Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sania Mirza and the Telangana Brand Ambassador Controversy

I had my own thoughts about this issue but preferred to keep them to myself until I saw one crazy post in fb which enumerated the many reasons why Sania is not a great patriot - disrespecting the flag, not holding a flag, not available for games, asking for land to build a tennis academy, playing with an Israeli and the biggest crime of all, marrying a Pakistani. I was bowled over by the number of likes and shares the post was getting. Where does all this hatred hide in this rational and patriotic Indian?

Sania Mirza has always lived by her terms. She has questioned and stuck to her ground on issues that would have shaken many of lesser mettle - be it her choice of clothes, partners, husband. Not one to blindly bow down to the rules laid down by those who are on unsure grounds themselves, she has carved a bigger niche for herself, for women as a whole, than most of these chaps can. Sania represents a rare spirit in women, one that cannot be cowed down.

To say she has done India proud would be an understatement. She has in more ways than one. There is no whimpering, soft, I-am-apologetic because I am Indian attitude in her. She trods those international surfaces with the greats as an equal. Apart from being one of India's best known face on the circuit, she represents a rare breed of Muslims who bring their own modern outlook to the game and society. She is one of the best things to have happened to Indian tennis, women on the whole and the Muslim stereotype people are fed upon. She is intelligent, smart and successful. She lives on her own terms.

All this is typically not digestible to the many. To be beautiful and unapologetic as a woman in India is a crime. To be successful more so. And to challenge the ultimate frontier and prefer marrying a Pakistani even more so. So a normal statement made by a politician about Sania's ineligibility to be brand ambassador for Telangana catches fire when he cannot resist turning in the knife - she is Pakistan's daughter-in-law. So? Is it a crime?

We have seen M.F. Hussain hounded out of the country by those who will never be able to create an inch of the artist's work even if they take all their lives. We have similar people now commenting on an icon who has won the kind of recognition and laurels that these people can never. Why are we bent on pulling down our icons? Our role models? Why cannot we see merit where there is? Why cannot we see mischief for what it is? Let a person who has half of Sania's merit or achievement comment on her and we will take them seriously. Why do we as a nation take a bunch of non-performing, rabble-rousing, non-achievers seriously when all they do is pull down icons and achievers and make them feel unwanted.

It boils down to this. Let those who can match half her achievements speak. The rest can go home and read about what she has done for the country. You can also wonder about what you have done for the country apart from pulling down the achievers. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eating out In Hyderabad

A few places I have eaten out recently. I seem to be doing a lot of that recently.

Ruci and Idoni, Banjara Hills
I enjoyed the Sunday lunch I had with Shobhs and Anjali at Ruci and Idoni. I like the place and its ambience. The menu was good, service was fine. Being a Sunday it was a bit loud owing to a bunch of youngsters celebrating some event in their eventful lives. Fish and chips was good so was my chicken strognoff and Anjali seemed satisfied with her fried chicken. Most boxes ticked off.

Testa Rossa, Banjara Hills
I like this place for its ambience. Though i have not ventured beyond capucchino and sandwiches at times, the menu looks good. I like the ambience. Service is snail pace and they have a habit of not looking in your direction at all. If you wish to be left alone, enjoy some quiet talks and decent food, its the place.

Beyond Coffee, Jubilee Hills
Bang on Road No 36, Jubilee Hills, it has a chatty outdoor environment, space on top and indoors too. Capuchino was decent. Okay kind of place. Service is okay. Must be some kind of an adda for the locals because many of them seem to be hanging out there. Haven;t tried much else but not terribly impressed yet.

Paradise, Begumpet
Tried biryani of both varieties from Paradise, Begumpet last week and was hugely disappointed. Am going off Paradise for a while.

Garden Restaurant, Secunderabad
It is so old world that it transports you back into the 80s. The dull lighting, old table cloth, kind of oldish waiters, cutlery - it really is rather old worldly. Biryani was nothing to write home about nor was the roti and mutton kheema, butter chicken. Not a huge draw and it might be a long time before I venture there again.

Heard from my co-visitors that Alpha at Secunderabad station has made an impressive comeback and is the place to go to for biryani now.

Sarvi, Banjara Hills
Made a midnight visit a couple of days ago and must say that almost everything tasted good. The roti and chicken was good, biryani and haleem excellent. I liked the ambience of the restaurant. Service was decent though rather delayed - the late hour perhaps. It is certainly the go-to place in Hyderabad.

Mohini's, Basheerbagh
Mohini's would serve the best biryani some years ago but now they are not consistent. Reason why I stopped going there. It's been years since I have had that lip smacking biryani they'd serve. But despite all that the place was filled up at 2 in the afternoon and people standing to get in. The mutton biryani guys complained about the mutton quality, the chicken biryani was passable. Nothing to write home about again. The kulfi however was outstanding as always.  

Nalabheema, Jubilee Hills
New restaurant opposite Chiarnjeevi Blood Bank. Liked their meals. Decent ambience, very functional, old Telugu film music. Good service, very attentive. Could give it a shot for a meals. Value for money in my opinion. 

