Har Har Mahadev!

I have never hesitated picking a book by a lesser known author. In fact, in all my library visits in Singapore, I have picked books by authors I have never read before just based on the blurb I read at the end of the book. Some of the books turn out to be pleasant surprises and some not so. But when buying books I have always tried to use sound judgement- either bought books by known authors or best sellers.

I learnt of Amish Tripathi’s books in early 2011 when he released his second book of the Shiva Trilogy. I was in fact in the bookstore browsing books the day Amish was to launch his second book at the same store. There was a sizeable crowd waiting to get signed copies of the second book. The hype did not excite me since I hadn’t read his first book nor any reviews of the book until then.

It took me much longer than that to actually want to read the book. When I heard some of my friends and associates talking about his books and buying copies to read, I did not want to be left behind. By then I knew of the two books and how successful they had become. So I ordered my own copies from Flipkart. When they arrived, I flipped through a few pages of the first book and wondered if I had foolishly jumped on the bandwagon.

I got busy with other books I had borrowed from the library and kept Amish’s books back in the stack of books on my bookshelf. A whole 6 months passed before I made another attempt to read the Shiva Trilogy. This time around I took just that one book when I travelled, so that I had no other option but to strive through even if I did not find it gripping.

The second attempt paid off.  I set a 50-pages-a-day reading limit and completed the 400 page book in 6 days- two days lesser than I predicted it would take. I had to read just beyond the first few chapters to begin enjoying the book. Amish has made Shiva so approachable and real life like. He curses, jokes, is earnest to learn and please.  I love the way he has used some facts from mythology and added believable content to make the mythology plausible. For someone who has no interest whatsoever in religion or philosophy, I have begun to admire Shiva.  When I read the book I was able to appreciate life the way it was in the time of Shri Ram and after him, Shiva. I would never have been able to remember names of Shiva’s able bodied friends and associates, if not for Amish’s picturization of them as mere mortal beings with the same needs and wants as us. I can tell you about Nandi, Veer Bhadra and Brahaspati now without having to philosophize.

It is possible that people who read the Shiva trilogy will look at Gods like Shiva with new perspective. The story makes you believe that there was a human like him that lived many thousand years ago who went on to become a God because of his deeds.  In that I think Amish has achieved something that no religious book would be able to.

I look forward to reading the second book of the Shiva Trilogy and will wait for the third and final book in March 2013. The last time I read all the books in a frenzy before the last one came out was JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There again I was the last adaptee!

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Listening to Life

It was concert time in Singapore and this time around we were at the Kalaa Utsavam and at Bombay Jayashri’s concert. My mother is a big fan and having grown up listening to her records, I enjoy her music as well.

The concert was at the beautiful Esplanade concert hall, with state of the art acoustics and reverberation chambers.  It was my first time there and a great memory to treasure.  What was unpleasant was the fact that even though people knew that the concert was scheduled to begin at 7.30 in the evening, we saw people trickling in past the given time. I wonder if we will ever have the discipline to be in time at such gatherings, as a mark of respect to the performer. Music pervades all boundaries and is such a unifying factor. The audience were a mix of Indians from the South and the other parts, people from the West and East. People like Bombay Jayashri have made Indian music so popular around the World.

Bombay Jayashree was dressed in a simple yet elegant sari and her trademark bindi. From where I sat- The foyer- I couldn’t see much of her expressions but I imagine them peaceful and serene like in the many videos of her that I have watched. She spoke in flawless English, with the learned perspective of a person who has travelled the world, experienced various influences in life and music in particular. She spoke of the oneness of music, of the similar emotions that music evokes in each one of us, of how each of us is a rasika like she is and the rest of the musicians on stage were. Her description of each piece of music she sang that evening was simple and made it feel like we were all musicians in our own ways.

When she spoke, her voice was soothing and calming, much like her music.  Despite being renowned in her field and the glory she has earned in her journey as a musician, she seemed so humble.  She was able to get down to the level of the audience, many of whom were not as informed of ragas and other nuances of music like she was. It made me wonder what makes a person that way. People are known to take pride in their achievements. They love to be told that they are good when they are still learning and have no claim to fame.  A true achiever, like Bombay Jayashri, just does what she does best, and is unaffected by fame and laurels.  Being in the mere presence of such people can be humbling. It was for me.

The other vidwans who accompanied her with their instruments were all fabulous. There was such co-ordination and understanding among them.  I wondered how many hours of practice would have gone into perfecting the final presentation. It was flawless from the beginning to the end.

