and more blurred by the day, I decided to have a bat at the nets last Sunday. The medium pacers were not much of a problem, but the leg spinner was testing me. He could turn the ball sharply which meant that if I did not get to the pitch of the ball, it would take the edge, or I'd miss it.'s
Courtesy - Anjali P

I was hitting the ball well and generally dominated the bowlers once I got in. I hit the leg spinner well when he erred in length. Then after 20 minutes or so the physical aspect took over and I got tired. Mistakes crept in and I was getting out more often. I played on gamely trying to be more aware, trying to increase my levels of concentration. At the back of my mind I knew I could go on for another 5 minutes if I wanted despite the sweat dripping off.

I pulled my concentration back to handle the medium pacers but the leg spinner challenged me because the margin for error with his bowling was very little. I got out once, twice and then made up my mind to be more careful the next round. But once again my drive got an edge.

Suddenly I took off my gloves and walked off.

As I walked off I realised that I did that because I was disappointed and did not want to get out more times. I had a good net overall. But there was another 5 minutes left easily for me and the bowlers.

Clearly I did not want to fail more times against this bowler.

It struck me while taking my pads off that I could have taken the next 5 minutes. I coud have taken time to settle down and decided to counter his next five or six balls well. So I could end on a real high. A high of having ended on top. Instead I ended on a note when the last ball got me out.

Point to note - always end well, on a high note.

Thought for the Day - To Get More of Anything, Be Present To It

To get more of anything, we need to be present to it. The more fully present we are, the more we get of that experience.
We Have What We Have - That's Rich (Pic courtesy Shobha Nargundkar)

For example, if I want more of an experience, let's say drinking water or eating a piece of cake, I need to be present to the water or cake that I have. I need to be aware of it, enjoy it while I have whatever I have. That is the only way that the experience gets enhanced.

But if I start worrying about how someone has more water or cake, or how my water or piece of cake will run out, my present experience gets smaller. I will have less of whatever I have.

I could apply it to money. Or love.

It's what we feel about the present that makes us rich. And secure.

If we have this feeling of things running out, we will never be rich in our thoughts. If we cannot be rich in our thoughts, the plot is lost.

Be present.

Be.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - What We Want More Of, We Get Less

What we want more of, we get less.

As in, if someone wants more love or money, they will get less of it. Or even simply, if I want more of a sunrise, I will certainly get less of it. To get more, I should worry less about wanting more, and enjoy what's before me.

The quality of our wants seem to be associated with an element of - I want you so you better come to it. Else...
If I want more sunrise, I will get less of it!

Surely the idea is not to force anything to come to you. If anything, it would be to let it come to you by itself. To gently put its hands in yours and join you. That is what changes the quality of the experience. As opposed to sitting on a throne and wanting it to come like a slave. Driven by force, by guilt, by resentment, by subterfuge.

How to make the experience better then?

By changing the quality within us. Not of resentment, but love and wonder. So the love we have, ugly as it may be, is what we have. The money we have, less as it may be, is what we have. Can I change my relationship with it by putting my hand into its hand? By allowing it to hold me and feel supported enough to grow? My bet is this is a better approach then other extreme reactions.

We do the same thing with people smaller in size and power. Like children. Subordinates. People with less confidence. We treat them harshly and do not let them grow. But if we do treat them with love, at least till they grow confident, they will surprise us.

To want a lush garden then, nurture the saplings. We all have access to the saplings. If we can stop getting angry with them and resent them, and instead look kindly at them we could allow them space to grow. We could easily develop that quality that will let the small sapling grow, be it of love, money or anything else.

All we need to do is to do less. To be still and enjoy what's there. So we get more.

Anjali - Sunrisers Hyderabad's Most Ardent Fan

Anjali is a die-hard Sunrisers Hyderabad fan for the last few years. Perhaps the Hyderabad connection did it for her. This year her interest in the game has also increased and so did her knowledge of the technicalities, players, reading of situations etc. So she started watching entire IPL games - right till the late night endings.
Anjali made this placard half-way into the Tournament
- Go, Go, Go, Go, Orange Army

I had decided to excuse myself from watching IPL this time and use that time otherwise. But as the tournament progressed I caught myself watching games - mainly thanks to this eigth and a half year old die-hard fan and her many questions and observations.

The thing with her loyalty is this - it is complete. 100%. The team may not believe in itself as much as she does. And so, there can be no two loyalties in the house. I cannot support any other team especially when Sunrisers Hyderabad is playing. If I praise an opponent for some cricketing skill in an SRH game, she gets visibly upset. She feels betrayed. When SRH is doing well there is wild dancing and running the aisles with cries of 'Go Go Go Go Orange Army' etc. When the team is down, there is sadness, unhappiness. She storms out of the room and perhaps sheds a tear or two. She does not like us consoling her with vague stuff like - it's ok, there is another game etc. She will feel the pain of the feeling and deal with it. She cannot take lame excuses if she has to win!

Throughout the tournament her loyalty and commitment to the Sunrisers team was unwavering. Not a moment's doubt ever that SRH might not win. She kept supporting the team through thick and thin, through the criticism of her friends who supported Mumbai, RCB etc.

One day she asked me if we could go to a match in Hyderabad. I said we could, but somehow it slipped my mind and the final match in Hyderabad got over. The disappointment on her face was to be seen. Now we have made a pact to watch the first match next year. She also asked me is she could meet with SRH skipper David Warner (since you know VVS Laxman). I said, we will see what can be done. Next time. I have until then to figure out.

