Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anjali - The Art of Caring

I was down with a slight fever yesterday. But more than the fever the body pains and a bad head ache bothered me. It was not so bad that I had to take medicine but no so easy that I was in comfort. So I twisted and turned under the blanket, feeling cold and achy, needing some TLC.

Somehow Anjali senses the right thing to do. First she came and gave me a hug and told me that I will be okay. Then she went inside and got her blue monkey cap (which does  not fit me at all) and tried to pull it on my head. "For the cold,' she explained. Then she went off again and bought socks. I did not realise what she was doing when she pulled off the blanket. But she struggled and got those two socks on while I lay shivering. Properly got them on.
'Now you won't feel cold,' she said and gave me a hug again.

I think I started to feel better right then. How much trouble and how much thought for a young kid to do all this when all else were comfortably doing their own thing. She sensed it, felt she had to do it and did it. And trust me. I believe she healed it too.

I remember when she was a three year old, I had lost my voice after a strenuous workshop. For five days I could not even get a squeak out of my throat. All I could do was nod yes or no. But all adults would ask me questions which required me to write on paper or gesticulate wildly. They did not even put enough thought to reframe their questions considering my discomfort. Only Anjali had the sense and the thoughtfulness to ask me yes or no questions. Every single one of them. I would hug her each time then. It was incredible to see her perception and thoughtfulness.

And to see it now. Perhaps children are more other-centred. I can clearly visualise adults saying - but you could have told us. Ah, my dear, it is not the same is it?

Two Lovely Gestures I'd Like to Pay Forward

At a time when I was getting cynical about life - I noticed two fine gestures that happened to people I know a few weeks ago. Upon closer inspection I noticed that I was opening up my life to miracles too.

The first when my friend Suresh stepped in while I was struggling with the Hyderabad book event. Landmark bookstore had not confirmed the place (they kept poor Sonal waiting in a most unprofessional manner I must add) so we were struggling to find the right place. I was somehow banking on Landmark so it upset me a bit.

As luck would have it, I was meeting Suresh that day and instead of our usual route, we decided to stop by at the Press Club which was an option. It looked decent. However it was not suitable venue for one  of the guests, so we had to look for another. That's when Suresh simply said - "Leave it to me. I'll book the Park.  My expense." Somehow I could not see this book fitting in with Park Hyatt or Grand Kakatiya (which was his other option) where I felt the grandeur of the venue might take the shine off the book so I went ahead and looked for more. Finally we found the most perfect venue, Saptaparni. Landmark would not have been a patch on this venue - it was so perfect.

But then Suresh insisted on throwing an after-launch party. I remember throwing a party after 'The Men Within' but since then watched out for expenses because there will be more costs concerned with book marketing (even if it is just tickets). So Suresh just went ahead and booked a private place for 30 people without even confirming with me. It was a fun gathering at Sailing club with Venkatapathi regaling us with stories of his cricketing days. AP, Ram, Srikant, Bhasker, Narayana Raju, Pavan, NP and a whole lot of friends came by. When Naresh dropped in later in the evening he was shocked that Suresh had thrown a party for me. 'That's amazing,' he said 'That someone is actually throwing a party for someone else's celebrations.' I think so too. I am not used to anyone doing things like this for me and I can only thank Suresh for his generosity and love. I am also watching keenly at how thoughtful and loving the world is. And how, despite his busy schedules, he is always keeping a watchful and thoughtful eye. I loved the fact that he just went ahead and did it - he did not need my permission for the after-party!

Within a couple of weeks of this event, Anjan came to town. He had been telling me since "50 Not Out" days that he would organise a launch in Delhi (where he was posted then). But this time (Kolkata now), he said he would fix it all up. I thought he meant he would help me with the launch and the logistics etc. But no, he wanted to organise the entire thing himself. He fixed the date, got me to get the publishers Jaico involved, took over from there, blocked the place, got everything organised and took such wonderful care of me that I told him - I don' think my family would do so much for me. He was also my Chief Guest, hosted an after party dinner and just took care of me like he would his own brother. I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was a wonderful experience and once again my faith and belief in humanity and its goodness got firmly asserted.

There is something in the way they just took it up and went ahead with they felt they should do. I am immensely humbled to receive such love and affection from my friends. They are both nonchalant about it and wonder why I am going on about it. But to me its simply wonderful to experience something like this.

And these are stories that I would be able to tell Anjali or so many others, when people may doubt humanity in a particular low moment, that the world has some other shades too. These are real stories. And we could aspire to be just like them. I for one would like to pay it forward, this generosity of spirit, whenever I get the chance, and keep it going and growing. The world needs more Suresh and Anjan. 

This Way Is Easier Dad - Feedback From the Youngest Reader Yet

Punyasloka, all of 7 and a half, from Sydney Australia, daughter of my friend Sreenath, read the book and even wrote a lovely review. I am thrilled that a seven and a half year old could read the book and relate to it. 

Thanks Punyasloka, you write very well. Your handwriting is very neat and your thought process clear. This is the best review I have got for this book.

I am impressed with the fact that you finished reading the book before your Dad. Good for you! Thank you for taking the trouble to write the review.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nice Blog - 'The Men Within' Shows Up in The Second Hand Book Market at Abids, Hyderabad

A blog on the second hand Sunday book market at Abids, Hyderabad
I have one reason to post this - I spotted 'The Men Within' in one of the pictures. Nicely displayed along with other greats.
These second hand guys know their business. I love them. :)

The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding - John Wooden

This Way Is Easier Dad - Review in Plusminusnmore

Nice, detailed review. The kind I like. Thank you Sujata Sahoo.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thought for the Day - The Outcome vs 'I Told Him To Do It'

I was conducting some team bonding exercises with the young MCC cricket team for this season last week. Every member of the team shared one strength and one area to improve for everyone else. Rudra, senior player and skipper potential, said that young Vijay was a fabulous asset to the team with his attitude. In areas to improve he said Vijay had the habit of hitting out when he should defend and that weakness had cost the team a few matches.

'I told him to stay a the wicket and we could save the game. But he went for a shot and got out.'
I told Vijay to bear that in mind. He nodded.
I asked Rudra if he had something to learn from this experience.
'What else could I do?' he asked genuinely flummoxed. 'I told him three times. It is up to him. He has to do it now.'

As far as Rudra was concerned, he had done all he could.
I asked him to score a hundred or a double hundred. Would he be able to deliver? If not what does it mean? If I told him ten times - would that help?
Or - should I find ways to actually help him score that hundred? Would he like that?

"I Told Him" - My Job Is Over
'I did my job', 'I did my best', 'I told him so many times, I gave feedback, now its up to him'. Instead of helping him perform better, you have increased pressure on that person by pointing out what could be done (and by default, what he was not doing). Maybe, he would have been better off if you had not told him anything.

Feedback Should Lead to Better Results 
Coaching and mentoring, or even having a genuine interest in making the other person perform better, involves finding ways to actually improve the performance or behavior. Not merely dump information or targets or observations on the other person which only disturbs their morale and upsets their mental state.
If your advise is not adding to the performance, maybe you are better off not giving advise.