Novotel, Shamshabad Airport
The quality of a vegetarian meal is judged by me by the recourse we have to take to the papads. How can one mess up a simple bhendi fry with onions I cannot fathom. Old and stiff bhendi spoilt the experience. Papads were consumed much. Disappointing. Service was good. It was the one place where the guy got us the bill in under a minute unlike places where they seem to be making some complicated calculations and taking a few hours to get the bill.

Roadside dhabhas, ICFAI Campus
Roti and egg bhurji was the decided menu but we had to walk in and out of at least five dhabhas before one consented to serve us. The smart man made his killing too. I do wonder why people are so dumb. Food was nothing to write home about again and we did not expect it either. Service was total campus style - ignore until you shout them down. Ambience all Uni style. Cigarette smoking, gaali spewing youngsters all around.

Hard Rock Cafe, GVK One, Banjara Hills
My first here. I went all the way down to Parking level 4, parked, got back to the ground floor, got out of the building, walked back to the cafe in the drizzle and wondered why its so difficult to get into a place for a meal.  We were accosted by a happy and loud youngster who welcomed us and bid us well on or way in. The interiors were nice and huge and I did not get a chance to walk around and appreciate it because there seemed to be much to see there, memorablia and stuff. Met my old MBA mates - Vijay, Biiju, Shrini and Visa (and PV whom I met on the way out). Nice old rock music - most of the80s stuff we grew up on. Surprisingly the food wasn't all that great. Bit too loud to converse. Service was decent, attentive and quick. Anjali got a balloon and a separate menu with some games which made her happy. Once in a while the boys at the bar shout out loud and keep the energy going, or that's the idea perhaps. All in all, ok. Or perhaps, am too old for this.

Haveli, Lifestyle
Raja and I were looking for Malgudi in the Lifestyle building. Apparently Malgudi wound up shop some years ago. I don't know why restaurants wind up like that. We had a good experience then and were surprised to hear its shut. The other option was Haveli which was crowded as hell. But the service was excellent. The chaps gave us a seat, took the order quickly, heeded our request for quick service and gave us good food with really good service. Full marks on all counts. Lunch time was a bit crowded but no complaints really and I must congratulate the chap who served us.

N Asian, Jubilee Hills
Suresh took me out to lunch at this Nagarjuna owned restaurant. Nice ambience, lots of space, quiet and good for a chat. We ordered some veg stuff which was ok. Everything was passable that day. Or was it the mood?

Rape and India

The rape of a young six year old student in a school in Bangalore came to light thanks to media attention and the persevering parents and citizens who were bent on getting justice. It was not until the matter went into public space and a huge outcry was raised that the school authorities and the police reacted. Such incidents are happening on a regular basis and I am sure that for every case that is reported in the media there are hundreds that are hushed up and hidden. One cannot but feel for the victims and their families and the state must accept its culpability in the perpetration of these crimes. It cannot wish its responsibility away by blaming it on clothes, cell phones, pubs, education etc.

I cannot imagine the trauma and anger that the child must have gone through. A six year, a three year old...what kind of an age is it for those souls to undergo such crimes in places where they must be protected, taken care of? I can't imagine the anger the parents must be going through at the trauma their little ones have had to undergo. One would think that there would be instant, swift action to nab the culprits in such cases. But here is what actually happens - something that confounds me each time I see it unfolding.

First the school denies all such happening. They wash off their hands and try to hush up the matter. Their only concern seems to be that their school's name ought not to be sullied. Any such publicity is bad for them so they think they ought to hush up the matter. How stupid and short sighted? How against the right and wrong of it. Here is a child entrusted to your care and someone who you have appointed and handed over the child to, has misused the trust, and you try to wash your hands off? Instead of cooperating with catching the culprits and ensuring that the right thing is done to the child, they hush up the matter, tamper with evidence? The police suddenly seems to find it difficult to get any clue as to who and how was the culprit? What kind of a system is it that needs too be constantly told to do the 'right' thing, to do their 'duty'?

It is sickening to hear of these stories of such perverts going about free in society, being shielded and protected sometimes. If the rape of these innocent children chills you, we have the other extreme as well and the connection cannot be ignored.

It appears that India has no law on marital rape from whatever information I could gather. We are in an elite list of countries where spousal rape is criminalized only when the couple is separated which means that as long as they are married it is fine to violate. As a society we seem to tacitly subscribe to the idea that rape is an 'internal matter' and we will not have a law because it could be 'misused'. It is better that it is misused I'd think, than not have a law at all. It's almost like saying go ahead and rape the spouse, she's your property after all. How can we set the thought on society right if we do not set it right in the marriage itself? Won't the man feel entitled whenever he has the urge?

Once again, as in many things, we in India, show ourselves up for the hypocrites we are. For all the talk of being broad minded, religious, gentle and such other adjectives we like to brand ourselves with, we are a bunch of bigoted and insecure perverts who cannot bear to give an inch to a law that allows women to claim their basic dignity and not let any man (including the husband) violate her. I am pretty certain that if we do not set it right in the institution of marriage itself, and bring equality and dignity to the woman there, we cannot make a dent in the psyche of the men who think they have a right to use women as they would a tissue paper. For someone who has grown up seeing his mother being treated thus at home, there might not be much respect for women as a whole.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

10 Greatest Shocks in Sports History

Nice article on the 10 greatest shocks in sports history.

Also a link to the Don's last test inning.


