Thursday, November 29, 2018

Always a Parent - Gouri Dange

Gouri is a wonderful writer and her writing is full of style and verve. You should read her Three-Dog Night to get a sense of her writing. She is also a family counsellor and a writer who has been published by the best of publishing houses.

'Always a Parent' is a well-structured and thought-out book that addresses the parent-child relationship ('Managing our Longest Relationship' is the byline). The book has chapters addressing such important issues as Privacy and Boundaries, Inter-generational Living, Ethics and Values, Sexuality, Marriage and Choice of Partners, Career choices and relocation, Lifestyle, Money, Grandchildren, Childhood issues, Dysfunctional families, Property and Inheritance, Divorce and remarriage (kids and parents), Death and Dying. It pretty much tackles all sorts of scenarios that could crop up.

Each chapter has a thing or two that one could file away for use. The chapters are well structured - the issue, the turning point of such equations, how to clear up communication and leaves you with a parting thought. What really works for the book is that it is not heavy with academic research, addresses the problem directly, does not 'give' advise but rather suggests gently, does not take sides and is full of relatable examples. It's something that anyone can read and relate to and apply in their lives. For example, respecting boundaries, treating grownups like grownups and getting out of their space, letting people be and live their lives the way they want to, finding things to do for yourselves instead of making your children or your parents your 'projects'.

I remember how much 'Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus' influenced me. When I read that book and identified with the situations I was amazed at how similar the reactions, even the words used were so similar to what I used (and perhaps still do). Gouri's book made me relive a bit of that.

The tone is nice and easy, non-judgmental and conversational. Like Shabana Azmi said on the book cover, it's a book 'that needed to be written'. Nicely done Gouri.

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne

Bruno is a small boy growing up in Berlin. He lives with his Hopeless Case sister, his Commandant father and mother. His boss's big boss is the Fury. One fine day the family shifts to a place called Out With. It is a drab place, with a high fence on one side and no other civilization close by. Across the fence live some people. Alone on this side of the fence, Bruno wants his old friends back but his father says they may not be moving back for a long time.

The place has nothing but soldiers. Bruno decides to explore the place one day and at some distance from his house, finds a thin boy in striped pyjamas across the fence. His name is Shmuel. They strike up a conversation. Bruno gives his new found friend some food and he gobbles it up. Something warns him not to tell his family about Shmuel and the others on the other side. Their friendship grows until there comes a time when his father decides that maybe they should move back to Berlin. On his last day at Out With, Bruno decides to visit Shmuel's home and help him find his father.

Boyne does a brilliant job of telling the World War II story through two young friends. Fury and out-With, you can guess who and what they are. Now a feature film.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

281 and Beyond - VVS Laxman with R. Kaushik

V.V.S.Laxman's '281 and Beyond' tells the story of how the classy batsman from Hyderabad rose to the heights he did and how he coped with it and sustained it for almost two decades. As is evident in the title, the book goes beyond the Laxman of the defining knock of 281 (those who ask what 281 better stop here). For anyone aspiring for excellence, cricket, sports or any other field, the book provides fascinating insights. But for me nothing beats the dedication of the book - he names his uncle Baba Krishna Mohan 'for recognising the talent in him' first, before his parents. As straight a bat as there ever can be.

The book starts with a goosebumpy chapter on the 281 story which we are all familiar with. But the inside story of how he felt confident enough to take on the Aussies, how he was asked to go No 3 soon after he returned to the pavilion at the end of the first innings and 274 behind, how he and Rahul kept their heads and turned the tables on the Aussies and all that followed. It ends with one line where he says all the passengers in the flight got up and clapped for the heroes and you feel exactly what they are feeling. Sports is made of stuff like that and that's one reason why anyone should play and experience that thrill. That chapter takes the book off to a flying start.

As I read the book, what stayed with me was Laxman's perseverance through so much uncertainty, his injuries and his dilemmas. His dilemmas start with the first big choice - play or study. The choice becomes tougher when you are good at both and you have to choose one. Laxman could have got his medical seat but he chose the tougher and more uncertain route which gives you an early insight into his mind. Big sacrifices, tough choices, steel you up for the hard road ahead. And then there is only one road and you have to walk it however tough it might be.

He is torn between making these hard choices because his family is full of doctors and scientists and a career in academics would seem a natural choice. But he chose to give up academics and take up cricket (which provides a really minuscule chance of success). But to back that chance one needs self-belief and gumption and he has loads of it. He also has the unwavering support of his family - his father the popular and feisty Dr. Shataram and mother Dr. Satyabhama constantly providing him full support and his uncle Baba Mohan whose faith in Laxman's abilities far exceeds Laxman's himself. It's fascinating to read how his uncle clearly made the difference in the big decisions in his life. Everyone needs an uncle like that.

Laxman's preparation, the long road to success, are great lessons for any aspiring sportsman. The road is not smooth all the way and it tested his resolve at every stage. The incidents where he hurt himself after an accident and another similar one where he had to play on with painkillers despite painful injuries show his character, his determination to make it count. It is completely champion stuff and one only needs to look at so many talented players or aspirants who sit out at the first sign of discomfort (many times owing to a formidable opposition) to know the difference between why some make it and most don't. Playing smart is not escaping when the heat is on but walking through the fire and making it to the other side. I do wish so many cricketers from Hyderabad and elsewhere realise that. Interestingly Laxman also mentioned somewhere that he wanted the world to know that Hyderabadis are not some laid back, happy go lucky bunch but as intense as anyone else. And prove he did without sacrificing an iota of his style. In Hyderabad they would probably be happy that he did not sacrifice his style - because whatever we do and however hard we may work, end of the day 'shaan mein farak nahin aana' ('we should not compromise on our style whatever happens'- loosely translated because one can never translate Hyderabadi into any language ever!)

Laxman's early days at Little Flower school and his friendship with Parth Satwalkar (another gentleman cricketer who would have been a great role model as a cricketer, but who gave it all up for a career in dentistry), his success at the Under 13 Nutrine Cup in Vijayawada, junior levels, his journey of self-discovery are full of names of people we played with. The story of how his uncle took him along for his early coaching at John Manoj's coaching camp and how he got homesick after a couple of days is very endearing. His uncle really has been a special angel in Laxman's life - the way he made these decisions to join John's coaching academy, to give up medicine - almost like an angel that God sent. And another lovely story is how John lets him bat when Arshad Ayub was looking for players for Ensconce, knowing that a break into the elite A1 division would give Laxman a much better exposure. Now John could have well held such a quality batsman back for his own team EMCC but he wanted to give the young boy a chance. Arshad could see the young talent and picked him instantly.

