Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge - Movie Review

Take a boy who almost kills his brother in a childhood game and is mortified by his act especially since his religion has told him not to kill. One other time he almost succumbs to anger and pulls the gun on his father who is abusing his mother. The Seventh Day Adventist then resolves never to touch a weapon in his life. But then World War II happens and all the young men sign up including our boy Desmond Doss. But Doss joins as a medic and as a conscientious objector. In a war where people will fight to kill, he will try to save lives. That is the belief that Doss sets off to war with - and a Bible given by his girlfriend.

Doss is taunted by his regiment about his convictions for not touching or handling a gun and for taking Saturday off for Sabbath. They beat him, humiliate him, try to get him out of the unit, believing he is a coward, even trying to get him out on charges of insanity. Doss remains steadfast and finally, he is allowed to go with a reluctant unit without a gun. The unit goes to the place in Second World War known to have some of the fiercest fighting, an estimated 80,000 deaths, between the Japanese and the Allied forces. With their backs to the wall and the kamikaze suicidal attacks, the Japanese inflict heavy casualties on the unit that Doss's unit is to relieve. To deal with the Japanese the unit has to scale the Hacksaw Ridge and pretty much fight a fierce Japanese unit bent on dying. The Japs inflict heavy casualties and force the US Army unit off the ridge. Doss stays back, helping the wounded. The next day the Japanese drive everyone else off the ridge but Doss stays back to provide aid to severely wounded soldiers who were left for dead - including a severely wounded Japanese soldier. One by one he drags them to the ridge and lets them down with a rope, all alone. Doss saves 75 lives in his heroic effort, each time fighting exhaustion and fatigue in his attempt to 'save one more life'.

The entire unit is inspired by Doss's courage and wants to regroup and attack the Japanese again but they will not go this time without Doss. Doss makes a concession and goes with them on a Saturday, but after reading his prayers, and repeats his heroics. This time his unit is successful and takes over the ridge. Doss is severely injured and taken off the ridge but not before he asks his friend to get him his bible. Doss survived, married his girlfriend and lived till 2006.

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss is perfectly cast with his soft, vulnerable ways. Mel Gibson is back with a bang. Gore, guts, blood all over and this wonderful message of peace weaving its way in the midst of all the violence, unarmed. Wow. Loved it. How far can you stretch your belief? What can you achieve if you believe? Hacksaw Ridge is all about the power of belief.

