Thursday, September 30, 2010

City of Joy - Movie

Watched 'City of Joy' on video and suddenly at the very end I realised that I had watched it before. Now that is not the hallmark of a good movie I felt if I did not remember a single scene, not even vaguely, until in the end when Om Puri clutches his tummy and walks off, it hit me. I'd seen this in Pune some 15 years ago.

It was all dark for some reason. You cannot make out what is happening. Om Puri and his family comprising of wife Shabana Azmi and 3 kids arrive in Calcutta to make a living since landlord grabbed his land. True to his nature he gets cheated as soon as he comes to Calcutta by someone who gives him a house for rent and another kicks him out instantly. He quickly falls into the local Godfather's trap and begins driving the manual rickshaw (God knows what they are called but these are pulled manually). Meanwhile an American doctor (Patrick Schwayze) arrives in Calcutta for reasons I did not get and somehow their paths meet in the middle of the slum filled with rickshaw pullers. There is a foreign lady trying to uplift the population with schools and hospitals and help for lepers and everyone gets around her. On one side the Godfather and his evil son and on the other these guys and finally the poor guys win. Om Puri performs his daughter's marriage even though he is bleeding through his shirt and it all ends well.

'City of Joy' shows the underbelly of Calcutta as it was in the 80s. Now its probably better or worse we don't know. What strikes me is that the foreign film makers somehow seem to be attracted to the filth more than anything else. Similarly 'Shantaram' was an eye opener about the underbelly of Bombay. I was in Calcutta and Bombay and I never ventured out into the filth and the slums. I was happier in the cleaner, nicer places. But each to his own I guess.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Unexpected Party

I had invited Sanjay home last evening so we could 'listen to some music together'. Now Sanjay and I go back many years - approximately 26 years now - since I met him at the Osmania University Engineering College. He was in the Civil Engineering department (I was in electrical, at least for the first year) and he was a friend of Koni. I remember meeting Sanjay for the first time near the famous steps - he was on his way to meet someone on his Yezdi. Sanjay was from Nizamabad, carried all the flair, style and sharpness of people whom I met from that town.
Ram, Ramesh, Don, Me, Suri. Kiran and Subbu at the back

Sanjay was a state level athlete in the 800 m and 1500 m events and a very good basketball player. He had a great knowledge of songs, Hindi film songs and ghazals. He understood urdu well and would translate and explain to us what the words meant, what the complexity of the verse actually conveyed, something the he had learnt from his father. He loved good cinema, good literature, a lark, was quite intense and focussed in all that he pursued and was great fun to have around. And he was a foodie which was one area where me and he bonded, he was an expert of sorts on motorbikes which was where he bonded with Koni I guess, was keen on studying well which was where he bonded with Ram Narayan, was fanatical about his fitness which was where he bonded with Ali. You could leave Sanjay in the Himalayas and he will discuss vedanta with the yogis and become fast friends with them. So very soon we all got together and did some of the most fun things in college.

On a bet for example, he and Velu liked each other's trousers so much one evening while we all waited for a bus and they both went behind the bus stop, stripped down their trousers and exchanged them at the AMS bus stop. On another day he dared Prasanna that he would sit in the little lawn below the college steps (directly below the Ladies room coincidentally) with his trousers down at his ankles and we counted the five minutes down. He was part of the student's group that fought against the University for changing its backlog rule. He was instrumental in the Hyderabad-Goa-Hyderabad trip on motorbikes, with Ram, Koni and Vinod. where they merely stayed on a Goa beach for an hour, had a beer and returned instantly, mission accomplished. He was among the first to drink rum and whiskey comfortably, to smoke a cigarette with the consummate ease of a professional - in the back benches of the classroom. He drank but never held his drink well, and in our second year, we found that while there was a scuffle going on in the college, our man was drunk out of his mind and in our attempts to get him to the safety of the hostel, we all landed up with the cops at the PS, the hospital and it all culminated in a late night middle distance run from the Osmania PS to the hostel where he slept soundly after that. He would drive his bike, any bike, with the expertise few had, nay, none had. He was among the first to have a girlfriend, and the first to have a breakup. He tolerated no nonsense from anyone, as the rude bus conductor found out, while he hung on desperately to the bus bumper, trying to escape the ire of Sanjay and a few hundred hostelites when he was unnecessarily rude to Sanjay. He was also the one who went up and got Koni nominated for the post of the General Secretary when they tried to get Koni to back off from the elections. And he was also the first to team up to bash the guy who posed as a topper but was in fact a molester who lurked in the lonely stairs. Sanjay has a wonderful gift of being able to merge into the crowd in seconds.

Many were the capers we had but the most enjoyable were the ones with music. Once when we were at home there was a heavy downpour for a few days. Sanjay and I were lolling around in my room singing songs prompted by one another, and we sang for a whole afternoon. On bikes, on steps, at dhabas, we sang several songs. When he got bored Sanjay would change tunes, change lyrics and make them really funny. Once, much after college, when we were all married, I got this mad urge to listen to music at 1030 in the night. So I called Sanjay and told him that I was coming over and we'd listen to music. He was game and I landed up at his doorstep by 1130 on my scooter. Since the family was asleep we locked ourselves up in a sideroom, played all our favourite music on his system and at 330 in the morning, I left for my house, contented. It was one of those crazy moments. Well, we tried to replicate that yesterday and he agreed instantly.

Don, Me, Sanjay and Kiran
Don also said he would come by with great enthusiasm so I figured the more the merrier. Kiran came as well and Ram joined us soon after. Suri, Ramesh and Subbu, my cricketing friends from MCC, joined us as well and much into the evening Sanjay joined us. We played music of course but we could not sit and enjoy it like we did owing to too many people around and when he left we made a promise to meet up for a music session again. But it was a fun evening, everyone doing their own thing and enjoying themselves - just like the old days!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Review for 'Let's Play'

The Young World in The Hindu today (September 28, 2010) published a review of 'Let's Play' the children's sports stories by Puffin to which I had contributed my short story 'The Secret Weapon'. Madhumitha Srinivasan in her review says:

"While some stories have plots completely woven around the sport, a few have it as a part of larger themes like friendship and compassion.

