Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year in Retrospect - 2020

In so many ways, an year like none before. We'd breezed through the 1971 war, Emergency, the assassination of two Prime Ministers, terrorism, communal riots, communism-socialism, liberalisation, technology disruption, even getting a hang of these mobile phones and their seemingly insidious ways, but nothing prepared us for the COVID 19 pandemic. It was a crazy experience to be locked down and live under war like situations, thanking ourselves for the comforts we have while so many struggled in the uncertainty, many more died of loneliness, grief, boredom. We lost a few, gained a few.

Ending 2020 on a high

But come the end of the year 2020, and I look back and wonder at what I have done. And I realise that I did what I could and it turned out okay. So here's the snapshot.

The numbers first!

A fear of death for a few months

Books Read (62)
62 books
, some superb ones like the Story of Philosophy, Bruce Lee's biography, I am That, Born to Run, Johnny Got his Gun, The Outsider, The Malevolent Republic, Change Anything, The Power of Full Engagement, The Four Agreements, The Untethered Soul, All the Light We Cannot See etc.

Movies Watched (201)

201 movies, and this is one list I am so proud of as I knocked off the classics one by one, Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Bengal, Saaed Mirza, Bimal Roy, Godard, Kubrick, Chaplin, Yasujiro Ozu and so many more. Amazing experience and such a diverse view of the world.


Books - Nil 

(Under Progress
Got novel 'Osmania 1990' in some shape though not as happy with how the first draft turned out. But it's still work done and I am glad I could get 75000 words in. Now to polish it some more and make it readable.

Got novella 'Water Works' to some shape.

Got 12 cricket short stories into some shape.)

Articles published (1)

Book review of 'Breath of Gold'published in The Punch

Online Fantasy Sports - Quint

Columns (53)

46 Canteen Fundas columns for the New Indian express

7 Life's Like That columns for The HANS India, sad that they had to stop it after two years, I miss the humour column

Blogs (601)

600 plus blogs which is the most I posted - thanks to the pandemic. I wrote a few new series like 'Lessons Others Taught Me', 'My Cricketing Insights' (Parag, Jaideep,

Salil Datar, Ramnarayan, Prashant Manjrekar, Eashwar, Mony), 'My Shelf' (on book collections by Sridhar, Satish, Raja, Anjali, Amar, Vinod), Guest Blogs, Interviews of Vijay Lokapally who retired this year from The Hindu..


Lit Events Attended (4)

- 'I'm Possible' by Hari Prasad where Hari made me read out a part
- 'Symphony of Drabbles' by Ruchi Ranjan, Ishika Ranjan about which I spoke at the launch
- Book event of Ranjani Rao and Jayanthi Sankar
- Times Lit Fest, Bengaluru

Panel Discussions/Moderated (2)
- Hyderabad Literary Festival where I got to meet Gideon Haigh and Stephen Alomes in a panel discussion that I moderated
- Vedam Jaishankar's book 'Courage, Conviction and Controversy' which we discussed in an online event

Events Attended (2)
- Annual Day function for Matrusri High School as Chief Guest
- Nrityam Dance Academy's Annual day, Suchismita's academy, where I met the wonderful Erica
- Dance program at Gudi Sambaralu, Shamshabad

Talks (8)
- Spoke at events such as the ZPHS, Yellareddy, which was one of the best events ever in my life interacting with hundreds of boys
- 'Leadership in COVID Times' for Construction Specialities, an online event
-  'Leadership and Team Work' at MCRHRD, a lecture
- 'Leadership' at CISF, the first physical lecture after COVID
- 'On Writing' at Daksha School, an online event that was quite nice
- 'On Writing' at Amruthavarshini school, an online event that went well
- On 'Sports and Management' at VJIM, an online event and went well
- 'What's on Your Shelf?' at 41ers, a completely offbeat talk where I met young Taher Ali Baig

Teaching (1)
Taught Arts Management course online
 at the Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad. Disappointed that I could not teach them in the physical class 

Coaching (1)

1 Six Month Coaching Stint that ended well

Mentoring (1)
Went well- a cricketer who cracked it to next level.

New Stuff

Lost 10 Kilos - Got health into focus - one of my three OKRs and reduced 10 kilos (and put on some again) thanks to a 5 km walk everyday that slowly moved into a slow jog, and some serious intermittent fasting. Now I feel fitter and intend to continue the same.

450 kms jogged in the last 90 days at 5 kms a day starting from September 28, 2020

Experienced the fear of COVID, the grief of losing someone, care giving in COVID times. Lost my favorite cousin VV, my good friend Alagiri, my mother in law Nalini Nargundkar.

Got a routine going - early morning wake up at 5 am, meditation, journal work, writing work for 3-4 hours.

6 months of not seeing friends and family.

Fun Stuff

Visits to Beauty Green to play table tennis, jog etc
Visit Amar's Pensieve to see the stars at night
Drive to Pune
Visit to Mumbai
Visit to Simhagad
Visit to Magarpatta township.

