Saturday, December 28, 2019

BookMarks #65: Why I Stopped Wearing My Socks

Title: Why I Stopped Wearing My Socks
Author: Alok Kejriwal
Genre: Management, Autobiography
Published: 2018

Tells the story, in his own words, of Alok Kejriwal's business journey and the lessons he has drawn from them.

I liked the format of the book - a brief narration of events followed by a short summary of the learnings to be taken out of them.  Each anecdote providing its own lesson. 

The author has structured the chapters chronologically starting with his time in his grandfather's transport business, moving forward to his father's socks manufacturing business and finally transitioning to the internet and mobile domain. Lets say the career path has been quite interesting. The title is metaphor of his quitting the family run socks manufacturing business and starting on the internet journey.

There are a few lessons which everyone can imbibe, even if they are not the entrepreneurial type. And these are not out-of-the-ordinary. They are ones which we do know, but have been presented in a single book. e.g. connecting with the right people, being adaptable to the circumstances, trying to identify the right problem and then working on its solution, being patient, being observant, being prepared and most important communicating well.

Overall, an interesting read.

Previously on BookMarks: The Barefoot Coach

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Road To Tokyo: Episode 10

Presenting the last episode of 2019 in the “Road To Tokyo” series. Come 2020 and the Tokyo Games will seem much closer. Here is the progress since Episode 9.

Quotas Earned
Fouaad Mirza won a Quota place in Individual Eventing. The Asian Games Silver medallist is thus set to become the first Indian Equestrienne Olympian in 20 years.

India added a Quota place in the Women’s Individual through Deepika Kumari in the Asian Qualification Event. This Quota also gives India a berth in the Mixed Event with the Men’s Team having already qualified. There is a potential to add 2 more Women’s archers through the Final Qualifying Event in June, 2020 in Berlin. However, the Archery Association does need to pull up its socks. It can’t continue to remain banned ensuring that Indian archers do not get international exposure at this critical juncture.

In Other News
South Asian Games
An event held for Indian athletes to register “international” medals against their names! However, we could not get a single quota from the Games! Speaks about the standards of the meet itself. Meanwhile Pakistan earned a direct Athletics Quota for the first time in decades – a feat which was noted by Athletics India and publicized in social media. Good to see the sportsman spirit is still alive in some sections even in these increasingly polarized times. 

Russian Ban - Meanwhile Russia has been banned from all sporting events for fudging dope tests. Quotas earned by Russian athletes and teams would suddenly up to all.

India’s shooters continued their good performance in the year-end finals winning medals aplenty. There are also selection headaches in the Women’s Rifle team with Elavenil Valerian and Mehuli Ghosh outperforming the Quota winners Anjum Moudgil & Apurvi Chandela. Nice problem to have though! Mehuli Ghosh smashed through the World Record at the South Asian Games (although not ratified as an official mark!)

Men’s Team have been placed in Pool A along with Australia, Argentina, Spain, New Zealand & Japan.

Women’s Team have been placed in Pool A along with Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa.

The federation has agreed to have trials for a chance to represent India at the Olympics qualifiers. So Nikhat Zareen’s wish is fulfilled.

Rugby – Both Teams have failed to qualify for the Final Qualifiers.

Total Count – Sports - 6, Events – 24, Entries -35, Participants – 62.

Lets see what the new year will have in store for the Indian contingent. Wishing all readers a very Happy Olympics Year!

Road To Tokyo: Episode 9

Monday, December 23, 2019

BookMarks #64: The Barefoot Coach

Title: The Barefoot Coach
Author: Paddy Upton
Genre: Sports Management
Published: 2019
Setting: From 1990s to current

Management lessons from Paddy Upton’s experience of coaching different cricket teams over the past two decades.

Paddy Upton has been associated with multiple high profile and successful cricket teams in his over decades of coaching experience. In this book he presents his insights from different experiences in this journey. The coaching career has seen highs (India winning World Cup, South Africa getting to be the top-ranked Test Team, success with the franchisee teams) and lows (bottom of the table finish in the leagues, accidental scandals) etc.

The book begins at a slow pace when Upton is giving his background and sharing some coaching theories. A that point, it does feel like a tedious management read. However, the tone changes, once he starts with his coaching journey, first with the Indian team, then the Proteas and finally to the T20 franchisees. Most of the experiences shared are by Upton are not about applying management theory to a sport but more of learning to evolve with the situation. There are no hard and fast rules except to be adaptable. Many a times, he has narrated how he came with a big presentation ready but had to change his approach given the audience reaction. 

The highlight of the book are the many anecdotes which are especially more interesting for a cricket follower. (like the instance when Sehwag got out because he had forgotten the lyrics of a song). The little behind-the-scenes stories make it real fun and enable better understanding of the coaching principles. Playing to your strength as against covering your weakness, Being in the zone, mental strength, what makes an alpha leader are good theories, how to play like a team but how does one get there? Again there is no single defined way but a good coach can assist you in getting there. How does one start making the little changes which can help in the long run.

Overall, a good read and worth investing the time. 

