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.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Meru (documentary)

Watched yet another fascinating trekking documentary close on heels of 14 peaks: Meru. Meru for a change lies outside the Tibet-Nepal-Pakistan triangle. Meru is the sacred Himalayan peak of India, considered the dwelling abode of our Mother Goddess Parvathi. In fact, the peak is believed to be the very embodiment of Shakthi. Unconquerable over even Mt Everest or K2 given its steep granite wall ascent. Some of us have ‘Meru’ (scale model) in our Puja. Meru with Sri Chakra are two symbols associated with Devi worship. So that must explain what Meru is to Hindus. But the climbing crew from the US seem to have respect for the Hindu sentiments as they revere our holy relics and pay their obeisance prior to the ascent. Not only is the mount Meru impressive; so is also the indomitable spirit of the climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan lead by their mentor Conrad who has been on successful expeditions to Mt Everest. It takes more than a couple of attempts for Conrad for his luck to work out when it comes to Meru. A seasoned climber, he’s climbed with the best crews. Climbing Meru is different because, unlike Nepal India has no Sherpas to act as guides and/or porters, bred into the mountaineering profession by tradition. The climbers needed to carry kilos of their own gear or equipment plus food and oxygen. From observing expeditions to Mt Everest, it is impossible to miss how in every step a mountaineer is aided by the sherpas be it with load carrying or roping tight knots or pitching tents. Easiest ascent routes are picked and the queues could be longest to the summit! Mt Everest is that very crowded! No helping hand out there in Meru. I loved the cool hanging tent pitched midway to ascent, off the sheer granite cliff that offered no foothold for the final 3000 foot. The crew were holed up here hundreds of meters suspended in midair during their first climb for days. After the failed attempt, on return to America, Chin and Renon meet with debilitating skiing accidents. Renan is immobilized and chained to hospital bed for months. He makes a terrific comeback with his recovery and workout even as Chin survives an accident himself! With Chin, Renan goes for the summit yet again and it is admirable that team leader Conrad pins complete faith on their sincere and combined efforts. Charming to see the wandering cows and monkeys in Indian Himalaya alongside rivers (Bhagirathi?) and Chai shops and blaring horns. Its one exhilarating feeling as the trio scale the summit the second time – even for the viewers. They are the first in history to scale Mount Meru. What a treat to watch. It does ache my heart when someone lays a foot on Meru – me being ardent Shakthi worshiper. Who says Gods are all from Middle east. Our Hindu Gods descended down the Himalayas. I am sure Conrad, Jimmy Chin and Renan will agree.

Posted in Books

Review: Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

Finally finished this lengthy book, thank god last 40 pages were glossary! Pretty dry, especially for me the regular fiction reader. However, I picked this book as it is critically acclaimed. The book traces the evolution of Homo Sapiens and the proliferation of the species as dominant living organism on Planet Earth before rounding off with wonderment at what lays ahead for these so-called self-made Gods! Much of the thesis though must be predictable to most of us but we have to credit the author for laying it all down in a way we can identify patterns and come clear on fuzzy issues. Some ideas are though a lot like original – or perhaps sound new to us. For instance, treating Communism like a religion. Creating an order. I have never thought of an arrangement like that all these days. A willful political agreement. The book opens with how it all started, how from Cognitive revolution, human beings or homo sapines in the word of the author, advanced to the agricultural revolution and then galloped to the scientific revolution. So far so good. The rambling sets on after this.

I would like to recollect some gems from the book:

Homosapiens killed most other species without merging with them. (Like how mules are born infertile when horse mates with donkey. The genetic mutation plays a part here). This theory clearly proposes how Neanderthals etc., from the same human family could have gone extinct. In my opinion, this is a very valid point, food for thinking.

I wish I really could get back to the hunter-gatherer carefree days, the way the author sounds buoyant about them! The limitations forced by agricultural revolution on such a nomadic species sound pathetic! I liked this about wheat domesticating us and not the other way around!

