“Master Your Core” by Dr Bohdanna Zazulak

In this day and age, the “Do It Yourself” or DIY trend has become commonplace all over the world. You are expected to do most things yourself. How about fitness and taking care of your body? Avoiding injuries? Keeping fit and getting the best performance possible from your body? Can you do this yourself too? A new soon to be published book by Dr Bohdanna Zazulak and published by TCK Publishing seems to suggest so. This can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

In this highly detailed yet interesting book , the author who has over three decades of experience in the field of physical therapy shares her experience on how to master your core. This is not one of those read and forget kind of books. It is more like a manual which you can refer to from time to time as you commence your journey to becoming and staying fit. It has been described as a science-based guide to achieve peak performance and resilience to injury. The author shares her Core BASE, an integrative, holistic guide for breathing, awareness, stability, and empowerment of your core in body, mind, and spirit.

Dr. Zazulak won the highly regarded and prestigious Rose Award from the American Physical Therapy Association for her groundbreaking research, and has three decades of experience as an American Physical Therapy Association Orthopedic Certified Specialist, a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, and a researcher and faculty member at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University School of Medicine.

Broadly speaking, on one hand we have the Western view of fitness through the study of modern science and medicine. On the other we have the age old Oriental take on keeping well through a mix of exercise and meditation. In my view, the best part of Dr Zazulak ‘s book is that she has creatively uses the best of both worlds. Although she now lives and works in the United States, she is able to effectively comprehend both the western and oriental schools of thought and use them appropriately.

The book begins with some basic gleanings from her experience. Amongst them are that too much exercise and that too of the wrong sort or done at the wrong time can cause more damage than too less exercise which is bad in itself. She also spends a lot of time explaining the physiological factors which seem to make women, especially in the realm of sports, more injury prone than men. She gives her advice on what can be done to reverse this trend. Every woman athlete or sports person will benefit from reading this book!

Each chapter has crisp summaries of the key points, which I thought was an extremely good way of getting the reader to recapitulate learnings and develop action plans.

Based on her practice over the decades, Dr Zazulak has catalogued a very elaborate regimen of exercises of different kinds that one needs to follow to Master The Core. There are backed with illustrations for ease of understanding.

I enjoyed the liberal sprinkling of quotations strewn all over the book. Dr Zazulak has chosen some of the best quotations.She has placed them appropriately because after all putting things into practice to master the core required changes in mind set as much as changes in physiological routines. Here is an example: “Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. B K S Iyengar

The book ends with a glossary for easy reference and an exhaustive list of scientific. technical and philosophical work and papers that the author has referred to help you master your core.

I would say this book has value not just for world class athletes and sports people though they have benefited from Dr Zazulak’s lessons but also for every person keen on becoming and staying physically and mentally fit.

“Biting The Bullet” : Ajai Raj Sharma IPS

A friend of ours who retired as Director General of Police in Karnataka was often asked why he didn’t write a book on his experiences in the police force. His stock reply was that there were many things he could not talk about. He said he could not write anything other than the truth. This he believed would stir many a hornet’s nest amongst his erstwhile superiors, colleagues, and of course politicians of different parties, though a large number of them were dead and gone by then.

I was reminded of this when I read “Biting The Bullet” Memoirs of a Police Officer by Ajai Raj Sharma, IPS recently. Mr Sharma is of the 1966 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) and served largely in the Uttar Pradesh cadre. This book covers his memories of some of the most exciting and important events that took place in his career. He retired after 38 years meritorious service in 2004 as the Director General of the Border Security Force ( BSF).

In the initial years of his service, Sharma drew some very challenging assignments in the interior areas of the vast State of Uttar Pradesh, where the law and order situation was dodgy, at the best of times. Lawlessness and dacoity were so common that crime was a career option for many. This state of affairs was aggravated by the factors of caste and grudge feuds which went on for decades. He cut his teeth in the notorious Chambal Valley, and he writes about his experiences in the shadowy world of poverty, greed, informers, and sadists.

