Friday, November 24, 2017

Things to Watch For - How I Lost It For a Moment

Story 1 - Today
I was driving Anjali to school. At Srinivasa Nagar I saw one lady who was trying to cross the road on her bike. She had got into an awkward position and I stopped to let her pass. There was loud honking behind me and in my rear view mirror I saw a youngster, perhaps thirty years old, urging me on impatiently.

In all likelihood he could not see her and once she passed, I let him go on. He passed me and I thought that was it until I suddenly realised he was cutting into my path, letting me know that he did not appreciate my stopping ahead of him. I have seen many people do that, and I do that back to them, but this time, it needed a sharp cut to avoid a collision.

In that one moment, I lost it. The fact that this guy almost put me in danger just because he could not see why I stopped, blew my fuse.

I hit the accelerator and tried to overtake him. He weaved to cut me off again. This way and that. I have to give it to him, he was good with his car and did not let me sneak past him. The madness lasted ten seconds and luckily I had to go right and he, straight. Even more luckily he had a green light and I had a red. I don't know what would have happened if it were both red.

'Why are you driving like this Nanna?' asked Anjali, oblivious to the dynamics outside.

I felt ashamed. At losing it. At putting myself and many others in danger just because I lost it. I could have let him go. He made a mistake, fine. We were still ok. Until I started my revenge story and the big desire to prove myself right. And him wrong.

It would have been so pointless if something had happened.

Never again, I vowed, will I get drawn into these one-upmanship fights on the road. I will step back even if it is not my mistake. The road is no place to do these stunts. I was also very ashamed at the way rage coursed through me.

Meanwhile I am thankful to the young man in the car for giving me this experience and cautioning me for the rest of my life about this kind of behavior and its possible repercussions.

Story 2 - Last Month
We were waiting at the Tibetan clinic. I was only the driver and Ranjan went in and found out when the doctor was expected. Some six or seven people were waiting before us including two elderly ladies. It appeared that they were waiting outside because they were cleaning the waiting room. Since the room was ready we walked in. The lady at the reception took our details. Meanwhile the others came in.

The ladies protested. 'We came much before they did. We have been waiting here since 8'O clock,' she complained. The receptionist lied and told her that we had come the day before also. All these things were going on before my eyes.

All I needed to do was to step in and tell the ladies that they could go first. That everyone could go in the order they had come. We were in no hurry. But I let the receptionist take the call. After much argument and heartburn we finally went in - in the correct order.

I wonder why I did not speak up.

Anyway, reminds me to speak up next time and assure them that all will happen in a just and fair manner. It nags my mind.

Once again, thanks to the two elderly ladies I am now aware of what has to be done next time. No more. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Anjali - Too Much Stuff, I Want to Give It Away

One evening while talking about this and that, Anjali suddenly said 'I have too many things Nanna. I keep asking for stuff and people keep giving me. I have so many things and then lots of people don't have many things. I feel bad.'
She was silent.

I kept quiet.

'I asked Satish mama for pens and he gave me so many pens that I will never be able to use them all. I feel bad.'

'Do you want to give them away?' I asked. 'You could. Someone else could use them you know.'

'Hmmm,' she said. 'I think I will do that. I will give away pens to my class mates first.'

So she took 23 pens and gave them away to her class mates.

'We have too much stuff that we don't need Nanna,' she said next. 'Let's give it away.'

'Sure,' I said.

It's true we have stuff we don't need. We could give it away. Now to find that stuff.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - Shunryu Suzuki

Suresh gifted me yet another precious book. The number of precious books he had gifted me have changed my approach to life radically. This is the latest in the line. Thank you Suresh.

The Zen Mind is the Beginner's Mind. It is empty, non-judgmental and sees things as they are. It is about doing things with no gaining idea, doing for the sake of doing with the whole of the body and the mind. We become the work and forget ourselves. That is the true quality of Zen. And after it is done, there is no gloating over the work done or no feeling bad about it; it is over. It is just done. The book approaches the Zen Mind in several ways.

As I read it I became calmer, more compassionate, and tried to be in that state of no mind, or empty mind, immersing myself into what I was doing with no gaining idea. For example, when I write now, I write, I become the writing, with no thought of any gaining idea.
Shambala Library, 179 p

Divided into three main parts - Right Practice, Right Attitude and Right Understanding - it has wisdom that influenced my outlook. To just be. As I do with such books, I can only pick the lines which impacted me, lines I wish to refer to again, so I will make a note of those lines.

First things first. ..we are beginners, not experts. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's, there are few. The practice of zen mind is the beginner's mind. 

The beginners mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate,  it is boundless.

Today we will practice compassion. Being true to ourselves,  in sympathy with all beings. In all that we do, say, feel and think.  Mindfully compassionate.

Zazen practice (the meditative discipline that is the primary practice of Zen Buddhism) is the direct expression of your true nature. For a human being,  there is no other practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life.

All self-centred thoughts limit our vast mind.

When the boss is sleeping,  everyone is sleeping.  When the boss does something right,  everyone will do everything right,  and at the right time.

Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is itself enlightenment. That is the secret of Buddhism.

Left foot on right thigh, right foot on left thigh. Spine straight, ears and shoulders in one line. Relax shoulders, push up with back of head. Pull chin in. Press diaphragm towards abdomen.
In this posture the is no need to talk about the right state of mind.  You already have it. This is the conclusion of Buddhism.

In the realm of pure religion there is no confusion of time and space,  or good or bad. We should live in the moment. We do something we should do.  There is no confusion. 

To be quite independent, but yet dependent - this is how we live and how we practice zazen. When we are truly ourselves, we are purely independent of and at the same time dependent upon everything. If you have this kind of existence,  you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything. 

When you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. Without this experience,  this practice, it is impossible to attain absolute freedom. 

When we become truly ourselves, we become the swinging door, independent yet dependent on everything. In zazen concentrate on breath control. Control your breathing, concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.

To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. 

To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment. 

When we lose our balance we die, but at the same time we also develop ourselves,  we grow. 

The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance,  but it's background is always in perfect harmony.

To control people, first let them do what they want and watch them. To ignore them is the worst policy. To try to control them is the second worst policy. The best way is to watch them without trying to control them. 

Mind waves
To calm your mind do not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind. Let them come Let them go.  Then they will be under control.

Nothing outside yourself can cause any trouble. You yourself make the waves in your mind. If you leave your mind as it is,  it will become calm. 

Mind weeds
You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind,  because eventually they will enrich your practice.

Sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse and the worst horse can be the best one.

The Marrow of Zen
In the zazen posture,  your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are,  whether agreeable or disagreeable. 

No dualism
If it really does not matter,  there is no need for you to even say so. 

Bowing is a very serious practice. You should be prepared to bow, even in your last moment. Even though it is impossible to get rid of our self-centred desires,  we have to do it. Our true nature wants us to.

Before you determine to do it, you have difficulty,  but once you start to do it, you have none. 

It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.

Nothing special
Before you attain it, it is something special,  but after you attain it, it is nothing special. 

When you give up, when you no longer want something, or when you do not try to do anything special,  then you do something.

Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express or true nature. That is our practice.

If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult. 

If an artist becomes too idealistic,  he will commit suicide because between his ideal and his actual ability there is a great gap. But our way is not so idealistic. Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread (using making of bread as a metaphor). There is no secret in our way.  Just to practice and put loaves into the oven is our way. 

In order to find out how dough becomes perfect bread, he made it over and over again, until he became quite successful.

While you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience will become deeper and deeper, and your experience will cover everything you do in your everyday life. The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. In other words, just practice zazen in a certain posture. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.

When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do

We must make effort but we must forget ourselves in the effort we make.

In this realm there is no subjectivity or objectivity. our mind is calm without any awareness. In this unawareness every effort and every idea and thought will vanish. So it is necessary for us to encourage ourselves and to make an effort till the last moment when all effort disappears.

To find your own way under some restriction is the way of practice.

For the beginner, practice without effort is not true practice. For the beginner the practice needs great effort. Especially for young people it is necessary to try very hard  to achieve something.

Our way is not to sit to acquire something; it is to express our true nature.

If you want to express yourself, your true nature, there should be some natural and appropriate way of expressing whatever you do, it should be an expression of the same.

When we express our true nature we are human beings even though you do not do anything. You are actually doing something. You are expressing yourself. You are expressing your true nature.

Forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything.

Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others.

The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.

If you do something, you should be very observant and careful and alert.

Zen and Excitement
Zen is not some kind of excitement,  but concentration on our usual everyday routine. It is not gradual attainment, it is the sudden way, because when your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment. 

Try to be always calm and joyful and keep yourself from excitement.

Right Effort
If your practice is good,  you may become proud of it.  What you do is good,  but something more is added to it. Right effort is to get rid of something extra.

Our effort in our practice should be directed from achievement to non- achievement. From achievement to non-achievement means to be rid of the unnecessary and bad results of effort.

Right effort in the right direction. Do something in the spirit of non-achievement - there is a good quality in it.

Even though you do not do anything, you have the quality of zazen always.

Try not to see something in particular. Try not to see achieve anything special.

Just to do something without any particular effort is enough. Get rid of excessive things.

By purity we just mean things as they are. When something is added that is impure.

When you think you will get something from practising zazen, already you are involved in impure practice.

Do not attach to the attainment. Just do it. The quality of zazen will express itself; then you will have it.

If your effort is in the right direction,  then there is no fear of losing anything.

It is the small mind which creates gaining ideas and leaves traces of itself.

In order not to leave any traces, when you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind;  you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should burn yourself completely.

You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has been idealistic.  You have some gaining idea,  and it is not pure enough. It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. Be grateful for the warning sign to show the weak point in your practice.
You must find some way up encourage yourself. That is why we have a teacher. With your teacher you will correct your practice.

The way to practice without having any goal is to limit your activity, or to be concentrated on what you are doing in this moment. If you limit your activity to what you can do just now, in this moment, then you can express fully your true nature, which is the universal Buddha nature. This is our way.
When you bow,  you should just bow; when you sit,  you should just sit;  when you eat,  you should just eat.

If you are attached to the teaching,  or to the teacher,  that is a big mistake.

You need a teacher so you can become independent.

You have a teacher for yourself, not for the teacher.

Strictly speaking there is no need to teach the student,  because the student himself is Buddha, even though he may not be aware of it.

Of the four ways of practice,  the perfect one is not to give a student any interpretation of himself,  nor to give him any encouragement.

To study ourselves is to forget ourselves. When we forget ourselves we actually are the true activity of the big existence,  or reality itself.

When you become you,  zen becomes zen. When you are you,  you see things as they are and you become one with your surroundings.

To solve the problem is to be part of it,  to be one with it.

When your life is always a part of your surroundings- in other words,  when you are called back to yourself,  in the present moment, then there is no problem.

When you are you,  you see things as they are, and you become one with your surroundings. There is your true self.

If you want to appreciate something fully, you should forget yourself.

Do not go seeking something outside of yourself.

Instead of gathering knowledge, clear your mind. If your mind is clear, true knowledge s already yours.

Accept knowledge as if you were hearing something you already knew. Sometimes we think it is impossible to understand something unfamiliar but actually nothing is unfamiliar to us.

Constancy- the unchanging ability to accept things as they are.

The natural expression of yourself, straightforward, true to your feelings and your mind, expressing yourself without any reservation.

If parents can manage to express themselves in various ways according to each situation, there will be no danger in the education of their children.

Without any intentional,  fancy way of adjusting yourself, to express yourself freely as you are is the most important thing to make yourself happy,  and to make others happy.

True communication depends upon our being straightforward with one another. But the best way to communicate may be just to sit without saying anything.

Big mind is something to express, not something to figure out. Big mind is something you have,  not something to seek for.

The best way is just to practice without saying anything.

When you do everything without thinking about whether it is good or bad,  and when you do something with your whole mind and body,  that is our way.

Practice without saying. When we talk positive, negative is missing. When we talk negative, positive is missing. Do everything without thinking about whether is it good or bad, with your whole body and mind.

Water drops, separated from the river, have difficulty to fall.

When you say something to someone,  he may not accept it, but do not try to make him understand it intellectually. Do not argue with him;  just listen to his objections until he himself finds something wrong with them.

Try not to win in the argument; just listen to it; but it is also wrong to behave as of you had lost.

Our life and death are the same thing.  When we realise this fact,  we have no fear of death anymore, nor actual difficulty in our life.

When we have no idea of ego, we have Buddha's view of life.

When we believe in our way firmly,  we have already attained enlightenment.

We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence.

Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer.  So the cause of our suffering is our non-acceptance of this truth.

Teaching which does not sound as if it is forcing something on you is not true teaching.

Everything changes. Find pleasure in suffering. To find pleasure in suffering is the only way to accept the truth of transiency.

When you do something,  if you fix your mind on the activity with some confidence,  the quality of your state of mind is the activity itself. When you are concentrated on the quality of your being, you are prepared for the activity.

In calmness there should be activity;  in activity there should be calmness.

A wonderful painting is the result of the feeling of your fingers. If you have the feeling of the thickness of the ink in your brush, the painting is already there before you paint. When you dip your brush into the ink you already know the result of your drawing, else you cannot paint. So before you do something,  "being " is there, the result is there.

Don't entangle with someone else. Be natural.

Empty all preconceived ideas. Emptiness is true existence.

You are not resting at all. All the activity is included within you.

Because you think you have a body or mind,  you have lonely feelings,  but when you realise that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe,  you become strong and your existence becomes very meaningful.

When what you do comes out of nothingness, you have quite a new feeling.

Even though you have some difficulty,  when you want to have it,  that is naturalness.

True comes out of nothingness,  moment after moment.

When you do something,  you should be completely involved in it. You should devote yourself to it completely.

You have nothing. Although you think you have something, you have nothing. But when all you do comes out of nothingness, then you have everything.

What appears from emptiness is true existence.

Each one of us must make his own true way,  and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery.

The best way is to understand yourself and then you will understand everything.