Not one SRH game was missed. Unfortunately, she missed seeing the final today evening because she is someplace  that has no TV or wifi. She kept calling me all through and sending me messages to find out the score. Again the full gamut of emotions. Sad, happy, ecstatic, tense. Woohoo when happy.

I know I can never support anyone with such fierce loyalty, such commitment and conviction. It's a trait that comes out of a special space, a space capable of deep love. Not for a moment did she express unhappiness at the way anyone played. All that mattered was that her support never wavered an inch. If she did her job right, i.e. support her team, they would do their job was the approach. Fantastic.

The placard was made by her half-way into the IPL tournament. She had made it in support of SRH and Warner, exhorting him to show what the team was made of. I found it lying on the wooden shelf. It dripped with her complete, undiluted support. I remember she'd wave that placard as she ran around the house.

Today when I saw Sunrisers Hyderabad win a hard fought tournament, wonderfully led by the indefatigable, resilient David Warner, who proved his great skills as a leader, it was a privilege to share the joy with the team's biggest fan that I know of over the phone, and hear her screams of unadulterated and complete joy.

I cannot but wonder - how lucky anyone must be to have fans like that. I am also envious of all the people Anjali will like and support - now and in future - because she will fight for them every inch of the way, share their joys and sorrows. (I'd like to be somewhere on that list.)

It's a quality I may never have, of giving someone my undiluted support, but it's one quality that I can never cease to admire.

Good for you Anjali. Good for you SRH.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pyre - Perumal Murugan

Perumal Murugan is a highly accomplished Tamil writer and one can experience that even through the English translation (by Aniruddhan Vasudevan) - the storytelling and content is superb. It's unfortunate, nay tragic, for our society in this age and time that Perumal Murugan stopped writing after being harassed by Hindutva forces recently citing that the fictional account of an old Hindu practice in his most notable book 'Madhorubhagan' (One part Woman in English translation) was offensive. It's tragic to see such brilliant writing silenced so easily by people who are unbelievably super sensitive (one needs to put them to some tests to measure this level of sensitivity because it's not normal) and unbelievably thick skinned and numb skulled at the same time.
Penguin, Rs. 399, 200 p

'Pyre' starts as a spark and by the time it ends, its a raging fire. I read this in one sitting, a day after watching 'Sairat' another movie with the same theme. A familiar theme in our tolerant, equal and just country. Murugan's own story is a bit like that of the story of 'Pyre'  - his love affair with writing was murdered by all those who were involved. Perhaps they believed that he is not worthy of the writing of that standard.

Pyre then. A young couple Kumaresan and Saroja marry in the city. Kumaresan brings his new bride back to his widowed mother living in the village thinking that she and his other relatives and community will get over the fact that his young wife does not belong to their caste. But the villagers, though living in impoverished and tough conditions themselves, hang on to the idea of caste and  harass and even excommunicate the couple. The girl is constantly harassed over her fair skin and her nature of bewitching the poor boy, and she does not know a moment of peace. Kumaresan hopes to set up a small business and for time to heal these wounds.

His young wife is pregnant soon enough and there is no respite yet. They do not reveal it to the mother yet. One night the boy has to go to the town and come back late. That's when Saroja, out on a nature's call hears the plans of the villagers, to rid the village of her influence before the festival. They are out to kill her and as she pushes herself in desperation into the bush, hoping to hear the sound of Kumaresan's bicycle, one of the killers realises that the bush is dry and they need not find her. If they set it on fire, it will take care of her. As the wood burns intensely around her, like a pyre, Saroja hears the sound of the bicycle unmistakbly. It's an unbelievable end to the story and hits you hard in the gut for the cruelty of it all. It's so cruel that it has to be true.

'Pyre's ending is as heart wrenching an ending as the 'Sairat' ending is. The poor, confused youngsters made the mistake of falling in love, marrying against their caste, perhaps believing that the law is on their side and that the people who grew them will not turn into such monsters. But you have parents and relatives who are worse than your enemies and you wonder how much two kids in love have to undergo. The hardships, their uncertainty, the humiliation, the rejection and finally the feeling that they will never be accepted ever and that the family would rather see them dead than sully their honour. Honour? What honour one may ask but its big for these people, these murderers, who wear it like a badge.

Murugan shifts from the love story in the past to the tragedy in the present and its such seamless storytelling that starts as a small spark and rages into a huge fire. Brilliant stuff.

These are not random stories - this is reality. Just like we think we will not die and bad things don't happen to us, we also wish away this stuff and say, this does not happen in our society. But it does, and all around. Everyday. Both stories are equally horrifying - the book and Murugan's own.

Twelve O Clock High - Movie Review

The 1949 movie is recommended for leadership training in the book 'Triggers' and rightly so. A US Air Force bombing squad fighting the Second World War for the Allies is termed the 'Hard Luck Squad' because of its constant string of failures. It's tough work surely because the squad is doing daylight precision bombings on Germany and Occupied France and is pushing themselves but the results are exceedingly bad. The Commander identifies the leader as the problem, saying he has become too close to his men and has thus become soft on them. The Commander is replaced and the new Commander General Savage (Gregory Peck) pushes the men to what he calls Maximum Effort - all men fit to fly will fly.

