Friday, June 29, 2018

Thought for the Day - To Avoid Pain Instantly, Dissolve Your Ego

There is pain when the world is not in sync with what we want. The more we want something that the world may not give, the more the pain increases.

Clearly the world may or may not change. Clearly the pain is self-induced.

To have no pain, become aware of the pain first. Then check how rigid the Ego is and what it is resisting. Then give up resisting, dissolve the Ego, and go with the flow. Simply say yes and flow.

No more pain. Lots of opportunities. Less effort. Easy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler

Ranked number 8 in the list of 100 best English novels of the century, 'Darkness at Noon' is the story of Rubashov, an old Bolshevik, who is captured and incarcerated in prison awaiting certain death. Rubashov remembers the crimes he had committed under the name of the Party in sending innocents to death while he awaits his own sentence in a prison filled with hostile inmates. Rubashov realises that just as he had done, the current regime was exterminating people with no reason.

Rubashov recalls the people he had sent to death - Richard, Little Loewy and his secretary and lover Arlova. He meets an old college mate Ivanov who is now part of the government. Ivanov offers Rubashov a deal - sign a confession and we will get you off lightly. Rubashov feels its a trick. Ivanov himself is shot and killed and then finally Rubashov too is shot.

The novel is set in the times of the Great Purge ordered by Stalin which killed about 9-12 lakh people under the pretext that they were conspiring against the government. Very little proof was needed, no trials many times as people were shot in mobile vans prisons, picked up in the middle of the night etc. Koestler's slim novel never names the people concerned but you know - The Party is the Soviet government, Number 1 is Stalin, The Dictatorship is Hitler and so on. Filled with intense dialogue and man's dilemma on where man is more important or mankind.

I found an old tattered version of the book and it gave me no end of pleasure to read. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Nice video - Sandeep Maheshwari on Leadership

Sandeep is a game changer. He is clear and articulate. He would have helped millions. Great work. I am a big fan of this young man.

Monday, June 25, 2018

How to Become a Buddha in 5 Weeks - Giulio Cesare Giacobbe

It's the "simple way to self-realization" says Cesare, psychotherapist, and Professor of Oriental Psychology at the University of Genoa. Cesare lost his twenty-seven-year-old son Yuri and is immensely qualified to write this book, having dealt with his suffering. The book is short, concise and impactful in a practical way. The techniques will surely allow the Buddha in us to flower.

Cesare explains how we can all become Buddhas. Every human being has the nature of the Buddha. The sole purpose of this book is liberation from suffering. Suffering comes from a false vision of reality - from our attachment to a false vision of reality.  Reality is knowing that everything is impermanent. Suffering is attachment to the impermanent.

To see reality as it is, we need practice. The practice consists of five powers which we possess but do not use - Control of the mind, Being in reality, Awareness of change, Non-attachment and Universal love.

A Buddha is someone who has attained serenity and maintains it in every situation. Serenity is a mental state - and your mental states depend on you.  Our serenity does not depend on situations - but our reactions to them. Our reactions are conditioned by our past experience. Which implies that our future can be conditioned by the present.

Buddha is non-conditioned.

"Being a Budha means remaining serene in every circumstance and loving other people.'

How to attain that state of serenity is explained in Buddha's teachings of the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8 Fold Path.

Buddha's 4 Noble Truths are
  • Existence of suffering
  • Cause of suffering (attachment arising from our ignorance of reality that the world is impermanent)
  • Elimination of suffering (elimination of ignorance)
  • The way that leads to the elimination of suffering (the 8 fold path which includes - Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration)
Explaining why it is increasingly difficult to see reality as it is, Cesare says that as man evolved, the Ego identified more with mental symbols that are social and cultural rather than natural. This is nothing but neurosis he says. The state of the Buddha is simply the natural state of non-neurosis.

Ignorance of reality is suffering. Reality is constant change and impermanence. Since everything is impermanent, one cannot get attached to anything. Non-attachment leads to liberation from Suffering.  

The Buddha's enlightenment is simply Right Understanding or Knowledge. 
Right knowledge consists of awareness that things and people change constantly. 
Right thought consists of elimination of negative thoughts. 
Right effort is the will to implement Right Concentration i.e. the observation fo our thoughts. 
Right Mindfulness consists of the presence in reality. 
Right concentration consists of detached observation of the mind. It is the noblest element of the Noble eightfold path. It needs determination.

To become the Buddha one needs to work on
  • Control of the mind
  • Presence in reality
  • Awareness of change
  • Non-attachment
  • Universal love

Control of the Mind
Control of the mind requires effort of the will. Control of mind consists of control of thought. The mind is an organ of the body. It can be trained, manipulated.

To control the mind, observe it. Observe sensations, emotions and thoughts. Thoughts are the cause of emotions and therefore the cause of suffering.

Thought that produces suffering is not voluntary. Involuntary thoughts (mostly negative) are automatically produced by memory (our unconscious) - a manifestation of the tension deriving from the traumas recorded in our memory. These thoughts reproduce making it a downward loop.

The normal practice to control the mind is detached observation of thought. To observe your thoughts - 1) try to stop your thoughts (and thereby look into your mind), 2) observe your mind and your thoughts using your senses - sight, sound, words

When we detach, we take away the emotional charge, break the chain of self-reinforcement and consequently its force of reproduction. The tensional thoughts are of memory and from the unconscious, but the conscious mind believes it created them, thereby identifying with it. When we detach by turning our attention from outside objects to our own thoughts we become the observer.  Our centre of identification, Ego, shifts from thought to the observer. It is through consciousness that we implement the observation of our thought.

The observer is not the thought.

The psychological law of disidentification gives us a clue- "We are dominated by everything we identify with and we dominate everything with which we disidentify."

Disidentify with all you want less of and identify with all you want more of.

Right Thought consists of elimination of negative thoughts and construction of positive thoughts. We need to replace involuntary negative thoughts with voluntary positive thoughts.

Detached awareness of thoughts, together with the conscious observation of breathing, reinforces concentration. Buddha lives in mental emptiness. By concentrating on breathing we can achieve mental emptiness.

The first week - control the mind.

Presence in Reality
Reality is nothing but the environment that surrounds us, that we can perceive with our senses. My reality is where I am now - the chair, table, computer. All else is not my reality. Delhi is not, my friend in New York is not - they are only in our mind, not reality. There is the world of the mind and the world of reality. be aware of the distinction between these two. Only the objects that belong to the world of reality are real, not those that belong to the memory.

'Suffering is not an object found in reality.' It's a mental state.

In the second week, remain in reality.

Awareness of Change 
Everything is in a state of constant transformation. And enlightenment consists of the constant awareness that reality is always changing.

A question - Why do we not see that life is dynamic and instead hold on to isolated images of life?

As the child personality, we hold on to an illusion of certainty in an ever-changing world, to memories from the past. Buddha enlightenment means growing psychologically from the child personality to the adult personality. To be fine with the constant change.

Practice remembering as often as you can, the awareness of constant change inside and outside.

Since reality is constantly changing - there is nothing fixed to which we can become attached.

Non-attachment is the most difficult step to take in this path. Non-attachment represents a permanent transition from the child personality to the adult personality. It abandons the need for protection,  for points of reference and for certainty. As an adult you do not need points of reference - you can do without anyone or anything. Which is why an adult personality can go ahead and become a parent - capable of helping others and to overcome personal selfishness. It is important to go through the child-adult-parent evolution before achieving Buddhaness.

In non-attachment, you demand nothing more of other people, expect nothing more of other people.

A Buddha has no expectation -  he accepts and enjoys what is there.

Expectations are the principal cause of suffering. Non-attachment is crucial. Non-attachment is non-demand for possession. Attachment is not attachment to the other person but to yourself. It is attachment to the ego. The result of non-attachment is love whereas the result of attachment is selfishness.

Be aware of your attachments - emotional and material. One can free oneself of emotional possessions by considering their precariousness.

Awareness of the precariousness of everything makes it easy to develop non-attachment.
Each thing seen in its precariousness and in its uniqueness is wonderful simply by existing. Same with people. If you have freed yourself of attachments, you will be able to appreciate and love that person. Enjoy him when he is there without demanding that he be there when he isn't. And without demanding that he be different from how he is. 

Attachment is a desire for what is not there. Non-attachment is not demanding what is not there but appreciating and enjoying what is there.

The demand for the presence of someone does not mean to love them. It means to want to be loved by him or her. Behind this false love there is, in fact, a need and therefore a demand. But need is not pleasure, it is suffering.

The philosophy of the Budha is pleasure, not suffering.

