Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Case of the Missing Servant - Tarquin Hall

 Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri is an interesting Delhi-based character with an interesting family and bunch of assistants. His main people go with code names such as Tubelight, Handbrake, Facecream while he himself goes by the name of Boss. His secretary however is Ms. Elizabeth Rani and does not remind you of Della Street at all. He travels in his ambassador, is scared of flying and loves his food.

Vish Puri is contracted to find a maid servant who goes missing by a man who is her master. Shortly afterwards the master is arrested on charges of raping and murdering the said missing servant. A badly mutilated body is also found. Vish moves quickly to Jaipur, does his investigations, plants his people in achieving this near impossible task of finding a person named Mary with no other info. At the same time, Vish is also contracted to check the character of o young MNC executive who is engaged to a an ex-military man's grand daughter. On a third front there is a shooting incident on Vish which he escapes.

All in all, a fine roller coaster in Delhi and Jaipur, interesting characters with their back stories. Tarquin writes in a leisurely, unhurried manner and takes time to describe all the characters and their quirks so you feel like you know them. Much better than some of the two dimensional characters I have met in many books. The mystery itself was not as interesting or gripping as I would have expected and Puri finds important clues rather easily. But since you like him, its not much of a deal to stay with him and his delightful bunch as they go about unraveling the mystery of the missing servant (and other side stories).     

Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Teacher's Lounge - Movie

 2024.German. Oscar contender.

The story begins with an investigation into a series of thefts from the teacher's lounge. The investigation comes to a class which is being taken by a new teacher who is passionate about her job, about student's welfare and rights and also their development. When the class leaders are pushed to reveal the names of suspects they indicate names under pressure, supported by the new teacher. A young immigrant boy is unfairly suspected of being the thief.

While the teacher investigates on her own she identifies the thief through a piece of clothing that comes into the frame of her computer video. It starts a whole new series of mini drams - the suspect is staff - and she turns hostile and threatens to sue, parents turn hostile and most importantly her star student who is the son of the accused turns hostile. How a potentially messy situation is then slowly resolved by the teacher who sticks to her principles and protects the boy - and in the end, seems to redeem him.

Very nice. Intense. The school as the microcosm of society as one reviewer said. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Half Love Half Arranged - Itisha Peerbhoy

 'Half Love  Half Arranged' is about a young lady Rhea (30) who is unmarried. Her best friend Tisha is married though despite not being a looker or anything. Rhea has two younger sisters Pia and Sia - the former married and the latter a lesbian which she brings out of the closet at an opportune time.

Rhea works in an IT company, has a BFF chap called Arf, a couple more girl friends, and a roving eye for eligible males. Throughout the book her quest is to marry - be it through her own efforts or those of the aunty who fixes marriages. First encounter is with Vyash I think, a married and on verge of divorce friend of her younger sister I think. They profess love for each other have sex and then he trails off into the background. Then comes a super-sexy dude called jay who is Sia's girl friend's brother with kleptomanical tendencies. Again after some good sex he is found out and send packing.Marriage bureau aunty finds hot and possessive Mazher who is most good looking but slow on the romance and sex business so he gets nowhere and gets dumped. Enter arranged boy Sid from America who is kind of sweet but not before the twist in the tale which is about BFF also getting a hint of love and sex before he decides he is not good enough for her.

The half love and half arranged bit comes as a twist. Guess who is the lucky guy? Vyash comes back as an added element.

Itisha has a nice, fun style of writing and is one of the few Indian writers who I feel can write the sex scenes confidently. The characters are goofy and interesting, generally partying, getting drunk, getting laid and stuff like that which I know little about. I think this has been made into a web series because I found a series by the same title. Going by the looks of it Itisha has more coming up. 

I am having fun reading books off Anjali's shelf. This was the fourth in recent times.  

Immanuel - Movie

 2013. Malayalam. 

Mammootty stars in this Amol Palekaresque feel-good, middle class family drama about a middle-aged guy working in his friend's publishing house (a losing cause), loses his job and then restarts life as an insurance salesman who lives by his principles. Fahad Faasil is the profit driven boss and Reenu Mathews is the wife (interestingly she also works as cabin crew in Emirates apart from acting). 

Nice and warm.


DJ Tillu Square - Movie

 I am totally in love with this character. Only Sidhu J can carry this character off perhaps and it is as entertaining as the first. We have seen so many quirky characters like Mr Bean or Austin Powers and others but DJ Tillu and his gang is another level. Speaking his mind, wearing his heart on his sleeve, coming out trumps in the end is all par for course for DJ Tillu.

Loved it. Never laughed so much in a movie in recent times and that itself is worth it. Another bonus, that Mallik directed it.


Monday, April 22, 2024

My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

 It really is a year of rest and relaxation that the narrator takes. Recovering from her father's death due to cancer and her mother death soon after due to alcohol and perhaps drugs, the young lady who has graduated from college and has a job in an art gallery decides to live a year of rest and relaxation. She has money from her parents, no relatives and in her state of mind, a year off appeals to her.

Helping her on her journey to rest and relaxation is her therapist or psychiatrist Dr Tuttle who prescribes her whatever she wants. The narrator takes the medicines in increasing doses and shuts herself off from the world after quitting her job in rather dramatic circumstances. Her routine at home is watching stuff on her VCR. The one main obstruction to her rest and relaxation is her friend Reva who drops in every now and then with her mundane issues like -  her married boyfriend, her not losing weight, not having enough money and looks etc. Anyway, stuff happens until the narrator decides to up her rest and relaxation through prescription drugs while also becoming an art piece.

The best part of the book is the last page when we realise that it is going to end. Actually no - the best part is when the terror attack of 9/11 happens and she knows two people she knows work in that building - her ex-lover Trevor and Reva. Trevor escapes - being in Hawaii on that day while Reva does not. Our narrator keeps watching footage of a young woman jumping off the building and believes it to be Reva.

