Friday, May 31, 2024

Thought for the Day - We Don't Really Know What We Are

 This thought came up in a discussion with a fried recently - how well do we know ourselves. Most of us have a low esteem of ourselves (which is why we either lie in our resumes or underplay them). Rarely do we find someone who has a good idea of themselves without feeling apologetic. It struck me that my resumes have generally not been able to capture me fully and when I look at the resumes of my students,I feel the same.

It triggered a thought in me. Before they write their resumes out I would have them do an exercise where they list every single big moment for them, every prize, every compliment, every achievement in their eyes, every participation without missing anything. Then I will have them write down every single thing that they feel is a weakness and have them write down the other side of the weakness - how it can be a strength. Once they are done with this exercise I will ask them to write down their resume.

I think its important for all of us to know ourselves as we are - and to accept ourselves in all our glory.  Not go around like frauds or thieves.

We are special, unique, beautiful. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Way of the Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman

 Mostly auto-biographical, 'Way of the Peaceful Warrior' is written by Dan Millman, a world class gymnast who, while studying at Berkeley College, meets this fascinating character that he calls Socrates in an all night gas station. Socrates takes it upon himself to lead Dan from his world of illusion to light. The book became a bestseller and was made into a movie of the same name. 

In their first meeting itself Dan realises that Socrates is no ordinary person as he suddenly moves from the ground floor to the top of the building inexplicably. Socrates, having captured Dan's attention, playfully teaches him many things, initiates him into ways of the world where one can live to their true potential without worrying about the rest of the world. His methods require Dan to give up on things he was used to - the kind of food, drink, women, sleep - and give it all up for a disciplined, monk-like life. Dan takes up the challenge and finds that he does become a better gymnast, but more importantly a better human. As always I have picked up some interesting lines.

I think Dan sums it up in his last chapter when he says - 

'There is no need to search: achievement leads to nowhere. It makes no difference at all so just be happy now! Love is the only reality of the world because it is all one you see. And the only laws are paradox, humour and change. There is no problem; never was and never will be. Release your struggle, let go of your mind, throw away your concerns and relax into the world. No need to resist life, just do your best. Open your eyes and see that you are far more than you can imagine. You are the world, you are the Universe, you are yourself and everyone else too! Its all the marvelous Play of God. Wake up. Regain your humour. Don't worry, you're already free.' 

'My name doesn't matter neither does yours. What's important is what lies beyond names and beyond questions.'

'Turn knowledge into wisdom. The lessons of experience are hidden.'

'You hold many facts and opinion, yet know little of yourself. First empty yourself. Learn how to read the wisdom of your body.'

'You understand many things but realise nothing. Understanding is the one dimensional comprehension of intellect. It leads to knowledge. Realisation is three dimensional - a simultaneous comprehension of the head, heart and intellect. It comes from direct experience.'

'Knowledge alone does not suffice, it has no heart.Life requires intense feeling and constant energy. Life demands right action if knowledge has to come alive.'

'The warrior acts. The fool reacts.'

'To get energy to survive the lessons ahead. You have to cleanse your body of tensions, free your mind of stagnant beliefs, and open your heart to loving kindness.'

''Take responsibility for your life as it is instead of blaming others, or circumstance for your predicament. As your eyes open, you'll see that your state of health, happiness and every circumstance in your life has been, in large part, arranged by you - consciously or subconsciously."

"Dis-illusion is the best gift. Dis-illusion is freeing from illusion.'

Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. But change is a law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.'

'Life is not suffering,; its just that will suffer it than enjoy it. Until you let go of your minds attachments and just go for the ride freely, no matter what happens.

'The brain is real, the mind is not. Consciousness, awareness, attention are not the mind. There is no use for the mind.'

'When you lose your mind, you come to your senses.'

''Anger is stronger than fear, sorrow.'

'Understand where your thoughts come from. Stress happens when the mind resists what is. Your mind is like a pond into which someone has just dropped a boulder. The ripples of your mind have nothing to do with you. Stop taking your thoughts so seriously.'

'Silence is the warrior's art - and meditation is his sword.'

'Meditation consists of two simultaneous processes - one is insight, paying attention to what is arising. The other is surrender - letting go of all attachment to arising thoughts.'

'Your attention must burn. Do or die!'

'Anger is a powerful tool to transform old habits and replace them with new ones. Fear and sorrow inhibit action. Anger generates it.'

'Focus your energy into building new patterns.'

'It's better to make a mistake with the full force of your being than to timidly walk around mistakes with a trembling spirit.'

'Satori occurs then attention rests in the present moment. It's the warrior's state of being.'

'Meditate your actions. Release attachment to the outcomes. There's no 'you'. In forgetting yourself you become what you do so your action is free, spontaneous, without ambition, inhibition or fear.'

'One must be rich to be happy. You are rich if you have enough money to satisfy all your desires. Know the difference between needs and wants. Full attention to every moment is my pleasure.'

'The secret to happiness is not found is seeking more but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.'

'Just keep your attention in the present moment. It is freedom from suffering, from fear, from mind. When thoughts touch the present, they dissolve.'

'For every strength, there is a weakness. For every weakness there is a strength.'

'The peaceful warrior's way is not about invulnerability but absolute vulnerability. A warrior's life is not about perfection or victory. Its about love. Love is the warrior's sword. Wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.'

'Embody what you teach. Teach what you embody.' 

'A warrior can only rely on the power of love, kindness, service - and the power of happiness. You cannot attain happiness; it attains you - but only after you surrender everything else.'