The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka Day 4

Raja and company left after breakfast to Nuwara Elya, a scenic hill stations of sorts near Kandy (someplace close to where myth says, Sita was held in captivity in the famed Asoka gardens) and we decided to chill in Negombo and perhaps check out Colombo. A leisurely breakfast and then Anjali and Shobhs hit the sea while I did what I do best - watch the ocean.
Fishing boat in background with Anjali and Shobhs in foreground
The fishermen were setting out in those thin fishing boats  - they could not be wider than a foot and a half at best. What do fat fishermen do? I could not figure out their design and what and why. They certainly seem easier to pull up and into the water unlike the heavier versions in Goa.
The canal by the road side - looked good enough to take a boat ride on
I was intrigued by the lack of population - this beach would have been teeming with people - tourists, vendors, fishermen - in India. Here it was a couple of boats, a few locals. The beach itself was pretty deserted otherwise. Another thing I noticed was the lack of beach side shacks. Not a single structure on the length of the beach. perhaps a regulation which makes sense. They maintained a healthy distance from the water line too. Clean.
Temple - closed till 4
The ocean by itself was not very friendly here. The beach falls sharply and I did not find it very inviting to walk along the waterline as I would have liked to normally. I spotted one of those orange coconut sellers and decided to try one of those. Sweet again. But no pulp.
Huge mosque
Vidyuth would have been proud of me. I remember a few years ago when we were in Goa on a cricketing assignment, we'd drive past these coconut sellers everyday and I told him one day 'Viddu, every day I pass these guys I feel like having a drink of coconut water. Then I think again and by the time I make up my mind they are gone.' I could not forget the look on his face. 'Old man, all these days you've been thinking of whether you should drink coconut water or not?' I told him that's how my decision making was - or was it my money consciousness. 'We must do something about it,' he said and well I pulled up at the next roadside coconut seller and we drank coconut water. Heavenly. I've come a long way from there.
Something interesting
While on the roadside snacks there was another trip with the South Zone Under 22 team to Guwahati during our Engineering college days and we all took a bus to Shillong. On the way the bus stopped at some roadside place where a pretty girl was selling the sweetest pineapples I ever ate. I suspect now that she added to the sweetness of the experience. Vidyuth, Venkatapathi and I were eating the pineapple when I mentioned that I would not mind marrying the lovely pineapple seller and settling down to a life of selling pineapples (or in all likelihood eating them) in the road that leads to Shillong. Our team manager Srinivasan overheard  me and reminded me that I should perhaps postpone my marriage plans since we had matches to play still. That ended one possible love story of mine. Wonder what she is doing now.
The leaning tower of Colombo - upcoming hospital?
Anyway the sun got pretty hot shortly, which explains the line of thought, and we returned to the comfort of our room. The idea was to check out Colombo after lunch. We walked about the Negombo street which is a beautiful place, 200 metres from the sea, full of nice shops and eateries that remind you of Goa somehow. We finally stopped at a small restaurant where we got the devilled prawns and Lion's beer (both recommended by Vijay Lokapally - Vijay I ticked off all the items on your list) along with some Sri Lankan cuisine - the names of which I forget now. I liked this place - the chef took pride in his work and put his picture up on the wall - I like anyone who does that because I know he will put some effort behind it. Anjali had a go with her fish and chips.
Gangaramaya temple
I can sense a difference in the family dynamic this trip - and then I realised that it was that we were now like three of us what with Anjali now growing up and behaving like a small adult with her own likes and dislikes, wants and don't wants. That's what children do I guess, come by, grow up, delay our ageing (or in some cases accelerating it) and then move on with their lives.
Outside Gangaramaya
After lunch we contemplated on hiring a tuk tuk or even taking a bus and then got lazy and hired a taxi for half a day for 50 USD. Our man Chiron Rajapaksa was a slick businessman and dealt with all needs quickly - and throws in some extras for the price of some USDs. A young boy landed up in an Indica, the worst I have seen in the trip, and we put ourselves in his hands. Off he took us, Mel, past the fishing market in Negombo which he says is a great sight, the canal which runs along the road almost at the road height, the lagoon filled with fishing boats.
The ancient peepal tree
Within half an hour we were inside Colombo. Nice quaint houses give you a European feel, an old world feel and we sped past the busy financial districts, the trappings of commercialism - the World Trade Centre, several interesting high rises, a huge hospital, one building which was actually two - one building standing on its own and another leaning on it. We stopped at a huge temple but unfortunately it was shut for the afternoon so we set out again to the Gangaramaya temple, a lovely structure with a lot of stuff to see. It has meditation halls, a huge ancient bodhi tree, museum and even a cat. From there we headed to the museum and spent some time  checking it out. It's worth spending half a day here as it pretty much traces Sri Lankan history and heritage in a very organised manner.
Independence square 
It's well staffed with courteous staffers - a pleasant change from our brusque security guards who have no clue (with the exception of one chap I met in Chowmahalla palace who knew a bit about the stuff on display).
Butterfly stadium
A stop by at the Independence square, drive past the Sinhalese Cricket Ground, the ACC Head quarters where I am sure Venkatapathi comes often, the lovely cricket grounds with young mothers and their young cricket-mad sons.
Museum - imposing building
A huge ground with multi purpose sports where one Olympic prospect surely, a lass with long legs practiced the high jump. A drive past the butterfly stadium, a lovely piece of architecture, named after  a politician (they seem to be ensuring that they live on forever). We passed by the President's house, the old Parliament house and headed to the Galle Face Green. This is a burst of open land amidst all this commercial activity and you suddenly realise how important something like that is for the people to unwind and relax.
Galle Face Green
It's a huge ground by the sea, rectangular in shape, where people flew kites, very interesting types of kites and not the plain vanilla type we have in Hyderabad. On the benches close to the main road and away from the sea and the promenade sat several couples whispering away and then you realise that with Valentines Day coming up the next day there must be plenty to whisper about. I wonder what they would have said in the heat of the moment that they would regret later, but the moment is all they have and possibilities are made only by opening those doors so we left them behind, holding hands, waists, searching for lips with their eyes. Wonder what it is with this lips business - something Freudian surely.
A better perspective - lovers benches on the left
The promenade was beautiful. You could walk along leisurely, look out at the sea, enjoy the street food. Thee were several stalls, most of them named Nana and Anjali had a great time teasing me about my stalls.
The promenade - lovely
I asked Mel, our cab driver, what was best to eat and he pointed to some vadas - eat the crab vadas and prawn vadas he said without a moment's hesitation. I trusted him like no other and ordered the same.
Prawn vadas - they taste better than they look
The stall owner Kumar, an expressionless young lad who should be spending time at the benches, picked them up, dropped them in some black oil and in a while they were ready to eat. Absolutely delicious. The best food I ate in Sri Lanka. Go to Kumar's stall and eat prawn and crab vadas and return is there is one thing to do in Sri Lanka. Anjali ate an ice cream. I tried some chicken shawarma, drank some ginger beer and we generally stuffed ourselves silly. Meanwhile the sun was setting and we slowly dragged ourselves past young  mothers chasing plastic balls that were sailing away in the breeze, past the amorous lovers on the benches and into the Indica.
Anjali feeding crows with Kumar in the background 
 Mel took us through the main part of the town, the old fish market, the famed Ministry of  Crab restaurant which is owned by  famous cricketer (they are all so hush hush about it...it is owned by Sangakarra) and which has rave reviews about the size and taste of crabs. Anjali had researched the place and being a crab lover wanted to go, but owing to some coconut-water-freeze moment of mine, the trip was abandoned. We later planned on it again but it never happened and till today remains a point of contention and a reminder to me never to listen to this voice of mine that says - no, no, don't, later. The possibilities I lost because of that voice, the devil itself are many. A book on it someday.
Kumar giving me an expressionless pic - watch out for him, he will go places
There is a healthy betting industry in Sri Lanka and they sell lotteries and sports betting tickets all over the place. The betting houses seem pretty prosperous going by their sizes and distribution networks. Mel said he also buys lottery tickets every day! I hope he wins one. They bet on cricket also perhaps, unlike in India, because it says sports, and seem quite happy with all that activity. There are dog races too Mel said, perhaps a colonial hangover.
The ride back was interesting as we chatted with Mel who told us about his family, his Buddhist wife, his in laws who indulge him by coming to church and how he indulges them by going to the Buddhist temples, his young daughter Tiana who is now ten years old and who he says he named without knowing what it meant because it sounded pretty, the cost of education and how he plans to give her a good education, where he buys fish for the family parties and so on. He has a tuk tuk he said and offered to take me along to buy some local sweets the next day. I promised to call him. It could ahve been in Goa, except that Mel in Goa would have been far more arrogant and caste, class, skin, community, region, nationality conscious
A poignant moment in Anjali's ice cream eating life - eating ice cream on Galle Face Green
Back at the hotel and we relaxed some. A light dinner and we were done for the day. Tomorrow is the last day at Sri Lanka. Should we head out to the beach for a midnight walk? Somehow it did not appeal. And so the day ended on a slow curtain.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sunday Cricket Lessons - A Slight Change in Grip Is All It Takes

Last Sunday I padded up bravely as I do these days and stepped on to bat in the nets. Our gang of bowlers were happy to have me to bowl at - we keep challenging each other. I guess they like to have someone who has a go at them and not merely defends. I give little scope for error and hit the ball hard so it challenges them. The new boy offered me his helmet as I was stepping in and was shocked to find me going in to bat without - my worst batting this season was the day I wore a helmet. I trusted myself enough to handle the bowling.

