Friday, December 31, 2010

Off to Shrivardhan - Happy New Year All

And that ends an interesting year, one which I will ponder at leisure, in a day or two. Much to reflect upon. Right now I am leaving for Shrivardhan on the western coast of India from Pune - to usher in the New Year's.
Back tomorrow.

Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year's eve and an even better year ahead!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Masood Ahmed - Dashing Batsman With the Heart of a Poet

The opening batsman for All Saints High School in 1982 was Masood Ahmed, one year our junior but one who had already played for the state Under 15 team. Stocky and strongly built, Masood was one of the most exciting batsmen we have watched in those days. In fact I would go to distant matches just to watch Masood and Suresh bat, whether it was in state matches or college matches. Coming from All Saints it was no surprise that Masood had a penchant to casually flick the ball over the square leg at regular intervals and compile tall scores before anyone knew it. As a teammate he was a considerate and good natured guy who helped me get over my initial fears in our star studded cricket team. He loved Hindi films, Hindi film music and was a romantic at heart.
Masood Ahmed

Masood also became my captain when I played the Under 15 for Hyderabad something which I had never dreamed of. When I played cricket for All Saints I was only too happy to be in the cricket team, something which fed my romanticised notions of cricket in Tom Brown's school days. When I learnt that the team played Sunday league cricket it was a bigger bonus. And when I heard that I was eligible to pay for the Under 15 state team I was even more surprised. I made it to the Under 15 team by the skin of my teeth - the captain of which was Masood. I was all set to tour Bangalore as an extra and I remember other players ask me if I could lend them my sweater and shoes which were the only possessions I had. But when there was a chance for me to show my prowess, Masood it was who handed me the new ball and said that the Manager wanted to see me and that I should go flat out. I did and I opened the new ball the next day, and got a wicket off the second ball as well. So much for Mr. Extra and all credit goes to Masood.

It was fitting then that in the final against Karnataka we were chasing 243 and were suddenly down to 208 for 9 after being 189 for 4. I walked out and met Chetan Joshi, our dimunitive left arm spinner who was no taller than the bat then, and we merrily swung our bats away. In no time Karnataka took the new ball surprised by this attack and I edged one boundary over thirdman and swung the next one over square leg to push us into the lead. They told me that Masood was in the tent crying, at the prospect of losing the match and only came out bleary eyed when he heard that we got the first innings lead. I got 27 runs which proved invaluable in the game. He was the captain for the South Zone as well, in which there were seven Hyderabadis, including me. We went to Calcutta, got stuck in a cyclone, won the first game against North Zone by toss and lost to East Zone the next.

Masood and I played many matches together and against one another. I was very happy to get his wicket when I played for St. Alphonso's against All Saints the next year. Then we played Under 19 together at Vizianagaram, and after he joined Nizam College we played many tournaments for Osmania University, the HCA Under 19, Under 22 and other categories. Masood was  with me when we played the Vizzy Trophy at Bhilai and we had a great time that tour which was when I discovered his great liking for Hindi film songs and poetry.

A devout Muslim, Masood was loved by all and always had a fair and just outlook on life. There was oen season which he played for Nizam when he got three hundreds in a row and played Buchi Babu that he looke dlike he would play for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy. But fate had it otherwise and he did not. He did his MBA and then left for the UK and then onwards to the US. The day he came from the US later, (I lost touch with him after 1991 when he was my skipper for the Osmania University in the Inter varsity tournament), he called me to announce that he was getting married and invited me. I went of course because he is a pure soul, someone whom I always looked at as affectionately as my younger brother. Recently he invited me again for the wedding of his niece and I met him and gifted him copies of both books. He kept in touch since and we are on the mail these days. he asks me about the progress on the movie.

Masood was fun to have in the team. Songs, discussions, movies, jokes, laughter - he was a true gentleman. Always polite, always well mannered, always kind and considerate, the sensitive dasher was truly one of my favorite persons. Another one of the great guys I met on the cricket field, Masood has played for the US cricket team already and plays active cricket there. He told  me he would like to play a game together when he comes next. I am looking forward to that day - it should be fun. Until, then Masood my friend, take care and god bless.        

Dr. Hariprasad, MD, Apollo Hospitals - Aggressive Batsman and Decisive Leader

I first saw Hariprasad, or Hari, as he was popularly known then in a picture. This picture stayed with me for many years - that of the Hyderabad Under 15 team which won the initial edition of the Under 15 tournament in 1981. Sportsstar carried a picture of the team which had a few cricketers from my school such as M.V.Sridhar, Sanjay Bhatnagar and some others but what I remember most was that this side was led by Hariprasad. Bro. Joseph from All Saints High School was the Manager of that team and since I could see some of my contemporaries that picture gave me much inspiration. Maybe that picture inspired me to go for the cricket selections the next year 1982 when I played the Under 15 for Hyderabad which won again!
Dr. Hariprasad, CEO, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad

Hari was a legend in that age group, known for his aggressive batting as for his shrewd tactics as a captain. As skipper of the HPS, Begumpet he was the quintessential HPS, Begumpet boy as we knew them then, and carried that spirit with him - brash, ready for a challenge and never backing off from one. I remember the dressing room talk before we played the famed HPS Begumpet side hat year in 1982 in a league match, of how Hari would single handedly demolish us with his batting. Hari had the distinction of having played Ranji Trophy in his school days itself and getting 72 runs on debut against the strongest attack in the South - Karnataka which had Roger Binny, Abhiram, Raghuram Bhat, Vijayakrishna. When we took the field against this monster side, we All Saints boys were completely psyched out by the super confident HPS team which was already planning what to do after the match. Hari was all over the place as he bundled us out or 126. I got 21 of those runs and remember how he got into my mind with his talking and got me to play a rash shot.

We got them out for 70 after they were 30 for no loss at lunch, a huge upset that year. I got 5 for 25, Srinivas Chakravarthy got 4 for 19 and it was the sweetest victory we have had. I did not know Hari despite all this and it was only two years later when he was the captain of the Under 22 side that I met him again as his teammate and new ball bowler. Hari had meanwhile enhanced his reputation many times over with another classic knock of 217 that he got against a Tamil Nadu Under 19 attack that comprised of L. Sivaramakrishnan, W.V. Raman, B. Arun to name a few. With Vivek Jaisimha for company, who made 90 runs, the Hyderabad team overtook a massive Tamil Nadu score and the game went down into some part of cricketing heroics that remains etched in all our minds. As captain Hari was decisive, aggressive and got the best out of his players. I had a good outing under him I remember, getting 11 wickets in two matches and also a 40 against Andhra and a 31 against Tamil Nadu. We lost the final to Tamil Nadu at Trichur but it was a great learning experience playing with all these experienced seniors.

Soon after I heard that Hari had joined medicine at the Gandhi Medical College, Hyderabad and had completely given up cricket. I could not understand how anyone who was so promising a year ago could just take such a drastic decision. Hari was a murderous batsman who hit the ball hard, and as an opening batsman could easily take the game away in a few overs. He had a stance that started way out of the leg stump and he shuffled in, exposing his stumps but that was the only thing you saw of the stumps as he hit the ball all over the park. He was again one of those who rose from the ranks, scoring runs at all levels and proving himself time and again until he was picked to play for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy.

The biggest thing about Hari was his confidence that was highly infectious. Nothing seemed too big for him and he always seemed to have the measure of everyone and everything. I heard he married his college mate  and that he took over the practice of his family run Sridevi Nursing Home in Jamai Osmania area. Then years later I heard he was the MD of the Apollo Hospitals in Himayat Nagar and soon I heard he was the MD of the Apollo Hospitals in Hyderabad. I saw him a few times on television and a few times that I was in Appollo, I thought I would drop in and say hello. I actually did drop in one day but he was busy in a meeting and I left my card and came away..

I invited Hari for the launch of 'The Men Within' and he said he would try to make it. He could not owing to his busy schedules. I called him again recently seeking an interview for the promotion of 'Golconda High School' the film based on 'The Men Within' and he was more than gracious in giving us time. Unfortunately I could not go to meet him on the day of the interview as I had  to go out of town. Hopefully then I should meet him at the movie launch this coming month. Meanwhile, wishing you well on your endeavours Hari and hopefully get some time to interview you as well.

