Sunday, June 17, 2018

Anjali - Happy Father's Day!

I do not remember Father's Day unless reminded of it on social media etc. Consequently, I did not know today was Father's Day until Anjali walked up quietly mid-morning and gave me a scratch card that she had made.

The Birthday Scratch Card! - Scratched out!
It was a pink card with some blue paint in three patches.'Scratch,' she said, handing me a coin. I scratched. The entire thing came off with the paint and what was under it. 'Oh oh,' she said. 'Scratch this one,' she said pointing at the next one. This time nothing happened. The paint had really stuck to the paper. No amount of scratching would separate them. I asked her what was under the paint she had put on the little card. 'Three gifts,' she said. 'Anyway does not matter, I will give them all to you.'
The Father's Day Plaque
The first one was a wooden painting - a piece of plywood from recent carpentry works that was left over. She painted 'Dad' on it with a nice mustache with her paints. It was a lovely gift.

'Thanks so much,' I said, delighted that she took so much trouble for me. I am always amazed when I find anyone doing anything for me. Now I must find a way to hang it up on the wall.

Then came the second gift. A card. It was folded in many ways and opened in such a manner that it reveals a new message as it unfolded. The card itself was intricately done but then, on it, instead of simply scribbling her message (as I would have done), she took a print out of her message, cut it out and pasted it carefully. Here's the message in the card pics. Naturally, my heart filled out at the message. 'Wow,' I said. 'Thank you so much, Anjali.' Of course, she did not let me open the card lest I tear it up in my clumsy ways. She opened it herself.
Page 1 of card


Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

She disappeared again and came back with the third gift. 'These are gift coupons,' she said. 'You can use them anytime.' On the first coupon was written '2 hugs'. One the second was 'One cup of tea'. On the third was 'Carwash.' I could redeem them at any time. I redeemed one right away. One hug.

Thanks, Anjali. It's such a lot of work and I cannot understand how you get so many ideas and actually make those things so quickly and so well. Like I feel, thoughtfulness is the true expression of love. So much thought to make my day special simply floors me. I could not ask for a better Father's Day gift - or rather, gifts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

World Cup Soccer - My Favorite Sporting Event in the World

Funnily, I don't play soccer. Save for a short period during my school days when I was influenced by my stoic pal Koteswara Rao, or Koti, of the famous bow legs and dead serious disposition, to play football, I never did. All my energies were devoted to cricket. But surprisingly the one big row, the battle of wills, I had with my father was when I was in my fifth class or sixth class. Bitten by the soccer bug I wanted a soccer ball. Dad was adamant. No. I went on strike. I will buy the ball with my money. The battle lasted for a while before Mom convinced Dad to drive me to the shop. I had to bring out my savings and for Rs. 28, I bought a soccer ball. Nothing much came of it. I never threw such tantrums to buy myself cricket bats and made do with pieces of wood, so I guess that explains it.

But the soccer World Cup is the one sporting event that I cannot miss. In fact, when I got a job in Mumbai and was to join on some particular date, I sought permission to join 20 days later so I could watch the World Cup. Looking back I wonder when the bug bit me and I can recall as far back as the 1982 World Cup when Paulo Rossi of Italy made all the headlines and I lapped up all the news in the Hindu's sports pages with those pics.

In 1986 it got better. I was doing my Engineering and was studying for exams in the hostel when they telecast the games live from Mexico. I watched Brazil with its charismatic stars like Socrates who remains an all-time favorite, Zico and others. The way Socrates took his penalties, in such a casual manner (which cost him the finals also) still remains etched in my mind. Brazil became the team to cheer for ever since. But we got to witness live Diego Maradona's goal of the century against England as also the infamous Hand of God. Almost single handedly Maradona won the World Cup for Argentina and a lifelong love affair was born. Stars like Platini. Matthaus, Linekar made a mark - in my mind.