Thought for the Day - 100% is Involving Every Cell of your Body

So how can I be completely here and now? How can I practice that state of being? What is this 100% concentration?

I'd think of different things but to me if one has to use a visualisation, it is this - of all the cells in our body being fully involved in the act, the thought.

When we are not fully involved, when we are bored and not too keen, it shows. We can feel it. What it looks like is that one part of us is involved and some parts of us are not. There is resistance in our cells and they drag our energy down.

The key is to involve these reluctant cells in the act. Get them all to jump from the wall and join in. Don't just stand there - participate. Once we get all the cells in our body involved, we are fully aware. We are fully flowing. We are fully accepting. We are 100% in the now.

I'd think this state of being is something that can get better with practice. It is about 100% action without holding back. Go for it. Get your team to act as one. One hundred percent.

(I'll report back on the findings in a few days. Right now I am trying to be this 100% in every act, including writing this blog. For starters, I can feel this nice bouncy energy bubbling inside.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Relationship With Money - Thoughts and Interviews Part II

While exploring the thought further I realised that one mistake we commonly do is that of connecting money flow to one source i.e. one could easily start thinking that if one had no pending order book position, money flow is pretty much dried up. That is not true.

Now, that is a dangerous thought because it is not really the space you want to be. All thinking becomes like this - why is it not happening, when will it happen, what is the logical flow etc. Money flow does not have an exact relation to the effort or to one source. It can come from anywhere and for any effort, not necessarily the hardest.

If there is one thing it honours, money does respect clarity. To be clear that one deserves money itself for merely being, is a reality that many are experiencing. So why clog up the pipeline with these restrictive thoughts.

Money can come from anyplace as long as one does not put restrictions and walls its flow off. Money respects clarity, openness, an element of mischief even. Certainly it respects one who respects it, who can show that he or she is capable of handling it, who can enjoy the opportunities it gives. In many ways, it deeply respects those who see the beauty in it and treat it with the care and admiration it deserves.   

Thought for the Day - I'll be Nice to you, If you let me be

Why can't a person be nicer? Or better? Or more expressive? Or more fun? Or whatever?

I guess everyone can - if we let them.

If instead, we are focused on all that is not there, and on how things would be so much better if the person was like this or that, the possibility that the rest of the person will also disappear is likely.

For any coach or a people oriented person, it is important then to first focus on what is there and build on it gently. It is easy to see what is not there and try to mould the person into being something he or she is not. That is a sure way to disaster, especially with older people.

The way is to look at what is there, appreciate the good and let that grow. (Grow your strengths) As it grows make gentle suggestions and changes without pulling at the basic structure and making it all unstable.

The person will grow. He or she will be happier that he or she is doing the right thing and is on the right path.

On the other hand if we focus on what is not there, as most young coaches might be inclined to do, we have a possibility of totally losing that person.

"I'll be nice to you, if you let me be."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

9 Things Successful People Do Before They Sleep

Saw this article someplace. Liked it.

The 9 things for those who are too lazy to click on the link and read.

  • Reading
  • Meditating
  • Reflecting on the day, having a gratitude list, think of the good things that happened
  • Making a To-do list
  • Disconnect from work
  • Spend time with family
  • Plan out sleep
  • Lie down on a positive note
  • Picture tomorrow's success
I like the gratitude list, to-do list, reading and planning tomorrow's success last thing before sleeping. Sweet dreams! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Process of Selection in Cricket

The Selection Process in cricket is one where no two minds rarely meet. Everyone has an opinion, more so those outside the selection committee. Most people think about the selection process as one where they  feel that talent must be hunted down and brought out of nowhere, from the streets, roads, hills and rivers if possible. 'Otherwise what is the big deal? Anyone can sit here and pick players  on current form. Talent should be unearthed. New talent,' they advise. The overall consensus is that selection processes are biased, unfair, corrupt and do not give the right talent the break because of political or other compulsions.

But let me not talk about the drama behind selections which I shall address at a later stage. I'd like this article to be of some help to players or candidates who are looking to get selected. Let them understand what the selector looks for and accordingly prepare for selection.

The average player or candidate who is up for selection is typically clueless about what is happening on the other side. He or she is busy performing and hoping that someone might have seen or observed their performances. For them getting selected is  a huge miracle and all hopes hang in there. But it will help to see how a typical selector looks at things and how these issues can be addressed.

The best combination to win
First selectors have a broad strategy in place. It could be to win, to hold, to secure, to stop further losses. From this standpoint they select players or candidates who best suit their purpose. Typically in games and sports, and certainly in cricket, selectors look to win games mostly. This is one objective that throws out any element of compromise in team combination out of the window. Simply put, you need the best team to win, the best combination, the strongest bench, and that is pretty much the entire job of the selectors. If the purpose is not stated clearly, all sorts of experiments start happening which could compromise the team and the player futures.

Player progression and readiness
The players are looked at from the standpoint of their career progression, current form and certainly their core strengths in terms of match winning or match saving performances. Rarely are players drafted into senior teams without having served at junior levels or having come through the ranks unless the talent shines through, for the simple reason that they are not often prepared, mentally, for the higher level of the game. By coming through the ranks and performing at various levels they show their capacity to adjust or not adjust. So it is best that one looks for players within that age group and if there is any exceptional performer, we test the candidate in a couple of games to see how he or she fares. If the candidate is showing great assurance or thumps the opposition, he or she is ready for the next level. But if she is not ready and is under pressure, it is best not to dent the confidence by exposing them too early.