It's About Them - Not You
If you are really interested, keep the other person in focus, not your self. Every sentence that begins with 'I did...' is about you. If you can find sentences that start with 'He did...' with something positive to say about the other person, you are on to something.
Saying it, or giving feedback, does not absolve you of the responsibility. Think through and say stuff that causes a shift in energy. You can sense the increase or drop in energy almost immediately.
If the energy and performances drop, you have not thought through enough, and can do more harm than good.  

But My Intent Was Good
'But I meant well,' is another common refrain. It's like standing on the bank of the river and telling a drowning person that he is drowning and he should try harder to save himself. If you can save him do it, else shut up. Good intent should result in good results for the other person.Otherwise the only good this intent has done is for you and your ego. It's easy to feel like you have done a lot of good by pointing out all that is not right about the other person and by setting them lofty targets without really empowering them with the knowledge to do it. If performances are falling, your good intent is obviously no good.

Don't Mistake Half-Baked Coaching for Giving Tough Feedback
There are coaches who are tough on their wards because they want the wards to perform to their potential. They guide, facilitate and allow the player to reach his potential. Then there are coaches who are tough without showing the path, without any improvement. Wards love the first types. We always loved the rigour and the discipline that our good coaches subjected us to and are always grateful to them for making us tougher. The second type of a coach can kill our spirit and many wards actually stop enjoying the sport or game or work. Some quit.

Evolution of Coaches, Teachers and Managers
In the first stage of a coach's evolution, the coach is all too pleased to have the power of teaching someone and downloads all that he knows on to the poor wards. In this case he may not even know the craft well enough to teach its practices well. The second stage of evolution is when he knows the craft but does not know how to impart it. Here he talks so much about himself and how good he is and how much more the others need to do to get better. Consequently it only demoralises the wards. In the third stage, the coach knows his job (to transfer knowledge of the craft, not knowledge of himself and his greatness), and it shows in the wards performance. The coach prepares in a way that the ward imbibes the right practices and gets the right results - knowingly or unknowingly. The results speak. The ward is empowered. The coach has done his job.

Next Time - Think Through
The next time you wish to give free advise, ask yourself this. Is what you are saying empowering the other person? Can you see the concentration increasing, the light shining brighter in his eye? Can you feel a shift in energy, and improvement in performance? If yes, you have empowered the person. If not, maybe you should work on yourself some more.

Stop Saying 'I Told Him'
Each time we say 'I told him but he did not do it', we are accepting failure. If he fails, we have failed. If he is unhappy, we have failed. We need to go back to the drawing board and find that one elegant solution that will produce results. It may not always be words that empower (I Told You So). If you love your ward, if you know your job, if you love your craft, you will invest enough to find a way to better that performance. To bring a smile to the ward's face, to see him enjoy the performance. Just by being there sometimes. With a small input at others. Mostly by making him feel good about himself in the end.

A Fine Piece of Advise From Sagar's Dad

We set out in the rain this afternoon to buy some electronic items that were not easy to source. The rain pelted down, roads flooded, traffic jammed. The first stop was a disappointment. That's when Sagar remembered his late father's advise.
'My father would tell me that if I was a man, I must not come home until I finish the work I set out for. Even if there was difficulty I must find a way to complete it and only then return.'

'A fine piece of advise,' I said.
'Let's not go home without finishing this job sir,' he said.

So we found an old friend who runs a music store (Full Volume, near Chutneys) and Anjani was kind enough to find that missing adapter and give me a huge discount. In pouring rain we headed out to Model House where all the telephone shops are (for another adapter for the cordless). It was knee deep water and I almost gave it up. But then Sagar's father's advise rang in our ears and we rolled up our trousers and waded through the knee deep water. Our efforts paid off and we found a lot of stuff we needed in that one store.

On a roll then, we stopped at a Vodafone shop for some long pending work and that got done too. Wet, cold but victorious and fully satisfied we returned home.

What a line - don't come home until the job is done. A piece of advise I will hold very close to my heart.

Thought for the Day - When I Say The Words, They Become Mine

When I say someone else's words, they somehow become mine.

The key to transfer ownership then is to make others say your words as if they are their own. It will require a bit of nudging, a bit of clearing the space, a bit of allowing that to happen.

But when it does, the words become their own. And when they become their own, they take a whole new life.

It is a big art. Of transferring ownership.

Three Dog Night - Gouri Dange

Read this delightful little book 'Three Dog Night' by Gouri Dange and woke up to how lovely good writing can be once again. It's lyrical, teasing, tongue-in-cheek and so alive that I caught myself thinking - this is how good it can get. The novel starts off with a bang and goes on and on in that fashion with nothing more than just a feisty outlook peppering things up incredibly on ordinary lives. Character after interesting character breezes in and waltzes out - all as unusual and common place as they could be, as any human could be - or wait. In the hands of someone who knows her craft they become unforgettable, vivacious characters full of life's highs, lows and unique perspectives. Gouri builds them as  effortlessly as she builds this frothy tale and you put your original thought of how she wrote a novel called 'Three Dog Night' aside and dip into this delightful world and when you turn the last page you know the title could not be anything else. Of such a rare, mad world do these people belong.
Harper Collins, 153 p, Rs. 250

Sixty one year old Vibhavari Pradhan, not long since widowed, lives in Mumbai and deals with a family that is as dysfunctional as any - son Rishabh and daughter in law Dharani and grandson 13 year old Dhruv (Dhruvlet) form one unit and her daughter Shruthi (Shruggy Shru) who goes about improving lives in faraway Rajasthan. Vibha loves dogs, possesses a feisty spirit and loves adventurous recipes it appears. From dealing with her young friend Moni's obsession with an insensitive boyfriend to handling an imprudent financial investment that her husband made in association with his friends, Vibha  is a delightful paradox of a modern mind stuck in a time warp. She has trouble with mobile phone ring tones, credit card callers and stuff like that and deals with them most creatively. Stuck with a piece of land she cannot sell she meets another wonderful character Gautam-Gafoor and between them they find a way. Her daughter adopts a Tibetan child. Meanwhile a Scotsman appears on the scene to document Indian dogs and together they meet in faraway Ratnagiri to consider possibilities of potential company. On and on float this loosely bound group of impossible and completely endearing characters each dealing with life in their own way, and enjoying its ups and its downs. One so wants to meet them all.

There are some interesting recipes thrown in. Like coconut prawns. Should try them.

Frankly I haven't read such delightful prose in years. Simply beautiful. In one line Gouri destroys you with no explanation or sympathy for Shruthi whose kidneys pack up in the prime of her youth or the sudden death of Ashwin Pradhan, and in the same manner she goes to Nepal to bring back the child her daughter has adopted with no questions asked. Life just goes on for Vibha, and all its shades seep through without seeming to make any effort;  she handles it all sanely, keeps her perspective and her sense of humour.

Well done Gouri. As for the three dog night - how cold can it get out there in Scotland? How else would a dog lover measure the cold - one dog, two dog and a three dog night which is time to head to India. 