People I Met

Gideon Haigh, Stephen Alomes, Vedam Jaishanker

Interviews (14)
Vijay Lokapally, V Ramnarayan, Parag Paigankar, Jaideep Pal, Salil Datar, Mony, KP Eashwar, Prashanth Manjrekar, Sridhar N, Amar Chegu, Satish Nargundkar, Raja Nargundkar, Anjali, Vinod Ekbote

Got Interviewed  (3)
By Niveditha and Vanathi, Pavan Parimi, Medha.

Gifts Received 
A laptop by Vasu, a Cross pen by Radhakrishna, Books and Pens by Ranjani, Extender by Ramaraju, an executive chair by Ramaraju, shirt by Milind, T shirts by Ranjan, Books by Abhinay, Pallavi, Smitha...there's more 

Overall a year of much introspection, many gains, some losses. The year is one I can never forget. More on this in the New Year.

Signing off from Pune.

2020 - In Movies

 By far the best thing I have done this year is watching a whole bunch of classics thanks to the pandemic. I watched over 200 movies and am really happy to see that I remember most stories. Perhaps that's because I eked out the classics from lists across the net. Here's the list

1. Mallesham

2. Irishman

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywod

4. Parasite

5. Jojo Rabbit

6. Kushal Mangal Zyada Savdhan

7. Mr and Mrs 55

8. Race

9. Kagaz ke Phool

10. Ghare Baire

11. Charade

12. Phantom Thread

13. Jaane Bhi do Yaaron

14. Dia

15. A Death in the Ganj

16. Capote

17. Lost Girls

18. Aar Paar

19. Get Out

20. Murder Mystery

21. The Guard

22. Love Mocktail

23. Yes Man

24. The Princess and the Frog

25. 93 Days

26. Contagion

27. Ala Vaikunthapuramlo

28. Okja

29. Manthan

30. The Meyerwretz Stories

31. Village Rock Stars

32. Sillu Karupattu

33. Rocketman

34. Blue Jay

35. To all the boys I Ever Loved Before

36.  Manmadha Leelai

37. Perks of being a Wallflower

38. Perfect date

39. Edge of Seventeen

40. Sierra Burgess is a Loser

41. Falling Inn Love

42. O Pitta Katha

43. Escape from Alcatraz

44. Leave No Trace

45. Klaus

46. Easy Rider

47. Holiday in the Wild

48. Aakrosh

49. Failure to Launch

50. Varane Avashyamund

51. The Rewrite

52. Njan Prakashan

53. Extraction

54. Joker

55. Isi and Ossi

56. CIA

57. The Clapper

58. Spartacus

59. Ankur

60. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

61. Kanoon

62. Charulata

63. Kali

64. Shala

65. Bhumika

66. Apur Sansar

67. Garam Hawa

68. Maqbool

69. Suraj ka Saatwan Ghoda

70. Aranyer Din Ratri

71. Paar

72. Paddleton

73. Spellbound

74. Samskara

75. Ghatashraddha

76. Bhuvan Shome

77. Ek Din Achanak

78. Super 30

79. Akaler Samdhaney

80. Sahib bibi aur Ghulam

81. Maa Bhoomi

82. Elipathayam

83. Anantaram

84. Subhalekha

85. Eeb Aalay Oo

86. Mahanagar

87. Jana Aranya

88. Pratidwandi

89. Seemabadha

90. Kanchenjunga

91. Party

92. Choked

93. Pakeezah

94. Jewel Thief

95. Kissa Kursi Ka

96. D Day

97. Do Aankhen Barah Haath

98. Nayak

99. Gulabo Sitabo

100. Trikal

101. Is Raat ki Subah Nahin

102. Iruvar

103. Chaalchitra

104. Mahapurush

105. Awara

106. Ranganayaki

107. The Best Years of our Lives

108. Ganashatru

109. Do Bhiga Zamin

110. Neele Akasher Neeche

111. Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai

112. The Secret in Their Eyes 

113. Sohala

114. Katha Sangama

115. Patadik

116. Knives Out

117. Aparajito

118. Dev Bhoomi

119. Punch Drunk Love

120. Ed Doctor ki Maut

121. Ayyappanum Koshiyum

122. Khandhar

123. Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho

124. Network

125. Breathless

126. Prawaas

127. Padosan

128. The French Connection

129. Richard Jewell

130. Forrest Gump

131. The Mule

132. Story of a Love Affair

133. 7500

134. Asuran

135. Tokyo Story

136. Meghe Dakha Tara

137. Late Spring

138. My Fair Lady

139. The Battle of Algiers

140. Journey to Italy

141. Blue Velvet

142. The General

143. Vidheyan

144. Nishant

145. Monty Python - Life of Brian

146. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

147. Fear Eats the Soul

148. Seven Sundays

149.  He's Just Not That Into You

150. Shakuntala Devi

151. Raat Akeli Hai

152. Monty Python - The Holy Grail

153. 2001 A Space Odyssey

154. His Girl Friday

155. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

156. Mutiny on the Bounty

157. There will be blood

158. Mughal e Azam

159. Current

160. Wajda

161. Deool

162. A Fantastic Woman

163. Dharavi

164. Dombivali Fast

165. The Invention of Lying

166. Paromitar Ek Din

167. Gaman

168. Wild Tales

169. 31 Divas

170. Gunjan Saxena

171. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

172. The Circus

173. Madaari

174. The Blue Brothers

175. Android Kunjappan

176. Class of 83

177. Death of Stalin

178. C U Soon

179. Teen Kanya

180. Love Guaranteed

181. Kisise na Kehna

182. Changeling

183. Remains of the Day

184. Sand Storms

185. Baaram

186. Cargo

187. Kaalidas

188. Bhai - Pula 1

189. Bhai - Pula 2

190. Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare

191. Aani..Dr Kashinath Ghanekar

192. Blackkannsman

193. Cycle

194. Airplane

195. The Soft Skin

196. Chhalang

197. Salt and Pepper

198. Samantar

199. From Here to Eternity

200. Ludo 

201. Middle Class Melodies 

It's a good list. I am happy with it.