In the fourth week - free yourself of attachments.

Universal Love
Only through Univeral Love can life be filled with peace and joy. Universal love is the essence of the state of buddha-ness. Universal Love means being in contact with the whole universe, being the whole universe. Universal love has no limit, no fear, no negative conditions.
The way to develop Universal Love is through compassion.
Understanding and love are the same. Understanding means knowledge of the past, life, the suffering of the other person. That is why one feels compassion for friends, spouses. Feeling compassion means becoming the other person.

Compassion - towards yourself begins the journey to feeling compassion for the others. If you are capable of compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and respect for the child, the youth, the man or woman that you have been, that you are, you are capable of love for yourself, Learning to love yourself is the first step to love others.

Love really is seeing ourselves in others.

Budha state is the peak of human being's psychological evolution
Your serenity has to be placed above any other thing. If you have serenity inside, it helps others. It is an act of love.

Suffering as three immediate causes - expectations, fear and guilt.

It is not the fault of other person's if one's expectations meet with disappointment. We simply must stop having expectations.

Fears are always fears of something that is not there. Imagined fears

Suffering leads to Buddha. First take away your suffering. Then help others. If they ask. If someone asks for help, guide.

In the fifth week - make contact with the universe and develop love for all beings.

Wonderful, wonderful book. I had picked it up once and had not finished it, but this time I did and am happy I did. Very practical. The words of a practitioner.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Anjali - Fit India Campaign

The ad blared on FM - about Balkrishna ji helping us Indians in the Fit India campaign by sharing some Ayurveda secrets - or something like that. It sounded a bit odd, we thought it was Baba Ramdev, then realized it was his old pal Balkrishna. I could barely keep my mouth shut because the family was in the car and well, we are supposed to be generally open and optimistic with children around.

'Seriously,' said Anjali. 'Aren't there any better things for them to focus on instead of Fit India?'
Hmm. Interesting. So ten-year-olds feel the same way.
'What better things?' I asked, just to see.

'Well pretty much everything else,' she said. 'Robbery, child lifters...'
I nodded. Yes, there were many more things to focus on surely. Why was this such a big thing now?

'Perhaps if you become fit you can run away from the robbers?' joked Shobha.
'But the robbers will also become fit right?' said Anjali. 'It's not a Fit India campaign only for the good guys is it?'

Point made. Point taken. But more importantly, ten-year olds can see through these campaigns. 

Column in the Sunday Hans - Let's Change the World

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Thought for the Day - Connecting Thought to Work!

It is pretty much accepted that our thoughts seem to be the main culprits. One way to counter this constant stream of thoughts (mostly negative) they say is to control the mind and get into a thoughtless state. Meditation, mindfulness and other techniques are prescribed.

I had a thought (a rebel it appears!). What if each time we had a thought we were to act upon it. Or at least told our mind that we need to act upon it. Ah! Since its pretty much free zone we fantasize without limit but let's say we put a cost to it and that too with some work to be done about it - I suspect the thoughts - especially the negative ones - may find it rather intimidating to come about with their free suggestions.

I thought about it and have since found several thoughts disappearing. To practice it some more to see if it works. If I cannot stop the thoughts, I might get some work done.

Win-win situation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Review - Knot for Keeps

Chanced upon a book review by Sravanthi Challapalli in the Hindu Business Line. Nicely done.

The Magic of the Lost Temple - Sudha Murthy

Every once in a while, after reading a long and heavy book, a short and easy read is most welcome. So after reading 'Sapiens' looked at the pile of short books I set aside to read and found this book recommended by Anjali. Sudha Murthy's 'The Magic of the Lost Temple'. Thanks to Anjali I read a lot of Sudha Murthy's books which are quite enjoyable and give a good sense of Karnataka - in the real sense and not R. K. Narayan's Karnataka which seemed different. Perhaps his was more Anglicised because of the way he wrote.

The story is about twelve-year-old Nooni (Anoushka) who lives in Bengaluru with her working parents - father Shekhar is a doctor and mother teaches. Just as summer vacation is approaching Nooni's mother has a six-week training program to attend in Delhi and the parents decide that Nooni could stay with her grandparents in the village. Of course, the grandparents are well off and have a farm and stuff so Nooni is well taken care of.

Nooni has several people to play with and to help her learn how to cycle, swim etc. Her grandmother introduces her to all the things our grandmothers used to do - from home remedies to pujas to customs and practices to gardening to cooking to taking care of cattle to all other things that city-bred people have no clue about. One night while telling her a story her grandmother tells Nooni how their village had a myth that there was a temple with a step well which had disappeared.

Nooni had a great time exploring things and in one of her explorations stumbled upon a site. Archaeologists are called and a massive temple structure is found buried under that place. The myth turns out, is true. Celebrations all around.

Being a neat little children's book there are no villains. One gets a lot of information about rural Karnataka and some customs etc which children who have no clue about can read and learn up on. Simple, clean and neat.

Thanks, Anjali. Though you took it away soon as you discovered that I was done reading it.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

"Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind", is a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller written by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari. Dr. Harari specializes in world history, taught at Oxford and now at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It starts with a timeline  - 13.5 billion years before the present was when matter and energy appeared, 4.5 billion before - Earth was formed, 3.8 billion before now organisms emerged, 6 million years before - last common grandmother of humans and chimps existed, 2.5 million years ago was the evolution of genus Homo, and the first stone tools, 2 million years before, humans (genus Homo) spread from Africa to Eurasia, 300000 years before now was usage of fire daily, 200000 years before, Homo Sapiens evolve in East Africa, 70000 years before was the Cognitive revolution and attempts at writing, emergence of fictive language, 45000 years  before now, Sapiens settle Australia, extinction of megafauna, 30000 years ago extinction of the Neanderthals, 16000 years ago Sapiens settle Amercia, 12000 years ago was the Agricultural revolution deomestication of plants and animals, 5000 years ago came the first kingdoms, script and money, polytheistic religions, 4250 years ago was the first empire, 2500 years ago was universal coinage, 2500 years ago the Persian empire broguth out the concept of universal political order for benefit of all humans, and Buddhism, 2000 years ago existed the Han empire, Roman empire, Christianity, 1400 years ago came Islam, 500 years ago came the Scientific revolution where man admitted ignorance and acquired immense power, rise of capitalism, 200 years ago was the Industrial Revolution where family and community were replaced by state and market, extinction of plants and animals, The present - humans transcend Earth, the Future is about Homo Sapiens and super humans. That, in a nutshell, is the history and the way Dr. Harari interpreted it.

Dr. Harari sets the framework elegantly - 13.5 billion years ago there was the big bang which created matter, energy, time and space (or rather Physics). 3 lakh years after that, matter and energy formed atoms and fused to form complex molecules (which began chemistry). 3.8 billion years ago, molecules combined to form organisms (biology). 70,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens formed cultures and started to write, thereby forming History. The Agricultural Revolution started about 12000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution som 500 years ago. Life has never been the same ever since. The key for us then is the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution.

Dr. Harari points out that 10000 years ago, 6 human species inhabited the earth under the genus Homo apart from Sapiens - Homo Rudolfesis, Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Floresiensis and Homo Ergaster. Only the Homo Sapiens survive now. He says it probably because the Homo Sapiens drove the others to extinction. It's interesting because even in present-day Homo Sapiens we find those who have a conquering gene and those who are quite happy to be where they are. In all likelihood, the discovery of fire and its use to cook food helped the Homo Sapiens cook and eat food like rice, wheat, and potatoes (which cannot otherwise be digested). Humans quickly moved up the food chain once they figured this out.

The next move up was when Homo Sapiens discovered language and realized they could share large amounts of information. Homo Sapiens gossiped for hours and used it as a means to transfer information (which we continue to do to date). They used fictional narratives to collaborated to keep those fictions alive. However, the author feels that fictional narratives serve the purpose of getting people to collaborate and hold a group of 150 or less. Beyond 150 it gets difficult to hold a group with gossip and fictional narratives. To hold larger groups they needed bigger fictional common myths. He cites the example of Peugeot a car manufacturer and how the company becomes a collective fiction that all of us buy into as if it were a real person. The problem with these large-scale myths is about how to convince others. Clearly, the ones who can use these fictions, social constructs or imagined realities well set the agenda for the rest of the world. Fictions helped large populations of humans to change their behavior quickly. They would believe these myths and it enabled big groups of humans to cooperate based on these myths. Trade would not have been possible if trust was not established. Now trust is a myth. With a diversity of stories, a diversity of behaviors was made possible which created different cultures. These myths changed behaviors and formed cultures and helped forge cooperation between people. That was the big impact of cognitive revolution - the break out into fictions.