It is not after we understand the truth that we attain enlightenment. To realise the truth is to live - to exist here and now.

When our thinking is soft,  it is called imperturbable thinking. This kind of thinking is always stable. It is called mindfulness.

Wisdom is something which will come out of your mindfulness.

Love and hate are one thing. We should not attach to love alone. We should accept hate.
Attachment, non-attachment. Happiness in difficulty, difficulty in happiness.

A flower falls even though we love it, a weed grows even though we do not love it.

Trying to do something in itself is enlightenment. When we are in difficulty or in distress, there we have enlightenment.

When we are in defilement,  there we should have composure.

Teaching is in each moment,  in every existence. That is the true teaching.

When you have something in your consciousness you do not have perfect composure. The best way towards perfect composure is to forget everything.

In order to go beyond our thinking faculty, it is necessary to have a firm conviction in the emptiness of your mind.

On one hand we should attain enlightenment - that is how things should be. On the other hand,  as long as we are physical beings,  in reality it is pretty hard to attain enlightenment - that is how things actually are in this moment.

In the emptiness of our original mind they are one, and there we find our perfect composure.
Just to sit that is enough.

You have to be careful in the rules and the way you establish. If it is too strict you will fail, if it is too loose, the rules will not work. Our way should be strict enough to have authority, an authority everyone should obey.  The rules should be possible to observe.

Our true nature is beyond consciousness. Don't force. Let things be.

We cannot force anything. But once the rules have been decided,  we should obey them completely until they are changed. You just do it without question. That way your mind is free.

That you can do it in this moment means you can always do it.

Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you.

Wonderful, wonderful book. Read. Reread. Imbibe. Be. I cannot say anything more. Thank you Suresh.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trust Me Not - Ankita Verma Datta

Ankita Verma Datta's debut novel 'Trust Me Not' delivers what it promises - a riveting, fast paced political thriller - set in Mumbai. The novel begins in an advertising agency, a familiar setting for Ankita, who has been an ad professional for a decade. Among the other interesting things Ankita does are - curating antique Portugal houses in Goa, hobby breeding exotic Tibetan mastiffs and indulging herself in another love of hers, nature.
Jaico Books, 375 p, Rs. 450
Reeva Rai, the beautiful, spunky protagonist of the novel, is offered a high ranking position in a PR Agency, a spin off of the advertising firm she is part of. She has to handle the political campaign of a major political party JBP, whose top man, Rishi Uttur is on the verge of winning the upcoming elections. She also has to deal with the attractive and dashing Kunaal Kaabi who is rich, handsome, has many skills and businesses, and who is also part of the PR firm, helping the political party gain points with the electorate. On the other side is young Nihaal, the handsome Creative Director of the Advertising Firm and Shalini who has stepped in to help with the PR arm. If working in a high pressure and volatile political environment is tough, things get doubly tougher when two high profile businessmen Thapar and Jaiswal get involved in the game for their own interests. The stakes rise.

Reputation, power, money and real estate are at stake for the bigger players while the smaller pawns have to deal with simpler issues like plain surviving. Some are battling for their lives, some for their homes and some for their love. Equations are made and broken, professional players brought in to gain an advantage and no inch is given easily. There is media capitalising on the situation, NGOs at the forefront and diabolical schemes that go way beyond what might be obvious. Obviously everyone is not what they appear to be and we find several masks falling off, lives being sacrificed until a startling truth is revealed in the end. The pace really picks up as the book draws to a close.

I liked the fact that Ankita set the story in familiar territory - advertising, Mumbai, political arena. She easily and credibly creates a world of high profile, power hungry and rich lives and it is easy to visualise all the settings she sets her story in. There are several twists and turns in the story right till the very end and she leaves it deliciously open ended. The pace is fast, characters credible, setting believable. The book leaves several images in the mind much after you read the book and I as the reader certainly empathised enough with the main characters to root for them. A couple of issues (or rather, one), perhaps deliberately left open by the author, keeping the end she had devised in mind, bothered me, but they are not really relevant as the story ends, in a most unexpected manner.

'Trust Me Not' is a promising debut in an interesting genre, socio-political thrillers, one which Ankita says she will stick to, and one in which not many writers are comfortable. Ankita can write, and undoubtedly will get better and better as she writes more and more books. I would not be too surprised if someone picks up 'Trust Me Not' and makes a movie out of it - there is a lot of action and drama happening to interesting characters. Madhur Bhandarkar for one, whose name appears on the cover with a comment.   

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thought for the Day - There is Always Some Love in the Air

Like the picture says - there is always some love in the air.
You only have to look for it!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Weekend Cricket Lessons - Baig Sir's Birthday

Today we celebrated Baig sir's birthday. He must be well over 80 but has the same passion. He suddenly picked young Sandeep from the Under 12 kids and called him over to the older kids nets. 'Where did he learn to play like that?' he asked.

We cut the cake. He called me and gave me the first piece - very touching. All the kids enjoyed the cake, the chips and soft drinks. After Baig sir spoke, I spoke to the kids about what I learned from Baig sir.

I told them how I met Baig sir in 1982 when he came to coach us at All Saints High School. Though it was my first year at school cricket I played state and South zone Under 15 that year entirely thanks to Baig sir's coaching.

I told the kids that if they want to play higher cricket they have the most experienced coach in India with them. Someone who coached BCCI teams, the Under 19 India team and who had coached Ravi Shastri's famous Under 19 team of which almost 12 played for India later. He had coached over 200 Ranji Trophy players and 40 Test players and has been coaching for 50 years now.

But what sets him apart are these three qualities which I asked the kids to imbibe.

Discipline. I have never seen Baig sir late for a single session in the 35 years I have known him. How much ever I try to beat him, he is ahead of me. Almost the first at the ground. Not rain, not sun, not cold, nothing stops him. He is never shabbily dressed, always immaculately turned out. If they wish to go higher, they could learn this discipline, this punctuality.

Commitment. Baig sir still coaches well into his 80s and still as vigorously as he used to when I was in school in the 1982s. He will come at 630 int he morning and if he finds the players are showing some interest or the session is interesting, he will put away all thoughts of breakfast and lunch and keep on at the nets. I once saw him coach without a break from 630 to 3 in the afternoon with no breakfast just because he found the boys interest. If I tell him some boy wants to meet him and could he look at the boy, he will come without a second thought. And he is all the time trying to improve the state of the game, every hour, every minute. The nets are his temple and I have seen him on Ramzan's roza days, going through without a break. Even today, when I asked him if we should go out for breakfast he was like 'No, no, Aditya is here. Let me spend time with him. Let him bowl. We will waste half an hour.'

Learning mindset. Baig sir has this incredible capacity to learn. When I teach something in the mental side he listens carefully. He looks at my handouts and studies them. He comes to the workshops I do and sits and listens through them. So keen is his learning mindset that he will learn from anyone - even the youngest member if there is something to learn. He comes up with new techniques every time and does not teach the same old stuff. He improvises them. I have never seen him say 'I know' and shut out knowledge. He is always open.