'A warrior is not something you become. It is something you either are, or not. The way  itself creates the warrior.'

'A warrior is happy without reason. Happiness is who you are.'

'Act happy, be happy, without a reason. Then you can love, and do what you want.'

'Feelings change -sorrow, joy. But beneath it all remember the innate perfection of your life unfolding.That's the secret of unreasonable happiness.'

'Remain ordinary and you can be useful to others.'


Lots of wisdom there. Thanks Vinod bhai. Another life changing book. What got me was the line about being ordinary, about giving your best without worrying about outcomes because the grand design is unfolding, about being happy for no reason, and the one about the laws being of paradox, humour and change.           

The Dictator - Movie

 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen is unbelievably good as he says the truth as it is and makes us laugh at the absurdity of it all. He plays a dictator Aladeen who rules this kingdom Wadiya and as dictators do he generally does as he pleases - bumping people off, making all kinds of orders and demands - but not having love in his life. Unknown to him his Prime Minister is planning to eliminate him and take over the oil rich kingdom.

There is a furore in the UN about the atrocities in Wadiya and calls to make him speak at the UN. He goes, but in the process he gets switched by the PM and captured. But Alladeen survives the attempt on his life and finds himself rescued by an activist with whom he falls in love. How Aladeen's change of heart reveals that he finds out he is a nice guy underneath and changes the constitution of Wadiya so it becomes a democracy - where he wins the election by a huge majority thanks to guns and tanks. He also marries his activist girl friend who reveals she is a Jew. Aladeen, true to his nature, orders her assassination, but we all know what happens to people who are ordered to be assassinated - they land up in New York!

Fabulous. This guy is a genius. Also saw that the music for the film seems to be composed by his brother. One hell of a family.  

Chupke Chupke - Movie

 1975. Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri. 

It's going to soon become my most watched movie at this rate. 

The other day, for want of anything better to do, Anjali suggested we watch a movie, and we thought since she had not watched it, we could give it a shot. And like always, it went through like a breeze. Full of fun and mischief. Glad Anjali could get a taste of movies like these.

Loved it. Will always be in my top 10 funniest movies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sagara Sangamam - Movie

 Watched 'Sagara Sangamam' with Anjali, something I had been meaning to for a while. It was released in 1983 and I remember the  wonderful music, the subtle love story between Kamal Hasan and Jayaprada and that crazy dance number on the well. What stayed with me was that the film was about art and the struggles artists face yet continue to stay on the path. It was beautiful watching it after so many years and so much more nicer to share it with Anjali.

What also struck me was how beautifully the story was woven and told. Two struggling artists, a dancer and a poet, live in the city eking out a meagre living while trying to pursue their art. Kamal Hasan as Balakrishna, the dancer, and Sharath Babu, as Raghu the poet,are perfect. While Raghu tries to balance his art with a pragmatic outlook at earning money, Balu seeks perfection and god in his art. Perpetually seeking he learns and perfects all dance forms to the extent he can without a concern about how he will live. 

Enter a rich patron of arts, Jayaprada as Madhavi, a song writer herself, who chances upon the passionate young dancer and promotes him. She gets him a big stage to perform which is lost because his other dies before that program. She promises to promote him and stay the course with him and that gives Balu renewed hope. 

They fall in love and he proposes to her when he is told that she was married and her husband had abandoned her three days after their marriage. Despite this Balu wants to marry her and she is willing, dreaming of a life in art - she writing songs, Balu dancing, Raghu writing poems - when her penitent husband returns. Balu does the right thing by her and his love for her by telling her she should go back to her husband who can take care of her better. Balu disappears from her life and becomes an alcoholic, taken care of by Raghu and his wife.

A dance recital of a young dancer is criticised by Balu. Turns out the young miss is our lady's daughter and she wants the kid to learn from the master and keep his art alive. Master has but a few days but he resolves to teach her all he can and he does - and in doing so keeps his art alive - though he dies at the end of the performance.

I loved it. Jayaprada looks hauntingly beautiful. The relationships between Madhavi and Balu is beautifully shown, the friendship between the poet and the dancer, the relationship between a patron and an artist. Loved it.     

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Thank You for Coming - Movie

 Bhumi Pednekar plays Kanika Kapoor (Kapoor khandaan ki Kanika) who earns the sobriquet of Kaandu Kanika (which sounded suspiciously like a word I thought was not appropriate). But this name she has earned thanks to her regular landing up in kaands. Over the years we realise that she is featuring in all sorts of kaands but is not able to achieve one major kaand - the big O.

Many women tell her that its not a big deal. Kanika finds out that she is perhaps not destined to find her O despite trying all ages, sizes, intelligences, sexes and decides to settle down with someone who does not look like he is capable of an O himself. Turns out that after a major drinking binge on her engagement day she finds out the pleasures of masturbation which she obviously was not aware of (though she claims to have had sex with a few men - now seems a suspicious claim). Only she does not remember anything of that night except that she had orgasmed. The search is on for the orgasm giver and they sift through the list of her ex bfs (who obviously know nothing about an O). Some major twists later she has this epiphany - the O was caused by herself. She is the source of all her happiness. Men are not required in this process and most men do not know enough about this stuff anyway (like her fiance who has an O or an E or rather a premature E upon finding an amorous fiancee climbing all over him early morning. The film actually picks up on drama quotient as her friends who till then have been talking liberally in terms of setting up sexual partners for her accuse her of 1) sleeping with husband 2) corrupting intelligent child by encouraging her to have sex with a porn cameraman in the making. Her carefree and liberal mom and her grandmom support her in her hour of need and it all ends well. We do not need men for the O and hey, men are actually messing up the O because they do not know the ABCs of the whole process.

