Wednesday, May 31, 2017

First Press - The Hindu on 'This Way Is Easier Dad'

Birds - Movie Review

1963. Alfred Hitchcock. An adaptation from a short story by Daphne du Maurier. I remember seeing it once before, and like most things that are well thought out, needed a second look to make sense of it.

Starts where else - but a bird shop. A young man meets a feisty young woman known for her wild ways. They prank each other and he leaves the shop without the love birds for his kid sister. The impulsive young lady buys the love birds and heads right out to Bodego Bay, a sleepy hamlet where the man lives with his possessive mother and kid sister (and an ex-lover with a permanent sneer). The mother does not take kindly to the brash, rich, city girl but that really does not matter because out of nowhere sea gulls, crows, blackbirds start attacking people murderously. They kill a few people and do not kill some. Someone says that the girl is evil. But one night the family is completely under attack by birds that almost break down doors and the roof. Will they all survive?

What makes it unpredictable is that Hitchcock makes things behave out of their nature. Now we do not know why birds are behaving so, attacking humans and actually killing some (even blowing up a gas station once). It is this unpredictable nature that keeps the story taut - you just don't know when they will attack and you know they are capable of it. Superb story telling - without ever knowing why the birds became that way. 

My Life - Brett Lee with James Knight

So he has so much content already to write a bio does he, asked my friend and that summed up the book for me. Touted as an honest and genuinely funny autobiography Brett Lee's book, as do most biographies, does him more disservice than good. One remembers him as a smiling, seemingly good natured and competitive cricketer. What one finds is a fast bowler who somehow feels its ok to knock people out and break their bones and see blood, who somehow believes he is always right and the other is wrong, who is a very money minded businessman and who had had reasonable success as a cricketer. He sickeningly defends the Aussie behavior and cannot for the life of him understand what the spirit of cricket is.
Random House India, 436 p

The book is really nothing to write home about. Apart from much of the stuff we already know about or don't care about, Lee's more interesting moments come when he is playing music or is meeting the musicians (Mick Jagger, Elton John, Kylie Minogue to start with). His injuries, the way he plays on despite injuries and his batting that won (or nearly won) several games. His rebellious streak is evident right through. One wonders at the firecrackers incidents and the running off in the streets for a jog incidents. The charity show ball with the cancer stricken Sarah Genius, the fan letter about the girl who wanted his poster are fine incidents. Singing with Asha Bhosle, acting in a Bollywood film, losing money to a real estate cheat in Bangalore, being linked up with Priety Zinta (her advise to Moody that "I think we should send a good batsman to get the runs" - that was surely hilarious).

Overall one wonders what this is all about. It's a game. You played it. Not many will remember you after a few years. Why this hurry to write bios and make biopics I still don't get it. Again one gets the feeling that maybe he should have waited or even better not written it at all so we can retain the illusion of what we thought Brett Lee was. There should be a ministry that approves biographies.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

First Copy of This Way Is Easier, Dad - The Story Behind

One of the finest feelings I have experienced is holding the first copy of every single book I have written so far. So with "This Way is Easier, Dad". This time of course I feel it is much more collaborative - the content being provided by Anjali, illustrations by Chacha, encouragement by friends and associates like Krishna Shastri Devulapalli and Chitra Viraraghavan and innumerable hours of active work that is priceless by Vidyasagar Rachakonda a genuine altruist and clear soul.
Anjali and Me (The working title of this book)
It was a couple of years ago while I was wondering about my next project that Krishna and Chitra told me in no uncertain terms that I must get the Anjali blogs together. I was not sure but they were absolutely clear about it. Krishna actually put me on to a couple of editors he knew but they slowly faded into more important businesses of theirs after a couple of mails. But it was in one conversation with Sagar that he told me - picking the Anjali project without hesitation over two other contenders - and saying 'this one is a winner sir'. I had my doubts but Sagar was absolutely clear. He thought of how the book should look, helped me with the proposal, the proof of concept, drew some fine illustrations with a software, and then we sent off the proposal. I was circumspect still. (One editor friend shot back her reply - so what's the big deal about writing blogs about your own daughter?)

For the record - the proposal was liked by the Chief Editor at Jaico Sandhya Iyer, who I feel has an eye to see through a rough idea and she said 'It's a charming book'. I remember her reaction to 50 Not Out too was similar. I have the highest regard for her and also am very fond of her and her ways - the way she convinces me of why something is important etc. This preliminary acceptance happened in April 2015. Then I sent the entire manuscript in a month or so and it went to an editorial committee for comments and suggestions. That took a couple of months and finally we had something on our platter.
Illustrator Chacha Surendra
Sandhya assigned Mugdha to the book and we started work on it. There were over 130 blogs at that time and I had to reduce them to 100. That by itself was a challenge. Every day's delay meant that the content was getting added. Mugdha was patient and meticulous. I am certain I am not easy to deal with but she did.

The content was something I could tweak, but the bigger problem was the illustrations. Sagar tried first as he did with the Proof of concept, with a software that drew an outline of a photograph. We made about 20 of those (sitting together hour by hour) and then Jaico was not too convinced that the minimalistic, line drawings were what they needed. The search for illustrators continued - Aditya Jella tried his hand at one way of getting computerised line drawings. The roads finally led to Chacha Surendra who is an incredibly talented artist and who did some work for 50 Not Out (the umpire icons for No Ball, Bonus Runs etc). Chacha agreed to do the project for us - 100 illustrations. We had 30 pictures of actual incidents but we needed concepts for the other 70.
Sagar, who lent a lot of time and creative support to the book
Again I sat with Sagar, every other day I would land up at his house after dropping Anjali at school, and over a delicious cup of coffee, we would discuss each concept and pick a placeholder picture off the net. This was improvised and the idea written down in my notebook. Then I would take the idea, the picture and the concept to Chacha who would start work on the same. It was two months of intense work. Then we had to send the pics to Jaico for approval. They came out really well.

At the same time we were also working on a deadline of going to print in October. I worked through that period trying to get the concept across as clearly as I could, avoid repetitions as much as I could, try to say it without being preachy or preening over it. The idea of adding the adult perspective for a contrast came in and we added that - it was difficult to write that - because the thought process is so twisted. The return gift was the self-help part that the editorial committee was keen on having and though I resisted it initially, I now see its relevance.
Me and Keerti, editor par excellence
At every stage I was consulting with my friend and editor Keerti Ramachandra on almost everything and she always humours me and gives me her opinion and suggestion. Many friends have seen, edited and helped me in many ways as I wrote, edited.

The October 2016 deadline got blown with demonetisation and I suspected that our schedule will get delayed. It did. It went to April and then May. So on May 28, when I walked into the Mumbai office of Jaico, I was least expecting to see a copy. But Sandhya came into the room with a copy of the book and well it was the familiar feeling of holding the book in your hand again.

I gifted the first copy (which I normally keep for myself) to Anjali. It's her book after all. The second copy I gifted to Miskil who wa one of the first readers to tell me that she absolutely loved it. The third copy, or the first in the set of my complementaries, is what I kept for myself.

Playing to Win - Saina Nehwal

I read this slim 100 page book that gave a quick account of Saina Nehwal and her growth as an athlete. A peek into her childhood at Hissar, her agri scientist father and a sportswoman for mother, a secure, township-based childhood makes one long for those nice government jobs that give that illusion of stability. She'd play all games then including cricket if I remember right, and another thing I remember is her fancy dress competition clothes.
Penguin, 144 p, Rs. 199
Then the move to Hyderabad (then of course Rajendra Nagar was so out of the way, almost ten kms away from the city centre) and her father taking her to Lal Bahadur stadium and getting her enrolled in the shuttle classes at the stadium. Her smash in that extra time selections that her father (mother?) fought for and got her an entry into the classes. The early morning auto rides after waking at 430, practice till 630, head home, go to school, study till 230, Mom taking her to stadium at 330 for practice all paid off. The contribution of her sportswoman mom who sowed the importance of winning and her process-oriented father seeded her with the best of both - process and outcome.

