Yes, I know that…

We have all met people who are ever eager to interrupt you, not let you say what you want, and rather pompously proclaim: “Yes, I know that”. I am sure you must have felt the same frustration that I feel when I hear these words. If you know it all: what is there for me to speak? is my opinion of no consequence? what am i doing in this interaction? does discussion have no value?

As a college student, many, many years ago I had read a short story of Somerset Maugham entitled : Mr Know-All. The setting is on a ship. There is person who everyone soon comes to dread as he is always holding forth, having the last word, and generally showing off his knowledge and expertise on every subject imaginable!! Of course he is well read and knowledgeable. But the stance is that I am smarter and I know more than you, him , and all others…combined !!! Obviously he wears his welcome super thin, and no one wants him at their dining table: as they know only Mr Know_All will speak, and others have to only listen.

No one likes such a person: but if we think back do we not have such people in our own social circles? Full of themselves, pompous to the core, these people rough shod over all others in their groups. They obviously looooove the sound of their voice and hold forth ad infinitum. God help you, if you happen to inherit a boss who is like this. Gone are the days when a Boss is expected to now all answers and “tell” his team. Today’s successful bosses are facilitators who will ask the right questions and let the answers and ideas flow from the team. This empowers and energizes the team and enables them to give their best. But the Know-All Boss is never in the “ask” mode. Or worst, if due to some guidance from his own Mentor, the Boss asks the question: Lo and Behold! he quickly goes forward to answer his own questions. Even if some doggedly determined subordinate tries to get an idea or suggestion in, the Know All boss will hasten to interrupt and takeover the point and make it his own or show the flaws and difficulties with the idea which finally ends in shutting up the poor subordinate. Tell me truly: how many times have we found ourselves in this situation, unable to get in a word edge-ways as our Boss knows it all!!!???

On a lighter note, had read a joke: My wife is just like Google, she never lets me complete a sentence. A la Google, she has multiple suggestions ready already!!! Wives, Mothers, Fathers, Bosses, Teachers all use their “pre-eminence” and superiority to stop your thought process as they always think they know what you want to say. And your story,your version, your truth often remains untold.

In Siemens we had a very smart Factory Manager. Super intelligent and capable, technical whiz. Always thought 3 steps ahead of the rest of us. And so he was perpetually guilty of using the famous three words “I know that” ; but, unlike their more famous cousin-three-words (I Love You), these words made enemies for him. People always thought he did not care for others and did not carry his team with him and resultantly, despite his super intelligence, he never grew in the company hierarchy. Organizations have no jobs for Supermen today. In the interdependent world, we need team players. As soon as you say “I know that” new learning and creative thinking stops. In today’s VUCA world I have to learn new things every day. New ways to solve age old problems: creative ways to resolve emerging issues and innovative approaches to change frontiers of knowledge: all these require you to stay humble and never say “I know that”. I know that is static: while today’s problems ( and their solutions) are dynamic.

Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses begins by saying : “much have I seen and known” : an apt paraphrase for “I know that”. But Ulysses knows that this not enough: he goes on:-
“Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.”
Be hungry for new experiences and knowledge as tomorrow’s solutions lie in that gleaming, un-travelled world. Be open: you have not seen it all.

I began with Maugham’s Mr Know All story. So let me tell you how it ends. Our Mr Know All is at one dinner table one night: and holding forth as is his wont. And showing off to others, how he knows it all. He looks at a pearl necklace worn by a lady on the table and compliments her for the classic, natural pearls. He opines that their rarity and purity is such that the necklace must be very, very expensive. He advises her to be very careful of that piece of jewelery. The lady’s husband is not amused. He says his wife bought those pearls from a village fair and they have no value at all. Mr Know All is taken aback. He says all his knowledge and learning is at stake and he knows they are very, very valuable pearls: costing thousands of ponds sterling. The lady is flushing and uncomfortable. She says she has a bill somewhere which shows that the necklace cost her just a pound and a half at a village fair, and she can show the bill. All retire for the night: Mr Know All in a most perturbed state and the couple most flustered. In the dark night, the lady searches out Mr Know All to tell him that the pearls are indeed genuine and most expensive. But they were gifted to her by her paramour. And obviously she cannot let her husband know about her lover and her infidelity. Next morning at breakfast Mr Know All goes upto her table and accepts to her husband and her that he was wrong. The pearls are indeed worthless!! And apologizes for his “mistake” in judging them.

Mr Know Alls of today must temper their knowledge and experience with the heart and humility shown by Maugham’s protagonist. Even when you know the answer, practice saying: I don’t know how to solve this problem. Eat the humble pie and ask for others to help. Seek their opinions and inputs. Let others shine and take credit. Don’t ever, ever say “I know that”.

I am proud that I know nothing, can you help please: vikas

Is forgiving enough?

It is said that “to err is human: to forgive is divine”. But divinity falls short when it comes to the human condition. Forgiveness has many open ends: and so many a times, mere forgiving is just not enough!!

A la lip sympathy, forgiving is also given a nodding acquiescence very many times. People say “I forgive you” but they do not mean it at all. Events that have happened have gone deep into their mind, and though the lips say “I forgive”; the heart is actually saying “How could you do this to me? I can/will never forget this”. The hurt factor remains; and vitiates relationships in future.

This is true in all sorts of human relationships. A school child playing a prank is told by the teacher that he is forgiven: but the teacher keeps it in mind and suddenly the student is no longer a favorite, his marks deteriorate, performance suffers and he is constantly reminded : “I cannot trust you. I remember your last goof…”. Same experience when someone has let down parents or caused embarrassment to a friend. We have all experienced the hurt which relatives can just not get over, maybe after a genuine mistake on your part. Despite a thousand plus apologies. And thousand plus one “it’s ok”!! All future interactions thereafter are seen with colored glasses. In offices, we have seen subordinates struggle to change the boss’impression about them after one faux pas. Unfortunately in the formal environment, there is hesitation in even accepting one’s mistake and saying sorry. And even when you do it, that is not the last you hear of it. “Boond se gayi wo haud se nahi aati”: to paraphrase the Birbal saying into modern parlance.