Irani Cafes In Hyderabad

There were few places that were more fun than Irani cafes in the days when we were in college. And even later on as well, until the ubiquitous corner Irani cafes started disappearing under the pressure of a rapidly changing demographic of the city, under the pressure of real estate. For college students in the 80s and even the 90s, Irani cafes provided the perfect getaway as they allowed us to hang in there long enough, served delicious tea, samosas and biscuits and most of them served biryanis as well. We could survive on shoe string budgets and be out of trouble on the roads. Most youngsters were known by their addas, the Irani cafes then and one could easily find them there, smoking sipping tea, dreaming, talking of their futures etc. We did that too for years ad I still go to the highly modified ones close to my home even now, though one can make out that the flavour has totally gone. Let me list my favourite Irani cafes in Hyderabad, some names that I cannot remember, some that have sopped existing as well. But those who knew them in those days will know what I am talking of.

1) Sitara Cafe, Erragadda: I spent most of my time here in this little highway kind of a cafe that no one visited in the early years. In fact even we - Madhav, Vardha, Koni, Ranjan, Ram - would visit the ESI Hospital cafes instead of this place. But Sitara had a tranquil ambience, a quiet place that offered a peep out on to the road from its high perch. Being away from the regular crowd in those years Sitara was less populated. Tea was great and it was here that we discovered the joy of tie biscuits. Now a shadow of its former self, Sitara cafe, still exists and we still go once in a while.

2) Heera Moti, ESI Hospital: It barely exists now but in its hey day Heera Moti was a well appointed Irani cafe with lots of space and even partitioned cabins for private affairs like families etc. Spent much time here as well especially in the bus travel days because the stop was right in front. Also because Vardha and Madhav frequented it late nights.

3) Jugnu Hotel, ESI Hospital: Fabled as the only Hotel or cafe that would be kept open all night Jugnu was stuff of which stories were told. How no cop could shut it down, how it is open no matter what and how much music it had. Jugu had a jukebox and hundreds of records that the owner played for free. His tea was special, just as his other items on the menu were - starting with biscuits all the way to biryani.

4) Hilton Hotel, Osmania University: No one who studied in Osmania University specially the Engineering College in the 80s will ever forget Hilton. It was the adda for tea every break, for a leisurely saunter cross the Andhra Mahila Sabha gates hoping to catch a glimpse of a pretty face somewhere or the other.  

5) Good Luck, Cafe, SR Nagar Police Station: This was another one of those cafes that was wonderfully situated - right on the corner of the Balkampet road and offered a leisurely stop in those  days. Now of course it is a very busy road but it still holds its space, not being threatened by road widening yet. Another tranquil space for a late evening chai or even a morning chai to catch the slanting golden rays of the sun. Wonderful space.

6) Industrial Cafe, Sanatnagar: This was frequented by the workers of Allwan in those days and we stopped there when we went to pick up Madhav who worked in Allwyn. After Allwyn shut down the cafe also lost most business but it retained  its space and charm. Makes terrible tea and has little else these days.

7) Banjara Cafe, Road No 1, Banjara Hills: In those days when this road was a quiet ride, this cafe was wonderful to sit at. Many a times we preferred this place when we would meet Mama at his Road No 3 house. I don't know if it is still around - probably not with so much development in that area. Great tea and biscuits and samosas.

8) Cafe xxx, Lower Tank Bund: One of the best in terms of location, this cafe was situated on lower tank bund and had such a lovely quiet air that I always preferred to sit there and sip chai in those twilight moments when we would be returning home after college, mostly with Koni. I think it is still there, let me check its name.

9) Cafe Almas, SR Nagar: I saw this cafe since it was opened and though i did not go there often, I remember it clearly as it stuck through all the days, its ups and downs. Somehow it never became a popular haunt despite its closeness to our house probably because we did prefer the quiet places and Almas was in the centre of all activity at the SR Nagar chowk. But it does have some nice snacks and cakes as well as good tea.

10) Cafe Reliance, Prakash Nagar: I do not think that is the right name for this cafe that stands right outside Prakash Nagar on the Main Road. Nice and high it always had an inviting look to it and we would always stop there for a quick tea and samosa while taking this route back.

11) Bombay Cafe, Abids: My first Irani cafe experience since we used to go there during school. On Sundays when the school cricket team had  league matches we would go to Bombay cafe where Abdul Rub the master at Irani cafes would order for us Tandoor mutton and tea which was heavenly. Later when Vinod and I would sometimes go there for tea as well. It is still there very much.

Other cafes that come to mind where I have spent time are Cafe Paradise, Paradise, Cafe Imroze, Ameerpet (now no more), Cafe A, Secunderabad Station, Garden Cafe, Secunderabad and a few more that I will try and recollect. For chai, samosa, biscuit you cannot beat the Irani cafe experience ever!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

D. Suresh - Stylish batsman, Artist and an IAS Officer

When we were in All Saints High School, circa 1977-82, one name that we used to hear a lot was that of D. Suresh, the star batsman of the school. Suresh was in my batch, he was in X B while I was in X C (X B had Telugu as second language and X C had Hindi as second language). We would watch him play as he practised with the team in our ground and appreciate how he would drive the ball so well. Of course Suresh was too classical a batsman for us gully cricketers to appreciate his technique which was quite evolved even then. I got a whiff of that awesome technique when I finally got picked fort the cricket team in 1982, in my Xth.

The All Saints High School team had many established stars already. Suresh and Ehtesham had played for the Hyderabad Under 19 already, while Masood, Srinivas Chakravarthy had played for the Under 15 state team. MoSt others in the team had played quite a bit of cricket already at the school level and league level including Iftekhar (Azhar's younger brother), Noel David (who later played for India), Michael, Abdul Rub, Subodh and so on. But if there was a star in the team, it was Suresh.

Suresh was the first cricketer I saw who had his own individual kit. And a brand new Graynicolls bat. He'd get tons of runs at every level of the game. As I started playing cricket at the league level for the school, a big jump from the gully cricket and cork ball matches we played earlier, I realised how wonderfully evolved his technique was. He had one of the best straight drives in the state - in fact one of the best I have seen ever. We had a fair season that year. I was too raw to be on backslapping terms with Suresh but I think the first time I really got to know him was when I got picked for the Under 15 team. I was to be dropped from the team and I had enough indications of that so when I told my father that, someone who never liked to influence anyone on such issues, he decided to stand up. Not to get me a place unfairly in the team because my performance in the leagues was by far the best (we had packed out the famous HPS Begumpet batting for 70, I got 5 for 25 that match). He took me to meet his friend who was also Suresh's father to tell him simply that no injustice must be done. As luck would have it one of the main bowlers Bharat fell sick with jaundice and I was called to replace him. The rest is history as I helped Hyderabad win the South Zone championships. What's more I got picked to play for South Zone - the boy who was not good to play for Hyderabad was playing for the South Zone - that vindicated everything.

The first day after that tournament I was going to school when I bumped into Suresh at the Church and there was genuine joy in his eyes when he saw and congratulated me. We then went to Nalgonda to play the Montfort tournament and then, we all went separate ways as we were done with school. Until we all got together again in the Hyderabad Under 19, Under 22, Under 25, Buchi Babu, Osmania University, Ranji Trophy sides and several South Zone tournaments in the span of the next four years. By 1986 we had achieved our pinnacle of having won the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad!

Those were growing up years and we toured the length and breadth of the country with dreams of playing for India, performing at all levels. Suresh was in demonic form those days, and was billed even by Azhar as the batsman most likely to follow him to the India team. Suresh scored at every level, hundreds after hundreds, elbow straight up, defence impregnable, shots coming like bullets off his bat. He was a sight to watch. I cannot forget the Buchi Babu match against Tamil Nadu when he got hit on his nose by a bouncer in what was an initiation to 'big' cricket, fractured it, came back with a swollen face, eyes like slits, bruised black, and he took the field the next morning as Hyderabad was in a spot. The first ball was a bouncer again and hit him exactly in the same place - only this time he had a visor on his helmet and was saved. But after that, he scored the most sublime 97 runs I have ever seen, smashing the fearsome Tamil Nadu attack to pieces, with sixes over point over square leg and so on. That was an unbelievable knock and everyone who saw it remembers it clearly to this day.

Suresh had a zany sense of humour which we all enjoyed. He loved music. He loved a good laugh and the good life. And he loved break dancing. He was a natural athlete just as all his brothers were, good at academics. He played great tennis. He dressed well, played his cricket seriously and had it not been for a hostile and unfriendly bunch of senior cricketers the year that he made his Ranji debut, he would have easily played for India. They put too much pressure on him and made sure he failed. It was sad to see them do that to Suresh and many of us juniors - playing their tricks just as the Kaurva warriors did with Abhimanyu and his like. Suresh soon quit playing cricket. That was a sad day.