Winning junior tournaments, her gradual rise into the big league, achievements and awards, endorsements and the financial comfort. A peek into her father's withdrawal from his PF fund to finance her early days is touching. And then  it all seems worth it when she says I am now comfortable with two houses in Hyderabad and one in Haryana. As with all top sportspeople she grappled with injuries and persisted. A human touch when she had to travel alone for a tournament and her shyness at dealing with the immigration people.

After every chapter she gives some insights - on her routine, her food, her advise to people who want to enrol their kids into shuttle classes. Pretty simple. But there was one biography written by T.S. Sudhir of NDTV - wonder why there are two bios? Anyway nothing much here that one may not find otherwise. That question again - why the hurry to write bios, to make bio pics?

As with all other bios of sportspeople I have read recently the stand out points are - supportive parents and teachers and educational institutions, good coaches and mentors, dedicated routines, nutrition and fitness regimes and a growth mindset, on the way up. Once there, injury time, media disillusionment, ads and endorsements and the biggest killer of them all, the insecurity. And then for a lifetime of work, the fame is fleeting. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Anjali - The Dog Series

Our recent travels brought great joy to the resident dog lover Anjali. When in Pune we met Ashu whose two dogs Rocky (a huge German Shepherd) and Perry (a most loveable Golden Retriever who would put his paw in Anjali's hand and insist that she hold it forever).
Hold my paw please!
Anjali had a great time with them both.

Communing with Perry
In Pune again, we met Milou (a French version of Snowy from Tintin I believe), another frisky golden retriever.
Now Gauri's house has a huge yard and Anjali ran all over the place with Milou bounding about behind her.

Back in Hyderabad she met Topper's dog Rossi, but really unique and almost human like in his reactions.
Rossi and the Sunriser's fan brigade
Rossi is a playful chap who likes to be fed with a human hand and apparently refuses to eat and even starve himself if that human hand is missing. Incredible chap.
At peace
Pretty nice. Anjali and her dog escapades. She actually managed to take the huge Rocky out for a walk as well. 

Is it that there is more love and kindness to animals for these kids or am I just noticing it now? Anyway seems to bode well for animals and humans and the earth if we have kinder souls inhabiting it in the coming years.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Scaling Up Excellence - Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao

Another great book suggestion by Rajesh when I was visiting them at Bangalore recently. This book addresses the problem of scaling - not just anything - but excellence. How would you like to scale excellence faster? And better? Since there is so much talk about scaling excellence - and I like the topic too - I plunged right into it.
Crown Business, 368 p

Scaling mantras are
1) Spread a mindset not just a footprint- Build a culture
2) Engage all senses - Go deep and wide and literally engage all senses
3) Link short term reality to long term dreams
4) Accelerate accountability
5) Fear the cluster fug (illusion, impatience and incompetence)
6) Scaling requires addition and subtraction
and
7) Slow down to scale faster and better - down the road

The Ground War mindset is advocated at the very beginning - as opposed to air attacks. Like any job well done it's basically about getting down to the brass tacks and working at the details step by step and not just going through airy fairy motions and great speeches and events. The two models they discuss are about Buddhism (everyone does it their own way) and Catholicism (create one role model and replicate it). I suspect the book leans towards the latter.

Some scaling principles include - Hot causes and Cool solutions - Hot causes being role models and Cool solutions being whatever they do is cool so they get followers. Jet Blue Valentine Day Massacre is about how the CEO of Jet Blue got everyone involved in dealing with customers during troubled times. Basically talking about mindset is just not enough - you need to ensure that it is imbibed.

The Virtuous Cycle (how to address any problem) - 1) Name the problem 2) Name the enemy 3) Do it where all can see 4) Break assumptions 5) Gateway experience 6) New and better rituals and 7) Lean on people who can't leave well enough alone

To Cut cognitive load on few
  • The job of hierarchy is to cut hierarchy - superb line. In fact the objective of anything is to eliminate it. 
  • Use subtraction as a way of life. (Hemingway and his obsession with removing anything that was not necessary). More with less should be the mantra.
  • Make people squirm (if you aren't upsetting people you aren't pushing hard enough).
  • Bring on the load busters. 
  • Divide and conquer - divide the load into biteable sizes and work at them one by one. 
  • Bolster collective brain power (increase cognitive capacity instead of adding people). Seek more opinions and see how you can use them.
  • Give ground grudgingly
People who propel scaling
As far as people go, the ones who help scale have the following characteristics.
  • I own the place and the place owns me
  • Talent density - there are organisations that look for stars - High school drop outs
  • Accountability is a great virtue
  • Talent x Accountability = Scaling capacity
Accountability
To bring in accountability - the key factor for all great work.
1) Squelch free riding, free riders (get rid of them)
2) Inject pride and righteous anger
3) Bring guilt prone leaders
4) I'll be watching you - What you inspect, people respect
5) Create the right gene pool
6) Use other organisations as your HR department
Extreme accountability example - Taj, Mumbai incident when several employees put their lives at risk before the customers.

Connect people and cascade excellence - How to spread excellence through people
1) Whom to connect - Its about diversity and not numbers (don't look for similar people, look for diversity to spread wide)
2) Look for master multipliers
3) Bring on the energisers (actively look for the energisers)
4) Activate dormant connectors (put some effort and motivate them)
5) Make team work into a game (use your imagination ala Ramakant Achrekar)
6) Making Nets work
7) Top down approach (start at the top..that's where it all starts)
8) Broadcast message to one and all (don't keep any secrets, tell all so they know)
9) Have many teach a few
10) Power of Bridging disconnected islands
11) Create cross roads where people connect

Bad is stronger than good - Fabulous Principle to Know
Bad somehow has more fascination than good - bad is personal, good is public
1) Disney - happiest place on earth (how Disney lives up to its motto of being the happiest place on earth)
2) Dissonant details (all dissonant details that mess with the motto must be removed immediately)
3) It's not my problem (this attitude must go)
4) Good people, perverse, bad behavior (must be realigned with good people, good behavior)

Breaking bad - Handling Bad Attitude
When you identify the disease, stop it form spreading
1) Nip it in the bud
2) Get rid of bad apples (research shows that one bad apple in a basket can reduce efficiency by 40%)
3) Plumbing before poetry (address the bare essentials first and then go for art)
4) Adequacy before excellence
5) Use cool kids to define and spell behavior (use the role models well to display the behavior you want to encourage)
6) Kill the thrill
7) From current to future selves 9see yourselves in the future - don't address only the current selves)
8) Focus on best times, worst times and the end (three scenarios - good, bad, worst)

Heed warning signs, danger signs

Guidelines
1) Imagine you've already succeeded or failed (be aware of both scenarios)
2) Look back from the future (walk backwards from where you ant to be)
3) We started where we were, not where we hoped to arrive
4) We did scaling not swarming
5) Mindset as a guide, not as an answer
6) Used constraints to channel (don't get bogged down by constraints, use them)
7) Hierarchy squelched friction, not weaken it
8) We worked with people we respected not friends
9) Accountability prevailed

The book has several examples and concepts that I liked. Accountability + Talent is Scaling Capacity. Accountability is key. Enforcing and building  culture top down is key. Inspecting that culture is followed is key. With the right people, right role models, right principles and a step by step effort, the mindset and the culture of accountability can be built. One can scale excellence - people must get a taste of it first.   

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bahubali 2 The Conclusion - Movie Review

The kingdom of Mahishmati is full of paradoxes. It has a set of rules that are as complex as the ones we are all ruled by - the types that get us all into knots and not get the real thing done. So for all its talk of a great country with great systems and stuff it ends up being ruled by a scheming dictator and the only few good people are bumped off or sent off to exile. Sounds bit like the Mahabharatha but of course the similarities do not end there.

Bahubali 1 and 2 are good chaps (like good intentioned employees in any company). Then there are the bad chaps who are Bahubali1's cousin Bhalla and his father (fellows who want power but do not want to acquire skill). Then we have the ones bound by principles and rules that completely make them useless and in many ways senseless too - like the Queen who uses rules at times and who forgets their purpose all the time or the slave who also does the same (the useless bosses who have power but no sense of discretion). The baddies manipulate the rule bound Queen and the Slave and get rid of the good guys. Until Bahubali 2 returns, frees his enslaved mother, kills uncle Bhalla and claims his throne.