To the boys then I told them that if they do not apply what he has taught them, they are not progressing beyond the same class. In which case they cannot be taught new things. It is not that he does not know - it is that they are not able to grasp and apply and show enough effort to move past the lesson. So if they wish to play higher grade cricket they are better off applying what he has taught them and getting ready fro newer lessons.

As always, he amazes me. 'The only reason I coach here is because of one man. A great man. My captain M.L. Jaisimha.'

Brute Force - Movie Review

It's a 1947 movie set in a jail bubbling over with unrest. A weak warden, a sadistic guard Munsey and an alcoholic philosophical doctor are holding the jail together tenuously. Cell R17, watches their mate Joe Collins return from solitary confinement after being unjustly punished by Munsey. There are orders from above that the warden must control the ship or else. The jail is about to explode.

Joe finds the informer who led to his solitary confinement and first arranges an accident which kills the informer. Next he plans a getaway. Meanwhile Munsey threatens another member of Cell R417 and forces him to commit suicide. Pressure mounts on the warden to quit. Munsey's ways get worse. As the inmates prepare for the big getaway, there is another leak. Munsey is waiting. Warden is sacked. Another inmate is beaten by Munsey to death. Joe is set on his path despite all warning.

There is a dialogue by the doctor who speaks his mind against Munsey and gets beaten up, perhaps in his drunken stupor. 'Not imagination. Not compassion (or something to that effect) Just brute force. Yes, brute force does make leaders it seems (he speaks with such contempt here). But remember, it also destroys.'.

The doctor always advocates softer measures against the inmates. In the end brute force meets brute force and claims many lives on both sides. The inmates of cell R17 share their stories - all of them are there for their women. They have a picture of a lady who is every man's woman.

Angry. Violent. Made with all the idealism and innocence of 1947. Burt Lancaster looms large as Joe Collins. Polishing off the old movies collection. They are the best human interest stories.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stanley Kramer, Film Maker - Donald Spoto

Stanley Kramer can easily take that tag - Film Maker. His career in Hollywood spanned five decades - he is one of the top producers and directors with over forty films of high quality made during the period. He worked with some of the biggest names and gave some big names their breaks. The names include Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Gregory Peck, Judy Garland, Sydney Poitier among others. Films include classics like "High Noon", "Judgment at Nuremberg", "Ship of Fools", "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" among others.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 367 p, $ 6.95

What impresses one about this fine book is that Donald Spoto creates Stanley Kramer through his best films and worst films. Kramer's thoughts on each one of those, his beliefs and convictions, his ideas and weaknesses all come through. Coming from a tough neighbourhood in New York's Hell's Kitchen, Kramer worked his way up from menial jobs in the studios to actually producing them. His films had a strong social conscience, values and a willingness to take risks. One remark of his - "My grandfather once told me that friends are the most important thing in life. Nonsense. More important is believing in something and taking a stand on it.'

And stand he took by making movies about racism - he made four movies in all about black men and the prejudice they suffer including "Home of the Brave" and "Who is Coming to Dinner" when Hollywood practically banned the idea of making movies on such topics. He made movies about fixing in boxing and the downsides of it. After producing several he directed his later movies.

Donald Spoto's delightful commentary on 34 films with lots of pictures and comments by Kramer and others makes the book a lovely read. Especially after you have read some really bad biographies that are totally one-sided it comes like a breath of fresh air. I was lucky to read this rare book that Jayant gave me - You must read it, he said.

So the journey starts with "So This is New York" made in 1948. Then "Champion", "Home of the Brave", "The Men", "Cyrano de Bergerac", "Death of a Salesman", "My Six Convicts", "The Sniper", "High Noon", "The Happy Time", "The Four Poster", "Eight Iron Men", "The Member of the Wedding", "The Juggler", "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T", "The Wild One", "The Caine Mutiny", "Not a Stranger" (which he directed), "The Pride and Passion", "The Defiant Ones", "On the Beach", "Inherit the Wind", "Judgment at Nuremberg", "Pressure Point", "A Child is Waiting", "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World, "Invitation to a Gunfighter", "Ship of Fools", "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner", "The Secret of Santa Vittorio", "RPM", "Bless the Beast and Children", 'The Wild Ones", "Oklahoma Crude" and "The Domino Principle". An impressive list for the sheer variety and scope. I saw five of them.

Many of his movies were made from plays and some from books. Certainly, he made movies to make a difference and the themes he chose stand proof of that. "You try to get the best collaborators but then you have to give them their own range since they are also artists in their own right. You have the annoying responsibility of curtailing their impulses and even standing against them as you try to achieve the painting you want. It never turns out the way you have foreseen. It can be better but never exactly as you visualised,"

"I am primarily concerned with the disintegration of values in our whole society."

"If a film doesn't make money there is something fundamentally wrong with the project. Either it cost too much in the first place or made at the wrong time or marketed poorly."

Lovely. I am so glad I read this book. Thanks Jayant and Suhita.

Thought for the Day - To Be Mindful, To be Present Is to be Compassionate

To be mindful of what I do every moment brings in a quality of being that is compassionate. I cannot be mindful and violent, hurried or thoughtless at the same time.

It is a good way to do good work - in all senses of the word.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thought for the Day - You Only Get What You Are Prepared For

I believe that we only experience or encounter things that we are prepared for. There is nothing that we experience or encounter that we cannot handle because I believe it just would not come into our experience if we were not ready or prepared to handle it.

Most times we look at difficulties in life and wonder -hey, I cannot handle this. But I believe now that it has come into our experience only because we can handle it and because it will move us up the learning ladder. It helps to know that we are equipped to handle it. That awareness will give us a gap, a moment of calmness to engage with it head on. Not hope that something will happen to it and it will either resolve itself or go away.

To look at the big problems and difficulties then - and know that they have come as a test to graduate you into the next class - and to deal with it as only you can, is the way forward. Deal you can. Now engage. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Into the Wild - Movie Review

Based on a book written on the true story of Chris McCandless who leaves his home and shuns all society and its trappings - car, money, credit cards, identity to experiment on a life in the wild - the movie is a story of love and loss. Chris shuns all love and goes away - and along the way he keeps finding so many people offering him love - and shuns it all to be lonely until the final realisation that happiness comes only when shared.

First by car, then hitch hiking on the road, stealing rides on railroads, kayaking down the rapids against orders and finally finding the Magic Bus - an abandoned bus in the wilds of Alaska where he sets up his home in all loneliness for the last part of his life - Chris journeys not just geography but his inner space. But by the time the young man wants to return home to friends and family he finds that he has gone too far. Chris pays the ultimate price to know the truth about love, about happiness, about relationships, and family. He meets interesting people along the way and none as interesting as Ron Franz whose words - 'When you are grateful to open yourself to love and when you love, God's light shine on you' are as true as any.

Shot with great care and patience, the movie does the person Chris was and his memory and his striving justice. Great locales and a nice subdued energy. Slow, peaceful watch. Watch it.