With wives or girlfriends, the less said the better. A litany of past misdeeds is perpetually pulled out and thrown into the ring, with every new argument. Like the childhood game of Memory, when every subsequent player has to remember all the names of the fruits the earlier players have spoken of, and then add a fruit-name of his own, when your significant other wants to tell you how wrong you have been, it is never this present instance, but the list begins from the past: your first misdemeanor, and then a full recounting of all the times you have been found wanting. Though in the past after your apology you were told : “Ok, I forgive you.” If you think forgiveness was complete, you have a guess coming my friend! Forgiveness lasts, only till you err the next time!! The past is hanging like a heavy weight in between and relationships and actions are more shaped by the past than the present. So you are left perpetually wondering : what exactly was meant when you are told : I forgive you? Forgiveness is never enough.

In the corporate arena, Union Management relationship also throws up many examples. I have heard so many discussions which go like this: ” This person is like this only. You remember last year when there was a problem in the xyz Shop, we discovered that he was in the background, instigating his colleagues. His absenteeism record is also very poor. How many times we have counselled him. But he does not change”. As an HR person, I tried my level best to say “but we are discussing the event of 29/5. Not the past” The answer was always: “Vikas don’t be impractical, foolish and immature. He is like that only. Don’t you remember once…”. So even industrial jurisprudence is a calibrated test tube, wherein your wrong doings are always additive. Even for Union leaders’ their past casts long shadows ahead of them. And again rather than dealing with them on merits, case by case, event by event, issue for issue – very often you are indulging in shadow boxing. You cannot fight and correct the past. Images and impressions carry the day: and that is what holds a person guilty, even before the hearing is completed!

I feel we are missing the wood for the trees here. Forgiveness to be complete must include Forgetting. They are 2 sides of the coin. One complements and completes the other.

If you want to genuinely and completely Forgive, train yourself, your organization, your family, your near ones to also Forget. Don’t hold grudges of the past. Carry on afresh and anew. Treat every interaction with the freshness it deserves. Do not let past experiences (bad, or even good ones) cast shadows on future interactions. Divest and dissect your relationships from their history. Past is NOT a good predictor of the future. When you believe past does shape the future, then you are denying new things happening, people being ready to change, doing things differently, having a free will and choosing a path afresh in every interaction. If you are only your past : what is the difference between us and circus trained animals?

For embracing new possibilities, we must acknowledge full potentiality of the future. Which means effectively we must FORGET the past. And only then will be able to accept new results, take new turns and lead a life free, from the dead-weight of the past. As a case in point consider the Whistle-blowers’ Policy. Most companies are codifying it now. A question I have is Why does every such policy talk about “no retribution”? To me this means the Management and bosses of the whistleblower, as well as the whistleblower himself, are scared that the past will haunt them. The clauses reflect the fear that the person maybe damned for the past action. Actually if you see, we owe a lot to the whistle blower in Enron and Infosys and all the famous reported corporate cases. It is due to the whistleblowers that corporate governance took a different direction. Rather than hailing the heroes, corporates made them scurry for cover. When will we learn to forgive and forget?

Let me end with 2 quotes of 2 wise men:
i) When Jesus said from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they not what they are doing”. What he was saying is: really forget the past and let us look ahead. No analysis of the past. No hankering after the done deal. Look ahead.
ii) And the Learned One, Buddha said : “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Unfortunately, we keep the anger bottled inside and are not ready to forget. Thereby ruining a perfectly repairable relationship!

Wishing you a poor, poor memory which forgets, even as you forgive: vikas

Dear Maya and Baywatch

Saw 2 movies over the weekend. Very mixed experience. Here goes…

Dear Maya should never have been completed and if done, should never have been released. A more sad movie I have not seen in my 50+ years of movie going. The director (Sunaina Bhatnagar; apparently Imtiaz Ali’s asst and that too on Jab we Met my ALL TIME fav) begins with a theme replete with potential. 2 teen-aged school girls play a prank on the brooding and reclusive neighbor. They write her love letters pretending to revive a 20 year old meeting. And Manisha Koirala (Maya) takes off to Delhi in pursuit of her suitor; selling all her belongings including her house in Shimla. The basic thesis is flawed, nay cracked at this point. Someone who has not stirred from her window for years suddenly in hot pursuit all the way to Delhi? Come on, who will believe the withdrawn and scared Maya will gather so much courage? And then the second nadir point: one of the girls develops guilt on her doings; and though she has moved from Shimla to Delhi, spends her 6 years in college only searching for Maya!!! Another thesis which belies teenager behavior and the attractions of Delhi. Naturally Maya is found. She is well. Has a husband and a child. All is fine and ready for a Hindi-movie ending. Again, the reaction of the girl who has sacrificed 6 years and many relationships to this search is so limpid that it jars. Manisha Koirala disappoints thoroughly in her comeback movie. She looks a real ghost and you wish she had never ventured out of the ghostly mansion. Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra leaves a strong impression in a super thin appearance: he should really consider coming to the front of the camera.

The saving grace was the final message : “Say yes to life”. MK delivers that well. Take her advice: Say yes to life; and No to Dear Maya. Save your time and save your money.

