Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Anjali's Blog - My Mother

Anjali decided to write a blog on a subject of her choice and interest, and zeroed down to one on her mother. Here's what she has to say about her mother.
Anjali and Mom at Malwada

"My mother
I love my mother. She helps in home work and to read new words. She shouts for good. All of us think our mummy shouts because she gets angry but she does not shout for that she shouts for us to learn.                                 
1.       we must help our mother
2.       we should be loving our mother
3.       our mother loves us throughout the day"


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What We Can Do Well

Things we can do well are:

1) Lay bad roads
2) Drive badly, park badly
3) Blame someone else all the time
4) Do whatever pleases us without worrying about others
5) Throw trash all over
6) Bribe, accept bribes, somehow beat the system
7) Play loud music on festivals and erect shamianas
8) Not do our job
9) Criticize everyone else while not doing our job
10) Spit anyplace
11) Pee anyplace
12) Rush ahead in queues
13) Rush for anything free
14) Steal anything if we think we cannot get caught (downloading for instance)
15) Ogle at women if we think we cannot get caught
16) Play loud music on mobile phones, shout loudly on mobile phones in movie theatres
17) Comment irresponsibly on all and sundry because there is a space to comment
18) Write graffiti on national monuments
19) Copy ideas shamelessly
20) Try to cheat somehow, somewhere
21) Act self righteous and hurt
Why do I get the feeling that I missed some important stuff? Anyway, there's always tomorrow. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Finishing Things, Beginning Things

Beginning things is about uncertainty. Finishing things is about contentment.
Pic courtesy: Prarthana Nargundkar

What you start, finish. Don't start too many things before you finish certain things. Don't keep too many loose ends hanging. It's a sure way to feel frazzled.

Reduce loose ends, one by one. Do the one thing you really love doing. And a few other things alongside. It's a sure way to contentment.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Anjali's Third Blog - How was Golconda

This is Anjali's third blog about her Golconda trip. Looking at the pace of keying in the words I asked her if she needed any help. She indicated that some help in that direction may help. I helped her out and keyed in the words while she read out what she wrote in her notebook.
"I climbed all the way to the top by myself"

 "I went to Golconda. I thought there would be lots of towers instead there was grass too. Nobody can count the steps. It was fat and tall. I was trying to go first. It is so tall and so fat that it was tough to climb to the top of the terrace. We took lots of pictures there and had lots of fun

 I just don’t know how it would be. My eyes tell me how the world is. My Dad’s body was sweating so much.

 I love Golconda fort a lot. At the top it was so good. I felt so proud of myself. That I climbed on my own without anybody helping me. I like exploring the world and having so many adventures."

Random Incidents

While travelling on one of the roads off the ORR, Amar and I hit upon a railway crossing. And it was closed as well. There were people getting off their vehicles for a stretch, for a breath of fresh air, peering at both sides of the track wondering where the train would make its appearance from and a few others, buying the fruits and food stuffs sold by the roadside. This being a rather small place, there were two sellers - both selling guavas.

What caught my attention was the guava seller on the right. He was in his twenties, with his two or three year old son. They were both playing, oblivious to all the crowds watching them. In a while they were joined by an old man, presumably the grandfather. The three of them played around, laughed so that we could all see their teeth shining bright, until the grandfather decided to take the child away into their home, on his shoulders.

It was evident that they were living on meagre resources. But they were so happy. Their laughter seemed so rare, so precious. I looked around and found none in the cars, in the buses and motor bikes laughing or smiling. They were all watching - perhaps enviously. What made the so happy? Why are they laughing so contentedly?

More importantly, why were we not able able to laugh? Why were we not able to enjoy life, the moment?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - Movie Review

Finally watched 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag'. It's decidedly long, at 3 hours, and like a reviewer noted, was more of a marathon when it should have been a 400 m race. The incredibly versatile Farhan Akhthar is brilliant as Milkha Singh, the Flying Sikh, who broke the World record for 400 m at the 1960 Rome Olympics, but came in fourth in a closely contested race. Hailing from Govindpura village in Pakistan, Milkha Singh witnessed the killings of his family, his father, mother, brother and two sisters in the riots after the partition of India, and escaped to Delhi hiding in the ladies compartment under a pile of dead bodies. Growing up in refugee camps and leading a life of survival, Milkha Singh found a sense of stability in his job in the army. Once he is selected to run for the army, Milkha Singh's career took off and he never looked back. Till date Milkha is the only male athlete from India to have won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games which he won in 1958. Milkha also won four golds at the Asian Games and his national record was broken only in 1998. And he came out of a refugee camp. Says much for the sports infrastructure in our country. Where are the millions going sir?

