XI Bangalore Literature Festival- Day 2: My Impressions.

My previous post in this blog was about the first day of the XI Bangalore Literature  Festival held on December 3 and 4, 2022. Today’s is about some of the sessions I attended and enjoyed on December 4.

Yes, the man we once knew as “Sandokan” looked older, thinner perhaps but he still had his good looks and his voice was as deep as ever. Seeing Kabir Bedi speak about his debut book- “Stories I Must Tell” reminded me that in his prime he was probably the most handsome man in India. To us, he was Sandokan from the Italian TV series of that name based on the books by Emilio Salgari.  He was also the guy who acted in a James Bond movie partly shot in India- “Octopussy” in which my college friend Vijay Amrithraj also had a role. His book, published by Westland in April 2021 in keeping with its title seems to be bare it all kind of book. Engaging him in the discussion was V K Karthika a veteran in the Indian publishing industry.  The book has received many rave  reviews, with Vir Sanghvi saying: “It’s the best memoir by an Indian celebrity that I have read.” That, to my mind, is saying a lot! 

To be honest, I had not heard of Saikat Majumdar but was interested in hearing him speak being told he taught English Literature at Stanford University. His book called, ” The Middle Finger”  was published by Simon and Schuster in early 2022.  In the course of the conversation with HK Surya, we got to know the book was about the protagonist finding her feet in a new University  after she moved to India from the United States.  It seems to be an interesting story. 

I stayed on in The Red Couch for the next session in which my friend Sumaa Tekur chatted with Rita Chhablani about her three recent books in a session titled, “Relationships Done Different”. I found this conversation to be quite charming, Rita spoke of the differences in the days when she was a youngster and the present day. I could totally relate to all that she said  being not just of her age but older! She spoke from her heart and shared what worked for her. After all, as she said, each person has to find out what his/her own style is as a writer. By the way, Sumaa too has blossomed as an author.  I am happy that her first book, ” The Inner Light- A Beginner’s Guide to Spirituality and Finding Peace” was published by Hay House Publishers in July 2022. 

The next session I attended was by far the most crowded in the Festival. It was a very enjoyable one for all that.  For the many who were seated, there were an equal number of standees. This was Sudha Murty ‘s “The Magic Of The Lost Story” with Manu Pillai. The lady is 72s, has written more than 40 books and is as enthusiastic as ever before. She brought an infectious energy to the audience. Full of quips and homely  wisdom, she was at her best and didn’t disppoint the large crowd that had gathered to listen to her. For example, she said how a lady is first known as someone’s daughter, then someone’s wife, then someone’s mother, and here after a pause she said, and nowadays as someone’s mother in law. The audience burst into laughter knowing her son in law  Rishi Saunak is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As always, her talk was replete with personal examples  and we heard about her Ajji and her mother and how they influenced her with the stories they told her when she was a small girl.  She highlighted the need for good books for kids and how she hoped her books would keep kids away from the addictive computer games. 

It was nearly 12.45 by the time I got ready for the next important item on my agenda- lunch. We authors and speakers had been asked to be at the designated lounge for authors half hour before our session. Mine was at 2.00 pm and I didn’t want to be late.  This diligency resulted in an unexpected bonus!   I was delighted to find myself lunching with Kabir Bedi, whom I had seen at a distance this morning. It was a great experience for me, as we had hero worshipped him during our younger days! 

When I told him that I had written a few thrillers, he said he loved thrillers. He told me with considerable pride that his grand daughter Alaya had acted very well  with Kartik Aaryan in a recently  released thriller on Disney Hotstar called , “Freddy” .

I am happy to say my interview with the Raghu and Pushpa on  their latest historical novel, ” Destiny’s Child” published by Penguin Viking in February 2022 was well received by the audience.  Raghu and Pushpa bring a lot of passion and hard work to their writing.