See Baywatch. Baywatch is enjoyable for all the lovely locales, the lovelier bods, and a fast paced and still easy going story. The sunkissed beach has enough arm candy and hot bods for both male viewers and female cine goers. While the story is all predictable to the core, the way the movie is put together is a visual and emotional treat. Good guys win. Bad guys die; all is right with the world. Even the stupidest Lifegaurd gets the lifegaurd he drools over. End of movie.

If you are a prude, your ears may jar a little with all the “fuck”s and “shit” liberally interspersed in the dialogue. But I think in today’s times it is a routine phrase and really it does not stick out. The characters and their speech is all in sync. The one who curses and uses foul language the least is the svelte seductress Victoria Leeds, our own Pee Cee. She holds her own in the Hollywood drama and plays the evil drug dealer making a run on the real estate around the beach truly believable. Convincing, and killing if you don’t get see things her way comes easily to her. And after Dwyane johnson, it is our own Priyanka Chopra who impresses you.

Dear Maya, sorry, but I would rather Baywatch : vikas

Billion + 1

I may make more enemies than friends by this confession: but the truth is I do not like Sachin. Sachin Tendulkar is a youth icon, amazing achiever, God of cricket, symbol of hope and aspiration for all Indians, Little Master, , etc. etc. But still the fact is I do not like Sachin.

My reasons may surprise some of you : but I do think he is over rated and over idolized. Too many followers. Too many people (in fact the whole of India) pinning their hopes on him. But somewhere I keep feeling : finally he is school dropout, just a cricket player : does he really deserve so much? the adulation of the entire country, Bharat Ratna, records galore, youngest this, highest that, maximum runs, Master Blaster, maximum centuries, lots of fancy cars, huge house, and crores of money earned from advertising and awards.

So my going and watching the movie “Sachin : A Billion Dreams” was not an act of a fan; happy to see his god, and revel in the exploits and achievements of his idol. In fact, am not even much of a cricket fan. Used to follow cricket when I was a college student. But the infamous match fixing episodes involving Hansie Cronje and Azharuddin, with Kapil Dev breaking down and crying on national television, totally put me off watching cricket. The thought was : here we have invested literally our life and our energy, in following and supporting Indian cricket: and here are our cricketers selling the country and our dreams down the drain, just for personal monetary gain. Somewhere one did feel good, even at that time, that Sachin had stayed true to his middle class, ethical upbringing and his name was not even mentioned in the aftermath.

So neither being a Sachin fan nor a fanboy of Cricket, why did I go to see the docu-drama “Sachin A Billion Dreams” in the cinema hall? One definition of a Psychologist is the person who looks at other people in the room when a beautiful woman walks in. Similarly I went to the movie to see what other people are seeing in Sachin!! And I must confess, I came back happy.

The movie is similar to a documentary. The format has Sachin himself as the narrator ( & a very self conscious and awkward one at that). And of course the movie showcases all the major milestones and achievements in Sachin’s cricketing career. But what endeared me to the movie was the human interest angle. The story highlights the journey of a simple middle class Bandra boy and the pressures and struggles of an achiever. Lots and lots of personal video footage of Sachin and his family and friends is shared giving us a fresh insight into Sachin the son, Sachin as a husband, a father, a brother, a friend. We see lots of material about his love of cars, his holidays, his friends, his love for music and his pastimes. All this new perspective about Sachin as a human being is novel and nice. That is what made the movie enjoyable for me.

Sachin as a person comes forth very different from his cricketing, larger than life persona. Sachin seems to have taken to heart his father’s teaching : “I would be happier if you became a better human than a better cricketer” and lived by that principle. His humility, his love for his mother and father, his total dependence on his brother as a pillar of support in all his achievements, his relationship with his wife, his enjoying time with his children (though he refused to ever change a diaper), all show him in a very humane light. The values reflected in all these interactions underlines how self-abnegating he was and you can well imagine having NO SHARP EDGES as a team player. “Others above me” shines through all and you understand the person quite differently. This is best exemplified when he is asked : what did you feel when thousands chanted “Sachin Sachin” every time you stepped out onto the crease? His answer is beautiful and strong in its import ” I was always reminded of my responsibility”

Another endearing feature of the film is giving us a glimpse of how this introverted person handled the downs in his life. Whether it was protests of fans when India lost, or when he got out cheaply when there was an expectation of a big innings, or his poor record as a Captain, or his being summarily dropped as Captain without even a prior headsup. All these stories are well told and make Sachin a more lovable character and the movie a more interesting watch.

All of Sachin’s cricketing achievements are well documented elsewhere and spoken about enough. So go and watch the movie Sachin to get an insight and feel for the man; the enormous pressures he underwent and withstood carrying the dreams of the entire nation on his slim shoulders. I must confess, for the first time I became an unabashed fan of Sachin the man.

Sachin you make me proud to be an Indian, proud to be a Maharashtrian, and proud to be a Mumbaikar.

So One Billion plus one : vikas. And counting….

Being a good person

Buddha exhorted : Be a good person, but don’t waste time to prove it.

If you think about it, this is great wisdom indeed. More popular poster art puts it a trifle differently : There is no limit to the amount of good that you can do : if you don’t mind who gets the credit.

Nobody stops you from being good, doing the right things, leaving the world a better place than we found it. However, today unfortunately we want to play to the gallery. We will do good if others will acknowledge me. We want to be admired and recognized. And get the same approbation that little Jack Horner wanted in his corner: he wanted it to end as ” What a good boy am I” . But when there is no credit, no public applause, no labels and stickers and bands for celebration : less people are ready to come forward to do good. Sad but true!

Of course there are exceptions, and those we must recognize and celebrate. Stories of an old Gujrati couple who donated their lifelong saving of over a crore of rupees for soldiers’ welfare. A rickshaw puller in Tamil Nadu who donates enough to start a library in the college in his village. Such examples gladden the cockles of one’s heart. And I want to write about some even more simple examples.