Mr Sharma’s competence at work is reflected in his being awarded the much coveted Presidents Police Medal for Gallantry twice in his career. He was tasked by two Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh to get rid of specific notorious criminals. He later was selected to be the Commissioner of Police in Delhi, a rare posting in those days for one from another cadre. During his period of office in the national capital, he was at the helm of affairs when the Hanse Cronje match fixing scandal took place and later when terror modules became active in Delhi supported and managed by the ISI. It was also during his tenure that the attack on Parliament took place. His book gives details of these cases and his role and involvement in dealing with them.

After serving his full tenure as Commissioner of Police in Delhi, he took charge of the Border Security Force. He writes of the many challenges this large force faces in manning the thousands of miles of borders with hostile neighbors. A porous border makes their tasks immensely difficult.

Overall, one gets the picture of a highly committed and conscientious Police Officer who was humane and tough depending on the circumstances. These days we often talk of the deteriorating law and order situation. Mr Sharma’s book gives the reader insights into life in the police service, the hardships the common policeman and police officer face, and the challenges they come across on a daily basis as they battle terror, crime, and the like.

“Now It Can Be Told” by Prof A N Bali

Those of us who are fond of Indian history owe gratitude to Prabhat Prakashan for publishing, or should I say re-publishing in e- book form a book which virtually disappeared from India. This book is titled, “Now It Can Be Told”by Professor A N Bali and is about the Partition of Punjab in 1947. What makes the book more interesting is that it is based on the personal experience and observations of the author who was then a Professor in the Punjab University at Lahore in the undivided India. From reading the book, we gather it was first published a few years after the events of Partition and the Independence of India took place, hence the title of the book. I would guess it may have been published around 1949-50 or so.

It appears the book was controversial at the time of its publication as it was considered to be critical of the powers that be. These included the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and many of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress. I find from the website of Indian Kanoon that in September 1950 this book featured in a case that came up for hearing in the Punjab High Court. The Court overruled the order of the Chief Commissioner of Delhi that all copies of the book written by Prof Bali and published by Akaslivani Prakashan, Jullundar, should be “forfeited’.

So much has been written about the Partition and the horrors that followed it. I have read a fair number of books on the subject but I still found Prof Bali’s book of great interest as he writes from his personal experience. From Prof Bali’s book, it is clear that in many cases the departing British, or at least a fair number of them, supported the Muslims rather than the Hindus and the Sikhs. This happened in particular in Lahore and surrounding areas. Muslim refugees heading to Pakistan found it relatively easier than Hindus and Sikhs seeking refuge in india. Cases of blatant partiality are described. Refugees from India to Pakistan were given shorter amd more convenient routes while the refugees from Pakistan heading to Indian were given much longer and more dangerous routes.

I must say the book leaves you sad that the politicians of that time including Mahatma Gandhi ( described as being both a Mahatma and a politician in some senses) did not foresee the enormous hardship the Partition would cost the millions affected. The horrors of refugees being murdered, raped, and maimed are already well-documented. This books adds to the list of gory stories of how bad things were in those tumultuous times.

What is shocking is how those who fled Lahore genuinely believed that they could return one day to their homes and property. We see how the Governments of india and Pakistan differed in their treatment of property left behind by those who fled. In Pakistan, it became a free for all. Thousands grabbed land and property they would never have dreamt of possessing in their lives. On the contrary in India, the property of those who fled the country were guarded carefully – in some cases for decades- while the refugees from Lahore lived in pitiable conditions in the hastily created dreadful refugee camps.

I think this book must be read by every student of Indian history. Don’t they say we should learn from mistakes made in the past? If we don’t know about the mistakes how will we ever avoid them?? Here lies the importance of books like this by Prof Amar Nath Bali.

“Spies, Lies, And Exile” by Simon Kuper

For those of my generation, the Cold War cast a huge shadow over every corner of the globe, all the way from 1945 till 1991. One one side you had the West – the US, the UK and their allies and on the other you had Communist Russia with the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics( USSR), her satellite Communist countries. Spying and counter spying was the order of the day. As a result we grew up reading many spy thrillers by writers like John Le Carre, Ian Fleming, Joe Weisberg, Karen Cleveland amongst others.

