Saturday, December 24, 2011


I've been on the road for a while now. My travel is mostly such - that when it is travel time, I end up traveling up to 10 days a month, and when it's not, I don't travel even for a couple of months at a stretch. And most of the times, I can decide if I want to travel.

So recent travels took me to Mumbai. I don't dislike Mumbai, but I am not a huge fan either. I have mostly traveled to the city for work, and haven't stayed in the city for more than a week at a time. Plus, I haven't traveled extensively within the city as well, since mostly I end up staying close to my office, which is far from where most of the friends stay, and I hardly get time when traveling for work.

Of whatever I know and have seen, Mumbai has not been my cup of tea. Needless to say, Delhi's been my fav, and I could never get used to the pace of Mumbai. Too fast for my liking. And what puts me off most in Mumbai is that it is not conducive for self driving - I love driving, and staying in a city where I can't drive would kill me. Reading this (Delhi vs Mumbai) doesn't change much either. The debate on which city is better is endless, and I know I'm bull headed enough to stick to my gut.

Well, this time around, I ended up spending the weekend in the city as well. Friends insisted [and who am I to resist, when friends insist ;)], and the plan that chalked out was to make merry through the night, and go to WK the next day. Awesome fun, mind you. Can't describe better than P has, in her blog.

So what I was coming to, was that traveling this time was so unique in ways more than one. Firstly, I ended up spending some quality time in the city. And second, in those 2-3 days, we chanced upon traveling on a bike, an auto-rickshaw, a cab, a bus, a ferry, a train, a local, an airplane, and even a raft! It was as if we were destined to travel by all modes - where we could not get a taxi, auto was the saving grace; where we could not get an auto, a bus saved us; en-route airport while I could have missed my flight, a local came to the rescue. So net net, realized that all means of transport have their own niche.

And I guess I left Mumbai with a few brownie points to its credit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Country Roads, Take Me Home..

My previous post did raise a question - whether big cities are the place to be, or should it be the small towns where one would find happiness. Going one step further would be to ask if countryside is what shall provide the much needed stillness in life?

One of my schooling stints did take me to countryside, where I ended up spending a good part of my childhood. And glad am I not, to have spent those years in the campus. Every time I cross the highway leading to my school (which is a good 100 kms+ away from Delhi), I would give a nostalgic look in that direction, wondering who would be going through life altering changes in his life, in that school of mine, sitting where I used to sit, sleeping where I used to sleep, playing where I used to play; wondering who's that Abhinav for today!

Tryst with destiny, and I ended up driving in that direction for a friend's wedding two weeks back. And there was no way I was going to let go of this opportunity to revisit those times. Not that I could enter the school campus, since no one is allowed to enter without a valid ID. I remember that even during the times when I was a student there, if not for valid documentation to allow my entry, I wasn't allowed to. Defence services and their rules, I tell you!

So we reached my school and I ended up driving around the campus. I was looking for the forests through which we used to run every morning. I was looking for the river front where we used to culminate our morning jogs, to sprint back to our hostels which were more than 3 kilometres away, just to make sure we'll be amongst the first in line to take a shower and be ready for classes. I was looking for the horse stables in the forest where all the horses of our school were kept. I was looking for the canal where we used to sit on second Sundays of the month, throwing pebbles and stones in it, waiting desperately for our parents, who could visit us only on this particular day of the month. I was looking for the fields where we used to sneak through at nights, tasting the fruit and vegetable gardens.

But the times have changed! The forests have been replaced by habitation. Fields and vegetable gardens have been replaced with hutments. Lost my way finding the river, and the canal had lost its prestige. That's when it hit me - that it has been so long - more than a decade. Things have changed so much - but not people from the school. Still when I talk to friends from the school, the relationships are so intimate, so warm, that it feels we all still get up together early in the morning, ready to run up to the river again. Every time I wake up early, the early morning sky reminds me of the foggy riverside from those 90's mornings. Every time I am talking to these friends, the same childish persona comes out, that used to be the distinct quality of those determined kids in their early teens. 

After circling the area, we stopped at the main gate (inset), for a memorabilia photograph for keeps. Nostalgia grew on me, and I had to pass on the wheel to A for further driving, while I sunk deep into the memories, relishing the awesome times we had at the school.

