Nistabdh khada, nishabd khada
Hai raashtra aaj doraahe par
Ik aag se jalta rasta hai
Ik bujha hua sa murdaghar
Tum haath utha ke mashaal liye
apne dil mein ye sawaal liye
Ma behnon ki gaali kha kar
na koi seedha jawaab diye
is doraahe par aaj ruko
Gar kadam uthe seedha hi uthe
Aane wali peedhi pooche
Keh dena thodi der lagi
Par aaj uthe, hum saath uthe

Ye ajeeb drishya hai
Chal raha manushya hai
Ashru, sved, raqt se
Lathpath lathpath lathpath.
Kya aaj chunoge agneepath?
Agneepath, agneepath, agneepath.

Problems of the Writing Mind (1)

Ever since I have decided that one of the things that I am going to take very seriously is this book idea that I’ve been working on, I am realizing how difficult it is to migrate from writing an incoherent short blogpost to a coherent full blown book. And some of the things I had noticed earlier are coming back to me. About how Sidin, a seriously funny guy, could write the trashy three book series. About how Amit Varma, one of the best bloggers India had, and some amazing thought provoking articles for various online and offline publications, could come up with My Friend Sancho. Compared to these prolific bloggers, some non-prolific bloggers actually have better books, I’d say. And some non-bloggers are actually miles ahead. And some of these books actually make me feel that Chetan Bhagat isn’t as bad as some of us make him out to be. It’s just bloody difficult

Anyway, to come back to my writer’s block problems, let me talk about a couple of them.

Fast food mind. With Twitter, Facebook and co, the mind operates in this libertarian frame where every significant or insignificant thought needs to be disseminated right there and then. A private chuckle or profound musing later, the thought has already outlived itself. Something longer than that ends up being a blogpost. Hardly anyone has the patience to read the long blogposts these days. Two reasons – too many blogs, too little time. They come with #longreads kind of warning. The problem for me manifests as a scarcity of thought as well. I have not been creating the mindspace and physical space which is broad enough to noodle over a thought long enough to write a longish post or section of the story on it. For instance, if I were to tell you that one of the ideas I had last week was the story of this anti-hero/vigilante who does what’s seemingly right but has no moral code whatsoever about how it’s done. Now, someone would automatically tell me which all comic books had the same idea as the central theme. I’d have read some, maybe. Or, none. Then I’d start scrambling for those comic books, their themes, plots, undercurrents, philosophies, fan fics, etc. In no-time an idea that could have evolved as an original idea, would be too encumbered by everything that has already been said about it. I am struggling to completely take myself offline. And I think I need to do it. Or, I can take a friend’s maxim to be true – It’s almost impossible anymore to find a thought that is completely original. Proposed solution to self – disconnect from the internet for extended spells. Includes but not limited to – deactivating the data connection on phone, and switching off the router in the bedroom (leave the dead spot as is). Disable wifi across devices (phone, ipad, etc.). And then, switch off the TV. I cannot go off consumption like gauravmishra did. But I can surely cut down my consumption, right?

The silence of the crowd – I am someone who has strong aversion to judge or be judged. While I started blogging in 2003/4, my initial ones (posts/blogs) were extremely private that I never even told anyone about. It was a webification of personal journal/diary. And the later ones have had a tendency to be frivolous about movies etc in a way that someone bringing them to my offline life does not bother me. The joke would be on me, and I am fine with it. Extending this logic, the moment I realize that the people around me realize that I am writing something and they start waiting for it, I will be too scared of being judged. And then my block becomes an immovable mountain. Even the home is a place where you feel that even the kitchen shelves know you and are judging you if you spend a minute too much in making that next cup of coffee! ☺ SO, I have always tried to find my comfort in the silence of the crowd. The chaos and the unfamiliarity gives me more open space, at times, then the comfort of a home. Hence, the decision over the last couple of days to find a noisy but comfortable coffee shop where I can sit and write.


That’s that then! More to come.

Coaches, Coaching: Passing Observations

Some on-off incidents –

#1 – There is a club in Raheja Vihar, close to my apartment. It has one badminton court. The next badminton court might be at Bombay Scottish. The one after that, likely, is in Hiranandani or Lake Homes. Each of these courts has defined play times for children, ladies, and general. There are hours when its deserted. There are times when you wait for 30 minutes to get a game in. Practice ralleys are not encouraged because it eats into other people’s time. So you talk in terms of 3 practice rallies only. Or 5. I haven’t seen a ‘coach’ here.

#2 – Three kids in the building where we live in Mumbai are playing a little soccer at the podium level. General gully scratching as one would say. One of them was trying to make his free kicks curve in. The second thought he knew how to and was trying to explain him, because his kicks had occasionally curved in. But then, kid#2 could also not do it consistently enough. The third was the goalkeeper. Also, as a second coach. If you heard the conversation, you’d know that they didn’t have a clue. They were experimenting. And learning.

#3 – A month long summer cricket camp in 1994 with a coach who is a nice fellow (a wicketkeeper batsman in the MECON team, also the second wicketkeeper of Bihar team)– Jitendra Singh. Jitendra bhaiya would tell us about the need for warm up, running, stretching etc. before you get to the actual game session. The game sessions were of two types. The typical nets where someone would bat and a set of bowlers would bowl. Or, split the lot into two teams and let them play a match against each other. As the play progressed, he would occasionally tell you what’s wrong with a particular delivery or shot. And so we tried to learn. In that period, I was experimenting with the bowling actions of Arshad Ayub, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble, John Emburey, and a whole bunch of others before getting to a hybrid which was a cross between Warne and Kumble. I was a budding off-spinner. Maybe he noticed. Maybe he didn’t. He was happy that my deliveries were landing in the right areas. But he never talked about the loop, the trajectory, the rotations and the angle at which the ball should/ could land. Or the use of crease. Or the importance of pitches. In the same coaching camp, I don’t remember telling him much to the keeper either. That wicketkeeper, you’d remember from a few years back, wasn’t the nicest sight behind the stumps when he started for India, even though he used to be quite explosive as a batsman.

