“The Girl Who Lived” by Christopher Greyson

I was reading a thriller after quite some time. This one was, ” The Girl Who Lived ” by Christopher Greyson. I found it quite interesting though at times there was a lot of repetition. The author hammered home points building the the character of Faith Winters in the story of four murders that took place years ago in a small town in America. She was the survivor- and of course- “the girl who lived”.

Faith’s traumatic experiences are chronicled in great detail. As one reads more of the story, the reader develops a soft corner for her as she is very much the underdog. She has spent time in a mental asylum, has problems of drugs and alcohol. As a consequence her mind is pretty messed up. Yet one part of her mind ceaselessly tries to assemble the bits of the puzzle that is driving her crazy: a huge need to find out what actually happened that day years ago when her sister, her father and two others were killed in mysterious circumstances in a cottage in the woods.

She returns to that town when she is discharged from the mental asylum, determined to find a closure on what has been bugging her for years. She has no one she can trust. Her dead sister’s boyfriend is in the local Police force. He tries to help Faith but she is not sure how much she can confide in him. Her relationship with her mother continue to be strained. Her mother has written a best selling book about the murders. This angers Faith who believes the has cashed in on a family tragedy.

In the course of the story, Faith is driven to desperation, enough to make her contemplate ending her life. However, she stumbles on from one clue to another. It then dawns on her that while she is looking for the killers, someone is hunting her down! She must find the killers before they kill her to silence her forever.

The book leaves you with an interesting climax! Greyson’s thriller is well worth the time and money you spend reading it.

“Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer

Firstly, let me make a confession. I really didn’t know as much about Swantraveer Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 1883-1966) as I ought to. Having lived in Mumbai briefly, I knew of course that the old Cadell Road in Mumbai had been re-named Veer Savarkar Marg. I had no idea he had died just a few years before my time there.

I had heard of course about his long years of imprisonment by the British in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, there was much about his life and career that I did not know. Continue reading ““Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer”

My Podcasting Journey: The Next Steps

In my blog post of August 12 titled, ” Learn About Podcasting” I wrote about my first steps in the world of podcasting. Now that I have published 26 episodes in my podcast show: “Prem Rao- Stories From A Story Teller”, it’s as good a time as any to do some stock taking!

To re-cap, I began with two podcasts in March 2021 then there was a break till mid-June 2021. I then started again in right earnest. I am happy that the number of “plays” till date has crossed 550. Anchor FM where my podcast show is hosted informs me that “Plays” are the number of times your podcast episodes have been streamed or downloaded across all listening platforms. I am extremely happy with Anchor and would recommend it as a good platform for any newbie/budding podcaster.

As is obvious, the approach of a podcaster depends on the type of podcast show he/she has. Alexander Santo has this informative post on “8 Types of Podcasts”. Going by this, as of now, my podcast show falls in the category of ” Repurposed Content” as it has its origins in the blog posts I wrote.

Based on what I have observed, here are some action steps that I plan to do next:-

  1. Firstly, I need to increase the duration of my podcasts. Now that I have got the hang of things and have learnt the basic steps so to speak, the time has come to strengthen the content. I find that the longest podcast I have made so far is only about 9 minutes. In my podcast show, there is (as of now) a single speaker, that is me, and I haven’t graduated to doing interviews yet. My podcasts have largely been reviews of books that I have enjoyed reading, with a few other non-book related podcasts thrown in for good measure. I should aim to increase each episode to a minimum of 15 minutes -over time. I am told 15 to 30 minutes is a good time for podcasts on news and trending items by a single host without any guest or other voice in the show. My show falls in this space.
  2. I may even consider going back to my first few podcasts to check whether their content can be strengthened . I know, of course, that in the end it is the strength of the content more than the duration of the podcast that will make it succeed. While I have spoken about the books in my reviews, I have not spoken much, if at all, about the authors. A few interesting things about each author may make that episode more interesting to the listener.
  3. It is certain that I should , again over time, graduate to having guests on my show and interact with them. Shows with such ” interviews” often last from 30 to 60 minutes, for each episode. This type of podcasting calls for a higher level of skills which I hope to acquire over time.
  4. Having made a start with a frequency of two podcasts per week- on Sundays and Wednesdays- I should not give up this momentum. It is tempting to fall back to just one episode a week! I should build on the initial enthusiasm and continue to meet the demands placed on me to deliver two episodes every week.
  5. Now that more than 25 episodes have been published, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the Introduction and the end- which is currently played at the start and end of each episode. That may need some tweaking too!