Well, there are ways to spend your life and this is one such.     

Thought for the Day - Save Park, Builder Zulm Nahin Chalega

 I go or a walk in Czech Colony which is close to my place, has quieter and longer roads which are tree lined with far less traffic than my colony. Apart from regular walkers, some construction activity, a gym, my fav Benne Dosa place, the new mall and so on I also see the small quiet parks lining the Sanathnagar side of the colony. 

Quiet, little parks with benches. Not used as much which is a pity. I don't think we use our parks well. But they are nice, quiet oases.

The other day I saw this flex banner on the park with a message 'Save Park, Builder Zulm Nahin Chalega'. Opposite the park was a huge complex being built. I suspect that the builder must have cast an eye on the park.

Looked like its straight out of a movie. I hope they save the park. And I hope builder zulm is opposed and handled.

The more I see such tiny protests, the more I feel hopeful. I can see how a few are trying to seize power, pushing or misleading the general public or just steam rolling over them and how the majority simply stays silent. But whoever put that banner gives hope to those small voices, pushes back the ones who are pushing their nefarious agendas which normally get through because there is no protest.

That banner is good enough for a start.

We need more such small protests. Just to speak up. Quietly. Slowly. But say it. One point for the right cause is worth ten from the opponents of truth and justice.

I'll save this up for another post but for the present - save the park.     

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt

 I found this classic in Ajji's collection in Pune. It looked like a slim, easy to read book and I picked it up. I have no idea when it was bought but the paper was so brittle that it would break into pieces when I turned them. I glanced through it, picked up the key point from each chapter and put it away carefully. I doubt if any one else would be able to read this any more.

Interesting concepts like 'The Broken Window' (when some lumpen elements break a window is it good or bad for the economy - it's bad unlike the popular concept that was s good for the economy), 'The Blessings of Destruction' where he states that though some see endless benefits in enormous acts of destruction - it is a fallacy which confuses need with demand. Most of the good economic results which people attribute to war are really owing to wartime inflation. He says that the belief that a genuine  prosperity can be brought about by a 'replacement' demand' for things destroyed or not made during the war is a palpable fallacy.

In 'Public Work Means Taxes' he says that a certain amount of public spending is necessary to perform essential functions but to give subsidies and hope to get something for nothing makes no sense. One cannot invest projects for creating employment because for every public job created by the project, a prvate job has been destroyed. On 'Taxes Discouraging Production' he says the larger the percentage of the national income taken by taxes the greater the deterrent to private production and employment. When the total tax burden grows beyond a bearable size, the problem of devising taxes that will not discourage and disrupt production becomes insoluble.

In 'Credit Diverts Production' he says a fundamental thing - that credit is not something a banker gives to a man - credit is something the man already has against which he gets the loan. Government funds all come through taxes. In 'The Curse of Machinery'he proves that on net balance technological improvements, economies and efficiency do not through men out of work. On the other hand machines, discoveries and inventions increase real wages. He says that disbanding beaurocrtas is a good idea because for our money we pay through taxes we get nothing in return. He says its better to have easy going loafers as beaurocrats than those who actively disrupt the production. He says when we can find no better argument for the retention of any group of office goers than that of retaining their purchasing power, it is time to get rid of them.

The economic goal of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort. On subsidies he says that  all subsidies are paid by someone and by no method does a community get something for nothing - which means subsidies are being paid for by someone. 

'A power over  a man's subsistence amounts to a power  over his will.'

The best way to raise wages is to raise labour productivity. The more the individual worker produces, the more he increases the wealth of the whole community. Real wages come out of production, not out of goverment decrees.

Makes sense. I am in agreement. Create real value.    

Friday, April 19, 2024

Sri Rama Navami - Jai Sri Ram

 In the olden days Sri Rama Navami was a holiday. We'd do some small puja perhaps and some people went to the temple. Panakam was had. It was a quiet affair. Just like Ganesh Chaturthi was. Or Hnauman Jayanthi was. Or Durga Puja was.

Our colony

Temple complex 

I noticed a huge tent coming up in our colony community hall and wondered what the occasion was. Normally the Ganesh puja is a big affair but this time it extended to Sri Rama Navami. Flags came up - by the hundreds! The tent itself must have had about 50-60 flags. Every second house had one or more flags. I was amazed at this fervour. 

The slum

Further down the road the slum behind the colony had as many flags. Including one in the Ambedkar Yuvajana Sangham. I wondered if the Ambekarites knew of Ambedkar's stance on Hinduism. Most likely they would not know. It would be a big thing if they knew a bit about Ambedkar. A bit more about Sri Ram.

But flags do that. 

Massive scale

Food preparations

I saw one man sitting by his scooter tying the flag to his scooter. Further down I saw a huge pandal in the temple complex with hundreds of flags again.

Out in Czech Colony they shut out a road and put up a huge pandal. On the cross road they set up a huge kitchen. That entire stretch of road was filled with the flags. People were dressed out in their best. Fod was cooking. An important spiritual man Chaganti was coming - as Chief Guest.

Even our garbage truck guy got inspired - luckily no one got offended by this


I never saw such fervour before for Rama Navami. Is it because people are suddenly more religious? 

Whatever it is  - Jai Sri Ram. And hopefully follow his great lessons and virtues.

Thought for the Day - The Perils of Making a Livelihood

 One of the things I cannot miss on the road are photo ops like this - two ladies sitting dangerously close to the edge of the auto, guarding the produce and perhaps also hitching a ride. One of them looks exhausted and appears to be closing her eyes. I wonder what will happen if she loses her grip and falls. Another unfortunate, forgotten story perhaps.

Don't miss Dhoni in the background!

Another one

I remember another such sight - a young kid sitting on the back of a motorbike holding a bunch of chairs stacked one upon the other - again head resting on the chairs as much for support as for rest. 

