Horses For Courses

Vijay Mallya will be a happy man today. A passerby said. And i would have wondered who this blok is, who understand who or what will make Vijay Mallya happy. But not today. For we were at the Race course.

A couple of weeks back, we went to the Race Course. The Mahalakshmi Race Course in Mumbai. And no, not yet. I am not interested in that kind of jackpot. For it was curiosity and a persistent fitness conscious friend that took me there. Upon reaching there i was told that it was Derby day that day. And activities would commence in the evening !

We went early in the morning. As he sweated out, jogging and working out, i walked around. Looking at the majestic horses, their canter, gallops and neighs. And of course, the jockeys.

And of course, early morning, fitness conscious men and women. Running, jogging, walking, chatting and generally, adding a different dimension to the horse filled arena ! Here are some pictures.

I haven’t stopped wondering the strange highs that men get. Out of seeing animals race each other. For i stood there, and watched many of those horses gallop by. The sheer majesticity was fulfilling. But quite obviously, the likes of Vijay Mallya don’t share my sentiment. That is why they are where they are. And that is also why this blog goes on.

To top it up, there was Melba toast and Cardamon tea from the restaurant there ! The restaurant called ‘Gallops’ ! The members get to sit and talk about the horses in an aristocratic enclave. I am told that the fancy hats that members and their companions sport are a real attraction !

I touched my head and felt the balding plate. And went for the Melba toast & tea. Sitting in what seemed to be the backyard !

Hey who cares. The horses had the first right. All else were secondary here. I would like to imagine, ‘Vijay Mallya included’. For some reason, “all animals are equal some are more equal ” resonated differently.

The next morning, i read that Vijay Mallya went back a not so happy man. I wonder how his horse felt.

Pangea Day @ Mumbai !!

imagine no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one I hope someday

you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Those are perhaps the most inspiring lines for me. Every time i hear those lines, a sigh of despair goes up in the air.

Not on Pangea day. For me, Pangea Day is the day when the ground beneath shifted a little. The feeling that it is possible to hold hands permeates across. Overriding distances and differences. I haven’t attended an event like this ever before. More details on the event are here

24 films from around the world. In four hours ( from 6.00 PM GMT). Well, yes that meant 11.30 PM – 3.30 AM India time. But these perhaps have been the most wakeful four hours that I have spent sitting at one place.

Kipling had written in “ A friend of the family”

All good people agree,
All good people say,
All nice people, like us, are We
And every one else is They.

And I thought, what a thought. On Pangea Day I realized, that is how I thought !

Movie after movie moved. They were stories of human emotion. Each letting us know that ‘them’ is after all ‘us’ ! Each giving a perspective of how unique we are. And how by being more unique we actually are less so with the rest of the world. You can view them here

The themes that revolved around love, anger, fear, hope showed glimpses of life across the world!! Just knowing that a simple thing like growing a good tomato can lead to joy in some part of the world is so comforting a thought that it is not necessarily money or seeking of ‘cheap’ thrills by splurging money that drives all of the world.

The seeming ordinariness of the world had so much beauty that ‘exotic’ was ingrained in this ‘ordinary’! This is the exotic!

As I walked away at around 4.00 AM from the fantastic NCPA atmosphere in Colaba, there seemed a strange energy which stretched across through the Arabian Sea right nex door. And the world was suddenly not limited to my family or my home or my city, or my organization or my nation. Or for that matter the vast sea just next door. Even though a good beginning encompasses all of that.

Carl Sagan spoke of the earth as the ‘pale blue dot suspended on a sun beam’. A photograph of Saturn eclipsing the sun showed earth as a pale blue dot! That set the perspective. We are just a tiny figment in the scheme of the universe. A tiny figment.

How grandiose are the images of power that man has created for himself !

Some films are a must watch. I can think of few off hand. The Ball. Chinese Whispers. Laughter. A thousand words. But these are just top of the mind. Each film was enjoyable & thoroughly so !

With connectivity provided by Intelsat, we jived, laughed, tapped our feet at the same time in different cities. Rio, Los Angeles, Cairo, London..! That feeling of togetherness with the world was so immensely moving and powerful.

And as I looked up into the night sky, well Carl Sagan’s words resonated in my mind about our home…’a pale blue dot suspended on a sunbeam!’

A dot on a sunbeam. Whats all the other noise about ? Thats the question ! What a day !

PS: You can find some images here

A dad retires !

After 36 years of service as a professor in an University, my father retired on the 30th of April ’08. We couldn’t be there ( and I will never forgive myself for not being there when my either of my parents retired ), but we got to know that it was a grand affair.

My mom tells me that they gave him a diamond studded ring. Every research scholar who at some point or the other worked with him presented him a shawl. Or a sandal garland. Or a flower decked garland. I am told there was a grand function. And that the function was showcased on a local cable channel was perhaps the icing. After 36 years, well, this must have been one heck of a farewell

I am told that there were visitors at home of all hue. Of people who worked with him in the past. The present. Long ‘lost’ ‘friends’ & ‘colleagues’. People who he got along well with. Who he talked about often. Men who took care of him during his last days of work life. To him they were sons of a different order.