Kenny G and Lionel Richie Live - Lady

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Anusual - Anu Agarwal

While in Kolkata, Anjan plied me with a ton of books. I picked three - Anusual, a collection of stories by Tagore and another one. I flipped through Anusual which is actress and model Anu Agarwal's biography and flipped and flipped until it ended.
Harper Collins

It starts with her car crash where she broke many bones and almost died. What I didn't know was that she was in a Mercedes Benz when the accident happened in Bandra Mumbai. She drops little tidbits like that about her successful career as a model, her disinterest in movies and how Mahesh (Bhatt) almost wooed her to act and how she finally condescended to. Then some yoga and a yogi who takes a liking to her. Someplace in between comes a list - of people she had affairs with - with small descriptions on their backgrounds and their traits and in some cases sexual preferences. Then the yogi and his six month long foreplay and the amazing sexual experience (I think it was that or some other spiritual experience that seemed to me like that). Kicked out by other inmates one fine day when smitten yogi was missing. Accident. Recovery. Path of gratitude. Sell of things. Start afresh. Work in NGO. Write book. Find life.

Anu Agarwal was at HLF a year or two ago to promote this book. I did not meet her but saw her. She did not look like the Aashiqui days but then I don't either. As for her writing prowess, she can write surely, but what was she trying to tell. It goes all over the place and we finally know very little of her or what happened to her. It could have been much better perhaps with some editorial help. 

This Way Is Easier Dad - The Kolkata Launch

Kolkata happened only because of one person - my old college mate and currently IG, BSF, P.S.R.Anjaneyulu or Anjan as we know him. Anjan said we will do the launch and then it all took on so much energy until the event went off beautifully at what they say is the best bookstore in India - Oxford Book Store. It sits prettily on Park Street with lovely books stacked up, a fine cafe and place for readings etc. I asked Anjan to be my Chief Guest and the versatile and highly talented Baisali Chatterjee Dutt agreed to be the Guest of Honor. The event took place on 14 July, 2107, a memorable day for me.
Suresh, Me and Anjan - An Association of Old Friends
I took the 845 am flight to Kolkata a day in advance - on July 13th. It was almost 25 years since I have been in these parts. I worked in Kolkata for 6 months in my first job at Bharath Petroleum. It was a long long journey by train those days - the East Coast express and the Coromandel express were the two preferred trains. I remember Park Street of course, the metro which was fabulous even then, the trams, the crowds at Sealdah which made me shrink, the tea shops, the animated discussions, the women. I loved Calcutta even then. I fell in love with Kolkata once again. As we sped past the new flyovers I could feel the old history of Kolkata seep through. Lunch with Anjan and off to the Oxford Book Store with Naveen who coordinated the entire effort.
The ever smiling and efficient Neelanjana of Oxford

Oxford Book Store is really pretty. Shelves and shelves of books, old classics, new bestsellers, it just has that feel of a bookstore with nooks and crannies to disappear into, a lovely cafe on the mezzanine floor for coffee, sandwiches, fish and chips. I met Neelanjana of Oxford Book store and Sujit Guha of Jaico, Kolkata was available too. We ran over some of the issues - media, books, event flow, display etc. Then we left. Tomorrow, the 14th is the big day. Anjan gave me a whole load of books to read and I finished reading Anusual by Anu Agarwal and went back to reading Gouri Dange's fabulous 'Three Dog Night'.

Anjan, me and Baisali unveiling TWIRD
I was really pleased to hear that Suresh was joining us for the event. He would take the same flight that I took but a day later. I decided to put my day to good use and went off to see Belur Math and Dakshineshwar early in the morning and picked up Suresh at the airport. A nice ride back, a good lunch with Anjan and off we went to the Oxford Book Store. Jaico's young team of three was there. One young journalist was there - he made use of our early presence and interviewed me. Just out of the Journalism course from the University of Kolkata. The crowd took a while in coming so we waited. Suresh, Anjan and I took pictures. Two friends of mine from over three decades ago in Kolkata to cheer me on? I am overwhelmed.
TWIED unveiled in Kolkata by P.S.R. Anjaneyulu, IG, BSF, Author Harimohan Paruvu and the versatile Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Baisali who added tremendous energy to the event with her observations, insights, reading and wit
Baisali Chatterjee Dutt, who was so gracious to agree to be my guest on the panel even before reading the book, came with her mother in law. Suresh's friends from IIT, Kharagpur 1989, came. There was Saikat, Saurav, Naveen, Amitabh and some of them were meeting after 30 years almost. They kept going in and out for a smoke. Simran came with her father Mr. Ajit Singh. Sunil Bhandari came and bought a book and got it signed by me which was very gracious of him. Nayana could not come but she asked for a book to be kept for her and I said I would.

Me - fielding questions (at fine leg)
Some members of the press came, some customers from the bookstore came and the program got underway. Neelanjana introduced us and we took the dais. She introduced the book a bit, Jaico, Baisali, in that order. Baisali, writer, editor, actor, teacher, drama facilitator, introduced the book from her perspective as someone who wrote agony aunt columns for parenting magazines and a mommy blogger. She asked me how it was to be a pappa blogger. That set me off  and I explained how the book came about from the blog without ever meaning to make it into a book.
Anjan making a point about the book
Anjan spoke about how he knew me from college and how I was a cricketer then and how I could have played for Indian perhaps if I put in as much effort into my craft then as I was putting into writing books now. He read my earlier books and has always supported me in my lit endeavours so he spoke a bit about the Men Within and the movie Golconda High School. He read a few chapters from the book.

Baisali keeping us enthralled
Anjan has something funny to say
Baisali read and it was wonderful to hear her read - dramatising the reading as she would - she is a theatre personality for nothing. How I wish I could read like that. I read a bit. Anjan read a bit. Then she asked me some questions, asked Anjan some questions and we all spoke randomly, read randomly and it was great fun.
Anjan speaks, we listen
A section of the audience with the highly energetic Naveen Chauhan (blue shirt) - some brilliant minds there
The audience and some camera work
It could not happen that the evening go by without Suresh speaking a few words and he was gracious as ever. he recalled our journey, how I was his executive coach and how we are also great friends. It was just so nice to have him with us.
Some questions and answers
Suresh, my friend, who flew in from Hyderabad for the event speaks
Discussing something 
There were a few questions from the audience and we wound up. One gentleman, an avid reader perhaps, came and told me his opinion of the book (favorable). Another gentleman took my autograph on three papers, one for himself and two for his two daughters. An author Sarita Dasgupta, who wrote a book 'Feathered Friends' got a book signed and showed me her book. An elegant lady, Chand Ahluwalia, bought herself a copy and later even advised me where to party. So full of life and so elegant she was that I would have loved to spend more time with her.
A reader who had some fine views on the book
Anjan, Sujit Guha and Chatterjee from Jaico, and me
There was press from Telegraph (young Rushita, a fine blogger herself), Statesman, Times of India, CNN, ABP and a few other smaller news agencies. Some of them interviewed me, some clicked pictures. We signed a few books, ate some lovely sandwiches, cake and drank some coffee and off we went, down to the lobby. 

While waiting for the others to settle down, I went to pick some books and bumped into a couple of young kids, college going perhaps. I asked them what they would suggest as a gift for my friend. They blew me with their knowledge of the books, authors (Kafka, Gordimer, Mistry, Barnes, Pinto), genres and quickly told me what was good, what was not, which author was what. I have never been so impressed. They just knew exactly what they were talking about and could not have been a day over 20. Next life, in Kolkata.