The foragers and hunters among our ancestors were probably better off than the average man is today. His brain was bigger, he was more aware, lived in tune with the rhythm of nature, ate a varied diet and got good nutrition and was aware and alert. He worked on an average of 35 hours a week to gather food, material, and knowledge as compared to the average of 80 hours a week that a man works today to eat far less nutritious food.

Dr. Harari says the Homo Sapiens spread out of East Africa to Asia and Europe and later to Australia. Soon after he went he killed the megafauna in all these places - an ecological serial killer. In a short time after the Homo Sapiens went to these places about 200 types of animals weighing over 50 kgs were reduced to 100 by the time agricultural revolution started. Dr. Harari says that was done by the Homo Sapiens probably to survive and make the world safer for himself.

The agricultural revolution started when Homo Sapiens started manipulating animal and plant species. He started growing wheat, rice, peas, and lentils. (Harari says that nothing much has changed in our diet since then - we still eat the same food that they grew. Though we expanded the total food produced, man does not get better diet or leisure.) Once he settled down in a place, the area grew smaller and he started to settle down. He toiled away at growing more food to stock more. Due to the stagnant nature of their lives, populations exploded. As now, even then the elites got control of the food while workers worked harder. Dr. Harari says that humans did not domesticate plants but it was the other way round - plants domesticated humans with their unique needs of being watered, kept pest free, fenced etc. Wheat gave the Homo Sapiens an opportunity to multiply because people settled down in secure settlements and every improvement became a bigger luxury trap and a mill stone around their neck that they could not get out of. however. They plowed on believing in better futures and in the security of food stocks. Humans domesticated the goat, cattle, and chicken. The agricultural revolution was terrible for animals because since then they have been treated as if they have no emotions or soul and were purely seen as an economic unit.

Agri territories shrunk from what the foragers were used to. Homo Sapiens also started putting up artificial stuff - they cleared lands, built houses, canals for humans and their 'plants, built walls etc. Thanks to all this they got tied down to that place. The small settlements became villages and then towns and then cities thanks to the food surplus they generated. As communities grew, bigger myths were needed to keep the flock together - like motherland. gods. Dr. Harari gives us the example of the Code of Hammurabi where a god ordained code was passed down to the people by the king to be followed - and they followed it. They completely believed in the fiction the king sold them. Cynics do not build the empire. believers do - those who believe in causes like the motherland, god, democracy, capitalism. Desires grew (about having more experiences), consumerism grew. Dr. Harari says we all buy into the myths of travel, of experiences that will enhance our lives and line the pockets of the capitalists while not adding any value to ourselves. (But in the olden days, people would build stuff like the pyramids if they were rich - not go for world tours.) To dismantle the myth of Peugeot  we need a bigger myth - like the French legal system

To sustain laws and customs consciously, Homo Sapiens now needed to store data. People still lived as small and simple social networks. However, the Sumerians started writing in 3500 BC. They stored facts and figures through quipus which allowed them to store data and helped in tax collection and property records. Around 2500 BC the cuneiform and the Egyptian hieroglyphics were discovered. The next problem arose. Though they had the facility to store records, they did not have good retrieval system. This was when the Hindus and the Arabs came up with the system of numerical from 0-9 and information and record keeping exploded.

The code of the Hammurabi had a pecking order - of superiors, common men, and slaves. In the American Declaration of Independence, there is a hierarchy of men. Similarly, there is the Hindu caste system. These imagined hierarchies enabled strangers to know how to trust one another because they were slotted. Clearly, people with the same ability would not have the same amount of success because the economic game was rigged by the legal restriction and an imaginary glass ceiling. The class system was based on the concept of purity. Untouchables, blacks were obviously impure and were at the receiving end simply because they were impure - based on a code no one knows. Myths were floated about blacks - that they were cursed, filthy, impure. That they would contaminate the others. The idea was to stick a label first and then prove the record. A case in point - in 1958 Clennon King a black young man who applied to a graduate course in the University of Mississippi was committed to the mental asylum because the judge believed that he must be mad to think that a black could get admission to the University. There is no biological difference that questions intelligence - just the commonly believed myth that served some. Similarly, gender myths were promoted as were myths about manhood and patriarchy. Also about men being stronger. These myths kept women out.

Thanks to the customs, myths, and cultures there was no equality. Dr. Harari says that to understand any culture best one should not look at the pristine set of values but at the Catch 22s of the culture, the spot between the imperatives. The myths have generally been one of "Us vs Them" to create an economic, political and religious order. To show that humans were a single unit. The classes became those of merchants, conquerors, and priests.

The greatest conqueror of all soon arrived - money.

Trust, says Dr. Harari, is the raw material from which all types of money is minted. Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised. Whereas religions ask us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something. Money ensures cooperation. Money has two great qualities - universal convertibility and universal trust.

The creation of empires which came next further reduced human diversity. The Persians were the first to come up with the fantastic idea that they were conquering other lands for the benefit of the conquered people. The Chinese empires claimed heavenly legitimacy. The myth that "they" became "us" was floated but it was a lie of course. Gandhi despite all his efforts to be like "them" was brown and thrown out of the train. Aided by such myths a small group could establish an empire, a culture which is then adopted by the common people.

Religion is a system of human norms and values founded on a belief of superhuman order. It had two faces - a universal superhuman order and a need to spread this belief through missionaries. Where animism was a local phenomenon, people now looked to gods as a solution to things that went wrong in nature - like a drought for instance. Slowly polytheistic religions developed, with smaller gods for different things, gods with partial powers. (More Christians says Dr. Harari, were killed by fellow Christians on St. Bartholomew's Day massacre - about 5k to 10k of them - than by the polytheistic Roman empire. Christianity and Islam grew fast.  Humanist religions that saw humans as superior also spawned ideas of superiority among humans.

A few small cultures now became a few big cultures, creating a global empire.

Enter the Scientific Revolution next and Homo Sapiens growth exploded. In the last 500 years, ever since the Scientific Revolution, the population has grown from 500 mn to 7 bn, goods produced from 250 bn to 60 trn, and energy consumption from 13 trn cals to 1500 trn cals. Science plus empires plus economics of capitalism grew.

The Scientific Revolution was based on man's willingness to admit ignorance! On his ability to say "I don't know'. This ability led him to acquire more powers. Until then, man believed that all the answers were in the old religious classics. But with the introduction of "the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", science gave a new tool to humans to seek further progress. The sugar daddy of science was religious ideology.

The voyage of James Cook's expedition funded by the Royal Society gathered much data. Cook saved his crew from scurvy thanks to Vitamin C supplements and with a full, healthy crew was able to garner knowledge and lay claim on new territories along the way including Australia. Thanks to science and technology, European empires beat Asian empires which were very rich. The only difference between the two cultures was the mentality of conquest which the Europeans had. Dr. Harari says that whatever the Europeans did, they did scientifically. For example, the British mapped India, formed the Asiatic Society, explored Everest. They sought knowledge plus territories. No wonder then that the British with 5000 officials, 40-70 k soldiers and 1 lakh business people subjugated 300 million Indians. It was science that aided their imperial designs.

The economy was always driven by growth. The discovery of the use of credit kickstarted a new wave of economic growth. Where religion damned the rich, Adam Smith's 'Wealth of the Nations' said it was fine to be rich. Greater profits meant greater good for all. Greed is good he said, because everyone benefits. The distinction between capitalism and wealth was made now (growth vs stored). Technology was soon seen as important for the growth of the economy.

The Asia kings were non-mercantile in their approach while European kings were mercantile. They had bankers and merchants advising them. Interestingly Columbus was financed by the Queen of Sapin after he was rejected by Portugal France, Italy - a good case of venture capitalism. Most conquests were financed by bankers and merchants. India was ruled by a mercenary army of soldiers who were on the payroll of the East India Company. The Opium War, where the British sold opium to the Chinese and were barred by the Chinese from selling, quickly sought support from the British army which defeated the Chinese and made the Chinese sign a peace treaty allowing them to sell opium, compensate for losses incurred and to give control of Hong Kong. War itself became a commodity later.

'When kings fail to do their jobs and regulate the market prospects, it leads to a loss of trust, dwindling credit, and economic depression.'

