Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson

Revisited this 222 page children's classic by Robert Louis Stevenson that had been glaring at me from my 'unread' bookshelf for several years. Written in 1886 by the famous Scottish writer who lived only to the age of 44 (1850-1894), and who wrote the classics such as 'Treasure Island' and the 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde', it has real life incidents and people in the story and is set against the backdrop of a political murder, 'the Appin Murder', and is believed to be the influenced by the tale of one James Annesely who was shipped off in similar circumstances to America by his uncle, and who came back after 13 years to reclaim his inheritance.

The story is the tale of of David Balfour (Stevenson's real name was Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson) of the House of Shaws and Alan Breck, the reckless fugitive from law. It begins with David leaving his home after the death of his parents, who lived a modest life, and going in search of an uncle based on a letter his father has given him. David is an only child and he had never known of his uncle's presence and is delighted that he has a family, and a name. The uncle, Ebezener, is however not too fond of his new found relative and attempts to kill him. David survives the attempt, and the uncle makes peace, only to promptly arrange his kidnapping in connivance with the captain of a ship, to send him off to America as slave labour. Enter Alan Breck, whose boat is broken on collision with the  ship and a big fight on the ship with the greedy captain and the crew. Breck, supported by David, keeps them at bay, kills some, before the ship capsizes. The two find that they have totally opposite political philosophies, Alan supporting the House of Stuarts of Scotland and David sympahising with the Whig party of King George of England. But they become fast friends and soul mates. On land the two separate, meet again, in a moment when David witnesses before his very eyes the murder of Colin Roy alias 'Red Fox'. David is a suspect as he is on the scene and he flees only to find Alan on the scene of the crime as well, and David naturally suspects Alan has a hand in the murder as it had been Alan's desire to kill the tyrannical Red Fox. On the run the two go from house to  house, fleeing soldiers and meeting all sorts of people. After several twists and turns the duo return to the uncle Ebenezer ad reclaim David's property to him and his share of his inheritance which the uncle parts reluctantly with.

Written in a style of English that is different from modern day usage of the language 'Kidnapped' has so many twists and turns as David goes about following his heart and conscience. Stevenson also introduces so many new and interesting characters and disposes off some of them ruthlessly, as he does the sea hand Ransome, who is murdered on board by the ship's mate. David moves from scene to scene and there is no warning as to when any great calamity would befall him - the murder of Colin Ray itself coming up innocuously as he walks by seeking directions. The political situation in the background, the real characters, his own interest in legal history, all combine to make it all the more interesting to read as one can place and feel a slice of history in the mid 1750s when the actual story was to have taken place. The land is divided as that of the Campbells, Stewarts and such other names and the dialogue is delightful with the straight talking, easy-to-take-offence men. As always I feel that truth is stranger than fiction as the background story to 'Kidnapped' is as interesting or far more adventurous than the one David Balfour and the enterprising Alen Breck undertake.

Interestingly Stevenson it appears comes from a family of reputed 'lighthouse engineers' who built several lighthouses of the day. He joined an engineering course at the University of Edinburgh and dropped out, wrote stories almost all his life, was a sickly, eccentric child, became a bohemian, rejected Christianity and even founded a club that rejected everything that parents taught. He also travelled to America in search of his love, a married woman with children, almost died because of ill health, lived on forty five cents a day to make do, met her and married her finally despite their failing health, and produced a child as well. The marriage brought the estranged father and son together. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Song of the Day - Panna ki tammanna mera Heera mujhe mil jaye

This is a fantastic slow number, all romantic, in every way. One of those songs I knew nothing about since I had not seen the movie nor did I know anything about it. I merely heard it many times over the radio in the 70s and 80s during my school and college days and loved the sound of it (the kind of a song you'd sing to your girlfriend on a quiet sundown). But you got to see the video of this 1973 movie 'Heera Panna' starring Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman. The way Dev Anand runs after the cap and his stylistic improvisations all through, the way he sees the paper, presents her the dress he wants her to wear for his photo shoot etc is really amusing. He looks so different, so naive almost that women must have really felt secure with him around. The song - fabulous. Another of those R.D. Burman compositions - how many did he do finally?

But now to learn the song's lyrics that go something like

Panna ki tamanaa hai ke Heera mujhe mil jaye,
Chahe meri jaan jaye, chahe mera dil jaaye

Heera to pehle hi kisi aur ka ho chuka (2)
Kisi ki
Mad bhari
Aankhon mein kho chuka
Yaadon ki
Bas dhul, ban chuka dil ka phool

Seene pe mein rakh doon jo haath phir khil jaaye
Chaahe meri jaan jaye, chahe mera dil jaaye

Dil to dete hai, lete hai log kai baar (2)
Hua kya,
Kisi se
Kiya tha tum ne pyaar
Yaadon ko chod de, vaadon ko tod de

Apni jagah se kaise parbat hil jaye
Chahe meri jaan jaye, chahe mera dil jaaye

Bhula na, mere dil ko kabhi, kisi ka khayal
Ho sake,
Toh use,
Mere dil se tu nikaal

Naa karoon main yeh kaam
To nahin mera naam

Baaton se yeh zakhm-e-jigar kaise sil jaye
Chahe meri jaan jaye, chahe mera dil jaye

Seems like high class poetry compared to some of the lyrics we hear these days.

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Ignore what we have, Crave for what we don't

We ignore that which we have with us, and crave for what we don't have. And once we acquire that which we don't have, we ignore that too, and crave for another thing we don't have. Our lives it would appear are about acquiring a series of things that we don't have. Is it any wonder that what we have disintegrates, dissipates or just disappears in time.

Maybe if we gave some attention to what we have, we could find that which we are seeking in what we don't have. Maybe we could find happiness, contentment and even a fair amount of excitement if we opened our eyes to what we have. (It would give us a better idea too, of what we need to set our eyes on next, instead of mindlessly acquiring stuff we don't really want.) Like I heard someone say - don't give up what you have, merely give up what you don't have! Good mantra for happiness I'd think.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kahaani - Movie Review

Watched 'Kahaani' and enjoyed it. Finally off the list of the to-do things. Kolkata looks the same it did when I was there in 1991 and I completely loved the way the camera takes in Kolkata and those wonderful bunch of characters who are so perfect (save the obviously Bengali babus in Tamil and South Indian names and the obviously Maharashtrian agent who is cast as a UP or Bihari). But the rest are incredibly good, the cops at the cop house, the tea wallahs, the taxi wallahs, the lodges. Wonderful.

It is obviously a story that cannot be told (because it must be seen) but it grips you completely and any holes that I perceived (I did!) in the narrative must be held back till later. Enough to say that one can pack everything up, sit back and enjoy a tautly made, thriller with the most unexpected of characters and endings - and all this with no loud dhan-de-dans ringing in your ears. And to enjoy Kolkata and its people and its culture too - the Agnes's, the Satyaki's, the Chatterjee's, the Bob Biswas's, even the little kid with the running water Bishnu (who incidentally has a smile that resembles that of Dhoni). Vidya Balan in the role of a pregnant Bidya Venkatesan Bagchi (she quickly throws off the South Indian stuff) is super in the way she walks, talks and carries herself, showing the right amount of fear and apprehension and showing her spunk at every occasion it demands. Difficult role surely and perfectly delivered - can't think of anyone who could have done a better job (Meryl Streep?). My fav character in the plot remains Bob Biswas the LIC agent and my sympathies lay heavily with his boss. Must watch on the big screen for the way it is shot and the way it brings Kolkata to life - the metro, Howrah bridge, Durga puja, the trams (the car behind was priced at 35 paise in 1991 I think, 10 paise more than the car in front, owing to a bigger fan), guest houses, the little gullies, the Maidan, Camac street, Park street. On the small screen it will be a caricature. So go for it now!

Well done Sujoy Ghosh. Interesting to see the story is developed by Advaita Kala, the best selling author of the chick lit novel 'Amost Single'. I think she also co-scripted 'Anjaani Anjaana' if I am not mistaken. And if this was meant to be a tribute to Kolkata, it is a wonderful effort.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Struggle and Betrayal, The Telangana Story - An Autobiography of Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy

Coming from the former Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, one who was born and brought up in Telangana, one who was a leading political figure of high stature during the inclusion of the Nizam's dominion into India (Telangana belonged to the Nizams dominion then) and later on during the formation of Andhra Pradesh, one who has led his life with high levels of commitment, fairness and justice as seen from his deeds and words, this is probably one of the best views on the way Telangana's political affairs unfolded since the end of the Nizam's rule. Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy (Dec 12, 1890-July 24, 1970) wrote and published his work in Telugu in 1967 and it was in 2010, (coincidentally at the height of the movement for a separate state for Telangana), that his son Shri Konda Ramchandra Reddy published translated it into English. Published by Vinyana Sarovara Prachurnalu, this 243 page book priced at Rs. 300, it is available with the Correspondent & Secretary A.V.College, Hyderabad.