Not many can understand how disciplined and sincere the life would be in such a school run by the defence services - what they show in movies is not even the tip of the iceberg. And when my friends ask me, I do tell them that it's hard! Hard as in, I may not have the guts to send my kids to that school. (And I'm so glad my parents had the vision and guts to do so - they knew it was what would make me what I am. That has made me who I am today!) Hard as in, as hard as it was to cycle from Kullu to Khardung La. (Just like I wouldn't do the cycling trip again.) But ask me if I'll ever want to rewrite my past and not go in those directions - and the answer would be, "are you kidding"?!

Life gives us chances, and it's up to us to grab them with both hands. Hands could slip, hands could bleed - doesn't mean the chance wasn't meant to be grabbed. Just like I was telling a friend last week, if given a chance, I wouldn't change a single thing in my life, not in a zillion years!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Big Fish

I have lived in a big city all my life (actually, most of my life); Delhi is the city I have called ‘home’. Though I have stayed away in other cities for a few years at a time on multiple occasions, I still like to call Delhi my home.

The quiet, yet bustling metropolis is an epitome of diversity. It is dotted with scattered houses, shiny skyscrapers and green in between; and filled with eateries that have been the inspiration behind the new word “Delhi Belly" recently added to the Oxford dictionary.

Work has taken me to quite a few towns and cities in last few years, and last week was no different. I ended up traveling to these towns of Jhansi, then Agra, briefly Karnal also, and I realized that if I were based in one of these towns, the life would have been different altogether.

I find that, although small towns in India do not have the kind of traffic jams that the big cities have, the crowded areas of the town are not entirely free of traffic. Here the traffic is of the unruly kind with vehicles, cycles, carts, bulls, cows, dogs, cats, vendors and pedestrians all on top of each other. To drive a car in a small town requires unlearning the rules that big city driving schools teach and learning new learn-as-you-go rules.

To drive a car on the road means to dip and rise as if riding a ship in a sea storm; or to ride the auto rickshaw, which is more suited to the four foot wide, tiny, ancient streets, means to be tossed about like a marble and, even after you reach your destination for a few minutes, to have your teeth clatter and eyeballs continue to roll in your head. If you prefer to take the wider roads on the outskirts of town then be ready to wade through oceans of black and white goats that often flood the roads.

Time in the small town is a different concept, from time in the big city. When people give you an appointment for 10 in the morning, it means that this is just one of the possible times that they might appear. As I wait with my big city time precision, I find instead of losing my happiness at their casual attitude, it is a lot less stressful to loosen the hold that time has held over me all these years. The next time someone says they will come at 10 sharp, I find myself saying, “10 o’clock sharp means I might meet them some time today, if not, tomorrow, or if not, sometime this week, this month or two”.

I find more than once that small towns have the capacity to surprise. For example my first such surprise comes on the very first day I spend in Jhansi. I am tired with traveling and as the evening falls I settle down for my read before going to bed. As my city trained ears prepare to fight their accustomed battle against the “whirr” and “honks” of the city traffic so that I can concentrate on my book better, I hear something I have never heard before.

This sound is so unfamiliar to me that I put my book aside and listen to it with my full attention. It is the sound of silence. So complete and deep that it caresses me like a soft velvet auditory blanket. I close my eyes to take in the full feeling of complete peace that it brings. My breathing eases. My stressed out city senses covet this experience with unimagined thirst.

After spending some time just listening to the silence, I pick up my book again. In this magical silence, reading a book, I find, is an experience not ever duplicated in the city. The book covers your senses softly with its contents in the manner similar to the beautiful, deep silence. The lack of noise, I find is truly, truly beautiful.

Next morning the auditory pleasure of the night before continues when I wake up to an orchestra of birds. In Delhi, the birds would compete with the traffic sounds. Here in Jhansi the birds compete with no one but each other. They hold center stage with their performances. And as I sit with my steaming morning coffee cup looking out at the early mist through which the birds sing, I feel as though I have a box seat to their performance: a performance of so many maestros.

A few days have passed since I came back. But I still have the reassurance that I have the magical silence and the talented birds waiting for me when I get there again. I came home and was again reminded of the comforts and the system the city has which a small town doesn’t.

I am not calling myself best suited for a small town yet, but I am at a stage where a small fond place for such small towns has developed in my heart that is growing at an alarming rate. I might yet be in the danger of turning “small town”. I do not know when, or if, that will happen, but right now, I can comfortably say I am glad I know now what it would mean, to me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Changing the way FB looks

So, a few months after the last facelift, Facebook once again changed their layout. And, frankly, people aren’t too happy with the change. So goes another round of interweb bitching about Facebook’s new layout, even if the site is for free and they can do whatever they want with how the site looks. Heck, they can even put a big slab of google links on the site and they should be able to get away with it.