#4 – Last year, I was at my sister’s place. October sometime. One of those evenings, I took my nephew to his basketball class. He was 11 years old then. It was a 60 minute session. For the first 50 minutes, the coach conducted several 4-5 minute capsules covering the basics. How to move, how the knee bends should be, the second counting counting, the shoot, the dribbles, the hold, the release, offense movement, defense movements, decoys, etc. Small capsules of theory and practice. The kids were facing the coach and copying the basics. Next 5 minutes, he let the kids play in two teams. And for the last 5 minutes he let the kids do whatever they wanted to. Let them be kids, as they say.
Random conversations with several people since then suggest that at schools in US, the coach is the highest paid teacher.

#5 – I am reading Rafael Nadal’s book – Rafa. And one thing that stands about that ginromously successful and talented player is the excruciatingly painful training he has subjected himself to. All the hardwork he’s put into getting to that place. Somewhere in Sachin Tendulkar’s story is a similar lesson. Though, it was his brother Ajit who used to drive him from one stadium to another to another. And in both their stories, you have coaches who had a significant impact, more so in Rafa’s case than Sachin’s case.


Notice anything? The general indication is that we as a nation are heavily dependent on talent. Not coaching, grooming or hardwork. Many with talent rarely get a chance to be near a coach. Even rarer is a coach takes interest. And rarest, a coach who is good.

The methods are absent because they are not considered important. The infrastructure is missing, because the administrators have other priorities. More often, how to be rich in 3 years and save for my coming generations in the next few. Like all things educational, our focus on the educators is abysmal. Teachers get paid less than daily wage laborers in primary school, and we expect them to lay a strong foundation (Rs. 5000 per month or so). A professor in a management school earns a monthly salary which a graduating MBA finds insulting. And coaches, more often than not, are an afterthought.

But how long will it be before we see a need for good teachers and coaches?

We know about Acharekar’s success as a coach. We have seen how Gopichand’s academy is grooming more and more world class badminton players. I believe that Bhupathi’s academy will give us some more world class tennis players. Albert Ekka Hockey Academy in Ranchi helps groom hockey players in the region with great consistency. Mary Kom is keen on a good boxing academy. Music, over the years, has maintained the culture of gharanas, and Rahman kind of people are investing in the KM Music Conservatory. We’ve seen Kirsten be a great coach to the Indian team. And historically as well, Ajit Wadekar, Chappell, etc. have played that role with varying levels of success. It will be interesting to see if a Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ganguly or Tendulkar take the route of coaching youngsters. Or, will most of them end up in the commentary boxes.

My hypotheses – it will probably be a 10-15 year long cycle where good players who retire from international or first class sports will take the opportunity to open academies, groom youngsters, bring best practices from around the globe, and get the backing of business houses who understand that there is money in creating a culture too, and not just encashing a fleeting sentiment. And then, we will have competent bench strength. And somewhere, enough adulation, money and competitive pressure to keep everyone going. I don’t think it’s going to work unless the economics is favorable.

विरासत (Inheritance)

उसे अकेले चलने की आदत नहीं थी। मज़ा नहीं आता था ऐसी वाक में। हमेशा ऐसा लगता था मानो बैकग्राउंड में ज़ी हॉरर शो का वो भद्दा सा संगीत बज रहा हो। हॉरर देखने वालों की तादाद दो तरह की होती है। एक जिन्हें वो भूत, वो खून, वो डरावने चेहरे देखने में कुछ मज़ा सा आता है, और दुसरे वो, जिन्हें ये सब एक कॉमेडी की तरह लगता है। वैसे इन दोनों ही पक्षों को ये संगीत कॉमेडी ही लगता है। मगर उसके दिमाग में सुनसान से ज्यादा तन्हाई का संगीत जी हॉरर वाला ही होता था। उसने कभी विश्लेषण नहीं किया था की क्यों ऐसा होता है। ऐसा भी नहीं था की उसे जी हॉरर शो बहुत पसंद था। बस एक संयुक्त एहसास था। और कुछ भी नहीं। कम से कम दूसरों को तो ऐसा ही लगता था।

वो भी एक ऐसी ही रात थी। बैकग्राउंड म्यूजिक के साथ जब वो अकेले बस स्टॉप से अपने घर की तरफ आ रही थे, तो एक खौफ की तरह उसे कुछ पैरों की आहट अपने पीछे महसूस हुई। पलट कर देखने की जगह उसने अपने कदमो की रफ़्तार बढ़ा दी। लेकिन आहटों ने पीछा ना छोड़ा। कुछ देर तक तेज चलते हुए क़दमों से उसने अपना रोज़ का रास्ता बदलने की कोशिश की। आहटें फिर भी साथ थी। उसने सोचा की वो चिल्लाये। मगर किसे? और क्यों? कुछ हुआ तो था नहीं। और मानो की ये सब उसका वहम हो? बचपन से सब ने सिखाया था की अगर डर से आँखें मिलाओ और डर को तुम्हारा डर दिख जाए, तो डर तुम पर हावी होने लागता है। येही सोच कर उसने पीछे पलट कर ये देखना अभी तक जरूरी नहीं समझा था। और साथ में दो सामाजिक डर अलग से – अगर कोई पीछे हुआ ही नहीं, और मैंने शोर मचाया तो लोग क्या कहेंगे? और अगर कोई पीछे है भी और मान लो की वो कोई यहीं का रहने वाला हो और मैंने शोर मचाया  तो बिना मतलब की फजीहत।

अब वो हांफने लगी थी। अभी भी घर कम से कम 100 मीटर दूर था। रौशनी थी। और भी घरों में रौशनी थी। उसे यकीं था की अगर वो चिल्लाएगी तो कोई न कोई निचे उतर ही आएगा। मगर जितने देर में कोई नीचे आएगा, क्या वो काफी होगा? अगर कोई उसे अगवा कर के ले गया? और इससे भी सुनसान जगह एक लोहे के सरिये से जख्मी शरीर की तरह छोड़ गया? सेलफोन कम से कम हाथ में निकाल लेती हूँ। मगर चलते चलते पर्स को टटोलने में रफ़्तार धीमी पड़ने लगी। दर से उसने फिर अपने कदम तेज़ कर दिए।

इन रास्तों पर चलते हुए अब 15 साल हो गए थे। और अब तक वो सोचती आयी थी की शायद ज़िन्दगी इन्ही रास्तों पर कट जायेगी।