He did his MBA from Osmania University and wrote the Civil Services.He got selected for the IPS and attempted again next year. This time he got the IAS. I merely heard of his progress, never met him after 1988 I guess. I heard he was in Haryana. Many years later, maybe in 2007, someone gave me his number and I called him and we chatted after so long, almost twenty years. 'Harry,' he said in the way he always called me and we shared some nice memories. I was in touch with him ever since and he helped me a lot when I launched my second book 'If You Love Someone..' in Delhi in 2010. He had a powerful post in Delhi then and he was kind enough to make time to visit the book launch and also invite me over to his house for dinner. It was great to catch up with my old chum after all these years. In his office I noticed huge paintings of landscapes which he had painted - really nice stuff. I asked him when he started painting and he said I always painted even in school.

Suresh represents all that one should look for when one talks of how sports helps someone make a success of his life. His focus, hard work preparation are all there to see. He still looks as fit as he was in college, and has preserved himself extremely well. A doing father of his two young sons, who also play cricket and are also interested in several other things, Suresh says he plays an odd game once in while - but nothing serious. Currently Suresh is with the Haryana Urban Development Authority in Faridabad, loves taking challenging assignments, speaks Hindi like it was his mother tongue and commentates once in a while on sports on DD where his multi faceted wife Kanti sometimes anchors shows. D. Suresh will achieve great heights in his job no doubt, but I would give anything, even today, to go an watch that straight drive of his. Good luck Suresh in all that you do and wishing you better luck than in the cricket fields. Until we meet again then!

Article in The New Indian Express On December 26, 2010

The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express.

Harimohan Paruvu
I hate to say this. But all this fight corruption, save trees, save rocks campaigning is a big waste of time. It will never work with us. Not that we are lazy, stupid or corrupt; we are just culturally rebellious. We, as a nation, hate it when things are forced on us, as the British, our municipal authorities and the population control department found out in the past. When someone tries to force us to do something, we do the opposite. Now what that means is that unless we understand our psyche and adopt ‘opposite’ strategies, we are stuck with corruption, plastic etc forever.

In fact all those who have understood this ‘opposite psyche’ business have used it to their advantage and are now happy, successful and rich. The first ones to figure this psyche out were the politicians who always say something and do the opposite. Soon, corporate leaders figured it out. Then the land mafia, builders, fixers, government – they all figured it out. They say something and do something else. The only ones who haven’t figured it out is the general public which remains confused despite getting the opposite of what they have been promised all their lives. This could be because the public also opposes the manner in which it is supposed to behave when they get cheated, and are happy. Opposing even what they should oppose.

To understand this better, practice applying opposites to everything. For example, if a leader says he will die for the public, it means the opposite i.e. run for your lives. When some party says it respects women and culture, hide them safely faraway. When corporate houses talk of honesty, sell the shares instantly because there is a huge accounting fraud coming up. When governments promise action against erring officials, all complainants can apply for anticipatory bail, as the officials get promoted to more powerful posts. Get it. Apply the opposite.

Now, we can apply this same ‘opposite technology’ for our own benefit. If we don’t want corruption, then, make corruption compulsory. Our countrymen will instantly find ways to beat the system - and end up being scrupulously honest. Or, instead of fighting terrorism, promote terrorism. Budding terrorists delist when they see government directives telling them to terrorise compulsorily. I mean what good is terrorism if it is being promoted like tourism? Or what good is a scandal if it is mandatory requirement for public figures? How can anything compulsory and legal be opposed?
The issues die.

Similarly, we can get rid of the use of plastic, unsafe sex, queue jumping, spitting, scratching etc. For example, if we have a rule that directs the public to compulsorily spit ten times every five meters, the public will do the opposite. They will not even open their mouths for fear that they might spit accidentally. No more plastic, no more sex, no more nothing. The world gets what it wants (peace), the public gets what it wants (to oppose all rules) and the state gets what it wants (to harass the public) - it can even penalise the public for doing the right thing, which is legally the wrong thing. Everyone is happy.

The upside is that things get done easily. Corruption goes, plastic goes, scratching stops. The downside is that life gets boring. With nothing to oppose there will be no drama. All interesting media programs die, except DD which bores everyone to death. It will soon be more interesting to meet one’s family over dinner than watch prime time news. Unless, of course, we make talking to the family compulsory!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Chance Meeting With A National Award Winning Actress and Danseuse

It is not everyday that you meet a national award winning actress. One who has acted in over 30 films and won several awards and accolades for her performances in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi movies. One who has worked with stars such as Mammooty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi Jayaram and Siddharth. One who is a dancer with over 200 public performances to her credit. And one who is an MBA with a penchant for quantitative analysis. So, when the former Ms. Andhra Pradesh (2001), Padmapriya came home to visit her Marketing Professor Dr. Rajendra Nargundkar from her MBA days at Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies, the other day, it was indeed a pleasure meeting her.
Padmapriya with her Professor, Dr. Rajendra Nargundkar

As a former beauty pageant winner, a model and an accomplished actress there is no need to say again that Padmapriya Janakiraman is very pleasant to look at, but what strikes one is the humility and girl-next-door normalcy she carries. Padmapriya’s father was a brigadier in the army (thanks Wikipedia) and she pretty much toured all over India after being born in Delhi - before the family settled down in Hyderabad. She did her schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Trimulgherry college at Loyola Academy, Alwal and then MBA at KIAMS. Then she worked with GE in Bangalore and Gurgaon, Symphony in Bangalore, before modeling, acting and so on. The page on her in Wikipedia is exhaustive in all these details. 

I looked at the page in surprise. For someone who had made her debut in 2003 with a Telugu film ‘Seenu Vasanthi Lakshmi’, Padmapriya has essayed some difficult roles. A sexually exploited sister of a blind man, a mother of three children and a victim of the Gujarat earthquake (opposite Mammootty), a college girl, a salesgirl, a street beggar, a helpless wife kidnapped by an alcoholic former husband, a street prostitute and a tomboyish wife – to mention some is a huge variety of roles. She starred in some of the biggest grossing Tamil and Malayalam movies (her comedy with Mammootty, ‘Rajamanikyam’ is considered one of the highest grossers in Malayalam cinema) as well, is commercially and critically acclaimed. She has been directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, has made her Hinid film debut in ‘Striker’ opposite Siddharth and has won awards ranging from the National Award for Pazhassi Raja to Filmfare awards, State Film Awards in Tamil and Malayalam films, Asianet awards. In short, this young woman has seen it all.

Fortunately I have seen her work in the movie ‘Andari Bandhuvaiah’ which was directed by my friend Chandra Siddharth and also had another friend RK acting in it. It took me a minute to figure out that she was the same and then it all fell in place. Padmapriya looked good, was fresh, acted spontaneously and highl competently and had a definite presence in the movie (which Shobha and I saw together and discussed her role specially). To me she was the best part of the movie and I wondered what happened to her later. In the Telugu screen, apart from Swati, whom I rate highly for her skills as a versatile actor, I felt Padmapriya was certainly one to watch out for. Unfortunately she has done only two movies in Telugu and she said she was doing another one now. ‘I don’t know if the industry wants female actors who can act,’ she says.  I hope they do. No in fact I know they do, what with a new breed of directors like Mohana Krishna coming up with great stories that treat women actors well. 

At ease and with her feet up, Padmapriya revealed that she has definite plans for her future where she foresees a career in Public Administration sometime (which she emphasizes as something she is good at) apart from furthering her acting forays. ‘Hollywood, who knows,’ she smiles. ‘Acting with Johnny Depp.’ I don’t see why not. I could not resist the opportunity to gift this young achiever copies of my two books. She does not understand cricket one bit and tried her best to get out of accepting a gift of ‘The Men Within’ (I will definitely not read this) but since I gave I along with a copy of ‘If You Love Someone…’ she accepted them both. ‘I read a lot,’ said she as she took the books. Since there were two Professors from USA at home that day, Raja and Satish, she discussed at length the possibility of further studies, a Ph.D. in the US in areas of her interest such as Public Administration. She also discussed ‘Brand leadership’ a topic on which she is due to deliver a lecture at the IMT, Nagpur next month. She spoke of her movies, of the industry. ‘They are bankable projects,’ she says confidently.  ‘Better than the stock market.’ 

