India’s World Cup Dreams Crash

New Zealand’s opening bowler Matt Henry knew exactly what he had to do. He had to bowl according to their plan. India’s opening batsman Lokesh Rahul, unfortunately for India, did not know what to do. India had already lost their best batsmen Rohit Sharma at 4, and captain Virat Kohli at 5. Between deciding whether to step out and drive the ball, go back and defend it or simply leave it alone, Rahul dangled his bat outside his off stump. There was a faint nick which wicket keeper Latham grabbed with glee and India at 5 for the loss of 3 wickets faced almost certain defeat in the first semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Continue reading “India’s World Cup Dreams Crash”

“Don’t Tell The Governor” by Ravi Subramanian

I have read a few of Ravi Subramanian’s books and have quite liked them. I was therefore eagerly waiting to read  his financial thriller, “Don’t Tell The Governor”, published by HarperCollins in November 2018. I must confess I was totally disappointed. The story was like one developed by a re-hash of the newspaper headlines in India over the last couple of years. The characters were strikingly similar to real life people only too well known to be named. The reader is left wondering whether her guesses were right in assuming who they were. Some had corny names like, if I remember correctly,  Runvijay Malya, and Mehul Modi which left little for the reader’s imagination to identify them.

The character of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India was, in my view, quite shallow. He must have been an absolute idiot to do all that he did. The story of the glamorous couple of Vicky Malhotra and Pallavi Soni was more true to life. The characters in the IPL match fixing, once again, left little to the imagination of the reader. Using names very close to real life characters, I feel, does injustice to them. The reader who knows their real life exploits/issues/scandals through a barrage of media coverage tends to imagine them do the same in the author’s story.

The plot had real life incidents like the hijack of IC 814 to Kandahar, the dramatic demonetization announcement on November 8, 2016 and many other real life incidents thrown in to create a jumble built on a base of banking and finance. Overall, it failed to grab my interest and left me very disappointed as a reader.

“The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing Volume II” : Ed. Jean M. Fredette

All of us who love writing, and reading of course, can do with periodic reminders on how to hone our writing skills. That there is no end to learning is well known. In this context, I was happy to recently read, ” The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing: Volume II“, edited by Jean M. Fredette. 

This collection of articles on short story writing was published by the well-known Writers Digest Books in 1991. I came across this book in our Club library. It is striking that all the points made still remain relevant though nearly three decades have gone by since the book was first published. It is edited by Jean M. Fredette , who was an Acquisitions Editor of Writer’s Digest and has edited several of their books.

The only thing that has changed has been the process of submitting a manuscript. While the principles remain pretty much the same, much of the process has got simplified thanks to the progress in technology. We can now submit manuscripts over the internet, no longer being bound to print and send the manuscript in physical form in many cases. However, do check the submission guidelines mentioned by the publisher.

Seven chapters encompass a wealth of material in this book, covering sections such as, ” Getting Started”, ” Craft and Technique”, and ” Marketing The Short Story”. Each of the chapters have contributions from distinguished authors who have generously shared their experience and expertise. Principal amongst them are Adela Rogers St. John, Lawrence Block, and John Updike.

From very basic points which we sometimes overlook ( like repeating words/phrases so often that they jar) to more sophisticated aspects like Sentence Structure, Transitions, and Dialogue, this book has tips for the novice and the experienced writer alike.

Reading this book reinforced in me why writing is really a craft. The material in this volume really applies for any kind of writing . It is not restricted to short story writing as the title implies.

“Bill Marriott” by Dale Van Atta

I was delighted to read a pre-release copy of the well-known journalist Dale Van Atta’s book on J. Willard Marriott, Jr titled, “Bill Marriott: Success Is Never Final” thanks to NetGalley. #BillMarriottSuccessIsNeverFinal. This is being published by Shadow Mountain Publishing and is scheduled to be released in September 2019. You can pre-order it on Amazon.

All of us have images of the quintessential American tycoon from stories we have read or what we have seen on television. In this book, the author gives us an intimate and in depth view of what it is to be born in a family of a leading American businessman of his times. J. Willard Marriott, a first generation entrepreneur, was the founder of the Marriott group of enterprises, and a pioneer in many senses. Like the children of every super star, be it in business, in sport or in the movies, J. Willard Marriott, Jr ( the subject of this book) had to face the crushing burden of family and society’s expectations of him. Their relationship was often stormy leading to severe stress the son faced at the hands of a domineering father. It is of immense credit to Bill Marriott, now aged 87, that he grew the business empire he inherited from this father multifold to what it have become today. The Marriott International chain is the largest hotel chain in the world by far with 7000 properties in 130 countries with 176,000 employees all over the globe. It had revenues of $ 20.75 billion in 2018 with net income of $ 1.5 billion.

