Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year Resolutions

To do more out of comfort zone things, starting today.

To break the pattern as much as I can.

To do things I want to do without thinking too much about it.

To plant a tree a month at least.

To grow the kitchen garden with Anjali's help.

To work on health with more focus, responsibility.

To get back to running 5 kms by the end of the year.

To write more, 6 self help books to start with.

To get the Misfit published.

To write a script, or two.

To give more.

To laugh more.

To write the structure for a funny book.

To read a lot more good books, the classics.

To watch movies, a lot more classics.

To travel and see Kanyakumari, Coorg, Agra, Khajuraho, New Delhi.

To learn to cook.

To learn to swim.

2011 - The Year That Was

Some 'YESSS' moments of 2011.

The movie 'Golconda High School', based on my first novel 'The Men Within' was released. I loved it.

I visited the Himalayas for the first time and was awed by the sight. I also visited Haridwar and Rishikesh, Dehradun, Mussoorie and a few other nearby places.

I met some interesting people - Ruskin Bond the writer, Srini Alluri the cyclist and the social worker who cycled from London to Srinagar for humanity, Patrick San Francisco the healer from Goa who is a doctor who heals through universal energy, Suryprakash Rao who brings a lot of passion into his social work concerning food, books and health.

I wrote 468 blog posts which is an improvement over last year. I started writing out my ideas, thoughts, paradoxes and writing the blog has helped me grow in many ways. It has made me more expressive, made me do certain things that I would not have and also placed on me a pleasurable responsibility of writing for those who care to read my blog.

I read 40 odd books including some tomes I have forever been putting off. Glad to have read Roots, Untouchable, A Fine Balance - all dealing with oppression. I discovered fantastic writers like Rohinton Mistry, Steinbeck, Namita Devidayal, Manohar Malgoankar, Raja Rao, Haley.

I watched over 80 movies, most of them thanks to Sagar who shared his collection with an open heart. In those I was amazed at the movies made of the World War era - Schindler's List, Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds and delved into history once again to see what we have done as a human race. The Irani movies, 15 of which I watched opened up a new world for me where they made movies fearlessly. The classics from Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Kubrick and others were fascinating to watch.

I rediscovered the joy of going to music concerts - this time alone - and enjoyed the 'Metallica' experience. Plan to go to as many concerts as I can.

Amar and I did a first, of doing a workshop in Telugu for workmen, and I was pleasantly surprised at my own capability to converse fluently in Telugu and make my points emphatically.

I got my 'Misfit' out once again and went at it with an intent to get it going this time. Two visits to Bangalore, endless hours on it, and I think I am just about there now, with a manuscript that is 98% done and sent off to Keerti for her comments last evening.

I interviewed some interesting people - Keerti Ramachandra, my editor, Suresh Reddy, friend and businessman, Ruskin Bond the writer, Suryaprakash Rao the doctor and social worker, Srini Alluri, idealistic entrepreneur, social worker and cyclist and Anjali who gave me the perspective of life as seen by a four year old.

I understood the meaning of taking responsibility for my health and I think it has made a difference already.

There were a few talks and workshops, seminars and conferences, panel discussions and so on.

I owe much thanks to Ramaraju and the team at Gap Miners who are my constant source of inspiration. Sagar for his movies. Raja, Shobha, Harsha and Vinod for their books. Keerti, Anita Nair for their support on my literary pursuit. Amar for keeping the corporate workshops flag flying. Vidyuth for keeping my cricketing side alive by letting me loose on his Under 16 and Under 22 wards. The Hindu, MRF, XSEED, Sloka and to all those who invited me to speak and participate in events big and small. My family at Hyderabad and Pune for their support and for keeping me grounded, my brother and sisters for being there unconditionally, nieces and nephews for all the wonderful perspectives they bring.

My wonderful set of friends who make me laugh and cry with their stupidity - Koni for keeping me laughing when I find nothing to laugh about in the world, Ranjan with whom I enjoyed the Himalayan sojourn, Sanjay with whom I visited Mahabaleshwar, Topper who made me laugh uncontrollably in Hubli, Don, Kiran, Mama, Madhav who keeps me on my toes on the blog every once in a while, Naresh who is always in touch, Vinod for our coffee outings, Vandana and Ramesh, Rajesh and Nisha for being wonderful hosts, and all other friends who call and share things with me with a trust that make this life that much more blessed. All those who read the blog and share your views, ASR, Raja, Ranjani, Satish and others. Shobha for keeping the faith on this journey and Anjali for making me wonder and showing me the joy of unconditional love. I think I can use this blog as the acknowledgement in the next book.

More as I remember through the day.

2011 - The Year In Movies

The year had to be dominated by movies beginning as it was with Golconda High School in January, a movie which I saw some 18 times in the theatre with many friends and family and enjoyed it each time. Sagar has been instrumental thereon in feeding me a wonderful list of movies for home viewing and I saw many classics, world cinema and mainly Irani movies. Of the 80 odd movies I viewed this past year, over a third must be Sagar's contribution. Thanks Sagar for the wonderful education.

In February I saw Amelia, 300, 400 Blows, Turtles Can fly, M, Leila, Annie Hall, No One Killed Jessica, Phas gaye Obama, Bounty Hunter and Invictus.

In March I saw Red Beard, King's Speech, High and Low, Pickpocket, The Fighter, Band Baja Barrat, Tees Maar Khan and Ala Modalaindi.

In April I saw Vicky Christina in Barcelona, Udaan and in May I saw Stanley ka dabba, Small time Crooks, Cinema Paradiso, Cinderella Man, The Mirror, Babel, Shor In the City.

In June it was Terror by Night, The Sound of Music, Rashomon, Kung Fu Panda 2, Two English Girls, Baran, Not one less, Silence, Schindler's List, Rangam.

July was Coffee and Cigarettes, Mighty Aphropdite, Delhi Belly, Midnight Cowboy, Fairy Tale, Inglorious Basterds, Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, Social Network.

In August it was Ray, Z, Osama, Kanal, Fireworks Wednesday, Close Up, Hidden Half, Kandahar, Sabah and Blackboards.

September I saw the White Balloon, Hamoun, Cirlce, Marooned in Iraq, Falling in Love, Dog Day Afternoon.

In October I saw Winnie the Pooh, Taste of Cherry, Glengary Glenross, The Cyclist, Deer Hunter, Dookudu, The Great Debaters,and Ashes and Diamonds.

In November I saw Rockstar, Infernal Affairs, The Other Man, Norwegian Wood, Sreeramarajyam and Camera Buff.

In December I saw Blow Up, Puss in Boots, Man of Marble, Aarakshan and Shashank's Redemption.

I loved the Irani movies, Polih movies, Cinema Paradiso, the Chinese movie 'Not one less', Infernal Affairs, Z, M, Ray, Schindler's List, The Great Debaters and so many more. In the theaters I liked Zindagi Milegi, Golconda High School, Rockstar, Stanley ka dabba, Shor in the City, No One Killed Jessica. The ones that disappointed were Tees Maar Khan, Puss in Boots and Terror in the night. I have some more wonderful movies that Sagar gave me to watch and it promises to be a fine start to 2012 in the movie section surely.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - The Year in Books

I managed to read more books this year. The count stands a little over 40 I think. The good thing was that after many years I read many of those fat intimidating books and liked most of them. You can't beat the classics for good writing.

In January I read 'The World of Nagaraj' by R.K. Narayan. In February 'The English Teacher' by RKN, and 'The Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. In March I read a lot of Ruskin Bond, six or seven books of his including 'The Room on the Roof', Landour Days', 'Roads to Mussoorie', Vagrants of the Valley', 'A Handful of Nuts' and 'A Season of Ghosts', 'The Case of the Exploding Mangoes' and 'The Counsel of Strangers'. April, I read 'The Untouchable', ' The Winner Stands Alone'. 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' 'Woody Allen on Woody Allen' and 'Zorba the Greek'. In May I read 'The Choice', 'Kanthapura', 'Going Places - Cricketers from small towns in India' and the 'Concise 33 Strategies of War'. In June it was 'The Music Room', 'The Mafia Queens of Mumbai', A Fine Balance', 'Waiting for the Mahatma', 'Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra' and 'Mojo'. July brought 'Think and Grow Rich', 'The Winning Way'. 'The Immortals of Meluha', 'Chanakya's Chant' and a book by Ruth Rendell. August I read 'False Impression' by Jeffrey Archer. September was a month when I did not complete a single book. October I read 'Such a Long Journey', 'The Popcorn Essayists', 'Lose Your Weight, Don't Lose Your Mind', 'Revolution 2020' 'The Book of 5 Rings' and 'The Grapes of Wrath'. November was for 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway' and 'Roots'.
In December I read 'Sea of Poppies'.

My top 10 for the year are Roots, The Grapes of Wrath, Zorba the Greek, A Fine Balance, The Untouchable, The Music Room, The Case of the Exploding Mangoes, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Kanthapura and Such a Long Journey. The ones that disappointed most were The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho, False Impression by Jeffrey Archer, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh and The World of Nagaraj by RKN.

In non fiction my top 5 would be Outliers, the Concise 33 Strategies of War, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and Going Places - Small Town Cricketers from India. The shelf is full right now and I look forward to reading some more good books in 2012.