The Free Book Stall - A New Initiative

Inspired by the VNR VJIET TEDx Event where they had a stall with a bunch of new books - all book suggestions by various people - to give away for free. People could go, pick up a book they liked, read it and pass it on. I found it incredible that someone would do stuff like this  and remember I actually asked the boys 'For free?' How difficult is it for us to accept the good that comes to us. But I can expect nothing less from the lads and lasses especially under the stewardship of Abhinay who comes up with some wonderful ideas and pulls them off. The boy at the counter suggested I read "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne and I was glad I picked it up.
This is a bunch of books that Sagar gifted to me - what goes around comes around
I suggested the idea to our colony committee members - that I would like to give some books away for free for anyone to take away and read if they gave me some space in the committee hall. They took a lot of time to understand the idea.
'You will sell second hand books?'
'No, I will give them away for free.'
'You want to give books for the library?'
'No I want to give books away for free.'
'You want people to read and return to you?'
'No I want to give books away for free. Anyone who likes any book can take it away - no questions asked - and read it and pass it on. No obligation to return.'

That is when one of the gentlemen seemed to get the idea.
'Wonderful,' he said. 'I will give you space next function.'

So I was glad when I bumped into him recently and he said there was a function coming up on Sunday and he would give me a table. I said that's wonderful and we picked up some 25-30 books to give away. 'My Experiments with Truth' by M.K. Gandhi, 'Siddhartha' by Herman Hesse, a couple of Enid Blytons, Fit for life, A book on Yoga, 'Don't lose your mind, lose your weight' by Rijuta Diwekar, some National Geographics and several other books for all ages. Contributions came from my shelf, Shobha's and Anjali's.

Anjali then made a small poster that went like 'Books for Free' - Take any books you like, Read it and Pass it on. There was a trademark smiley at the end. We stuck it up on a pole near the table and spread all the books out.

A small boy came immediately and picked up the Enid Blyton. His mother came and told him to put it down. He put it back. I stepped in and told the mother that the idea is to take the books away for free and read and share. He could take ti if he liked it. She looked a bit stunned and surely was wondering what the catch was. The boy got his hands on the book and I hoped he would take it home.

Anjali and I got back home and went back to the function after an hour. Most books were still there. People were still wary if there was a catch. They would see the books and put them back on the table. I let them figure it out - I could see some young kids reading the poster and pick up books. But they put them back.

But suddenly one old lady went and picked up a couple and then someone else did and within a few minutes most books got taken. I was surprised that Gandhi's autobiography and Siddhartha were not taken. I suggested them to the young lady who stays in the flats opposite my house - it would have been appropriate because she was Abhinay's junior and is from VNR VJIET where I first saw this experiment.

Hopefully she picked them up. I told the committee members they could give the books away or put them in the library or do whatever they want to do with them. Nice!  

The Invisible Guest - Movie Review

Spanish. A successful, rich, young businessman is caught by the police on charges of murdering his young mistress. His legal team hires a well known lawyer to fight his case. She meets him ahead of time, citing the introduction of a new witness that could change the line the defence would take.

The man tells her how he met his mistress on the sly on the way back from a business meeting. As they drive back they hit a car and find that the driver, a young banker is dead. He goes to dispose of the car and the driver while the girl stays with their own car which does not start. She is helped by a man and that reveals another horrid story.

All clues point to the fact that someone came in to the hotel room and set up the young man. But is that really the case? And if it is not, then how does one get him to confess?

Edge of the seat stuff.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

This book features in all the lists that children should read but having said that, it is not necessarily for children. It's like 'Alice in Wonderland' a lot but with a lot more punnery and meaning and a map for life. Anjali got this as a gift for her birthday and insisted that I read it too. I am glad I did.

So we have a desultory and disinterested young boy Milo who feels like everything, especially school, is a waste of time. One fine day he gets a surprise present and finds instructions to build the Phantom Tollbooth. He builds it, gets on to his toy car and starts off with a map that is provided to him. It appears that he has to reach the Kingdom of Wisdom which has been split up due to the differences between the two brothers Azaz, King of letters and words and of the city of Dictionopolis, and Mathemagician, King of numbers and of the city of Digitopolis. Due to their quarrels the two princesses Rhyme and Reason have  been banished and the Kingdom is now occupied by the demons of the Mountains of Ignorance. Unless Rhyme and Reason return, the Kingdom of Wisdom is doomed.

Milo starts off by going past a place called Beyond Expectations, reaches a place called Doldrums and then to the Foothills of Confusion. He enters the city of Dictionopolis and meets many strange people there including King Azaz and his cabinet, a spelling bee, the watchdog Tock and a bug called Humbug. Tock and Humbug join him in his quest for Rhyme and Reason. Off they go into the Forest of Sight, meeting Chrome and her musical mornings, past a place called Point of View and another called Illusions and Reality before they jump into a place called Conclusions. Back from the Conclusions they movie into the Valley of Sound and of Silence and finally enter Digitopolis after going past the Numbers Mine where they have to dig for numbers. Finally the heroic trio rescue Rhyme and Reason and the Kingdom of Wisdom is freed from darkness and the demons who inhabit the Mountains of Ignorance.

It's so intelligently crafted and full of wit and good humour and good sense that it needs more than one read (and very carefully). Full of puns and wickedly twisted phrases and situations and people and a whole lot of meaning and good sense. Lovely read. Thanks Anjali and Miskil.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Anjali - What If There Was No Money

Anjali suddenly popped this question.
'What is there was no money Nanna?'

I did not know what to say except this.
'Then how will we buy anything? How will you buy pizza? He will have to make stuff right?'
Anjali had thought of that.

'He will go and take it from whoever has that stuff,' she said.

'But what if no one makes stuff and simply keeps taking from someone else?'

'But people won't sit idle no? They will make something. People will go and take those things and use them and then whoever needs it or something else will take whatever they need. People will make whatever they like and others will take whatever they need.'

Hmmm. Interesting idea. Certainly one that will prevent this mine and yours, one that will make people only take what they need and not all they want, one that will make people more secure. As an idea I love it. I'd love to see a world like that!

Anjali - Maya and Tintin and Lives that Have Entered Ours

Anjali adopted this scaredy cat Maya quite sometime ago. It happened gently and with great care and love. Maya slowly responded and over many bags of appropriately chosen Whiskas and milk and all sorts of other offerings she became part of our lives. Then she went off and became pregnant and came back with two small kittens. One vanished and the other -Tintin - now remains. The two cats - the scared mother and the aggressive kitten roam around freely in their domain which is in the backyard.

Maya and Tintin

So aggressive is Tintin that every morning when Anjali head straight from her bed to the door to feed them I can hear her saying - 'Maya, you eat something otherwise you will starve. Push Tintin away and eat.' But I don't think Maya listens to her despite all this.

Now every morning, every time they sense we are in th kitchen, the cats raise a huge cry. Meow, meow, meow they go non-stop in a manner that requires a response. Hmmm, says the human who is in the kitchen and they go Meoow in response. Hmm, says the human and so on with various voice modulations. it's incredible how long those conversations go.