Recently, I read the story of a man who didn’t write such books but was the cause of such books to be written. This book was, ” Spies, Lies, and Exile” by Simon Kuper . It is the fascinating story of a Soviet double agent who betrayed the British who he was working for.

The story of George Blake was not as well known as others of his ilk such as Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, and Guy Burgess. He was born in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, in 1922, the son of Albert Behar, a Jew and his Dutch wife, Catherine Beijderwellen. During his childhood he was known more by his Dutch pet name of Poek. His father who had fought for the British in the First World War had a British passport, so his son was born a British citizen though he saw himself as being more of a Dutch boy.

During the Second World War, Poek fought the invading Nazis by joining the Dutch Resistance as a teenager. He then undertook a long and complex route until he reached England, where his mother and sisters had taken shelter years ago. Here he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but was soon selected by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) His British father having been a veteran of World War 1 , his own contributions fighting the Germans during World War II and his flair for languages made him a good choice for a career- as a spy! He joined the Dutch section of the SIS and after the War spent a few years in The Netherlands.

He was sent for a course in Cambridge which was to change his life. He met Professor Elizabeth Hill who proved to be a great influence on his politics. His next posting was in Korea where the War raged between the Communist North Korea and the US supported South Korea.He was taken prisoner here and it was when he was in captivity that he became a double agent for the Soviets.

The book spells out in great detail what he did as a double agent, and some of the coups he pulled off for his Russian employers while never being even remotely suspected of betraying the British. Things couldn’t go on like this for ever! He was arrested by the British in 1961 and after a famous trial was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment, the length of his sentence being considered most unusual because many other spies had been sentenced to far less sentences.

His dramatic escape, after 5 years of captivity, from the British prison at Wormwood Scrubs, how he reached Russia and stayed there for the rest of his long life make up the rest of the story.

In the course of the book, you get an understanding of how Blake’s mind worked; what drove him to do what he did; and why people sometimes make – what most would consider -unusual career and life choices.

George Blake, later known as Georgy Ivanovitch, died in Moscow in December 2020 aged 98.

Overall, an interesting book if you like spy thrillers and war stories.

Poets of The First World War

The trigger for today’s post comes from some research I was doing for our next OL Assembly. As mentioned in earlier posts, this is a virtual meeting held every second Saturday of the month. In the forthcoming issue we cover the First World War in which 18 Old Lawrencians were killed in action in different battle fields of Europe. In those days, many from my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale were enlisted in the British Army. They joined as ordinary soldiers as distinct from being commissioned as officers.

A look at the Honors Board for 1914 in the School gives us details of former students, who as young soldiers gained distinction for their bravery during the battles at Mons, Flanders, and Gallipolli amongst others. This in turn reminded me of a poem we learnt in School titled ” Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. This poem mocked the sentiment- prevalent till 1916 or so amongst many English poets, like Rupert Brooke for instance – that it was sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

Owen enlisted in 1915 and saw active service in the trenches in Europe before he was wounded in action in 1916. He returned to England to recover from his war wounds. However, in 1918 he went back to the Front, won the Military Cross for his bravery but ironically was killed in November of that year aged 25 just one week before the Armistice. Like him thousands upon thousands of young men lost their lives in a bitterly fought war which saw the use of poison gas in the trenches. The Armistice signaled the end of the war which left 10 million soldiers and another 7 million civilians dead.

To appreciate what the horrors of the First World War were like, you must see an article in The Sun titled ” Blood, Mud, and Misery” published in 2018. You can understand the plight of the soldiers in the trenches over a hundred years ago.

The Poetry Foundation compiled an impressive list of poems about the Great War of 1914-1918. Here you can read poems by, apart from Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, William Butler Yeats, and Rupert Brooke. It ends with ” Then There Was A Great Calm” written by Thomas Hardy after the signing of the armistice.

“Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: ‘It had to be!’
And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, ‘Why?'”

Virtual Founder’s in OL Assembly

My wife and I were chatting about our blogs. Shobana had posted in her popular cooking blog Cooking With Shobana, in which I lend a helping hand, but I was thinking of a topic to write about for mine. ” Write about Founder’s! ” she said. ” After all isn’t May all about Founder’s for Lawrencians?”. And, of course , she was right on that count!