The first half went by rather eventfully as I tried to find some timing. I was playing the ball but without any special timing. And then, almost twenty minutes into my stay in the nets I realised that I was holding the bat too straight unlike my usual grip where the bat face turns slightly inwards towards my front pad. I changed my grip by a couple of inches and lo and behold - the next ball went off the bat like a rocket into the cover region. Incredible change. So well did I hit it that the boy in the next net could not but admire the power in the shot. 'Your old bat sir,' he asked. '22 years old,' I told him and felt pretty ancient saying it but that's the truth. Chandra bought this BDM in the 1994 season when we won the MCC league championship. It's still in good shape.

And then for the next ten minutes it was sheer heaven as I timed the ball beautifully. There is nothing better than seeing the ball race off the bat sweetly, effortlessly. That little shift, that little tuning into frequency is all it takes and then - life is effortless. I wondered why I was struggling all this while.

Seek the sweet spot and we can make those fine adjustments. What seems to be a difficult space can change if we seek to change it, to make its quality better.


The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka Day 3

In a super smooth operation we checked out of the Jetwing Blue early by 7 am but not before confirming that the revelry of last night went on till 4 in the morning. Incredible stamina from the party. We also managed to meet Gauri and Suhita and pecked at some of the delicious breakfast spread. The efficient staff checked us out efficiently and in response to my query about transport for a couple of kms down the road, offered to get me an expensive taxi ride. My sharp and deep training after losing plenty of money to pride in my life kicked in, and I caught the eye of the doorman - the fellow understood me immediately. He fetched me a tuk tuk (which I was surprised to find later, was one of the big things about the Sri Lankan experience - it adorns key chains, magnets and all sorts of memorablia). I had enough experience in Hyderabadi autos so it did not impress me any more - I found they have no such thing as a meter and we generally hoped to reach some agreement over the price. To their credit they do not get rude or offensive like our chaps, they may charge a little this way or that but very politely. Two kilometers down the road we reached the hotel where Raja and company were staying, dumped the luggage in one room and got set to head to Dambulla and the famous Sigiriya Rock (pronounced like Seegeereeya or something lovely like that).
Lovely water bodies on either side at the entrance
The eight seater was spacious, superbly maintained, as all cars seemed to be in Sri Lanka, shining, smooth, no scratches - slick imported vehicles. This was a Honda if I was not mistaken and ran smoothly. The driver, a dignified man named Fernando, is someone you instantly respect. He looks like he has seen enough of the world and knows more than he reveals. We started off on the four hour journey at nine on a sunny day.
A better view
It's a bit like Kerala in some parts with villages coming up seamlessly and Goa in some parts. The roads and the countryside are clean, not too many people around, an unhurried pace to life that reflects in traffic. No road rage, everyone waits patiently. No one is cutting corners, skipping lanes, cutting across, trying to get ahead (save a couple of buses). Fernando told me that all Sri Lankan cricketers live in Colombo and that cricket was their biggest game. We recalled some of the names and I asked if he was somehow related to Dilhara Fernando and he laughed. He told me Muralitharan was  from Kandy and Jayasuriya was from Matara near Galle.
4th century palace gardens at the Sigiriya Rock
After some distance I proposed to Fernando that we could perhaps halt for a break - tea etc. Fernando seemed to know every inch of the place and drove on after a nod, and after 20 minutes or so, we stopped at a nice roadside hotel. The staff was well dressed in the sarong and neatly pressed shirt and it was expensive by our Indian standards. Lots of jokes about the most expensive chai ever and stuff and we left. I was pretty impressed with the cheese and tomato omelette they indulged me with. But its well designed, well maintained and well worth it if you ask me. We passed Dambulla and sped towards Sigiriya. Rock of which all I heard was that it was a big rock with a big climb. I made up my mind to give up as soon as I could.
Sigiriya Rock - We have to climb this
As with most things so large, we do not see the Sigiriya Rock until it's right in front of us. Dense forest cover hides it from plain view. Fernando came and led us to the place where we buy tickets. We came to terms that we were foreigners despite looking a lot like them especially when we had to shell out a price of 1000 INR as entry fee. What? After we're used to paying 10 rupees or 20 rupees here for our sights this was a shocker. But what gives us comfort is that SAARC countries pay 1000 INR while others pay 2000 INR. Whoa! This was the first time we realised that the SAARC business was actually doing something.
On top of Sigiriya Rock - an hour or so after we began the climb
Fernando saw us in, told us how to get to the parking lot, and made off. Raja, Anu, Pooja, Prarthana, Vaseem, Shobha, Anjali and I were now left to ourselves to handle this huge imposing rock standing like a big petrified mushroom. It's green all over in the walkway and we quickly found out that Sigiriya is Sinhagiri or Lion's Rock, that it was constructed in 400 BC or thereabouts by King Kashyap (who constructed it after seizing control over the kingdom by killing his father and from his step brother who was the rightful heir - he moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya). The gardens are beautiful, with well designed water bodies on either side and the closer we got to the rock the more I wondered how one gets to the top and what's there. Up above the rock is a palace, gardens and gardens - now the palace is not there though. I could see ant like people climbing up the rock. Hmm. Oh, the original heir came back says the myth and Kashyapa committed suicide after his troops abandoned him misreading a signal from his elephant that the King is retreating when he was not. Kashyapa they say killed himself and his brother reclaimed his kingdom and moved the capital back to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya then became the abode of Buddhist monks.
The highest point on the Rock - three small steps
The path is lined by the 4th century remains and its very tempting to walk on the foundations of the walls or constructions until we see gentle signs that tell us not to walk on them. Too bad - no walking on history. Some water bodies on either side, well maintained gardens and we were at the bottom of the rock. It was a Sunday and it was crowded.
The topmost part of the rock
Well, we started the climb and pretty soon, after the first flight realised it was steep. Frescoes like the one we see in Ajanta, and the mirror wall etc were passed by. The steps got steeper and we had no clue where it would lead and where it would end. A good half hour later we reached what looked like flat ground and we stopped there. Here is where the entry to the highest part was - entering through an entry like a lion squatting on its paws, its paws on either side of the entrance. It must have been massive. The climb here is almost vertical. Anjali decided to do it, I decided to go, Pooja and Vaseem and Anu. So we began the climb on one of the most crowded single file staircases hanging on to the side of a huge rock. A good half hour later we were at the top of the Sigiriya Rock.
We came from that path - there is a huge Buddha statue for reference somewhere in the back there
As with anything else Anjali kept up all through without a word and enjoyed the climb. We walked about and posed for a couple of pictures, saw the distance we had come from and how much we had climbed (200 metres). There were the remains of what would have been a beautiful palace, gardens, a fine water body. Anjali and I descended first and sat with Raja, Shobha, Prarthana waiting for the others to come down.
Now tired but posing since I insisted - another view
And another