Previously on BookMarks: Guns, Germs, and Steel

Sunday, December 22, 2019

2019 TYIL

TYIL - This Year I Learnt.
Sometime, very early in the year, decided to compile a list of "interesting" (for me at least) things which I have learnt during the course of the year. And publish it close to the end of the year. So, at least one New Year's resolution got complete. And I have my own hashtag for it as well - #TYIL. So here goes. 
  1. Michelin Star was designed to ensure people have places to go out for dinner, in their cars and wear out their tires. Thus needing more tires and increasing the revenues of Michelin. It was a part of the Michelin Guide. (Business Insider)
  2. Yellow Cane Toads are so poisonous that a python, or even a crocodile, will die if they eat the frogs. Hence that python was smart and allowed these pesky creatures a ride on its back. (Link)
  3. The phrase “Rule of Thumb” has seemingly negative origins. According to folk etymology, English Law permitted a man to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than the width of his thumb. If true, quite a bizarre origin of an everyday phrase! (Link)
  4. Zugzwang – German for Compulsion to Move – A situation in Chess where any move you make will weaken your positional advantage! (Chessdotcom)
  5. Ikigai – Japanese formula – a reason to jump out of bed each morning (Link)
  6. Nagashi Somen – Japanese system of eating flowing noodles! Catch the noodles with chopsticks before it flows away from you! (BBC)
  7. Captology – the invisible ways in which technology can persuade and influence those who use it. Coined by BJ Fogg, a behavioural scientist. Derived from “Computers As Persuasive Technology” (Stanford)
  8. DC stands for Detective Comics. Somehow for all this time never tried to figure it out! 
  9. The ‘3-6-3’ rule of Banking - borrow at 3 per cent, lend at 6 per cent, and head off to the golf course at 3 P.M. {Life was simple then}(Investopedia)
  10. The Three Comma Club – or in simple terms a Billionaire – well, that could be an aspiration (Link
  11. Eugene Shoemaker – The only person whose ashes are buried on the Moon. (NASA)
  12. Marginalia - the writing in the margins of a printed book to underlining or otherwise marking out passages with asterisks or other symbols — essentially any type of visible interaction a reader has with their book. {Something we all indulge in but didn't know there was a word for it}(Firstpost)
  13. Shampoo originates from Champi – Washing hair from head massage – an interesting leap of language! (Link
  14. Henry Cavill’s mustache was subject of a $3 Million contractual dispute between the makers of Mission Impossible: Fallout & Justice League. (Link)
  15. Gandhiji’s 3 Monkeys have their origins in Japan – Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru (Natgeo)
  16. Steiff – a German company which is the creator of children’s teddy bears. All their toys have a button tag in the ear for authenticity! (BBC)
  17. The “Traps” in the Deccan Traps comes from the Swedish word “Trappa” meaning steps (Link)
  18. Karoshi – Japanese for “death-by-overwork” {Japanese do have a lot of terms to offer} (Business Insider)
  19. Men’s Underwear Index – is an economic index which can supposedly detect the beginnings of a recovery during an economic slump. (Wikipedia
  20. Badluram Ka Badan Zameen Ke Neeche Hai – marching song of Assam Regiment, dedicated to the memory of Badluram, a soldier who had died during World War II, but his platoon still got his share of rations! (Firstpost
  21. Kessler Syndrome - The concept that collisions between objects create space debris and will cause a cascade of further collisions, making space activities and satellite use impossible. (Wikipedia
  22. Pineapples can eat your mouth while you are eating it! (Link
  23. Gibbous Moon - when the Moon is more than half full, but not quite fully illuminated, when you look at it from the perspective of Earth. (Link)
  24. Lipstick Effect – purchases of smaller and more modest consumer discretionary items tend to pick-up during uncertain economic times. (Investopedia).Mr. Ravishankar Prasad, may please take note! (ET)
  25. Anna Karenina Principle - a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms an endeavor to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided. (Wikipedia)
  26.  The "high" in "high tea" refers to the height of the table on which it is served. 
  27. Mosambi’s name originates from Mozambique, from where the fruit was brought by the Portuguese to India (ET).
So this was 2019. There was no specific number planned - just a list which grew with time. 

Certainly more will be added next year. After all, the more I learn, the more I realize that like Jon Snow, I know nothing!

Monday, December 02, 2019

MovieNotes: Eat.Race.Win

Wading my way through Amazon’s collection of sports documentary series, found this interesting one on Tour de France. But Eat.Race.Win breaks the embedded sports documentary format by focusing not just on a particular team but instead choosing to highlight the work done by its performance chef during the course of the race. So here we go into a 6-part series covering the nutrition aspects on 1 team in one racing tournament! Talk about a niche within a niche. 

The series is narrated from the point of view of Hannah Grant, who is the Head Chef for Team Orica Scott, an Australian based cycling team participating in the 2017 Tour de France. The team has nine riders (at the start) with their chief priority being to win the White Jersey (awarded to the best rider under the age of 26, who finishes within the Top-10 overall as well). Any stage wins are treated as a bonus. Simon Yates is the chosen contender from the team. And he achieves the objective. 

Meanwhile, Hannah Grant and her crew are tasked with feeding the riders and the support staff as they journey through the Tour. Every episode is a different culinary adventure as Hannah and her team visits the local farms and markets to get the best of French healthy taste for the team. 

The highlight of the series is the way it showcases what goes behind the scenes. The usual image of Tour de France is a big peloton of bikers racing across the French countryside with cars following them and spectators cheering them by the tracks. We get to see some of the dangers of road biking and also the team work of both the support staff and the fellow riders in creating the winner. Till I watched the series, never realized that riding is a team sport. Unlike F1, the lead identified rider has to get full support from his fellow riders to achieve the overall objective! And food as the fuel for the riders makes an interesting analogy. 

This certainly was an interesting one to watch giving a different perspective to something familiar.. 

Previously on MovieNotes: Six Dreams 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

MovieNotes: Six Dreams

Continuing my niche football documentary series viewing.

Six Dreams is my second foray into the world of Spanish football and La Liga after El Corazon de Sergio Ramos. But this series presents the flip side of the to the footballing royalty represented by the likes of Real Madrid and its star captain Sergio Ramos. 

The series follows six protagonists as they go through the ups and downs of the 2017-18 La Liga season. 
  1. Andres Guardado, captain of the Mexican National team who plays for Real Betis. An experienced campaigner who has played in 4 World Cups, he is closer to the end of his career. 
  2. Inaki Williams – the first Black player to play for Atheltic Bilbao. Somebody who is trying to fit in despite the discriminations he has faced in his career. He is rewarded with a call-up to train with the Spanish national team.
  3. Saul Niguez – a youngster playing for Athletico Madrid and the Spanish national side.
  4. Eduardo Berizo – who starts the season as Manager at Seville, discovers he has cancer during the season, then undergoes treatment and later hi ousted from the job. Ends the season with a new coaching assignment at Athletic Bilbao.
  5. Amaia Gorostiza – President of Eibar, the only female club president in La Liga. She has to deal with the business side of her small club, which continues to survive in the top league.
  6. Quique Carcel – Sporting Director at Girona, who are having their first season in the La Liga. And they go on to have the best ever finish for a debutante club in the league’s history, including a victory against Real Madrid.
Their paths keep crossing over the course of the season. The players are concerned about being fit, getting play time, scoring goals, trying also to be in national contention and sometimes looking out for a bigger pay cheque as well. The staff on the other hand try to ensure the business side of the game keeps running. For the smaller teams like Girona and Eibar, sometimes success can be disastrous as their players & coaching staff become hot properties on the transfer market! They have to keep searching for newer revenue streams. e.g. Eibar was the 3rd most popular La Liga club in Japan because they had a Japanese player. However, he is transferred to a new team who see the investment as an opportunity to get into the Japanese market. Coaches are under pressure from national squads at times, after all it’s a World Cup year! Then there are the personal tales of the players, how they came up to their current position and what they believe the future holds for them. And of course the superstitions – one of which forces the Amaia to wear yellow heels throughout the season!