I fully agree with the premise. Glad for Kanika and her ilk. Happiness is your own responsibility dears.     

Friday, May 24, 2024

Coming Out as Dalit - Yashica Dutt

Yashica Dutt is a New York based journalist who previously worked with HT and Brunch. She is the founder of Documents of Dalit Discrimination. 'Coming Out as Dalit' is the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar 2020. The book documents her life of hiding her 'dalitness' in India because immediately slots you; and shows how most dalits thinking of moving forward in the social or financial chain want to disown their dalitness and behave like a forward caste person.

Yashica writes about the burden and pain of hiding the fact that she was a dalit for most of her life. She recounts how her grandfather wrote the civil services to escape the burden and stigma of being a dalit, a bhangi, because education and a government job gave him the comfort of living life like other forward castes. However the price for progress or acceptance was that they had to blend with the forward castes and not let others know of their dalit status which would immediately attract discrimination - explicit and implicit. So for much of her young life, Yashica remembers trying to be like the forwards castes - clothes, birthdays, rituals, food - anything that gave her a cover from being seen as a dalit. Her mother realised the damage of the discrimination of being dalit and fought every inch of the way to provide good convent school education to her children and a good cover from the world. Yashica was bright and did well at school but the family also had to deal with her father's alcoholism which cost them in more ways than one - instead of supporting the family, the family had to support him despite the fact that he was a government servant. Her mother on the other hand (perhaps the one reason for Yashica being where she is today) put her through the best schools, bargaining, negotiating, working herself to the bone so that education can pull them out of the hole they were in. Mayo's at Ajmer, St Stephen's and another college in Mussoorie exposed Yashica to a network of high class contacts but also made her feel inadequate about her own double life. She brings that pain out very well as she writes about the subtle ways one feels the discrimination - socially, politically, financially. A job in a call centre, jobs in top newspapers give her the financial freedom to think beyond merely surviving, the realisation that she was as good or better than any and that this caste narrative of merit was flawed. Interestingly her foray into writing on fashion and other topics also exposed her to a life of the high societies, the aspirational stuff so far away for dalits. Until one colleague from work who went to the USA to pursue a course in Columbia University gave her the courage to try it out for herself too - despite having no money.

Her bosses helped - one with flight tickets and another with something else - showing that people are good and there will be no dearth of help when we set out on conquests beyond our reach. Her Professor waived her fees which reduced her financial burden considerably. But more than anything it is the essay she writes for her admission - something that truly is her story - that helps her to come to terms with her identity as a dalit. Writing about it to a foreign university gave her the freedom to explore her own identity without the fear of being ridiculed or looked down upon which could have happened in India. And while writing that, she experiences a freedom of stepping out of the charade, of accepting herself as she was, is. In a moment of truth, she hesitantly asks her colleague and friend if she could tell her a truth before she leaves for the USA (Columbia University where BR Ambedkar studied as well). Her colleague hears her double life story of being a dalit and laughs it off and says - so what's the big deal?  

Yashica intersperses her narrative with a short history of dalits, their past, the burden they carry today, her introduction to Ambedkar, to discrimination and how important it is not to buy into the narratives that society is quick to thrust upon them - about merit, status, about greed at taking up merit seats through reservation. She writes about those who proudly proclaim their dalitness and talks of the long way ahead. More than anything else, by writing this book as honestly as she did, she opens to door for so many dalits who are confused about their identity, whether to reveal it or to remain silent and hope to be mistaken for a non-dalit. Accept it, revel in it, she says. That's your identity. There's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact there's everything to be proud of.  

My father was a dalit. It took me years to know what I was because he never told us about it despite being a high ranking government official himself. It took me another three decades to understand what dalit means and what their history was. Like Yashica, my convent education and other social cover ups allowed me the comfort of not having to state my caste. Unlike most others who have to suffer the many daily ignominies of their caste.

Yashica dedicates the book to her mother and also to Rohith Vemula whose death once again brought to focus the discrimination that dalits face in India. Rohith, as is well known, was a bright scholar at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide protesting the discrimination he faced on the campus. Today he is branded a dalit where convenient, and at the same time has had the label taken away from him by the system, where convenient. Proves the point Yashica is trying to make.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Made in America - Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson writes about the informal history of American English in this 500 page book. Like all his books he researches a lot (authentically, unlike Dave Barry who just makes it all up and does not try to educate) and finds the funniest things in the truth. In his travel books its easy to find funnier characters and pieces of history but when you are looking at the work as a history of informal English you tend to get slightly academic - you can't miss out a word or two see.

Much of what I learned as history from this book is interesting reading. It is also stuff I found amusing but then its not eminently worth remembering. Just to look at the sheer amount of stuff Bill covers these are the topics - the Mayflower (ship that carried people over to America I think), how they became to be called Americans (by some mistake named after a less known chap called Amerigo or something thanks to a misinformed writer), becoming a nation, the revolution (languages, how some Indians knew English even then), the age of inventions(Edison and the bunch, patents, electrical appliances), taming the West (the myths about cowboys), the Melting Pot of immigrants (Italian, Irish, English, German so on), travel in America, eating in America (lousy manners, knives, forks), shopping in America (super markets, convenience stores, Selfridges), domestic matters, advertising (scary ads, inaccurate ads, unethical ads), movies (how one chap who wanted to find if all four legs of the horse go off the ground led to the movies), sport and play (how American football claimed so many lives, how baseball came in, war, sex (how they were  a sexually liberated bunch before becoming super conservative), Kitty Hawk (good info about the Wright Brothers), Space Age etc.

