Saturday, December 14, 2019

A New Experience - Life Without a Phone

The other day I was off for a three-day trip, planned rather suddenly. We were driving down to Nellore to meet some people. I was to take my car to Vau's house at five in the morning and leave it there so we could drive from thereon. In the darkness and while talking to each other I left my phone in my car and we headed off. At Malakpet I realised I had forgotten my phone and told Vasu that. He suggested we go back but then I figured it's ok - I could have lost my phone or damaged it. It would be a great way to detox. Anyone desperate enough to reach me would surely find a way, or wait.

It was a very freeing experience to not have the phone with me. I had no time, no alarm, no photos to shoot, n calls to make or receive, no messages to check or send - bliss. While all else were checking their phones I was blissfully on my own. Didn't miss it.

When I came back I was surprised to see one of my friends, someone I know very little of in reality but someone who sends me thoughtful forwards every day (the only one whose forwards i respond to because they are thoughtfully selected), was worried and had sent some messages and called. Otherwise the world did not miss me at all! Funnily, the ones who I thought might possibly get concerned, weren't.

Very freeing indeed. We do worry ourselves too much. We give ourselves too much importance. It just doesn't matter! So chill.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Cricket Lessons with Baig Sir

So I am experimenting with this new idea of syncing the mind and the body, especially in motor skills like games. The video game gave me some pointers and I felt I could try it on the cricket game as well. So I went in with the idea of slowing my mind down to the pace where i felt it was under control - i.e. where the body was in sync with the mind.

The way I did it was to mentally calibrate my mind as if I had a virtual speedometer - I pulled it down from 80 on a scale of 100 to about 20. It somehow allowed me this feeling of more control. And with that slowed down version, I ran in with a clear idea of what I wanted to execute. And it worked very well indeed. To the left-hander I decided a particular line just outside the off-stump moving in to hit the off-stump and after some ten deliveries, it happened exactly as I visualised it. And again and again. the feeling that you have that in control was almost there. I never felt like I could crack the zone, until now. After a long time I got everyone out and that too bowled.

There is something to this theory of slowing down the mind to sync with the body.

Back home when I met Pallavi who had dropped in, and was telling her of my theory, she gave me another insight. About the magic quarter second, the time between the mind deciding and the body acting. The time when you can change your mind they say. I am thinking of actually using it to sync my mind and body. More on that later but this could be one of the most significant findings for me ever.

Baig sir - Swing Session
Baig sir had a wonderful session with the seamers and got them to swing the ball prodigiously. Later while chatting with the kids I told them a few things from my experience. What to keep in mind when using the new ball - keep it up and allow it to swing. don't hit it, give air, make the batsman play, don't make too much adjustment for the swing. Once the ball gets slightly older polish it with great care, one side, the ball swings to the rough side and not the shiny side (conventional swing) and when it swings to the shiny side (reverse swing).

I talked about the importance of shining the ball, of forming a relationship with their equipment, the ball, the bat, all else around in their environment. It was a nice session in the end.

Daddy's Boy - Shandana Minhas

I have no idea where this book came to me from but I finally decided to give it a read. There are a few books on my shelf that had been there for years, and once in a while, I zip through them. 'Daddy's Boy' was one of them.

It starts with a young man who comes from Lahore, a man with an unpronounceable name, to Karachi. He has a mother in Lahore and a fiancee called Lalrukh. In Karachi, he meets three friends of his father, a retired navy man who loved the sea. There are three friends of his father who speak a bit like the witches in Macbeth. They hustle the young lad through the last rites of his father, get him drunk, take him on a boat next day, tell him they actually want to bury his father at sea because he liked it so much (the other body was that of some homeless man), have him meet the beautiful Alina with whom he loses his virginity. Soon he finds that the three friends have conned him, the girl is a prostitute and goes to confront her. She has a young son who shoots at our hero and the girl comes in between and dies. The son goes with his father to Lahore.

That's the story. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Time Machine - HG Wells

I remember reading this book when I was in school - All Saints High School had a wonderful library thanks to Dhruvraj sir and a huge collection of illustrated short classics we could read during lunch hour - and picked it off Anjali's table. It's considered the first science fiction book, written in 1895. Wells launches directly into the story of a few nameless people who gather around a man, who tells them his theory of how one can travel through time - he explains how time as the fourth dimension is accessible. He even shows the others a model of his machine.