What I saw of her as an actress was really impressive as she was in ‘Andari Bandhuviaiah’ and I told her so. What I saw of her as a person was equally impressive – she is intelligent, articulate and sharp. If anything might go against her it is the multitude of options that she has at her command owing to her experiences and interests in various areas and fields. And that is also her biggest strength of course. She retains a very normal side to her despite having achieved much in such a short time. I told her that as a viewer I could connect to her and felt that she had greater things in store in this area. In Tollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood, wherever. To which she smiled brilliantly and said ‘Thank you.’  I forgot to add, she has greater things in store for her anyplace she chooses to. If she does not get in the way of course. Here’s wishing you good luck Padmapriya and hoping to see to you growing higher, achieving more and getting all the fame and its attendant privileges that you deserve. I shall certainly go back now and view your other films, Striker, being the first. Your future films, Shobha and I will certainly watch them all. And I am sure Anjali, Raja and Satish will as well.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Party

As I have been for so many years, I called my old friend Timothy Paul to wish him Merry Christmas. As usual he invited me over to his house for an evening of merriment. It is an occasion I always look forward to each year and definitely make it a point to visit Timothy's house and meet him and his family. And plenty of friends.

I have known Timothy for twenty eight years now. I first saw him at the Osmania University cricket ground where he was playing. He was a batsman with a growing reputation those days and a dasher as well with his Hollywood film star looks. Broad shouldered, slim hipped and light on his feet, Timothy was known as much for his batting prowess as for the sharpness of his tongue, his quick wit and his survival instinct. He was a bit of a lone ranger, someone no one knew how to handle because he was too smart for them. I was just a rookie then, out of my 12th and had already played all levels for Hyderabad except Ranji Trophy.

I don't know how we stuck up a friendship but we did, an unlikely pair. He was two or three years older but had seen much of the world and knew how to survive the games. We were in the squad for the Under 25 the next year and we spent much time chatting about things we liked - cricket, movies, music etc. He started coming to Ameerpet to practice and that was where I went as well so our friendship grew stronger. Along with Kumar, Daljit and the others, Timothy and I played several tournaments local and out station just because we enjoyed each others company more than anything else. Zaheerabad, Nanded, Machilipatnam, Guntur - we played several tournaments and won many. I only went for one reason - Paul.

Off season we watched movies once in a while. Or discussed music. Paul always told me the stuff he figured out on his own about the game. 'Watch batsmen for their feet movement, its important. If they are not moving their feet they are a good candidate to get out.' Once he told me - 'If you are the captain be sure to specify the role of each player, what you expect and how much. Don't ever think they know because they have played the game.' Or even in the matters of the heart - 'Be sure you marry someone who loves you, not someone you are crazy after.' Lots of wisdom of course.

Paul is easily one of the few guys I can laugh aloud with. He has a terrific sense of humour and is always trying to match wits with everyone. We are always at each other and are very fond of one another. From his law studies in Nanded. his job with the Central Excise, his wedding with Seema, the loss of his father, his new house at Chikoti Gardens, his children, I have been with him. Just as he has been with me through my ups and downs, my books, my marriage, my loss and my wins.

Many moons ago, almost twenty years ago, on one Christmas day, while passing by his house in Panjagutta I stopped by to wish him. And it has never stopped since. It is one thing I enjoy most on Christmas day. So this year I picked up Kumar and we went to his house. All the regulars were there - his friends, Uncle, Aditya, Bhaskar and the party was on in great spirit. Paulie suddenly assumes the look of the host on these days which is fun to watch. I spent a good hour of completely uninhibited bonhomie with my friends and came back home, filled with the Christmas cheer. Thanks Paulie for all the good times.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ehtesham Ali Khan - Stoic and Much Admired Skipper

Ehtesham always had this air of responsibility about him. Not for him the stupid mischief of young lads which was the trademark of our school, All Saints High School, notorious for rowdy and mischievous boys. I remember watching the cricket team practice when I was just another schoolboy, and Ehtesham swinging the ball to the leg side boundary effortlessly with his customary elan. That image of Ehtu, as he is known to us, is etched in my mind. But then I did not even know him.
Ehtesham at his home, beside his beloved library

It was in the ninth that I played for the White house of which we were both part of. Ehtu was the captain and I was given a bowl when I took four wickets bowling off an apologetic five steps. I was on top of the world to be playing alongside all these famous cricketers of course. But it was only in the tenth when I was formaly picked to play for the school team did I get to know Ehtu well. He was the captain, stoic and balanced, articulate and combative, dignified and well read, and every bit the character of Gautam in 'The Men Within'. We had a fine team that year, several state players, a couple of imports and me, the late debutant and we won quite a few games.

We hit it off well because Ehtu was always a decent sort and one who bears no prejudices to people. So a rank newcomer like me with no previous experience of playing cricket at that level was treated normally. I was thrilled when he gave me the new ball in the first league match we played against National CC on the All Saints High School ground. I got a couple of wickets and it was not the debut that I could write home about as having arrived. Subsequently I made a 43 against IDPL which pushed me into the all rounder slot, got a wicket off the last over with two runs to win and won a game for us, got five wickets and pulled off a huge win against HPS and by then I had proved my stripes and was well accepted. My being picked into the state Under 15 team and then the South Zone team sealed it. Ehtu was warm in his congratulations and I was happy to receive it from my captain.

We all went out own ways after that year to study our Intermediate. I went to the academically oriented St. Alphonso's and Ehtu went to the even more academically oriented Little Flower Junior College. We met in Inter collegiate games, once in the polo ground where we lost predictably, in our first year. I was in cricketing wilderness that year and I guess we might have bumeped into one another in a league match - MCC versus HBCC, for which Ehtu played for many years. But the next year, I roared back into contenton with match winning bowling performances against Syndicate Bank and I was in all squads starting with Under 19, Under 22 and Under 25. In fact I played all these in reverse order that year. I was also the first in our gang to play Under 25 for the state. Ehtu was the keeper for the Under 22 so we all made a trip to Trichur and lost the finals, and he was the captain for the Under 19 so we went to Vizianagaram and won the trophy. By now we were all back on track on the cricket field.

The next year wee made many more tours. Inter University to Vizag, Under 22 to Bangalore whcih we won, South Zone Under 22 to Gauhati which we won and where Ehtu was captain. I really enjoyed playing under this fair, no nonsense and pleasant young man whom I really liked from my first meeting. We won many tournaments, saw all sorts of politics and still kept out focus. One huge win was that in the Under 22 in Bangalore which we just about managed after a tense semi final against Tamil Nadu. As a skipper Ehtu was always a reassuring sight behind the wickets, much in the Dhoni mould, calm and collected, never losing his cool. He was shrewd as well and made good tactical moves which is why he won many tournaments for Hyderabad. He was more than dependable with the bat as well and scored heavily, his trademark shot being the flick to the leg side which he played very elegantly. Ehtu was highly disciplined, worked hard and was eager to learn. He was intense, efficient and always carried everyone with him.

Once you go on so many tours with someone you do tend to know the person a lot better. We would watch movies together, visit places together, celebrate victories together, laugh together. I always wanted to get Ehtu out, one of the few wickets I had not got and when I trapped him out LBW in the match against Ensconce when I played for Osmania I was extremely happy. I also remember vividly when in a game against HBCC, he completely neutralised me on a wicket that was completely wet. Instead of running through a side like I was expected to, I ended up with no wicket to my name. Much of that credit goes to Ehtu for playing me out very well.

Ehtu made his Ranji debut before me and creditably as well scoring a fifty. He was there behind the wickets when I made my debut in Sirur Kagaznagar and played the seven games that I did for Hyderabad. He went on with the team to win the final while I was dropped after the second. However we still have the honour of being alongside in the squad that won the Ranji that year. Ehtu played for a few more years for Hyderabad and State Bank of Hyderabad, before he moved to Dubai. After that I met him rarely, at the odd occassion. He changed much when I met him next, fifteen years later, laughing like carzy now, as if making up for lost time. And the last time I met him, last year, he was a lot more philosophical. He always was fond of reading and seemed to have read much in many disciplines in the years as he spoke knowledgeably on subjects as diverse as management, religion, philosophy and literature.