Their research has been meticulous .This is evident from the success of their first book- a historical novel on one of Raghu’s ancestors Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, who at one time was the  only Indian member of the Viceroy’s Council, no less. This book, ” The Case That Shook The Empire”  is being made into a movie by Karan Johar’s  Dharma Productions and has the famous actor Akshay Kumar in a lead role.The  Palats’ second book is in the same genre. This is the story of Parukutty Neithyaramma, the consort of  Maharaja Rama Varma XVI who ruled Cochin from 1914 to 1932.  The thinking and approaches of this formidable lady to social and political issues were far in advance of her times. It was satisfying to start and end on time in keeping with this important tradition of the Bangalore Literature Festival.

A pretty large crowd gathered to hear J Sai Deepak speak about his latest book, ,” India, Bharath and Pakistan: The Constitutional Journey Of A Sandwiched Civilisation” published by Bloomsbury Publishing in August 2022.  Sai Deepak describes himself as being an engineer-turned-litigator. He practices as an arguing counsel before the Union in 1947. Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi. After getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering Anna University, Sai Deepak went to the Law School of IIT Kharagpur and got a bachelor’s degree in law in 2009. He has since argued in many important civil, commercial and constitutional matters. I have always admired his logic and way of arguing his case in television and can only imagine how effective he must be in the courtroom. I consider him to be one of India’s sharpest legal minds at a relatively young age. He spoke of his latest book and answered a lot of questions from the audience.  I thought he was incisive and crisp in his comments. Sai Deepak does not hesitate to call a spade a spade in voicing his opinions on issues like secularism in our country.

The erstwhile kingdom of Mysore was always considered one of the best ruled princely states as they were called during the British Raj. Mysore was far ahead of most others when it came to education and welfare measures for the people. It was natural therefore for me to eagerly wait for Deepti Navaratana to talk about her new book ” The Maverick Maharajah : The Life and Times of His Highness Maharajah Sri Jayachamrajendra Wadiyar” , published by Harper Collins India in July 2022.  Deepti’s book is about HH Sri Jayachamrajendra Wadiyar who ruled the properous kingdom of Mysore from 1940 to 1950. He was the first prince to sign the declaration to join the newly formed Indian Union in 1947.  A major patron of the arts and a skilled musician himself, he was known all over the world fas a connoisseur of both  Indian and Western classical music. Talking to Deepti about his illustrious ancestor and lineage was the young,  suave  His Highness Sri Yaduveer Wadiyar of Mysore. Yes,  I know the privy purse was abolished by Mrs Indira Gandhi in  1971  and the princes and their titles don’t exist any longer in law in India,  but for many of us and his subjects in the old Mysore state, the Mysore Maharajah will always remain His Highness in our minds. I enjoyed this session immensely.

The next session had Anupama Bijur  in conversation with Shobhaa  De, who needs no introduction and  Gayatri Gill  about ” Love In The Lockdown.” The two writers spoke of their experiences during the Covid 19 pandemic particularly during the darkest days when no one had a clue what was going on and how long it would last. Both of them wrote extensively during their forced confinement indoors  during the pandemic. They described what they went through and how their experiences as also what they heard and saw influenced their writing.  The writers left us echoing the sentiment that human relationships did undergo a big shift due to the pandemic. Indeed, we have so much to be grateful for coming out of the pandemic as we did. 

In my last podcast I had mentioned meeting some interesting people. If Kabir Bedi and Damodar Mauzo were well into their 70s, Zac Sangeeth is not even in his teens! At lunch on Day 1, when I met Festival Director Shinie Antony at lunch at my table was a young boy with his parents.  I thought he was accompanying his parents  one or both of whom were writers. I almost fell out of my chair when I came to know he was a published author at 10 and now at 11 had written a sequel to his book! Zac Sangeeth -had a session ” The World’s Youngest Historian” which i missed because I was elsewhere in another session.  I came to know that his books  ” World History in 3 Points’ and “ More World History in 3 Points” have been published in 2022 by Hachette India.  What is admirable is his  innovative – and shall I say very contemporary – approach to writing about what is often termed a boring and dry subject. This is a remarkable feat for one so young.  His writing has made world history more readable and hence more appealing to both young and old alike.