The script runs true but somehow I wondered at how a son would react upon knowing his mother is enslaved by his own uncle, how the love angle of the son becomes relegated to being a body guard again, how the uncle reacts to the woman he has enslaved, one he was supposed to have married. Why would he keep her enslaved instead of killing her off?  All through the movie one gets the feeling that something is a bit too loud or a bit too tacky - just that much. (Or maybe I am getting older.)

I would not watch it again. Once was fine though.

Anjali - Pen Drive of UselessThoughts

Late in the evening yesterday Anjali told me that she has devised a way to keep her thoughts simple.
'At the end of the day, I go through all that happened during the day and then store away all that I don't want in a pen drive (imaginary). I then throw the pen drive away. I only keep what I want in my hard drive (the brain).'

Hmm. That sounds interesting. Why load the hard drive with unnecessary junk every day. Download, throw away and be free.

'You could try it too,' she said.

I did immediately.
'Over,' I said.

'So soon?' she was surprised. 'Ah, nothing much happened in your day looks like.'
Yeah. Nothing much happened. Come to think of it...what did I do all day?

But good idea Anjali, this pen drive. Could just help ease up and get a good night's sleep.

This Way is Easier - The Happy, Funny Morning Incident

One thing that has happened after 'This Way Is Easier Dad' hit the market is that I am hearing more of the children stories from parents, uncles, aunts etc. Yesterday, while I was at Sagar's house and we were discussing how it was not about Anjali (though these are her unique responses), but every child, because they speak with such clarity, intelligence and uniqueness in their perspectives. While this is a point I try hard to make, that it is about every child and parent, and that Anjali and I only represent them, it was demonstrated so well by the mischievous Aahana.
Young reader - Aahana

Sagar told me that Aahana, his six year old niece, had a new rule. That she would not have a 'Good Morning' or 'Good Evening' anymore. Instead she would have a 'Happy, Funny Morning'. I said Wow. That is such an incredibly fine context to have - that instead of the boring 'good' you actually have a 'happy' or a 'funny' morning. (Jim Collins has already impressed upon us the importance of how good is the enemy of great.) Aahana has got it already and I told Sagar that this is exactly the kind of an incident I would record, when such a little gem slips out from the child. Aahana is a treasure house of these stories I am sure from whatever little I have seen of her and so is her older brother Aayush, who holds himself back a little bit to be the older and more mature one. Aahana would be five  and Aayush would be around seven I would think.
Aayush reading TWIED

While at that I wished Aahana a 'Happy, Funny Day' and she said that was okay but that it was her birthday tomorrow and she was planning on eating a lot of cake. Aayush came by and told me that she was lying. Aahana merely smiled. Mischief in abundance.
Lovely pic - Aahana, TWIED and Aayush 

My friend Dr. Satyanath also recounted an incident with his friend in Australia who is now a very successful businessman. He has homes, cars and the works. His son however is a millennial kid, perhaps eight.

'Why do you have your bath for such a long time?'  he asked his father.
'Why?' asked the flustered Dad. 'What's wrong'
'Imagine people in the world who do not have any water to drink or use. Imagine how many people can use the water you are using up.'
Difficult to answer right. Jawwad Patel, the serial innovator, would agree.

The same child is also severe on his father for buying himself a Porsche.
'Why did you buy a Porsche?'
'Because I want to enjoy my life. I worked hard for it and now I want to enjoy it. I always liked sports cars.'
The son was not impressed.
'If you love sports cars you can hire them. Why don't you buy an ordinary Toyota and when you feel like a sports car, hire it.'

I think that is the kind of advise Warren Buffet would give as well. And we'd pay a million bucks to listen to Buffet.

I am seriously thinking there should be a panel of children who tell the world how to go about managing it. We ought to tune in every morning and the panel tells us what to do. They seem to know all the priorities, they are clear on how to go about it. All we have to do is listen to them and implement their advise and we'd be in a much better place.

Thanks for sharing fellows and I am thinking there's more coming up from this space. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AB - AB De Villiers

In the series of biographies and autobiographies I read recently, AB turned up at Rajesh's home in Bangalore. The book starts with AB picking up a key moment in his life, when a brother's friend, much older to him, picks on him for misfielding and throws his cap down and tells him he does not deserve to wear that. All of eight or so, AB decides (or has already decided to be a fighter - not a star but a fighter). Young AB makes the older boys pay by fighting on and on, and not getting out despite all their efforts. That incident signifies what AB is like.
Pan Macmillan, Rs. 599. 322 p
The maverick batsman and fielder who seems divinely gifted is perhaps so - he is a Catholic who believes that he is doing god's work in this world and is merely the medium. He also quickly shares another incident when in the journey to his heights as an international cricketer he has an epiphany to remain humble. That's something AB imbibes and remains humble to this day.

AB recounts his early days at his home with his two older brothers, mother and father. He was privy to good schooling, to elite schools, rugby, football, hockey, swimming, tennis, cricket etc. Young AB wa s a tough competitor and played both football and tennis apart from cricket. The final call was between cricket and tennis and he chose cricket. Was there an incident of him getting hit on the head as well - I think so - maybe a concussion? Anyway he quickly dispels all those stories about him being the young scientist, hockey, swimming, badminton, golf etc and says they are not true.

Somewhere early on while playing tennis he is taught the discipline that is required to make a champion.
- Hit 1000 balls a day
- Prepare correctly for every practice session and match
- Routines for kit, equipment, water, nutrition
- Write brief notes for yourself about the game pan, read it
Surely anyone who does all that will be a champion. Ask Andre Agassi.

His mother was a sportswoman and a stickler for discipline and AB was taught to respect the opponent and the equipment. He writes about his school, growing into the junior team, playing for South Africa A team and visiting India (Lucknow). He recounts his friends Dale Steyn, Morne and Albie Morkel and the rise to the senior side.

Much of his cricket he played, he admired Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher. He talks of how his career took a turn for the better when he met his friend and later his manager who taught him the value of REPS. R - Recognise the line between success and failure, E - Enhance key relationships, P - Prepare for life after cricket and S - Stay close to the cross. He takes AB into a dark stadium and helps him visualise the high road - what he can give to the audiences by playing to his potential. the joy, the excitement. AB realises that and aims higher and his stats show a huge difference after that.

In his talk about South Africa and Protea fire, AB recounts meeting Madiba. AB is a songwriter and a singer, loves his music and quotes so many songs in his autobiography that you know how special it is to him. One song he mentions is of Johnny Clegg and Mandela - Asimbonanga..

I remember listening to Johnny Clegg, who was introduced to me by Chhaya, Shobha's cousin, back in 1992. Superb stuff.

AB recounts meeting Jeffrey Archer, who sends him his books every time he writes one. He writes about the IPL, the money, parties. I can never forget the way he took on Dale Steyn in one of the most savage attacks I ever saw on the cricket field in an IPL - and AB describes it ball by ball. But his description does not do any justice to what he actually did - truth be told AB's humility comes in the way of making his biography as exciting as his batting. He writes about how badly they wanted to shed the tag of chokers and how the Proteas still hurt at their inability to bag any major championship. I liked the little green book concept he starts where the book is given to one member of the team every day and he writes something about the game, about others, about himself - with specific rules to write stuff that help the team.

And then he writes about his love and now his wife Daniella and how can music be far behind when he speaks of love. So he brings up David Gray and his 'This Year's Love' and Elvis Blue's 'Lighthouse'.

Fittingly I like his belief about how the team is not 11 but 30, including the support staff. And he ends with a Virat quote - I will play forever - says Virat. AB obviously has other plans. 

Anjali - Involved, Uninvolved

The IPL final broke many hearts - especially the Pune and Dhoni supporters. After the exit of her favorite team Sunrisers, Anjali shifted allegiance to Pune. The final swung this way and that and what appeared to be a cakewalk for Pune turned into a nightmare and they lost by one run.

Shobha and Anjali were quite shaken by the loss.
'Next time, I don't want to get involved with any team,' said Shobha watching the post match proceedings.

'Yes,' said the more intense fan. 'No point getting involved if we cannot get uninvolved.'

Hmm. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Aradhana - Movie Review

Hadn't seen this 1969 classic, and now stand corrected. It's full of twists and turns, red hot romance and fabulous songs. The movie kicks off with 'Meri sapnon ki rani..' and never loses steam after that. Check the poster out - its a full nostalgia trip - their expressions, those beautiful faces.