What struck me was the manner in which Maya and Tintin ask for their food or milk - as if they deserve it. They completely believe that all they have to do is ask and they are entitled to it. I loved that aspect. That we can actually ask and ask and we will get. No strings attached. No need to work for it. No need to be loyal or wag your tail. Just ask in an earnest manner and make the other person feel responsible and useful and people love being that. It spreads some love and the cats are fully aiding that.

Today, while we were playing cricket in the front yard,I could sense the full extent of the kitten's playfulness. Tintin came running and sat in a corner. Whenever the ball was played it would chase it and then run away when we went to fetch the ball. It played like that for over half an hour before it gave up and sat in a corner, stretching itself langurously. All this while, Maya hid itself behind a plant and watched. Much to Anjali's mirth.

And so we learn from nature, from god's many creatures and wonder and the possibilities, at the fun and joy that life has. At the choices we make.

Thought for the Day - Gratitude Is the Doorway to Love

If life is to feel the immeasurable feeling of love - to love and to feel loved and to love all existence - then, surely gratitude is the doorway to love. One can love one thing, one person, one aspect, one feature with great passion but that may not quality as love as I understand it. It is perhaps only loving that part that you love - perhaps something one may aspire for or even want or like. It does not love that which you may not like, agree with - and that discrimination disqualifies that kind of a love from what one looks for when one is searching for that love that brings peace and joy and a calm and not anger, frustration and resentment.

It is then the love that loves each part as it is - the good and the bad and the ugly. Each part brings something new, something to wonder at, and mostly something to accept in ourselves. Once we see that, it is possible to love, to be patient with all around us including those who are messing up with what we cherish. To attain that state is to be in a good place. To love all parts of ourselves then is to love all parts in others.

The gateway to that state is certainly, I am convinced, gratitude. To be grateful to what we have, this life, this comfort, this capability, this access, this health, this love, this moment...suddenly makes us realise how connected we are to all of life. It makes us aware how we are really nothing without any of the things outside of us. How the outside makes us, completely, and how we make ourselves react with gratitude to the outside and make what we can to make the outside a more peaceful, loving place is our story perhaps.

And the doorway to that is to be grateful to all that is in our life directly, all that is behind that sustains our life indirectly, to all that gives us joy and all that grows us by throwing challenges at us. To be grateful for the good, the bad, the thought, the word, the deed, the gesture, the is that feeling that must certainly lead to that place that is filled  with love.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Right Ho, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse

There is a way a person breaks out into uncontrollable laughter that is signature Wodehouse. You can clearly tell that the person is afflicted by a case of Wodehousitis. I loved reading all his books and cannot have enough of them. So the other day when I was in a airport and had a long wait and a long journey ahead I went browsing for a book and I could find nothing better than a 'Right Ho, Jeeves' to up my mood. And it's been a long time since I laughed like that.
Arrow, 290 p, Rs. 299

Bertram Wooster (I know a couple of fellows who live life exactly like Bertie does) is unhappy with Jeeves because Jeeves does not like the new white mess jacket Bertie has brought back from a visit to France. Bertie decides that Jeeves has lost his touch and when two of his pals - Pongo Twistleton who is in love with his cousin Angela and Gussie Fink-Nottle who is in love with a poetess Madeleine Basset - run into trouble, decides to take it upon himself. Jeeves, he tells the man who has saved many a situation like the above, you complicate things. And when Bertie's Aunt Dahlia also summons him to her place where the entire party is now located, due to some troubles of her own, Bertie has his hands full. He manfully tries to find solutions to the rapidly disintegrating situation, gets the parties further asunder, gets the great cook Anatole to almost resign, almost gets married to the frightful Basset and in the end has to hand things over to Jeeves. It does involve some action and some blame taking by Bertie as always but all's well and that ends well and the right parties get hitched to the right parties . Except that despite all his precautions, Bertie finds that his white mess jacket has been burnt by an iron and Jeeves apologises for that indiscretion.

Anjali found it very funny to see me laughing uncontrollably. It is her first brush with Wodehousitis and I do hope she experiences it too. Loved it.

Gotama the Buddha, His Life and Teaching - Vipassana Research Institute

Came across this small book by the Vipassana Research Institute which gave a lot of information about the Buddha and his teachings and the Vipassana course. Gotama the Buddha, (6th century BC) son of King Suddhodhana and Queen Mahamaya was named Siddhartha, one whose aim is accomplished. Siddhartha was called Siddhartha Gotama because his family name was Gotama. At sixteen he married Yashodhara and lived a carefree life until twenty nine. When his son was born he named him Rahula, meaning obstacle, because he felt he was being drawn into bondage.

He set out in search of the truth. First he met teachers Alara Klama and Uddaka Ramaputta and learned from them deep absorption concentrations. Then he practiced severe austerities but truth still eluded him. It was only when he sat down with a strong determination to achieve enlightenment that he rediscovered the technique of Vipassana.

Vipassana is to see things as they really are; and not as they appear to be. Practicing vipassana he penetrated the veils of ignorance, delusion and illusion. He discovered the law of cause and effect - if we eradicate cause, there is no effect. By eliminating the cause of suffering one can find liberation from misery, and happiness.

His first two disciples were two merchants from Burma. Then he moved to Sarnath near Varanasi to teach the profound Dhamma. There he taught his five companions who has left him before Bodhgaya and then another fifty four friends of the son of a wealthy merchant. These sixty were then sent to teach the Dhamma in various places. He transformed the ferocious Angulimala who had killed 999 people. He faced opposition throughout his life. He died in his eightieth year.

The Buddha taught the middle path - that seekers of truth must avoid the two extremes of sensual pleasure and of extreme austerity.

The four Noble Truths

  • There is suffering
  • Suffering has a cause:craving
  • If craving ceases, suffering ceases
  • There is a path leading to the cessation of suffering

The Eightfold path
1. Right view
2. Right thought

Moral conduct
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood

Control of mind
6. Right effort
7. Right awareness
8. Right concentration

The 12 interconnected links in the circular chain of becoming

  • Dependent on ignorance, reactions arise
  • Dependent on reactions, consciousness arises
  • Dependent on consciousness, mind and body arise
  • Dependent on mind and body, the six sense doors arise
  • Dependent on the six sense doors, contact arises
  • Dependent on contact, sensation arises
  • Dependent on sensation, craving arises
  • Dependent on craving, clinging arises
  • Dependent on clinging, becoming arises
  • Dependent on becoming, birth arises
  • Dependent on birth, decay and death arises 

This process can be stopped by Vipassana meditation.

The Buddha found that between the external object and the mental reaction of craving, there is a link - the body sensations. The cause for craving and suffering to arise is not something outside of us but rather the sensations that occur within us. To free ourselves of craving and suffering we must deal with this inner reality, with our sensations.

The Biddha said 'I have shown a step by step extinguishing of mental conditioning.'

Vipassana meditation
Vipassana is the personal purification of the mind - the highest form of awareness, the choiceless observation of things as they are. It spells an end to daydreaming, illusion and fantasy. It is removal of negativities, complexes, knots and habits that block mankind's highest qualities - pure love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. During Vipassana training the student battles with his own ignorance.