Thanks to Shinie Antony, Festival Director and her team ; to the organisers who did some meticulous planning; to the galaxy of authors who spoke of their work; to the volunteers who were so dedicated and committed; and to the audiences who were most interested and knowledgeable.  

I throughly enjoyed the XI Bangalore Literature Festival and am already looking forward to the XII edition to be held on November 25 and 26, 2023.  

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post,

My Take on Day 1 of the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2022

In today’s post, I shall share my thoughts on some of the sessions that I attended and enjoyed on December 3, 2022- Day 1 of the two day Bangalore Literature Festival.

To start the day’s proceedings, for me it was a toss up between Pico Iyer and Bachi Karkaria. I chose to attend Bachi’s session as I have admired her writing for years and I could catch Pico at another session. Being a history and biography buff, the topic too interested me: It was about her book “Capture the Dream: The Many Lives of Capt C P Krishnan Nair”  published by Juggernaut books in Jan 2022.  She was in conversation with the erudite and articulate business and brand strategy expert, Harish Bijoor. To jog your memory, if indeed it need some jogging, Capt Krishnan Nair was the person who founded the Leela Group of luxury hotels.   Bachi briefly touched upon some of the highlights of Captain’s life. She spoke of  his humble origins, his wide exposure to life  in many countries due to the various jobs he did and his ambition which fuelled his most daring ventures. Once he made up his mind about something, nothing would stop him. He opened his luxury chain of hotels in his 60s, braving the established reputed players like the Taj, Oberoi, ITC etc. in the pre- liberalisation era in india.  The hotel chain was named after – not too difficult to imagine why- his wife. He was described as being a bon vivant who lived life to the fill till he passed away aged 92 in 2014.  Bachi and Harish carried off the session with charm and a touch of humour which I am sure Captain Nair would have heartily approved of. 

I first met Saaz Aggarwal, like me an alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale in 2012 when Mathew Antony had this brilliant idea of having a Book Reading by Old Lawrencian  Authors during Founder’s . She has since written many more books, especially about 

Sindh to which she has an emotional connect as her mother belonged to that area, now in Pakistan. In today’s session at the BLF, she was in conversation with Senthil Chengalvarayan on her latest book, ” Losing Home, Finding Home”  which, like her previous book, is once again about Sindh and the displaced people from there. They suffered a lot but perhaps faced less horrors as compared to those that took place in Punjab. As a result, their stories did not feature so prominently.  Her passion for the subject comes out clearly , as does the enormous amount of painstaking research she has done on a subject not known to many.  We of course know Senthil Chengalvarayan as a renowned  business journalist. He was the founding editor of CNBC TV 18 and Editor in Chief of Network 18’s Business news room. ‘Losing Home, Finding Home”  the poignant story of the displaced people of Sindh was published on August 15, 2022 by Black and White Fountain. I am sure this particular date was chosen with a purpose.  This is one book I am keen on reading! 

“It’s A Punderful World” by Vaidehi Murthy in conversation with Sriram Sullia, one of the most popular RJs in Bengaluru. I was very much looking forward to this session as I thought it had a most appealing title.  A pun is fascinating for anyone who loves a play of words. As Vaidehi told us there are many, many  different types of puns. She then gave examples of each of them to bring out the differences. Obviously, she had done a lot of work in this field and done a deep dive, as they say these days,  in the world of puns.  Videhi is super active with her puns on Twitter. To catch her latest, check out her Twitter handle, @ButVai.  Now please don’t ask me But why? Just go ahead and enjoy her latest tweet and pun! Emceeing this session with elan was Bengaluru’s own favourite RJ- Sriram Sullia. As Vaidehi would admit, this radio jock was key to the success of her session.

