Friday, March 29, 2019

Avatar - Movie

Didn't get it the first time I watched it. Enjoyed the movie now.
Thanks Naresha.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Kindness of Friends - Acknowledging Sagar's Contribution for 'This Way Is Easier Dad'

Sometime in 2015-16, I was chatting with Sagar about book ideas that could be developed out of the blog. I zeroed down to three - a collection of a series called 'Thought for the Day', another series about 'Paradoxes of Our Lives' and then a series of blogs I wrote about Anjali. We looked a few and it took Sagar hardly a few minutes to zero down on the Anjali series.

I was reluctant. Would it be wise to compile a book about my daughter, would the exposure hurt her, am I promoting her in a way that may not be good. Sagar felt that the ideas were universal and they had a nice energy and it's not presented as if I was promoting it so he felt I should go ahead. He sat with me every day from 8 in the morning, the time when I would drop Anjali at school, and over many cups of excellent coffee made by his mother, we made a proof of concept - a blog with an illustration. Sagar used some software and did a lot of work, spent many hours on it.

The idea was accepted and the book completed. However Sagar's software illustrations were found to be too abstract so we needed an illustrator who could use the original photos (some 40%) and then come up with illustrations for the others. Sagar volunteered to sit with me and come up with ideas.

Again every day we sat at his house and while I read out the story and told him the lesson, he would think up an idea for an illustration.
My list of chapters
I would write it down, make some rough sketch and take it to my illustrator Chacha. Ramaraju was the one who sourced Chacha for me - he did small illustrations for '50 Not out' also. I would then sit with Chacha at his house and explain the concept and then Chacha would do it.

So many people who helped in the making of that book. Idea. Concept. Illustration. Editing. Bouncing ideas. From 7 in the morning to 3 in the morning. Today when I found that book with those sketchy ideas it took me back to those days.

Books, movies, ideas, plays, music, time - Sagar has been a wonderful source of support and help in my growth in the past 10 years. Here's acknowledging a simple-hearted, incredibly generous and highly intelligent person today.

Thank you Sagar for all the love and your wonderful work.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anjali - Exam Time

Exams are on. Anjali is preparing hard. She sets herself some goals all on her own and prepares pretty seriously. Waking up earlier than normal, spending time with her books before she gifts herself some TV, asking me or Shobhs to ask her questions, answering till her throat goes hoarse, she pushes herself.

The other day we were chatting before she went to sleep and she confessed that when she came back from school and studied and nothing was 'going in' she got upset. I know that feeling. We try hard, but in our effort sometimes it just does not happen. I told her to ease up on herself a bit. Even the exam I said, she should write with love. Not as something to conquer but something she loves.

I don't know what she understood.

But the next day she came back beaming from the exam and told me 'I did what you told me Nanna. I wrote the exam with love.'

I felt happy. I don't know what it meant to her but I feel it's what I meant. It does knock all tension of competition out. It just becomes you and the exam and a nice gentle, space where there is nothing wrong. Where mistakes are ok. Where we are doing the best we can and are helping one another find the answers.

With love then.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Anjali - A Short Meeting with Some New Friends

We were out for a small walk when we found a bunch of puppies. They decided to hold an impromptu meeting with Anjali and tell her some of their stories. After they finished we continued with our walk.

They seemed quite happy.

It takes a minute to stop by and listen, and make them feel happy. Pups, plants, humans.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Rashtrayana - Appupen

In Appupen's universe of Halahala, a superhero appears. His name is Rashtraman and he goes with of 'Hero of Halahala.' Rashtraman is definitely going to save the Rashtria. He has a sidey - Cowboy - who is half cow and half man.

There is trouble in Rashtria with the queen being kidnapped by an evil KGD - King God Demon of Paradesh. Cowboy who is keen to get into the limelight, seeks permission to reccee and find out about the queen's whereabouts. Cowboy however is lured away by grass - a mean trick. Cowboy gets captured but he sets fire to Paradesh with his tail. (So what's your tail?) Which means Rashtraman has to join the fight. Propagandhi suggests a cricket match to support his propaganda. There are Gauraakshas and other such characters. After a lot of interesting twists and turns to save Rashtria, the heroes return, having fought illusions.

Rashtrayana is a graphic novel. Superb artwork again. The satire and wit are sharp and irreverent. Brilliant stuff. Appupen, this is valuable work, keep at it. I love it, all those layered jokes.