The first part of the book devoted to the early days and struggle for education of Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy is as fascinating as the latter when his social and political career unfolds. Born in Peddamangalaram, Chevella district, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, and coming from a humble background of agriculturists, the efforts made by the diligent, focused and intelligent K.V. Ranga Reddy to educate himself after the initial encouragement by his foresighted father are highly inspirational. Living in a lodge near Nampally, hiring a cook, suffering the indignity of being asked to join first standard because he and his cousin knew only Telugu numerals (and not English numerals as was the norm in Hyderabad) it is a tale that must inspire many for his sheer resilience and steadfastness. I loved his disbelief when he realises that one can pass even with 30 or 40 marks out of 100 when he was all the time striving for 100 out of 100. In fact he got 100 out of 100 in all five subjects setting some kind of a record in the fifth standard and earned commendations and compliments from the teachers and authorities. Middle school, legal education and legal practice all followed, once again a result of single minded endeavour to be the best, to learn all the time. The importance of his tutors, Maulvi sahebs, as he refers to them affectionately, and the great dedication that the Maulvi sahebs showed towards teaching one and all without bias, cannot be understated. People's mindsets were innocent and true mostly those days it would appear. In the legal exams Shri K.V. Ranga Reddy was among the couple of hundreds who passed in the thousand odd students that took the exam. Soon after that he started showing his mettle, his intelligence and his independence in forming his opinions - three months after joining a senior advocate he quit and started practicing by himself.

Early on, he was clear that the shastras had not done any justice to women and Harijans. His practice of taking up cases for the underprivileged who had no recourse to justice even if there was little income kept him very busy but with little money. (During this period he also published volumes of judgements passed by the Hyderabad High Court and Judicial Committee from 1886 to 1917.) The moment he got elected to the legislative council (by about 3000 lawyers and advocates all over the state) he introduced 24 bills pertaining to rights of succession for women, to declare children of persons marrying into other castes as legitimate, to prevent child marriages, to declare widow marriage as legitimate, to remove untouchability, to abolish jagirs, to create a Public Service Commission for recruitment of government staff etc. Certainly a reformist in every way. The advent of Shri Madapati Hanumantha Rao and others and their call for increased participation in public service seized Shri. Ranga Reddy's imagination and he committed a lot more time in public service. They formed am Andhra Janasangham and started a library movement as no political activity was allowed by the Nizam what with the increasing popularity of the Indian National Congress and its ideas of a free India. It was later renamed as Andhra Mahasabha.

The commitment of the people of those days towards social welfare was evident in the activities that Shri. Reddy was part of - the Reddy Hostel, schools for boys, Rafe-e-aam Boys High School. Andhra Saraswati Balika Patasala, Girls Multi Purpose High School, Reddy girls hostel, Andhra Vidyalaya, Venkatrao Memorial Trust, Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy Women's College, Narayanaguda Multi Purpose Girls High School, Indira Mahila Sevasadan, Sri Krishnadevaraya Andhra Bhasha Nilayam, Sarvodaya Movement, Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, Golkonda Patrika and so on. He served as the President of Andhra Mahasabha twice. Evidently he was busy handling several important social positions and making a difference to the underprivileged wherever he was.

As President of the Jagir Ryots Union he worked to bring to light some of the atrocities of jagirdars of the Nizam on the people. It is interesting to know that the Nizam's jagirdars levied taxes of which there were more than two hundred - for reasons such as a birth in the house of the jagirdar, a death, a marriage, purchase of horse, car, a tour, for Navratri etc. In 1918 the All India Congress Committee forced the Mahasabhas existing in Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra regions of the Nizam dominion to form the Hyderabad State Congress. Two factions emerged out of it - the Maharahstrian backed Ramananda Teertha group and the Karnataka-Telangana backed Ranga Reddy- Boorugula Ramakrishna Rao group. In 1947 political activity increased alongwith the freedom movement - Teertha was President of the Central Committee and Shri Ranga Reddy of Telangana - and they all courted arrest after offering satyagraha. At this time the Razakar movement was at its maximum as they attacked and killed Hindu families and so was that of the Marxists - the former committed atrocities by day and the latter by night. Hyderabad was a lawless land those days. After two months in jail the leaders were released for negotiations which failed. It was during this time that many people left Telangana and moved to Andhra including Shri Ranga Reddy's family which moved to Tenali. On September 14, 1948 the Police Action was initiated and Gen J.N.Chaudary and General Rajendra Singh led battalions that reached Hyderabad, Quasim Razvi, the leader of the Razakars, and Laik Ali, Prime Minister of the Nizam, were arrested. The Nizam surrendered on September 17, 1948.

Vinoba Bhave's bhoodan movement, seeking donation of land from large land owners had roots in Telangana with Vedire Ramachandra Reddy a landlord of Pochampalli village offering his land first. Harijans also attended this meeting. Shri Ranga Reddy was the Chairman of the Trust formed to redistribute the land offered by Ramchandra Reddy.

On the political front disturbances began as both Ranga Reddy and Boorugula Ramkrishna Rao were suspended from primary membership of the Congress by Swamy Ramananda Teertha due to a misunderstanding. Despite their many pleas their case was not heard and in the wake of their request for a fair hearing, seven hundred other members were stripped of their membership. Left with no alternative they formed a parallel Congress (which was later resolved). When the government to Hyderabad state was being proposed Shri Reddy proposed that since Telanganaites formed a majority and the region was backward, compared to Maharashtra and Karnataka areas under Nizam, the Chief Minister, the Mayor and the President of State Congress be given to Telangana persons. Shri B. Ramakrshna Rao became the Chief Minister, and Shri Madapati Hanumantha Rao became the Mayor. After many shenanigans Shri. Ramakrishna Rao became the Chief Minister in 1951. Shri Reddy and Shri Rao had some differences.

In 1955 the committee for reorganising states was formed with Fazl Ali, Kunzru and Phanikkar. Both Reddy and Rao had been propagating that Telangana and Andhra were culturally different and should not be merged. Swamy Teertha propogated the merger idea. But for some unknown reason Shri. B. Ramakrishna Rao, after a visit to Delhi, changed his stand and started propogating the Visalandhra idea as well. The Centre too had decided in favour of a single state. Left with no option, Shri Reddy proposed a regional committee with safeguards for Telangana. These included issues regarding expenditure, education, elected members among other issues. Andhra Pradesh was formed on April 1, 1956 with Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as the Chief Minister. Shri Reddy was part of his cabinet.

The original Telangana movement began with Assistant Engineers of Telangana failing to get justice from the AP State Government regarding seniority and promotions (a case that the Assistant Engineers later lost in the High Court). At the same time a student agitation started in Khammam and caught on. Shri Reddy realised that the gentleman's agreement signed during the stipulation of safeguards for Telangana was being flouted and the safeguards suggested were not being implemented. (In fact he was to be made Deputy Chief Minister as per the agreement but was not.) Distressed, he made a representation to the government regarding the safeguards. On May 1, 1969, a rally from Charminar to Raj Bhavan turned violent and five protestors, including students were shot dead by the police.  Mr. Reddy's dismay at the Andhra politicians who have duped the Telangana people was complete and it comes through.

Chief among the injustices committed by the Andhra politicians against the Telangana people that are listed in the book are those concerning use of funds for Telangana development (the entire revenue from Telaangana was not spent on the region as promised), Housing Board (80% houses and quarters built out of the Board were given to Andhra employees and proceeds from sale given to Hyderabad and not to Telangana districts), RTC (running on funds of Telangana should first have given preference to Telangana but new buses were bought and given to Andhra and old buses to Telangana, 1800 of 2300 new buses went to Andhra when income of RTC was more from Telangana), Electricity (ratio of villages in Andhra and Telangana at the time of formation of AP was 3:2, but electrification of villages was 52:1, and out of 1664 villages only 1102 were electrified), Medical facilities (medical colleges were established in Kurnool and Tirupati, even while 60 beds were available for every one lakh in Andhra, 18 beds were available in Telangana, 80% of expeenditure under medical was spent in Hyderabad and not districts of Telangana, villagers had to travel 200 kms as against Andhra where they had to travel 60 kms), SCs (promised to spend 4:3 ratio, 28 lakh in Andhra and 20 lakh in Telangana, but had not), Personnel (appointments in Andhra were need based but not in Telangana), Education (out of five professional colleges only one was in Telangana, later on only six as against 12), Polytechnics (ten in Andhra and two in Telangana), Arts and Science Colleges (more teacher training institutions in Andhra led to more trained teachers from that region who got jobs in Telangana), Fee in schools (increased 4-5 times), Municipalities (grant of 75% and loan of 25% was scrapped and full loan system was adopted which was an Andhra system and which Telangana municipalities could not take as they did not have capacity to impose tax and repay loans), Irrigation facilities (ratio of 2:1 for fund allocation for irrigation cannot apply as Telangana is 41% of land, only 1% here is under wet cultivation while 58 % is under wet ciltivation in Andhra), Employees (promotions, vacancies were given to Andhra employees with fake mulki certificates) and so on and so forth. All this is what was written at the time of publication of the first version in 1967.

The book is probably the best in terms of a ringside view of all that happened, the origin of the issue, coming as it does from one of the leading lights of that time. The tone of the book is honest and earnest and one can sense the clarity, integrity and commitment of the author, even in the translated version, and many compliments must go to his son Shri Konda Ramchandra Reddy for keeping the voice honest. I was riveted to the book until I finished it, reading it as I had read no other book in recent times, wanting to know more about the region I was born in and grew up in, wanting to know what really happened from the perspective of the people. The Telangana area had been under the rule of the Qutb Shahis and the Nizam's for more than 4 centuries, a people subjugated by oppressive rulers and jagirdars. (There were reformists and good rulers too but on the whole the population had little rights.) Much of the lack of development of the area came from the days of the Nizam, for centuries, as the area close to Hyderabad suffered from lack of development as its entire revenue was for the Nizam's expenses (Sarf-e-Khas). One third of the dominion was for the jagirdars and the other third had some revenue and development model. The land was ruled by the 10% Muslims, with 90% Hindus under the rule. The culture was unique in that there were three distinct regions - Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana - ruled over by the Mughal, the Nizam dynasty, mingled with that of the English, the Persian and maybe Turkish. The official language was Urdu and all education was done in that language. There were ideological, language and culture issues within the Nizam's state itself (which were ruled over quite well by the Nizam it appears) - the rich and the poor, the land owners and Marxists, Muslims and Hindus  - and so on. In these circumstances, one cannot but help feel for the ordinary people of the land who have always been at the receiving end from the rulers of the land. Perhaps it is also the reason why there are leadership issues in the region - one finds few leaders - which is not surprising since the land has been under some powerful rulers. In the democratic set up, however, the non-adherence to the safeguards and the gentleman's agreement was something where one feels the Telangana leaders and people missed a trick because those two documents and agreements would have ensured parity and justice.

