Monday, May 31, 2010

Long Hot Weekend

Raja came down on Thursday morning from Nagpur and he came over to the Don Bosco school location where we were shooting the Teacher's vs Student's match. He stayed at the shoot all day - we came home for lunch - and then we went back. Some chilled beer, we put our feet up, and we relaxed that evening catching up. The next day Raja chose to go and meet Thomas while I had to report at the ground early on because there was still some more cricket going on. It was another super hot day and many of the unit felt the heat including our cheerful director Mohana Krishna. We somehow got through the heat and made it home. Some beer in the evening and we watched 'Chak De' on video which was good fun. I missed most of the second half because of a long conference call between Rags, Ram and I but I'd seen the movie before.
Saturday was a day off due to the perceived political disturbances in the state and we all (Raja, Shobhs, Anjali and I) headed out to Landmark. I went to Ram's office for some work while Shobha, Anjali and Raja went ahead to buy some books and CDs. We came back in the heat after a couple of hours and settled down at home with some more beer and a video of a Telugu film that was unusually titled 'A Film by Aravind' which was much recommended by one of our unit members Shyam. It started of well enough but after sometime the movie forgot its original track and went off on its own in an attempt to remain mysterious, dark and to keep the audience guessing. In fact it got so dark in the second half that we could barely see anything. After a while it began to get hilarious because a completely new character came in, several threads were thrown aside, many characters forgotten and we all were quite glad it was over finally.
After a rest, we got out another new video 'Sye' an old Rajamouli film with some rugby background. Senthil had shot this movie so I decided to watch it again. It was okay, a bit too long certainly, too violent and generally did not thrill me as I thought it would. The sports scenes were good though and it ended with the same kind of a feeling that good sports scenes leave you with - a nice high. Some scores, signs, the All Black dance, the speech had a sense of deja vu of course. I felt it could have been 30 minutes shorter.
Sunday morning I went for a walk with Ramraju at KBR, returned and picked up Raja and went to the M L Jaisimha Cricket Academy to help Mohan pick his Everglades team. I had a nice workout bowling at some of the kids and we returned home. We decided not to take a chance with another unknown movie and watched 'The Mirror Cracked' - an Agatha Christie murder mystery with Ms. Marple and a great star cast - Elizabeth Taylor. Rock Hudson etc. That was good fun and we fell into deep slumber after which we dropped Raja off at the bus stop late at night.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Estranged - Musings

I have always been fascinated by the paradox of life. What is far, is near, what is near is far, what we love, we fear, what we fear, we seem to love, what we think is living is dying and what we think of dying could be actually, poor, happiness, sadness...they are all but the two sides of the same different, so near, yet so far. Inseparable, yet estranged.
1994, Mumbai

The sea to the skies
Night to day
Fire to air
Cloud to sun

Life to death
Sleep to wakefulness
Winning to losing
Love to hate

Joy to sorrow
Dreams to reality
Pain to pleasure
Confusion to realization

These I know
Empathize with my perpetual ache
Like us
Estranged – so near yet so far

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ajanta and Ellora

Sunil Jyoti (Topper) and I at Ajanta and Ellora

Sometime in April 2006 (or thereabouts), I took off in a APSRTC bus from Hyderabad to Nanded where my good friend Sunil Jyoti worked as a Railway Officer. He was likely to get transferred soon or so he reckoned, so we decided to visit the famed Ajanta and Ellora caves while he was still around. I reached Nanded after seven hours of heat, sweat and discomfort in the bus and was glad to have someone pick me up at the bus stand. I was driven off to his office in an official looking car where he was presiding over some meetings and once he was done, we headed off to his comfortable flat. The idea was to take off immediately and we did, accompanied by one other chap and a driver in an Indica.
Nanded to Aurangabad was a distance of five hours or so if I remember right and it was not a very comfortable journey. But for the fact that Topper and I laugh at all kinds of idiotic things, the trip would have been dead tiring. We stopped at some Godforsaken place on the way and ate dinner and drank some rum. We reached Aurangabad late at night, checked into the Railway guest house and I remember, slept well.
The next morning we were all up and fresh and hit Ellora which is some 26 kms to one side of Aurangabad. There are some amazing caves where Buddhist monks lived and one can see the gradual improvement in the cave structures and sculptures. There are some twenty odd caves if I remember right, about five of them belonging to the Jain monks. The Kailasa cave is incredible in its detailing and carving - it is supposed to have been sculpted into from the top. Mind boggling to even comprehend.
After spending almost half a day at Ellora, we headed back towards Aurnagabad and stopped at the Daulatabad fort which falls on the way. Now this fort also belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad at some point of time and was under the rule of Aurangazeb. It's a wonderful piece of architecture and well preserved and the guide took us through all the little nitty gritties that the fort builders had built to make the fort difficult to attack and conquer. Doors with spear heads to counter elephants, small little caves where one can get lost, a place to pour hot oil to discourage any adventurers and so many more. We climbed right up to the top and it was a great feeling.
We entered town and went to the Aurangabad version of the Taj Mahal, an exact replica they say, but made not in marble but in sandstone or some other material. Everything including the gardens etc are like the Taj. Somewhere there is also the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, a very humble little place that indicated that he was deep inside a very devout person.
It was a very tired trio that hit the guest house that evening and after a quick shower, Topper and I hit a bar and restaurant and had a long drunken discussion over this and that. A good night's sleep and then we were ready to hit the caves at Ajanta.
Ajanta was about 40 kms from Aurangabad and a lot more organized in that you have to park your vehicles at a distance and enter the MTDC buses. This is done to preserve the caves and the paintings I guess from the pollution. It was a lovely morning that we spent exploring the semi circular formation of caves embedded in the hill side. The cave paintings at Ajanta made of vegetable dyes are awesome. We saw every single cave and left sometime after 1 p.m. It was hot already and we rode for a couple of hours before we stopped for lunch. We headed back to Nanded and reached our destination at night. After a good night's sleep we took Topper's car and drove back to Hyderabad.
Am I glad I made that trip!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Romantics - Years Ago

