Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Beautiful Game- Movie

 2024. English.

Chanced upon this beautiful film by chance on Netflix and loved it. I am sucker for sports drama anyday and for underdog stories and what could be a more underdog story than a 'Homeless World Cup'. The Homeless World Cup is an annual world football event run by the Association which hopes to eradicate homelessness by associating with football. Co founded in 2011 by Mel Young and Harald Schmeid it hopes to advocate a solution for homelessness.

The story is fictional - about a homeless English team being put together by a thoughtful manager who had managed big teams earlier. The story takes off like a shot and jumps right in. It is a short version of soccer with five players. England has in its ranks a refugee from Syria (I think), a heroin addict on rehab, a man who gambled away his life and ended up on the roads, someone who was an orphan and our protagonist Vinny who has the past of a star in the making who loses it all.

Thea Sharrock ties it all up beautifully - everyone gets the chance and break they deserve. Can't ask for anything more.  Watch it. Nice feel good stuff.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Games Indians Play - V. Raghunathan

 V. Raghunathan is an academic who taught for twenty years at the IIM, A and hen worked in ING Vysya Bank as a top manager. He  is also the largest collector of locks or something to that effect. Anyway, he applies game theory to Indian situations and tries to understand why we are the way we are. I am not sure if he gave any solutions but certainly he shares many pointers where the better way might help. If anyone cares to listen.

The key thing is to understand the characteristics we Indians normally exhibit which come sup for consideration. These 12 characteristics are 

1) Low trustworthiness
2) Being privately smart and publicly dumb
3) Fatalist outlook
4) Being too intelligent for our own good
5) Abysmal sense of public hygiene
6) Lack of self-regulation and sense of fairness
7) Reluctance to penalise wrong conduct in others
8) Mistaking talk for action
9) Deep rooted corruption and a flair for free riding
10) Inability to follow or implement systems
11) A sense of self-worth that is massaged only we have the 'authority' to break rules
12) Propensity to look for loopholes in laws

A nice example that stays with us is what we do in traffic. At a signal we don't trust the others to follow rules so we break them first. When we get stuck in traffic due to our own stupidity like going wrong side - we actually think we are being 'smart' by saving fuel when we actually are pretty dumb in terms of the bigger danger and loss to us if we get into an accident. We have a fatalist outlook to authorities (especially when it suits us - and that means when we are not required to take any action). 

When we go wrong side or go through a red light, we think we are being too intelligent but as we know we are not. Public hygiene is low - accepted - and so are number of usable toilets. Lack of self-regulation and a sense of fairness do not fit in with us because we have this huge sense of entitlement (do you know who I am?). We will not penalise wrong conduct in others simply because it would mean taking a stand, dealing with some social work - we would rather suffer the consequences than do any extra bit for society's good. 

Totally know that we as a people mistake talk for action - and actually make no connection between talk and action - if a person says one thing and behaves exactly in the opposite way people are fine. Anything free is fine, and anything can be handled - accident by kid? get a driver to take the rap. murder by kid? buy and threaten witnesses.Most times the cops act on behalf of the perpetrators. Our whole idea is to find loopholes so we do not follow or implement systems.  

Enough said, we Indians are like Raghunathan says low on self-regulation and always looking to find ways to break or bend the rules and quick to defect - if one guy is breaking the law we quickly join him. I did not pay much attention to the examples he stated - Veerappan's dilemma, the prisoner's dilemma and so on - but got enough from them to understand that it does not take much to realise that if we follow a system we will all benefit. But we all want to benefit first, and perhaps at the cost of the others and in the process lose - but hey, that's fine by us.

Thought for the Day - No Ego in the Now

 There is no ego in the now.


It can only exist in the past and the future. So if we can stay in the perfect now there will be no drama, no fear, no distress etc etc.

The now is child-like spontaneity.

Satte Pe Satta - Movie

 1982. Hindi. Amitabh. Hema.

Educate Anjali about movies we saw in our childhood is turning out to be an education for me. I don't remember liking it as much then as I did now. The movie takes off like a shot from scene one, and sustains it till the end. Amitabh is brilliant in his 'liver khtaba ho jata hai' scene. Those guys really knew how to make films and engage and entertain the audience. Great fun, great music and good acting all around.

Can watch it anytime!

Madgaon Express - Movie

 2024. Hindi comedy. Directed by Kunal Khemu.

Three 'friends' who have always wanted to go to Goa since their school days but could not due to various reasons end up in Goa and get mixed up in unsavoury and not so unsavoury stuff. The fact that  the brains behind the Goa plan is faking a rich life when he is not and the other two are well off makes for some interesting scenes. The movie really picks up in Goa when two mobsters who were ex-lovers - Kanchan Komdi and Mendonza enter the scne. At stake is a huge stash of drugs, Norah Fatehi and their lives. Its a bit patchy but overall we have seen worse. And there are moments when we end up laughing out loud. If you are really short of humour in your life, go watch.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

To Kill a Tiger - Documentary

 'To Kill a Tiger' is a 2022 documentary written and directed by Nisha Pahuja and produced by the National Film Board of Canada among others. It was nominated as the best documentary feature for the Oscars. It has nothing to do with real tigers, but deals with something more dangerous - gender politics and archaic thought in India concerning the brutal gang rape of a 13 year old from Jharkhand.