An airforce pilot falls in love with a pretty girl in town (meri sapnon ki rani). They are almost married and in a rainy night they slip up on their passions (roop tera mastana). Cruel fate strikes and the officer dies in a crash but not before leaving his fiancee pregnant. The fiancee tries to give up the baby for adoption anonymously and then adopt it back in the morning legally thereby avoiding the stigma of being an unwed mother. But cruel fate turns another twist and her baby goes to another house. The man of the house if a gentleman and asks her to stay as a nurse for the young child. Enter cruel fate as the younger brother of the lady of the house and he has eyes only for the nurse. In another cruel twist of fate, she finds that her son (now unofficial) stabs the rascal. Nurse takes it upon her and goes to jail. When she returns she finds her son has grown up and become an air force pilot and all ends well. Primarily the movie is ended before fate turns another cruel fate.

But nice songs "Baghon mein bahar hai", "Gun guna rahe hai", "Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera" - though I hate 'Chanda hai tu'. Always hated it. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore share a fine chemistry. Done and dusted. Would love to watch it with a few of those times.

Ace Against Odds - Imran Mirza and Shivani Gupta

I believe Sania has more tennis left in her and was wondering why the biography now. It's written by her father Imran Mirza and journalist Shivani Gupta and pretty much outlines her growth to become an icon in Indian and world tennis.
Harper Sport, Rs. 499. 238 p
The book starts dramatically. Sania and her parents miss a flight in the USA due to some scheduling issues and the flight crashes - this was when she was six. They take the same flight next day and arrive at their destination only to be covered in the national news. Sania spends a bit of her childhood in the USA when her father attempts to start a business and settle down but within an year he gives up and the young parents return to Hyderabad with their daughter - who has already picked up a liking for tennis.

Sania's early indoctrination into the game, her mother's determination to get her into the coaching classes, and the trouble the parents take in taking her to and fro tennis classes etc is well documented. A budding skating career is nipped when Sania falls and is knocked out unconscious for a while - and after that her mother threw away her skates (or something like that). Early promise is recognised, a coach says she will win a slam, and she starts winning tournaments at the Under 10 level. This brings into focus the sacrifices and troubles the parents took while giving their daughter all opportunities. Imran Mirza, a cricketer himself and one who moulds Sania's attitude by telling her to go for it and not nudge around, buys an old 1000cc Maruti, dieselifies it and the family of four (with her younger sister in tow now) travels to places as far away as Trivandrum and Ahmedabad. I marvel at Imran Mirza's driving skills and patience and even courage. Sania wins all the tournaments with consummate ease and is picked up to represent India in the juniors. She starts playing international tournaments, wins prize money, has a hilarious African experience, a yellow fever quarantine and then graduates to the seniors.

The years of uncertainty in the senior pro level. Her injuries and the pain. Her comeback and the golden period are documented but its a story we know a bit of. As with other celebrities who have achieved much in their younger years we sense that disappointment and hurt at the way the media behaves and misinterprets them when all they are trying to do is do a good job despite the pain and the injuries. The controversies that erupted rather unnecessarily about the fatwa (explained well by the cleric in the book), the engagement and heartbreak at breaking it off, the Mecca masjid controversy and even her marriage to Shoaib Mallik which was so badly handled by the media. But she has always handled it well with her typical gutsiness.

As she moves on to conquer further glory, it is clear that sportspersons who reach that level of achievement start early, need parental and coaching support, put in far more hours than the others and most importantly have a deep desire to be a champion in spite of the pain and uncertainty and doubt. It is what is mentioned in the article 'How to be an expert' as well. A growth mindset, a routine that they do not miss and great support system. I am pretty sure there will be another book written after Sania is done and dusted with her tennis.

Whatever she has achieved is wonderful but what she has given women and girls in India is perhaps even more. A way to live her life on her terms and not take any crap from anyone. For that one thing, Sania will always be someone I will admire. And she does it with a smile, an energy that's infectious. Another wonderful role model in a world that seems to be having so few. But I wished the book had waited a little longer - for the simple reason that her journey is not over yet - and until the discovery is complete, the story will not be.

The Story of Jim Carrey - Jim Carrey on Oprah

Visualised his successful life when he was broke. I don't have this yet, but it's out there and I will get it. - Jim Carrey on Oprah.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPU5bjzLZX0

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fedora - Movie Review

A down and out producer has a script that is perfect for an ageing movie star Fedora. But Fedora, an ageless beauty, is reclusive and does not respond. The producer chases her to Corfu and finds that she is closeted with a doctor, a Countess and a secretary and a driver-bodyguard. His attempts at meeting her come to naught but he persists and meets and his script is rejected. But not before he comes to know that Fedora seems to be in trouble and is being kept there against her will.

The movie begins with a scene where Fedora jumps in front of a train and dies. The producer then cuts back to the time he met her once - on a set when he was an assistant director - and the two spent a night of passion in his car in Santa Monica. What he discovers at her funeral is a story that's better than any script can ever be. The one who died is not Fedora - as he finds out when he sees her twenty year old hands. But like the real Fedora says, who will play my role?

It's so incredible that you feel that it's real life. Superb irony and ending. Fabulous story. Highly recommended. 

Flamingoes at Sewri

Every year thousands (between 10000 and 20000) of Lesser Flamingo es migrate from Kutch, Gujarat to Mumbai's Sewri, a phenomenon that has been occurring since the 1990s.
Sewri bunder
The reasons why Sewri and its mudflats at low tide is unknown and theories range from the food available to the flamingos due to the proximity to mangroves, a passive symbiotic relationship with the mangroves each one feeding off the other and such. Food available to the flamingos as well as the other birds like stints, herons, egrets, sandpipers, plovers and ibis consists of a variety of marine life such as fiddler crabs, fish and small invertebrates.
Boats
When the tide is low the mudflats (coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides and rivers and found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons and estuaries) become feeding ground for the thousands of flamingos. They are constantly at it, not taking a break to look around and watch the scenery etc. They are constantly eating or searching for food.
Flamingoes
The Sewri mudflats are not too far from Suhita's place and we all hopped into her car, joined by Preeti and Leya, and headed off. At Sewri we met Miskil and Kabir and a few thousand flamingos. I remember naming my first cricket team, the only one I had an opportunity to name, Flamingos, simply because they sounded exotic. But once I found that they were not as glamorous as they sounded I changed the name to Falcons.
Dramatic sight

But anyway, flamingos it is.

Murder on the Orient Express - Movie Review

This is easily my best Agatha Christie story. It's a story I can always remember for its sheer unpredictability. So watching the movie with names like Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud, Jacqueline Bisset, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins. Albert Finney is too much to pass.

One of the best. 

Badrinath Ki Dulhania - Movie Review

I like small town movies if made well (if they capture the essence of small towns). This one does. Kota (looked interesting), Jhansi and then Singapore (not in the small town list), Varun is rich, Alia is middle class, Varun is tenth pass, Alia much better educated. Varun guileless. Alia not so.

Varun Dhawan puts in a lot of effort and it pays off in his roles. Alia makes it look so frustratingly easy that people must be pulling their hair out wondering how she does it. Shweta Basu looks pretty in her bhabhi role and she does a competent job as always. All in all it worked for me and gave me unadulterated pleasure for those 2 hours.

Lovely Link - Things Parents Must Remember

Lovely. Perhaps it's true for everyone- not just children.
https://www.facebook.com/306222536094622/videos/1435184879865043/

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Vijayanthimala - Three Things to Learn from Her

I met the famous film star of yesteryears and MP, Vijayathimala for a brief while at a friends house. At 83 she is in fabulous physical health and in great spirits. She performs on stage still and Suhita says she is far better than most even at this stage of her life. In the short while, I could pick three lessons from her.

The first thing that impressed me was the way she was dressed, nothing out of place, even at the informal setting of her home. She stepped out in a simple, yellow salwar kameez and it was perfect. In my mind I decided to dress better and present myself better.