I was thrilled to find that Duran Duran's 'Save a Prayer', one of my favorites, was completely shot in Sri Lanka and has a part which includes Sigiriya Rock. These guys did not just make music!
And another
Down the rock and to the parking lot late in the afternoon. We told Fernando to take us to some nice road side joints and not the posh ones and he quickly found one. It looked nice - one thali and buffet type of a place but there was some kind of a fight going on so we found another. Nice little local cuisine and then I stopped by to taste the orange coconuts. Sweet.
The way down - gusty winds blow hard, see those steps below to the plateau
The evening was descending and all hopes of going to the caves in Dambulla were abandoned. We settled to see a spices garden where they offered some impromptu massages and many oils and creams. Shobha picked up some Sri Lankan varieties of mangoes.
The massive lion's paws - see people crawling on steps above for scale
Then the long journey back. I told Fernando that we must try some road side chai en route and Fernando knew the exact place. We drank some tea - black and with no sugar - they gave us a small piece of jaggery that we bite into after drinking some tea. Lovely.
Another view of the same
Then there were these hot Pol rotis made of corn and some stuff with onion and chilly sambol and I found that very tasty indeed and beating all the stuff I had eaten in all the fancy restaurants earlier. Another thing I wanted to get my hands on but did not finally was this pot of curds that they sold all along the highway. 'You can eat curds with honey,' said Fernando and it looked like a capital idea but somehow that got away.
A meditation rock, a theatre...
Not small pots mind you, two litre perhaps and I can imagine how the curds would be inside. You'd have stalls selling those pots by the hundreds.
Pol roti, sambol, jaggery chai spot on roadside - superb
Anyway we landed up back in Negombo at eight O clock or later, found ourselves a room, in this place right next to the sea and settled down to a drink and some dinner. Funnily the restaurants shut off by 10 and we barely found one  restaurant open. A walk on the deserted beach at 11 and it was back to dreamland. Nice. Tomorrow is another day.

Nice Link - 7 Exercises That Will Transform Your Body In 4 Weeks

Plank, Push Ups, Squats, Abs, Waist. Plus a four week plan on what do do each week.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ghazi Attack - Movie Review

Highly watchable. Get on the net immediately and book your tickets. The Ghazi Attack is an edge of the seat underwater war thriller based on a real life incident - the sinking of the Pakistani submarine Ghazi off the Vishakhapatnam coast in 1971. For a first time director to pull off this movie and credibly so is highly commendable when we watch so many loosely made movies with star actors and directors - all of which appear as if they are having an internal joke at our expense. Ghazi Attack is honest, sincere and it shows.

Kay Kay Menon as Captain Ranvijay Singh of submarine S 21 ( which was conceptualised in place of INS Rajput the original destroyer ship involved in the Ghazi attack) keeps the first half afloat with his trigger happy ways and his desire to bury the enemy. Atul Kulkarni holds the movie together as the XO and Rana Daggubati brings conviction and sincerity to his role as Lt. Commander Arjun Varma.

Fantastic stuff. Well done Sankalp Reddy. In fact the story of how it was made itself is worth reading about. How Sankalp saw the submarine museum in Vizag five years ago, researched about the Ghazi, got inspired to make a film about it, thought of a youtube film at a 10 lakh budget, making his own set, having no stars to finally shooting it with an array of fine actors like Om Puri, Kay Kay Menon, Rana, Atul Kulkarni and making the film in three languages. I read one story about how Rain Man got made - despite changing three directors who did not believe in the story - mainly because the person behind the movie believed in it and continued making it. This is a bit like that.

Jolly LLB 2 - Movie Review

Highly avoidable. If the first Jolly LL.B. was identifiable because of its perfect casting, believable characters and situations and well plotted story, the second one fails on all fronts. The characters and situations are not believable and inconsistent and for much of the story one feels that they are trying to find the thread and clearly not succeeding. Why did they replace the loveable and malleable Arshad Warsi with Akshay Kumar who does not look the part at all I wonder? A look at the poster gives it away - I wish I'd seen the poster before I booked the tickets.

So you have this super smart, ambitious lawyer Jolly who is capable of doing things like outwitting the exam mafia with his intelligence but who cannot get past his boss for 15 years and set up his own office. The same guy also cheats a highly gullible lady of two lakhs and for some reason cannot calm her down or convince her that he will do her justice. I could not make out if he was smart or plain foolish. Huma Quereshi looks like she wandered on to the sets and has been invited to have a drink - her role is that of a drink loving, Gucci loving wife Pushpa and she does not look the part one bit nor does she even try to. Too much exposition, telling us stuff we already know makes it all predictable and worse, boring.

