Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Sea Beast

Emotional watching ‘Sea Beast’ on Netflix. Animated film, loved every minute of it being a wildlife lover whether terrestrial or oceanic. Happened to visit the Sea world in Orlando where they claimed to be undertaking some rehabilitation work. Still I wasn’t comfortable, neither was my son who thought the sea creatures just did not belong in there. Most of us must have been to the Dophin shows and/or Sea Lion shows some time or other. Regret it now. Ashamed. We are all in a way encouraging netting of these sea beasts and in confining them to big water tanks. At the end of the day, an aquarium is nothing more than a imprisoning cage. Both the dolphins and sea lions have a very high IQ, close to that of humans, that gets us excited. We try to make them our pets just like we trap elephant calves in India for domestication. Zoos and aquaria must exist only for conservation purposes and for breeding of exotic and endangered species, not for our entertainment.

After watching a couple of pictures of Whale hunting and Orcas, this one made more sense to me. Particularly the innards of the Red Bluster where Jacob and Maisie walk into. Rang a bell as I was sorely reminded of the whale oil expeditions when schools in thousands were speared to bleed to death from the Atlantic to the Pacific all the way down from Latin America to Australia. The shark whale oil is what lit up the world for centuries. Even today we have the cod liver oil (capsules) for essential nutritional supplement. Wonder ever how and when that came to be. You got to watch the picture ‘the heart of the sea’ with NO edits.

The Sea Beast is a charming fairytale like story with the little orphan girl who loses her parents to monster hunting in Monarch, an older expedition, sneaks into the hunter’s ship drafted for the sea. Jacob the renowned hunter is not amused and he is poised to succeed the captain who follows a lineage of famed hunters. When the bluster goes for the ship, the girl and the hunter get thrown together when they forge an unusual friendship. The red bluster herself completes the trio of curious friends. In a very sweet twist of imagination, the bluster and Jacob and Maisie along with a blue little sea squid (am not sure) see some sunny days before the bluster sails them to the Rum Pepper island, kind of reconnaissance port for the men of the sea. Here the imperial fighter that voyaged into the sea to compete in the hunt with its admiral captaining the vessel, is done to dust by the red bluster. The bluster is then captured by the captain of the Inevitable, the seasoned and legendary hunter galleon. Poisoned, the bluster is hauled to the kingdom before the royals with the subjects assembled to greet the hunters returning with trophy. Maisie helps free the red bluster with Jacob and educate the crowds of how it is all wrong. She pleads with the king and the queen and the masses and the soldiers to STOP the war of centuries with the sea monsters. Red bluster returns to the sea as the kingdom promises to STOP monster hunting forthwith.

A must watch for wildlife lovers. Superb animation from Disney. Some punch dialogues like ‘you may be a hero but you may still be wrong.’ The transformation of human psyche from hunter to conservationist is natural and convincing. Even an animated film showing the graveyard of the sea monsters with killer spears stuck in their decaying humps and skeletal cages in the deep fathoms of the ocean and the oceanic floor can give you a rude shock. Very much alike the elephant graveyard in the Lion king, another and first fave animation pic of mine. Years back, the elephant graveyard I read about in one of Wilbur Smith’s. So much humanlike. Missing watching this lovely flick with my family who are great wildlife and nature lovers.

Posted in Pictures Desi

Rocketry: the Nambi Effect

I have watched as many live launches of IRSO satellites over years. Watching Chandrayaan-I, India’s first successful lunar mission, live with my school going son on tv was awesome. As the trajectory is traced, how many millions of Indians would have their hearts in their mouth waiting with bated breath for the satellites/SLV to break through the atmosphere shedding stages and join the predetermined orbit in the space. Most of these launches would have textbook precision. I may not be a scientist but visiting NASA in Florida and seeing Elon Musk’s Space X and touching the moonrock with my very hands are some of the most cherished moments of my life. More memories made at Air and space museums in Virginia. Humbled. How brilliant is the human brain. And how inconsequential is my own existence!

*****************

After watching Irrfan Khan investigate the Arushi murder case in the picture ‘Talwar’ establishing the truth, do we even need to be convinced of ISRO scientist Shri Nambi Narayanan’s innocence in the hastily filed spy case. How easily facts can be misconstrued and the media can ignite passions to mislead the public is very well illustrated in the tight and convincing script of Talwar. Its a must watch and it shakes the hell out of you. And it is not just story-screenplay-dialogue but is the very dissection of a criminal case step by step reconstructing the events and going by every single evidence and fact until the truth reveals itself. A clear cut scientific process. Irresponsibility when discharging their duties on part of those who held the office resulted in the innocent facing humiliation and punishment. Well, are those government officials and police personnel even sacked? Tried by the media and the masses, very quickly the doctor couple get judged. What an indescribable unquantifiable damage is done. Something like Arushi’s (bereaved) parents getting accused of murdering their only child and darling daughter should not happen to any Indian citizen. Dr Nambi Narayanan’s case is very similar, only the circumstances are different.