I remember playing a match for MCC against Ensconce those days and young Laxman's bat was so broad that I found it difficult to get past it. I was well past my prime and was looking at applying management principles more than anything else to the game. But it was impressive - like a solid wall for one so young. With most batsmen you sense a chance, a chink. Rarely you find those batsmen who defeat the purpose of bowling even before you bowl with their compact batting - Laxman was one such. Sanjay Manjrekar was another one like that whom I had bowled to. Arshad, who had already played Test cricket by then, played a key role by asking Laxman to set his goal high by giving him the example of Sachin. I do wish more and more players - especially Azhar, Shivlal, Laxman, Arshad, Vekatapathi, Noel and others shared more such sessions, stories so it inspires more Laxmans and Azhars in Hyderabad. Somewhere a platform must be created - in Mumbai senior players still play so the stories get around. In Hyderabad, we could have these lectures too every once in a while. I was fortunate to have played years for Marredpally Cricket Club listening and imbibing what cricket was about from M.L. Jaisimha. It was better than the University education and I rue the fact that I did not ask him enough questions then.

Laxman recalls an incident with Uncle Jai when he was the Coach of the Hyderabad team and Laxman was struggling with his batting was vintage Jai uncle. He pulled Laxman out of the nets, walked him around the ground, told him that he cannot succeed if he does not enjoy the game and asks him to bat out in the nets just enjoying hitting bat to ball. Laxman enjoys that session so much, the pressure of performing and of technique leaving him and enjoyment coming in that Jai uncle plays his next card. He challenges Laxman to come back undefeated the next day without worrying about the runs scored. Laxman scores a double hundred. Jai Uncle was brilliant at this - if he made casual players like us play first-class cricket with his little insights and provocations - I wonder what someone with Laxman's drive and appetite would have done with the kind of exposure we got. How much more he would have enjoyed his cricket and through that how much more successful he would have been.

A peek into how Indian cricket evolved with the onset of various foreign coaches from John Wright with whom Laxman shared a good relationship and Greg Chappell whose stint with Indian cricket was a disaster makes for interesting reading. Laxman's account of Chappell's methods show Greg in poor light (and justifiably so) and the damage done was substantial. Once again, one has to remember that Greg was brought in on Ganguly's word (with all good intent). But the absence of process in such critical decisions makes it all the more a case study because everyone got affected and so did Indian cricket. Laxman's account is damning. Till date, these unilateral decisions continue in such a huge organisation which should now be putting all its efforts into aiming for more and more transparency.

The road to No 1 is covered in detail with an account of all the series and games. And with it Laxman's ups and downs, his struggle with opening and his decision not to open again and establish himself in the middle order, his gaining confidence as a player and blooming into full potential took me back on a nostalgic journey. I remember watching many games of his but so understated was his celebration after his achievement that it was only after reading the book that I realised how many games he had finished on his own for India in the company of tailenders, how many crucial knocks he had played that helped India win. Absolutely classy stuff and the comparison that Gary Kirsten makes between him and Michael Bevan is so apt. Any other player from Mumbai who had achieved half of what Laxman did in terms of helping the team win would have had many more titles than just a 'Very Very Special'. This is stuff that needs steel in your nerves.

The insights into players we know so well from the screen and their persona in the dressing room is always a welcome one - Sachin crying after losing games, Sehwag's approach to the game, Dravid's resolute commitment, Kumble's intense competitiveness, Ganguly's fearless approach, Dhoni's grounded one, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Kohli..their character shows up through their actions. His story of working in a fuel station when in the UK was interesting - once again shows how much he put into the game. His method of preparation, what he learned from Azhar about maximising the practice session, from Venkatapathi about the importance of making your own preparation are ones that young cricketers could pick up from. There is a chapter on Laughter and Loneliness, and he talks about how one deals with it on long tours. It is lonely up there and one can feel very insecure.

Towards the end he talks about his dream of bringing back the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad which was one of his unfulfilled dreams just as perhaps not being part of a winning World Cup team must have been. But he was part of the team that changed the way the world looked at India's cricket and saw India win two World Titles and perhaps something as big - the No 1 ranking which was achieved over several years.

It is heartening to see how his entire family comes together as one unit be it at his retirement or at the launch of the book. I love the bond the father and son share, the mother and son as well. Sailaja comes across as a grounded, secure person and one can see how well their partnership works too. The work they are doing with their charity on child education is very interesting and much needed.

My review can go on and on and there is enough stuff to go on about. The book is as honest as it can get and very Laxman like - he does not dwell too much on the negative or the controversial (which serves no purpose anyway except create some unnecessary drama) and deals with all issues with a straight bat. There is an honest attempt to share the process of preparation, to aid players prepare better, for life at the highest level which to me is the best part of the book.

Laxman has always been a generous, straightforward, polite and helpful person. When I was writing 'The Men Within' in 2006 perhaps, I gave him a copy of the manuscript to read and he agreed to despite his busy schedule then. He came to the launch of 'The Men Within' without any hangups about being the Chief Guest or not and enjoyed himself as any other normal person. This was in 2007 when he was at the peak of his career. Subsequently, we worked together for a while when I was Chairman of Selectors and he was the captain of the Hyderabad Ranji team and we did the best we could to achieve what was best for Hyderabad cricket. Even in those volatile meetings, he would be composed and clear and polite. When I wrote '50 Not Out' I asked him to be my Chief Guest to launch the book in Hyderabad and he took time out and he did - and spoke so well. When I went last year to gift him a copy of 'This Way Is Easier Dad' my last book, he asked Sailaja to take a picture of ours, holding the book, and tweeted about it without me asking for it. What more need one say?
Signed copy!
Kaushik has done a wonderful job - like Harsha Bhogle said at the launch in Hyderabad 'it sounds just like VVS'. Putting it together, organising it and bringing out the essence of the person and his character through his actions and thoughts, good and bad, is no mean task. Kaushik achieved that delicate balance and it must have taken a lot out of him. He deserves a pat on his back for investing his all into the book. A glimpse into the kind of a person Kaushik is. For someone who has been a top sports journalist for several years and then Chief Editor of Wisden India, he chanced upon a copy of my book '50 Not Out' (which incidentally VVS launched in Hyderabad!) on the desk of Sidhanta Patnaik (who incidentally has written a book about Women's cricket in India that's coming up shortly) and took it, and wrote the best review the book ever got. He fully 'got' what I had attempted in that book. We did not know each other then but after that, we made contact, and he took me to the Press Club in Bangalore. and we have been in touch ever since. I  am sure there are many more books in him and have no doubt he will be very successful at that.