Bombay Jayashri seamlessly sang various genres of music. Hindustani to Carnatic to Ghazals. Even though there were plenty of tunes from Indian movies that the musicians played on the violin and flute, she sang only one to demonstrate how movie songs are also based on ragas from Classical music.  She understood that a common man’s appreciation of classical music is only possible if she could relate it to movies. After the tunes played, she paused to ask if we sang the tune in our minds. That she said was the true power of music. Among her renditions were a poetry from Bharathiar and Mian Tan Sen’s composition other than compositions by Saint Thyagaraja and her own Gurus.  She switched from Tamil to Hindi, Telugu to Kannada, without missing a beat and took us along the journey as a united group of rasikas. The concert was two hours long but seemed shorter.

I will reflect on the evening for many days. I missed my daughter, who is away at camp, at various points during the evening. I specially wanted to point out to how a piano can be a delightful accompaniment to carnatic music. She dreams of being a musician and I think there were a lot of lessons to take away for young people like her, who want to do so much in short time!

Someday soon, I hope to be blessed with another opportunity to enjoy music of that calibre.

Here is a video I found on YouTube which gives you glimpses of the evening.

So what if you are not an entrepreneur?

The book I am reading now, “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” is a collection of 25 success stories of IIM A graduates who turned entrepreneurs. I have read a few of these stories and have picked a few underlying themes that these successful people talked about, for this blog post.

I have looked at these themes from my perspective and how these apply to my life.

 Networks are important.

I belong to a generation that completed Grade 12 before we had internet. Many years later, we had dedicated Yahoo groups for every batch at school and a few of us who had managed to stay in touch even without the internet traced a few people and got together on the groups.

Today it is easier to network socially. When I go to my daughter’s school for a social event, I meet parents of children who attend the same grade as my daughter. We exchange phone numbers and meet each other outside school if we hit it off. Networking with new people helps you connect with others especially when you are in a new city.

Social networks have helped me connect with people I have gone to school and university with, colleagues from your my job, subsequent jobs, people I have travelled with, neighbours, people whom I have met during business meetings, conferences, training programs, and social gatherings.

Contacts and connections open up opportunities and can be a source of information and education. Keeping my network well oiled, has paid off when I want to assist someone in job search, relocation, business proposals, reference, appointments or interviews. Of course, what it also means is others should see you as a person with a reputation of being sincere, efficient, and conscientious.

Timing is everything.

I want to do so much in life. With just 24 hours a day, how much can I achieve? So I have to prioritize. That way I make time for the things I enjoy doing the most. On days I don’t read a few chapters of a book, I play my guitar or listen to music. When I don’t make time for gym or a walk, I play with my dog.

I choose different routes to go for my walks. Two evenings back I was pleasantly surprised to see an array of light installations on my way. Perfect timing!

Negotiations and bargains are time bound too. I cannot tell you the number of times I have agreed on a price earlier in the negotiation and then left with a feeling that I probably paid more than what I should have!

Ask my husband and he will tell you he knows the right time to say something and when to keep quiet! Whether it is to admonish or praise my child, if I don’t get the timing right, the cause is lost.

There are no shortcuts!

I love experimental cooking. When I browse the Internet for recipes I find several recipes for a dish that I want to try; some are elaborate and require a lot of pre preparations and some are quick fix methods. Which of the two recipes do you think turns out making the dish taste better?

When I look at my daughter working on math, I recall how we were never allowed to use calculators at school. I have blamed many of my math woes to that fact alone! Today, the only qualification you have to have to own a scientific calculator is that you have cleared primary school.  I had to work out each step of every sum I solved. The teacher allotted marks for every step that was right even if you got the final answer wrong. Today’s kids don’t work out steps in math. They have aids like calculators to help. Kids don’t care how they arrive at the answers so long as they got it right. Yet, shouldn’t math teachers insist that they show the working out?

I know of last minute crammers at school and college. I wonder if they have ever regretted not taking academics seriously throughout the year and always left it for last minute cramming.

Passion and Emotion

Have you heard of the saying – When you love what you do, there is not a day you have to go to work? I wake up every morning, thinking up new ways to have fun with what I do. My latent desire to work with English as my core expertise area makes my mother wonder aloud why I chose to complete a post graduate program in Food science instead of English Literature!

Be it a house I had to move or a city, a job or a function, when I am emotional about it, it only makes me miserable. I know of some people who will forever crib about a city they moved to.  It makes me want to ask them why they had to move! Go back to where you belong!