So that was a quick update on where things stand in my podcasting journey, and my plans to take it forward.

Edward Ralph Dexter

In the ongoing Third Test match between India and England at Headingley. Leeds, I noticed that the English cricketers wore black arm bands. This is usually done as a mark of respect for someone who is no more. I soon came to know that the person in question was someone whose cricket career I followed with great interest in my younger days: Edward Ralph Dexter. He passed away on August 25, aged 86.

Born in 1935, he played for Cambridge, Sussex and England. He was called “Lord Ted” for his elegance and languid grace. Dexter was a dashing batsman with a very attacking bent of mind, especially when it came to fast bowlers. He was one of the most powerful hitters of the cricket ball of his times.

In those days, Test cricket wasn’t played as frequently as it is now. From the time he made his debut in 1958, Dexter played 62 Tests for England being captain in 30 of them. He scored 9 Test centuries and finished with an impressive average of 47.89. He last played for England in 1968.

We in India saw him for the first time, when he captained the visiting MCC team in 1961-62 after the more established players like Peter May and Colin Cowdrey opted to skip this tour.

As cricket crazy youngsters, we followed the Tests only though the cricket commentary on the radio, as we didn’t have television in India those days. We of course read every word of the reports of the Test matches in the daily newspapers. Some of the innings that Dexter played still remain fresh in my mind, although decades have gone by since he dazzled the crowds with his batting.

In the Lord’s Test in 1963, facing the menacing fast bowlers Hall and Griffith of the West Indies, Dexter hammered 70 in just 75 balls out of a total of 102. Another innings was his 180 against the Aussies in 1961, the year he was “Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year..”

Dexter in later years served as the Chairman of the Selection Commitee in England, and President of the MCC. He was instrumental in fashioning what we now know as the ICC rankings for players.

In this video, tributes are paid to Dexter on his being inducted in to the ICC’s Hall of Fame in 2021. Ian Chappell recalls that Dexter was the hardest hitter of the cricket ball he had ever seen.

Fans of Dexter would love this delightful piece written about him by Arunabha Sengupta in 2016 . Clearly he was , as that article said, “one of the most colorful characters to grace English cricket.”

Farewell, my childhood hero. May Edward Ralph Dexter, dashing and debonair, rest in peace.

“The Case That Shook An Empire” by Raghu & Pushpa Palat

I have often felt that writers of our Indian history have tended to give grossly disproportionate prominence to some figures and totally ignore some others. Here’s a case in point.

Until this book came along, I must confess rather sheepishly that I as a reasonably well-educated person hadn’t even heard of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair. So for me, his accomplishments described in “The Case That Shook The Empire” by Raghu and Pushpa Palat were really quite astonishing. and most revealing. “One Man’s Fight for the Truth about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre” is the perfect summary of the book.

The book was published by Bloomsbury India in August 2019. It was well received by appreciative readers. It made major headlines recently when it was announced that Karan Johar and his film production house have bought the rights to make a movie based on the book.

To think that in the 1920’s when the British Empire was at its peak, an Indian fought a famous British Administrator in a British Court of Law about an appalling event that took place in India was indeed news to me. I am sure millions of others wouldn’t have heard of this case. To that extent the authors have done Indian history valuable service by researching, writing and publishing this book. Thanks to them, I am sure, many more people will come to know of – and admire- their illustrious forefather. Raghu Palat, is the great grandson of Sir Sankaran Nair.

Sir Sankaran Nair’s character, with all its idiosyncrasies, has been well sketched by the authors. We visualize a man of strong character, who was autocratic in all that he did, at work as much as at home. He could be extremely blunt. Many a hapless colleague, including Britishers, felt the heat of his scorn and anger when debating issues or when they said something he did not approve of.

In the course of a long and illustrious career, Sir Sankaran Nair held many important positions including that of Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was also a former Judge of the Madras High Court. I had no idea that at one time he was the President of the Indian National Congress! Indeed, many reckon he was one of the stalwarts in the early days of the INC but his open disagreements with Mahatma Gandhi ensured he was pushed back into the shadows of the party’s history. When his famous legal case was decided in England, there were no messages of any kind from the Indian National Congress, the party of which he had once been the President!