Boy holding chairs and sleeping in them

Or this guy who is safeguarding the water bottles hanging on precariously.

Safeguarding the waterbottles

Life goes on. 

Elvis - Movie

 2022. English.

Narrated from the point of view of Elvis's manager Colonel Parker, who many felt exploited Elvis, the story recounts how Elvis grew up in poverty, in black neighbourhoods and picked up music and performance from there. It was racially divisive times but Elvis sticks to his music, his style (which was considered vulgar and not fit for white masses consumption) and makes it. How his life changes and he becomes a star dependent on drugs, sex while fighting loneliness - until his sudden death at 42 - is the rest of the story. Colonel Parker himself is fighting a gambling addiction and a mysterious past. 

But it leaves you with a message - Elvis was what he was because he was devoted to his craft. Despite his exhaustion and ill health he gives his final performance 'Unchained Melody' his heart and soul. I like these little insights into the lives of these stars.

Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker is brilliant. Just as Austin Butler as Elvis is.

Very watchable.


Bombay Balchao - Jane Borges

Jane Borges is a Mumbai based journalist who writes for Midday and co-author of 'Mafia Queens of Mumbai'. In this book she explores the life of a Goan community in Bombay - and does it in true Goan style. What it is don't ask - you gotta feel it.

The setting is Cavel, a Catholic neighbourhood somewhere near Bandra I am assuming, where a bunch of Goan families live. The Coutinho's - Annette and Michael - grab much of the screen space. Pretty Annette is someone who sways this way and that, listening to her heart a lot more than she should and perhaps gets away because of her looks. Her near-betrothal to handsome Joe Crasto from Mangalore (not seen by the Goans as belonging to the same pedigree) is marred when she lusts after the drunken dance moves of the less qualified and who we later find out abusive alcoholic Benjamin. Michael marries Merilyn and since his kids are away in Canada strikes a friendship with Ellena who never married. We have the heroic fireman who dies in the explosion of the ship in Bombay and his son who moves from his aspirations to become an artist into a crossword solver of repute. Not to forget his mother who does everything to keep the home fires burning including selling hooch during Prohibition by carrying a tube filled with the liquid. They live and they die, drink and make merry or cry, fight to retain their houses through the Rent Act and their identities that are gradually getting diluted and merged.

They are delightful characters, full of life and verve, opinion and personality, made even more quirky thanks to Jane's wonderfully lyrical writing style. Something about the way she writes makes you want to keep on reading - characters are so much more interesting, situations funny and tragic. When I read some books I feel like visiting the place where it is set. Cavel is one such place - off D'Lima street. And hopefully get to eat some sarpotel and balchao there as well.    

Last Resort - Abhinav Ramnarayan

 Ram is a friend of mine - a fine cricketer and writer, and a singer and mostly a wonderful human being. When he told me his son Abhinav, a journalist in the UK who writes for financial papers, is churning out murder mysteries by the dozen I was keen to read. Ram send me Abhinav's first book 'Last Resort' and I started on it right away.

For a first book its a commendable effort.

I liked that he started off saying that its a Harsha Devnath thriller which sets you up for more from Harsha. It means that the writer is also invested with the character which is always a good sign.

Anyway, Harsha is back from London where he works as a journalist, to meet his old college pals in a reunion of sorts. The venue is a resort, Pipal Resort (that I remember the name of the resort indicates that Abhinav did something well). I also remember that the town is Ramanapettai and the resort is up in the hills. Owner of the resort is the once flamboyant Azhar and other invitees are Maya, Azhar's ex who has a thing for Harsha and one other chap who I fail to remember. Pretty soon there is a murder, a dalit woman is raped and murdered, and the police activity around the resort scares the guests away.

While his romance with the much married Maya is brewing, Harsha's investigative instincts take over and he doggedly pursues the cause for justice and truth - at great peril to himself (and Maya). The village and gender politics, caste and land politics are all covered well in a layered fashion. Abhinav also introduces the reader to rural Tamil Nadu/Andhra and makes it come alive. 

Abhinav keeps the tone fun and humorous, as it should be between college friends. The way he built the main characters is commendable and pretty soon we are journeying with Harsha and Maya and feeling for them. They are believable, credible, likeable and we would like to see more of them. The murder mystery kept me interested right till the end.

A fine debut indeed. But then Abhinav has apparently written four more novels since this so I can only imagine how good he must have become as a writer.  All the best Abhinav and hoping to get my hand son your next soon.

And thanks Ram, for introducing me to Harsha Devnath and his creator.    

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Anjali - Happy Ambedkar Jayanthi

 Anjali read Yashica Dutt's 'Coming out as a Dalit' and decided to write an article which she posted on Dr Ambedkar's birthday. Here it is.


Eid Mubarak - Shukriya Shaukhat

 Ranjan introduced me to Shaukhat a few years ago. 'Terrific guy,' he told me. 'Excellent plumber. Great work ethic.'

I called Shaukhat. He speaks less. Politely. Minimally. 

Eid Mubarak

When he came I could see that he had a kind face, round, bearded, compassionate yet watchful eyes, dressed in loose clothes - kurta and pajama. His skull cap. Clean and spotless. He has this unobtrusive manner of all professionals, slides in and out without for a moment making you feel uncomfortable.

He quickly sizes things up, comes back and fixes them. He uses his own methods to fix them, always keeping our interests at mind. He buys stuff with his own money most times and charges later. And his pricing is such that we end up paying more.

Over the years I have been calling him for more than just plumbing works and he delivers each time. Nothing is below him. Perfect delivery each time.

I have started sending 'Eid Mubarak' greetings to all my service providers - Shaukhat, Feroze (the newspaper guy), Ashfaq (the netting guy). Some respond. Some do not.

Shaukhat always responds with a Shukriya saab.

And then he went one better. He started wishing me on Hindu festivals. Very cute.