In 1990, Italy hosted the World Cup and I clearly remember the Sicilian Schillaci coming on as a  substitute and scoring goals - so many that he won the Golden Boot. But it was Germany that won the finals. But one cannot forget the 38 year old Roger Milla from Cameroon nor his famous celebrations nor the famous goal when he stole the all from Colombia's El Loco (Madman) Rene Higuita and scored. In many ways Cameroon and Milla stole everyone's hearts that event.

In 1994, the US hosted the World Cup and Brazil came well prepared. Their game was nothing like the showy game we saw earlier but very purposeful. Romario and Bebeto (one remembers his famous celebrations cradling his baby) clinically led Brazil to a victory over a defensive Italy. The film star like Roberto Baggio missed a famous penalty kick and gave Brazil the Cup. It was in this edition that the Columbian defender Escobar who scored an own goal while defending, was shot to death after his return to Columbia in a bar. It was a deeply saddening event espeically since Escobar was nicknamed as the Gentleman and promoted a clean style of play and manner.

In 1998, France hosted the tournament and defeated Brazil in the final - a final when Ronaldo was supposedly down with some illness and looked hardly a shadow of himself. Zidane scored twice and France won 3-0. Zidane was like nothing else I had ever seen - skill, maturity, a mesmerising presence. We saw glimpses of greatness when an 18 year old Micheal Owen set the stage on fire in short bursts.

In 2002, Japan hosted the World Cup and both Japan and Korea performed very well. Brazil beat Germany in the final - 2-0. Ronaldo scoring both and wiping away the memory of the previous World Cup. Brazil was a formidable side with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldino and several other greats.

In 2006 we saw Italy take on France in the final and won 5-3 on penalties but not before we saw the crazy red card to Zidane who head butted Materazzi. Interestingly both players were the goal scorers in normal time. After Zidane was sent off France never looked in the game. I don't remember much about the tournament.

In 2010 Spain which always promises so much finally won the World Cup. They had some great talent and they finally got it together. David Villa, Fabregas, Iniesta, Torres, Puyol, Casillas, Ramos. Iniesta scored in extra time and gave Spain the much needed win against the Netherlands.

In 2014, the World Cup went back to Brazil and Germany beat Argentina in the final with a 1-0 lead. We saw the horrible 7-1 drubbing Germany gave Brazil in the semi finals which was embarrassing even to watch. Argentina's Messi was a shadow of himself and could not make a mark on the biggest tournament in the World. The same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo who struggled with Portugal. That said, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney for England could not deliver at this stage.

But watching some of these characters over the years - Klose, Klinsmann, Milla, Baggio, Baresi, Socrates, Kahn, Higuita, Zidane, Beckham, Matthaus, Platini, Cafu, Rivaldo, Gascoigne, Batista apart from Socrates, Maradona, and others added so much more to life.

Now, watching the World Cup again, and watching what Ronaldo did the other day to equalize against Spain, brought all the magic back. I suddenly realized why this tournament is so much to me than any cricket tournament. It's just so much energy, so much skill that it draws you in 100%.

Looking forward to more with great anticipation. Thank you soccer World Cup. 

Teaching Communication to Business Executives

While teaching business communication to a bunch of young executives, engineers and MBAs and finance executives among them, I realized that most fear the possibility of making mistakes and thereby do not communicate in English. The first step was to tell them that the idea of communicating is to get the message across and not write to get a literary award.

So step 1 - communicate even if you make mistakes. That's top priority.

Next, whatever you are communicating, spoken or written, needs to be understood by the other person, so keep it simple. And when you speak, keep it simple, use body language and get the message across in more media than one if possible. They did simple exercises like introducing themselves, then preparing and introducing themselves again. Some of them really prepared well and floored everyone. The importance of eye contact, body language, preparation of a script and reading aloud before a mirror, were stressed. Another tool we used was the JAM sessions where they spoke about a topic of their choice for a full minute without any preparation. The same talk was then prepared on and spoken again for a minute and then a third time. They could see the difference each time.

I found a simple TEd talk by Marianna Pascal about how to speak English that will help new speakers who are not confident about speaking English.