General Savage's approach is to treat the young pilots as men and not boys and he is excessively hard on them - a complete contrast to his predecessor. Mistakes and small errors are  punished with excessive harshness. The boys gang up and rebel and ask for transfers but General Savage buys time, and trains the lads, and leads them to some successful missions. The Hard Luck Squad tastes success and slowly the boys begin to believe in themselves. The Squad ends up performing brilliantly and earning a commendation but not before losing some of its men and even putting General Savage under severe duress as he tries to lead his team but suffers a severe nervous breakdown. The 918th comes out in flying colours finally with its softest member leading the Squad successfully on its last mission as lead Commander.

One of the best movies for lessons in leadership. 

Dhammapada - Book Review

The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings by the Buddha in verse form. Some thoughts.
Penguin Classics, 50 p, Rs. 49

Contrary ways
Our life is a creation of our mind. Our thoughts create our reality. Think thoughts that are free from hate. Hate is conquered by love. We're here to live in harmony. If we speak a few holy words and live those words, free from passion, hate and illusion, with right vision and a free mind, life is holiness.

Watchfulness
It is the path of immortality.  Be ever-watchful in joy. One who remembers his high purpose, whose work is pure, who carefully considers his work, who is watchful, shall rise in glory. Watchfulness is a treasure. One who is watchful is near Nirvana.

The Mind
Straighten it as you would an arrow. A mind self-controlled is a source of great joy. Guard it well. A well directed mind can do great good.

The Flowers of Life
The wise student shall find Dhammapada as a man who searches for flowers finds beautiful flowers. He who knows that this body is the foam of a wave, the shadow of a mirage, he follows his path. As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so let the sage wade in this life. Think of your sins, of things you have done and not done. Fruitless are the words of a man who speaks them but does them not, just as a flower has beauty and color but no perfume. The perfume of good reaches heaven.

The Fool
If you cannot find one better or as good as yourself, travel alone. A fool cannot help you on your journey. You don't own even yourself.  He who thinks he is wise, is really the fool. What you sow must bear sweet fruits. Without striving for reputation, let him strive after freedom.

The Wise Man
He tells you your faults as if they were a hidden treasure, ho shows you the dangers of life. If you follow him you will see good. Let him admonish and restrain. Have friends who have a beautiful soul. The wise control their minds - by making channels. The wise man is not shaken by praise or blame. He puts righteousness before his own success. He who surrenders the bondage of attachments, free from the darkness of passions, he enjoys the immortal Nirvana.

Infinite Freedom
Control senses as a good driver controls his horse. Be free from passions and pride, be admired even by the gods. be calm like the earth, steady like a column, pure like a lake. His thoughts and words an work are at peace. Do not carry the burden of desires.

Better than a thousand
Conquering oneself is greater than conquering a thousand. Living in wisdom, deep contemplation, virtue, courage, powerful striving, seeing one's own immortality is better than a hundred years lived otherwise.

Good and evil
Make haste and do whats good. It keeps your mind away from evil. Don't repeat wrongs, sins. repeat good. A man who has no evil cannot be hurt by evil.

Life
Never speak harsh words. Your anger is peace. Be pure from doubts and desires. Do not hurt with weapons those who are harmless and pure.

Beyond life
If a man tries not to learn, he grows old like an ox. With no wisdom. Those who in their youth did not lie in self-harmony and who did not gain the true treasure of life, suffer.

Self-possession
If a man holds himself dear, let him guard himself well. Let him find first what is right now and then he can teach to others. When the master and the servant are one, there is true help and self possession. It is easy to do what is wrong, to do what is hard for oneself. But it is difficult to do what is right, what is good for oneself. The pure and impure come from oneself not another. See the good of your soul and fill it with earnestness.

Arise! Watch
Walk the right paths. For joy in this world and the next. Look at the world as a bubble of froth. Overcome the evil you have done with good after wards. Men who are strong conquer evil. Noble men find joy in generosity. Enter the river of life.

The Buddha
No earthly path can entice the Buddha. He is awake and watchful. To be born as a human s a great event. His life is ever striving. Keep the mind pure. This is the teaching of Buddha. Not to hurt by deeds or words, When desire goes, joy comes.

Joy
To live in joy, is to love amongst those who hate, be in peace amongst those who struggle. He who surrenders victory and defeat, he finds joy. There is no fire like lust. No evil like hate. No sorrow like disharmony. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest freedom.

Forsake anger
Give up anger, pride. Overcome anger by peacefulness, evil by good, meanness by generosity, lies by truth.Speak truth, yield to anger, give what you can to who asks.
No man can escape blame.

Hasten and strive
Remove impurities. prepare to die. Greatest sin is that of ignorance. Greediness and vice bring suffering. You must find the inner path. There is no path in the sky.

Righteousness
Calmly consider right and wrong. Face different opinions with truth, non violence and peace. Do work rightly, free from sin. Freedom from envy, greed and deceit. Reject the laws of flesh.

Wakefulness
Forsake small pleasures. Have faith and virtue and you have glory and treasure. He who can be alone and not alone, can live in joy.

In darkness
Better to do nothing than to do what is wrong.

Endurance
Endure alone and in peace. Train yourself. Find joy in watchfulness. Uplift yourself. Find good friends. Better be alone than have a fool for a companion.

Cravings
Whosoever overcomes cravings, his sorrows all fall away from him.