My father had a transferable job and during his 40 years’ career we must have changed 10 to 12 locations/houses. Shifting house did not have the support which today’s moves have. There were no packers and movers whom you could call. We had to ask the local grocery shop and offices for cartons. Each plate and piece of crockery was individually wrapped in newspaper by family members themselves. Shifting were great days, as for a week your kitchen was closed and you were being invited for breakfast, lunch and dinner at friends’ and neighbors’ houses. On the last day, the truckers came with some unskilled help and moved all the packages you had packed into the truck and took off.

On all these occasions, I remember my mother used to ensure that one broom was not packed. It was kept separately. And after all packages and furniture was removed, she would personally sweep the empty house. Idea was the empty house should appear clean and fresh for the new incumbent. What an attitude! What a learning that left on our impressionable minds!! Clean behind you. Do not ever leave a mess. Think of the next person who is yet to appear. What if we all practiced this simple learning in all that we do in our lives. I am sure the world would be a far far better place to live in.

Sometimes, in some locations, our frugal furniture would be supplemented with office furniture. God help anyone of us who did not treat it with respect and deference that office furniture deserved. Cupboards had to be closed carefully. If there was a loud banging sound of the door closing, immediately we would be reprimanded; “Arre office ka hai. Thik se use karo” ” Don’t put your feet on the center table. Office ka hai.” “Apna nahi ki ki tum kaise bhi use karo”. Office ka hai, careful, careful, careful.

The very day our goods were transported, we ourselves would get on a train to go to our new destination. We would reach and stay in the Guest House as our stuff was still enroute. A new series of “dawats” and invitations would start. It was getting to know new colleagues and their families. And when the truck finally reached, the reverse process of unpacking would start. New school, new friends, new neighbors, new colleagues, new equations, new adjustments. One more cycle completed one more cycle begun. As soon as the house was set, it was a practice that my parents would invite all new colleagues and their families for lunches and dinners. It was not only the people who were moving, but also the people who were staying on, as now they are your new friends and family, your new support system.

It took a couple of cycles for us children to understand that what my parents were practicing is what is called “feed forward” in today’s management parlance. They intuitively knew and understood that all the lunches and dinners they had enjoyed before leaving say Kolhapur; had to “given back” in say Amravati. So when they left Amravati and went to Pune, the feed forward mechanism ensured that they were welcomed and made at home in Pune. Their reputation as nice human beings always preceded them. They did good and moved on. A la Buddha they did not waste any time in publicity or propagation. That happened automatically.

My father took it to an extreme. He believed that his hard earned money would never be lost or misappropriated. ” I have never done anything bad to anyone. So why will anyone do anything bad to me” was his life’s philosophy. And he had the courage to live that. Doing good without any expectation of returns, he only got good in return.

29th May was his birthday. If he was alive he would be 89 years old today. But whether we feel his physical presence around us or not, we can never be far from all that he taught us. We all try and practice as much as possible his basic teaching : Do good and leave the rest. Life will repay you.

Thank you Baba for helping us understand the power of being good: vikas

Cuppa Tea : life’s elixir

I remember when we were in Johnson & Johnson, a management conference was planned at Kathmandu. Per corporate safety and business continuity guidelines, no more than 3 senior managers could travel in one flight. So the Board of Management was split into 4 different flights. Our Finance Head and I were together. We reached the Kathmandu hotel in the morning around 10 am. First formal program was to begin with dinner. So both of us promptly planned a sight seeing outing. We hired a car and took off planning to return by 630/7 pm, in time to freshen up for dinner.

Those were the days before mobiles and so when we were gone, we were gone. After Basantpur and lots of local sightseeing we took off to Nagarkot which bosts of 270 degree views of the Himalayan range. We returned to the hotel around 6 pm and found a posse of people desperately waiting for us. “Where have you been? The MD is looking for you. Entire Board is in the business center, except you two. 10 times they have asked.” Etc.

We rushed to the Business Center and into the full blown wrath of the MD. “Where have you been? How can you just take off? we are desperately searching for you. This is so immature. We wanted a management comm meeting” Etc. We protested ” but sir the first formal function was at night. There was no meeting planned” After which we got the LEARNING OF A LIFETIME. The pearls of wisdom from the MD’s mouth which you should remember forever ” Any time is meeting time; and anytime is tea time”.

So true. And so prophetic. Anytime is tea time.

Being an HR person through 34 long years, I have grown up on the enormous no of cups of tea. Whether working alone in corporate cubicles or in meeting rooms, or when one graduated to the recesses of cabins, the one and only constant companion who stood by you in the entire corporate journey was the ubiquitous cup of tea. The “tea trails” went through many a convoluted route : Whether as a junior you managed to wrangle a cup from the canteen boy or the sheer exuberance you felt when when Siemens put up a vending machine and you could have tea at will ! hallelujah!! Thereafter managing a cup of “german tea” as black tea with fresh lemon slice was called in Siemens ( though one had to have a very good equation with Shetty the 5th floor peon). And then the arrival into a cabin where you could legitimately call for a cup whenever you had visitors. Johnson & Johnson ( though American) had a really old school British touch where tea was served in a tray by a waiter dressed in a bow tie!!! All of which got reflected in a cartoon I preserved for a long time : It showed a guy sipping his cuppa and the accompanying blurb read : “sometimes I think I come here just for a cup of tea”. Tea was undoubtedly an integral part of the corporate journey and corporate experience.

