Sunday, November 29, 2015

Brilliant Review of 'Thanu Nenu' in Hans India

Good review of 'Thanu Nenu'.

L. Ravichander says it's an 'unpretentious simple love story'...'with a native degree of sincerity not often associated with Telugu cinema' ...'for a change not loud, grotesque, violent and crass' and 'nearest thing in a long while that a film from Tollywood would be akin to a Basu Chatterjee film'.

I liked that he found the hero Santosh Sobhan fresh 'and earnest and worth encouraging' and that 'this is talent without excessive marketing'. Also liked the 'the cast did its very best' line.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanu Nenu - Movie Review

It's a quirky movie with a quirky sense of humor. So if you don't have a sense of humor you are likely to miss a whole lot of stuff. If you are a person with rigid rights and wrongs, then perhaps again, you might be seething at the 'wrongs'.But one thing is for sure, the more I watch this movie the more I like it. Perhaps it's because I really enjoying watching the phenomenal screen presence of young Santosh Shobhan who breezes through a difficult role with an ease that highly accomplished actors would have struggled with. Santosh stands out head and shoulders over all others and pretty much carries the film on his shoulders - be it in his intense anger, duplicity, fickle temperament or even his love. He is supported by a bunch of quirkier characters like his friend Naresh, Sreekanth, Sarveshwar Rao and his wife, the waiter. I especially loved Kamesh the boss, and loved it even more when Santosh imitates him in one scene.

It's a love story at its core. So we have a boy who grew up with his grandmother because his parents left for the USA to make their fortune. They postpone trips to India caught up in their money making. The young boy grows up feeling resentful towards the country that separated him from his parents. He has enough baggage to load a goods train.

He falls in love with a girl. But he finds out later that she has promised her father that she would go to the US to fulfil his (the father's) dream. Of course he does not want her to go and does everything his unconventional mind can think of to prevent her from going - from shady touts who can influence rejection of visas to trying to mislead her away from her interview - he does everything and fails. But her father and the one person who also wants to marry her, 'caste feeling Srikanth' put some spokes. Not that Kiran needs any spokes. He is fully capable of putting enough spokes in his own life.

How he unravels himself, helped by his love, is the story.

The story is also about all those things that we are comfortable with in private - be it NRI or US bashing, socks- t shirts-shoes gifts syndrome, caste feelings, our attitudes to BPO jobs, priests and pujaris, to death, love - we have said it all or seen it all. But as the hero Kiran says to his future father-in-law - it's the truth. It' what we do but do not want to acknowledge or say in public. So we don't know if we should laugh along with the characters when they laugh at the bashing of a US based Telugu client or at 'caste feeling' jokes - because we don't know if its politically correct.

In many ways 'Thanu Nenu' under its facade of fun and humor deals starkly and honestly with our hypocrisy and our inability to face the truth. So if a senior reviewer feels that the brahmin priest in the movie (portrayed brilliantly by new comer Ram Subbu) was showed in bad light one must wonder - should all brahmin priests only be shown as grave, old, wise, knowledgeable people with no desires - especially when we know it's not always true. It's the popular image but reality is that there are brahmin priests of all types - including this very likeable young and handsome priest who takes care of his body and builds his six packs, who watches movies and has other likes and dislikes in life. But he does his job better than most grave, wise, old, knowledgeable priests might have done in similar circs by giving solace and love to the young distraught boy. What is it that we do not want to see? Why do new patterns threaten us so?

This is what 'Thanu Nenu' shows. That is also why I am glad Ram made this movie and not some sentimental hogwash about school kid romances that caters to all things unintelligent and lazy. This is honest, has integrity and like the hero says in a call F... you. Take it or leave it but this is what you get. Good for you Ram.

Anyway, parents, work, love all go through a roller coaster and finally come close into a happy resolution. Santosh shines through brilliantly. Someone next to me said - this guy could be the next Mahesh Babu. And some. If there is one reason to see this film, you could do it for him. Whether he says 'I love you' in the most convincing way I have seen anyone do, or pull off an insanely crazy puja scene praying for someone's death, or even pull off a LOL, LOL, LOL caper, or for a moment become the unhinged bipolar character with his mood swings - he is simply outstanding and highly likeable. Just shows how much difference a talented artist can make.

I was most interested in Ram's directorial debut and I genuinely think he acquit ed himself well. It's a difficult theme to choose because the movie is unapologetic and goes after all that the quirky characters feel - be it US and NRI bashing, caste feeling, craze for foreign stuff, lost priorities - it says it like it is without sugar coating anything and yet making it funny. Comedy of this type is the hardest to pull off because when you read that on paper you wonder - how will it come out on screen if you have a bad actor who does not get it? Every single one of those close calls could go over the line but to Ram's credit he managed to keep it under, make it fun and entertaining and certainly threw up a phenomenal talent like Santosh yet again.

Not to forget the exciting directorial talent Ram brings to the industry now - there's no writing him off because he has done enough in this difficult movie. He can absolutely breeze through with a script with a bit more meat and more resources. Ram is here to stay and will certainly direct movies that will provoke, entertain and disrupt. More importantly, in both Santosh's work and Ram's, I can see an intelligence I always hoped to see in the craft. Bodes well for the industry - I can predict some great movies coming out in the next decade.

Well done Ram. Great job Santosh. And well done all.

1 Day Leadership program - Move From Insecure Leadership to Personal Responsibility

The 1-day Leadership program went off well.

Some feedback
"Learned about evolution of leaders and leadership, process of performing as a leader. My goal is to move from personal leadership to a secure leadership style."

"Great opportunity. So much energy and knowledge. I am already feeling that I can also be a secure leader by following the steps given to me."

"Very good session. Learned a lot. Understood leadership process. Leadership traits. Human relationship management."

"Excellent discussion about leadership. Simple real life examples to explain complex scenarios. How to resolve conflict and benefits of focussing attention on positives."

"Learnt how to communicate with team and superiors, understanding capabilities of self and team, how to plan and achieve goals within target time, taking feedback from others, giving feedback to others, sharing knowledge, time management, overcoming anger. Had a great time. Will help me improve in professional, personal and social areas."

"Leadership qualities, how to plan, how to improve relations."

"Planning, discipline, vision, appreciation, exchange of views, time sense."

"Initiative, understanding of role, being in sync with management and team about goal. Will help me immensely to understand the process of being a leader."

"Open and healthy discussions. Able to relate to real time experiences and learnt how to manage them effectively."

Thanks all. Announcing the next soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

1 Day Leadership Program - Cracking the Leadership Code and Building Ownership Muscle

I've announced a 1 - day leadership program for middle level managers on November 26, 2015.
Some details.

Leadership can be learned like any other skill. A good leader makes a significant difference to individual and team performance. Leadership skills bring the best out of people, grow teams and achieve results.

Leadership does not need a position. It is an attitude, an action, a feeling of ownership. This is why ownership and leadership are linked. Good leaders understand how ownership transforms.