After this session I had to race off to another venue to catch the session by a veteran writer  I have long admired. This is Damodar Mauzo from Goa and I rate him to be one of India’s best short story writers. Today he was talking to another talented writer, novelist and playwright – the very successful Vivek Shanbhag. Indeed a proud moment for me to be with these distinguished writers.

The topic was Mauzo’s new book , “Tales From Another Goa”. Discerning readers will remember that he won the Sahitya Akademi award for his 1983 book “Karmaelin” and in 2014 he wrote another highly rated collection of short stories, called”‘ Teresa’s Man & Other Short Stories from Goa” which I much enjoyed. In 2022 he was awarded the prestigious 57th Jnanpith AwIt was a great pleasure listening to this fine writer who is full of humility and grace. He narrated how he wrote his very first story when he was just 18. If there is one writer who is today what he was like 50 years ago that is Damodar Mauzo.  . Here I must mention how heart warming it is to see  the strides made by literature in Konkani, which also happens to be my mother tongue, thanks in the main to people like Damodar Mauzo. 

Rohini Nilekani needs no introduction to the people of Bengaluru. Though she is perhaps better known as a major philanthropist, she is a writer in her own right. I remember her debut novel – a medical thriller called, ” Stillborn”.  Today’s session was on her recent book- published in August 2022 called, “ Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar” .  This has a series of articles written by her on the interplay between these three powerful entities in our world- Samaaj, the society we live in; Sarkaar; the Government we elect which administers the State, and Bazaar, the market place which determines what is in and what is out and how much it should cost. She was in conversation with one of India’s most famous young historians, Manu Pillai.  Advocating a citizen first approach, Rohini says citizens should be conscious  of their rights and responsibilities, and not be passively dependent on the Government to provide them with things to lead a better life. She obviously lays great importance to the power of collective action by members of the society. This session evoked thoughts in the audience of just how much philanthropy can and can not do .

After sessions on a successful entrepreneur ; the displaced people of Sindh; on the funny side of life; stories from sunny Goa, and what we can do as citizens in today’s world, the next session I attended was on a totally different subject. This was “The Essentials of Hinduism: An Introduction to all the Sacred Texts” ” by Prof Trilochan Sastry,  which was published in October 2022.  This book is designed for those who have never had the time, inclination or ability to read the ancient Hindu scriptures which date back to thousands of years. In the course of this 30 minute session, Prof Sastry instilled in me and I am sure many in the audience -a desire to know more- to read more about a subject which many consider forbidding not because of its content but because it is written in Sanskrit, an age old language which not many know these days.  Prof Sastry’s translation of the major parts of the important texts will, I am sure be most illuminating to people approaching this intense, thought provoking subject for the first time. Prof Sastry is a Professor in IIM Bangalore and is a graduate of IIT Delhi, and IIM Ahmedabad. He holds a doctorate from MIT.  I liked the way Prof Sastry placed his points to the audience. Never judgemental, never persuasive but giving you things as they are- it is, as he said,  upto you to take it, leave it or make the best of it . All in all, I thought it was an educative session. 

With this we come to an end of my observations of the sessions I attended on the first day of the Bangalore Literature festival . In my next post, I shall cover some of the sessions of the second day and also some interesting people I met during the Festival. 

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post,

The Bangalore Literature Festival, December 3 and 4, 2022

Although a few days have passed, I still feel the buzz of the two days spent in the 11 th edition of the Bangalore Literature Fest held on December 3 and 4, 2022.   As you might know, these days  there are so many Literature Festivals taking place all over the country, but the one at Bangalore  held annually since 2012 continues to a big draw for  crowds of bibliophiles as well as authors from India and abroad.  We see from their website that over 1500  authors and speakers have added to the heft of this festival over the years. I quote from the website  ”   The Festival is India’s largest independent and community-funded literary conclave and Bengaluru city’s flagship annual literary and cultural experience focused on rekindling the romance with literature and fostering fine reading and writing, especially amongst the young population of the city.”