If you thought that only games like chess needed strategising, then 'The Secret weapon' will make you think again.It is an out and out cricket-based story that talks about on-field game play complete with field placement, bowling strategies."

Bang on Madhumitha. That story was about strategy, about using your head to outplay a stronger opponent, and I am glad you appreciated the thought.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - September 26, 2010

This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express on September 26, 2010.

Keep Your Eye On The Right Side And The Wrong Side Too
Harimohan Paruvu
Driving in the Hyderabad traffic is a different cup of chai so all new comers could do well to learn a few basic things before venturing out here. To begin with, as you back out from home, watch out for ditches and trenches that some thoughtful department has dug up overnight so you can fall into it. And at the same time, please avoid running over the sweepers (and their families), as they diligently sweep the road behind your car. Now, stop hands from shaking, keep eyes on the road and proceed.
When you approach the main road, do not merely look for traffic on the right side. Instead keep an eye out for traffic on the wrong side as well i.e. use your right eye to observe the right side traffic and the wrong eye to observe the wrong side traffic. (This is a little difficult but in time you will know how to do it.) Earlier, the wrong side traffic sneaked by apologetically, but these days they race at you at high speeds in a challenging manner and glare angrily at you for hindering their progress. From motorbikes to small trucks and jet planes, anything could come up on the wrong side so keep that eye rolling.
Once on the main road, stay away from RTC buses that seem to want to get intimate with your vehicle. They have no rules so no amount of righteous honking will help. They will push you, climb over you, crush you, make a small family with your car, and you can do nothing.  When these buses stop, mostly in the middle of the road, people jump in and out of its many orifices, so watch out for these jumping jacks as well. Quit staring at the buses and keep one eye rolling for breezy youngsters on bikes with new registration plates, riding three at a time, holding mobile phones to one another’s ears, and swinging wildly in a crazy zig zag path through the traffic. This is the time to pray, so they don’t choose your car to end their suicidal mission (don’t close your eyes). Oh, and that divider came up last evening, so please get your car off it right now. Can’t you keep your eyes on the road?
Watch out (with both eyes) for the private cab fleet with signs like ‘If this guy is driving rashly please contact some number.’ That is a joke, you will realize, since all those guys drive so fast that by the time you read the message, the cabs have raced off to the neighbouring state. They also do not think twice of banging into anything in their path since they are merely taking the shortest route to their destination – i.e. through you. Avert your eyes from slow moving cars with really dark glasses because they are in all likelihood being driven by a Romeo in the midst of some amorous pursuit, a mafia Don or a drug peddler – all equally dangerous to your health.
Other important features on Hyderabad roads include dump trucks with huge rocks strategically placed on the edge so they can fall over you when you creep up behind them (eyes up), seven seaters that can turn at right angles (eyes right), tourist buses driven by bleary eyed drivers who have not slept for the past 200 years and who drive at a minimum speed of 150 kmph (eyes wide open), among other things. But before that, maybe you should pop some pills before you have a stroke or your eyes pop out from their sockets.

Gifts for Myself

Ordered a bunch of classics from my good publisher Indialog as a gift for myself. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, Best of Maupassant, Best of O Henry, Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland, Midsummer Night's Dream, Diaries fo Franz Kafka, Jane Austen Omnibus (a big bus), Kim by Kipling, Tales from Shakespeare and the Best of Arabian  Nights.

I think I have enough to last me this year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Money And How We React To It

I read an article in the newspaper today (forget which one it was). It mentioned an incident when Joseph Heller, the author of Catch 22, and Kurt Vonnegut, famous novelist, met at a party thrown by a rich American businessman. The two writers are wondering about how much wealth the businessman has made and if they would ever be able to make that much ever in their lives. To which Heller replies that it does not bother him so much because he always believes that he has 'enough'.

The author mentions how it is never the amount of money we have that is important, but how we react to it. You could have an unending supply and still feel like its not enough and you could feel like you are the king of the world even if you don't have a dime in your pocket. I know people who are both types and certainly the latter type seems happier to me in the sense that they are more 'into' life, participating in it, enlivening it, making it more interesting. It is not just about money then, it is about how much we trust the process of life to support us, to give us when we need - be it abundantly, be it extreme comforts, be it only what we need - all a matter of our own consciousness. If we make friends with life enough to believe we can access its treasures they are ours. If we believe that life must take care of us, in a manner that is just, then so be it, only 'just' is defined by us. If we believe that life is unfair and tough and we are among those who have to work hard and make do, then so be it. It is fascinating to me how we can view this process, this life, this flow of money, love, joy or whatever, wondering when it will stop, wondering whether we have any say in it at all, or wondering if we control the whole process. Funnily, to gain control, we must also relinquish control. But somewhere deep down it is about one's belief that the process of life will provide, must provide.

But again, one of the most impactful lines in the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' to me has been a description where she says that one of her gurus tells her that even money making must be done with great care and responsibility. That it cannot be left for the fortunes to sway aimlessly, one must be hands on, look at it, plan it, design it and it is to such people that money flows. It is like anything else then, that we dare look at with want, and then go after. It is belief (without being fatalistic), work and responsibility (of design), respect, gratitude and a knowledge of its basic essence - which is free flow. It is these qualities that make the greatest entrepreneurs also, because they start with an idea and back it with their unshakeable belief- money flows in, ideas flow in and soon they are building bigger enterprises, helping society in many ways.