The Paradoxes of Life - The Forgiveness Paradox

The paradox of forgiveness is that the one you are finding most difficult to forgive in your life, the one who has hurt you the most, is the one who has actually taken trouble to help you in your growth. When you learn the lessons from the experience and see the perpetrator as the one who is helping your growth, forgiveness enters, resentment dissolves and love and peace can find space.

This concept is explained wonderfully well by Colin Tipping in his book 'Radical Forgiveness'.

Paradoxes of Life - The Success Paradox

Success is seen as something that comes easily to some people. But the paradox of success is that it is clearly borne out of failure. The more number of failures you have had, the more likely are you to succeed. Failure requires you to act, to try and to face success or failure. The more you act the more you are likely to fail, and the more you are likely to succeed. There is no other route to success other than failure.

Successful people are seen as those who have lived perfectly and never failed. Nothing can be further than truth. They fail everyday - see the sports pages, the business pages, the technology pages. But they learn from the failure and come back the next day and sometimes fail again, until they succeed. In fact failure is seen as a necessary step to make the grade in certain teams. Anyone who says he has succeeded without ever failing, is lying.

The more you fail, the more you are likely to succeed.

Paradoxes of Life - The Money Paradox

It does appear that the most money is with the people who have a lot of time to do everything else (go on holidays, wake up late, watch movies, shop, go to beaches in short do things they enjoy doing). They do things they love and seem to enjoy spending it on themselves. For those who believe that making money is working so hard that you drop off, this may seem a paradox, but that is the way it is.

The richest people are doing things they love - playing, painting, building. The only thing is that they are working at doing and creating something they love. All those who are working 'hard' i.e. doing work they hate all the time are putting in the same hours or more at work, doing things they don't love, and not making any money.

Money seems to go where there is joy - of receiving it and spending it. Find the joy and the money follows. Spend it, use it joyfully, play with it, and it comes back to you. Hate what you are doing and you can kiss your money goodbye.

The Paradoxes of Life - The Love Paradox

Life is full of paradoxes and one believes by now that the paradox is the rule. Let me examine some of these paradoxes. Love, in this blog.

Love, in its basic form, urges one to possess at any cost. But love, in its evolved form, is about loving enough, greatly and unconditionally, to let go. Unless you have reached a stage when you love the person enough to let go, to grow and find a greater space, you do not love that person. You only love your perception of love.

This to me is the paradox of love. To get it, you must let it go.

Match Referees in Parliament Required

I saw Virat Kohli (not a parliamentarian) stop for the briefest of moments after his plumb leg before decision, before walking away in India's match against Australia yesterday, and Ian Chappell, noted that his momentary hesitation could invite a call to the match referees room (most likely for a talk on behaving in a manner against the spirit of the game). A bigger transgression results in fines and penalties, the code of which has been written down.

Now to the Parliament. I read this morning about how a Parliamentarian from the RJD, who did not agree with the now defunct Lokpal Bill, tore up the copy of the Bill (which is amongst the most polite forms of protest in the respected house). Parliamentarians have been known to use more forceful behavior, from physical actions to abusive language, and have zeroed down to certain unparliamentary acts to express their assent or dissent. In assemblies around the country we see elected representatives use bad language, beat each other up, throw furniture, tear up clothes as well.

Why are they allowed to get away with all this? Do they not have a code governing their behavior? Are they allowed to do anything since they are in the Parliament? Our children and youth watch this, and probably believe that these people are elected representatives and this behavior is accepted. Nothing can be more unparliamentary than not letting the Parliament function.

Maybe we could think of match referees to govern the behavior of elected representatives as well. A code that has fines and penalties, and suggests correctional courses, effective communication courses, manners and etiquette courses, duties and responsibilities courses as required. Or if there is one already, to put it to use. Mr. Sharad Pawar who knows the ways of the ICC and the team of cricketers, Azahruddin, Kirti Azad, Novjyot Singh Siddhu, and cricket lovers such as Shashi Tharoor, who are all in the Parliament, can be put together to constitute the committee to share their expertise.

Boxing Day Business - Not a Good Idea for Indian Cricket or for India

The more I think of it the more I am convinced that this Boxing Day business is not a good idea for Indian cricket. It sounds as ominous as the Friday finals in Sharjah had been against Pakistan when they were capable of getting 12 runs in a ball if required.

Firstly the name itself sounds ominous - Boxing Day match. Secondly, the Aussies come all charged up with good vibes from Christmas at home and get into the act of sorting things out, even if we take the best team out there (I suspect, some divine play at work). Third reason for not having the Boxing Day punch up is that it starts the year on a low for our Indian team and it takes a while for them to get out of the sad start. It not only reflects in its performance during the year, it has a cascading effect for a billion Indians as well who look more to the Indian cricket team's fortunes than to the economic indicators for signs of growth. This dull start by the team and the people could consequently affect all our plans of taking over the world soon (which could be a conspiracy against us by jealous neighbours).

Time BCCI started flexing its muscles again and putting up a fight for no Boxing Day matches as it involves not just cricket but the future of our country as well. And there is also a case to get some divine intervention in and fix up games on all important Indian festivals - and we have plenty - to examine this theory of the role god plays in cricket.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aarakshan - Movie Review

'Aarakshan' starts with the reservation debate and goes off into many things related to education and society that in the end I got confused a bit. With a fine star cast that includes Amitabh Bachchan as the principled Principal of a reputed college, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Pratiek Babbar and others, and direction by Prakash Jha, I expected more fire and a deeper look at the reservation issue. But to compensate, the film does touch on many other issues which do provoke a thought and I hope someone from the Education department had a look at it seriously, pen and paper in hand.

On the face of it the story is about a reputed college, its idealistic Principal, his daughter, Deepika who has no meaningful role really, an ex-student who is a Dalit, Saif, a current student who is not a Dalit, a coaching centre don, Manoj Bajpai, and an Education Minister. What starts as a small skirmish between the reserved and non-reserved sections, represented by Saif and Pratiek, slowly degenerates into how the coaching mafia, in collusion with the Education Ministry, commercialise the system. The Principal is booted out of the college for his pro-reservation stand, his house taken over due to some complex transaction I did not get, and people everywhere are shouting at him for his pro-reservation stand. With no support from anyone, the Principal starts teaching students for free, something he is good at. Anyway all ends well though there are too many loose ends. The story itself flows and there are no complaints really except that certain things don't seem to fit in. But when you want to say so many things it gets difficult I guess. But to the extent that it has brought the debate out into the theatres, Aarakshan deserves praise.

My problem lies more with the story and the characters. Saif is brilliant as the Dalit junior lecturer. Amitabh perfect for the Principal role and Manoj Bajpai as bankable as ever. Deepika was a waste and it’s not clear why she and Saif and Pratiek are friends - Saif is a lecturer and these two are students. We also don’t know Amitabh’s take on her relationship with Saif, and even Saif’s take for that matter. Amitabh's character also has its flaws, of being inflexible to the point of being unforgiving. His dismissals of Saif and Pratiek, were unconvincing, just as their shunning of him, their respected teacher, was not convincing. Either he is not that great as they built him up because people keep interrupting him and talking back to him at every point. The way he gets duped by his friend's sons is not very convincing either. How everyone turns against him is not convincing either, he is a respected person in the society, and for his remarks on reservation, there is no reason for everyone to turn against him. His own students, the bank manager, his student's old brother, the police inspector, no one seems to treat him with any respect. Save the milkman. Does not speak of a great man to me.

I liked the idea of an Indian Teaching Service. But when he has the opportunity of training teachers to counter the bane of coaching classes, Amitabh decides instead to teach all by himself, for hours and hours until he falls off in fatigue. Is it being egotistic or stupid but he refuses help from his penitent students and struggles on alone. I'd have preferred to see him take the Indian teaching Service route, develop teachers who can contribute, bring in his wide network on students into it and be more participatory, forgiving and resourceful, instead of being a teacher who has no idea of the outside world. How he does not know of his Vice Principal's coaching class scam is another mystery. I'd have liked a better resolution of the debate of reservation as well instead of leaving it to dry after everyone has had their say. 'Aarakshan' stops just short of taking a stand on many things. But it is highly watchable certainly, for some fine performances by Amitabh, Saif and Manoj Bajpai, and for providing a lot more entertainment than most movies do these days. The nitpicking was because I have a high regard for Jha and because he could have done more with the main subject.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Theory of Earning Your 'Likes'

I sometimes get a request to like something or someone of facebook and I oblige most times. You cannot turn an earnest request down, can you? Though there many not be anything too 'likeable' about whatever it was, it will warrant a 'like' on facebook as long as it is not completely detestable and abhorrent.

It is a big thing apparently to be liked by many people, even if you don't know who they are, if they don't know who you are and so on. Please like. So I believe from friends of mine who are in the business of making companies and products bigger than they really are, by getting many people to 'like' things.

I don't think its a good idea to flippantly use like on facebook anymore and I refuse to indulge in any more liking from my side when it is not the case really. Any like or love has to be earned and not sought after, pushed down someone's throat (with a gun to their head sometimes). If people are more careful with their likes, its possible that we could get some good stuff - because then whoever wants to be liked, would really put some effort into it. Movies, products, services, books.

I was talking to a friend of mine who runs a business and their main concern right now is to get more likes from people, than to actually deliver the service. I suppose seeing all these thousands of 'likes' will make people go to the site to see what is so likeable about it, but what is on the site has to have good content for people to come back and use it. More effort should be on improving the content and providing serious value than on collecting pointless likes.