This is how Facebook should look like, forever.

As I’ve been following the updates of people trying to deal with the new layout, (yes, “deal.” It’s life-changing, didn’t you know?) I’ve noticed a pattern. People go through stages when trying to deal with this major tragedy called “Facebook changed its layout, holy shit, my life is over.”

One day, you log on to Facebook, and the layout has changed. it’s no longer the familiar layout you were used to from yesterday. You stare at the screen in shock. You press F5 continuously, hoping that the old layout will go back after a while. You refuse to accept the change.

There has got to be somebody to blame. You are seething with anger. You need somebody to hit. You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?”

You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair. You try to give up something, just to see the old Facebook again. For one last time. But deep inside, you know it’s all futile.

A long period of sadness may overtake you at this point. People are telling you that you should be moving on, but you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you.

Finally, you learn to accept that Facebook is going to change, whether you like it or not. You begin to see hope, and you move on. It’s not like the world is going to end, you realize. It’s just a stupid website.

And there you go. I hope people can understand that their lives ain't over just because they feel that a web company decided to let go of all common sense and churn out a look that doesn’t give anybody a clue on how to navigate it. There’s always Orkut if you feel like bitching more.

Also, I like the new layout. So guys, stop bitching and whining. Please. Except for a couple of changes I don’t like, the new Facebook rocks. Get over it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Spirit of 'Dilli'

The time is here, when the festivities galore!
Last week was Dussehra. And Durga Puja. And I could not help but recollect the times when these days used to be the most sought after vacation days for us kids. With the pepped up mood, numerous shopping sprees, moderation of Delhi climate from acute summers to chilly winters - this time used to be the epitome of Dilli's spirit.
Not that Dilli has changed - the times have. Now-a-days, kids would rather spend time at home zooming their iPads, then going out having fun in those quintessential melas! In fact, during a conversation with one of my teenage cousins a few days back, she mentioned she so much wanted to go to these fairs with friends, but friends thought there were better things to do!
I don't remember where I was last year at this time. Neither do I remember the year before that. But I knew I could not miss these Ramleela fairs this year.
My craving to attend these festivities, buying those "teer kamaan" & swords & "gada" (mace) & shields, and having that Lovely Chuski, had the better of my schedule, and I managed to go out to a couple of Ramleela grounds! As always, I ended up breaking quite a few of these things I bought on my way back, but as the Mastercard ad says, the feeling was priceless!
On one of such outings to a nearby fair, one of the things that grabbed my attention was a piezoelectric ball that had a pressure sensor in it which glowed when struck on a surface forcefully. I was so fascinated by it, but I never realized that it has always been available everywhere. In fact, one of my friends who I was out with me that day told me that even their baby daughter had grown out of such glowing balls long time back! Not me though - I was just getting into it. And what fascinated me most was, what seemed like a simple glowing ball to everyone, was one of the very few implications I had seen of effects of physics that were so hard for me to grasp when I was a kid. Simple, yet Marvelous.
Add to it the ritual visuals of Ravana idols (and of his son and his bro) all around, waiting to be burned down, depicting victory of good over evil, and everyone dancing around the idols. Before long Lord Rama arrives, blessed in his guise, with his bow and arrows, and gives everyone the flavor of what they had been waiting for.
Like someone said, it is on such days that I feel with greater vigor that what a marvelous thing is it to be born an Indian. One thing is true - we are such amazingly crazy for festivals people. It is on these festivals that we bond again, leaving behind whatever little there is to nag about.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Michhami Dukkadam

My Bad, I'm sorry.
That's the meaning of the phrase I was recently introduced to by a friend - Michhami Dukkadam.
Digging deeper, I realized that this is not Sanskrit, but Prakrit, which is derived from old Indic dialects. Interestingly, Sanskrit is a language with literary and religious roots, while Prakrit is derived, evolve-as-you-go kind of language.
Michhami Dukkadam is a concept where one feels and asks for forgiveness from those who have been hurt knowingly or unknowingly. It is also a way of letting go of any resentment or qualms one may have with anyone.
A noble thought in principle, I found it to be much more than a means to control the ego.
Many-a-times, especially in today's fast paced age, we end up spending insufficient time on things that matter, and run after those that don't. Few weeks back, when I came to know this concept MD - it was a perfect launchpad to try something new.
Not that I have an army of enemies I needed to say MD to (!), it was anyways good to know that there is something to take cue from, and be yourself for a moment. Like I always said - "People are good, unless proved otherwise". While it still holds, a more relevant thing to say would be, "People are good if you give them a chance to be"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Train Timing Inc

Well, there's something new about trains that I learned last week.