Program Rationale
‘Cracking the Leadership Code – Building Ownership Muscle’ is a 1 day workshop that aims to deconstruct the craft of leadership and create secure leaders. The workshop is a reflective, experiential program. It combines storytelling, role play, corporate and cricket analogy and exercises. It involves reflection on leadership traits, leadership styles and practice of leadership.

Learning Objectives
1. Understanding and deconstructing leadership
2. Identifying leadership attributes
3. Committing to Personal Leadership / Ownership, Practicing Secure Leadership
4. Mapping responsibility, growth of self and team

Who Should Attend
Executives who are change agents. Individuals who wish to experience the power of personal leadership and route to high performance.

Program Structure
The program consists of 4 sessions
Session 1- Leadership deconstructed, reconstructed
Session 2 – Leadership styles, process
Session 3 – Practice of leadership, ownership, responsibility
Session 4 – Behaviors and rewards, responsibility and growth, people management

Key Takeaways
Integrate leadership attributes to enhance personal leadership qualities
·         Understand leadership process
·         Practice leadership, take higher responsibility
·         Experience personal leadership and high performance
·         Practice secure leadership, delegation, people management and conflict management
·         Importance of Trust, Belief, Empathy in people management
        That is a lot of stuff to cover in a day. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

'Thanu Nenu' Telugu Film - What I Like About My Brother Ram Mohan's Journey in Films So Far

When my younger brother Ram went into the business of producing movies sometime in 2008 the first thought I got was - man, we're really far from the movie world aren't we? I had no clue about how those things work and all I know is to go and watch movies.

Even given that he worked with Suresh Babu Productions and with UTV on movies and television, given his elite training and the IIM' A, background, I wondered at this decision. Funnily Ram never really watched movies as much as I did when we were growing up.

Then I learned some more about the movie he was making. Small budget, new cast. I never heard of anyone in that cast except for Swathi whom I'd seen on television. I wondered what would make anyone watch a movie like this. (I really had and still have no clue how the movie industry works.) The movie had nothing of what I thought was about movies and stars, sets and money, glitz and glamour, sex and violence. They were a low key bunch, all normal next door characters, young people with normal aspirations but exceptional talent. Suresh Babu and some other big names came for the muhurat function. I did not even know what 'Ashta Chamma' meant and I asked someone. I hoped it would all end well for Ram. One final look at the cast and crew and it sure looked unsteady for me.

Nani, Swathi, Srinivasa Avasarala apart Mohan Krishna Indraganti's great film making talents came to the fore in that movie. There are many other names I forget to mention but each as brilliant (Sreeramachandra sang the title track and it was his first break if I am not wrong. Kalyan Koduri, the music director also broke ground there). The music, singing, lyrics everything. The first time I saw the movie I wondered - but this does not look like a regular film. Then the jokes flew every time I watched the movie and slowly I realised what a great product they had made with a bunch of untested, talented youngsters. I remember watching the first show at Satyam and feeling good at the crowd reactions. Choudary, Kumar were with me and they both had smiles. Sigh. Of relief.

'Ashta Chamma' became a runaway hit. It brought several stars and a new type of clean, family films - the stuff my mom would have loved to watch if she were alive. Or even what my Dad would have enjoyed laughing at, with his great sense of humour. People still say good stuff about the movie and none more so than Prof. Jyothi of the School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad. 'Ashta Chamma' became a case study at the ISB as a case where movies can become hits by following management principles. Kotler got that right - make a great product first.

It was only after the initial fear and apprehension had died post-success of the film that I could genuinely appreciate the courage it took to make such a film with so many new faces. I don't think Ram had money to throw around, nor did the producers, so the movie had to work. The easy way is to take safe routes. But Ram believed that the safe route was a good script, good skills and he invested both belief and time in them. Few would do that. In a similar situation I would not have done that. Why spend time breaking my head over new faces? I'd rather go with known devils.

But big risks pay big rewards. Belief works. This was 2008.

At the 100th day function at Ramanaidu Studios, I dropped in for a short time. I was pretty amazed to see that many artistes had not seen Ram till them. I could hear them whispering - 'he's the producer'. Crazy.

Then 'Golconda High School' happened. I was looking to sell the movie rights of 'The Men Within' and one production house did show some interest. Then Ram decided to do it himself, as a tribute to the game he enjoyed playing a lot. Rights sold, I got a little closer to the film making process as a consultant for the movie. I was intrigued by the way he picked the team again. Mohan, Senthil. Sumanth, the kids. The outdoor shoots, rains, school grounds all delayed the shoot a bit more than expected. But one by one the pieces fell in place and the movie saw the light of the day. 2011, January, 'Golconda High School' hit the screens.

It did fairly well. Critical acclaim. But no cash ringing.

It set Ram back a bit surely and he was not too happy with the way it turned out. Some learnings. It took him a while to get on track with the third film.

If the first two movies seemed outrageous in terms of stories, people etc the third was even more. Raj Tarun and Avika Gor, young and fresh, Virinchi, as director, a Hindi film composer who made songs sound different, and all set in the heart land of the Godavari belt. The movie did not move an inch outside that rural setting, Raj Tarun stuck to his accent, Avika pulled off being a Telugu lass. 'Uyyala Jampala', clean as the first two, hit all the right notes with the audience and Ram was back with a roar. This time with his new production house - Sunshine Cinemas. Akkineni Nagarjuna co produced it and promoted the film tirelessly. Raj Tarun became a star and he delivered a couple more hits and so has Avika.

They tell me 'Uyyala Jampala' is a huge hit with family audiences on television.

And when it was all seeming like things were going fine, Ram decided to turn director. Like Nani said in his speech at the press meet, I wondered too. But inside, I was glad he made the plunge. For the simple reason that Ram's growth would add more dimensions when he wears the creator label. To create, to take responsibility for what he created, to understand the process and pain of being the creator - it adds different dimensions.

I was happy that a great young talent like the supremely likeable Santosh was getting his break with Ram. I watched the shooting on a couple of days and saw the amount of freedom Ram gave to his team. It's one of the most gruelling tasks I feel, a director's (a job I'd never do even if I was offered all the money in the world - it's tough as hell), since he has to hold the energies of the entire set together. And he pulled it off, being gentle with his new actors, crew, while wearing the producer's hat at the same time. Whatever I saw of it, 'Thanu Nenu', I loved it. It's irreverent, fun and naively innocent. Santosh is brilliant and I expected nothing less from him.

While we await the release of Ram's directorial debut on the coming Friday, November 27, 2015, 'nervously' as he said on his fb post, I see no reason to even look at any other tag but that of success for him. I look at the movies he made, the talents he launched, the investment he put in nurturing that talent, the courage that is required to go that route in an industry that is alien and I say he is already past the line. It is also a very intriguing dynamic between him and Suresh Babu who have collaborated together and made this wonderful brand of movies in times when we can easily lose faith in all things simple and good. Whatever unfolds now is only academic. No one can prevent Santosh from being a star, he is that good and some more, as Nani and Raj Tarun graciously said in their speeches and what many more would say when they see him. I am pretty impressed by Ram's debut work which shines through in a difficult movie filled with quirky and complicated characters. 'Thanu Nenu' has retained all the integrity and honesty of his brand of films, and the same clean fun too.