The Europeans conquered America and planted sugar, tobacco, cotton and mined for gold and silver. To meet the excess supply of sugar produced, an industry of cakes, candy etc was founded. The annual intake of sugar for Homo Sapiens went up from 0 to 8 kgs. Since plantations were labour intensive they began a lucrative slave trade. 10 million slaves were shifted from Africa who made huge profits for the sugar barons. There were slave trade companies whose stock was traded in Amsterdam, London and Paris stock exchanges. Companies would raise money by selling shares, went and bought slaves from Africa, sold slaves to American planters, bought goods from them, sold for a profit in Europe and again went to buy slaves. The profit motive of these companies was also responsible for the death of 10 mn Bengalis in the Bengal famine. The Belgian King took the Congo basin for exploration and exploited 20-30 million native inhabitants for rubber and other produce.

One of the biggest problems that science needed to solve for Homo Sapiens was how to convert one for of energy to another. Solar energy from plants was the only source of energy. No one understood steam then but once steam (conversion of energy) was discovered, the Industrial Revolution started. Until then, man did all the work. Now machines did it for him. Mass production meant that animals were now used in horrible ways to feed the population. Dr. Harari describes the appalling conditions in which cattle, sheep, pigs and chicken are grown and killed to feed the people. He quotes Dr. Harlow's monkeys experiment where young monkeys were separated from their mothers (just as all young liter are separated in the dairy industry) and given a cloth monkey. The young monkeys would hug the cloth monkey. Even when a steel monkey was kept next to the cloth monkey with food, the young monkeys ate the food clinging to the cloth monkey - clearly showing how emotional they were. Industrialisation for agriculture led to urban industrialization revolution. Man produced and produced and found many ways to produce more at the cost of animals and their emotions, at the cost of the environment.

Soon supply exceeded demand. Who will buy these goods?

Since consumption was now needed to take care of demand, a new myth was promoted. Frugality, which was hitherto seen as a good habit, was now shown as a disease. The masses were killed by over-consumption. A selfish, decadent and morally corrupt creed was promoted. There is no reason why a poor person should want to eat a burger or a pizza or drink a cola spending hard earned money for low nutrition foods. But the myths are stronger.

"The new ethic promises paradise on the condition that the rich remain greedy and spent time making more money and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions - and buy more and more.'

The world has been changed to fit the needs of the Homo Sapiens. Habitats have been destroyed. If the mass of all the people is 300 mn tons, of farming animals 700 mn then the mass of all surviving large wild animals is a mere 100 million tons. It shows how much we have depleted those species.

Homo Sapiens are now ruled by time. Now they require mass transportation. Earlier humans lived in small, intimate communities. Now communities are replaced by the state and the market. Earlier they had the support of the nuclear family, the extended family, and the local intimate community. But now the idea of the individual was promoted - and it draws them away from their families. People now have imagined communities like the nation. This allows people to be in order which provides stability an continuity.

Dr. Harari asks - despite all the progress etc, are we happier? How can we count happiness? He avers that family and community have more impact on our happiness than wealth and money. Of course one cannot be happy all the time. He concludes that perhaps happiness depends on self-delusion

Be present. Mindful. Another solution.

A look at what is now happening. We are looking at Genetic Engineering where science is transforming living beings. There is a possibility of reviving extinct creatures. There is the Bionic life where human and inorganic life meets to extend human life and convenience. Then there is an Inorganic life where science is making do with only inorganic material to replicate life. Humans may now live up to far longer - maybe become a-mortal i.e. not die deaths unless by accident. There is a human brain project underway to construct a human brain.

Dr. Harari ends with a question - what can we expect then from dissatisfied, irresponsible gods who do not know what they want. That sums up where Homo Sapiens stand today.

A fascinating book. I read it once and then again. Thanks Abhinay.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Anjali - Happy Father's Day!

I do not remember Father's Day unless reminded of it on social media etc. Consequently, I did not know today was Father's Day until Anjali walked up quietly mid-morning and gave me a scratch card that she had made.

The Birthday Scratch Card! - Scratched out!
It was a pink card with some blue paint in three patches.'Scratch,' she said, handing me a coin. I scratched. The entire thing came off with the paint and what was under it. 'Oh oh,' she said. 'Scratch this one,' she said pointing at the next one. This time nothing happened. The paint had really stuck to the paper. No amount of scratching would separate them. I asked her what was under the paint she had put on the little card. 'Three gifts,' she said. 'Anyway does not matter, I will give them all to you.'
The Father's Day Plaque
The first one was a wooden painting - a piece of plywood from recent carpentry works that was left over. She painted 'Dad' on it with a nice mustache with her paints. It was a lovely gift.

'Thanks so much,' I said, delighted that she took so much trouble for me. I am always amazed when I find anyone doing anything for me. Now I must find a way to hang it up on the wall.

Then came the second gift. A card. It was folded in many ways and opened in such a manner that it reveals a new message as it unfolded. The card itself was intricately done but then, on it, instead of simply scribbling her message (as I would have done), she took a print out of her message, cut it out and pasted it carefully. Here's the message in the card pics. Naturally, my heart filled out at the message. 'Wow,' I said. 'Thank you so much, Anjali.' Of course, she did not let me open the card lest I tear it up in my clumsy ways. She opened it herself.
Page 1 of card

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

She disappeared again and came back with the third gift. 'These are gift coupons,' she said. 'You can use them anytime.' On the first coupon was written '2 hugs'. One the second was 'One cup of tea'. On the third was 'Carwash.' I could redeem them at any time. I redeemed one right away. One hug.

Thanks, Anjali. It's such a lot of work and I cannot understand how you get so many ideas and actually make those things so quickly and so well. Like I feel, thoughtfulness is the true expression of love. So much thought to make my day special simply floors me. I could not ask for a better Father's Day gift - or rather, gifts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

World Cup Soccer - My Favorite Sporting Event in the World

Funnily, I don't play soccer. Save for a short period during my school days when I was influenced by my stoic pal Koteswara Rao, or Koti, of the famous bow legs and dead serious disposition, to play football, I never did. All my energies were devoted to cricket. But surprisingly the one big row, the battle of wills, I had with my father was when I was in my fifth class or sixth class. Bitten by the soccer bug I wanted a soccer ball. Dad was adamant. No. I went on strike. I will buy the ball with my money. The battle lasted for a while before Mom convinced Dad to drive me to the shop. I had to bring out my savings and for Rs. 28, I bought a soccer ball. Nothing much came of it. I never threw such tantrums to buy myself cricket bats and made do with pieces of wood, so I guess that explains it.

But the soccer World Cup is the one sporting event that I cannot miss. In fact, when I got a job in Mumbai and was to join on some particular date, I sought permission to join 20 days later so I could watch the World Cup. Looking back I wonder when the bug bit me and I can recall as far back as the 1982 World Cup when Paulo Rossi of Italy made all the headlines and I lapped up all the news in the Hindu's sports pages with those pics.

In 1986 it got better. I was doing my Engineering and was studying for exams in the hostel when they telecast the games live from Mexico. I watched Brazil with its charismatic stars like Socrates who remains an all-time favorite, Zico and others. The way Socrates took his penalties, in such a casual manner (which cost him the finals also) still remains etched in my mind. Brazil became the team to cheer for ever since. But we got to witness live Diego Maradona's goal of the century against England as also the infamous Hand of God. Almost single handedly Maradona won the World Cup for Argentina and a lifelong love affair was born. Stars like Platini. Matthaus, Linekar made a mark - in my mind.

In 1990, Italy hosted the World Cup and I clearly remember the Sicilian Schillaci coming on as a  substitute and scoring goals - so many that he won the Golden Boot. But it was Germany that won the finals. But one cannot forget the 38 year old Roger Milla from Cameroon nor his famous celebrations nor the famous goal when he stole the all from Colombia's El Loco (Madman) Rene Higuita and scored. In many ways Cameroon and Milla stole everyone's hearts that event.

In 1994, the US hosted the World Cup and Brazil came well prepared. Their game was nothing like the showy game we saw earlier but very purposeful. Romario and Bebeto (one remembers his famous celebrations cradling his baby) clinically led Brazil to a victory over a defensive Italy. The film star like Roberto Baggio missed a famous penalty kick and gave Brazil the Cup. It was in this edition that the Columbian defender Escobar who scored an own goal while defending, was shot to death after his return to Columbia in a bar. It was a deeply saddening event espeically since Escobar was nicknamed as the Gentleman and promoted a clean style of play and manner.

In 1998, France hosted the tournament and defeated Brazil in the final - a final when Ronaldo was supposedly down with some illness and looked hardly a shadow of himself. Zidane scored twice and France won 3-0. Zidane was like nothing else I had ever seen - skill, maturity, a mesmerising presence. We saw glimpses of greatness when an 18 year old Micheal Owen set the stage on fire in short bursts.