I must also mention that when I wrote a list of things to do on this very blog sometime ago, I mentioned (as an after thought I must admit) that I would like to own assets worth Rs. 100 crores. No doubt a pleasurable thing to happen to anyone and I mentioned it to myself, especially since I realised that my list of material wants was rather bare. But the reaction it got was interesting. My friends who normally do not bother with much that I say or do, sat up. 'Oh, so we never thought you harboured thoughts such as owning Rs. 100 crores!'. Some say it like an accusation that I have such thoughts, some like a betrayal that I hid such thoughts from them, some like its a revelation. I am wondering what is so wrong in this; maybe one ought to be congratulated for setting a lofty goal or even a dream. But then I realised it's not just about the dream but the perceptions people carry about you and your relationship with money. Maybe they will like me only if I remain never wanting. Or never revealing my wants so they can preserve that illusion of me. It will be known only if I get that 100 crore I guess. But I did find that post and the reactions interesting.  

End of the day I do feel that money is energy and only when you are free enough to let this universal energy pass through, will you be able to experience and attract money, love, joy, happiness etc. Some do it easily, some struggle a whole life time. Everyone gets what they want. I am aware of my own self-imposed limitations and do hope to overcome most of my blocks during this journey by opening myself up. The day  I feel that I have 'enough' my 100 crore is made (which could be tomorrow). It is a thought, and one that rests easily with experience and awareness, just as victory lies easily with someone who is used to it and who has practised it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Harishchandrachi Factory - Fantastic Movie

I watched the Marathi movie Harishchandrachi Factory last night, thanks to Chitra who gave us the DVD, and it was wonderful. More than wonderful in fact - one of the best I have seen. I could not take me eyes off the screen for one moment. I think everyone who is concerned with film making or any enterprise should watch this movie  to see how this movie industry began entirely on one man's 'crazy' vision. It is the story of Dadasaheb Phalke (Dhundiraj Govind Phalke) also known as the father of Indian cinema. The movie is hilarious, heartwarming and highly inspiring.

Directed by Prakash Mokashi, the movie takes off at a stage in Dadasaheb's life when he has already studied fine arts and pursued a couple of jobs and business interests such as photography and a printing press. Dadasaheb Phalke (played by Nandu Madhav) has moved out of his large home into a chawl that has its own loving and interfering neighbours full of free advice and concern. He resists all attempts by people to give him start up loans to start a printing press (which he had successfully done before and walked out due to differences with his partners) and instead performs as a magician in the neighborhood under the name Professor Kelpha (Phalke reversed). He discovers the magic of cinema one day when he watches a motion picture 'The Passion of Christ' in a theatre (no bigger than one of our erstwhile video parlours) and then takes his entire family to view the movie. While the entire family watches the movie, Phalke, who has already watched it, turns around for most of the movie, with his back to the screen, to see how the images are projected on the screen.

Thus his journey begins. From selling off all the furniture in his house (for which his well-meaning neighbours trick him and almost get him admitted into the Thane Mental Hospital), buying books on cinema, reading them, nagging the film operator to show him how the movie is shown until he agrees and finally putting his insurance policy as security and going off to England to learn more about movie making. But not before almost losing his eyesight with all these exertions - a tender moment when his older son hunts his missing father down to the theatre and brings him back, almost blind. Luckily it is not so serious and he recovers.

In England, completely friendless, the indomitable Dadasaheb finds his way to the right people, learns about film making, buys his first camera and returns to his lovely family of his wife Saraswati, his two sons and his new daughter whom they had conceived before he left. And immediately moves house to a large one in Dadar where the movie 'Raja Harishchandra' is made. Now this is a story that everyone in the family is familiar with and everyone gets into the process of film making at home. Phalke makes a short film on the growth of a pea plant which he shows to prospective investors to raise money for the movie. His wife puts up her jewellery as security.

The process of making the movie in those days is shown delightfully. His search for a female lead takes him everywhere including the red light area. One girl agrees but her regular client comes to take her away, telling her that she cannot do something as degraded as acting in a movie. That raises suspicions in his crew of actors, carpenters, musicians that their profession is probably lower than the lowest. Sometime then Phalke tells them to tell their family and friends that they are working in a 'factory' to avoid this talk. The cast is got, a male actor plays the female lead (don't want to remove my moustache he says since my father is alive), outdoor shooting done (after convincing the police that they are not dacoits), cameraman got (his friend from Nasik) - all in a spirit of doing something wonderful, never stopping, always providing for all the people who throng his house. Finally the movie gets done.

It is interesting to see how Phalke actually educates people about the motion picture through road shows, about how its the first Indian movie made and entices them. The picture factory gets into the act and soon they make other movies such as 'Bhasmasur Mohini', 'Savitri' and so on. He visits his friends in England who offer him a great deal of money to move to England and make movies but he refuses. He says that in India, the industry will not grow if he moves to England. Such was the vision and commitment of Phalke saab, a spirit that lived in most people in those times. Phalke's great enthusiasm, his restless nature, his boundless energy and creativity, his love for people and for whatever caught his fancy, his belief in his ideas is shown extremely well. Every character is perfect and has done a wonderful job.

Phalke was born in Nasik. He studied in Bombay's JJ School of Fine Arts and then in Baroda's School of Fine Arts. He set up a photo studio in Godhra which ran into trouble and he shut it down soon. He lost his first wife and child to the plague and then moved to Bombay where he set up a printing press with partners. He studied the technology extensively and even went to Germany to understand the latest technology. All this is not shown in the movie and it takes off from the part where he goes into a chawl after his business failures.

The movie is a must watch and I'd give it a rating of 4.75 on 5 in terms of sheer viewing pleasure. I watched it last night and would watch it again right now. That is how easy it is on the viewer. And no better way to celebrate the life and achievement of Dadasaheb Phalke.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Evening Out At Golf Club

Mama called me at 7 and asked me if I'd care to join him, Kiri and Koni for an evening out at the Golf Club, Tolichowki. I was not up to it since my foot was hurting a bit but I had not met Mama and Kiri for a while so I decided to hop over and say hello at the starting point - Koni's house.

