Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Weekend Cricket Lessons - Baig Sir's Birthday

Today we celebrated Baig sir's birthday. He must be well over 80 but has the same passion. He suddenly picked young Sandeep from the Under 12 kids and called him over to the older kids nets. 'Where did he learn to play like that?' he asked.

We cut the cake. He called me and gave me the first piece - very touching. All the kids enjoyed the cake, the chips and soft drinks. After Baig sir spoke, I spoke to the kids about what I learned from Baig sir.

I told them how I met Baig sir in 1982 when he came to coach us at All Saints High School. Though it was my first year at school cricket I played state and South zone Under 15 that year entirely thanks to Baig sir's coaching.

I told the kids that if they want to play higher cricket they have the most experienced coach in India with them. Someone who coached BCCI teams, the Under 19 India team and who had coached Ravi Shastri's famous Under 19 team of which almost 12 played for India later. He had coached over 200 Ranji Trophy players and 40 Test players and has been coaching for 50 years now.

But what sets him apart are these three qualities which I asked the kids to imbibe.

Discipline. I have never seen Baig sir late for a single session in the 35 years I have known him. How much ever I try to beat him, he is ahead of me. Almost the first at the ground. Not rain, not sun, not cold, nothing stops him. He is never shabbily dressed, always immaculately turned out. If they wish to go higher, they could learn this discipline, this punctuality.

Commitment. Baig sir still coaches well into his 80s and still as vigorously as he used to when I was in school in the 1982s. He will come at 630 int he morning and if he finds the players are showing some interest or the session is interesting, he will put away all thoughts of breakfast and lunch and keep on at the nets. I once saw him coach without a break from 630 to 3 in the afternoon with no breakfast just because he found the boys interest. If I tell him some boy wants to meet him and could he look at the boy, he will come without a second thought. And he is all the time trying to improve the state of the game, every hour, every minute. The nets are his temple and I have seen him on Ramzan's roza days, going through without a break. Even today, when I asked him if we should go out for breakfast he was like 'No, no, Aditya is here. Let me spend time with him. Let him bowl. We will waste half an hour.'

Learning mindset. Baig sir has this incredible capacity to learn. When I teach something in the mental side he listens carefully. He looks at my handouts and studies them. He comes to the workshops I do and sits and listens through them. So keen is his learning mindset that he will learn from anyone - even the youngest member if there is something to learn. He comes up with new techniques every time and does not teach the same old stuff. He improvises them. I have never seen him say 'I know' and shut out knowledge. He is always open.

To the boys then I told them that if they do not apply what he has taught them, they are not progressing beyond the same class. In which case they cannot be taught new things. It is not that he does not know - it is that they are not able to grasp and apply and show enough effort to move past the lesson. So if they wish to play higher grade cricket they are better off applying what he has taught them and getting ready fro newer lessons.

As always, he amazes me. 'The only reason I coach here is because of one man. A great man. My captain M.L. Jaisimha.'


Brute Force - Movie Review

It's a 1947 movie set in a jail bubbling over with unrest. A weak warden, a sadistic guard Munsey and an alcoholic philosophical doctor are holding the jail together tenuously. Cell R17, watches their mate Joe Collins return from solitary confinement after being unjustly punished by Munsey. There are orders from above that the warden must control the ship or else. The jail is about to explode.

Joe finds the informer who led to his solitary confinement and first arranges an accident which kills the informer. Next he plans a getaway. Meanwhile Munsey threatens another member of Cell R417 and forces him to commit suicide. Pressure mounts on the warden to quit. Munsey's ways get worse. As the inmates prepare for the big getaway, there is another leak. Munsey is waiting. Warden is sacked. Another inmate is beaten by Munsey to death. Joe is set on his path despite all warning.

There is a dialogue by the doctor who speaks his mind against Munsey and gets beaten up, perhaps in his drunken stupor. 'Not imagination. Not compassion (or something to that effect) Just brute force. Yes, brute force does make leaders it seems (he speaks with such contempt here). But remember, it also destroys.'.
 