I have lived in different towns and cities all my life and I love bits and pieces of all the places I have lived in. I love the small town ambience of Trichy, the affluence at Coimbatore, the smells of bakeries in Bangalore, the busy life in Chennai, the every-one-belongs attitude of Mumbai, the cleanliness in Singapore…

Believe in yourself

When I began writing my first blog nine years back (Trust me, it has been that long!), I imagined writing my blogs till my daughter turned 16. I painstakingly recorded my conversations with my then 4 year old daughter and had decided that the blog would make a wonderful gift to any child wanting to find out about herself, when she has grown up. My husband, who has seen me “throw ideas out the window’ (in his own words) wrote it off as just one of my ideas that will go the same way.  Nine years hence, I am still blogging.

These five lessons from the book tell me that these underlying principles apply to everyone and not just to successful entrepreneurs.

 

 

 

Review- Audio release function of Manmadan Ambu

The Movie

It was a dream come true, for my mother that is. She is fond of all of his films and ranks close to Sivaji Ganesan who was the hero from her times. So when Singapore hosted the music release to Kamalhaasan’s latest movie, Manmadanambu, it was a boon sanctioned. I got tickets to take ma live her dream. She is someone who will watch the reruns of these shows on television, long after they are done. For once she wanted to be at the scene of the happening, to experience the ambience and the grandeur and of course see in flesh and blood the man that she loves to watch performing in the movies. I suspect that the fact that Kamal is a Brahmin also contributed to her devotion to the man. She will argue that of course.

Max Pavilion turned out to be a huge outdoorsy hall within Singapore Expo that could seat up to 10,000 people. The aircon in the pavilion was superlative and despite the 9000 odd people that evening, continued to chill us to our bones. The seats were large and comfortably cushioned, there was enough leg room and the rows were spaced out.

The program was to start at 7 that evening. We were there in time and could survey the scene and take in the ambience and settle down well before that time. However, the program didn’t start as scheduled. I was reminded that even though it was Singapore, it involved over 9000 Indians plus the crew, so the delay in start time should have been anticipated. The pre show time at the pavilion was primarily filled with some visuals of the sponsors and co sponsors of the event with little music. The show finally kick started at 7.30.

No, I am not going to take you through the details of what happened in the four hours that evening but will highlight what we liked or disliked about the evening.

Like!

The male compere- Gopinath of the Neeya Naana fame. His voice modulation deserved a standing ovation and he knew how to throw his voice without actually shouting into the mike. His sense of humour was intact and he used it well to elicit responses from the audience. He is a celebrity in his own right and many of us including my ma, were keen to see him live too!

The male participants from the show Airtel SuperSingers Junior. I won’t quite agree with the sentiment that all mothers in India want their babies to be performers  like these guys, but these children were gifted. There were three boys under 15 who could sing melodies from Kamal’s old movies and they sang well.

The winning participants of Jodi No.1 – Sheer entertainment. They took to the stage like a fish in water and danced to the peppy numbers when introducing the guests of the day and filled in down time when the others were being invited on stage.

The Guests – KS Ravikumar was humble and made a no nonsense short speech thanking his team and everyone involved with the film making. Udhayanidhi Stalin was decent and was accompanied by his pretty wife and son. Maddy was gushing and at his charming best, Trisha looks prettier in person. Kamal was looking dapper in a black Indian suit.

Dislike!

The female compere – Divya Darshini – Someone ought to tell her that she has a loud voice. Even when people hinted at it ( KS Ravikumar and Gopinath mentioned it to her on stage) she discounted the feedback as  a joke and continued at her loudest best as a result of which I came out of the show with a  splitting headache . She called ten women from the crowd to accompany her to bring Maddy on stage with bouquets. She ran ahead of them and brought him on stage and said coyly into the mike, that many of the women wanted to hug Maddy but since they did not get a chance, she would, on behalf of them and she did. Gopinath said something apt to cut her down to size.  She was gushing at Gowthami who was seated in the front row, hoping to win points with Kamal too.

The girls from Airtel Supersingers – Agreed they are a gifted lot with fantastic support from their families and music teachers who trained them to sing, but do they have to pretend to be miniature actresses? And what is it with women and mikes? The girls chose songs that made them look older than their ages and they contributed to the headache as well. I would never want any child to compete with such pressures.