I wrote a bunch of such thoughts and words and my attempt at poems while on breaks at IDBI at the WTC, Cuffe Parade overlooking the beautiful Arabian Sea. Magnificent sights, loneliness, and much love in the air (Shobha was in Hyderabad still) when I gave vent to these thoughts. I will unleash them every now and then.

Musings from the 14th floor
Your acts say what words can never convey. They are the real you. Your eyes. They epitomize love and tenderness. Wondrous. Mischievous. But intense, clear, deep and very peaceful. Eyes that make me feel at home, feel important and secure. Eyes that say that they understand. Eyes that are wary when I am in danger, eyes that light up the universe when they see me. And the way you look at me when you ask me an innocent question – those eyes bleed my heart with their sheer innocence. To me they mirror your clear soul.

The sight of a rainbow
In a waning midsummer rain
Of a drifting boat
In the deep blue ocean

Of a bright azure sky
Through the autumn forest
Of a sleeping child
On its mother’s breast

Of the mindless flight
Of a soaring eagle
Of a morning sunlight
On the breakfast table

Of a gurgling brook
In the middle of the green
Of timeless mysterious mountains
From a passing train

Of a morning mist
And dew on the lawn
These fill my heart, mind and soul
To the very brink yet
Do not compare with the sight of
The love in your eyes

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kung Fu Panda - Awesome Management Techniques

Watched Kung Fu Panda for the nth time with Anjali (it was her first time though). For the nth time I kept wondering at the awesomeness (there is no charge for awesomeness!) of the movie and its amazing philosophies. In my opinion it should be made compulsory viewing for all wannabe managers and champions.

Firstly Po the Panda shows immense interest and desire to know and live the Kung Fu dream. The only thing he lacks is belief and consequently the action to go with it. But he knows every single detail of the history, the moves, the stars of Kung Fu. And he loves it so much that he actually sends all his noodle customers packing to see the competition to pick the Dragon Warrior. And does not mind carting his noodle cart up the hill! So much for desire. One thing in place for the champ.

Extra Mile
Po's desire does not stop at trying hard. He wants to get into the arena somehow to watch. When the doors shut on him, he does not sit outside and wait and wail, he tries everything he can to get in. He wants to see the competition badly. Po is catapulted right into the arena because one of his antics works and he lands in the exact spot that the Dragon Warrior is meant to be. And, is crowned the Dragon Warrior by Ugway, the wise tortoise, the grandmaster of Kung Fu.
Things happen when you want them badly enough.

There are no accidents
So says Ugway to his deputy Shifu, the master trainer who has trained fearsome Kung Fu warriors such as Tylon, the bad guy, and the fearsome five - Tigress, Viper, Mantis, Monkey and Crane. Shifu cannot believe that the Panda who has landed in the Dragon Warriors spot by accident can be the Dragon Warrior, or even a warrior. But Ugway repeats, there are no accidents.
Every one has a destiny to fulfill.

You must Believe
And Ugway reveals the greatest secret to man management, the secret that differentiates champion stuff from mediocrity - belief. He tells Shifu, who has no belief in his new student and who is trying all he can to get rid of him, that he must believe in him. Only then he will be able to see the Dragon Warrior in the Panda.

Unbounded enthusiasm
Po the Panda has one thing in his favor. His unbounded enthusiasm for Kung Fu and his joy at being with the masters. So even when Shifu puts him through all kinds of torturous tests he comes out with a smile and a typical wisecrack.

The true warrior never quits
So says Panda when Shifu is surprised to see him bounce back after each test. In fact after seeing Panda come back after the first few tests, the fearsome five also know that this Panda will come back. If there is one quality of the true Dragon Warrior, the champion of them all, it is this. Never to quit. He will always come back. And Po the Panda, despite being such a misfit, believes in that one rule - a true warrior never quits. And he keeps coming back again and again...

No Secret Ingredient

The Dragon Scroll, the prized property of the Dragon Warrior, reveals the one big secret to him and him only - that there is no secret ingredient. Now, this is a secret known to all champions, including the champion noodle maker of the valley, Po's father whose secret ingredient soup is a big hit. In a moment of paternal tenderness he reveals to Po, that the secret ingredient of the secret ingredient soup is NOTHING. You just got to believe that it is special.
And so for the Dragon Warrior too, there is no secret ingredient. He just believes that he is special!!

Desire, Belief, Enthusiasm, Joy and the attitude that says I Will Not Quit, will make the champion. It is never a question of will he achieve it, it is only a question of when and for how long does he wish to rule. Po has shown the way to millions and the only thing that must spur the rest is, if Po can do it, I can.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comfortably Numb

It is one of my top ten songs. Pink Floyd's 'Wall' has remained with me ever since I heard the first version (Mani's) in high school in 1979-80. And when I bought my own tape at the Arcade in Cuffe Parade in 1994, it was wonderful. Listening to 'Another Brick in The Wall' and 'Hey You' were one thing but 'Comfortably Numb' takes me to another high.