As far as I am concerned, there is this basic fact that clears the renowned scientist from the charges right in the first instance, that he should not even have come under the cloud of suspicion: nobody who foregoes a lucrative career at NASA on graduating from Princeton, to return to work for Indian salary can be capable of espionage against the country. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this very simple logic (pun intended). Are these guys crazy. Kerala is perfectly capable of forging fake cases given the communist and Hindu minority state it is. Most Keralites happen to think they are Arabs when all that they are doing is applying bootpolish to the sheikhs.

As the scientist himself avers in the close of the picture, who is really behind the plot needs to be exposed to the world. Well, we get an idea. Like in Arushi’s case, minor slips and very feeble alibis lead to wrongful incarceration of the innocent when the guilty flee the net. It is pretty clear whose handiwork is the framing of the top ISRO scientist, aimed at setting India back by decades in space sciences. After all how many Indian scientists have died under unnatural and mysterious circumstances from 1947. Homi Bhabha of atomic research conveniently died in plane crash. Vikram Sarabhai of ISRO was found dead. And the list is getting long with every following year.

Yet India became the first country in the world to taste success in maiden attempt in Mars mission over the US or China. ISRO went on to produce and launch cyrogenic engines to fuel our rockets. There are ups and downs in India’s cyrogenic journey but its the nation’s pride that the engine is desi. India went on to succeed in lunar missions and ISRO now is a global player when it comes to commercial leg of space technology earning the nation billions of dollars from international clients launching hundreds of satellites into the space.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/tech-denied-isro-built-cryo-engine-on-its-own-4690709/

Justice delayed is justice denied true. But this story needs to be told. I won’t say Rocketry is a great picture but it serves the purpose of educating the ordinary Indian about how we betrayed a top scientist of India shamelessly and heartlessly. Every single Indian citizen needs to hang his/her head in shame for the horrible treatment meted out to this not only brilliant but also patriotic scientist. What the family must have gone through. Corrupt Indian politicians are stashing billions and billions in Swiss accounts but go scotfree while the brainiest and honest among us have to suffer for no fault of ours. Direction is by Madhavan. I won’t say Rocketry is a well made or entertaining flick, but as I said, it does the job.

Royal salute to the scientific community of India and to Shri Nambi Narayanan in particular. Not everyone can be bought over by the greed for money. Such a strong unflinching character. And the strings he pulls. What a single minded determination. The technical mumbo jumbo is hardly a deterrent as mostly the space lingo is understandable, broken down to layman level. Not only falsely implicated but also tortured in custody for a forced confession, the iron willpower of Nambi is admirable. On the supreme court clearing his name, the scientist is honoured with one of the nation’s top civilian awards which is a small consolation.

Vikas is indigenous and matchless rocket engine made in India! Proud of Vikas that has helped launch hundreds of desi/international satellites into space. Interesting referral to ex president late Abdul Kalam ji who was the missile man of India. In his initial years, Kalam, Vikram Sarabhai and Nambi Narayana seem to have done a great spade work for India in the space sciences. Kudos! What a dream team. ISRO did no wonder get a headstart! From transported on bicycles to functioning in a Kerala church to Mars mission and Brahmos, India has come a long, long way!

I would like to close the post wishing Shri Nambi Narayanan good health and peace. He deserves much, much more. Hearty wishes to his devoted family who stood by him in his hour of need.

ISRO is the dream of a billion Indians. You guys make us very proud. Thank you so much the real heroes of India! We the aam aadmi stand with you shoulder to shoulder.

Posted in Books

Review: Points of Entry – Nadeem Farooq Paracha.

Well, I am just done with this one, I took all the time I could to read it because I live with my books for days. If I finish a book too fast, I forget it fast. To let a book seep deep into my psyche I read it ever slow. That way I retain its pages and memories for days and months to come. Over time you forget details, but slow-reading helps keep what you read fresher in mind and for longer.

This is my second book by the author. Frankly the first one to me sounded amateurish. Understandable, as the author was stepping onto new tarmac, writing books. But I have been reading the columns by the author for long, may be some 10-12 years now, that I have developed or acquired a taste for this style of writing. What made me come back for more in those days was the political satire and trademark sarcasm. I never expected such a firebrand from our neighbours who I always imagined to be dour and boring lacking inspiration and mirth!!!

So from journalism to authoring on research is a natural progression I guess. I think in my mind, I gave nicknames to the author in his prime blogging days: postmortem specialist (!) (for the way he analyzed matters throwing everything threadbare especially about Cricket). His blogs were winding!

But I would like to now commend the author for keeping the book short and sweet. Just the right volume, crisp writing and good finishes. Nice correlation to the subject or theme of the book. Different approach.

The language is an awow! I love the prose, the flow, the grammar, the idioms and phrases, the metaphors, the simile or whatever! In fact I try to copy from the author (i am amateur and very private blogger)! In my early blogging days, the author was my psychological guru (of which he may have had no idea)! Anyway, who am I here to review any book. Just a housewife me past my prime with too much time in hands. But books take my mind off a lot of matters and give me a strange sense of peace. And this is one of a kind.

As for the book, I guess the author has come of age. May be this is his third? So what did I miss. I read the first in my kindle. This one I got as hardcover edition in India.