उसने अपने मन को सांत्वना देने के लिए कुछ बोलना चाहा। मगर सूखे हुए गले से कोई आवाज़ नहीं निकली।

शहर कभी भी सुरक्षित नहीं महसूस होता था उसे। मगर कभी इतना डरावना भी नहीं की शाम के अँधेरे में उसे साए दिखाए दें। वो कॉमेडी क्लब में थी। लेकिन गए कुछ अरसे से उसे हॉरर शो डरावने लगने लगे थे।

काम्प्लेक्स के दरवाज़े पर पहुँच कर, जब उसे बिल्डिंग के गार्ड्स दिखाई देने लगे तो उसने हिम्मत जोड़ी और पीछे मुड़ के देखा। वहां कोई नहीं था।

वहाँ अँधेरे में उसे छह हैवानों की दी हुई वो विरासत दिखी जिसकी हिफाज़त में मुल्क के सारे सियासतदान लगे हुए थे।

उसने पर्स से फ़ोन निकाल, और अपने विश्वास और हिम्मत के लिए उस लिफ़ाफ़े को फिर से छू कर देखा, जिसमे उसका भविष्य था। किसी और शहर की किसी और गली में।

Mahabharat Ki Ik Shaam

Ruko nahi
Ab mat ruk jaana
Aaj jo jaage ho
To talwaron se dar kar
Mat jhuk jaana

Roz maraa karte the tum
Ab jab jeene ki sochi hai
Ji kar dikhlao
Paani ke dar se
Ya aanson ke behne se
Na ab ghabrao

Krodh ko paalo
Aag dhadhakne do seene me
Na ki pashu ki bhaanti
bauraye se daudo idhar udhar
Is krantipoorn mahine mein

Jhuka hai pehle bhi
Tanashahon ka taj
Jhukega kal phir bhi

Bhale qilon mein baithe hain
deekh padi hai unki thar thar
Aur maathe par bal phir bhi

Aaj agar tum palat gaye
Ghar laut gaye
Phir kaun sa amrit manthan hoga
Kyun hoga
Phir mrit janjeevan ka
Chakra chalega
Jyon jyon hota aaya hai
Tyon tyon hi hoga


रुको नहीं

अब मत रुक जाना .

आज जो जागे हो

तो तलवारों से डर कर

मत झुक जाना .


रोज़ मरा करते थे तुम

अब जब जीने की सोची है

जी कर दिखलाओ।


पानी के डर से

या आँसू के बहने से

ना अब घबराओ।

क्रोध को पालो,

आग धधकने दो सीने में।


न की पशु की भाँती

बौराए से दौड़ो इधर उधर

इस क्रान्तिपूर्ण महीने में।
झुका है पहले भी

तानाशाहों का ताज़,

झुकेगा कल फिर भी।


भले किलों में बैठे हैं,

दीख पड़ी है उनकी थर थर

और माथे पर बल फिर भी।


आज अगर तुम पलट गए

घर लौट गए,

फिर कौन सा अमृत मंथन होगा ?

क्यूँ होगा?

फिर मृत जनजीवन का

चक्र चलेगा।

ज्यों ज्यों होता आया है ,

त्यों त्यों ही होगा।


The Tallest Cricket We Will Ever See

The Tallest Cricket We Will Ever See

I am affected by his retirement from ODIs. It’s time. It’s his decision. But it didn’t happen right. And we know it. And maybe at the end of SAF tour, he will announce his test retirement. The signs are there. The statement was on phone, brief, and a formality for a decision made differently, in some other place.

I am a Tendulkar fan. I won’t use the word “was”. I am. And I will be. Let me try and explain why.

Today, Indian team is going through a slump. Right? Several test defeats home and away, spineless performances, unimaginative captaincy, etc. etc. are being discussed. And somewhere, Sachin’s run with the team is being questioned. And people are talking about their growing disinterest and apathy towards the game.

If you were born in the 1975-1985 period (you just missed being a part of India’s WC 84 victory, but you’ve heard about it), you may remember. We had a horror of a team in late 80s and 90s. Full of legends dragging themselves, and a support battery that boasted of one hit wonders. Batsmen that were crafty or interesting or talented, but not match winners. Spinners that never could replicate the famed Bedi-Prasanna-Chandra era. Fielders that could make me feel like I am super-fit. At my present day fitness levels. And attitudes that reeked of – thank you, take it or leave it.

And then we heard conversations. About this talent. And then we saw it happen. Against Abdul Qadir. And then New Zealand. And then Australia. And then. And then. And we finally had something to attach our hopes and aspirations to. And he played. Like a tidal wave, he offered us adventure, excitement and peace. We rose with him. And we fell down with him. We reveled in the desert storm inning that did not win the match but took us to the final. And we made statements like – “if only he were around for 2 more overs”. Or – “Ab kya faayda. Band kar do ab TV”. And we cursed anyone who came up some convoluted statistical analysis to prove that you aren’t what you are made out to be. One of the things that all religious people tell you is that it’s about believing. And hence, the #SachinIsGod hashtags/memes never seemed too overboard.

Fast forward to 2011-2012– he fails. Critics who couldn’t last ten overs on the field debate how long he should stay on the field. I don’t care. Though I am all worried too. And I hope that there will be a swan song, but I am afraid that there won’t be one. For this is not a bollywood movie where someone just listens to a patriotic song or a mother’s cry and gets up to beat the bad guys.

Now, is there someone who’s been able to keep me interested? Someone to explain – why it doesn’t matter if I don’t follow every delivery of the game?. Online, offline? Why I won’t go out of my way to buy “Cricket Samrat”, “Sportstar” and go through the scoresheet of every match? And those cutout posters on the walls of your room? Yes, Kohli will earn his chips. And maybe a Rahane will happen. But right now, all hell breaks loose, and everyone’s fixated on this one guy. And you still want to debate that he is not the one you want to see as your best bet. Be my guest. I have nothing more to tell you.

Tendlya – Do what you’ve always done. Put on your headphones. And listen to Kishore Kumar or Pink Floyd. For the chatter ain’t worth it.

You, my friend, are a rapist

The rape did not happen that day.