List of Books Read in 2020

 The number dropped sharply to 63 from 80, mainly because I picked some massive tomes. Overall not as satisfactory as I would like it because I am still behind in the perfect choice of books to read. I read many that didn't want to. I did read some that I wanted to and am glad I ticked off 'The Story of Philosophy' and 'I Am That'.

Here's the list

1. Around the world in 80 days - Jules Verne

2, Desi Modern Love - Ranjani Rao

3. The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

4. Wanted! The 100 Mile per Hour Dog - Jeremy Strong

5. I'm Possible - K Hariprasad

6. Johnny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo

7. Dangling Gandhi - Jayanti Sankar

8. Garden of the Snake - Appupen

9. All the Lives We Never Had - Anuradha Roy

10. Girls of Mumbaistan - Piyush Jha

11. An Equal Music - Vikram Seth

12, Summers Will Never be the Same - 

13. The Outsider - Frederick Forsyth

14. The Malevolent Republic - KS Komireddi

15. Conscious Leadership - Gary Douglas and Others

16. The Song of Life and Other Stories - Vijaya Rajadhyaksha

17. No Spin - Shane Warne

18. The Nigger of Narcissus - Joseph Conrad

19. Being you - Changing the World - Dan Heer

20. Bruce Lee - A Life - Mathew Polly

21. Home to Roost - Teresa Hainsworth

22. ABBA - Andrew Oldham

23. I am That - Nisargadutt Maharaj

24. Dongri to Dubai - S Hussain Zaidi

25. Tell Tale - Jeffrey Archer

26. Kargil - The Inside Story - Harinder Baweja

27. Eat the Rich - PJ Rourke

28. Change Anything - Kerry Patterson, Joseph Greeny

29. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers - Sean Covey

30. Diamond Dust - Anita Desai

31. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey

32. Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

33. Mother Pious Lady - Santosh Desai

34. Peak - Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool

35. Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams - PG Bhaskar

36. 10 Secrets of Success and Inner Peace - Dr Wayne Dwyer

37. The Power of Full Engagement - Jim Loehr and Tony Shwartz

38. The Wanderer - Kahlil Gibran

39. Breath of Gold - Sathya Saran

40. Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goldman

41. The Art of Breathing - Sri Rudrabhayananda

42. One World; A Symphony of Drabbles - Ruchi Ranjan

43. Lucky Luke, Cowboy Adventures

44. Essays in Love - Alain de Botton

45. The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz

46. Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket - Vedam Jaishankar

47. Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson

48. The Untethered Soul - Michael A Singer

49. Born to Run - Christopher McDougall

50. The Art of Choosing - Sheena Iyengar

51. How to think like DaVinci - Daniel Smith

52. Lord Edgware Dies - Agatha Christie

53. Dark Star - Rajesh Khanna - Gautam Chintamani

54. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 

55. Hayavadana - Girish Karnad

56. The Virgin and the Gipsy - DH Lawrence

57. Something Childish but Very Natural - Katherine Mansfield

58. The Pakistani Bride - Bapsi Sidhwa

59. The Moaning of Life - Karl Pinkerton

60. The Story of Philosophy - Will Durant

61. The Goal - Eliyahu Goldratt

62. The Portable MAD

63. All the Light We Cannot See

Glad I read 'The God Delusion', 'I am That', 'The Outsider', 'Bruce Lee's Biography', 'Benjamin Franklin's autobiography', 'Born to Run' among others. In business books I enjoyed reading 'The Goal', 'How to Change Anything', 'Conscious leadership'. In self-help I enjoyed reading '7 habits', 'Emotional Intelligence', 'Furiously Happy'. In fiction 'Johnny Got a Gun', 'All the Lives We Never Had', 'The Pakistani Bride', 'The Virgin and the Gipsy', 'Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams', 'Hayavadana'. In non-fiction I loved reading 'Born to Run' which will remain one of my favorite books of all time.  Not a bad year with books.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Anjali - 10 Signs of Growing Up

 Now that she is thirteen I see signs of growing up from the new teen at home.

1. After a gruelling climb yesterday and a shoe that pinched, I thought she would be in pain, but she laughed it off despite the considerable pain. Bite the lip and get on with it.

2.She had to write a script for the skit on gratitude for her class and she did the whole thing herself and not once did she ask me about how it is etc. My responsibility, I'll handle it.

3. She is no longer an extension of us when we meet others. She is now her own person, making her own connections, relationships and working on them too.

4. We are now seeking her advice and help on certain things, like technology, where we are not as quick or aware as she is. She is not as dependent on us and we now are dependent on her for a few things.