Normally I don’t subscribe to Pakistani views (!) in many matters because, there is this conflict of interest in anything of India-Pakistan nature. But the author is neutral kind of. Rational. This I have inferred over years reading him. I think I can go with him.

I like the lucid prose as I said. I like the precise narration interspersed with personal touches here and there to the right measure to add spice and credence to the story. Here is one window into contemporary Pakistan history and culture on broader spectrum. May be a bit unofficial, if I must add. The author could have drafted the volume in more official form editing parts, had he wished to make it a text book for young Pakistanis in near or far future. How about building this aspect into future works? This can do for a nice non-detailed read for English literature (and not history) for standard 11 & 12 in my opinion. Or even class 9 and 10. I mean, by Indian standards. I would want the drug details to be edited. And I would ask for more specifics.

My particular love is Indus Raga. Indus raga is the raag called Sindhu Bhairavi literally in classical Hindustani/Carnatic, the native or traditional music of India. It is also a raag very close to my heart. I liked the sync the author made with the chapter and the raga that took the name of the magnificent Sindhu nadhi, albeit unwittingly. Anyway loved the sindhu folk music and thanks a ton for the reproduction of the verses. Of particular interest was also the entry from the west on Pakistan pop and sufi pop in specific. This one authentic Pakistan music/art form has millions of followers from India and I am one among them even if I am not as knowledgeable. If I can have a say on this matter, I would like Pakistanis to master the Hindustani classical. The old doyens must have done that, but the current crop may not be keeping up with the classical. You will lose the sound base when you don’t take care of the foundations, in my opinion. Western music is totally a different scene. And dear author, don’t call it eastern music please. Have a heart and courage and intellectual honesty to call Hindustani classical by its name. You have every right to stake a claim in undivided India’s Hindu cultural past. You cannot write Pakistan history without mentioning India. You are Pakistan only from 1947. For 4000 years you were India and for 3000 years or even 3800 years you were Hindu. You are muslim and Pakistani only for a decimal fraction of Hindu Indian history. Of course, this is the point the author has been trying to score in his entire book. And unlike southern India, what constitutes Pakistan was prone to multiple foreign invasions. Has it ever struck any Pakistani that, had the British been like the mugals spreading faith by sword, they would all be christians today?! You can ask the Filipinos. They were muslims first, but with Spanish conquest, they converted from Islam to Christianity. 200 years or so of being muslim and then becoming fanatical christians. Yes, this is also history. This is the history of the vanquished. Now there are no pious catholics like our filipino brothers and sisters. Soon they will grace the world with a pope!

My favourite Pakistan pop was Junoon that I was crazy about in my Malaysian days. Not a day went without listening to them. I love the deepthroated base voice of the Pakistani male vocalists.

I wish I can visit Mohenjo Daro someday. Otherwise I have to satisfy myself only with the Bollywood flick with our desi Hrithik Roshan hahaha! King Porus was actually the Hindu king Purushotham who Alexander defeated. A word here. I had this ‘de javu’ reading the book as the content sounded familiar to me from the author’s columns in their national newspaper.

The book is an insider view of Pakistan in 1980s. My first memory of Pakistan was about Bhutto hanging. It was in the Tamil daily ‘Dhina Thanthi’ and even ‘the Hindu’ I guess, that my granny read aloud. That was the first time I heard the name or word called Pakistan. I don’t remember the year. I remember my parents discuss this though I cannot recall the finer details. I do recall the fireworks going up in my neighbourhood when the Zia plane crash news was out. I too jumped up and down with friends in celebration! I think we friends assembled in our terrace celebrating the demise of the monster. The last moving news was Benazzir’s assassination which felt as worse as Rajiv’s. I am not lying when I say whole of India wept for her. We did mourn her in our holiday resort for the year end. It spoilt our picnic mood. It was a moment to reckon for me and most of us in India the way the shock permeated us. At that time, we felt a connection. But why should that happen with a tragedy of such mammoth proportions. Why can’t we just be friends.

To my knowledge, Indians in general see Pakistanis like siblings in spite of cultural differences. India is naturally protective about the entire Indian subcontinent and we may feel responsible for the SAARC nations. You will understand this only when you are Indian by birth. For us the other five to six nations carved out of one landmass Bharat Varsha – Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka will always stay Bharat or extension of Bharat. But gladly there is no India anti-thesis in this book. I am weary of Pakistani writing for this one thing. They all implicate India in some manner for something. It was a relief reading the book with no reference to India mostly. Not even the Nazia-Zoheb connection to India through Qurbani made it to the book. That is very thoughtful on part of the author. Nazia Hassan was my mother’s favourite before she passed away in 1982. I could sing Nazia’s and Runa Leila’s in that year in the generally non-Hindi speaking Tamil Nadu procuring cassettes. This demonstrates the reach of Pakistan pop in India.