That's a lot. The chapter which I will read again because it made me laugh out loud is the one on advertising. Bill makes a case for the kind of advertisements that went on scaring people about how their stomachs would fall in if they did not use a particular product, how Eastman named Kodak out of a whim (just that it was easy to remember), how they advertised a brand of toilet paper because it would lead to lesser rectal problems. Anyway it made me laugh out loud.       

Monday, May 20, 2024

Stand Up Comedy - Aditi Gopinath's 'Love at First Citation'

Aditi is my student at the Department of Dance, SN School, University of Hyderabad. She is from Bangalore - a creative soul who has dabbled in copy writing, writing stories, dancing, and more. And now, to add to her impressive list of talents, stand up comedy.

As part of the 'Arts Management' course that I teach I generally ask students to  push themselves out of their comfort zone and do things that they really want to do - but are hesitating to. There were interesting responses from the group - learning to drive a car, going out of the campus alone, watching a late night show alone, taking certain courses with certain gurus, getting their dance school plan sorted etc. Aditi spoke about her desire to do stand up comedy as one of the things she would like to do and we egged her on to do her first show for the class before the semester ended. Though she was reluctant in the beginning she soon warmed up to the idea and took up the challenge. She agreed, followed up on it and fixed it on the date of the Arts Management final exam - May 15, 2024.

Aditi performing 'Love at First Citation'

Now writing comedy for a stand up act is not easy. I have not done it but I an imagine how difficult it must be to think up the jokes, keep them relevant, practice the same, overcome doubt and finally deliver before an audience who you are not sure will get your sense of humour. Performing before complete strangers is one thing but performing before your peers and teachers is certainly not easy. 

But Aditi did - fixed the date, and called. I had forgotten the date. I asked her for an hour's time to get to the University - the idea was to watch it live and I certainly wanted to. That's how we ended up at the Department to watch Aditi perform 'Love at First Citation - Jokes about Moving to Hyderabad, Academic Life, and More'  

Most of her classmates showed up - Renu, Anusree, Vismaya, Archiesmathi, Pavithra, Adhirsha, Reshma, Anupama. They took pictures and videos as Aditi launched into her performance. Aditi was pretty confident and nonchalant about it all - no signs of nerves as she took off. 

Anusree, Pavithra, Archiesmathi, me, Aditi, Vismaya, Reshma, Adhirsha, Anupama, Chandana, Renu

She spoke about life on the campus, the RTC buses campus and their vintage (of the Nizam's period), the self-help advise on the Ladies Hostel wash rooms, her research work (always thought MLA meant something political until she wrote her dissertation where she encountered a different MLA), her toxic relationships with the mess food (and her friend's rather casual approach to it), her best friend while doing her dissertation (Zomato/Swiggy) and so on. It was a funny, tongue-in-cheek capture of life on the campus - at once sentimental, nostalgic and funny. If I had not been present in the audience she perhaps would have taken a few shots at the teachers and the department which I am sure the audience would have loved but she can always add that in later.

Everyone laughed and had a good time from the word go. The jokes were relatable, accessible. Aditi also has this presence which makes you immediately smile and draws you in - something droll about her approach, something earnest which makes it seem like we are all on the same side and not that she is performing and you the audience, her poker faced delivery of jokes with a twinkle in her eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and laughed at all the jokes. Though we had earlier joked that we would all laugh even if the jokes were not funny, we did not have to; they were really funny.

For writing out the content so well, putting some thought into what the audience may relate to, for practising and performing and mostly for actually pulling it off as a challenge to herself, Aditi deserves a huge congratulations and a pat on the back. It's good stuff to tick off all these boxes and it shows great potential to me - in all that she does including stand up. 

We were there at her first performance!

After the show, I asked her how it was writing the content and she said she wrote out a few more jokes, cut out some which she did not think would work, aimed for 5 minutes but ended up with 15 minutes. Some jokes she was not sure would land, did. One joke we all laughed before the punch line so there was more potential there looks like. I shared my experience at writing humour - and how I fully believe what someone said - there's nothing more funnier than telling the truth. 

Fantastic. Good show Aditi. I'll share the link to the edited version soon as you send it.

We took a few pics and then we split. Chandana came over and said she got a job at Chirec along with Sudheera. So happy for them. I can see how their goals list is slowly getting ticked off.

Like Aditi's. Damn good.


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Travel Bug - Mumbai Diaries

 Off from Magarpatta at 9 and we headed to say hi to Jyo (short for Jyotsna) and Asha maushi - their house being on the Mumbai path. Jyo got a lovely brunch ready - sol kadi, parathas, tomato chutney - and we spent a good hour with them before hitching a ride with one worldly wise gentleman from Varanasi who had the air of someone who has seen everything. He had issues right from the way I would load the luggage - arre, aise nahin, appa jald baaz kar rahe hai - or stuff like that.

Anyway I was seated next to him and asked him about his journey - he had come from Varanasi some thirty five years ago and his uncle taught him to drive, goes home once a year, mainly in January when the weather is great and vegetables are fresh where he can get carrot for 5 rupees and other such details ( his eyes clouded over at the memory). 