One for the shelf. more from it when I read it again - this time purely from a preparation angle. 

My Musical Notes 12 - Tribute to the Beatles

1984 was the breakaway year when I bought a lot of music and hear a lot of new sounds. It was then that I decided to end my ignorance of the Beatles and listen to the great band. Yuvavani was only playing ABBA, Boney M, Beegees and the Beatles and Elvis etc had faded off. But they were still the superstars and I wanted to check them out. John Lennon., Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Rex Harrison.

So one visit to Sangeet Sagar I spotted this 'Tribute to Beatles' cassette and bought it. It was a nice compilation by EMI with 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Yesterday', 'Ticket to Ride', 'Help', 'Can't buy me love', 'She loves you'. 'I want to hold your hand', 'I feel fine', 'All my loving', 'Love me do', 'Please please me' and 'Day Tripper'. I knew immediately why they were so popular of course. It was easy, happy music with catchy lyrics that were easy to sing along and made life sunny and nice. The sounds were simple and joyful and there was a simplicity to it that was accessible.

Before long I could sing every song along with them. I learned 'I want to hold your hand' hoping it will come in use sometime. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Help and though that its lyrics made so much sense. The slow ballads 'Yesterday' and 'Ticket to ride' are all-time greats.

A lasting memory of Beatles is this one time when we were stranded in a cyclone near Nayudupeta, Nellore. This was the Hyderabad Under 22 team and the favorites to win that year. Unfortunately, the train got stranded for four days and we were stuck with no food and no way of going anywhere. Water came up to the floor and we slept two to a berth. There was this youngish couple, thirty or so, modern and western music types and the lady sang Beatles songs all evening on the second or third evening to perk up the moods. She sang so well and we all tried to pitch in as much as we could. Beatles will always remind me of her. We returned to Hyderabad without going to Madras because our opponent had claimed a walkover while we were listening to Beatles. We also were reported in the news for helping out other passengers in the crises - nothing big - just small things.

Another special memory is that of Subbu who brought his cassette player to Nagarjuna Sagar when we were in our first year Civil Engineering and we walked along on the bund in the twilight, the player playing 'Can't buy me love', 'Yesterday'. 'She loves you'..and all of us singing loudly as we traipsed along, the world at our feet.

Countless parties we played the songs, sang along. Easy journey songs on long drives when driving fatigue gets to us. Always in the car.

Thank you Beatles.

The Thirty Nine Steps - John Buchan

John Buchan wrote this book in 1915 and it was made into a very popular Hitchcock movie in 1935. It's a spy story and written in a racy, cigarette-dangling hero style. Richard Hannay is the character and he is drawn into a web of espionage by a man who comes to him for help and dies. Buchan wrote five more books (or four) with Hannay as his lead character. Other than the fact that he has no lady loves all through the story where there are several opportunities (Hitchcock set that right in his adaptation) it is all Bond style.

A dead guest who gives information of a possible assassination, some vague clues, a fugitive from the police, chased by the real killers and an edge of the seat climax. Only for Hannay, it's all normal and casual work.

I admire the way they wrote their stories. The style is so racy. And it's so tight that you miss an important part of the action if you aren't paying attention. Now to watch the movie.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Anjali - And a Return Gift from Harsh!

After his sudden move to Mumbai, so sudden that there was not even time for a good bye, Harsh came to visit his friends at Daksha School after almost a full six months. They had gone to Mumbai for their annual summer vacation and things happened rapidly and they never came back. The friends are upset naturally - Anjali more so - and there were times when I would catch her in a despondent mood and she would say 'I am missing Harsh'. They had a good thing going - pitting their minds against each other, pushing one another, both possessing a competitive streak and a lot of fondness for one another. Every once in a while they speak for a long time on the phone catching up. Anjali tells him all the stuff that's going on at their school.

Harsh's immense liking and natural talent for the game of cricket is something we could all see. Anjali gifted him a new bat for his birthday a couple of years ago which was a lovely gift for her friend and one about which I had written in 'This Way Is Easier Dad'. And this time when Harsh came last week to meet them all for the first time, he bought gifts for everyone.

For Anjali he bought a set of shuttle badminton racquets. The new racquets have triggered off a spate of shuttle badminton games every evening. I am also roped in and am quite liking it.

The young kids played their brand of games for a long time that evening. It was nice to see them all together again. I gave Harsh a copy of 'The Men Within'. I am sure he will like it. His mother Vaishali says he hides his copy of 'This Way is Easier Dad' and gives it to no one.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hope Springs Eternal - Movie

Hope has cancer which goes into remission. But she likes life with cancer - it makes her popular and she gets a lot of attention. Can she accept life without cancer?

Nice, simple movie. Watched with Anjali - so special.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Meeting of Old Pals!

I met Noel in 1982 at school. He was my junior. I met Vidyuth, Sanjay in 1982 when we played Under 15 together at Bangalore. I met Vekatapathi in the same year because we played against each other in a schools tournament (I regret playing a cut shot to him and getting out recklessly when I could have won the match in the Inter-schools tournament). I met Vivek in 1983 when he led an MCC side in some tournament and the handsome filmstar like skipper was our captain.
L-R - Vivek Jaisimha, Me, Noel David, Vidyuth Jiasimha, Sanjay (was his birthday) and Venkatapathi Raju
Vicky, Vidyuth, Sanjay, Venkat and I played for MCC in a groundbreaking season when we beat some big teams like Syndicate Bank, gave Andhra Bank and SBI proper scares. Seven of us made it to the Ranji probables that year - Vicky (who finally led that year), Venkat, Sanjay, me, Intiaz, Pavan, Sunil Phillips, Imtiaz. Of the lot Venkat played for India, Vicky played zone, Sunil Phillips, Pavan and I played for Hyderabad. Vidyuth played for Railways later.Sanjay played Under 15 and Under 19.