The documentary does not seek to shock nor are there any explicit scenes. However the sense of foreboding remains all through. It begins with Amit, a worker with a Srijan, an NGO fighting for women's rights, going to a village where a rape has been reported. The girl belongs to a small farmer's family and the incident happens when the entire family goes for a relative's wedding. The girl stays back with her cousins while the family goes home, and then she is raped. Kiran (the girl) has the courage to tell her parents of her ordeal, names the three offenders who are from the village (one is her cousin). The police drag their feet and do nothing. The village panchayat tries to settle the matter internally by getting her married to one of the perpetrators while even doubting her version and casting aspersions at her and her family.

Against all this the family stands resolute - the loving father who decides to fight the case and the society which is threatening to ostracize him, the mother who fully supports her child, and mostly the girl who says she will die but will not retract the case despite threats to her life. As the case goes through its own ups and downs, thanks to police apathy, the hostile villagers, death threats, the NGO's constant guidance and help, the father ploughs on through. There are times when the villagers mock the family, threaten the NGO staff and there is one point when someone says - in Jharkhand there is no fear of what may happen to them - if the villagers feel they are justified they can just catch hold of your legs and chop them off. But then the girl and her father come from the same background so they are not going to give up easily either.

In the few moments she speaks, Kiran speaks with extraordinary clarity about life, about her beliefs. It is clear that she has benefited from the clear thinking, loving and supportive parents. Her father deals with the pressure alone almost, going to courts, trying to do the best he can with his limited understanding. His main concern is that he will not be able to fully articulate what he has to say. The way he hides his rage and trudges the path of justice in the belief that it is the right way, swallowing the anger, the insults as he goes about getting justice for his daughter comes through. He believes that education will solve their problems and Kiran will have a good life. Kiran believes the same as well - her concern is that when she falls in love how will she tell her partner about her past. But she being she, did not want her identity to be hidden and chose to face the camera.

The judge gave 20-25 years of imprisonment to the boys which is a landmark judgment apparently as the highest for rape. The father calls home to his daughter after the judgment is passed and only says - you won. There is silence on the other side and some sobs. And you also cry with relief, as you feel exactly what they are going through. Similarly when Amit, the boy from the NGO has no words but cries in the end, it just shows how difficult and stressful the path has been.

Interestingly director Nisha Pahuja says that she wanted to make something on gender in India and began work on Mahendra Kumar who works with the NGO and has done good work. But then this case came up at the same time and they made this the core. Mahendra Kumar does have a significant role in the away he guides and advises the family.

'They told me you cannot kill a tiger alone,' says the girl's father Ranjit. 'I have shown them how one can kill a tiger alone. I did it.'        

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway

They say that this is a semi auto biographical work - Hemingway served in the World War I as an ambulance driver, met this young nurse, fell in love and it did not go right.

In the novel we have a young American who is fluent in Italian fighting on behalf of Italy in the World War I. He meets a young English nurse and falls in love and she with him. Before they can take their story further he gets injured in war. She comes to the hospital he is admitted in and nurses him. They make love and she gets pregnant. The lieutenant then participates in a retreat, is almost shot by the military police for deserting the army, escapes, meets his love again, then escape to Switzerland together. She is ready to deliver little Catherine when things go awry.

One gets a peek into the world war, the young soldiers, their lives, their fears, the trauma they live with. One also gets a peek into love and loss. Quite fascinating to see the amount of dialogue he used in this book. Catherine is brilliant with her 'lovely' and 'sweet' and her English ways of speaking. And as she lays dying she says - you won't do our things with other girls will you? Do other things with them. You must find other girls.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Vandana Menon - Award Winning Journalist

Achyuth Menon and I have been friends for a long, long time now. He has always taken a lot of interest in the stuff I do be it writing, cricket, my workshops or whatever and we catch up every once in a while on a call or for breakfast at Minerva Coffee House. He is a passionate and well-known recruiter and his firm 'Options' is a known brand.

The other day he messaged me that his daughter Vandana Menon, a young, passionate journalist with The Print had won an award for feature writing. That she won it along with a known name like Raj Chengappa shows the stuff she is made of.

Her article was about how an SMDC Engineer placed Dara Shikoh's tomb within the Humayun's tomb area. And then there are so many more fine pieces she has written. Read them.

But more importantly, congratulations Vandana and her proud parents Achyuth ad Sangeetha. 

Thought for the Day - Intelligence is Humility

 Intelligence is humility.

And self-preservation. And adaptability. And flexibility.

Intelligence is knowing what's best and what needs to be done and getting it done with the least effort.

Murder Mubarak - Movie

 'Murder Mubarak' is a movie by Homi Adjania based on Anuja Chauhan's book 'Club You to Death'. It's a movie set in a posh club in Delhi so we have a bunch of spoilt, rich and powerful (and not so powerful) members. Throw in a murder and we have set - like they say - the cat amongst the pigeons.

Let's see - royalty with no money but lots of ego, an ageing actress, some neo rich, drug addicts, old sex-starved women, waiters who know a lot of secrets and so on and so on. Gym trainer dies and then we go around all the members trying to find out who killed him.

By the time we do find out - we are rather too uninterested in why that person killed him. Hmm. Blackmail? Anyway.  

With talent like that at his disposal - Homi messed up I felt. They were all trying to be different - it was painful to watch. Funny? Could have been a plain vanilla murder mystery. Might have worked. Why does it have to be funny also? 