Check out more of Appupen's acerbic wit and satire on or

Or check out this review and interview

Aruvi - Movie

2017, Tamil. Wonderful. Loved it. Shines through. Aditi Balan is fabulous.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Anjali - I Like That You Listen

I was listening to an animated and emotional description of some misunderstanding at school. It clearly looked like the other person was at fault and it was clear that Anjali felt that way too. I listened, unsure if I should say anything. I chose not to.

Anjali cooled off after a while.
'I am glad you just listened and did not offer me any suggestions or said something about the other person to make me feel better. While talking to you I could see her point of view and most of my upset is now gone. But if you had said something about her or against her, I would not have thought about it like I did now. Maybe because you said something about it or her, I would still be angry with that person. Thanks for listening, Nanna. Without saying anything.'

I totally get that. When we step in with our solutions and opinions we do not allow them the space to look at it and figure it out.

Good one Anjali.

Stolen Kisses - Movie

1968. Francois Truffaut. Delightfully pointless. Like life.

Anjali - Can't Tell Them, They Overreact

Anjali was telling me something about some issue at school. Some minor issue. I was listening to her quietly. 'I am glad I have you to talk,' she said.

'What about your friends at school?' I asked.

'I can't tell them anything these days because they overreact. The moment I start saying something they are already assuming, giving suggestions, getting dramatic, asking questions. I just want them to listen. I cannot tell them if they overreact. That's why it's easy to talk to you. You don't overreact.'


Anjali - S Came First

The competitive miss has an eye on the first rank, the gold medal. I know she is competitive but did not know how she felt about competition, especially when they got the better of her. The other day we were chatting at end of day, and she found the space to bring this out. She had got a silver medal in a couple of subjects and an unlikely contender had taken her spot away.

'S came first,' she said. I could see the disappointment in her face, her voice. 'I don't know how he got so good in those subjects. When I asked him he would not tell me. He treats me like a competitor and does not want to share.'

It was a tense moment so I kept quiet. Most times I don't know what to say anyway.

She processed it for a bit and then the mood changed.

'You know I am actually happy for S. He worked hard and deserved the gold medal.'

Ah, that's a good response. But I know that it does not mean she will let him go easily. S better brace for a fight now.

It's a good response under stress and disappointment. We talk about it a lot in cricket - being happy for each others success, but its only lip service mostly. It's a good space to be in as a team if we get that into the team culture.

Nation of Fools - Balraj Khanna

Balrak Khanna went to England in the swinging sixties to study English. He, however, got interested in Painting and became a highly successful painter. He wrote four books as well - with the 'Nation of Fools' being adjudged as one of the top 200 novels in English in the UK. He lives in London.

Lalaji owns a sweet shop in Camp area outside Chandigarh. His life is small and happy. The randy Lalaji however has eyes only for his wife. Their only son Omi is no good, but he is a spirited kid. Lalaji wrangles a deal in Chandigarh where he hopes he can get Omi educated and push him out of life as a halwai. Chandigarh brings its own bunch of problems - Income tax raids, girls, a new restaurant, money and relatives.  All's well and that ends well.

Through the life of Lalaji and his small ambitions, Balraj Khanna shows us life in India in the sixties. The corruption, politics, sex, religion, partition, untouchability, hypocrisy, the rich and poor divide, it is all there. Thanks, Vinod bhai.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Aspyrus - Appupen

Aspyrus is Appupen's third graphic novel (I think) after 'Moonward' and 'The Legends of Halahala'. Aspyrus is about our aspirations. They enter our head quietly, floating through the air, mostly someone else's, and settle down there like it is our own. Once the dream or aspiration settles down there, it's like we are on a fast-moving treadmill (I was never on one for exercise purposes so don't know how it feels) from which one cannot get off.

The dreams and aspirations of Halahala come in the form of a cute little dinosaur-type of thing that flits here and there and enters the head of a Dreamer who promptly sells the idea to everyone around. It's nice and everyone feels good but soon the dream becomes much bigger than they can handle. Soon everyone is taking credit for it. The dream is hijacked and becomes uncontrollable.
In Act II we get a Tarzan like novice who somehow comes to the edge of the city and the dream reaches out to him and draws him in. He joins the treadmill race and wears himself out trying to go from one dream to another - one ad to another. He sees an angel and runs after her - needs her. He cannot. He ends up with all the trappings of success. He is now part of those people who is encouraging others to chase these dreams. Then he kills it. Tries to.
In Act III we have a super girl called Underwoman who hates the dream and tries to kill it. The end we will leave for you to find out.