Domestication of the bovine, canine and the fowl follows. Of the fowl, i would like to draw a point from the last couple of chapters: of how the chicken or poultry of today with slow demeanour and stocky build was probably genetically engineered by the ancient man (from the days of agricultural revolution)! So it is not that all the harm is caused by the current generation of homosapiens. The destructive streak caused by selective breeding of crops and animals and birds has been a part of human evolution.

One more gem that makes you think loud: how a species that may be going extinct like rhinoceros for instance, is still happy and living a good life in the bush, compared to machine-copied like poultry, bred miserably for slaughter, even if the chicken can go on to survive millennia after millennia long after the last of the rhino is gone off the face of earth.

A lot of discussion (hypothetical) on Babylon, Egypt, China, Mexico etc., but a big hole here missing out ancient India and Hindu race. Hinduism is mentioned for caste system nothing more. India/ Hindu culture and civilization could be the only surviving continuous civilization uninterrupted for over 10000 years. Parallel to the Indus valley was the Thamizh culture down south where we had structured grammar and literature penned before the birth of Christ. Such a language as Tamil has not gone out of usage like Latin or even Sanskrit. Tamil is still a spoken language and is touted the world’s oldest language. A big miss by the author here. Or was it deliberate by overstressing isntead on Buddhism, an offshoot from Hindu Dharma. Hinduism also spread to south east Asia without violence. Pretty interesting to be told that the meditation techniques are Buddhist. Of course they are, but after they were and are first Hindu. The first legal perfecter, owner, practitioner of meditation could be Hindus. Yuval tell me who founded Hinduism. You know who founded Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Communism. You know who founded these when. Where exactly. You have written volumes on Sumeria, Greece. Why have you failed to do justice to Hinduism. Realization of self and mind control without a mention of Hindu Dharma sounds hollow.

To Yuval I would say, if for Jews Auschwitz could be holy pilgrimage site, then Taj Mahal could be the image for representing the majority Hindu India by the same logic.

To Yuval I ask: why should God have to come only from Middle East. For Hindus God comes down from the Himalaya.

Ok I get it. Yuval picks up Buddhism, Islam and Christianity for suppositions nothing more.

Discovery of ignorance: This is too good that prompted the scientific revolution when pushing limits became the order of the day for the Homo sapiens.

Some great information from the founding of Peugeot as limited company in France for the first time to launching life insurance by two Presbyterian clergymen in Scotland, Alexander Webster and Robert Wallace in the year 1744.

Masterstroke by Yuval: in one shot he says why we have the adage in the world that the sun never sets in british empire:

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalised.” (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 314). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

I started laughing at this because, that day finally arrived in the 20th century with the chinese turning tables on the west. Looks like, each one of us has a different timeframe when it comes to evolution of our mental faculties.

The conquest of the Americas and Australia are poignant. In this context I want to refer the quote from the author in the book:

Rudyard Kipling’s words, ‘the White Man’s burden’:

Take up the White Man’s burden – Send forth the best ye breed – Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild – Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 336). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

This is a gentle reminder to all of us colonials of what return gift we received from our occupiers.

The author conveniently washes his hands off slave trade that he terms an economic enterprise that got nothing to do with politics. Sad. Aren’t the invaders given a similar benefit of doubt with Rudyard Kipling.

I loved the part about the standardization of working times, industrial hours, school days etc., in a structured pattern starting with the arrival of the steam engine pulled passenger trains. The gun powder and the energy-force through distance made the difference. This is a big takeaway from the book for me.

I do agree with the author that perhaps we live in the best of earth’s times: we have lasting peace and a kind of universal empire now. More common interests than glaring differences which are a reason for sustaining peace. It is only in this century that we have running water in our kitchen faucet and women need not have to rush to the river to fetch drinking water in a pot over their head day after day (at least in developed countries of the world).

The book closes with the chapter on bionics and cyborgs which held the potential to transform homo sapiens into organically different species and that the future sapiens could find us the last few generations very much the way we found the neanderthals! Will the tinkering with bio-engineering actually pull the Frankenstein out of thin air? Who knows wonders Yuval on the finishing note.