36 years is a long time. These 36 years saw him get married, raise two sons, get them married, fight their wrong attitudes and of course, stretch them, push them and of course, fight Parkinsons. Retired life is not going to be the same for him. I am not sure what kind of turn it is going to take. I only hope it is for the good.

He has been a man of impeccable virtue. His life dotted with simple deeds that gave disproportionately large payoffs for the recepients. His good deeds for others used to come unobturisively. Like a waiter serving you a plate of idlis and moving on to the next table.

If I read Iacocca & Wayn Dyer when other kids of my age were still reading up Amar Chitra Katha & Hardy Boys, a large part of the credit goes to him. At times, he used to stick to his guns. I intensly disliked him when he made me study math. But then, that was a difference, I will never forget being thankful to him for.

I remember him driving me around in the Vijay Super scooter of yesteryears. Ofcourse I recall the Hero Honda CD 100. It was one of the first vehicles in town. The white Ambassdor is a clearer memory. Somewhere inbetween,, he bought me a bicycle. I think it was a brand named ‘Paramount’. I have vague pictures of him buying that for Rs.650, and taught me to ride it too. Ineffect he ran with me and taught me to take my first ride. I have never stopped since.

They say fathers are very special. But this one really was. On my marriage he told me what he has always told me, ‘Health is most important. Safety is most important. You will be a fine young man’. Those words were a mere hiss as he whispered them to me using all of the the energy Parkinsons allowed him to have. I only hope I will live upto it all someday be worthy of it all.

They say a teachers influence never ever stops. Many of his students are now professors and teachers in their own right. And they say they owe it to him. I guess a few more generations will continue to be touched by him and what he stood for.

He was far from being a Perfect Man. He had his faults. Like everybody else. But I deeply admire & love him for what he resolutely stood for, even when he couldn’t stand physically. If words nuclear missiles, what was hurled at him could have wiped off the solar system. From somewhere, he had the resolute courage to wade on.

Now we are grown up men. Me and my brother. We have thoughts that are quite apart from his. We live in much bigger cities and we are chartering our ships in unaccustomed waters. When we look ahead, we look ahead with the strength that comes from the what he put inside us. A strength no storm can blow away.

The love, respect and admiration for him has gone up over the years. I worry for him and think often about him. We have discussed his retirement with him many times, as though it was the global price of petrol. But now that it is here, and here to stay, its time to have a more ‘consequential dialogue’.

As we used to kickstart the bike or as we used to pack our bags to leave home, he used to always tell us, “safety is most important. Health is most important’. Today as he switches off his work engine, those are the words that I would tell him.

Appa: Safety is most important. Health is most important. You will be a fine man. We are with you.

Who moved my lottery ?!?

So, I have won the lottery. The UK Online lottery! Well, at least, that’s what this mail states. “After this automated computer ballot, your e-mail address emerged as one of ten winners in the FIRST category for the THIRD prize”. And at thousands of pounds for no work and my mail id bringing me luck, well, what can I ask for.

This is what the mail said :

The National Lottery is pleased to inform you that you emerged a winner of £3.000.000 GBP in the last concluded National Lottery online draws on 17 th Oct ‘07. However, no tickets were sold butall email addresses were assigned to different ticket numbers for representation and privacy.

After this automated computer ballot, your e-mail address emerged as one of ten winners in the FIRST category for the THIRD prize.Your prize award has been insured with your e-mail address and will be transferred to you upon meeting the requirements, statutory obligations, verifications, validations and satisfactory report. .

So, they said. And interesting it did seem !

There are two factors that drive all of the world, I read somewhere : “ Fear & Greed” ! Over the past so many months there have been ever so many lottery ‘winners’ who were supposed to send in ‘some’ money to a foreign account to ‘meet requirements, statutory obligations, verifications, validations and satisfactory report’.

Well, the money that these ‘winners’ were sending was booty for somebody else. People kept sending in money. Week after week. Some demand was made on a inventive pretext. “Transfer Fee’. “Currency Tax’ ! And the booty was just around, in the minds of people. They could almost reach it if they paid the ‘tax’. And finally, they did pay some ‘tax’. For money that stayed in their minds.

No way was i going to give my address, telephone number and bank account details. Well, maybe I am missing the thousands of pounds. Maybe I am driven by Fear ! what say ? Maybe I have actually won the lottery!

But what perhaps almost gives me a conniption fit is this: I emerged as one of the ten winners for the third prize ! This is a fictitious prize given by some gangster holed up in front of some computer in some land. He must realise that he is sending this to an Indian. Where 3,00,000 people fight to get admitted into colleges which do not have more than 7000 seats. The first prize matters dude !!!!

Oh boy ! The First Prize & me seem destined not to meet! Even in the concocted imagination of a creative criminal !!

Circus Story !

We were at a circus. No, I am not talking about another normal day where you dodge traffic like a trapeze artist, hang by a thread when the bills hit you and generally wear oversized clothes to un-alive gymnasium !! It was actual circus. Called the Kohinoor Russian circus.