All the best Ram. Good job. Waiting for the 27th. And all of you who are reading this blog, please do watch.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Robber Bridegroom - Brothers Grimm

The stories are grim, true to their name - macabre as ever - The Master Huntsman, The Robber Bridegroom, The Devil's Three Golden Hairs, The Six Servants, The Bremen Town Band, Snowwhite and Lazy Harry. I remember the two most popular - Snowwhite and The Bremen Town Band. A gist of what the Brothers Grimm have to offer little children. Princesses and beautiful women are the chief motivators for the heroics by the heroes.

'The Master Huntsman' is a master huntsman! He befriends three giants, kills them, cuts off their tongues, takes the tongues away in his bag to show as prooof to the king and marries the Princess.

'The Robber Bridegroom' is about a murderous robber who wants to marry a  beautiful girl posing as a normal person. He asks her to visit him in the jungle but is warned by strange voices that the house belongs to a bunch of murderers (who are cannibals). She is helped by an old lady to escape. When the robber bridegroom comes to marry her, she her story and the robber is caught and handed over to the authorities.

A prophecy that a fortune child will marry the princess comes true, much to the king's dismay. He tells the fortune child to fetch him three hairs from the devil. Of course the lucky boy goes to the devil's house, meets the devil's mother, who helps him get the three hairs and also the answers to three tricky questions that only the devil can aswer. And then he lives happily ever after.

A bad queeen, a beautiful princess. The queen uses the princess to lure stupid fellows to their death. She gives them impossible tasks and kills them. Cometh hero. Along the way he picks up six servants who can do impossible stuff, a fat man who can grow to 300 times his size, a tall man with similar habits, a fellow who can hear anythng, a fellow with powerful eyes, a fellow ho gets hot when cold and who gets cold when hot and vice versa and one who can see beyond mountains etc. With these six weird servants he goes, meets the queen, accomplishes her tasks and wins the princess's hand.

A donkey realises the farmer wants to get rid of him and planS to run away to Bremen to join the town band. On the way he meets a dog, a cat, and a cock. The four happen on a robber's den , scare them with their singing, feast on their food and finally maul one of them enough to make them never come back to their place again.

Snowwhite and the seven dwarfs, and the evil queen, and the mirror, and the poisoned apple, and the prince, what drama and what imagination.

Then comes Lazy Harry, who is unhappy with his work and who marries Fat Katie hoping she will do his work. Fat Katie is lazier, gets rid of the goats and comes up with a scheme to earn money by collecting honey. They do nothing, fantasise about riches, lose the honey and think up more lazy excuses to stay in bed.

The Brothers Grimm were actually two brothers - Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and William Karl Grimm of Germany.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Link to Music - Full Album of "Thanu Nenu"

Link to full album - Thanu Nenu

Trailer of 'Thanu Nenu' - My Brother Ram Mohan's Debut As a Director

After launching several new faces and talents, my younger brother Ram (Ram Mohan) finally made his directorial debut with 'Thanu Nenu'. Once again he launched a new face Santosh Shobhan who played Gautam, the resolute captain in 'Golconda High School'. Avika Gor plays his love interest. Here's the link to the trailer of the film.

The movie is set to release onNovember 27, 2015. It's a delightful, irreverent movie with the most unpredictable of characters. Sanstosh is, predictably, brilliant.

Do watch. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Anjali - Pack My Gift For Me

I never saw anything like this before.

Anjali wanted to buy herself a gift on Children's Day. I gave her a budget of 100 bucks. (She hates my budgeting and tells me - draw money from my account. I want to buy with my own money.)

Anyway she chose, of all things, a fountain pen. It came with a bottle of ink and a dropper. Vinod will be happy to hear this.

We paid for the stuff and were on our way to get some gifts wrapped for a birthday. Anjali said 'I want my gift wrapped too.'

After the other two gifts were wrapped, she waited patiently as they wrapped her gift. They gave it to her, minus the card, knowing it's her own gift. But she handed them the card and had that stuck on the gift.

Then she wrote on it - From Anjali to Anjali. And then, only then, did she gift herself the gift.

It's not a bad attitude. To treat yourself specially. On par with any other special person of the day. I need to learn this quickly. I need to know that I am special enough to deserve special treatment - from myself.

What am I giving myself - from Hari to Hari?

Anjali - A Lesson in Energy Management

'Maybe I should not get angry,' I told Anjali.
We were on the way to school after I had an argument with Shobhs.
She nodded in agreement.

'That's what I do,' she said.
'Do what?' I enquired.
'When someone shouts at me even I feel like shouting. But what's the use? The roof will break with all that shouting.'

'So what do you do?' I asked.
'I go lower,' she said, using her hand to show how she steps down the energy. 'We should go lower, so the other person also goes lower, then you go more lower, and then the other person also, and it is over.'
'What happens if we don't? I asked.

'Then it goes higher,' she said, showing the step by step way in which arguments rise. 'It will go higher and higher and higher and hit the roof.'
This time, I nodded. I could use this.

It's the best class in energy management I have had. Now to remember that visual of hands going lower, step by step.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thought for the Day - Why We Like Arnab and Saas Bahu serials or How to Make People Happy

Most of us are happier when we feel others are inferior or less than to us. It's not how we are but how much happier we are compared to the next person that makes us feel better. It is a relative scale.

To make people happy on a large scale there are two main conditions

1) give them stuff that shows other people as lesser (suffering, or living worse lives), stuff we can sympathise with, feel pity upon or laugh (comedy shows, saas bahu serials, suffering, Arnab etc)

2) give them a platform where they can show how superior they are to the others (facebook, twitter, blogs etc)

In both conditions people are happy. Or happier.

We love watching Arnab because we can say - how can he be like that? We feel superior to him so we watch. That's why he is more popular than a restrained, cultured and articulate newsreader who may make us feel inferior. We don't like to watch such people. We love Saas bahu serials because they evoke the same feelings of sympathy or how-can-they-be-like-that. It instantly makes us feel superior. Which is why these shows are prime time and the shows that offer some sense are relegated to morning and non-prime hours. People don't like to be told they can be better. They like to see how they are already relatively better.

This is a shallow, addictive happiness that is derived from our reactions with the external. These methods have been exploited by rulers and governments for centuries. Also makers of pulp stuff who make billions. The principle - give the people what they want.

Genuine happiness (is it joy?) comes from a place deep within. It is not about the external. It is internal and comes from knowing one's own space in the world, good or bad. It's not relative. It's a unique space that does not diminish or increase because of others.