Capitalism, money, consumers - even the word responsible consumption which comes up in the book - show a serious lack of imagination from the consumers. From the producers and the controllers it shows a lack of soul, of greed. Clearly one cannot exist without the other but seriously - does this guy hovering around survival stand a chance? The kid who wants to eat a pizza or a KFC does it simply because they have been led to believe it's cool. They have no sense of discretion. So it makes sense for the producers to encourage this behavior, to not let them think rationally. One way or another - it all leads up to the power to control the consumers. If you have done that, you have made it.

Appupen makes a case against this world of exploitation under the guise of free will. Once you plant an idea insidiously, you can get them to do anything. People stop thinking and work themselves to death. The art work is layered and I discover new ideas each time I look at it. There is very little text - he calls it a silent novel. The story is dark, dystopian and real. It's a book one must read again and again to get the full extent of his layered thought. Well done George. Loved it.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

F2 - Fun and Frustration - Movie

Very funny. Long time since Telugu movies did that. Venkatesh is fabulous. Wish they had a better title though. Anil Ravipudi, thanks.

Friday, March 8, 2019

What's Good About Falling - Prajwal Hegde

Prajwal Hegde is the Tennis Editor for the times of India. She played tennis at state and national levels and when she began her career in journalism it was pretty obvious that she would cover tennis, and other sports as well. She is part of Tennis Writers Association (has been elected to its Board) and Media Commission. Suffice to know that she knows the world of tennis and sports well.

So for Prajwal to set her story in the life of an Indian woman tennis star Arya Ashok, who hails from Bangalore, and who is rising steadily in international women's tennis is easy. What's difficult is that Arya falls in love with a younger man, two years her junior at twenty-five, Arvind Ram, a talented cricketer - and guess what, a fast bowler to boot. Arvind is also a playboy of sorts and is rather temperamental. What with IPL and success at cricket, Arvind's life can only be imagined. More so, no one knows what a fast bowler thinks - not even himself. (In fact, most captains wonder if fast bowlers have the capacity to think at all!)

The Indian cricket team shows up at Wimbledon and Arvind starts wooing Arya, who returns his eager serves well. After a quick leap into the hay (well written!), the two cope with the problems of their own stardom, the media, paparazzi, unwanted stories, pressure from families, ups and downs in the game, Mars and Venus behavior and such stuff. All this leads to some issues - which is to be expected and then it all boils down to the big climax. Will they fall in love again or will they choose not to?

Prajwal takes us into the world of sports effortlessly and we can pretty much visualise ourselves in the Wimbledon or the Australian Open or the many scenes that happen in the lives of international sportspeople. She makes their world believable, makes the characters credible. It's not some breezy romance between two high-on-success sports icons but a measured take of their conflict between their vulnerabilities and their instinctive desire to win. I suspect Prajwal's Irishman friend, Pat Cunningham, would have loved reading this book that he seems to have sown the seed for.

Good debut Prajwal. More to come surely. All sports and romance buffs can grab their copy.

Chanakya in the Classroom - Radhakrishnan Pillai

I was buying books at the Bangalore Lit Fest and was looking for children's books. I saw this and remembered that Radhakrishnan Pillai was in the author's lounge with me. So I quickly bought it and took his sign for Anjali. Read it at the airport.

It's a loosely told story about two students who become successful in life. They reveal the secret - they followed Chanakya's rules for success. They tell how it is important to pray for the teacher and fellow students, how to know about right thinking. I liked the line - don't worry about your studies - think about them. Thinking involves logical, scientific, reasoning, strategic and critical thinking. Of course if you know about Aanvishakti, you will never know failure.

Chanaya advises the students to manage their time well - it's the key to success. He urges them to sleep less. Daily study is best - it works for everything. Make good routines and follow them. Prepare short term and long term time tables.

Listen to teachers and discuss with seniors. Improve self-study which is the best form of studying - reflection and repetition are the keys.  Learn to use self-discipline and self-restraint and increase your focus and concentration.

Be a learner he says. Learn everything. Interact with elders and experts. Think like a teacher - it will change your perspective of the subject. Try different techniques to develop learning skills - travel, discuss, notes etc.

As he concludes he says - prepare for the exam of life. Learn to face challenges alone. there is a bit about SMART Goals which is definitely not from Chanakya I would think. Overcome your desires, be disciplined etc are stuff the students hear anyway and don't pay much heed to.

Some nice pointers. But I would rather wait for Anjali to give her verdict on this book. 