Some of you may remember this. The males especially. Remember that party where this girl from the office was wearing that dress. And was looking really sexy. And you kept leering at her. No, you were not appreciating her. You were undressing her. And violating her. B50 thinks that rape is a very strong word that should not be used frivolously. And I don’t think I am using it frivolously when I say that you almost raped her that night. You took away her right to wear the dress she wanted to, and still be respected for who she was. And that girl who decided to pick a glass of rum or whiskey in the first office or college party. She must be promiscuous, you thought. And remember that girl who had two different boy friends. She can be a party favor, you wondered. Be at the right place at the right time, you planned. And remember the pass you made at that girl once you were too drunk. Maybe in a hope that being drunk allows you to say sorry later in case it she doesn’t like it.

Oh. And I forget.

You are from the elite group. The IITs/NITs/IIMs/etc. Educated, but by your own admission, not quite used to the company of women. Because you are prone to making funny jokes like – IITs don’t have females. They only have males and non-males. Your father, hopefully, did not tell you to be like that. Nor your mother told you that women are objects. You read about Sarojini Naidu and Florence of Nightingale in your school books. And the Ranis of several Jhansis. And that girl in the first bench who always wanted to be ranked first. That bloody maggu, yeah? Your teachers did not tell you this. Most likely. Yet you turned out this way.

So, what stopped you from becoming a rapist? Some kind of moral code? Fear of being caught and put behind bars? Fear of being ostracized  in case people get to know? Fear of being kicked in the nuts by the girl, or being pepper sprayed in your face? The fear of all your “other dreams” coming to an end for the sake of this one wanton fantasy? The fact that all these years, you’ve been fed by the parents, the teachers and the society around you that it’s wrong? But then, illegal downloads are wrong, and so is making lewd comments about someone behind their back.

Take the some total of all those things that stopped you from crossing the line. Somewhere, in there, lies the answer. Because it will take too long for you idiots to learn to respect women.

I wonder who it was who wrote – “jatra naryastu pujyante, tatra vasate devaah” (जत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यंते , तत्र वसते देवाः). My country is in the pits of hell. And you, my friend, are a rapist. Because you rape when you get a chance. And you tolerate when someone gets raped.

Dabangg2 – Shamelss Fun With Salman At His Best

Dabangg2 – is not like the last 3-4 movies of Salman. But it is exactly like Dabangg. Where it all started. While, like many, I consider Wanted to be the real turnaround of Salman Khan, I believe that Dabangg has created a juggernaut of sorts in the industry. Singham, Khiladi 786, Rowdy Rathore, etc. are branches of that same formulaic execution. A larger than life hero, punchlines, slo-mo action sequences, item numbers, a villain who’s good for punchliners and has perfected the art of looking menacingly at the camera, a few comic actors thrown here and there. That’s it. The big difference between 70s-80s and these ones right now is slo-mo action sequences, IMO. And a thought must be spared for Abhinav Kashyap who made the first installment, but will not be missed this time round.

Now that I have classified the movie, let me tell you that Dabangg2 is a brilliant Salman Khan movie. Right up there with Dabangg. I am actually inclined to say that it’s better than D1. So, it’s a 10-salman rating kind of movie.

The setting/story is as simple as it should be – Pandeyji takes a transfer to Kanpur (to earn more and play a bigger role). Someone kidnaps a school kid. Cut to the grand entry of Pandeyji. Cut to slo-mo fight with enough comedy moments as well. Cut to product placement. Cut to more slo-mo. Villain/Big Brother of town is worried. Run in is unavoidable. And one thing leads to another. Till such time that Salman Khan’s shirt is off. You know that the end is near if Salman has had to reveal his dashavataram/noshirtavataram roop.

Salman stays true to the Salman image. Buffoonry, Fights, Angry Eyes, “apparently” witty repartee (and its “apparently” because he is the first one to start laughing at his jokes, like a true PJ God). He is his best when the humor is self-deprecating. And Salman wins hands down in that genre. Since Govinda is not fighting fit anymore. The most endearing comic moments, however, are his prank calls to his father, Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna). Salman, yet again, carries the movie. And his beefy self will deliver, yet again.

Vinod Khanna has more screen time (if we take out the songs) than Sonakshi Sinha in the movie. That should be considered good news. But the bad news is that one item number features Malaika (but Sonakshi joins in too soon to let it be an item number) and the second features Kareena (with due respect to the Nawaaban of Pataudi, Kareena should not take up pure dancing assignments).

It’s sad to see Deepak Dobriyal play the role he did. And as badly as he did. After Omkara, Dilli 6, etc. one always waits for him to leave his imprints on a small enough character in the movie. Sadly, not this. He is a flunky who acts like a flunky.

Prakash Raj, the veteran menacing guy, has not been able to better his Singham act this time. Or, the Wanted act. Bollywood has reduced him to a unidimensional character, while we all know that he is capable of this and much more. He is good. He is fine, actually. Because this is stuff that he can do sleepwalking, most likely.

The poor guy who took his shirt off in Ready is the third villain, and takes off his shirt in this movie as well. He is the same guy who had a pretty impressive antagonist role in Jodha Akbar. Now, you remember?

Chaubeyji, Tiwariji and Siddiqui and others along with Mathur saab (the Bhatia saab of office office fame) support adequately. They are the equivalents of Mahmood, Asrani, Keshto and co in the modern era.

The opening sequence is a montage of well remembered scenes from the previous installment, sans the dialogues.

The music is not Munni-esque but is good enough to be chartbuster. Fevicol, Seeti bajaye, Dagabaz, etc. are all just about there to make it to the charts. And stick on long enough to make the movie work.

The movie has some very (seemingly) force-fitted scenes to project Sonakshi as ‘sexy’. Jeans on a bike, backless blouses, a morning-after scene , etc. Maybe not a big personality, but she has a face big enough to fill an entire screen. You’ve got to give her that much. She continues to be a well cast bad actress.

In short, it’s a great Salman movie. Enjoy it if you know how to enjoy it. By the way, did I tell you watching Salman’s movie with his real fans at single screen theaters is the best way to watch his movies. And because it’s true, the number of fake whistlers is going up, sadly. When you watch a movie at Chandan, it’s very easy to distinguish between those who love Salman, and those who want to project that they love this Salman-ism . You know that point where doing rusty stuff is the ubercool chic thing? So, it would be typically be – “Oh my god, did you see that Versace bag ya? Ooh. I am like soo going back there after the movie. You know what. We should learn how to do these whistles ya. It’s so much fun. Oooh.” And at this point, I leave you with King Julien and his whistling skills.