Overall, it was quite an interesting watch. And a good promotion for La Liga, who showed that there is more to the League than Real Madrid & Barcelona. Although there are times when switching between stories gets a bit confusing, especially when two of these six come face to face!

Previously on MovieNotes: El Corazon de Sergio Ramos

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

LearnNBlog #17: Okhil Chandra Sen’s Letter

Dear Sir, 
I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station.

This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report! to papers.

Your’s faithfully servent
Okhil Ch. Sen.

This was the letter sent by an irate Mr. Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in 1909. While the contents of the letter may seem hilarious, it does have a very important place in the history of Indian railways. The authorities took note of the seriousness of the issue and decided to introduce toilets in train bogies. So that no passenger would have to suffer the fate of Mr. Sen.

Yes, major changes can be brought about by an act of a single person.

The original letter has been preserved and is displayed in the National Railway Museum in New Delhi.

Previously on LearnNBlog: A lesson From Sir Edmud Hillary

Thursday, November 14, 2019

MovieNotes: El Corazon de Sergio Ramos

Continuing my football documentary series viewing!

El Corazon de Sergio Ramos (The Heart of Sergio Ramos) is an 8-part documentary chronicling the life of Sergio Ramos, who is the captain of the Spanish national football team and the Real Madrid team.

The documentary has been filmed during the 2018-19 football season. During the course of the season, the viewers get to know more about Ramos’s family, his roots, his non-football interests (music & horses), his plans for his legacy et al. This is about a player who knows that he is closer to the end of a glittering football career. There is even an exhibition showcasing his achievements.

The documentary comes about as an honest insight into Sergio Ramos’s life. Even though there are some bizarre elements like his wife appearing on a TV show where she is seen shooting an arrow through a flying toast into a balloon! What really makes the show watchable is the fact that 18-19 season wasn’t the best of times for either Spain or Real Madrid. Not hiding from showing failure adds to the allure of the series.

Now comes the question. Is there a Season 2 being filmed? After all, the series had an MCU kind of end with Zidane appearing in the end-credits!

P.S. The series is in Spanish. And I love how the Spanish commentators keep going “Goal! Goal! Goal!” after every goal scored!

Previously on MovieNotes: Make Us Dream 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Road To Tokyo: Episode 9

The Indian Qualifying Contingent has grown considerably since Episode 8 with both Hockey teams qualifying & additional Quotas earned in Shooting.

The New Qualifiers 
Both the Men & Women teams have qualified for Tokyo after winning their respective qualifiers. The Men defeated Russia 11-3 on aggregate, at one time it was 4-3! The women had a roller-coaster ride. Leading 5-Nil at one point in the first game against USA, then being 5-5 at the midway stage of Game 2, before adding one goal while defending resolutely to overcome them 6-5!

Indian Shooters picked up 6 Quotas in the Asian Shooting Championships taking their tally to an all-time high of 15!

Ashwarya Tomar picked up the 2nd Quota in Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions, Deepak Kumar picked up the 2nd Men’s 10m Air Rifle Quota, thus ensuring that India should be able to field two teams in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle. Angad Bajwa & Mairaj Khan booked the Men’s Skeet Quotas. Tejaswini Sawant opened India’s account in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions & Chinki Yadav picked the 2nd Quota in Women’s 25m Pistol. 

The qualifiers have come to an end. Only the World Ranking allocations are pending. There is also a chance for re-allocation of Quotas in case NRAI chooses to send different Shooters at the Games and some Shooters (e.g. Manu Bhaker, Anjum Moudgil) eligible for multiple events. Should be an interesting exercise.

In Other News
In the Women’s Boxing World Championships, Mary Kom became the most decorated boxer ever (male or female) with her 8th World Championships medal. Overall, India had a good outing with 1 Silver and 3 Bronze Medals. Mary Kom & Lovlina Borgaohain’s Bronze medals were in the Olympics weight categories while Manju Rani’s Silver & Jamuna Boro’s Bronze came in non-Olympic categories. Now to the first set of Qualifiers in February.

However, there is a bit of controversy with Nikhat Zareen wanting a trial against Mary Kom!

Asian Games Silver medalist Fouaad Mirza is currently in pole position for the regional Quota after winning the Group G Qualifying Event.

India will play host to 3x3 Qualifiers in March, 2020 for both Men & Women

Was reading up on the Marathon achievement of Eliud Kipchoge and how much science played a role in his breaking the 2-hour mark. Was reminded of the problems faced by OP Jaisha in the Rio Games marathon. The athletes do their bit, but who works on providing that extra boost which bridges the fine line between superstardom and anonymity! 

Total Count – Sports - 5, Events – 21, Entries -32, Participants – 60.

  • Nikhat Zareen’s Letter to Sports Ministry (Link)
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Link
  • O P Jaisha Controversy (Link
  • Road To Tokyo: Episode 8
Episode 10 should drop in by the end of this year!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

BookMarks #63: Guns, Germs, and Steel

Title: Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years
Author: Jared Diamond 
Genre: Anthropology, History, Geography
Published: 1997
Setting: Entire human history across the world

Guns, Germs, and Steel attempts to understand how the human society across the world, reached into its current form and how different regions developed differently leading to the dominance of Eurasian societies.

“Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own” This was the question asked by a New Guinean politician Yali to the author Jared Diamond. Cargo here being a generic term for all technology & goods brought by the western civilization. Through this book, Diamond tries to answer this question.

The book attempts to trace the evolution of the modern human societies in different parts of the world and the factors which influenced their growth. As per Diamond, humans started as hunter-gatherers, then moved on to building agriculture based societies. Stable food production led to increased population and development of a bureaucratic societal structure. More people had more ideas and more innovations leading to technological advancements. Technology diffused and spread from one society to its neighbours. However, the rate of such advancement was different in various regions. Diamond attributes this to geography, climate factors, availability of suitable crops as well as potential large animals which could be domesticated. Geographical barriers play a major role in preventing/aiding the diffusion. 

Exposure to different animals lead to animal borne diseases being spread into human society. The exposed societies later developed immunity to these. Advanced military technology as well as new germs helped decide which group won the battle of that region. And how one group was able to displace the other.