Thought for the Day - Who Am I

 I ask myself - 'who' is feeling that - and it is not so bad anymore.

I was inspired by the book of Ramana Maharshi where he keeps questioning his devotees when they ask him questions - who is asking that question.

It stumped me for a bit. 

ho could ask that question? Me only no?

Then it struck me that Ramana Mahrashi differentiates between the real you (Who are you?/ Nan yaar?) and the not real you - the mind, the body, the five senses.

So the one who is feeling bad is the mind - or not the real me.

Cool, the real me is sitting still inside and not affected by all this and all I need to do is switch off from this drama and tune into the real me.

I am practicing asking myself that question - who is feeling that?  

Friday, March 22, 2024

Thought for the Day - Us and our Gods

There is so much talk of 'hurting religious sentiments' that we hear about. People get hurt easily - more so in relation to another person than about God directly. Two cases in point.

Lord Ganesha 

The Ganesh Chaturthi market starts a week before the festival. Hundreds of idols are shipped to the front of our colony from god knows where and they occupy half the road. All sizes, all shapes and all types. Once the festival is over however they abandon the Gods and go away. 

I took this picture last week, a full 2-3 months after. They remain like that, the Ganesh idols.

I don't see anyone rushing in to rescue them or pray to them or take them home or even to make them comfortable. Whoever made it, whoever sold it, must have claimed religious sentiment when they occupied the roads.

Lord Krishna - Only Grown Ups

We have this small garden in our colony. What was a nice place to walk or sit on the lawn or on the benches slowly changed shape. The small gazebo which was used to sit in - was converted into a temple with a Krishna idol placed in the middle. Then came a little protective cage around it. Then some chairs. People must be praying there perhaps.

But then came this - a sign saying 'Children Not Allowed In the Park'.

If Bal Krishna came there he would not be allowed inside. Only after he grows up.

I am sure their religious sentiments would be hurt if one said anything about the way they went about it.

But then that's how it is. So much about showing, about claiming.   

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Power of the Presence - David Godman

David Godman's book is a collection of accounts by many devotees of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi who spent time with him during his lifetime. For those who are unfamiliar with Ramana Maharshi, he is an enlightened guru, who got enlightened through intense self-enquiry, by himself. Born in 1879 in Tamil Nadu he lost his father early, moved to Madurai and at 17, found a calling to Arunachala (the Thiruvanmalai town is built around the Arunachala mountain). He spent the rest of his life there, many years in individual practice and then as his devotees grew, came up the famous Ramanasramam at Thiruvanmalai. In this book we have accounts from his childhood friend Rangan, devotees Sivaprakasam Pillai, Akhilandamma, Sadhu Natananda, Swami Madhavatirtha, renowned Telugu author Chalam and his daughter Souris, and NR Krishnamurti Aiyer. As always, with such books there is nothing to review - merely nuggets that we seek to hold and make sense of.

Known famously for his one directive 'Who am I?', much of what is captured here is from what is quoted by the others in this book. Maharshi always tried to impress on people that what we see and feel through our senses is not real and who is feeling that is not the real you. Then the question becomes, who is the real you and how do you find that you.

'He who is without doubt is the real you.

The annihilation of mind alone is jnana.

As you go up you will see that all things are alike.

If you desire to know the supreme essence you must get rid of the attachment that takes the body out and then enquire 'who am I'

The entire world is a dream.

It is better to keep devotion a secret.

Unless a man annihilates his ego he cannot get realisation. One must lose the feeling that one is performing actions.

The jnana can leave his body whenever he likes.

Jnanis know all the aspects of time - past, present and future (this is a small matter to them). They know all that happens in the three states - dreaming, waking and deep sleep.

Be in Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi while living in the world, be unattached to the world, while seeing everything be in a state of unseeing.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a trance like state where there is a temporary awareness of the self but no awareness of the body or the world.

The yearning for darshan matters more than the darshan itself.

The four sadhanas are 1) discrimination (or Viveka) between the eternal and the ephemeral 2) desirelessness (vairagya) towards various enjoyments of the world 3) yearning for liberation (mumukshutva) 4) practice of tranquility (sama), restraint of senses (dama), withdrawal from distracting activities (uparata), forbearance (titiksha), faith (shraddha), contemplation (samadhi)

Jnana is perceived by equality of vision that expresses itself in the form of total love toward all living beings.

I am always giving grace. If you can't apprehend it, what am I to do?

If you were unfit to realise the self in this life you would not have come to this place at all. The power that drew you here will make you realise the self.

To you who are the nature of awareness there is no connection during sleep with the body, the senses, the life force and the mind. Convert the state of ignorant deep sleep in which you were formless and unattached into conscious deep sleep. Then you can remain established in your true nature. Your real nature is not different from the nature of God.

In the states of waking and dreams try to remain as you were in deep sleep.

Awareness is the real nature of man. In his natural state man is not aware of anything. In the natural state if man which is non-dual and whole there is no room for dualities and trinities.

The science of the self is nothing but man recognising his true nature and as the mere existence-consciousness.

The Supreme Self appears to have lost its self-awareness because of the body limitations. 

When the Supreme self is externalised it becomes the mind. When it is aware of itself, it becomes awareness.

If one observes that from where the 'I'-'I' arises, the mind will subside. That is tapas.