An interesting feature of the Bangalore Litereature Festival is the impetus it provides to aspiring and new writers in many ways. Since 2015, writers vie for the prestigous Atta Gallata- Bangalore Literature Festival Award each year in as many as 9 categories. Apart from awards for the usual Fiction and Non-Fiction in English,  awards are presented for Literary Achievement in Kannada, Popular Choice, Best Cover Design, and 4 categories in Children’s Books. This, I believe,  must be an unique feature of this festival. 

This year’s event was that much more awaited as it was the first physical event after a break due to the Covid 19 pandemic. 

As has been the practice for the last few Bangalore LitFests, the venue remained the 5 star Hotel Lalit Ashok.This luxury hotel with its 10 acres of sprawling grounds lent itself for the actual programs to take place in the outdoors in 6 designated venues. The weather Gods were kind and it didn’t rain for these days coming after spells of rains in Bengaluru in the previous weeks. If anything, it was pretty hot with the maximum temperatures hovering around 28 degrees Celsius. 

Hats off to Shinie Antony, Festival Directors and her team for their meticulous organising of the festival. To fully comprehend the magnitude of the task involved, let me throw some numbers at you! There were a staggering 71 sessions for adults and 28 sessions for kids on the first day. How on earth did so many sessions take place in one day, you might ask? The answer is simple. The oraganisers had 4 sessions for adults and 2 sessions for kids running simultaneously  in the hotel grounds. As you entered the LitFest area, you came to  the first venue named “Gandhadha Gudi” . A little further was the second, “Raajkumara”  which was poolside,. The third and fourth venues further down were Yuvaratna  on the Tennis Court  and The Red Couch  Courtside. The sessions for the kids were held at Seonee and Malgudi in the Lalit Ashok Gardens. 

On the second day, there were 69 sessions for adults and 25 for kids. In effect, this meant  there were 193 sessions running simultaneously over these six venues spanning the two days. 

Bengaluru’s literature buffs had to make some hard choices. Obviously there was no way anyone could attend all the sessions.  On Day 1 for example, where would you start? With Pico Iyer on “Why We Travel” or Bachi Karkaria on ” The Many Lives of Capt C P Krishnan Nair” ? With Crossings by Mini Krishnan. Gita Ramaswamy, S Sreedhara and AJ Thomas or with Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra ? You get what I mean.  Thankfully, the organiser s had published a neatly formatted scehdule well in advance on their webiste. This helped you choose  from the wide range of offerings,  depending on your interest.  I would imagine most  book lovers made their choices driven by either the author or their preferred genre. In any case though you had to choose one over another, you weren’t unduly worried because the recording of all the sessions sessions would be published in the YouTube channel of the BLF over time.  So you chose what you wanted right now! You could listen to the others at leisure later. 

Typically, each session was for 30 minutes and in keeping with the fine traditions of the Bengalore LitFest adhering to these timings was sacred.  Here was one occasion when the much talked about  Bangalorean laid back  ” Swalpa Adjust Maadi” didn’t kick in. The sessions went like clock work! Not just a few but every single one of them -started and ended on time, which is indeed quite remarkable.

I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Raghu and Pushpa Palat- on December 4. They are the  co-authors of ” Destiny’s Child” a book  about the undefeatable reign of Cochin’s Parukutty Neithyeramma.  She was the consort of Maharaja Rama Varma XVI who ruled Cochin from 1914 to 1932 . The book is the story of this formidable lady who was far ahead of her times in her thinking and approach. 

The books discussed were available for sale at  the bookstore- Atta Galata . All through the two days one saw crowds throng this venue to buy the books they wanted and get them autographed by the authors. After their sessions, authors were asked to spend some time in that venue and do the book signings for their reader fans. As is popular these days,  many readers sought to capture selfies with their favourtite authors. 