The second is her joy for life. 'I am eighty going on eighteen" she said with an effervescent joy. The happy spirit was evident in the way she shared her photos, the way she smiled, the way she interacted. It was like we had a giddy headed eighteen year old with us and not a heavy, burdened-by-life eighty year old weighing all of us down with her own expectations from life. The desire to stay in the future, the simple pleasure she got from her life overwhelmed whatever problems she may have had with life and the past. With most people that age, the past becomes bigger than the present. For few the future becomes bigger than everything and those are the ones who are lightest on their lives.

The third is the way she is physically active. She still performs on stage. I can understand how much it must mean to her to perform at 83. In fact she showed a few pictures of a recent performance and Shobha marvelled at how she was able to do that. In reply she smiled and said - eighty going on eighteen. In that smile, her eyes, her whole persona lights up.

When you meet a person who is greater than you (so a saying goes) leave them with a favorable impression of you. When you meet a person lesser than you, leave them with a favorable impression of themselves. Somehow she managed to do both without seeming to do it.

Please Hear What I am Not Saying - Assessing a Suicidal Caller (Shared from Junie Aunty's Post)

This is a post on fb by Junie Aunty (Jayanthi Jaisimha). It's self-explanatory. It's also worth a read. More so these days. Thanks for sharing Junie aunty.

"Doing cleanup of a messy cupboard in my TV room and came across all sorts of treasures. Lots of MLJ Clippings and photos and letters from ages ago which prompts me to put it together someday in a book perhaps, perhaps.
But also came across something that interests me because we all wear them. Masks. Something we had to learn to break through when I was volunteering for suicide prevention in my time. The task of assessing a suicidal caller. This is a cry from the depths of the heart. From a presentation at a Befrienders National Conference.
---------
PLEASE HEAR WHAT I AM NOT SAYING
Don't be fooled by me,don't be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a thousand masks, masks I am afraid to take off and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled. For Gods sake don't be fooled.

I give the impression that I am secure, that all is sunny and unruffledwith me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness is my game; that the water is calm and I'm in command and that I need no one. But don't believe me. Please!

My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask. Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in fear and aloofness. But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear of being exposed.

That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant sophisticated facade to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only salvation. And I know it. That is, if it is followed by acceptance, if it's followed by love. It is the only thing that will assure me of what I can't assure myself. That I am worth something.

But I don't tell you this. I don't dare. I am afraid your glance will not be followed by love and acceptance. I am afraid you will think less of me, that you'll laugh at me, and your laugh will kill me. I'm afraid that deep down I'm nothing, that I'm no good and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my desperate game with a facade of assurance without and a trembling child within. And so begins the parade of masks and my life becomes a front.

I idly chatter to you in the suave of surface talk. I will tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what's everything, of what's crying within me. So when Im going going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I'm saying. Please listen to me carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying, what I'd like to be able to say,what for survival I need to say but what I can't say.

I dislike hiding. Honestly! I dislike the superficial game I'm playing, the phony game. I'd really like to be genuine and spontaneous, and me, but you've got to help me. You've got to hold out your hand, even when that's the last thing I seem to want. Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of breathing death. Only you can can call me into aliveness.

Each time you're kind and gentle, each time you try to understand me because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings.with your sensitivity and concern and your power of understanding you can breathe life into me.I want you to know that.

I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be the creatingof the person that's me if you choose to. You alone can release me from my shadow world of panic and uncertainty, from my lonely person. Do not pass me by. Please do not pass me by.

It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach me, the more blindly I strike back. I fight against the very thing I cry out for. But I am told that love is stronger than walls. And in this lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands; for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I,you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am YOU
Yes this is me calling you.
-------
Paradox. The easiest trap to fall into for a volunteer is to assess a caller at 0 level.

Know this is a long post and my index finger is hurting, but even if one person relates to this, it's worth it."

Friday, May 19, 2017

AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions

A list worth looking at.
Casablanca Gone with the Wind, My Fair Lady, Bridges of Madison County, When Harry Met Sally...
and more
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AFI%27s_100_Years...100_Passions

Andre Agassi - Open

In Pune, a week ago, the first thing I got was a gift from Gauri - a book that I have been wanting to read - Andre Agassi's autobiography 'Open'. I started earnestly because I have heard several reviews praising the book for its honesty. Like Chris Gayle's, it gives an insight into what goes on in a champion's mind.
Vintage, 385p

Agassi's tale begins with his favorite line - straight out of G.H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers' - I hate tennis...and in the same breath...I love tennis. The close connection between the opposites is something he realised early. And then he plunges into that epic match he played at the 2006 US Open he played with an injured back, thriving on cortisone injections, against 21 year old Marcos Baghtatis, a match he won 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5. It is considered the best US Open match ever. And he writes it in excruciating detail. The pain, the doubt, the feelings he has for his opponent, the will to win, his entire life, his eye for details, for numbers, for seemingly disconnected and inconsequential patterns. The time he spent in the bath, the strings on his racket, the number he saw somewhere. It is a match I watched and I would love to watch again.

Agassi's father was an Armenian-Assyrian who grew up in Teheran. He represented Iran in the1948 and 52 Olympics. He was fascinated by tennis, a game which he saw the British and American soldiers playing. He moved to the USA, married a local girl and settled down in Las Vegas. He had fur children, Andre being the youngest. Mike Agassi bought the house because it had a yard big enough to accommodate a tennis court even though it was far away from home. He built the court himself, developed machines that would spew balls at the children who were subjected to hitting 5000 balls a day. A regimen that none of the other kids could survive, but Andre did, though he hated it. For Andre the machine was a dragon and his father, the perpetrator, the kidnapper of his childhood. Mike put Andre through tough coaching regimes, made him hit balls with every celebrity who passed through Las Vegas. Andre recalls his father's temper, a fight he had with a truck driver who disagreed with him that left the truck driver lying on the road in the rain, with a good likelihood of being run over by another vehicle. You did not disagree with Mike Agassi. On the other hand, his mother loved her crosswords and was an oasis of peace in their lives.

Pretty soon the cocky hitter of thousands of balls became a junior level champion and was shifted to Nick Bolliteri's camp. Andre blows the lid off the famed Bolliteri and reveals the many run-ins he had with the man and his methods, his contemporaries included Courier. But then the enormous talent of the boy somehow takes time to fructify. Agassi talks of days with Perry his friend, Phil his brother, when he was broke and trying to break into the game. The uncertainty of growing up on the professional circuit and how he adjusts to it, though a little late, and in his own way. The scene where he first meets Ivan Lendl in the locker room, all chilled out in his tennis shoes and nothing else, was hilarious and also a reality check.. The way he builds his rivalries - with Chang who was so religious that he never cared much about but still surprised that someone like Chang won a slam before him or even Sampras whom he had no high opinion of until Sampras started winning against him.

The pressure of not performing to his own expectations and perhaps his father's get to him and Agassi reaches out to the perfect support team intuitively - Perry his friend becomes his partner and simplifier, a pastor (musician) VJ becomes his spiritual coach, Gil becomes his trainer, bodyguard and big brother and in later years Steffi Graf becomes his huge support system. Andre continues his love-hate relationship with tennis and far longer than some of his contemporaries and retires on his own terms. One can sense his evolution through the years, the way he uses that one thing he knows so well, tennis, to find his true self. And in his later years he finds himself, with those epic rivalries against Sampras, and even more interestingly against Becker. Agassi and Gil dedicate one season to take revenge against Becker who says something nasty about Andre. In that season he trains as the Pandavas did, with only one objective in mind, to vanquish Becker. So much so that he hoped Becker would not lose before he came up against him.

His relationship with Brooke Shields and how it ended, his jealousy at the Friends episode, breaking up all his trophies and then the relationship shows another side to him. At no stage does the story run ahead of its time, always told as he felt that moment, and then comes the next. That was very well done.

For years Andre struggles with his falling hair. For many years he plays with a hair piece. In one match he fixes his hair piece with staples and somehow plays , hoping it won't come off. When he reveals his secret to Brooke Shields (I think) she makes him take it off and present himself as he is. Perhaps the first step to his transformation, to accept himself as he is. He loves his writing and he loves his music and both come across. In another life he could have been a writer, a showman.