It was great to have an interview with Ehtu fixed for the movie based on 'The Men Within' because he is undoubtedly a very strong influence on the Gautam character. Much of what I played was under his captaincy and I was always ready to give my best for him. In fact he made sure everyone did that. Ehtu had a tough schedule that week when he had to do the interview but he obliged for the photo shoot and the interview. I however missed meeting him that last time since I had to go to Bangalore for a couple of days. So it is then, that from the corridors of All Saints High School to the Osmania University grounds and winning the Ranji Trophy and beyond, did we both measure each others characters out as men, as sportsmen. In my book Ehtu ranks very high, a fair and just person, one who has a clean heart and a clear mind, as a highly competitive cricketer and mostly as a person we all admire and love thoroughly.
Wishing you the best in all your endeavours Ehtu. You know you always have someone here who wishes nothing but the best for you, always.

Friday, December 24, 2010

End of an Era - A Barber's Story

I have written a piece in 'The Men Within' in which Dayanand the barber gives Coach Sampath gyan on how important it is to do things well, to focus on each job. It is an important section in the story. Sampath is wondering why the team almost lost their second round game and after watching Dayanand's excellent work ethic, realises that they were looking 'ahead' at the next game and not focussing on the 'present' one. Dayanand keeps his eye, all his senses on the customer in hand, not the one next and he says so.

Dayanand is the name I gave to that barber who also stars in 'The Misfit' in a chapter. This Dayanand is based on a barber I have known for the last thirty years almost, the proprietor of the Blue Moon Hair Saloon opposite TB Hospital. He was quite popular thanks to his skill, his excellent PR skills and mostly his work ethic. I have been to him since I was in school, having watched his wife teach their small son while he worked on us in hot summer afternoons. As the area grew busier, the shops around Blue Moon became more and more noisier and crowded, a welding shop, a denting shop etc. My friends, Ram and others stopped going there. His was a low market shop with a lot of low market clientele but somehow I stuck to him over the years. I grew quite fond of the barber shop with its long glass windows from where I could see the sunset in the twilight over the TB hospital. Sometimes I would go there late in the evening when it was empty - after a cricket match or a hard day at work. It had a relaxing environment.

Over the years his son grew up and became an expert barber himself. However all the older clientele would come and ask only for the older man, which irritated the younger one a bit. The new clientele was given to the young man and the older man took care of his clients. Even if there was a rush, and the younger one started on one of his old clients (like me), Dayanand would come by to give the finishing touches. A snip here, a snip there, a small smile and some talk about the state of the hair, and he concluded the business only after he was fully satisfied.

Dayanand always dressed like an officer with a plain white, blue or grey shirt, trousers and belt and never in all these years have I seen him dress otherwise. Always on time, from morning eight to half past nine at night, even later on many days, the man worked hard to support his family and build his little world - a house, a shop. In later years we began to talk a bit and he asked me about loans to buy the shop, confided his son's marital problems and things like that. Always willing to listen to advise. And to the people from the slum who came to him, he always had advise and a kind ear. Many were the entertaining stories I heard there while I got a haircut - marital issues, marriage expenses, parties, family discord, movies, politics etc.

Now after all these years he sees me and my long unkempt hair which is well past its regular time for a cut, and merely smiles. 'Don't dye the hair,' he told me. 'Why is it going grey at such a young age?' Or sometimes he would ask after Ram and what he was doing. Or about the state of politics. Always dignified.

I walked in today afternoon, and found his son. This was normal because Dayanand sometimes slipped out for a chai or a paan at the nearby cafe. but he returned soon as he saw some clientele because he kept an eye on the shop. The boy shook his head and showed me the seat. I normally would come back later for Dayanand, but today I just sat. After making me comfortable and starting on his job, the boy suddenly told me 'Sir, father passed away three weeks ago.' And that is when I noticed the picture on top of the mirrors, framed and garlanded. 'He had a heart attack, late at night, and passed away almost instantaneously,' said the boy looking completely lost. 'No pain. Just died.' I looked at the picture and there was a lump in my throat. 'What was his name?' I asked. And then I noticed that his name was written below his photo. Pamri Ravinder. I don't know why, but I thought the name Dayanand was apt for him and named him so in my stories. I could imagine him standing behind me, looking down at the cut in his ageing Amitabh Bacchan hairstyle, impeccable in dress, well shaved. True to his work ethic he had worked all day even on his last day, shut shop at nine thirty as normal, giving no hint about his departure that night.

For teaching me what a professional's work ethic can be, how to take pride in one's profession, how being dignified has nothing to do with power and education, how to take care of his family and friends and grow along with them - Pamri Ravinder - the barbers in my books, whom you have inspired, will from now on be called Ravinder. May your soul rest in peace.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Teacher Training Methodology - An Interview With Dr. Satish Nargundkar -

It is amazing that at the college level, almost none of the teachers are trained in teaching methods. Unlike school teachers who have to do a B.Ed., college lecturers the world over, it appears, do not have any course which tells them the basics of teaching. Now that was rather surprising for me when I heard it first. Most lecturers are only qualified in the subject they teach, with some basic degrees or work experience, few do their Ph.D's - and that is about all it takes to start teaching young college undergraduate and post graduate courses. The faculty, and more importantly the quality of their teaching methods, has no standardized methodology which enables them to understand the science of teaching to make their teaching more effective.
Prof. Satish Nargundkar

In this context I interviewed someone who has done significant work in 'Teaching Methods' in the USA for over ten years - Dr. Satish Nargundkar, who is currently working as Assistant Professor of Managerial Sciences at Georgia State University, Atlanta, USA. A Mechanical Engineer from Osmania University who passed out in 1985, Dr. Satish did his Ph.D. in Industrial Management from Clemson University, South Carolina, USA in 1990. After dabbling in various other interests and jobs, he realized that teaching was something he really enjoyed and joined GSU in 1998 where he has been teaching Data Mining, Business Modeling and Teaching Methods at its College of Business ever since. He has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, Axciom and others.

But it is was his expertise in Teaching Methods that interested me - and that is what this interview is about. GSU is one of the few Universities that has a course for PhD. students, a Seminar on University Teaching, which was piloted by Prof. Harvey Brightman, internationally known master teacher. Prof. Harvey developed the course when he identified the need for standardized understanding of effective teaching as long as over 25 years ago. Working with Prof. Harvey, an expert in teaching methods, until Prof. Harvey retired, Dr. Satish updated the basic model and included modern technology after taking over this highly important course of teaching Ph.D. students how to teach. For the last ten years Dr. Satish has taught this course at GSU and conducted several workshops in the USA and abroad, most significantly being invited to Cairo University to train their Ph.Ds and to Azerbaijan University, Azerbaijan, for a workshop in teaching methods. Let us find out what this course is about.

Q. What is the purpose of the 'Teaching Methods' course?
A. In the USA, Ph.D's were traditionally thrown into teaching without any training on teaching methods. Most discovered techniques of effective teaching by trial and error which is time consuming and expensive for everyone. This is unnecessary, especially when there is much experience already available to guide them. This course provides a framework that helps the teacher achieve excellence in teaching by following certain known principles and methods, and helps guide continuous improvement throughout their careers.

Q. Is this course only for Ph.D's or can anyone who is interested in teaching benefit from it?
A. Anyone who wants to teach at any level can benefit form this course. Ideally those who have some teaching experience benefit most as they relate the discussion to their experience. But even those who have no teaching experience can benefit from it. It can help beginning teachers avoid some common mistakes teachers make.

Q. What does the course, Workshop on Teaching Methods include?
A. Firstly it sets the basic parameters in place. Teaching is about three factors - the instructor, the student and the course. It is within these parameters that the process must be improved, bettered. One must be aware of one's own teaching philosophy, the ability of the students and the level and scope of the course.

Then we introduce the framework of the basic elements of teaching. These include 1) Course planning 2) Delivery 3) Evaluation (testing and grading) and 4) Feedback.

The workshop is a highly interactive set of sessions that explores ways to do the above most effectively.

Q. Can we go into these subjects in a little more detail?
A. Course planning is about mapping out the key concepts that the course must convey to the students, and knowing how the course fits in with the overall curriculum. The first step is to outline the broad goals of the course and write clear objectives. Most teachers write course objectives from their point of view - a classical mistake. Objectives must always be from the point of view of what the student can 'do' after the course and should be measurable.Writing clear objectives also requires awareness of the various levels of learning. Unless clear expectations are communicated, students merely memorize material, with little or no deeper understanding. Higher levels of comprehension or critical thinking ability can be achieved if the instructor is first clear about what that means.