So it was that when I went to the Roger Waters concert at Bangalore with Kiran in 1997-98, that the high point of the concert for me, centered around this song. It was an evening of some great singing and we were in some kind of a trance as Waters belted out numbers with amazing professionalism and panache. As the event wound down, it found the exact moment for the song 'Comfortably Numb' to make its appearance. On popular public choice.
There was a hypnotic spell on the 2000 odd crowd as the song began. I turned around for a moment and saw this young boy lying down right behind the screen that is placed in front of the screen, eyes closed and letting the music seep in, not caring to 'see' but 'feel'. He was in complete rapture. And there was this blind gentleman who looked like an army officer in his working days, standing straight as a rod, enjoying the show intently. Almost everyone has the words on their lips as Roger Waters sang, his soul and his heart in his performance, irrespective of whether there were 2 people or 20000 out there. The song went right through us, in waves, and we floated as it rose and fell. I still do.
It was one of those magic moments in my life. Sheer magic!

Humour In My Life

I realized the other day that some more humor in my life would be a good thing. So I thought of all the people who make me laugh. I cannot make a comprehensive list because I think I laugh easily and sometimes at not too funny things as well. Among those who always bring a smile to my face are Raja (some of the worst and best PJs but he is perpetually at it), Shobha (incredible spontaneity and great at double entendres - what is common between the Indian cricket team and Russia - Azerbaijaan), Ram (a really funny sarcastic brand of humor that I think is genetic), Tharian Peter (some of the best poker faced humor), Naresh (he just likes to laugh), Sunnie (he has a great sense of humour anytime), C. Sanjay(he can be a riot when in the mood), Bijju (a sophisticated brand of humor), Satish Singh (a brand of humor only he is capable of).

Among the others there is Choudary who has a capability to pick my mood up anytime with his self deprecating yet highly enthusiastic take on life. Satish, Milind and Parth are great to have a laugh with - Satish has a take on life with his varied experiences, Milind with his very apt one liners and Parth always ready to plug in any unintended gaps. Mohan has a funny take on life but it is what he actually does that make me laugh - he does get into some funny and awkward situations.

But Roll On the Floor moments were some. Sunil Jyoti alias Topper and I have had some incredible moments when we laughed our guts out. There was one stupid moment when we were laughing about all the terrorists in the world visiting our country as Heads of State (Idi Amin figured, God knows why) and building up stories on some news items and we could not help ourselves as we laughed and laughed. Shobha who was watching this laughing fit could not understand what it was all about and we could not stop laughing and she finally stomped off in anger.

Another time was when we were lying down on this huge bed in Naresh's house under an old fan which looked like it weighed a ton and which had a huge nut that looked like it weighed a ton itself. I don't remember if we were drunk but we laughed about what would happen if the fan fell on us, or even if the nut did. Meaningless stuff but it somehow lingers on as one of those hysterical moments.

In recent times I have found that Mohan Krishna Indraganti is really funny even in adverse conditions (such as directing in 44 degree heat) and in tandem with his great friend Sagar, things can gets really hilarious as they take on the film industry. And in my short time with Bharani, the veteran character actor, my laugh rate went up incredibly high. He is amazingly funny and I wish there were more such to spread some cheer in the world.

Another time was when I watched this movie called Mr. Boo in school. Boy, did I laugh. I really fell out of the chair that time. It was not so funny the next time though. I find its easier to watch repeats of funny movies than the intense ones. So 'Angoor', 'Andaz Apna Apna', Chupke Chupke' are anytime watches for me. 'Tom and Jerry' make me laugh aloud almost every time.

Among authors who make me laugh loud are Wodehouse (all his books), Tom Sharpe (Wilt), Sue Townsend (Adrian Mole series), Ben Elton (Gasping is wonderful), Dave Barry and Bill Bryson. I loved a few pieces by Jug Suraiya. In my circle of friends I have Vinod Ekbote who has the amazing knack of writing so funnily that it makes one laugh out loud. I do think he should put up a few of his middles on his blog so more people can read them as well. I will tell him that!
Meanwhile let me think of some more funny moments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Goa pics

Part of the same trip was the one day trip at Goa. Kolva beach was at its best and was getting decked up for the season. Anjali was not too happy with all the water in the sea and looked worried as long as people were in the water. She relaxed a bit when everyone was safely out though and agreed to eat breakfast after that!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Kurumgad Experience

A couple of years ago, Shobha, Anjali and I took off on a drive to Goa. We were feeling rather expansive those days having just discovered that we were not going to the USA and decided to use that time to travel. We took off one fine morning with Naren for company - he was visiting his wife Shwetha at Belgaum - and zipped off past Mahbubnagar, Raichur, Hungund, Bhagalkot and reached Belgaum rather late in the evening. We stayed over at Shwetha's house for the night and set off to Goa the next day. But it was while we were at Belgaum that Shwetha's father gave us the idea that if we were heading to Karwar it might be a good idea to visit Kurumgad, an island off Karwar.