5. She now has those conspiratorial jokes with friends and cousins about - 'parents'.

6. She is no longer a mere participant but has an active opinion in all that we do or experience which is wonderful.

7. She has her own choice of movies, books, shows, music and we watch completely different stuff mostly.

8. Despite her strict no-gadget stuff, she enjoys being in touch with her friends on WhatsApp etc. I think its just a matter of time before she gets on social media.

9. Now the jokes are on us and that is good fun too because we now have another person to cut us down to size at the slightest opportunity. 

10. It feels less like we are taking care of her and more like she is part of things, taking part of responsibility and that's a nice feeling.

It's wonderful to see.

Anjali - The Art of Saying Just the Right Thing

 I realised for a while now how Anjali says just the right thing when I need it. The earliest I remember is when I asked her how I was doing with my TED talk after giving her my first full length trial and she listened intently and after a lousy presentation said - 'Very good Nanna.' It was such a boost for me.

And so many more times. I ask her how I am doing or looking and she somehow says just the right thing I want to hear. And as always I was in a dilemma just before the Pune trip, wondering if my back will hold and if Carlos will handle the drive well. 

Without a doubt she said - ''Of course Nanna, you will be fine. You are so fit now after all the running etc. And Carlos will certainly drive well. We will go only in Carlos or not at all.'' 

Just what I needed. Decision made.

Just today I heard her talking to her mother who is hassled about a bunch of things to do. So Anjali goes up to her, hugs her and says.

'I love you ma. You are doing so many things and doing them so well. You are doing a great job ma.'

And I thought that I could be saying the same things too because I know Shobhs is hassled but I don't say it or my thought does not go there at all. And just the right things too.

Apart from these, I hear Anjali say these words a lot more these days - I love you, thank you sooo much, happy birthday (just like that), happy new year (even before the new year), I am sooo happy etc. And she does seem happy doing whatever she is doing.

But coming back to the original theme, its such a fine art, this being thoughtful sensing exactly what the other person wants to hear and saying it. It can make a world of difference to that person. When a person is in distress, think of what will give them strength and say that and it can change things.

Thank you Anjali. 


Anjali - How to be Happy

 A variant of Anjali's how-to-be-happy formula which she disclosed to me when she was probably five (the answer then was - smile!). So yesterday, after a tough trek up the Simhagad hill, she was quite thrilled and announced - 'Í am so happy.'

S asked - Anjali, tell me how to be happy na?

Anjali was pretty clear on how to go about these things.

A - First you decide you will be happy and then you will be happy.

I guess that includes doing things that make you happy, or taking responsibility for your happiness like her Ajji told me once. It also implies that we do decide to be unhappy about things as well and look for ways to be unhappy which is something a lot of us do. Watching our thoughts, our words, our actions could lead to a happier life perhaps.

Thanks Anjali. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pune Diaries - Trekking Up Simhagad

 A trek up Simhagad is always a pleasure. Winter mornings add a particular excitement to it and the challenge of the hill is always something to look forward for. So when Parth and Maria, our old partners in crime in these treks, proposed the idea, I was all game for it and so were the other members of the party. This would be a first for Anjali whose year began with an excursion to Pench and looks like it might end on a bright note with a trek up Simhagad.

Off we went at 630 am and first stopped at Khadakvasla lake to gaze at the serene lake and then drove off to Simhagad. 

 A hot cup of chai at the phata where the road splits and then we were off.

The road was full of trekkers, of people wanting the Simhagad experience and you can make out the regulars, the non-regulars, young kids walking up, young kids cycling up, families, old people, young ones. 

The air was sharp and the day was beautiful so the traffic and the unexpected number of people didn't bother us too much. Up there on the fort we ate some hot onion pakoda, ate the matka curds, drank some hot chai. Aah heaven!

Anjali liked her first trek up Simhagad and made plans to trek up every time she visits Pune.

The Goal - Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox

 It is a book about plant management told through a story. Though I know little about plant management I could see the wisdom of the author seeping through the narrative, his rich experience telling it like it is. 

The book is told in a story format where a plant manager who is running a plant in a conventional manner is given three months to ship up or close. The manager runs into a scientist at an airport who gives him insights mainly in the form of questions he poses. The manager benefits from these insights - the first among which is - what is your goal in running the plant. After giving some words and figures which don't mean anything, the manager realises that the goal is to make money. And that anything which is not making money is not helping them achieve the goal.

The manager runs into all kinds of problems - inventory, scheduling, people management - and goes to his mentor each time. The mentor helps him slowly but surely turnaround the plant. While doing so, the manager also salvages his own failing family life.

It's a book not only for plant managers or operations people and has many common sense insights into how to reorganise our lives with what we already have and turn them around. We don't need anything more - we just need to reorganise what we have, be clear about what we want and voila, things change.

I borrowed the book from Amar who generously offered me the sequel to it, Goal 2 as well which I propose to read in 2021. This one reaffirmed my faith in common sense, in what we have and how by giving it the right focus, we find our answers to turn our lives around. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Pune Diaries - An Early Morning Walk at Magarpatta

 So I decided to jog through this wonderful township and get a sense of it for myself. Up at 630 I took off past the main island at the entrance and crossed over, hoping to run alongside the outer perimeter and thereby get a sense. I went past the corporate buildings, the residences that range from villas to independent houses to flats from single bedroom to three bedroom apartments.