The book is an interesting exercise in attempting to summarize more than 10,000 years of human history. The readers may or may not agree to Diamond’s interpretation. And there are enough evidences being unearthed regularly which present new facts to the contrary. However, the book certainly makes you think about human evolution. Is it only geography or climate which is the contributing factor or are there other factors at play too. And how does it impact the modern society which is getting increasingly inter-connected and even a bit more homogeneous. With changing climate across the globe (another hotly debated subject) how does it impact the future development. As we have seen, different regions have been the leaders in technology at various points in time. How does this equation change in the future? With increased digitization, who becomes the new leader? That’s an interesting point to ponder upon.

Previously on BookMarks: Anne Frank’s Diary 

Friday, October 25, 2019

BookMarks #62: Anne Frank’s Diary

Title: The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Genre: Diary, Autobiography
Published: 1947 (Dutch), 1952 (English)
Setting: 2nd World War

The accounts of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl in hiding in Amsterdam, during the 2nd World War.

The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I'd absolutely suffocate. (Anne Frank, 16 March 1944.)

This is the line on the diaries which sums it all up. Why young Anne Frank wrote. It was the one outlet for her feelings as her world drastically changed due to overwhelming political circumstances. Her frustrations at being virtually a prisoner in the Secret Annex, changing emotions while growing up, changing feelings towards her co-hiders, her feelings of being alone and no one understanding her!

The book provides a glimpse of the impact of the War and especially the Jewish population who had to leave everything and go into hiding to escape the Nazis. One fine day, the people are free, and then they become effectively prisoners on their own account! To avoid being imprisoned by the Nazis, they go into hiding and hope to wait it out till better days come.

The diary entries are spread over two years and then they abruptly stop one day. And that is after the Allies have come close to winning the war. There is no happy ending here. Anne herself could not survive the war after being taken as prisoner. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Alchemist 

Monday, October 07, 2019

Road To Tokyo: Episode 8

Since Episode 7, a month back, we have had some significant progress in the qualifications for Tokyo 2020 with Quota places earned in Shooting, Wrestling and Athletics. This Episode got delayed by a week to incorporate results from the 2019 World Athletics Championships. 

Quotas Earned 
Shooting – 2 more Quotas arrived through the Shooting World Cup taking the count to 9. 
Sanjeev Rajput earned India’s first Quota in the Men’s 50m Air Rifle 3 Positions. This is the 4th Olympics in a row in which he has earned a Quota place, although for Rio 2016, his Quota place was reallocated. Hope this is not the case this time around. 
Yashashwini Deswal earned India’s 2nd Quota in the Women’s 10m Air Pistol event. 

Given the current Quota configuration India should have representation in the Mixed Pairs Rifle & Pistol events. However, there is some confusion over the number of teams a NOC can field in the Mixed events. Would be a tragedy if only a single team from each NOC is allowed! Currently India can send 2 pairs in both rifle and pistol events and in the last World Cup, all 4 pairs won medals! 

The Asian Shooting Championships in November provides more opportunities for booking Olympics Quotas, especially for the Shotgun events, where India is yet to open its account. 

Wrestling – 4 Quotas 
Vinesh Phogat (Womens 53 KG Freestyle), Ravi Kumar (Mens 57 KG Freestyle), Bajrang Punia (Mens 65 KG Freestyle) and Deepak Punia (Mens 86 KG Freestyle) have earned quotas through the World Wrestling Championships. 

Deepak got a Silver while the other 3 earned a Bronze each. Overall, it was a creditable show for India with Rahul Aware also winning a Bronze in 61 KG Freestyle (which is not included in the Olympics). 

For the wrestlers, the Asian Qualification Tournament in March, 2020 provides the next opportunity to book Olympic berths in the remaining 15 categories. 

Athletics – 2 Quotas (Total 3 Now) 
The 4x400 Mixed Relay team reached the Finals in the World Athletics Championships in Doha thus qualifying for the Olympics. 

Avinash Sable broke the National Record in 3000m Steeplechase twice in 3 days to beat the Olympics timing cut-off after reaching the Final. 

Special mention - Annu Rani became the first Indian women to qualify for the Javelin Throw finals with a National Record throw. However, it was still short of the Olympics cut-off. 

Other Sports 
In the Men’s Boxing World Championships, Amit Panghal became the first Indian male boxer to reach the finals where he got a Silver medal, while Manish Kaushik earned a Bronze. Given the shenanigans of AIBA, unfortunately no Quotas could be earned through the World Championships. The Olympics qualification tournaments begin early next year. 

The women’s tournament is currently underway. However, like their male counterparts, they will not be able to qualify for Olympic spots. 

Weightlifting World Championships 
Mirabai Chanu finished 4th with her personal best. And given that there two Chinese ahead of her (and an NOC can have only participant in an event), the medal prospects seems good. 

Volleyball – Indian men have qualified for the Asian Volleyball Qualifiers after finishing 8th in the 2019 Asian Volleyball Championships. 

Hockey – The men’s team have been drawn to face Russia while the Women will face United States in a 2-match series to determine the Qualifiers for Tokyo. 

Swimming – Virdhawal Khade has achieved the B qualifying mark but has yet to achieve the A Qualifying mark and hence not included in the Qualifiers count yet. 

Total Count – Sports - 4, Events – 17, Entries -23, Participants – 22

Links:  Road To Tokyo: Episode 7

Thursday, September 26, 2019

MovieNotes: Make Us Dream

Another football documentary from my niche Amazon Prime Video watching series. 

Make Us Dream narrates the journey of Steven Gerrard from a young boy to becoming an all-time Liverpool great. It is a biography of Gerrard but more dedicated to his life with the Liverpool Football Club from his joining their Academy to moving on to USA to play in Major League Soccer. 

The documentary also covers some of the key events which helped shape English football to its current form. The Hillsborough tragedy which left 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death, the arrival of the Premier League and Manchester United’s rise, the arrival of big money in the form of Roman Abramovich buying Chelsea, players becoming the brand rather than the clubs and money increasingly becoming a deciding factor in player loyalties.

Liverpool is deprived of Premier League success although they won nearly everything else in the interim including becoming Champions of Europe. The documentary features the incredible 2005 Champions League Finals against AC Milan, where Liverpool come from 3 goals down at half-time and go on to win the shoot-out. [Incidentally, this game also featured in the documentary series “This Is Football” with Liverpool’s Rwandan fans]. 