Shri Ranga Reddy is the grandfather of my good friend Sanjay Reddy, whom I know from my days at the Osmania University College of Engineering, and the translator of the book is Sanjay's father Shri Ramchandra Reddy. It is a riveting book for anyone who has any stake in this land and gives an insight into what went on in the initial days and the causes for discontentment coming from someone who was in the thick of things. I was pleasantly surprised to find the names of the grandfathers of two more of my friends from Osmania Engineering College - G.S.Melkote and Suravaram Pratap Reddy, related to Sagarika Melkote and Anil Kumar, both our juniors from the college. There is much for the reader, not the least, Shri Reddy's inspirational life which many students from undeveloped regions can take heart from and work as hard to get to a better station in life. A must read for all those who would like to know about the struggle for Telangana which rages on with the unfortunate suicides of students and civilians even as I review this fine book.

Song of the Day - Ruk Jana O Jana

This popular song from 'Warrant' shot on Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman is one of those peppy travel numbers that will pick up your spirits anytime. More so if you watch the video. An irrepressible Dev Anand with one of those big moustaches (similar to the one that he wears in Gambler) follows Zeenat Aman who is going around in a red car (an Impala type of a car) on all modes of transport - by foot, by road roller, by bullock cart and once he even rolls down a hill slope in a bitumen drum to block her car. And finally, much to my amazement, at the end of the song, he delivers a chop between her shoulder blades which would have in all likelihood knocked the comely Ms. Aman out. Wonder what happened next. Was she the spy? Was he the spy? What, what what?

Lively, romantic number that cheers the heart anyday. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thought for the Day - What's Your Relationship with Life

What is your relationship with your life? Think back, take a moment. Is life your friend? Is life constantly setting you up for failure? Is life disappointing you? Or as Amitabh famously sang in Muquaddar ka Sikandar, is life the bewafa, the betrayer, who leaves you finally to death's (the mehbooba, or lover's) embrace?
Love this picture I shot on the move somewhere in the Himalayas

Is life is our friend? The one who holds our hand all the time we are here on this earth. The one that sustains us, the one that goes ahead and picks the right lessons and situations for our overall growth, reducing our shocks when we cannot handle them - then we have a good thing going. In fact, looked at like a loyal and caring friend,  life can take on half the responsibility we are carrying - a friend who is always there for us, ahead, with and behind. Half the load is gone.

As they say, it is easier to trust the process of life than to suspect it all the time which is what perhaps, most of us tend to do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Manhattan - Movie Review

Been long pending on my list of must-watch movies from good ol Sagar's collection, 'Manhattan' is quintessential Woody Allen. It is probably one that is close to Allen's heart as well as he lives there and spends almost all his time in New York (he rarely moves out apparently). Allen plays Issac, a twice divorced 42 year old comic writer (a job he takes on often in his roles again) who impulsively quits his job to write a book about New York. If that is not enough he has a 17 year old girlfriend with whom he has great sex, and his ex-wife Jill, the second one (Meryl Streep), who has left him for a lesbian relationship,  is writing a confessional book on her marriage and divorce, much to his distress. In a scene that is typical of Allen's movies, he is first spotted at a cosy restaurant dining with his best friend Yale and his wife Emily, and his 17 year old girl Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) having an animated discussion. Conversation is typical of an Allen movie, rich, honest and funny in his self-deprecating and neurotic manner. Yale confesses post dinner to Allen (in on of those long walking shots of Allen) that he is actually seeing another woman Mary (Diane Keaton) and Isaac is shocked that Yale is cheating on Emily, a couple who he thinks are perfect and in love for the past 12 years.

When Yale introduces his girl friend Mary to Isaac and Tracy, Isaac takes an instant dislike to Mary's views and opinions which are exactly opposite to his. However he meets her later at a fund raising event and they go out for a walk and realise that they have a good conversation going. Issac however has no romantic inclinations with Mary. His relationship with the young school girl Tracy bothers him a bit and he encourages her to go on with her life as he is too old for her. Tracy however wants a long term commitment from him. Mariel Hemingway as Tracy is great, understated, as a clear thinking 17 year old who has much more clarity and maturity than her 42 year old lover.

Meanwhile Mary breaks off her relationship with Yale, because he is a married man who is dithering between his wife and his lover. Yale goes back to Emily and encourages Issac to see Mary. The two get into a relationship pretty soon and are almost inseparable. Tracy meanwhile gets a scholarship to study in England and asks Isaac to go to London with her. Isaac refuses and tells her he is seeing someone else, someone older. Tracy is heartbroken.

Meanwhile Jill, Isaac's ex-wife has released her book with several embarrassing references to her marriage with Isaac. The book is a hit and she also sells movie rights. Just when everything seems to be going right Mary confesses she still loves Yale and they get together. Isaac confronts Yale, Emily and runs to Tracy finally. Tracy is leaving for London and asks him to wait another six months asking him to have some faith.

'Manhattan' has all of what I see as Allen trademark shots and stuff - restaurants, conversations in restaurants, visits to museums, art discussions, cinema halls, watching exotic foreign movies, references to Groucho Marx, Ingmar Bergman and Paris, self deprecating humour (good fun), several bedroom scenes (with no sex but loads of conversation), fragile relationships and a steady witty dialogue that by now one would have guessed belongs to the intellectual as well as the pseudo intellectual. But it all comes together brilliantly and captures the mood, the people, perfectly and makes one want to be part of something like that despite the uncertainty, the unpredictability and pain that always follows Allen's characters despite their light hearted and seemingly shallow existences (as opposed to the heavy and serious characters one gets to see). One feels for the characters, identifies with the city that is the central character, and its a fine watch. Go for it.

Thought for the Day - Everything comes out of a packet or container

I was wondering how kids these days, the urban ones, would ever understand where anything came from. Everything comes out of a packet or container. All you need to do is go to the supermarket and pick it up. How will they ever associate milk with cows or buffaloes, rice and wheat with crops, fruits with trees, flowers with plants, toys and chocolates with factories, chicken, fish and mutton with their sources.

It's sitting there neatly packaged, advertised and you merely pick it up and that is over for now - their sources do not matter at all, being far away from here. Sometimes I wonder if like the cigarette packets these items should also print the food cycle on their packages so we can send a moment's appreciation and prayer to the makers and the manufacturers.

And would there come a day when you can buy containers of love, of affection, of friends and relatives, of families? Just pick it up (your favorite brand) and take it home for current use? Not a bad idea to keep such containers in supermarkets - empty even (like the emperor's new clothes) - to see how many would pick them up. I suspect they might have a good demand.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anjali - But You Must Love Everyone

When I tease Anjali these days with 'I love you so much and I love only you in this world' she gets pretty distressed at my obvious lack of understanding at how it all works. She comes by and tells me patiently that I must not love her alone.

'You must love everyone Nannna. Otherwise people won't love you.' And to drive home her point she says further. 'See, I love you but I love everybody else also na. I love Mamma, Mythily atta, Manasi, Chimu, Baba (and a long list) ...also. Like that you must also love everyone.'

I act like I got it and after a while again tell her that I love only her. Hands on her hips she is back. 'Arre, how many times should I tell you Nanna. You must love everyone.' You can tell by her concern that she really thinks I might lose out on this wisdom and remain unloved.

And so it is true. From the lips of a young lady to the wisest of the wise - we must love everyone to feel the love that binds us. To find peace and to find ourselves. Another of those fine lessons from Anjali to me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kashmakash - Movie Review

Based on Rabindranath Tagore's 'Naukadubi' this is Rituparno Ghosh's film that was dubbed into Subhash Ghai. Ramesh Chaudhry (Jisshu Sengupta), a romantic booklover and lawyer, is in love with Hemnalini (Raima Sen), an educated well-to-do young lady in Kolkata. Hemnalini's father, a renowned lawyer and his family accept Ramesh as their future son-in-law. On Hemnalini's birthday Ramesh is called away by his father to his village urgently and told that he has to marry an orphan. The father had already promised her mother. Ramesh flatly refuses saying he has also promised that he would marry another girl (Hemnalini) but succumbs to some fine emotional blackmail by the widowed mother and the father.

Post marriage the bride Suseela and the reluctant groom set off in a boat that capsizes - 'naukadubi'. When he comes to, he finds the bride, lying some distance away from him. He takes her home and sets up house but since his heart is with Hemnalini, does not consummate the marriage. One day the naive, rustic, pious and obviously likeable girl asks him why he calls her Suseela when her name is Kamla. Ramesh realises that he got the wrong bride home. He puts her in a school (why?) and instantly tells Hemnalini he wants to marry her - but does not tell her what happened and why (will tell you at the right time). His subterfuge comes to light (how? because the girl knows him only as Dr. Nalinaksh who she thinks she married and not as Ramesh but the girl apparently tells someone tat she is Ramesh's wife). Anyway stuck by this bad news of Ramesh's betrayal. the lawyer father and distraught daughter go to Kasi to recuperate and bump into the good doctor - Nalinaksh. Daughter is drawn to the ageing Nalinaksh and vice versa.