This Eid, I was napping in the mid afternoon heat when the bell rang. Shaukhat was there - a plastic bowl in hand with sheer khurma. 'Eid mubarak,' he wished and went away. I was too dazed to respond.

It was lovely. The best sheer khurma I ever ate.

Thanks Shaukhat. Eid Mubarak.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Minus 31: The Nagpur Files - Movie

A movie set in the second wave of COVID when people died for lack of medicines and stuff. The protagonist is a young cop, rebellious and foolhardy but heart in the right place. A murder investigation turns into something big - how people take advantage of every calamity.  Its an interesting screenplay, with some weird quirks to each character - entirely believable. Rucha Inamdar was perfect as Preksha Sharma, the young cop. Something about her that makes the movie quite watchable.


Sunday, April 14, 2024

Thought for the Day - Defuse, Don't Fuel

 Inspired by the book 'The Anatomy of Peace' I thought that most times when our hearts are at war, we fuel an existing circumstance.

Instead, in our own best interests, we better defuse the situation if we want to make progress and resolve the conflict.

An awareness helps - to identify if our heart is at war with the other, and then, an active intention and action to defuse the situation and not fuel it further. It normally comes out as words, actions. Resist. Desist.

Then, communication is possible. Then once can talk and listen, and decide properly.

Mahakali - An Amazing Dance Show by Prof Anuradha (J) Tadakamalla

Easily the most engrossing dance performance that I have seen so far, 'Mahakali', conceived, choreographed and researched by Prof Anuradha Tadakamalla, stood out to me for its power, beauty and grace. I am an absolute amateur in matters of dance and can only go with what I see, hear and feel and this is what I felt. So moved and engrossed was I that I had to tear myself out of my chair when I had to leave.  

Prof Anuradha invited me last time they had performed (in December if I am not mistaken) I could not go for some reason but this time I made up my mind to go and watch it in Ravindra Bharathi and am so glad I did.


Anusha and Vaishnavi

When I walked in, the show had just about begun and I could see Vaishnavi, Anusha and Katyayani on stage, followed by Praveen and Seenaiah, then Aparna and then Prof Anuradha herself. It was mesmerising and if I had not committed elsewhere would have loved to sit through the whole performance. Seenaiah was a revelation.  

Praveen and Seenaiah

I have taken some parts out of a pamphlet that describes the show to explain it some more. Here it is:

'Time, Kaala, in Vedic knowledge system is envisaged as a wheel, making it way through cycles of creation - Srushti (creation), Stuthi (sustenance) and Laya (destruction). This wheel is nourished endlessly by Shakti, the dynamic energy. This Shakti is Mahakali, the personification of space, time and death. This dynamic energy extends itself into the void, creating the universe with all forms of energy and matter, their structure from subatomic to intergalactic.

Aparna and Prof Anuradha

When evil in the creation is so powerful that imbalance occurs, those who posses unquenchable greed for power, for lust, for wealth become too many. They bring the universe into a state of anarchy. Shakti along with a multiplicity of divine forces within and around her descends upon the battlefield, transforms into Mahakali, her tongue enveloping everything, drinking every drop of the asuras blood.

Anusha, Katyayani and Vaishnavi

Along with Prof Anuradha, on stage were Katyayani Kanak, Vaishnavi, Anusha, Praveen, .Seenaiah, Aparna. Special mention to Shri DVS Sastry for music, lyrics, nattuvangam and jathis.

The show was presented by Kinnera Art Theatre on the even of Ugadi Puraskara Presentation. 

If you ever get a chance to watch 'Mahakali' don't miss it. I'd pay to watch this anytime.

Maidaan - Movie

 2024. Hindi. Ajay Devgn.

It's a biopic on the life of legendary football coach Syed Abdul Rahim, considered the best football coach India ever produced. Under his tutelage the Indian team rose from being nobody's to becoming champions winning the Asian Games in 1962 against South Korea. A Hyderabadi, a school teacher, a gentleman, Rahim saab was called maulvi saab.

The film drags on for 3 hours needlessly. It also shows the cancer part a little too excessively - ok we know he is not well but don't drive it in. In fact its the most I think I have seen a character cough in a film, certainly there is one scene where he coughs and coughs and some more. And they are all smoking all the time - why is it necessary that they smoke all the time? The Hyderabadi accent is forced - by adding a miyaan at the end of every other sentence it just does not work. Anjali noticed something interesting - Ajay Devgn is ending every scene by walking off, or exiting.

Priya Mani hardly looks a Hyderabadi wife, not looks, not talks. Her English learning skills are amusing but that's about it. In the film the character comes across as arrogant to begin with and slowly becomes very docile. It does not appear o be the real Rahim saab who was supposedly soft yet a strict disciplinarian. Also, the two commentators lead us through most of the film and have roles that are next to Ajay Devgn.

In its favour the football is shown well and that saved things a bit. Also, the fact that sports is thriving in our country despite administrators is once again brought out in this movie. Where are the right leaders?

But 3 hours? Could have nipped an hour off.    

Thought for the Day - Leave Others with High Expectations of Themselves

This post is inspired by these two ideas 

1) Was it Longfellow who said something like 'when you meet someone bigger than you leave them with a good impression of yourself. When you meet someone smaller than you, leave them with a favorable impression of themselves.'  


2) We often try to live up to others expectations of us. 

There are three things we can do in an interaction with others, especially those to whom our words matter

1) Leave the other with lower expectations that he or she has of himself
A person X is doing something with great enthusiasm and we put a dampener on it. 'You sing horribly', 'You are not good at that' or 'There's no future in dancing' or whatever. This is what we do when we criticise actively or passively. 

In this case the person X is feeling good about something and we actively lower his idea of himself by telling him our expectations of him. 'You are not as good as you think bro' is what we are saying.
We lowered his own expectations of himself - to ours. 
Result - He will lose whatever confidence he had and give up. We do that with children (easiest targets) and also with most others,
Definitely not a good thing so stop doing that.