We drove along in two cars to the Golf Club since Raghu joined us as well, chatting up and catching up. It's somewhere near the Quli Qutub Shah tombs en route to Golconda. I liked the location, it looked great sitting outdoors next to the golf lawns. There was piped music at a very low volume playing and they played a whole lot of 80s stuff. I won a bet off Kiri who did not get a Blondie song, one off Koni (that was easy) who did not get a Bryan Adams song and another off Kiri who did not get Duran Duran. Enjoyed my pineapple juice, while Koni spent half an hour trying to get a rather persistent official off his back, and got dropped back in Mama's car.

Very nice.

Literati - Literary Festival at CBIT

Anvesh, son of Jagannath Das my good friend from Indian Express, called me and asked me if I would be the Chief Guest for Literati, the CBIT Literary festival. Going to CBIT itself was an incentive but I was really curious to know more about a full fledged literary festival. So I agreed to the event which was today.

Literati is a one day literary festival, a prelude to Carpe Diem the CBIT student festival which always boasts of some of the biggest events and performances. For example tomorrow they have Sreeram, the Indian Idol, performing and Vishal Shekhar to follow that. Now that is big. Anyway, this is the first time that CBIT decided to go with a full fledged one day literary festival with several events lined up for the day including quizzes, discussions, debates, short film reviews etc. I'd have loved to see a book review event there.

In my mind CBIT was a place where several fo our close friends studied during the time we did our engineering. We from Osmania College of Engineering always had the best bonding (at least in those days) with the CBIT crowd and despite our arguments, matches, debates and other stuff where we always competed hard against one another we always got back together to enjoy the cultural show and the literary events at the end of the day. Maybe a chai at Hilton where students from both colleges mingled happily. So many of our friends come to mind - Madhav, Anjan, Vasu, Naresh, Parag, Nitin. Rajiv (a good cricketer), Rahi Prakash (from my All Saints days), Pardesi, Tara Prashant (their cricket captain), Abhay Jaiswal, Ravinder (from St. Paul's days) and so many more names that keep coming. We had our share of fun in the cricket matches we played at Endeavour (where we beat CBIT in a tight game - we were a stronger team) and in a return friendly game at CBIT where we beat them again, narrowly. They always came to our festivals and we always went to theirs. But never, did I step into a single literary and cultural event which seemed rather high brow and an unnecessary taxation of my mind on things I knew nothing about. Of course the lit and cul guys left us to ourselves knowing we were no good and that we'd only go to ogle at the 'literary' girls.

So it is funny to me that I am called as the Chief Guest for a literary festival.

We had a pleasant drive to CBIT. I chatted with Anvesh on the way and he told me that the budget for this Carpe Diem was Rs. 60 lakhs. At CBIT I was welcomed heartily by Vishwanathan, the student co ordinator for the festival, Dr. Sandhya Reddy, HoD English and Dr. Chenna Keshavulu, Principal of CBIT. We went and met the Secretary and Chairman of the CBIT Trust, Mr. Kamalakar Reddy and Mr. B.N. Reddy and then proceeded to inaugurate the program. A few speeches from all of us and it was on and away.

I gifted both my books to the lit club, Communicando, and asked the students to write some book reviews. The crowd was good, intelligent and enthusiastic. The event was well organised. It was nice to be in the environs of the college again. Good luck Literati and may you grow in size and intention each year.


Speech at the inaugural of LITERATTI, the literary festival at CBIT on September 24, 2010

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Firstly let me congratulate the organizers of Literrati for taking this wonderful initiative of conducting a literary festival of this kind. This is a first to my knowledge because I remember, back when I was a student in Osmania University some 25 years ago, that cultural and literary events were mixed up in student festivals. For a nation that is perpetually scared that the next generation does not read enough, this is a wonderful surprise. I wish you all the very best and I urge you to conduct it every year and interact with bigger literary figures and minds. It is a very enriching experience.

Secondly I must thank you for inviting me to be the Chief Guest for this program. I am certainly not the biggest literary person you can find. I am practically a nobody in this literary business. My only claim to fame is that I have published two novels, both subjects close to my heart ‘TMW’ on cricket and romance. The first is being made into a movie even as we speak and should hit the theatres in November. 

But when Anvesh called me and said he’d like to have me as a Chief Guest it took me many years back when I was  a civil engineering student in Osmania. Today when I come here to see what I saw some 22 years ago I can see that this institution has grown much beyond what I had envisaged. We had a fine relationship with CBIT even then and had many friends. We competed hard, had several festivals, played matches and at the end of the day, remained fast friends. I remember coming here to play a cricket match, to witness your cultural festival. But what made me accept immediately is that in those days I was far removed from anything cultural and literary. I was mostly spotted on the cricket grounds, near canteens and in the company of not so socially acceptable, though not deviant fellows. My cul and lit friends those days shunned us as philistines and with right reason I am afraid. It is great fun today when they meet me at a book launch or a party and say ‘ You were the last person in that batch who I would have thought would become a novelist’.

Frankly I did not know either. I approached life with the same cavalier spirit as I did, aimlessly, taking I one day at a time, making merry and hoping it all would work out. Several jobs later, 10 years in an investment bank later, I realized one day that I was not doing what I’d love to do and quit a secure job to write – novels at that. You could call it taking responsibility for myself, one way or another. No one had told me I was a prodigious talent, no one gave me an advance but I felt I could write and so took the plunge, at that time the biggest gamble, to give up a job as a banker. It’s been six years since and I am two novels old, one being made into a movie and which has taken me into the realm of what they say, a motivational speaker, a management consultant a workshop facilitator. I really would not like you youngsters to make the same mistakes we did, make new ones.

But apart from reading I will urge you all to write. For yourself or for publication. Whether you write diaries or letters or stories or scripts it does not matter. It is therapeutic for one. It also instills some wonderful qualities. I have tried to learn from my successes and failures, from my cricket and from my academics, from my job and from my personal life and realized that writing requires the same principles that any formula for success requires. 