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra keeps flitting between the present and the past and after sometime it loses its steam because we are more interested in knowing how Milkha became the Flying Sikh and not so much all the other stories. Sadly, the athletic races, which normally give a great high normally, fail to capture the choking highs, save in two races. With a lot of good dramatic content, one of the most dramatic sports to handle, superb performances by Farhan, Divya Dutta and Pawan Malhotra - this film could have gone to another level if told more linearly and if it focused on Milkha's journey to the top - and less on romances and dalliances. His refusal to give in, his will power, his penchant for hard work, his drive to exceed all limitations and set new boundaries could have been explored. Why was Milkha like that - so driven. Apart from his past, the poverty and the hard childhood, the romance, there must have been something that made Milkha the Flying Sikh. I could not get it and I do not think the movie dwelt on that aspect much. (In later readings I found an interview where Milkha Singh said he was deeply impressed by the commitment to excellence that the athletic champions from across the world showed in the Melbourne Olympics that steeled his resolve to be up there with the best.)

If Rakeysh had begun the movie and ended it as Milkha had run it, it would have been bang on bull's eye. Now it meanders, rather slowly, and ends. It's a poet's version, and writer Prasoon Joshi is one, of what should have been an adrenalin pumping story of someone who pushed the bar all the time, someone who was a man in a man's world. To me it needed harder, direct treatment - unapologetic and honest.

Milkha had strong political views too, and refused to run the legendary race against Pakistan's Abdul Khaliq in the 1960 goodwill games between the two countries. He was finally persuaded by one other than the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Pakistan's President General Ayub Khan lavished high praise on the Sikh after the race which he won and gave him the title of Flying Sikh. Milkha Singh gives all credit to Pakistan for his sobriquet, the Flying Sikh, and does not fail to mention that even the late Makhan Singh, one of the athletes from India who gave Milkha a run for his money, also beat Abdul Khaliq in that race. It's worth trying to trace Makhan Singh's life, the man who beat Milkha Singh in the nationals once - there is nothing on him almost. (Makhan Singh, also from the army, sadly died in penury, after his life was beset by several ill fortunes. Milkha Singh apparently did help him by getting him a kerosene dealership.)

Coming to Nehru and Ayub Khan, I cannot see any leaders in current situations showing such grace, such qualities as both leaders did then - the former in taking the trouble to invite Milkha and reminding him of his duty and the latter for his wholehearted appreciation. If an athlete dares to dissent, it will be political vendetta in all likelihood these days. Milkha later even rejected an Arjuna award and held his views on that. I admire them, sportsmen like him and Mohammed Ali, singers like Bono, for speaking out their views.

Still it's a movie to watch for some stunning performances by the above mentioned who should be queuing up for awards. Farhan is Milkha in every sense and the dedication  he puts into this role is so obvious that you feel like getting up and clapping for him for just that - his dedication to play the role equals Milkha's own dedication to run and pursue excellence, Divya Dutta is simply brilliant as his older sister and Pawan Malhotra is as malleable and reliable as ever. Yograj Singh was a pleasant surprise, though he has some Shatrughan Sinha similarities, and I was surprised to know that he has already acted in several Punjabi movies - a multi faceted person surely for someone who played for India and was considered to be faster than Kapil Dev in his prime. Wonderful to see such lovely movies as this one, Paan Singh Tomar, and hope to see many more sports movies and bio pics of legendary sportsmen coming up. And for the legend of Milkha Singh a worthy tribute that should surely inspire some of the old values of dedication, hard work and will power in those who watch it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Signs of Greatness

What are the signs of greatness? Certainly the sweep of things, of the vision that no one else has. Then comes the courage to follow up on the vision (actually seeing that vision requires great courage too) until the dream becomes reality. Resilience, character, honesty, compassion, fairness, nobility, knowledge, selflessness and sacrifice are all part of anything great.

To achieve great things, we need great minds, great people, who can in some part encompass these characteristics. There was a time when leaders showed signs of the same. Sacrifice and selflessness being two important features that ruled their actions. Great minds show up when times are rough.

It is not easy for petty minds to achieve anything great. They can rule only when things are smooth.The reign of the petty mind is pretty much ruled by the opposites of all of the above. Selfishness, greed, dishonesty, weakness, unfairness, lack of basic knowledge and a complete lack of character (as in lack of conviction to stand for anything) are the ruling characteristics of this bunch. They will serve their ends, and in all likelihood, as we have seen, not even have the capability to enjoy their ill gotten loot.

Between the person who makes his loot and runs off while the house on fire and the one who has courage to stand up and set things right - give me the leader who has the courage to fulfill his duty any day. His duty is not to remain in power, his duty to to further the ambitions of the cause he represents. We can judge our leaders by the same yardstick - how many are trying to remain in power and how many are furthering the cause. Do they even know the cause? How then, will we achieve anything great?

Tora, Tora, Tora - Movie review

A World War II movie on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour 'Tora, Tora, Tora' ("Tora" apparently means "tiger", but in this context, it was meant to be "lightning attack", indicating that complete surprise in attack has been achieved) are the code words to be conveyed back to the command once the raid is accomplished. Pearl harbour awakened a "sleeping giant filled with a terrible resolve" as the commander fears and America, which till then was a bystander in the World War II, joined the fight with the Allies. This was to prove decisive in the way the events turned.