We get to see Steven Gerrard’s partnership with Michael Owen at the start of his career and with Luis Suarez towards the end, the team-mates exits from the club, the multiple attempts from Jose Mourinho to get him over to Chelsea, the red cards, the headed own goal against Chelsea, contract disputes with Liverpool, injuries, and disillusionment with football, the desire to bring big trophies and the frustration of not being able to win the premier league title despite coming agonizingly close to it multiple times. There is the infamous slip against Chelsea after himself exhorting his team-mates not to slip up which proved critical in handing the title to Manchester City. 

The documentary is bookended with Gerrard’s move to USA. He is called a genius, one of the very best but he just sounds exhausted by the end of it. And yes that truly is the highlight of the documentary, showing the man behind the player. 

One grouse against the documentary. Gerrard’s long and highly successful England career is not mentioned at all! At least here, we have a clear winner in the club vs country debate! 

Overall, a good watch. 

Previously on MovieNotes – Take Us Home: Leeds United 

Friday, September 20, 2019

MovieNotes: Take Us Home: Leeds United

Preface - I believe Amazon Prime Video and me have found our viewing niche – football! 

Leeds United, once giants of English Football have been struggling in the lower divisions of English football since the turn of the millennium. With demotion, comes financial struggles leading to fire sale of top players, in turn leading to poorer performances – quite a vicious cycle. Then enters Andrea Radrizanni, the new owner who plots their return to the English Premier League. 

Narrated by Russel Crowe, the 6-part documentary covers the topsy-turvy 2018-19 season with Leeds United playing in the Championship (second division of English football) and bidding for a return to the Premier League, which is worth nearly 170 million pounds. They finish 3rd in the Table and fail to secure an automatic promotion and then miss out in the play-offs. 

The owners' first major action is the appointment of Argentine Marcelo Bielsa as the team manager, who then focuses on strengthening the team and bridging the gaps. The team’s good start wins back its fans after having finished a dismal 13th the previous season. Over the course of the season they fight through injuries to key players and register many come from behind draws and wins but also keep dropping points at crucial junctures. The season is also rocked by a spying scandal. Bielsa admits to spying on other teams training sessions, which while not against any rules offend the League for which Leeds are heavily fined. 

Another side of Bielsa comes to fore in the last game of the season when he orders his players to let their opponents score a goal, because of the controversial nature of the previous goal scored by Leeds. 

There is a beautiful sequence in the second episode where Leeds are playing a crucial game against Aston Villa while at the same time local boy Josh Warrington defends his IBF world championship title! 

There are scenes which remind the viewers that the payers while being elite athletes are also human. They do get affected by the amount of social media chatter, the defeats hurt them as do injuries, there is the occasional drama of new contracts and transfers. 

The documentary focuses on the special relation city of Leeds has with the club. There are interviews of the die-hard fans who have supported the club through ups and downs over the years. There are those who remember the glory days and those who have just heard of them. How difficult it is for a club to boost its support base if it hasn’t won anything major in the past many years? And yet, these clubs like Leeds United keep finding new fans around the globe, although may not be at the same pace as the Premier League toppers. 

The series ends with the management talking about continuing the bid for Premiership while trying to retain its best players whose performances had caught the attention of various top-flight clubs. Bielsa agrees to be at the helm of affairs for another season. 

There is life beyond the top. And, now I am keenly following the 2019-20 Championship season and, of course, the fortunes of Leeds United. 

Bonus – The refrain from “Marching on Together” – the Leeds United song. 
Marching On Together!
We're gonna see you win
We are so proud,
We shout it out loud 
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds! 
We've been through it all together,
And we've had our ups and downs 
We're gonna stay with you forever,
at least until the world stops going round 
Everyday, we're all gonna say we love you Leeds!Leeds!Leeds!
Everywhere, we're gonna be there,We, love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds! 

Previously on MovieNotes – This Is Football 

Friday, September 06, 2019

BookMarks #61: The Alchemist

Title: The Alchemist 
Author: Paulo Coelho 
Genre: Fiction, Fable, Adventure
Published: 1988 (Portuguese), 1993 (English) 
Setting: Medieval Spain and North Africa 

Santiago, a young shepherd, has recurrent dreams about finding a treasure. This is the story of his journey of fulfilling his dream! 

If you really want something, the whole universe will conspire to have your wish come true. That is the key theme of the book. Not giving up on your original dream while understanding all the signs on the way is the prescribed path for fulfilling one’s dreams! 

The book is short. Story moves along at a good pace. Only one character is constant throughout the story as he journeys towards fulfilling his dream and meets a variety of inspirational sources. The book feels like a mix of teachings from the Bible and the Quran combined with stories from Alif Laila. 

Also this was my first brush with Mr. Paulo Coelho’s works! The Alchemist is a pretty hyped up book. Probably would have liked it more if I had been younger and not by default cynical about things (benefit of having completed a few more revolutions around the Sun!). 

And the ending about finding the treasure in the place where you had the dream after having jorneyed back and forth to the other side of the continent. Just reminds me of the Hindi saying – बच्चा बगल में और ढिंडोरा नगर में। 

Previously on BookMarks – The McKinsey Way

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

MovieNotes: This Is Football

Technically not a movie but a collection of six hour-long documentaries covering different footballing stories. Each narrating how the “beautiful game” has captured the world’s imagination, keeps enthralling the fans, and at times goes its impact beyond the playing field into real lives.

The first episode talks of Redemption. How football helped heal the wounds of a war ravaged country. After the genocide of 1994, Rwanda used football as a healing mechanism. Their qualification for the 2003 African Cup of Nations with a victory over Ghana acted like a balm in the divide between the Hutu and Tutsi communities. Liverpool’s “You Never Walk Alone” song was an allegory to the Rwandan communities. Liverpool’s remarkable come from behind 2005 Champions League victory has a prominent role in the episode. And how it inspired their Rwandan fans who finally get a chance to see their favorite team at the Anfield.

The second episode talks of Belief. It talks about the Women’s game and focuses on the two teams at the forefront, USA and Japan. There is the story of USA’s 1999 victory at home culminating in Brandi Chastain’s iconic celebration also captured. Then there is the story of Japan’s unexpected 2011 victory with the backdrop of the Fukushima disaster. The Japanese players talk about how their footballing careers had been inspired by the Americans reign over the many years. 