When we aspire for this sort of happiness, our source of happiness comes from within. Nothing can affect it. We can choose to be happy with what gives us happiness. We need not acquire stuff that we do not really care for, in the pursuit of happiness because we know what we want. We know we can be happy by ourselves and not by comparison.

Then, we don't have a compulsive need to watch Arnab (sorry man, just as an example, but you're hugely popular so...), check our phones, our gadgets, hits on this blog, comments, sad shows etc. We can simply watch the blue skies, flowers, trees, birds, babies, beauty. We can rest in contentment.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Miss Brill - Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield writes of such subtle aspects of human nature, the quirky shades, and how lives turn. There is a sense of the gentle versus the blunt, the unknown and unfelt aspects that the sensitive victims feel in her stories. This book has three stories 'Marriage a la Mode', 'Miss Brill' and 'The Stranger'.

In 'Marriage a la Mode' the husband loves his feisty wife to distraction. But he has a normal life of normal means and is struggling to keep his family afloat. His wife however has artistic impulses and cultivates a bunch of partying bohemians for friends. While returning home to see her on a weekend, he writes a heartfelt letter to her about how he feels for her. After he leaves she reads the letter to her lot and they mock him and his middle class sentimentality. For a few moments she feels bad that she did this to him, and then she is back to her normal self. One can only sympathise with the husband and hopes he finds the sense to leave her.

In 'Miss Brill' we meet an English teacher who paints a lovely picture of life in the park in her mind. She is feeling fine today with her fur coat. A young man and woman sit next to her and she imagines them as the hero and heroine of her imagined play. Until the young couple say something nasty about her and her fur coat within her earshot. Miss Brill's day is completely spoiled and she returns directly home and rids herself of her fur coat. Again, sensitive and insensitive, beautifully portrayed. One can feel the pain and humiliation Miss Brill feels.

Then 'The Stranger' where the impatient middle aged husband is waiting for his wife to return from her voyage. He cannot wait to meet her and pour his love for her but he finds her distant. He finds out that a young man on the voyage died, in her arms. She is sad. He knows she cared for that young man more than she ever did for him. The young man's memory remains as a ghost forever between them.

Very fine and subtle and very distinct.

The Old Man of the Moon - Shen Fu

A most delightful love story, tragic endings included, but a story of intense love nevertheless. It is Shen Fu's account of his own marriage. His bride Chen Yun, whom he knew as a child, and he, got along well, discussing literature, art and the fine things in life. It is a marriage of comfort and care, both loving one another.

Shen Fu is a Chinese writer from the eighteenth century. The customs of those times forbade women to travel and do many other things we take for granted today. The conversations that the couple have are delightful and it is in one such that they refer to the old man of the moon who they feel will help them. As they grow older Yun tries to get Shen Fu a concubine. But when the concubine goes away Yun is disheartened. Her subsequent illness, his parents unhappiness at her behavior, the troubles they face without money until she finally passes away make up the rest of the story. Their intense love shines through it all.

Beautifully told. It leaves haunting images in the mind. 

A Validation - An Attitude of Gratitude

A student of mine Mahesh Reddy writes. It's the frist thing I saw this morning.

"hello sir ..this is mahesh from school of management studies(uoh) and i got selected in TCS as a business analyst ..i would like to express my deepest sense of gratitude to you. You are one of the main reasons behind my success as u gave enough motivation and valuable inputs, suggestions(what not..) all these helped me in getting this success ...and i would also like to thank JYOTHI ma'm for providing an opportunity to have session like that.....thanking you sir once again (you are my guide for ever) i can't be any happier than this at the moment..."

If I were to look for one representative story that makes my time and workshops at the School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad worth the trouble, this could be the one for me. Mahesh was an earnest, diffident yet courageous and clear headed young man whom I remember well from the two day workshop. I could sense a deep desire to learn and to grow, an inherent humility and integrity which he retained, as he coped with life. in fact all the students were, as they stepped into life and I remember most. 

Thanks Mahesh. Wishing you well in your career, your life. I will certainly be available to guide you every way I can. Do keep in touch.

I am most impressed that Mahesh remembered to write and thank me and Jyothi madam. This was a workshop we had done almost two years ago when his batch were still freshers. This attitude of grtitude will him well in his life. At a time when we wonder if what we are sharing makes any sense at all - ethics, process, preparation, hard work, integrity, honesty - this message comes as a strong validation.

This message is also a great validation for Prof. Jyothi who believed that these workshops, vague as they may appear to others (excellence, empowerment?) would work.

They say that a teacher's greatest reward is in seeing the success of his students. In seeing the seeds of thought she has sown grow and bear fruit. I now get a sense of what it means.

Ah. Meanwhile, let me enjoy contentment as it rains on me. It is as happy a day for me as for Mahesh.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Anjali - Imagine There Is Nothing To Do

'I have so many things to do Anjali,' I complained. 'What do I do?'
We were walking in the super market. I had several things pending, all of them seemingly important and urgent.

'Stop worrying about all those things,' she said. 'Imagine you have nothing to do.'
I made a face.

'Then how will I get any work done?' I asked.
Pat came the reply.
'Then pick one job and do it. Think that is the only job you have and complete it. After that you pick the next job. That way you have only one job at a time and you will not worry about having too many.'

Made immense sense.
'Who told you that?' I asked suspiciously.

She laughed. 'No one.'

Then she was back to her normal mischievous self.

'Ok, now you can stop imagining,' she said.
Ok. To pick one important job and do it. Thanks coach. Much appreciated.

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - We Hurt Others, When We Are Hurt

It is a known principle that we are victims of victims.

Those who hurt us then, are those who have suffered even more hurt. To hurt another, one must be suffering so much that one cannot look beyond assuaging their own hurt somehow.

Those who hurt pathologically of course need help. But even those are suffering from deep hurt.

Knowing this, we can choose not to get hurt by someone else. We are better off sympathising. Or even as the wise do, help where we can and break the cycle.

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - We Crib When We Get Something, We Crave When We Don't

We crib only when we are already getting something from the other. What we are cribbing about is about - how it could have been done better or how much more could have been given etc. Mom you did not do this, Dad you never did this, family, friend, government etc.

You crib when you do not know how to receive.

On the other hand, when we get nothing, we crave for it. We are on best behavior, We woo it. We bend over backwards to get it. Please, please, look at me. I will do anything for you. Again, all those people who mean and give nothing, but whom we want to please.

In families more so, and perhaps in all places where there is the most unconditional love (or even some love) we crib. In all places where there is no promise to do anything, we try hard to win approval.

To get people on their best behavior, give them nothing. If you give them something, they crib. Human behavior is really amazing. (But some governments have figured it out.)

Let me add a small corollary there. A how-to.

To get people on their best behavior, give them, but perhaps, do not let them expect it as a right. Always make it clear that there are no rights. It is a moment to moment transaction. In the present. Sadly a mother's love, unconditional as it would be, would normally tend towards the first case. But there is no harm in practicing the second. Keeps everyone honest.