Reeling under the US sanctions against it, Japan considers striking preemptively at the US fleet at Pearl Harbour. They know that the only way is to do it with complete surprise. Modifying their torpedoes to strike at the US battle ships, the Japanese plan their raid, while keeping the US diplomatically in the dark. However the US intelligence cracks the coded messages that the Japanese send to their embassies, something that they do faster than even the Japanese. Despite that information, they are crippled by some lethargic decision making, and before they realise and inform the Pearl Harbour base about the attack the Japanese hit it. So complete is the surprise that the Japanese planes are not even met with anti air craft fire. The planes bomb the battleships, all the aircraft, and inflict severe damage on a base that is caught completely unawares. In the end as the Japanese fighter craft return, having achieved their objective, they learn that a second wave of fighters will not follow and that they would now return. When the Japanese Combined Fleet Admiral Yamamoto, who studied in Harvard, learns that the air raid began fifty five minutes before the US Government was informed that Japan was braking off relations with the US he says the famous words - 'I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve'. The movie, made in 1970, is gripping from start to finish.

'Tora, Tora, Tora' shows the story as it unfolded. Japan felt justified in its preemptive strike as it felt that it had done enough to secure peace which the US did not reciprocate. The US felt betrayed by Japan's treachery in not declaring war formally and attacking the Pearl Harbour base. The result was that the attack galvanised the US into one, with cries of 'Remember Pearl Harbour', and war was declared against Japan, with all voting for war, except one. The war ended in 1945 with the USA carrying out the only nuclear bombing in the history of the world when it dropped two nuclear bombs 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August, killing approximately 1,50,000 - 2,40,000 people, civilians mostly.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Bridges of Madison County - Movie Review

When did I first see this movie? A long time ago surely. Watching it now was equally good, if not better - if at all it seemed a lot more layered and rich.Meryl Streep as Francesca, the lonely housewife whose dreams are slowly dying as she grows older and reconciled to a life in the farm with her husband, and Clint Eastwood as Robert Kincaid, the lonely photographer who has no moorings and goes where his heart takes him. How the two get along in those four days at her farm, where they meet accidentally when Kincaid comes to the small town to shoot the Bridges of Madison County, is what the story about. But with these two fine actors, the screen comes alive, their dreams and passions, wants and fears, life itself comes alive.

When Eastwood talks of 'the certainty that comes once in a lifetime', one wonders that it does appear so - even for people like them. Francesca chooses to stay back with her husband despite the offer that Kincaid makes, to go away with him, and always rues the fact that she did not go out and explore life, taste life a bit more. To have drunk to her heart's fill, if at least for once. To me, I'd have pushed the envelope a it and made her take off for a few days with Kincaid, perhaps exploring Greece. Just to feel alive again. It need not be a lifetime thing. That would have completed it for me. Where it is now, leaves one sad, for those unfulfilled dreams of hers.

Perhaps that is what we all do. Fit into the shapes that the world provides us and crib about the pain. We all do need to breathe, one way or another, and we must find our ways of breathing. And we must do that or we'll slowly die inside. Robert Kincaid only represents hope, not an extra marital affair, perhaps even adventure. And a bonus could be of a love that is different from her husband's. How her story impacts the lives of her children and frees them from their own burdens of fitting the template is nicely woven into it all. Wonderful stuff.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Swamy Ra Ra - Movie Review

Nice pic. Too much in slow motion though and I wonder why, so much so that you feel that the movie is fine in fast fwd. But nicely worked out script and shown pretty decently, some memorable characters and some familiar plots and outlines. But all in all, it tips over the half way mark which is good.

An idol worth Rs. 10 crore is stolen and is doing the rounds of the market (liked the way the value increases from Rs. 0). Gets into the hands of a double crosser in a gang (why was he sent alone?). Before he is caught by his own gang members (who somehow do not suspect him at all), he slips it into the bag of the heroine Swati, a journalist, who has fallen in love with a pickpocket, Nikhil, who poses as a software engineer, and falls in love with her in return. Get the pick pocket gang of three (what are they to each other?) and show some well researched pick pocketing and diversion tactics - until they get hold of the idol from the jouro's bag by chance.

The killer gang finds out that the idol is with the girl and kidnaps her. But the pickpockets have already sold off the idol to an idol seller who sells it off to two Africans for 10 crores. The pickpocket has been given an ultimatum to get the idol back else lose the girl. So we have several people double crossing one another to get the money and the idol and end up in a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron kind of scene where everyone is running after one another. But after some hectic running about and shooting one another all's well and that ends well. Idol found, money found. All we need is for the pickpocket to get a job in HP - but with the money he has he could do better right?