The next day morning we set off after a heavy breakfast  to Goa where Raja was to meet us. We reached Kolva sometime at one in the afternoon and settled down to a lovely lunch and beer. A day of lazing around at this place called Jimmy's which is right opposite Sukh Sagar and we wondered if we should check out other options. Instead we decided to head out of Goa and drove straight to Karwar, ate a wonderful lunch at Amrut's and booked ourselves onto the Kurumgad island which can be seen from the Karwar bridge. The car can be parked at a vacant plot that they have and we piled onto a boat that ferried us to the island after a half hour journey. It was quite exciting because the boat enters the sea from the river mouth and there is a phase when the currents collide which can be quite rough.

The island is small - one can walk around it in about 45 minutes - but it has lovely tents, cottages, a nice view of the Arabian sea, a fine open dining area, an exclusive beach which is about 20 minutes away from the main area, and a few other vantage spots that one can quietly sit down at and enjoy. The loos are clean and there's running water and the tent we stayed in had an attached loo at the back. We intended to stay there for a day, just to experience the place, so we dumped our stuff in our tent, had a chai and headed off to the beach. It was secluded with no one there but a couple of friendly lifeguard-cum-assistants when we went. After an hour or so we headed back, stopping at a couple of fine spots, had chai, bathed and settled down with some rum and coke for the night. The food was nothing compared to what we got used to at Amrut Hotel (if you like sea food, just do not miss this place when you go to fact you can go to Karwar just to visit Amrut and eat some of their sea food preparations) but the ambience more than made up for it. I got up once, late at night and walked out in the middle of nowhere to experience the dark sky and millions of glittering stars.It was beautiful and I realised, rather scary as well, since every single sound gets you started.

The next morning we visited the beach again and ate breakfast after which I took a trek around the island with a guide. A temple, an old cannon, some other minor sights and the walk around the island. We saved ourselves up for lunch at Amrut and took the boat at 12. This time round, we had the good fortune of seeing a couple of dolphins playing around the boat. A great lunch  at Amrut and we were on our way to Hubli to meet Sunil Jyoti.
The Kurumgad resort is managed by a private company called the 'Great Outdoors'. Let me see if I can rustle up more information on it but if you're in those parts and want a quiet, unpolluted holiday go to this place. It is worth it.
Yes! Got the card. Check out their websites
The Head Office of The Great Outdoors (to get to Kurumgad) is at C-15, City Gate Building, Kadri, Mangalore. For reservations call 0824 - 4279152, 098440 42152, 094483 64152

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Motivational Talk at the HCA

Delivered a talk at the Hyderabad Cricket Association's Rajeev Gandhi stadium at Uppal yesterday morning. The stadium is at least 17 kms from my house and it was getting hot even at 630 am. I was invited by Vidyuth (Jaisimha) who is the coach of the Under 16 boys for the summer camp. The Rajeev Gandhi stadium is a lovely stadium with all the facilities that anyone could ask for - gym, conference rooms, swimming pool, great practice facilities with all aids and props - you name it and you have it. I was prepared to talk to about 50 boys but we realized that about 25 of them were in the Under 14 category so I decided that we would stick to the older ones primarily.

It was good to see all my old cricketing friends who has turned into coaches - Anil Mittal (U-25 in 1985), Abhijit Chatterjee (U-19, U-22, Osmania University 1985-90), Riazuddin (HCA league), Ranga Raj (Osmania University)and Abrar Ahmed (HCA league) apart from Vidyuth with whom I have played all my cricket since Under - 15 days. We met in a large well furnished room with a mike and chairs (but no ac, instead we had huge fans that made more noise than any fan I have ever heard so we decided to do away with the fans and sweat it out). I was given an hour to deliver the talk and decided to focus on the importance of having a long term goal, short term goals and of preparation.

All boys gave out their long term goal which was to represent the country. I told them to take pride in their current achievement and to be focused on their long term goal and work for it. It was important to realise that only they are responsible for their goal and they must work for it - no one else is. I told them that it is best to break up their long term goal into smaller term goals and achieve each of them in a given time frame. When I asked them to come up with a short term goal for the camp and a target for the season, all of them came up to the dais and shared their plans. Some were very clear, some not, but all of them finally came up and shared their areas to work upon which was very encouraging. I emphasized on the importance of preparation - that they had only about 1600 days or about 5 years to make a mark if they wanted their goal to come true and they should use these days well. And that all of them stand a fair and equal chance of achieving their dream, depending on how they used their resources. The thought that they should know their strengths, work on their weak areas, push their limits farther and grow with each passing day was ingrained into them.

For a bunch of reticent and quiet cricketers, they gave me a spontaneous and standing applause which made the hour completely worth it. I ate some largely insipid but probably prescribed breakfast provided by the HCA and came back with a HCA T-shirt that Vidyuth gifted me for the effort. It's been ages since I owned one. I always prided my HCA logo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

India at the T20 World Cup

For all the cricket fans who are disappointed by India's performance at the T20 World Cup 2010 I have no sympathies.The World Cup is all about preparation. Teams prepare to be at the peak of their mental and physical ability so that they can deliver their best at the biggest stage to get what they covet most. Players are hungry to show off the champion stuff they possess. They come to display the glorious skill they have nurtured in the games. And they take great pride at every stage of the competition. The champion teams are raring to get on the big stage.

The Indian team's preparation was pretty much limited to the 45 days of IPL matches. Players play against teams that comprise of 4 foreign internationals, some Indian internationals and a whole bunch of rookies trying to make a mark. This format is good for the rookies because they learn much from the seniors, but for the seniors to take this as serious preparation is a joke. They could end up with a seriously wrong analysis of their game by scoring a few runs off rookies. Unfortunately, even on that stage the stars did not perform so there was no real case for feeling bad about the loss.