Say for example, at the very beginning. One needs tremendous clarity on what one wants to write. Writing well is a organised effort and any organised effort requires clarity. The same will hold true for whatever you wish to do, if you’re clear in your mind you will achieve it, big or small.

Then, you must find what they say is your style, your voice. You cannot imitate your way to greatness. You must find yourself. And the same goes with life. Find yourself and be true to yourself, whatever you are, pluses and minuses and you will find that once you accept yourself as yu are, the world accepts you.
Writing is all about honesty. I think you cannot lie to yourself on paper. The more honest you are to the story, to yourself, to whatever writing you do, the more people will connect with you. People cry because they sense the same emotion with which you wrote, honesty can be felt over paper, over years. The same holds true for your life. Be honest to whatever you are doing and you will be a content person.

Writing is also about total responsibility. You have to take responsibility to every word you say. It can be seen in good light or bad light but it is your thought and there is no one to blame. I think if you take this one quality into your life you will be highly successful. Responsibility, total responsibility is about excellence. It is about putting your signature on every deed, on every act and every thought of yours.

It is about hard work. And discipline. You will write until you are satisfied and even if you do 200 drafst you may not be satisfied. I did about 150 on the first and 100 on the second. And you do it for the love of it, not because there are fat advances waiting for you. It is a hard work that you will enjoy. Perseverance is one of the great qualities of champions and writing teaches you that. In whatever you do, this quality will help you. It’s not that you will have successes all the time. Success comes when you refuse to give up.

And maybe lastly it is about belief in yourself and your idea. Your belief that somewhere someone will enjoy that way you write, will feel the same honesty, the same aha you did when you wrote. That someone will write in and say ‘ you made my day’. And it is this belief that will sustain you through rejections after rejections, criticism after criticism that you start doubting. This life is not for those who doubt themselves based on others frivolous opinions. This life is for you to stand by your belief however high the stakes are.

Keep these qualities with you in all that you do. Write, play, work, whatever – be clear, be yourself, be honest, take complete responsibility, work hard, believe in yourself. Nothing can be out of your reach then.
Remember then, that we are all the medium. We are here to express ourselves fully. What we express ourselves fully with is what we must know. Whether it is cricket, dance, engineering, research, social work or a combination of all. Be open to be the medium. Do not doubt. Do not shirk from your potential. Follow then the path of being the 100% you, the fully realized you.
It is what I expect from all you. Nothing less.

For CBITs literary club I will gift my two novels and I would love to have you mail me as many reviews of the novels as you can because I would like to put them on my blog. Here are the books.
Thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger

I picked up this book or rather Vinod picked it up for me at the second market at Abids. Being a great fan of Catcher in the Rye I started reading this book a year or two ago and never made any progress. Even if I did it made no sense to me. Bot somehow in my new found zeal to rip through books I picked it up again and raced through it.

This time I got a mild grip on the story to get through. Salinger almost seems to have written this experimentally. Franny and Zooey belong to a dysfunctional family (they are sister and brother in that order) and are the youngest. It is a family where the siblings have an 18 year gap between the oldest (Seymour, I think) and the youngest, Franny. It starts with Franny meeting Lane her boyfriend from an Ivy League school, and in the dinner that follows, shreds his theories on literature and poetry to pieces and shows little consideration to a paper that he wrote which he is rather proud of. Now Lane is a typical youngster, proud of his Ivy Leaguestuff and of doing all the right things - speaking rebelliously, pseudo intellectually, anti establishment stuff, smoking, seen with the right girl friend, the right places etc and Salinger paints that part well of how his carefully planned portrait of the evening falls to pieces with Franny's unpredictable behavior. Franny hates all this'campusy' stuff where students are posing as intellectuals. Anyway Franny faints at the end of the conversation and is hutled back home.

Home is where young genius Zooey resides - in a bath tub, reading a letter written to him by his brother Buddy who is a teacher in some godforsaken college. Now there is a wide chasm between the brothers owing to the gap in age and also due to emotional baggage they carry owing to the deaths of two brothers. Seymour the first born who commits suicide and another brother, a twin,   who dies of some weird cause I fail to remember. Anyway Zooey and brothers and sister have been part of a tv show that showcases talent, Zooey being the stat of the show and carries that burden. Franny is lying down in depression, their Mom is worried about everybody. Zooey blames the older brothers for creating this mess for them.

Franny is profoundly impressed with the book 'The Way of the Pilgrim' and it is the pilgrim's thoughts on incessant prayer that her sense of perfection lies. And thereby her rejection of all that is 'campusy' and show offy of the education system where everyone wants to impress, and be somebody and no one wants to be a nobody. Zooey understands this and explains to her the true meaning of incessant prayer which finally does make sense to Franny as well and she makes peace with the world around her.

Salinger is as anti show offy (phoney as Caulfied would have put it) stuff as ever and makes a case for living a life on one's own rhythm. His deep insights into religion, into Indian philosophy, into pretty much anything taht he dwells on including the psyche of two teenagers is astounding. That is one hallmark of the great writers, the way they write what they have researched so thoroughly, almost as if they have experienced it. It is not an easy book to read and is rather abstract. It allows one to skim through most stuff which you can make out is irrelevant and if you stick to the dialogue you generally get the hang of it. But one cannot say that it is just another book because it has a style that is completely it's own and is like no other I have read so far. However it did not leave me with a huge impression, or even rooting for Franny or Zooey who seem to be stuck in some teenaged angst.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Champion's League - Boring

So far the Champion's League Twenty 20 Cricket (Ab Hoga Muquabla or something to that effect) has been boring. One match went to the super over and another won off the last ball but even those did not excite me much. The players look jaded, some teams look out of place, some seniors look tired and out of shape - and it has all the makings of a exhibition tournament. With the exception of the Aussie sides that are giving the bigger teams with fancied players a run for their money, not other team looks fit nor are they displaying the hunger that one expects from twenty 20.

