Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exercise thinking

Very depressing. Wore a tee shirt. Stood in a group photo. Looking most wide among all in the pic. Some four days have gone by since that offending pic has graced WhatsApp. But mind not moving from the obscene bulge on the side.

Sages have advised. Warm water intake. Earliest possible dinner. No rice or flour. Run. Walk. Crawl. Surya namaskar. Breathe in breathe out. Slow breathe out. Problem is, nothing is forever. Of course, only diamonds are, but that's a story I can't​ express. For that, one needs legacy. Aukaat. But why have I gone off to diamonds? Right, nothing is forever. Or I am the tail of a dog. I do. I wag. I wipe off targets and discipline and start over again.

I am the before guy in the before and after pictures that friends keep producing. A friend does plank for six minutes. I am lucky to do a minute. Another friend runs marathons regularly. And advises on running gear and music. I can't run. So I walk. Intermittent. I use gear too. Sometimes the music is so good that I amble to listen to the music more and my breath less. I mean, Hemant Kumar's breath intake would surely be more promising than my own, right! Friends rock. I like or wow them and leave it at that. I can't even discuss the niceties of bananas before morning exercise. That's Missus. She even has a banana box, shaped like a banana in her bag. Wonder who thinks like that?

Then there are the Yoga and gym guys. Everyone owns a mat these days. And they can stretch and touch their toes. Once in a while when other conversation flags, the yoga conversation is a life saver. I do conversations. I skip the yoga bit. Dhanurasan = Dhanu + Sivarasan. For me. I can talk more about the killers of Rajiv Gandhi. Possibly. But people want to show how good their arc is in Dhanurasan. I try to be amazed. My arc would more look like a sandbagged culvert. With no space below for water to flow. They are going the way of a trim Kapil Sharma. And I am going the Kapil Sibal way.

Many have personal trainers. The trainers enable discipline and fun while achieving the impossible. Some trainers are good looking too. I suppose that helps. The ladies may be able to tell more. What would a personal trainer do with me? Maybe use me as a reference in a classroom. This is not what you become. This is the opposite of where you need to go.

I love the men and women with washboard abs. I did the crunches too for a period when my back was good. I too stood in front of mirrors like they do. I too pulled up sweaty tees. They see etchings on walls. I saw Anil Kapoor hair. Their tees stayed up. My tee went down and was never brought up again.

But life does not cease to surprise. Maybe one of these days, I will do something.

Maybe, build a 56' chest. And point towards it with two hands. And talk into microphones.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Asian invasion

I am Patrick. Short being Pat. Am an amiable Brit. I like Cricket on the weekends. I watch it. Don't play. Me and the missus get around to seeing a few games in the Midlands during the summer. We take our umbrellas. Brit weather, you know. We carry the sunglasses too. Brit weather, again. We rejoice if it is 11*C and the sun is over us. It used to be good back in the seventies. Snow, Botham and Willis. Gower, Gooch and Holding. Watch a game. Have a pint. Take the 9.32 home.

Then the Asians arrived.

Don't take me wrong. I am not the type to abuse them at the Ginger Pub with the mates over a beer. But it's impossible to watch and savour a Kohli drive if someone close is always dancing and falling over you without even registering the classicism of that drive. It looks like they've had a few even before they arrive in the morning. The Bangladeshis yell in Bengali and the Indians yell back in Hindi or the other many languages that they have. Their bad teeth aimed towards television cameras. They actually live for their cameras. The food drops off their laps when they find that the cameras are looking towards them.

Missus has got no interest in Cricket. She comes along because I go. She does the crossword during the matches. Last I looked at her crossword a few hours ago, she had drawn up quizzical lines emanating from the boxes. When asked, she said that the lines were because of the young men hitting her elbows as they kept jumping up every other minute. I felt sorry for her. How would DARWIN look if all the letters have spikes going all over? And she couldn't even glare at them as they kept muttering "Sorry" too.

The men who bring their Indian drums with those cymbals and one obese man who seems to wear a frightening contact lens and stare at the camera, were right there in front of us. When the cameras weren't looking their way, they ate. Or played the instruments. I could not hear the sweet thud of the bat on the ball all through the match. When the cameras looked their way, they became mini versions of Godzilla. Is being frightening a type of celebration in India? Need to research on that.

Even the Bangladeshis weren't behind. They brought in huge tiger dolls and shoved the dolls under my nose to make me frightened. I was, for them and their sanities.