The third episode has the theme of Chance. Some mathematicians have done a probability model. It says in an average football game there are three goals scored, one by the better team on the day and the other two are distributed randomly between the teams! We hear from Oliver Kahn, who won the Golden Ball in the 2002 World Cup and had a near-perfect tournament except for one mistake in the Final which Ronaldo pounced upon and put Brazil in the lead. And Germany had to wait a few more years for their next success. There is the story of Bayern Munich’s run in the UEFA Champions Leagues where they lost to Manchester United after dominating almost the entire game in 1999 but redeemed themselves in 2002 by winning against Valencia. There is Roberto di Matteo whose playing career was cut short after a freak tackle but came back as Chelsea’s interim manager to lead them to Champions League triumph! Pierluigi Collina talks about how impactful a referee’s error can be in a football game vis-a-vis any other sports. An then there is the story of Eintracht Frankfurt, who should have won the German League in 1992 but for some bad luck in the last game and then remained trophy less for nearly 30 years, when finally fortune favored them!

The fourth episode in the theme Pride. It focuses on Iceland’s remarkable run over the last few years in Euro 2016 and the World Cup 2018. How the tiny nation of Iceland took on football’s superpowers like Argentina, England, Croatia, et al and gave a good account of themselves. And how football helped rebuild the national pride after the recession of 2008. And there is also the awesome Viking thunderclap!

The fifth episode titled Love deals with people from different walks of life talking about their love for football. Whether it’s the English Blind Football team participating in their World Cup, a young boy from Soweto in South Africa who overcomes cancer to become the youngest professional football referee, school-girls from a village near Nagpur in India who feel empowered because they play football, or a Chinese man who builds a football pitch in his town. And Football is the thread which binds them.

The last episode titled Wonder deals with the phenomenon of Lionel Messi. How he went on to become the world’s best footballer, how his fans transcend borders. Even the mathematics of his movements is analyzed while exasperated defenders wonder how to deal with him. His feet movement are compared to the tango. It also attempts (a futile one) to understand the important question. Why Messi’s performance for Argentina pales in comparison to his performance for Barcelona!

Overall, a nice documentary for the fans of the beautiful game. I especially liked the episode on how luck plays such an important part in the result. 

Rating: 9/10

Previously on MovieNotes: Gully Boy

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Road To Tokyo: Episode 7

August 29
Major Dhyanchand’s 114th birthday also celebrated as India’s National Sports Day. And almost two years to the day since this blog series started.

Since Episode 6, there hasn’t been any change in the qualification count for India. There were Quota places up for grabs in Shooting, Canoeing, Equestrian and Rowing but unfortunately our athletes couldn’t grab any during the last month. But we have had some progress across sports.

PV Sindhu becomes India’s first ever Badminton World Champion. This in now the sixth year in a row in which she has got a major medal (World Championships/Olympics) and she is still only 24! Badminton quotas will be confirmed via rankings in end-April next year. On current form, we should have multiple Indian representation in all events.

Indian women have qualified for the Asian Olympic qualifiers to be held in January.

No quotas in the shotgun events so far. However, there is an intense battle going on for places in the Women’s 10m Air Rifle, where India has booked the maximum 2 quotas but have 3 shooters, Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil & Elavenil Valarivan winning World Cup medals consistently.

Indian Men & Women Teams won the Olympic test events at Tokyo. Although much should not be read into this!

Baseball – India are out of contention.

Total Qualifier Count – Sports - 3, Events – 8, Entries -12, Participants – 11.

Coming Up Next – World Championships in Wrestling, Weightlifting and Athletics. And more qualification events across the board.

P.S. Episode 7 was on time. Hopefully Episode 8 will continue the momentum!

Road To Tokyo: Episode 6 

Monday, August 19, 2019

BookMarks #60: The McKinsey Way

Title: The McKinsey Way 
Author: Ethan Rasiel 
Genre: Non-fiction, Management 
Published: 1999 


The title seemed promising - providing a glimpse of the way McKinsey or “The Firm” (as it is referred to) operates and maybe even its history. But all we get is a glimpse and no real insights. Also reading the book about 20 years after its original publication makes it really outdated. The book would certainly need a major overhaul to stay relevant in today’s times. 

The good things about the book - 
(a) It is a short volume. And at times feels like a presentation version of a book rather than the real thing. 
(b) Talks about the importance of having/collecting facts and data over gut feelings and using the data to validate hypothesis. 
(c) The use of MECE structure – Mutually Exclusive Collective Exhaustive. 
(d) The importance of having a life beyond work. 

The not so good things about the book – 
(a) Sounds too pompous and full of itself at times. Especially in the light of the fact that the author was in the “Firm” only for a relatively short tenure! 
(b) Nothing about McKinsey’s history – how it became a global consulting giant so that business would come knocking to them rather than the company having to ever seek work. 
(c) The Waterfall Chart – It is a good representation for analyzing changes (plan vs actual or periodic), but it certainly is not a McKinsey exclusive as the author tries to make it up. 
(d) Working late nights and taking pride in it – Why do we glorify this culture? An emergency is only when someone's health is at stake, but we have glorified a working culture where even making organization charts becomes a matter of grave urgency! 
(e) And the numerous references to Mr. Hamish McDermott and his work at McKinsey. It almost felt like a pseudonym of the author himself. 

Overall, a decent read but dated and full of hyperbole. Can be easily skipped. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Perfect Murder

Friday, August 16, 2019

BookMarks #59: The Perfect Murder

Title: The Perfect Murder 
Author: Various, Compiled by Ruskin Bond 
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Compendium, Short Stories 
Published: 2017 

This is a compilation of eight whodunits from various authors around the world. An intriguing collection of mysteries – some are good, some are disappointing. Some have the buildup but no real conclusion! 

#1 The Perfect Murder – by Stacy Aumonier 
Two brothers plan a murder to get an inheritance. One is the executor, the other is racked by guilt and then there is a surprising turn of events! 

#2 The Red headed League – by Arthur Conan Doyle 
Featuring Sherlock Holmes, as he attempts to resolve a mystery of a man who wants to understand why the job he had got for his red head has suddenly disappeared. In the process unveiling something far more sinister! 

#3: He Said It With Arsenic – by Ruskin Bond 
The author, after his first major success, gets a visit from his long-lost uncle who had spent time in jail for a double murder via arsenic poisoning. And then has a decision to make! 

#4: The Interruption – by W. W. Jacobs 
A man gets his inheritance through a well-disguised murder. Then becomes a target of blackmail, till he attempts to turn the tables on the blackmailer. 

#5 When Al Capone was Ambushed – Jack Bilbo 
Jack Bilbo is hired as a bodyguard by Al Capone. The story is an extract of his action-packed first day at the job. 

#6 The Lodger – Marie Belloc Lowndes 
An old couple get a mysterious lodger on rent at their place. Meanwhile there is a series of murders happening in the city. 