Purifying your heart alone is the highest service. That alone can truly redeem you.

The only benefit of learning and other similar virtues is the attainment of humility. Humility alone is the real ornament of the sages.

The Heart alone is the supreme world.

Tranquility in the form of supreme silence is alone the supreme bliss or the happiness of liberation.

In the interval between two successive flights of thought there is a silence in which shines the pure consciousness of the self.

The best sadhana is the practice that discovers the real nature of the 'I'. The mind, the intellect, the five sensory organs and the body are not real.

Jnanis cannot be understood because their minds have been completely destroyed.

Before they salute me, I salute them internally.

Being still is the greatest pilgrimage one can undertake. 

Through detachment and discrimination one can aspire to the state of Sakshibhava, the state of witnessing self. When one realises one's identity with all that exists its called Abhinnabhava - a higher state (zone). It was through Abhinnabhava that he touched the inner being of visitors who were then able to feel within themselves the presence of the universal spirit, transcending thought.

The aim of all practices is to give up all practices.

You are perfect and complete so abandon the idea of completion. Just as it is not necessary to kill a rope that one imagines to be a snake, so also there is no need to kill the mind. Knowing the form of the mind makes the mind disappear.

Stability in the self is the real posture.

Be as you are. Reality is the real japa. Japa and god are one.

"I' is the first and ultimate name of god.

When there is knowledge of duality, fear arises. Fear comes only when you think that there are others apart from you. If you direct your mind towards the self, fear and anxiety will go away.

Body consciousness is the root of all misery.

With silence one can affect the whole world.

The chief function of pranayama is to provide the reins to keep under control the horse-like mind.

While performing activities or in giving up activities, the feeling of 'I' should not intrude.

In the search for self, the mind should burn out.

If you stop the mind, the jiva, world, will not remain, but brahman alone remains.

In surrender one has to give up one's mind and after the mind is given away, there will be no duality of any kind. He who remains separate from god has not surrendered.

For a jnani established in the self there is nothing that remains in opposition to him. if one is in a state in which opposition is felt, then to work on that opposition Atma Sakthi is required.

Adhisthana is sub stratum - there is nothing except the substratum. In the waking state there is nothing but adhisthana. Knowledge of the waking state is the knowledge of the knower in the waking state. Both go away in sleep.

Stationary appearance is the error of perception.

Whatever you see happening in the waking state happens only to the knower, and since the knower is unreal, nothing in fact ever happens.

The world exists in relation to the mind. It is not a thing independent and existing by itself.

Being aware of the self is the real meditation. When the mind gives up its habit of choosing and deciding it turns towards its own real nature.

While trying to be someone else the ahankara gets in. But when you turn inwards towards the self you know that a higher power is working everywhere.

The attitude 'I am the doer' has to be given up.The activities do not obstruct. It is the attitude of 'I did' that's the obstruction. When the mind gets rid of all desires the vital breath gets quiet and the all pervading heart is experienced as such.


You are not your body, nor the mind, nor the five senses. It is all an illusion. What lies beneath is the real yo - the one who sees no duality. Stay still, give up the 'I' and you  will find the real you. 

Every sentence is a deep practice. I am trying to assimilate the ideas and perhaps will start with one small practice - of removing the 'I' from all actions, and trying to remain unattached to the five senses. It was a great experience reading this wonderful book and it surely has changed me deep inside. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Bhakshak - Movie

 2024. Based on the 2018 Muzaffarpur Shelter case, 'Bhakshak' kept me in my seat till the end (which is what a good movie does especially if you start with 'let's watch for 15 minutes and see!) I had dropped two films like that after a 10 minute start so this one worked. Starts with a crime against young girls in a shelter home - rape, abuse and murder -and then you watch how Bhumi Pednekar as Vaishali Singh, keeps at the story until the villains are arrested. I liked how they captured the essence of Bihar.

Watch. Not for the faint hearted or for those who cannot stand violence.


Up in the Air - Movie


Have the book, didn't read. Planned to watch the movie, didn't. Until the other day.

Finally got that right. Enjoyed watching it. Now even a 2009 film seems like a classic. George Clooney was good and so was Vera Famiga (she looks so familiar)!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Abhishek's Blog

 Abhi, my nephew started a blog recently. He writes well, intensely, honestly, and prolifically and I am so glad he started writing. Sharing his blog link.

Song of the Day - Guzar Jaye Din Din

 Last night while driving back from Shamshabad with Mani in his nifty Range Rover I asked him to play music and he instantly switched on the FM. I caught a strain of an old song that had a nice uplifting mood to it and checked it out on YouTube. 

'Guzar Jaye Din Din' by Kishore Kumar from Annadata. Fell in love with the way he goes '...kisi ki haye yadon mein, kisi ke haye baaton mein, kisike mulaquaton mein, hai yeh silsile, kab se chale, khwab mere, ho gaye rangeen...' (someone wrote in the comments section on YouTube that Kishore Kumar had to do 18 retakes for this song).

I played it a hundred times today on my walk and was singing aloud many times without realising it causing other walkers some amused looks and smiles. But what to do when a song hits you like that, reminds you of all that filled your heart in so many years! Makes you want to do a SRK and open your arms wide - and receive all that the world has to give.


 Interestingly, I asked Mani his fav song and he said 'Jab deep jale aana' and one more song I fail to recollect.