2) Leave the other with no expectation
This is less harmful than the 1 above but it is not getting the best out of that person either. Here X is clearly not aware of how good he is, or is perhaps looking for some validation from the world. We see the spark in his talent, but then we see that there is a lot of improvement required. We compare him to the greats in the world in our mind - 'You are good but not be a Tendulkar' we think and prefer to leave him alone with no comment. 
We have lost an opportunity to help that person explore that spark. The lack of validation, mostly from someone that person looks up to, dampens his spirit and he loses faith in himself.  
We have not harmed him. But we have not helped him either.

3) Leave the other with a high expectation
This I feel is the best way we can deal with others. Someone does something creative, is passionate about something. You can see their eyes shining, the enthusiasm in their eyes and we know it is something they love doing. Even if they have done a bad job and you can see it, there is no harm is saying 'Brilliant stuff, you're as good as the best'. Suddenly X is thinking - Wow, they really think I have a spark, maybe there is something here. And that remains in them, as a little seed of hope that never dies. If you can actually back your statement with some process orientation, even better.
But those words will make that person feel like reaching up to be a better version of himself. They stand up whenever self-doubt arises. All you have to do is show that possibility.
Leave them with a high expectation and they will live up to that. 
Most of us do not have high expectations from ourselves. We are not even sure if we are good enough for anything. We seek validation.

An idea, a possibility, can change things. If we can show every one we meet a greater possibility of themselves, we are setting them up with something to live up to. If not for themselves, they will do it for you! It gives them something bigger to aspire for. Makes them feel good to know that someone thinks they are worthy of something. Big.

Some awareness, imagination, compassion and a few well chosen words and voila - you make every interaction a huge possibility for those who have met you.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Anatomy of Peace - The Arbinger Institute

 The byline is 'How to resolve the heart of conflict'. Arbinger Institute that helps resolve issues between people has also authored a bestselling book 'Leadership and Self-Deception'.

The book is about resolving the heart of conflict in organisations, individuals. It is told like a story - a bunch of parents come together to drop off their children who are addicts. The facilitators are an interesting duo - an Arab, Yousuf, and a Jew, Avi. The duo first deal with the parents who they feel need to be on the same page once the retreat for the youngsters is completed. In a two day workshop for the parents, they unveil the way to heal the space.

Change happens when one begins to try to hep things go right than simply correct things that are going wrong.  

The next concept is that of having a heart of peace and not a heart at war. They give the example of King Saladin who would see even his enemies as people unlike the barbaric invaders who would only look at their enemies as objects. Similarly parents, spouses, often deal their spaces not with a heart at peace, but with a heart at war. It is very easy to find out how we resent our own spouses or children when they tell us stuff to do. That's a heart at war.

Key then is - treat people like people and not like objects.

Most failures are not a failure of strategy but a failure of being.

Yousuf and Avi say that we actually collude - collusion happens when the pattern is that we actually invite the very things we are fighting against. How we see war and peace is the key. When we collude we get allies and make enemies of our own.

To make peace we must put an end to the violence within us first.

From Peace to War

We start with compassion - spouse or whoever - and then we lose trust and we commit a act of self-betrayal. When things go crooked within us thanks to our own self-betrayal we need to justify things (make them straight). When we justify ourselves we are saying that we are not responsible for how we are seeing and feeling.

Self-betrayal i when we choose to act contrary to our own sense of what was appropriate.

We horriblise the others -i.e.e we exaggerate the faults of others.

The four styles of justification are 1) better-than 2) I-deserve 3) must-be-seen-as and 4) worse-than

From War to Peace

Become aware and apologise. We come upon the powerful story of one of the kids running away - without shoes in the hot sun for a long distance, her feet bleeding. She is pursued by two young volunteers, Mike and Mei Li, who run after her, then offer to get her shoes, then offer their shoes and finally run with her without their shoes. Their act of joining her in her world helped her get out of her box. Mei Li also says that when she took of her shoes she wanted to do everything in her power to make the environment an invitation for peace.


We separate from each other at our own peril. Boxes are bout differences. When we want to heal we must look for out-of-the-box places ((incidents, memories, activities) which are not twisted by blame.  

After accessing the out-f-box place ponder over the challenges.

As questions -find out how you may have contributed  to the situation.

After you have recovered your sensibilities towards the other, act on them.

Spreading Peace

The Peace Making Pyramid is split into a small tip on top which is - dealing with things going wrong (akin to  the urgent things in Covey's box) and a large space below which has five things to do.At the bottom is to get put of the box - obtain a heart at peace. Then we teach and communicate. Then we listen and learn. Then we build the relation and then we build relationships with others who have influence on them. When we do these five things we are helping things go right which is akin to doing the 'important' things in Covey's matrix)

The three maxims we draw from this are 

1.most time and effort should be spent at the lower parts of the pyramid
2. the solution to a problem at one level of the pyramid is always below that level of the pyramid
3) everything depends upon our way of being


I loved it. It is truly transformational - choosing a heart at peace, treating people like humans and not objects, stepping out of the box and breaking the energy, committing to find peace, finding out how we have contributed to the space, acting on the new sensibility by restoring humanity to the space.

Fabulous. Thanks Vinod bhai.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne - Upendrakishore Roychoudhury

 Upendrakishore Roychoudhury (1863-1915) was an artist, musician and man of science (amateur astronomer) but it is his writing for children that is best remembered (says the blurb). Apart from Goopy and Bagha, we meet characters like Tuntuni, Majantali Sarkar and others. Sandesh was a magazine he started for children which was immensely popular - later continued by his son Sukumar Ray, who is a noted nonsense poet, and his grandson Satyajit Ray who made a film about Goopy and Bagha.