Simply put, we lacked preparation with the kind of earnestness that wins World Cups. (I also get the sneaky feeling that our senior cricketers feel that they do not need any preparation.) They certainly did not look like a bunch of players who have trained to be at their peak mental and physical ability.

Nor did I get the impression that they covet the Cup. From their attitude it was almost as if it was their birthright. We have arrived and hence we have a right to get the cup, or even to the finals whether we play well or not. We are the Indian team! We are the Indians! Have you not noticed??

Desire leads to preparation and that leads to success. It is nobody's birthright. So you get shown up for what you are really - knocked out of the Super 8's by losing all 3 matches! It was not so much as lack of talent as lack of desire. 

On the next count our players were not hungry to show off their champion stuff. They looked reluctant, unhappy, amused, afraid, hesitant, grumpy and almost shocked that they were losing the matches. How is this possible? How are we not getting those big sixes and big scores? How are opponents not falling over like nine pins? Where are those wonderful moments we normally get to give the camera men, thumping chests, running across the field mouthing expletives, baring fangs?

The reason was the the others were better prepared, or were more hungry or desired a win more. Here we had an entire team that was low on desire, hunger and energy including the skipper who seems to have a bad case of cricket fatigue.

The last component is pride. Not one player displayed an element of pride in their attitude. It is a dangerous sign for a team so young to not value the ultimate pride of playing for the nation. Fame and money can be short term companions and one can find that they are easily parted in a very short time if they get carried away. A little bit of fame and money is not the end of the road, it is not success. It is the process that make you rise beyond all this. One must be clear where one's priorities lie, what they are playing for, and why. Wearing the India color comes with a lot of responsibility and they must learn that.

Emperor's New Clothes
And it is time someone told the cricket establishment about the Emperor's New Clothes if they have not already found out. It is time to get back to the drawing board and do some serious thinking. As for the fans, they could do with a bit of thinking as well and move on with life. It is honest efforts that must be appreciated, not false reputations and dishonest attempts.

Super Heat - 44.5 degrees C

Was out doors all of yesterday in the hottest day of the year. Not bad! The heat was a hazy white.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Amazing Thing - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I am a great fan of Chitra Divakaruni's 'Palace of Illusions'. I like the way she writes and the way she tells a story. Picked up 'One Amazing Thing' from a collection of books that my niece Prarthana had picked up from Nagpur (quite an eclectic collection for a youngster - but she reads a lot and reads well). The book was slim and looked like a nice easy summer read.

'One Amazing Thing' started off well enough. A bunch of people getting stuck in a basement office of an Indian embassy in the USA because of a sudden earthquake. These people are from different nationalities, backgrounds, motives and cultures and in the face of a disaster, react differently. A young Indian woman who grew up in the USA, a woman of Chinese descent who fled Calcutta during the China war in 1962, and her grandchild who grew up in the USA entirely, an American soldier, a Muslim boy, a South Indian embassy officer and his lady assistant (where is the other staff?), a retired American couple.... As pieces of the ceiling fall over, as water and food gets more and more rationed, as help seems farther and farther away, as lights and torches start dimming and fading out, the drama in the basement increases.

It is then that the young Indian women gets an idea that they all share a story of one amazing thing that happened in their lives to drown the boredom and to make their hours passable without having to resort to more dramatic acts like killing one another. They start telling one another stories in a random order about the one amazing thing while they wait to either die or be rescued. The embassy officer talks of the way his life goes after he trapped a rich girl and actually finds himself trapped in that loveless, manipulative marriage, the embassy assistant reveals how she made it to a beauty saloon in Coimbatore and then wreaks vengeance on one of the richest patrons of the saloon for a flimsy reason, the young Indian woman thinks her parents are about to divorce and goes off on an aborted trip with a couple of crazies where they get to watch unnatural lights in the sky, the American man has a sad story about a cat during his sad childhood, the old Chinese grandma tells about how she came to the USA after she broke off with a love affair involving a rich Hindu boy in Calcutta, her granddaughter has a story I forget, the soldier has a story of an adopted daughter in India and visions of killing innocents in the Vietnam war, the Muslim boy has a story everyone knows...and so on.
Me, I found all the stories quite soulless. There was no amazing thing about them to me. I certainly would not expect people who are waiting for their death to tell each other stories as if they were passing a night on a train that has a longer than scheduled stop.

I had a few big problems with the story. One is that when the characters tell their story the author chooses to tell it through her voice instead of the characters. She lost me there in the first story itself. Secondly, the stories themselves held no depth for me to suit the occasion; they were more like life stories of the people. Thirdly, the behavior of the people did not ring true to me, something about the entire episode was rather superficially dealt with.; the focus seemed more on their telling their stories and that watered down the original calamity.

Chitra Divakaruni's story still flows wonderfully and she wields her pen with great aplomb. You want to know what happens to the motley bunch of characters in the end. In fact it is one of the better stories I have read from novelists of Indian origin for sheer storytelling. But I think it fades in comparison with her own other works especially 'The Palace of Illusions' which is a must read in anyone's collection. I am sure that with her impeccable, racy style and her fearless choice of topics, she will produce many more brilliant books anyway. Now to get her autograph on my copy of the 'Palace of Illusions'.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lessons From An Enterprising Goat

If you want something - go for it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The First Few Steps

This is interesting. Among the things that I decided to take full ownership was losing weight, say about 5-7 kilos in 30 days. I started dutifully by going to cricket practice which I figured was a good way to exercise and so it was. Enjoyable, fun and a good workout. But then, after a couple of days I realized that Coach was making the other kids do some drills which were important and that cut down on net time. After two consecutive days of doing nothing, I decided that there was no point going all the way, have a chai and return without any exercise. It felt a little hopeless. Now what? I hung on to my intention by a thin thread.