The Snake and the Lotus - Appupen

This is a work of art. A graphic novel. Appupen has an idea of a perfect world and goes furiously at it, creating intricate graphics and worlds, despairing at how dystopian the world we are living in now is and constantly urging us to get back to nature, our natural selves. The work is so intricate, the thoughts are abstract and it may take a while to get his story. But whatever it does, the sheer effort that goes into his graphic novels, the satire and wit, and the intent cannot be ignored. I am highly impressed by someone who creates for the sake of creating, bringing his idea to the world, and letting the audience make its own sense of it. He does not explain anything. I like the fact that he does not. Figure it out for yourself - he challenges you.

Let me tell you what I figured out after reading it three times. Appupen created the world of Halahala, a universe by itself which is under threat. It starts with the green dying (nature?). people have forgotten their language. Machines have taken over their lives and they are all part of gigantic cities ruled by machines. All, except one girl who retains some humanness.

There is a White City that everyone aspires for. This is the dream, paradise. The city is engaged is producing milk from lotuses - they feed on it. There is a Grey world - of insects, which have a life still. They seem to know that the people are doomed - and they are prone to launch suicide attacks.
The white city is where the godlings live and they strive to be one with their leaders (god). Godlings have a different currency - they work for coins and get pills in return that give them a divine aura. This is pretty much like any decadent civilisation that is ruled by people who think they are godlings.

The girl comes to White city looking for coins. She finds a bunch of them. Having a conscience she returns them to a godling. The godling realises that the girl is a chance o reproduce because all other people have lost their ability to reproduce. She is made the Temple Queen and a rather adult rated ritual takes place.

The godling comes to the Grey area. He needs to get the box to the Central Temple and needs the Queen's help. There is a godling inspector, I think he is the hero of the story. He has a design that requires a box to be taken into the central temple. Only the queen can do it. He fears she is forgetting her abilities but he makes contact - physical contact and for a moment her life courses through him, there is a moment of hope.

The hero makes contact with the grey human (the first godling) and makes him bring out the box under some kind of hypnosis. He makes the grey human put the box someplace where the voice will cease to exist - and then humans wake up. The next day the queen is asked to take the box to the green. The hero invites the green to take over. And the insects and other life forms take over the world telling humans that there is life beyond them. If they do not live with the green, they will be consumed.

The message is clear. Don't mess with nature. Don't think you are all powerful. Nature is bigger than you. It is still not too late. Go back to the natural way. We are all part of this whole.

George Mathen (Appupen) has worked with environmental protection agencies before but he is a compassionate human even without that. I can sense his despair at the way the world is going and he depicts it well in his graphic novel. 'The Snake and the Lotus' is a huge book, carefully thought out and presented. It ends with a warning ' And you will remember all of this.'

It's rare piece of work and must be enjoyed. And admired. 

World in Harmony - Dalai Lama

Tenzin gifted me this slim book full of wisdom. It has short chapters each leading up to the big story - of a world in harmony.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasises on the need for compassion - always. He urges us to make future generations more compassionate. I think they are. He says that we are secure when we are compassionate. We are responsible at all levels and have an altruistic mind for all things - including the environment.

He says that the purpose of our life is to find happiness, satisfaction and joy. To find compassion within ourselves we need to watch our internal thoughts. Smile he says, be joyful. In the chapter on hope and despair, he says there is authentic hope and false hope and one must distinguish between the two. Authentic hope comes with action. In fact, he says action is more powerful than prayer.

As for despair he says, don't avoid it. Go deep into it. Look at the positive. All sentient beings are equal - we have to live together.

Be aware of your feelings he says. Empty yourself. Emptiness is the absence of independent existence. we are all dependent on one another.

He says anger is suffering that has not yet met compassion. Anger destroys judgment. Anger comes from fear.

Love and accept your limitations. A healthy person he says serves others. Dedicate life to benefit others.

Usually, we must speak the truth he says. But in some cases, the truth may have disastrous consequences. Where truth would injure and does not benefit, he says, better be silent for the time being. Real compassion comes from seeing the others suffering. 

When you are suffering try to deal with the cause of suffering. If you cannot then forget about it. Practice compassion. For this practice, our enemies are very useful to us. By feeling compassion we can transform. 

Five Plays for Children - Vijay Tendulkar

Vijay Tendulkar is a legend. 'Give me a piece of paper, any paper, and a pen, and I shall write as naturally as a bird flies or a fish swims,; he said. The five plays were written on the express request of Sulabha Deshpande for school children she was teaching.

The first play 'Missing: A Father' is an unusual and intriguing tale where a tree, a letter box, a pole, a crow, and even a film poster play the lead characters. Into their dull life comes a little girl who is kidnapped by a rogue. How the lead personalities get together and put out an attractive poster to search for her father is the story. Haven't ever read any like this before.