Friday, March 15, 2024

American Fiction - Movie

 2023. The film is a directorial debut by Cord Jefferson and is based on a novel 'Erasure' by Percival Everett. Its about a black novelist who writes regular fiction and finds no market and when he writes 'black' fiction with all the stereotypes as a joke, he finds amazing success. Perfect story.

My theory - you always get the most acclaim for the project you were least invested with. Or one which was easy for you.

And yes. Watch it!


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Thought for the Day - The Loss of Decency

 Today I got a call from my friend Vinod. We had met last evening and enjoyed time out - laughing, eating haleem, bajjis. Normally he does not call me unless there is something important. he said - shocking news. I have been sacked! Vinod worked for seven years in a reputed government institution headed by an IAS officer at a DY Director level. For someone to be told in the morning one fine day that they have been relived and can go and join their parent department the next day is shocking.

It's downright rude. It lacks decency. Lacks grace.

The least we can give someone who is going away is a decent farewell. A recognition and acknowledgement of their work, maybe a few kind words from colleagues. Time to gather their breath, collect their stuff, say good bye properly. 

But no, this has to be like death. Now!

Then I wonder what happened to decency in public life.What we see is a reflection of what we have become as a society. Someone dies, we do an RIP and then post a joke right after. Everything is ok - lies are ok, half truths parading as truths are ok, character assassination is ok. No one think twice about it because every single leader seems to be doing that.

Who cares for decency any more.

But I'd like to believe that somewhere in their corroded souls there is a small part where a sense of decency remains. I hope that we find that and grow that. Like the trainees who learned of his sudden transfer who quickly bought a gift for him. I hope they did not learn the stupid things from their seniors - of not treating people like people, with respect and dignity and decency.

But its also true - that we cannot expect it from those who do not have it. I do hope and pray for incidents like the ones with the trainees that reinforce my faith. For every single a..hole leader, we just need one incident like this to offset that.  


Aattam - Movie

 2023. Malayalam.

Loved it. A play with about 11 men and one girl. One new star comes into the play and steals the main part and all the limelight. The actor who lost the main lead and the heroine are in an affair. The girl complains after a party that someone groped her and she accuses the new hero. The rest of the cast is in a dilemma - the actor has promised them something lucrative and the girl's story is not looking very solid.

Loved the ending. Loved the characters and their frailties. Must watch.


Anweshippin Kandethum - Movie

 2024. Malayalam. Tovino Thomas.

Two stories - one in which the cop gets dishonorably suspended for letting a suspect run away and commit suicide and another when the cop is given a chance to redeem himself and he does, though once again without catching the killer alive - he commits suicide again. Interesting narrative - two stories, both similar but holding your interest all through.

It all looks so real like any Malayalam movie does. Tovino looks the part, acts the part. V nice.


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Best Loved Indian Stories of the Century Vol II - Edited by Indira Srinivasan and Chetna Bhatt

First published in 1999 this book really has the best collection of Indian stories - "Kabuliwala", "In the Flood", "Exchange of Lunatics", "The Shroud". It was great re-reading them all. Fabulous collection of short stories in Indian regional language writing.

"The Letter" by Dhumaketu is about a coachman waiting for a letter from his daughter until his last day - the pain of his eager wait, the ridicule of the postmaster and when the letter finally arrives too late, the post master realises the pain of waiting for a loved one's letter. "Tabara's Story" is about the beaurocratic jungle and how one can lose a life (and a wife) while waiting for things to happen. 'Tai Esree' is about a lovely bond between a feisty aunt and her nephew who comes back to see her one last time - partition time, an aunt who makes magic in life's little moments and memories that drive a life. 'Maguni's Bullock Cart' is about a man who lived his whole life serving his village by driving them hither and tither in his bullock cart and how he is forgotten the day a bus is brought into the village - only to be remembered one last time when he dies. 'Kabuliwala' is about an Afghan seller who sees his daughter in the daughter of his customer and how he goes to jail and comes back to find that the whole world was not as it had been before.

"Kamalini" by Gurzada Appa Rao is about a young woman who deals with her husband in a way that he probably will mend his erring ways - for good. "Poovan Banana" is a difficult theme to digest as the husband tames his wife by using rather extreme measures to fall in line - so much that whatever he shows her she has to say it is a Poovan Banana or else she gets a rap on her back. "The Cock Fight" is about two bickering neighbours and an unlikely  cock that saves our heroines honor. "The Big Silver Rupee" - a generous gift by a happy father to his eight year old - places a huge burden on the child as the whole world starts suspecting the child of having done some mischief - won't let him enjoy it.

Premchand's "Shroud" is about human frailty as father and son drink away the money they had raised for the shroud of the dead wife of the son. "Prehistoric" is deeply disturbing as we see a world of darkness described in such gory detail that you wish the story would end - no happy endings though. C Rajagopalachari's "Ardhanari" deals with the subject of caste and how a low caste boy hides his caste from a high caste marriage prospect and seems to wish the worst things on his family (didn't really get why the low caste guys family had to be killed off to appease his guilt). "The Flood" is brilliant as it takes us into the very soul of the dog that is left behind by its master in a rising flood and how it stays loyal to its master till its death. Manto's "Exchange of Lunatics" reminds one of how our modern civilised world is actually run by lunatics. 