Another small encounter with Ms. Chand downstairs, and she left me feeling like I wished I had known her some more. I picked up a few books - Farewell to Arms, Trial, Tagore's autobiography, Em and the Big Hoom and one book by Julian Barnes. The planned dinner did not go off as we planned because Baisali had to leave and so did Neelanjana. Naveen and I decided to join Suresh and his gang of IIT friends at Peter Cat restaurant across the road. It was one raucous night after that, with old reminiscences, sharp repartee, Peter Cat's famous chelo kebabs (rice, kebabs, butter etc a full meal). The celebrations went on till so late that we forgot when we finally returned home.

All in all, a lovely event, full of good vibe and cheer. The next day Anjan decided to buy some 20 copies to gift his friends and I was over the moon. Nothing makes the heart sing more than knowing that someone actually bought a few copies to gift. But overall, a trip that was memorable for the love,  warmth, kindness and affection. Thanks Anjan for everything, Baisali, Neelanjana, Oxford Book Store, Suresh, Naveen, Sonal, Sujit and the Jaico team at Kolkata. the Jaico team at Mumbai, Abhinay, Sagar, Ramaraju  and all others who were with me physically and in spirit. More on Kolkata later.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thought for the Day - What I Try, I Fail At

There are things I 'try' really hard to do. To please some people, to be nice to some people, to help some people, to avoid some people, some situations ...and so on. The harder I 'try' the more I fail. It's funny but it happens every time.

The more I try, the more I am likely to fail. I must perhaps do, and not try.
Try seems like an effort. It is not natural.


Do. Or do not.

That way the outcome will not bother you.

Anjali - An Interview with a 9 and a Half Year Old (Slightly Delayed)

It has been pending for a while now. It has also been the first interview with Anjali after 'This Way Is Easier D was launched. So it was but natural that I began with questions about the book, the launch and the after effects.

Me: How do you feel about the launch of This Way Is Easier Dad (TWIED)?
Anjali: Ok

Me: What did you like about the experience?
Anjali: I liked the part that lots of people could match (their thoughts) with it. Even the children liked it, not only teenagers or adults. Even 9 year olds liked it.

Me: Did your friends like it?
A: Yeah. But didn't say anything. They are like that. Keep their feelings to themselves.

Me: How did you like it?
A: I liked it. I can't write a review though.

Me: What are the good parts? The bad parts?
A: Cover. Illustrations. Idea. Good parts. (Nothing about the writing!) I did not like a few illustrations. Didn't like the fact that 'Easier' was kept in italics in the title.

(At this point she asked me if I was only going to ask her about TWIED so I switched topics)

Me: What do you think about people in general?
A: Some people can be not so nice. But I guess everyone has something good in them. I like people. Better than being alone.

Me: What do you think of adults?
A: Bigger people. Taller people. Like to be in charge of everything (obviously does not approve of this bit, so i will steer off this part.)

Me: What's fun to you these days?
A: Playing. PT Class. Aerobics.

Me: What do you think of the education system?
A: (Warming up to this) I think it should be made simpler. Shouldn't just read out from the book. First you explain the hard words. Then ask for doubts. Show videos. Experiments. Something that we can say I did it and it was fun.

Me: What do you think the government should be doing?
A: Garbage. They should give dust bins. There should be a phone number to call for dirt also. If it's a big problem. Else solve it on your own. If you solve it on your own you get a badge. A green badge or something. Make it competitive. Then everyone wants to get involved. Everyone wants to do it. That's what makes them do it. A prize.

Me: What do you think of the world? Is it good or bad?
A: Again, the world may not be good but there is something good in everything. I like that proverb. Everyday may not be good but there is something good in everyday. Good and bad. Bad because there are some people whose ideas may harm and may not be good for the earth. Some people have ideas that come in handy. Some people have no ideas.

Me: How should adults be with children?
A; More interactive. Play with them. Be like a friend. Someone who is ready to do whatever. They will do, but only the good things. Games. Dance etc.

Me: Who do you think is the best adult you have seen or met with children?
A: Sarita aunty. She is in our school. She makes everything more interactive. Satish mama. He is just nice.

Me: What are the main concerns of our world?
A: Dirt. Garbage. And happiness.

Me: Why?
A: No one is happy. People are happy. But there are less people willing to make other people happy.

Me: How can we change that?
A: They should be made more fun. Competitive. Fun things. Things when everyone gets involved.

Me: What would you like to see changed in school?
A; Classrooms can be better. Not bigger. But more fun. Should be painted a different color. Everyday the benches can be put in a different way. Our school is a lot of fun. We have activities everyday. On Monday, Assembly and PT, Tuesday, Kung Fu and Yoga, Wednesday, Dramatics and Aerobics, Thursday, Kung Fu and Yoga, Friday, Assembly, PT and Aerobics. I like PT best.,

Me: How can children learn faster and better?
A: If they focus more. And if the person who is teaching is good. If its a good teacher you don't even day dream.

Me: Do you day dream?
A: Sometimes. Whatever I see, it gets connected with something and then...

Me: How does technology help you?
A: Yeah. I can call whenever I want. It makes everything easier. I can call Mansi. You can take feedback about TWIED. I love Khan Academy. I can learn SQL and Javascript.

Me: What was the funnest day this year?
A: The day we went to Sigiriya (Sri Lanka). Lots of fun.

Me: What was the saddest day>
A: Don't have sad days.

Me: How's it like watching your friends grow up?
A: We have to focus on studies more. Then when we were small it was all play. Now it's is this FA (Assessment) that FA. They don't want us to play only.

Me: What are the movies you watched and liked?
A: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". "Raees". "Murder on the Orient Express". All killing killing.

Me: Books?
A: Tinkle. Nancy Drew. Let's play. (Yay)

Me: What are the new things you did this year?
A: Don't know. let me see. Started Kung fu again. Learned swimming. Went to Sri Lanka. Started writing with a pen.

Me: Any funny moment you remember?
A: Drew a family on my fingers and showed it to Mansi. Two fingers are Father and mother. The child is the little finger. He has to go to the toilet.

Me: Your favorite authors?
A: Roald Dahl. Carolyn Keene. Samit Basu. Enid Blyton.

Me: What books do you plan to read this year?
A: Other Samit Basu books. Hardy Boys. Want to finish St. Clare's. Ruskin Bond. Agatha Christie.

Me: Any movies you want to watch?
A: Boss Baby

Me: Other things you want to do?
A: Learn the guitar. Go to America. Learn horse riding. Have a dog.

Me: People you want to meet?
A: Inspirational people? Dhoni. PV Sindhu.
I would like to meet your father also. He came from nothing and became a big engineer.

Me: What do you like about your nanna and mamma?
A: Nanna - friendly. Makes friends easily.
Mamma - when you tell her something serious and improtant she listens patiently, sees their opinion, then she will talk.

Me: What do you think of Mamma and Nanna?
A: Really helpful. Give me so much.

Me: Things you don't like about them?
A: Mamma - does not let me eat my cheese pizza. Nanna - gets angry so quickly these days.

Me: What type of food are you enjoying these days?
A: Chicken. Curd rice. (Where is pizza?)

Me: What are the beautiful things you saw this year?
A: Sigiriya. The roads of Sri Lanka.

Me: What was the most interesting thing you heard about this year?
A: Hitch hiking. Asking people for a ride. When you told me that Abhinay did that I was so shocked. Could people do that? SQL was new. Enjoyed learning it.