Soon after, he takes off in his machine and returns too, in startling circumstances, to the awe of his audience. He narrates the happenings after he heads off 800, 000 years into the future and finds that earth is still ruled by two classes, the upper and lower, the Eloi and the Morlocks, finds a young Morlock lady Weena who falls in love with him, loses his time machine, finds it finally, goes up and down in time and finally lands up back at London, safe and sound.  He narrates his fantastic story to a disbelieving audience. In the end, the Time Traveller takes off again, but this time he does not return.

Rupa Publishers did such a bad job of proofing this classic that its a shame. Enjoyed reading it again.

Dreams of my Father - Barack Obama

Barack Obama writes his memoir, his roots from his father, a black Muslim from Kenya who comes to Hawaii on scholarship to study and escape his poverty, and his mother, a white Christian from the USA, who is also studying in Hawaii. They seem to have divorced pretty early as Barack Obama senior went to Harvard and then to Kenya again where he already has a family and children. Obama's mother falls in love and marries an Indonesian man and after a few years there, they come back to Hawaii. When he is ten years old or so, Obama's father comes to visit and for the first time he meets him before his father returns to Kenya.

Barack is one of the two black boys on the island so he is not too happy with how he is treated. A bit of the history of the blacks, the discrimination he faces, hurt him. He studies well, goes to the mainland, to Los Angeles and then to Chicago to work for the blacks as an organiser. (Sometime in those years, he starts fasting on Sundays and brings a severe discipline into his life, towards the end he even gives up smoking.) The work is tiresome and he does a fair job of it too.  While there he meets many people of the Church of the Nation of Islam, and understands the difficulties and aspirations of the poorer sections of blacks. While here he meets his stepsister Auma who visits him from Germany and they plan to visit his father's family in Kenya.

Obama meets his father's sisters, wives, and his many cousins. He learns about the life of his grandfather, how they used to tend to farmlands or fish before the white men came. then his grandfather works for the white man as a cook, puts some money away, buys land, builds a house and educates his son Barack (Obama's father). Obama's father and his sister once run away from the house of the disciplinarian father who is a stickler for rules and cleanliness, then come back. Their mother cannot handle her father and she runs away too. Barack senior finds two American ladies who tell him how he can apply for scholarships and get out of the mess he has landed in - his father disowns him when he does not pay heed to his advice after school. Admission in Hawaii and the story ends.

By the end of the book I felt that however much he achieved, Barack Obama will always carry that sense of not belonging. (It's not a nice feeling - I hope it's not true.) And like Barack Obama himself said, the book was written when he was younger and would have been 50 pages shorter if he had written it when he was older. There are many times when he goes inward, and the pace and action slows down, while he pretty much repeats himself. However, it does offer a fine perspective into the life of a mulatto - the son of a black and a white - with roots in Africa. I enjoyed reading the Kenyan adventure the best, especially that of his grandfather and his life. Thanks Abhinay for a lovely birthday gift.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Nagarjuna Sagar - A Trip Down Memory Lane