"The Curds Seller" is brilliant play between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law and how they make peace and get their ways. "Womenfolk" is difficult to read - how their views though legitimate, are stamped down. "Redemption" is a happy ending, with a man whose heart turns into gold when he meets the old woman in a forest. "Must visit Eluru" is super progressive - a feisty woman who seduces a young neighbour and uses the child from that liaison to secure property and a good life for herself and her son - and when she meets her former lover years later as a widow, introduces their son and invites him to her house. "Death of a Banana Boat" is about a woman who is used like a pawn in the socil hierarchy of a landlord, his clerk and the servant - the pleasure is the upper classes and the burden is of the lower classes.

Fabulous read. Glad I read it. Again.       

Monday, March 11, 2024

Svadhyaya - Srividya's Own Performing Arts Festival

 Srividya is another highly accomplished artiste and was my student last year. A amazing capacity to learn despite her highly accomplished career makes her stand out. She is humble, energetic, cheerful, enthusiastic and certainly more driven than many I have seen. She spearheaded the alumni meet initiative last year and was largely responsible for making it a huge success.

Srividya's organisation Citsabha Collective for Performing Arts conducted their own Performing Arts Festival last month and she sent some videos which are stunning to watch. I'll share a few links.

To learn about Citsabha's initiatives check this link.

 It has an awesome range of initiatives - Outreach (taking art-forms to places that cannot easily access them) , Roots (experiencing the energy of classical arts), Within (intimate viewing and understanding of classical dance and music) and Enable (social causes). I am very impressed.

Wishing you all success Srividya and Citsabha Collective.  

Sannidhalaya - A Lovely Initiative by Sannidha

 I loved the way Sannidha branded her institute - Sannidhalaya. Sannidha was a serious student, was quite accomplished in what she did and had an open and learning mindset. She worked hard during the alumni meet and it was always a pleasure to have her in class as she asked questions that provoked thought.

The other day she shared videos of performances by her students and I felt I should share the same on the blog. Here's wishing you and your students all success Sannidha. 

And another one.

Thought for the Day - Deciphering the Zone

 We experience flow as the famous book says. We experience being in the zone which I am assuming is the same. It is clear that this happens rarely. It is a heightened state of consciousness, of awareness, where everything seems easy, seems fully under control to the extent that you feel like you can thread a needle from a 100 feet away, seems in complete balance. There can be no other outcome but what you want to achieve, you are fully there with no doubt, no other thought in your mind.

100% there, in flow (until I get a better pic)

The zone.

Now it happens in games. In performances. At work. 

In relationships.   

Let me share my 'flow' or 'in the zone' experiences. 

In the game of cricket I can pick at least two clear examples - once when I scored 158 for Osmania in a league match - absolute control over ball in terms of placement, timing, balance. Another when I got 6 wickets in a league match when I suddenly found the state after the first wicket. That day, I could make the ball talk like thy say - it did whatever I wanted it to!

In my TEDx talk at VNR VJIET I felt I hit the zone after a quarter of the talk was over. Where I had begun feeling rather alone and disconnected on the stage initially, I slowly felt I had an individual connection with every single one in the audience, that we were attached by a string and they would react the way I wanted them to. Extremely powerful feeling.

The odd lecture when we are in flow - and everything is happening as we want with no effort. Nothing can go wrong we feel. At times while writing, when the idea comes across perfectly!

Other flow states - in conversations with friends when an idea seizes us and we are in complete sync with one another, completing sentences for the other.      


The desire therefore is to own the flow state and figure how to keep it on tap. So I examined what the aspects of flow are - fully in control and in balance (happens as a result so no control over it), absolutely present with no other thought (can attempt this aspect to be completely present), complete ease with minimum effort (again, seems to be an outcome and have no control over it).

Of the above the one or two things I can control are - being in the present and being fully there. Now being in the present is easier said than done but I think there is a way to get the mind to work here. That's in the second part - being fully there.

To be in flow - one thing one can do is to be fully there working towards an objective you want to achieve - i.e. every single cell of your body should be engaged in that act with zero resistance or judgment or bias or doubt or fear. Just 100% of yourself, your every cell being present to the moment, to the act. For eg you are speaking with someone, ask yourself if every single cell of yours is working towards the objective you want - to be in flow with the person. If you are playing ask yourself if every single cell of yours is fully engaged in the act towards achieving the outcome you want.

My two cents. I'll try and practice it some more and let you know the results!   

Alvida Prashanth Sheorey

 Prahsanth Sheorey was one of the gentlest people I knew. Unassuming to a fault, I have never seen him angry or emotional. There was always a genial smile on his face and his entire demeanor instantly put the environment in a peaceful mode. Prashanth also loved the small things in life.

Prashanth Sheorey

But there was so much more to him that I never really discovered. He was intelligent - more than the normal intelligence we assign to people - because I think he knew what he wanted and made peace with that. 

I first met him in the 1990s, when Shobha took me along to her cousin Chitra's house for lunch one day from college. Tall. handsome, someone who makes you instantly comfortable (as opposed to many people who try to make you feel uncomfortable). My take on this is - the more secure a person is the more comfortable he makes you feel, the less secure a person is, the more uncomfortable he makes you feel! By that standard, he was immensely secure in his space.