Why was it called Russian ? Well, there are a few artists from Russia. And man, are they flawless. I mean their performance. It was just flawless. With such a gracious smile and effortless ease. If there was moneys worth, it was the sheer magnificence of their performance.

I wonder why I went to the circus in the first place. Perhaps it was an attempt to recapture a memory and reconnect to seeing something that I saw long back. Perhaps it was to try and be a child again. Something that I was.

This time around, at the end of the whole show, it left me with a hollow in my throat. I couldn’t connect to it. There were too many ‘side’ players. The artistes gossiped and generally chatted away in the middle of a performance. Yes. In the middle of the ring, as their colleagues were performing.

There were only four animals / birds. Two Elephants. A Horse. Some dogs. Some Parrots. The ring master wore worn out shoes. As though he had just been woken out of slumber. Perhaps he missed his lions & tigers. Having to deal with a set of Pomeranian dogs!

But more than any thing else, the biggest disappointment for me were the clowns. With contrived actions & pathetic movement, they disappointed.

Perhaps what the circus operators need to know is that they compete against slick media productions which consumers have access to, with a flick of a finger: through a device called the ‘remote’!! Perhaps what is required is for the circus to retain its feel at the same time stay current and relevant.

Going by the number of cars that filled in the open parking, it seemed to me, that the interest is still there. But such insipid performances will bring the big tent faster than you would like it to.

I guess life has come full circle for the big tent. And if there is no application of thought, its going to stop right there. The frayed curtains need a change. And the clowns need to LAUGH !!

Republic Day Flavours

Every Republic Day used to be special. I used to wear Khadhi and see contingents of the Police and the NCC walk past the collector at Madurai. Some years before that, I used to be walk by in the NCC ( National Cadet Corps) Navy contingent. Polished shoes, sparkling white uniform, and the marching drum used to be worth all the kilometers of marching in the name of rehearsals. ( Distance terms, I think we would have gone around the globe. Twice !).

I age. The nation ages. The republic day tone gets a new flavour. In the apartment complex where we stay, the motely crew of security gaurds ( & a loud ‘command giver’ ) became the mainstay of the Republic Day function.

When the loud ‘commander’ gave his orders “ Teen o teen dhaine chalega, Dhaine mode” ( ‘Right Turn’ to the uninitiated), some turned left. Others turned right. Some others turned halfway and turned halfway back again. Smiling sheepishly at each other, they were turning on all sides! I restrained my laughter! Come on, these were security gaurds & not remotely close to the marchers !!!

We waited patiently for 20 minutes for the music system to get some electricity. The flag remained all tied up.. It reminded me of the India that was till sometime back : All tied in, while the world turned around in all directions !!

Just as I was thinking electricity or rather the lack of it, was going to suck the electricity of the day, somebody decided to get on with it. The function got underway, and an elderly gent unfurled the flag and spoke about a whole lot of things. From upliftment of the apartment complex to rooting out corruption.

The tricolour didn’t seem to care. It waited for the first gust of wind to start fluttering. It did. In all its glory. First tentatively. Then a little confidently. Seemed to me, that the fluttering was an attempt to make up for all the delay in keeping it wrapped up and tied down.

As a nation we seem to have come a long way. From being tied to the mast for a long time, to where we are now. The wind has caught us & we seem to be fluttering away!! The times they have changed. My attitude has changed. I didn’t wear khadhi this time. Not consciously. But somehow I think I have moved on beyond symbolism.

And when the national anthem played, the chest swelled in as much pride as before. Perhaps a little more. To watch the tricolour flutter in all its glory. This ad has been a personal favourite for a long while. I think it is topical !

All that glitters..!

The last week an important event in the calendar came and went by ! Akshaya Tritiya. An auspicious day to buy gold / silver / property / new vehicles …and so. I am told.

Upon good neighbourly advice ( to be read as ‘neighbourly peer pressure’), we were lead to believe that such a purchase on the appointed day was mandatory for greater riches to pour in. The story went that whatever we had bought on that day, we would get many multiples of the same and more.

I had just come back from work, and did a quick check. I had bought a notebook, five litres of petrol, chewing gum and tea. Propelled by the fear of having more of these and not anything else, we saw our steps meandering to the jewellery store at the street corner. “I probably can buy a pendant” she said. Ah so ! That’s the plan !

I stood by the doorway and clicked the picture that you see atop. Not out of interest towards photography. But because of the crowds inside ! Everybody clamouring for more. Women and men from all walks of life. Buying that small pendant to the big chain to the ring to the bracelet. We braced for cover and i wanted to walk.

The accompanying images of great riches and the sheer belief that i saw in peoples faces made me think that there perhaps is some meaning in all this ! There was a war on between the rational side and the other side of me. My wife realised that war was on, and quickly bought a silver coin and walked ! We were poorer by Rs. 250 / – She was a happy woman !

I looked back at the crowds that were still raging. Now, was that great tradition at work ? Or was it shrewd marketing and positioning ? Or is it anyway close to being real ? Or is it the incredible human mind and its clamour for a better living !

I don’t know. All i know is on those days the glitter of gold was hard to miss !

Todays song is by Neil Young, called Heart of Gold. I thought it appropriate.