The month of May is when we traditionally celebrate the Founder’s Day at my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale. The celebrations are very elaborate and go on for 3-4 days (a full week decades ago when we were at School) covering important events like Trooping the Colour, PT Display, The School Play, and ending with Beating Retreat. Obviously with the raging Covid 19 pandemic none of this was possible this year.

We in our Alumni Volunteer Group who put together a Virtual Variety Show on the second Saturday of every month decided to have Founder’s as the theme for the “OL Assembly” held on May 8.

The President of the Old Lawrencians Association (OLA), Johnny Paul, and the Vice President, Beena Belliappa briefed Old Lawrencians (OLs) on a new initiative taken by the OLA. This aims to help OLs and their families in these terrible days of Covid 19.

I have been intimately connected with” Glimpses of a Glorious Past” an Informal history of our school. This book resides as an ebook in the website of the OLA but we have a segment every month in the OL Assembly as mentioned in this blog post. In this month’s episode, we traced the history of the School Band and of the Founder’s celebrations in general.

The show brought to the audience recollections of OLs of their best memories of Founders. Krishnadev Rao, a former Head Boy, spoke eloquently on the remarkable leadership displayed by then Headmaster Mr L A Vyas during a Founder’s Parade in 1981. I was very impressed by what the talented current Head Boy, Kian Godhwani said about what they had learnt despite missing the cheer of celebrating a Founder’s. We must remember that only a small number of them are now at School preparing for the Board Examinations, which may or may not take place as I write this.

Some OLs who took part in a memorable event from 55 years ago, spoke of when the School Band participated in the Republic Day Parade at New Delhi in 1966. This was under the leadership of Bandmaster Denzil Prince. Elsewhere in this blog, I have written about Denzil, a former Head Boy, who studied in Lovedale from 1944 to 1954.

We also have a delightful Quiz Show called what else but QuizDale! Here the questions are centered around topics relating to the old School and school life, then and now. OLs, young and old, participate to win points for their House!

The Virtual Founder’s OL Assembly is indeed a treat for any OL. You can (and indeed, I suggest you do) see this at leisure in small chunks, according to your convenience. This is a big advantage of having it on YouTube. Happy viewing, folks!

Of Courts & Judges

The Courts in India have an unenviable task of trying to clear the backlog of cases in a litigation friendly country. As per reports there are nearly 4 crore ( 40 million) cases pending before the Courts in our country, with 10 % of them dating back to over a decade! Yet, while one cannot generalize, about Courts or Judges, as an ordinary citizen of India I am surprised by some of the things reported from the Courts.

In the past decades, what happened in the Court largely remained a mystery as the ordinary person had no idea of what went on and who said what. In the area of Industrial Disputes, in which I have some experience, it was common knowledge that between the two lawyers dates were often ” fixed”to suit their convenience. If A asked for an adjournment this week, the opposing lawyer B would ask for one on the next date which was some weeks away. Hence cases dragged on for months together, if not for years.

The pandemic brought about many changes. Most courts these days have taken to having virtual hearings. This is a welcome move. At least cases do go on and in some Courts large number of cases have been settled during the year or more of the pandemic. Also I notice that online portals such as Bar and Bench give almost ball by ball commentary of court cases, much like in a cricket match. The reader gets to know what the lawyers said, what the judge observed and so on. This is totally new to many of us as we would never have had access to such information before.

This new found transparency has sometimes embarrassed the judges and the advocates! A post that went viral on social media in August 2020 showed Senior Advoacate Rajeev Dhawan caught on camera taking puffs on his hookah while arguing a virtual case before the Rajasthan High Court ! One doesn’t know whether the learned Judge had anything to say to the senior advocate. Perhaps he didn’t as the much respected Mr Dhawan is in his ’70s, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. Still, so much for setting a good example to your juniors and the world at large!!

In a more recent case, the Madras High Court made scathing observations about the Election Commission of India saying it was “singularly” responsible for the second wave of Covid. It even went to the extent of observing “Its officials should be booked for murder.” In a situation where deaths are mounting all over the world due to Covid- around 3.2 million as of date- even the casual reader would find these remarks rather puzzling, if not petulant.