In 'Bobby, the young girl dreams of being a teacher to famous personalities who appear in her school books - Akbar, Birbal, Shivaji, Mickey Mouse, circus artistes all keep flitting into her class as school kids and she is the teacher. What fun!

In 'Nosey Parker' we find a kingdom is a crisis - the prince's feet are burning. the King realises that the culprit is the Sun. No amount of planning is able to reduce the heat. Plans include stitching a giant umbrella, constructing huge taps to cool it down and in desperation even an attempt to shoot the Sun. Until a Nosey Parker arrives and hands them a pair of slippers and earns a great reward.

In the next play 'The King and Queen Want Sweat' the king and queen of an idle kingdom find that the cure for their sleeplessness and other health issues is lack of sweat so they search everywhere for it. Well, the king finds out finally that he needs to work out a sweat else it does not work for him nor his people.

In the last play of the 'Drummer', we have a lavish wedding in the village but the headman has chosen to ignore the village drummer and has hired a band from the city. How the village idiot saves the day by frightening away the band is the rest of the story.

Delightful stuff. Wonder when I can write like this. Children's writing is the most satisfying of all.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Paterson - Movie

Paterson is a bus driver by day and a closet poet. The Japanese gentleman says it all in the end when he gives a dejected Paterson an empty notebook and says 'Sometimes empty page presents more possibilities.'
I liked it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Times Lit fest, Bangalore - Day 2

Day 2
I went early to catch George's session. Nisha sent me a pic. Yesterday's session got some press.
For the love of the game!
I happened to chance upon the Om Swami session for a bit. Appupen's session was very entertaining and interesting. It was titled Graphic Narratives and he had Arjun Gaind and Ramya Ramakrishnan for company.
Ramya, Arjun and Appupen (George)
George was quite happy to see his graphic novel 'The Snake and the Lotus' being displayed at the Festival. We took a picture. I bought a copy to support the tough world of graphic novelists. Amazing work.

We went and attended the session about Anita's new novel 'Eating Wasps' with Prayag Akbar. Anita spoke honestly and gave some detailed inputs about her writing process. For any aspiring writers there were plenty of tips.
Anita's session

Prayag Akbar and Anita Nair

At 3 pm, I went with George to Koshy's for a spot of lunch. For old times sake. Dropped George and returned to meet Nisha who had come to the festival.
Private launching of George's 'The Snake and the Lotus'

Packed up at end of day and headed home. Flight is at 1010. Feeling the lag.

Bali - A Play by Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research

George and I went to watch Nimmi's play at Rangasharada. The hall was pretty full. We were joined by his friend Nandita, who is in the business of saving the environment. We ate a bit at the canteen which had a lovely assortment of food - kheema pav and some coffee. And some cake of sorts. Rangasharada is very particular that we all be seated before the show starts and with good reason. We were honored to have the director sit with us while we watched the play. A rather nervous director.

Adishakti is based in Pondicherry now. It started as a theatre company in Mumbai in 1981 and thereon went into research. It conducts its own plays and also conducts workshops. Its journey is fascinating and the work it does is equally amazing.

'Bali' retells the part of Ramayana where Rama kills Bali hiding behind a tree. The viewpoints of all the players are presented along with how it plays out in everyday life - sibling rivalry, right and wrong. The play shows both - the episode in Ramayana and a take on everyday life.

Bali, older brother of Sugriva, and ruler of Kishkindha, is challenged to a fight by the demon Mayavi. He enters a cave for the fight and tells Sugriva that if he sees blood coming out of the cave he should assume that Bali is dead and should seal the cave with a rock.

Blood comes out after a few days and Sugriva assumes that Bali is dead. He seals the cave and goes to Kishkindha, assumes the role of the king. Bali's queen now is his queen and his son is now his son. However Bali does not die - Mayavi does and he returns and banishes Sugriva. The dejected Sugriva asks Rama, who is in pursuit of Ravana, to help him kill Bali. Rama kills Bali hiding behind a tree.

The play was directed by Nimmi, our friend from the Unfestival. It's an interesting take on that incident in Bali's life - he is almost invincible with his power of drawing his opponent's strength, Sugriva only does what he is told so feels he has been shortchanged, Rama does what he does by hiding behind a tree and killing Bali. I had not much of a clue about Tara and Angad's role in the story but they had major roles in the play.