Watch from 0:20 till 0:48

The Hobbit: Soul-less Brilliance

What do I tell someone who’s see the LOTR trilogy about The Hobbit? And what do I tell someone who hasn’t seen the LOTR trilogy about The Hobbit?

The truth is – Hobbit is a “right” movie. The scale at which it is made, the digi-work, the camera angles, the sets, the colours and the … Brilliant. But, the movie has no soul. It’s a perfectly designed robot that resembles human body.

The movie starts a tad too slow while it labours through the initial sequence where thirteen dwarves are supposed to be introduced. Yet, the three dwarves that you really remember at the end are Dwalin, Kili and Thorin. Even Balin’s impression is a little weak. Balin finds his place once the party moves into the mountains as he tells Thorin’s story. But, Thorin, while being Aragorn-ish, is not exactly Aragorn. Viggo Mortenses drove Aragorn’s quest to your heart like a dagger. Maybe over the second and third movie a lot more. And I hope Thorin gets there as well. Unfortunately, Gloin (the one you’ve tracked from Gimli, Son of Gloin) does not get much face time. Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Fili etc are just mumbled jumbled names that you won’t even catch. And now I come to the problem no. 1. Gandalf. A glowing Gandalf of a story 60 years later (LOTR) is replaced by a faded Gandalf here. Ian Mckellan carries the movie on his shoulders, but he does not look like the same Gandalf. He is a fatigued version of himself. And I don’t blame him. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is delightful, though. His awkwardness is pitch perfect.

Whenever I think of The Fellowship Of The Ring, I remember that one shot sequence where Arwen is being chased by the Nazgul horse riders as she’s trying to save Bilbo and enter Rivendell. The entire sequence is phenomenalobalistic. I kept looking for something as new as that. The Orcs and Mordor – they all look like great paintings that you’ve seen before. The novelty is missing. Mr. Jackson – you’ve made a perfectly beautiful soul-less movie. And it makes me wonder if they were all right – that you sold your soul when you agreed to do these three Hobbit movies.

– Link to ‘that’ video

And that’s the last question on my mind – WHY THREE? If all three LOTR books deserved a movie a piece, why does Hobbit get three movies? Is there anything more here than encashing the success of LOTR? Or, despite what I felt was a reasonably sluggish first instalment, there will be enough to keep part two and three interesting and well paced?

Now then – I have been critical too long. The movie, as I mentioned, is reasonably perfect in its making. All the dwarves and Mr. Baggins are perfect. But the one who has really killed it is the digitalised Andy Serkis as Gollum/Smeagol. Gollum is my pick of the lot this time. What menacing details! And my bad for not mentioning that one stand-out scene. The riddle scene between Smeagol and Bilbo is brilliant. Only if there were more of such well crafted scenes.

End note – Watch it for you’ve loved the LOTR series. Or, watch it because you missed watching LOTR in the theatres. Its a well made movie. But, it’s not Jackson’s best. Jackson heights have not been surpassed.

A Hope

Every year, thousands of people die. Due to some mindless violence. Someone was gang raped in Delhi. Somewhere else, a score students are shot in a mad rage. In another place, someone is murdered for marrying outside the religion. For them, today’s set of posts from marathon bloggers’ group are dedicated to the ones who were lost. From the ones who are still alive. In the hope that there are still some left, when this mindless violence is over.


A Desi MBA’s Quarter Life Crisis

For the purpose of this post, let me state a couple of assumptions first –

  1. Most MBAs in India graduate somewhere in the age band of 23-27, which is somewhat different from US and other developed countries. There is a very small proportion of people in the 27+ age group. 23- would be fewer.
  2. Let’s assume that all these jokers would work between 30-40 years after their MBA. Some stars would retire in the carribean much earlier, maybe. But only some. Most would continue to stay close to work.

And hence, the quarter life crisis I am talking about hits you around 8-10 years after your MBA. And in age terms, its closer to 30, but not very close to 40.

So, what are the signs of this quarter life crisis?

  • You are settled.
  • You are somewhat successful. You are not the CEO of a fortune 500 company. But you are/close to becoming a Partner in a consulting firm, BU head in a reasonable sized business, 200-500-100 people span of control depending on the industry/ function, healthy P&L of a few hundred crores, managing an account generating in excess of 5-10 million dollars every year for the firm, etc. In short, you have managed it well so far.
  • You are somewhat known as well. So, within your industry circles, some people have started knowing you and valuing your opinion or judgement. Some of you may even be in the Top 30 by 30 or Future CEO of India kind of futuristic categories
  • You are the equivalent of upper middle class. You are not necessarily a part of the middle management, but in more cases than not, you are not executive leadership as well. And if you are a part of the Executive leadership, you are the lower echelon guy. You have your days when you feel really important. And you have your days when you feel like you’re that tiny little thing in that big bowl of salad that has been chewed and spat away.


And one fine morning, shit hits the fan. There is four of you sitting in a room. And a discussion happens. And it could be the most profound discussion for an outsider. However, for you, its an annual, and then quarterly, and then monthly, gradually going on to becoming a daily profoundness that engulfs your life. The core question is – “what the hell are you doing with your life?”. Have you been asked the question? If yes, then you’re a part of the QLC gang. The QLC is about choices – there are two paths ahead of you. One of unsettlement, risks and possibilities and another of stability and boredom. At least that’s how people portray it. One which has some risks, and the other has such predictability that makes a masala bollywood movie seem like a classic murder mystery in comparison.

But I think QLC is when you doubt if what you’re doing is really worth your time and energy. It’s about the allocation of scarce resource against endless possibilities, under the broader construct of “little knowledge is dangerous”.