Was traveling in West Bengal / Jharkhand last week (yes, of all places!), and was on road, when a railway crossing closed right in front of us. Since it was countryside, we decided to roam around for a few minutes and stretch our legs, till the train crosses over.

I wandered around to the signal station on railway crossing, and invariably started chatting up with the guy who manages the barricade.

As a child, I used to think that there are automatic electric means and modes that connect all such railways crossings, so that the operator gets to know when a train is nearby and the barricades have to be closed. However, there was one fundamental flaw in this theory - that electricity is available everywhere. In reality, there are countless crossings in India that would be devoid of any electric supply.

I had further thought that in absence of electric supply, there would be some sort of morse code devices that would be used by these railway crossing operators to communicate with the central room, to know when to operate the barricades. I was always fascinated by how sophisticated the systems would be, that enable these operators across the country to know minutes before any train reaches their junction.

While I was chatting with the operator, these long lost thoughts came running back to me, and I ended up asking him how they were so skilled.

The answer was surprising, and as simple as it could have been - it is a normal 'telephone' that they use. Each crossing calls up the next one when the train crosses theirs, to give a heads up.

How simple is that!

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Continuing with yesterday's badminton session, today is PS' happy waala budday. PS and I were baddy partners in college. I remember that during college, SR/AS made the unbeatable baddy couple, and all the while through the tournament, the quest was mostly for who would finish second! Everyone believed so, me included. But not PS!

PS has this uncanny notion of doing things other won't even think of. PS had the belief, and even with a low seeded player like me, had the conviction to make it through the finals. And the finals were breathtaking - the badminton courts in the college had an apt location - right at the centre of the hostel, with all corridors filled with audience, cheering on top of their voices. No other complex can match the tournament atmosphere generated at this facility.

The crowd was deafening, and I do not even remember what we did afterwards. Awesome feeling, nonetheless.

That actually brings me to another such tournament, though in that one SR/AS were also in our team representing our college, when we went to IITK for National Sports Convention. With SR/AS/PS part of our team, there was no way we were not going to win the gold there. And the most interesting part of that tournament was the journey back! When we did not even have confirmed train tickets on the way back, but just a handful of us managed to takeover a full compartment, as if we owned the train. I guess AA would remember what train it was!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Trivial, Leap

Today's badminton session was a class act.

What made the session so special was the quest to jump the wall - sounds unrelated & basic, but it most definitely is not! It sure was Déjà vu!

The place where we play badminton at night is surrounded on two sides by high enough boundary walls, a huge building on the third, and a short partitioning wall (which I wouldn't even call a wall - it was not even 5 feet high). While playing badminton today, during the first game of the night itself, the short wall grabbed my attention - it sort of reminded me of the athletics wing of sports complex we used to have in our school. It reminded me of the days when jumping as much as your own height was the norm (which I usually fell short of) in our school!

So the first game ended, and I walked towards the short wall, all eager to jump over it, and prove to myself that I still have it in me! Made a few advances, but the concrete wall pushed me back - Since the wall was all concrete, unlike the high jump station & the safe landing sand pit ahead that used to be the reassuring pad at school, I kept thinking of what if I couldn't jump over, and banged my head on the ground on the other side, or the likes. I rehearsed on a few bushes on the side, which actually were higher than the short wall, and could clear the bushes comfortably, but whenever it came to the short wall, something held me back.

Thinking I might need some more warm up before the leap, I started the second game of badminton as well. But I just could not concentrate anymore - after every point, I glanced over to the wall - and there it stood, laughing at me, making me realize how plastic I had become. I finished the game, and went over to the wall again - I had a point to prove, and I wasn't going anywhere without making it.