Me: If there were 3 things to change in the world?
A: Anyone caught throwing garbage....
Actually there should be no more countries. Only one big world. Many states (Lennon would be happy!)
No killing. Even death penalties. No human deserves to die. However big a mistake he did no one deserves to be killed.
If you plant a tree we will give you 10 more seeds. Honor you. If you keep up the good work you'll get the job as a green officer.

Me:What would you do if you were the PM?
A: Plant one tree. Will give seeds for 10 trees, Then more. A job. If you throw rubbish or burn plastic there will be a fine.

Me: Your favorite TV shows?
A: Just for laughs. They are so funny. Simple tricks. Tarak Mehta. Kapil Sharma. Don't like Super Night with Tube light.

Me: If you had to ask for three boons what would you ask for?
A: I want to become small again. 5 years. I don't like being 9 and a half years. 5 was nice
Then the time I spent with everyone was more. Now I am playing les. Talking less.
(Then the despondent mood vanished)
I want to fly.
Want a robot that will do everything. Should become like me and go to school. And I'll sit at home. When PT class comes I will go to school and play. The robot will come home.

Me: What is your favorite music?
A: Cheap Thrills. Shape of you. Udi udi jaye.

Me: Your favorite actors, actresses?
A: Anuskha Sharma. Alia Bhatt. Sharukh Khan. Dharmendra! I liked him in Sholay and Chupke Chupke.

Me: Are you reviewing any books?
A: Adventures of Stoob. I have the review some where on a word document. I have to work on it.

Me: What do you think of religion?
A: Different people have different opinions. Pray to Lakshmi, you will be wealthy. Some kneel and pray. Church. Every one has  different ways of asking god for something. Eventually we are all respecting god and asking for something. We just have different ways.

Me: Do you think there are different gods or only one god?
A: Am not sure of there is god. But all are god. Only one. Like there are different types of plants. Different gods.

Me: What is the thing that irritates you the most?
A: When people talk in stupid English. Talk in Telugu if you know only Telugu

Me: What makes you angry?
A: When you threw the phone that day. It did not feel nice.

Me: What don't you like in people?
A: When people keep asking you questions. following you everywhere. Once I went in a circle to avoid one such person.

Me: When will you write down 100 things you want to do?
A: When I have free time.

Me: What is the most beautiful place for you?
A: My room. My bed.

Anjali interviewed me.
My interview

Anjali: Who is your favorite actress?
A: Alia, Kangana

Anjali: What was the best movie you saw recently?
A. Cactus flower

Anjali: Who is your favorite author?
A: PG Wodehouse

Anjali: What is your favorite animal?
A: Leopard

Anjali: What is your favorite domestic animal?
A: Dog

Anjali: Who is your favorite singer?
A: Pink Floyd, Seal, Beatles

Anjali: What are the new things you did this year?
A: Sri Lanka, Night out at Charminar during Ramzan

That ended the interview. It was long and was twice interrupted by some drama (including the phone incident). But both times I was the culprit, and I restarted the interview again. I liked the perspective on religion, on the world without countries and killing people. Thanks Anjali for your time and your feedback Will keep that in mind girl.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dum Laga Ke Haisha - Movie Review

Cute. It goes back to 1995 which is two decades removed and for those of us who feel it was not too long ago, the movie shows us how far we were from the reality of today. Landlines, cassette players, scooters, band baja baraats. Set in a beautifully shown Haridwar, the movie grabbed me completely. I love that part - watching the Ganges from the roadside in Haridwar or even from the Lakshman jhula in Rishikesh.

So the young cassette shop owner Prem is forced to marry the well-educated but rather big sized Sandhya, because she could well get a job and that would take care of the dwindling finances of the family. However the Kumar Shanu loving, member of an orthodox Hindu sect that preaches and practices all sorts of physical exercise and restraint blended with patriotism, Prem cannot bring himself to love his wife, unable to deal with his internal conflict. After a while, the strong willed Sandhya walks away after expressing herself in no uncertain terms to all members of the family. She files for divorce through a young, good looking, American English speaking lawyer, and the judge orders a mandatory six month cohabitation. It is during this period that the couple enters a couples race called 'Dum Laga ke Haisha' and guess what.

Be it 'Tanu weds Manu' or 'Dangal' or 'Dum Laga ke Haisha' or Mere dad ki Maruti' or 'Masaan' or 'Badrinath ki Dulhaniya', the way the directors capture the essence of the small towns is fantastic. I was transported back to Haridwar. I loved the places, the characters, their hopes and aspirations, their fears and apprehensions. Superb stuff. And that song 'Moh moh ke dhaage' is one of the few that has crept into a growingly cynical heart after a long long time. Like Piku, I could watch this movie again and again.

An Area of Darkness - V.S. Naipaul

This book comes with a tag "his discovery of India'. I have not read Naipaul's works before and for long I have been telling my good friend Vinod Ekbote to lend me the 'House of Mr. Biswas'. Then when Shobha gifted me this book I was glad I could read a Naipaul. On the inside cover Mr. Naipaul stands with a cat, a reluctant smile on his face. The kind that says, I have to smile to sell, so I will, else you guys don't even deserve my smile. Something about the picture and the smile, not forgetting the title gives an idea of the impression he leaves.
Picador, 290 p

I could dwell a bit on how he structured the book etc but I frankly don't care enough. From the first page his intense dislike for all that is India oozes out of his pen. The crowds, the people, their constant seeking of his money, the corruption, the bureaucracy, the red tape, the people defecating in the open, people trying to live life like Europeans, people who rented out their houses to him, everyone and everything repulses him. There is not one good hing he can see about this area of darkness. Reluctantly he says he likes R.K. Narayan but he hates Munshi and other writers who he thinks are too romantic about poverty etc. He cannot understand how Indians cannot see how bad India is - he seems to believe that Indians delude themselves from reality. It was an effort to read through, pages and pages of his labored indulgence. The characters he meets are all caricatures and he uses them to write his books - but not one good word escapes his writing. The moment he moves away from India, to the West, you can see the words changing. Randomly I can browse through the book and I'd find words like 'Unhappy', 'ridiculous', 'craze for foreign', 'squalid', 'mimicry of the west', 'despair' etc. The mood lightens only in the last two pages when he boards a flight out of India. He sees the uniform of the airhostess, the elegance of Madrid and you can see he is back home.

If there was one book I would have willingly not read it was this. But it gave me a peek into Naipaul's mind. And that smile of his. This is a version of India that he labored through perhaps only to write about it. I cannot for the life of me think that there could only be so much dismay, distress about this word. Why then, was he suffering it? The only plausible reason would be that he wanted to write about it. So he uses every single character he meets, makes a caricature of them, and fills up a book with his prose.   

This Way Is Easier Dad - Kolkata Launch

Please come. :)

July 14, 2017, Friday
Oxford Book Store, Park Street, Kolkata

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil - Movie Review

Finally saw this KJ movie. Fellow is rich (most heroes in KJ movies are - he is the private jet type). He has a dumb girl friend who is after his money (not so dumb after all huh). Rich boy meets intelligent bindaas girl who knows everything about everything and certainly does not want his money (boy, is she dumb!). Just friendship - or maybe she wants to make him a better kisser because she is unhappy with his kissing technique and she is one of those perfectionists. The two get along like 'chal yaar' types and discuss everything. Really friendly you see. They also double date with her boy friend and his girl friend and guess what - the other two hook up with each other in the loo. Now, what does that say about the kissing and loving techniques of these two huh? I would have too if I had boring boyfriends and girlfriends like these two. Now the bindaas babe (so far but not anymore) is heartbroken and so is this rich fellow - who we discover is the world's biggest cry baby. He sobs, bawls, falls on the floor - I suppose its cute.