There is a wonderful talk by Sid Efromovich on '5 Techniques to speak any language. This holds good for any language including English so hear him out. The steps are - Make mistakes, Scratch out the foreign alphabet, find a stickler, shower conversations, buddy formula.

When you write, construct simple sentences. Some common mistakes are - not knowing when to capitalize and when not to, not using a period to end the sentence, using SMS language, not knowing the format of writing an email or a formal letter. Once the basics were addressed we realized that grammar was always going to be a challenge. I went through Anjali's grammar book and found it difficult to put it across or remember the many do's and don't's, some of which did not have any clear reason. So we gave a brief introduction to the parts of speech and constructed a few sentences and letters. One of the big problems was with the use of tenses. Checking online, I found a wonderful resource, the LearnEnglishLab.com and this wonderful teacher Ganesh, who explained so many aspects of English so beautifully, concisely and without any judgment. Here is Ganesh on Tenses. He is brilliant. God. I suggest you watch all his videos at leisure.

Another tool we found was Grammarly.com which gives online help to check spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. It's a huge help. The participants were asked to use all the online help they could get.

Meanwhile, nothing helps in writing or speaking English than practice. So they have been advised to read and write as much as they can to improve their understanding of well constructed, simple sentences.

As Josh Kaufman says in his TED talk 'How to learn anything in 20 hours', the barriers are not intellectual. They are emotional. The fear of being judged stops them from speaking and writing. Hopefully, we would have reduced that a bit.

I am getting there and hopefully, by the time I am done with this course, I would have cracked this some more.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Creep - Primal Rendition by Ada Vox

It's one of those songs that hits a spot at some primal level. Most singers who sing this song end up with tears in their eyes. So with the audience. The feeling of being left out, of not being the chosen one, of being the creep, the weirdo. Ada takes one of my all time favorites to a new level.

'Creep' by Radiohead. The one song that stands out through the years.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Artificial Intelligence - Movie

2001. Kubrick's project. Steven Spielberg directed it. Haley Joel Osment (he plays golf for the US too!). Made from a short story by Brian Aldiss (Supertoys Last All Summer Long). Started well enough and meandered into some other story. Boring.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anjali - A Close Friend Leaves

Harsh and Anjali have been together since they were in PP2. Most of their ten-year lives. With Mansi, they formed a group of really close friends. Both Mansi and Harsh naturally feature a lot in TWIED. A natural at cricket and a serious competitor who always pushed her at academics, Harsh and Anjali shared a nice, easy and yet competitive friendship.
A typical moment with H, M and A
So Harsh had to be bought the cricket bat for his birthday because his old bat's grip was torn. And Harsh was the one who cajoled Anjali when she got it in her head to change her school last year. And Harsh and Mansi were the ones who helped Anjali negotiate the steps and got to class when she had a bad headache. And Harsh would be the one who would take the Olympiad gold in their school for Maths and Anjali would take English. 'This year I got three - Harsh got one.'

Harsh would not eat even when he came for birthday parties. Reticent when adults were around, he would blossom when his two friends were with him alone. Many a day Anjali would drop by at Harsh's house and they would play cricket together in their flat or any of those games they all normally play. These days, now that they are older, they call each other on the phone and discuss homework etc.

So when Anjali went to Mumbai in the summer vacation, Harsh was already there, visiting his grandmother as he always does. She called him to go to Kidzania with her but he already had been there. When they wondered if they should meet Anjali was like - I will meet him at school anyway.

It so happened that Harsh's parents decided to shift to Mumbai and it happened so fast that Harsh got his admission and they moved before Anjali even knew what happened. I don't know if she felt bad about it but I felt a lot of pain. I know she did and does, she is a deep one who keeps those feelings to herself though she lets us see a glimpse of it.

And then you realise that there will be som many more such exits in life, so many changes, and you go through them all. Some affect you some more, some a little less. But they always take away a part of you. 'It's not so bad,' I told her. 'You guys can call and meet and message much easier than we could.' Anjali nodded.

Good luck Harsh. We will miss you and your ways. I must tell you though, you are a damn good cricketer young man.