Thought there were some loose ends that needed tidying up. The chemistry between Swati and Nikhil is just not there. Swati is wasted - her role is not too clearly etched - the character seems too naive to play a journalist, maybe she would have been better off as a good hearted, naive tuition teacher. The pick pocket girl, Puja, does a good job. There are times when the director puts one over the audience cinematically, they serve a limited purpose. Like the two killers who discuss Silk Smitha and casually kill off some important chap for a Minister who wander into the last scene again - their only job was to stop a Scorpio full of thugs and make off with it. (What were the thugs doing, running off?) I could not understand how all these people put the idol in their pockets as if it were some candy - arre bhai, its a powerful idol - show some respect. But overall I liked it, liked the debutante director's Sudhir Varma's work, which shows lots of promise.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Telegrams - Death Knell

The death knell (wonder what it sounds like) rang on the telegram itself, famous for ringing the death knell for many. In the good old days a euphemism for a sudden and unfortunate death was the telegram that said 'Start Immediately. XXX Unwell'. The smarter ones said their last prayers and set on a journey that sometimes lasted a couple of weeks. The naive ones really thought that someone was unwell and got a big shock, causing a few additional deaths in the aftermath and the sending of a few more telegrams. The telegrams therefore were a big way to find out the smart ones from the naive - and to eliminate the naive ones.

Why all this unwell business one would ask. Why not say it like it is, or was. Because, there was a way to do these things then. We did not put an RIP on facebook and move on with life. We really cared about the 'unwell' person even if he was now beyond unwell, and we also cared about the recipients of the telegram who might react strongly. More importantly the telegram, like a trunk call, was expensive business, and ate into our meagre resources. Hence telegrams were so short and abbreviated that the recipients had a tough time understanding what they said what with all the innuendos, the abbreviations, the 'stop's. Most people looked more puzzled than shocked when they received the telegram, only responding to the call for action - start immediately. (Similarly trunk calls warranted loud shouting because people thought that it would make them more clear and thus save some money on the phone. Instead it turned into two people shouting their heads off on an unclear line.)

Anyway, back to the hero of the story, the telegram. No paper so thin, ever had so much effect with such few words. There were somethings called phonograms, the first cousins of telegrams, which had numbers for special occasions - call those guys at the telephone exchange, give them the address and the number of the appropriate phonogram and your best wishes or appropriate wishes were conveyed without fail. I remember sending a few such for my technologically advanced mother who had figured these things faster than my father, who despite his lovely flowing prose, never wrote many letters on such occasions.

What use the telegram now in the age of the mobile phone and skype and facebook and plastic money - where people are flying off before we can say 'Start Immediately; and not bothering about the nazakath of the whole thing. It has retired peacefully and all we can say is 'Telegram unwell. Start immediately'. Those who can understand will get the picture. Akalmand to ishaara kaafi hai! Good bye old friend, bringer of news good and bad, adder of drama in our drab lives, consumer of our little monies and confuser beyond par. May you RIP.

Word is a Four-Letter Word, Selected Writings - Jug Suraiya

This book, of 1994 vintage, published by USPD, is a collection of articles written by Jug Suraiya for the ToI during the 80s and early 90s. It took me over a month to finish for two reasons - one being that the writing is rich and does not lend to easy glossing over as I do these days, and the second being that the articles belong to a time that I was growing up with and I could see many with a new perspective. Split into three sections - people, places and postscripts, it gives a good insight into the kind of a person Jug was - and also the kind of writing he was capable of. Why he did not pursue more ambitious projects is what beats me. Jug did write a novel and two collections of short stories apart from an anthology of satire.

Jug Suraiya is an inveterate traveller and has been to the most interesting of places which he describes with great interest - Acapulco caught my interest in those with its Quebrada cliff divers - and many more. Meeting David Ogilvy in his palace in Europe, Mother Teresa, German Greer and the many postscripts that range from corruption to Mandal protests, Jug Suraiya made me relive a time during my college days. He is a fine writer and a funny one too, has clear views on everything and belongs to an era of journalists from 'The Statesman' who brought some high quality stuff that we could read with the same relish that we saved for a favorite dish. Reading the articles itself is an education and one can clearly see the decline in journalistic writing when one reads the inane and flat writing of these days. His research, his language, his viewpoint all impressed me, once again. I remember reading some of his funniest pieces in another collection that had me rolling on the floor (one on hijackers getting confused with the names of cities being changed and another on the Hindutva stance and secularist forces).

Jug Suraiya is one of my favorite writers from India, one with a funny voice and great dexterity and flair with his language. I also envy his back packing ways and the way he has travelled so widely and met so many interesting people. This book once again confirms why he remains up there in my list.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Grow, Go Within

If we wish to grow, we need to go deeper inside ourselves.

Any job we undertake mirrors the quality of our engagement with it. It's either superficial (low involvement) or deep (high involvement).

Pic. Satish N
Our growth comes about only when our involvement is high i.e.e when we go deep within. The deeper we go into the job, the deeper we go into ourselves, and the more we grow as a person.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Story Idea - The Curious Case of the Elderly Pilferers

Recently retired couple are having an idyllic life of peace and joy. One day, while watching a tv program, they find that they have both lived rather boring lives and that they need to spice it up - do something interesting and exciting. Also do something they always wanted to - make an impact on this society which they are not happy with at all - they feel the rich have too much and the poor have too little. They hit upon an ingenious idea to solve both their desires.