Match winners are preferred
One certainly looks at current form. But here one is more keen to see how the candidate has fared in match winning circumstances. Is the person good under pressure or  is he or she scoring only when it does not matter really. A hard fought 50 in tough circumstances is better than a 100 in a game that has no pressure. So match winning contributions, signs of character, resilience and rising to the situation, are taken into account while picking players. So one may have situations where players who may have scored tons of runs against weak oppositions are dropped in favor of those who have shown proof of grit and character while compiling far lesser runs. The capacity to be a match winner is certainly a requirement.

Good attitude, team men
Having said that one must also be a team man. A great talent and match winning talent cannot be encouraged if the player is spoiling the dressing room atmosphere. There are all sorts of players and we need players who will give their best for the team's cause. This would mean putting their egos aside, helping others, motivating others, putting the team ahead of themselves, going the extra mile for the team. Though great players also come with some baggage at times, selectors do look for the fine line when the player's presence is detrimental to the team atmosphere and stunts the growth of the majority. In such circumstances it is better that the team is without such influences. Cricket is a team game and maximum importance is given to the team. No individual can be given greater treatment or lesser treatment.

Players must look to grow, not hang in there
Another subtle aspect is that of players who just do enough to hang in there. Selectors are keen, on most occasions, to have players who are willing to grow and go to the next level. That is the entire purpose of the team and all effort must be made by the players to improve and push the team to the next level. But in many cases you have players who are above average in talent but who are keeping the team stuck. The team stagnates because these players have no interest or belief in pushing to the next level. They will do enough to consolidate their position, and some players actually try to stop other younger players from growing by actively messing with their minds. Quite clearly these players have to go as these are rotten apples who can infect the good ones. Unless and until they show signs of increasing momentum and going to next level, it is better to shed baggage and build afresh.

Selectors look for growth oriented and hard working players who bring the right attitude to the team. Players who believe in their abilities, who are willing to work and perform at every level, who are prepared for the next level, who seek to be in a match winning team, who help others and keep the team spirit up are always the types who will be persisted with even in periods of bad form. Form is temporary. Attitude is not.

Prepare for next level
Players must then prepare fully on all three levels - skill, physical and mental. Skill reflects in performance confidence, physical training in stamina, strength, flexibility and endurance and the mental aspect allows the player to rise above in tough times and make the difference. All three reflect on player performances clearly. The match winners stand out and shine. In fact there is a principle on which selectors work - it is that even if some fine talent gets left out once - if the person is fully prepared on all three levels, no one can keep him or her out. The skill will help score runs, physical training will take greater loads and mental resilience will say only one thing - let me perform until they pick me. When players are fully prepared they do not quit which is a sign of brittleness. They fight it out until they cannot be ignored.

Be the undroppable
While picking teams, there is one list of people whose names do not feature in any discussions. They are automatic choices, the undroppables, because of their performances and their value to the team. Players must aim to be in that list of 6 or 7 undroppables by putting up performances that cannot be ignored - at every stage. Check out the scores of last year and see who scored what in your levels and try to measure up and set the bar. Most players seem content to merely make it to the squad and I have heard players crib on how they scored almost the same runs as the 14th player or got the same number of wickets. For such players there is no sympathy. Walk in on merit. No one can question that.

Over-enthusiastic parents and coaches can harm irrevocably
For parents and guardians who keep fighting for their wards or try to cultivate selectors one can only say one thing. By pushing a youngster ahead of his or her time you are doing a great injustice to that person. The game is graded so one learns at each level. Respect that. You cannot bat or bowl for your ward out there. He or she has to do it entirely on their own and against tough oppositions. Would you like your ward to go in unprepared to battle? Why don't you let them prepare better and then send them to battle? By merely pushing them into the deep water without teaching them how to swim, you are only aiding in drowning them. If you have to invest, do it in the right practices, the right preparation which will hold the young cricketer in
good stead.

That then is the story in a nutshell. As a player, be fully prepared for one level higher than yours. It requires purposeful work, growth orientation and good coaches or advise. Keep learning, performing and no one can keep you out. Believe in yourself and your ability. The great thing about the game is that even if you do not get selected, the right processes and attitudes can help you immensely in all that you choose to do. You can never lose with that attitude.

Anjali - On People, Prayer and God

Yesterday we were walking around in the colony when Anjali pointed out a tree on the path.
'I can't reach the flowers because they are so high up,' she said.

It was a Nandivardhanam tree, the flowers of which are used for prayer. I told her that people pluck the flowers in the morning and use the flowers for prayer. That is why there are no flowers.  The few that were there were out of sight.

She was amused.
'First they disappoint God by plucking flowers that God made. Then they use the same flowers to pray to God. What will God think?'

Yes. What will God think? Does anyone care about what God thinks?
Food for thought.
Thanks Anjali. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Things that Government Chappies Can Do To Help

Here are 10 things that the government chappies can do (from what I have seen and heard). I am hoping that Vinod bhai will add some insights to this (and correct me where I am off target) and also add to the list to make life more interesting for us. Bear with me while I take a deep breath before I start.