Thanks to the meticulous planning by the organisers and to the dedicated and committed band of volunteers who executed these plans the LitFest was a great success.  Needless to say, the success was also due to the galaxy of authors who spoke of their work and of topics related to literature. and art.  They were cheered on by  large audiences who were most interested and knowledgeable. 

No wonder it is reported that over 20,000 literature- crazy people attended this two day LitFest.

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post.

Action at the IPL Auction

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is probably the richest cricket tournament in the world. Brand Finance, the renowned brand value consultancy pegs its value at $4.7 billion! Naturally, it attracts players from all the major cricket playing countries, and some of the lesser known ones too. Decades ago, the emoluments of India’s cricketers was really measly. They used to envy players from the so called ” developed” countries such as England, Australia, and New Zealand for their compensation. The wheel has turned full circle. In the last decade, players from these very countries hope for a lucrative IPL contact – these could change their fortunes!

This year’s auction was held recently at Bengaluru and 204 players including 67 from overseas were sold for Rs 551 crores. For the uninitiated -in India 1 crore is the equivalent of 10 million. Unlike the last few years, this year there were 10 franchisees bidding for the players with the addition of two new franchisees, the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans.

As if the fast paced action at the auction was not enough, there was a moment of apprehension when the widely respected auctioneer, Hugh Edmeade collapsed and had to receive immediate medical attention. Fortunately he not only responded well to the treatment but was back in action for the concluding part of the auction on the second day!

In Edmeade’s absence, the auctioning was done by Charu Sharma. Overall, he did a good job, I guess. However, I felt at times he was not consistent enough to be a good auctioneer. For some players/teams he was quite liberal with the time he gave for them to decide, for some others he wasn’t half so generous. I also felt he could have been a little more considerate for the young uncapped players. For them this is a make or break opportunity, so maybe a standard time could have been set. We saw some were declared unsold within seconds while others were given more time, which I thought was not fair.

Every IPL auction has its stars who draw the biggest bucks. This article lists the most expensive players over the years, starting from 2008. We have seen, though, that not all of them were very successful in that year. Possibly the sheer pressure of being the highest paid falls heavily on their shoulder. When people begin to calculate how much you cost per ball bowled/faced – you can imagine the pressure the player has to go through!

This year, young Ishan Kishen was the biggest gainer, being paid Rs 15.25 crores to be bought back by a team which did not retain him in the first place, the Mumbai Indians. Each team, as you know, were allowed to retain a maximum of four players, who then would not go into the auction. This brings me to an interesting observation. Should there be a minimum amount fixed for retained players? I ask because many who were not retained got far more by way of the auction. They were better off not being retained!!

The auction went off without a hitch, but there was a controversy when Charu Sharma declared Khaleel Ahmed sold to Delhi Capitals when really he should have gone to Mumbai Indians. He can perhaps be excused as there were so many players to be sold!

The players have made their contracts , now they must earn the big bucks spent on them on the cricket field!

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Statue in New Delhi!

On January 23, 2021, I wrote a blog post here titled, ” Salute To Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” . One more year has gone past and I see far greater interest in the life of this iconic Indian leader than ever before. This is evidenced by a recent event that took place in New Delhi, which I consider momentous.

On January 23, 2022, Netaji’s 125 th birth anniversary , Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Netaji’s statue would be built at a prominent spot near India Gate in our capital city of New Delhi. Netaji’s birth anniversary is being celebrated as Parakram Diwas honoring his courage and that of his troops- men and women- who fought for India’s independence. As many of you will know, Netaji was at the forefront of the war for independence and his Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauz fought the British troops in important battles such as the one in Imphal in 1943. It is perhaps in the fitness of things that Netaji’s statue will be in the same spot where once stood the statue of the British King Emperor George V !

The target date for its inauguration has already been announced as August 15, 2022, India’s Independence Day. Till the statue is made ready, we will have a hologram of Netaji ‘s statue on display. This hologram is 28 feet high and will be powered by a 30,000 lumens projector.