What is my general take on reading the book and on Pakistan: you need to work a lot more hahaha! I do sometimes find the flair missing, please don’t get me wrong; I mean, the flair is missing about the nation. I find this in amateur video edits, news bulletins, etc., where I find the finishing not upto the mark. I find the professionalism lacking. I find the same issue with Pakistan produce that I come across in middle east. The packaging and even the substance leave a lot to be desired. I can’t pinpoint reasons. May be there aren’t many motivational heroes. Inspiring personalities. See, it is not about the size or ethnicity of a nation. You must have that spark. If you don’t have it, light one up.

I may not have traveled as widely as the author but I am also an NRI (non resident Indian) on and off for over a quarter century. We meet Pakistanis in our everyday life in the middle-east. Our men work together in the same professions. Generally we are polite and civil towards each other. North Indians especially enjoy such a bonhomie with Pakistanis as they speak the same language and even share similar cuisine. Every time I pick a Pakistani produce such as fresh green peas or green tea or a kurti, I think of the Pakistani farmers and not of Musharraf or Kashmir or the nuclear missiles or even Modi! I see Pakistanis buy lots of Indian stuff. There is presence of Indian manufacture and even Indian automobiles in middle east, but never have I come across a made-in-Pakistan industrial product. Brand building is not an easy exercise. India did not have it cheap or easy.

Traveling does open avenues of your mind. But the essence of you always stays with you wherever you may go. I agree with the author that their economy is in doldrums, far worse than Indian. I have heard of widespread corruption putting even India to shame! But the pot cannot call the kettle black. So I stop here!

The book is a breezy read – like even a coffee table book. Refreshing perspectives. Is it too much to have expected pictures?

Its okay, enjoy being called an Indian, buddy! I am happy you are mistaken for one! You are after all Nadeem = mitr = mitwa = dost = snehidhan(e) !

Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: 83

Wow what an emotional picture that was. Had me in tears in many places. 80s kid!

Ranveer Singh lived the skipper’s role. But I was blown over by the appearance of the real hero in the stands in the match with Zimbabwe when the captain’s knock of 175 not out won India the berth into the finals. Impossible match, world record that never got recorded to posterity. Grateful to have it reconstructed or whatever in silver screen. Felt as if we were watching the match.

KAPIL DEV NIKHANJ: Let me tell you here, you were and are always our No.1 cricketer, not only because you won us our first ever world cup and you were a fine all rounder, but more because you played passionate cricket, and you played for India and not for personal glory. That sets you apart from selfish Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar who I could never come to like. After seeing you today, I feel like reviving my cricket interest. I saw the same streak of selfless passion and fire in M S Dhoni only, after you.

Excellent cast. Tamil actor Jeeva played Krishnamachari Srikkanth. Cheeka of course will always be our local hero. Very balanced picture where the power of captaincy is subtly portrayed without egos getting hurt. Interspersed with humour frame to frame, the picture makes an engrossing watch. While we Indians are today global CEOs, Brits I believe are now increasingly on welfare! But that doesn’t make me happy. Respect everyone that’s all.

I think we truly played gentleman cricket then. I have always loved Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Jimmy Amarnath, Kirmani, Vengsarkar, Srikkanth, Kapil and not to leave out Maninder Singh. They lent a grace and charm to the game, correct me if I am wrong. Never cared for technicality of Gavaskar or Tendulkar for that matter. The spirit of the game mattered more.

Lords and Melbourne are not only the cricket players’ dreams, but also the dreams of a billion Indians. No, not yet set my foot in both stadia but I have in our Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk, Chennai 😀 We are members of the T N C A club but believe me the club is good only for eating bajji and bonda with lousy chutney. They never give us any tickets. We aren’t asking for free stuff.

Underestimation of India and Indians in UK is not unusual. Don’t worry fellow Indians, we left them behind way back. We are far ahead of them even if they would like to show our slums in the BBC and not our Mars mission. As Kapil says, we have to give them reply in action. David Firth chewing on his words was good direction.

Recalled so many names that’re almost forgotten, like rival cricket teams. Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Geoff Dujon, Ian Botham, Malcom Marshall omg, Holding and others.

The finance crunch in the Indian cricket in the 80s I have read about. Raj Singh Dungapur reportedly bailed the team out. From here, started the ruthless, mindless commercialization of Indian cricket and the sport has since not been the same. Somehow I wish we could recreate the 80s magic. Cash strapped but oozing with passion and potential.

All cricket players in the team are well represented and the picture is not most importantly Kapil-centric which is great.

One noticeable omission however was the match with Pakistan. A handshake of Kapil and Imran is all we have. Why? If the picture is lengthy, then a practice match could have been edited. There were two matches with West Indies apart from the final, one with England, and two with Australia, one with Zimbabwe. When the director could accommodate so much, why not the one with Pakistan with Imran Khan. We are talking about a key cricket playing nation. What is the world cup or cricket without them whether we like them or not. Imran was still a cricket player and captain of his team, not a politician. Or did he raise any objection. In that case it is understandable.

I literally relived the 1983 match. My mother used to be a huge, huge fan of Kapil Dev. Kapil is one of the connecting dots for me with my mother.

Not many houses in our street had tv back then. So every single house with b & w EC tv or Solidaire tv was bursting at seams with friends and family. I remember vaguely the fire crackers going up in my street. Yah, enjoyed the match along with my Mylaporean childhood friends who are still my best buddies. We always watched cricket matches together mostly in my house. 1986 Sharjah cup omg!