1) Get rid of those towels from their offices and cars
Why do they have towels on every seat they sit on? On every head rest?

2) Get to work on time so everyone starts work on time
Why don't government offices ever start on time? Why do they start after 12? And end shortly after?

3) Start using government infrastructure so it is in place
Why don't government officers use government infrastructure like hospitals, transport and schools, so that all the money going into public spaces is ensured that it is used better? Can't forget the story of the Erode collector who joined his young daughter in a government school - complete with the midday meal. Or Governor Narasimhan who got operated in Gandhi hospital. Kudos.

4) Behave like common people and not like their bosses when they meet them
Why do government officials think they are somehow superior to people whom they serve? I have not seen or met a single government chap whom I visited as a customer smile or even treat me like a person. Its as if I was an intrusion in their work or worse, a criminal.

5) Not misuse government facilities, break rules
Why do they use their infrastructure for personal use? I see a traffic inspector who lives nearby who has the motorbike cops drop his son to school everyday. And they say they don't get enough petrol.

6) Work for the benefit of the least empowered and not the highest empowered
Why do they never have time for the poorest of the poor? Why do only the white khadi shirts, the  tie wallahs get instant entries and coffee and tea treatment in their offices while the rest wait outside for hours and days.

7) Do away with a culture of sycophancy and nepotism
Why do most fall over themselves to please their political bosses and get work done for them? Why do they have their own 'people' who listen to them?

8) Stop bribing their own finance departments to get their arrears
 Why do they bribe their own finance department clerks to get their arrears and other pay and service related work? How crazy is it to pay to get what is due to you? I know the most senior people are forced to do this. And I am not even talking of bribes that are paid for other favours like transfers etc.

9) Stop buying the most expensive or fancy cars for themselves from government funds
Why do they buy expensive cars from public funds when normal cars can suffice? What are they trying to prove?

10) Stop being so brazen about authority and power and money, houses and investments
Why do the top beurocrats have such expensive houses in the most expensive places? Why can't someone just do the math and figure out hat it does not seem to match?

I cannot think of more now but I'd love it if I can get some help on stuff like the towels. They cannot seem to give up on some perks like that.

Monday, July 14, 2014

2 Guns - Movie Review

Saw this action movie starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg called 2 Guns. It starts with two guys trying to be funny in a restaurant - some stuff about winking at waitresses etc which don't hold on these two old men. Anyway turns out they burn the restaurant because they want to rob the bank opposite it. They want to rob the bank because they want to nail a drug lord in Mexico called Papi.

Ok, before I go further this was based on a graphic novel.

They go after Papi because Denzel Washington is working with the DEA and they want to nail him. The other guy (the winker) is working with the Navy. Both steal approx 43 million from the bank. Turns out that Papi only gives a cut to a government agency which stashes it away. He's no as bad as the government really. The government agency does not like being looted. But they do not know who looted them so they go all the wrong places.

The DEA office has one good looking ex-girl friend of Denzel, who has a current boy friend. Net to net, babe and new boy friend, who is the Navy chaps boss try to steal the money using Navy dumb guy. Papi does an old Hindi film trick - he holds the girl and tells Denzel to get him the money in 24 hours. Denzel finds the money in a sentimental place. Too much.

All it had missing was a couple of songs, a vamp scene, some family drama and it would have been the perfect Hindi blockbuster. Did I like it? Its entertaining while its there but questions pop up. Why Mark Wahlberg and company steal for boss when he is such a smart kid who can wink at all waitresses? Why Denzel loves his girl friend so much? Why Papi is so easy to kidnap? And many other logical questions. But hey, movies are all about entertainment, entertainment and entertainment like some wise ass found out.

FIFA World Cup - Germany Reigns

After a tight 113 minutes during which Germany had most possession and seemed most likely to break the Argentinian defence, a beautifully controlled goal by substitute Goetze pushed the deserving Germans ahead for the lone one goal margin they needed. There was no shame in the way Argentina fought and defended throughout the game and even the one goal they let past them was so sublime that there was not much they could do.

Messi and his team stood disconsolate and in shock but it is a young team and they have done well. Most importantly they have lost to a better team and have gone out with their heads held high. It was a nice moment to see Philip Lahm lift the World Cup.

And so ends a month of late nights, groggy mornings. My love affair with the soccer World Cup that started in 1986 continues. As always a feeling of the party having come to an end washes over. Its time to pick up the pieces and get back to life again. Thanks Brazil, for the wonderful cup and spectators, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands and others for some fine soccer. Whatever it was, this was not a boring World Cup.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Turbo - Movie Review

Watched this delightful animation movie of a snail who has a need for speed. Theo alias Turbo is constantly dreaming of racing, of high speeds and burning rubber. His hero is Guy (as with all things French, pronounced Gee) Gagne the Indy 500 champion and Turbo laps up all Guy has to say.

It so happens that despite all the warnings and nay-sayers, chief of them being his brother Chet, Theo puts his life in danger in the hope of beating the lawnmower to the Big Red tomato. Theo is almost killed, and is saved by Chet. The two are expelled. Something happens then with Theo being sucked into the turbo charged engine of a race car. Turbo behaves like a race car, moves faster than one. He saves his brother Chet from the crows and the brothers are discovered by Tito, one of the Dos Bros Tacos brothers who races snails.