Sir Sankaran resigned from the highly prestigious position as the Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council ( the only Indian to hold that post) following events at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. The two Britishers involved in that infamous event, as most Indians know, were Sir Micheal O’Dwyer, Lt Governor of the Punjab, and Brigadier General Reginald Dyer. I learnt from this book that Dyer was later reverted to his rank of Colonel.

The book describes all that followed the tumultuous events in Jallianwalla Bagh, a turning point in the history of modern India.

Taking umbrage at Sir Sankaran’s remarks about him in his book, “Gandhi And Anarchy” published in 1922, Sir Micheal filed libel charges against him. This paved the way for the “Case That Shook The Empire.” The admirable manner in which Sir Sankaran defended himself and his honour is excellently documented in the Palats book.

I wish the editors had been more meticulous. Ever so often Sir Sankaran is wrongly referred to as ” Sir Nair”. In the foreward, O’Dwyer is written as O’Dywer. These mistakes could have been avoided.

My congratulations to Raghu and Pushpa for their book which I found quite absorbing. A strong bibliography lends credence to the meticulous research done by the authors.

Based on my experience of biopics from Bollywood, I am not exactly looking forward to the movie. The book should have been left a book. I hope I am proved wrong ! I must grant, of course, that what a movie would do- especially one from Karan Johar’s production house- to publicize Sir Sankaran’s achievements, could never get done by the book alone.

The Palats’ book is highly recommended for any student of modern Indian history and politics. I would urge the youth of India in particular to read the book.

Learn About Podcasting

The never ending process of learning continues on a daily basis. No, I am not talking of life’s lessons in general but about my new found passion for podcasting. My podcast show: ” Prem Rao: Stories From A Story Teller”continues to grab my time and attention. I am happy to say I have published 16 episodes so far, most of them being on books that I have read.

My podcasts are available on some of the biggest platforms in the podcasting world such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, and more recently on Amazon Music, as well.

There is an old saying that has remained firmly in my mind, ” A fool is one who doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. The wise guy is one who learns from his mistakes, but the wisest of all s the one who learns from others’ mistakes.” That’s so true, isn’t it?

I decided to see what other’s had experienced and learn from them. Michael Leonard , has shared his experiences of one year of podcasting, which I found interesting. Besides, I liked the title too. ” 12 Lessons From 12 Months of Podcasting.”!

Another informative blog post came from W. Mark Whitlock on ” 4 Lessons Learned From the First 4 Months of Podcasting & Studio CMO” . This post is a year old but the numbers mentioned are staggering. There were over 1.4 million podcasts and more than 34 million episodes out there, so you know the competition as it were. The good news is that more and more people, and not just in the United States are listening to podcasts. I guess one of the beneficiaries of the new life created by the Covid19 pandemic all over the world have been podcasters, since many- across different age bands- have taken to listening to podcasts in the last year or so.

I am pushing 70 but in a sense, we are all students aren’t we? NPR – and they don’t need an introduction- has a detailed guide: “Starting Your Podcasts- A Guide For Students” which has many strong points for the beginner in podcasting.

The excitement is high. I am conscious of the fact that I have a long way to go, but hey, I have made a start! So, happy listening, folks!

Catch My Podcast Show

In recent times, I have become fascinated with the world of podcasting! After a focus on blogging and writing, this has become my latest passion. 

I am delighted to share that my podcast show: ” Prem Rao: Stories From A Story Teller” is available in a number of platforms. 

To start with the podcasts will largely be on the books and blogs that I have read, and the books and blogs that I have written. I hope, over time, to expand the scope of this podcast show to cover other topics which interest me, or on my take on events that are making the news! 

Here are links to some of these:-

  1. Anchor FM

2. Apple Podcasts

3. Spotify

4. Google Podcasts

5. Breaker

6. Pocket Casts

7. RadioPublic

8. Amazon Music 

9. Goodpods

Please do check out these podcasts, and , if you like, do leave a rating or review. 

Thank you!

Goodpods: Changing The Way People Listen To Podcasts

It was interesting to check out Goodpods, the App , launched in 2020, that many are talking about. Their by line says it all. ” Podcasts Are Better With Friends” . This social platform was founded by the brother-sister team of entrepreneurs: Ken Ramberg and JJ Ramberg.