The ten day course is conducted at the course site, from 430 am to 900 pm with breaks and at last 10 hours of meditation. For three days the student develops concentration by observing the inhalation and exhalation of breath, then awareness and then equanimity and finally love and compassion. There is no charge.

The rate of progress of a student depends solely on his previously acquired merits and on the five elements of effort - faith, health, sincerity, energy and wisdom.

There are 84 Vipassana centres in India and 94 centres across the world. I attended one 10 day course. It's effects remain. Recommended.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Story idea - Ideal Boy Meets Ideal Girl

Hook: The extreme fantasy - what every boy desires in a girl meets what every girl desires in a boy.


Boy lists out the ideal girl qualities - fun, smiling, supportive, cheerful, intelligent, daring, not stuck up, sports loving etc.

Girl lists out boy qualities rich, handsome, intelligent, sense of humour, caring etc.

Both meet. Somehow they see all those things they had listed in each other. Sparks fly after that. Push the fantasy. But will perfection hold?

To contrast we have their friends who have low expectations from their mates - find one another and seem to get along well - a nice warmth perhaps minus sparks.

To work on the romcom idea. Sounds cliched but worth a try.

Anjali - Ganesha Idols, God and Devotion

Anjali has got it firmly into her head that Ganeshas must be made of clay. She has been told by her teachers the harmful effects of the synthetic ones which use chemical colours etc. She had a lot to say about the huge Ganpati idols near our home today (sometime during Ganesha times).

'Why do they do this? Why can't they make clay idols?' she said exasperated that people just don't get it. 'Is this how they show devotion to god? By doing things that harm the environment that god made?' she went on.

Good. An activist. I think it was after this event that she got the courage to walk up to our colony committee people and put in her request for a clay idol.

I do like the connection between god and devotion. It is being kind to the environment and other beings that god made. Be it the music, the inconvenience of the pandals. the idols, the pollution, the garbage, the rubbish, the disregard for all of god's things while seeking god through loudspeakers. Show devotion by being loving, gentle and kind.

Anjali - Creativity at Work

So there is an empty yogurt cup. I would generally throw it away. But Anjali picks it up and disappears into her room. After some intense work she reappears. Voila, its a pen holder with a smiley.

Kids are fantastic at this. An idea strikes them, they are seized by it and they put all their focus and concentration into creating it.

I like the smiling fellow. That's a signature feature - a smiley.

Anjali - That's A Very Good Panel

I don't know when I filed this away in the drafts section but I do know what me want to write about it. I was telling Anjali that the panel for the Mumbai event was sort of finalised.
'It's going to be Sonali Kulkarni, Suhita Atya, Tarun Chauhan and me,' I said. 'What do you think?'
Pat came the answer.
'That's a very good panel,' she said with complete confidence.
Full support
Ah, I don't know what she understands of the panels but I do know what it makes me feel when I hear something like that so confidently said, backing me up.
I did feel like it was a very good panel and all other thoughts about the panel went out of the window. Thank you Anjali.

If the decision is made, and you have nothing concrete to offer, simply give them confidence by backing their decision fully. That's all they need. Our support.

Wonder Cement Saath:7 Campaign 2017

Wonder Cement is a young cement company from Udaipur that has grown by leaps and bounds. The company began a large consumer engagement program in 2015 through what else - cricket. They organised one of the largest open cricket tournaments (played with a tennis ball) ever (in the world perhaps) across Rajasthan which was a huge success. Several all girl teams played the last edition which was won by MSG Club Bikaner. A 65 year old lady played. Several such milestones were achieved.
Unveiling the trophy
Now the company is back with the second edition.

Titled Saath:7 Cricket Mahotsav - signifying 'saath' as together and also 7 as a 7-a side 7 over tournament. Everyone is allowed to play. 48000 participants are expected to play this year. 300 games. Spread across the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The objectives of the tournament are - Respect for women (a girl member in the side will fetch the team 7 bonus runs), Uniting people, Empowerment of youth, Generation of local employment and Encouraging talent..

Prize money this year is 40 lakhs which is good enough for many good cricketers to go and play. The tournament begins at tehsil level then district level, then zonal level and then the play offs. The entire tournament is conducted over four weekends. Bats and balls are given to the players.
In conversation with Vikas Patni
Yesterday Wonder Cement announced the second edition at the Taj Mahal Man Singh hotel in Delhi and the inimitable Tarun Singh Chauhan, man for all seasons and their management consultant invited me to attend the event. I went to Delhi in the morning and attended a glitzy program with Kapil Dev as the Chief Guest. The promoters from the Patni group, Vineet, Vikas and the senior management team was there. A large media contingent with about 100 people was present. My good friend Vijay Lokapally was there too so we all had a good time.

The promoters spoke about various facets of the company and the engagement program.Tarun spoke about the Saath 7 idea and how it was organised last year. A couple of well made AVs put the entire operation in perspective.
Young lads, Tarun, Kapil Dev and Me
And then Kapil Dev spoke. It was a lesson in public speaking and handling press conferences. He was in good humour and started with appreciating the compere Siddharth Kannan for his style and fluency in English. Then he spoke about the cricket initiative and how he hoped Wonder would go on to make bigger successes, and taking cricket and other games to more people in the country. He said something interesting - that cricket was so popular because everyone has an opinion on it. On all other things we don't have an opinion. I guess that's what makes things or people popular - to do or be something that makes people come up with an opinion on them.

He handled questions regarding the movie, the tennis ball format, comparison with Hardik Pandya and Pandya's batting order, the retirement of Nehra, the Rajasthan Association and its soured relations with the BCCI, with great aplomb and it went on and on and on and on that I just got tired watching. But he handled it patiently, with good humour, presence of mind and wit. Wonderful stuff.

Here's wishing what promises to be a wonderful cricket initiative and an innovative consumer engagement campaign all success. If all goes well, I will go to watch the finals in Udaipur. Thank you Tarun, Wonder Cement, Vijay for making it a memorable trip.

Lovely Link - Travel ideas in India

Done: Belum caves, Yana rocks, Hogenekkal falls, Sinhagad, Barren Island, Mud volcanoes of Nilambur (Andamans)

To do soon: Gandikota canyon (Andhra Pradesh), Borra caves (Vizag), Lonar lake, Kaas valley (Satara), St. Mary's Island (Karnataka), riverine potholes of Nighoj (Ahmednagar)

Marked for Later: Marble rocks of Bhedaghat, Magnetic Hill, Valley of Flowers, Riverine potholes of Nighoj, Loktak lake, Living Root bridges, Sangetsar lake, Hide and Seek beach, Krem Liat Prat lake, Umngot lake,

Monday, October 30, 2017

Escape from Java and Other Tales of Danger - Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond once told me - children love to be scared a bit. This is a book of tales of danger. The first one is 'Earthquake' -a story about an earthquake that hits a village and how the family loses their old home but end up alive. The comes 'Riding through the flames' a story of a boy who has to ride home alongside a forest fire and just about makes it home after diving into the river.
Puffin, 178 p, Rs. 199
'A Flight of Pigeons' is a story from the Sepoy mutiny days when an English family is in danger from the mutineering sepoys. The father is killed and so are many others but the local Lala provides shelter to the women of the family until the danger passes. 'Escape from Java' is his autobiographical story of how he and his father escaped from Java and came to India where he studied in a convent school in Shimla. 'Sita and the River' is about a young girl who has to face a flood and how she is saved by a tree and then a boy.