In 2002, Japan hosted the World Cup and both Japan and Korea performed very well. Brazil beat Germany in the final - 2-0. Ronaldo scoring both and wiping away the memory of the previous World Cup. Brazil was a formidable side with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldino and several other greats.

In 2006 we saw Italy take on France in the final and won 5-3 on penalties but not before we saw the crazy red card to Zidane who head butted Materazzi. Interestingly both players were the goal scorers in normal time. After Zidane was sent off France never looked in the game. I don't remember much about the tournament.

In 2010 Spain which always promises so much finally won the World Cup. They had some great talent and they finally got it together. David Villa, Fabregas, Iniesta, Torres, Puyol, Casillas, Ramos. Iniesta scored in extra time and gave Spain the much needed win against the Netherlands.

In 2014, the World Cup went back to Brazil and Germany beat Argentina in the final with a 1-0 lead. We saw the horrible 7-1 drubbing Germany gave Brazil in the semi finals which was embarrassing even to watch. Argentina's Messi was a shadow of himself and could not make a mark on the biggest tournament in the World. The same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo who struggled with Portugal. That said, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney for England could not deliver at this stage.

But watching some of these characters over the years - Klose, Klinsmann, Milla, Baggio, Baresi, Socrates, Kahn, Higuita, Zidane, Beckham, Matthaus, Platini, Cafu, Rivaldo, Gascoigne, Batista apart from Socrates, Maradona, and others added so much more to life.

Now, watching the World Cup again, and watching what Ronaldo did the other day to equalize against Spain, brought all the magic back. I suddenly realized why this tournament is so much to me than any cricket tournament. It's just so much energy, so much skill that it draws you in 100%.

Looking forward to more with great anticipation. Thank you soccer World Cup. 

Teaching Communication to Business Executives

While teaching business communication to a bunch of young executives, engineers and MBAs and finance executives among them, I realized that most fear the possibility of making mistakes and thereby do not communicate in English. The first step was to tell them that the idea of communicating is to get the message across and not write to get a literary award.

So step 1 - communicate even if you make mistakes. That's top priority.

Next, whatever you are communicating, spoken or written, needs to be understood by the other person, so keep it simple. And when you speak, keep it simple, use body language and get the message across in more media than one if possible. They did simple exercises like introducing themselves, then preparing and introducing themselves again. Some of them really prepared well and floored everyone. The importance of eye contact, body language, preparation of a script and reading aloud before a mirror, were stressed. Another tool we used was the JAM sessions where they spoke about a topic of their choice for a full minute without any preparation. The same talk was then prepared on and spoken again for a minute and then a third time. They could see the difference each time.

I found a simple TEd talk by Marianna Pascal about how to speak English that will help new speakers who are not confident about speaking English.

There is a wonderful talk by Sid Efromovich on '5 Techniques to speak any language. This holds good for any language including English so hear him out. The steps are - Make mistakes, Scratch out the foreign alphabet, find a stickler, shower conversations, buddy formula.

When you write, construct simple sentences. Some common mistakes are - not knowing when to capitalize and when not to, not using a period to end the sentence, using SMS language, not knowing the format of writing an email or a formal letter. Once the basics were addressed we realized that grammar was always going to be a challenge. I went through Anjali's grammar book and found it difficult to put it across or remember the many do's and don't's, some of which did not have any clear reason. So we gave a brief introduction to the parts of speech and constructed a few sentences and letters. One of the big problems was with the use of tenses. Checking online, I found a wonderful resource, the and this wonderful teacher Ganesh, who explained so many aspects of English so beautifully, concisely and without any judgment. Here is Ganesh on Tenses. He is brilliant. God. I suggest you watch all his videos at leisure.

Another tool we found was which gives online help to check spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. It's a huge help. The participants were asked to use all the online help they could get.

Meanwhile, nothing helps in writing or speaking English than practice. So they have been advised to read and write as much as they can to improve their understanding of well constructed, simple sentences.

As Josh Kaufman says in his TED talk 'How to learn anything in 20 hours', the barriers are not intellectual. They are emotional. The fear of being judged stops them from speaking and writing. Hopefully, we would have reduced that a bit.

I am getting there and hopefully, by the time I am done with this course, I would have cracked this some more.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Creep - Primal Rendition by Ada Vox

It's one of those songs that hits a spot at some primal level. Most singers who sing this song end up with tears in their eyes. So with the audience. The feeling of being left out, of not being the chosen one, of being the creep, the weirdo. Ada takes one of my all time favorites to a new level.

'Creep' by Radiohead. The one song that stands out through the years.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Artificial Intelligence - Movie

2001. Kubrick's project. Steven Spielberg directed it. Haley Joel Osment (he plays golf for the US too!). Made from a short story by Brian Aldiss (Supertoys Last All Summer Long). Started well enough and meandered into some other story. Boring.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anjali - A Close Friend Leaves

Harsh and Anjali have been together since they were in PP2. Most of their ten-year lives. With Mansi, they formed a group of really close friends. Both Mansi and Harsh naturally feature a lot in TWIED. A natural at cricket and a serious competitor who always pushed her at academics, Harsh and Anjali shared a nice, easy and yet competitive friendship.
A typical moment with H, M and A
So Harsh had to be bought the cricket bat for his birthday because his old bat's grip was torn. And Harsh was the one who cajoled Anjali when she got it in her head to change her school last year. And Harsh and Mansi were the ones who helped Anjali negotiate the steps and got to class when she had a bad headache. And Harsh would be the one who would take the Olympiad gold in their school for Maths and Anjali would take English. 'This year I got three - Harsh got one.'

Harsh would not eat even when he came for birthday parties. Reticent when adults were around, he would blossom when his two friends were with him alone. Many a day Anjali would drop by at Harsh's house and they would play cricket together in their flat or any of those games they all normally play. These days, now that they are older, they call each other on the phone and discuss homework etc.

So when Anjali went to Mumbai in the summer vacation, Harsh was already there, visiting his grandmother as he always does. She called him to go to Kidzania with her but he already had been there. When they wondered if they should meet Anjali was like - I will meet him at school anyway.

It so happened that Harsh's parents decided to shift to Mumbai and it happened so fast that Harsh got his admission and they moved before Anjali even knew what happened. I don't know if she felt bad about it but I felt a lot of pain. I know she did and does, she is a deep one who keeps those feelings to herself though she lets us see a glimpse of it.

And then you realise that there will be som many more such exits in life, so many changes, and you go through them all. Some affect you some more, some a little less. But they always take away a part of you. 'It's not so bad,' I told her. 'You guys can call and meet and message much easier than we could.' Anjali nodded.

Good luck Harsh. We will miss you and your ways. I must tell you though, you are a damn good cricketer young man. 

The Verdict - Movie

1982. Sydney Lumet. Paul Newman. Courtroom drama. Lovely watching! Unforgettable - the way Paul Newman cracks an egg, drops it into his drink, drinks it all up in a go.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Knot for Keeps - Edited by Sathya Saran

"Knot for Keeps", is an anthology on marriage (goes with the tagline - Writing the Modern Marriage). It is edited by Sathya Saran who was editor of Femina and author of biographies on Guru Dutt, S.D. Burman and Jagjit Singh. The contributors to the anthology are Sharanya Manivannan (award winning writer), Chitra Viraraghavan (writer and editor), Rita Mukherjee (writer), Krishna Shastri Devulapalli (Humor writer, cartoonist, columnist and novelist), Prasoon Joshi (poet, lyricist), Noor Zaheer (writer and researcher), Kalyan Ray (author, novelist), Deeksha Nagar (ethnographer and folklorist), Neha Dixit (independent award winning journalist), Bulbul Sharma (painter and writer), Modhurima Sinha (journalist, photographer and writer), Abha Iyengar (award winning poet, author, writer, editor, translator), Wendell Rodricks (award winning fashion designer), Milan Vohra (juggler and writer) and Vijay Nagaswami (psychiatrist).
And, yours truly.
Harper Collins, 164 p, Rs. 299
When I was first asked to contribute, I had no idea what to write. All thoughts of marriage, especially when asked to put down on paper or any other shareable form, evoked nervous laughter, jokes. Maybe because I didn't know how I had handled mine and what I made of it. After some thought I decided it was best to explore my own marriage, the why of it, since it's an odd marriage - tall, short, dark, fair, last bencher, frontbencher etc. And that's about as much as I will devote to my contribution (The Imperfect Marriage) and will now review the rest of book in the kindliest of ways. It is the first time I am reviewing a book where I feature.