We are the 80s kids – i mean the 80s teens – the matchless. What we shared in the 80s, how we lived is something nobody else can fathom. We held a precious innocence and we were happy for no reason. This is what keeps us going today.

With IPL commercialization of Indian cricket, I slowly started losing interest in the game. I do watch the T20 world cup matches though. Otherwise have stopped totally. But 83 has stirred the dying embers of interest in cricket in me. May be I should start watching cricket again. I am not even sure of the whole team now. First time in last couple of years, I can’t recall the whole team.

Cricket may have been religion in India but other sports are also catching up in recent times. India has been doing well in Badminton, Tennis, Chess, Hockey etc., but it is true cricket continues to rake in the moolah, so naturally bags the best sponsors.

Must watch!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Against The Ice.

Watched this impossible picture and wanted to review it. Next best thing to the Reverent (that i have watched at least a dozen times but missed reviewing) or probably better. True life story of Denmark expeditioner Mikkelson who with unlikely explorer Iverson trudges through the hostile terrain and inhospitable climate of the northernmost Greenland with a pack of sledge dogs. The mission is for disproving the American claim whatsoever over the Arctic as proof emerges that there existed no Pearl channel that could legitimize the Yankee bid to the the north pole of planet Earth. The duo lose their sledges and the canines, and are forced to spend at least two grueling Christmases waiting for a ship to pick them up, losing their sanity at times. Finally they are rescued and thanks to them, Greenland now belongs with Denmark as it always has had. Perhaps a milestone in the history of Denmark. Interesting to note how documentation is accorded highest priority even a hundred years back, thanks to which we now can ascertain actual facts. A royal salute to the adventurous spirit of the Homo sapiens! Forever a fan of the bravery, heroism and courage of the Caucasian male for who the sky has been the limit (at least until the twentieth century)!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: A beautiful mind.

As always, got to catch up with ‘a beautiful mind’ pretty late. As the curtains downed, couldn’t help crying! Not only for the mathematician that John Nash was but also for his award speech on receiving the Nobel prize for Mathematics in 1994, at Stockholm, Sweden, where he says, ‘what is logic, what is the reason. what is imaginary, what is rational, what is delusional? you are all that is real and today i am here because of you’ (not in exact words) to his wife who believes in him completely as he fights schizophrenia through his research and teaching years in Princeton. What fine picture. I just checked wiki. The director-scriptwriter must have taken some artistic liberties to bend the story a bit, but still this is fine. Basically being a math grad, my interest in the subject is natural although today after decades i cannot recount anything other than Pythagoras theorem from school days. Married to an engineer who also did his basic degree in math, it is a grand coincidence that now our only son is married into a family of mathematicians as well! Math was very much on my mind for years as I gave away also math tuitions at home for higher secondary girls and under grads in their first and second years who majored in math. I guess, the long retention of math in my mind is primarily due to this reason. I revised my school and univ syllabus everyday with my girls after my office hours! Differential equations could be the most interesting part of calculus in my memory, correct me if I am wrong! Game theory – we did have a paper in Econometrics (that was my masters). Although I cannot recall much, I can say what in math excited me the most. I approached my final year in undergrad with trepidation, because I knew all my five papers were abstract. The toughest Real analysis became a cakewalk once you decoded it. Yah got a centum in that paper as well as in Complex analysis. Remember how in those days some friends used to ask, how could math ever be like that! Countless theorems in abstract running to pages that needed to be proven! I don’t have that scientific temper now but I did once upon a time. So I guess I can understand the preoccupation of a math wizard with numbers and theorems better. Science and math are real. However and whatever others may ridicule about the math/science people, they continue to stay real, unaffected. There is this goodness about academics that is pure and precious. The value is absolute and not exaggerated or faked. ‘A beautiful mind’ is all about this authenticity in my opinion. John Nash played by Russel Crowe comes across as a decent human being, supported in every step by his dedicated wife Alicia (played by Jennifer Connelly). Extraordinarily intelligent men with highest IQ do exhibit some freakish traits as they say, the variance between genius and autism is a very miniscule percentage. I have come across kids under autism spectrum display high level of mathematical understanding. Its really a case of cat on the wall. Its the luck of the parents in my opinion. Inspiring watch. Wonderfully enacted by Russel Crowe. A couple of my friends kids (from India) are/were into Princeton/Harvard. Very proud of my friends who made it possible for their children to reach onto here. Family is the pillar of strength.

Posted in Books

Dear Jeffrey Archer.