But on the other hand, when giving, who is worried about how the other is receiving. About whether the other is cribbing. Give anyway.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nice Link - Employee to CEO

Thought for the Day - Apology. Closure and Happy Diwali

Shashi Tharoor in his fine debate someplace in England asked for an apology from the British for what they had done to India. In another unrelated incident the British government apologised to Alan Turing, renowned mathematician and man of many parts, for the appalling way he was treated post WW II. An apology seems to put the lid or at least assuage the feelings of those who have been wronged or feel they have been wronged.

Could you at least say sorry?

Many politicians and people in high offices get stuck. To apologise or not. Saying sorry would mean acceptance of guilt. This would trigger an unnecessary row again with a fresh upheaval among those wronged. Vote banks may get affected. Most opt for the quiet route and hope things work out fine. There have been so many cases where the world is owed an apology by leaders who may have decided wrongly, may have hurt many people and their families and lives, but who choose to remain silent. There is no closure.

A simmering resentment continues for years and years. We deserve in the least an apology. An acceptance that we were wronged.

All one has to do is apologise. Admit to one's mistake. Admit to how decision-making was clouded for whatever reasons. Admit that the consequences were not what he had envisioned. After all he is human too.

What happens if one says sorry? Some will say, he has admitted so kill him now. Some will curse him for eternity. Some will say, okay at least this. Some closure. Much resentment exists in the world because there is no closure. The apology becomes that.

Amidst all these unapologetic scenarios we have some rare instances - as in the above one by the British government to Alan Turing - where a society accepts its mistake - even if it was committed by its forefathers and sets an issue to rest. Nothing wrong there. No problem bending a bit.

Similarly much angst can be addressed in our lives by seeking closure in our minds. Where we can, apologise, for the wrong committed or perceived. For the hurt caused. And more importantly, if there is an apology, accept it and close that wound. The apology may sometimes sound forced, contrived, even seen as something used for another gain. But it's a closure. An offer to end old wounds and start afresh.

When apologies are offered, it is possibly easier to forgive.

In extreme cases one can seek forgiveness even in the absence of an apology. After all unforgiveness hurts us (the carriers) the most. It does not hurt the other who is merrily moving along.

Most times, we never know what causes people hurt. But what's undeniable is the hurt they have felt. It comes from expectations. Gandhi promised this but failed thought Godse and killed him. From something like that on a macro level to a micro level of our own dealings with people, we never know whom and how we are hurting. But when it is expressed, for the interests of keeping the flow, an apology could help assuage the pain.

Just by being myself, I am certain, I caused much pain to many - some express it to me and some don't - but for whatever it is worth I would like to say I am sorry to all those who have some felt done in by me. My defense - I was only doing the best I could in those circumstances. My intent - I hope this apology assuages some part of the pain and gives some kind of a closure to that hurt I may have caused.

The great part of apologies and ending resentment is the new freedom it brings. (Now we can choose to hurt all over again!) But jokes apart, apologise, accept, forgive, close and start afresh is not a bad cycle. It's not worth holding on. There's much more in life.

Wishing you all a happy Diwali. Burn away the old baggage and welcome a new beginning. (It does not mean burn away the old, people included. Burning away old baggage could herald new beginnings in old settings too! :)

I am going to do that. Hope you do too.

Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy - Review

This was a two act play written by Pradeep Dalvi based on a book writen by Gopal Godse (Nathuram's brother,an army man, author and a co-conspirator in the assassination of Gandhi) 'May It Please Your Honor'. The play was not given permission to perform publicly in 1989. It tells the story from Nathuram Godse's point of view and how he chose to end Gandhi's life because he believed that Gandhi was appeasing Muslims - was responsible for the partition of India and the subsequent genocide and suffering, ensuring Pakistan got a purse at the time of partition etc. Nathuram Godse (in the play) feels that act is justified by saying that he killed Gandhi because he felt his being around would be detrimental for India and Indians.

I tried my best to understand and follow Marathi in the play. The character who played Nathuram Godse, Sharad Ponkshe, gets a lot of space and time and does a fine job. A debate or a dharna does not work any longer he feels, so he shot Gandhi dead. I do not agree with what you have done so I shot you. And by shooting you I become part of history and the representative of all who oppose your thought. Or what I think is your thought.

A thought versus a bullet. The question remains, can a thought be silenced by a bullet? Does a thought end with one person's death?

It's a provocative piece of work and does provoke much thought too. Godse believed he was right in doing what he was doing. Just as Gandhi believed that whatever he did was the right thing. The decisions taken at the larger scale obviously will not be as transparent as we would like them to be - somehow we like a simplified version of everything. We love stories. We love heroes. Gandhi versus Jinnah - Gandhi lost. India versus Pakistan. Hindu versus Muslim. But up there, at policy making and decision taking level, we do not know who comes with what agenda and why. Who comes with what bias and why. And someone fits in what they think is the best formula for what one believes is the greater good. Sometimes it is the right one. Sometimes not. But one way or another one has to trust the leadership and go with him or her. In many ways they represent the people, us. The many thoughts in us. But so many times leaders, political and apolitical, have been assassinated because people did not like their thought, action or many times, inaction. Many times their actions are scrutinised centuries after they are dead and gone and used to further some other story.

In the final analysis it comes down to this. Gandhi was the symbol of all that went wrong for Godse and he killed him. Obviously there were more than one person at the table when partition was decided upon. Why was only one man killed? Gandhi had a thought, pursued a principle. What is important is the time when we think that a thought must be countered only by a bullet. That a thought must be silenced before it is fully played out. But that's another story. How a thought must be countered. How your own counter-thought could be countered too.

At one point Godse says in the play - Gandhi wanted to live for his principles, I am prepared to die for my principles. He differentiates between 'hatya' (murder) and 'vadh' (killing an enemy as in war) and says his act is one of  'vadh'. Godse says that Gandhi never uttered the words 'Hey Ram' when he died and merely said 'Ahh'. He believes that some people wanted to make a saint of Gandhi and put that line in. He says he appreciates the good work Gandhi had done but he felt he had to do what he did for India and end Gandhi.

The play goes along those lines.

The conspirators of the assassination were Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte, (both hanged), Madanlal Pahwa, Digamber Badge (who turned approver), Vinayak Savarkar, Vishnu Karkare, Shankar Kistaiya and Gopal Godse (writer of the original play and  brother of Nathuram). Gopal Godse served in the Armed Forces in the Second World War and fought in Iran and Iraq. After the assassination he served sixteen years in jail. he lived mainly on the royalties of his writings on the assassination and Gandhi and died in 2005. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - When We Want to Save, We Lose

Whatever we want to save, to the exclusion of all else (be it money, time) - there's a good chance we will lose it.

Perhaps the focus here is on not losing - and not on earning more and enjoying the fact that it's there.