For the youth of today who may not know much about Netaji as our history books have very little on him, a few facts are worth recounting. In October 1943, Netaji established the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore which had fallen to the Japanese during World War 2. He was the Head of State and Prime Minster. Currency in the name of the Free India Government was also printed by the Azad Hind Bank. These were more by way of promissory notes that would become official currency once the British were driven away. “Subh Sukh Chain” was declared the national anthem of Netaji’s Free India and the Sher-e-Hind was the highest military honor instituted by Netaji for the troops of the Indian National Army.

Since the close of World War 2, the story of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has seen many twists and turns. There have been so many versions of his death. No one quite knows the truth. A new book will be published in February 2022 which promises to be interesting. This is “Bose: An Untold Story Of An Inconvenient Nationalist” by Chandrachur Ghose. I, for one, look forward eagerly to reading this.

Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice

January 19, 1990 may be just another date for you and me. However, for the thousands of Kashmir Pandits who had to flee their homeland leaving behind everything, this date will never ever be forgotten.

Today, on January 19, 2022, if we look back at that tragedy, it is fair to say that the Kashmiri Pandits still await justice. A short recapitulation of events that took place in the Muslim-dominated State which was then called Jammu & Kashmir is given in my blog post of January 22, 2020 titled, ” How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi”.

Today, I saw so many tweets from displaced Kashmiri Pandits that are touching. “32 Years and counting. Our genocide is forgotten” says India 4 Kashmir; ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. What About Our Human Rights? ” asks Gita S Kapoor; ” Shameful that even after all these years, the wiping out of a community from our own land is Not recognised as a Genocide, as an act of Civilizational Terrorism. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” tweets Rati Hegde; . These are but a few of the many tweets expressing anguish that not much has happened to bring those responsible for such targeted human suffering to book.

Shedding blood on religious lines is not new to India as our country was born with this as the gory backdrop. I suggest you read my review of ” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole. for perspective of those far away days. The British were in hurry to leave India, and our politicians were in a hurry to grab power. No one imagined the short term consequences and the enormous cost in terms of human suffering.

After the gruesome murders and carnage that took place during the Partition of India, two events stay in the memory as blots in our “secular” society- the first was the Sikh Massacre in 1984 often toned down to be called Anti-Sikh Riots!! Do read my review of books on this subject elsewhere in this blog. One of them needs particular mention, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

The second was the Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. A book worth reading is Rahul Pandita’s, ” Our Moon Had Blood Clots” published in 2013 which captures his memories of fleeing Kashmir as a 14 year old in 1990. No one knows the true figures but certainly hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and their family members were raped, killed, or brutally injured when they- over 350,000 of them- were terrorized in leaving their home by pro- Islamic mobs. Why the then Prime Minster, V P Singh did not call out the Indian Army to bring about peace in Kashmir is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he hesitated because he himself had been elected to power only a month or so ago, and did not want to rock the boat of a fragile coalition which he ran.

How the story of the Kashmiri Pandits will end is anybody’s guess. It is astonishing that for far lesser crimes, thousands all over the world -especially certain NGOs -scream about the abuse of Human Rights and Democratic Values. For the hapless Kashmiri Pandits, sadly, there hasn’t been a whisper from them- just a frosty silence. Strange are the ways of our democracies in recognizing and addressing human suffering.

Aiyyo Shraddha

Have you come across Nandini Rao, teacher in Bul Bul Vidya Mandir? Or, Reena Dalal, India’s biggest Makaan Matcher? You will recognize her as the same lady who speaks on National Doctor’s Day, On Goal Setting, On Adoption of Stray Dogs, and on HR practices with equal flair and aplomb. She is none other than Aiyyo Shraddha, who has 1.55 lakh subscribers for her YouTube channel, 20k followers on Twitter, 352,000 followers on Instagram, and 318,000 followers on Facebook!!