Their nephew Rohit is an aspiring detective. He does not have enough work. In all the cases that he solves, he normally finds some humanitarian cause and lets the perpetrators go away. One day he comes upon a curious case when a client calls him over. The client, an honest government servant, suddenly finds that his bank locker has been tampered with. When asked what he lost, the government servant tells him that he found a large sum of money in his locker which is not his. The only clue is that his favorite god's picture is left behind. Will anyone believe him now if he says that it is not his? Can the detective find out who did this?

As cases of money appearing suddenly in honest people's homes increases, news of the divine hand intervening spreads. But is that all there is to this tale? Or is there some Robin Hood who is somehow accessing undisclosed money and distributing it to honest and needy people? Rohit finds out that the modern day Robin Hoods are really at work with some ingenious methods. And perhaps they are committing the perfect crime - where the victims are not complaining. The only problem is that the beneficiaries are.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Come September - Movie Review

I watched this old favorite of mine once again and I fell in love all over again with Gina Lollobrigida with whom I had fallen in love almost thirty years ago as a college student. This time, I also fell in love with this wonderfully romantic story and the cheeky one liners that constantly keep popping up throughout the highly entertaining movie. Not to miss out on some fine wisdom to couples in love. Ahhh, sublime. Give me the oldies any day.

Rock Hudson as the American millionaire, Talbot, who visits Milan every September, which is also a rendezvous with his Italian girlfriend Lisa, is debonair and perfect. Lisa (an energetic and sexy Gina L), is fully aware that Talbot is not popping the question and decides to marry someone else. But the moment Talbot speaks to her, all her resolve dissolves and she goes to meet him at his villa.

Meanwhile Talbot's super smooth and highly loveable criminal major domo has converted his villa into a hotel - and he is surprised at this early and unexpected visit by his boss. His series of smooth lies are soon exposed and Talbot fires him - but ends up playing chaperone to the bunch of young girls who are staying at the hotel. The girls are being wooed by a bunch of young men. How the young men try to get past Talbot to get to the girls, how Talbot tries to protect the girls and how everyone in the bargain realises what's good for everyone is what makes up the rest of the story.

Light. Funny. Romantic. Clever. Smooth. Saucy. Irreverent. Everything is perfect. The casting, the plot, the dialogue, the music - nothing is out of place. And when Gina Lollobrigida winks at the camera in the end, the heart does a little jig once again. It's like watching 'Come September' in the summer of 1986 again.

From Paris With Love - Movie Review

The great thing about this movie was that I never realised, until somewhere near the end, that I had watched it before - and not too long ago. There's a young chap who is an assistant to the US Ambassador in France - but his secret desire is to become a secret agent. He does small jobs for the CIA like bugging the embassies of other countries with bubble gum stuck under the tables, something which he does with less efficiency than a school kid who would have got it to stick in a minute and in a manner that the bubble gum would never come off.  Having established that we are not dealing with the brightest chap here we are now shown that he has a girlfriend who is too good to be true - and all antennae normally need to go up.

Big assignment coming up with Mr. Charlie Wax, John Travolta, who comes from the US to single handedly look into a drug gang from Pakistan which indirectly led to the death of some big shot's niece. Of course Mr. Wax is more than enough for everyone in France, Pakistan, and the rest of the world put together - Mr. Inefficient associate soon finds that out. We also find out that the girlfriend is the one who has set it all up - why, we don't know - but she has. The big plan of the drug dealers - to blow up some delegation from the US in some conference for reasons unknown. In a scene inspired by 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' surely, the young betrayed lover seeks to find his lady love turned suicide bomber in a sea of orange burkhas, and he does. In a sad ending he puts a bullet in her forehead when he sees her wrapped up in explosives meant to blow up the delegation. How she got in despite all the security, don't ask.

I got the first doubt that I had seen this movie when I saw the scene when Mr. Wax eats his cheese burger. It reminded me of something, long ago (and not a cheese burger because I never ate one). My second doubt came when Mr. Wax puts a bullet in his new friend's head once he knows that she is a Pakistani spy. Very cool that was. Then when Mr. Wax eats his second cheese burger just before the end my suspicions were confirmed. I had seen this movie before. But it takes great skill to make such movies that you forget that you saw it at all till the end. 'From Paris With Love' is not a love story. It's got more action (as in real action) than a Bond movie so watch it if you like stunts. You can watch it many times without realising that you saw it before. That's the biggest plus.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Consumer Experience - The Good Ones

While I retain my right to crib about the bad experiences I have as a consumer, I would also like to bring up the times when good consumer service brought a smile to my face. This incident happened a couple of months ago, but I have been meaning to write about it.