Options Open Up
Today, I decided to go for a walk instead. Despite all plans and alarms, I got out of bed with great reluctance, and then made it to the KBR Park with even greater reluctance. The only thought I held in my head was, even if it just for 15 minutes, go to the ground. Slow down, but don't stop.

New Thoughts, Small Improvements
And so it was that I started the walk with thoughts that I would hang on for 15 minutes and return. And then, an idea came into my head. How about jogging for 25 meters at a time. Nothing big, just a slow 25 meter job and then walk. So I started a slow jog for 25 meters, took a break, another 25 meters, and so on. In a short while, I was enjoying these small 25 meter jogs so much that I completed the entire 6 kms without realizing it. My morning plan ended much better than I had planned because I was not planning on any sort of jogging etc for a while. Very satisfying indeed!

Go Give Yourself A Chance
Looking back I think that those first few steps helped. Also the fact that I decided to go to the park. Go to the ground. Take two steps and then see what happens.

It applies to anything in life I guess. Go to the selections, to the auditions, send the proposal to the publishers, meet those people you need to meet. If it all looks too daunting, at least, take the first step, go there and hang around in the auditorium to begin with. You never know where it may lead to next.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yatra - Movie

Watched 'Yatra' starring Nana Patekar, Rekha and Deepti Naval and directed by Gautam Ghose. Looked like an interesting bunch of people so I picked up the CD. No more picking up movies on star cast. This is the third time I got fooled in 3 days. The last two were Athithi Tum Kab Jaoge where I trusted Ajay Devgan, Konkona Sena and Paresh Rawal, then Karthik Calling Karthik with Farhan Akhthar and Deepika, and now this.

Yatra is the story of a an award winning writer Dashrath Joglekar who has just won the prestigious Sahitya Award sponsored by a steel company. Joglekar has a deliriously happy family, wife Deepti Naval who loves collecting turtle toys, a mom who has opinions on the free market system, a concerned daughter and a drum beating son with the name, Yaman, whom you want to strangle. No points for guessing but with a family like this Dashrath is constantly in a state of inebriation. Dashrath also speaks in 35 rpm, repeats everything twice and laughs wildly in every dialogue, which I think adds to the length of the film by about 30 minutes.

Dashrath is a heart patient and is constantly reminded by his family to take medicines and stuff. He believes that his wife is his sorbitrate and when he says that in a moment of passion, the old couple get turned on by all this talk of sorbitrates and heart attacks and decide to french kiss one another. This is not nice to watch but somehow they do it, God knows why.

Anyway post sordid sorbitrate episode, Dashrath takes the train to Delhi despite being offered a flight ticket by one Ms. Sen, his hostess in Delhi. He meets an aspiring film director on the train and they discuss the tale of his award winning novel 'Janaza'. Drink upon drink, Dashrath narrates the tale of Lajwanti played by Rekha, a danseuse, brought from Varanasi to Adilabad by a local landlord. How the landlord exploits her and how one Satish alias Dashrath saves her and how she ends up in Hyderabad's red light area follows. Makes one wonder if she was better off by herself in Adilabad but then different strokes for different people. Dashrath, then, is married of course and is a master ji as well with supportive wife and mom and young children. For all those who are getting ideas Dashrath and Lajwanti share only their passion for music. Now back on the train journey where this story is being narrated by Dasharth, the young film director wants to make a movie and Dashrath agrees.

At Delhi Dashrath recieves his award, gets drunk and promptly scoots off to Lajwanti in Hyderabad. Lajwanti's Man Friday Salim is happier than her to see him, making the audience wonder why? After the initial awkwardness Lajwanti goes off to do some jhatkas on some modern numbers like 'Kabhi Aar, kabhi paar..' to her new, young clientele, comes back and makes hot mirchi bajjis for Dashrath, and arranges an old style dance for him with an orchestra comprising of casual labourers. Dasharth drinks and drinks, offers her his Sahitya Award, and in a moment of tenderness, has a heart attack. Sadly, Lajwanti is not tested for sorbitrate like effects.

The rest of the movie is quickly spent on disposing the stiff in an almirah which consist mainly of the plan of throwing it around, the family trying to find out his whereabouts after the award function, the Delhi police tracing him to the airport and Sorbitrate hunting down Lajwanti, c/o Mehendi galli to track Dashrath who is heading off God knows where in the inside of an almirah that is loaded on a mini truck being held up by four orchestra members.

Thus ends Yatra.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Karthik Calling Karthik

Watched this movie 'Karthik Calling Karthik' last night on video and wondered what was wrong with these guys. Did the director forget his twist or did he get to the end hoping that something would turn up? I am certain that the director had no clue what happens in the end until he got there.