The Taco brother Tito, entrepreneur par excellence in terms of crazy ideas and energy, finds an entry into Indy 500, investors and the unlikely contestant, Theo aka Turbo starts the race. Guy Gagne finds a worthy opponent and despite the fact that turbo loses a bit of steam, pops over the line and all ends well.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mascherano and the Save

In the groggy early morning hours I could see the visuals so wonderfully capturing the magnificent effort of Javier Mascherano of Argentina as he slid in desperately and held back a rampaging Robben who almost sealed it for Netherlands at the very end of the game. I knew that I had seen something special and the commentator drove it home saying that it is a save that could well have saved Argentina the match. He also said why Mascherano was so valued.

It was a defining moment and it had all of that written on it.

But it was in today's newspapers that I saw how big a moment it was. An entire column was devoted to that moment, that save. How Mascherano put everything into that moment, slid in desperately '..as if it was the last thing he would ever do in his life.'

'Logically he was not the favorite to overtake Robben, a much faster player who was in front of him.' - says the report. 'It was the burst of acceleration - delving into the dregs of his energy reserves...that summed up his contribution as much as the pure tackle on which Argentina's World Cup fate hung.'

'I thought I'd slipped...I thought he'd get ahead of me..I thought of so many things...But I did get there and it wasn't a goal' said the man. Reading that wonderful piece by Amy Lawrence bought tears to the eyes.

It is a moment that could well inspire Argentina to believe it can do it. It is moments like this that make it worthwhile to watch the World Cup at ungodly hours.

'It summed up a flawless personal display...'

'Mascherano is a symbol, an emblem of our national team,' said Argentina's coach Sabella. 'He took this huge weight on his shoulders.'

To the Mascherano's of the world who can lift us all with their wonderful acts!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIFA World Cup - Argentina Holds Its Nerve

I did not expect Argentina to hold their own in the semi final against Netherlands. The Dutch had more possession, more strikes and constantly pushed Argentina to the wall but some outstanding defending by the Argentinians kept them in the game. As the game progressed beyond normal time and into extra time somehow it seemed that the Dutch would find a way through and end this solid defence. Everything pointed to that. Everything except the result.

Come penalties and it was a complete shift in energy. The Dutch began weakly and Romero stopped the first penalty. It was good to see Messi walk up and take the first shot - I believe that the best guys should go up front unlike what Brazil did, though successfully, with Neymar. Messi, all in control, compact as a fist, ambled up with no attempts to feint, stop, fall - he just ambled in and kicked the ball as naturally as any, picking his spot with no problem. So natural did the entire act seem that you believe that these guys and the ball are one unit almost. Then you see the others and the magic vanishes. Mortals come on and it is a game of dice again. But then the Robben penalty was a revelation too. He just deposited it in the farthest corner of the net with minimum of fuss and something about the way he did it hinted that he could do it all day. The save Romero made off Schneider was a blinder and worthy of the result that he got for his team.

As the commentator said - its a delicious final. South America versus Europe. Argentina versus Germany. With Di Maria back, Argentina will have more teeth. Ah, now we wait for the final at Maracana.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

FIFA World Cup - Brazil Decimated

What one saw in the first half an hour of play in the 2014 semi final between Brazil and Germany was one of those types of shocks you reserve for disasters one would never imagine. The manner in which Brazil capitulated in those thirty minutes, as if the team was made of a bunch of amateur school boys, was embarrassing to say the least. No one likes to watch sport where one side totally dominates the other, beats them down, rubs their nose in the mud, with no respect, no care for their dignity. It was something akin to that - and one felt that the ruthless Germans almost held themselves back from inflicting more damage on the hapless Brazilian side almost out of an unnecessary respect for what the host nation means to the game. Brazil, my favorite team for over two and a half decades, richly deserved the wake up call for failing to prepare as well as the Germans did, for fielding the wrong combinations, for being highly dependent on two key players both of whom cost them dearly and for lacking a cohesion and enthusiasm in their play once they were challenged. There was just no spine and it disintegrated. All Germany had to do was pump in their goals and toy with the opposition without breaking a sweat.

The moment the 11th minute corner was conceded, one knew deep inside that there was trouble. But no one expected that Muller would be given a full view of the goal from a space less than that of a penalty kick with no challenger or defender in sight. It was almost as if they hoped that they could get by without marking one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. Muller made full use of the gift and netted in a simple enough goal by his standards. And then Germany stepped up the tempo with Klose, Kroos, Muller, Lahm, Shweinsteiger, Khedira weaving in and out of the Brazilian defence, stealing balls at will, passing through with precision, playing around the defence and ripping it open. The commentator said that Germany has never lost a game when Klose scored and he was there hungry to break Ronaldo's record and he also said that Brazil must not concede another goal and even as he was saying that Klose struck a shot at the goal from up close, which was defended by Cesar. Unfortunately the rebound went directly to Klose who squeezed it in the small gap with precision. Both ominous predictions came true and it was as if the Brazilian team heard it out loud. In the next five minutes they fell to pieces as Kroos scored twice and Khedira another. Fans were crying, little boys traumatised by this inglorious embarrassment, this humiliation by Germany who had almost stopped celebrating the goals now.