Dear Jeffrey Archer,

You are one of my hot favourites. But I am disappointed this time in you for having included a cheap Bollywood episode in your work ‘Cometh the hour.’ I have not yet finished the book. I have enjoyed all the sequels so far. I love your simple language. I guess I have read all your fictions and even nonfictions and short stories to date. Only thing I can’t help observing is that, I sense you are a bit nostalgic about what we may call the British Raj days when there went a saying, ‘the sun never sets in the British empire’ – from the way you glorify that age which is rightly befitting too. Well, the Great Britain you so vividly write about is now a spent force as you know. I haven’t so far toured UK but I would like to once the covid surges run low. The adventurous and analyzing spirit of the English is still something I admire. How the British surveyed and mapped every square inch of Indian geography and drew up our census cataloguing every single of the diverse Hindu community is a stupendous task undoable today. I don’t want to go into British conquests in India or wherever. They may have hunted down our wildlife, with some exotic species driven to even extinction, yet their contribution to identifying our flora and fauna is another area that is unparalleled. They even dug up our oldest manuscripts for us and scriptures and archeological sites. To some of us like me, the British were godsent unlike the Moguls who ravaged India. But even the moguls I view these days as the necessary antidote to wring the sting of the communal poison that was fed upon some unfortunate classes of Hindus. Finally everything will balance itself and social justice will prevail. There is a lot for you to write about India. I would suggest you begin with the Mullai Periyar dam history in the south. I missed you Sir when you visited Chennai as part of book tour. I was aware and I was in the city, and I was thinking of you as well imagining you answering questions and signing books in Landmark some years back. I don’t want to review your fictions (and in any case who am I) (but whether i matter or not I review some authors hahaha). Just wanted to address this note to you. Now India and UK share a very polite and good relationship. For decades now the Indian grads were going to the US for masters. Of late however I see interest again in the UK. India steel magnet is a billionaire in your country and Indians have been faring extremely well there as we all are aware. Indian industrialists have carved a niche for themselves in your country. Indian medicos serve in NHS in droves. Hundred years back who would have imagined this scenario. Before I close I want to comment on the Bollywood chapter in your book. It sounds fake. Did you just lift it out of some Hindi picture. It is unlike you to script anything like this. I am just continuing reading from Priya’s death in Bombay airport. Yes, this is quite probable even today in India but I must say this is like some 0.1% possible today in my country. We have come a long, long way. Now Indian boys and girls especially Hindu young men and women look like hotcakes in international stage. I have an American bahu myself. I am Hindu. Loved all your books that set a kind of standard. I am not a voracious reader, but I like your prose and your dignified elegant characters. This is old world goodness. I have never noticed disrespect in your characterization. Even the perverts and the cunning are not portrayed cheap but treated well by you. I guess, this is because you belong in my parents generation. I also like your ‘all is well that ends well’ kind of finish: the final fairytale ending. Looking forward to more from you, Sir. Take care.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Is it time to unsubscribe Netflix.

Can we have a Netflix free India again please?

Wondering whether it is time for me to unsubscribe from Netflix. Watching pictures butchered that are not to my taste. Pride & Prejudice crudely cut short in many places and this is just one of the many classics to be scissored by the OTT platform. Why ‘Delhi crime’ when there was far gruesome Austria. Netflix, you have to be sick to be airing this and you have to be racial. Why are there no documentaries on US school shootings or on the western drug mafia. Why not ones on arms deals and colonization. Not even on corona or on who is suspected to be behind it? The selection of pictures seems to be anti-Hindu in my opinion. Anti Indian. Because when they have the ‘Wild wild country’ running even now on Osho, there has never been one on sex scandals in Vatican. Or on European pedophiles preying on Asian kids. Instead their tv shows seem to be subtly selling Christianity door to door. Nothing on terror either. Not a word. Just what kind of image are these guys trying to create about societies. May Indian subscribers start taking stock from now on at least. Discerning viewers may have figured it out like me already. Whether we need Netflix at all in India? I guess we have enough satellite channels to cater to all our tastes. I don’t want to encourage this urge in me to be there for the first day first show. Its ok i will be missing out on latest releases. Seriously weighing options. If the quality of Indian films will not improve, I will unsubscribe. I am also asking my friends to unsubscribe from Netflix. Netflix is consuming my afternoons which is making me feel guilty. All the classics I am watching now I have originally watched in HBO etc., in full length without this chopping of reels here and there. Commercials are far better than trying to undercut a nation’s image, something not even the Star group has done. Why should we pay for this substandard and deliberate misinformation. India has every right to throw out Netflix. Should we have Netflix and Amazon for the sake of our entertainment industry? Not fair. Let Amazon Prime and Netflix be kicked out of India. May our PM Modi note. Its this typical brainless stuff. I am wasting hours on Netflix. I can wait and watch all this in our television channels. Or in You tube. The OTT platforms may be already killing Indian entertainment than benefiting the industry. The cruel joke is that, when the OTT platforms cut reels from classics, they do not edit steamy scenes from their content. Total and partial nude scenes, sex, rapes, violence and bloody murders all run in full length. There is absolutely NO CENSORSHIP in Netflix or Amazon Prime even in Arab countries which is a grave concern. Netflix and Amazon Prime are unhealthy for growing school children in India. It is time our government looks into this matter and ask them to reform or get out. I will give it a week or two to think over this. Yes we can live without Netflix and Amazon Prime, many do even now. This is one case when going retro will do us good. Our children remote-learning in information age from laptops and mobiles is something we cannot do without given the Covid circumstances. But we don’t have any reason to have Netflix. This is something that can be suspended outright. Waiting for return of old days.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: River Runner

True life story the River Runner is a breathtaking account of kayaking escapades of one of world’s best kayaker from the US Scott Lindgren who takes us through the nerve wracking drops and paddles down deepest foaming falls and twisting rapids in some of the longest and most turbulent rivers on planet earth. Just as scaling a mountain peak is like a tribute to physical fitness and endurance capacity in humans, so is kayaking which is even riskier than white water rafting. As Lindgren puts it, white water rafting may feel like driving a sedan whereas kayaking may feel like steering a racing car. Designer! You need an extraordinary mental strength and physical capacity to train as a kayaker.