To put it simply, here you can listen to podcasts and recommend them to your friends ( and others) and also check out what your friends ( and others) are listening to. So, if you are one of those who like to go by the recommendations of your friends and other like-minded people, this is the best place for you.

Apart from podcast listeners who are the primary audience targeted by this App, the platform has benefits for podcasters too. You can claim your Podcast Show here and interact with your listeners, which must be so cool.

Kristal Proffitt has a video which walks you through the Goodpod App. This is a quick way of getting the hang of how things work. The basics are well covered. Ultimately, how you choose to use the App is, of course, best left to you. We do pick up hints and tips here which can save us valuable time we would have spent exploring on our own.

I think Goodpods is on its way to changing the way people listen to podcasts. It appears you can import your subscriptions from other platforms like Apple Podcasts. This could be a big benefit to those who prefer to have all they want to listen to in one place.

The platform enables you to search for both Podcasts and People. This is particularly useful when you are new here. You would want to find out what kinds of topics are available, and most followed here, as also who are the people who hang out here. You can to listen to other podcasters, and they may sign up to listen to your podcasts, if they are interested.

Like every other social media site, celebrity endorsements do help push the concept along. I notice that Malcolm Gladwell and Gretchen Rubin, whom I have followed on other social media platforms, amongst many others, have taken to Goodpods,

As a podcaster, its nice to know that people can subscribe to your show. They can play and listen to an episode, download it, and share it to friends, groups, or to other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram Stories and Twitter. They can, of course let you know what they thought of your episode by rating it and /or writing a review.

Overall, it looks interesting and I am very excited to be part of Goodpods. I am certain it will give me the opportunity to listen to some incredible podcasts. I am also hopeful that it will build an audience for podcasts in my Podcast Show, ” Prem Rao: Stories From A Story Teller”.

And, here’s something to cheer about: Goodpods was rated one the top 10 most innovative social media companies of 2021 by Fast Company. We can therefore expect some more exciting improvements in the near future.

“Jerusalema” – Better Late Than Never

Of course, I had heard this song before! Of course, I had felt like dancing to its so very catchy beats. But I had no idea of the origins of the song and how it went viral all over the world. Thanks to internet, I now have a more clear idea of this amazing story of a song that took – and is still taking – the world by storm. Coming as it did during the Covid 19 pandemic, it brought some cheer and hope to millions around the world.

When I first heard the song, I thought it might be in Arabic (mainly because the first video I saw was set in Dubai! ) or Spanish, but I never imagined it was in the Zulu language from South Africa. I now find the song came from Master KG, a South African RJ and musician. He composed the music for the song and it was sung by his sister, Nomcebo Zikode in 2019. The official music video Jerusalema by Master KG on YouTube has mind boggling numbers! Such figures are seldom seen. Released in December 2019, this video has 424 million views, over 4 million likes and 1,32, 000 comments and still counting!

In this video by Brut, Master KG speaks of the origins of this song, how he chose his sister Nomcebo to sing it, how this song became viral, and what it means to him. He explains that it is a song which has hope and prayer and yet is set to such a catchy tune.

I heard Master KG say this song became viral when some folks in Angola danced to the tune holding plates in their hands. This video became viral and the rest, as they say, is history. This started the Jerusalema Dance Challenge! Young kids, of course have danced to this tune, as have police officers, doctors, nursing staff, firemen, soldiers, nuns, and almost every one else! This video has an interesting compilation of different groups all over the world dancing to Jerusalema.

There are many videos out there which teach you the dance steps. But what are the actual lyrics of the song, and if it is in Zulu, what do the words mean? This video has the lyrics with a translation in English to go with it!

The Covid 19 is still with us but in the gloom that it has created all over the world, there are spots of cheer. Wherever we are in the world, we couldn’t have missed ” Jerusalema”. Hats off to you, MasterKG and Nomcebo Zikode, for giving us this song. You have brought a smile on many a face and something to cheer for millions spanning age, gender, creed, colour, and nationality.

My Podcasting Journey

Yes, I have taken the plunge and I am so glad I did! I have taken a few steps in my journey into my new hobby: podcasting. As they say, it is never too late to learn. I am delighted that I embark upon this journey a few months before I start my eighth decade.

My podcasts can be found here in Anchor FM by Spotify. If you are an Apple aficionado, you can catch me on Apple Podcasts. Another easy way is to check out Google Podcasts. .