It seems to work in the same way with movies and with other creative forms as well these days. Movies from big production houses, big stars, are made with a lot of hoopla and promotion and there are people going overboard liking them, and it could pretty much mislead the makers into believing that they have made a good movie or written a great book or done something well when it is not the case. There is just not enough thought in making the content, products or services that it warrants a 'like' really.

Its time everyone went back to asking the basic question - why are we doing this. Unless a large number of people really like the product or service after experiencing it (and not by clicking on an icon without knowing what it is) that product has not worked hard enough to earn the respect, the liking of people. So whatever it is, whichever side you are on, be sure that the likes have to be earned. Else its just a fake number - like the people we see in political rallies. Sometime soon the Emperor's New Clothes will be shown for what they really are.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Freedom to Use Mobiles as Jukeboxes

One thing I observed in travels by public transport recently is the increasing dependence on the mobile for entertainment, which as I hear, will go on increasing to a level where the mobile will take over all our bodily functions as well. Right now most people cannot function without the ear phones plugged into their ears and the mobile playing their favorite songs, FM stations and in rare cases indulging in actual conversations. Sometimes people are so involved in their mobiles that they either run over people or get run over by buses or trains, the drivers of which, might be listening to their ear phones as well. (My theory is that the mobiles are the real aliens who have infiltrated our lives and have entered into a conspiracy with some traitors to make the human race separate from one another while promising to make them closer. And we, as always, have fallen for what looks like a good bargain and sold our everything.)

My problem is not so much with the ones whom we have lost already, i.e. the ones who are always with earphones plugged into their ears as a permanent attachment. They are gone. But the ones who have discovered the power of the mobile and the vast number of songs it can accommodate, a feature which they feel the general public should also know of, hear and enjoy. They are driven by purely humanitarian motives and wish development of the society and turn up the volume to max when in buses, trains or public places, holding their mobiles in their hands, and enjoying the music visibly, as they share with family, friends and others.

Unfortunately, these mobiles serve as the neighbourhood pandal whcih plays loud music for no reason at times when you wish a lot of rest and irritate you no end that you think of acts of terror to end it all right then. To make matters worse others also, inspired by the music on the mobiles, feel inclined to show off the features and loudness in their mobiles and they start playing their music too in the restricted space of public areas, like say buses or trains. No one can tell them to shut them off or to plug it, at appropriate places, ears in this case, and they all sit combatively, mobiles in hand, moving their heads to the beat, forcing themselves to have a good time even if it means annihilating the people in the coach who have asked them to shut it off.

Please aliens, take this feature of a loud music player away and provide ear phones that are attached to the mobile phone itself so we can plug their ears with the ear phones (some super glue should do it) and save ourselves the agony. We hope that it is not asking for too much. And for all those who feel that it is their right to play their horrid music loudly at all public places (and look on as if you have composed and sung the songs yourself), please realise that we are not envying you. We are conspiring how to throw you off the bus or the train.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vidya Balan and the Dirty Picture

I saw a news item today about a complaint filed against Vidya Balan for posing for obscene pictures on the promos of the movie 'Dirty Picture'. Vidya Balan plays the lead character of an actress, a character based on the yesteryear South artiste, Silk Smitha, who was a dancer and played several vampish roles in her time. The movie has received positive reviews and Vidya Balan was unanimously applauded for her performance.

Such complaints only highlight the hypocricy of our society, especially the male segment's, a society where we hear of all kinds of atrocities on women day and night and raise not a word against it in condemnation, a society where male audiences lap up all sorts of raunchy stuff on television and the big screen, porn on the internet, a society that created and made and ended the life of Silk Smitha and many more. A walk around the city will show far more objectionable posters and material, in the papers, magazines, theatres, cyber cafes, and if one has the courage to see, a lot more objectionable stuff going on in our neighbourhoods, inside seemingly respectable homes. Hints, insinuations, language, looks, leers, passes, lewd jokes, everything is passable. But then a poster of a movie, certified by the authorities, one that certainly falls within the band going by what we have seen, causes much unrest and furore to the sensitive male Indian and forces a complaint, a case, a hearing and valuable loss of public time and money.

Why would this poster, among so many more, attract the attention and why would it be so objectionable? Why would not a poster of Salman khan without his shirt be objectionable to women? Or men? And all this in a society where men are most comfortable pissing in the public, changing their clothes in public, exposing themselves in public places without a care, scratching themselves, walking around in all sorts of undress and generally behaving like animals.

It is because this poster will grab the headlines, ensure everyone's fifteen minutes of fame and who knows, perhaps some leverage at the end of it all. And in all these exchanges, there have been many more such cases, it is always the women artistes who get the raw end of the deal, as if they did something against what the script has asked, what the society has dictated, what the authorities have laid down. Perhaps it is time we asked ourselves if all this was necessary, and to what end are such complaints aimed at. To me such complaints reek of opportunism, male chauvinism and an attitude that says males can still do and get away with whatever they want. It is time to introspect.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh

I started on 'Sea of Poppies' because I bought Amitav Ghosh's second book of the trilogy, 'The River of Smoke' first, a signed copy at his Hyderabad book launch, and then thought I'd rather go by in order. The size of both books is daunting and as Ghosh says, he likes to write like that, large landscapes, and does a wonderful job as well. He is one of the finest Indian writers and one that I admire greatly for his craftsmanship.

'Sea of Poppies' is set sometime in the days of the British Raj, in the pre Opium war era, in Calcutta and around, and is the story of a slave ship 'Ibis' that has been bought by a British businessman from America to Calcutta to transport coolies from India to Mauritius to work on plantations. The story is the many people who come together on board the Ibis - Zachary, the first mate who is of white-black origin, his crew of lascars headed by Serang Ali, Deeti, the high caste woman from a village in Bihar whose husband, an opium addict working in an opium factory dies and is escapes when forced to commit sati, Kalua, her low caste saviour and second husband, Burnham, the owner of the ship and the foster father of Paulette who is the love interest of Zachary, Jodu the fiesty half brother of Paulette, Neel Halder, the Raja of Rashkali, who is sent to jail and banished for 7 years to Maritius for forgery and Baboo Nob Kissin, the gomusta of the Burnham empire. For many different reasons all these people and more come out of their backstories and step on the Ibis as it heads to Mauritius. There are many secrets, hidden motives, fights and romances as the book ends mid sea.

Amitav Ghosh writes impeccably, his language is beautiful and his research astounding (the ships, the times, the cultures, the opium factories, the tides, all in great detail) . He is a craftsman who knows his work well, an expert, and he goes about chiseling every character, every voice distinctly. I was amazed at the distinct voice that he gave each character, from Mr. Doughty to Serang Ali, Neel to Elokeshi, Deeti to Baboo Nob Kissin, Zachary to Crowle, Paulette to Jodu. Its simply superb as he speaks through these characters, never once stepping out of the character. And there are so many characters! His research as always is solid and highly detailed, and the book could very well be a document that could be studied by academics.

The negatives (and a big one for me) was that the story did not fly for me until the last hundred pages when the action hots up considerably. I plodded through the first 400 pages and felt cheated at the end when the red hot action is cut off half way through, after such a long wait. I also felt that certain characters have had a long presence in the first part of the book, Serang Ali and Doughty, to name two, and they fade away completely in the second. I found the Raja of Rashkali's fate rather hard to believe, that he is so easily chained, imprisoned and packed off to Mauritius and I found Baboo Nob Kissin's character not very believable. Where the Zacharys, Crowles, Serang Alis, Doughtys and Deetis come alive as if they were true life characters, some characters like the above mentioned have chinks and for some, their motives are not clear. My problem with Amitav Ghosh, in 'Hungry Tide' and 'The Sea Of Poppies' specially, has been that the characters don't seem to feel. They are there, perfectly chiseled and everything in its place, except that they are like robots. Something plasticky about them.

The action on the deck in the last few pages is fast and furious, almost like a film, and the novel suddenly turns into a rapid page turner and you want to know what happened next (even if certain parts look contrived and not so credible again, the killings specially) but it moves so well that it does not matter. Coming right after two other tomes that I read recently, 'Roots' and 'The Grapes of Wrath' Ghosh's 'Sea of Poppies' plodded about, did not get me involved with the characters enough for me to worry about their fate and left me feeling disappointed on the whole in that context, even more so, as I have such high expectations from Ghosh. Some missing dimension. Perhaps 'The River of Smoke' will address my concerns.

The Buddha on the Highest Welfare

I met young Hemant Sehgal the other day, an ardent practitioner of vipassana meditation and a seeker who goes far and wide to seek. He was kind enough to give me three lectures by Sayagyi U Ba Khin on 'What Buddhism Is'. From those articles and lectures I found this interesting - Buddha on the highest welfare, among other things. Thanks Hemant.

The Buddha on the Highest Welfare:

"Avoidance of fools,
the company of the wise,
honor where honor is due -
this is the highest welfare.

A suitable place of abode,
the merit of good deeds,
right aspirations for oneself -
this is the highest welfare.

Great learning and skill,
well-mastered discipline,
well-spoken words -
this is the highest welfare.

Serving one's parents,
caring for spouse and children,
a peaceful occupation -
this is the highest welfare.

Generosity, a life of Dhamma,
caring for relatives,
blameless deeds -
this is the highest welfare.

Ceasing and shunning evil,
refraining from intoxicants,
vigilance in the Dhamma -
this is the highest welfare.

respectfulness, humility,
contentment, gratitude,
listening to the Dhamma at the proper time -
this is the highest welfare.