So many like him work in Mumbai he said and have been working here for years - they earn, send money home where the rest of the family lives and tends to their small parcels of land. He told me about one accident that he survived, taught me how to drive in tunnels (hold the white line and go along it, don't look at anything else). Soon we were at Mumbai and were dropped off at Kalanagar.

Suhita was home and so was Miskil and Khayal. Some lovely lunch with rice, fried fish and fish curry, and I headed off to buy some beer with Kabir. Watched some movie - Shaitaan - and then crashed out. I can see a full bookshelf with lots of books, a TV which has some movies I have not watched and a nice place for long walks in the morning.

The little play ground in Sahitya Sahawas where I was taking calls - Sachin must have played here as a kid

Made a pact with Suhita to go on the morning walk and she was game for it. Mumbai is not as muggy as I thought it would be.


Walk around the Bandra area and the new Jio Drive In mall was nice. Breakfast, book reading, movies, good food, conversations, that's pretty much what happened the rest of the time. When we took a flight back on Sunday I was well rested and relaxed. I liked it.          

Travel Bug - Pune Diaries

 Back in Pune for a day and a half because the lack of our own car has freed us and we are ready to fly to distant lands - like Mumbai where I promised to spend some time with Suhita and Miskil. So the latest plan looks like stay over in Gauri's place (she is such a patient and wonderful host) and then head off to meet Chitra and check the house at Kothrud and leave for Mumbai tomorrow. Plan finalised we went home to Magarpatta, met cousin Chhaya who dropped in from Germany and caught up with her. Many were the good times we shared when as twenty somethings in the nineties, we all would hang around - Chhaya, Shubha, Parth, Milind and co - before we went our separate ways.

Raja joined us and we ended up having a beer and a good meal before splitting up. 

Next morning, fully rested, I went for my customary walks around Magarpatta and loved the colors of the trees and the leaves and flowers. We hired a cab and headed to Kothrud, got the house cleaned up, checked on Bahadur, called Shambhavi and hired Mahesh to drive us to Pirangut. Meeting Chitra was a bit sombre - Prashant had passed away a mere two months ago. We met Shashi maushi who is gradually forgetting certain things - close to ninety now and in good health otherwise. Meera and Anika were around.

On the way back Anjali and I dropped off at Durga Cafe to savour a sumptuous and large chicken sandwich and their delicious cold coffee which is a steal at 60 bucks. Walked back home, met the sprightly Shambhavi who briefed us on the latest goings on as President of the Colony. We wound up at 730 and hired Bahadur's services who has bought himself a new Wagon R which he uses as a Uber/Ola/Rapido cab. He works like a machine - up at 430 in the morning and works till late at night. 

Dinner over a drink, a nice chat about Gauri's school 'Aksharnandan'.

Gauri is one of the sweetest,smartest people I have met. Blessed with her mother's (Indu maushi, who passed away early) pragmatic approach to life, amazing ease with people, sense of humour and so many other skills, Gauri keeps herself grounded in a learning mindset always. She is very approachable, asks the right questions, is highly empathetic, has the ability to laugh (make others laugh and also laugh at herself). She is a huge proponent of Lousie Hay's work and conducts workshops of all types to empower those who feel the need to look within. Her school has now been in operation for over two decades and focuses on inculcating the right values. Several well known alumni already - the first batch has just turned forty! Radhika Apte is a known name of course. So is our own award winning architect Malay. With that twinkle in her eye, a generous, honest and open heart, an eye out for mischief, feet properly planted on the ground, Gauri is truly one of a kind. I enjoy my chats with her about education, people, books, life.

So, our stay at Magarpatta will end tomorrow morning and Mumbai beckons us. One last walk tomorrow morning and off.       

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Travel Diaries - Goa Day 3

Elections on the 7th so no booze which meant that the entire neighbourhood is free of tourists. They have wisely gone away or have decided to come after the 7th. This meant that the morning walk by myself was a lonely one and I chose to go left at Candolim and walk for  a good hour and a half. Post breakfast Pooja is all set for some adventure sport - para gliding and jet skiing. The resident adventurer Anjali also desired the same. Some online stuff was done and we were asked to go to Calangute by 1130 by the man who collected the money.

It was hot. We had only one bike and Pooja took that to head to Calangute with Shobhs which was a good 5 kms away. Goa does not have autos. Buses are rare. So you are rather stuck. Luckily Anjali and I found an auto who said he would charge 200 bucks for the short ride. We took it. I suddenly realised that I might have to pay another 250 for the ride back - I could as well have hired a scooter for 1000 bucks a day! But life has proven to me that I am not the most prudent with such decisions. 

At Calangute (we spotted Hotel Raman in the gully by the way) the concerned party was of the view that the sea was rough and no adventurous activity would happen. After chatting with the guy who took the money at Candolim and the guy who refused to deliver at Calangute we were asked to wait. We sat and sipped lemon juice at a shack named Om and watched a few tourists trying to get the shack guys to serve them beer - unsuccessfully. For a while a whole bunch of service providers came and sat around - was a no business day. They looked like a bunch of rough necks - and their boss was a lady. It reminded me of Madgaon Express!

We left after it was finally told with great finality that no sports would take place. Money could be collected at the same place at Candolim. We got an auto on the way back, collected the money, spent 1000 bucks going up and down and drinking lemonade, and returned with nothing else to show. Lunch at 'Taste of Goa' was very nice indeed!