Agassi comes across as any of us, with his insecurities , doubts, anger and love and hate. He cares deeply about those who are his close circle, who mean something to him. His charity work, his Charitable Foundation for underprivileged kids, take up much of his time and his energy now. He reveals his dabbling with drugs in a weak moment and how he gets away without a ban. But he tells it honestly and we all know how it must be under the pressures he was in and like all humanity, do not have the energy to hold it against him. It's a mistake and he has accepted it so let's move on. Nothing to prove any more. That's exactly what 'Open' does to you. He starts out as the brash, cocky Las Vegas show man ( a picture I had in my mind) and by the end, gives you nothing to hit at because he is open about it. He has nothing left to prove and you grant him that.

The journey comes across beautifully - from fear and dislike and rebellion to feeling on top of the world to doubt and apprehension to finally making peace with himself and reality. He makes peace with his father as well when he undergoes surgery, knowing that he did the best he knew. Like Chris Gayle's this one is honest and does not cover any areas or weaknesses too much, in fact he dwells on them, and you wish there was more of the 'good' parts of his life which I am sure he must have had. But they say the bad overrides the good many times over and this is what he must have felt or gone through and this is what might have got him going as well. Brief references to Ramesh Krishnan (he spared him) and Paes (complimentary yet with a slight dagger) were interesting. His remark on Sampras's parsimonious tipping ways reveals more about Agassi than Sampras but then you don't hold it against him - he is like that - the eight Grand slam winner who came back from the brink of retirement.

There is no malice in the words though he rips everyone apart with candour using the words they used, the behavior they displayed. What I loved was the way the book never gets ahead of itself - it deals with things in the now and then moves on for better or worse. If I never liked Agassi during his playing days, now, I don't not-like-him. I think I understand him a little more. Would I recommend it? Unhesitatingly - as someone said - one of the best memoirs ever, period.

Some lines I'd like to quote.
"When you know that you took the other guy's best punch, and you're still standing, and the other guy knows it, you will take the heart right out of him. Attack the other man's strength. Take away his pride."

"You're hurting right now, hurting like heck. But that means you care. Means you want to win. You can use that. Try to use this day as motivation. If you don't want to feel this hurt again, do everything to avoid it. Are you ready to do everything?'

"Hurt a while longer. But then you tel yourself that's it, time to get back to work."

"Dream while you're awake, Andre. Anybody can dream while they are asleep, but you need to dream all the time, and say your dreams out loud, and believe in them...In other words, when in the final of a slam, I must dream. I must play to win."

'Andre, I won't ever try to change you, because I've never tried to change anybody. If I could change anybody I would change myself. But I know I can give you structure and a blueprint to achieve what you want. There's a difference between a plough horse and a race horse. You don't treat them the same. You hear all this talk of treating people equally and I am not sure if equal means the same. As far as I am concerned you are a race horse and I will always treat you accordingly. I will be firm but fair. I'll lead, never push. I am not one of those people who expresses or articulates feelings very well but from now on, just know this: it's on man. It is on. You know what I am saying? We're in a fight and you can count on me until the last man is standing. Somewhere up there is a star with your name on it. I might not be able to help you find it but I have got pretty strong shoulders and you can stand n my shoulders while you're looking for that star. You hear? For as along as you want. Stand on my shoulders and reach man, reach." - Vince Gil and the perfect lines any coach ought to say

Friday, May 12, 2017

Shahrukh Khan's TED Talk - Thoughts On Humanity, Fame and Love

Shahrukh Khan at his best, honest and vulnerable self.
'...the future you..you must be obsessively in love with yourself...you must be the best love.. '


Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Auto wallas in Pune

My first impression of auto walas in Pune dates about 25 years back when I took Konark, the train that connected Bhubaneshwar to Mumbai, and reached Hyderabad sometime at 12. This train would then deposit us in Pune past midnight. It was my first trip to Pune and I was all set to get fleeced off (the norm with me) but the chap took me home took the straight and narrow route, was honest to the core despite knowing that I was a first timer to Pune and took exactly what I owed him. For years I told that story to many people because the auto walas lived up to that reputation. It was only after those early years that the texture changed and well, we meet all sorts these days.

So the young kid who picked us up today was a maverick and one could tell by the way he overheard our conversation and butted in helpfully with his ideas, spoke out of turn, drove rashly, asked us to take the longer but faster route and finally agreed to our suggestion. At a traffic signal he waved to four of his friends who were on two bikes and stopped for a moment after. Turns out that his friends were all going to Bahubali and would he also come? He declined and we were on the way. The camaraderie was obvious and I know many, including me, who would have ditched the ride and gone off to the movie. I told him I could take another rickshaw if he wanted to go, but he said he'd rather earn a couple of hundred here rather then spend four hundred at the theatre. Hmm. Smart chap. He told me that he and his friends had all had a good time swimming in the river in the morning and he had his fun for now.

In the evening we found a different cup of tea. Unlike the brash young kid who took us straight to our destination we found a religious looking, bespectacled man who asked us an extra thirty bucks for the long ride. We agreed. And then he took us on a wild goose chase, telling us that he was taking us through less crowded areas etc etc and suddenly landed up in the street next to where we had been some twenty minutes earlier. When I asked him why he had done that, he had little to answer - possibly hoped that we would not know. One was that we relearned the lesson about judging books by covers and secondly, the fact that these chaps were not going back to their old ways. At least not all of them surely.

Why autos? Because the Uber guys have a horrid way of calling up and saying they are somewhere closeby and it takes forever to tell them the directions. So sometimes it seems simpler to get into an auto and head off. Its also more dramatic.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fair and Lovely and Handsome, Dark and...

It is amazing how many of us in this world believe that good and nice and god and goddess-like is to be fair, have blue eyes and perhaps be blond. Most of those who have read English literature and watched English movies certainly cannot expect a black man or a black woman (and shades of these colors which are considered slightly lesser colors) playing leads in the classics  They are the gods and the goddesses and despite the stupidity and conceitedness they sometimes exhibit, we forgive easily (unlike the colored fellows who only reinforce what is expected of them by showing more stupidity). The villains are colored and are rarely white and blond with blue eyes.

So it is very easy for a lot of people who see movies or read books, or even follow popular culture like dance and singing, to associate all things good and strong with white and all things bad and weak with black or colored. It is easy then for a dark skinned man to be made fun of in a Fair and Handsome ad (with background music ranging from Main hoon Don to the effeminate Pari hoon main) while a white skinned movie star comes by and condescendingly saves the foolish black/colored man from his misery. And soon as the black man listens to the white man's advice ad turns a few shades fairer, he finds white women wanting to go on rides with him. The white hero cannot afford to don black paint himself of course and turn white because he would be less of a man or god then. It has to be one of those fellows.

I don't get too bothered by these ads but this ad was brilliant in its messaging and its directness and shamelessness. Like Malcolm X says in his biography, black men used their new found freedom to bleach themselves white, straighten their hair through painful processes, many even trying to behave and be like the whites or going the other way and wearing flashy clothes. The Jew who owns the properties where Malcolm X works tells him the secret to his prosperity - show me a black man with a dime in his pocket and I will show you how to get it out of him. What the Jew meant was that he knew how eager the blacks were to fit in and to show that they belonged that they spent their last penny trying to prove something they were not. And the smarter ones got richer and the poorer ones stayed poorer buying trinkets, fake jewellery and if they had access to it, Fair and Handsome too. Am sure a lot of back fellows in India are trying to woo women by turning a few shades fairer.

It is almost as if the world's intelligence and goodness belonged to the gods (white) and all that messed up the world came from the demons (black and other colors). It's a thought that we have accepted and will find difficult to erase. It was nice to see a 'Moonlight' win the Oscar though it almost went to a ''La La Land' (and I liked the fact that Moonlight had no white character for a long time and it felt like this was not made in this world - how defenseless and vulnerable those black people looked without a white hero to save them). So Moonlight ends vaguely with no powerful endings, apologetically even, as most black films should.