I would like to share my initial learnings which could be of use to those interested in podcasting.

Lesson 1 : You need a focus area. There is no point in podcasting on everything under the sun. You might end up covering too little of too much. It is far better to select an area of interest in which you are comfortable. I chose to start with the board theme of “Books” as I am extremely fond of both reading and writing. As you gain confidence, experience and followers, you can always broaden the subjects covered in your show , but you need to start somewhere -with a focus area.

Lesson 2: Learn the Basics: Like in every field, you will come across a lot of jargon. What is a show, an episode, a condenser microphone, a dynamic microphone, a “bed”, media hosting, MP3 Audio files, and so much else. Don’t get unnerved, as there is no need to know everything about podcasting before making a start. Just learn the basics: how to hold and speak into the microphone, best circumstances to record, how to put together segments through editing, and the like. Don’t get scared away by the stuff you read about equipment required, the complex technologies needed to get your podcast to your audience etc. You don’t need a top class recording studio to start with! I am recording on my IPhone and am quite happy with things!

Lesson 3: Make A Plan : After you have started with a few podcasts, you will realize that a plan is essential to move your initiative forward as you ride the first wave of enthusiasm. The plan will cover what you wish to achieve; the amount of time and energy you are willing to commit to the podcast show; the opportunities and difficulties that you foresee; and a broad time frame to achieve immediate objectives. A plan is essential for success!

There are more lessons, I am sure, but these three are good enough to start with on your podcasting journey. They will determine the schedule of podcasts: will your show be twice a week, weekly, monthly or have a longer interval? A gap longer than a month between episodes is certainly not recommended. Will you invite guests to participate in your podcasts? Who will they be? Will you be capable of managing the dynamics of a free flowing conversation? Or will you have a scripted one? Will you get co-hosts , over time, who are like-minded and have similar interests?

Parting tip: it is advisable to script your podcast in the initial stages, if not for all time. Speaking on the fly is great- if you can pull it off. But it often results in mistakes, time consuming corrections, and your repetition of favourite phrases and words that are best avoided. So, script out your podcast to make it more effective.

“The Golden Hour”

July 1 is celebrated as National Doctors’ Day in India. The amount of selfless service our doctors and other health care staff have put in during the Covid 19 pandemic is mind boggling. They have made enormous sacrifices for the sake of their patients, many of whom they may have never set eyes on before.

On this occasion, as a small tribute to them, I have made a podcast titled, “The Golden Hour: A Tribute on National Doctors’ Day” .

You might like to hear this at your leisure.

This podcast is based on a true story!

“Tongue of Slip” by C P Belliappa

I simply loved this book as it made me chuckle from time to time. My wife mentioned that it has been so long since she saw a book elicit such a response from me! The book I talk of is called, ” Tongue of Slip: Looking Back On Life With Humour” by C.P. Belliappa, published by Rupa Publications in 2014.

When it was first published, little would the author have known that his book would bring so much cheer in the dreadful times we are living in. I would heartily recommend this book of light humor to anyone looking to cheer up in these stressed times. It is something like the “Buck U Uppo” made famous by Wodehouse, if you get what I mean!

Let’s start with the author. C. P. Belliappa? The name sounds familiar, you may think. Isn’t he the guy who used to write “middles” in the Deccan Herald amongst other publications? Or wait! Is he the guy you met in Goa?? The well known Charlie Peter??? But you need to read the book to find out for yourself.

Writing a fiction novel is not easy. Writing a short story, I consider even more difficult. Writing a well-crafted ” middle” has to take the cake! It looks easy but it is not, take it from me. C P Belliappa has mastered this art and this book is perhaps based on some of them fleshed out in more detail.

I am sure these tales ( over 50 in number) from locales ranging from his beloved Coorg to Chennai to China will hold your attention as they did mine. There are delightful nuggets in there but I don’t want to spoil your reading.

Look out for stories about the chap who was hungry all the time while at school; the prankster at college; the Pomeranian with a huge appetite for food and more; and the sales girl trying to flog a time share deal as if her life depended on it (which possibly was the case – of her budding career, if not her life!)

Thank you, Mr Belliappa. You made me laugh spontaneously on reading your stories. I bet this would be a common reaction amongst many more who will read your book.

Highly recommended!