Anyway, it's about a loser Karthik played by Farhan Akhthar, who dwells in a fine place by any standards, forget losers, and gets bullied by everyone especially his obnoxious boss Ram Kapoor who does everything illegal under the Sun - from selling illegal lands for 80 crores (which dimwit would buy illegal lands for 80 crores I wonder) to having affairs without wife knowing. Karthik also writes countless mails (but does not send them; he only saves them as drafts) to the good looking Ms. Smiley eyes, Deepika Padukone, a big time architect who specializes in having relationships with all the losers in the world. If it is not married men who look like confirmed wife beaters, it is completely deranged characters she falls in love with, proving once agin that good looking women make bad choices especially when it comes to men. But to her credit she is not one to be kept down and she hops merrily from one relationship to another within a few days, open to late night binges at pubs and sleepovers with 'unsafe' boys.

Now, the twist in the tale. Hold your breath. Karthik, who does not own a mobile phone due to scientifically proven reasons, gets calls on his new landline from another Karthik at exactly 5 in the morning telling him how to resurrect his life. This Karthik knows everything about loser Karthik, including the color of his socks and how long he has worn them - almost like he is living under this chap's clothes. Loser Karthik suddenly changes over with his new information - changes clothes, muscles his boss into giving him a promotion (when he actually got sacked just last week), gets the babe, gets the money and gets to sing songs, go to discos, drink wine, sleep with good looking women etc. I have to say this, but the chemistry between the loser Karthik and Shonali urf Shona is colder than a dead fish.

Then something unsavoury happens and the loser Karthik offends winner Karthik who does not like this and loser gets chewed. Job goes, babe goes, money goes, car goes, petrol goes, clothes goes...everything that can go goes.

The audience also gets chewed by the end of it. Dead older brothers, sudden getaways to Cochin, female psychiatrists who pay him visits at 5 in the morning to check his story, a new version of incognito where even he does not know where he is and what he is and who he is thanks to a pair of really really dark glasses, there are more twists here. The only thing in favour of the director is that the end is so obvious that you double think and tell yourself that it can't be so obvious. I mean you can predict the final twist twenty minutes into the story!!

Moral of the story: The director reaffirms one thing - never listen to the woman when things are going well in your life. You'll get chewed! Also, I did not tell you the end because I do want you to see it. I don't want to be part of a small select club that has seen this movie - I'd rather be part of a big club.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Interview by Yreach on IPL

An Interview
Here is the link to an interview by YReach on the IPL phenomenon

I have no clue what happens with this interview and what the viewership is, but I wish Yreach well. This is a first of its kind interview for me for the web media so that is one thing out of my comfort zone.

Athithi Tum Kab Jaoge
Watched a movie called 'Athithi Tum Kab Jaoge' starring Ajay Devgan, Konkona Sen and Paresh Rawal. No laughs for me despite it being a comedy. Ajay Devgan should give up comedy, just not his style. Also wonder what Konkona is doing in this movie. Paresh Rawal is the saving grace but still it's a bit hard on the viewers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Books. Movies etc

Completed reading 'A Summer in Paris' by Abha Davesar finally. I bought the book at a Meet-the-Author event organized by Akshara Book Store at an Art Gallery in Domalguda, Hyderabad some years ago. Abha is also an artist and her paintings and sketches were on exhibition and sale as well. If I remember right, she read parts of her book Babyji, in which there are no names for characters. I found the idea quite mindboggling - well worth a try for experimentation if you have publishers backing you. I remember asking her if it was difficult writing it like that and she said she had absolutely no doubts about the process. I was pretty impressed.

I went to pick up her books. I asked her which one of the three novels she'd recommend, and she suggested 'A Summer in Paris'. I remember reading a review of this book and got a signed copy from her. I never got down to reading it until now though.

A Summer in Paris
Abha writes well but leaves me with a feeling that she can write better if the subjects challenged her more. The story of 'A Summer in Paris' failed to connect to me. It is the story of Prem Rustam, a 75 year old Nobel prize winner for literature (and all other prizes that famous writers can get) and his wanting (or wondering is he could) to bed a younger woman. He meets young twenty something Maya at an online dating site; she is a huge fan of his and has read all his works, is single, sexually active with a string of lovers. After a while in the virtual space, they meet in the physical space and - nothing happens. They meet in museums, exhibitions, music concerts and show off how much they know about art, food etc but get nowhere in terms of physical proximity. On and on it goes, as we understand why Rustam is like that; because of his incestuous relationship with his sister and his constant worry (or pride) that his nephew could actually be his own son. Something that I as a reader could not care less but something if I was Rustam would surely have a gut feel about.
I found the romance insipid. I found the sex unfeeling, cold and aged. I also find this constant reference to incestuous sex by Indian authors (Abha, Arundhati Roy and Rak Kamal Jha) worrisome - is this something that happens on a large scale in India? How come I have not heard so much about it? Or is it that only these big writers are privy to this information? Or is it that publishers find these themes very interesting and saleable? I skimmed through the last fifty or so pages without any remorse, just enough to figure out what's happening, and got out of the book. The diaries that the old man had supposedly written about sex 'for himself' and gifted to Maya could have been more interesting and honest, than all this. Someone like Anita Nair could have exploited such a theme more honestly and daringly.

Taken - Liam Neeson

Watched 'Taken' starring Liam Neeson on Star Movies last night. Great action viewing for me. I did not ever look at Liam Neeson as an action hero and was pleasantly surprised to see his stunt sequences looking so good, so quick that I just about registered what happened. I like the screenplay which was so taut that except for one moment in which my cynical mind thought 'ok, so where are we heading from here', it kept me hooked for every single moment.