Meanwhile the unfortunate bride (but she really is not - she survives everything - the storm the capsize and even an attempt at suicide) jumps into the river after coming to know that Ramesh had given an advert trying to locate Dr. Nalinaksh. Though given up for dead by Ramesh and others who perform her last rites, she is rescued in Kasi by some sadhus and reinstated as maid in the good doctor's house. Surprisingly no one recognises her, the girl whom the is supposed to have married, including his mother. Anyway the maid recognises the guy as her husband but does not say a word. Ramesh comes to Kasi to perform her final rites and meets Hemnalini. The doctor realises that his wife is his maid thanks to the advertisement that she carries with her all the time and everyone marries whom they were supposed to finally. Alls well and that ends well.

Lots of twists and turns and plenty of drama. And in the end, I liked the all's well that ends well ending. If there is one flaw that comes across to me, it is the lack of deeper emotions or communication  between people who appear to otherwise love one another. But as a story it has a fantastic hook, the exchange of brides unknowingly in the boat capsize soon after the marriage.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Powerplay at Hyderabad

As summer approaches the denizens of Hyderabad have to be as strategic as the Indian cricketers in handling power plays. We are faced with power plays at any and many times during the day. Unlike cricketers we have to be prepared not just for the scheduled power cut which is fine with us but the unscheduled power cut as well. For example my days these days have a power cut at 8 a.m. sharp (making shaving etc difficult in the dark so forgive my large tranches of unshaven patches), sometimes it returns at 930 p.m. and sometimes it does not. At times when it comes at 930 a.m. it is not with the assurance that it will stay with you for a long time because it could very capriciously take off  on some vacation and return only at 12 p.m. And so on and so forth it plays hide and seek - when we are ready it is not and we are not ready it is. A very difficult thing this power play business.
Model of proposed power house one can build in houses and small communities (provided there is water)

One industrialist acquaintance of mine was lamenting the other day - why do we run an industry at all? They apparently do not have power for days together ha ha. At least two of my friends were discussing the cost of inverters. Those inverters seem to cost as much as setting up a new power project so I gave up on those! It is time to produce our own power I guess or learn to do without it. Surprisingly, when I went to pay the power bill the other day, the young lady at eseva politely told me that there would be a new user charge of Rs. 10 from this month onwards. A user charge for what? I notice that these innocuous charges are adding up at the bottom of the bill these days.

Anyway more on that later but for the present I am planning my days well thanks to the power plays just like batsmen do. Shave early, take important print outs early, pick your clothes the night before, buy candles, check for breakfast stains before heading out (since we eat in the dark), plan my non-power activities like phones, exercise, reading newspapers and some other stuff that does not ned power during non-power play times. Thanks fellows, whoever is responsible now for the power plays, for bringing this much needed discipline in my life. Without you, life would just not have been so exciting.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Talk on Goal Setting at TRR Engineering College, MBA Department

I was invited as a guest speaker at a talk organised by the Hindu-Business Line Club yesterday at the TRR Engineering College Management School on 'Goal Setting'. There was a group of about 120 students.

The talk focused mainly on the importance of having a goal. (Why are you here I asked?) Firstly because it gives a purpose to our existence. It gives a goal, a reason for us to do what we do. It gives the answer to why you are doing what you are doing. And as a corollary, it will make you do that better, and with more focus. Just having a dream and a goal will make a better person out of everyone.

I asked the students to write down their goals and their dreams for themselves and they did, rather reluctantly because it is a headachy process. Some shared. The IPS officer, the IAS Officer, the businessman, the banker, the advocate, the politician, the educationist - and everyone was idealistic in their wanting to help society - the underprivileged, the children, the orphans, the illiterate. Wonderful stuff. I was deeply impressed a their idealism and hope they would not lose it.

On setting the goals, I laid stress on clarity, the detail, the time lines. The words, the visual - they should all be in such detail that you are already being part of the goal as if it has been achieved. All those who shared earlier, were asked to reword their goals with more detail. We did a small visualization exercise where they saw themselves as having already achieved their goal. (Some insisted on keeping their eyes open).

The next thing was to own the goal completely. There would be 100% responsibility to achieve the goal, there would be no one to blame. You will make this dream come true by yourself. There is no reason why it will not come true. Ownership is critical.

While choosing goals I mentioned that there are goals that are non-negotiable to you and those that are negotiable. It is best to chase the non-negotiable ones because they already mean much to you.

Goals are not big or small, they are merely meant to make you seek excellence, make you understand the process of making them come true. Pursue what you like with all your heart, get better at it each day and you have what you want and loads of contentment. It is important to have goals that mean something to you. Don't chase goals because someone else is. Also that everyone of them has the same chance of achieving all that they desired.

In the case of multiple goals, observe the list of goals carefully and zero down to that one enabling goal that will make other goals come true. If you have a particular skill and wish to develop that, you will in the process of becoming a master, achieve fame, name, money, homes, travel etc. Choose that enabling goal.

Also integrate your goals so there is a logical sequence to it, to make them come true. Your end goal of wanting to be a successful entrepreneur would have a series of goals regarding your education, your exposure, the effort you put at understanding business, your spirit of enterprise and how you develop it and so on. Integrate your goals so they are not pulling you in opposite directions.

Once you have clarity and you own the goal completely nothing can stop you. If you want it badly you will get it. If you don't desire it badly you may not get it. So choose honestly, think of why you want it. Honesty about your deep desire is important - what it means to you and why you are doing it.

Setting short term goals helps in understanding the process and magic of goal setting and achieving. But they should always have a longer term goal towards which you are gravitating. The longer term goal gives you greater purpose and meaning, the shorter term goals make you understand the mechanics and keep you focused on your path, the big goal.

The process of achieving goals falls into place once clarity and ownership fall in place. Then comes the planning in detail, the implementation, the monitoring and actual achievement.

Overall it is all about growth. Goals need to be the sort that stretch you to new limits. Make incremental goals so the goal does not distress you, just enough to challenge you. You must always keep setting new goals else you stop growing and may, just start shrinking. Keep setting goals that grow you, the make you a better person, and keep setting them all the time so you keep growing.

That was the gist of my goal setting talk. The HoD Ms. Vijetha was a very enthusiastic and purposeful lady who goes the extra mile to provide all the support and exposure that the students want. I must thank them for the opportunity they provided me as also the Hindu-Businessline team of Vasant and Ismail for making it happen. The students for listening me out very patiently. The staff was attentive and supportive as I could see, and I wish them and their worthy students well, and pray that their goals and dreams come true.

One young man asked me - Sir, what is the difference between goals and dreams? I could see none I said, but if you really had to diffrentiate, some dreams may be in the realm of dreams, taking long years to fulfil with lots of hardwork. Goals are those that come down to our practical life, that we can achieve on our path by stretching ourselves.

The Paradoxes of Life - Less and More

We are happier with less but we spend all out time and effort wanting more. Less furniture, less stress, less to worry about is all welcome. We're happy with the simple meal, the simple clothes, the breeze under the tree, the grass under our feet...but all our lives we spend running ourselves to death trying to accumulate things (the heavy meals, the branded clothes, the air conditioned comforts, the upmarket houses) so we can retire into a life of those simple comforts we dream of.

What we yearn for in our hearts, we do exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Citizen Kane - Movie Review

Touted by most as the greatest Hollywood film of all, this 1941 film is the multi-faceted Orson Welles masterpiece on the life and times of a newspaper baron who has everything and loses everything - Charles Foster Kane. The way Orson Welles made this movie itself is a great movie story - he made it at 24, directed and acted in it, got complete creative freedom from his producers with his cast and crew and many other technical aspects of film making and made it roar. The movie itself is told in a unique manner. Of course it is 1941 and it is black and white.

The movie starts with an old man dying alone in a seemingly ostentatious palace called Xanadu. From his hand slips a bottle of crystal and his last words are 'Rosebud'. His death is followed by a long documentary that lists the life of Kane, the newspaper moghul who made an enormous fortune, contested for Governor, and lived life by his terms. However despite his enormous wealth that is reflected in his Xanadu, a palace like building he builds for his second wife, he dies alone and unhappy. The crew making the documentary decides that it does not do any justice and is not spicy enough and decide to investigate what  or who Rosebud was. The reporter meets many people close to Kane - his family, friends, business associates and finds out that Kane was a much larger and bigger personality than they portrayed him as. Taken away from his family when he was young, Kane grows up as an intelligent, ambitious and witty man who listens to none but himself. His first marriage falls apart when he falls in love with a singer. His dalliance with the singer costs him the election. Subsequently even she leaves him, lonely, and rich, craving for love.

The movie takes on different emotions and by the end of the movie you start sympathising majorly with the brash and boisterous Kane. The cast is mostly first timers apparently and it shows in their jerky movements or slightly exaggerated movements, but it is a strong story and it holds your attention. Welles as Kane is brilliant, acting the ageing Kane to perfection. Amazing maturity for a 24 year old. In some quirky way it is a story you will never forget, though you may not want to watch it again and again because of its intensity. I suspect that this is why it is rated so highly (the non-technical version of mine) - the style of telling the story, the hook of 'Rosebud', the gradual unraveling of the man that was Kane and the build up to the final emotions when you are left on a high emotion . I don't know what it is, but I never thought of the movie so highly as I watched it, but having watched it, its scenes, characters and even dialogue remain deeply etched. You don't need anymore to slot it into the great films category. Watch it if you have not yet.