Chitra and Prashanth

Prashanth had some interesting family history in the North of India - Madhya Pradesh or UP. His ancestors had property there and there was some conspiracies that happened and they lost that land - he told me that story once. Never asked him more about that! His father was a journalist if I remember right and they lived in King Kothi. Prashanth did his early education in Vivek Vardhini School ad college and loved his childhood in Hyderabad. He would happily recount the days they would go to Sangeet theatre late at night to watch movies, the many movies they watched etc.

Slowly the responsibilities of being an adult fell upon him. His father had started a press and Prashanth ran it - Everest Printers - right on the Kothi Main Road as you go towards Naya Pul. For years, decades he ran the press. He had a fixed routine - home to work, back for lunch, a nap. back to work, back home at 9. 

Their home at Basant Talkies was a lovely home with a welcoming vibe. Chitra and Prashanth, their young son Varun. We watched Varun grow up into a fine, handsome boy until tragedy struck. Varun contracted an autoimmune illness and for no apparent reason, we lost him just like that. Losing a twenty year old son, an only son, can be devastating, even to listen to, and one can only imagine what Chitra and Prashanth went through. But they bore it, survived it.

Chitra would come home those days to take care of Anjali who was just born and she did that until Anjali was five or six perhaps. It was a huge help, a welcome sight to see Chitra coming home with Anjali. Prashanth loved Anjali and would always have this amused, loving look on his face when he spoke to her.

Prashanth took solace in his spiritual guru - the Ramchandra Misison - of which he was an ardent follower. Many a visit he would make for their gatherings. He also said he communicated through a preceptor with Varun's soul - he said he was ok and in a better place and they should not worry about him. Prashanth made his peace there. His life became more and more spiritual. He even shared one book with me on the Mission. I need to complete it. 

One interesting thing was how Prashanth, through sheer will power (and Chitra's help) and changing his lifestyle, cured himself of diabetes. One could see him enjoying the many Whatsapp forwards of his friends. Nothing flustered him much, he had no strong attachments, or opinions. Long as the world was happy and harmonious, he was fine.

From there to shutting down the press, moving to Pune, robbed us of having an address in Kachiguda to go to. We have many fond memories there - lunches, dinners, movies followed by biryani etc. We went on trips together - Nagarjuna Sagar, Girivan, Shrivardhan.

For someone who took care of himself so well it was a surprise to hear that Prashanth had moved on after feeling uneasy for a short while, a few days ago. He had had an angiogram, a stent was put in place to clear a block and he seemed to be recovering when he decided to leave. As peacefully and without troubling anyone as he would have wanted to perhaps.

If one can get that peace in Prashanth's eyes, his acceptance and contentment with his life, one can call oneself successful. He must have been a monk in his previous life, and lived like one too - no alcohol, no meat, no vices at all. The perfect guy to take home to and marry one would say - and surely Chitra would endorse this.

Alvida Prashanth. Until we meet again somewhere, someplace. My journey has been quietly but greatly enhanced with your presence. And each time we pass by Everest Printers or go past Basant talkies, it will not be without a twinge and a fond memory in my heart.       

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Merry Christmas - Movie

 2024. Sriram Raghavan takes us along for a 2 hour 25 minute ride and leaves us rather bored. Nothing Merry about this Christmas. Its based on a French novel apparently.


Thought for the Day - Dropping Hurt and Disappointment

 When I turned 40 I had this great realisation. That guilt and shame were completely useless emotions to entertain. Life has been pretty good since then.

The other day I had another realisation and decided to add two more to this small list - hurt and disappointment. I realised both come from a space of feeling like a victim. There's no point being extra sensitive to hurt (which can be used to manipulate or to anesthetise ourselves against any learning) nor is there any benefit in being disappointed (which shows that one is tied to some idea of perfection which will not allow us to see reality as it is and flow with it.

The amount of time I wasted being hurt and disappointed is crazy and I am feeling rather stupid about it all.Good for drama and nothing else.

Time to grow up and move on. Travel light! Drop hurt and disappointment.  

Poacher - Web Series


Based on real life incidents, on 'Operation Shikaar' when the Kerala Forest Department went after poachers who had killed elephants for ivory. The poachers had links everywhere - from Japanese and Korean gangs to local networks, running a billion dollar industry. In the web series Nimisha Sajayan plays a DFO on a mission who is aided by an IT Engineer and a wildlife enthusiast, Alan. They work under the guidance of an ex-Intel man. 

Poacher is directed by Richie Mehta of Delhi Crime fame (and of Amal fame, a movie I remember watching in the early days of OTT and which for some reason still remains clearly etched in my memory).

Loved it.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Laapata Ladies - Movie

 Absolute cracker. Watch immediately. Loved it.

Two young brides with their ghunghats covering their faces get mixed up and the rest of the film is about what happens after - a journey that touches upon an amazing number of subjects and themes with a feather touch! Ravi Kishen is brilliant as the cop! 

Way to go Kiran Rao. Brilliant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Thought for the Day - The Child, Adult and the Parent

 Every once in a while we slip into these roles - adult, parent, child. As adults we behave more childishly than any child i.e. we put up walls, talk rationally, keep emotions under control, be more transactional, watch out for oneself first and not make mistakes that can come back and bite you. As a result we do get a wary version of an insecure person who is trying to be safe and perhaps 'smart' (as in taking all the benefits minus the responsibility or the work!).