The doctor always advocates softer measures against the inmates. In the end brute force meets brute force and claims many lives on both sides. The inmates of cell R17 share their stories - all of them are there for their women. They have a picture of a lady who is every man's woman.

Angry. Violent. Made with all the idealism and innocence of 1947. Burt Lancaster looms large as Joe Collins. Polishing off the old movies collection. They are the best human interest stories.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stanley Kramer, Film Maker - Donald Spoto

Stanley Kramer can easily take that tag - Film Maker. His career in Hollywood spanned five decades - he is one of the top producers and directors with over forty films of high quality made during the period. He worked with some of the biggest names and gave some big names their breaks. The names include Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Gregory Peck, Judy Garland, Sydney Poitier among others. Films include classics like "High Noon", "Judgment at Nuremberg", "Ship of Fools", "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" among others.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 367 p, $ 6.95

What impresses one about this fine book is that Donald Spoto creates Stanley Kramer through his best films and worst films. Kramer's thoughts on each one of those, his beliefs and convictions, his ideas and weaknesses all come through. Coming from a tough neighbourhood in New York's Hell's Kitchen, Kramer worked his way up from menial jobs in the studios to actually producing them. His films had a strong social conscience, values and a willingness to take risks. One remark of his - "My grandfather once told me that friends are the most important thing in life. Nonsense. More important is believing in something and taking a stand on it.'

And stand he took by making movies about racism - he made four movies in all about black men and the prejudice they suffer including "Home of the Brave" and "Who is Coming to Dinner" when Hollywood practically banned the idea of making movies on such topics. He made movies about fixing in boxing and the downsides of it. After producing several he directed his later movies.

Donald Spoto's delightful commentary on 34 films with lots of pictures and comments by Kramer and others makes the book a lovely read. Especially after you have read some really bad biographies that are totally one-sided it comes like a breath of fresh air. I was lucky to read this rare book that Jayant gave me - You must read it, he said.

So the journey starts with "So This is New York" made in 1948. Then "Champion", "Home of the Brave", "The Men", "Cyrano de Bergerac", "Death of a Salesman", "My Six Convicts", "The Sniper", "High Noon", "The Happy Time", "The Four Poster", "Eight Iron Men", "The Member of the Wedding", "The Juggler", "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T", "The Wild One", "The Caine Mutiny", "Not a Stranger" (which he directed), "The Pride and Passion", "The Defiant Ones", "On the Beach", "Inherit the Wind", "Judgment at Nuremberg", "Pressure Point", "A Child is Waiting", "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World, "Invitation to a Gunfighter", "Ship of Fools", "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner", "The Secret of Santa Vittorio", "RPM", "Bless the Beast and Children", 'The Wild Ones", "Oklahoma Crude" and "The Domino Principle". An impressive list for the sheer variety and scope. I saw five of them.

Many of his movies were made from plays and some from books. Certainly, he made movies to make a difference and the themes he chose stand proof of that. "You try to get the best collaborators but then you have to give them their own range since they are also artists in their own right. You have the annoying responsibility of curtailing their impulses and even standing against them as you try to achieve the painting you want. It never turns out the way you have foreseen. It can be better but never exactly as you visualised,"

"I am primarily concerned with the disintegration of values in our whole society."

"If a film doesn't make money there is something fundamentally wrong with the project. Either it cost too much in the first place or made at the wrong time or marketed poorly."

Lovely. I am so glad I read this book. Thanks Jayant and Suhita.

Thought for the Day - To Be Mindful, To be Present Is to be Compassionate

To be mindful of what I do every moment brings in a quality of being that is compassionate. I cannot be mindful and violent, hurried or thoughtless at the same time.

It is a good way to do good work - in all senses of the word.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thought for the Day - You Only Get What You Are Prepared For

I believe that we only experience or encounter things that we are prepared for. There is nothing that we experience or encounter that we cannot handle because I believe it just would not come into our experience if we were not ready or prepared to handle it.

Most times we look at difficulties in life and wonder -hey, I cannot handle this. But I believe now that it has come into our experience only because we can handle it and because it will move us up the learning ladder. It helps to know that we are equipped to handle it. That awareness will give us a gap, a moment of calmness to engage with it head on. Not hope that something will happen to it and it will either resolve itself or go away.