The performers were Vinay Kumar, Arvind Rane, Ashiqa Salvan, Kiyomi Mehta and Rijul Ray. Vinay Kumar as Bali was outstanding. Not to say that the others were not - they were all very good. I totally enjoyed the play. It was intense, funny. The effects were interesting. The changeover between the actual story and everyday life, seamless.

I asked Nimmi if she was happy with the way it turned out. Nimmi was not too happy with how it turned out but that's ok. I liked it. Always room for improvement. They have more shows for the next couple of days and then they are on the road for a long time - Shimoga, Macleadgunj, Nepal. The hall was pretty packed. George and I got another cup of coffee and after bidding farewell to Nimmi, walked all the way to a Metro station. I got off at Cubbon Park.

Good work Nimmi and Adishakti. I am very impressed. Do check out the Adishakti website. It's stunning.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Times Lit Fest, Bangalore - Day 1

Attended the Times Lit Fest at Bangalore - 23rd and 24th February put together by Vinita Dawra Nangia. Spread across four venues at the Jayamahal Palace, it was packed with events. Speakers included Devdutt Pattanaik, Nayantara Sehgal, Vivek Shanbhag, Shobhaa De, Andaleeb Wajid, Deepa Narayan, Kishwar Desai, Rakshanda Jalil, Shabana Azmi, Anand Neelkantan, Sanjay Khan, Annup Sonii, Ravinder Singh, Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramaniam, Anita Nair, Manu Pillai, Vikram Sampath, Gurcharan Das, Radhakrishnan Pillai, Meghna Pant, Githa Hariharan, Om Swami, Rijutha Diwekar, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Prayaag Akbar, Chetan Bhagat, Arjun Gaind, Appupen, Ramya Ramakrishnan, Shipra Khanna, Shashi Deshpande, Tony Joseph, Roshan Abbas, Amitabha Bagchi, Wendell Rodricks and others.

Apart from the sessions there was 'The Garage' which had literary crafts and workshops, exquisite art forms by Art Mantram and other stuff. ID Fresh Food gave away free coffee at its stall.

Day 1
I had a session at 1130 in the morning moderated by Prajwal Hegde who had just written a book 'What's good about falling?'. Prajwal is a sports reporter and mainly covers Wimbledon. Others on the panel were Olympian swimmers Rehan Poncha, Nisha Millet and IPL and Karnataka player K. Gowtham.
Times Lit Fest

Nice tents, bookshelves, books

The festival started late for some reason. I attended the keynote speech by Devdutt Pattanaik on Astitva, identity, being and much more which he covered in 30 minutes.

Lovely open area
Minati's book of poems which sounded quite nice. Prajwal came and met me there and we figured we should meet at the author's lounge.
The roof of the shamiana, the blue is the sky
Amazing. I could not make much sense of it except that he said he did not exist if the audience was not there. I met Saroj and Minati there and browsed through
Our session in progress (Pic. George)

The lounge was guarded like a fortress and I wondered why. Just some authors after all. But I could see some known faces, names.

Since not many people had come in yet, I got a lovely caricature drawn by the talented Jinoy. Loved it.
Prajwal, Rehan, Gowtham, Nisha and me

In the author's lounge I met Satya and Vestin whom I had met at Anita's attic. Satya had written a fun book and it really looked interesting. She also told me that her daughters loved 'The Men Within'. I met Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai, Anita Nair, Kuljeet Yadav. Prajwal introduced me to many sports reporters - Manuja Veerappa being one of them. Anita introduced me to many people she knew - Ashwin Sanghi was one - as the fast bowler who was a first-class cricketer turned writer.
George and Anita

The session went well. Topics included how one copes with success and failure, how it affects relationships, what it takes to be a champion, when do you know you have reached your potential, how does one conduct oneself in public. Rehan and Nisha spoke about the dedication one needs to be a champion, about giving back to the sport and so on. I found Lalith in the audience, someone who had read 'The Men Within' years ago and I was thrilled. He asked me a question about vanishing grounds and what the answer was. I felt that it's for schools to believe that sports develops character and if it does, they can find ways to hire grounds etc and expose children to sports. We took a picture. George came sometime in between and we were on for Nimmi's play that afternoon.
Lalith, me and The Men Within

After the session, we hung about the place for a bit. Turns out that Anita and George are great pals too. We chatted a bit and then left to Rangasharada. Show is at 430 but we needed to get a bite. We decided to go to Rangasharada and eat at its famed canteen.