Twenty minutes, tens of attempts, various leaps later - I could gather so much courage as to jump so much so that my feet were landing on the top of the wall - and this took me back to Circa 1992, annual athletics meet, blue house trailing the leading green house by a razor thin margin, and every medal counting - and when we could just about make the gold medal in high jump (no, it wasn't me who got it - there was a five foot ten guy in our class when I was five feet two in 6th standard, who did the trick). And the cheering and noise that followed - that was almost my first tryst with passion for the team, for the house. And I could still feel it, standing over the short wall.

Trip down the memory lane - made the day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where's time?

It's been crazy, these last few weeks. Whether it was 18 hour days at a stretch in Mumbai, or the blast that happened minutes after I crossed Colaba; housewarming parties that I just made, or the birthday parties that I just missed; all those who I planned to meet, or all those who I eventually ended up meeting; going to bed at 6 in the morning, or waking up at 4.

Over the last few weeks, I have been inundated with too many things at hand - workwise, and otherwise. All the way from developing pipelines to financial modeling to investor decks and government liaising to deal origination to conference calls, to top it up with unending travel. It has been overwhelming - the quantum of work I did not know I could do, that now I do. All this work has been helpful in learning, but also exhausting.

While I've learned a lot, I also got to know that there's a plethora of knowledge gathering tasks available to everyone. What I realized is that while we may want to perform well in everything we do and learn everything at hand, we will only be able to excel at only a few. Say, two. And we will have to pick which two these would be.

Realizing this broke me - I want to do well at everything. I want to do well in my work, I want to have a good social life outside work, I want to spend loads of time with friends and family, I want to make tons of new friends, I want to take part in countless activities, I want to take a break to travel, and so on and so forth. I began considering whether doing well in one area and doing a mediocre job in all the other areas would be acceptable, although this option does not satisfy me either. There are clearly some big decisions that I have to make about how I should manage my time.

I used to believe that by effectively managing my time, I would be able to do everything I want. I am now realising that this is simply not true. There are always going to be trade-offs and this is becoming glaringly obvious as hundreds of open tasks loom before me. Something has got to give. But I know that somehow I will figure out a plan that will work for me. It may take some trial and error and definitely fewer sleeping hours than I might like, but somehow I will have to make this work.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Random Journal Entry

This has been the best of days.
This has been the worst of days.

Not so bad actually. Worst rhymes well, and so it seemed apt!

The day was one of the most hectic ones in last few months for sure, work-wise. Mumbai meetings last week added fuel to fire, and I find myself doing double the work I have been doing of late. Hence the urgency to finish things in time.

So the weather was to die for in the morning. I could see that it will rain, it was only a matter of when! By the time I reached office, I had my mind preoccupied with what all I had to do. Another 3 hours, and I realized I hadn't turned my neck to the right even once, to the window right next to my cube which covers such an awesome panoramic view over CP. And as expected, the weather was awesome!

I finished some deliverables in a jiffy, and left office to run an errand. And it started raining cats and dogs instantly, as if it was waiting all these hours for me to step out!

While talking to A, I had already mentioned that the day was destined to have a sports session - only matter was, will work allow me to?

I reach office, get immersed in work, and before I know it - it is way past my office hours. With the thought of finishing rest of the work from home, I could see my plans going for a toss. Disheartened, I drive back home.

Just before I take the final turn to my home, there is a football field - it was water logged because of rains in the day, and I could see people playing football and falling all around. One look at this, and I knew the work had to wait! Went home, changed, and here I was, running around the football like a Spitz! I'm sure I haven't enjoyed a football session more.

Relieved, dirty, and fresh! I get home, and work that would have taken hours started getting done in minutes. Before I knew it, work that I wouldn't have been able to finish in next two days, is already done by midnight (interspaced with multitasking - read chatting online)! The day more than deserves a post :)

Tired! But Fresh as ever!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Be a 'Sport'

Yesterday, while I was at work, we came to discussing recent sports activities - how IPL has turned into a drab affair with no loyal following whatsoever, how CL final was one sided as well the night before, with Barca thrashing ManU handsomely, and how F1 has lost its following in recent times, though Indian participation has increased in form of Force India and Indian drivers on the circuit.

We recollected the time when in addition to Cricket, other sports like Tennis and F1 used to have a fan base too.