Thought for the Day - What is your entry point to life?

When we walk around with a stiff demeanour, not a hint of a smile on our face and body language that hints that intrusions are unwelcome, we are pretty much closing ourselves to the world. This happens probably because we are uncomfortable with the world interacting with us - we do not know how to handle it if life starts flowing into our space. Our fear of life coming into our space could also happen because we are highly egoistic and think that much of the world is below us. Either way we are closing out life, several new experiences and a chance to live.

Even at a thought level, if we are open to life, we find it easier to look people in the eye, to hold a hint of a smile on our face, to look at life kindly, to laugh easily, to be more generous etc. Our natural inclination, the happy way, seems to be to interact, to engage and to be open to life. To do so, it might help to make it easy to receive life when it comes to us.

A smile is the easiest entry point for life to enter. But few are secure enough to accept life, to handle life as it comes. Most put up their own filters. Clothes form a barrier, material things form a barrier (this is a nice design). Some put up intellectual barriers - books, thoughts, ideas (oh, I like that book or that author). Some have age and class barriers (we belong to that generation). There are many filters, barriers in some form or the other. It would be interesting to know what filters we have.

And to know what our entry point to life is.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Some Interesting Asides of the Mahabharata

Some interesting asides from Mahabharata.

Shantanu's son, Bheeshma's half brother from Satyavati, Vichitraveerya, is unable to produce heirs to the Kuru dynasty. His wives are impregnated by sage Vyaasa, Satyavati's other son, and thus are Pandu and Dhritharashtra born.Vyaasa is asked to father another son as one is born blind (Dritharashtra) and the other white as snow (Pandu) and he fathers Vidura, born to a maid whom the Princess substitutes for herself in bed. Vidura is the wisest of the three, as the maid participates wilfully.

Kunti is given a boon by Sage Durvasa that she can summon any God she likes. She summons Surya as a trial basis and is shocked to find that summoning has other meanings. Karna is born out of their union. Similarly she summons Dharma (Yudhisthir's father), Varuna (Bheema's father) and Indra (Arjuna's father). Nakula and Sahadeva at Pandu's other wife, Maadri's sons. The lineages are all mixed up by now.

The war is pretty much the result of Duryodhana's one single failing - his envy of the Pandavas. Incensed by the way Pandavas create Indraprastha out of the waste land Khandavaprastha, and by the humiliation he perceives at the Mayasabha, he decides to call his cousins and humiliate them and banish them. Sakuni comes up with his devious plan of playing dice - something that appeals to Duryodhana and his father.

Yudhishtir loses the game of dice twice. Once after losing his entire kingdom and his riches and even his wife, and suffering the ignominy of being slaves and seeing the attempt to disrobe Draupadi, the eldest Pandava gambles again, and brings upon the thirteen year banishment to himself and his brothers.

Duryodhana fights the war convinced that his great friend Karna will kill Arjuna and then he would win the war. Karna fights despite losing his kavacha and kundala which make him invincible, the curses on him by his guru Bhargava and the brahmin. He has only one weapon to kill Arjuna with and he uses that to kill Ghatotkacha.

Karna fights the war despite knowing that he is Kunti's eldest born, because he has given his word to Duryodhana that he would kill Arjuna. He also tells Kunti that he will spare the other brothers but not Arjuna.

Krishna masterminds the entire war - he leads the Pandava decision making in all crucial stages and in doing so keeps his vow to Draupadi that he will avenge her dishonour.

One Kaurava brother, Vikarna, goes against his brother and the court and is the lone voice apart from Vidura to take Draupadi's side when she is disrobed. Similarly one Kaurava brother, Yuyutsu, fights on the side of Pandavas, switching sides before the war begins.

Kauravas fight with eleven aukshahinis against the seven aukshahinis of the Pandavas. With superior strength, superior warriors, the Kaurava army never fights full strength as Bheeshma refuses  to fight when Karna fights. Also they appear to be fighting a war that is not theirs.

Bheeshma is the first commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army until he is felled on the tenth day, followed by Drona (14th day), Karna (17th day) and Salya (18th day). Save Salya, the others are killed when they are defenceless - Bheeshma gives up arms against Shikhandi, Drona when he hears of Aswattama's death from Yudhisthir and Karna when his chariot is trapped in mud. Even Duryodhana is killed by a below the belt blow by Bheema which breaks his thighs.

The Pandava army has Drishtadyumna, brother of Draupadi as its Commander-in-Chief. He survives the war but dies after the war, killed by Aswattama in his sleep.

Only three warriors from Kaurava army and six from the Pandava army survive finally. Aswattama, Kripa and Kritavarma from Kaurava army and the five Pandavas, Krishna and Satyaki from the Pandava side. Yuyutsu the son born to Dhritarashtra (from a Sudra woman) is the only one from the Kaurava sons who survives and is made the guardian of Parikshit, Abhimanyu's son as the Pandavas leave for their final journey. Though the Pandava warriors and army survives the war, a mad with grief Aswattama, slays them all while they are sleeping after Duryodhana's death.

Good Night, and Good Luck - Movie Review

Directed by George Clooney, this 2005 film set in 1953, is about media ethics and the power of the media to educate and inform the genral public. Based on real life incidents, the movie is in the early days of television and showcases Edward Murrow (David Strathaim) and his team, Fred Friendly (Clooney), Joseph Wershba (Robert Downing Jr) and others, the CBS  team which attacks the junior senator from Wisconsin McCarthy and his anti Communist methods. They focus on one case of an Airforce employee, alleged to have communist links based on flimsy and non-transparent evidence that is not disclosed, who is dismissed, The pressure brought by the relentless CBS team sways public opinion, reinstates the Airforce employee, but makes it a full blown war between McCarthy, who claims to be defending the security of the nation, and Murrow, who he claims has a communist background ad is therefore a communist sympathiser.

Corporate sponsorship, government harassment, aspersions from other members of the media and such does not deter the team and they go about systematically showing up McCarthy's campaign in their shows. Finally McCarthy himself is investigated and relegated to the background but not before the fight takes its toll - one of their staff commits suicide. The show itself is taken off prime time. The film ends where it started - Murrow's speech at the Radio and TV News Directors Association where he exhorts journalists not to waste the medium and use precious time and space to inform and educate the public so we have a better future. The title of the movie apparently is the sign off line of Murrow in all his shows.

Cannot expect anything less from Clooney, an intelligent man with firm convictions. The film is in black and white and has a taut screenplay and holds you glued to the screen till the end. the cast is perfect with Strathaim and Murrow outshining everyone with his fantastic powers of oration and his steely, emotionless stare. His clash with McCarthy is wonderful to watch, high on professionalism and a lesson in journalism to young reporters. Highly idealistic and I wish it would be taken seriously by young journalists as well. It captures the wave of anti-communist mood that swept the US in those days which was used by men like McCarthy. Wonderful picture, if you like that kind of stuff (I do), and I loved the way Clooney kept the story so tight despite its many limitations of space, locations and even dramatisation.

The Mahabharata - The Highlights

I have been wanting to do this for myself. Highlight the course of the Mahabharata for my own future reference. None better than Kamala Subramaniam's Mahabharata.

The Adi Parva
It all began with the love affair between Ganga and Shantanu. The birth of Devavrata, the seventh Vasu, to Ganga. The entry of Satyavati, the fisherman's daughter, into Shantanu's heart. The vow of celibacy by Bheeshma. The birth of Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya, sons of Satyavati. Death of Chitrangada. The Swayamvara at Kasi - the taking away of Amba, Ambika and Ambalika for Vichitraveerya by Bheeshma. Amba's vow of revenge to kill Bheeshma. Satyavati and Bheeshma on how to prolong the Kuru dynasty. The birth of Pandu and Dritarashtra through Vyaasa.
Kunti and the birth of Karna to the Sun God. Pandu's curse. Birth of Pandavas and Kauravas. Pandu's death. Pandavas go to Hastinapura. Jealousy sprouts in Duryodhana's heart. Drona and Drupada - the insult of Drona at Drupada's court. Drona enters Hastinapura. Ekalavya seeks to learn from Drona and is rejected because he is not a prince. Karna is cursed by Bhargava' for lying about his birth - he will forget all he had learnt when he needs it most. Karna challenges Arjuna at the tournament and is insulted. He is made King of Anga by Duryodhana and thereby begins the great friendship. Ekalavya's Gurudakshina to Drona by cutting off his thumb.
The plot to kill the Pandavas at Varanavata in a house of lac. The burning of the house of lac. The escape of the Pandavas and Bheema's marriage to Hidimbi. Birth of Ghatotkacha. Ekachakra and killing of Baka by Bheema. Advent of Dhaumya. Draupadi's swayamvara. Five of us will share what we got - the Pandavas share Draupadi. Meeting Krishna at the swayamvara. Pandavas are given Khanadavaprastha by Dritharashtra. Arjuna goes on teerthayatra, marries Subhadra. Birth of Abhimanyu. Return to Indraprastha. Burning of Khandava forest by Arjuna.