Sharanya Manivannan's "Apportionments of Love' is about not accepting marriage or a partner for its own sake and making sense of it. It is an intense piece that explores all the facets of a life without marriage. 'Conjugular' by Chitra Viraraghavan, is a delightfully mischievous fictional piece about a marriage that seemingly hangs by a thread, but is actually built strongly on a desire to hurt each other in as many ways as possible. Rita Mukherjee's 'A Life Sentence' is heavy and layered with her life experience and honesty, her love for her husband, and the fact that she would leave the love of her life due to her illness. As I read the story I saw her mention being in Hyderabad for a while. Our paths must have crossed somewhere, we might have been this close sometime in Hyderabad, or maybe even read or shared something in the paper. I loved the piece. It's sad she is not there to see the book.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli's 'Heaven Forbid' takes a look at some of the more stressful ways marriages work - his friend sponsors his wife's passion for dance to keep her happy and employed. He goes beyond the call of duty though (with good reason because she has strong reasons backing her) - paying tuition fees to parents to keep sending the kids, guru fees, for music by the best in the business. At times, he fantasizes about killing her. Meanwhile, she plans her magnum opus 'Heaven Forbid.' Funny as ever, made me laugh out loud a few times - something not many humor writers in India manage to do.

Noor Zaheer's 'Keep Searching, A Light Might Appear' looks at the khula system in Islamic marriages where women have an opportunity to divorce husbands. She looks at how the institution has, over the years, become unequal in Islam and how husband's use the triple talaq system to threaten their wives and keep them under control while the khula system seems to have been lost under layers of misinterpretation. Kalyan Ray's "Our Bi-Continental Marriage' gives an interesting perspective into a marriage between a couple, both married twice before, with kids from earlier marriages, one living in India and another in America and how their bi-continental marriage held for twenty years. Kalyan is a professor in America and his wife Aparna Sen is a filmmaker and actress based in Kolkata so it makes for some interesting reading on how it worked. Next comes 'The Imperfect Marriage'.

In 'Marriage and Me', Deeksha Nagar looks at the many marriages she saw, how they formed her opinion about it and how she makes sense of love, sex, compatibility, and marriage. Neha Dixit explores runaway marriages in 'The Cost of a Runaway Marriage' including her own and gives some fine information about this little known Act called the Special Marriages Act (SMA). The SMA is a special kind of marriage for all Indian nationals in India and in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. It provides equal inheritance and divorce rights to both. With SMA you don't have to convert and be married under one religion or another it appears.

'Mixed Media Marriage' by Bulbul Sharma looks at the grand Bengali-Punjabi marriage between Neela Banerjee and Vikram Kapoor and all that happens when the two cultures and families meet in Delhi. Modhurima Sinha, in 'The Thin Red Line' says 'the opposite of ritual is love' and explores the many rituals associated with marriage. Abha Iyengar's 'A Girl of a Certain Age' talks of how heavily the pressure of marriage weighs on the girl despite her qualifications, intelligence or beauty, the moment she comes of marriageable age. Marriage is a responsibility and she cannot be a burden on her parents anymore. Wendell Rodricks jumps headlong into the maze of lines that govern his love and his life in 'Across Latitudes and Longitudes' and how he and his partner had had to face so many problems while traveling to meet one another, in foreign lands, in India simply because same-sex love is not yet legal. It's the same feeling of love, yet not accepted by those who perhaps, do not feel that feeling or want to restrict it to their own type. It is so unjust and downright ridiculous - the same people who rush to justify war cannot validate love. Wendell writes with great love and patience and understanding.

Milan Vohra's 'What I Hate Most' starts gently and hurtles to the point when there is no time left to hate anymore in the relationship - somewhere the opportunity to see or express the love they felt seems to have gone. But one can feel the love that is hidden beneath all that 'hate'. Vijay Nagaswami explores the institution of marriage - sacrament, contract or relationship?

Some very interesting perspectives on marriage by a diverse lot of writers. I enjoyed reading the book and am certainly wiser on many counts. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

House of Cards - Sudha Murthy

After tomes like 'Flow' and then 'Notes from the Dead House' I decided to ease up and picked up Sudha Murthy's 'House of Cards' (2013). It is a novel set mostly in Bangalore, rural Karnataka and Mumbai.

A young girl from a small village, Mridula, marries Sanjay, a doctor (with one arm shorter than the other thanks to an accident in his childhood). How the young couple struggles against life's vagaries - family politics, finance, career, children, success, love etc makes up the rest of the story. In the first part, they fall in love and marry. In the second, they struggle against politics and other troubles that naive and honest people face. In the third, they get rich and acquire a different set of troubles.

From bringing up children to leading a balanced life, money and ideals, success and failure - the book takes on too much and is told at a breakneck speed. If told at the pace it deserves, it could have been a 600-page book. There are too many stereotypes in corrupt seniors, politicians, government offices, youngsters, idealistic and sacrificing wives and so on. But on the plus side, we see a part of Karnataka we normally might not see otherwise and certainly, there is a lot of real life there even if they are stereotypes. In the end, I was glad Mridula goes back to the village. I felt a lot of relief. And I would have loved it even more if the last line could have been avoided. I thought it was a big compromise to add that.

It's easy to read and is a story we can relate to. Somewhat similar to Sudha Murthy's own life I felt - humble beginnings, independent and intelligent woman with a great enthusiasm for life, marries for love, an idealistic husband who struggles a bit initially and then great success. The parts of the son's love story and his own growth were rather boring. In fact, I felt they could have been avoided.

I have read a lot of Sudha Murthy's books - four so far or more. Says something. Thanks Sagar.

Anjali - Reward Yourself For The Hard Work

This is a story Shobha told me.

She apparently told Anjali that she was not able to get down and complete the work she had set out to complete. She was putting it off.

Anjali thought about it.
 'You know this is what I do in such situations. I tell myself that if I read for an hour I will give myself a chocolate. After an hour I take a break and reward myself with a chocolate.'

Shobha liked the idea. Anyway she got down to work which is a good thing.

Within a few minutes Anjali landed up and asked her what she had set out as her 'reward'.

'I already finished my quota of the reward Anjali,' said Shobha. 'I have been watching the French Open instead of working all these days.'

I think the reward is an important part of this idea. Good for you Anjali.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Visit to Charminar During Ramzan with Sagar and Jai

Jaideep Pal was our much loved and beloved skipper for the IDBI team when we played in 1995-97. The affable, wicket-keeper, batsman was on the verge of playing for Mumbai in the late eighties with names such as Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar. Vinod Kambli and others. He was a wonderful captain, a fine human being who wears his heart on his sleeve and someone you can easily spend a lot of time with without getting bored. He has a good sense of humor and the capability to laugh at himself, has an easy persona, sings well and without hesitation, has opinions and stories and enjoys his food. Under Jai's captaincy, our ragtag team for IDBI with only about 6 proper cricketers (the rest were made up of boys from the canteen etc), starred in the final of the Times Shield in 1995. It was one of those unforgettable campaigns and one I remember fondly having done my bit to help our cause. Matches were interesting because we would play with full intensity and party with equal intensity after each win - beer and food and banter. I gave it my all and played with a damaged hamstring - in the semifinal and the final and did creditably. We lost the final sadly. But we carry memories of those times and time seems to stand still when we meet.
Butter idly and cheese dosa at Ravi bandi
So when Jai called yesterday and said he was in Hyderabad for some training and could we meet I suggested he join me and Sagar on a trip to Charminar. 'It's a good experience,' I said. 'You must.' Sagar and I had been to Charminar last year with Sunnie and I loved the experience. Jai did not flinch and true to his word landed up at 9 pm at Srinagar colony. He actually took a rickshaw all the way from Gachibowli because he could not get a cab! 'I wanted to make an effort to meet,' he said. 'We have not met for a long time. Otherwise I normally give up if it starts to get troublesome.'

We drove to Charminar talking about this and that. The big question of where to park was addressed almost immediately - huge signposts guided us to the Quli Qutub Shah stadium which offered free parking. So we went directly and parked in the stadium. Huge place, few cars.
Waiting for chai and tie biscuits at Nimrah Bakery
We walked along the bylanes towards Charminar and stopped at one of the gates near Mitti ka Sher. We spotted the same idli-dosa bandi and stopped for a taste of butter idly and cheese dosa. Jai loved it. In the final analysis, he said he liked the idly best. Was good without a doubt.