But then one would wonder what it would take to make it even. To make people believe that even black people have red blood (what did you expect? Ink? - as the white, blue eyed, blond female lead says to her equally white, blond and blue eyed co stars while standing up for the black Sidney Poitier in ''To Sir With Love), have some intelligence, and perhaps some culture, some pride, would be some doing. One has to look around and see how many leaders are white and how many black. How many of our world's great people in arts, culture, science etc are black or colored. It is as if the leadership positions are with the gods and the manual work is for the blacks. It works in an ascending order - no black leaders in our colored countries also because all of the leaders are more or less fair, but in the world order our fair leaders pale in comparison with the pale, blue eyed and blond leaders of the world.

Then you wonder why Fair and Handsome is not bigger than it is. It ought to be a global leader by now.  Unless a majority of the blacks have resigned themselves to their fates - of being ruled, of being without the beautiful women, of being kept under leash and of living apologetically. That would be bad news really for the white world - so many dollars that could have been transferred wasted. All because of lack of ambition from the colored fellows.

It's funny - even fair would come with an opposite like unfair. Would there ever be an Unfair and Handsome, or Unfair and lovely, or Black and Handsome? Ummm. Would the gods allow that?

  

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

This was Jonas Jonasson's debut book and its as impressive as its title. Now made into a motion picture, the book has been translated into 35 languages and sold some 3 million copies worldwide. Enough for Jonas to retire to an island with his son and write two more books.

The book begins with Allan Karlsson's impending hundredth year birthday party at the old age home. The Mayor and the press have been invited on the momentous occasion and the old age home's dictatorial director Alice along with the other inmates is waiting for the event to begin. But Allan decides otherwise and climbs down the window minus shoes and jacket, which is no mean feat for a 100 year old man, and walks off with little money in his pocket. He reaches the bus station and is waiting for a bus to take him anywhere when a young man who needs to go to the toilet asks him rather rudely to take care of his suitcase while he uses the washroom. Allan's bus comes and he walks on to it with the large suitcase and heads off to any place where his fifty crowns take him. The young man who comes out of the toilet is not just young but of a criminal and violent mind, and he unleashes some of his skills on the ticketing clerk, the bus station and then the bus driver when he returns a little later. He even hijacks the bus and makes the driver take him to the place where the old man got off.

The old man gets off and finds another old man, Julius, 67 year old thief and unpopular character in the neighbourhood, and they both drink vodka and eat roast elk. The young hoodlum finds them and starts his violent ways when the old man fells him with a chair. They put him in the freezer and continue their drinking while the young man freezes to death - completely by oversight. At some point when they prise open the suitcase thanks to Julius's skills, they find fifty million crowns. It is later revealed that it is drug money and the young man Bolt was part of a gang named 'Never Again' (back to jail) and he was taking the money back to his boss. With the police now looking for a hundred year old man, the gang looking for its missing member and the money, Allan and Julius head off with their booty that they now decided to split 50-50. They then meet more members like Benny, the immigrant hot dog stall owner, Gunilla the Beauty and her two pets Sonja the elephant and Buster the Alsatian, Bosse who is Benny's brother and finally, the battered but philosophical boss of the Never Again gang, Pike himself. Benny falls in love with the Beauty and now everyone has to share the money. The police is on the chase and soon the Chief Inspector is also included in the friendly and open gang and he joins them.

Meanwhile we also learn how Allan spent his 100 years. After a normal start to his life, he somehow acquires expertise in explosives and soon finds himself traversing the globe meeting all the world leaders, being part of most of the momentous moments, and actually influencing the way the world turns out over the last century. Being close friends with Franco, Truman, Mao, Stalin, Churchill and being part of the few people who knows how to make an atom bomb, Allan who abhors politics, loves vodka, does not ever get angry and who has the luck of the devil, gets in and out of the trickiest situations thanks to an open mind and a capacity to say Yes to life. It is only late in his life when he gets angry at his cat Molotov being eaten by a fox that he blows up the fox and a lot more and lands in the old age home. But we know that the short stint at the old age home cannot keep him down and he is back to his old ways of eliminating people and getting his way, one way or another.

Once the 100 year old and the gang are exonerated of all the murders, they take off in a plane and land in Indonesia where he marries his old friend Herbert Einstein's now single wife and settles down to a happy life.

It's a funny book and one that is far better than I have read in that genre in a long time. It brought at least ten moments when I laughed out aloud and about ten more when I chuckled to myself which is not a mean feat. The writing style is his own and is engaging and fun. The characters remain with you long after the book is read - and they reminded me of Tam and Richie of 'The Restraint of the Beasts' simple fellows who love their drink and don't let anyone come in their way. And its fun to read of the way the author wades in and out of world politics and how our world is mostly manned by a bunch of people who do not really appear to be fully in control of their senses. I loved it and am looking forward to watching the movie now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Physiotherapy: A New Mode of Rejuvenation - Dr. Jyotsna Nadgauda

I saw this slim 100 page booklet and read it after I heard good reports of Dr. Jyotsna Nadgauda, whose cryotherapy (application of ice) and balanced mix of diet, therapy, nutrition and rest have given relief to many. What caught my attention was the story of one person who was paralysed from waist down and who started walking in a period of four years after following her routine. And a smaller miracle of an aunt who was suffering from a severe case of arthritis finding complete relief from it after many attempts.

The book starts by calculating health in money terms and proving to us that health really is wealth. You just need a couple of health issues and an idea of how much it costs to repair them to realise that the body machine is actually worth millions or even billions. Briefly she dwells on how sometimes patients get disillusioned by not getting what they want from the doctor which is proper guidance, methodical check up, right diagnosis and suitable treatment. However one can get into trouble with a wrong diagnosis, improper diet, improper patterns of life and negative thinking.

The various types of Physiotherapy are discussed - Exercise therapy (assisted and non-assisted), Electro therapy (diathermy, Ultra sound, Ultra violet, Paraffin Wax Bath, TENS, HF), Massage, Hydrotherapy, Cryotherapy, Antenatal and Postnatal therapy, Sports medicine and Pediatric Physiotherapy. Dr. Jyotsna specialises in using a combination of therapy with cryotherapy or application of ice, nutrition, rest and other life patterns to provide relief.

Cryotherapy is application of ice for 15 second intervals which reduces pain and motor impulses with the contraction due to cold. Gel packs are normally used. The ailments that she treats are arthritis, therapy after accidents, back ache and spinal problems (15-16 causes for it), cerebral palsy among others.

There is a section in the book which advises right posture to get off the bed, to life things, to work at the computer, drinking water etc. There are simple exercises given for general fitness that can be performed in a chair (neck, head, palms, feet), mat exercises (feet, pelvis, back, heel, wall push ups), for varicose veins (moving ankle, heel raise), for vertigo (eye movements, convergence etc). I propose to start these exercises right away.

The book is an introduction really, gives a fair idea for maintenance and enough information to know that physiotherapy especially her brand of cryotherapy is an option. Certainly those in pain and those who have given up on all other options (like my aunt) could consider meeting her because the stories in the book and those I have heard, are very positive and encouraging, some of them from doctors themselves. It's good to see people like her making a difference by experimenting with her skill and knowledge and finding simple solutions for pain relief and for improving quality of life when all other options appear filled with pain killers, surgeries and blank looks predicting end of days.

For a copy of the booklet one can reach the publisher Utkarsh Prakashan, 685, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune - 411004, 93710 20495.
The book also gives contact details of Dr. Jyotsna Nadgauda - one can call her on 020-25532479, 25537958.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thought for the Day - The Fine Difference Between Ego and Self Esteem

Ego comes with a misplaced sense of excessive pride. With ego you could get caught, doing things you don't want to, digging your hole deeper and deeper and getting into situations you cannot get out of. You do things for others when you should not and let yourself down when you ought not. You are never the person you are and it never comes across to the others.

Self esteem comes with a healthy pride of oneself. It allows you to see the right and the wrong clearly, when to stand up for yourself and when to think of the other person. It allows you to keep things simple, honest and straight. With self esteem you are always the person you are because you have nothing to hide and it comes across to the others clearly.

Ego comes from a place of insecurity. Self-esteem comes from a secure place. Ego wants to control. Self-esteem knows there is no need to control because things are already under control. Ego compulsively reacts. Self-esteem has no need to react. 