1) Returning from Warangal on a two way ticket at the toll gate, I realised that I had misplaced the ticket (which I presumed was to be shown to claim the benefit on the return journey). As my turn approached and I did not find the ticket, I reached for my wallet and was about to tell the young lad, no more than 18-20 years old, that I lost the ticket and I was prepared to buy the one way ticket.

But before I could say a word, the young kid who had seen me fumbling in my dashboard etc while I was waiting, waved me aside, and said that he had checked my vehicle number on the computer and that it was enough for him to know about the return ticket I bought. Ahh, what a pleasant surprise. Imagine going to a bank without a receipt, a cheque book, a passbook and getting things done. Or any of those government departments we are used to, where people snap at you even if you have all the documents. Wonderful stuff and it really bucked my spirits that day to see such efficiency.

2) A week ago, the young officer at the security check at the Mumbai airport actually greeted me 'Good evening sir, How are you?' and politely indicated that I raise my arms. I almost fell off. Never have I met any officer who was anything but dour faced, who always searched me and my face for all traces of mischief, and none who even a glimpse of a smile. I assumed then, that perhaps they were trained not to smile lest the wrong types get friendly with them, but here was someone who was actually wishing me and treating me with respect and not like a criminal. But here's the best part. However pleasant, polite and respectful the young man was, he was equally through in his check up, which is wonderful. Having done a good job, he smiled again, and showed me along respectfully. You can do a good job with a smile too! And it really opened my eyes to this profession - which I thought required them to scowl at your always. Well done young man, may your tribe increase.

Hopefully I will find more such cases to report. We do need some good stories here.

Thought for the Day - Why We Must Not Lose Hope

It is easy to lose hope when one reads or listens to the news. What's happening we feel, when the fence eats the crop? Is there anything that is under control? Is there justice, law and order?

Or will people get away with anything. Crimes, rapes, murders, cheating, plundering, looting, lying, thieving?

Why we must not lose hope is because of this; the press rarely reports the good news. The bad news is splashed up front because it excites us all. The good news is hidden inside and not always reported.

Anyway, what's to report in good news, many feel. People are doing their job aren't they? They are supposed to do it. Yessir, they are also not seeking your attention as they are holding the edifice up.

This is how it works (as I see it).

Typically the guys who are doing their job are too busy doing their job to bother about getting into the news with idiotic revelations, demonstrations, interviews, accusations etc. They are not bothered about raking up a muck because they know that each moment is precious. They are plugging the leaks, collecting evidence, preparing files, making their cases stronger, seeing the the deserving get justice - quietly. We won't see them, hear them but they are there, holding up the structure, which thankfully is intact.

The guys who are always in the news are the ones who have nothing constructive to do. They will make a leak and blame it on someone else, they will demonstrate, they will lie, they will accuse, throw tantrums - you  know they have not done a day's honest work. They hope to intimidate, shake off, threaten, the honest workers with all kinds of such boorish behavior. They have a selfish agenda of promoting their own interests and it is quite clear when one is only poking holes at the work that others are doing while doing nothing constructive of their own.

For example the politicians and their dramas in the recent Uttarakhand tragedy were all first page stuff. Little is known of the people who braved the danger, risked their lives - be it the armed forces or civilians, or even local officials who I am sure sat up day and night trying to do their best. Not a single name can be recalled but surely there were many - the armed forces surely at the forefront - of those bravehearts.

For every such 'newsworthy' destructive chap who gets into the news with petty issues, there are several 'boring' people who are going about doing their job efficiently, even going beyond the call of their duty. Not only their own job, but these people have to do the job that the others are not doing and on top of it, plug the leaks and breaches the destructive guys are causing.

And there are enough of those around in this world who don't get reported, who have no wish to get reported for doing their job. And that's why we must not lose hope. Because the majority lies here. There's little space in the news to report them all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why We Need More Bhuvaneshwar Kumars

Ever since the slim, almost frail, 22 year old young lad from UP came on the national scene, he has been impacting matches in India's favour in a quiet but highly effective manner. Both 'Quiet' and 'effective' make utmost sense when one talks about him. Carrying a mature and canny head that belies his years, a talent that is prodigious and more importantly well under control after years of training and dedicated practice, and a fierce competitiveness that balances both aggression and cold blooded efficiency, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is an unlikely hero who has tilted the balance decisively in India' favour in many matches already. I admire and appreciate the way he goes about his job - showing little emotion in the ways of his skipper MSD as he goes about doing his job at the office - unlike several others in a team of boisterous characters to whom every tv frame and every media visual is something to be exploited with magnified emotion.