Evening was Candolim beach. I liked the idea of just walking, chilling. Could easily get used to this. I can see that I am quite comfortable by myself, living the life of a monk.

This being last evening here, we gathered at Raja's place to polish of all beer, wine, rum, whiskey which had been stocked up. Post revelry the ladies decided to head to a place which had live music, while Raja and I headed to 'Taste of Goa' and the smiling waitress there who had promised to get some stir fried beef for us. Tomorrow we head back to Pune in respective flights - Raja, Anu, Prarthana and Pooja in an earlier flight and us three in a later one.     

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Travel Bug - Goa day 2

I was up early and though there were many hands that went up when I asked who was up for a walk only two showed up - Anu and Pooja. We walked to Candolim beach and turned left (right goes to Calangute) which is a much longer stretch of the beach. I enjoyed walking by myself after some chat with Anu and went almost to the end where the beach ends on to a rock. The other side of the rock and the civilisation is Dona Paula if I am not mistaken.

Morning walk - Pooja behind us

Anyway long walk ended after an hour and a half and i went back for breakfast at Lily Woods which is rather insipid fare. Anjali wanted to check out a rented bike but because she does not have a license she could not ride (I realised mine had expired as well) so Shobhs hired one. We decided to visit the Museum of Goa which was a few kms away. Anu and Pooja were up to it so we hired a cab for a most expensive 1000 bucks while Shobhs and Anjali went on the bike.

Pooja is the younger child, one year younger than Prarthana. Growing up in the shadow of Prarthana must have been interesting (I should ask her about it sometime) because Pratty is rather strong willed, and though well meaning, if you're the sort who will let it go, you will end up getting a little cramped. But the two of them get along really well for sisters and one can see a real bond of affection and love between them. Where Pratty is out there and dramatic, Pooja is restrained and deep. Both are blessed with the same felicity in arts and music - Pooja sings equally well. Pooja is a paradox in ways, soft and vulnerable, yet strong when she makes up her mind. She is ever ready to take the fight to the opposite camp if need be and is not the yielding type. You cannot push her. Again, she draws well, reads and I am sure whatever she cares to do, she does well. Having done her architecture she pursued her Masters in the UK and is now working. Blessed with a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at herself, she also has a flexible side to her. But she is deep. Loves dogs and animals. Pratty runs a mile from dogs.   

The Museum of Goa is an independent collection founded by artist Subodh Kerkar whose paintings and sculptures were all over the place. Subodh Kerkar is a doctor by training but turned into a full time artist and his stuff is exquisite. Entry is a bit steep at 300 bucks but its for a good cause so we didn't bother too much about it.

Its a two story building with a lovely cafe to the side where some Brazilian lady was having some event.

 We looked all over the place and returned an hour later. Lunch was at Fisherman's Cove down the road which was quite nice (nothing exceptional though)

Back to the room and woke up in time to take Anjali to the beach - she wanted to ride and I sat behind her. She shopped a bit and we joined the others who had come to the beach to watch the sunset. Raja carried a beer and he swigged away at it while we got some snacks from our faithful Lawrencio shack which no one seemed to inhabit.

Back to Raja's room where some more revelry was continued before we wound down for the day.      

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Travel Bug - Pune-Goa Diaries

 Prarthana planned a family thing to coincide with Pooja's return after two and a half years in the UK -post her Maters in Architecture and her stint with various jobs. The venue was Goa and the month was May. But anything for family and anything to get out of Hyderabad which was like a furnace at that time - 43 but felt like 48. My plans of driving to Goa and then to Pune slowly melted in the rising heat and I used my grey hair to good effect and decided to fly despite the added expense of last minute booking. Due to some ill planning and last minute decision making by me, we ended up going to Pune on the 2nd and then to Goa on the 4th. (Many have asked me the question that might have come to your mind - why did you not fly to Goa directly? The answer my friend is that I have been touched by the heat a bit.)

Lily Woods!

So off we were by the 1025 flight to Pune which was quite enjoyable - short. Reached the Deshmukh's place by midnight. Some chai and late night gupshup and off into dreamland. Woke up early and headed off to a long 7 km walk on the periphery of the township - trees, grass, walkers, runners, cyclists, dogs on leash, swimmers, cricketers - the place was abuzz with activity. I came back home after a nice long walk and settled down to a chat with Prakash and Gauri over chai and breakfast. Finding a lot of time for myself I opened the book Sagar had shared with me 'The Surrender Experiment' and finished it by later afternoon. Quite a fascinating book - surrender and the world shows you the way.

Malay dropped in and Kalpak did too in the evening. Flight to Goa was at 515 am which meant we had to get up at an ungodly hour like 230 am and head off which we managed to do.

This was an even shorter flight! 45 minutes?

Landed at Mopa airport, hopped on a cab to Candolim and caught Prarthana and Pooja up early with Anu. Then we got the place where we were to stay in the same Lily Woods which seems to have flats for all sizes - 1 bhk, 2 bhk,3 bhk and perhaps even a 4 bhk. Some boring breakfast and rest after the midnight caper and Prarthana invited us over to a restaurant by the name of Tomatoes. Nice food.