Forbearance, accepting guidance,
beholding saintly people,
discussion of the Dhamma at the proper time -
this is the highest welfare.

Ardent practice, a life of purity,
witnessing the Noble Truths,
experiencing nibbana -
this is the highest welfare.

When faced with the vicissitudes of life,
one's mind is unshaken,
sorrowless, stainless, secure -
this is the highest welfare.

Having acted in this way,
everywhere invincible,
they go everywhere safely,
this is the highest welfare."

(The Dhamma, the truth taught by the Buddha, is uncovered gradually through sustained practice. The Buddha made clear many times that Awakening does not occur like a bolt out of the blue to the untrained and unprepared mind. Rather, it culminates a long journey of many stages.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Writing 'The Misfit' - 'Showing' the Core Point of Each Chapter

For the past few days I have been struggling to get a move on while editing the nth version of 'The Misfit'. Just when it seems that it has fallen into place, I read it one more time and it feels all wrong. I go back to it again and it stretches, kicks and pulls in all directions like a child who is not wearing comfortable clothes. 'Come on,' I say. 'they look good on you.' But its not about looking good pal, its about whether it is comfortable. If I get the flow right the tone is wrong, if I get the Point of View the tenses go awry and if I get it all right I seem to be missing the core point of the chapter. I find myself wondering how much longer it will take me to figure out this business of writing.

One of the things about the 'show' and 'tell' business, I think (still have not applied it enough to comment authoritatively) is that the core points in the chapter that I want to get across must be 'shown' for greater effect. It may be that everything cannot be shown sometimes, and we may have to tell certain things, but the points that you wish to remain etched in the readers mind for future reference, the one that remain with him, must be 'shown'.

I cannot say how much the 'show' business improves details and depths. If I had just 'told' that 'Aditya and Meghna walked around the beautiful path' it may not have the same effect as in Aditya 'showing' and Meghna conversing as they walked. 'Let's take that path shall we?' said Aditya. Meghna looked at the small cycle trail that led into the dark woods, with overgrown grass and wild flowers on either side. 'Looks like a lonely road to take. But is it safe?' Meghna asked. 'Yes,' said Aditya. 'Why else would I take you there? I'd like to show you something you'd really love. Trust me.' Meghna smiled and nodded. The images are completely different.

There are many small details about the two characters that come out, many paths, personality traits, dynamics and possibilities they seem to present that 'showing' brings out. As long as it is true to the main emotion and theme, 'showing' stays and enriches the narrative. I will share more when I try to as I go along this journey.

One important thing about 'show' is that it lets the reader discover the fine nuances through the characters and need not rely on the writer to influence them. After all the reader is intelligent enough to decide whether the path is beautiful, whether X is a good person and whether Y is a gullible one. The beginning of a romance, a murder, love or revenge, it all begins here. So as with any good communicator, it is best that the writer gets out of the way and let the characters take over the business.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Talk at Sloka Waldorf

I was invited by Shankar and Lakshmi Chelluri for an interaction with the tenth class students at Sloka Waldorf school yesterday, as part of their effort to expose the children to various careers. It was an informal meeting and we all sat around in a nursery class with cute nursery size chairs which somehow was an apt place to talk of something like this, the seeding of ideas to think of their lives. Maybe, one should keep doing things like changing the environment so it creates a different perspective in itself - have board room meetings in nursery classes or cricket dressing rooms, have school lectures in board rooms!

At their age there is really no pressure, seemingly, to choose careers already. So I hoped to prod some thought towards what they might want to do, really, honestly. I shared my life as an example so they know the motives why I did what I did. They listened intently and shared willingly their aspirations to become doctors, engineers (which surprisingly topped the list), designers (interior, automobile, fashion), software professionals, culinary experts, environmental scientists, hotel management and so on. They also had singers among them, cooks, artists, formula one races, and several other skills that they shared, somewhat hesitantly, and there's more there if one delved longer I am sure.

We discussed how to choose careers that are aligned with what one can do best and what one loves doing, the equal opportunity that everyone has to pursue and excel in their own chosen areas, the importance of giving their best to their line of education and becoming the expert so it aligns back to the track they originally were meant to be in. We discussed the need to be honest in choosing for oneself their chosen area (not to impress others or get influenced by them), the ease with which one finds excellence when one does something one loves, the need for effort and work that goes towards understanding and creating one's body of work, the need for clarity as to why one has chosen the career one wants, the importance of trying and failing to learn and succeed. And perhaps some more. Due credit to the children for listening intently and sharing and interacting.

Once again I found, as I always do with children that age, a high degree of idealism, of wanting to do something for the society, of wanting to contribute for the betterment of the world and that is something that is very clear. This is a spirit I feel that needs to be nurtured and protected even, from the cynicism that seems to creep in later years. The need for a mentor, a guide is sorely lacking after schools let children go out to the colleges, and this is something of a concern, a gap that needs to be fulfilled.

As they are right now, they are all equipped with all they need to become what they want, with the best of intentions, with all their potential. They merely need to continue to believe in their ideals, be honest with themselves and have the courage to see what they wish to become despite all the noise around them. Good luck all of you kids and wishing you a wonderful journey to achieve all you want in life. Thanks Shankar and Lakshmi for providing the opportunity and Ms. Chitra, their teacher for having such sessions and sparing time for being with us.

Sloka school, belongs to the Education Renaissance Trust, a non-profit organization, and has adopted the Steiner Waldorf method, a proven alternate method of education in vogue for over 90 years. Steiner education is centered around Anthroposophy (knowledge of the human being), is multi dimensional and appeals to the child as a whole- to the hand, the heart, the intellect and foster cultural, moral and spiritual values.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thought for the Day - Space and Exposure, Lessons from Tomato, Brinjal Plants

A few months ago I was given a few saplings of tomato and brinjal plants by the well intentioned and energetic Suryaprakash Rao of HRG, as part of his vision (one of the many activities he undertakes for the betterment of the world) to have more people grow stuff at home. We brought the saplings home and with great pomp Anjali and I planted them, watered them and watched them grow.

A month later I realised the mistake I committed. The brinjal plant close to the wall was definitely much smaller in size than the one that got a longer dose of sunshine. The same with the tomato plant. I also realised that the tomato plants were growing bigger and faster, making space a constraint, and worse the brinjal plants would have less sun and less space now. I felt bad that the brinjal plants had to suffer thus to teach an amateur farmer like me. But there was not much I could do about it except put it down to learning.

It is by watching the plants that I realised how important space and exposure to the right light are important for growth. The same is true for anyone, more so, children and the young, who all start with the same potential when they come into the world. But then some amateur gardener comes along and crowds them all up, keeps them in the shadow from light, and their growth gets stunted.

In another interesting development, a tomato plant close to the wall, stunted when compared to the other two, took its time to catch the sunlight. It was exactly half the size of the other two in the initial days. It continued growing at that pace until there came a time when the sunlight caught the top of this plant over the wall, and then there was no looking back. Now its taller than the other two, has more tomatoes. It hung in there, at its own pace and made its own opportunity to be the star today.

I am convinced that this is all they need, plants and children, space and exposure to the right light. Teachers and parents may need to take care to shine that light on those who are in the shadow and allow them the space to think originally, differently and to make mistakes and learn. All they need is support from them, the teachers and parents, and they will certainly bloom to their potential.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Golconda High School in Rediff's Top 5 Telugu films of 2011

I was pleasantly surprised to find this list, first alerted to it by my good friend Masood from the USA, and then Sagar on facebook. It is really a fine compilation of movies that went against the flow, had good stories and were made honestly and with good intentions.

Brave stuff Radhika Rajamani for putting up such a compilation, and much needed. As for the team of GHS, you can take pride in making it.

While at this I must recount an incident that happened last weekend. I was invited to a function to give away prizes for some sports activities in a colony and met a young father whose eight year old was interested in cricket. After talking about this and that, coaching and schools etc, the father told me about the time when their family had gone to watch GHS. After the movie the father asked the son who had gone very quiet, if he liked the movie. The eight year old said 'This movie has changed my life nanna.' The shocked father said that after that, the youngster, who had till then been playing both cricket and football, shifted all his energies to cricket. I think I can understand what went on in that kid's mind. I wrote 'The Men Within' to fill that gap in Indian stories and GHS would have filled that gap in Telugu movies, all comparisons and technical discussions apart.

Movies like 'Enter the Dragon', 'Rocky' (and later on 'Cool Runnings' for me), were stuff that inspired many of my generation to take up sports. 'Lagaan' and 'Chak De' would have done their bit in their time. I always tell Mohana Krishna Indraganti, the director of GHS, that for young children who have not been exposed to such movies (and who can see them without instantly jumping to compare with other similar movies like adults do) GHS would certainly have a deep impact. It will remain with them as some of the movies of our age did, irrespective of how well they did or not. And these movies can take pride in using the medium well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing 'The Misfit' - Read it Aloud Stupid!

One thing that any one who is writing a work of fiction (or any writing in fact) needs to do before showing the work to someone else is to 'read the script' out loud. You cannot imagine how many glitches get evened out when doing this seemingly simple method of getting the flow and language right.