If the intro was fascinating, the stories are something else. He quickly takes you into a magical world of demons, witches, animals, kings, princesses and what not. And like all children's stories - there is betrayal, gore and cruelty - which seems to be compelling for children. 

Goop and Bagha remind one of Cacophonix as they sing and drum away as if their lives depend on it much to the discomfort of most humans but which fully seduces the demons. This story is outstanding. Many stories end up with fellows who do wonderful feats and are given the princesses hand and half the kingdom - seems the lottery of those days. The foxes who eat up crocodile babies was something else - and the crocodile doesn't even get justice. But I am sure that kids would have loved reading about it.


Thanks Vinod for gifting Anjali this book. Loved reading it. Clearly Upendrakishore was a genius, a man ahead of his times. In children's writing, these stories are among the best.  

Sesham Mike-Il Fathima - Movie

2023. Malayalam.

Fathima is a spirited young girl, a chatterbox who loves football and is a natural at football commentary. How she overcomes obstacles to become a football commentator is the story. Kalyani Priydarshan fully lives the role of Fathima and adds life and soul to the film with her unstoppable energy and vivaciousness.

Loved it. If you want a feel-good film, go for it.


Kannur Squad - Movie

 2023. Malayalam.

Based on the real life Kannur Squad, an investigation team formed in Kannur, we follow the squad of four as they hunt down two killers across India and finally catch them and bring them to justice. Mammootty is the head of the squad. Once we get past the initial part, it gripped me.


She Said - Movie


How two New your Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey uncover the Harvey Weinstein story starting a global MeToo campaign against exploitation of women at the workplace. The many exploited women who fear to come out against Weinstein because of potential law suits, shame and facing up to threats becomes a major block for the two journos but they slowly find small leads adding up to a bigger story. As more women start to come out big names like Ashley Judd join in and it becomes the MeToo campaign we all witnessed. 

Shows that the majority of the exploited keeps quiet - everyone can see whats happening but do not stand up. The perpetrator gets away with complete arrogance. The part about Trump denying his own adventures with women and then becoming President shows us what kind of a society we have become. What kind of leaders we have.

The moment when one of the two journos says 'I live in constant dread' is what is relatable. Just as the realisation that when someone stands up and opens the door, a flood comes in.

Stand up. You never know who might get inspired by your act.



Looking from Within - Sri Aurobindo and Mother

 I picked up this slim book in Pondicherry at the Aurobindo ashram. It made a lot of sense. As usual I picked up the lines that resonated with me.

'Happy indeed are we who own nothing. We shall feed upon delight like the radiant gods' - Dhammapada

In the presence of circumstances that are about to take place you can take the highest attitude possible - put your consciousness in contact with the highest consciousness within reach. You can be absolutely sure that in that case it is the best that can happen to you.

The right attitude not only has the power to turn every circumstance to advantage but can change the very circumstance itself. We can move from a place of fear to a place of seeking divine help t a place where we have the consciousness of divine presence everywhere around.

What we have within us creates the circumstances outside us.

Always circumstances come to reveal the hidden weakness that have to be overcome.

We should seek the company of the sage who shows our faults as if he were showing us a hidden treasure. - Dhammapada

To recognise one's weakness and false moments and draw back from them is the way towards liberation.  

 Learn to act always from within - from your inner being.

Its the spirit and consciousness from which it is done that makes an action yogic - not the action itself.

It is a mistake to over strain as there is a reaction afterwards.

Think of your work only when it is being done, not before or after.

If you want to get rid of something say that it is outside.

Concentrate exclusively on what you want to be, forget as entirely as possible what you do not want to be.

To keep steady one's aspirations and to look at oneself with an absolute sincerity are the sure means to overcome all obstacles. 

The more pointed the aspiration the swifter the progress.

Pain and discomfort come from a physical consciousness not forceful enough to determine it as a reaction to things.

You only have to remain quiet and firm in your following of the path and your will to go to the end. If you do that, circumstances will in the end be obliged to shape themselves to your will because it will be the divine will in you.

Cheerfulness is the salt of sadhana. It is a 1000 times better than gloominess.

There is nothing spiritually wrong in being glad and cheerful, on the contrary it is the right thing.

If you keep cheerfulness within you, you fight much better, resist much better.

A smile acts upon difficulties as the sun upon clouds - it disperses them.

There is a stage in sadhana in which the inner being begins to awake. The process goes like 1) a sort of witness attitude observing things but taking no active interest or pleasure in them 2) a state of neutral equanimity in which there is neither joy nor sorrow, only quietude 3) a sense of being separate from all that happens, observing it but not part of it

Detachment is the beginning of mastery, but for complete mastery there should be no reaction at all.


And many such wonderful gems. I loved the stuff about attitude and how it can change circs.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

DJ Tillu - Movie

 I have been wanting to watch this movie for a long time and finally watched it today. Its a crazy laugh riot with Sidhu Jonnalagadda excelling in the lead role. Brilliant stuff.

Whacky  humour - the kind I like. Easily made me laugh out loud 10-12 times which means its a hit.

Will I watch it again. Certainly!

And will watch the sequel directed by our good pal Mallik which is in the theatres as well!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Thought for the Day - Health Issues and My Take On It

Health issues really wake us up to reality. Until then, it is all stuff that happens to other people. My realisation came when I had a health issue some fifteen years ago. That changed my perspective on many things regarding health. Principally - that we need to work on physical, mental and emotional planes for faster healing.

Some of the principles I followed since that experience
1)  Firstly, get over the panic and the fear. It just takes you down a rabbit hole. There are doctors, hospitals and the best of medicine to help you. Even more, you have a great body which has a lot of healing abilities. Trust yourself and the system. 

Stop panicking and breathe.

2) Get a diagnosis done which means you go to a good doctor who finds out whats wrong with you - nothing like allopathy for diagnosis because they have the best diagnostic tools which pretty much tell whats wrong and where.