Twenty 20 is the fastest version of the game, the most powerful and calls for the highest levels of fitness and commitment. It needs not just the six hitters like Pollard but also those who can convert zeros to ones, ones to twos and twos to threes. The Aussies have demonstrated their superior process and preparation by doing the basics right, keeping the wickets, running hard, fielding well and bowling well. In the fielding department you expect all catches where the player gets both hands to the ball to be taken and some incredible out of the world catches as well because nothing puts the brakes on the momentum like a wicket. But we have seen several normal catches being put down, shoddy fielding where the ball has been allowed to go past the fielder due to misfields. In the bowling department, bowlers are still struggling to bowl good yorkers, change their pace well and keep away from bowling full tosses and leg side balls. The slow bouncer that England used to great effect in the T20 World Cup final is not much on show and we have bowlers running in and bowling thoughtlessly and fatalistically. The wicket keeping has been rather shoddy, maybe because some teams use batsmen as keepers.

I saw the match where Mumbai Indians beat  Royal Challengers by 2 runs. Virat Kohli (now that boy's an interesting prospect if he keeps his head about him and retains his focus) almost took the match away from the Indians with some lusty hitting off two of the better bowlers - Malinga and Zaheer Khan. Zaheer appeared rather pleased with his performance in the after match interview but I found nothing to be pleased in it. After getting hit for two fours off his pads in the same over by Kohli who shows a wonderful gift of timing and placement on the leg side, the Indian pacer bowled a full toss on the leg stump to Kohli on the last ball with 3 to win. It was a fluke that Kohli in his enthusiasm mishit that full toss and lead edged a skier for Rayudu, else it was curtains for the Indians.I failed to understand the strategy or whatever made Zaheer Khan feel pleased about his performance except that he got damn lucky. However the way the Royal Challengers got Pollard with Steyn bowling short balls and softening up the big man and then getting an unsure prod as a leading edge to the bowler was well planned.

Overall, there is nothing much for the viewer. The most exciting thing is the faces that the cricketers and Amitabh make while advertising the Championship. Frankly, my dears, its been rather a bore for me. I dread to wonder how the players will shape up for the World Cup in February. At least if they look interested enough it might fool us into thinking something interesting is going on.

Article in the Indian Express - September 21, 2010

The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in The New Indian Express on September 21, 2010.
Armoured Assassins With Fine Features
Harimohan Paruvu
The other day I witnessed a young girl driving her scooter in traffic. Nothing unusual about it except that she was draped up completely from head to toe in cloth. Nothing wrong with that either but you could not see one square inch of skin anywhere. Now don’t get me wrong – I am not the kind of a guy who goes around looking for skin on women riders. It’s just that I could not see her eyes, her nose or her mouth – damned suspicious, I thought. How would she breathe, see, talk or hear? Why was she dressed up as if some nuclear disaster was taking place? Was she a suicide bomber? Was she a she?
Maybe, the girl was very culture conscious I thought. But what culture is this where she suffocates herself to death? I looked about. Several such specimens were going round the town in that elaborate gear. My antennae went up. Was some big attack being planned? Some secret cultural revolution going on? Was this some new Egyptian fashion where girls were dressing up to look like mummies? What was all this?
The mummy I was following stopped her bike at a restaurant close to a college. College kids! I got myself a place at a table. Soon a group of mummies entered the restaurant and in the melee, I lost my mummy. Thankfully one of the new mummies walked to a table near mine looking like an astronaut from outer space. First she took off her goggles revealing the smallest slit in the cloth near her eyes. She then undraped a long scarf that ran into a few kilometers from around her head. Ah, such a nice pretty face. Why would she want to hide that? Then she slowly unplugged a couple of ear phones from her ears. Next she unpeeled a pair of elbow length gloves and kept them on the table. And then she took off a jacket that ran from her collar down to her knees. All this stuff must have weighed about twenty tonnes. Inside it was a petite young girl of the finest features and lovely complexion.
Why would she want to hide herself thus I wondered. Why wear this armour? Sun, pollution, dust, protection were all possible answers but there seemed to be more. I waited quietly, lurking. After a while all the mummies headed out. They walked to the parking lot where a group of youngsters waited on their motorbikes. The mummies got on to the pillions of these motorbikes and they all headed off happily.
Aha, I thought, smiling to myself. Young love! Ingenious. As a disguise that protects their identity, this was a fantastic costume. It also serves several other purposes. It enhances our culture, protects health and certainly hides one’s identity from prying eyes. These new gen kids were smart.
Satisfied that our culture and nation were not under threat from beautiful bombers I was about to remove myself from the scene when I got a doubt. How will the motorbike guys know who is behind the mummy costume? Some code? Maybe, since the girls could see the guys, they would approach their own boys. Trust is of essence here. Good, everything seemed to be in order. I was almost out of the parking lot when I saw something that stopped me cold. I saw a couple of the motorbike guys dressed up like mummies themselves. Now, if both parties were dressed up like mummies how will anyone know who they are making off with?  I draped my head in a scarf and scooted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Motorcycle Diaries - Ernesto Che Guevara

I finally got my hands on 'The Motorcycle Diaries' when I went to Landmark the other day. It's a slim book, about 165 pages long and told in a fascinatingly frank yet poetic style style by the author, the enigmatic Argentinian icon, politician, thinker, guerilla warrior, Che Guevara. The book is the diary of the events that happened to Che, then a medical student who was one year shy of his final year, and his biochemist friend Alberto Granado. Together they plan to go to North America by road from Cordoba, on Alberto's old Norton motorbike that they call 'La Poderosa' or 'The Mighty One'.

It is a difficult journey where the young men go through many tough times in every way. The bike gives way many times and they fall off, tyres blow off, parts of the bike get broken until they finally decide to let it go somewhere along the way. But whatever the hurdle the two young men are equal to it, never thinking of going back even when they run out of money, are hungry for days, sleep in the cold in open areas, beg for food even. But despite the hardships the book is told in a comic tone, a tongue in cheek account of their troubles, the people they meet, the way the two con people for shelter, food and drink. Once they get rid of the motorcycle they hitch rides on trucks, even do a small distance on a raft they make and call 'Mambo Tango'.