Teams have different sets of players. The show men who magnify their contributions - most times even when their contributions do not impact the result. The hard workers who go about doing their work and ensuring that a minimum guarantee is assured. And then come the captain's delight - the hard worker who knows his job, who knows his role and executes it to perfection under stressful times, in fights above their weight - many times rising above the expectations. These are the ones who tilt the balance in tough games, the same games where the showmen are falling to pieces, showing no gumption for fight. They are the ones who can tie up Gayle and get him out after stanching the flow of runs with the new ball, the ones who can hang in there and bat out of their skins to fetch an unlikely last wicket win over a strong North Zone attack. And they are the ones who can pick up brilliant catches and walk up as if nothing much has happened. For Bhuvaneshwar, bowling a tight first spell to the most destructive batsmen in the world is a day in the office, not something to be celebrated in gay abandon. He will bring the early breakthroughs, push opposition batting sides on the backfoot on the flattest of wickets, and he will walk up to the centre of the wicket in an almost shy manner, willing the spotlight to go away from him. No over the top histrionics, no outward show of emotion - just blows the smoke of his gun and returns to complete the job.

Bhuvaneshwar is an apt example to follow for most of us. His skill with the ball is unbelievably good (know your job well, be the expert), completely legitimate (honest), and shows his years of understanding the process (a growth oriented attitude). He can adapt to all kinds of wickets (prepare well), all kinds of conditions, and produce the same match winning results (consistent, not easily satisfied). He is fiercely competitive and keeps his mind positive and his nerves relaxed in the direst situations. He remains committed to the job, to the process, to the next delivery, to the job still left to do. You see, there is really much to do, a lot more left to do, many miles to walk. There is no need to thump the chest, to overplay the moment - it is a game, it is a job to be done well.

We need more of us to do our jobs well like Bhuvaneshwar. We need to know what we are doing, to hone our skills so they are effective on all kinds of conditions, to compete and to prepare, to keep the team interest paramount and to step up a bit more when required and not just do our bit. More importantly we need not bother too much about advertising the fact from the rooftops. The recognition will come - right now, focus on doing the job well. Quietly and efficiently, precisely and effectively. Like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar does.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Movie Review

Another incomprehensible movie that ended a week of such movies. This time a young woman who joins a cult realises that it is not really what she thought it was. The leader of the cult is crazy, a rapist, a thief and perhaps a killer too and this is all revealed in flashbacks throughout the movie. The cult is also crazy, male dominated and has some weird rituals that are best left to them.

The first scene shows the young girl escaping, calling her sister and being picked up by her. She is taken by her sister to her idyllic home by a lake where she lives with her husband. In a short time everyone knows that clearly the cult girl, Marcy, is disturbed.

She goes on showing glimpses of how disturbed he is and why. As she behaves in more and more complex fashion, she disturbs the residents of the house, her sister and her brother in law too, while being careful  enough to reveal nothing of her abusive days in the cult. Finally everyone is tired and Marcy is shifted to a place where she can be treated. Of course she imagines that her cult friends are following her in he end.

Were there moments? I don't know. The end was dull though there could have been some closure. We'll never know what happens to all the people in the movie finally. But that's okay - we have better things to do.

The Twelve Monkeys - Movie Review

This one drove me completely insane. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is in the future, circa 2035, after the entire human population on the face of the earth has been wiped out with a deadly virus planted by some terrorist organisation called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. He is sent back to the past to find out who planted the virus and to get a sample if he could by a bunch of futuristic and equally mad scientists who seem to have no clue of what they are doing.

Not surprisingly they send him back to 1990 instead of 1997, the year of the plague, and ends up appropriately in a lunatic asylum where he meets certain important characters as far as the movie is concerned - an attractive psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and a fellow madman (Brad Pitt), who also turns out to be the future head of the Army of Twelve Monkeys.

Running between correct and incorrect timelines, not knowing whether he is in real time or hallucinating, Cole ends up bashing a few people and understanding something of the plot. Stowe's biggest realisation is finding out that Cole is not mad. Brad Pitt is brilliant as the madman. Finally the bad guys get away, the good guys get shot, the past merges with the future, the kid is alive and the movie ends. The viewers get up dazed, wondering why they were subjected to what they just went through and decide against watching movies that have attractive star casts in them.

It was singularly the most boring movie I saw and I understood nothing of it. What they should be complimented on is in making movies like this and  getting top actors to act in them - maybe it could have turned out better if dealt with in another way. But seriously, this one suffocated me and drove me nuts.

Aura - Movie review

An epileptic taxidermist who fantasises about the perfect crime goes on a hunting trip with his friend. He shoots a man accidentally, the owner of the resort and a criminal who is indulging in robbing money from vans transporting the local casino's profits. With the man dead, and some clues to what he does, Mr. Taxidermist takes over the role of a criminal easily - instead of worrying about being caught for murder. For someone who speaks little and whose face conveys little it is easy - all the other criminals believe him, no one is bothered about the dead man rotting away, and the perfect crime is almost committed.

The story unfolds slowly, too slowly for my liking, and leaves certain important areas conveniently unexplained. Like how the dead man is never discovered, how no one suspects a newcomer who says nothing and who speaks in contradictions and whose only plus seems to be his photographic memory - which also fails him. Anyway, I got too bored by the time it ended to be bothered about what happened and why. Some linear stories please, where all the ends are tied up and are plausible. If you like slow, read as real slow movies, with long shots and minimal dialogue, unattractive protagonists, 'Aura' is the perfect movie for you. For me - nope, don't work.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thought for the Day - The Link Between Love and Efficiency

Are we at our most efficient when we do things with love? I am inclined to believe that it is so. 