Delivery is what one actually does in the classroom. Research shows that the standard mode of delivery, the 'lecture' mode where the teacher talks and the student listens, is the least effective. An interactive lecture gets much better results.  Research also shows that active learning works best for higher levels of learning. Active learning is the engagement of all the senses of the student in the learning process. The techniques include case studies, role play, video analysis, group discussion, debates, games etc. and these can be used in combination. All delivery modes must be in tune with the level of learning specified in the objectives.

The workshop helps teachers practice various strategies to engage students better. It also helps teachers understand different personality types and learning styles, and use techniques that speak to the various learning preferences of students.

Evaluation of student learning is normally through exams which include multiple choice, short answer and essay questions. Other forms of evaluation include oral exams, group projects and written reports. Each of these can be made more effective, both to test students as well as to provide constructive feedback.

Feedback is the final stage, where the students evaluate the instruction on various dimensions to help the teacher improve.  Teachers can seek evaluation from peers as well, and even get experts to give feedback on teaching methods. This completes the loop.

Q. How does the workshop help the teacher?
A.It enables the teacher to focus on what is most important in helping students learn. This is what it is all about really. It helps him understand how the instructor can manage the process effectively and continue to improve over time.

Q. What are the factors that impede good teaching?
A. Normally teachers tend to focus on what they themselves do in the class room. Their entire language and approach is about what 'I will do..'. Ideally it should be from the students' point of view. Once the teacher gets over trying to impress students with his knowledge, he gets better. Having knowledge of the subject or the ability to make impressive presentations are not sufficient to make one a good teacher. People skills are extremely important in dealing with students. Knowing what motivates them and making the course relevant to their lives is critical to making sure that they walk away having learnt something.

Q. What is the duration of this workshop?
A. It begins with 8-12 hours of instruction on course planning and delivering an interactive lecture. This is followed by a session where participants demonstrate what they have learnt through short presentations (15-20 minutes), and get feedback from their peers. Finally, we spend another 8-12 hours on other forms of active learning, testing and grading. In total about 20 hours of instruction and 4 hours of participant presentations. This can be done over 3 or 6 days depending on scheduling constraints.

Q. How has the feedback been for this workshop?
A. Extremely positive. Teachers are usually skeptical to begin with, but are convinced by the end of the workshop that they got something valuable they can use for the rest of their lives.

Q. What factors are important for someone to be a good teacher?
A. Develop competence in your field, show enthusiasm and interest for your subject. Understand how people learn, and practice the art. Aim for continuous improvement.

Q. How do teachers with no practical experience cope?
A. Guest  lectures. You don't have to know everything. You cannot. Call in experts in areas you don't know, They help immensely. Also where students have more experience than the teacher in certain areas, get them to talk. This way even the teacher's understanding improves.

Q.How has teaching helped you?
A. I am an idealist. There is a great deal of intrinsic motivation. It comes from seeing that I have improved somebody else's life in some way. When students tell me that they understood something that they previously found difficult, it is a great feeling!

Q. How has teaching changed you as a person?
a. It keeps me young. I am constantly in touch with new ideas and young people. This itself aids my growth process. Since I am always looking for ways to enhance their learning, I automatically learn.

Q. Your words of advise to young teachers?
A. In the US, professors are more focused on research since there are greater explicit rewards for doing that. For many, the whole attitude towards teaching is that of an 'interruption of their work'. It is not. It is part of your work. Research and teaching should be balanced.

To the Indian teacher, I would suggest greater focus on practical application of the subject. There is generally too much theory and too little practical application. For every concept you teach, ask yourselves what the students would be able to do with this knowledge. Then find a way to actually have them do that in class.

Finally, it helps a lot if teachers are more empathetic to the student, understand their difficulties with the course material and find ways to help them.

Q. Would you be interested in teaching this workshop/seminar in India?
A. Certainly. I would love to! I visit my family in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad almost yearly on vacation and if I get an opportunity I would love to share what I have learnt with teachers in India.

Thank you Dr. Satish for sharing something that any teacher could use and benefit immensely. In fact it is the same set of rules that I use for effective public speaking - good planning, organization of thought, having clear objectives, speaking from the audiences point of view and not trying to impress them, adding value by the end of it which they can apply in their life. In fact I think it holds good to succeed in anything. For any queries regarding teaching methodology one can write to Dr. Satish directly as One can also visit the link to get an overview of the 'teaching methods' course.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anjali, A Day Out at the Zoo

It is something that I wanted to do for a long time. Take Anjali to the zoo. Sometime before she was two, she started to take a great liking to a book with animal images in it, specially the wilder ones like tigers and bears. Seeing her fascination for the animals her aunts, uncles and cousins bought her more books with animal images, stuffed animals, mini animals etc. Anjali loved it all of course and I thought that she might enjoy watching the real ones. I planned the visit a few times but one thing or another came in the way.
A big cat sunning itself
Anjali grabs a bite with Col. Haathi and the jungle patrol in the background

Now that she saw 'Jungle book' the other day, her interest in the animals has again been kindled. It is the year end anyway and her aunt Nalini atta and older cousin Abhishek had already promised her a zoo outing, so we fixed it up for today, after school. We were joined by her uncle from the USA, Satish, Shobha and Chitra and we made our way in two cars soon after lunch to the Nehru Zoological Park. I had some free time so I browsed the net for information.

First thing, Nehru Zoological Park is on the other end of the town which is a good one hour drive from my place. It is closed on Mondays so I was spared that surprise. Entry for car, with 5 persons on board, was Rs. 500 or you could enter for Rs. 20 and take the zoo transport inside. Taking a camera inside costs another Rs. 20. Fair enough. Meanwhile Anjali changed her mind about going out to the zoo, when she saw so many people around her, so much potential for fun and games which seemed to be spoiled because of this zoo. She threw a tantrum but we somehow got her on board. By now we did not care if she wanted to go or not - we wanted to go.
Elephants, the jungle patrol

It was as the website said. We drove in. First impressions, it did not look like it was being well maintained. I would have liked more order, more neatness, better cared for lawns and boards. You don't find any directions inside - luckily I had printed out a plan from the website so I had some idea. Else you just keep asking people. We took the left turn and went past the toy train station and parked the car alongside the road. First stop were some deer which Anjali liked watching. And then we saw some birds, peacocks, peahens, fowls, pheasants and other nice looking birds. We ventured in by foot and saw a white tiger snoozing (Sher Khan, says Anjali), another tiger, jaguars, jackals, leopards. The enclosures looked rather shabbily maintained from what I remembered last. The animals also looked listless.
Giraffe, the best of the lot

We headed out further and saw elephants which she instantly identified as Colonel Haathi from Jungle Book, drove further and saw bison, more varieties of deer, storks and then parked again determined to find out the lions and hippos which were identified by Anjali as must-see categories. A longish walk past an aviary of colorful birds, flamingoes, herons, storks, hornbills and we passed by one sleeping lion which was hidden in the grass. But then we had the good fortune of seeing a couple of lions in the next, and one of them got up and stretched and strutted around to sleep at another place. We wondered why we were given this special treatment by the lion and then saw why. There was this prize idiot who was throwing stones at the lions from outside the enclosure and irritating them. Felt like pushing him into the enclosure. And then the panthers, the hippos. But no rhino. Anjali was now keen on the rhino. We finally asked a keeper and he said the rhino died and there were no rhinos in the zoo. I told Anjali that and she asked me why the rhino died. I said maybe it became old and died. 'The rhino became old and died,' she told her aunts, cousin and whoever cared to listen.
King of the jungle

Then a short distance from there, after a small refreshment break at a canteen where everyone messed up the place with all kinds of garbage, we saw the giraffe. Easily the best thing in the zoo, it was young, sprightly, active and magnificent. We spent much time gazing at this beautiful animal as it pranced around its enclosure, and ate from its high bowl. Another stop for some more coloured birds and the crocodiles lying like they were dead in their enclosure, still and quiet, and we were done. We had to tell Anjali that we would come back and see rabbits, which she had now added to the list of animals she wanted to see, later.