If one has actors like Anu Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Vinod Nagpal and stars like Akshay Kumar and Huma Quereshi and still fails colossally to create an interesting and entertaining movie it is a sheer waste of resources. The joke in the end is a give away - you do that when you know that the film won't hold on its own. Lessons learned - don't believe in sequels and check the posters before you book tickets. 

Anthony Robbins - Morning and Evening Questions

In his book 'Awaken the Giant Within' Anthony Robbins asks us to ask questions every morning and evening.

Morning questions

What am I happy about?
What am I excited about?
What am I proud of?
What am I grateful for?
What is energising me?
What am I committed to?
Who do I love?
Who loves me?

Evening questions

What have I given today?
What have I learned today?
What have I shared?

A good compass.

The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka Day 3

I woke up to hear the sound of Satish's voice below the room and from the way he spoke I knew he was speaking to a fellow Hyderabadi. It could mean only one thing - that his friend Suresh had arrived. The hotel was peaceful after the revelry of last night which had continued till 3 in the morning I was told. I decided to stay back in the shade after a bite of breakfast while the rest of the family headed to the beach and some went to visit Colombo.
Pool side revelry - Malay and Sarah in the middle were the object of my pic 
The next big event was the pool side party. So sometime after 11 I headed down to the lovely pool. A whole lot of people perfectly dressed for the pool side party turned up. From shorts to hats to sarongs to swimsuits it was like something out of an advertisement. Of course one could make out by the slight rush in one place where the bar was. Everyone got themselves their beers, rum and vodkas. I saw Raja, Anu, Pooja and Prarthana arrive. Prarthana doubted - are we over dressed? Anu was not. Raja quickly rolled up his trousers and joined the rest of the poolside gang. We got ourselves cocktails and settled down to catch up. Another couple who made it overnight was Malay and Sarah and we caught up with them as well. The Colombo visitors came back and said they had perhaps got ripped off by the cab guys at twenty dollars a head. I made a mental note not to get ripped off by cab guys. Definitely not at 20 dollars. 19 perhaps. Miskil and Kabir were as gracious as ever and as perfectly dressed as ever in some cool pool side clothes.
The pool - I'd thought I'd get to that place but never did
Anjali got her swimsuit and made off into the pool with Sarah for a round of pool volleyball. She was just about to keep her head over water and I could see a nice tan already developing. Among the other thoughtful and fun things to do were this little studio hut like thing where there was a photographer who had an assortment of wigs and boards that you could try on and act a bit crazy. Everyone put on funny wigs and got photographed and he'd give instant copies back to us. Once again, I was surprised by how long the party continued how dedicated the revelers were. Miskil had warned everyone not to try pushing her into the pool and that sounded like an invitation to her two cousins Malay and Kalpak and they swung her a couple of times before dropping her into the drink. Sometime at 3 pm I decided to head back to rest a bit with the others. Raja joined us while the girls and Anu headed back to the hotel they were staying in close by to change for the wedding. Formal was the code now so there would be another dress change.
The wedding on the beach all set
I had to do a bit of change in dress code too. So sometime at 430 we trooped down - kurtas and stuff. The baraat was holding up traffic on the main road and lots of people were staring at the loud drum beats and dancing as it wound its way slowly. I went out and saw them come in. Typically they make the girl's side wait and they did. We waited and waited and waited and then finally the baraat came. They had to be hurried up a bit because the wedding ceremony on the beach was to coincide with the sunset. Somewhere after they stopped we did our version of flash mob - Raja and I were whirled away around the central dancers and our part was done. We merged into the shadows. Now with the formals everyone looked different.
The wedding in progress
We quickly headed to the beach and the small ceremony began. A poem, a song, a speech by the groom's father and a speech by the bride's mother (Suhita spoke of Miskil's growth and how proud of her she was). A speech by the bride's best friend who read out Kahlil Gibran's take on marriage and it was time for the bride to speak (she had a funny speech) and the groom to say his bit (straight and true). The sun set magnificently on the Negombo beach as some champagne was served and slowly the mood shifted to the evening party again.

What really impressed me was the way Miskil and Kabir held their space, made everyone feel welcome and comfortable, and how they patiently and thoughtfully pulled it off. From personal gifts to hand written notes to a complete hangover kit to detailed instructions of what to do and what not to - they were incredibly organised. They left nothing to chance.
The revelry
Within a few minutes I saw most people had changed clothes and were back to partying on the beach this time with a band and a floor near the pool side. Anjali found herself in the action again. Milind took me around for a walk. We caught up with the others on the beach. The last party continued from the beach to the lawns where there was a fabulous singer who sang My Way as I have heard no one sing. The dancing and revelry continued and I decided at midnight, when the chariot would turn into a pumpkin, to head back to the room and pack. Tomorrow, I had conspired with Raja and gang, to head down to Dambulla and the famous Sigiriya Rock. I had also planned to move into the hotel they were staying down the road and all this needed some serious rest. 

No Highway In the Sky - Movie Review

A 1951 classic based on the novel 'No Highway' by Nevil Shute. Interesting story of an aviation engineer who theorises that a particular make of aircraft will develop metal fatigue causing its tailplane to fall off after a particular number of flying hours.

When he is sent to investigate a crashed airplane he finds himself in an aircraft which is close to the number of hours he had predicted when the tailplane would fall off. He does everything to land the place including convincing a movie star who is aboard the flight. No one takes him seriously and the plane lands safely at the next airport for a check up. But he is adamant and brings the stationary plane to land on its belly disrupting any further travel. He is called for an inquiry because his test in the lab does not yield results in the prescribed time frame and he resigns. But soon after, the tail plane falls off in the lab and in the crashed plane proving him right.

A very different story indeed. The romantic angles from the actress and the air hostess included. James Stewart is swell. Marlene Dietrich is regal.