When I started travelling abroad for company work, the taken for granted cup of tea suddenly took on very different dimensions. Western Europe was still ok: you could hold your head high and ask for tea in UK ( but of course), France and even in Netherland and surrounding areas. But reach Italy and you got a disdainful look when you asked for tea. Even that cold treatment was fine compared to the sheer horror on the face of your host in US of A when you said “no, not coffee, would prefer tea”. Obviously the faith was that full bloodied males drank coffee and not tea. Many were confused as to how to handle this ridiculous request. In US, this is second only to the crime of asking for milk and sugar in your coffee.

Compared to all this ridicule, I always found that asking for tea was easier in Asia and Far East. The challenge in Singapore and Korea and China took a different turn however. They would shoot a barrage of questions: Oolong? Black? Green? African Red? White? First Flush? Herbal? Lemon? Chrysanthemum (for God’s sake). For someone who only knew of BOP and Dust (and also knew Darjeeling tea is only for the Gods), it took a while to go through these dark forests and find out that only Earl Grey and English Breakfast are teas which we Indians can recognize as tea. And since entire Asia ( except our dear Pakistan and Malaysia) and Far East drink tea without milk, you soon graduated to drinking your tea without milk. As a fringe benefit, first time since you were born, you discovered the real taste of tea.

I grew up in a middle class family: and though there was enough for all: we were never into a lap of luxury. One indulgence which my parents allowed themselves was buying good quality teas. While in Maharashtra, Green Lipton was standard fare. As we started getting posted out of Maharashtra, and we gained in knowledge and tea sophistication, Lopchu and Ranglee Rangliot made their appearance in our larder. When my father got posted to Eastern India and traveled for work upwards of Calcutta, the more premium teas from specific tea estates came in. As small children our biggest trip was waking up early and joining my parents for their ritualistic first cuppa. Made in tea pots, covered with a tea-cosy, following the traditional “one spoon per cup and one for the pot” formula, brewed to perfection, by pouring boiled water over leaves in the pot, far away from the flame, and kept precisely for 2 mins. Those were the days my friend. So tea is very much a part of my growing up.

Finally, as head of HR, having consumed so many thousands of cups in my 34 years’ career, I will confess today : I was always suspicious of people who did not drink tea. Within HR where I had complete sway, I confess, I rejected candidates if they said they don’t drink tea. Tea is the universal binder. Conversation opener, relationship strengthen-er, builder of rapport and the best icebreaker you can have : with a worker or with an MD! It’s magic works at all levels and how a person drinks tea tells you a lot about the person. And remember, any time is tea time. My father put it best in his rustic Marathi : Baine kunku ani purusha ne chaha kadhi nahi mhanta naye” ( A woman should never refuse kumkum (the vermilion on her forehead) and similarly a man should never refuse a cup of tea).

Bring it on. Hot and black elixir of life.
Golden tea, my one true love : vikas

Hindi Medium & Half Girlfriend

Today was baby’s day out. Wife had gone to meet her mother; daughter in her office; house guests from tomorrow, who themselves called in morning to say “your last day of freedom, we arrive tomorrow morning”. So the choice was to stay and home and listen to my daughter’s cat mewing and bawling through the day; or escape to the movies. Indeed a Hobson’s choice. Maybe some of you may think my seeing 3 movies in the day : Hindi Medium ( first time), Half Girlfriend ( second time) and Meri Pyari Bindu ( third time) was an overkill. But then you have not seen the cat at home!!!

———————————————————————————-

Half Girlfriend is a well made movie. Chetan Bhagat’s book lends itself well to being adapted into a movie and Chetan himself is associated with the production. That, and of course Balaji Films and Ekta Kapoor behind the project, means the production values are good. The story is a typical love story; rich girl meets the village bumpkin, the expected clash of values between a sophisticated socialite girl and a small town Bihari hickey. The usual hits and misses all boiling down to the last minute search of the lost lady love for which the hero covers most , if not all, bars which have live Bollywood singers in New York!!!

So as you will quickly realize: the story has nothing new to tell. While some of the songs (notably Tu Thodi Der Aur Theher Ja and Ye Baarish ka paani and Will you stay a little longer) are good, overall the movie’s music does not make a lasting impression. Same is the case with Mr Arjun Kapoor. He neither looks nor behaves like a basketball player. In fact, he has one constipated look throughout the movie that jars. The saving grace in the movie is clearly and by far Shraddha Kapoor. She absolutely sparkles. Whether it is on the basketball court or in a party at her father’s house, in a traditional sari or in the western ensembles, Shraddha carries herself extremely well.

Shraddha Kapoor has literally carried the entire movie on her shoulders, through her character in the movie. And she proves beyond doubt that that she has matured as an actress. Her performance is understated and still powerful. And totally, totally believable. You keep wishing that the director Mohit Suri had found a less dumb actor that Arjun Kapoor to play the Bihari Jha. Arjun Kapoor studiously maintains the SAME expression through 2 hours 15 mins of the movie; and gets really weary on your nerves. Seema Biswas as the mother plays her role well but has precious little to do.

So overall : watch the movie if you want to admire Shraddha Kapoor carrying off 25/30 different looks and styles. Arjun K., the story or rest of the cast add nothing to the movie. Even if you miss watching the movie, you would not miss much!

———————————————————————————

Hindi Medium sets out to tackle a lofty subject: the mad race for admissions to “prestigious” schools and to what extent a well to do family is ready to go to secure admission for their daughter. The theme and the treatment is totally realistic and something that we see around us all the time.

After directing movies like Pyaar ke Side Effects and Shadi ke Side Effects, director Saket Chaudhary has taken a very different, socially relevant and topical theme. We all have personally experienced the stress every family goes through when it is admission time. And the younger the child, the more difficult it seems to get. The movie talks about the corruption and twisting of the RTE quota in the prestigious schools. The Principal played by Amrita Singh and the Hindi teacher are enacted very well.