Anjali with her Satish mama
Of course there are the safaris, lion and tiger safaris, which we did not go for, the Mir Alam tank where one can boat around, snakes, eagles and vultures. This was tiring enough. Maybe some other time. The zoo was green with tall trees and that itself was such a relief. It is a nice place to spend a day, or half a day and provides much scope for walking around and resting and entertaining oneself. I do wish it was maintained better, it looks shabby somehow. I also wish they had more sign boards so one knows where to go for what. But all in all, a very satisfactory outing and recommended for anyone in Hyderabad who has half a day and wants to get away someplace green and quiet and different.
(All pics by Satish)

A Smiley State of Mind

The smiley state of mind is that where you have a smile in your eyes. This is as opposed to the suspicious state of mind where eyes look around suspiciously and fearfully at all that is going around. In these eyes, depending on the state of mind, are the number of walls that separate you and the outside world. You can choose any state of mind you want, depending on how much you wish to isolate yourself from the process of life. Or you can choose the smiley state of mind.
Smiley flowers

I realized that keeping a smile in the eyes makes me more aware of the environment I am in. I am more open to receive and interact and participate in the process of life. It is easier to react to situations, to people and things, kindly and gently, with the smiley state of mind. It is also one which relaxes. In other states of mind when my walls are up, I only see and react to what I want. I am in my little world and do not allow anything to come into my world. So little happens, and even that I control.

It also seems to me that in the smiley state, there are more things happening around me, to me. Once I am open, once my walls are down, life seems to draw me into its process inexorably. And there are things happening, doors opening, experiences unfolding. It is easier to smile at strangers, to laugh at our mistakes, to let the other person go ahead in traffic, to ask about the other person's well being even if he banged into your car. I think it is also that state of mind which makes children comfortable.

A smile in the eyes then. So we can look at life gently. With love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Changes in the Hyderabad Weather

This winter has been one of the coldest (at least the last few days) in Hyderabad. The lowest temperature, which was yesterday, was 9.7 degrees C, apparently last recorded in 2005. After many years I sought some warm clothes and felt the chill slide into my clothes early in the morning when I stepped out for a walk. It is cold - the kind of a cold that makes your nose go numb and you cannot feel it anymore. The kind of cold that I experienced in Pune when I first realized how cold it could get.

And similarly the summer recorded some highs that Hyderabad had not witnessed for decades. I remember we shot the movie in temperatures that hovered in the mid forties constantly - 45.5 degrees C, so hot that we could not bear the heat sitting in the shade. It made sense to be out in the heat - if you know what I mean. That heat continued till the time it started raining, on June 11 or so. I remember telling someone that I have not seen a summer like that in my 30 years in Hyderabad.

Once it started raining, it did not stop. It rained copiously, tonnes and tonnes of rainwater. We never watered the plants for those three or four months. I remember Ram asked me how the rains would be and I told him all confidence that Hyderabadi  rains last a couple of days and then we have long stretches of regular weather. Since we had only about 10 days of shoot to do, it looked like a good prediction. Of course, it rained almost every day of the season, save for one or two days. I remember people blogging, leaving status notes wishing for sun. Certainly, we have never seen rains like this ever in the last thirty years in Hyderabad.

So, then, this year, we have seen all extremes. Waiting to see how this winter fares further.

The Mythologist - Vamsee Juluri

I had the good fortune of receiving a signed copy of 'The Mythologist' from its author and fellow Hyderabadi, Vamsee Juluri when I met him at the Hyderabad Literary Festival. We have a common friend in Amar Chegu, and had met earlier during another book launch in Crossword sometime ago. I had meant to attend the launch of Vamsee's debut book 'The Mythologist' in Hyderabad, but one thing or another kept me from it. I wanted to read it and review it, so it was perfect that I bumped into Vamsee at HLF and he gifted me a copy.

'The Mythologist' (Penguin, 269 pages, Rs. 299) is the story of Parashuram, grandson of a famous Telugu actor, one of the pillars of the Telugu film industry in the 70s. Parashuram's  parents abandon him when he is still a child, and he grows up with his grandfather, a Gandhian at heart, in his house that has a steady stream of film personalities, fans, acolytes and family. Parashuram is a dreamer and is always at the butt of the jokes and pranks of his cousins and one feels for him as he undergoes the trauma of being ragged endlessly by his older cousins, including cousin Lava who is already playing a few roles in movies. It appears but natural to Parashu, that he is also destined to be a famous actor, and he is perpetually and prematurely dreaming of fame.

Parashuram's fate looks up when he is asked to double up for the character of Dhruva, played by a famous child artiste Baby Devi, in a shot where he is hardly seen, but a shot which makes him feel that his dream is close at hand. And then the big leap almost, when his grandfather decides to make a film on Lord Krishna with Parashuram playing Lord Krishna and the leading hero of the day SLM. The movie almost takes off, but falls flat as the grandfather is cheated by the producer and let down by his protege, the hero SLM, who now turns villain, and politician. Dreams crash, grandfather is packed off to filmi oblivion. Parashuram, who almost became a child star is sent away to boarding school in Hyderabad. The dreamy boy, who has not yet shed his dreams of stardom, is again the butt of a lot of ragging in the school, which he survives, and comes out in one piece.

Once outside Parashuram is directed by his grandfather to campaign for his cousin sister, who contests and wins against the popular SLM. During this campaign he meets the mysterious and feisty AK, who takes on the role of his 'elder sister' and becomes an major influence on his life from then on. AK is a fast talking, wheeler dealer who, despite her rustic and unsophisticated background, moves in high circles, and roams the corridors of power of Delhi, thanks to her irrepressible personality. AK helps Parashuram in Delhi where he is dreaming of writing a book, now his new ticket to fame, while helping his MP cousin sister.

From Delhi Parashu goes to San Francisco, working for AK's matrimonial website and writing inspiring copy, dreaming of meeting his beautiful bride as promised by AK, and of writing his book, Parashuram's life meanders on and on until the 26/11 terrorist strike on the World Trade Centre when he suspects that he has been betrayed by AK who seemingly implicates him in the terror attacks. And then, close to death, he finds solace in the myth of all the Gods that his grandfather played in his roles, and ends up on the famous Golden Gate bridge with AK talking ominously of missions etc.

'The Mythologist' is a promising debut by Vamsee. It has an interesting backdrop of the workings of Telugu cinema as it was in the golden period of 70s, seen from the eyes of an eight year old. The language is inventive as the blurb says and playful as well and well written. Where Vamsee scores for me is when he gets into the dreamy world half-real, half-dream world of Parashuram which he sustains all through the book, right up to the final confrontation on the San Francisco bridge. Seen from Parashu's eyes everything is hazy and dreamlike, people, their reactions, places, possibilities and it is always so fragile that you feel for the boy, knowing that they are just a pinprick away from crashing down.

Gullible, vulnerable, trusting and a prey to his own dreams Parashu battles on in his life with only his mythological heroes for company. But it is not a sad account; it is an incredulous and hilarious account of Parashu's dazed impressions on things as they happen to him. So much so that the only reality in his life that seems to offer solace to him, is a stray response to his own matrimonial ad that he places on the website. Vamsee retains this dreamlike world brilliantly where people remain foggy, well intentioned and trustworthy for Parashu, despite all that they do to him. So characters like Siyyam garu, Writer uncle, AK, SLM, the MP cousin easily play out to the reader. What amazed me is the audacity with which Vamsee treats his readers with, challenging them to understand the reality that only Parashu sees in his mind, and more impressively in his use of language. I wondered briefly if a non-Telugu audience would get all these references, if I would ever have the guts to write like that. That audacity is something that will stand Vamsee is good stead as he writes on. And I think Vamsee could well create a world of Telugudom in the world of English literature because he flaunts his Teluguness proudly and comfortably unlike many writers in IWE from Andhra (including me). One need not be surprised if he creates a Telugu equivalent to Malgudi in his later forays, creating a world of avakai and gongura and balancing it with his US experiences in a more advanced age.

For all the above factors 'The Mythologist' is a fine debut. Vamsee certainly knows how to tell a story and he can do it funnily, lightly all the while making the reader feel for the protagonist. It is a debut that Vamsee can take much from, and I am looking forward to his next book because there are many more interesting stories from where this one came from, and Vamsee will certainly tell them as he explores this path further, with even more inventiveness, boldness and wit.