In a few sentences Guevara describes the scenery, his impressions, the culture, their hopeless situation, the good and bad in people and the will of the two young men to complete what they began. Their trips to hospitals for shelter and food, police stations, houses, leprosy camps, mines leaves one feeling tired, but you know from the tone of the writer that whatever happens they will pass through. His impressions of the conditions that Latin American people in different countries live in, his wanting to give them a better life be it through medical help, justice or just plain hope of getting an equal and fair share from their land come through very clearly.

It is no wonder that this man went on to star in a bigger adventure in his life, leading Cuban rebels to victory over a dictatorship regime alongside Fidel Castro, serving as Minister even, speaking against the US policies, spreading his message and philosophy in faraway lands such as Asia, Europe, Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and then dying a premature death at the hands of Bolivian counter insurgency troops at a young age. Guevara lived life on the edge, in complete accordance with what he believed in and gave it his everything, be it while undertaking a motorcycle journey across South America or taking his ideology where it belonged.

Guevara's story reveals a spirit that one sees rarely. Many people speak and spout philosophies and ideas that they do not have the courage nor guts to take responsibility for. No wonder then that Che has earned the status of a true icon - not a carefully created one by rabble rousing mindlessly in the guise of intellectuals.
I would love to see the movie now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where Does Your Energy Lie?

A thought struck me yesterday that we look at people closely, you know pretty much where their energy seems to be focused on. Some people clearly live in the past in a dreamy haze and are constantly talking about the past - obviously their energy is stuck there and they have very little energy to live their current life. Some people seem to have much of their energies stuck in other people - either their spouses, sons or daughters, or whoever - and are constantly thinking and talking about them and they have little energy to live their life. Some people are stuck with some ideas of how their lives should be - either a self righteous mode or whatever and they also fail to see and live a life as it passes by without their coloured shades. Some live in their future, some in a constant drama.
But clearly it can be seen that our energies are drawn some place. If we cannot see it, others can. Worth asking your close friends, and family and see if it makes sense. And I think if we draw some energy back to our life, it would add some much wanted zing to it.

Bit like how children can be. Happy, sad, joyful, adventurous - but in the moment. No 'shoulds' in their lives - just living. And living fully, unlike most of us, who live partial lives.

The Misfit - Sent Off

Sending off one draft of 'The Misfit' to Keerthi started a whole new thought process in my mind. I can now see how more depth can be added to each episode, how each episode could be placed in a proper sequence, how I can actually place the episode in some contemporary context with a slight addition. Of course, this is the part that is the most interesting always. Getting the story done for the first draft is good but it is the filling of these little gaps, the cutting and pasting, the adding of a line, a nuance, here and there that I enjoy the most. The best lines, the best ideas seem to come now - little little ideas that add a lot to the end product.

Naturally it gets as delicious as a wonderful meal that needs to be garnished before one partakes of it. I speak more from the angle of the cook than the eater here. One can understand the satisfaction one gets while running these last parts. The path suddenly becomes clear, you also know now how the structure falls in and what you need to do to make it touch a new high, and you just can't wait to do it. You are waiting to start on it at the first opportunity, with a deliberate action that says - I am coming, I know how to fix you.

The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham

My first Maugham. I have been forever planning to read 'Of Human Bondage' and never go down to it. When I saw 'The Razor's Edge' at Mythily's house I instantly borrowed it. Looked like an interesting title and it had an interesting cover.

I found it an easy read which was a huge relief. Quite modern in its outlook, its characters. It is more or less the story of Isabel and Larry who grow up in America, two youngsters that Maugham (he is himself, the narrator) through Elliott, his friend. Now Elliott is someone who loves to play up being the man of the world, keeps good company, goes to painstaking lengths to have, know and keep all that if refined and of high social standing. Isabel is his niece and Larry her friend from childhood who she is bent on marrying. Elliott lives in Paris mostly, Maugham in London and the Isabel and Larry;s in America. So Maugham whisks us all over the continents. And with Larry's penchant for travel we hop into India a bit as well.

It is a story that will hold good at any time because the emotions are timeless. The characters as well. Isabel loves Larry but not his ideas of leading a wandering, exploratory life. She decides to marry a rich broker (with a forgettable name) who is rich when she marries him but goes bust in the stock market crash of 1929. And then she and her husband and children are broke and come to live in Eliott's flat in Paris. Larry has meanwhile worked in coal mines, fruit orchards, met all kinds of people, accumulated money he does not have any need to spend and still seeks God. He meets the couple thanks to Maugham who meets Isabel regularly and they meet a whole bunch of new people, including Ms. Sophie Macdonald who knew them all from America. Now living a degenerate life Sophie, a victim of circumstances, is a drunk, drug addict and sleeps with anyone. Larry wants to marry her and well, Isabel is sure that it will destroy her Larry. Just as she wished, Sophie disappears before the marriage and Larry is left to his wanderings. Elliott dies, Sophie is found murdered, Isabel and husband live comfortably and Larry heads off to America with nothing on his back - just as he wished. And so Maugham concludes, everyone gets what they wanted.

Maugham is easy to read which was the biggest relief. His eye for detail is evident just as hie great wisdom is in the way he brings up discussions and arguments and presents some hard questions to the reader. The characters live and feel exactly what we do so it makes them very real.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day out With Koni - One of those 'Just a moment' rides

And so today Koni (my friend Choudary alias Koni alias Chow alias Ravi alias Shiva etc) called me early and asked me if I was game for a ride to see the farm and other lands nearby. It was fine weather so I jumped at the offer and met him at Srinagar colony. It was probably 915 that time.