The Kaladham Diaries - Day 9

Last day. I made it to the ground. Piyush came with me. I bowled a bit. piyush got some great snaps of my bowling action - all in alignment.
Happy with the action

Back to the Convertor with a fine breakfast. The Bangalore crowd - Shireen, George, Brandon - would leave by 11 and the Hyderabad crowd - Sathya, me, Piyush, Sharon, Vishakha, Hash and Elisabeth would leave for Hyd at 1.
Sathya, Elisabeth, Hash, me and Piyush (Pic. Vishakha)

George and I promised to meet at the Times Lit Fest tomorrow at Bangalore and head to watch Nimmi's show in the afternoon. Hugs and farewells and off they went.
Shubra, Vishakha and Sharon (Pic. Hash)

Brandon would be heading off to Colombo and Shireen to Cochin to do some work. Packing up, saying farewell, giving tips and off we were to the quaint Vidyanagar airport. At Hyderabad, Sharon and I split ways with the rest, who were heading off to Delhi and Bangalore. Hugs and farewells and off we were, heading home.

The Unfestival had ended. Thanks JSW Foundation. Thanks Sathya. Thanks Vidyanagar. Thanks all.

Writer Profiles 9 and 10 - Vishakha Jindal and Elisabeth

Vishakha Jindal, Designer, Artist and Photographer
Vishakha is a designer and artist. She finished a course at Srishti Insitute of Design and now co-manages a design studio in Mumbai. She has many talents - designer (she designed last years book at the Hampi House), is an artist and a photographer. She knows her craft well and goes about it calmly and efficiently - knows exactly what she wants.

Vishakha drew some wonderful paintings and showed them to us and I am sure they will show up in the book someplace. She is very sorted and gets things done, quietly and easily. She has this fine learning mindset and asks questions - the right ones. She'd go off on long walks or jogs most mornings, discovering new places by herself. I asked her to come along with me to get Antony's pic and Elakkiya's pic and she was gracious enough to do that and so well.

I somehow feel I will be seeing more of Vishakha soon.

Elisabeth, Documentary Film Maker
Elisabeth is a documentary filmmaker from Hamburg who is on her first visit to India. She is Chandrahas's friend and joined us directly. The first thing we noticed with her was that she hardly missed a beat - not a moment you'd feel that she was in a strange country with a bunch of strangers. She just walked right in and made herself comfortable. And in doing that she made us all comfortable too. Food, water, going around, sun, nothing bothered her. She was always in good humour and was a fantastic addition to the group.

On her second day at the Unfestival she decided to come with me to the IIS. She sat quietly for most of the time there and in the end she asked such a simple yet profound question that unlocked a beautiful thought from Elakkiya. What is your relationship with that 100 meter track she asked. And Elakkiya said it was his friend. How beautiful is that! She showed her documentary films on the radicalization of youth in Germany - it was such a beautifully made animated movie. Very political and very deeply involved.

Great work Elisabeth and hope to see you soon.

The Kaladham Diaries - Day 8

I seem to be missing a day somewhere but that's ok. A walk in the morning, breakfast and Kaladhama once again. Nimmi was leaving today - she is directing a play and had to join her group in Bangalore. I would be there in Bangalore on Saturday so I told her that if George came along I would come to watch the play. George and I were at the Times Lit Fest Bangalore on Saturday. I think Nimmi booked our tickets then and there. We were on.
Chandrahas, Nimmi, Sharon, Elisabeth, Brandon, me, Sathya, Shubra, Piyush

Nimmi's farewell was a long drawn process because the car would not come and we all waited for ages - so long that she tried to shoo us away inside. After Nimmi left we went to Kaladham. Today, I decided to write about how my co-writers inspired me. Most of the day was spent in writing that. Lunch and back to Kaladhama. Srinivas from the JSW Cricket team came to meet me and fill me in on some of his cricket stories.
Chandrahas and Sathya

Today was also the time when the official photographer came and took some pictures. We all posed. I mean everyone else posed. I for some reason could not even manage a smile. George could actually see that I was not smiling even though he sat behind me - that's how much I did not feel like smiling. Anyway pictures done, we all headed back to our readings. I read out my stuff about everyone else which was generally well received. Sathya laid out the general idea about when to submit our pieces and the general idea about how they would compile an anthology with our pieces, all set in Hmpi or Kaladham or Vidyanagar.

We headed back to an Andhra meal followed by some beer.
Checking something out - George, me and Piyush

 It was 12 by the time we hit the sack. Tomorrow is the last day at the writer's retreat, residency, whatever.
Andhra meals

Time had flown.

Writer Profile No 9 - Shireen Quadri, Editor, Travel and Adventure Writer
Shireen is the founder and publisher of the Punch Magazine and worked with several publishing houses before that. Travel and adventure are her passions.