So the rebellious Aruna Manyam studied in Nagarjuna Sagar from her 5th class to her 12th class. When she came from the US recently with her son Varun and husband Sunnie, she wanted to visit her alma mater. I was not doing much that day so I joined them. Aruna was my junior at Engineering college and Sunnie was my classmate at the Management college and there's some reason to suspect that they might have met thanks to me and Shobha (whom I met at the management college and married!) According to hazy recollections, it was when Shobha and I visited Sunnie at Bangalore post our honeymoon, that Aruna had come to visit us and they kind of hit it off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Pic by professional photographer hanging around the bridge - Krishna river downstream
Anyway fast forward 25 years and here they are from Atlanta where she is a senior IT officer at Delta Airlines and Varun is a 6 foot 3 inch sixteen year old who is coping with his juvenile diabetes wonderfully well supported by Sunnie who has devoted his life to that. So off we went in an Innova to Nagarjuna Sagar where I had been a few years ago. Never saw the gates open though.
Aruna with Sister Prabhavati, Principal
I know Aruna from 1985. She is one year junior to me and was in the famous Electrical Engineering batch which had som 20 girls or so. Now Engineering colleges those days had four of five girls here and there at best and we were not used to seeing so many girls. It was a spirited lot and many of them did very well after their studies. Aruna was part of a troika with Shobha Meera and Aparna being the other two, all hostellers, and they were quite popular. I did not know them personally till my final year by which time Shobha Meera was seeing another friend and junior Aqueel, and Aparna was seeing the inimitable Prasanna. Aruna was not seeing anyone, being the rebel she always was. However we all had some good times those days - the juniors treated us seniors to some Chinese food and we treated them to some home parties. They'd come to watch cricket matches, maybe we saw the odd movie. Then we graduated and moved on. However Aruna somehow stayed in touch through all these years, became good friends with my wife Shobha Nargundkar, married our good friend Sunnie and now some 30 odd years later, is still in touch. Always the rebel, straight-talking, good-natured, good for a laugh, good sport, adventure-loving, something going on deep inside her that only she seems to know, some dilemmas that only she wants to handle herself, Aruna remains a loveable enigma. Varun's juvenile diabetes took a toll on her as she coped with her job and her only son's condition. Yoga, hapkido, Jaggi Vasudev, she seems to have found her peace now. But you can count on her. She will gamely wade into a noisy rock music party because we are all having a good time though she may not like rock music, take on any argument however strong the opposition and definitely takes the trouble to stay in touch. Once Sanjay wrote a letter completely in chaste Telugu when she had gone home for holidays. A week later he received a reply from her - in chaste Telugu! She is one of those few with whom you feel you share a lot, without anything being said.
At her Junior College, huge campus, run down
Sunnie was the baby of the class when we joined the MBA course. Shobha was in the A section while Sunnie and I were in the B section. The three of us put together a sort of an editorial board and got a newsletter and a book about the batch called 'Memories' with brief sketches of everyone in class. Sunnie played cricket with me for the college team, the three of us played table tennis, watched movies. When Sunnie moved to Bangalore and set up a successful advertising agency called Spur we visited him and the three of us went on a long trip to the Karwar coast in a hired car - just took off with no agenda. It remains my best trip so far - none of us were married then. We did another couple of trips - Goa, Salem. Sunnie visited us in Pune later that year.

Then Shobha and I got married and then Sunnie and Aruna got married and ever since they have been in the USA. Sunnie taught at the Georgia State Univ, taught hapkido, wrote. He is always one to share a laugh with, have an intelligent conversation, one of the few people you can trust with your life. Once Sunnie and I did a biryani evaluation trip and tasted all the popular biryanis in Hyderabad - we voted Mohini as the best then. Varun's juvenile diabetes has kept Sunnie on a parallel life - he does voluntary work for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Reseach Foundation) and raises funds through grueling 100 km cycling fundraisers every year. Some info about JDRF for those who wish to contribute.
The house where she lived perhaps
While we sped down to Nagarjuna Sagar in the Innova, I realised how careful they need to be with Varu's blood sugar levels even though he is hooked up with some monitor in his arm that sends signals about his levels, another contraption that releases insulin when required. All three get updates on their mobiles and there is continuous monitoring of what to eat and how much. Varun puts up nonchalantly with all this - a few years ago he had to prick himself every now and then to check blood sugar levels which he would do stoically, but now he does not need to. As a thirteen-year-old he came for cricket coaching with me, and learned all he could gamely. Now he has shot up and is taller than I am, an inch easily, jokes with his father and mother in a semi-adult manner. He is smart, has a great sense of humour and is a transparent, good kid. Someone you can talk to.

We visited Aruna's school first, St. Joseph's High School which is on the Telangana side. It was well maintained, they welcomed us warmly. We walked around, met the Principal Prabhavati who was remarkably patient and loving with all the children, and some other teachers. The school was maintained very well and they were looking for funds to do some more work. One of the teachers somehow got us permission to go over the dam which is otherwise not permitted so that was a plus. Across the dam in Andhra Pradesh we grabbed some lunch at the  AP Tourism hotel, checked out her old house and then her junior college, crumbling down.  The town seems frozen in time, almost as it was then I guess.

We saw the theatre where they would watch movies the headed out. We stopped on the bridge where an enterprising photographer coaxed us to pose for a picture with the river in the background. Then we headed back chatting away about this and that. Glad I made the trip.