We got talking about the ongoing French Open, and how in the women's circuit, we hardly even recognize some of the names in the top seeds! How Federer and Nadal, and of late Djokovic have made waves, and no one else has come to the fore. How in the earlier times, Sampras used to be the undisputed leader, with only a handful of players like Agassi, Ivanesevic, Rafter, Philippoussis etc struggling to reach the finals, only to be thrashed by S. And before Sampras, there were Edberg, and Becker, and Courier, and Stich, and even earlier Pat Cash, and McEnroe, and Connors, Ivan Lendl, and many more. How Sabatini got the tag of one of the biggest chokers, and how Hingis, Graf and Seles used to be the numero uno in their own era. And why Navratrilova was the best ever. After Chris Evert!

I remembered how I used to wake up early in the morning to watch Australian Open on telly, and used to sleep so late at night to follow French & US Open. Wimbledon, as always, has been the prime mover anyways.

But those times are gone. No more dedicated fan following anymore. One just gets to know who won which Slam and thats about it. Is it because of so many sports channels that it becomes difficult to keep track of them. Or something else has changed!

Similarly for Formula 1. I remember that I was always out of home in the evenings, going out to play Cricket or Badminton or Football or something or the other - but I used to make it a point to come back home in time on Saturdays to watch the qualifying, and Sundays for the Raceday. How my study calendar used to have dates marked for the next F1 races, and how closely I followed rivalry between Schumacher & Hakkinen first, and then later Schumacher with Raikonnen & Montoya! How Barrichello used to play the second fiddle to S gracefully, and S was the undisputed leader of the time. The way the rules of the game have changed considerably, I can hardly imagine what all dynamics it has brought to the sport, and how the car makes such a huge difference now!

Those were the days when sports were enjoyed as sports - now it is just a matter of following something or the other. Ask people what's happening in Roadies or Splitsvilla and they'll tell you who's out and who's not, while Sports and associated passion has lost its ground to IPL and its commercial extravaganza! How long this will last, for what it's worth, is anybody's guess.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Too soon to quit

Badminton is incredible. Not one of those sports that you need to warm up for hours before you get on the field, nor one of those that will hardly make you feel kicking. Inclusive. Energetic. Fun.

I used to play a lot earlier, and recent times have had lesser share of those sporting days. I do try to play at least a few days a week. I can’t think of a more fun way to spend my free time whilst feeling fresh! Much better than being bored or ending up going home and vegging on the couch after a hard days work.

Not a bad way to have fun, vent frustrations, and make some friends all in one go.

Earlier this week, I was out to Siri Fort (one of the sporting arenas where one can go and play). It was a choice between Basketball and Badminton on that day, and since our Basketball team was running late and was still on the way, we decided to take a sneak peek at the Badminton courts, to see if any courts were vacant for us to squeeze in.

Indoor courts at Siri Fort are awesome. I somehow like Yonex synthetic turf more than the wooden ones.

On the court right next to where we were standing, we noticed two kids on one side of the court, playing badminton with their dad on the other side. What caught my attention was that the younger kid, who I guess would not be more than 6-7 years old, had his left hand inside his tee, and he was keeping only his right hand out of the tee to hold the racquet, so that their team does not have unfair advantage over their dad, who was single player on the other side of the court. This kid was very energetic, running from one end of the court to the other, trying to pick every shot played by his dad. And his elder brother (who by the looks of it would be 10-12 years old) did let him do all the running. It was a fun filled court, everyone laughing around, full of smiles, entertaining.

Everytime this kid would hit the shuttle, he would turn around, look at us, chuckle, and again run around the court to pick the next shot. This happened for a while, and everyone was enjoying it. Then suddenly, he tripped while reaching for a shot and fell down. To my surprise, neither his brother nor his dad came to help him get up. The concern was evident on their faces, but they were trying real hard not to show so. And the young champ did not even take his left hand out of his tee to take support and get up. He slowly rolled around, and gradually managed to get up. And then it hit me! He had just one arm!

He got up, his dad and bro took a sigh of relief, and he started running around yet again and it was business-as-usual at the court once again. However, I got chills run down my spine - here was a little champ who had no qualms about what he did or did not have, and his family was making him feel as normal as he should be. The guy's a winner for me - all the way through. Hat's off to the spirit.

I didn't get a court to play badminton that day. I couldn't learn any new tricks of the trade. But the champ made me realize, it's always too soon to quit, come what may.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just another MAD afternoon

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

I recently went to Annual Day function of an NGO that I have found to be one of the very few organizations that work based on commitment. It is a group of volunteers, spread all over India in 10 cities, that teach English to underprivileged children living in shelter homes. The kids are prepared to face life better by improving their communication skills, computer skills and their overall personality. This is to make them ready for the world outside, where English is considered one of the most important traits to get a decent opportunity. Apart from that, a number of placement & fun activities are also conducted for these children to expose them to various career opportunities.