Sabha parva
Maya's hall at Indraprastha. Yudhishtir's Rajasuya yajna. Slaying of Jarasandha before Rajasuya. Krishna is guest of honor at Rajasuya. Slaying of Sisupala who is irked by Krishna being the guest of honour. Draupadi's laughter irks Duryodhana. The invitation to Hastinapur. The game of dice. Shakuni plays in place of Duryodhana. Yudhistira loses everything. Draupadi's question. Her dishonour. The insults by the Kauravas and the oaths of the Pandavas. The game is played again. The Pandavas are banished for 13 years.

Vana Parva
Kamyaka forest. Curse of Maitreya that Duryodhana will die at the hands of Bheema. Krishna's oath that the Kauravas shall perish. Dwaitavana. Arjuna's journey to Indrakila. Arjuna gathers the Pasupata astra and other astras for the war on Vyaasa's advise. Urvasi's wrath on Arjuna's rejection. Yudhithira's teerthyatra. Bheema and Hanuman - brothers. Arjuna returns. Duryodhana's ghoshayatra and defeat at the hands of Chitrasena. Duryodhana's rajasuya. Jayadratha's outrage and humuliation, lake of death and yaksha prasna.

Virata Parva
The thirteenth year to be spent in disguise. Disguised Pandavas and Draupadi take refuge in King Virata's court. Slaying of Keechaka by Bheema. Radheya's dream. Indra's begging bowl for Radheya's kavacha and kundalas. Duryodhana attacks Virata. The cows are stolen. Arjuna and Uttara Kumara fight the Kauravas.The routing of Kauravas. The 13th year is over. The blood of Yudhsithira. Virat knows the Pandava identity. The wedding of Abhimanyu with Uttara.

Udyoga Parva
Council in Virata to claim the Pandava's share. Arjuna and Duryodhana in Dwaraka to seek Krishna's aid. Dritarashtra's reply to Yudhishtir. Vidura neeti. Five villages is all that the Pandavas want. Krishna's final message. Duryodhana's anger. Krishna's Viswaroopa. War is declared. Karna is told that he is Kunti's son by Krishna. Karna is asked to join the Pandavas. Bheeshma is made commander of Kaurava army. Kunti meets Karna. Karna promises her he will spare the four brothers but he will have to kill Arjuna or be killed by him. Uluka in Pandava camp.

Bheeshma Parva
Yudhishtira seeks the blessings of Bheeshma, Drona and Kripa before the war. The Bhagavad Gita. The war begins. Krishna's anger at Arjuna's softness. Duryodhana's anger at Bheeshma. Pandavas at Bheeshma's feet to ask him how to kill him. Fall of Bheeshma. Radheya and Bheeshma meet at the end of the day.

Drona Parva
Drona is the new Commander in Chief. Radheya enters the war. Attempts to capture Yudhisthira for another game of dice by Duryodhana. The Trigartas. Drona's promise to capture at least one hero. The Chakravyuha. Fall of Abhimanyu. Arjuna's oath to kill Jayadratha before nightfall. Jayadratha's death. Satyaki's heroics. Midnight battle. Ghatotkacha's heroics and his death. Karna's Shakti weapon is used for Ghatotkacha. Fall of Drona. Aswattama's Narayanastra.

Karna  Parva
Radheya in command of the army. Salya is the charioteer. Death of Dussasana. Radheya and Arjuna. Radheya dies while trying to extricate his trapped chariot. Durodhana is distraught.

Salya Parva
Salya is made commander in chief. Death of Salya at Yudhishtira's hands, Sakuni at Sahadeva's. Duryodhana meditates in the Dwaitavana lake. Fall of Duryodhana with his thighs broken by Bheema. Balarama's anger at Bheema.

After the war
Aswattama's grief and the midnight massacre. Krishna's curse. Dritarashtra's embrace of Bheema. Curse of Gandhari to Krishna. Radheya's identity is revealed to Pandavas. Crowning of Yudhishtira. Bheeshma's talk on the dharma of a king. Bheeshma passes away. Krishna returns to Dwaraka. Parikshit. Aswamedha yaga. Death of elders. Death of Krishna. Sea enters Dwaraka. Yudhisthir reaches heavens. The rules of heaven.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Children's Mahabharata - Shanta Rameshwar Rao

I read this delightful 334 page Mahabharata (Orient Longman, Rs.95, first published in 1980), and highly recommend it to all children, or for that matter, whoever wants to get a comprehensive view of the Mahabharata. Written in simple and lucid style, Shanta Rameshwar Rao's book (coming close on the heels of the 900 page tome of Kamala Subramaniam's Mahabharata for me) recapped some of the main issues of this complex tale which seem to elude my memory. I will need to read it many more times before I get a grasp on it really but suffice to say that this book (lent to me by Vinod for a quick read) should serve as a great intro to the Indian epics for children and for adults who have missed the story.

The author, a multi faceted personality, the spirit behind the popular Vidyaranya school in Hyderabad, that runs almost on the lines of the Rishi Valley school of J. Krishnamurthy, wrote the epic wonderfully well for  children, toning down the intrigue, issues that young minds might not grasp and still tells the tale as powerfully as it can be told. The drawings are intriguing as well, and I tried to find their source but found none in the book.

In 30 chapters starting from Devavrata, later known as Bheeshma, she guides the reader through the way the Kuru family develops, splits into warring factions and annihilate one another in the Kurukshetra war. In only the last chapter does she deal with the war and its aftermath, showing a sensitivity to show that good and bad co exist in all men and that one is not necessarily better than the other. If at all it is for us to learn that one must learn from mistakes, accept them and stand up for what is right even if it is a painful path.

A beautifully bought out book in terms of production quality, print size and the price, Orient Longman and Shanta Rameshwar Rao have done a wonderful job in bringing Mahabharata to children.

Sachin Tendulkar - The Fulfilment of Potential, His Greatest Achievement

When Sachin Tendulkar burst upon the scene way back in time some (Sunil Gavaskar probably) predicated that he had the talent to make 50 test centuries and 100 international centuries. I am recollecting this from memory and could be wrong but I strongly believe that this is what I read. Anyway, what I am getting at is that in those days when Gavaskar's 34 centuries seemed out of reach for most mortals as was his 10000 runs and many other records, it looked like a crazy prediction. The only thing one knew was that with this talent, if all went well, if this lad lived up to his potential, he would get to these mind boggling figures. After almost two decades of toil, the young lad has reached there finally.

To me that is the biggest lesson to others, or the greatest tribute one can pay oneself - the fulfillment of a human's awesome potential. How does one translate one's considerable talent and use it to realise what one can achieve, the highest peaks that one can achieve? Sachin's international career is all about that. How a man can fulfil his innate potential, how one can go about systematically chipping away, climbing the mountain, adapting himself to changing situations, overcoming physical and mental fatigue, overcoming praise and criticism and go with single minded focus towards only one thing - the best that one can be as the bar is raised each time, the contest made more difficult. It is simply astounding to see how this man has done this over all these years.

The first hurdle one faces when one arrives on the scene with such a flame of genius (not a spark surely), of being the next conqueror, is probably the hardest. Most find the burden of their talent, the potential they can fulfill heavy and wither away, seeking solace in less demanding circumstances. Many champions have fallen by the wayside at this (Vinod Kambli, L. Sivaramakrsihnan etc), having promised much, doubting their own talent and content with the predictions. To harness the talent, to chip away at the potential, one needs an amazingly mature head, complete submission to the process and a total dedication to perfecting the talent one has been bestowed with. It is incredibly hard work, to stay focussed on this, when everything is going right , when far less is enough in a land of mediocrity. To deal with fulsome praise is the first hurdle one has to pass, and Sachin did that - easily.

Along the path come many challenges. Age, injury, criticism and perhaps even boredom (like it afflicted Brian Lara who left it all and went away) and one can again rest, content in what one has achieved. Why does one need to push mindlessly when one has already been crowned the king, nay, the emperor? But this is what distinguishes the truly great from the great. To push on regardless of competition, regardless of who is snapping at his heels, to surge ahead when the winds are favorable in the quest for perfection, for more until one is totally satisfied. For having outlived, outlasted all these, Sachin deserves greater applause than for the records he had set. For me, more than all the records, all the encomiums he receives, it is just this - the way he went about fulfilling his potential that is his biggest achievement. It is one that could be studied and made into a course in all lifeskills classes.

It needs an astounding amount of sacrifice. It needs one to give up one's youth, one's private life, one's personal space. It needs hours and hours of dedication to the medium. It is not easy at all when your team members were all infants when you made your debut, as a child yourself. And that is Sachin's destiny, his story, his tragedy, that he has always lived the role of a man, a grand old man, since the time he had been a child in Indian cricket. He evolved rapidly to being Bheeshma from a young Abhimanyu in a couple of years, despite having the years of an Abhimanyu on his shoulders, and in times when most seniors were behaving like young kids. And he carries that mantle gracefully in all these years. Add to it, the expectations that the country has, a country that has a consciousness of a loser, of an unforgiving parent, and it is tough for any champion who is on the path of excellence. But he bore all these roles that were thrust upon him and went about his agenda of being his best, giving his best for the team, the country.

To adapt from being the aggressive destroyer of his early years to the careful plodder, the experienced man who knows when to attack and when to milk, who knows which arrow to use to maim and which to kill was only natural. Sadly, for us the viewing public, he forsake the more romanticised, the more glamourous role of the slayer and turned into a dour run machine. The odd shot still came but there was an air of solidity to it all. There would be far less risks (which makes it all more exciting) there would be no free gifts in his effort to dominate. He  would respect the opponent and he would kill him, by a thousand cuts, and not by lopping his head off sensationally. In this role he accumulated runs with care and precision, with less danger. It is what happens when men mature, when men evolve. They do not race down the road on their cars and bikes like they were sixteen, they know when to hit the gas and when to go slowly because there could be a child, another soul that could be in the way. It is the path of responsibility, of respecting nature and the environment around, and it happens to everyone.