White water rafting as such is risky game. So imagine what kayaking must be like. You have to feel the supreme confidence in you, and you have to be fit one hundred percent and there can be no room even for a fraction of misgivings whatsoever. Your mind races along with the turn of the river and jump over the rapid so you have to make quickfire decisions that can make or break you (or kill you). Team morale plays an overriding role and any weak link in the chain could dishearten the entire kayaking group. Emotional detachment crucial to kayakers who need to shut themselves out of a doubtful world. Insulation from any kind of vulnerability is textbook prescription. Scott seems to fit the bill exactly being young and brash, with his no-nonsense attitude, unwavering attention to details and superb physical fitness. He comes along as the aloof detached kayak leader. His life dream is to paddle the ‘big four’ flowing from the Himalaya in the Tibet: The Karnali (Nepal), The Sutlej (India), The Tsang Po (China) and The Indus (Pakistan). The four rivers are said to go around Mount Kailash and exit via Lord Shiva’s locks, as legends have it. The four rivers are also most sacred to Hindu-Buddhists as is the entire Himalayan range including Mount Kailash.

Scott takes us through this incredible journey across the Asian rivers, diving into deep gorges and taking on the rivers head on. It is lifetime passion of his as he tames the swirls over rapids and makes it to the plains so as his team members. In the process, he loses a couple of friends crushing the team spirit. There are one or two who quit as casualty rises while there are other aspirers who plough on.

Curiously Scott also turns into producer of his kayaking expeditions, the first of its kind to be filmed in the world. The rivers frothing and seething down the Himalayas make for an unbelievable aerial view eliciting lots of interest in the US. Unimaginable camera angles following the brave and bold kayakers in gurgling waters as they meander their way over bedrocks putting their lives hook, line and sinker into the very rivers they are cruising. What a footage! Someone familiar with kayaking following and shooting the daredevil kayakers makes for informative and authentic stories that win Scott accolades. Scott and friends navigate the first three rivers but damming of Sutlej does come as a disappointment to them. The fourth one the mighty Indus is out of bounds for the rafters as Pakistan remains closed to tourists.

Scott’s team now take on African rivers from the White Nile in Uganda infested with crocodiles and hippos. It is at this point that Scott realizes that he has become the weak link in the team as he loses his confidence. He says, what he hoped would be a three month break turned out to be a eight year long leave from kayaking and the outside world. He is diagnosed with tumour for which he goes under the knife. That is when he meets his girlfriend. Along with a young crew he hits off with in Idaho, Scott dreams of completing his mission of conquering the big four of the kayaking world. River Sindhu (as we Hindus in India know it) aka Indus is calling… Scott’s girlfriend sadly breaks up with him unable to deal with the pressure. But a determined Scott makes his way to Pakistan undeterred by the news of his tumour growing. He is all focused and in extremely good shape.

Sindhu/Indus omg what a river! Frothing right from the very origin, gushing through the creeks and valleys, the crevices and the gorges, jumping back to back sheer rapids and steep wall drops in falls, swirling and twirling at high speed over smoothened bedrocks, throttling at full volume, polishing the granite river banks in smooth rich tones, caving and tucking here, awesome fiery and overwhelming there … I felt such a sense of loss looking at Sindhu Mata, who gave India our name. Our Hindu river from Shiva’s locks. Unattainable today for us Hindus. I don’t think I have seen anything like this of Sindhu before this picture. Probably this is because, the footage has been shot by veteran kayakers who knew their job. They knew where to focus on and what to expect and when. The kayakers before taking to Sindhu reconnoiter the banks and go upstream/downstream on test paddling to get a grip on the river and its force. They do their bit of homework before they decide to take the plunge. I felt a disappointment when they leveled it out because I knew the picture was drawing to a close! Out of the world cinematography!

Kudos to the kayakers who are such an inspiration for generations to come. What is not risky business from boarding a plane to driving a sedan in highway. In the present Covid times, we don’t even know when or how we will meet our maker! Since 2020, world has seen a lot of us taken by surprise or perhaps shock. There is such an air of uncertainty everywhere that it feels good to see something like this. Scott Lindgren deserves a pat on his back for not only proving to himself a point but also showing us how nothing is beyond our limits. All it takes is the willpower and dexterity to go after what you want. The dedication and commitment combined with singlemindedness is the formula for success. No dilution of standards. High level of preparedness and meticulous research and planning and timing of it all.