Worth reading. Old wine in new bottle, but this is good brushing up of facts that were right before your eyes but that you missed making connection with.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: 14 Peaks (documentary)

First of all hats off to Nirmal Purja (Nims) and his Project Possible Nepali team for having scaled the 14 eight thousanders in record 6 months and 6 days. As Nims himself says, he is undoubtedly the Usain Bolt of the eight thousanders! By eight thousander, we refer here to mountain peak over 8000 meters in altitude. The said 14 peaks lie in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet (under Chinese control). Refreshing watch for someone like me who reveres nature and wildlife. Informative and inspiring, to say the least. As an Indian citizen, as a Hindu, i am extremely proud of my Nepali brother Nims. Yes of course Nims, you are spot on! World would have celebrated with such a fanfare, had it been someone from the west who had achieved this Himalayan feat (literally). But it is okay. Take heart that, some of us like me wouldn’t in a million years believe that it was Edmund Hillary who scaled the Everest first. Thousands of brave and unsung heroes, the Nepali sherpas would have done that centuries before. Their victories were just not documented. And yes, every Sherpa goes by a name. It is insulting to refer to these tough-made men as mere Sherpas. The Gorkhas of Nepal are very respected in India. Their tribe has thinned out now, but even today, lakhs of Nepalis work in India including in my hometown Chennai making life easy for us. We wouldn’t trust any other, believe me and we would like to see the back of Bangladeshis from our soil (although I must not talk politics here). With Nepalis I have this soul connection. The sight of bindhi in Nepali women in middle east is hearty. I never miss an opportunity to chat them up. Have had the chance to chat up even a Bhutanese woman. Your world record matters that much Nims. You have not made just Nepal proud, you have made us Indians proud as well. We never see Nepalis as any different.

Coming to the picture, it is crisp and neat, but I wish it is far more elaborate with further reels from the summits of the Himalayan peaks. The film runs for under two hours. Is it possible to lengthen it by any means with some extra footage. This is one damn well made real life story. It underscores the fitness criteria and also the unmitigable human spirit that is possible to nourish and sustain that saw Nims scale the harshest peaks on earth in such a brief interval of time. Human body is capable of such an exertion. Faced with adverse economic, climatic and political conditions, the Project Possible team still weathered the storm in their own way never turning back from their goals and never stopping to believe in themselves.

I was particularly impressed by the K2 conquest. I have watched quite a few films on this one but they are all still reenactments of real life incidents or figments of someone’s imagination (like the Cliff Hanger for instance). I have also watched others like the Everest, K2 etc., but watching the drama unfold in K2 in this one was interesting. What a trendsetter and a leader all the way is our Nims! We need young men like him to lead our masses from the front!

Had it not been for the delay in acquiring the Chinese permit for scaling the last of the 14 in Tibet, Nims and his team would have made it in under 6 months. As such Nims has shattered 6 world mountaineering records on which note the film closes.

The 14 looming eight thousanders are:

From the Nepali side: The Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Mt Everest, Lhotse and Makalu.

From the Pakistani side: The Nangaparbat, Gasherbrum 1 (G1), Gasherbrum 2 G2), K2 and Broad Peak.

From the Tibetan side: Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma.

Savoured every single moment of watching this outstanding flick. God bless Nepal and God bless the Himalaya. And God please liberate Tibet from China!

The snowy vistas are intimidating and the avalanches are unpredictable. The drops from the chasms and clefts have our jaws dropped! The bottleneck on K2 gave me goosebumps from here! To say HACE or the High Altitude Cerebral Edema is scary is understatement of the year. Nims with his exceptionally courageous Nepali mountaineer team comprising Mingma David Sherpa and Geljian Sherpa among others took calculated risks. Bravo! Well done team! Perhaps Lord Pashupathinath wanted Nims and his Project Possible to do this for Nepal! You must let nobody steal your thunder Nims! You did right! Go on and on and leave no stone unturned in your wake, lots of love and respects and cheers & best wishes from India Project Possible guys! Sky is your limit!