After going through several such QLC discussions, as some of you may remember, I decided to throw in my towel. For the time being. I said – unsettle. Break the rhythm. And see what comes out of it. As someone said – you need really giant cojones to do this. But I think you need one of two things – a moment of extreme clarity or a moment of extreme irrationality. Whichever it might have been, but I did. And since then, my profound discussions have changed. I have had numerous conversations with people who are on the other side of the line, are looking at the line intently, and debating furiously with themselves. In a very Tyler Durden way. It’s violent, yes. What’s surprising though is the common theme – my generation of MBAs is going through an MBA’s quarter-life crisis. Some nod their head and go back to boredom. Some keep debating. Some have rationalized. Some have actualized. Some have evaluated. Many have forgotten. And few are lucky. To be happy where they are. And a miniscular proportion have found a life so blissful that everything else is secondary. And some are on the precipice of making that leap. I am wishing them and myself some luck. May the crisis be over soon 😉

“Why do we fall Master Wayne? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” – Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins.

I wish that was one thing they taught you in school or college – the ability to take risks and fail. In fact, that’s one thing that they most definitely ask you not to do in our education system. Otherwise, someone would have encouraged the study of history along with mathematics in  XIth grade, even if the ultimate aim was to be an engineer!

Side note: I have been told that the QLC timelines are getting compressed. Since a lot of the new-gen folks want to retire sooner, the going in hypotheses is – everyone who MBAed after 2002 is going through a QLC. And B.Techs too.

“The Last Act” is a well-intentioned Sunday afternoon watch

At the beginning of The Last Act, you wonder why it was intentioned to be such a low key release under Director’s Rare, so strong is the initial spell. You are spellbound as the movie builds momentum in the first couple of acts. Yet as the spell fades, the movie meanders and flounders, and another promise remains unfulfilled. You realise a lot of things that are wrong with the movie.

The movie has everything right about its description – A dead body with unknown identities, 12 clues found on the body, each leading to a different city. 12 directors have directed individual sections (cities) and one of them also tries to bring the conclusion together. The plot is conceived by Anurag Kashyap. And all of these are the right reasons why the movie keeps you on the seat.

The plot is intriguing, and as an afterthought, I must say that the conclusion is a very interesting one too. I have no intentions of revealing any of the spoilers.

The twelve cities, and sub-plots, are presented in uniquely different styles, ranging from simplistically linear and effective presentations to queasy metaphorical representations. The actors, barring a couple (like Saurabh Shukla and Asif Basra) are new names and new faces. Yet, most of them are effective in their miniature roles. Hardly anyone has more than 5 minutes of screen presence, which helps you not dwell too much on their shortcomings. So, your entire focus on plot inconsistencies, and quality of story telling within each section. And it is here that the movie flounders.

There are far too many loose-ends (and I mean loose-ends, not incidents/events open to interpretation) in the movie. Also, from a narrative standpoint, some of the details seem way too coincidental, too-far fetched, or two creative. And the most baffling of them is the missing sense of timelines from any of these events. The Pune and Chandigarh sequences are a little too esoteric, while the Hissar sequence hardly adds anything to the story anyway. Take these three out and you’d still have a very intriguing movie, I’d guess.

Yet, the movie still offers a lot of high points in the way the story is told and the plot is brought together. Some of the actors are top class in their performances. The cops in the Ghaziabad and Delhi stories, Ameena in the Delhi story, the psychotic cop in Pune, the khaini eating cop from Mumbai, and a whole bunch of others stand out. The calcutta sequence is delightful. The background score of the movie is quite good. The dead body in the opening scene is a little too flimsy and hence the impact of the blood and gore is not as hard hitting as it could have been. You can clearly see the outline of the puppet. Occasionally, the camera guys are visible in mirror reflections as well. But those are minor flaws considering the kind of forum Anurag has provided to these budding film makers. And on that, given the budget on which the movie is made, and the overall entertainment value of the film, I’d give it a big thumbs up. It’s better to support these movies than ridiculous movies like JTHJ or SOTY or …

Endnote: Watch it at home on a Sunday afternoon. Or theater (this week) if you want to support more such movies.

Short Story: Ten Minutes

This short fiction is part of the marathon blogging challenge that I am a part of. Though I know that I have been off for a week, but I am back and back with lots. The road trip diaries shall be live by tomorrow and the movie reviews of The Hobbit, The Last Act and Hotel Transylvania are also coming in. Till then, read on and shred it to pieces. The underlined part is the common start given to the group. Cheers! And Helloww!!


I ran. Fast. Out of breath. Lungs bursting. Legs hitting the earth. I thudded up the path, around the corner, right up the stairs and reached the door. I flung it open and picked up the phone. It must have been a total of one missed call and six rings on the second, fifteen steps on the staircase leading to the room on the first floor, a city in summer and a temperature of 42 degrees, and an overweight person head over heels in love to achieve that exact state of affairs. My younger brother (bro, as he prefers) still could not get used to it. A panting, gasping me on the first floor of our duplex house. He had started calling the stairs “The Milkha Way”. Well, bros can be like that.

We had never been apart despite the age differences. We weren’t very similar either. In more ways than one can imagine. For instance, I was slim once upon a time. And he is slim at this very moment. I am overweight this moment of time, and he was obese once upon a time. And at least in my case, the obesity phenomenon had happened in the last three months that I had been in India (I am awesome at defending myself, by the way and he is not!). He is funny, I am bore. He is ubercool, and I am traditionally awkward. He has hobbies, and I have work. Anyway, I digress. He usually doesn’t.

I had picked the call (before the seventh ring, if you remember), and a tiny hello came out between gasps of breath. Or, gaps of breath as bro would refer to them later. It wasn’t the call I was expecting. The call lasted about 90 seconds. My role on the call was limited. I had to do the cellphone conversation equivalent of nodding my head. And so vigorously that the other person could feel it all the way from here. The alternate was to talk like my grandma. She always felt that a long distance call meant that you had to scream louder, just in case the voice does not reach the village std booth from where my chachaji must have been calling. The longer the distance, the louder she would talk. I chose nodding vigorously. Especially since I had nothing to say. For once, in the last six years, I had nothing to say.

I disconnected the call, and kept looking down for I don’t know how long, but bro could sense it. His typical response at these moments is the Budweiser Wazzapppppp, with me joining in chorus of course. “‘vrythin ok bro?”, is all he said.
“I need to use the laptop.”
“C’mon man. Intense warfare happening. Can you give me one more hour?”
“You suck man!”
“‘aight. I get it bro. Gimme a min”.
“And just leave me alone for ten minutes, ok?”
“Ya. Whatever man!”