Sindhu seems to have shaved Scott’s tumour as we come to know by the last reel. Hopefully Scott will have a long and happy life. Here is wishing him many more kayaking expeditions through rocky rivers wild and waiting to be tamed! Human spirit always triumphs!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Everest

Watched Everest for umpteen time today. Can’t recall if I have already done the review years back!

managed to get this original pic of the team.

The indomitable nature of human spirit never seems to stop avowing me. What is even the reason to make it to the top? As the climbers say, it is there and that is good enough for them. I have heard of logjam in Everest ascent and every picture that shows the littering and overwhelming human presence in the Himalayan peaks always kind of wears me down. Yet as I said, the very endurance capacity in us humans is admirable and this is something that makes me think is what helped us evolve as the no.1 in bio-chain or food chain on planet Earth topping all other living organisms. This is how the human race crossed continents and is set to conquer space. So may be this is good.

From previous productions on Himalayan peak ascents, I understand that Mt Everest could be the world’s summit yet it’s not something unattainable. With ropes pitched virtually to the top on pre-determined and handpicked routes, Everest could be within reach of any aspiring decent climber. For most parts, the ascent also seems more slopey over 90 degree vertical even if the landscape is interspersed with ice shelfs and gulfs and deep drops into gorges. Avalanches can happen anytime and storms can brew and blow over by the minute. Even in summers, climbers have to wait for opening up of a precious rare window with favourable climate when they have to factor in their ascent. There are climbers with oxygen support and then there are those who resist oxygen assistance. Frost bites and hyperthermia, disorientation and snow blindness are just a few of the manifestations of the high altitude sickness associated with high mountain trekking and summiting snowy peaks. Statistics as reported in the film reveal that one out of four perish in scaling Everest. Brings to my mind Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Paths of Glory’ that is on George Mallory who could have been the first to make it to the Everest summit but who died on descent. I loved this book but I would have wanted to remind Archer that many, many Sherpas of Nepal have been doing this for centuries, millennia without glory. The arrogance of these thickheaded men! I do read this old man but he gloats too much!

Back to the pic, I want to say this about the guide or leader of one of the expedition teams Rob who lost his life in the Everest turning back on the Hillary steps to get back at the summit for the sake of Doug who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The humane gesture cost this great man his life with his unborn daughter Sarah (born 1996), being carried by his wife Jan. Rob, you should never have done this to your family man. But you are such a wonderful soul that every time I see this pic, I think you are lying still up there, closest to Lord Shiva. And you died doing what you loved the most and hearing words of love from your wife. As for Beck, another drain on energies. This kind of guys must abstain from ambitious mountaineering because they can slow others down. A good climber could end up paying the highest price of losing his/her life thanks to these thoughtless careless guys who want to scale the Everest when they may not be totally fit. Ok, agreed I am the last person who must be saying this totally unfit! And after viewing Meru, I have to rethink those words of mine, sure. But sometimes when there is loss of life, it makes one wonder whether it is all worth it. My heart goes out the Japanese woman climber Yasuka , is it. And Harold. In case of Harold, being a seasoned climber, he is still going ahead with his Delhi Belly well aware of the disastrous consequences should something go wrong. What is the point in his entire team making it to the Everest summit. I think, Harold invited death virtually. Doug loosening himself out of grip is unpardonable and virtually delayed/led Rob to his untimely demise.

How can a picture on Everest leave one with so much emotion!!! I ended up crying for Rob and Jan and Sarah as usual. Good to see young Sarah all grown up and beautiful. Yet her dad was snatched from her cruelly for no fault of hers.

I think this particular picture portrays human greed (by way of Doug and Beck), humanity (by way of Rob) and thriving human spirit by way of all other mountaineers who scaled Everest that day. The Everest is THE insurmountable task and doing it must be lifechanging. I have watched many movies on trekking and scaling peaks around the world, but every time I see such a picture I am thoroughly moved. I am grateful that God at least gave me enough stamina to climb Tirumala on foot in an younger age!!! That’s the maximum I could manage and I wouldn’t want to test it again though I guess I can do it again with bulging knees even now (and then rest for a week with unbearable joint pain)! The thing is we must know, upto what point we can stretch our energies.

While watching K2, I recall the frame where they showed literally mounds of human poop frozen in snow. And the littering these climbers leave behind. That is something extremely sad. I think simultaneously the Himalayan peaks also need to be cleaned up. The warming up of Himalayas and the melting of glaciers can adversely affect the climate, ecology and bio-diversity in Nepal and India. I wonder whether these guys would be littering so much the Alps where there are stringent regulations. I know, because I have been to the top (on rail only)! You are not cleaning up behind you because a third world nation cannot afford to keep checking on you in those high altitudes – and is this fair and square. This is what I would like to make as my final comment on Everest hopefuls. Do clean up the Himalayan peaks on your ascent and descent. You have done enough environmental damage already warming up our snowcapped peaks and melting our pristine glaciers. As much as I admire the human spirit in you guys, the Everest and other peaks of Himalaya will be better off without you. If you can help it, DON’T SET YOUR FOOT ON EVEREST OR MERU OR ANY HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN PEAK, Bye.