Irrfan is outstanding to say the least. He pulls off 2 distinct roles : a brash Punjabi shopkeeper and then the same guy giving up all luxuries to stay in a low middle class “bharatnagar” tenement to justify his RTE application. Irrfan dominates the movie throughout: whether it is showing his shop assistant how to make a sale, or rejecting caviar in favour of pakodas in his house party, his spirited dance in the party which becomes the talk of the snobbish guests, his yearning to keep his Mitthu/Honey happy at all times, his adjustments in the Bharatnagar tenement even when rats abound: Irrfan just amazes with his breadth and variety of acting skills. You find it difficult to reconcile the sauve, well dressed Chandani Chowk fashion shop incharge with the archetypal red checked “gamcha” covering his head and sleeping on the floor in absolute comfort and still wanting to tease and love his wife in the deprived circumstances. His last performance when his conscience is awakened and he challenges the Principal and the system,and withdraws his daughter from the school to correct the injustice which he himself had perpetrated: the entire sequence is so well done, that it will stay with you long after you move out of the cinema hall.

You see some parallels to Dev Anand’s (Asli Naqli) and Raj Kapoor’s movies in the scenes which show the simplicity and giving nature of the poor in contrast to the rich who are always self centered and pretentious. While Irrfan makes the transition from Vasant Vihar bungalow to Bharatnagar tenement with elan and ease, his wife (played by Saba Qamar) sticks out like a sore thumb. Wonder where Director Saket C dug out this lady from? Because of her poor acting, Irrfan gains even more in your evaluation.

The surprise package is Deepak Dobriyal as the well-meaning friend. Again an amazing performance which is played perfectly.

Overall with all it’s faults (especially the length of the movie) Hindi Medium is a must watch for Irrfan’s acting prowess, Director Saket for attempting this bold subject, Deepak D for a most amazing performance.

———————————————————————————-
Finally I was happiest watching Meri Pyari Bindu for the third time.

Happy viewing :vikas

O Bindu re…meri pyari Bindu

“Maana ke hum yaar nahin
Lo tai hai ke pyaar nahin
Phir bhi nazar na tum milana
Dil ka aitbaar nahin”
Crooning with dulcet tones, Parineeti/Bindu enters your heart seamlessly and effortlessly. And by the end of the movie ( Meri Pyaari Bindu) you are as much in love with her, and ready to do any crazy thing for Shankar Narayan Bindu, as is Bablu/Ayushman Khurana.

Director Akshay Roy (is it by design that the protagonist is also A(bhimanyu) Roy?) creates a lovely film which effortlessly takes you far and beyond. It is a crazy story, centered around a lovingly bossy, self centered Bindu and her besotted neighbor Abhimanyu Roy with a “dak naam” Bablu aka Bubble wrap. From the first time Bindu steps out of a decrepit Ambassador in by-lanes of Calcutta ( where else can you see Ambassadors?) Bindu enters Bablu’s heart and stays there. The one sided love is never returned in full, yet Bindu continues to twist and turn Bablu heart and make him follow her every wish and command. And the story is told with great humor through some truly memorable crazy scenes by the director.

The oneliners and humor sparkle through out the movie. Scenes such as Bindu surprising a friend who is making out with his girl friend to search for her “lost” key under their bodies; or Bindu forcing Abhimanyu to take in a stray dog Devdas int his home: or Abhimanyu to give out his answer sheets for copying in a college exam while she negotiates the price of each answer, under the very nose of the supervisor; or the one when Abhimanyu’s parents suddenly land up at his bachelor’s pad forcing a desperate attempt to clean up and present his sleep over friends as colleagues from the credit department: the chance meeting in Goa and the memorable motorcycle ride with “uncle” – all scenes are handled well and the sheer zani-ness keeps you in splits. Full credit to the script writer for thinking of such scenes and to the director for executing them so well.

While Pariniti and Ayushman play the main characters,the movie also actually uses “old hindi movie songs” as a major protagonist/character in the movie. Old hit no.s keep playing in the movie and actually drive the story forward. That is another brilliant subterfuge by the Director who keeps you enthralled with the continuity provided by the old favorites: it is literally playing antakshari with film scenes sparked and and built around the old songs. As Abhimanyu puts it to Bindu while proposing to make a joint tape: not fav songs but songs that matter to us and bind our lives together. For the movie viewer, Hindi film music serves to keep you engaged and participate in the story’s development.

Ayushman is brilliant as the hopelessly in love, bullied and bandied bablu who has to drop his life where ever it is and run whenever Bindu gives the two-ring emergency signal. Ayushman has played Bablu in a very believable manner and clearly emerges as a better actor amongst the 2 in the film. Pariniti has done well but comes a poor second. Possibly her antics and even her wardrobe are so much over the top that your heart stays with Bablu. As she confesses in the film” selfish hu na”. that remains in your thoughts, and does not let Pariniti gain a lot of the viewer’s affection. With her fluttering eyelashes and demanding nature she succeeds in wrapping Ayushman round her little finger, but loses the audience.

Besides the old Hindi no.s, the movies original songs are also eminently hummable. Had not heard earlier about Sachin Jigar as music directors . But they with Kausar Munir as lyricist give us some really good songs. My personal fav were Arijit singing Hareeya mai dil hareeya and the Sonu Nigam and Pariniti’s Maana ke tum. Though the internet has a solo version of Pariniti singing this song, it is conspicuous by it’s absence in the movie.

Some of the side characters also leave a strong mark. The publisher of Ayushaman, the Bengali relatives’ gang loving their football, Pariniti’s brooding Sounth Indian Father, and Bablu’s archetypal Bengali loud mother are charming in their own right.