Shireen has the editor's eye for stories and she gave me feedback on a couple of pieces I read immediately. I liked that. She would be a fun person to hang out with in the evenings and had many stories about publishing and movies. She climbed up the Hanuman Hill which I felt was a good achievement - 575 steps. When I was going to the IIS she came with me to check out the place and was interested in the piece I was writing about it. George caught on to her - 'why are you so suspicious' he would tease her and I'd love to listen in on their conversations. Or the Miranda House conversations with Piyush. On the last day she left with George and Brandon to Bangalore - and the two of them convinced her to take a long trip into town. I can totally imagine Shireen getting convinced.

She is great fun, good for a nice and easy chat anytime because there are so many things you can talk to her about. Now to ask her how one gets published in the Punch.

You can sample her writing here

The Kaladham Diaries - Day 7

Early outing. Left by 6 am or was it before? We hoped to catch sunrise at the Hanuman temple. Shubra, George, Piyush opted out. That left Sathya, Hash, Elisabeth, Vishakha, Nimmi, Brandon, Shireen, Sharon for the short day trip. We headed off a little behind time. The minivan took us around the river and after 45 minutes we were at the foot of the 570 steps. Sharon was feeling unwell so she sat back in the van.
570 steps done
To me, these are great challenges. But I do them to tell myself I can do it. The last time I had climbed Simhagad at Pune was a huge achievement for me. Or even the time when I got back to bowling after two years due to a shoulder injury at a resort near Pune was another. So the 570 steps meant something more to me. It's me vs me.
Basava to share the moment

So I headed off in advance knowing I will slow down. I got some place and stopped. I realised it was not so much the breathing that was bothering me as were my legs. they had become jelly. Hmm. Nimmi and Brandon overtook me. Vishakha caught up with me. After some 30 minutes or so I got up there, sweating, in one piece. I got one small kid, Basava, to come and take my picture. He was thrilled at the responsibility.
The climb - seen from the top

The Hanuman temple was just opening. There were many monkeys around. While we were in the temple a few langurs just went wild, trashing everything that was in their sight. The priests told us to stay out of their way - they could knock you out for 15 days. Temple done, we headed down. Brandon and I had the most interesting conversation about spirituality, the champion's mindset, love, manifestation, law of attraction and so on.
Pampa sarovar - place of the angry priest
Back in the minivan we headed out to the Pampa sarovar where Shabari met Rama. We encountered an angry priest, ignored him, ate some lovely breakfast and headed back. Kishkindha, the kingdom of the vanaras, is supposedly located around Hampi someplace.

Back at the Convertor, a quick lunch and I headed off to Rushdee Warley along with Vishakha and Shireen. I had a wonderful time with Rushdee, speaking about the champion's mindset and institute's goals. Back at Kaladham I changed, went to meet Srinivas and his young protege, Shubham who made it to the Under 16 zonals last year after scoring heavily. He is 15 now and bats well. I also met Thippe Swamy who lives in the local village Vaddu and who works as an outsourced employee operating the conveyor belts.

Most of the crowd went to visit the steel plant. I could not because of my meetings with Warley and co. Once again we read from our work, headed back to the beer table.

Writer Profile No 8 - Sharon Irani, Poet, Editor, Performer
Sharon does many things. A poet first, an editor, a biker, a dancer-performer (she does things on those hanging strips of cloth). She does them all well I should think, going by the impression I get. She is very sure of herself, no rough edges, takes the trouble to do her research well and all in all, knows what she is talking about. She managed a celebrity, rode a Jawa and then a Bullet, looks like a model, performs some crazy stunts, writes beautiful poetry and is much fun.

At Kaladham she chose a place by the flowing water on day one and then flitted all over. one day she came to the Board Room where Piyush was playing music. She prefers quiet - and if you listen to her poetry, you know why - there is a stillness that is very nice about it. I get her poetry! She sings very well, knows all the lyrics, knows much about many things - books, films, stuff like that. She is very good with animals as I saw her with the little pup that Sathya rescued from sure death. Lots of energy, lots of promise, lots of talent. It has to show up sometime soon.

I am a second gen Irani she says. I had to ask her the dumb question - what's the difference between Iranis and Parsis. Of course she gave me a detailed explanation. Ex-Mayo college, writer of book reviews and other stuff, she is a regular at the Jaipur Literary Festival. She read out my piece in Knot for Keeps - the day I went to meet Sarita. Thanks so much Sharon. See you soon.

All things fun, head Sharon ward