In a way, he must have realised early on that if he gives his best, it is best for the team. By getting more runs without throwing his wicket away, he would serve the team's interests more than by throwing his wicket away. This could be a tough call to make sometimes when it is more romantic to throw your wicket away in a seeming quest to garner more quick runs. But in waiting for the right ball, you have a better chance. In waiting, in holding your wicket, you have a better chance, especially if you have the repertoire of strokes. And so he focussed on playing the fifty overs as much as he could, consuming as many overs as he could and milking the bowling. It is a tough balance to suddenly attack and suddenly withdraw - one must choose beforehand. One must choose one path, one process. It is obvious which path Sachin has chosen.

Through all this Sachin lives with many ghosts that surely haunt him. His captaincy record, one where he would have loved to take India to the pinnacle that Dhoni did, would rankle. But he is still learning, and is a better captain, a man manager, as one can see with the Mumbai Indians these days. He has realised one would think, that men are different, that all men do not bring the same intensity and preparation, they do not need to, because they are different and bring different skills to the table and he must let them be and not mould them into his template.
His inability to score the big hundreds, the doubles, the triples with the felicity and ease that Lara did or Sehwag does must bother him too; he seems to have a deeply ingrained pattern in his mind that gets him to a hundred easily and then he has to struggle. Something that he practised in some manner in his childhood perhaps. Where Lara could easily score a 377 and then a 400 at will in tests and then score a 500 in first class cricket, Sachin struggled with the big scores. Nothing to do with his technique or physical capability, I suspect its all in the deeply ingrained pattern. But that is fine, a 100 100s is not too bad.
The third flaw could be his seeming lack of heart to get the bull by his horns on situations when they demanded he do, with his immense capability, to stride on as he could have when approaching his big landmarks, the centuries, the double centuries, when he goes into his shell and carefully approaches he landmark which becomes bigger than the team cause. The resultant loss of momentum affects the team and one cannot wish away that and say that the team should still do its bit since he has done his part. Winning is all about momentum after all. But even there, the fault cannot be laid at his door, he is scoring runs for the team as he is expected to. But it will remain an issue that will always show up.

A wonderful ambassador of the game, not a single slip up in all these years, a glorious role model for youngsters, Sachin is truly a champion who steered much of India's hopes, the consciousness of its youth as it changed, with his cricket. He is probably the biggest influence on the youth who believe that anything is possible - a far cry from the hesitant, doubting years when Sachin came on the scene. The biggest tribute that all his fans can pay is by trying to emulate him by living up to their potential as well. All else would remain mere words, to reflect in his glory is not doing him service - do to yourself, your family, your society and your country what Sachin did and that will make the man happy. No one has been more patriotic than this proud Maharashtrian, one whom Lata Mangeshkar adores like her own son, who has famously said 'I am an Indian first and then a Maharashtrian' - words that neutralised the regionalistic spin of even the hugely popular Bal Thackeray in his own hometown, a neighbour of Sachin in Bandra when Sachin was growing up, and one who would have wielded considerable influence on India's most popular icon. To say so at the cost of displeasing the easily displeased Bal Thackeray shows his maturity, his patriotism - probably the bravest words any true blue Maharashtrian can utter in the circumstances. All Maharashtra and certainly all of India and the world can be glad that we have someone like Sachin walk the earth when we did. Well done Sachin and keep walking, there is a long road ahead of you still. You will know when to stop best, not the rest of the world who watch you walking and running from their armchairs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Descendants - Movie Review

Heard good reviews of this George Clooney starrer and of its different story (based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings) and decided to see it. Clooney is Matt King, a hands-off father, a man with a rich inheritance in Hawaii, and the man who is the sole trustee to decide on a large estate of 25000 acres owned by him and his cousins. His seemingly calm and sedate life is turned upside down when his wife suddenly slips into coma in a water skiing accident and he is thrust into the new role of taking care of his two daughters, Alex (17) and Scottie (10) both at difficult ages. Matt discovers that his older daughter has turned completely hostile against his mother, not to mention into a fol mouthed alcoholic - and not without reason he discovers - his wife had been having an affair and Alex, his daughter, knew about that. Matt tries to find out with Alex's help who the mysterious lover of his wife was and he does - a real estate agent called Brian Speer. Matt decides to inform Brian that he could say his good bye as well, as they have decided to take his wife off the life support.

While all this is going on Matt's cousins are planning to seal the deal to develop the land through a local real estate developer Dan and come into some good fortune themselves. Matt almost agrees but he suddenly realises that Brian Speer is the brother in law of Don and he stands to gain from the deal. (He also realises after meeting Brian that Brian does not love his wife and is more interested in keeping his peace at home - why Matt thinks that the old lovers were having an all time great love story instead of a simple passionate affair is what beats me. He appears to be rather naive.) When the time comes to sign over the land, Matt refuses and decides to keep the land of his ancestors and find a way to save it. The family finds their peace finally after the mother's life support is taken off. Brian's wife gets to know of her husband's infidelity though and she comes to see Matt's wife in the hospital. There's a funny scene where she gets all worked up speaking to the comatose Mrs. Matt and shrieks out that she has forgiven her. Clooney is brilliant in the way he hustles her out of the room.

It is a nice quiet, different movie with some nice moments, lovely views. Clooney is good in this role as a sensitive father.The kids are good. I can't come to terms with how the family reacts though. The way the family closes up on the mother for cheating on the father and making her out to be the villain and them, the victims, was rather odd. Perhaps she was just not happy, maybe Matt was just not caring enough, maybe he never gave her what she wanted - there could be a million things why she had to look for her excitement outside. If that comatose woman could get up and speak her mind, I am sure she would have had some pretty unflattering things to say about her marriage to Matt. Anyway, that just struck me while watching the movie that everyone was  pretty judgmental about her. Nice movie though.

Istanbul, Memories Of a City - Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk's, 'Istanbul - Memories and the City' (Faber and Faber, 333 pages), translated by Maureen Freely, was my first experience of this highly celebrated Turkish writer, the 2006 Nobel Prize winner.  It is as the title says, a collection of his memories of one of the old cultural and financial centres of the world (called Byzantium or Constantinople in the olden days, the capital for the Roman empire (330-395), Byzantine empire (395-1453), the Latin empire for a brief period in between (1204-1261) and the Ottoman empire (1453-1922). Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents - Europe and Asia.

Pamuk belongs to a well to do family in Turkey and remembers his childhood in the Pamuk apartments with an assortment of uncles, aunts, grandmother, his mother and father and his older brother. It is a westernised society already as reflected in their choices of clothes, attitude to religion, career choices and so on. His family life does not appear to have been very happy with long absences from his father who apparently had a mistress elsewhere in the city, his mother who probably suspected it, their constant fights, his big brother bullying him and their sibling fights. He comes across as a lonely child who sought solace in winning people's approval with good behavior, growing up with rich teenagers, the one with the jokes, an obsession with sex, his first love and other such growing up pains. Then he goes through the city of his birth through the writings of other writers, four of whom that  he picks at first, Yahya Kemal, Abdulhak Sinasi Hisar, Ahmed Hamdi Tanpinar and  Resat Ekrem Kocu, four melancholic writers that he explores and extols (but for some reason does not quote to show how they were melancholic - perhaps so we should read them). He explores the rich, the poor, the houses, the Bosphorous, the accidents on the Bosphorous, even the smoke rising out of the ships on the Bosphourus strait, his experience with religion, his desire to drop architecture and become a painter and then deciding to become a writer (fine advise form his father I felt and one that gave me lots of encouragement too, to pursue writing, the lone bright spot in this book for me).

Mostly the book deals with the melancholy or the huzun that has caught the soul of the city and does not leave it page after page. In fact the word melancholy appears so often that it is depressing. Perhaps it is that way for the writer - but I cannot imagine that a whole city is caught up in that huzun of their past, their defeats forever. I'd like to think there was some hope, there is some hope and some life that looks forward in Turkey. It also appears to have been written for someone who knows Istanbul well, as if written for his close circle of friends, or perhaps for himself, and the reader who is not aware of Istanbul has to scurry to do his research on many of the terms, geographical locations that are used. Perhaps that is the hidden symmetry of the book he was referring to.