The movie is finally about friendship and love, strictly in that order. The story is told with tons of humor and dollops of beautifully enacted sequences. My personal fav was the surprise proposal of Ayushaman with the full participation of family and friends to the tune of Meri Pyari Bindu (the old Padosan song). That is enacted so well that if I was in Pariniti’s place I could never have refused the proposal. But the story is about the multiple hits and misses of the pairing and though predictable and long, it entertains and engages.

Finally you end up fully agreeing with Bablu : Pyaar karna bahut log sikhate hai, pur afsos us pyaar ko bhula dena koi nahi sikhata. We all have learnt the truth of this great sentence. Have enjoyed love, and equally suffered because of love. Kaash Bablu ko koyi pyaar bhulana sikha deta. Aur hume bhi. We all would be happier???

Abhi na jao chood kar, ke dil abhi bhara nahi : vikas

Your Mother…My Mother…the universal Ma…Salud

There was a cartoon circulating on the recently concluded Mothers’ Day : a bevy of assistants: a cook, a nurse, a friend, a maid, a butler, a doctor, a teacher, a driver, a clown, a priest, and even a fortune teller are all in the background and the mother is told by her child : ” Mom, I appointed all these people for a day, to give you rest on Mothers’ Day”.

Humor reflecting reality. All of us know that Mothers are the original multi-skilled managers without whom a lot more than our lives would come crashing down. They make the world go a-round and without them, nothing seems right nor happens right. So is it not a travesty of justice that still we wait for a Mothers’ Day to remember and pay our obeisance to them.

I remember a quote which has been around since I was a child : God could not be everywhere, and so he made Moms. They truly bring a touch of heaven to our humdrum lives; a magic for our souls and true awakening of happiness and joy in all that they touch. Even a bleeding bruise suddenly feels better with her kiss.

The only day that your mother was happy when you cried, was the day you were born. After hearing that first cry of the newborn, her life gets totally centered around the hopes and aspirations, the joys and tribulations, the achievements and struggles of her child. We all have experienced the sheer joy on the face of our mother, when she is able to do the smallest thing for us: whether it is stitching a button “just now” as you want to wear just that dress today or making your favorite dish and observing your expression, as you eat. Somehow she feels fulfilled and happy when you eat and enjoy.

My Aai was no different. Like ALL mothers in the world, she was uniquely endowed and by far was THE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD to me. It is not because I was the only son, my 3 sisters also got the same love and care. Why my sisters, anyone and everyone who came to our house was touched by her magic. Even after 40+ years, my school friends from Cuttack remember her pink coloured, coconut burfis which they always say were unique in their taste. Of course they would be , as the chief ingredient was her love. No occasion in the family would ever be complete without her trademark burfi ki thali emblazoned with “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary messages. While my wife and my sisters continue the tradition of Burfi ki thali for occasions, frankly we eat the burfi today mechanically while in our memory and heart we still savour the taste of my mother’s burfi.

Her constant endeavour was to give me piping hot food. So even when I came back from school at 3 pm, she would go into the kitchen and make hot rotis for me. I would sit at the table with a book in my hand eating distractedly; and getting scolded by my grandmother, for making the hot rotis and subji grow cold. But my Aai waited till I finished the roti in my plate, to serve me another hot one off the griddle. There were many times when the family sat for dinner together there would be multiple versions of the same dish : with garlic for me; without garlic for my father; green chilli tadka for one sister; embellished with tirphala (an unique konkani condiment: giving a pungent smell to the curry) for my sister; while there was curry without onion paste as the guest, who had come that day, did not relish onions!! So the same curry was served in 4/5 different ways to accommodate individual choices: ensuring complete delight. We grew up thinking such variations were normal. With Aai it was always different strokes for different folks.

Aai came from a very well to do family: her Father was the Superintendent of Agency in the then Imperial Bank ( precursor to the erstwhile State Bank of India). In the early 30s they had a car and a driver in their house. From big bungalows to a small village in Sawantwadi, after her love marriage with my father, must have been a huge change. Suddenly from multiple servants in house, she had to fetch water from a well and become the eldest daughter in law in a large Hindu Konkani family. Emboldened by her love, she took it all in stride and she became a mother to all my father’s siblings, the youngest one being just 1 year old!! She endeared herself to not only to the family, but also the villagers who came to see the new bride.

My father took on a sales job in New India insurance and so started travelling 20 days of the month. Even when he took my mother away from Sawantwadi ( where at least there was a large joint family backup) my mother was equally at home in the 14+ cities and houses my father took her to in his career. She learnt to stay alone without any family support. Rather she took some of my father’s younger siblings to stay with her and be brought up in her house. Our nuclear family moved all across India : Hyderabad, Agra, Pune and then Cuttack : 4 corners of India and at times in between. In all this we were taught resilience and adjustment by Aai. Making friends where ever we went and keeping those friends and contacts for a lifetime.

Like all mothers, she had a penchant for fulfilling her child’s every wish. My younger sister would suddenly demand chicken for lunch, and chicken she would get. At times she wanted a new dress for the evening birthday party, and a new dress would appear. There was no custard powder at home one day and my sister insisted on jelly with custard. My mother solution was staring with cornflour and milk and preparing custard herself rater than saying we will have it the next day as the Weikfield packet was not there. All of which led to the famous christening of my mother by my sister : “Panda Aai jaadugaar” ( Mother is a magician)

After retirement my father settled down in Pune. In the building where they lived “Aji” was loved by all, as now they became the beneficiaries of the laddoos and chivda which we had outgrown. The swing in her balcony ensured a steady stream of young children to her house. And then the parents coming to take the children away would be treated to snacks and hot tea. Evening was with the Laughter club and walking friends and other oldies around the colony, and so on on and on the round robin went. Whenever we visited Pune, in my daughter Rashmi’s honor there would be an icecream party thrown for all kids in the building. In short, we never saw an empty house.