Allopathy is also the best for emergencies. Surgeries and other such stuff.

Don't reject allopathy because of the fear that they will fleece you. Use it sensibly. Get second opinions, find doctors who you trust. It's still the best option in many cases.

3) For anything that assists long term healing turn to alternate medicine - holistic stuff like ayurveda, homeo, Siddha, Tibetan...what not. They all work for different people. Homeo works wonderfully well for colds and coughs for me, Tibetan they say works brilliantly for cancer and general health, acupuncture they say works well for chronic aches and pains...whatever works for you.

This however is long term and supplementary so I used them all as a supplement to what my doctor said. I also kept him in the loop.

4) We are still at a physical level - but I feel healing must happen at an emotional and a mental level too. I remember that how much ever I followed what the doctor said there was always fear and anxiety and the doctors did not address that. In fact most of them did everything but assure me. 

So I decided to take help to heal my mental and emotional sides.

5) By mental I realised that my thoughts keep running away with the worst scenarios. Dying, long illnesses, what will happen etc. I remember reading (and then doing a workshop) on 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louise Hay which gave me a mental lifeline. That our thoughts can create illnesses and those thoughts can be reversed by thinking and feeling 'positive affirmations' came as a help from heaven. I used those affirmations like a mantra - writing them, saying them, so I can shut out these negative thoughts.

In fact for those who have a mantra, they can work as well as positive affirmations. In the best case we occupy our mind with something not scary and perhaps slightly hopeful. 

On the other hand I found those little connections she makes to our illnesses, possible thought patterns that led to it and the positive affirmation to replace those very empowering. I f I could create those circumstances, I could uncreate them. And even better, create something I want as well.

For example - my nephew who had a problem with his right wrist, the book says wrist issues are to do with movement and ease - the affirmation to heal then becomes 'I handle all my experiences with wisdom, with love and with ease'. His old pattern might have been to handle experiences with anger, with rigidity and perhaps went hard at life.  

Or my friend who has a slipped disc, the book says 'feeling totally unsupported by Life. Indecisive.' and the affirmation goes 'Life supports all of my thoughts, therefore I love and approve of myself and all is well.

Or another friend who had a stroke which the book says is about - Giving up. Resistance. Rather die than change. Rejection of life.' The affirmation being 'Life is change and i adapt easily to the new. i accept life- past, present and future'.

Or snoring which I know I do - stubborn refusal to let go of old patterns and the affirmation being 'I release all that is unlike love and joy in my mind. I move from the past into the new and fresh and vital.'

I sent my nephew a copy of 'You Can Heal Your Life'. Might just help.

So mentally, keep yourself occupied with good thoughts, replace negative thoughts, cut out free time where such thoughts can pop up.

Read 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louise Hay if you can.

6) Emotional healing - now here was something I needed spiritual help, from the universe perhaps. The  mental aspect I could do for myself but I needed to tune into the universe also. So I visited whoever had the power to heal me - from a friend's baba who said I would be fine and asked me to eat some curd with salt, to a yoga master Dhyanam Master, to Nithyananda, Patrick to anyone who could connect me to a higher power.

To get over my emotional lows I also found great advice in Norman Cousins book 'Anatomy of an Illness' where he laughed himself out of an autoimmune disease simply because he told himself that being in a good emotional state will heal him faster. He banished all the negative guys, the sad sacks from his room, shifted from the hospital to a hotel room where all he did was watch stuff on television that made him laugh or kept him happy. He cured himself.

I didn't do stuff as drastic as that but I wrote a lot, did not watch depressing stuff, kept sad people away and positive people closer, and tried to stay in as positive a state I could. Of course I read a lot of spiritual books, stuff on death and health, grew comfortable with the idea (so it was not something I was rejecting at all)

In the end, I got to a point where I was feeling like I did something to help myself, where I was accepting of all possibilities (and thereby not creating any resistance to anything - including allopathy or alternative or spiritual healers). I think that aided my healing and finally when we did a biopsy of my kidney, it was found that the damage was containable and we did a course of steroids and that was that.

It definitely made me more grateful for life, for every day I wake up. 

Anyway that's been my story and my experience. Everyone finds their own way of course but thought that if my sharing helps someone feel better, job done. To health and its teachings.       


Thought for the Day - Maybe We Are Overlooking Our Biggest Strength

 I was recently talking to a friend of mine - smart, intelligent, good at his work but stuck in his career with no projects and no money. We talked about how so many others are making money - people with far less intelligence and smartness and understanding.

Mallaiah's old cycle - he was a handyman 

Then it struck me. Maybe we do not know what is our strength. Maybe our ego makes us feel that we need to do something 'more' than what comes easy to us.

Are we trying to create a masterpiece without grounding our feet on the ground? And missing the whole point?

Consider for a moment that perhaps there is a skill that we have that we do not take seriously. It comes easy to us. We take it for granted. We indulge in it and throw it away.

And we chase something that catches our fancy. Something we may not really be good at but which we feel defines us (or our idea of us). So we try to make that very different novel, movie, work of art - something out of our zone - and ignore what we can easily to.

For eg - when i first started to write I was obsessed with the idea of being different, smart etc. So I wrote some stuff which never took off - too pretentious possibly. Until someone said - why don't you write a cricket story and I thought - hey, its easy. Lets me do it for a lark. Guess what, that got published, got made into a movie, and perhaps is my best work yet.

I overlooked my biggest strength, what I knew well, what was unique to me and chased something else trying to be 'different'.

I spoke to a few writers, musicians and read about some others. All of them said that what they considered their greatest work was a flop while what they did just for fun (or with ease) was a hit.

So to me it looks like my friend could do well to look at his entire skill set, his story and figure what his unique story is that he can tell, what his unique skill is that he can use to make money. It could be real estate, running a hotel, selling designs, teaching - something that comes easy to him that he is rejecting, overlooking. Perhaps that's where his fortune lies.