The Monk
Control the senses, body, words, mind, hands, feet. There should be no jealousy. Don't despise what you receive. Cut off selfishness, doubt. Cherish faith, watchfulness, energy.

The Brahmin
A brahmin - who is beyond fear and is free. who is pure and in peace, free from passions. He who hurts not with his thoughts, words and deeds. Words that are peaceful, useful and true. Words that don't offend.


Thought for the Day - It's How You Do What You Do Now That Decides How Big An Effect You Have

When we do things creatively now, we move to greater spaces, higher levels. To create requires energy. Energy can be summoned by sheer intent, by approach.

By thoughtfulness and by love.

To see external validation, a constant cheer leading team, and even to know if one is in the flow, all one has to see is look at the reactions from all whom we meet. If we get an ecstatic reaction (like a Wow) we know we have given our best.

Else there is work to be done. We can make up our mind and find the way.

In small things - the right word, the right gift, the right vibe.

It's the best way to shed inhibitions, to get over lack of clarity and courage. By keeping an eye on the external and looking to create that reaction, we get into the practice of creating an energy we have restrained. We can now harness and give freely. We can give unconditionally to everyone, irrespective of their reactions.

In time we realise that its not so much the reaction as the quality of creative energy that changes.

It changes the quality of everything. It paves the way for greater things easily. It attracts stuff of greater energy to you.

We can never do anything great if we cannot do great things with what we're doing now.

Thought for the Day - The Connection Between Wow and Love

There is a close connection between that feeling of love and that feeling of wow. It struck me that one cannot make anyone else feel like 'wow' without an element of love added to the relationship, the moment.
Pic courtesy - Satish N

If I have to make another person go wow by my presence or my interaction with him or her - it requires much from me. It will require an element of selflessness, of love unconditional.

The feeling of wow is well put in the story 'Carpe Diem' by Alan Cohen in 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' where t author proposes to a girl and feels exhilarated despite a luke warm reaction.

In his words he says - 'I had put my heart on the line without demanding a guarantee of the results. I did not give in order to get something back. I opened my feelings to her without an attachment to a particular response.'

'I realised the purpose of the whole experience: I needed to learn to open my heart and give love without requiring anything in return.'

'I clearly saw the dynamics that are required to make any relationship and perhaps the whole world would work: just keep putting your love out there.'

'We believe that we are hurt when we don't receive love. But that is not what hurts us. Our pain comes when we do not give love.'

To make another person feel wow, you must feel the love inside to make that person feel that. Love that does not expect anything in return.

Frenzy - Movie Review

It's a 1972 Alfred Hitchcock movie. A serial killer is out raping and killing women with neckties in London. Initially we don't know who it is, but soon enough the truth is revealed.

As the murders go on, an out-of-luck air force man comes under the scanner for the murders and is arrested. It's now left to the police investigator to prove that the air force man is the wrong man and get the real one. The famous last line when he catches the killer - you're not wearing your necktie.

Nice. London. Thriller. Good story telling. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Day 2 in Coog - Mercara (Madikeri), Kushalanagar

The second day we drove to Mercara (Madikeri). It was a delightful drive through the many coffee plantations and lush mountains to Mercara.
Picture perfect - Coorg
Once in Mercara we parked on the main road and lunched at the Coorg Cuisine as suggested by Kaveri. Lovely Coorg food.

We walked up and down a bit the curving, sloping road and picked up stuff you'd pick up in Coorg - spices, honey etc.
A map of the place - courtesy Brig Ponappa
Then we hopped on to the car and headed to Kushalanagar, some 40 kms away. It started raining and that made the drive so much more magical.
Mercara 
Another lovely road
Kushalnagar is where the Buddhist Golden temple in the Tibetan settlement is located. It's a twin town for Bylakuppe - though they are situated in different districts despite being only 6 kms away. What's with me and the Tibetan settlements I wonder.
Golden temple

The drive back home through the plantations also took me close to Dubare, the elephant camp where one can go and feed and bathe elephants. But I did not stop and instead headed straight back home.
The gulmohur tree

Drive back on a nice village road
The return journey was beautiful too with a light rain in the hills and some Beatles on the car stereo. I spotted this lovely gulmohur tree and stopped and got a picture. What's with me and gulmohur trees?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's the Effect You Have On People - Inspired by Jim Carrey's Video

Among the many wonderful lines in Jim Carrey's 'Dream Up a Good Life' is this line - 'the effect you have one people is the most valuable currency you have'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHHF8h-zcas

It's profound. Never thought of things that way.

I thought of the effect I have on people. Some are happy, some are not. Some see me as positive and some see me as negative. It's a middling response that I evince. And I am responsible for that. Alright - good awareness.

I asked the class the same question - what's the effect you have on people? They started with not so great to ok to some are happy.

I changed the question, to - what's the best effect you could leave people with?

Now the answers were - satisfied, with a smile, happy etc.

Could we calibrate it higher? Blank looks.

We categorised the effect we have on people into four types  -
1) where people absolutely run away from us (total energy drains)
2) where they are ok - sometimes happy and sometimes not (good at times)
3) where we leave them happy (generally look forward to meeting)
4) where we leave them with a feeling of WOW (leave them wanting more of you)

To get into the Wow space, we need to give and give. We need to be thoughtful. We need to think of that person and what he needs and give it that - words, acts etc. The performance must be carefully orchestrated and delivered. It needs planning, preparation and commitment. They need to know you made that effort.