Written in his lucid and simple, engaging style it's a nice lesson for anyone setting out to write. I took it off Anjali's collection. I have taken a Feluda for my next read and then on to the famous 'Phantom Tollbooth'. I think I will stay with her comics and books for a while. I have had enough of he adult world for now.

"Anjali-The Phantom Tollbooth"

Anjali's book review
The Phantom Tollbooth
My cousin, Miskil, been urging me to get this book since our trip to Mumbai in September.Unfortunately, ourfavorite bookstore didn’t have the book. Disappointed I left home.
Then on my birthday I received a parcel “The Phantom Tollbooth”
It’s a great book! By far the best book I read till date! It’s about a boy named Milo, who finds no point in what is taught in school. When he receives a note and a parcel saying.
First  he gets into the tollbooth and starts off. At first, he lands up in the Doldrums, where people who do not think go. In real life too, we all start at the Doldrums. He meets a dog called Tock who has a clock on his body and goes Tick, Tick, tick. He goes to Dictionopolis with tock and finds another partner the humbug, sent by King Azaz. (my favorite part of this book) He finds out about the princesses- Rhyme and reason and aims to rescue them.
He travels to the Point of View where you can see Alec’s point of view, Illusions and Reality a boring black place, Valley of sound where no one can talk where King Azaz’s brother and enemy the  Mathamagician stays, Digitopolis Mountains of Ignorance where all demons lie and the castle in the air to rescue the princesses.
He receives gift s and weapons from his friends which without he would be helpless. 
 It’s like a nonfiction positive thinking self-help book turned into a fantasy,funny,crazy world of wisdom!
The Phantom tollbooth is one book I will never-ever forget in my life. I recommend this book strongly
(However old you are)

Enjoy the World of Wisdom!  

The Parent Trap - Movie Review

I don't think I should call these reviews anymore - may be lists is a better word. Anyway this comes fully recommended by Anjali who actually sat through the movie with us all through (except for the times when she gets a little excited and goes off for an excited walk or a hop or skip).

Based on a 1949 novel called 'Lottie and Lisa' the 1998 movie is about to identical twins, one who lives in the US and another who lives in UK, who meet in a summer camp. They soon understand that they are sisters and that their parents have separated. They swap places in an effort to bring their bungling parents back together and succeed against all difficulties. Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson and Lindsay Lohan who plays the parts of Hallie and Annie.

Nice and cute and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Anjali. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - Life and Death

Every moment we live, we are dying a bit.

Every moment we die, we live fully.

The Paradoxes of Life - Pain and Pleasure

All pain contains an element of pleasure.

All pleasure contains an element of pain.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Royal Bengal Mystery - Satyajit Ray

Felu da is a popular character from Satyajit Ray's books. A detective of repute, he has his sidekick Topche with him. Invited to visit a landlord who is also a renowned tiger hunter along with another author, Feluda is thrown a challenge. Solve the riddle that has been in the family for generations and earn a reward.
Puffin. 100 p, Rs. 150

The land is infested by a man eating tiger. The landlord's house has a mentally retarded brother, a secretary, a friend who also looks after the business. No women surprisingly. The secretary is killed by the man eating tiger and Feluda has little time to solve both mysteries. But solve he does and finally leaves it to nature's ways.

I have another Feluda to read. And a couple more from Anjali's collection. Want to take it easy on adult books for a while. Not too impressed with this one. The tiger - is it man eating or not? The treasure - has it been found or not? Feluda's final conclusion also has many 'I thinks'. But I am being too critical on a children's book. In its favour it has excitement, drama and an element of fear that children seems to like.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Farewell My Lovely - Movie Review

A racy 1975 thriller laced with murders, the typical smooth talking private detective hero, molls, mobsters and shining through it all and holding the story together, the love of a an ex-criminal who is seeking his lost love. Lovely stuff based on a novel by Raymond Chandler.

Philip Marlowe is the smooth talking detective who is weary of his business. But he finds himself dragged, without his consent, into finding the girl friend of an ex-convict with the name of Moose Malloy. The leads to the missing girl friend go nowhere and Marlowe gives up on the case. Meanwhile he finds another client who wants him to assist in paying a ransom for a stolen jade necklace. The man dies during the operation. Then his information source for the missing girlfriend gives him the wrong picture and disappears. Another woman who knew the girl friend is killed. Marlowe is shot at. The jade necklace trail leads him to a powerful retired judge and his pretty wife. It all comes together in the end on an illegal online casino. Moose finds his girl but was his wait worth it?

Nice old fashioned stuff with corny dialogues (some funny). Robert Mitchum brings a classy charm to his role. Charlotte Rampling as Mrs. Grayle is stunning. Sylvester Stallone has a bit part - a side kick role. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Greatest Short Stories of Leo Tolstoy - Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy's stories have messages from the Bible and tell stories of forgiveness, love, trust, faith, greed, god, work and so much more. They are told simply but then have this heavy underlying message. The one story I certainly remember reading before is 'How Much Land Does a Man Need' (a greedy man who dies while trying to cover as much land as he can so he can own it - and it turns out he needs only six feet to bury him). Three hermits was a lovely story about faith.
Jaico, 376 p, Rs. 199
The stories - "God Sees the Truth but Waits" (a man who is sent to prison wrongly and meets the actual culprit there just before his release), "A Prisoner in Caucasus"(a prisoner who makes his escape thanks to a little girl for whom he made toys for), "The Bear Hunt" (hunting and killing a bear), "What Men Live By" (a lovely story of a poor cobbler who shelters a fallen angel), "A Spark Neglected Burns the House" (how words and unforgiveness can lead to enmity and ruin between two neighbouring families), "Two Old Men" (two men on a pilgrimage - one who completes it physically and another spiritually), "Where Love Is God Is" (a man's search for god who comes in various forms next day to test him), "Story of Ivan the Fool" (how a simpleton works and works and makes good his life and outwits the devil itself), "Evil Allures but Good Endures" (how a bad slave tries to spoil the others and turn them against the master but fails), "Little Girls Wiser Than Men" (adults fighting over a quarrel between two little girls but the two girls make up and start playing meanwhile), "Elias" (a rich man who loses everything and finds happiness in owning nothing), "The Imp and The Crust", "A Grain as Big as a Hen's Egg", "The Godson", "The Repentant Sinner" (how the repentant sinner convinces the saints at the pearly gates that he is truly repentant), "The Empty Drum", "The Coffee House of Surat" (all religions and faith are equal), "Too Dear", "Esarhaddon, King of Assyria", "Work, Death and Sickness" and "Three Questions" about the now).

The themes are clearly message oriented and convey the virtues of a spartan and moral life, of patience and dedication to work, devil and god, even of turning the other cheek. One can see the influence his works may have had on Gandhi. The book produced by Jaico is badly edited though.