Six Machine - Chris Gayle

Most cricket biographies I have read have been staid accounts of their lives with a few incidents thrown in that might interest us. But none had this quality that Chris Gayle's has. It is a literary achievement I feel; if I found Raja Rao's 'Kanthapura' fascinating for its use of language, I find Chris Gayle has achieved something similar with his language. It is not some fake cricket gentleman speaking to you; it is Gayle as he is, speaking the way he does and giving it to the reader, smoking it, smoking it, as he says. I loved it.

''And don't mess with the West Indians.''

Chris starts off with a swagger that is bigger than we are used to on the cricket field. I am the best, the world boss, the one with two triple hundreds, a double hundred in one days and a hundred in T20s. You think you know me, he challenges, me the party man, the ladies man, the destroyer of bowlers, the quintessential bad man. Don't hate me because I am not what you want me to be. Don't hate me because I am not who you are. The swagger grows bigger and bigger until we get over the initial shock and nausea and then we find a method to his madness, an inspiration for all who want to make it. There are life lessons, leadership lessons, motivational lessons and so much more that I want to read it again and make some notes. One can see Chris laughing his head off but he did mention that one needs a philosophy to survive, to make it where he did, especially coming from where he did.

'Define yourself, what you want to do. Breathe and let go of the anger. You will be guided accordingly. It comes naturally. You cannot live in the darkness. You must come into the light.'
''No one gave it to me. I have come through the fight.''
''I am one of the hardest workers. Practice. Practice. Practice. Running boundary laps in pads. I'd bat for days on that concrete.''
''Never dreamt of playing cricket. Had bad dreams. If you die in your dreams, you die in your sleep.''

From the poverty of a one room house shared by five siblings and where food was tough to come by, the Jamaican, who lived right across the Lucas cricket ground, a 100 year club significantly set up to give the young black kids a chance to play, learned to cut his teeth with his friends on the cricket grounds. He speaks of more talented cricketers who could not apply themselves like his brother Michael Crew for instance and how he, Chris applied himself and kept going. He knew his strength, knew what he wanted, and went about it the way he knew best. No running, just hitting the ball for boundaries and sixes. For all the hard knocks he had, he also had the helpful souls who helped him with his cricket like Ms. Hamilton, Mac. Chris got himself into the limelight with some match winning knocks and soon played cricket at the highest level.

''You don't necessarily need a strong team to win games. If you as a captain can hold a group of players in the palm of your hand, then you have something powerful. If you treat your players as you want to be treated, if you make them feel appreciated and respected, if you communicate clearly with them, they will go and play flat out ferocious cricket.''
''Use the wisdom and ideas all around you. All for one, one for all. Teach everyone respect for the environment and for each other.''
''Don't think of the end, only the moment you are in. Don't overthink. Don't worry about failure. Talk to yourself, boost yourself, sing to yourself.'
'Clear the air, free the air and you'll get the best out of them. Know when to talk and when to fall silent'
''How are you going to bring happiness to the world today'' - Ray Jennings, RCB Coach
''My innings begins the night before. I analyse the game. I see myself dong well. See each bowler and how I will play accordingly. You put these things in your mind so you can sleep over it and cement ideas into action.''
''You are never alone.''
''Chris you don't move until di bowler releases di ball,'- Richard Austin. ''Be still and control your breathing.''
''You have enough men trying to wreck you without your own thoughts trying to tangle your feet too. Be confident within yourself whatever you are trying to do. Always. Don't hold back. You can get it. Just know you can do it.''
''When things scare you, attack it.'' - on his fear of flying.
''Don't worry about what might happen. If the ball is there, hit it. Don't worry about the miss. Don't worry about the edge. Play for glory. Play for the six.''
''You can't die in darkness. You must come into the light.''
''I've done it already. I can do it again.''
''Wisdom took me there. Wisdom from experience. When you have a run of low scores there's always one big innings coming along. The magic will return. And when it does you have to make it big. Cash the chips in. Make it count.''

What was most interesting was the way he brought out the Jamaican flavor to the book. I now feel I know the Jamaica he is talking about. The bad parts, the good parts, the cricket, the women, the drinking, the partying, the sex, the celebration and its all cool and fine. Chris lets it all hang out and dwells on all the controversies including the last one with the Aussie anchor and now that one hears his version and knows his story, one is not so judgmental anymore. In Jamaica he says, we are not so uptight about sex. Just sharing the love he says. For the many who hide their deeds well, his approach has a refreshing candor.  He brings in the racism, the poverty, the desire to be bigger and bigger and bigger, the desire to prove everyone wrong and to prove that he is the world boss. Its an amazing story of an ambitious kid who made his life, lived on his terms and continues to do so. This biography shows Chris Gayle at his honest and unrepentant best and I feel that is the way biographies have to be written. You cannot grudge him his success and I will cheer him along now I know what comes with him, behind him and have some inkling of where he wants to go.

I loved the italicised Jamaican slang in which he gives his philosophies every now and then, Stuff he has heard and imbibed, If the cricket coaching he talks about makes more sense than some voluminous coaching manuals and biographies, this smattering of philosophy he leaves us with keeps us thinking. In a tough or rough situation he says 'Just breathe and let the stress and anger go. Let the darkness out of your soul." And 'Confidence comes form hard work. Confidence enables you to flourish. Confidence enables you to relax." "I am the six machine. I am moving up. Always moving up." In a few sentences he talks of how he resets his goals, how high he wants to reach and be the world boss or even perhaps a universe boss, how he manages his men and how important it is to make them feel comfortable. He talks of the IPL, Test cricket, his big knocks, his friends and family, women, partying, his experiences in other countries, Allen Stanford, his run ins with the Board and the coaches, his house, the strip bar in his house, his first woman and almost everything in a couple of lines that say everything even when they are not. This is a direct contrast to so many biographies which say a lot without saying anything.

'Toughness comes from having to be tough. Determination to stick it out comes from doing it everyday. Motivation comes from it always being fun, always being games.''
''The determination to deliver. Being ready to endure whatever it takes to get the job done. Using the barbs to spur you on. Then you will make it, no matter what they will put in your way."
"Be hungrier. Don't be satisfied. Fill your boots and prepare to be weary."
''Sometimes when a fast bowler comes for you its like shooting a gun. Sometimes when a fast bowler comes i literally stop my breath. For those split seconds the body closes down. Everything is still. Control your breathing. Jus feel. See the target and jus feel.''
''There's a balance somewhere. Its not always easy to find and I cannot always tip toe along.''

Chris Gayle's biography reveals the man behind it slowly and its much like how he reveals himself as a batsman. It infuriates you to see that laid back, casual approach and you wonder what a little more earnestness could do for him. But he is already doing more than you or anyone else is and that is what we miss in our judgment. And he does not give a damn what you think - he will do it his way. Chris is not apologetic and lets his bat talk, his deeds talk. He wants no favours and says as much - that I don't want to be in the team because someone felt they should give me a chance. He will be there because he is the best. And then you understand him when he says he went to meet an eye doctor and fell in love with her eyes (I agree, I love ophthalmologists too, for the way they look deep into your eyes). His house and its rooms for his family and friends, his charity, his concern for the girl who got hit by his six in Bangalore and for the crowd, the house he built for his brother, the money he promised his friend Runako Morton but could not give before he died and how bad he felt for it.

''Confidence carries you through even if you are sometimes bluffing yourself and the opposition attack.''
''Confidence comes from character. Character comes from being tested and coming through.''
''I can fire it into a penny.''
''This is about life after trophies; helping your brother, your mother and father; becoming a better man than you were before...''
''Without fighting as a boy you cannot become a man.''
''My energy comes from being out there in the middle.''
"When you are not in form don't wait for someone else to fix it. Beat your way out of it. Beat your way in.''

I will return with more from the book. This is just my initial appreciation of the man, his philosophy, his stand, his ambition, his achievements and mostly his honesty which makes his writing style so endearing. Now that's the way to write a biography so you leave a part of you and where you come from with the reader and give him an idea of where you might be going. Well done Christopher Henry Gayle from Rollington and Lucas Cricket Club, Jamaica, this is as good as any. Truly, you are the world boss. But you don't need me to say it do you? For anyone who can read without judging and who can stand a bit of honesty, this book is as good as any that wins literary awards. If I was a judge I would give away the award to Chris.  The Prize for Literature - Honest Biographies. Chris could add it to his list of achievements and deservedly so.