Why was the Brazilian defence so disorganised? Why could they not have someone step in, lead and organise their team efforts? Why were they playing like a bunch of individuals all hoping that someone else would do the job for them? To me they will have to question the effort as a team. Did they play as a team? Did they have a plan B? Did they take time to regroup under a leader? I saw none of that on display.

Until the introduction of Ramires in the second half and the second half efforts of Oscar and Marcelo, the team was a collection of individuals with nothing binding them. No wonder the Germans could slice through it all so easily. Many reputations will now be questioned and certainly Brazil seems to have overstretched their run in this tournament way beyond their capability. Glimpses of their football came in the early part of the second half, but too little and too late. It will take a while to get over this for the host nation. For the fans too.

Oohalu Gusagusalade- Movie Review

That Srinivas Avasarala is a bright talent as an actor has been proved. He goes one step further and proves that he has the right stuff to be a director to watch out for with his debut directorial venture 'Oohalu Gusagusalade'. Starring himself, newcomers Naga Shourya and Rashi Khanna in this adaptation of a French play (a name that won't make too much sense anyway), Srinivas delivers a movie that is certainly worth the money spent on it.

Venky (NS) wants to become a news reader as his father had been. But his boss Uday Bhasker relegates him to tele shopping slots and keeps him faraway from  the news readers job. Deep down a resentful UB cannot understand why Venky is so popular with the girls while he is a miserable failure at impressing them despite reading many self-help books on the subject. Though he hates Venky's guts, he takes his advice in making a favorable impression on a girl whom he fancies for marriage. Venky gives him some easy tips. Impressed by the young man's easy approach to a woman's heart UB asks him about his love life, Venky relates his love story that happened five years ago in a flashback. It involves a girl he meets in Vizag - she comes on vacation from Delhi and he from Hyderabad - and they spend two months together and fall in love. However it ends rather abruptly and she leaves without a farewell.

Turns out she is the girl UB is after. Also turns out that UB hires the services of Venky to win her heart. He promises Venky the job of a news reader if he helps him. All hell breaks loose when Venky realises that UB's object of affection is Prabhavati, the girl from Vizag. After some funny situations where UB tries to win her heart through blue tooth technology, the two get together. Venky however promises to help UB impress another girl.

I loved the movie. It is easily among the funnier movies I have seen in the recent past. Some scenes and situations are brilliant and I could feel the same tingling anticipation as I did in an 'Angoor' or a 'Chupke Chupke' - Srini is that good with his writing. The scenes when Srini walks on are fantastic and you can see how an actor of his calibre can effortlessly lift a movie like this into some other place. Naga Shourya and Rashi Khanna bring an element of innocence and freshness. But to do full justice to this story, one felt that it needed actors who were as seasoned as Srini himself. It is unfair to compare the two youngsters with a huge talent like Srini's who pulls off some of the most complex scenes brilliantly, but the story did demand such timing and improvisation. It made me laugh a lot, feel the freshness and innocence of young love and I cannot but compliment the entire team for a very commendable effort. As for you Srini, take a bow lad. You've got what it takes and you will make some really fine movies in the future. Go for it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Our Relationship with Money - Thoughts and Interviews

I have always had a very uneasy relationship with money. In the beginning I was probably scared of it thanks to my childhood beliefs that money is a bad thing and the root cause of all evil. Of course, we all believed we were on the side of the good which was the poverty stricken side - I wonder why. Over time it changed from fear to suspicion to frustration to some other emotions I cannot explain. Suffice to say that today i have reached a stage when I can keep money just long enough but there is always a tearing hurry to get it out of my pocket and spend it.

Never have I loved money. It was always a stranger, a useful and beautiful stranger whose attentions were bestowed on me only when i genuinely made an effort to grab its attention. Perhaps I never considered myself worthy of it, perhaps I never thought I wanted a relationship with it. Whatever be the case, it always stayed in its space, and I, in mine. If it bestowed all its love on me I don't know what I would do - would I hug it and kiss it and shower all my love on it or would I merely look at it and feel a rising ache inside, now what do i do with it.
Poster outside Ramakrishna Mission, Hyderabad

But I do believe that the time has come to explore my relationship with money. It is not the ideal I know nor is my existence where most of my money lies in someone else's pockets - owed to me but not with me. Assets that come my way I give away because I know not what to do with them. More disturbingly I find that all things that hint at comfort and luxury, get me bothered, get lost, get out of my space. They sense my discomfort, my displeasure and they find it better to leave my space. I know its time to find out why and address this situation.

I have decided to meet a few of my friends who seem to have a love affair going on with money. I asked S the other day, the first of my respondents. His face lit up.

S, on money
'I love money. I do everything for money. I love accumulating money. I want to be the richest man in the world.'

He continued.

'I am happy when my bank balance improves. I feel sad and fearful when it decreases. All that I do, I do if I think it will help me earn more money.'

I cannot find a better stated position of love. If money were to be a women and the object of his love, it would certainly smile favorably at him.

Would you do anything to acquire money?
"The dilemma comes up but one plays within the rules. I will not do anything illegal certainly but I will make my own rules when principles clash."

He said.
"It's better to be clear about money. Money is about clarity, about being honest in your want. One should know one's value and say it. If you are not clear that you want it, it will not come to you."