The song 'Ghar se nikalte hi...' reminds me of Jai. If some songs remind me of some people, this one is Jai's. He would hum this song which had just released then. I told him.
Skipper Jai and Me at Charminar
We pushed our way through the crowd and turned right to Charminar. The entire street was filled with hawkers selling stuff - watches, glasses, shoe, purses, bags, perfumes. Thousands thronged the street and one has to walk by carefully. The road has been relaid and the entire area around Charminar is now tiled. It should look a spectacle early in the morning. Earlier vehicular traffic was allowed around Charminar but now it was not so people just sat and ate and walked. We walked around Charminar and clicked a couple of pics while all the time we were focussed on Nimrah Bakery. Chai and Tei biscuits were had, though the young kid was more keen to sell us chai biscuit. After tea and biscuits, we stepped towards Mecca Masjid for Jai to have a look.
Some perspective
We cannot go to Charminar and not stroll through Lad bazaar. I remembered a kebab joint somewhere around the mosque - the shops were shut, the naan joint was there, haleem and dahi vada shops but no kebabs. As we turned round the bend we found a roadside kebab joint where we ordered some delicious pather ka gosht and naan. I nibbled a bit. Lovely stuff. All the items on display looked yummy.

Sagar was busy on his phone talking to his writer friends. He found a source - Jai's friend who could help him with his new script and they planned to set up a meeting. For a vegetarian, there is not much on offer at Charminar but Sagar enjoys the picture options and the rest of the food. Generally enjoys the experience. Good for me.
Juice at Tawakkal Nazeer Juice corner
We stopped at Tawakkal Nazeer Juice Centre for a bottle of water and found the juice and salad irresistible - I tried a mango malai that they were making right then, while Sagar tried a dry fruit shake and Jai tried a strawberry shake. I had a taste of the other two - fabulous and very filling. The owners told us they were open 24 hours a day. I will remember that. Good stuff.

Then we trooped back past Lad bazaar, past Charminar, and through the thronging crowds again towards Hotel Shadab where we proposed to eat haleem. Long walk done we stopped at Madina and not Shadab, just because it looked newer, cleaner and swankier - and ate haleem - not very good. We ordered a biryani which we decided was too ambitious even when we ordered it and ended up giving it away to a lady who was begging. A paan and another long walk to the car and we were good to go. It was 1 am.

Jai and I caught up on our friends - Parag for one. We recounted those games. He spoke of how he would like to go to Kolkata and perhaps even settle down there once his son found a job (he is doing his second year engineering now). Until you hear him speak Bengali you forget that he is actually a Bengali. He spoke of many of his friends who were into script writing, photography, movie making. You know he is well informed on the art circuit but wears it very lightly.
Waiting for Go...Haleem!
As we drove back to Lakdi ka pul which is where we thought we would split I asked Jai if he wanted to sing a song. He sang a fine number too (ek ajnabee haseena se, yun mulaquat ho gayee), beautifully, and was all set to sing another. We suddenly found that all our phones were losing charge and we had to book a ride to Jai to go back to Gachibowli. Jai's phone packed up first. Then Sagar's and just after we booked a ride, mine did too. There were a few moments of anxiety whether the can would come but Ghouse showed up dutifully and Jai left with him. Overall a fine experience. Jai was glad he made it. So did we. He told me to tell him when I was in Kolkata next and he would come too so we could roam about. I said I would.

Back home early at 2 pm. Lots of walking. Worth every bit of it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Notes From the House of Dead - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky was sent to a Siberian camp because of his participation in the Petrashevsky circle that protested the Tsar autocracy. Initially sentenced to death and actually facing the firing range, the executions were stopped dramatically by a letter from the Tsar, sentencing the writer for eight years hard labor instead.

Dostoevsky writes about his experiences in the prison in great detail. His feelings at the long days ahead with no hope, no freedom. He is disliked by the common prisoners fro being a nobleman and he is never able to bridge that gap between himself and the others. There are many people he meets and is influenced by - some cruel, some generous, some fragile. The ways of the prison, the good in the bad, the paradoxes of life all come through in his descriptions of his days.

The dread of walking into the prison, the unfriendly faces and a few friendly ones, the beatings as prescribed by sentence which had to be broken up because the pain was too much, the food, the differences in classes within, the quiet business that goes on when one wants some good food to celebrate, some liquor and even some women. He describes how one manages with shackles on feet - they wore some protection because the feet get chafed and cut, how to remove clothes carefully through the shackles, how to constantly sleep, live with those shackles. The bathhouse scene is described beautifully, the prison animals and how some prisoners loved the animals and how others ate them up.

The prison warden, Major, is a much-hated man and he loses his job in the end and ends up in a bad way causing the author to wonder at how much difference a uniform does to a person. In his letters to his brothers, Dostoevsky mentions how he met some of the kindest, generous and intelligent people in the prison. Some mates die, some try to escape, some reconcile to their fate, some serve sentences for crimes they did not commit, some commit crimes too cruel to even recount.

All in all a slow, painful read that gave a good account of the prison and life inside the prison. Thanks Sagar. One from your collection.

Thought for the Day - A Medical Insight

A couple of months ago I had a small back sprain while bowling. It soon developed into a big back sprain and I was in a situation when I could not get up, sit down, move, turn without experiencing excruciating pain. It was the first of a kind and I suspected I did some major damage.

My ortho friend suggested I take some relaxant and painkillers for five days and then we go for XRay and stuff like that. My active mind immediately visualized all the worst scenarios. I heroically took the medication for the next five days and as I had expected, nothing had changed. The pain instead, had worsened.

I was clueless and wondered what next. Even as I was making plans to visit my ortho friend for the tests, I saw my 90-year-old mother in law, Dr. Nalini Nargundkar, a doctor herself, but also a dabbler in several healing techniques like yoga, pranayama, homeopathy, acupressure, Sujok, reiki, ice treatment, physiotherapy...and many more. She has to come across a new healing idea and she tries to learn it and practice and by the looks of it, is doing well.

So I asked her casually. 'Aunty, I have been having this problem for a month now and it is really bad. I get this pain when I move forward or bend. Any ideas?'
She made me show what the problem was and where the pain was and said. 'In yoga when we do some movement, we also do the reverse movement. For example, when you bend forward we also complete it by bending backward. Since you have a problem bending forward try bending backward and see what happens.'

It looked like a simple enough thing to do so I tried it. I gently bent backward from the waist five times.

Voila, it was 70% better instantly. Thrilled with the results I repeated the exercises a few more times that day. Each time it reduced until by the next day it was 90% right. In a few days, it was totally gone.

I wonder how many such simple techniques we are missing out these days with our fears and anxieties and our complete distrust of everything. Maybe we could try the home remedy once - it could be as simple as this.

I am now asking her for some more home remedies for common ailments.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Raazi - Movie

Absolutely edge-of-the seat stuff. A gripping narrative. Danger from all sides. A committed spy who puts her job ahead of her life. How she risks her life to send vital information that turns the tide in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Based on Harinder Sikka's novel 'Calling Sehmat'. Alia Bhatt as always is perfect. Recommended.

Parmanu - Movie

Very nicely done indeed. The story of India's nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1998 (May 11-now I won't forget the date). Very well written and delivered. Not a moment of boredom and so many new things that we did not know about the effort brought to light. John Abraham is evolving and well. Recommended.

Anjali - A Long Overdue Interview at 10 and a Half!

What with TWIED and all that happening last year, Anjali and I somehow fell out of the habit of doing the interviews. I did one though in between but somehow it was not to my satisfaction. So this summer vacation I thought I would get one interview going and finally, we did it a couple of days ago. A nice long one!

Q. Anjali, what's the most interesting new thing you learned?
A. Sewing. Skateboard. Table tennis.

Q. Any new idea that caught you by surprise these past few months?
A. Can it be a word? I heard this word "Tweens" the other day. I was searching for movies for under 12 kids and saw this word Tweens describing children in the age group 10-12. I found it very interesting.

Q. What are the other new things you tried during the year?
A. Cricket. Badminton. Guitar.

Q. Why did you stop?
A. In badminton, the coach was always putting me with the babies though I was better. I felt it was unfair.
In cricket, I lost interest after a month. Actually, there was an incident when a couple of children from our age group were put int he senior group because they insisted. I felt that was not right. I lost interest after that.
In the guitar lessons, the teacher put lots of pressure on me in those two classes I took. He would tell me "you have to have to take exams". Every time I made a mistake he would get angry.

Q. But you might find people like that everywhere? Will you leave them all?
A. I will find a new coach. Why should I learn it his way? If I don't like his teaching why should I adapt?

Q. What are the fun things you did this summer?
A. Going to Kidzania in Mumbai, Snow World in Hyderabad. Watched plenty of movies.