Those were the longest ten minutes of my life. I kept staring at the screen. I didn’t want to open the mail. But I knew I had to do it. Your past always catches up with you. For once, I looked at every key of the keyboard as I typed my password. It seemed to take longer than usual to open. And then it did not. “You have exhausted your free usage. Click here to add more to your data plan or continue browsing at 256kbps.” The message seemed like a sign from the heavens at that point. I smiled. A dry smile, if someone else were noticing me. And I continued with the paleontological era speed of 256kbps.
All I could think of as I typed my password again were the last things I had heard on the call – I need to hear back from you in the next ten minutes. Or… ”

I opened the email. I clicked open the dreaded attachment. Seven years of research and a decade of planning had come to naught.  I had to accept the revised funding terms within the next 10 minutes, or it would be assumed that I am not interested in continuing with this alternate arrangement.

I kept staring at the screen with such disbelief that my eyes could have popped and fallen into the next person’s glass of Martini. Assuming I was in a bar. But I was not. The mail was a very standard mail that everyone has read. More often than they realise. Or, at least more often than any other average email. I carefully checked the sender’s email id to ensure that the mail was from the highest authority in the field of astrophysics. These alternate sponsors were ready to offer me about 150 million dollars. It was only the last line that caught me with my pants down.

I quietly picked up the phone and dialled a different number. The person did not pick the call, as expected. I cursed under my breath. And typed a short response. However, I changed the replying email id to another alias. Coincidentally, it was the same as the sender’s.

Oh. And the last line of the mail was – “BAZINGA!”


*Inspired by the millions of spam mails offering more than a hundred million dollars on behalf of the Nigerian president.

* Bazinga –  made famous by Sheldon Cooper in the TV Sitcom – The Big Bang Theory.

Day 8: Talegaon (Goa) to Mumbao – RoadTrip Conclusion

When we got up in the morning, we fell in love with the place. R&S live in a row house and in the morning, with a bit of fog still hanging in the air, their backyard opens into a field. The greenery, the freshness in the air. Oh it was so great. Last question was asked to confirm that the cost of living is actually very low. Biwi is seriously thinking about Goa as a settlement destination! But all business ideas in Goa end up vacation themed.

The drive started somewhere between 9 and 9:30 and ended at ~7:30-8:00PM at home. Distance covered -~600 kms. Route taken – Talegaon, Panji, Sawantwadi, Amboli, Kolhapur, NH4, Pune, Mumbai. The last 400 odd kms were on NH4 which made it quite a fast drive back to Mumbai. Quick queues – during the monsoon, Amboli and Sawantwadi should be beautiful destinations to relax. Even otherwise, driving through the desolate ghat roads here was good fun. On the other hand, crossing Pune was a bit of pain, as well as a sudden realisation that the city is changing or has changed dramatically. It is no longer the small beautiful town that seemed a good settling city given its lifestyle, development, education and so on. Right now, far as you can see, you only see construction happening. Apartments, complexes, malls, etc. The entire highway is surrounded by them. And their ad hoardings, of course. Somewhere, the small-townness of Pune has gone AWOL.


In the morning, after getting enough overt and covert abuses from R&S about the #eipcfail-ness of our plan to drive back to Mumbai, rather than stay over for another day to chill out in Goa, we left their place around 9:15 or so. And this was the first time in the trip that we actually left something at some place. My watch, a phone charger, biwi’s scarf, and my bluetooth headset. Why? Even I am not sure. I know that we wanted to leave in time, since the prospect of a 12 hour drive at this instant was not really appealing to me. The back had started troubling. Biwi wasn’t that well this morning either. And a day at Goa would have done nothing really to make the rest of the trip easier. Yeah. I know. Our fitness levels are at an all time low.

Till you exit Goa, the traffic continues to bother you. Its only as you start getting closer to Sawantwadi that the driving eases up. From Sawantwadi, you take the exit towards Amboli and enter the ghats. There is hardly any traffic on this road. This moves towards Gadhinglaj, Nipani, etc. before merging into NH4 between Kolhapur and Belgaum. Some of the road around Gadhinglaj etc is not awesome. The last stretch just before you hit NH4 is especially painful. And it lasts about 15 kms I think. Nevertheless, you hit the NH about 40 odd kms before Kolhapur. We stopped for a quick bite at McD on NH4 just before Kolhapur. Biwi casually remarked about the freedom with which four college students (girls) drove in on scooties to hang out at McDonald, and how that was so completely unimaginable back in the days.

From Kolhapur to Pune is a reasonable breeze of a drive. Pune was a little painful. We hit Pune at about 5PM, and had to brave part of the office traffic on the highway as well. It took us about an hour to cross over and hit the Mumbai-Pune expressway. After that, as you know, hitting Belapur is rarely ever a problem. Thankfully, today, even Belapur did not pose a problem. The only jam as we headed towards Powai was the road that connects this Thane highway to Airoli bridge. There is some construction work going on, and it took us about 25-30 minutes to finally get on the Airoli bridge. The Powai gods were smiling on us. They did not give us traffic today. In lieu of that, they gave us a scratch on the car as delivered by one of their devout bhakts – a cement mixer truck. It wasn’t major, and I was sapped out to get into an argument at that point. Plus, the car had to go to the body shop for some pending work anyway. We took the scratch prasadham and reached home.

A total of 2920kms over 8 days.

As biwi summarised – Excellent scouting trip. Gave us a lot of places to reflect on and plan vacations for the rest of our life around. Not the best leisurely vacation she has had, but she can live with the fact that this was required to plan the next one better. Biwis and planning, I tell you!! But for once, I actually agree. I guess I am getting older. Wait. I am sure I am getting older.

In a nutshell –

  • Everyone should do it.
  • Everyone should learn from our mistakes and plan the timing and duration of driving better. Avoid driving after sunset.
  • Unless you are four guys who don’t really care where you sack (including the possibility of spending a night in the car itself), make your hotel bookings before hand. Forces two things – quality as well as schedule.
  • More than one pro-driver is a good idea. Message for biwi – more practice and more practice before the next trip. Message for self – if not, identify which driving friend is also a good road trip company! 😉
  • And identify significant break points. Places where you will break for at about 36 hours. Helps “see” things.