#7 The Duel – Wilkie Collins 
A trip across the channel to France brings with it, its own adventures including a duel with pistols! 

#8 The Cask of Amontillado – Edgar Allan Poe 
A wine tasting expedition leads to a chilling end. 

Previously on BookMarks – Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

India @ 72

Happy Birthday India!
It’s time for my annual round up of the things India (2018 edition is here

Between birthdays India celebrated its biggest festival – the General Elections. The BJP government returned to power with an increased majority, while all others were reduced to an also-ran status. It has been three months since the election rout, the Opposition is still looking for a leader while the government struts around with a smug look on its face. Never a good sign for a democracy.

The country’s political map is set for another change with Jammu & Kashmir being downgraded from a state to a Union Territory while Ladakh has been carved out as a separate Union Territory in its own right. The repercussions of the action are yet to be seen and hopefully the transition is a peaceful one for the local communities – the real stakeholders. We do not know whats happening on ground and sources give their own version of the story!

We came close to war with Pakistan. There were attacks, and counter-strikes and lots of hot air. As usual, lives needlessly lost while the economy took a bit of a hit but “patriotic fervor” ran high, lots of political posturing was done and soon all was back to normal. Except for the immediate families of the martyred.

Meanwhile the economy is heading to doldrums and there is no immediate solution in sight. The aviation and auto sectors have been taking one hit after another and soon could be joined by others especially the financial sectors. Economics is far more important than politics in running the world. Fingers crossed on this front.

Our infrastructure is crumbling. The cities are imploding under their own weight aided by the corrupt local regimes and a bit of nature’s fury. Wonder how long before total disaster is reached.

On the sporting front, India lost in the semi-finals of the Men’s ODI World Cup which they should have won. And this is not an Olympic year, so none of the other sports count! So we can conclude that it was a year of underachievement on the sporting front as well.

But we still have hope. After all if we can reach for the moon what are these little troubles on land!

Wishing all a very Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Road To Tokyo: Episode 6

he "Road To Tokyo" Series hits another speed bump and took a six-month hiatus! I really need to up my blogging game here! Hopefully the athletes are doing better! With just under a year to go, it’s a good time to get this series back on track!

In the past six months, India’s qualifying count has gone up into double digits from just two shooting quotas. And some progress has been made on other fronts as well.

Shooting (7)
Shooters as expected have got a rich haul of Quotas. The total Quota count has risen to 7 (from 2 in January). Saurabh Chaudhary & Abhishek Verma in Men’s 10m Air Pistol, Divyansh Parmar in Men’s 10m Air Rifle, Rahi Sarnobat in Women’s 25m Air Pistol and Manu Bhaker in Women’s 10m Air Pistol have earned Quotas. Depending on final allocation, India might be eligible for participation in Mixed events as well as multiple entries for the Quota Holders as well.

Athletics (1)
KT Irfan becomes the first Indian to meet the Athletics Qualification criterion in the Men’s 20 KM Race Walk event. He had a top 10 finish in the London Games.

Archery (Team +3)
Indian Men’s Recurve team earned its quota in the Archery World Cup. Thus qualifying all 3 members to the Individual events also. 

It is still early days but the Quotas have started trickling in. The events become more hectic with more qualifiers scheduled in the coming days.

Meanwhile, both the Hockey Teams have qualified for the last stage of the Qualifiers. And Dutee Chand has won India its first ever track Gold at the Universiade. On the other hand, our Football teams are out of running.

Total: Sports - 3, Events – 8, Entries - 12, Participants – 11.

Hopefully Episode 7 will be there in a month’s time with the count increased further!

Links: Road To Tokyo: Episode 5 

Friday, June 28, 2019

BookMarks #58: Rich Dad Poor Dad

Title: Rich Dad Poor Dad 
Author: Robert Kiyosaki 
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-help, Finance 
Published: 1997 

Robert Kiyoaski's “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a book about getting wealthy! The author contrasts his father (the poor dad) and his friend’s father (the rich dad) to explain how they came to have disparity in wealth in their lifetime. As per the author, to become rich, one must be
  1. Financially literate. Understanding cashflows and taxes play a major role. 
  2. Invest in assets and not liabilities. As per the author rich people acquire assets while the poor and middle class acquire liabilities, but they think are assets. The rich buy assets. The poor only have expenses. An asset is defined as something that brings money. 
  3. Keep expenses low, reduce liabilities while diligently building a base of solid assets. 
  4. Rich people buy luxuries last, while the poor and middle class tend to buy luxuries first. 
  5. Employees earn and get taxed and they try to live on what is left. A corporation earns, spends everything it can, and is taxed on anything that is left. It's one of the biggest legal tax loopholes that the rich use. [The author himself is a good example here. While he is multi-millionaire, many of his companies have gone bankrupt!]
Major lacuna in this book – While pretending to be an autobiographical account, we never learn what the author did to earn his millions! There are hints of companies started and real estate investments made but no account of how the first investment was made, how things actually panned out or the time taken for the "asset" to mature. To me, that would have added actual value to the book, rather than statements which are of more global nature. 

Although there are no real get-rich-quick tips in the book, the overall takeaway from the book is to “keep learning” and “act” on them!

Previously on BookMarks: India in the Age of Ideas

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

BookMarks #57: India in the Age of Ideas

Title: India in the Age of Ideas
Author: Sanjeev Sanyal
Genre: Non-Fiction, Economics, Compendium
Published: 2018

"India in the Age of Ideas" is a collection of essays, written over a decade on subjects of economics, urban infrastructure and history. The author Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal is currently the Principal Economic Adviser to the Government of India.

The writings offer a fresh perspective to the three subjects, especially in the field of urban planning. Some of the ideas are radically different from the conventional point of view. The author presents a contrarian approach to the philosophy of rigid five-year plans. The author doesn’t believe in meticulous planning but rather being agile and having a quick response to ever-changing dynamics - a case of Complex Adaptive Systems.

New urban developments should be integrated with existing infrastructure. There is no point in fresh buildings far off from the cities. He contrasts the F1 tracks in Singapore against Noida, the university towns in US & UK versus our universities which are inside walled campuses usually far away from urban centers. 

The author presents his ideas about making cities more livable by improving connectivity through walkability and integrating public transport with last mile connectivity. 

There is an interesting contrast of Chandigarh with Gurgaon. One a modern planned city which has become a center for retired bureaucrats. And the other which has grown in a haphazard manner but providing a major boost to the economy. And thus, comes the question, do we build to a meticulous plan or manage a random growth better? The author certainly believes the second is a better option!