The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka Day 2

At Negombo on Day 2 we were confined to the hotel. A quick look at the beach and the sea confirmed that we were in a good place - and we promptly ignored the beach. There's something about knowing that you have something in your grasp that makes it lose its charm. I peeped out of the room and saw Satish. Milind and Neelima were with us, Suhita, Gauri, Kalpak, Jyo, Medha were around already.
We caught up at 11 in Suhita's room and found that the views from the top were better - not that it helped any because I hardly looked out of the room. We found ourselves surrounded by a group of Miskil's friends and fellow revellers who decided to do an impromptu flash mob dance at the baraat and worse - decided to include us in the flash mob. There were a few steps that they made up on the song 'Kabiraa' (a song for Kabir the groom) and we were asked to kind of make up the bodies and swing along while the able bodied did something more attractive. It ended with Kalpak going down on his knees and winding off after which we had to melt into the crowd (which basically consisted of us). After a few rounds of this we got tired and slipped away in search of lunch.
The flash mob conspiracy
Right across the road was this inviting little restaurant that advertised fish and chips and beer. Kalpak, Shobha, Anjali and I slipped in and thirstily ordered some beer - Lion beer was recommended - when we hit a road block. It was a full moon day!

So? In Sri Lanka every full moon day is a public holiday and no liquor is served on those days. That set our plans back a mile. The young manager however said he would slip in some rum or vodka in a glass if we wanted but we refused. No point breaking the law on day 1 right? So we ordered some local rice and fish thali which unlike the Goan rice and fish plates that stick to what is promised (fish and rice) serve an assortment of vegetables alongside. Its a proper thali with the fish being a part of it. Good stuff. While we ate, we caught up with Kalpak on his life and its many interesting aspects - and it did get pretty interesting. He is an interesting lad who has explored many paths and is always fun to be with. The lack of sleep got to Anjali and she dozed off on the table - her fish and chips left untouched. We headed back to the room for a siesta and it was a well earned one for me.
Jyo, Suhita and Anjali at the beach
I woke up to find a lot of action going on - the preparations for the sangeet were on. It was in one of the halls at 8 pm. We quickly saw the sea from close quarters - and stepped back to get dressed. By now I sensed there were some 100 guests from the groom's side and some 40 from the bride's. I was impressed with the number of clothes they kept changing in and out of. They had one dress for every small occasion - go down to lobby, go to pool side, go for tea, go to sangeet - dress for every occasion.
Jetwing Blue from the beach
The sangeet began with a busy bar. In a while the family and friends of the bride and groom came dancing in to some songs on which they had rehearsed and in the very end came Miskil and Kabir dancing into the hall. It was very nice to see.
The crowd around the bar at the sangeet
After some socialising the attention shifted to the stage where a couple of able comperes took over and set the evening off. Medha sang a song and also added a fine bit of performance to it. She was having a ball. Then followed a whole bunch of performances to Bollywood songs, a recitation of a poem by an old aunt. Anjali went off to rehearse her steps with a friend of hers that she found - and then came back and danced to her number pretty well.
The grand performance
A number by Suhita and another by all the grand parents and aunts and uncles of Kabir were nice. Of course the younger lot were lovely to watch as they danced gaily.The bride and groom joined in every now and then. After the performances the action turned to the floor and everyone went to shake a leg. Anjali spent a lot of time there and sometime close to midnight
The floor 
I decided to call it a night, ate some dinner and slipped away to la la land. The next day, is the day of the shaadi.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Awaken The Giant Within - Anthony Robbins

I read 'Unlimited Power' years ago - an unlikely gift from Shrikanth Mulaokar my thoughtful colleague. Anthony Robbins packs a whole lot of information in his books (this one is 500 pages) and there is always some insight to pick and choose. I got a few gems in this. He talks of the state of mind, success conditioning, emotional management and concentration of power, all of which make sense.

Change Happens In An Instant
Up front he says that change can happen in an instant (I experienced it). To make it happen you must want to change things and secondly, to sustain the change. To bring lasting change he says - Raise your standards, Change your limiting beliefs and Change your strategy. To know your limiting beliefs one needs to look at the areas where one is limited and examine the beliefs that guide those experiences.

Create Your Future Through Mastery
Robbins also says that if one can attain mastery over emotions, physical self, relationships, finances and time, one is in good space. That is a given. But I like what he says - to gain mastery over all these, plan for the next next ten years. Be conscious that the decisions you take now affect the next 10 years of your life and decide accordingly - in favour of yourself.

Unleash the Power of Decisions
One of the key things to adopt in awakening the giant within is to unleash the power of decisions. Set a baseline standard. Decide on it. The thing with decisions is that you can make one right now. Robbins says that if you truly decide, you can do anything. Decide and you will find a way- no matter what. Making a true decision is committing and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility. (Put all your focus into making that a reality.) To get better at decision making make more decisions.

Your internal decision making system is guided by your core beliefs, life values, references, your emotional state and the habitual questions you ask yourself. Enjoy making decisions.Use whatever life gives you this moment.

The Force That Changes - Pain and Pleasure
In the chapter on the force that changes - he explains how to use Pain and Pleasure to move towards and away from what you want to do and what you don't want to do. He says that you must push pain to an emotional threshold. Use pain and pleasure and don't let them use you. Make neuro associations that are so strong that you stay away from things you don't want to do (like taking their children on a tour of dug rehab clinics so they never get into drugs). When you link stuff to pain and pleasure it changes behavior. Obviously the pain has to reach a threshold where any action towards it puts you off.

Core Beliefs - Limiting Beliefs
The belief system is based not on the event - but the belief you attached to the event and the meaning, Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give to it. Most beliefs are generalizations based on interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences. A belief is merely a feeling of certainty. With enough emotional intensity and repetition, our nervous systems experience something as real as the real thing. You could change your future by changing your beliefs. Develop an absolute sense of certainty about what you want to believe in. How we deal with adversity will shape our lives more than anything else. If we associate pain with change, create doubt in such a belief and associate pleasure. He categorises beliefs into opinions, beliefs and convictions. Add references to beliefs to strengthen them or weaken them.