Q. What are the movies you watched?
A. Raazi. Avengers. 102 Not Out. Hotel Transylvania. Singing in the rain.

Q. What's your all-time best movie?
A. Smurfs!

Q. Your all-time favorite song?
A. It's a theme song called 'Better in stereo' by Dove Cameron.

Q. What's the funniest joke/moment in recent times?
A. While we were at the Mumbai airport I heard this 18-year od Telugu girl tell her mother that we were at Chatpata Shivaji airport. I could not believe that she could not pronounce Chatrapathi. Chapata Shivaji! I found it very funny.

Q. Who is the kindest person you know?
A. Miskil.

Q. Why?
A. Because sometimes younger kids can be very annoying. Even I might be like that. But she is always sweet.

Q. What do you think of yourself as a person?
A. I am someone who, once I do something wrong, I immediately ask for forgiveness and move on. I am what I am now. What I did in the past does not describe me. My current action is who I am.
I think I am a strong person. I don't get offended easily.
I think I need to improve in two areas. I need to be more patient and I need to be more careful.

Q. How do you think your education is going on?
A. It's going well.

Q. Is there anything lacking especially since you see so much other content on TV and the computer? Anything that your school can introduce to help your learning?
A. On TV and computer, the shows we watch may appear silly but each show has some meaning in it. In "Best of Luck Nikki", for example, she always makes a video for her little sister with advice and lots of meaning.

Q. What are the new things you want to learn?
A. Table tennis.

Q. What's the best book you read in recent times?
A. Matilda. It's very funny. Humorous Lighthearted. You don't need much thought. I think it takes a lot of effort to write something funny. I find Roald Dahl has a very unique style. I also like David Waalim. He writes funny stories.

Q. Who is the most interesting person you met?
A. Abhinay. He does so many things. Hitchhikes. He is a writer. A poet. TEDx. He does so many things. Now he wants to learn rock sculpting.

Q. You did some interviews recently with your cousins. How was the experience?
A. I think it's a lot of fun. When you normally meet a particular person, we only see the fun and friendly side. But in interviews, they have so many interesting theories and ideas that we will not know otherwise.

Q. Would you like to interview any other people?
A. Yes. There is a woman who gets cats spayed. I would like to interview her. She deals with so many cats. I would like to interview Shikha because she works with differently abled children.

Q. Any new books you want to read? On your list?
A. "Holes" by Louis Sachar and "Carrie's War".

Q. What is your favorite song?
A. "Everybody" by Backstreet Boys.

Q. Anything you plan to do in the near future? On your list?
A. Maybe going to Escape - the water park.

Q. Do you think adults understand you?
A. Yes

Q. What do you think adults should do to make children feel better?
A. When a child says/does something, instead of finding out the problems and what is wrong, they could appreciate what they did and the effort they put in first and then give suggestions to make it better. Children get offended too you know.

Q. What new places would you like to visit?
 A. I and Miskil are planning to visit Baroda.

Q. What was the most interesting food/meal you ate recently?
A. Today's lunch by Mamma. Chicken. Veggies. Bread. Rice. Really nice. I don't like curries. Brinjal. I like few vegetables. Potatoes. Mashed potatoes. I can eat 10 mashed potatoes.

Q. What would you like to buy?
A. Skateboard. Dog.

Q. What are your main concerns with the world? If there are three things to change what would you do?
A. First, kidnapping. Theft. There are so many ways to earn. Why would you want to be happy and give sorrow to someone else?
Then cleanliness,. It is not the government's fault anymore. It launched a program. But there is no punishment for people who do not follow. Then the government must look for other solutions like giving more dustbins. They cannot say we put 250 dustbins in Mumbai and give ads. It won't change like that.
Poverty. The government should give paying jobs for people. They should educate people on money and banks. People don't know. Banks are cheating people.
The government is here to serve the people, for the people and by the people. They are not gods that we have to treat them with respect. They are here to serve. Not for money and fame. Help people. serve people. Do what's good for the country, what is beneficial for the country. even a beggar can rule the world. People have voted the government because they expect them to be kind, just, responsible. The Government does not understand that. All they want is money. I'd want them to be like ordinary people - travel in buses and auto rickshaws. Then they will know their problems. Not just focus on making money.

Q. Why do you think banks are cheating people?
A. Because they can make easy money out of them because people don't know anything about banks.

Q. If you were the Prime Minister what would you do?
A. I would not be rich.
I would go out amongst people and learn their problems and see to their issues.
But I don't want to be PM. Too much tension. Even if I have to lead my class I get tension.

Q. What do you think you'd like to do when you grow up?
A. Climb Himalayas. Trekking in jungles. Be a journalist. TV reporter. I want an apartment. My dream home.

Q. Why don't you picture it and draw it?
A. No. What I see in my mind and what I draw come out differently. I'd rather keep it in my mind.

Q. What would be your most enjoyable activities?
A. I'd love to roam around a toy store all day. Like Hamley's.
I like something. I look at the price. Then I don't like it because the price is too high. Then I'll go for something cheap. Then I give up. But I could go around all day.
I would like to be locked in a mall with my own ATM.
Shopping. Skateboarding. Dogs. Animals.

Q. Why animals?
A. They are sweet. They don't judge. Whatever you do, they love you.

Q. What irritates you most?
A. People who keep following you all around because they like you.

Q. Whats the most peaceful place?
A. My bed. Actually, the air-conditioned room.

Q. What do you think of god/ religion?
A. If you cut people's fingers, we all have red blood. Hindus and Muslims have the same blood.  I think it's so stupid this concept of religion because it divides you into groups. It does not unite. India is the last country I thought that will have these divisions. It's known for unity in diversity. During British rule, all religions united and we fought together. And now Indian is becoming just like the other countries. When did Muslims become not part of India? In Padmavat a Muslim was the bad guy. They didn't complain. Hindus did. I think it's very unfair.

Q. If you had three boons?
A. A dog. A big villa with inbuilt sports. The whole family would live in one villa. No school only play. My seventh birthday was the best ever. No gift is better than family. Parth mama came, Miskil came.

Q. What is the one quality of Nanna that you like?
A. You are very determined. If you make up your mind you will do it. Like for example if you say I will do a diet you will do it. Others will go and eat a samosa.

Q. Mamma?
A. She is funny. Makes me laugh.

Q. If there was one quality from people you have seen that you want, what would it be?
A. Pooja - for her humor. Also, people like her for who she is.
Miskil - for her patience, kind and considerate
Maya (cat) - for her voice, powerful, the way she asks for her food, she commands, give me food
Gauri maushi - her house
Mamma - for her unconditional love
Nanna - your writing ability. I like your articles and I wish I could write like that.

Q. But you don't read my books?
A. I like your articles.

Q. Any one incident that made you go WOW?
A. I was playing badminton once when Sherry and I were matched up. She said I don't want to play with her. When her mother asked her why she said 'she is not a good player'. I thought Wow! Can people be so rude? How can you say that so directly? I didn't feel bad because I knew she is an awful person. If someone said that to my friends they would cry.

Also when I got the last Olympiad results I was so happy. I got a medal in all the Olympiads. last year. Four. 3 golds and 1 silver. Harsh got gold in maths. That feeling when you come back after the teacher gives you your medal and everyone is clapping and smiling at you-you can never feel anything like that. For some time all you hear is the sound of their clapping.

Long interview. And very nice. Thanks, Anjali!

I like what you said about the government - it is out of reach for the people instead of being there for the people. I fully agree that governments should be kind, just and responsible. I cannot even think of government offices being that. I hope they change for you!

I like your views on religion and god - they should be used to unite and for peace and not to fight and kill. Teachers and coaches have a thing or two to learn as well - be patient, don't push the kids and don't be unfair. Justice they say is the first expression of love.

A couple of things were interesting. When you said that banks are cheating people I asked you again, wondering if you got the wrong idea. But your answer was right - banks cannot keep their customers in the dark just because the customers do not know the process. They have a responsibility to educate them. Similarly with another statement of yours, that the government is only interested in making money.  I wondered if there was some bias that crept in somewhere from what you may have overheard but when I do look at it - I find that there is nothing wrong with that statement also. There is less service orientation and more perks and entitlements here when we speak of the government. Like you said later, their main focus should be service and not luxurious lives and perks. There should be a way of measuring the real service they have done to the poorest of the poor, to alleviate the common man's problems.

All in all, I can see a shift in thought and I can also see how the interviews may change in future. More discussions. More views and perspectives. I really enjoyed it. And many thanks - I feel rather proud to know that you enjoy reading my articles and that you think I am determined. I am feeling more determined already!