I used this tool while doing up the last two novels, normally did it in the last parts, but when I gave the manuscript of 'The Misfit' to Keerti this time I must confess I had not done it. So when I am rewriting and editing the manuscript now I can see how bad the construction of sentences is at times, how much it interferes with the flow and how easily it can be corrected by doing using this simple tool of reading aloud. Keerti mentioned it in her list of pointers to writers and I cannot tell you how important his is.

Anyone who wishes to improve on their reading and writing, and I see many students who want to do that, this is a great tool. First read out stuff from good sources, good novels, newspapers, magazines etc so you get a feel of the sentence construction, use of grammar etc. And then read out what you have written aloud, so you know where it is sounding off key. It will improve the writing tremendously. This is an absolute must before it goes off your desk into someone else's hands. And aloud means aloud, not under your breath or in your mind.

As I realised it now - read it aloud stupid!

The Derek Redmond Olympic Race - Motivational Stuff

Manoj Tiwari, the promising young Indian batsman, who has long languished in the reserves seized his chance with both hands by scoring a hundred against the West Indies a couple of days ago, when he got his shot at number 3. For too long Manoj played low down in the order in the short version of the game and battled on gamely for the team's cause, but never made enough runs to prove to himself and his mates what he is capable of. His hundred came at a good time and showed how he persevered through all these years. Reading his interview yesterday where he mentioned he was inspired by Derek Redmond's Olympic story of 1992, I revisited one of those wonderful moments sports brings out in people.

The Redmond story is all over the net. Redmond was a British 400 m runner who won gold medals for 4x400 m relay at the Commonwealth games, European Championships and the World Championships. But the moment he gave to the world, to Tiwari and all of us, was at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when he tore his hamstring while running the 400 m. Down on the track as if he was 'shot', Redmond got up and hobbled through the pain barrier on one leg almost and completed almost a full lap that remained to a standing ovation. It is an act that is remembered by the Celebrate Humanity series of the International Olympic Committee, in VISA's commercial for the Olympic spirit and Nike's courage series.

You can watch it on youtube at this link

Going through the pain barrier is a story every sportsman is aware of. One remembers Anil Kumble, a fighter if there was one, playing a test match and bowling with his jaw strapped up against the West Indies (and getting Brian Lara out!), Viv Richards batting on one leg and scoring a big hundred and carrying his team to victory, Shivlal Yadav batting with a fractured foot and saving a match for India against Australia, Dean Jones fighting cramps and heat exhaustion and batting through vomiting and getting a double hundred at Chennai - there are I am sure many more inspirational stories out there. A torn hamstring goes off with a twang, like the string in a bow breaking, and you feel all loose and cannot stand. I have had this experience while playing an Inter University game for Osmania in 1991. Thankfully Redmond's spirit was around and I hobbled through and completed my quota because we were short of bowlers (also got a wicket), once again in Mumbai during the Times Shield Championships for IDBI versus Bharat Petroleum (this time 3 wickets and a catch, all hobbling on one leg). We lost the first game and won the second. But at that moment, something seizes you, the big stage, the fact that you are perhaps letting the team down and handicapping it by going out and leaving hem to play with ten. Suffice to say that in both games my skippers asked me if I could stand on the ground and bowl from two steps, that is all.

For Redmond to have the hamstring break at that speed must have been something else. In the video he says he thought he had been 'shot'. Derek Redmond's story does not fully end there. After an injury ridden career in athletics, a couple of years after the Barcelona event, Redmond was told by a surgeon that he would not be able to run or play any sport for his country again. Redmond who had given up athletics turned his attention to other sports and represented the Great Britain basketball team, a photo of which he sent to the surgeon (so much for doctors). He also played professional rugby with the intention of representing his country and also raced motorcycles in the Endurance Championship. Apparently he also completes a Rubik's cube on stage during his motivational speeches to show that nothing is impossible. Currently he gives motivational speeches around the world.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Story idea - The Messy Messengers Mess

This is the story of two estranged lovers who cannot meet one another for some reason - let's say since they stay in different places and their parents are opposed to this. Also they are pretty rich!

The girl gets a male messenger to convey her messages to her lover without arousing any suspicion to others. The man also hires a female messenger to help convey his messages to his woman. All is well so far!

The problem starts when the four of them get tangled in a mess thanks to some miscommunication by the messengers. A message meant for someone reaches someone else. Lies are told, cover ups arranged but to no avail. By the time the mess is unravelled, all equations in the tangle are changed!

The idea of course is to develop it along as a comedy of errors. With romance and drama already in, this could be an interesting story to develop. On the other hand, what I started with was a romance where the female messenger falls in love with her subject and the other tw, the spurned woman and her male messenger seek revenge!

Remya and Vineetha - Icons of Professionalism, Tragic Heroes of the Day

Kerala's nursing community has always been known for its dedication, service and commitment to the process of tending to the sick and ailing. Over the years they have fine tuned the art of nursing and brought a high level code of ethics and professionalism to this delicate art that needs compassion, patience, knowledge and immense energy. Their work stands out in every way and they are shining examples of what excellence in a profession is all about.

In a time and age when ethics and professionalism are seen as archaic words, two twenty year old nurses, Remya and Vineetha, showed exemplary commitment to their job by sacrificing their all to rescue their patients caught in the fire at AMRI Hospital, Kolkata. To have saved eight out of nine and to go back into the hell of smoke and fire, knowing fully well that they might not return, is stuff made up of the highest levels of professionalism, stuff that we all can stand up and salute. And i believe that what Remya and Vineetha displayed is not a momentary spark of courage, they showed their preparation for this eventuality in their thought, their attitude to service and to others. A product of their culture, their education and upbringing.

The soldiers do it, the nurses do it. If nothing else, we all need to do our jobs with the same commitment and pride, the same spirit and the same high standards of professionalism. It is not about the money we get paid, it is about what we bring to the job that is important. But still, if after being trained and educated, we do not have a basic understanding of what we are expected to do as professionals, we can hang our heads in shame. Leaders, politicians, doctors, engineers, lawyers, clerks, teachers...we all need to learn from this and take a leaf out of the book f these two girls. Bring their attitude to the world and our world will be a much better,less cynical place. For me, who struggles to come up with examples to cite the level of professionalism that we can go to, the two heroes from Kerala will always remain as shining examples I shall take in all my future workshops.

In a recent discussion, where I expressed concern over falling standards of the spirit of humanity, best exemplified in people ignoring those hurt in accidents or lying by the road, a well-read colleague who runs a school said that their students are taught not to touch the injured and are instead taught to call 108, the ambulance service. So we will have a whole generation of 108 callers, not one who will help or offer water even. In direct opposition of this I met a worker of a factory who attended a workshop recently and he said that when he sees anyone hurt, he begs and borrows money to take them to hospital. He goes to court cases, suffers losses of pay but he says he will always help an injured person.

In terms of humanitarian help our society is clearly divided. At the top the rich who will not get their hands dirty and will call 108 or even try and get out of the situation quietly. A waste of time, unnecessary complications! If they are owners of the hospitals etc they will convert all safety processes into areas of revenue generation such as a pharmacy etc and try to keep patient safety last and their brand flying first. This class is driven by greed and self-protection and nothing else. We can expect no help from them. If anyone has an example here, do share. It would help.

Next comes the middle class who stays at the site only long enough to rescue their own. They are a confused lot and have no time for the others. As long as we are safe we are okay.

And then at the bottom comes the ones who to me are the only ones who still have humanity left in them, the poor, who are the first to risk everything in such times. They think not of time lost, of money lost, of their one pair of clothes wasted by blood, of court cases - they only think of the suffering of another human and their duty to them. They think not of the caste, community, the rich or the poor, they just dive in as the locals of the area adjoining AMRI did to help patients. I read the story of a young man Shankar who rescued several people at the AMRI and who had to be joined in an ICU himself for breathing in noxious gases. I think he survived. Unlike Remya and Vineetha.

It is time for some introspection at a time when increasingly the greedy are finding themselves behind bars for flouting rules. We all need to introspect and think of the values we carry to our daily lives as well, to what we are showing our children as examples. If you expect someone to do that extra bit for you and your family members, you better start doing something yourself. And for reminding us through your heroic act, Remya and Vineetha, you will, along with all those unsung carriers of the torch of humanity and ethics and professionalism, will always remain deeply etched in our hearts and memories.

Man of Marble - Movie Review

'Man of Marble' is a 1976 Polish film directed by Andrzej Wajda (of 'Kanal' and 'Ashes and Diamonds' fame) about a fictional over-achiever brick layer who becomes a hero in the building of a town near Krakow. How the myth of Birkut was made and broken down, as symbolised by the bringing down of his marble statue, is what the movie is about.

The film shows the making of the myth of Birkut through the eyes of a young film maker Agnieszka, who traces the rise and fall of the bricklayer through old footage, archives, interviews which are not easy to obtain. She is tailed by her film crew and is constantly in and out of studios watching old clippings of Birkut (much of the movie is shown through black and white documentaries as she tries to recreate what happened). Birkut is propped as an achiever, filmed and complimented, becomes a hero, statues put up. But as Birkut becomes to voice his opinion the myth behind his creation is slowly brought down by the system, his hands are made ineffective so he does not work again and his marble statue which was a symbol of over achievement brought down and with it public memory of Birkut.

Birkut's over achieving work of laying thousands of bricks in a shift is based on the socialist idea of Stakhanovite movement where workers competed to over achieve in their areas of work in Russia - the inspiration being Aleksei Stakhanov who mined 102 tons of coal in a shift in 1935 and set a record. The Stakhanovite movement was allegedly propaganda to inspire other workers.