This game used to be about tweeds, hats, whites and patience not so long ago. Am wistful. On the pitch, even now, I like it when the strokes are classical and the ball seams away well. But in the stands, it is as though "Planet of the Apes with bad teeth" has been released.

Well, one can't complain. They bring the economy to the grounds.

And what's this Jai Mata di? Oh, religion, is it?

Holy cow, they have this overt thing about religion, don't they?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

How does Bhutan stay so happy and Pawan Kalyan Chronicles

Bhutan is a happy country. It is highest in the Happiness Index ratings. You know why?

They watch "Indra the Tiger" on TV. Daily. On repeat.

I swear. Ma Kasam. Heard from very reliable source.

Telugu to Hindi films have their own charm. Real hero. Doing hero things. Like punching one person and escape velocity making five persons go flying through the air with buzzing fly background music accompanying their flight path. Sometimes in slo-mo. Mostly in slo-mo. He'll say some small Telugu word, effective word, but it will come out as "Khabardaar Launde" well beyond the time his mouth is shut. You will marvel at the art of ventriloquism. Kamalhaasan did it in one film long long ago and made it a hit. They are doing it now in hordes of T2H films and of course, they will be liked.

But I like the challenges to science more in their films and that truly makes me happy. Like those people in Bhutan.

Pawan Kalyan is not just a hero. He is the God of parched earth and red mangoes and small things. All together. He thumps the ground and people in Bullock carts topple and acquire escape velocity. Then, if the people are flying say to the right, the Bullock cart wheels come out and roll to the left. Your scientific temper will be tempted to ask, "How"? Precisely, that's where Pawan Kalyan challenges you. Maybe, it's his shoes or the magnetic quality of his soles that attract the iron rivets in the wheels and so the wheels are tempted to roll back to where Pawan Kalyan stands with his thumped heel in the ground. Pawan Kalyan reinvents the tenets of science.

Doesn't that make you happy?

That should. That's the idea of T2H films. To make you happy. It's why people in Bhutan are happy. It's why Zee Cinema and Star Gold are happy making so much money on those sublime films.

I came to know of another one the other day. Supreme Khiladi. I was denied a full dekko by certain other pressing assignments like IndiaPak rivalry. But since I am generally happy person I know given a remote and a good day, I will again receive the bounty. Why did Akshay not think of Supreme Khiladi? What spurs a Supreme Khiladi?

The little I saw was breathtaking. Turning head. People flying. Someday I will know the science behind that too. And there's red eye and cheek shake when the mother is attacked. Or sister.

That's true service to the sons of the soil. Zee Cinema does that.

NDTV did not carry out the service. No red eye. No cheek shake. Nothing. Look what happened.

Khabardaar Launde.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The original startups and unicorns

Windows. The older versions. The ones that you looked out of. Not looked in through a computer.

Long ago, in my native village, they had these big four doored windows with iron bars, I used to sit at them. Two specifically nice ones, one overlooking a nice small mango orchard and another one overlooking a courtyard that had a "samadhi sthal" of our forefathers on one side and the Mandir on the other side and the clean middle area.

I watched a lot of things happen from these two windows. Summers they were. Lazy cows parked in the middle of the courtyard. Tied to tethers. Munching on what they had in their mouths. The mouths covered by a hay net so that they cannot eat more from the fodder stacks kept on one side of the courtyard. The floor of the courtyard made of clay. Everyday wiped with clay and dung mixture to keep it clean and cool. Trees as diverse as Jackfruit to neem to mango flanking the courtyard. The pond beyond the samadhi on the left. The ducks in the pond on the left. They quacked among themselves. On quite afternoons one could hear their entire conversations.

I discovered stories about my forefathers then. During those quiet afternoons.

It is the 1880s. Haripada Narayan Majumdar has just returned from Birsingha. Birsingha being the place where Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the great Bengal Renaissance man and the revered teacher of Bengali grammar lives. Birsingha is about 18 miles away through the kuchcha roads from Shrirampur, our village.  Haripada wants to build a school in the village but he has no funds. He has taken with him some gold of his wife. She's okay with the idea. Vidyasagar does not take the gold. Tells him to show his determination by just starting a class in his courtyard. He gives him three copies of "Varna Parichay" the modern grammar book written by Vidyasagar himself. Haripada is overwhelmed as he recounts the incident and shows the books to his illiterate family. He is going to teach himself and then the others.

He does so.

In a year there are 18 children in that very courtyard under the shade of the peepul that I don't see now doing Bengali grammar and basic maths.