Anyway the loo-based bf and gf are given the go by. The cry baby also reveals that he is an aspiring singer. He also reveals that he is in love with her. In my opinion he looks so retarded that he may never really know what love is and what like is and what lust. She is not - in love - simply because she is the friendly type yaar.

Just when things are getting interesting (for them, not for us) she finds her true love - an old bearded friend called Ali (who cost KJ a lot of money during the film's release). She leaves cry baby and private jet for Ali and marries him (now we know she is dumb for sure). Cry baby now needs another shoulder and finds a divorced lady who is busy writing poems in a huge house. She is getting a huge alimony it looks like because no one makes money writing poetry. They fall into an amazing relationship that looks ice cold but is apparently full of passion. Considering that this fellow cannot even kiss properly and the lady in question is happier spouting poetry its a different type of love surely. Cry baby gets to meet ice cold baby's husband who whacks the one line that changes the movie's trajectory  - that we can love people even if they don't love us. Cry baby instantly calls bindaas girl. He did not know that. I told you he had some learning problems didn't I?

Bindaas babe comes to visit the ice cold couple. Now she is not too bindaas. When she leaves, ice cold baby also boots cry baby out. Now cry baby has true pain because he cannot find another woman (this was the third woman in the last one hour who kicked him out). So he sings and becomes a great hit because he has both pain and love in his heart (which he manages to keep in good condition by hitting it with hard objects - no jokes - really). Superstar cry baby now meets bearded Ali who tells him bindaas girl left him long ago. Cry baby finds bindaas babe and she shows up minus hair - cancer and chemo you know. She also has a funny shaped head like an alien like someone hit her on the head or something. He also shaves his head and now we have two aliens. They do many cute things together but I forget now.

I swear I watched the movie till the end but I don't remember what happened. Did she die? Did he die? Did they have children? I really did not care. I only wish that Ali had fallen in love with ice cold baby's husband and that would have completed the circle. Cry baby-bindaas-Ali-Icecold-husband-Ali. No one loves the other and everyone loves someone else.

It's superb.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Peter Kay - Misheard Song Lyrics


That puts a lot of demons to rest. I am not the only one.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

High Noon - Movie Review

It's a1952 classic. 125 minutes long. A small town, Hadleyville, is suddenly faced with the prospect of dreaded criminal Frank Miller's impending arrival by the noon train. He was caught and sentenced for murder but he has now been released and is heading back - presumably for revenge. The Marshall of the town Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is certainly on his hit list for actively engaging in catching the villain. But Kane just got married to Amy (Grace Kelly), turned in his badge and was just heading out with his new wife when the news comes.

Kane cannot go on a honeymoon leaving his town to Miller so he heads back despite his new wife's threats. Duty over Grace Kelly! In the town he finds no support. His deputies desert him. It's an hour to noon and Kane is by himself when Miller comes into town with his three friends. A gun fight ensues and Kane finds an ally in his new wife who returns to help her husband.

Kane and his wife leave the town after the villains are killed.

Simple and straight forward. Lovely music. Won four academy awards. Directed by Fred Zinnemann who also directed 'The Day of the Jackal' among many other films that won him four Academy awards and several of his actors as well. He gave breaks to actors like Brando and Meryl Streep. Whew!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Mental Conditioning Classes - Bring Out Your Best

Vidyuth asked me if I could do mental conditioning classes to some young cricketers on a one-on-one basis. I said I would. It's a lot like the Arts Management course that I teach at the University of Hyderabad so I made a quick package for anyone who would want to do 10 one-on-one sessions.

The package consists of the following one-on-one sessions

1) Evaluation - Questionnaire
Knowledge of self, strengths, process, goals

2) Establishing current scenario
Facts, figures, ground reality as on date

3) Introduction to the Learning Mindset
Application to real life scenarios

4) Goal setting exercise
Short, medium and long term goals
Process and performance goals

5) How to be an expert
Process awareness, number of hours, skill development, mentors, doing the tough things

6) Preparation process
Skill, Physical and Mental - Current parameters vs Desired parameters

7) Building Mental Toughness
Thought patterns, Importance of thought, Identifying mental states, Learning to control the same, through techniques such as self-talk, visualisation, awareness, handling stress etc

8) Plans, routines
Developing routines and schedules for the wards to follow regularly

9) Mentors and Coaches
Identifying mentors and coaches

10) Performance enhancement
How to perform best, creating conditions that bring out the best in the ward, how not to get influenced by adverse conditions

The ward would be given inputs in terms of exercises, worksheets, action plans to condition the mind to be process oriented and performance oriented. More details shortly.

Two Lovely Incidents

In a world where we hear a lot about people cheating others etc I heard two lovely stories in the past one month. The first when I went to meet a journalist friend of mine. He was sitting in a new Ertiga. 'Nice car,' I said.
He smiled.
'My brother gifted it to me,' he said.


His brother is moderately successful as a real estate man. But when have you heard of a story like that? In fact I know of many successful brothers who are constantly worried that the unsuccessful one might keep asking for money and consciously keep them away.

And then I met my good friend the other day. He is a very altruistic soul, always helps people beyond his means, always gives time and energy and gets little in return. He never complains though because many people have used his time and energy, resources and facilities and have gone ahead - never looking back.

So the other day I was thrilled to see that one of his successful friends had gifted him a Hero Maestro (like a Kinetic Honda) out of the blue. Now suddenly my friend is mobile - something which hindered his movement so much.

But the thought and the deed. Wow.

I know the other friend and messaged him how lovely his gesture was. These are stories I can happily share with Anjali and many of the younger kids I mentor. It will make for a more secure world surely knowing that we have the other person's back and he has ours.


Many times I noticed that people don't seem to value time and energy. It's only material stuff that is counted. So the guys who give time and energy (freely) are left to fend for themselves with lesser time and lesser energy which has gone towards propping the other person up. If one adds it all up at market rate - I am sure it would add up to much more than the bike like my friend said. "I won't be able to afford what he is worth,' he said. But that did not stop him from making a small difference to someone who helped, someone who mattered.

Such lovely, thoughtful gestures.

I remember one story I heard long ago of Shahrukh Khan also buying a nice car for an old friend from his struggling days. He saw him on the road in his old Maruti 800. He instantly got him a nice new car. Similarly with Virat Kohli who gifted his coach a brand new car on one of his birthdays. Or Raina offering to gift (or gifting) a house to his coach. Many more such lovely stories - but when it comes from those who are struggling themselves but still have a big heart, it is so beautiful. Like Deepak Chopra said somewhere - give and you will get, but make sure to give that which is valuable to you, and give without a sense of expectation.

Anjali - You Don't Think Like Me

Anjali wants complete attention when I am with her and I totally agree with the idea. I am however distracted easily especially by the phone. So after the recent interview with her was disturbed twice by phone calls, it was already pretty clear that the phone was better kept faraway. Unfortunately the phone rang again for the third time and I, like an incurable addict, could not stop myself from reaching out and speaking. Anjali gracefully went away.