We enter Magarpatta township from the East gate and right there we find this island with five or six tall palm trees and if we go straight along this axis we hit the central part of the township of which a tall water tank is the landmark around which is a large park where all community gatherings take place and a flag is hoisted everyday.

 The park, named Aditi park, has a jogging track of a kilometre all around it, lovely lawns inside, a lotus pond and so on. Jarringly some patriotic songs were being played in the PR system where I felt some quiet would have helped the mood and setting. Straight behind it is the west gate.

Five elements and five islands - fire, earth, wind, water and ether - and five islands of the elements in Magarpatta. I jogged along on the north side of the township, past residences and the Laxmi lawns, out on the main road and back in through the west gate, hit the park and jogged around it one and a half times and went back home.


There is a huge ground with football fields and another where there is a gym, swimming pool, football and basketball courts where some kids were playing cricket.

On the south side there is a small shopping mall with many utilities - food, barber, dentist, pharmacy and so on. There are cycles left all over the place that anyone can use and leave where they wish. The mornings are full of walkers and joggers, young and old, fit and unfit. I did some 5.7 kms and was quite happy I made it and got to know Magarpatta better.

Pune Diaries - A Story of Abundant Thinking, Prakash Deshmukh

Prakash has a sea of stories from his eventful life. While chatting with him the other day, came this one. A young Prakash and his partner Zubair, in their early days as architects, met this wealthy educationist and philanthropist, who made it entirely on his own. Prakash described the incident.

'So we were to travel with him to his hometown in his car. It was a Mercedes Benz and we got in. I was naive and innocent, steeped in middle class values so I asked him the first question that comes to our mind. How much mileage does this car give?'

The gentleman did not reply to the question on mileage but said something else which gave an insight into abundant thinking. 

'Íf we have to think about mileage etc it is better not to buy a Mercedes,' he advised. 'If we are thinking in terms of filling in only a small amount of petrol, few points in a bike, few litres in a car, your thinking is wrong. If you want to be wealthy, think wealthy. Fill up the tank always. Tank full.'

Two wonderful tips saying the same thing. Abundance is a state of mind. Fill your tank with petrol. Keep enough cash in your pocket that makes you feel abundant. Fill your heart with faith. Don't think scarcity or lack thoughts like how much mileage etc. A Mercedes is not about mileage. Life is not about mileage, about being fearful that things will run out. About clinging. Life will provide abundantly if you venture. Which is why we call them entrepreneurs, those with enterprise.

Another interesting aside of the same story is about the gentleman's driver who would speed up over 100 kmph when the road was good. The gentleman cautioned him not to go past 100 kmph twice. The third time he told him he would get him off the car if he repeated his mistake. Sure enough, the fourth time, in the middle of nowhere, he asked the driver to alight and took the wheel. The driver took five hours to get to the destination.

Prakash was recollecting the days of his first home and his Bajaj m50, the bittersweet difficulties of the early days that he and Gauri had to face. Today he holds his possessions easily and comfortably and says with a twinkle in his eye about how most of us are fed the wrong beliefs about money and the difficulties it brings. 

'It is not a bad thing to be wealthy,' he said. 

It is a state of mind. To allow it, to receive it, to hold it, to be it, to let it be and to be. Nice story Prakash. Keep your tank full. Thanks. 

Pune Diaries - Driving from Hyderabad to Pune After 10 Years

From 2000 or so when I bought my first car, a Santro, Shobhs and I made several road trips to Pune. After 2007, we made many more in our second Santro, Carlos, with Anjali, who considers Carlos her older sibling since he came a month before Anjali into our lives. Sometime around 2010 and after, the Pune-Hyd road was being repaired and it would take pretty long and we shifted to the newly begun Shatabdi train services which were very convenient. Ever since I haven't found the need to drive until the other day when the three of us decided to go to Pune and we thought we'd made an adventure of it and drive down in Carlos.

I was worried a bit though. My back was still not fully right and more than that I guess it was my doubting my ability to drive 9 hours at a stretch. I worried about Carlos who is now thirteen years old and hasn't been on a long drive for a while now and shows signs of wear and tear. I got Carlos looked at and there were some glitches with the bonnet etc which we finally fixed an off we were on the 25th. Carlos did cause some concern to Ram and Vardha who offered me their cars but Anjali was steadfast - Carlos and none else. So filled fuel, air and packed off. 

We started at 630 am and I decided to keep Carlos at a steady 80 kmph. The weather was good and we made fairly good time past Zaheerabad and Osmanabad and Omerga and Naldurg, munching on sandwiches and stuff. After Sholapur we stopped at Hotel Sunil which was fairly decent but we discovered several more along the road far better. One major improvement is the quality of places to rest. On the other side of the road, closer to Pune, there is a fine Kamat Hotel as well. 