To get the best results with the least effort is what efficiency all about. Nothing can make work seem more effortless than doing it with love, nothing brings on the attention to detail, more enjoyment, more  perseverance, more care and compassion - to the job at hand - than doing it with love.

However cold, scientific and calculating the word efficiency may sound, it could well be that the big daddy of efficiency is actually that four letter word 'love'.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Father's Day at Daksha School

This time Daksha (Anjali's school) invited fathers to speak of what they do to the 1st and 2nd class children. I volunteered to do so on writing and sports. It was a learning experience for me.

The 1st class
The 1st class children, Anjali's class, were first and we decided to speak to them about cricket. After a brief introduction by Anita aunty, Kamakshi teacher and Chandana teacher the session took off. Do you want to ask Uncle anything? The children were vociferous in their response - with loud yells of Cricket, I like cricket, I am a batsman, Batter, Bowler, I have a bat, sixer, Dhoni, Sachin and some other words about skates and so on. They settled down a bit, having expressed themselves to their hearts' content and having informed me of their opinions.

I told them that I'd tell them a story. They instantly calmed down and listened.

"Once upon a time, there was a boy. He loved playing cricket. He played with whatever he could get his hands on - broken bats, sticks, broken balls, even cloth balls and small stones. He would play in the sun, rain and cold, even at night sometimes. When he became older he went for school selections with his friends and guess what, he was selected.

Why was he selected? I asked.

The response was loud and clear from the children. Practice, practice, because practice brings success, hard work etc etc said the children. All the wisdom of the world was all there. Very good, I said. Now let us say Harsh (Anjali's friend) is the successful cricketer in the story. But now someone else also wants to be selected. What should he do? Cry? No, said the children. He must practice, he must work hard. Will he get anything by crying? No, they yelled very sure that he must not cry and must practice.

Maybe they could also practice doing whatever they loved, I suggested. But first, I asked them, what it was that they liked doing. Each one of them began their list - cricket, painting, flowers, skating, football, movies, television, reading and so on.

I asked them to write a small story on the one thing they liked. In five minutes they all came up with some small stories - some clearly written and well formed sentences with clear storylines, some stories with a beginning but no end, some only pictorials, some stuff inspired by certain gorilla stories. They all wrote enthusiastically and showed me their stories. I suggested some improvements and they came back with those. Anjali wrote a fine story about a tulip that wilted because the gardener poured too much water, but then when the sun came up, the tulip rose again. Fine happy ending, drama, conflict, characters, everything in three lines. Jaisimha write a dramatic story about a tiger, a rabbit and a hunter, Harsh about a cricket match, Saket drew a picture of a bat and ball, Manasi wrote about a little gorilla and so on.  I thanked them all for listening and left. They gave me a lovely, heart shaped card thanking me for coming.

The 2nd class
Then the 2nd class children. Now these children were very organised and disciplined. Smita teacher was Anjali's teacher in a younger class and she was in charge along with another teacher. They started off well because a girl in the front row asked me - uncle how does one become famous? We went back on the same story again (this time without the story) but with the same responses from the children about practice and hard work. There were a lot of pointed questions about how to practice when parents do not allow etc. They also spoke about the things they loved doing - cycling, painting, stories, watching movies, drawing and so on. We discussed on how one must put effort, look for teachers who can guide them and teach them (what if my parents cannot find a good teacher?) and then learn and practice the right things. This class remembered that I had come to 'teach them cricket' last year - another small session we had done in the school thanks to Anita's initiative when all the younger children got an opportunity to bat and bowl a few balls. I thanked them all again and left but not before I got a lovely card from them too!

Good initiative Daksha. I realised that if I had prodded the children some more, I would have got more original information about how they viewed the world. The danger was that the topics may have got sidetracked in the limited time frame. Some other time perhaps. But still, there was much to learn, much to take away from for me and I hope it was so for the children too. It was a relief when Anjali came back from school and gave me the thumbs up - 'I liked your story,' she said. Ahhhh, worth it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Thought for the Day - When Are Things Really Done?

This is a question that always bothered me. At what stage is something really done from my end?

For a long time I thought that doing things 'fully done' before giving them over to the boss, the editor etc was about keeping something in reserve. Knowing that someone else is going to go through it (and that the work might not get printed in its current avatar) allows me to sign off at 80% (or so I thought) and wait for the feedback.

But it's really done only if you are ready to see your work published or taken into public domain in its present shape. Only when you are ready to to seal it, bind it and package it and say - Hey, that's mine. As a gift or memento for someone you love.

Would you invest on putting the finishing touches, on packaging your work in its final shape? If you are ready to do that, you are done.

The next time you need to sign off on anything from your end, think about it. Would you package it in its current form and gift it to someone you love?

If there is something still to be done, hold on. Finish that and then, let it go.