I would have never known of the Stakhanovite movement if not for this movie which shows how such myths were created through propaganda. Allegations against the movement are that the star workers were provided better tools and conditions and that the figures were rigged sometimes. At the peak of that movement industries had competitions during the week to have sudden spurts of activity. Creating such myths and bringing them down was done in a calculated manner and most toed the line of the myth that had become larger than themselves. It is a very interesting film made in an even more interesting manner with the documentaries, the slow unravelling of the mystery that Birkut was and his personal life. Fantastic stuff!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thought for the Day - Smiles Indicate Opportunities, Scowls Indicate Closed Minds

To know more of our outlook to life we could look at how we look at the world. Literally. Do we look at it with a smile or with a frown. How do you greet people or strangers - with smiles or frowns?

A smile would indicate an openness to explore the world. An openness that is open to opportunity. An attitude that says I trust the world and I trust myself to handle whatever comes my way.
(Artwork by Anjali)

If we sport a scowl or a frown perpetually it could indicate that we are not open to the world. We are closed to life. We will only take in what we want, at our terms. We are closed to life as it comes and with it all the opportunities and excitement it brings.

A smile is normally accompanied by an openness to look at the world in the eye, to speak or hear. A frown or a scowl would indicate a tendency to look at one's own feet and if we look at others, with a hostility that says clearly - Keep Off!

Watch how you look at the world. For fun, new experiences, growth and opportunities a smiley approach helps. For boredom, resentment, anger, a sense of persecution and lost opportunities, the scowl works perfectly. Check out your approach!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thought for the Day - What Picture Have we Painted for Our World?

The test is simple. How do you view life around you? With joy? Adventure? Happiness? Love? Or is it with Fear? Disillusionment? Disappointment? Anger? Apathy? Ask yourself what your perception of the world around you is and it could give you a fair clue of what you have prepared yourself for all these years. If its fear (for example) or love, then, it is really something you have brought yourself to believe. That the world is truly a place worth fearing or loving as the case maybe. On the other hand, if you believe the world is unfair (or an abundant place), you could be looking at a world that is exactly like that. The key is this - you always find what you are looking for.

If I catch myself looking disinterestedly at the world, I realise that it is something that I have been thinking and believing for some time now. That the world is a dull place, a boring unfair place, one that I have no fun in. I can continue to look for the same thing to repeat itself and I will certainly find it.

Or I can quickly realise what damage I have done to my world view and repair it. How? By looking for what I would like to find. Happiness, joy, love, treasure, abundance etc. If I start changing the way I look at the world, or more simply, if I start looking for different things, I will find them. Once again, we always find what we look for. If you are looking for a needle of trouble in a haystack, you will find it surely and never even see the haystack!

These view points of ours about our world are our own and we can control them. We are given an empty canvas and asked to paint what we want. And that is what we see. A beautiful picture will not emerge if we have been painting with no interest, no passion, no enthusiasm, no joy! As in a painting, the world view we have, is a result of a process too. It comes after an effort. So what we are seeking in our world is a result of our effort to make it that way - good or bad. We have painted it, prepared it, and are now looking at it. No one but us is responsible for the world we have created.

But the good news is that this painting is something we can wipe off. The good God has given us an opportunity to create what we want (he is indeed kind) so we can start erasing what we have painted and then paint a new picture that we want to see. This will take a while. We need a clear visualisation of what we want, the right colours first. Then we have to wipe away what we had created earlier and start on a fresh slate sometimes (or we can merely fine tune parts of what we have), but its all in our hands. As long as we are alive we can keep creating the masterpiece we want, the world we want, so we can see it. The pictures are only in our fearless imagination, the colours are but in our thoughts. See them, feel them, create it all, the picture, the colours, the music. In a while (the time it takes us to completely see the detail you want in your life lovingly), you will see the world view changing to one where there is opportunity all around, love and joy, enthusiasm and laughter and all those nice things in life.

All the tools are with everyone of us. It is now only a matter of whether we really want a better painting. Whether we have the guts to create the painting we want.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wilbur Smith in Hyderabad

When I heard from Vinod (and later Sheila) that Wilbur Smith the famous adventure novelist who has been writing bestselling novels since the time we were in school, was coming to Hyderabad on a book tour to promote his new book 'Those in peril' my first thought was to call Vardha. Of all my friends Vardha was a die hard fan of Wilbur Smith from his early days and despite his many exhortations I never got down to reading his books. But anyone who has written 33 novels in a writing career spread over 47 years and is a bestselling novelist world over, and specially someone who is as big a name as Wilbur Smith cannot be given a miss. Vinod and I planned to go but he dropped off and I did as well, until a last minute call from Vardha made me change course and I landed up at Landmark, Somajiguda.

Koni had predicted a crowd of 5000 - he was that awed by the publicity around the man! I told him that 100-300 would be the size for an author here (the largest I saw was perhaps around 400 for Amitav Ghosh and certainly Chetan Bhagat would ahve drawn more). True enough there were about a 100 die hard readers. I walked in when he was already speaking so I got some parts of his speech where he recounted several incidents in his career as a writer. From the funny ones when he was hauled up for speeding by an English cop (when British police are extremely polite you know you are in big trouble) who also told Mr. Smith that he had arranged a cell next to that of Jeffrey Archer's in jail, to that of a man who posed to be a close friend of Wilbur Smith and even promised to get an autographed copy from him to Wilbur Smith himself, to the Aussie kid who had his leg amputated after a train accident and who found hope after reading about a similar incident in the Courtney series of Smith, to his pen friend from Texas who died and was buried with all the books of Wilbur Smith, to his loss of illusion about movies made from his novels, to the writer who signed his books in an empty bookstore knowing that the bookstore would then not send it back to the publisher, he spoke of several incidents in his career as a writer. He was full of fun, self-deprecating humour and great to listen to.

When the questions were to be asked the usual hands went up. 90% of the people who ask questions in such meet-the-author sessions are of a special breed. You know the questions. The keen bio-observer - 'In that book, I felt that there was an autobiographical element. Do you agree?'. Then the ignoramus - 'I never read any of your books, what do you write, how long do you take to write. I will start reading today.'. Then the culture enhancer - 'Namaste. In India namaste means blah blah. I have never read any books but you seem to be the sort who seemed to want to know what a namaste meant so here I am.' The keen student 'Do you write fiction or non-fiction?' The euphoric clappers who clap at everything the man does or says. Then the inevitable one about writer's block, the one about whether he did all the things he writes about, when he writes and with what he writes, then another about movie deals. The one question that made sense to me was of a young woman who asked what his advise would be for young aspiring writers. Smith cautioned that it is hard work and needs lots of discipline and that it is a lonely work with no motivation at all from anyone. But he said that it was a wonderful way of living a life if one liked writing and had a talent for it.

He signed copies, the readers were asked to queue up. I got a signed copy of 'Those in Peril' thanks to Sheila who said she would get it for me. Vardha got his copy of 'Asegai' a hard bound, signed by the author. Wilbur Smith, son of a cattle rancher from South Africa, who grew up on 25000 acres of the ranch with the farm hands, who always showed a penchant for writing despite trying his hand as a tax consultant after becoming a Chartered Accountant, whose first book was published in 1964 at age 33, who married four times, now to a lady 39 years his junior and settled in London, came across as a man who had his feet firmly on the ground, a sign of someone who wears his greatness lightly on his shoulders. I wish I could have stayed longer and actually met him which would have made it nice but I was already late to pick up Anjali so I rushed away. 33 books in a lifetime is a life lived with a clear purpose. Wow - now that would be a good number to get to - another 31 to go!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Puss in Boots - Movie Review

I had promised Anjali that we'd watch 'Puss in Boots' today. She in turn invited her cousin Shaurya and her aunt Mythily as well and we all went off to Prasad's IMAX for a 6 O clock show. The show we went to was only on the big screen so the tickets were a hefty 250 bucks apiece but if one has to watch a movie like 'Puss in boots' in 3D, its best this way.

'Puss in Boots' is the macho cat who is great with his sword (he gives serious competition to Rajnikanth in style). But this cat is amazing. He is also an outlaw. While looking to steal magic beans (of the Jack and bean stalk fame) from the evil Jack and Jill, he bumps into another stylish kitty, this one a skillful girl, Kitty Soft Paws, who matches Puss move for move. Her only disadvantage is that she has no claws (hence soft paws). Kitty's friend Humpty Alexander Dumpty, the egg, arrives on the scene and there is a backstory of how Puss and Humpty Dumpty grew up in an orphanage and were brother-like until Puss was betrayed by Humpty Dumpty and is now an outlaw for no fault of his. Anyway the three make up, steal the magic beans, grow the beanstalk, go to the castle in the sky, find the goose the lays the golden eggs and slide down to give the bounty to their town San Ricardo. However all's not well as Puss finds out that Humpty Dupty has once again betrayed him in his quest for revenge against Puss. Even Kitty is with him just as Jack and Jill are.

Puss is packed off to jail where he meets Jack of the beanstalk fame who is now a rather old man. Jack however warns Puss of the danger the town faces as the big goose Terror from the castle in the sky is indeed the golden goose's mother and she would come looking for her child. All hell breaks loose as the giant mother goose arrives but not before Puss saves the town with a little help from Humpty Dumpty, a reformed egg now, and Kitty who always loved him. The two cats evade the spears and swords as they run away together. Puss is now a hero in the eyes of his town.