At the age of 80 she was still living life fullest. Burning both sides of the candle, she would laugh at me as I do not dance at birthday parties when she would readily start swaying to hindi music with her grand daughters. Unfortunately at 81 she was diagnosed with cancer of the intestines. But now she convinced her oncologist that she has had a happy life and seen not only grand children settled but also great grandchildren growing up. She actually counselled all of her children : don’t cry for me, i have no more desires and have seen it all. I am dying a very satisfied woman, having lived my life in full.

Even in her death she gave us a teaching : She told me : “no rituals, no poojas, no 12th day feeding of bramhins. Even our relatives are all well fed. Rather spend that money to give a donation for women’s education so that it serves a deserving cause!!! ”

What a woman! What a mother!! No surprise then that her partner for 60 years ( my father) died in 6 weeks after my mother died, and he had no medical problems at all !! He just lost his will to live after his lover, his life partner, his wife of 60 years was no more. Lucky him I say. I wonder why we are still living now??

Those of you who are fortunate to have your mothers around you : love them with all your mite. Leave no regrets for future, no I should have; I could have; I would have. Do it now. Loving your Mother is the best thing you could do with your life. Today. And tomorrow.

I am now left with only this to say:
Jab kagaz pe likha maine Ma tera naam
Kalam adab se bol uthi, ho gaye charo dham!!

Aai tuzi aathvan yete : vikas

Sarkar 3….Bahubali 2…God save our souls

I had the privilege… sorry, misfortune…of seeing Bahubali 2 and Sarkar 3 on consecutive days. Pl do not get me wrong: the problem is not in the sequencing of the movies. Even the reverse sequencing would have been equally disastrous. The fundamental problem was with the movies themselves. Allow me to explain.

Bahubali 2 was 2 hours and 47 mins of inane violence. And all with archaic bows and arrows, and maces and swords. There were black masked warriors and shamans, and there were kings and courtiers : all sound and fury signifying nothing; and meaning even less. The first part Bahubali the Beginning was majestic in its’ grandeur and sets. That advantage was already lost. So why make Bahubali 2? Only to declare why Katappa killed Bahubali? Even that explanation falls flat and comes across as a damp squib. In fact, by that time if Katappa had not killed Bahubali, I am sure that anyone in the audience would willingly volunteer to do the good deed, as you just want to leave the cinema hall and go home!!

The warning bells are already ringing as the son of Bahubali, Mahendra Bahubali is now old enough and is raging war with his uncle and grandfather. A cold sweat breaks on your brow: does this mean there will another Bahubali Part x, y or zee? Then to your relief you remember this one is called Bahubali The Conclusion. So hopefully it stays concluded. If not I am sure I will not buy a ticket and go and see another Bahubali. The saving grace in the movie was the characterisation of Bahubali’s wife Devasena (played ably by Anushka Shetty). She is shown as a fiercely independent and outspoken woman, with a mind of her own. She is challenging of the past norms and ready to act quickly and firmly when required. Even with little screen time she makes a deep impression and remains in your mind after the horror of the movie is behind you. Hope some of our modern day heroines emulate Devasena.

Bahubali 2 The Conclusion will remain in my memory as a great exercise in marketing. The fact that it earned 120+ crores in its’ opening remains for me an enigma. It only reminds me of the famous Big B reply. He was asked why cant we make films like Hollywood and apparently he replied : why don’t you ask why Hollywood can’t make films like us. In this regard I am sure Bahubali 2 will be a mark which just cant be surpassed!

I also saw Sarkar 3 today. 2 hours 12 mins of smoldering glances, deep looks and dark, angular shots. 2 hours 12 minutes of inane violence. And all with guns and pistols and machine guns. ( why does this sound familiar? ) Ram Gopal Verma’s camera work and shot composition is unique to say the least. Most time there are long shots against the light, or camera from behind vases and bed posts, between tables and chairs, between the logs on a funeral pyre and from the back of a dog’s statue, if you will!! Is this supposed to be arty? or is the director playing with your mind? Imagine what you will, as i will not show anything clearly and directly, seems to be the style.

The story moves in fits and starts and though there are stalwarts like Supriya Pathak, Manoj Bajpayee, Rohini Hattangadi, Jackie Shroff, Ronit Roy etc you gather a deep impression only of the inimitable Big B and Amit Sadh. But even the fabled Amitabh presence cannot save the film from falling flat. Neither does the story line grip you nor does the fight sequences. In fact in the gun fights you keep wondering who is shooting at whom and from where : the shooting outside the Courtroom when Manoj is shot or in the restaurant when Amit is being shot at are cases in point. The shooting during Ganapati Visarjan only creates an impression of confusion and free for all melee.

Except Sarkar’s character and that of the grandson Chicku there is no scope for Yami Gautam or Jackie or Rohini to make any impact at all. The earlier films Sarkar 1 and 2 seem to have taken so much out of RGV that he seems to be fresh out of story line, depth or continuity. In the one joint scene between Manoj Bajpayee and AB, Manoj holds his own very well. But as though to maintain a balance, RGV promptly gets Manoj shot off. More light, more story, more characterization, more fluidity in the story unfolding could have done wonders for the film. Insipid, dreary, boring, flimsy, and shallow are the adjectives that come to mind as you walk out of the cinema hall.

To conclude : don’t see the film unless you are a die hard AB fan and are ready to watch him in any and everything. Save your money for Sarkar 4 where the great (grate?) RGV may come back with a more gripping story. Apparently,”avoid Sarkar 3″ was known to the world at large already: we were just 8 people in Cinepolis on the first day, for the over hyped Sarkar 3.

Keep the faith, and we will get to see better cinema: vikas