Perhaps that's what the other 'less intelligent' people did to be more successful.

Perhaps we could look at what gift we are overlooking what we are rejecting as 'not me' and accept it. Things might just change in our lives.   


Once More With Feelings - Jayanthi Jaisimha

I finally got my hands on Junie aunty's third major writing venture (far as I know) and her second solo effort after her delightful book 'Much Ado About Everything'. This time she comes with 'Once More with Feelings' and though I felt she tackled more serious stuff this time, she retained her child-like enthusiasm, whacky humour and her joy for life.

Her Preface is titled 'The Formality' which says it all. Once she is done with the formality (and fervent advise to read her first book to fill up any gaps) she traipses along gaily on whatever comes to her happy and cheerful mind starting with 'Homes away from Home' (a recent visit to Ram and Priya's house at Gachibowli and ends with naming all the 12 homes away from homes she has across continents), 'Falling Leaves' (a crusade against non-clearance of fallen leaves in her garden and how she finally managed to get rid of the pile), 'Delusions - Death to Birth' (as the title hints is a ponderous piece on old age, death, middle age, children - which goes backwards like Benjamin Button's life), 'Religion and Symbolism' (all about her fav god Shiva and the many symbols associated with him told in her usual jaunty and irreverent manner of course), 'A Touching Doggy Tail' (an adventure involving the rescue of a pup that got caught in a drain and the pain of sending it away).

Onwards to 'Fumigating Families' (about tracing her roots - many she says - and jumps into Sex and the child - child abuse and her own experiences as a child), 'Lighten Up - About Life' (actually about cleaning up her house when everyone was away which is one way to lighten up), 'Friendships and Best Friends' (and a fascinating commentary on Us and Them), 'Travels' (Singapore and Bali, old friends), 'Shining' (a nice recall of a few incidents where she looks at why we need to show we know, and why it feels good to be acknowledged - her 25 year reunion at Roshni), 'Groups and Eggers' (a nice one about the silent ones who egg us on) and so on.

And then we are led into 'Astrology and Past Lives' (her tryst with palm readers - she certainly beat the astrologers prediction that she would live till 68), 'Waalas and Waalis' (all the bais and boys who added spice to her life in the background and made it so fun - from ice fruit walas to kaam wali bais), 'Noises -Rats and Carpenters'  (on rats in the shelf and the art of carpentry and Bihari carpenters), 'Ownership vs Possessiveness' (starts with the concept of ownership and ends with enjoying yawning in bed), 'Death'  (a piece about Maya Anavarathan, an artist and a relative who passed on recently), 'Family Wedding' (Dhruv's wedding in Goa), 'The Travel Bug' (New Zealand with the Torvi family), 'Politics-Power-Propaganda', 'My Canadian Memories' (another lovely travel piece about her visit to Canada), 'Schools and Schooling' and 'The Endless End' where she says she will be back soon.

As always Junie aunty writes like how she thinks - and its so much fun to read her thoughts. Where does she get so much energy from one wonders - have never heard her complain or look at life with disappointment. The fact that she has retained or regained her child like mind is a tribute to her adaptability. Her resilience at wanting to make a change in the world through her writing or her personal crusades or wanting to get the Foundation going is what  I suspect gives her the energy to get up each day with a smile and a list of things to do. Certainly her sense of humour has helped her cope with the world that's changing so fast - much better than most of us. There is a lot of honesty, sometimes brutally so, which is what makes it funny and introspective, many little nuggets from her life that she reveals like thinking of Lord Shiva, Shirdi Sai Baba and MLJ before sleeping at night. With such candour and verve, one cannot help but love reading the book and knowing Junie aunty so much more. 

Fabulous reading aunty. Loved it. Reading your book is like taking a walk with you on one of those nice sunny days, stopping her and there - brilliant.  

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Secrets & Lies - Jaishree Misra

 This book has been with me for a long long time and for some reason i kept it. I had never read Jaishree Misra's books so that was an added reason.

The book took off like a shot - the old principal writing to her fav students to invite them for a reunion before her retirement. The twist - there was a death in the school of one of her students, her grandchild, who was not liked by this bunch of fav students. Doubts arise in the readers minds about how the girls might have bumped their new competition off - in looks, in intelligence, in charm and what not.

Then we dive headlong into the lives of four middle aged women - Bubbles (married to uber rich biz man in London), Anita (unmarried but having a successful career in media), Samaira (married and fat and not attractive to her husband anymore) and Zeba (film star who is a rage and a producer who promotes her). And not to mention a million brands - from shoes, to purses, to food, to furniture, to cars, to what not - we get a Karan Joharesque intro to the lives of the rich. The girls are a bit shocked and worried why their old Principal Lamboo (Mrs Lamb, a British woman who stayed back in Delhi) is asking them to come over.

Between building up their lives and flitting back and forth we discover that Lily (the dead girl) is actually Mrs Lamb's grandchild, born to her son born out of a wedlock, who turns out to be abuser no 1 which gives Lily not just the license to be nasty to everyone but also to top everything and make everyone jealous. Worse, Samaira's brother Haroon falls in love with her and she turns him down. By now we must have got the drift -everyone has an angle to kill her. Sami mostly because her brother kills herself. 

And when she proposes they kill Lily because she made her brother kill himself, they all agree and make plans on how to kill her. Turns out their words are enough and Lily is found dead. Lamboo finally tells them not to worry because Lily did not die because of them and they can all live happily ever after. Which they do.

But what about that intent to kill? That cold blooded planning? They are as good as the killers - even if it was suicide.

But somehow Jaishree glosses over that part and goes on to the relief the girls feel and the remorse at having judged her and the forgiveness and crap. Looked like she was confused a bit there. Anyway, I was wondering why I waded through 400 plus pages to read about four women without much of a character to interest me. 200 - 250 pages were good enough!