If we keep that Wow as the end result - stranger, colleague, client, spouse, sibling, parent - we can transform ourselves perhaps. A salesperson and client surely will benefit. A business and customer will benefit. A performer and his audience will benefit. In fact all relationships will benefit. 

It's not a bad idea to look actively to create that Wow in all relationships. It's the creation of something beautiful - like the sunrise or the sunset - to which we are drawn everyday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sairat - Movie Review

'Who says I don't like you watching me,' says the girl brazenly. And the audience gasps at her audacity. And she continues to shock the audience by the simplicity with which she goes after what she wants. Rinku Rajguru, she's fifteen and studying her 10th according to the Wikipedia page,  breathes a new life into the character of Archana, stormy, strong minded and iron willed daughter of the local landlord. And she keeps bringing this life force into her character every time her sense of what's right by her is challenged or threatened. Goons with guns, police, murderous father and brother, nothing will stop her. She is like a queen. 'I've kidnapped them,' she says to the police. 'They did not kidnap me. Let them go. Now.'

The love story between a fisherman's son Prashant (Aakash Thosar) and the daughter of the most powerful man in the town takes its many turns, often controlled or driven by the girl with the blazing eyes. The love story itself is shown so beautifully - just as it as shown in 'Masaan' - and the two young leads due complete justice. The way the Bullet riding, tractor driving young lady turns around in class to look directly at her new love without blinking an eye even as the entire class is watching reminds you of Kahlil Gibran and his famous line "And think not that you can direct the course of love for love, if it finds you worthy, will direct your course.' The boy has not bargained for such intense heat, such direct passion and he walks out of the class citing sickness. But she cannot be denied - will not be denied. Akash Thosar is no less stylish - all hero material in his poise, his tenderness and his love.

Links to a couple of songs. Reminded me of the music by Ilayaraja in the 80s movies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmU1ZsXUbG0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ-P5RR7r40

'Sairat' makes you fall in love with that feeling of love you felt when you were sixteen. It thaws old, cold and frozen hearts. It gently makes you fall in love with the lead pair and then when you cannot bear to even watch them for an extra second on a two wheeler in traffic for fear of an unexpected danger, it shows us the wild side of our world. Whatever the wild of 'Sairat' means (Sairat means wild), it is the raw power and passion of Archie that to me epitomises the word.

Maharashtra's rural life is shown so beautifully by director Nagraj Manjule. Hyderabad is shown beautifully too. The movie gets into you, settles down and refuses to leave you. It does what few films have done. It silences the audience for a long time and you have no words to say. No one has anything to say. Fantastic piece of work. Nagraj Manjule, Rinku Rajguru and the entire team - take a bow. I loved the music. Little wonder that its the highest grossing Marathi movie ever at 65 crore last count.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Emerge, You Must Learn to Merge

I like the way language is made. I like the way the great communicators use language to communicate in catch words, riddles and funny turns of phrase. Most times, one word, often the opposite of what one wants, provides a twist to the story. And it comes in such a way that we are left clappig our hands like Alia Bhatt in the MMT ad.
To emerge, merge

Like in - to emerge, you must first merge.

I was wondering how if, we were all parts of a universal soul, trying to find separation and in the process knowing and growing, the big lesson is probably to merge with the universal soul. To completely let go of the ego and of ideas of separation and merge. In doing so, that we emerge.

Merging with the work, with the idea, the client - is about giving it everything. It is about really understanding the situation.

When we merge, it is easy to emerge.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Amazing Homestay in Coorg - Victory Home 'The Fairy Tale House'

The distance between Mysore and Coorg is not much - some 120 kms or so - to Mercara or Madikeri. We headed down a well laid highway towards Hunsur and drove straight on towards a place where the road splits - one to Mercara and another to Virajpet. We took the Virajpet road and headed 45 minutes. The environs all through are green but what caught my eye were the many mango sellers who were selling mangoes (what else?) from their push carts by the side of the road. They arranged different types of mangoes - at least five varieties I'd think - in carefully arranged heaps and hardsold them to the speeding motorists. It was very attractive.
Leading up to The Fairy Tale House - Victory Home
The plan to go to Coorg has been on for many years. This time we were so close we had to go. We called a couple of homestays - they were booked all through May - and then we called Victory Home - and we were on. Nikki Ponappa, Professional golfer, Golf instructor and Social activist, daughter of Brigadier Ponappa, and a warm and energetic person by the sound of her, gave us all the information about how to get there, what to do etc.
Picture Perfect
We took the road that goes to Gonekoppal. Upon entering the town, we looked for the Mor supermarket on the right as we entered (as directed by Nikki). On the first floor of that building we found this lovely restaurant that is decorated with hundreds of bronze artefacts. Good service, great food and reasonable prices. Huge portions, so order conservatively. Into the town, a right towards Polibetta village, and after 4 kms we saw a small board with Victory Homes and Brig Ponappa on the right. The road to the estates is to the left. 
The Red Room