When she came back she said 'Mamma said that we should do our work when there is no phone around.'
Absolutely valid. No rancour. Though I knew she did not appreciate the distraction.

I became defensive and started justifying why the phone call was an important one and why I cannot keep it away (all lies - everything in the world can wait) and why I was being singled out for this behavior. Total victim behavior. I kept on at it when I suddenly realised that young Anjali, who had told me the message in a normal tone, was now in tears.

'You don't know how it feels to be me,' she said. 'You can't think like me.'

I was stunned at the impact. I also quickly realised how I ignored her pain and instead tried to make my imaginary pain bigger than hers. Worse I was justifying it. I don't think I can forget the sight ever nor my realisation about how insensitive I was being, had been.

Can I put her first? More so when she is feeling fragile and vulnerable. And not get defensive and try to make mine a bigger problem than hers.

I will try Anjali, to think and feel like you must be. The only thing I can say is that at the moment, you are more secure, more forgiving than I am being.

Point noted and hopefully the last of such behavior from me. I guess I also do it in many other places, mess up, get defensive and make me out to be the bigger victim. How unfair is that to the original one who is already suffering. Not done. Not fair.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Pleasure Principle - The Amaryllis Book of Erotic Stories Edited by G. Sampath

I am wary of erotica (especially written by Indian writers). But friend KSD has written a piece called 'The Middle East Position' which is a new position to take politically, sexually and other ally in this book titled 'The Pleasure Principle - The Amaryllis Book of Erotic Stories'. Amaryllis is the publisher, in case you are wondering, and not some distant relative of Vatsyayana who contracted syphilis. It is edited by G. Sampath and writers include names like Taslima Nasrin, Jaishree Mishra, Tabish Khair (who inspired me to write), Amitava Kumar, the inimitable Krishna Shastri Devulapalli, Mitali Saran, Shinie Antony, Rupa Bajwa, Kankana Basu, Vikram Kapur, Aditya Sharma and Amrita Chatterjee.
Amaryllis, 230 p, Rs. 350
It starts with 'Sex Boy' by Taslima Nasrin - a story of two online friends who have great phone sex but are very respectful and distant when they actually meet. Jaishree Misra's 'Naked Cleaning Lady' is about an impotent man who hires a cleaning lady who should clean the house naked (reminds him of his dead wife he says) and finds that it was his wife who died and nothing else. Cyrus Mistry writes about a paedophile school teacher who runs out naked in the last line in his 'The Degradation of Erasmo S'. Krishna Shastri's 'Middle East Position' is about his friend Paddy Padmanabhan, who reminds me more and more of Ukridge, and his escapades in a hotel in the Middle East - while escaping some women in the lobby (locked out of his room) in only a teeny underwear, he opens a new door to his life and finds himself in the warm embrace of an Arab sheikh who has other ideas for him. Hilarious as always! I loved the title. 'Insomnia' by Mitali Saran is about a lady who finds out her husband is in an affair with a common friend and ends up ravishing her herself. Is that a way of getting back?

Rupa Bajwa writes about a writer who has an affair with his maid and leaves after he finishes his manuscript in her 'The Last House'. Shinie Antony's 'Thy will be done' is about a young religious guru type girl who has sexual awakenings. 'The Holy Sex Tape Project' by Meena Kandaswamy starts a holy sex tape project to preserve our culture. 'Graveyard Shift' by Kankana Basu has a nice twist in the end - of a murderer who picks and finishes off sex starved victims in a hurry. 'First Kiss' by Vikram Kapur is exactly that - about his first kiss with Maya and how she disappeared after that kiss when she finds this guy was younger to her, only to return after 25 years. 'The House Help' by Tabish Khair is about Lokesh and his love for his house help Padma and her smells and cannot get over her. Adtya Sharma's 'Chunni Lal' is a guy who wants to experience sex and finds great difficulty in the process - among things that could have been useful are educational books, helpful lovers and a GPS. 'The Real Sex' by Amrita Chatterjee is about a person wondering what real sex is.

All in all, little pleasure was had in reading The Pleasure Principle, save the odd story. but we grew up on a healthy diet of Harold Robbins, Irwing Wallace and the lot and i am not sure what that is categorised under.  But then erotica and sex mean different things to different people so let it lie at that.

This Way Is Easier Dad - VVS Laxman

As a practice I always give a copy of any new book of mine to all my guests of the past. As part of the exercise I reached out to VVS Laxman who is an avid reader, someone with a lot of good ideas and good intent, to give him a copy of the book. He was away in London and told me we could meet after he came back and so I met him yesterday.

We discussed as we normally do, many things. He spoke with great passion about his cricket academies in the city, about his Foundation and the educational initiatives he is taking up. We discussed coaches and mentors, how children can be guided better and I offered him all the help I could if he needed me.

After an animated and delightful discussion, I gifted him a copy of 'This Way is Easier Dad'. He is one of the rare cricketers who reads, and I know he is a doting father to his two children Sarvajit and Achinthya. He was very sweet about it and instantly said he will take a picture and tweet about the book. I was not really expecting him to, and the thought did not cross my mind. But he took the picture and tweeted about it this morning. By the time I saw it after a couple of hours, it was travelling far and wide. Delightful.

Well the successful are not successful for nothing. They are always gracious and think of giving something more. Thanks Laxman. It's always a pleasure talking to you and like I said, I am always available for helping out in any way you may need me. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Fugitive - Movie Review

Enjoyed watching the 1993 Harrison Ford flick of a doctor on the run after being accused of his wife's murder. It's full of action and kept us fully entertained.

It's amazing how Harrison Ford brings this element of solidity and dignity to the screen. Something nice and polished and refined about him. Obviously he cannot be the murderer.

Some of the action sequences are superbly done. But the story is a bit thin. One doctor uncovering a pharma company's plans to introduce a new drug by falsifying research is about to be killed but his wife gets killed. Goody killers if they cannot kill a male doctor and instead kill his wife who does not look like him in the least. She looks and dresses like a woman.

But with Ford, we can forgive everything. Lots to forgive too in this movie including some corny dialogues.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Handy Guide to Identifying Your Emotions

I am normally fine with not identifying my emotions (save the base four or five) but if you have to pinpoint what you are feeling (which they say is a good thing sometimes), this illustration could be very handy indeed.

From the core group of Happy, Surprise, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sad arise a million other feelings and emotions (I don't know how they are different and I am ok with that).

Happy identifying your emotions.Right now I am feeling Happy - Optimistic, Accepted, Proud, Joyful - Inspired, Open, Playful, Sensitive, Loving, Fulfilled, Confident, Important, Amused and Liberated. Maybe Surprised and Excited also.

I am not feeling Fear, Anger, Disgust or Sad.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Review of "This Way Is Easier Dad" - Free Press Journal

"...filled with beautiful nuggets of such innocent wisdom...a great book to have in your shelf.."
- Varsha Naik

The Day of the Jackal - Movie Review

Based on Frederick Forsyth's 1971 novel 'The Day of the Jackal' was made in 1973 to critical acclaim. The novel and the movie are based on a fictitious follow up plot to the real assassination attempt on French President Charles de Gaulle in 1963 by the OAS. The OAS is an underground group that is annoyed by the President's decision to grant independence to Algeria. The group's head was captured and executed after the botched attempt by the French secret service. The movie plot takes off when the remaining group members decide to hire a professional assassin to perform the deed and complete their mission.