But having said that 'The Mythologist' is a difficult book to review for someone like me who has a simplistic take on everything. Stories to me are what they are, moving from A to B, which is not always the case in literature where many more facets come in, layers deepen, and angles expanded. I am not qualified enough to comment on the intricacies of the story that Vamsee has woven and only people who study literature and language can comment on that. My review is from an average readers point of view and the reader be warned that it is not your average fast paced thriller. It dwells in the dreamy spaces of  Parshu's mind with no definite borders and Vamsee lets you explore it yourself. There are some weaknesses in 'The Mythologist' that I felt could have been strengthened. The section on 'The Myth' could have been avoided, shortened or interwoven in the other parts, because it slowed down the narrative completely for the reader in me and I skipped it after an attempt to read through it. The end could have been tighter, clearer - I felt I missed something. The characters come and disappear, and some are deserted entirely. The inventiveness of language, though fun, new  and witty, gets into the flow, especially towards the end when you want to know what is happening to the hero. But having said that, I am nitpicking because there are passages when the story flows superbly, when Vamsee just writes from within Parashu.

Overall 'The Mythologist' a very promising debut for me, and hints at better and varied things to expect from Vamsee. Definitely worth a read.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - December 19, 2010

The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express.

Harimohan Paruvu
We need new leaders. That much is clear. There is a scam everyday.  New skeletons are coming out of cupboards, out of the ceiling, the floor, the woodwork – in fact at this rate it looks as if there are more skeletons than there are people here. I mean one skeleton per person is legitimately allowed, but this kind of greed, where everyone wants more skeletons than the other, is just not acceptable. Naturally, things are falling to pieces. The media, the corporate world, politicians, army generals, CVC, sports authorities, no one has any credibility left. In these dire situations, we thought it would be a good idea to find a superhuman leader to control all these rogue factors and get India back on track.

We ran a check on our super computer which suggested that we could get a leader from outside the system. That was a billion people to choose from. We’d surely find a few. We laid down the criteria. Firstly, someone who is well connected, educated (someone who can spell economics) i.e. someone who has an all round view of the world and not just politics. (Manmohan ji scored heavily here but lost on other counts). Secondly, someone who is young, who understands the game and its loopholes well - from the judiciary to business, politics to international affairs. Thirdly, someone who has enough money already, so we can skip the mandatory grace period for new scams. 98% population did not qualify by the time we got this far, as they were all poor.  

Next, we wanted someone who has the ability to firmly tell the biggest loudmouths in the land what to do and get the job done. This is an important requirement because our current leaders wanted something done and their team did something totally opposite (as we saw in the 2G case). We can’t have leaders wringing their hands silently all the time, we need them to wring the team members’ ears periodically. Of course our new leader must also understand budgets and must be proactive. 99% of our population was disqualified by now.
We searched for a leader who understands technology so he or she would not look foolish on the mobile or the laptop or facebook. Someone who could unite all four corners of the country – Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. We wanted someone who has the backing of the corporate world, who has the media eating out of his or her hands. We need someone who can speak well, look good and most importantly someone who is really good at what he or she is doing. We need someone who can work hard, late nights if necessary, and not fall asleep all day like some previous leaders. Preferably a face that everyone knows, a popular figure in India, and around the world.

As the computer checked and rechecked all its records, the range narrowed down drastically. By the time we were done with the entire lot we had only two people left for the Prime Minister’s job. M.S. Dhoni was one. Rich, popular, admired by all, internationally known, handles people well, handles media well, has most corporate houses behind him, understands growth, is good looking, articulate, firm, pretty much the guy we need. Only his economics could be suspect and we don’t know if he works into late hours. There was one other candidate that the computer threw up, as its obvious choice for Prime Minister, one who appeared to fulfil all conditions and who was completely in control of everyone and everything. Someone who goes by the name of N. Radia!

My Favourite Eating Places

Here are some of my favourite eating places - the ones I keep going back to. The list goes something like this:

1) Amrut Hotel, Karwar: The most amazing seafood ever. You cannot miss it in Karwar, its on the road parallel to the highway that connects Goa and Mangalore. It is worth making a visit to Karwar to just visit Amrut restaurant for its seafood. We found it quite by accident several years ago while diving through Karwar, Sunnie, Shobhs and I, but have been going there regularly when we are in the neighbourhood. No one talks once the food arrives - its that good

2) Xavier's, Kolva beach: It looks like the one permanent structure on the Kolva beach, or is it Benaulim, but this Xavier's makes some decent food. Great breakfast, rice and fish curry joint! It is a nice walk from the Kolva beach where we normally shack up.

3) The Place, Pune: Some of the best sizzlers and steaks I have ever had. It is close to MG Road somewhere near Westend theatre a decent joint well. Only it had this policy of accepting only American Express cards which no one has, so carry cash. Chhaya it was who introduced us to this joint a good two decades ago. Its still around, I see it on tv shows, and doing exceptionally well.

4) Marz O Rin, MG Road, Pune: A must stop for chicken sandwiches (or any sandwiches) and their brand of rose milk. Bang on MG Road, on the left when you enter MG Road from the Aurora Towers side, you just cannot miss it. Stop there for a bite before moving on with shopping and browsing. First went there with Subbu and Koni during our Pune trip in OU days. Then Shobhs and I stop there each time we pass by.

5) Diamond Bar and Restaurant, MG Road, Pune: A little further up from Marz O Rin on the right side Diamond is a regular joint for beer but they serve some great mutton cutlets and fish biryani. A really fine place that grows on you. Shobhs, Raja and Satish and I have been there many times.

6) Good Luck Cafe, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune: Bun maska and omelette for breakfast followed by endless cups of chai. In fact any of those quaint Irani cafes for bun maska omelette, Great value and taste anyday. Kalpak and I have spent a few mornings pondering over the meaning of life.

7) Wood lands, Chennai: For hot hot Southie breakfasts. Idli, vada, puri, dosa etc etc. But my favorite is the combination of pongal and vada at Woodlands. And the sambar vada.

8) Minerva Coffee Shop, Hyderabad: Mirchi bajjis and coffee from 4 to 7 in the evening. Something we got addicted to since our college days. Still meet my good friend Vinod Ekbote over mirchis and coffee for our weekly laughs.

9) Mohini Restaurant, Basherbagh, Hyderabad: The best mutton biryani I have had for years. It tastes very different and the quality of mutton is extremely good. And they have a kulfi to die for as dessert. A regular during my days in IDBI, Hyderabad.

10) Paradise, Hyderabad: It has made a huge comeback with a standardised biryani package which tastes good. Good standard fare and you will not be disappointed.

11) Bade Mian Kababs, Somajiguda, Hyderabad: A limited fare with a few kababs, warqui rotis. The pather ka ghosht kabab is exceptionally good. All other kababs are very good too and worth a try.

12) Purna Tiffins, Krishna Nagar, Hyderabad: A highly popular stand and eat parcel joint in these parts it serves great pesarattu upma and other typically Andhra breakfast items. 

13) Dum, Bangalore: This place run by my friend Hari Rao, has the most amazing biryani and kababs. He insists on the health aspect, the science of cooking without compromising on the taste. All biryanis, mutton specially, and all kababs worth a try. Anytime visit.

14) Koshys, Bangalore: I enjoyed their varied food - sea food, Mangalore and Kerala style items - a lot. A great place of course with a lot of history.

15) Arjun Hotel, Harihar: Some of the best Set Dosas I have ever eaten in my life. And besibele bath as well. Its a typical breakfast joint on the main road. Raja and I have partaken many while getting breakfast packed for the others.

16) Mondegar, Colaba, Mumbai: In Colaba hop into Cafe Mondegar on the corner of the road leading to the Taj. It almost looks like an Irani cafe. A jukebox, great music, lovely ambience, beer and some great food. Their continental is great, try any, and their rice and fish and prawns equally good. A must visit. Tharian and I would meet often there and later on it became a regular Friday beer and dinner joint.

17) Alps, Colaba, Mumbai: Tucked away behind the Taj, Alps is a popular joint for beer and sizzlers. Nice and quiet for a chat, great food and ambience. Made regular forays during my days in Mumbai.

18) Mahesh Lunch Home, Mumbai: The first time I realised that people queue up to eat. Mahesh Lunch Home now has branches all over, even in Pune. Great sea food. If I remember right it was Parth who took us there in Mumbai.

19)Real Bakery, Tarnaka: For egg puffs or any other puffs and coke, you cannot beat Real Bakery at Tarnaka at 3 in the afternoon when they get steaming hot stuff. I never found puffs of this sort anywhere else. We made regular trips out there during our college days, Shobhs and I.

20) Sinhagad Fort, Pune: After an hour's climb, you cannot beat the kanda bajji, zunkha bhakar, chai, taak, set curds. It tastes so beautiful. Introduced by Milind and Parth on our initial treks mainly.

More when I think of them. I am hungry already.