Victory Home
We drove on the narrow plantation road until we found a fairy tale driveway with a cute little board - The HOUSE. Drive on up towards the house, and you come upon a sight you don't expect - what most children and perhaps even adults call the Fairy Tale house. Nestling in the plantation, on a small hill, tall silver oaks all around, a beautiful garden with some of the most vividly colored flowers and arrangements in the garden is this delightfully built home, owned by Brig Cheppudira Ponappa and his wife Jancy, aka Kaveri. 
The Golf Mat on the Landing
Victory Home is set in the middle of a 100 acre coffee plantation owned by the Ponappas. The property has 4 ponds, and the thick forest like area grows Coffee, Arecanut and Peppers apart from the many other things that Kaveri grows in her garden, driveway and all over. 
Dining Area
Fairy Tale House
The driveway to the house is full of flowers, shooting out in the space between the way for the wheels. There are so many types of trees and flowers and birds that it would take a few weeks of dedicated work to even do a half decent job at knowing them. Almost every part of the house has something or the other that has been painstakingly collected over the years - Kaveri says its been done over 30 years of their travels across India as part of the army. Brass bowls, statues, idols, hangings, little garden statues, photos, certificates, a quaint bar counter, a home designed firewood stove with an oven, paintings -it all exudes taste, sensibility and class.
Sitting area
Kaveri aka Jancy, our wonderful hostess
Kaveri is a very creative person. And a very energetic one. She is always looking to improve on things, to make the world a more beautiful place. If its not the garden its the interiors or the flower arrangement or the food or the clothes or wines or juices. Once there at Victory Home, her energy, the famed Kodagu hospitality takes over. I wondered how she keeps the energy going, with so many different people and their different energies. But when you watch her interact with people, you realise she is completely non judgmental and clear on her basics. 'People are people,' she said. Then she said something that made me sit up - 'everyone is worth it'. Now that is a beautiful thing to say. I have seen very few people with that attitude - of treating all people alike, equal and not treating them as a class below by having them sit separately, drink from separate cups, eat from separate plates. They are people with great love and tolerance for all brings I do admire their capacity to love life. I, like many others, am nowhere close to being like that.
Acres of Coffee Plantation
Blue Room, Yellow Room and Red Room
It was our first ever homestay. And it was such a wonderful experience thanks to our hosts. Kaveri showed us our room - the Red room and its a room (all the rooms surely) you can instantly fall in love with. The three rooms - Red Room, Yellow Room and Blue Room - all have a distinct character.
The Blue Room
One room is on the ground floor while the other two are on the first, with common sitting and TV watching space. On the landing, there is a small golf mat where one can practice golf putting, and several things to play. Upon subsequent discussions Kaveri told me that for entertainment, if one is bored, one can watch TV, use the golf mat, play basket ball with a hoop, carrom board, chess, read books. Coorg Links golf course is 10 kms from the house and Brig Ponappa, an accomplished and active golfer, can guide you more on that. If you get bored that is.
The Yellow Room
Kaveri also suggests going fishing in the 4 ponds - if you don't have a line they can make a makeshift one for you. Serious anglers can get their equipment and head to the Valanoor fishing camp. For birdwatchers there are plenty of birds and apparently a doctor and his wife sat on the porch and spotted 37 types of birds once.

We were treated to a thunderous storm on the first evening and well, one has to experience it to know how the thick clouds swirl angrily like an ocean churning in the sky and how the lightning streaks through the sky with a wildness that's not of this world and how loudly the thunder claps to see what the rain is like up in the hills.

Sabyasachi, Smitha and Arindam
We met Sabyasachi Das, Smitha and their young thirteen year old son Arindam (he's way more mature than those years and really smart) who were also guests at the homestay. Anjali and Arindam got along fine and Arindam was very gentle and kind with his younger friend. Kaveri took us all for a walk in the plantation and showed us their ponds, the cattle shed, coffee plants etc.
Morning light on the landing area

Later during the evening we got talking, and I realised that Sabyasachi studied at the REC, Warangal at exactly the same time I was studying Civil Engineering at Osmania. Now a senior executive in an MNC that's into chip design, Das obviously did more with his engineering than I did. We spoke cricket, films, writing, movies and it was such a pleasure talking to him because he knew them all so well. Smitha and Arindam sang lovely songs in the night - from Beatles to Deep Purple, Queen and even a few Hindi numbers over a drink that evening. Dinner was delectable - Kaveri cooked pork, chicken and vegetarian fare that was out of the world. And a dessert that was divine - forget its name. She loves her cooking and it shows.

Jancy aka Kaveri's Cooking
Among her many passions is cooking and there are many gushing testimonials in the guest book where everyone leaves a comment on her cooking - be it the crisp dosas and chutney, pork, chicken, rice rotis etc. She likes to cook in her firewood kitchen that is built in a tiled block behind the house with a specially designed stove and oven. Kaveri picks up much stuff from the garden, fresh stuff, and we witnessed one such when she picked up a sanjeevani plant and made this lovely curry out of it.
Firewood Kitchen
I couldn't resist but ask her what the typical guest could look froward to in terms of cuisine. Kaveri said she could cook anything - Coorg, Chinese, Continental, Kashmiri, North Indian, South Indian. For breakfast a choice between - Paputti (cake rice) with egg curry, Otti (rice roti), Nool Puttu, all with curries. Thalia Puttu is another variant (a bit like sanas, idli). And we did get to try her delicious crisp dosas and mango ginger chutney - delicious stuff. For lunch and dinner one could look forward to the Coorg specialties like pandi curry (pork), pork roast, pork chops, koli curry (chicken curry). Then there is fried rice, onion garlic, Neyyi koolu (ghee rice), special pulao, mutton, raitha, leafy vegetables, brinjals, fish curry etc. For the veggies there is sanjeevani, greens all grown from the garden along with some potent chillies.
Stove and Oven
I went to the  firewood kitchen and took some pictures. 'I do all the cooking myself,' she said. 'I don't leave it to the servants.'