The roads were surprisingly good. Except for a 100 kms stretch before Sholapur which is not yet a toll road and which showed some minor signs of wear, the road was pretty good. All the bigger cars zoomed past at 100 plus speeds while I stood rock steady at 80 kmph. The FastTag was a boon as we zipped through tolls - guess we paid some 600 bucks or so. New bridges have been laid, roads four laned, lots of places to stop. FastTag automatically recharged after a few tolls with some 800 bucks.  

I noticed a bunch of motorbike riders, some six of them, carrying huge piles of blankets for sale somewhere surely. I saw one truck chassis with a solo driver, unlike the convoy of truck chassis that would be driven by muffler clad drivers of the old days. Not too many trucks and buses but lots of cars with families and friends. The new reality.

Once, I think I dozed off - I could feel it coming on but kept going on - and I veered a bit. Thanks to the guy behind me who honked and woke me up I could wake up. I wished I thanked him for that. All I did was manage a sheepish look. Thanks man.

Sholapur at about 12, a short break for chai and a poori sabzi and off we were on the second leg. The roads were good and four laned and except for the traffic, quite bearable. We hit Pune and headed directly to Gauri's place at Magarpatta. I was pleasantly surprised to see that their home came up in 15 minutes after we entered Pune.

Carlos was brilliant through the trip, riding smoothly as ever. I could not find any difference between the Carlos of ten years ago and now. Thanks to my 80 kmph I think we achieved a mileage in excess of 20 kmpl which is quite something. The tank which normally empties by the time we hit Pune, A 550 km ride, is still at a quarter. Carlos, well done my lad. And Anjali, thanks for your confidence in both my back and my ability and in Carlos. Anjali had a great trip, sleeping through most of it.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Story of Philosophy - Will Durant

More than reviewing the book, which I am incapable of, I should share the context in which I bought this book. Years ago I met my mentor and friend, wonderful writer and ace journalist, Rajan Bala, at the launch of my first book (2007), and we got pretty close. Soon we were talking on a daily basis he would suggest several books for me to read. One among them was The Story of Philosophy which he said was a must-read. I bought the book almost twelve years ago and I remember calling him from Akshara Book Store and asked him if this was the same book he mentioned. Yes, he said, buy it right now. I did.

I started reading it many times and could not go past since I found the concepts too heavy and left it after some time. Those were days when I would read every word and make notes etc. After a few tries I decided I should just breeze through it, get a sense of it and then reread it. Even breezing through this book is not a breeze and it took me several months to do that. To remember stuff that made sense I began doing something I normally do not, underline lines in the book.

The book from its index. 

-Socrates (preparation of Plato, ethical problem, political problem, psychological problem, political solutions, ethical solutions), Plato, 

- Aristotle and the Greek Sciences (work of Aristotle, foundations of logic, organisation of science, naturalism, foundations of biology, metaphysics and nature of God, psychology, ethics and nature of happiness, politics, communism and conservation, marriage and education, democracy and aristocracies)

- Francis Bacon - essays, Utopia of science

- Spinoza - Odyssey of Jews, religion, ethics

- Voltaire - Essay on morals

- Immanuel Kant and German Idealism - Crtique of pure reason, transcendental esthetic, transcendental dialectic, religion and reason

- Schopenhauer World as an idea, world as will, the world as evil, wisdom of life, death

- Herbert Spencer - The unknowable, evolution of life, mind, society, morals

- Nietzsche - Song of Zarathustra, Hero morality, Superman, aristocracy

Contemporary European Philosophers -

Henri Bergson - a revolt against materialism, mind and brain   

Benedetto Croce - Man, philosophy of spirit, beauty

Bertrand Russell - Logician, reformer

Contemporary American Philosophers

- George Santayana - scepticism and animal faith, reason in science, religion and society

- William James - Pragmatism. Pluralism

- John Dewey - Instrumentalism, Science and politics

Some stuff I underlined:

One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing - Socrates

Philosophy means two things chiefly; to think clearly, which is metaphysics, and to rule wisely, which is politics.

To Plato and Russel mathematics is the indispensable prelude to philosophy and its highest form.

Let no man ignorant of geometry enter here - sign outside Plato's academy

The essence of higher education is the search for ideas.

Philosophy is an active culture, wisdom that mixes with the concrete busyness of life. - Plato

Three things worthwhile in this world - justice, beauty and truth. Justice is the having and doing what is one's own. 

Morality said Jesus, is kindness to the weak; morality said Nietzsche is the bravery of the strong, morality said Plato is the effective harmony of the whole. 

Logic means simply, the art and method of correct thinking.

A syllogism is a trio of propositions, the third of which (conclusion) follows from the conceded truth of the other truth. 

 Now to reread and savour the book again.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Thought for the Day - Feeling Down? Love Yourself!

 Feeling down? Feeling let down? Confused? Stressed?

It's time to give yourself some love.

Almost all the above symptoms are influenced by others, by the external. One way to counter this is to take back the power, like they say, and switch to default mode. Yourself.

Put yourself face to face with yourself. Ask how you would treat yourself in that situation. Treat yourself the best you can. Be gentle, take yourself out for a walk, buy something nice, play something nice, do something nice for yourself.

The default mode - you and yourself.

With a little practice we should be ok with ourselves. And then we won't need anyone else. And then everyone wants us.

But first, practice the default mode and give yourself some serious love. If we can't meet our own expectations, who will?