It is cute. Puss is fabulous. Kitty and Humpty Dumpty as well. Visually very appealing. And there are the witty one liners that fly from all characters easily. What it lacks is the depth of a Kung Fu Panda. It is quite happy to stay at that level and entertain on a visual and a rather superfluous level. No complaints with the movie and its money well spent as Puss and Kitty take the audience on a super ride with their antics. I enjoyed it!

Story idea - The Anniversary

On every anniversary of his meeting his love, a young man, seeks out the girl of his affections across the world and proposes to her in many new ways to woo her to him. For the rest of the year he disappears and builds his life and business but for that one day, his birthday, and also the day she spurns his first proposal, he goes to meet his love and proposes to her.

He meets her without fail for twenty five years and one year he does not meet her on the anniversary. That sets the girl thinking. She has always told him that her life was something else when in reality it was not (need to build a back story). Now the girl sets out to find what happened to the man who wooed her for twenty five years without any response from her. In her journey she uncovers the truth behind that person.

I really like the idea of someone coming up like clockwork on every anniversary, proposing in a different and creative manner each time, in a nice way so that it brings a smile to one's face, just to say that someone is still waiting. I also like the prospect of the role reversal. Needs some work though.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Learnings from the Workshop

This is something I learnt from the workshop that concluded today, where Amar and I had an opportunity to deal with slightly senior workmen. Firstly, the paperwork needs to come down - number of handouts to be halved. Secondly, the writing work could be made more fun by designing the same material differently, in a fun manner. Also, combining the handouts to be examined. Thirdly, the concepts to be clearly separated and one clear point made in each exercise - no overlapping. Each concept to be presented in a simple, clear manner. Fourthly, each concept is best understood if it is demonstrated with an example first. Easier to convey the message and also easier for them to work on their exercises.

All points - of giving one's best, of recognising, nurturing and encouraging the champion inside each one of us, constantly pushing to give 100%, knowing that nothing goes waste, knowing that all effort certainly comes in good, putting 100% in one area that none likes to enjoy the fruits of the effort, importance of planning, of action, of belief, of learning to handle discomfort, of knowing strengths, of knowing how to work on weaknesses, of fulfilling the gap - got across well. There was a bit of confusion in a few handouts and that can be sorted out.

The feedback was good and heartwarming. Certainly a difference has been made to the 25 participants, something I genuinely felt as I saw the look n their eyes and heard their feedback. Job well done!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Old Achievers - Some interesting stuff

I was talking to a slightly older bunch of participants at a workshop today and was amazed at the lack of energy they displayed at the thought of reinventing themselves or even of looking at some dreams. The common refrain was that 'we are too old, why do we need to do this?' They were all around 45-50 and they were all too old for even thinking!

Coming home I saw for a brief while the exit of Tony, the trucker, from Masterchef US and he is 52 and seriously thinking of changing his career from trucking to cooking. I googled old achievers and here's some stuff I found on the net which I hope is authentic. Some interesting stuff about old achievers.

- Helen Keller (blind at nineteen months old and deaf soon after)wrote a book "Teacher" at 73, which was published two years later, and died at 88.
- Miguel Cevantes wrote Don Quixote when he was almost 70 years old
- John Milton wrote Paradise Regained when he was 63
- Noah Webster wrote his dictionary at 70
- Benjamin Franklin helped frame the US Constitution at 81
- Alfred Tennyson published the memorable poem Crossing The Bar at 83
- Michelangelo painted some of his Masterpieces in his late 80s
- Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was 73
- Thomas Edison worked in his laboratory at 83
- Arturo Toscanini conducted an orchestra at 87
- Mark Twain wrote "Eve's Diary" and "The $30,000 Bequest" at 71
- Titian painted his great work "The Battle of Lepanto" at 95 and his "Last Supper" at 99
And on another website I found this.

- Oldest person to climb Mt Everest (male) Katsusuke Yanagisawa (Japan, b. 20 March 1936), a former school teacher, who summited from the north side of the world's tallest mountain with team Himex on 22 May 2007, aged 71 years 63 days.

- Oldest Tandem Parachute Jump (Female) Estrid Geertsen (Denmark, b. August 1, 1904) made a tandem parachute jump on September 30, 2004 from an altitude of 4,000 m (13,100 ft) over Roskilde, Demark, at the age of 100 years 60 days.

- Oldest person to complete a marathon (male) Fauja Singh, in Toronto on October 17, 2011. At age 100, he finished in 8.25.18.

- Oldest person to ski to both Poles Norbert H. Kern (Germany, b. 26 July 1940) who skied to the South Pole on 18 January 2007 and the North Pole on 27 April 2007 when he was 66 years 275 days old.

Now to print this and go back to class tomorrow!.. It's never too late to dream and to achieve. Like George Burns said 'you don't get old as long as you are working.'

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thought for the Day - The Relationship Between Our Health and Our Support Systems

Looking at the number of health crises that are going on around me, some imagined and some real (but mostly psychosomatic in my opinion which is probably a bigger problem than the real thing) I cannot help think that it has much to do with us as an individual in relation to society around us. We have gradually, over a period of the last twenty years or so, drifted away from our support systems - our family, our friends, our neighbours and communities - and are drifting by ourselves in the high seas with no anchor.

We have all, in the new world order, in our new economies, in our new avatars, come to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really capable of handling it all by ourselves. That we do not need any kind of a support system. This sudden lack of a support system, this lack of a place to communicate, to feel supported has suddenly gone away and in the place of real people like family and friends, we have insurance companies, helplines, doctors, facebook and google to make us feel like we are taken care of but what actually scares us to death and stresses the hell out of everyone. No wonder everyone is grappling with serious lifestyle disorders at forty.

The truth as I see it is just that. Families have fragmented. There are few families that can claim to have the kind of a bonding and support system as things used to be twenty years ago. Then fathers were authority figures and they could decide on any problem in the household. mothers for the soft advise. Now old parents have no say over anything almost - except babysitting. Friends are now all about facebook friends to whom we only have to show a cool, nice, happening part of ourselves. You cannot show them your fears, your worries, you cannot share things you want to with them over a quiet walk, or a sleepover, or a game. When was the last time we had heart to heart talks with our 'real' friends and talked and laughed and shared.

Parents and relations are wonderful sources of wisdom and knowledge. They can help if given a chance, by just being there. All we need is people to be around us, to call, to meet, to talk. Friends are the greatest stress busters one can have. Instead of bottling up or having a life full of fake friends, one can go and talk to some real friends.

Everyone has an off day, everyone feels low. No one is always happy and cool and happening. So get real and get back to getting your support systems in place. Get the family behind you, your valuable support systems, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles, your cousins - even though you think it may not look cool. Get your friends together, the 'real' ones, behind you.

But it means investing your time and showing that you genuinely care and will back them just as they back you. Articulate it to your friends and family that you need their support and that they can count on your support too. Life will suddenly have amazing possibilities, you have so many people to share with and life does not look so bad at all. When you have your whole support system behind you believe me, it will look really cool than many 'likes' and idiotic 'comments'.

Walk into any slum and see how strong knit they are together. You cannot break them. They know they are in it together and stand by one another. Communities are that way. Start building those little friendships with your neighbours. Send them prasad, invite them for a cup of tea. Have friends over for dinner. Wish people on their birthdays and anniversaries. Send flowers, call, write, be nice. Living in a society means that you do the small things well - you are polite, mannered and follow basic etiquette - like greeting people, asking after them and their families, playing the host. You will need to give to get and in almost all cases what you give is what you get. You behave badly and people ignore you. Why would they waste time on you and put up with you. But you show that you care for people and are there for them, they will normally be there for you.

Get real. Start practicing that smile and get rid of that constant frown. Be nice to people and support them. Ask them for support when you need it. We are all here together and together we can make a huge difference to each one of us. And I am sure most health problems disappear as you laugh more, meet more people and share a lot more. You will certainly feel more supported as you get a chance to express yourself, ask for help and volunteer help. Worth trying. As for me, I am hitting the address book right now. All for one and one for all!

Story Idea - The Team

Man gets a letter from an old team mate (perhaps a cricket team). Letter has some information which makes sense only to him, like a clue, which he has to fill in a jigsaw puzzle that is given alongwith, and a place and a time in the future. Curious the man gets to the appointed place and time and finds a couple more of his friends, rather team mates, from a cricket team that played together thirty years ago. They have similar notes - a time and a place and one incident in their life that fits into the jigsaw. As they wait they are joined by a few more. Comparing the notes, they realise that their old team mate is dead and he is apparently try to give them a clue to his death. Most land up, they have to find and motivate a couple and one or two are not traceable.

As they piece together the mystery that the man has knitted together so delicately that no one would be able to decipher it by themselves they realise that their old team mate dies because of a bigger conspiracy, an opponent so dangerous that he could kill. Now that they know the secret all of them are also in danger and their only hope is to find the killer before he finds them. The only problem is that the killer could be one of them!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blowup - Movie Review

And after a long time I watched 'Blowup', Michelangelo Antonio's first English movie made in 1966. The first thing that strikes you is that the movie is a shorter or rather a short story version of the 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' bit when the photographers Vinod and Sudhir find a murder in the background of one of their photographs; they check out the park and find the body but when they return its not there anymore. All this is there in 'Blowup' and the story pretty much ends there unlike 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' which had a lot more story attached to this idea. Apparently even 'Blowup' was made from a short story.