You Are Responsible For Change
Change can happen in an instant. But you are responsible for the change. Once you effect the change reinforce it continually.  Condition your system with pain and pleasure. Change how you feel and your behaviour. Only you can change. Create neural pathways. Seek cause and effect. Understand where you might have made the wrong connections. Self sabotage occurs when we have positive and negative associations.

Neuro Associative Conditioning (NAC)
Robbins had trademarked his NAC system. It goes like this.

  • Decide what you want
  • Create leverage - by referencing massive pain, create urgency, push the pain threshold in the mind, intense pain, pain from inside works
  • Interrupt any limiting patterns
  • Create alternatives
  • Condition pattern (you brain cannot differentiate between something you imagine and something you experience)
  • Reinforce - respond immediately.

What Do You Want
To get what you want you must first know what you want. Your state of mind and body decides how you act. This is the key. Change physiology and change your state (speed for John Denver). Find what works for you. Create pattern for movement that creates confidence, a sense of strength, flexibility, personal power and so on.

Focus - what we focus on becomes real. Meaning is focus.
What's my state?

Questions Are The Answer
Questions are the answer he says. Ask questions. How do I think? What meanings do I attach to things? How can I turn things around?
He gives a list of morning questions to ask yourself.
What am I happy about/ excited about/ proud/ grateful/energising/ committed to/ who do I love/ who loves me
In the evening ask yourself - what have I given today/learned/shared.

Transformational Vocabulary
Choose words wisely. By changing words you change how you think. Words shape our beliefs. They impact actions. Use words, metaphors that get you into a good state. Drop things that disempower. Norma Cousins - Words can produce illness, can kill. Lower intensity of words that are harsh and extreme.

Create Metaphors
Rising, soaring, back with a bang. Whats you life about - all the metaphors you can think of for relationships, career, etc

10 emotions of power
The emotions you feel are the guidelines for you. They are a support, a call to action. If someone asks you how you are what would you say? You are the source. You can feel good for no reason. But would you choose that?

6 Steps to Emotional Mastery

  • Identify what you're feeling
  • Acknowledge and appreciate your emotion
  • Get curious about the message 
  • Get confident 
  • Get certain that you can handle it now and in future
  • Get excited and take action

Action Signals

  • Discomfort - Means you are unclear (get clear)
  • Fear - Means you feel you are not prepared (see what you are fearful about and prepare, if prepared decide to have faith, tell yourself you are ready because this would not have showed up otherwise)
  • Hurt - Means unmet expectation
  • Anger - Means a rule of yours has been violated by someone or by yourself (could be misinterpreted so relax the rule - you made them anyway)
  • Frustrated (is a good sign) - Means you could do better than what you are doing now
  • Disappointed (is a bad sign) - Means you feel let down (set and achieve a new goal instead of wallowing in self pity)
  • Guilt - Means you violated your highest standards (make sure it wont happen again)
  • Inadequacy - Means feeling unworthy (don't have skill necessary, get more info, coaching to feel adequate)
  • Overload/overwhelm - Means you need to reevaluate what important to you (focus on what's most important)
  • Loneliness - Means you need a connection to people (reach out)

10 Emotions of Power

  • Love and warmth
  • Appreciation
  • Curiosity
  • Excitement and passion
  • Determination
  • Flexibility
  • Confidence
  • Cheerfulness
  • Vitality
  • Contribution

To Create a compelling future have clarity. Have a broad plan. Believe in CANI - Constant and Never Ending Improvement
Lock on to your goals - Personal development/ Career, business, finance/ Toys, adventure

Take massive action

The 10 day challenge he throws at you is to maintain the new patter, routines for 10 days so they become second nature. Focus 10 % on the problem - 90% on the solution

Your Master System 
First understand that you are not your behavior. Your behavior is guided by your values. In the end all decision making comes down to values clarification. Get clear about whats most important and decide to live by those values, high ideals.
There are end values. mean values.
Move towards love, success, freedom, intimacy, serenity, passion, health.
Move to pleasure, away from pain
All self sabotage occurs when there are value conflicts.
Remember we do more to avoid pain than gain pleasure
Change your values, and you can change your life. Also you are bigger than your value

Rules - Why We Are Not Happy 
Every upset is a rules upset. Your rules are upsetting you. Your happiness should not be dependent on what you cannot control.
What has to happen to feel good? Nothing. Human nature is that we have many ways to feel bad, few to feel good. Make it easy to feel good and hard to feel bad.
Our self esteem is tied to our ability to feel like we are in control of the events in our environment.
When there is an upset communicate your rules.
What is something you'd never do - personal rules?
What does it take to feel successful, loved?
Enjoy yourself

Expand Your References
Make a reference experience list. Your interpretation. Expand references. Use your references to feel good.
Imagine. Everything changes form. Limited references create a limited life. Expand your references.
What are 5 pleasurable experiences that shaped your experience? Fun references?

Your Identity - Your Key to expand 
Identify who you are. Your capability changes with your identity, perceptions. ids. They create you. Shift your identity. Your action defines you.
WHO are you?
You are not your past. You represent your best possibility.

Control your consistent actions in the following areas
Physical activity - health
Relationships - know values and rules of people
Financial decisions - start with small steps, ability to take something of little value and convert it into something great, wealth is in the mind, create wealth, be more valuable. increase the quality of life
create. maintain. increase, have a clear investment plan, enjoy wealth

Be impeccable- Have a Code of Conduct
Rest and play.
Imagine. Commit. Change

I loved the bit about decisions, about using pain and pleasure, about transformational vocabulary, metaphors, the action signals, rules, references, values and identity. Pretty powerful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rustom - Movie Review

Akshay Kumar got some nice reviews for this movie. It was a sensational case - Commander Nanavathy, a decorated naval officer, shot to death his wife's lover in upmarket Bombay in 1959. The case was famous and I remember hearing of it as a kid. Apparently one of the last cases where we had a jury system of a trial and the jury voted 8-1 Not Guilty.