The way to look at it is perhaps this way - one must save in the normal course of things and not make saving it the end all. For example, I am working and I save a part. It gets saved. However if I save a bit and look at it as my savings and stop working and go on checking on my savings obsessively, the savings are bound to get stressed.

The focus perhaps must be on the work and savings become a part of our earnings. Not merely savings to the exclusion of all else. Then we could save up stuff in pots and pots (or in Swiss banks) but that's exactly where it will remain until we lose it somehow.

We could instead focus on work and enjoy the pleasure and reward it gives. It could leave us with a healthier outlook to life, to what we want to save. We do not need to save it then simply because it does not need saving!

Thought for the Day - The Connection Between Being in the Present and Being Tense

It's funny, but there is really no 'tense' when we are in the present. So there is only present - no present 'tense'.

However the past and future are perfect as 'tense's. They add tense moments to our lives surely.

In the present, the intense present, the past and the future dissolve. There is no question of being tense in the present without those two drama queens. In the present we only respond to what is. Not what had been and what could be.

The response comes from a pure space, not loaded by any regret, resentment, fear. It is as one should be - equal.

Since whatever we are dealing with gets our complete attention, we are at peak concentration (our present - minus the worry of the past and anxiety of the future )- the quality of work gets that much better. When the quality of work gets better there is nothing to be tense about really.

You could say - but we may get delayed - there is always the question of time pressure. In the complete present time dissolves and / or wraps around and accommodates itself. Great jobs get done much faster with total concentration at our disposal. On the other hand, when we worry about time, stuck in the past and the future, we dispersing concentration and end up reworking or spending longer at the job on hand.

In every way, the present beats the other two 'tenses'. It specially is a great antidote for stress or tension as it pulls all concentration into it. Time has no bearing.

The present is not a 'tense'.

Try staying there. You find that nothing matters, except what matters most. Even matters that bother you when they come to you into your present, are dealt with as they should be. The present is the connection to the divine. It's what we need to extend, our time in the present.

To breathe. To feel. To be aware of the now. That's the present. Catch yourself.

The Imitation Game - Movie Review

Fine piece of history retold. What would we do if movies were not made to retell stories of the past which were either forgotten or hidden? 'The Imitation Game' is one such. ('Flash of Genius' was another.)

Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, theoretical biologist and computer scientist  Alan Turning's life and his immense contribution to end the World War II and to computers and Artificial Intelligence were suppressed under the secrecy act. His early death probably was a result of his conviction of being a homosexual and its aftermath. Convicted, because homosexuality was against the law then.

Amid all this Alan Turing's gigantic contribution to shortening the World War II by some estimates as much as two to four years thereby probably saving millions of lives, lay hidden. Turing cracked the formidable German encryption machine 'Enigma' which controlled its growing network of strategic military points with his own machine 'Christopher' (the name of his friend at school who introduces Alan to many aspects of science and with whom he may have developed his romantic predilections - the friend dies in school of TB which messes Turning's psyche ). And once Christopher, the machine, seemingly dumb and temperamental, is unlocked by the one key that falls into place (thanks to love - or rather a romantic interlude) - the Enigma and its many sinister plans were laid bare.

Turing and his team selectively reveal strategic information to tilt the war gently in favor of the Allies, led by hard logic. Any suspicion by the Germans that the Enigma was cracked would have resulted in further extension of war. So the team plays it close, using statistical analysis to guide it and selectively release intelligence to tilt the balance of the war. The most strategic battles were won as a result of this intelligence.

In one of the most tender conversations I have seen on screen, a chemically castrated (alternate punishment for prison for his homosexual preferences) Turing, his hands and mind twitching from the side effects of chemicals, is told by his lady love and co-cryptographer Joan Clarke (one whom he lets go confessing of his sexual preferences which she does not mind ) of his great achievement and how he reduced humanity and England of so much suffering. 14 million lives is what he is estimated to have saved by shortening the war span. Turing (1912-1954) died early, 41 years or so, alone, and perhaps depressed and confused. The conviction imposed many restrictions on his movements and other work with government agencies. Some say it was suicide, some say, it was cyanide poisoning by inhalation. An apple was found in his lab which some feel contained the poison - Turing apparently loved the Snow White and the Dwarf''s scene of the evil step mother and her poisoned apple.

Turing was considered enigmatic by many standards as also a genius. He was an excellent long distance runner and occasionally ran the distance to London of 64 kms. He even tried for the British Olympic team.

As in most stories of such scale and passion, it is a love story deep within. For Christopher, for his work, for his lady love.

In 2013 the British government righted the wrong, apologised for its treatment of Turing and recognised his services. Lovely piece of work. I would like to watch it again.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Talk at Vidyaranya School - Avirook Sen

I attended a talk by journalist and bestselling author of 'Aarushi'. Avirook Sen, at Vidyaranya school yesterday evening. It was organised by Manthan and was well attended with over a hundred people present. Avirook spoke on his book 'Aarushi', his experiences during the trial and why he wrote the book.
Somewhere in the haze stands Avirook
Avirook spoke well - he has so much content to talk about he can go on for days. But he had to deal with an audience that may not have read the book yet - so I felt he tried to balance the talk without going too deep into technicalities. I do wish he'd unfolded the story a bit as it happened so we hear it like a story - more so since most don't know the sequence of events - the importance of the door, the initial bungling in the investigations etc. He kept it light, laughing at himself, the system and our attitudes. On a serious note Avirook threw up some questions which bothered him and which he felt could have been answered. He said he has faith in the system. However he feels questions should be asked by society - as a correction mechanism. After all the system exists for the society.
Birla Mandir at night
Apart from the many interesting facts he mentioned about the case (which are written in the book) a couple of other things he mentioned were - how a person was arrested in Mumbai for drinking chai suspiciously and is serving a sentence now, and another about how police tried to crack a case involving the murder of a rationalist in Pune through a seance. Avirook spoke of how experts do not much have the exposure or expertise to investigate, deal with or present a case and cited the case of how vague some of the ideas were about DNA. The core theme - it can just go bad to worse if we believe in the expertise of experts because the procedures and processes they apply have no integrity or accountability. There are huge biases that creep into their decision making processes and judgements. And one one side technology is growing at a rate we cannot handle and on the other we have systems that are not equipped to cope with all the evidence presented. Not equipped is forgiveable but not following procedure and worse, manipulating it, is not. The case of switching labels on the key evidence in the Aarushi case, and then correcting it when pointed out - evidence that was being handled by the CBI and its forensic wing and on which hung evidence of the guilt of someone else and perhaps the innocence of Talwars is a glaring example.

My good friend and ace lawyer, photographer and man of many parts, Pramod Reddy who was in the audience commented about the OJ Simpson case and its similarity to Aarushi's case in many ways. The public scrutiny, media trial, salacious bits and pieces that are not related to the case that mislead public opinion and cause bias - both had similarities. I got my copy signed by Avirook and we were on our way.