They identify their man, known only as the Jackal and pay him his fees by looting a few banks. The French secret service is onto it and find out about the Jackal. The OAS has a honey trap for a man in the secret service who knows the inside dope. In a seesaw battle of wits between the secret service's best detective Lebel and the cold blooded Jackal, the plot goes down to the wire. The Jackal, who goes ahead with the plan despite being warned that his cover was blown (professional pride?), manages to get a perfect shot at the President, but de Gaulle's guardian angels are alive and well and he is saved. Before the Jackal takes his second shot, Lebel finds him and guns him down. The Jackal is buried in an unmarked grave and in the end no one knows who he really is.

The trademark cross hairs one remembers on the book cover, the ruthless killer Jackal and de Gaulle's miss are legendary stuff we do not forget easily. It was lovely watching it all over again. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Madras on My Mind - Edited by Chitra Viraraghavan and Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

I love Madras. Not in the gardens, pretty avenues, hip girls and restaurants and pubs kind of way that Bangalore impacts me but in a more earthy way. I have fond memories of Madras thanks to Dr Sunderam and Dr. Satyabhama, whom we adopted as our uncle and aunty early on, and who taught me how to end a letter with a Yours Affectionately. Early cricket trips to Madras included visits to the Cisons complex, buying music, eating at Woodlands, perhaps a visit to the beach and a late night movie after winning a match. In later years we discovered more of Chennai and each time I'd love it that much more. Standing in long queues at the US embassy, travelling the length and breadth of Madras on sales calls, interviews for jobs, visiting people on occasions good and bad. Maybe its got a lot do to with the people I knew. The Pais, the Sunderams, Jyothis then, and  Anil and Lalitha, Krishna and Chitra now, and we have a rousing time together so maybe, I'll put it down to people. And the food. And the place.

And the vibe. A cocky, earnest, yet diffident vibe.
Harper Collins, 224 p, Rs. 280
So when Chitra and Krishna embarked on the Madras anthology I was eagerly waiting to uncover some new flavors I had not yet tasted. And it did not disappoint with its many different voices and tones that fill 'Madras on My Mind'. I am not a huge fan of anthologies normally because I have to search for the odd good one or get that feeling that the mix did not jell right or something like that. But for the first time, in MoMM, I could pick any story and it completely satisfied me. For a serial reader like me (I read in the order that the book is laid out lest I lose out on some hidden secret) it was a first to randomly pick any chapter and read it and feel like it was a complete experience in itself. I think that says a lot for the book.

In the serial order then because I am at heart a government type. 'Flowers on the Madras Train' by Bujjai opens the anthology with reminiscences of a Madras seen from the eyes of a small town boy, of a time when he would stand on the Pithapuram railway station with his older sister and sing a song, which makes so much more sense now to him than now. Of all the what ifs, he says, there is no contemplation for what if I hadn't come to Madras. 'The Destoryer' by K. Srilata tells the tale of Murudeeswaran, who is commissioned to write about how he and Thirupu went about creating Madras. Editor Hema Malini never comes back for the story though. I loved 'Still Life at Marana Vilas' by K. Raja (translated by Chitra - my kind of  story), the writer's entry to the big city as a wannabe artist and his fight to survive, to escape hunger. The love story 'Orange , Like Firecracker Flowers on a String' by Priyamvada Purushotham is a doomed one between Sentil the guide and the French girl and has some lyrical quality to it. I loved Sanobar Sultana's 'House of Powders' and one feels like getting up and giving her a hug each time she feels left out. 'Sweet Calamity' by the multifaceted M. V. Swaroop reminded me of a Hollywood movie for some reason though it is set perfectly in Madras - the characters are so stylish and the writing slick. Rex Stoutish, the fifty nine year old detective, and his muse Nandini, and a rollicking chemistry in this love story with a dark edge. I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'A Passing Show' by Harry MacLure and one can visualise Dexter and his bike and his 'come on men'. I love the Anglo Indians..and can never forget Alice teacher who was our first love at Fatima School at Kazipet and one of our all time favorites. 'Learning Spanish in Chennai' is a story of a woman finding the courage to leave her husband who seems to have found another love. So its time for her to find her own. I wonder, why wait? But better later than never and one feels for Athira.

Krishna's 'The Rice  and Fall of 'Royal' Ramana Rao' entertains fully. He is paisa vasool as always as he relates the hopes and aspirations of a small time aspiring producer and his secret ambitions or failings which are well known to the industry underlings who relieve him of his money and maybe a bit of his lust. Delightful. Jaya Keerthi is a character I will never forget. V. Ramnarayan writes so well of cricket in Madras that you want to buy a ticket on the next Time Machine and go down one Sunday to watch one of those games and those characters in action. Superb stuff. Curd Rice Cricket is such an apt title but some of the curd rice eaters were also the biggest rum guzzlers, cigarette smokers (and one other vice I can't remember) like we found on the tour. 'Mind Your Tongue' by Dilip Kumar is a poignant story of two Gujarathi friends in Chennai who grow up together and experience different levels of success and how a sharp word from a stranger breaks the glow that binds their friendship.

'Eclipse' by V. Sudarshan is dark, gutting and intense and I had to drop it and then pick it up later when I was ready for it. 'Daylight Moon' by V. Sanjay Kumar takes you on a journey to find a lost someone. Aniruddha Sen Gupta's 'Objects of Desire' will remain forever - visions of flaming potlums and his burning mattress in the IIT will be hard to erase. I can smell that room, see him in action, caught in his altruistic frenzy totally oblivious to the dangers that arose. 'Redungattan' by Kalpana Komal paints the character Muniamma, the house maid, and her inexplicable ways beautifully. She is a fabulous character and one who we all know from somewhere. G. Sampath's 'Triplicane to Taramani' has a different structure, like a power point, and is a love story that transcends life and death. Chitra's 'Split Ends' is a classic - it leaves a stain of that feeling that courses through the story whenever you think of the boy and his mother and their optimistic struggle. I liked 'The Appalling Lack of Vice & Spice in Chennai City' and can totally empathise with the protagonist - if only there was more vice and spice in our life it would be so much more colourful. Now which city would have more of these I wonder? Vamsee Juluri's 'My Mother's Madras' is compact, perfectly executed and pitch perfect. Loved it. The line '..home is a place with no regret, even if longing is still what makes it what is' haunts. I think I understand it but I don't. And P. Balasubramanian's 'Water and After' leaves you feeling alone in that city. It shows up the loneliness of the cities, the way the people are equalised in one stroke and all that is good and bad really. His resolve to get to his destination shines through and he lays the untold story all around his journey.

The anthology is one of the finest I have read simply because each story is so different, brings something unique to the table and has been carefully chosen, thought through, organised and presented. The effort and the care shows and that is what makes the experience so much nicer. That someone did not take the reader for granted and actually made the book worth its while for the reader is itself such a nice feeling in times when people seem to get together and write stuff that only the inner circle understands. 'Madras on My Mind' shows Madras and its many angles, told through many different voices, tones and experiences. I loved it. Great work Chitra and Krishna. And all the others who contributed to it and made me like Madras a few shades deeper than I did earlier.