Now Prarthana (at just over 30, the older cousin of Pooja and Anjali) is one young woman who has her own mind and who has the capacity to figure out what's good for her. I've seen her since she was an infant almost (was there on the day Raja and Anu brought her home from an adoption centre in Pune) and the way she has grown from a withdrawn, sullen child into the uber confident, full of beans and self-love young lady I see today is amazing. I love her independence, her own way of sorting things out for herself - and standing by them for the good or bad, her ability to laugh at herself, her comfort with being in her own skin, her new found mantra of self-love and gratitude, her ways of beautifying herself and the environs around her. She has a very arty side to her, a taste for beauty. She can draw, write, sing very well. There's a natural intelligence there that simply flows through whatever she chooses to do. As she has grown older she has found the real mantra to happiness - that you are responsible for it and no one else. So she gifts herself solo trips to places near and far, gets family on board when she wants like she did now, and is thoroughly enjoying her life now. There's so much she can do if she wants to and she is full of ideas - runs a business where she sells accessories online, works in the education sector, does voice overs, manages herself alone. Oh, I forgot to add that she is a brilliant cook as well. And in the past I have found her comments on my manuscripts even as a 12th class student extremely well thought out and detailed. So much going for her and I love just watching her be herself.   

Turns out there's the election on the 7th in Goa and they would not sell booze from the evening of the 5th. With considerable foresight we stocked up the fridge with beer and other products that will be in short supply soon. Raja came in a bit and we went to the beach. Sunset at the beach, walk along the water with Raja and Pooja and back to the Lily Woods where the girls regaled us with songs and stuff.

A rather full day. I like the look of the little restaurant called 'Taste of Goa' which I propose to haunt in the coming days.  

Monday, May 13, 2024

The Godfather - Movie

 1972. Rewatched it with Anjali. Gets better like wine. I am amazed how I remember the smallest characters, what happens after each scene. The book and the movie.


Alibaba Ani Chaishatale Chor - Movie

 2024. Marathi. Cute.

Three couples, all over 40, achieved enough in life, meet for parties to spice up their lives. At one such party the lights go off, there is a sound of a kiss and a slap. The rest of the movie is spent figuring out who kissed and who slapped and this brings out many skeletons in the cupboard. Interesting perspectives.


Shaitaan - Movie

 Vikas Bahl. So thought it was worth a shot.

Interesting premise.Chap hyptonises a young girl in a family so she's fully under her control and how he uses it to terrorise the family and to further his own evil designs. Gripping enough. Good performances, but lame ending I thought. Not up there for me. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Algebra of Happiness - Scott Galloway

 Scott Galloway is a self-made millionaire who has founded several successful companies, teaches brand management at Stern College, NY and does a bunch of other things which would figure in his mix of 'the algebra of happiness.' He teaches this subject (algebra of h) as part of his brand management course if I remember right and he has put it all together as a book for readers who are keen to find out more about the algebra of happiness.

Scott splits up the book into four parts - Basic Equations, Success, Love and Health. In his introduction he talks of something that stayed with me - how he blew away his youth in tons of pot, movies, random sex encounters with strange women and so on and then finds a job at an investment bank because his friend wants one. 

In the introduction to the basic equations of success, he says if one wants financial freedom one must burn fuel in the first five years after college. He says one much work 16 hour days to achieve that kind of success - won't come by watching TV. No sweat, no gain. He says one must get a good partner who is tuned to your way of thinking (and also someone better than you he says at some point), get to the right place where the action is (New York, Mumbai whatever), invest early and often (startnow), use the power of compounding to  create your wealth, be in the stock market. 

He says the definition of being rich is having a passive income which is greater than what you can burn,

Scott says happiness is family. He talks of forgiveness.

In Success Scott shares stories from his life - how hunger is the differentiator between talent and success. He also talks about how following your passion may not guarantee success (the intersection of what you are good at, what people will pay you to do and what does not suck - is where you need to be) and how boring is sexy. Much of success is about doing the easy stuff right like 1) show up early 2) have good manners and 3) follow up. He says one must believe one deserves the best (improve your deservability in small ways) and stop feeling like a fraud. He says - find your voice. To succeed be a salesman, sign up for public failure. When you see success don't get trapped in its trappings, keep the cash, stay humble. Measure what matters in your life - it will reveal stuff about how your life is going - money, relationships, career, growth, love, happiness. Learn from rejection - nothing fantastic will happen without taking a risk and subjecting yourself to rejection. Serendipity he says is a function of courage. The key to employing yourself - be a grown up, be civil, be secure with yourself. Be visible he says - and there's the nice story of how his step father gave him 200 dollars and asked him to invest and how a young stock trader was kind to a schoolboy and invested the money and taught him about the stock market. Scott found him and paid it back.

In Love Scott says that Love and Relationships are the ends - and everything is just the means. Its a beautiful statement and should go into quotable quotes. Another one - love received is comforting, love reciprocated is rewarding and love given is eternal. His advice on marriage - don't keep score, don't ever let your wife be hungry or cold, express affection and desire as often as possible. Keep your kids close. Another definition of love (from his therapist) - it is the willingness to take the life you have built for yourself and tear it up for the other person. Tell and show people you love them - say it, call, hug, kiss, hold hands. Enjoy the small moments with people (create them). Being with people you love at the end of their life - care for the caregivers, draw boundaries about how much you can take on and how much you cannot, share media time, relive their life by looking at pics, say what needs to be said including how much you love them, people will surprise and disappoint, don't get hassled by their illness and its affects. Love a kid who is not your own, appreciate what you have, find your own heaven. Love unconditionally.

In Health Scott says - be strong even when things are looking like they will fall, cry, trade closeness for harmony, stay present, be a nice guy, praise others.