The best part about this group is that it is totally commitment oriented - one who wants to join the group, has to commit time to the endeavor. The time, whether 2 hrs a week, or 4, is totally dependent on the individual who wants to commit. But once the time is committed, one has to stick to it. If you can't make it, get someone to replace you, and get a strike. Three strikes, and you are out of the system.

There are innumerable instances that I can pick from around me, where people want to do something for the society, but don't know how to contribute. Some give away money, some in kind, some give time, and some have better things to do otherwise.

Reminds me of Khalil Gibran,
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

Being there brings back the memories of our childhood days, when playing and winning games like Ring A Ring O'Roses and Musical Chairs used to be the achievement of the day; When the high point of the day used to be when one could sneak out of the class without teacher noticing it; When the race to the school bus used to be like the time when you are running for your life; When that oily burger from school canteen was the yummiest dish to have; When the fights with friends used to last as long as batting of the eyelids; When Cricket Bats and Soccer balls used to be possessions more prized than school books; When we did not get carried away like I am getting carried away now!

Anyways, most of the volunteers here are inspired college students and working professionals, who spend their time over weekends making lives better.

This actually brings aboard a thought that I have encountered many-a-times in past few months, and I get caught in its midst - in many of the circles I am a part of (read professional circles), more often than not, the discussions sway around how people are finding more and more ways of making money, and what are the ways to spend weekends effectively to bring in more moolah. I have friends, who have found ways to and are happy to spend their weekends productively moneywise. Sometimes, I am tempted to think whether I should join such an endeavor too - after all, extra few bucks never harmed anyone. But being the lazy soul I am, I know I do not have a penchant to spend my weekends doing anything other than lazing around, or sports (Agreed - it is an irony that lazing around and sports, both motivate me!).

So on one hand I know these friends whose pockets are overflowing weekend after weekend, and they are happy doing so; on the other hand are these friends who devote their time to such endeavors (like NGO above) and find bliss.

And then there is the third kind - those who laze around :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When Friends Die..

Death is something that seems to be beyond us. Despite it being a birthright, we are never able to prepare adequately for the pain and grief with which it entails. The death of someone young seems to silence us indeterminably. After the grief and pain of it all, we learn to pause before we speak their name.

The night before, a friend met with an accident. He's no more with us today. It was shocking and tragic.

It somehow prompted me to start looking back on our poor choices through youth. Our foolish mistakes and social disasters. I thought about our somewhat, er, 'misguided'(?) experiences; all those times when we have lost control of our bikes and cars, and those close shaves on road.

Perhaps we don't discuss the dead in such a convivial context in order to ease the stark reality of it. The reality that we wish so much to avoid is that it could be us. One of us has died and we are forced to readjust our life lens. We would all like to live each day as if it were our last, but we don't because we assume we have to plan for the future. That our future could be diminished with such immediacy is too frightening to bear, so instead we do not discuss our young friend and his death at all; except in the period of immediate mourning. The name is avoided while we quietly reconfigure our own fears of impermanence. Our memories do not fade, but we keep them to ourselves and hold them close, keeping them private.

Life is short, period. People and moments are precious. Savor the time together; remember with love instead of regret and guilt.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of "Udaan" & Childhood..

This post begins on the note of a movie I recently watched - "Udaan". I had heard very good things about the movie; it had swept various awards nonchalantly as I had heard, and being a movie of Anurag Kashyap has its charm too. So I decided to watch it.

Udaan is a story of hope, dreams, aspirations, conflicts, expectations, friendships, relationships, love, despair, and much more. It is about the rebel streak that we face in our teens, which ultimately defines who we are - the phase that defines who we become. The crux of the movie is the scene where Rohan runs and runs and runs. For me, that is the scene in which he eventually takes off (and so does the movie)! Hats off to that scene, to say the least. Nothing grand, nothing extraordinary, plain simple awesome!

So I was discussing this movie yesterday with a bunch of friends, when it came up how there was a TV serial named Udaan in early 90s that used to air on DD. It was about that female (can't recall the name, but remember the face) and her struggle to become a police officer against the backdrop of preferred male sibling and other hardships.