I can understand how much it means not by his words but by the energy that came into the conversation as he spoke. I suppose money is also about energy, about creative energy. It is like water and will respond to like minds - those that are flexible, open and hungry for it. Even the gods prefer those who pray for them single mindedly. Thanks S.

KPC, on money
'Like women, I chase it. But I do not feel the need to own it. I enjoy the chase and then give it away.'
'Perhaps I am scared of it. The few times I have tried to acquire it for myself, I have had bad experiences - accidents etc. I am more comfortable passing it on. I do not think I can hold it and control it.'

KPC was surprisingly clear and honest in his account. I know for a fact that money has not been his friend, though he attracts it. It always passes by to someone else.

RR on money
I never thought about money really. If  I see it approaching I am already thinking of distributing it among my friends and well wishers.'

Do you think you are not worthy of it?

'Perhaps. But I feel that they deserve it more than I.'

Would you not think that it is disrespectful to money that you do not welcome it, give it respect and dignity and instead distribute it like some cheap stuff among those who may not even be worthy of it and who may not respect it?

'Maybe there is a point there. Unless we give it due respect and dignity, welcome it and show our enthusiasm to receive it, money may not really be enthused to come to us.'

DG on money
'I have come from a very humble background so I really know the value of money. My situation was such that I did not have a suitcase to take with me to the US and I was scheduled to leave the next day!

I have heard people say 'Money can never make you happy.' You know what I always thought I'd rather have the money and be miserable.

I respect money. I use it to help others. I invest well and I don't throw it around. It is important to me to be able to do stuff with money.

I have always had this feeling that I was worth it. That I could get as much as I wanted. I still feel the same way. My best days are to come.

From my early days when I would haggle hard for money, I have become slightly more qualitative these days. I don't just go for the money - now its the whole experience.

AP on money
This was one very interesting take on the relationship with money.
'I look at money from two sides - supply and demand. On the supply side you are limited by your worth. By that I mean what you think you are worth and not what you are really worth. When you think you are worth it, you get the right value for your service or product or whatever you are offering for the exchange.

On the demand side i.e. my ability to use the money, I think the power of money is pretty much the power to kill an ant. By this I mean that we do not use a super power to kill an ant, you may not even have a need to kill an ant, until it bites you. Unless something is causing you discomfort there is no need to unleash the power of money on it.'

I loved the way AP segregated the two. Most times the power it gives, is the discomfiting part of money. How should I use it is the question? But when one looks at it as the power to kill an ant, one releases all pressure. In fact you could live a very simple life if you keep that perspective and not feel the pressure at all. Wonderful. It is the way most conservative banks and institutions would think.

'You know, I think money does not flow to you just because you are worth it. It is guarded at all times by those who possess it. You will have to put in work to unlock the locks and let it flow to you. Unlocking and letting the guard down of those who will give you the money, can happen through various portals that are unlocked by emotions - greed, love, anger. You have to put in that effort to get the money to flow to you.'

I found that interesting. It is a creative process and certainly money flows to the most exciting stories. it will not flow out of its own volition to the undeserving, the uninterested and the unimaginative.

AP quoted Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged - 'Money is nothing but value for goods and services exchanged.'

'It is pretty close to business philosophy. 
What is the value offered? 
Who will pay for it?
Why will they pay for it?'

AP said he always felt he would and could make money even when he was not. He had a healthy approach to money - he always felt he was above it (as in always felt worthy and capable of it) and could create and generate it at will.  I told him that Swami Vivekananda had a similar quote - that man created money an therefore he should be the one controlling money and not otherwise. A sound money consciousness then AP has, and a wonderful interpretation of his fine and original thoughts on it.

'I do feel that I am possibly slacking off when I do not need to. Need to spur myself on.'

AP said that line, and then thought about why there was the need to make more money, when there is enough. Tough question and he gave me one of the very best answers to it.
'I need to make more to stay relevant,' he said before he went away.
Fantatsic stuff.

KSD on money
'You know I grew up in a family that was well connected, respected and living in fame and wealth. But when the patriarch passed away we realised that the coffers were empty. For years I worked as a freelancer and spent my earnings with a vengeance. Almost as if I was getting back at my parents and grandparents. You spent all you earned and I will do the same,' he said.

'How did it change? I was coaxed to appear for a job interview in 1991. In an era when MBAs were getting 3,000 as starting salary I said I wanted 10,000 for a designers job. People said I was craz. My Dad convinced me to reduce my price. I stuck to it. The chap who took my interview called me and said they'd pay 7500. I said I will not settle for less than 10000. They agreed.'

I know what he is saying. As a fresh Engineering graduate and MBA, my first job paid me 2500. My second paid me 3000. Same time. Must have taken some self confidence or money consciousness to say that.

'For the first time I had surplus and wanted to save. I started saving and by the time I was married, I had some money put away. My wife was approving of my bank account at that time.'

'Until two years ago I'd worry about where the money is going to come from etc but one fine day I gave up worrying about it. I don't give a damn anymore. It is easy for me to give up an asset worth a crore and a half to my loved ones and not think of it as a loss. I am much at ease now. It will flow I know. I think I have sorted out my equation with money.'

I will keep adding stuff to this blog, after more interviews. Anyone of you can do the same in your comments.