As a group though we have remained in touch and it was nice catching up for a couple of hours. We planned an MCC reunion soon. That would be nice.

Anjali - And She Cooks me a Meal!

My culinary expertise ranges from making tea, toasting bread and making some kind of an ometlette. Beyond that, I tried my hand at making dosa which didn't really work. I can barely manage to get stuff like Maggi noodles and stuff right so I stick to bread and eggs as a safe policy. Once when I was in Mumbai I caused a small episode of food poisoning when I started my culinary journey. I gave up after that and relied heavily on Mony's skills. he made awesome rice, dal and papad which went very well with pickle and some awesome podi he had.

Perhaps noticing the limited menu when we are by ourselves (corn flakes is one great option I give Anjali followed by 'we can go out'), she has now started stocking some ready to make stuff like noodles and pasta. For some reason she likes to hang out at home and eat the experimental stuff I make rather than go out for better options. Like my sister's place for instance. 'Let's make something by ourselves at home,' she says.

So the other evening when we ran out of options and were contemplating dinner, she said 'I can make noodles.' I said I can help. She said she could manage on her own and told me how to make it after reading instructions on the packet. I told her I would join her in 2 minutes which is my standard 'just join time'.

5 minutes later what do I see but this bowl of noodles all done right served up on the table. Madam was all nonchalant about it. How come it turned out so good? The last time we had both attempted it (I made it) it turned out far more drier and we could barely eat it. This was done just right. Maybe she followed the instructions right instead of doubting them like I do.

I was thrilled that my eleven year old has just served me the first meal she has cooked exclusively by herself. And I relished the noodles like nothing else in the world. We polished it off fully. It will remain one of my favorite meals ever. Thanks Anjali. 

The Sunday HANS - The Statue of Harmony

The Statue of Harmony!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

'Trail Blazers' A MTHR Initiative - Leadership Lessons Through Sports

MTHR stands for More Than Human Resources and they organise not for profit events for corporate executives to hone their skills. MTHR organised an event at the IMT, Hyderabad titled 'Lessons in Leadership Through Sports'. My writer friend Dev Prasad was invited to speak and he kindly invited me to join him for a panel discussion. Dev had written a book called 'Pitch It' which had sixty lessons from cricket for corporate managers and I wrote '50 Not Out' which is 50 life lessons from cricket.
Dev, Me and Rajesh Kamat 
MTHR's team of Vikram. Rajesh, Vipul and IMT's student community were wonderful. The panel of speakers comprised of Dr. Rohini Rau (India's medal-winning sailor, a medical doctor, TED fellow, playback singer, lyricist, theatre person, Facilitator - Human Centred Design, Hospital clown and so many more hates), Dev and Me, Meghna Gundlapally, Rhythmic Gymnast at Commonwealth Games (and all of 19), Yogesh Maurya, Tech and Sporting Director, Fateh Hyderabad and Ramesh Nagapuri, Dronacharya awardee and coach to Indian athlete Dutee Chand.
Vikram, Rajesh, Me, Dev, Dr. Rohini Rau, Vipul
We met the Director of IMT, H, Professor Satish Aliabadi and it was nice chatting with him. Then Rohini blew us all away with her astounding body of work, humour and humility. You can watch her many TED talks on diverse topics and several interviews and profiles. Currently she is a practicing doctor who dons all these hats. Meghana spoke with complete assurance and confidence and clarity.
Yogesh Maurya, Rajesh and Ramesh Nagapuri
Dev and I fielded questions about leadership and cricket and some about our books. One question that Dr. Raza asked which I wanted to elucidate on and couldn't - about followership - struck me later. If Dr. Raza is reading I wanted to tell you this - 'the full import of followership becomes stark when you step down as a leader, especially after a downtrend. that is when we fully understand what a leader wants from his followers and that's when we become followers in the true sense - contributing to our best in our roles, expanding it on our own, stepping up and patching up gaps the leader might have missed.'

The Dhoni story about how he stepped back as a member of the team, and yet contributed to his fullest is a case in point. Rajesh was energetic and fun and had enough energy for all forty of us. Fantastic.
Group pic with the IMTians
Anandita, Anmol and other IMTians thanks. Richa, Meeta and the Synergy team, the HR club of IMT, thanks for the interview. Great initiative and wonderful work. Unfortunately, I had to come away when we broke for lunch but I enjoyed myself thoroughly and look forward to going back.

Met Veda Vyas and his mother Vijayalakshmi there. Was wonderful meeting a lot of new people - MTHR team, Prof Satish Aliabadi, Rohini and Meghana.

My Musical Notes 11 - Culture Club's Colour By Numbers

When I first saw Boy George I fell in love with him. Completely. He looked so delicate, so dainty. The only problem was that he was a boy. He looked better than most girls then and was better than most girls at acting like a girl.

Anyway that apart Boy George's Karma Chameleon completely took over with its new sound, his soothing voice and quirky videos. And the beautiful Boy George. I wonder if the way he looked was anything to do with it but I listened to Karma Chameleon a zillion times. Once again T series came to my rescue in the 1983-84 period and offered me ownership of my new found love's album 'Colour  by Numbers' (sold 16 mn copies) for a paltry sum of Rs. 20 I guess. I was always intrigued by what Karma Chameleon meant - both words seemed quite alien - and guess what it is about alienation. Boy says, 'be yourself else karma catches up with you and pays you back.'

It had another number called 'It's a miracle' which I faintly remember. The one other big hit was 'Do you really want to hurt me' (no Boy, I don't) which does not figure in this album. The rest of the album is generally okay but nothing to rave about. All the girls liked Boy George too. I distinctly remember Ajanta Sircar telling me later that when she went to study at the University of East Anglia she had seen Boy George perform in a small pub. I felt he had fallen into hard times and was broke - and felt for him. Today when I type Boy George's net worth it shows 37 million! All my sympathy for him wasted.

All in all, for sowing the seeds of love for a beautiful man (why wasn't he a girl?) and for Karma Chameleon and Do you really want to hurt me?', thanks Boy. )Though when I look at the video now I wonder why I found him so unbearably attractive.)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody - Movie

Nice. Relived Queen and its memories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

My Musical Notes 10 - The 28th Grammy Awards

Any collection like this would be priceless because you'd get the best songs of the year in one tape as against buy full albums so we would be looking out for them. Many of those tapes came from shady producers and this cassette was one such. Again this was circa 1984 when things were heady and all my money went into buying music.