More than just the story of his business successes, the book throws light on the personal characteristics that made Bill Marriott so successful. He lives a life following a set of sound values, many inherited from his parents. Of course, there were differences too, some very significant. The senior Marriott was a product of his times. He had seen the miseries brought about by the Great Depression of the 1930s at close quarters. This led him to shun debt of any kind. The younger Marriott realized that debt in itself was not evil. On the contrary one could leverage the debts depending on the rates of interest and the business opportunities open elsewhere to make investments. He had a flair for innovation and took what his father felt were too many risks that could be avoided. To young Marriott’s credit, most of the business decisions he took were the right ones.

The book also tells us of the Marriott family’s upbringing in the Mormon faith with their own values, traditions and cultural practices. Throughout his career Bill Marriott,  even as he had major business responsibilities, never hesitated to play a leading role in church activities. He believes his steadfastness to his religion helped him overcome health issues on many occasions. These include a dramatic fire accident which could have killed him in 1985 only a few weeks after the death of his father.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it quote absorbing. I would recommend it to those who wish to gain insight to how Marriott grew his business to its present position of eminence in the world of hospitality. It also underscores how Marriott consistently made profits while displaying the highest standards of customer service and integrity.

“Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkaar!” Resounding Victory for Prime Minister Modi

The General Elections in India which seemed at times to be going on forever are finally over. The elections to select members  for the Lower House of Parliament or Lok Sabha were held over 7 phases spread over 39 days from April 11 to May 19. Counting day was on May 23. Thanks to the electronic media, we got virtually a ball by ball account of the results as they came in, as we would in a T20 match in the IPL. The bottom line: a resounding victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP.)

Quite contrary to the expectations of people who thought these elections would be a close finish, the BJP romped home with  a runaway victory. The numbers speak for themselves. Out of the 542 Lok Sabha seats, 303 went to the BJP alone. With his  allies in the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA, ) Prime Minister Modi got as many as 65 % of the Lok Sabha seats 353/542.  The Congress under Rahul Gandhi could win only 52 seats. An improvement of 8 over the 44 they got in the last General elections in 2014. Their alliance the UPA got just 92 seats. Such was the magnitude of the defeat.

BJP’s election slogan of “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkaar” had come true and how!! Continue reading ““Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkaar!” Resounding Victory for Prime Minister Modi”

Sharing is Caring : The Millennium Elders’ Forum

For the past two years, it was my proud privilege to be the President of the Millennium Elders’ Forum. My term came to an end recently in the course of the Annual General Body Meeting held in April 2019. It was a satisfying experience despite the difficulties, at times, of having to deal with elders many of them much older than me! When I was elected the President in 2017,  I was 65 and the average age of our Executive Committee was 73. At that time, someone had mentioned that I was too young to have become the President !!!

MEF Executive Committee for 2018-19

The Millennium Elders’ Forum was established as a registered society of elders in 2008 by a few eminent gentlemen living in the JP Nagar area of South Bangalore like the late Mr S K Banerjee IPS ( a former Director General of Police) and Prof K S Bhat ( a former Professor at the Administrative Staff College of India). They became the Founding President and Secretary respectively. I joined the MEF, as it is popularly called, in 2011 on becoming a Senior Citizen. I had the opportunity, over time, to serve on the Executive Committee. At that time, Mr R Jagannathan IPS, (retired Director General of Police) was the President and he was succeeded by Prof S R Seetharam, a former Director of BEML. We have about 120 members,  all senior citizens living largely in the Brigade residential enclaves in JP Nagar.

I am glad that I suggested we support elders in Old Age Homes in our area as a community service cause to channelize our energies. In doing so, we could render whatever assistance we could to those less fortunate than ourselves. It is so sad to see some elders having to stay there because they have no other place to go to. In some cases, they have been virtually abandoned by their families. It is reported that 18 % of  elderly men and 26 % of elderly women have disabilities because of chronic diseases. After all, our motto in the MEF was ” Sharing and Caring.”