But overall the book is all about melancholy - of the city of of his life - and that is the kind of a book that I am not really fond of. Honest perhaps, largely, but to exclude all hope? It is an old city, has much history, has seen many cultures apart from Turkish, Greek, Syrian, Italian, has many languages, has mosques, churches. wonderful architecture and much more. But Pamuk's Istanbul is like a young boy's mysterious infatuation with an older lover who has not given him enough attention. He is deeply disappointed with it and at the same time wants its approval. The book itself seems to me his sad ballad to catch her attentions, once praising her, once talking of himself. For some reason, all the melancholy, the vision through all the other writers, the blanketing of gloom on the entire population, did not work for me. His own childhood and his life was interesting to that extent, the lovely pictures of Istanbul in the early part of the century of which there are many (another highlight for me) and some odds and ends caught my attention. Otherwise, this is an Istanbul I would like to explore by myself and look for hope and life, and not through Pamuk's melancholy eyes. The book has rave reviews from the best publications in the world and perhaps there is something far more deeper that I am missing, but at my level of understanding, the book is not entertaining. Instead it leaves a big stain like a sad love story, which I am not convinced about. Which I am not sure is really the entire truth. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

God Save The Dork - Sidin Vadukut

Sidin Vadukut is one of India's funniest voices. He has this Wodehouse-ian quality of making you laugh aloud abruptly, without any control. He uses that pen of his to tap that funny nerve ever so often, in the most unexpected places, that by the end of the book, you have had enough loud laughs to have forgotten about the troubles of the world and to feel good about it actually. For this one quality of making me laugh aloud (not merely smile in amusement) Sidin Vadukut stands out as an outstanding talent in the ever-growing list of Indian writers in English. Far more intelligent, far superior language, much better plotting, highly believable characters, a superb turn of phrase - and one wonders why Sidin is not being ranted and raved about as some other writers are these days. He is way above most to me - for writing such brilliant comedy - which I believe is one of the toughest genres. I favor humour more than any and I do think we are in good hands  (now that the likes of Jug Suraiya and co have faded off), with the emergence of Sidin and the more recent  Krishna Sastry Devulapally who has made a promising debut with his 'Iceboys in Bellbottoms' (what's with the South Indian writers and comedy - the third funny book I remember reading by an Indian author was Srividya Natarajan's No Onions, Nor Garlic).

I read Sidin's first 'Dork' and could not stop laughing at the ball bearings incident. I don't remember how it came by in the book but I cannot forget how it was written, piling on the laughs and the agony of not being able to stop laughing. 'God save the Dork' (Penguin India, 242 pages, Rs. 199) has many more such instances as Robin 'Einstein' Varghese, now in London with his consulting firm Dufresne, on an assignment with a client Lederman, balances his expenditure, his awesome consulting capabilities, his amazing presentation skills, extraordinary charm and not to forget the highly likeable overenthusiasm that Robin is infected with. What makes it all so good for me is that Robin is all of us really - a shameless liar, greedy, stingy, full of himself (and some more...) - and you wonder at how wonderfully Sidin takes potshots at the overenthusiastic Indian. But then Robin is harmless, means no harm really, and ends up through these rather unfortunate circumstances generally on the better side. Sidin uses much Mallu (Deyivame..) but this is not just about Mallu's.

Taking off from a fortuitous turn of events in the first Dork, Robin lands up in London as a consulting prodigy. He is constantly seeking to improve his knowledge of British culture by visiting museums that are free (and skipping those that charge), buying stuff that comes with free items, downloading stuff from the internet (illegally, but no Indian will buy that), maroing line to the cute Chinese intern while trying to be faithful to his girlfriend the Shahrukh-loving Gauri and promoting the blackmailing Sugandh up the corporate chain. Robin gets caught in a shady exchange, a delicate matter where he tries to convince the Lederman chief to extend their assignment for what could be termed as something in return. It all comes crashing down when the deal is investigated but Robin's incredible luck holds yet again and he bails out not only the client, but his own company and his personal finances as well.

I don't bother too much about the rather predictable manner in which the plot unfolds at this stage, as I am more than happy laughing at Robin and his antics. The story goes along at a rapid pace and it draws you in completely. It would be interesting to see what Sidin will do when he ends the Robin series and the diary format - he is obviously a master at using the business consulting background, and at using the diary format brilliantly - but it is just academic. I would not mind if he wrote stuff like this forever.

Funnily I remember seeing two comments - one about Sidin being India's Dilbert and another about it being something about Mallu humour - both of which I don't fully agree with. Dilbert is a different medium altogether and the only thing common is that they are about the corporate world. Sidin's work obviously has much larger canvas and has far more detail and intrigue in the financial consulting world, while Dilbert is about offices in general. To term it as Mallu humour is not to have read the book at all.

The NIT, Trichy, IIM, A, grad is the sole hope for me so far from the IIT, IIM writers. I must say I am deeply disappointed with most of them, perhaps because my expectations were high (but they do churn out some mediocre stuff). Sidin keeps the flag of the IIM's high with high quality, intelligent, layered stuff that takes potshots at everything - the colleges, the profs, the corporate world, the way Indians are (and the way firangs are too). Apparently he writes on cricinfo too. Will be interesting to read his take on cricket. Well done Sidin - great job and keep writing on and on. For those who are still looking for a recommendation here's what I did. I borrowed the book from Vinod (a huge fan of Sidin, he himself being another of those writers who can make me laugh out loud) and gifted it to Ranjan. And for Vinod, I bought a brand new copy!

Thought for the Day - Are you your mobile?

I look around and see youngsters (and many middle aged people as well) preening over their brands. Their shoes, jeans, mobile phones, laptops they use, places they eat, stuff they eat, stuff they drink, even causes they espouse, vehicles they move in. I look at the growing dependence on this need to prop oneself behind a brand and it makes me wonder how bad it would be for one's self confidence, self esteem if the prop was taken away suddenly (God forbid!). It could be a needless worry from me - and don't get me wrong - I am not against technology or causes or cool stuff. Just asking everyone to take a reality check once in a while so you have not become your mobile. Or worse, so the mobile has not become bigger than you.

Let's peel away the brands one by one and see how comfortable we are being without that brand. To see how much that brand has eaten into you. To see if you are still okay without the brand.

So let us first:

Peel off that swanky mobile, which seems to be the lifeline for most these days. How do you feel without the brand on that mobile? Even better. How do you actually feel without that mobile? Inadequate?

Peel off those brands on the shoes. Do you still feel cool? Peel off the brands on the clothes. Do you still have the attitude? Can you still hold your own? Can you still walk with that same confidence? That swagger?

Peel off the brands on the other gadgetry - those laptops, ipads, ipods and whatever else one has plugged into their ears and mouths and at the edge of the finger tips all the time. Does it still work for you? Can you still sit and hold your own in a conversation.

Peel off that cause that everyone is clicking on Youtube and twitter and facebook without knowing what the hell its all about. Cite one cause that truly moves you. That really interests you. One cause where you need not merely like, or tweet, or comment mindlessly from the comfort of your armchair, or rather the couch. (I forgot armchairs were passe.) The one cause where you can actually move yourself physically, meet people, feel their pain and do something about it. Not transfer some money, take pictures and be vocal on facebook. Something real. Something you can feel - not just the keypad.

Peel off that brand of the school and the college your parents have put you through. Can you still hold your own? Do you have enough value without that brand? Do you have enough content?

Peel off that brand of the nation that is scheduled to be the next superpower, that somehow seems to have given a whole lot of misplaced enthusiasm that we will be there, the superpower, riding on someone else's shoulders. That we can merely by tweeting, liking or commenting, become that. It needs real content, it needs real work, real thought to get there. Do we have what it takes if we take off that brand of India Shining?

Peel all these brands off and see how good you feel - all by yourself. Just for the heck of it. If you still feel cocky, good and at the top of the world you're on a good wicket. But if you're feeling a bit lost, then its time to look at yourself pal. You've been taken over by the brand, bought over bit by bit until you have nothing of yourself left anymore. Nothing wrong in that - the whole world is that way.

But just for a lark, reclaim yourself - it could always come in handy to know yourself as you are without a prop. Because when it comes to the real thing, the props fall off first and you have to deal with reality alone.

The Himalayan Diaries - Day 7 – Dehradun-Delhi-Hyderabad, March 7, 2012

Holi! Ambitious plans again to get up early by Vasu and I and go to see the Forest Research Institute, a magnificent building and premises set against the Mussoorie hills in the background. However owing to yet another round of story telling session by the indefatigable Koni (that fountain of stories with unfinished endings) that consumed a large part of the night, and a holi celebration by burning huge logs of wood by a neighbour which we attended, the early morning getaway was stalled. People started oozing out of beds much later than planned and slowly drifted to the sunny lawns, with newspapers, cups of tea etc. 
The Forest Research of India campus, Dehradun, with a faint silhoutte of Mussoorie's mountains behind
Vasu outside the FRI gates

Vasu and I went to the Forest Research Institute but it was shut for visitors owing to Holi. We clicked some snaps of the magnificent building from the gates and returned. A good, solid breakfast of toast and eggs thanks to Vicky amd Mohan and Koni and I were the first to leave Dehradun. Flight at 1 from Dehradun's quaint little Jolly Grant airport (which is much closer to Rishikesh than Dehradun by the way, takes an hour from Dehradun to reach). Less than an hour to Delhi and we landed at the brand new Terminal 3 of GMR, vast and like nothing I have seen. Koni says it is on par with any International airport in the world. We walked along the long aisles, corridors, shopping, checked in early and settled down for some lunch. We got another spanking new flight on Air India to Hyderabad, lovely food, music and movies, and we dropped down at Hyderabad before we knew it.
Mellow sun, hot tea, the news and a lazy vacation

I’ll remember the trip for being so unique – every day was so different from the other. The unstoppable laughter that boy gangs enjoy, some sense of vague freedom, that only boys/men appear to feel when they are by themselves. Much thanks is owed to Vasu for driving this venture forward without letting go and Ranjan for tirelessly and thoughtfully organising everything so perfectly and making it so memorable. Koni for his madness and non stop entertainment, Kiri for his easily triggered laughter and ready to party attitude and Aditya for proving the glamour, the innocence and the fresh perspective that we would have lost and perhaps resonated with, in these years. Thanks a lot guys for making it a truly wonderful Himalayan sojourn for me.