36 All Out - Learning Must be Intense and Must Show

 It happens to the best of teams. 

A lot of questions have been raised and much has been analysed about this one inning against Australia. India was fully in control of the game and until then it looked like a matter of when. Australia would capitulate after India would ruthlessly grind out a bigger lead and then our famed world-class bowling attack would do the rest.

But no, Tim Paine had different ideas and went about reducing what the Indians thought would be a considerable lead by scoring 74 with the tail. Then the Aussie quicks came and reduced India to a humiliating 36 for nine, with Mohammed Shami injured and out of the series.

One bad session. One bad day.

One cannot put it down to that. There is a fatal flaw that is somewhere undetected within this team. Despite its talent and its belief that it can beat the best, a crack appears every now and then, that shows that somehow all is not well. Are we believing without looking really hard? Are we missing on certain aspects that need to be addressed to be a world-class team? Are we not as resilient and strong as we thought we are?

I feel the flaw is being missed. The team lacks resilience still. Not all players are able to contribute and it still relies on a couple, or at most times, only one in the batting and one a couple in the bowling. Until and unless the others can step up and close ranks when the biggies fail, we cannot call ourselves a world-class team. On our day yes, but world-class means that they win even when it is not their day. This I believe is what one must look at - the harsh realities that we can lose a match that is fully in our hands simply because we don't have the resilience. And resilience comes from gumption and belief. From a culture where each one feels he must die for the team.

I feel that intensity is missing. There is a complacency in the platitudes and cliches we hear from the team members. It is always about the next game and how we can learn from these mistakes. Learning must show. Learning must be intense and not complacent. With this team and this talent, the quicker they fix this fatal flaw the better. Then we will have far more wins and tropies in our hands.    

Monday, December 21, 2020

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

 This book was gifted to me by Abhinay, a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction for 2015 for Anthony Doerr, a multiple award winner. At 500 pages it appeared daunting but I wanted to read it before the year ended and so I began turning the pages. With short, short chapters of a page or two, it was easily readable and I finished the book in less than a week.

It's structured very interestingly. Two characters, Werner, a German orphan who is good with electronics and radios, a boy with a kind heart, and Marie Laure a blind girl who lives in Paris with her father who is the locksmith for the National Museum of Art, begin the journey in alternating chapters, moving towards one another inexorably. Werner is drafted into the German army before the Second World War while Marie and her father have to flee Paris to safeguard the most valuable item in the museum, a diamond from the Golconda mines that is considered bad luck - but which is very valuable. 

The war begins, Germans occupy France, and Marie flees with her father to Saint-Malo, a walled town where her grand uncle Etienne lives in a tall house. Her father makes a model of the city, leaves her in his brother's care and heads off to Paris where he is captured by the Germans. The French resistance to the German occupation begins and Marie and her eccentric uncle send coded messages for the resistance at great danger to themselves. Enter the radio whiz kid Werner who figures that this is the house that is sending messages but he has fallen  hopelessly in love with the blind Marie and rescues her and all that's valuable to her in a final valiant act before he dies stepping on a land mine.

The pointlessness of war, the kindness and courage of people, shines through brilliantly. The relationship between Marie and her father is beautiful just as her relationship with her grand uncle and almost everyone else. So is Werner's relationship with Jutta, his sister, with Frerick his idealistic friend who does not give in despite losing all but his life. The structure, the easy language of the narrative, the clearly etched characters make it a wonderful read. Thanks Abhinay for this super gift.


A Surprise Night Out at Amar's Pensieve

 Anjali told me that she wanted to see a star-filled sky.  I immediately thought of Amar's Pensieve, the training centre that Amar has so lovingly built near Chilkur, some 35 km away from town. I asked Amar if we could stay over there for a night and check out the stars. Amar welcomed the idea and asked me when I would like to go. I proposed a date and off we went.

On the water tank

The idea was to reach the place by 430 pm, settle in, and eat dinner by 8. Hopefully, there would be stars to see. We did get there by 430 as we had planned. Ramakrishna showed us around the place and got the watchman Konda Babu to come over and introduced us. The Pensieve is spread over a couple of acres and it is rather isolated so it would be an interesting night.

The Pensieve

We walked around the place. Anjali and I climbed the water tank and got a better view of the place around. Then we went and sat on the large water tank. Konda Babu offered us tea and we drank tea.


 Then we sat in the lawn behind the administrative block and in the quiet evening started talking about this and that. Anjali told us about her Pench excursion which had taken place in January and we listened while drinking our coke and eating some snacks. It got gradually darker and colder and after a couple of hours Konda Babu offered to set up a small bonfire and it was heavenly.

A mist settling in at 5 in the evening

 We sat out in the cold watching the skies.

Bonfire tales!

 Save a couple of stars there was nothing to see. But the quiet, still night and the cold December chill more than made up for it.

Konda Babu warming himself up

We heated up our food over the bonfire and ate right there.

 At around 930 we finally called it a day and headed into the block. Anjali wanted to do some homework and she sat and studied while we read our respective books. The idea was to wake up early and check for stars. I offered to do that.

At 4 in the morning I was up and walked out to see a hazy sky and no stars. I went back in and read my book.