To celebrate International Day of the Older Person in October 2017 we raised funds through a souvenir and donated Rs. 4.13 lakhs to old age homes by way of goods and equipment which they needed. These included cots, mattresses, UPS systems, wheel chairs, large sized cooking vessels etc. Likewise, in the next year we raised another Rs 1.05 lakh for this ongoing community service project. So far, over 390 elders residing in old age homes in South Bangalore have benefitted from our initiative.

I have given much of my time over the last two years for this cause. I have derived a lot of satisfaction from this. The satisfaction of helping someone in need is reward in itself

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“The Garden of No Sorrows” by Deepthi Nair

Deepthi Nair has chosen to begin her story with the flashback format in her delightful book, “ The Garden of No Sorrows“. As you would know, in this style the writer describes a present scenario ( in this case events in the year 2020) before plunging into the story which begins decades ago. At the National Defence Academy, Aarcha is caught up with many emotions watching her only son Arjun pass out from this prestigious institution to begin his career as an officer in the Indian Army.

I liked the book for the author’s detailed descriptions of life in villages /small towns in Kerala, like Kolachal and Marthandam; of the people who live there, and their approach to life which is very different from the one shown typically by city bred folk. Ms. Nair has a good grip on both scenarios! The part about the letter to Yamuna was quite striking as is the description of Bhargavi Kunju.

The central character of the story is a lady called Aarcha. We see how she grows up, sharing time, possessions and secrets with her only sibling, her elder sister, Priya; and how she is brought up by her parents, Sharada and Aravindan Pillai, who again have very different outlooks of life. Aarcha, at a young and impressionable age is attracted by Govind, a doctor preparing for his MD. He was in his late twenties and had been through a failed marriage.

Although she does not love him, for various reasons, Aarcha marries Govind only to discover how different he is as a person when seen from close quarters. By then of course it was too late for her. She has to resign her job on discovering that she is  pregnant. Later, a few years after the birth of her son, she resumes her career and makes a success of it. Her marriage was giving her no happiness whatsoever.  Govind was becoming more difficult to live with as the days went by.

Her quest for someone who would appreciate her for her qualities is fulfilled by a chance meeting at an airport lounge. She meets the famous author, Jehangir Ansari and this changes her life forever. He of course is already married. He is famous, but like her, is unhappy. The two are attracted to each other despite knowing the constraints faced by them in their respective marriages.

Deepthi Nair has made an impressive sketching of her characters. The story has a bit of a slow start but picks up as we go along and ends with an interesting climax. Overall, I thought it was a good read and I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Of Speech

The General Elections are on in India and in the heat of political campaigning, leaders of political parties sometimes get  carried away and say things they ought not to. Yes, we do have the freedom of speech and expression but that does not give an individual an unfettered right to say whatever comes to his mind, more so if it is detrimental to his political opponents .

I am reminded of our lecturer, Mr Clarence Motha who taught us Political Science. He used to tell every batch the same story every year : ” I have the right and freedom to swing my umbrella as I walk,” he would say, ” but that right  and freedom ends where the finely chiseled nose of my young friend here begins!! ”

In the space of the last few weeks, in my view, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi no less, has been guilty of breaking the law with regard to the freedom of speech. He recently implicated the Supreme Court when he suggested that they too supported his political campaign  and endorsed his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” line of attack against Prime Minister Modi. Only a few days ago the highest court of the land was not satisfied with the regret expressed by Mr Gandhi and asked his lawyer to file another affidavit with a proper apology.

If that were not enough, Mr Gandhi in a political rally in Jabalpur, used the expression, “Murder Accused” against Mr  Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party several times in his speech.  It is no surprise that a defamation suit has been filed against him in an Ahmedabad court as facts indicate that Mr Shah, was acquitted in 2015.

Politicians are guilty of gross exaggeration in their speeches. I was shocked to hear Mr Rahul Gandhi claim that Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation to him whatsoever) had  been in solitary confinement for 15 years during the Freedom Movement. This is untrue. The details of Gandhiji’s imprisonments, first in South Africa and later in India are listed in this comprehensive website about him.  Also, it is widely accepted that unlike the common political prisoner, the British treated Gandhi and Nehru with kid gloves. They were typically kept under arrest in reasonable comfort and not thrown into some dingy cell and made to do hard labour like the convicts depicted in the old Hindi movies.  The Mahatma, for example, was interned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

In another case, the Savarkar family have filed a case against Mr Rahul Gandhi for casting aspersions on the character of Veer Savarkar, a freedom fighter, while glorifying Gandhi and Nehru.