Koni was all enthusiasm and told me that we will first drop in for a moment's work at Tank Bund where he was coordinating all the cranes for the Ganesh nimmajjanam. It is obviously an important job so I nodded and went along. Once we went to his mobile office, (a container that is nicely done up on the inside to serve as a mobile office), parked right outside NTR gardens I had this old sinking feeling. Outings with Koni, especially the 'just a moment ones' are notorious for all night, all day and if you have the time could take all week as well. Many times in our youth, when we had much time to spare, many of us got caught in these 'just a moment' jobs and before we knew it we were whisked off to some Godforsaken place in the middle of the night, with no place to sit, slapping away at mosquitoes, hoping for some food at some point, surviving on tea (if at all), sometimes holding torches, flashlights for the mechanics to work, carrying diesel and spare parts and many such jobs that are in the least enjoyable. Several times we got caught but we learned with experience and learned to stay away. But even to this day, some of us do get trapped in that 'just a moment' trap and its all deja vu after that.

One reason why Koni's 'just a moment's' are so famous is because he is so entertaining. He will have no money in his pocket. No diesel in his car. No support. No idea what he is doing (sometimes). Definitely no idea what the other guys are doing. But he will be all enthusiasm. He will never be in the least apologetic despite all the long faces you pull (I am the king of long faces and he has put up with that for decades now) and in fact laugh at your predicament. After sometime you realise that there is no use of that long face and you tend to join in with the laughter. Somehow he will get diesel on credit. Somehow he will get money on credit. Somehow we will be all feasting at some weird place which suddenly starts serving the most delicious food. I guess that is one of the advantages of his great enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude to life. One reason why its great fun to recount those trips with the incomparable Koni. The same trip for anyone else in the world - people would willingly slit their throats before doing anything like that. But with Koni its a totally different thing.

Anyway time ticked by slowly. At 1030 I pulled the first long face and drowned the mobile office with a disapproving silence. No one bothered. I looked for long at my mobile. I stared longingly at auto rickshaws. I sipped at the chai that was served. I looked hard at the sheaf of paper he was making small entries in and coordinating with other crane operators. I never once went close enough to peek at that sheet. (Now if Koni was in my position he would have read those papers thoroughly and given me a million suggestions on how to improve this whole operation, and then moved out and improved the situation outside as well.) The clock ticked to 1130. Just as I was shuffling in my place an associate came and a quick meeting was held. At 12 he wound up the meeting and announced that we were on the way out. I walked silently to the car. We took off and went around the island. 'Shit, no money,' he said and turned back. Familiar words. He stopped at the office and called his manager and asked him to get some money across. Again we turned the car around and off we went over the Khairtabad flyover when he got a call. 'Just now...abhi aa raha hoon...saab,' he said and turned back again. I told him that if it was a long meeting I'd head home. He assured me that it would be a short one. Thankfully it was.

And then he chose to take the longest, highest traffic density route to Shamshabad. We crawled through traffic at Moazzamjahi Market and bumped ourselves on really bad routes as we headed to Shamshabad. We finally stopped at 230 pm and grabbed some lunch at 'Nellore vari Mess' - a hot favourite with the man. Unfortunately the restaurant chaps were building a new place and had set up a temporary place by the side which was crammed to the gills even then. Lunch kind of softened me and we laughed our way through rain into some really dangerous roads. Of course he stuck his head out most of the time in the rain and yelled loudly in delight as the rain blew into him while I rolled my window up and kept out every drop of rain. After a while he looked at me bewildered and admitted that he was lost. And then he turned and took a turn into a road which was now resembling a small river. We went into big potholes, not knowing what was beneath, skidded on muddy roads, lurched and heaved and somehow reached the place he wanted to show me. Nice. We stopped at his farm for a while. He wanted to see his sheep (two), dogs (two), buffaloes (one or two, they never made an appearance), cabbages etc. I merely checked out the guava trees which have some of the sweetest and ate a couple. He was quickly done with the farm and we headed off bumping and bouncing.

On the highway I asked him in a confident voice what the plan was. It was almost 345 pm and we had rough rides so I thought he might want to fold in. He jauntily swerved the car towards Gandipet which has been reported in the local news as overflowing. It is not a huge dam or anything, just a lake that was full. But that is good enough. And so we drove for miles and miles, picked up some college kids with the most irritating ring tones, and landed up at Gandipet which was so crowded that you could not get out of the car. We dropped the kids and turned back, without seeing the water. What? This was not Koni. I would have done something like that, but not this guy. Not a word from him. He was all appreciation for all the other guys who were getting their families to see the lake. And once we hit the highway I knew his plans - he was going around the back of the lake! It was some fifty kilometres more certainly, and we did manage to see a small stretch of water at the back end of the lake. He stopped to buy 'fresh' vegetables from some local farmers meanwhile. I preferred to sit in the car and wait. And then we drove to him Chilkur land which was having an even more difficult access. We first cut across some open field, then followed a motorbike on a single bike track which was progressively getting narrower, slushier and more water logged. I think for the first time, he actually backed off from that road after a while, much to my surprise, saying that it was too risky. Getting old, Koni is.

We drove for a couple of hours after that, on roads that once had been there, trying to get back home, The traffic was crazy after we hit civilization but that did not bother him one bit. He was all praise for a new one way that had come into play at Krishna Nagar and shared a couple more new ideas on traffic management. Just before we stopped near my car at Srinagar he got another brainwave. How about coffee? I was too far gone by then and agreed. And before we got ten metres ahead, we got stuck in the biggest jam ever. Koni burst out into laughter and says 'Wonder whose face you saw when you got off the bed today.' I can do nothing but smile. Or better. Laugh. We had the coffee, ate some chaat, refreshed ourselves and he dropped me back.

Last I heard he was calling someone up and making plans for the later half of the evening. I crawled into my car and drove home. It can be rather hectic with Koni you know. I was thankful we did not have a flat, did not run of of fuel, did not have a breakdown, did not run into cops, or dacoits - all high possibilities when our man is around.

Things seem to be changing for the better.