It was a first time at Vidyaranya for me so I enjoyed being on the premises of this lovely school. I got directions from Jaleel just in case! There is a lovely view of the Birla mandir from the school grounds.

It was great meeting Pramod after a long time and discussing his views on both cases - OJ and Aarushi. We were deep in conversation when we were waylaid by a young man who butted in straight, edged me out and spoke to Pramod for a while without a moment's hesitation. How he does it I wonder? I'd love to do that too. On the way out we found Avirook heading alone for his car too and chatted him up a  bit - before we were waylaid again by another heavy who told us about how many books he reads. Fascinating stuff. It cut off some talking time with Avirook who was nice enough to offer us a ride if we did not have one. I wondered why the organisers let him off on his own without anyone walking him to his car. He did look like someone who was chilled out enough to have an Irani chai. And I do like his sense of humour.

Ramaraju completely loved the talk.

Anjali - Today I Will Spend Time With Myself

I asked Anjali if she wanted to go to Mansi's house.
'No,' she said.
'Are you sure?; I asked. 'I am heading that way anyway. I could drop you.'

'No,' she said again.
'But what will you do at home? You could play with Mansi,' I suggested.
'No,' she said. 'Today I will spend time with myself. And with Stilton (some books she is reading these days.'

I had nothing further to say. If I could spend time with myself and be so comfortable, I'd be in pretty good space.

Maybe I should think twice about going out. Maybe I should start finding comfort with myself.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Returning Awards and the Debate on Intolerance

There is much anger in the general public (at least those I meet these days) about writers who are returning their awards.  Why are they returning their awards? What is this intolerance that is bothering them? Why did they not return awards in earlier intolerant times? Who are these people anyway?

The anger seems to come from the perception that people returning their awards are agents of the opposition party and are part of a ploy to show the government in bad light. Many are angry that these literary and filmy people are talking about intolerance when it is we have actually tolerated them for all this time. There might be some truth in that.

As for me I have no issues with people who want to return their awards. If they want to return, let them. They are not asking us to return our awards - they want to return theirs. What do these poor writers have but their awards?

But then there is another thought put forth by my friends. Are they returning the cheques, the plots of land, the respect they got etc etc. We don't know. Anyway no one seems to know them, so it does not matter what they do anyway.

Quiz: Who are the award winning writers we know of? Hmmm. The writers we know of, do not have awards. Those who have awards we do not know. Funny. (And there are many like me who are neither known nor have awards - but we have plenty of opinions.)

But I am intrigued by this idea of returning awards. Does one have to wrap it up and send it by post? If so to whom? With acknowledgement due? At what stage would it be confirmed that the award has been officially returned? What will the record say? I am sure there must be some technicality there.

On the other hand the government need not accept the returned awards. They can simply say 'return to sender' and send them back. Once given, they cannot be returned policy. If neither the government nor the writers want these awards they can lie in the post offices or courier offices like orphans with no one to claim them.

To return the award is the awardees prerogative. To reject the returning award is the government's prerogative.

Why are we getting angry?

I suspect that we are getting angry that even these weak, literary types think they have a say too. Who are they? Why don't they write their stuff and sit quietly? They don't really belong in this space. The anger is at the weakling's weak way of protesting - in his own weaklingy way - of returning awards. Protests like this are not really protests. Real protests by real men and women involve crowds, muscle, firing, blood - force. What kind of an aberration is this returning awards business?

Like in all cases we pick on the weak here too. No one comments or speaks out against perpetrators of violent acts in our society for the simple fact that they will get violent with us. They will protest violently. They will come home or to our office and then beat the daylights out of us. But this bunch we can freely take a shot at - one look at them and you know they cannot survive you. We can do anything to them and no one will come to their aid - who comes to the aid of the weak here anyway. Writers, artists, girls, infants, downtrodden, lovers on Valentines - always one person or two is kicked and beaten by a mob.

For the weak we do not tolerate the slightest deviation. (A rose to a girl - break their bones!) For the strong we tolerate anything they do. (A rape or a murder or two, let it be proved in court.)  It speaks volumes of the society we are.

So let this be clear. We will not tolerate you returning your awards. Keep your awards with you. Be happy.

And don't talk about that word intolerance! We cannot tolerate it. It is the case of the tolerant versus the intolerant. Us versus them. If you say we are tolerant we will tolerate you, otherwise we will not tolerate you. In fact we will not tolerate any intolerance from you towards our tolerance. You are pushing it all pal. We have tolerated enough.

The awardee chaps go babbling away minus their awards, confused with all this. We cannot tolerate this anymore they say (see - intolerant chaps). A small group with a weak voice. The rest of us watch. Now what?

What does intolerance mean to them really?

Have they been at the business end of this 'intolerance'? So what is their problem?

The problem is like this perhaps.

I have a thought - a differing thought. Do I have the freedom to express it if it is within the law? If it is offensive someone could complain and the matter can go to court. If it is not, people can have a debate and move on. A thought versus a thought is fine. A debate is fine. All civilised.

But when thoughts are dealt with physically - by beating up, threatening etc - then there is no hope for any difference in thought. Ideally you counter a thought with a thought. A word with a word. But if you beat the word with a stick, then there is no debate. There is only one rule - that of the stick. Until someone comes with a bigger stick. And a bigger one.

When we are intolerant of the complaints of our old, our weak, we have a problem. If we are strong and secure we must take care of the women and children, the old and weak, the sensitive and the fragile. Because they have a role too. They cannot see the strife the soldier can. They need to be assuaged and pacified and dealt with in a different manner. Not beaten up and told to sit in their places and not move out.

Sit quietly. If you are quiet we will let you be. If you make a noise you are with them.  Choose now - us or them.

Who is us? Who is them?

Who are you? Who are we?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bangalore Business Literature Festival - A Promising Start

The Bangalore Biz Lit Fest is a festival for business books. It's organised by Management Next. This was the first edition so it was a one day affair at the Century Club. Originally scheduled to be held on September 26, 2015,  it got postponed due to a bandh and was finally held on October 31, 2015.
A Break Out session in progress
I was invited to be part of a break out panel (i.e. not mainstream) called 'Hooking Bouncers'. My co-panelist was Dev Prasad, who wrote 'Pitch It' - a non-fiction book connecting cricketing thoughts to corporate strategy. I had to speak from the '50 Not Out' experiences. The panel was moderated by Sudheesh Venkatesh, Chief People Officer, Azim Premji Foundation.

I thought the sessions at the Festival were interesting - books that every entrepreneur must read, critique of Indian business books, business and technology, scams and corruption, unravelling the DNA of Indian entrepreneurs, Games Indians play. Vinita Bali was there for the inaugural session and the last session was by Subroto Bagchi. Other names - V. Raghunathan, Harish Bijoor, Anjum Rajabali. The break out sessions were about books that launch careers for young managers and students, critique of Bollywood movies based on bu sines realities, how to make creative pursuits pay and then hooking bouncers. There were workshops as well -business book writing, how to publish books, business article writing and screenwriting (paid).