Mr Gandhi is not the only politician  guilty of this. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the IIT educated Chief Minister of Delhi was sued in a criminal defamation case for the remarks made by him against the country’s Finance Minister  Mr Arun Jaitley. In that case, he was compelled to render an apology in the Court which was accepted by the complainant.

I believe there has to a salutary punishment for defamation. If the accused is allowed to get away with a written apology, as happened in the case of Delhi Chief Minister following his remarks against Finance Minister Jaitley, what is the deterrent to prevent him from doing such a thing again?

In a recent case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court fined singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the religious sentiments of a Jain monk Tarunji Sagar through their tweets.

Now, that is a deterrent. I am sure they will be more careful when they tweet next time!

 

Politicisation of the Armed Forces. Does This Letter Do More Damage Than Good?

Earlier this month, a controversy broke out involving the usually apolitical Armed Forces of India. Over 150 veterans including 8 ex-Chiefs wrote to the President of India expressing their concern about the politicisation of the Armed Forces. The letter said, ” We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”

Specific mention was made of political parties taking credit for cross-border strikes. Though the BJP was not mentioned in specific in this regard, there is no doubt that these veterans were objecting to Prime Minister Modi taking credit for the unprecedented air strike on Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan. This was in retaliation for the terror attack that killed 40 Indian CRPF personnel at Pulwama in February 2019.

In my view, this letter does more damage than good. It shows that some among the veterans are taking political sides and claiming to speak on behalf of the forces ( serving and retired). General Rodrigues and Air Chief Marshal N C Suri disassociated themselves from this petition, thereby creating more confusion. To counter this, the main signatories tried to prove that these gentlemen had actually agreed to the contents of the letter. In short, washing a lot of unwanted dirty linen in public.

Not everyone supported this move by the veterans. Seasoned defence analyst and strategic affairs expert, Bharat Karnad went so far as to call it  “alarmist nonsense!”.

I see nothing wrong in the Prime Minster taking credit for the Balakot air strike. Did he fly the Mirages that hit the targets as his detractors asked? No, of course not. But neither did Smt Indira Gandhi para drop over Dacca in the ’71 War. Yet, history credits her for being the liberator of the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. These leaders did not, as is painfully obvious, actually take part in the fighting, but they had the political will and courage to take decisions which fashioned these military successes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt  ” FDR”  the legendary three-time President of the United States is widely credited for winning the Second World War for the Allies against the Nazis. He took decisions in 1940 to move the United States from its strong isolationist stand to supporting Britain even before the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941. He wasn’t there in the many battles fought by the US troops in the 6 year War. Indeed he was a heroic figure in his wheel chair, being partially disabled.

As regards wearing uniforms, many political leaders have done this in the past, even in Western democracies. Churchill, as the British Prime Minister during the Second World War prided himself on strutting around in military uniforms. No one objected to that, then or later.

The main difference between Prime Minister Modi and his predecessors, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh was that he showed the political courage to order a cross- border strike using aircraft to bomb terror outfits. Even horrendous events like the Terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 which left 9 people killed or the Terror Attack in Mumbai known as 26/11 in 2008 which left over 170 people dead did not result in any reprisals by the Prime Ministers of that time.

I wish the honourable veterans had shown such alacrity in submitting petitions to the President when Lt Gen Biji Kaul actively politicised the Army before the ’62 debacle splitting the officer corps into pro-Kaul and anti-Kaul;  when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi returned 93,000 Pakistani POWs in ’71 without getting back the 54 Indian POW s (who we are not sure even to this day whether they are dead or alive). Or more recently when Lt Kalia’s body was found mutilated in the Kargil War.

 

 

 

Blog Or Coffee Table Book?

“Time and tide,” as the ancient saying goes, “wait for no man.” Actually, they don’t wait for a woman too but as this saying dates back to 13 th century England, I guess they were far less “politically correct”  than we are today. That all of 45 years have flown past since we graduated from XLRI, the well-known business school, was brought home when friends began talking about a reunion of The Class of ’74.  Where should this be held? All other options discussed were shot down when someone suggested that we meet at the good old campus at Jamshedpur itself. Sure, the campus would not be the one that we experienced in our times but this idea had a strong appeal for the majority of our class. Nostalgia, Walk Along Memory Lane et al came readily to mind.  In any case, our Alma Mater has a wonderful concept of “Homecoming” an annual event to welcome alumni batches from the past. It is common for batches to head there for their 25 th anniversary. We plan to be there (body and mind permitting) for our 45th. Continue reading “Blog Or Coffee Table Book?”