Kaveri also makes homemade wine (it's really nice). And she makes a variety of juices from what grows in her garden. Cherry, passion fruit, barbados, tree tomato, fig, butter fruit / avacado all wind up becoming fresh fruit juices. I tried one and its as fresh as it can get.

Kaveri is no homebound housewife. She has an active social life and meets her friends at the nearby club for a game of cards. She drives off by herself and is constantly busy at something. 'I was busy all the time when we were in the army as well,' she told me. 'I ran a finishing school for poor girls and taught them tailoring, flower arrangement, dress designing, cake decoration, baking. I would counsel the girls and help them get a job so they could look after themselves. I must have trained some 400-500 kids in the 11 years here.'
Backyard and kitchen area
I couldn't resist asking her about how she built the house and who conceptualised it. She said she was pretty clear about what she wanted and how though there was an architect involved. Her involvement shows in the elaborate woodwork - wood from the plantation and a carpenter from the army who came by. 'I want my own style. I don't want to copy,' she says. 'Anything I want to do I think for 10 days. then I start.' Sounds like a good method to create anything worthwhile.

Rains and Elephants
The evening rain gave us a sample of the difference - between how we view nature from our safe urban homes and how it is in the open. A day or two before, an elephant had come up close to the home in search of her baby and we could see where the elephant slid down the slope right onto the driveway.
Bronze vessels

That evening, I sought some time with my host Brig. Ponappa and he told me the history of the Kodavas. (We uncovered some delightful coincidences as well - he is related to the Jaisimhas and Junie aunty is his cousin!) Victory Homes was named so, he said, because when it was originally bought by his great grandfather, there was litigant who challenged the ownership. The case went all the way to the Privy Counil in London and it was ruled in the Cheppudiras favor. Hence Victory for the long, hard won battle
Driveway
Apart from being known for the famous Generals - General Thimmaiah and General Cariappa, Coorg has often been compared to Switzerland (or is it Scotland?). It's also called South Kashmir. I think they should just call it Coorg. It's different.

Brig. Ponappa said that Kodavas were not originally from here and perhaps were a different race.. No one knows when or where they came from - there are theories that they came with Alexander's armies and seem perhaps more Persian. Selecus the Greek perhaps had some influence. Arabs. They dress a bit like Kurds. The names however sound Telugu and Kannada like.
Porch
Among their unique customs, Coorgs pray to their ancestors. They have no other gods. All rituals are conducted by the elders and not pundits. They are clannish, bear the family name. As is well known they are warriors. They have no dowry system. There is no script and they speak Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu, Tamil. The two traditional professions were - join the armed forces or be a planter. As a planter, he says 9 months goes into the growing and in Jan and Feb, the middle men come for pulping of the coffee.
Garden
Brig. Ponappa, an avid golfer with many trophies that continue to grow in number, served the army for 35 years. He fought the 65 and the 71 wars and served in logistics.
Driveway
I asked about the Kodagu hospitality. He said guests were generally well looked after in Coorg. Home stays he says began in the late 80s and beginning of 90s as a tourism department initiative. Coorg is now full of homestays and lovely sprawling plantations.
Walk in the woods
Homestays in Coorg are registered and graded. Victory Home is a premium homestay but they charge far less (Rs. 3000 for a couple) than the Rs. 8000 they can charge up to.

Only families, No bachelors
Victory Home is particular that they get only families - and not bachelors or corporate parties where things can get a bit out of control. The idea is to have a good time without getting into everyone's hair and to keep the homestay etiquette going. Mostly guests come for 2-3 days.

There's a marathon, a barefoot marathon, organised by Nikki at Polibetta which normally takes place in December. One celebrity runner there is Milind Soman. It's probably a great time to visit Coorg.

One can stay on the plantation or go visiting stuff nearby. BYOB is the policy so you can stock up before you get there.
Bye Bye Fairytale House - Brig. Ponappa, Kaveri, Anjali, Shobha

We left Victory Home after a two day stay. I'd love to go back there again. Thank you Brig. Ponappa and Kaveri for a lovely time and for indulging me with all the information. I guess I don't need to put in any other recommendation - this entire blog is one.

Email - ponappa_jancy@yahoo.com
Call: 9448896196, 9480605625
08274 - 248090 (Coorg)
Nikki Ponappa - 98455 59452
ponappanikki@gmail.com

Another Thoughtful Gift - A Handcrafted Wooden Vase

Another thoughtful gift from another student from the Department of Dance - Chudamani and her husband Sastry met me a couple of days ago and gifted me a lovely, handcrafted wooden vase. We had a fine conversation over coffee and it was very interesting to hear Sastry speak so honestly and animatedly about his love for cricket.

Thanks Chudamani. Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated. Good luck to you both.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Anjali - Book Review and Favorite Extracts

Book review: 125 true stories of amazing pets

Hey everyone ! how you doing this book is awesome!
This book shows how in some ways pets can teach you stuff. But it also contains crazy stuff.

Okay, so I liked all of them obviously I cannot tell you all 125 of them so I’m telling you my favorite three tales from the book.