'Blow up's is made in a very stylish manner and that is what hits you. It starts with a photographer coming out of a place called the doss house, an impoverished place of stay for men it seemed like, where he'd gone to take some pics. He is a fashion photographer, good at his job, but bored and eccentric too. He is sick of women and fashion and takes off to click some pics in the middle of a particularly frustrating photo shoot to visit an antique shop. Strolling behind the shop he clicks a couple frolicking in the lawns. But the women spots him wants the pictures back and he refuses. She tracks him down, goes to all lengths to get the roll back. The photographer gives her the wrong roll, intrigued by her interest and develops the roll. He finds a murder that was set up in the background, even an indication of a body in a highly grainy shot and he goes back to verify that night. He finds the body but when he goes back the next day it's gone. In the meanwhile someone has ransacked his studio and all pictures and negatives are gone except the grainy one. The woman in the pictures, a stunning Vanessa Redgrave, has apparently set up the murder of her older friend but he has nothing to prove it.

'Blowup' goes at a pace that is surprisingly its own, lingering at stops and places that are of importance to the protagonist but not to us - the night club, the shop, the party and so on - but it still holds you in. It leaves you abruptly, leaving you to resolve the ending. Very stylish and sophisticated and demands much from the viewer. No wonder 'Blowup' is highly acclaimed - it is a stunning, bold piece of film making. One to watch.

Dev Anand - A Life of Purpose

If I had to mention one person who epitomises a life lived with purpose, it is Dev Anand. Though I must confess that I am not a huge fan of the actor, I simply loved his attitude to work. In fact I am one of the biggest fans of his when it comes to how one can make meaning around one's own life.

After some wonderful movies early on in his career Dev Anand made several movies which the audiences felt were out of sync. Most of his later movies were bad flops. But that did not deter him and he kept making movies till the end. Now that is the kind of a passion, purpose and commitment that I admire, that I would like to have myself. To continue doing what you can best express yourself through, irrespective of what the world feels, and to do it until you die is what to me a life lived fully is about. And Dev Anand who made his debut in 1946 in Hum Ek Hain and was a superstar with Ziddi in 1947, gave a lot more meaning to Indian cinema, to professionalism, to the spirit of a champion by his life by doing what he wanted for over six decades.

Thank you Dev saab for showing the way and I hope to imbibe this way, this purpose in my life. Now, for a Dev saab festival to celebrate the man!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Two Heart Warming Incidents

I was witness to two heart warming incidents yesterday which gave me some fine pointers on how to go about with my life. The first incident involved a painfully thin, old auto rickshaw walla who looked like he did not have a proper meal for a while, nor even good business. He appeared to have slept off the afternoon heat in his auto and just got off when he saw us, Anjali, Chimu and I, walking towards the park near our house. Hearing Anjali talking nineteen to dozen loudly, he started bobbing his head at her in tune with her talk, a huge smile on his face that appeared to light up the entire street. Anjali stopped talking and smiled back at him. And at that moment I wondered how few of us smile, laugh at the world. The higher we go in life's ladder the lesser we smile, from our heart. We smile fake smiles, laugh fake laughter. That man's smile is clearly etched in my mind and I think I do not need much if I have a smile in my heart like that. I am sure he must be having a lot more hardships than many of us who sport a grumpy face and behave like we have the world on our shoulders. He reminded me to smile at small things and stop taking myself so seriously.

The other incident was that of a small boy, perhaps nine years old. He was walking barefoot on the road, hands in his pocket. He was obviously working somewhere as manual labour from the looks of it and I'd guess he would not have had more than ten rupees in his pocket max. As he was walking he suddenly stopped and turned. I wondered why he stopped. He walked back a few steps and stopped near a crippled beggar who sat on his board with wheels. And to my amazement, the young kid dipped into his pocket and puled out some money and gave it to him without even counting it. He looked a trifle embarrassed, perhaps at the small amount he gave the man, or even at the thought that he considered himself on the giving side. And then he walked away, having given away half or even the full amount of what he owned in the world. I don't know if I can ever be as large hearted as that boy but he will always remind me to share with those who need. If he can give and be confident that he can earn it back, I am sure I can.

Thank you both my friends for teaching me valuable life lessons and may the good God give you all you desire.

Thought for the Day - Responsibility and Its Burden

The burden of responsibility! Ah how it weighs on us. How dramatic it sounds. How much we take on ourselves. How much do we have to do alone? But what is this burden we are taking on ourselves? Why is responsibility a burden? Is it not a way of life? And how much are we supposed to take on as our share of responsibility?

That I think is the key - the one that causes stress, the causes health issues, that wears people down, that makes and breaks people. How much responsibility should I take?

Before that a look at what responsibility is. In its basic form, responsibility is a word. A thought. An attitude. That is all.

But sadly, it also gives the one who takes it on a sense of importance. One 'feels' responsible and that in itself makes one feel burdened by the thought. But is that it? Does the word, the thought, the attitude bear you down because you wish to feel dramatically overloaded by your own thought?

To me there are two aspects to this responsibility business. Firstly, the thought. As a thought it can extend to anything that one can imagine. While some people (leaders for example) appear to take on the responsibility for all of mankind and still appear happy and fine, others feel burdened even by the responsibility for themselves and their family. The thought is itself highly disturbing to them that they are responsible. It is then what we let that thought of responsibility do to us that matters.

The other aspect is the physical aspect to this responsibility. What we 'do' about it. Some could do nothing but feel burdened by the mere thought, others could be just doing and that itself reduces the burden and allows them to take more responsibility. Fearless action is a sure way to handle this.

Responsibility becomes a burden and causes stress only when you think you must always 'do' more than what you can. One can only take responsibility for one's actions and that is as much one can do. Anything more is in the realm of other people's responsibility and that of God's. To do then, to the extent one can, is the right way of responsibility. Not to stop taking action because one feels that it is all too much!

Also I feel that to think there is always more to do is nothing but merely increasing the drama. By giving yourself the bigger gap and moping about it, you only give yourself more importance as having carried more burden. But who cares? It is the one who has the least burden that moves fastest, that feel light and has a smile on his face all the time. He is the one who is in reality 'doing' more for himself and others! So there is a good case to drop the burden right now! Drop all imaginary and futuristic burdens right now. You are free of all responsibilities!

Our responsibility is only for the moment and no more. There is no point in piling up baggage out of the responsibility for all the years down the line and feeling crushed by it, feeling fearful of it. It is but our job to handle each moment responsibly - in this case - to handle each moment with responsible action and not irresponsible thoughts of doom and despair!

To put it simply (I am getting a feeling that I might have complicated things a bit): responsibility is only limited to your action that moment, the word, the gesture and the thought for that moment. All your grand intentions and dramas that cannot be fitted into acts, words, gestures, thoughts can be dropped instantly.

Essentially drop whatever you are doing that you are doing out of a sense of responsibility, a sense of obligation (be irresponsible to the sense of being responsible). Live intuitively and you will see that you are living more responsibly than you lived while being 'responsible'. You would take care of yourself, others as well and go about feeling light in the head, heart and shoulder. Drop it all now and see the difference. I am going to do it. Right now!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Story Idea - True Friend

This is the story of a group of friends. They have a great life together and when one of them dies after an accident, after a time spent in hospital reduced to a vegetable. They meet at his funeral and make a pact. That if anyone is incapacitated, the others would find a way to kill him off and reduce his or her suffering. They sign a paper to this effect.

As luck would have it the one who proposes the pact, suffers an accident and is paralysed head down. The dilemma when they all meet is, do we kill him off or do we let him continue as a vegetable. One of the friends wants to honour the pact because he loves his friend truly and does not want to see him this way. He agonises over their friend's condition and it does appear that he is truly convinced that his friend would be better off dead, as their other friend was.

The wife, a part of the group, does not want the husband killed as she believes that he still has a chance unlike the other guy. The group is undecided. When they talk to the injured person they see nothing but terror in his eyes as he knows what they are all discussing.

It is clear that one of them wants him dead. But is it merely for the love of his friend that he wants to kill him off? Was the accident a real accident or was there more? What does the incapacitated man know that he is facing death? (Possible resolutions - affair between accident victim's wife and the guy who wants him killed. Or, a suspicion that he pulled the plug on the first friend which makes his friend want to avenge him.) Kind of corny but a B grade material nonetheless.

Flash Mob at CST - Sheer Joy to Watch

The above picture is of the flash mob dance at the CST on November 11, 2011. To see the video check on the youtube link given below and you know what joy a free flowing expression gives to everyone. It's amazing.

And then there are more at this link, the best one to me being the one on 'Do re me'.

In a world where expression is muted, is not heard, it is increasingly important that we revive the arts and humanities. We need the dance, the song, the sheer joy of expression that takes our lives to a higher level. This like Shobha said to me while watching the video "is what we need to bring back to our lives". I could not agree more! I could do with such joy everyday, every moment.

I love the joy and spontaneity with which these youngsters gave expression to themselves, to the times, to the world we live in. I saw the interview with the lead dancer and she said it was choreographed and practiced hard. I am amazed at the CST officials and all those involved at giving them permissions and actually making it happen at 5 p.m. at CST which is unbelievable. After the terror attack CST, one of the busiest places in India, needed something like this to cleanse it of those memories. For all those who participated and made it happen well done all and a big thank you for showing us what was missing in our lives.