But it has Jan Hammer (Miami Vice Theme), Huey Lewis and the News (Power of Love), Dire Straits (Money for Nothing), Commodores (Night Shift), We are the World, Jeff Beck (Escape), Phil,Collins (Sussuidio), Sade (Sweetest taboo), Don Henley (Boys of Summer, Aretha Franklin (Freeway of Love) and Tina Turner (One of the Living).

Commodores was the groupLionel Richie started off with. And Sade was one of those exotic singers - Enya, Tabita Tikaram and others fall into that category.

Great memories include listening to 'Money for Nothing' sung by Sunil of JNTU and the group Katalog at all student festivals including at Pot Pourri. Sunil was Ram's junior or classmate and would come home to stay some time. He was from Assam and sang Dire Straits beautifully. My favorite Phil Collins memory is of Prasanna who owned a cassette of the group and perhaps listening to it at the hostel. And the memory of the stylish 'Huey Lewis and the News' is from Subbu who was an early fan for some reason.

Commodores was a revelation and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the nifty 'Night Shift' and the exotic Sade's 'Sweetest Taboo'. The last two were very personal experiences.

Brings back memories of the day as freshly packaged as it happened then. Music I realised long ago has this time machine like quality and can transport you to the exact feeling, decades ago.

Also wonder, if music has been my greatest escape from reality this life.  

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is a senior scholar at Princeton University and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002. So that sets the book up. He starts by explaining how we have two systems - a system 1 that seems to operate on auto mode with no effort and no control (reading billboards, understanding simple sentences, 2+2) and system 2 which allocates attention to effortful method activities including complex computations (telephone numbers, parking in narrow spaces, filling tax forms). He talks about how we sometimes think fast instead of slow and mess up our decisions and do things when the obvious is staring us in the face. This could happen because of a number of biases to which he make us familiar in this 407-page long book.

Cognitive illusions are illusions of Sys 1 response where we react before it happens. We must slow down and let Sys 2 take control. He gives many wonderful examples and cites the invisible gorilla experiment, add 1 task experiment, how we react under time pressure etc - all pupil dilating tasks as he says, tasks requiring mental effort. the good news to all of us is that we tend to think as little as possible and follow the law of least effort. But then there are times when we focus so much - like when someone forgets a meeting not because they forgot but because they were immersed in what they were doing. He refers a lot to flow activities here. Kahneman warns that Sys1 has a tendency to take over - need to check for Sys 2 memory deliberately.

Self-control and cognitive effort are signs of mental effort. He cites several experiments to prove his points - Walter Mischel's experiment with 4-year-olds and Oreo biscuits is one. He says that self-control is higher with higher intelligence. Many times one does Sys 1 things because they are tired as well so one must watch out for those biases. People who say what comes to their mind seem to have trouble delaying gratification.

Biases due to association, Priming, honesty bias (coffee banners experiment). Sometimes Sys 1 makes up a story and Sys 2 believes it. Works positively and negatively - you can smile and feel better or frown and feel worse. In cognitive ease, he makes the point that a little difficulty is actually good for better performance (like driving on a bad road will improve concentration).

Then there are people who cannot accept that things just went wrong. They need a causal story. They always have someone else to blame - someone who sabotaged their activity. Or those who jump to conclusions based on a confirmation bias, or a halo effect. He has a  term WYSIAtI (What you see is all there is) which can lead to overconfidence, framing effect, base rate neglect. All leading of course to errors in judgment. Less information is better.

The part about how judgments happen and how we match intensity - of cause and effect - which could again cause an error in judgment. We are tuned to answer the easier question when given two choices. In the law of small numbers, he says that we can be misled into assuming a pattern where none exists because the sample is too small. Anchoring helps in negotiations and he says one can clearly reject the anchoring number.

In the availability heuristic, one substitutes one question for another. If there are more number of attributes to list, less attractive it is. Lets say a CEO has several successes recently  - the availability bias could make her overconfident.

And so many more like that. Like someone wrote on the cover of the book - Buy fast, read slowly. (There is no other way one can read it anyway.) One good thing is that by the end of it, I started getting a few right. Some sys 2 seems to have started kicking in.

Wonderful book. Thanks Satish. 

Anjali - You Say Something, (You Defend It)

This was profound and it happened just like that. In an instant.

We were discussing something that happened at school when someone at school said something and was defending it needlessly.

I observed that many times we may be defending things we don't really want to because we say something about it.

Pat came the quip from Anjali.

'If we say something, we find reasons to prove it.'

Ah, isn't that true? How often do we do that - find reasons to prove something we don't really believe in just because we painted ourselves into that corner. Good one Anjali.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Book Launch of VVS Laxman's '281 and Beyond'