As RoMa’s email signature said – Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

And yeah. Its December 13th – Happy Budday Didi!!

Next up – a back to back movie marathon featuring Hotel Transylvania, The Hobbit and The Last Act. Show Timings have been checked. Thursday the 14th, here I come.

Day 7: Mangalore – Talegaon (Goa)

When we woke up this morning, we were a little wiser. We left Mangalore by 7:30. The plan was, yet again, to keep things simple. But we could not, yet again. So, today, instead of the earlier planned Gokarna, we ended the day at Goa (Talegaon, near Panaji) at Rati and Saurabh’s place.  We drove close to 420+ kms. On the way we stopped at Kaup, Udipi, Murudeshwar, Maruvanthe, Gangoli, Karwar. We did not, unlike the plan, stop or stay at Gokarna. Aum beach, for now, will remain a future destination. We ate at the world famous in Udipi restaurant – Diana hotel at Diana Circle as well.

When we started at 7:30, we laid our cards on the table. They involved a few things. The fact that a little bit of fatigue was setting in. The fact that driving over the last two three days had been very tiring, for sure. The biwi was somewhat under the weather, having taken crocin continuously for the last couple of days. My back pain was starting to make its presence felt and I had already had a moov-y nite on the trip. And we were about 1000+ kms away from Mumbai as per the planned route. And finally, the acknowledgement that from hereon the route offers destinations every 50-100 kms.  We evaluated a lot of things and identified Murudeshwar as the next decision making point.

The road between Udipi and Mangalore at that time of the day is quite comfortable and we could have got to Udipi in a little over an hour. But we saw an exit to Kaup beach and decided to check it out. The beach has a lighthouse for chrissake. 🙂 When you’re about to exit towards Kaup, you come across signages announcing adventure sports, etc. When you get in, you search for more signages. Finally you reach the lighthouse officer’s office. Then you cross it. A little later, you realize that you’ve most likely skipped the beach. So you turn around. Go back to the lighthouse office. And then you realize that between the shops and a couple other things, there is a small track that takes you to the beach. When you get to the beach, you realize one more thing. And you say it out loud – Damn, this is beautiful! Yep. That’s how you it happens.

We hit the beach at a time when there was no one around. Not a soul. Actually, one. There was a bird, and a very camera shy one that. It looked like a beach which is still used for evening binge sessions since there were places where liquor bottles were scattered just like that. But otherwise, it was fairly clean. And with a pay-and-use toilet in one corner. Closed, of course. We went up to lighthouse. And we realized that there is another beach extending on the other side of the lighthouse. Equally beautiful. With a couple of stay-in cottages. At least that’s what it seemed like from a distance. Biwi and I absorbed that beauty for some time, and then headed onwards towards Udipi.

Udipi. Quiet and quaint. It was the only quiet place in our entire trip I’d think. We had heard about the famous Diana hotel at the Diana circle. So, we promptly parked the car in a lane next to Diana, and had a hearty breakfast involving idli, vada, dosa, dahi vada, coffee and gadbad icecream. All for a total of 180 bucks. In that moment, I could have shifted to Udipi in search of a better life. The food was excellent, and their sambar, one of the best I have had in a very long time. After the breakfast, we decided to do walk down to the famous Shri Krishna Temple. All was well until I was asked to take off my shirt and showcase my paunchy magnificience inside the temple. I survived that. And having clicked a few pictures here and there before setting off for the next part.

The drive is bad and good. The road qualities could be much better, but it was not crowded like yesterday. And  it did not necessarily cross all the villages. The concept of a by-pass existed here. In a coupl of hours (12:30ish), we hit Maruvanthe. Now, Maruvanthe, is a place you are automatically going to pull over to your left and click some pictures. It helps that there are several small shanties selling coconut water. I missed not having a fish-eye lens on my camera then. Its difficult to capture that image with a normal lens. But it is gorgeous as you drive for a kilometer or two with the ocean on your left and an estuary on your right.
As we were sipping coconut water, the shop fella suggested that we go back and check out Gangoli. He did not actually tell us the name, but he gave us some directions and said that its a place where five rivers merge into the ocean. In reality, its five branches of probably 2 different rivers that merge. But, it, again, is a very delightful view. However, not recommended for the weak hearted and vegetairans. The stench of fish is almost unbearable here, since its a fisherman’s cove as well. Lots of fishing boats around.

From Gangoli, we crossed Maruvanthe again, and headed towards Murudeshwar, which is about an hour and half away. Murudeshwar is a reasonably modern construction on a very old shiva-lingam. There is a huge Shiva statue and a large temple constructed, and you can also see a representation of Shiva givinga s shivaling to Ravana. The beach next to Murudeshwawr is a majorly touristy place. Watersports, shanties, hotels, drinking joints, you name it and you havae it. It is so crowded that you can be put off even before you’ve parked your car. The twin descriptors of a being a beach as well a temple is a sure fire receipe for working up a giant crowd. We had a thali at Kamat’s there, which was strictly sub-par.

RoadtripDuring the lunch, we reassessed and we came to the conclusion that it’s hitting us now. And rather than the planned Gokarna-Ganapathiphule-Mumbai or Gokarna-Tarkarli-Chiploon-Mumbai route, maybe we should just head back home with one stop. And hence, we picked Goa for a stop over at Rati and Saurabh’s. And the road trip hence, resembles, something like what’s on the left side here.  Biwi wanted to meet Rati much. So, we started driving through the Konkan highway. Surprisingly, the place that really caught our imagination along the route was . It is quite beautiful, and has made it to our list of potential destinations.

We made a tiny mistake. We went to Talegaon from inside Goa, rather than sticking to NH66. So, in essence, we spent the last two hours just navigating the last 40 odd kms. Also, at about 5 or so, as we were entering Goa from Karwar, we felt like stopping for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, once you’ve entered Goa, all you get for miles and miles are bars. And if you stop at one, try having Thums Up for caffiene content. The coffee can put you to sleep.

We reached Rati’s place at 7:30 or so. And we managed to stay awake till about 11:30 or so. And by then we were sure what were going to do the next morning! 🙂

p.s. A part of the conversation with Saurabh is going to make it to some other post. It was about the “need for appreciation” in office. Most managers would know what I mean! 😉

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