To look at the big problems and difficulties then - and know that they have come as a test to graduate you into the next class - and to deal with it as only you can, is the way forward. Deal you can. Now engage. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Into the Wild - Movie Review

Based on a book written on the true story of Chris McCandless who leaves his home and shuns all society and its trappings - car, money, credit cards, identity to experiment on a life in the wild - the movie is a story of love and loss. Chris shuns all love and goes away - and along the way he keeps finding so many people offering him love - and shuns it all to be lonely until the final realisation that happiness comes only when shared.

First by car, then hitch hiking on the road, stealing rides on railroads, kayaking down the rapids against orders and finally finding the Magic Bus - an abandoned bus in the wilds of Alaska where he sets up his home in all loneliness for the last part of his life - Chris journeys not just geography but his inner space. But by the time the young man wants to return home to friends and family he finds that he has gone too far. Chris pays the ultimate price to know the truth about love, about happiness, about relationships, and family. He meets interesting people along the way and none as interesting as Ron Franz whose words - 'When you are grateful to open yourself to love and when you love, God's light shine on you' are as true as any.

Shot with great care and patience, the movie does the person Chris was and his memory and his striving justice. Great locales and a nice subdued energy. Slow, peaceful watch. Watch it.

The Free Book Stall - A New Initiative

Inspired by the VNR VJIET TEDx Event where they had a stall with a bunch of new books - all book suggestions by various people - to give away for free. People could go, pick up a book they liked, read it and pass it on. I found it incredible that someone would do stuff like this  and remember I actually asked the boys 'For free?' How difficult is it for us to accept the good that comes to us. But I can expect nothing less from the lads and lasses especially under the stewardship of Abhinay who comes up with some wonderful ideas and pulls them off. The boy at the counter suggested I read "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne and I was glad I picked it up.
This is a bunch of books that Sagar gifted to me - what goes around comes around
I suggested the idea to our colony committee members - that I would like to give some books away for free for anyone to take away and read if they gave me some space in the committee hall. They took a lot of time to understand the idea.
'You will sell second hand books?'
'No, I will give them away for free.'
'You want to give books for the library?'
'No I want to give books away for free.'
'You want people to read and return to you?'
'No I want to give books away for free. Anyone who likes any book can take it away - no questions asked - and read it and pass it on. No obligation to return.'

That is when one of the gentlemen seemed to get the idea.
'Wonderful,' he said. 'I will give you space next function.'

So I was glad when I bumped into him recently and he said there was a function coming up on Sunday and he would give me a table. I said that's wonderful and we picked up some 25-30 books to give away. 'My Experiments with Truth' by M.K. Gandhi, 'Siddhartha' by Herman Hesse, a couple of Enid Blytons, Fit for life, A book on Yoga, 'Don't lose your mind, lose your weight' by Rijuta Diwekar, some National Geographics and several other books for all ages. Contributions came from my shelf, Shobha's and Anjali's.

Anjali then made a small poster that went like 'Books for Free' - Take any books you like, Read it and Pass it on. There was a trademark smiley at the end. We stuck it up on a pole near the table and spread all the books out.

A small boy came immediately and picked up the Enid Blyton. His mother came and told him to put it down. He put it back. I stepped in and told the mother that the idea is to take the books away for free and read and share. He could take ti if he liked it. She looked a bit stunned and surely was wondering what the catch was. The boy got his hands on the book and I hoped he would take it home.

Anjali and I got back home and went back to the function after an hour. Most books were still there. People were still wary if there was a catch. They would see the books and put them back on the table. I let them figure it out - I could see some young kids reading the poster and pick up books. But they put them back.

But suddenly one old lady went and picked up a couple and then someone else did and within a few minutes most books got taken. I was surprised that Gandhi's autobiography and Siddhartha were not taken. I suggested them to the young lady who stays in the flats opposite my house - it would have been appropriate because she was Abhinay's junior and is from VNR VJIET where I first saw this experiment.

Hopefully she picked them up. I told the committee members they could give the books away or put them in the library or do whatever they want to do with them. Nice!