Vidyasagar is on the board of the province school authority in two years. He is called to inspect. He does so. He is shown the three tattered copies of the books he lent. He asks students some questions. He also is happy with the answers. He signs then and there for a school in a neighborhood village as he wants more students to come to be taught by my forefather.

One child grows up to be a freedom fighter and true to the hot blooded Bengali fire in the belly, he takes up arms and becomes a comrade of Aurobindo Ghosh. You would know him more by the Aurobindo ashram of Pondicherry that he founded later when he again found peace within.

Haripada dies in the famine of early 1900s. His legacy lives on through more promising students in the oncoming decades.

Now, students and their families are all over the world. Some I know. Many I have no way of knowing.

Wouldn't you call that a unicorn startup? A startup that lasted beyond its life and still gives to the society?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Two men on a field, for the last time

Ten men crowd around the stumps. In white. Green caps askew on their heads. The ground quiet and silent. Just a ball and another over to go. The rain has come on. Washes the perspiration from the ten faces. But no one, absolutely no one in the field has his mind on the rain or the floodlights that have come on. Two old men. At the brink of history. Of retirement. Of moving into the annals of history. As the greatest Pakistan Cricketers of all time. Younis and Misbah. Ex-Captain and Captain. Men who had marshalled the dawn of the golden age of Pakistani Cricket.

Then, there are the two batsmen from the islands. West Indians, they call themselves. A pale shadow of the team that had muscled other national teams thirty years back. A batting that was being shepherded by a batsman who till the other day was known more for his bowling. Another, who was literally the number 11 in the team batting order. Whose idea of batting is a prod at any ball. Roston Chase and Shannon Gabriel. Cricketers who are barely known around the islands. No showmen, as the showmen were all away playing for gold and town houses in a league that has quixotic team names for cities. Chase and Gabriel. They could have been a bank, the way they have defended their citadel for the last ten minutes.

The premier Pakistan bowler, a leg spinner, crouches at his bowling mark. He has been beyond super through this test match. Bowling from wide of the stumps, lobbing the ball at the batsman from a height and angle where it causes much discomfort. In failing light, misty rain and inadequate floodlights, he is always going to be a handful. One last ball is left. One last ball to get to five wickets. One last ball to leave his superlative impact on a test that has swung like a yo yo between the two teams. Yasir Shah, a man who looks more like a footballer than the ace cricketer he is.

The hush descends as he comes in to bowl.

Gabriel is the batsman. He has been coached by Chase at the wicket. Defend, for your life depends on it. But he has ten world weary men crouching around him. Ten men from a country that has nothing going for it other than this game. Ten men who cannot play in flashy cricket leagues around the world. Or don't. Two among the ten are so old and weary that crouching for a catch is also task. But yet they are there, for the nation. For themselves, for history.

Yasir bowls. It is a wrong one. Gabriel has a brain seizure. He decides that the best way to defend would be a hoick over the in field. Get it over their heads. A milli second later he hears the sickening sound of the ball hitting his stumps. Inside edge. His face crumples. What's he done? Chase is shell shocked. One ball and he could have defended the final over. One ball and he could have carried the team into a memorable draw. But what's the young man done?

The Pakistanis are everywhere. Younis plucks the stumps. The substitutes arrive with the flag. Yasir is jumping around in footballer glee. Misbah is engulfed. He is looking towards his family. They are in the stands. He is 42 years old. The oldest captain in the last thirty years of modern Cricket. He knows what he has achieved. He runs towards his family. The inscrutable captain at last shows some emotion. Younis has a smile as wide as the Indus.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the most bittersweet hour for Cricket.

Two honorable gentlemen leaving the field for the last time, draped in their country flags, as winners.

Just know, their impact on the game has been much more than Dravid, Tendulkar, Miandad, Inzamam and Sangakkara. The other South Asian greats.

Old men. Victors. More than ever.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What did Bappi Lahiri do with Kaifi Azmi's poetry?

This was 1978. There was a flood in Bengal. My father travelled there to give some succor to our suffering family. They had lost their house and were living on the banks of a seething riverine. Father had some money. So they started rebuilding the house. Father did not have much leave and he came back to Nilgiris where we were then.

I did not watch many movies then. In fact, even if we went to the movies, I tended to loiter outside. But then, I was fixating on a strange song called "Bambai se aaya mera dost" and the film was Aap ki Khatir. And that had come to the Kilimanjaro hall in Wellington. Charming hall beside a cricket ground. So we went to see it. Vinod Khanna. Rekha. Some domestic drama. Both of them in robust form. Suddenly Bambai se...burst onto the screen. Ecstasy. First sampling of the Bappi beat and the Bappi voice.