And of such stuff is Scott's book made of. Lots of practical wisdom coming from his own life. His love for him mother, family comes through. His acceptance of his follies, weaknesses, his desire to help others find their way through teaching, writing, speaking. Very nice.

The Surrender Experiment - Michael A Singer

Sagar gave me this book and asked me to read it. I read Michael Singer's 'Untethered Soul' four years ago and found it a very interesting read. This book is all about how surrender brings forth things that we cannot foresee or control. Singer goes from not wanting anything but peace in meditation, to quieten his mind and to listen to his inner voice, to live his life with zero resistance and finds stuff that he cannot dream of happening - like starting a spiritual commune to building a billion dollar business.

The concept of surrender is something that caught my attention a while ago. I found that there were times when I could do nothing else to change the situation there were a couple of responses I normally had 1) give up and say I never get what I want 2) get attached to the one outcome in my mind and go at it hard. I learned a third one in recent times by trial and error - that we can surrender to the situation. Now the way I understand surrender is to 1) not get attached to only one outcome 2) to be fine with whatever be the outcome 3) to keep the mind completely clear of any attachment and 4) not interfere with the process or try to control it in any way. Let it unfold and you see perfection the way you cannot imagine it.

That's what Singer did with his life. Going off from college into meditation, he found a moment when he saw himself being the witness to what he was thinking. It was a subtle moment with profound implications. Singer gave up everything, took off in his car and few belongings, found peace and clarity in meditation. He kept surrendering to whatever life threw at him - which was his experiment - and found himself returning to teach a course in college, write books, buy a piece of land in a place that would become a spiritual centre and a business hub based on spiritual practices. He finds Paramahansa Yogananda's 'Autobiography of a Yogi', organises a Shaktipat for Swami Muktananda, has his heart chakra opened by Amrit Desai and has several other such deeply profound spiritual experiences. The way the right people would show up to help him build a house, a community, a business shows his openness, his surrender to the process of life. 

Singer taught himself to code and became a master coder building applications for companies, taught himself to build houses and built houses later. Whatever he did he did with a mindfulness, with full awareness and love and no transactional element. The people who came into his life showed up at the right time with the right expertise - coders, builders, lawyers. So deep was the surrender experiment that the award winning entrepreneur (who also was a monk) had to face a jail term which was probably his biggest test of 'surrender'. Knowing only one thing, Singer surrendered and was let off by the FBI.

There is one line in the book when Singer says - be open to all outcomes (or something to that effect). I fully subscribed to that. There's so much wisdom in the book and a clear story on how one can also achieve a lot by taking the path of least resistance, by surrendering.

I am reminded of a scene in Apollo 13 when Tom Hanks says how he surrendered on a particular flight and had no way to land or whatever The moment he turns his mind off and fully surrenders to all possibilities is when he sees a green patch of water in the middle of the ocean which is a miracle.

Its a beautiful feeling to experience surrender and its miraculous side effects. I can relate to some small experiences of mine and hope to grow my consciousness deeper into that space. 

Thanks Sagar.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Book Launch of Michaeline Singh's 'It's All In The Mix'

 April 20. Akshara Book Store, Journalist Colony.

'It's All in the Mix'

The perfect location for a book launch. Satish and Mickey invited a small group of family and friends and launched Mickey's debut book - a lovely cook book titled 'It's All In The Mix'. We showed up on time, met Satish and Mickey, our other pals from OU MBA - Shrini, Bijju with their better halves Prashanti and Aparna and Shrini's young son Nikhil. 

The author - Michaeline Singh

Mickey, Me and Satish

Satish's young ones - Rahul and Nikhil were in attendance too.

Satish beginning the proceedings - Shrini, Nikhil and me listening intently

Looking formal and dressed for the occasion Satish started the proceedings with a lovely introduction to the book, Mickey's journey as a cook, adding little details in his own unique, insightful and  humourous manner. Mickey's friend Ms Carmaline Mario did a well thought out Q and A with her - why the title, her journey as a cook, what she wants to achieve with the book and many more such questions.

Mickey in conversation with her friend Ms. Carmaline Mario

I was given the honour of launching the book with Mickey who spoke about her journey, remembered her mother emotionally, before we unveiled the much awaited book. 

Launched - 'Its All in the Mix' enter the world

I spoke about the difficulty of authoring a book and also how satisfying the process is when it finally takes shape and comes into the world. A few more questions from Mickey who put the men in a hot spot by asking questions related to cooking.

Mickey and Satish

The Singhs - Nikhil, Mickey, Rahul and Satish

After the even we all drank some soft drinks and chai, ate sandwiches and samosas, bought our copies, got them signed by Mickey and left. It was a lovely event with a wonderful vibe and I was glad to be a part of it.

Shrini, Nikhil and Me

Prashanthi, Aparna and Bijju

Prashanthi, Shobha and Bijju

Nikhil, Biju, Shrini and me

That's a cake - and we ate it!

All the best Mickey. 'It's All in the Mix'   

Thought for the Day - You Can Create Beauty Everywhere

 You can seek beauty everywhere. All you need is an inclination to make your life beautiful.

I saw this garbage truck today - all broken, battered, dirty.

But stuck near the broken windscreen was a small bunch of lilies. A piece of beauty in his world.

I could do that too.  Where is my focus? The garbage truck chap showed me that we can all do that - make our life beautiful in small ways - whatever our circumstance.