Andrea- the singer – Divya Darshini and the Junior Supersingers had stiff competition from another woman who sang the OST of the movie. The only part of the lyric that was clear was the first line- Who is the hero? (which pretty much sounded like Whoozhuhhero). The men in the crowd didn’t seem to mind Andrea much since she looked hot in her shiny brown knee length one piece dress and walked about the stage with a mike, seductively.

Suchi – the singer – Just when I thought the loudness quotient could not get any worse, on to the stage stepped the famous Mirchi Suchi. Though the song was a peppy number from the new movie, I am not exaggerating the fact that Suchi too, has a loud voice.

DSP- The stale acronym is taken by none else than the music director of the movie, DeviSree Prasad. The man stomped up the stage like Michael Jackson in All I want to tell you is, they don’t really care about us, except that he was not accompanied by the black drummers. He gave the loud voiced women a run for their money. He almost lost his voice at one point when in his inimitable style called the singer Andrea on stage to belt out the OST.

Apart from these charges, the show was conducted well. The icing on the cake was when KamalHaasan sang a song from the movie that he wrote lyrics for and also recited a kavidhai in Tamil from the movie along with Trisha who matched his tamil fluency without stutter.

Review – This is it

MJ's This is it – watch the trailer – had nothing to do with anything else about MJ but his last concert. Actually all footage is of the practice sessions between March and June. The film began with some random two line interviews with the dancers that had come to audition for his on stage key dancers positions. Most of them young people who have always aspired to dance for the man. So naturally, they were all emotional , just being given the chance to audition meant so much to these people. ( Its a dream come true
said most)

Then they show the audition , with MJ sitting in the bleachers, watching, nodding, pointing and picking people he wanted. The entire film is footage from the video cameras that were at work during these sessions, without a voice over or commentary. So you actually hear what MJ says to the director or his dancers. So its all in bits and pieces with real voices, comments, laughs.

MJ changes into his flashy coats in each of his rehearsals. The – trademark studded glove on one hand is never there. He looks frail, cadaverous and wasted – not old. His eyes look ghostly – on the rare occasions he takes of his Elton John goggles. His hair is the only thing that makes him look nice. He wears his hat on and off during his rehearsals. I particularly liked it when he requested the key drummer and other musicians to wait for his cue. If you watch (Billie Jean) some of his videos you will hear these drum beats and special effects each time he snaps his fingers, turns, jumps or points his hand. Of course there was a lot of trademark MJ moves in the film – the moonwalk, his constant shake of wrist like he is trying to loosen up his joint, his crotch grab, his gyrating hip and his fantastic, restless, dance moves. Incredible.

At one point during his rehearsal, he says the chorus was loud. " It feels like someone is using his fist to plug my ear "in his usual soft voice.Then there is this time when the director tells him to climb on to the crane that will lift him off the stage during one of his songs when he says " Ok, I will" like a meek little boy. To his musicians he says " Lets do it one more time".  Every time they got the steps or music right he said " I love you. I really do". He says ' " I feel so blessed to give back something to the world. When I write these songs I give some sense of hope to people… " Ask MJ fans around the world and they will vouch for that!

The director says to everyone on stage," We are all here because of him… may it continue… with him leading the way" The press footage where Michael says  – "This is the moment. This is it". It is so poignant. My heart went out to him. Felt sorry that he was not given that one last chance to rock ( or Pop, as the case may be) the world.

It was worth being there. And it is going to be a special memory for more reasons than one- It was MJ's last and my first ( movie by myself in 40 years!)

Some of the songs they showed in full during the movie –

Annie are you ok
Billie jean
Bad
Don't stop till you get enough
Smooth criminal
Man in the mirror
Earth Song
Black or White
They don't really care about us

RIP, MJ. Love you too!

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Movie Review – UP

Yesterday's movie was an overdose of 3 D movies. I did not know that UP was 3D too! So apart from the money spent on popcorns and coke, I also had to shell out on the hire of 3D glasses! Plus you are fairly warned that in case there is any damage to the glasses you are fined the cost of the glasses!  ( Movies have become mighty expensive outings now – A movie cost nothing less than Rs.300 a head if you do not include the to and fro costs! )

UP was an endearing movie. In the beginning of the movie, two little kids meet. They are both adventure seekers. The girl, the braver of the two ( but naturally!) has a book that is titled " My big book of adventure" that she shares with the little boy. She says " its my little secret that I have not shared with any one else…..all my life  (and she is six or something!). She makes the boy cross his heart to promise that he would not tell anyone else about the book.