Bappi Lahiri became an artist to follow up on.

And what a follow up he presented.

Toote Khilone. The title would straightaway suggest bad songs. Wrong. Bappi Lahiri would make history with this.

But let me start with the cast and crew. Shekhar Kapoor was the hero. Shabana Azmi was his lady in the film. Again, a drama. Shekhar was unimpressive. His acting career went to dogs post this effort. Shabana went the other way. Ketan Anand directed the film. Very underrated director. Yes, he was another nephew of Dev Anand. I was to meet him eight years later in Hyderabad. When he was there for Filmotsav along with his next, the superb Shart. But this was pretty insipid drama. Loosely put together.

But that song. Maana ho tum behad Haseen. Alone made a difference to its lifetime business. Rescued it from the depths. The entire nation took notice of Yesudas's skills at the mic and Bappi's orchestral skills.

Listen to Bappi's work closely. This. Aitbaar. Namakhalal. Sharaabi. Sansar. Sailaab. Chalte Chalte. One thing would be common. His set up of the orchestra. His clean instrumentation. His chorus. You got to listen to his choruses. And the rhythm. He also was very good with classical compositions. Bappi is ridiculed a bit these days. Memes, spoofs and what not. But back in the days, he sometimes provided great music.

Back to the song. It starts with a guitar riff. Then a brief lull before Yesudas's voice brings in certified magic. The chorus follow and immediately there's an aura to the song. Yesudas raises pitch with Dekho kabhi toh pyaar se and you are tempted to sing along. There are the violins and there's the piano. Very Bappi. He could play all these instruments himself. And the simple rhythm. The bass guitar keeping count. Very understated orchestra giving primacy to the voice. Very unlike Bappi and his reputation.

In the following years, I must have sung the song countless times in the bathroom with a plastic mug doing the work of the bongo. I loved the enclosed space feel in the bathroom that gave the right vibration to my voice through Maana ho tum.

But who wrote the song? Gulp. The illustrious poet lyricist Kaifi Azmi. You nonplussed? You thinking how did that blingy man get to do this great song? Well, he was a talented young man then. Bappi Lahiri.

Yesudas rates him as a great composer to this day. Unfortunately, Bappi chose the easier way out by living under the shadow of the moniker "Disco king".

That said, just listening to "Koi yahaan aha nache cache!" Yeah, kill me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Hey! The economy will not dump you

The notes have been discontinued. The matter is done. The cows have gone home. Now what?

Take the money to your nearest bank and deposit.

If it is unaccounted, you will receive a polite call or message from the Income Tax people and you will do well to pay up the fine, grin and bear it. You will still have much to salvage.

If it is accounted for, why worry your head off? You are paying your taxes. Use your plastic more. Intelligently. That's it. It is not for you anyways that the government has done what it has done. It is for the guys who run a mammoth black economy and deprive the nation of its rightful path, putting the stress back on the taxpayers that's us. 3% of the whole population. Us. It's to bring at least another 40% into the rightful way of economic development.

Just imagine what could happen now?

Banks will receive over Rs. 80 lakh Crores. Flush with funds, RBI could announce a slew of cuts in interests and repo rates. You could borrow money from banks at much easier rates than ever before.

Banks will reach out to the unbankable and create newer propositions giving birth to an altogether new economy.

This could benefit a slew of new entrepreneurs who could, with the help of banks, participate in personal growth and nation development. Education, services, infrastructure and utilities would receive a big fillip. Money will go where it is supposed to go.

Government, now cash rich, can undertake many budgetary reforms and augmentations than ever before. Again, Infrastructure, education, police, law, healthcare and agriculture will receive much needed funds to breathe easy and improve their lot.

Maybe, just maybe, the taxed will be taxed less. GST is going to help in some way already and maybe our tax slabs can get easier. We could hope for that. Then, more money in our pockets.

WhatsApp forwards and shovelling dirt at various political fatcats is all fine. I have enjoyed some jokes too. Over the last twelve hours but this is good.

This is what India should be about. Bold and sure footed. Strong, healthy and bubbling. There will be some of us who will have major concerns with cash in hand.

I still say it's time to show it. To the banks and the tax guys. No harm. No one is gonna put you behind bars. Some fines.

As for me, blissful. I am most happy using plastic and transferring money through the net.

I am lazy. And using a mobile to transfer money fits my type completely. Cheers!