Shraddha, is for me, one of India’s best entertainers on view at present. In a world of stand up comedy, where it is considered fashionable in some circles, to have vulgar language, with a lot of f’s and b’s and other expletives thrown in for good measure, she stands apart for her clean- yet remarkable funny shows.

Her shows are what in the old days used to be described as “family” shows. This means -from the grinning 8 year old to the gurgling 80 year old- all can understand and appreciate her wit and humor. Her themes are based on current goings on and naturally topics like Covid, work from home, and all that is going on around us feature in one form or another.

Shraddha, I understand, is a girl from Mangaluru who grew up in Mumbai- hence the mastery over Marathi shown from time to time in her shows. She is equally adept at English, Kannada, Tulu, and Hindi. This is a useful part of her armory, where she can adapt to different roles. Talking of which she plays several roles in the same episode. In a popular series, she is a young lady herself, besides being both her mother and her father!

Like in most middle-class Indian families, her parents too encouraged to do well in academics. Predictably, like many of her background, she completed her engineering and worked for a few years in the IT industry. She then realized that her true calling was in entertainment. She was a RJ in a popular Kannada channel Fever 104FM for nine years. I think the creative resume she sent was one of the best I have ever seen.

Later she became a host/anchor in Colors Kannada and later head of non-fiction content there. She is now on her own, producing , directing, filming and acting out her content on different social media channels. She also played the role of the fiesty landlady of a Women’s PG in Bengaluru in the Amazon Prime hit film, “Pushpavalli”.

In case you haven’t seen her shows yet, do check them out. I am sure those expressive eyes and knock out punch lines will draw you back to her shows, as they do for me.

Your Website Reflects You

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought about sweeping changes in our lives, many of which we wouldn’t have thought possible even five years ago. The use of the internet both for work and for leisure has increased so dramatically over the last few years that people are now talking of “digital wellness.”! Some popular social media sites, like Facebook for example, and makers of devices, like Apple, for example are providing you with the means to bring an abrupt end to your browsing if you exceed laid down limits of time!

In December 1995, only 16 million people or 0.4 % of the world’s population used the internet. In March 2021, this figure had shot up to 5,168 million or 65.6 % of the world’s population, says an article in The Global Village Online.

With such huge growth, one can imagine the competition you, as a business or indeed any organization with a digital presence, face to attract and hold the attention of internet users. The amount of work they do online – and the staggering work hours- is now forcing people in many countries to cut down on their discretionary time online.

So, your website has to be capable of grabbing and holding that attention, which is fleeting, at best . The experience at your website will determine whether or not the person will come back! He/she has so much choice these days, that they would simply go elsewhere for their needs.

Some of the main factors that users value in a website are :_

  1. Ease of use. Can they navigate easily? Is the site too cluttered with so much information and so many options that it is confusing and complex? Many cite the example of Amazon being a site that is considered easy to use, despite the plethora of choices.
  2. It Should Work! Very basic, but frequently we see websites that have links that don’t work, information that is woefully outdated, and an overall feel of being sloppy. Such websites are probably doing more harm than good to the interests of that organization.
  3. Both Attractive and Functional: yes, it has to look good and at the same time work like, to use an old world phrase, a “well- oiled machine”. After all, it represents your business. It is often the first interface with the customer/potential customer. At times, designers in their attempt to dazzle the visitor to the site load so many widgets and jazz on to the page that it becomes sluggish and takes ages to load. No one has that kind of time to wait, these days!
  4. Mobile Friendly: this wasn’t a big consideration when we entered the internet age, but now it has become one of the most important features. The reason is that more people use mobile phones to access the internet than ever before.
  5. The Four Second Test: read this article in Forbes which is indeed an eye-opener. With rapidly decreasing attention spans – an average of 8 seconds for millennials and 2.8 seconds for a younger Gen Z, the content on your page becomes that much more crucial. If it can’t convey what you want in four seconds, it fails the test!!

These are some of the factors that will determine the success of your website in today’s world. Let’s remember that good, bad, or ugly, your website reflects you!

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.