Guys, what is in red is what I liked about the story
What is in blue is what I learnt from the story


1.    Pooch saves family
HILLSBORO, OHIO, U.S.A
Hercules the Saint Bernard didn’t take long to say “thank you” to his new family for adopting him. The pooch has been at home for only six hours when he saved his owners from being robbed.

The canine’s caretakers put him in the backyard to play. Immediately, the dog sensed something wrong: He noticed a burglar tying to break into the basement. Growling, the dog leaped off the back porch and bolted toward the intruder. The thief began running with Hercules bounding behind. The dog chased the robber until the man disappeared over the backyard fence.We are amazed how quickly the dog became loyal to us”.   Says owner Lee Littler.


2.    Dog becomes archaeologist

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Migaloo the dog has a real nose for history. She’s known as the world’s first canine archaeologist, using her powerful sniffer to find buried ancient remains.

“This work is a game for my canine” says owner Gary Jackson “when she arrives at an archaeological site she immediately starts sniffing the ground for bones”. The four year-old pooch trained for six months before she got her job. Now, Migaloo regularly joins excavation teams to search for remains of Australia’s first inhabitants, the Aborigines. Migaloo also has some cool moves” When she finds an old discovery, she does a victory dance”.


3.    Naughty dog buys stuff

 RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, U.S.A
Christine Payne and Greg Strope had a mystery to solve. An email confirmed that $62.50 purchase of 5,000 Xbox points. The problem was they hadn’t bought a thing. They searched for clues and found the game controller on the floor, covered with bite marks and dried slobber. Also at the scene was likely: Oscar the dog. Turns out Strope had left the tempting controller on the coffee table, and Oscar; the Labrador/hound mix couldn’t resist. He chewed until he turned on the video game and clicked through the screens, accidently buying points on the system. “He was a puppy, so he would chew anything he could reach: shoes, clothes, paper,” Payne says. In the end, the video game company refunded the money and for fun, set up the pooch with his own screen name: Oscar the K9.


Friday, May 20, 2016

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Grow, We Need to Remove

We have what it takes. We don't need more.
We need less, to be more.

It's the stuff we don't need that we must remove. So we can be what we are.
The Unveiling
Pic courtesy - Satish Nargundkar

To grow, we need to remove layers - of fear and doubt - that surround us. Unveil ourselves.

The journey begins then.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kim - Rudyard Kipling

Another one off the list. This is the first of Kipling's books I have read. He writes in the thee, thy, thou style, written as it was in 1901 or so, but the story and characters are interesting and racy.

Kim is Kimball 'O Hara, son of an Irish soldier, who loses both parents, and is living on the streets of Lahore. He is a bit of a Tom Sawyer like character but with a street smartness that comes out of living and surviving on the tough streets. He looks and talks like a native though he is a sahib - and proof of the same hangs around his neck in an amulet. Quick of tongue, sharp of mind, strong of build, Kim has a feel for many things. Among his many dangerous jobs - he carries messages for Mahbub Ali a British secret service man to the regiments in the time of British -Russian hostility.

However the story is about the affectionate and loving relationship between this feisty young lad and an aged Tibetan lama who is searching for a river that will wash away all illusion. It is a story of a guru and a chela in the end, and their relationship blossoms beautifully.

Kim, in search of the river with his guru, is however caught by a British regiment. It is soon found out that his real parentage is that of a sahib and the chaplain sends him off to school, funded by the lama. Kim uses his education and training in espionage that he receives on the side to good effect and finds his guru again. In their search for the river the guru and chela endure much hardship, encounter Russians and save the British from danger. They return from the mountains - and finally the lama finds his river - enlightenment. A fine love story develops between Kim and a woman of the mountains and for me that love story was shown with great restraint and energy. Kim is a character one won't forget once we meet him. He strides both worlds easily - of calm spirit and hot blooded action.

Rudyard Kipling writes with a rare insight into India of those days. He writes of the many nuances of life in the subcontinent, the caste system, the many incongruencies and behaviors, the turn of phrase, fun and adventure, love and relationships with the ease of someone who has been there and experienced this life closely. The language gets a mite tedious. However the most outstanding feature of the book is the way Kipling effortlessly navigates the various landscapes, gets under the skin and into the minds of so many different classes and communities of Indians.  

Mysore - Early Morning Pictures

Some of the buildings were so old world that I woke up early one day and just drove around clicking pictures around the Mysore University area.
Mysore University Admin block


Lovely building
Straight out of the 60s

Old mansion

Mysore - Visiting R.K. Narayan's House

On the way back home we took a diversion and went to see RK Narayan’s house in Yadavagiri. I do like these little pilgrimages - Mussoorie was about Ruskin Bond, Mysore had to be about RKN. The good GPS tracked it and we found it quite easily. You have to travel up from the Railway museum and turn right and its right there.
Under renovation

It was being done up by the government and some laborers (a pretty young lady who spoke Telugu told me that some government work was going on and that people come by to take pictures etc).
The driveway to the garage
I remembered seeing a picture of the circlular room in the front, reminiscent of the 60s style homes. Anjali and I asked them if we could walk around, walked in, imbibed the place, took a few pics.
The circular room 
In a year or two it will be a lovely museum I am sure and I would like to come by again then. I read almost all his books. Surprisingly missed the 'Guide'. Need to read it and watch the movie. Fantastic writing.
A view from the gate
His autobiography is equally fascinating - his attempts to contact his wife's spirit through that spirit writing (forgot what it was called but one Telugu gentleman introduces him to it and it works).