The post-independence policies of socialism and centralized five-year plans of Mahalanobis model come in for heavy criticism. Rightly so, if the results are compared to the potential. But never given the perspective of the world just after independence. The balance is not there in the criticism.

History is another interesting subject which is touched upon. Was Ashoka really great? Why are our history books only Delhi focused? Why are many of the major empires of North-east & South India barely mentioned in our text-books? Why do we not talk about our naval successes in South-East Asia? Interesting questions all. Certainly, we need a more representative history rather than rewriting it completely.

A radical suggestion (and an easily implementable one) is having the Independence Day speech from different locations of historic importance every year! But doesn’t every politician aim for giving a speech from the Red Fort?

Because it is a collection of articles, there are passages which are repetitive across the book. Also, the original date of publication of the article should have come at the beginning to give a perspective of the time-frame. This is especially true in our ever-evolving VUCA world, where the past decade has led to huge technological evolution.

While reading the articles, remembered a chart which showed the most populous cities of the world and different times. India had three entries- Pataliputra, Agra, Delhi. Interestingly, none of them are even the largest Indian city now. Cities are living entities. How they are managed will lead to how long they stay as a center of economic & social importance!

Previously on BookMarks: Stories from Tagore

Monday, June 03, 2019

LearnNBlog #16: A Lesson from Sir Edmund Hillary

29th May 2019 marked 66 years since the first successful summit of Mt. Everest. Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay's successful ascent (and return) was a trimuph of human spirit and collaboration. A Kiwi and an Indian of Nepalese origin had climbed the world's highest peak as part of a British expedition - making it a truly global venture. 

Mt. Everest has had a special fascination for me. This could be attributed to having read and re-read the autobiographies of Tenzing and Bachendri Pal multiple times. Tenzing's autobiography throws a fascinating insight in Hillary's character. When asked which of them reached the summit first, tenzing clearly says it was Hillary. Meanwhile Hillary always maintained that both of them climbed it together and there was no first. [Aside - In mountaineering, if you are tied to the same rope, you are together, neither is ahead or behind, so technically Hillary was correct]. 

Also, Hillary had brought a camera with him to record the summit. At the top, he took pictures of the world below and Tenzing's pictures but refused Tenzing's offer to have his own taken. Tenzing's pictures made it to the world press celebrating the first human ascent to Everest. There were other pictures taken on their return to base camp.
Tenzing on the summit of Mt. Everest
What a contrast to the modern selfie-addicted us (yous truly is also guilty of the same), for whom taking candid selfie at a location to be shared on social media is more important than taking in the actual sight of the location itself. Definitely, a lesson for the tourist us!

Also, there was a recent news item about deaths on Everest due to excessive climbers going at the same time. There was also a picture of the traffic jam on (ironically) Hillary's Step! We certainly need to take a step back and think if our insatiable appetite for adventure and thrill-seeking is taking a toll on this planet! Can we not destroy the Earth?

Previously on LearnNBlog: Perfect Numbers

Also about Everest, in this blog- Because It's There

Saturday, May 18, 2019

MovieNotes: Gully Boy

Title: Gully Boy (IMDB)
*ing: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Sidhhant Chaturvedi, Kalki Koechlin
Directed By: Zoya Akhtar
Language: Bambaiya Hindi
Genre: Rap Music, Coming-of-age tale

First Indian movie focusing on the rap music genre.

Basic Premise
A college student, growing up in slums, trying to make a way into the street rapping community, while fighting his family expectations and social barriers.

Highlight of the movie - the freshness of the concept. Yes, rap and hip-hop based movies are common in Hollywood. But Gully Boy introduces the idea into Bollywood. We can expect a spate of movies exploring this genre now. Lets see what the copy-cats bring on board!

Ranveer Singh is simply a brilliant actor. He is so far removed from his super-charged & pumped up image that at times you feel that its a totally different actor onscreen. The supporting cast does a great job as well. 

There is a nod towards "Poverty tourism" as well. Westerners getting a guided tour inside the Dharavi slums and also into homes, which charge a certain fees to showcase their poverty. Just another example of people putting their entrepreneurial skills to use! Also showcased is "Jugaad" - the tourists are simply fascinated by our optimum utilization of space! 

The most poignant scene of the movie - where the lead sees his master's daughter upset, is ferrying her to the house, wants to console her, but doesn't say a word as the class barriers are just too high between them, even though the physical proximity is there for a considerable amount of time! And that triggers his poetry!

We often talk about changing times. For people of certain age upwards might remember an old Pepsi commercial. The kid would ask" Mera Number Kab Aaayega" and patiently waits. And now the slogan is a more brash and confident "Apna Time Aayega". As a Nobel Laureate once said, "the times, they are a changin",

Rating - 8/10. Fresh concept, brilliant acting!

Previously on MovieNotes: Avengers: Endgame

Friday, May 17, 2019

BookMarks #56: Stories From Tagore

Title: Stories From Tagore 
Author: Rabindranath Tagore 
Genre: Fiction 
Setting: Late 19th Century / early 20th Century Bengal 

The book is a collection of Short stories by Tagore. As per the introduction, it is intended to be used as an English Literature text book for young students. I particularly liked the point about learning language with a context. While the language maybe foreign, the stories are set in the local context, thus making them easier to comprehend. A simple basis for making learning easy and fun! 

Many of the short stories are old favorites (e.g. the Kabuliwalah), while others I made an acquaintance for the first time. The stories are simple, with not too many characters but they can be emotionally draining as well. There is a tinge of grief in nearly all of them. There are not many happy endings in them but almost all stories had a sense of loss! 

While the setting is in British Raj, nearly all characters are Indian. The reader rarely encounters a Britisher! 

Overall, a beautiful piece of work, and certainly a must-read for all Indian literature readers! 

Previously on BookMarks: Krishna’s Secret

Thursday, May 09, 2019

BookMarks #55: Krishna's Secret

Title: Krishna's Secret
Author: Devdutt Patnaik
Genre: Mythology
Published: 2017

Krishna's Secret is short text on the life and deeds and interpretation of Lord Krishna. More interesting than the text, however, it is the interpretation of depictions of Krishna over the centuries either in paintings or sculptures.

The text serves more as an appetizer than the main course. It is informative but more information is available about the events of the Mahabharat. 

Overall, a succinct read!

Previously on BookMarks: Mandate