When we do behave like children (or like the child) we are perhaps behaving more spontaneously and being more vulnerable than the more sanitised version of being an adult. When we behave like a child however we do put ourselves out there without being 'smart', without thinking of the pros and cons, of benefits etc. It is a version where the child can ask for the moon, for irrational things. Once again without responsibility, without any work, and perhaps no thinking about benefits. Just an 'I want..'

The parent is stuck with being responsible and unfortunately also has to put in the work of placating the child. One cannot do this as an adult because there is no benefit involved in this transaction. Its a losing transaction actually and can only be done for love - like a parent. So any adult looking for an adult relationship will quickly tire of the 'child' because they do not want to 'take care'. 

In such scenarios any relationship where the child pops up in an adult, can put the other adults under strain, especially if the child in the adult does not know the line. The line can easily be crossed if the adult-child behaves like an irritating juvenile who only wants more and more - without any responsibility. This would in all likelihood make other adults quickly get bored and tired because no one wants a cry baby under the guise of being spontaneous or child like.

The solution to this - find a leadership position and figure where you want to be - adult, child, parent. What do you want? Take responsibility for it. Find the line. If you're unsure, stay within the line. A boring adult is preferable to an irritating child!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Some Nice Feedback - Department of Dance

Received some nice feedback from a student VM. It's always good to hear good feedback which make sit all worthwhile.

"Hello Sir,  I want to acknowledge  to you that your classes  have an impact on each one of us . Every  quote, statement formulas  and exercises are the essential life skills for a happy,  efficient and purposeful living. You have a wonderful gift  of empathy which we see in the way you talk, listen and Interact. I see that these kind of classes  should be a part of our curriculum much earlier from school would give a proper understanding  and direction to the innocent young minds. It is visible  how each one of us are opening up more ,  understanding ourselves and the way we are with others. This class will be the best one to take as a parting note."

Premalu - Movie

 2024. Malayalam.

One of the cutest films I have watched in many years. Starts off with an Engineering college farewell where our hero Sachin realises that he has not expressed his love to the love of his first year. When he does, she rejects him. His UK Visa gets rejected too and he comes to Hyderabad with his friend to join GATE coaching. Meets cute girl, falls in love, twists and turns, funny scenes and it all ends well.

Loved it.


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Fire Bird - Perumal Murugan

 'Fire Bird' is translated from Perumal Murugan's original work in Tamil 'Aalandapatchi' (a mystical bird in Tamil). The story is set in interior Tamil Nadu and courses through a month's time in the life of a small farmer in Tamil Nadu.

The story begins with Muthu and his man Friday Kuppan taking their bullock cart in search of a piece of land to buy. As the story unfolds it is revealed that Muthu is the youngest son of a farmer's family that has recently divided up its land along the five sons. Muthu, the youngest gets a raw deal, and when things go from bad to worse, his wife moves out of their land and gives Muthu an ultimatum to sell that land and buy a new one. The travails of the young Muthu who has hitherto not been exposed to dealing with the outside world, and his search for the perfect piece of land with the able and aged Kuppan, makes for the rest of the story.

Murugan describes the life of a farmer and his many skills and understanding of soil, the land, trees, creatures that live off the land, water, seasons, weather, people, practices, processes, food in a detail that amazes you. When he takes you on a detour into the life of a toddy tapper or a tree climber he treats you to a lesson in when to climb a toddy tree, how to climb, how to hide the produce from the police. And when he takes you into the details of how to deal with people in a hostile village when buying their land and keeping the money safe through the process its a lesson in people management and how to assert oneself without spoiling relations. The harsh and coarse language used by the men and women, the constant insults and sexual innuendos, are real -  and one wonders what reason they had to be so harsh. But nothing was done without reason. The way they divided the property, the role of women in appropriating more for their own family, the conspiracy of the older brothers to gain more and in their greed going past all limits of propriety as he molests his younger brother's wife in a bid to get rid of them. The way the mother and the older brother's wife side with the older brother saying that its no big deal also shows the gender politics - always coming down to money. Greed.

How Muthu and Kuppan finally negotiate and seal a good deal, how he brings his daughter and an old paati to help him, and how the rocky and barren land slowly offers hope in every square inch is the story. The term 'Fire Bird' is what Muthu's fiery wife Peruma's personality signifies. 

Perumal Murugan's novel is a how-to book of how one must go about while dealing with family feuds, while buying land, how to overcome seemingly humongous obstacles with grit and commitment and by using whatever resources one has. How much ever the detail frustrates at times, it is still compelling reading as in every act their is a thought, a lesson from nature. One can only marvel at the wonderful translation by Janaki Kannan because even in the translation I can detect how difficult the original language must have been. After 'Pyre' and 'One Part Woman', this is my third Perumal Murugan novel and its much more layered, subtler and beautifully woven.           

Manjummel Boys - Movie

 2024. Malayalam.

Based on a true story about a group of boys from a place called Manjummel who go to Kodaikanal on a holiday and find one of their friends missing in the notorious Guna caves. The group stays back despite locals and authorities telling them that there is no point hoping for their friend's survival. One of the boys Siju David volunteers to go down the deathly caves when the firemen refuse to help, and actually manages to rescue his friend in a death-defying operation.


Le Femme Nikita - Movie

 1990. French.

Starts out crazy with a street gang looting and killing cops in an armed robbery. The one girl who survives is taken into custody, her death faked and made into a state weapon to kill people. Superb action! Anne Parillaud is brilliant as Nikita.