Morning exercise

At 6 Konda Babu came by and offered tea and we had some hot tea on the lawns. Finally, at 830, we headed back home.

Some hot tea before we leave

It was a lovely experience - the peace, quiet, silence, weather. Anjali summed it up when she said 'thanks nanna, we spent some real quality time here.'

I think so. Thanks Amar. And Ramarkrishna and Konda Babu. It was a lovely experience.     

Anjali - Her Poem about her Ajji

 This one moved me. It says everything and some more. Well written Anjali. It's beautiful.

Feeding her ajji mango ice cream!

The tree has fallen
- Anjali Paruvu, December 21, 2020

The tree has fallen, the tree has fallen

The strong, solidity of support

Whose worth no one realized

Until it shut its eyes

Even as she lay at her death bed

Few of many came to pay their respect

While a few toiled and toiled

But this is not their story, mind

The spirit it never died down

As the body went on shutting down

The new teenager cried and cried

In silence, as she had to help

Those in worse situations than herself

She listened patiently to the stories she previously refused

And had let go of her ego and pride

She fed her spoons of mango icecream

In hopes of coming in her dreams

She had never imagined that the tree, which was always there,

would one day fall in the pit of despair

Even in the time of weakness and pain

She tried to put a smile on her face

She expressed her love through her actions

As she couldn't brave to speak to the mighty

Then one day, there was no tree

To play cards with or ask lovely stories

She initially could not process

That the body in front of her would not wake

To see the dawn of the new day

She didn't seem to understand

Looking so numb and sad

That her last day with her had passed

And the tree had breathed its last

She had never forgotten her face

Full of pride and happiness

When she brought home a medal that hung across her neck

She could not forget the stories galore that made her who she was

She would not forget her eccentricities and her iron will which nothing could penetrate

She could not forget these days she spent, holding the one who first held her

She could not forget the love she felt and regretfully had not expressed

But now, what is the use, of wishing she was back on Earth

'She is in a better place' they said

But what if I want her, here, with me?

'Who is your role model ?' they asked her at 9 years old

Emma Watson she wrote

Now the young teen of today

Weeped in her hands, thinking of the greatest
role model in front of eyes that she had

Canteen Fundas - Beware the Confirmation Bias!

 Avoid the Confirmation Bias to get to the real truth!

e-Canteen Fundas: Why confirmation bias should be avoided at all times to seek out the real truth

Bhaiyya, we’re electing a secretary for our literature club,’ said Rinku. ‘It’s between Mansi and Harsh.’

‘Í’ve decided who I am voting for,’ said Rahul. ‘Mansi’s good. She reads a lot and goes to lit fests.’

‘Rahul, reading books and participating in literary events does not make her a good secretary,’ said Rinku. ‘The other day we had to cancel a reading she was supposed to organise, remember? Don’t forget that she has no organising experience. On the other hand, Harsh conducted the last three literary events excellently and has been on the Lit Committee.’

‘But Mansi has great ideas,’ said Rahul. ‘And good contacts. Her Facebook posts have quotes and pictures of famous poets and writers she met at the literary festival last year.’

‘You’re saying any random thing to support Mansi,’ said Rinku.

‘The more I see her social media profiles, the more I think she is the right choice,’ said Rahul. ‘She even looks the part.’

‘Rahul,’ said Rakesh. ‘You’re falling prey to confirmation bias.’

‘What’s that, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.

‘Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for, remember and interpret information that confirms our prior beliefs or values,’ said Rakesh. ‘We are biased towards selectively picking information that confirms what we think is right. In this case you’re searching for info that supports your pre-existing belief that Mansi is the ideal cultural secretary even if it is not proven.’

‘But what’s wrong with that, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.

‘Confirmation bias leads to serious errors in decision making,’ said Rakesh. ‘Let’s say you’ve got a major decision to make, like joining a particular course or college. If you look for information that only confirms what you’ve decided on, you will overlook disconfirming evidence. The course content and pictures may look good on the website but with unknown faculty and results. Which means you are making a big decision without considering all the information available, the pros and cons.’

‘How do we deal with confirmation bias, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.

‘By actively seeking out disconfirming evidence against your pre-existing belief,’ said Rakesh. 

‘Though difficult, it gives you an opposing perspective, some distance from emotions. Secondly, be aware that we’re mostly dealing with assumptions in these spaces — the more nebulous our assumptions, the more we‘re prone to confirmation bias. Thirdly, as a practice, write your beliefs about money, relationships, success, etc and then write disconfirming evidence against them. Then, ruthlessly get rid of old beliefs that don’t hold against contrary evidence.’

Pro Tip: Watch for confirmation bias while making decisions. Explore all possibilities that can trip you up and decide

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Walks in Pune

 My daily walk in Pune is one that I like a lot.

It would start at home with this beautiful sunlight streaming in on cold winter days.

Down the narrow road past the Cummins factory.

Past the Ayurveda institute.

At the end of this road is the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway which marks about 3 km from the house.

Up the track leads you to a lovely walk on top of the hill.

A Sunday market.

Past the Cummins factory again.

Dahanukar colony

Almost home. 5 plus km or on good days 6 km. Takes me an hour at my pace but its quite satisfying. Love these walks.