Neeson, an ex-American agent with one of those agencies, has 'some very special skills'. Currently out of the force, he works part time with a security force for a high profile singer. He also has a broken marriage, and a daughter out of that marriage who he loves and wants to bind with. The daughter, a 17 year old, wants to go to Paris on art appreciation tour with her friend rather wild friend Amanda, and needs his signature to permit her going out of the country. Though uncomfortable (I know the world), he signs after some pressure from his ex-wife and daughter with conditions that she call him after she lands, call every night etc. Of course he finds out far too late that she is actually going on a trip to follow U2 across Europe. Anyway, the girl gets kidnapped soon after arrival and just about gives enough information over the phone to her father to set him off in search of her. How he tracks her down in the window of 96 hours before she can completely disappear in the women trafficking ring is what the rest of the story is about.
Enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sir Chris Bonington

I went to a talk organized by LEPRA Society, an NGO in the area of facilitating healthcare to the leprosy, HIV, Malaria affected. Radhika Rajamani invited me over and told me that the talk was by Sir Chris Bonington. Sir Chris had scaled the Everest once, led many mountaineering expeditions to the Everest and other peaks across the world. I went to ASCI at the appointed time, 530 in the evening with Shobha. Ramaraju was already there in a hall packed to capacity. The talk was just about to begin.

Sir Chris Bonington is now 75 years old. He looks very fit, walks easily and has a serene air about him. An air of someone who has seen enough of life. Of someone who know several secrets. His talk 'Stay Active, Stay Young' lasted about an hour. He led us through a slide show of his many expeditions, his colleagues, peaks, ranges, his family, his home, the University of Lancaster of which he was Chancellor. As he recounted his experiences with an easy flow he casually dropped a few wonderful thoughts that I tried to make a mental note of.

Sympathize With The Mountains
'To be a good climber one must be one with the mountains...must sympathize with the mountains'. So true of anything. I wish all these people who FIGHT terror, FIGHT illiteracy, FIGHT HIV/leprosy also understand these words and become more sympathetic.

On Environment
'One must leave it as it has been, leave as few traces as you can and respect the mountain ranges for what they are...One must respect the environment one is in'.

On Leadership
'Leadership is not about achieving everything is about facilitating the achievement of the goal by the team...'

On Leadership and Democracy
'A good leader is aware of the consensus of the team... he does not impose his thought on the team...I believed in leading by democracy.'

On Satisfaction
'It is not about the Everest or a smaller peak...the satisfaction at having achieved what you set out to achieve is the same...'

Know When to Give Up
'A good climber knows when to turn cannot be obsessed with climbing the peak that you lose your life. You can always come back later.'

Motto While Climbing
'It was important for me to be alive...'

How To Stay Active
'One must have a passion in life...whatever it is...and then one can choose the level of competency one wants to achieve and work at that...but it is absolutely necessary that one has a passion for something.'

On Fear
'Fear is a warning that you have to be careful...never go on a mountaineering expedition with someone who has no fear...he will get you killed.'

On Team Bonding
'I believe that a walk in the woods is a better for team bonding than sitting in the office...try it.'

And so many more. Sir Chris Bonington, CBE, thank you!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Summer Sounds

There's a koel that sings with deep passion and full throatedly outside my window on all summer mornings. There's a banana vendor who goes 'mauz mauz' selling fresh chitewale mauz on his push cart, more polite and better mannered than his cousins on the main road. There's the sound of a water tanker backing abrasively into some driveway to offload water into a dried up sump surrounded by anxious house owners. There's the raddiwala trying to get us to sell him old newspapers and he has a very irritating quality about the way he yells 'Paper, paper'; he has stopped now and continues to scream loudly. I know because the voice is not fading away anymore. Should I get up and yell at him as well?

There's the sound of someone sweeping their front yard, or perhaps its the sweepers cleaning up the colony roads. The people are up, come on man. Hmmm, there's the suppressed sound of a crackling fire of some dried up leaves being burnt. And there's the sound of leaves rustling and falling off trees at the slightest breeze. There is a distant clattering sound of some tools; perhaps the workmen digging up our colony roads again. Was that the sound of a drop of sweat hitting the ground?

A pressure cooker goes off somewhere signalling that maybe idlis are on their way. An almost inaudible sound of a small bell tinkling informs us that someone is at the morning prayers. The refreshing sound of water being splashed on some plants soothes. The clatter of dishes in the backyard confirms the arrival of the maid. The fan whirs on relentlessly, a tired sound to it. Somewhere an air conditioner is chugging along manfully, making sudden, startled sounds once in a while. An irritating sound of water dripping from some pipe or tap beats a torturous drum inside my head. And then the small tinkle of a spoon against a glass - limejuice being made? Or is it the slosh of buttermilk being mixed? Cool, refreshing.

There's someone talking on the mobile phone, whispering and smiling. The plants whimper at the end of the day. The dog is silent and hardly moves. Cats look on in a hostile manner and find the most unusual places to rest, in flower beds, under flower beds, over window sills. The postman comes a little earlier than normal wheezing away the heat and the burden. The fruit vendors sit surrounded by their colorful watermelons, grapes, mangoes, pineapples, bananas, mosambi and act like they could not care less if you bought them or not. The young school kids on vacation are scouring the roads for places to play and entertain themselves, murmuring to themselves.

The heat buzzes on all day. The rain smothers this constant buzzing. Sleep shuts out all noises as I drift into a space where there are no seasons, no sounds, cool and comfortable. Summer, drowsy summer.