Yesterday we attended the launch of Laxman's autobiography '281 and Beyond'. The book has been authored by Laxman and Kaushik and promises to give lots of insights into the mind of a top class sportsperson. The event was very well conducted at the Gardenia lawns, Taj Krishna and was attended by a lot of familiar faces from the cricketing fraternity.
The family launching the book!
The event was conducted in five segments. Hosted by Harsha Bhogle, the first segment was a panel consisting of Laxman's parents Dr. Shantaram and Dr. Satyabhama, his uncle Baba Krishna Mohan and wife Sailaja. It was a free-flowing discussion with Harsha moderating the conversation. Dr. Shantaram was in his element and quoted from slokas, sang popular Hindi songs and regaled the audience. Baba Krishna Mohan gave some poignant insights into Laxman's early years and how the decision was taken to choose cricket over medicine.
Harsha, VVS, Arshad and Venkatapathi Raju
 The second segment consisted of Harsha in conversation with VVS Laxman, Arshad Ayub and Venkatapathi Raju. It was an entertaining session that covered his initial years as a junior cricketer, in the Ranji Trophy and then in the Test arena. They recalled episodes when Laxman was noticed by Arshad who was recruiting talent for his Ensconce team and picked him straight off the nets -helped by John Manoj of course who made sure that Laxman got the right break. John has been a huge influence on VVS's growth and it might not be wrong to say that the reverse is also true. Also VVS recalled how Venkatpathi advised him on the South Africa tour to make his own preparations and not depend on the coach and even threw down balls to him. Venkat recalled how VVS owes him a pair of shoes and how his 281 came off his bat - one given to him by MV Sridhar.
Harsha, VVS, KTR and Gopichand
The third session consisted of Minister KTR and Pullela Gopichand joining VVS on stage. Harsha asked VVS and Gopi why they were so philosophical about life and seem to be quoting off the Bhagawad Gita and KTR quipped who this Gita was that these two were talking about. He recalled reading accounts of the Kolkata match in Rediff and exulting. 'It's fantastic to be sitting here between two legends,' he said. Gopi, when asked about his advise to children picking up sports said, in his calm and measured manner - 'My advise to them would be that they should all take up sport because it will help them in so many ways.'
Harsha, VVS and Kaushik
The fourth was with Kaushik who wrote the book with Laxman and the final session was with VVS on a one on one with Harsha. Laxman spoke in detail about loneliness on tours and how we don't seem to be taking depression seriously in our society. He also spoke of how difficult it was to let go of the opening slot, of retirement and of giving up a career in medicine for cricket. He recalled one incident with Jaisimha when he was their coach. Laxman was not finding his touch, not happy with the way things were going and it showed while he was batting in the nets. Uncle Jai asked him to come out of the nets and spoke to him. Something on the lines of 'Cricket is not as much about technique as it is about enjoying it. It is what goes on between your ears. You must enjoy meeting ball with bat to do well. Now just forget about technique and all that and enjoy meeting the ball with your bat.' Laxman says the net session was pure bliss after that and his timing came back and he got a big score the next day.
Harsha and VVS in a one-on-one
Familiar faces included Viyuth, Noel, Jyothiprasad, Wahab, Anil Mittal, John Manoj, Kiran Kumar, Srini, Fayaz Baig, Parth Satwalker, Abdul Azeem, Zaki, Shivaji Yadav and others from the cricketing fraternity, Mrs. Jaisimha, Vijay Kumar from HLF and some others.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

My Musical Notes 9 - Rick Springfield

Back in 1984 I did not know who Rick Springfield was. But I remember seeing a poster of this handsome Aussie and I think I bought the poster or the magazine and for many years it adorned my room. Rick in his leather pants and jacket staring down.

I also found a tape then at Sangeet Sagar or the other shop in Chirag Ali lane which sold the just coming T series brand which looked completely tacky. But it was great value for money at 20 bucks and much better quality than  HMV cassettes. The tape still looks good enough to play.

Rick's tape is still with me. Classics like 'Human Touch', 'Alyson', 'Affair of the Heart' 'Tiger by the tail', 'Motel Eyes' and 'Living in Oz' which was probably the name of the album stayed with me. I especially loved 'Alyson'. Googling Rick I find that he has moved to the USA and is still giving concerts.

I love these guys. They do it for the love of it. Doesn't matter if it is a small concert or a big one.

Thanks Rick. You were up there on my wall of fame! I did like your songs. I love that you're still performing.

Black Friday - S. Hussain Zaidi

Hussain Zaidi, rightly named India's No 1 crime writer, wrote this book on India's biggest criminal case, the Bombay blasts of 1993 which killed 257 people and left 713 injured. Masterminded by a silver smuggler, Tiger Memon, in retaliation to the Bombay riots post Babri Masjid demolition (they claimed more than 900 and left 2000 injured), the blasts occurred at 12 places including the BSE, Passport Office, Air India Building, three hotels - Searock, Juhu Centaur, Airport Centaur, Zaveri Bazaar, Sena Bhavan, Plaza cinema, Katha Bazaar, Masjid Mandvi Corporation. Grenades were thrown at the Airport and Fishermen colony. The bombs began at 130 pm on March 12, 1993and went on till 340 pm, mostly set off from parked cars and scooters.

Ostensibly in retaliation to the Bombay riots of 1992-93, Tiger Memon, hatches the conspiracy with several Muslim gangsters in Dubai including Dawood Ibrahim, to wreak havoc in Bombay. Funds are raised and arms and ammunition sent to India by sea. The huge consignment of RDX, detonators, AK56s, and grenades passes through the porous Customs and police screen, despite enough intelligence coming their way. Tiger has meanwhile recruited 19 young Muslim boys and told them that they need to do it for the sake of Muslims and their pride and if they at any stage renege, he will kill them and their families. The young men are brainwashed, taken to Dubai and then to Pakistan and trained in making bombs and use of arms. They return and with some more practice, get ready to execute their plans.

The bombs are made in a garage near Tigers home, loaded into cars and scooters and jobs assigned. Tiger's entire family escapes to Dubai a couple of days before the blasts and Tiger himself leaves Bombay for Dubai the day before. The plans are executed, all vehicles with bombs placed and grenades hurled. One RDX detonator starts blinking in the car in which the main members of the gang are travelling and they get rid of it just in time. In their hurry to get away from the scene they leave behind AK56s and more importantly, the car's ownership documents in the car. The car belongs to one of the Memon ladies and it becomes the first clue to the investigators. The plot unravels quickly after that.

The rest of the gang disbands and heads off all over India. It comes to light later that one of the trained members of the gang Gullu, was arrested by the police the day before for his role in the Bombay riots and he tells them of the entire conspiracy and where the bombs were likely to go off the next day. His confession is not taken seriously.

The case is solved mainly by the Bombay Police - names of officials Rakesh Maria, MN Singh, Arup Patnaik etc are familiar to most. The police uncover the plot bit by bit - first the Memons angle, then Tiger Memon's manager who was also involved and then the others. A couple of them turned approvers, many of the accused who were directly involved in making the bombs and planting them went across to Dubai and from there to Pakistan. The ones who were caught and convicted have been given death sentences and are still in jail. Only one has been executed - Yakub Memon, the Chartered Accountant brother of Tiger Memon  - though he was not directly involved in the acts of masterminding, training, handling or planting of the bombs. He is suspected of having helped with the financial dealings and other such activities. Tiger and Dawood have not been captured nor tried.

An interesting fall out of the bomb blasts is that the Dawood gang split on communal lines and his once deputy Chota Rajan and his Hindu brigade kill several D men who were involved in the bomb blasts in a retaliatory move. It is fascinating to see how it all unfolded and how it changed so many lives directly and indirectly.

The book is well written with lots of detail and keeps you on the edge. Well researched and written. Truth is stranger than fiction like they say.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pele: Birth of a Legend - Movie

Like all sports drama, it brings a lump to the throat and tears to the eyes when the underdog fights back. It's a nicely done movie that showed Pele's rise and his highest moment, playing and winning the World Cup as a 17-year-old beating the fancied Swedes 5-2 in 1958.