I loved it when she uses a big safety pin to pin up a grape soda cap to the boys tee shirt and says " welcome to the adventure seekers club! " and they belong:-) . She shows the little boy a paper cutting of a waterfall in South America and says she dreams of going there. " Its America but …. the south" she says longingly!

I wish they showed more of the little kids. The next few scenes the movie plays in fast forward mode. (What I like about the fast forward mode – The man, Carl, is a balloon seller and he sells helium balloons for a living. Ellie, the lady,knots his tie up in the mornings when he leaves for work. So they show the many years passing by with Ellie knotting up ties of different colors and prints). The kids grow up to adults,they marry each other, make a house and name it " South America" and they picnic, they grow old. And the lady dies ( the little girl with the big dreams who grew up) All the time I expected the movie to rewind back to the childhood – expecting the boy to come out of his
dreams. But I was disappointed.

They show the old man and his lonely life till one day he gets upset with some people rebuilding the neighborhood. He gets annoyed with the tractor that knocks into the mailbox outside his house. (Why is the mail box special – This is another romantic piece in the movie where they show the man and woman paint the little mail box with their names.
(Carl and Ellie) When Ellie gets done, Carl removes his palm and finds that he has smudged the paint with a palm print next to his name. Ellie just shrugs off the whole thing ( where as I would have gotten upset!) and prints her palm next to her name!)

The old man, Carl, knocks the engineer who rammed into the mail box and the county decides that the old man belongs to a retirement home. He then decides that he won't go away so easily so he ties up thousands of colorful helium balloons to the house and the house lifts up into the air and beyond!

What follows is an incredible adventure, mostly unbelievable, a little boy called Russel who accompanies the old man, talking dogs and a rare bird called Kevin!

Talking about these will make the review too long. but Here is what I liked about Russel.

Russel is a boy scout who wants to earn his badge helping the elderly. He tells Carl, the lonely old man, " Can I help you cross the road? Or the garden? Or the porch? I have to help you cross something!" At some point when Carl suggests that they play a game to check who stays quiet for the longest Russel says " Oh, I know that one, my mom plays that with me all the time!":-)

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Movie review – Cloudy with the chance of meatballs

When my pal at the gym told me about it, I was not intrigued about the movie at all – I suspected that her narrative skills were not great.Plus I had not taken Akank out to a movie for a while so I indulged. Cloudy… started well. It was a story about a little boy who was different because he was always inventing things that did not really work. His mother is the only one that suspects that he is cut to be a scientist one day so she buys him a lab coat when he is
little.They live in a small town that is known for its sardines business. The story progresses to show the boy all grown up and working in his lab with gizmos and one such invention is a machine that makes food with water:-) The machine gets blown away into the sky due to an electrician surge and because of the water in the clouds it starts making food ( this one invention actually works!) So it rains burgers, icecreams, steaks, bacon, eggs and toast and the mayor of the
city starts advertising for tourism into the town! The mayor gets greedy and pushes the hero – our boy inventor – to order the machine to make more and more food and finally because it is overworked there is mutation in the genetic make up of the foods and so the machine starts making bigger steaks, bigger pizzas and enormous pies and they
show them raining on 3D at you!

Looking at so much food in 3 D made it not so interesting. But I guess Akank liked the idea that you could have icecreams outside your house to roll and slide in and throw snow balls with so I managed to tolerate it!

A few snapshots of what I liked about the movie!

There is this scene where the boy inventor makes a huge castle made of jello to impress his girl. Pure glossy orange ( did I tell you Orange is my favorite colour?) and absolutely bouncy too. It was pure magic:-)

The scene when the girl friend owns up that when she was little she was a nerd too and wanted to be a scientist but since she was ridiculed by her classmates she got rid of her glasses and lofty dreams and became a regular girl. Our boy inventor makes her wear glasses and makes her a hair scrunchy with the orange jello ( pure romance!!) and looks at her and calls her "beautiful"

Then there is this scene where the boy is on a mission to punch in the "kill code" into the machine in the sky to stop it from working . He carries the code in a flash drive which flies away into space by accident. He calls his father on a satellite phone and instructs him to download the code again and send it as a text. The dad who is technology challenged is totally lost when the son asks him to " look at the window" and " click with the mouse" and "drag across the desktop" which he does looking out the window of his lab, holds a live mouse in his hand and clicks its head and drags the poor mouse across the top of the desk!

Thank God for the pop corns:-) I remained sane!

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