The venue was lovely and central. I enjoyed catching up with young Chokappan and Sunil and then Rajesh joined us. Our session got delayed and clashed with the big daddy of the evening so there was hardly anyone at the session except die-hards. It was nice to meet Shinie Antony after a long time. She played a big role in putting this festival together as the Director and co-founder. I did not get a chance to meet Benedict Paramanand who is the CEO of this venture. Shinie stayed back for our session to make the numbers perhaps. I enjoyed the discussion however, and the place.

Sudheesh moderated the discussion with an expert touch and made it lively and meaningful. Questions ranged from importance of ethics, changing role of leaders in today's times, role of luck in success, role of mentors and how much they can help, does process play a part in success, what innovation is really - all questions connected cricket to business - so it was thought provoking as well as interesting.

But this festival has potential I feel and can turn out to be bigger if played out well.   

Orvakallu Rock Gardens - Grand Canyon of India

I remember going to a place called Tapola which is beyond Mahabaleshwar called Little Kashmir. It was nothing like Kashmir - big or little. It was hotter than a Hyderabadi summer, the lake was being dug up and the mud was red.
Check out the mean looking eyes of the demon!
Similarly there is nothing like Grand Canyon at Orvakallu (20 kms off Kurnool) unless one stretches the imagination many times over.
And again - this one looks more like a raging bull
But the idea of a rock garden in these fine rock formations (slate?) is good and Orvakallu's Rock Gardens (nothing like Nek Chand's rock gardens in Chandigarh - this is purely natural stuff) is worth a visit for those rock formations and the fine little pond/lake that lies tranquilly alongside giving it the canyon look. I found no activity in the pond or on the rocks. All quiet.
Or this lion cub like formation with its mouth open guarding the lake
APTDC has cottages too, canteens and enough amenities to stay there. Must be a terrific sight on a full moon night. Beside the rocks one could see signs of other activities - beer bottles, a whisky bottle cover.
Grand Canyon of Orvakallu
Going by the pictures on the net it appears that Orvakallu is a popular adventure spot. I saw pictures of youngsters trying to climb the rocks hanging by their fingertips at impossible angles. Why do they do that?
Pretty cottage

Get to Kurnool, take the Nandyal road and turn off towards Orvakallu. the ride is some 20 kms from Kurnool and the road is pretty decent. We passed by the Pulla Reddy group of colleges, Engineering and Medical. There's an interesting temple like structure at the top of a hill - a road seemingly crawling up the spine of the hill. The rocks start showing up as we get close to the spot - layered and weather beaten into odd shapes. The rock garden comes by on the right. Lots of parking space.
Enjoying the rocks
As in most touristy places we had no clue where to buy tickets and went back and forth for them. Not much in terms of information either. We just walked right on and found the rocks, the cottages and steps leading up the rocks. Our motto always has been this - when you see steps, climb. The look around the rock gardens takes half and hour unless you wish to capture the place from several angles or do some adventure stuff. If you wish to walk all around the lake and hit the huge banyan tree at the far end it may take a couple of hours. We just breezed through.
There's something about the skies there - they appear bluer than most in pictures. The rocks are shaped. I thought I spotted a lion cub and a mean bull (pics above). And an alien space ship. Or perhaps I was just tired.
This one looks like an alien spaceship

Some interesting formations. This one's off the list. Lots of monkeys too. The watchman was shooing them off. A few strays dogs. I guess that should do.
View from the top - it's not as high as it looks really
Would love to see the temples at Yaganti and Mahanandi next. They are not too far away from this place.

The Great Fire of London - Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys writes in a manner that is so archaic you wonder. Then you see he writes in the period of 1665-66 or thereabouts. His diaries were considered important documents for the English Restoration period  as he wrote in great detail and covered many important incidents that happened during that period including the plague, the great fire of London and the Anglo Dutch war. Pepys was a naval administrator and MP and his reforms were seen as instrumental in the building of professional Royal Navy.

The book contains his accounts of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London 1965. The Great Plague lasted from 1665-66 and claimed 100, 000 people which accounted for a quarter of London's population then. The Great Fire of London which raged from September 2 - 5, 1666 consumed 13200 houses, 87 Parish churches and burned down the dwellings of 70,000 of the 80,000 inhabitants. Started in a bakery at midnight the fire raged through the city reaching temperatures of 1700 degree Celsius.

Pepys has a very interesting style of writing. It is his account of the events that is more interesting - how people would not leave their houses until the flames almost consumed them, how decisions were delayed, how he got his gold together and got away to a safer place. 

Anjali - A Gift For Harsh

This one never ceases to amaze me.

Even before we left to Bangalore Anjali was preparing for her friend Harsh's birthday. She had crafted for him a birthday card - an elaborate affair with designs and stickers and stuff. Harsh was not expecting us to come back in time to attend his birthday party so it was supposed to be a big surprise for him. Anjali would stage her return just in time for the party.

She had not decided on a gift for him though. (I suggested a copy of 'The Men Within' since he loves playing cricket. She dismissed the idea.) While shopping in a store in Bangalore she saw a bat and gloves and told her mom that she wanted those as a gift for Harsh. Shobhs called me from the shop and asked if she should pick them up. I told her to tell Anjali that she could look for more choice in a sports shop the next day. But if she wanted to stick with what she had already selected, it was fine.

Anjali wanted the best. She postponed the purchase. There's something about postponing gratification - it's not easy and it comes from a space of love.

As we reached Hyderabad we dropped in at Decathlon at the Shamshabad airport. Anjali came with me to pick the bat. I found a good one for her and she took it happily, taking a stance and playing a shot or two to check if it was comfortable. She picked a tennis ball to go with it as well.

While we were selecting the bat I asked her why she thought of buying a bat for Harsh.
'You know how crazy he is about cricket,' she said. 'He is always playing inside his house. He has a ball strung from the ceiling and practices with it. The other day I saw that the rubber on his bat was torn. I thought he might like a new bat.'

Ah, how I wish I had friends like this when I was playing with my broken bats with torn grips.

When we went home she wanted to pack it. 'Pack a bat?' I asked. 'Yes,' she nodded and went off. I could not imagine how anyone can pack a bat and ball but in a while she reappeared. What she did with packing that bat and ball in gold and blue foil is something that took my breath away. It was beautifully gift wrapped, in one piece. This Harsh is a lucky fellow.

And then we were off to his house earlier than other guests. Harsh Fozdar who did not expect Anjali for his birthday party was in for s surprise as Anjali walked in to his house, straight from Bangalore, a rather large gift in her hand. I wasn't there to capture the moment but I guess it must have been nice.

I asked Anjali later how he reacted.
'He does not show anything. Just normal.'

I told Anjali that I wished I had friends like her and that I envied Harsh.
She smiled in an embarrassed manner.

'I am friends with you too na Nanna,'s she reassured me. That's comforting to know. I'd like to have friends like her anyday.