Loved it.

Amal - Movie

2007. Canadian drama film set in Delhi. An implausible plot of an auto rickshaw driver and an eccentric millionaire. Roshan Seth looks very well preserved. Rupinder Nagra looked the part but his accent gives him away sometimes. Koel Purie is someone you can fall in love with, in this movie.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Durgam Cheruvu Park

Anjali got a free Shankar Mahadevan pass from Brighter Minds which helps children improve their mind skills. A team from Brighter Minds had visited their school and gave them all passes to a concert - they could invite parents and siblings and friends too. Since it was Shankar Mahadevan, and it was at the Gachibowli stadium and with so many free passes, it was bound to be crowded. Abhinay was her choice to make up the fourth member so he came home. It was Anjali's first concert experience so we went early at 4 pm as written in the pass. Lots of people came, we sat and waited till 530 and then Anjali who was a bit under the weather had had enough. 'Let's go,' she said and we headed back. I mentally promised myself a good concert experience with her later.
View of the lake as you enter the park (Pic courtesy - Anjali)
Abhinay was telling me about this Durgam Cheruvu Park which was being maintained by the Raheja's on a Public-Private Participation model. So we went there to see how it was.
A chess board, with moveable pieces
We entered from the road that goes up ti Inorbit from Durgam Cheruvu. 10 bucks for adults and 5 for kids.
The lovely exercise area - great fun
A nice walking path, cycling path, joggers path, some nice kids areas to play, a lovely idea of having several exercise equipment out there so people can exercise while engaging in fun.
Abhinay and Anjali trying out one exercise
The path goes along the lake shore.
Goes along the boundary - lake on the other side
There is a small space for DC Books (Durgam Cheuruvu, deciphered Anjali).
Another exercise machine
A little space next to the lake where you can sit and watch the lake or the sunset or Inorbit. In fact, they have little boards that say - 'You are on Lake Time - relax', or another one that says - 'Skip a stone, read a book, or something like that...'
Ah...look at the lake, at Inorbit!
Overall very promising and nice. Not fully ready yet but it's open. Definitely worth going.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Black Friday - Movie

After so many years of trying to watch it, finally done. Anurag Kashyap handles this touchy topic of the Bombay bomb blasts well, the biggest criminal case in India ever. We watch Nawazuddin, Imtiaz Ali, Kay Kay Menon - young versions. And after all these years - where is Tiger Memon?

My Column in the Sunday HANS - The Great New Renaming Technology

Anjali - How Can Parents Say Things Like That?

Anjali and Mansi and Brahmani's bookstall at their Diwali mela drew a lot of walk-ins. A lot of kids wanted to buy stuff - and parents tried to do their best to accommodate them. Some parents bought their children all they asked for, some bought them a reasonable amount and some did not. That did not prevent the children from hanging about near the stall and staring hungrily at the books.
Driving into the rainbow - One of my favorites
Anjali told me later about this mother-daughter combination that visited the stall. The child was 7-8 and probably in her third class. She told her mother that she wanted to buy a jigsaw puzzle. As I remember it was not very expensive too.

'Puzzleaaa?' asked her mother in surprise. She was pretty shocked that her child wanted to solve puzzle.

The child nodded and said she wanted the puzzle.

'Tell me the spelling of puzzle first,' said Mom. 'You don't even know the spelling of puzzle and you want to buy a puzzle. No need.'

This interaction would have left the kid feeling really dumb and most likely put her off puzzles and any brainy activity for the rest of her life. In three sentences her mother probably gave her a strong belief that she was not smart and she better not ask for things like puzzles. And the public humiliation before her seniors was another aspect.

'How can she say things like that Nanna?' asked Anjali shocked. 'How can she say, spell riddles?'

But we all do that as adults, in one way or another. Unless we are very aware of what we are saying and doing, we introduce these beliefs in our children's minds about worth, intelligence, class, beauty, deservability, security. Some of us do it subtly and some explicitly.

It's far better I guess to be like that grandmom of Bryan Stevenson whom he mentions in his famous TED talk on injustice. He remembers his grandmom calling him aside and telling him one day that she observed him and that he was special and that she realised that he could do anything he set his mind to. Bryan believed that and continued to believe that until one day as grown-ups when he refused to drink beer (another belief planted by his grandmom) his older brother tells him that his grandmom said that to all the kids. Bryan laughs about it now, but the seed has been sown and it grew well and now he can laugh about it. Or another story where this father takes his three little kids to Disneyland and does not take the option where they could go free if they went under the turnstile. When he buys tickets and goes to the turnstile the man asks him why he bought tickets for his little kids. The man says they are not little kids - the first one is a scientist, the second an engineer and the third a lawyer. So many more stories where they set their expectations and anchor the children and the children grow into them knowing that someone believes in them.

Even the book 'Mindset' speaks of how anchoring the children right helps immensely in their growth and achievements.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Classic Short Stories - Book Review

The collection was too good to let go so I bought it from Anjali;'s book stall at the Diwali mela. The writers - Saki, O'Henry, James Joyce, Chekov, Maupassant, Kipling, Stevenson, Tolstoy, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Katherine Mansfield, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dickens, Hardy and Wilde.

'The Open Window' by Saki stayed in mind. 'The Last Leaf' by O'Henry is always in my mind. 'The Lottery Ticket' by Chekov is unforgettable. 'The Useless Beauty' by Maupassant is diabolical - one of the seven children is not yours! 'The Distinguished Stranger' by Stevenson is superbly satirical - the stranger prefers vegetables to humans. 'The Lighthouse Keeper' by Sienkiewicz stays with you for its visual and its haunting quality. Doyle's 'Red Headed League' is a fine read. 'The Three Strangers' by Thomas Hardy stays because of the danger and the drama. 'The Selfish Giant' by Wilde is a nice little children's tale.

Loved reading the short stories. Some of them, for the nth time. Superb collection by Reader's Digest. How can I ever thank RD for opening my mind to so much.

Blast from the Past - All Saints vs Rest of Hyderabad 1985

Out of the blue today, I saw these pictures pop up on WhatsApp and on Facebook. An old memory.