And then we came to discussing all those epic serials we all grew up watching - be it Ramayana or Mahabharata. And that quaint DD logo. And those interesting knowledge based series like Surbhi, Turning Point and Bharat Ek Khoj. And the regular, and much awaited Chitrahaar. And Byomkesh Bakshi. And He-Man & Captain Vyom. And Dekh Bhai Dekh. And many more.

Still remember that whole family used to sit together to watch these. The roads would be deserted on Sundays morning 9 to 10 - all families glued to their TV sets. Friday evenings would be much awaited to see which songs would be aired this week. And then ever repeating "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara".

True, that Childhood, after all, is the original score for one’s life song. Awesome time 'twas.

My childhood was an improbable mix of antique and modern, outdoor and indoor, freedom and constraint. At six, I wanted to be a school principal, at seven a movie director, at eight Superman, at eleven a fighter pilot, at twelve a politician, at thirteen a history professor, at fifteen an artist, at seventeen a scuba diver, at twenty a traveler. It wasn’t that I was watching too much TV; I hardly did. I was simply mirroring, as children will, the goings-on around me.

Ask me now what I want to be. Answer - anything. I want to be me.

PS: As an afterthought, recalled that Shahid Kapoor & Ayesha Takia used to come in a Complan ad too! Did I start insisting on Complan after seeing this ad?!

Thursday, March 03, 2011


It is always so much fun catching up with friends.

Using email makes it so easy to catch up with old friends and family. Social networking sites, pictures on picasa, or even blogs bring me closer to my friends. But as always, nothing beats meeting those near and dear ones in person.

Today was one such day!

As usual, day began late. I can't really call 2p start of the day an early start, can I! So today was the day off, and thanks to my stars, I managed to get ready in a jiffy and all set to go out for atleast something.

A was in town, since he was coming back from yet another skiing trip in Gulmarg. I had missed the basketball session in the morning since I woke up late, so meeting M & SA was also on the cards. Obviously, AA & G were on the cards. N's office wasn't far. AC was also meeting for Golf. Hadn't caught up with S in a while, so had to check up with him on his GMAT scores and the likes. P was in town, and had to discuss a business proposition with AT too. So net net, loads to do in the already shortened day!

Managed to do a lot during the day, and though the movie plans could not materialize at the end of the day, badminton session in the evening, and Cocoberry discussions at night did sum up the day well. Did manage to have a gala time, plan an outing much in advance for March end, and enough food for thought on ideation for the rest of the week.

Batteries recharged - all set for the remainder of the week. Puff!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meeting the right people = Success

All of those successful people you see around your city, with their cars, villas and huge televisions? Approximately 100 percent of them got where they are because they had three things. All three are absolutely essential, but one of them is almost never mentioned. They are:

* Talent
* Hard Work
* Randomly Meeting the Right People and Not Pissing Them Off

The autobiographies of famous people will do everything they can to downplay that third part, because it has the element of sheer luck. People get offended when you mention it, because they think it somehow undermines the first two. But remember, one needs all three.

For instance, let's take maybe the most successful movie actor of all time, Harrison Ford. He roamed around Hollywood for nine years, taking bit parts without anything major ever coming his way. Clearly talented, very hard-working. Yet not once did anybody look at him and say, "This guy will sell several billion dollars' worth of tickets and action figures some day!" He was just another ambitious, pretty face, in a city full of them. He got so fed up, he quit acting and became a carpenter.

Then one day he got hired to install cabinets in the home of a guy named George Lucas. They became friends. That got him the role of Han Solo in Star Wars a few years later. True story!

Decades earlier another Ford, Henry, was just one of many engineers screwing around with early car engine designs until he became friends with a wealthy businessman named Alexander Malcomson who forked over the money to get Ford Motor Company started.

This also works for guys not named Ford; Justin Bieber was one of several hundred thousand teenagers singing on YouTube videos before a former record exec named Scooter Braun clicked on one of his videos by accident and got him a record deal.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have guys like Edgar Allan Poe, whose legendary poem "The Raven" earned him... nine dollars. He burned so many bridges he wound up basically begging the public for money before dying at 40.

At some point Poe probably met his George Lucas, but made such a horrible impression on him the guy wouldn't return his calls.

Morale of the story:

I. First Impressions are Really Important;
II. Subsequent Impressions Are Also Important;
III. No, We're Not Tiger Woods!