Akshay Kumar plays Commander Rustom Pavri who comes home early from a voyage and finds out that his wife is having an affair with one of his friends. He goes back to the ship, gets a revolver, bullets, goes to his friend's house, and three shots are fired. The friend is dead, towel around his waist, fresh from his bath. His servant comes up and sees the commander with a gun in his hand. Commander Pavri surrenders to the police, chooses to stay in police custody and not naval custody. There is a hint of some papers etc and we know then that there is more to this than the murder. Turns out that the naval boss was involved with this friend and they conspired to get some sub standard equipment that Pavri does not approve of. Pavri's good intent goes waste as most people in the hierarchy seem to be corrupt. Pavri somehow gets a lot of public sympathy - in the real life incident protest were staged seeking his acquittal as the wronged husband - and gets away from the jury.

However the High Court sentences him to jail and in real life he got an early pardon from the Governor Vijay Laxmi Pandit (he was close to the Nehru's) and relocated to Canada with his wife and children where he lived till 2003.

I liked the Bombay they recreated, the colours. Esha Gupta was nice.

The Travel Diaries - Sri Lanka

Miskil is a special lady. She has her own mind and is pretty clear about what she wants. Years ago when she came to visit her aunt Shobha at Hyderabad I proferred my own ideas of how to go about life - none of which I follow by the way. Miskil came by and managed to conjure up a nice little career shift after that - thanks mainly to her own drive, personality and intelligence. But being the kind person she is Miskil does credit me some.

Having launched herself into a successful career in advertising (she already has a successful career in dancing) she set about figuring out relationships. Her ideas were very clear and she was patient. When she finally announced her marriage with Kabir Grover, a couple of months ago, it pretty much ticked off all boxes incredibly. Kabir is a gentleman, a good sport and looks very bit a thoughtful and caring person. Trust Miskil to drop the bomb on us - you have to come to Sri Lanka for the wedding she said. And we had to. You cannot say No to Miskil.

Miskil pretty much had everything figured out - prices, places, pick up etc and guided the whole show along. The wedding cum sangeet cum party was to be held at a beach side resort called Jetwing Blue in Negombo, which is 20 kms off Colombo. So tickets were done, plans made and dates blocked. We pencilled in a couple of days at Chennai to meet Anil and Lalitha, Krishna and Chitra.

Come D day and Anjali appeared with her back pack and off we went to Chennai. The Uber fare was 360 to Shamshabad where Meru and Skycabs charge about 800. How do they do it? Anyway it was  a nice start to the vacation. When we alighted at Chennai we found the place teeming with lots of political activity - Sasikala was being challenged by Paneerselvam. The lady had spirited away a bunch of her MLAs and hid them in a resort. I found one pre-paid service and they charged some 500 bucks to Nungambakkam which seemed fair (until I saw the Uber price was was 250 - how does Uber do it). Our cab driver seemed to favour Paneerselvam and said everyone disliked Sasikala. We reached Anil's home - I love that road and its many shops and eateries. I love their home too with its cosy interiors. Anil went all out and was the gracious host. We met the cat of the house - Chikoo - a saintly feline with the stillness of a monk. We chilled out all day, waited for Lalitha to return that evening, watched the political drama on TV and headed out for some Chinese at Cascade down the road. The guy lived up to his name - food was quick as an Udipi.

Flight to Colombo being at 3 we headed off in a cab to the airport at 12. We strolled along the airport leisurely until boarding time. Anjali was up and awake. The Sri Lankan Airlines air hostesses looked nice in their traditional sarees (which they tie in a different way) and their Ayu Bowan greetings. It's an hour's journey to Colombo. Anjali had had a long day and slept. At Colombo we had a bit of a scramble at the airport with immigration and then catching up with Gautam and Ramya (who were also headed to the wedding) - mainly to get as much duty free booze as we could. That done we headed out to find that the bag with Shobha's and Anjali's stuff was missing. In its place was another bag of similar size and shape that went around ominously on the conveyor belt. I was convinced that this was the culprit and found a helpful baggage officer (what are they called?) who secured the offending bag first. Then he found that the person involved had four bags and tried calling. Anyway that whole process took an hour and we were wide awake by the time the next round of guests came out of the airport. Shobha and Anjali were already planning about how they would now buy new clothes and it helped that no one was all keyed up. We hitched a ride with Milind and Neelima in a swanky car and in a short while were at Jetwing Blue, Negombo. The staff at the reception was dressed in a nice uniform - a nice top with a sarong that made them look dignified. There is a fullness to their face, eyes, and bodies, and they radiate a peace - the Sri Lankans I met there. They handled the luggage business with the airport well (seems like a normal affair) and got it all done smoothly. By the time we came back after lunch - the bag was waiting in the lobby.

Jetwing Blue is a wonderful property, with a beautiful pool that one cannot ignore, lovely views of the beach and a stone's throw from the sea (if you can throw well). We met some of the old culprits, forgot about sleep and hit the breakfast. Ms. Anuradha Reddy whom I met at the Hyderabad airport told me to eat the hoppers (of which she had set a record of sorts in her youth when she polished off 40 she told me) and I did. I tried some more Sri Lankan stuff for breakfast. Now for the devilled prawns, Mendis arrack and the cashew that Vijay Lokapally advised me to savour.  Anjali, as mentioned earlier was already slipping away on her own. I took a good look around and geared up for the day. There was sangeet that night. Would this be my first sangeet party? Perhaps - I cannot remember. Of that day, later.