In the year 1985 or so, Bro Joseph conceptualised the idea of a match between All Saints HS (ex and present students) and Rest of Hyderabad. Needless to say, the top 22 players in Hyderabad then (almost, because Dr. MV Sridhar was missing) assembled to play. Of course, Rajesh Yadav and Chatterjee are also missing for some reason. Anyway, All Saints was led by Azharuddin and had in its ranks Arshad Ayub, Khalid Abdul Quayyum, Abdul Azeem, D. Suresh, Ehtesham. Srinivas Chakravarthy, Vidyuth Jaisimha, Abrar Ahmed, Osman, (Noel was 12th man - he went on to play for India later). The team had two players who played for India and 7-8 players who played first class. Rest of Hyderabad was led by M.V. Narasimha Rao, and had Shivlal Yadav, Vivek Jaisimha, Manohar, Arun Paul, Swaroop, Anil Mittal, Sunil Phillips and others.
Standing left to right: Manohar, Jyoti Shetty, Swaroop, xx, Aibara?, Shivlal, Bro Joseph, Azharuddin, Vivek Jaisimha, Kanwaljeet, MV Narasimha Rao, Anil Mittal, Khalid Abdul Qayyum, Arun Paul, Abdul Azeem, Vidyuth Jaisimha, Harimohan, Arshad Ayub
Kneeling l to r: Sunil Phillips, Meraj?, Abrar Ahmed, Noel David, Ehtesham, Zakir, Masood, Clement, Siraj Benjamin, Srinivas Chakravarthy, D. Suresh and Osman

The match was held at the LB Stadium and the crowd far bigger than I have seen for any Ranji Trophy match. It was named the Thums Up Trophy. Rest batted first and piled up a decent total (somewhere in the 250 range I suspect). I remember bowling well and getting two wickets including that of M.V. Narasimha Rao and if it had not been for Sunil Phillips, would have had much better figures than 2-40 in my 10. In reply we did fairly well, think we lost Azhar without much on board, but Khalid scored some. It finally came down to 18 runs in two overs as I remember because I was at the wicket then with Vidyuth. If I was in it means that we were in with the tail - I must have been 8 or 9. In those days that was a huge target - 9 runs an over.

There was a single early on in the over. Then I was on strike. A couple of balls from Anil Mittal and I missed. It was now or never. Anil bowls a predictable line and length so I swung at the fourth with all my might. It connected and went over mid-on for four. The opposition did not panic. They somehow believed they had the match in the pocket. The next ball Anil bowled in the same area again. I swung in the same arc. Better result. Another four. Suddenly we were back in the game. The last ball from Anil was the easiest ball in the over - full delivery outside the off stump. So easy was it that my eyes opened up and I swung hard, too hard. I nicked it and was out.

Last over by Vivek Jaisimha to Vidyuth Jaisimha. 9 to get. A couple of well-placed strokes and we were 4 short. 2 balls to go. Vivek bowled up, on the off stump. Vidyuth played the most exquisite cover drive I ever saw him play and we won.


Surprisingly, that format was never repeated again. The other day when I met Bro Joseph we spoke about it. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Nice Review of TWIED

A pleasant surprise - was browsing for something else and happened upon this review I never saw!
Thank you Elton Gomes - for getting the spirit of the book!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Anjali - Diwali Mela at Daksha

Every year Daksha School organises a Diwali meal where children and their parents put up stalls - food, games etc to raise money for a good cause and also have a lot of fun. All parents and relatives come and enjoy the mela and contribute to the cause. Anita encourages the kids to participate and she and her crew really help the children and go out of their way to make it a fun event.
With Anita and her Mom
The causes change of course - one year it was cyclone relief, last year's funds went to a government school. Anjali usually ran some games etc until last year when she got the idea of a second-hand bookstall. The idea is to collect as many books from friends and relatives that they can donate and sell at discounted prices. The bookstall was a big hit last year. This year after some confusion about bookstall or dance, she and Mansi decided on the bookstall again.
Mansi, Anjali and Brahmani - ran the bookstall
Some 50-60 books were collected (I contributed my own books as well) - Dickens, Enid Blyton, Tinkle, Champak, Balvihar, Herriott, and in the pre-mela sale, they sold off 5k worth of books. In the mela they did a brisk job of selling the rest too - Anjali, Mansi and Brahmani.
Anjali helping a child choose
Since Anjali was not willing to give up her post at the stall, I went about with Shobhs and then with Ramesh - eating and drinking stuff - pizza, mirchi bajji, onion pakoda, cakes, cookies, lemonade and other stuff. Really good stuff.
The crowd!
I tried my hand at a couple of games - some shooting game and my favorite, cricket in a small room. I watched a fine dance performance by Keertan who did a superb imitation of Michael Jackson on 'Beat it' - his hat covering his eyes, moonwalk and all.

And another group show by the 7th class kids led by their lead dancer Acchi Reddy.  Collected a few stars from the kids and went down to help Anjali wind up.
The 7th class performance
If what I heard was right, the school collected some 90 k approx. Anjali's bookstall raised 8k. Very good indeed.
Enjoying a snack after a hard day's work
As always, great fun. Reminds you of the fetes we used to have those days when we were in school/college. And it was even more fun to see how the kids have grown up - been seeing them for years and now they seem to have become young men and women - even if they are in the 6th and 7th.   

Arabian Nights - Book Review

These days it's very tempting to pick up books from Anjali's shelf which seem far more interesting than the ones in mine. So I picked a slim version of the Arabian Tales and enjoyed reading and rediscovering 'Alladin and the Magic Lamp' and 'Alibaba and the Forty Thieves' along with some more.

The first thing that struck me upon reading the two tales that I thought I knew very well was that I only had a faint outline of the story in my mind and that the stories were full of twists and turns that I had forgotten. Also realised that they were full of Princesses who were married off to the worthies at the drop of a hat, several allusions to black magic or supernatural powers, hidden treasures and gold, and certainly death to the villains. Another interesting feature is that there is considerable violence in these childrens tales - people cut up in half, Alibaba's brother is actually quartered and hung, death by pouring boiling oil into jars where the robbers are hiding and several such. It only reinforces my theory that children seem to love violence and gore judging by the popularity of these stories.

I enjoyed the last story a lot though - of a merchant who leaves a jar of olives in the custody of his friends but hidden under the olives are thousand gold coins. The friend takes the goal coins and replaces them with fresh olives and says that he has been given olives and that was what was still there. How a young kid solves the tricky case brings a nice end to the story - which ends in a hanging of course!

Overall, glad I read them.