The Election Commission naturally was stung by these observations and took the case to the Supreme Court which a few days ago agreed the “murder charge” remarks of the Madras High Court were “harsh” and the “metaphor inappropriate “. It was good that they did so! Sadly, over 230,000 people have died in India as of date due to this pandemic. Holding the Election Commission responsible for the deaths during the political rallies has become fashionable but more people are accountable too. What about the politicians – of all political parties- who organized and held these rallies? What about the people themselves, who flocked to them ? What about the media which gave the rallies such extensive coverage making each political party vie for higher eyeballs? All of them knew fully well these could be super spreader events for the Corona virus.

As mentioned earlier, we are these days becoming privy to what actually happens in Courts. Thanks to Bar and Bench, I am reading with great interest the remarks of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court in the matter of oxygen supply to Delhi during this pandemic. While it makes for interesting reading I couldn’t quite make out what the point in law was for the Courts to decide. Surely, deciding on the amount of oxygen needed for each hospital, city, and State; the methods of reaching oxygen to hospitals; is the job of the executive rather than that of the judiciary?

Enjoy Your Writing

Writers often speak of Writer’s Block and allied obstacles to the entire process of writing. May be you aren’t able to make time for writing, may be you are not satisfied with your output, or may be you are not motivated to write as you once were. I decided to share my thoughts and those of others to budding and seasoned writers alike.

Sadly we are in the midst of the gloom of the Covid 19 Pandemic which is hitting us so badly all over the world. What can we do to write and make ourselves -and hopefully others around us who read our work- more happy?

I keep harping on the need for writers to never stop reading! You can read whatever interests you but do read. In the process, you pick up many tips, consciously or otherwise on what successful writers do in presenting their stories. There is so much to read out there that techniques of speed reading also help us in this world of information overkill. This article in Buffer.com tells you how to read more to write better.

If, like me, you enjoy reading short stories and would like to try writing one, please check out this article by Jerry Jenkins on How To Write A Short Story That Captivates Your Reader. I particularly liked the description of how Ernest Hemingway accepted the challenge to write a story in less than 10 words! He wrote: ” For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.“. How impactful and gut wrenching! But then Hemingway was a genius, wasn’t he?

Kurt Vonnegut has shared his tips to write a great short story. My favourite in his list: “Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action”. If it does neither, don’t use it. As simple as that!

For a more technical and comprehensive approach, do read: “Short Story Writing For Beginners: A Guide” by Writer and Freelancer, N A Turner. This is a good article which details the different elements involved in writing a short story. It highlights that writing is not only about sitting someplace and waiting for That Great Story Idea to hit you!

To conclude, listen to what one of my favourite writers, Stephen King said : “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut… If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

I hope this blog post kindles the interest in writing in you, or in some cases, re-kindles that dormant interest. Happy writing, and of course before that- happy reading!!

On Our Advertisements/TV Commercials

I have been an avid follower of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and watch many of the matches. This year there are no ticket sales simply because there is no audience on the ground due to the raging Covid 19. As a result, I guess, the number of TV commercials have increased substantially to make up for the lost revenue.

Being quite interested in advertising, I don’t really mind! I have always believed that the creativity of those who design our advertisements or TV commercials in India is often second to none. What sets the typical Indian TV commercial apart from all others is the raw appeal to the emotions of the viewer. This is seldom the touchpoint in Western advertisements.

I am not talking of emotions flowing from celebrity endorsement of brands. Surely they must be a force to reckon with which is why top celebrities, be they film stars or cricketers these days, are much in demand to endorse every conceivable product. The message goes out that this product or brand should be good because Amitabh Bachchan or Viral Kohli is using it. Likewise, the feeling that you use the same toothpaste as Aishwarya Rai or Kareena Kapoor probably appeals to millions of people. Otherwise, celebrity endorsements would never be as big as they are.

This report by Duff & Phelps may be slightly dated (2019) but it makes for interesting reading. It says that as celebrities feature in 20 % of endorsements in the United States, while in India the figure is much higher at 50 %. It also talks of the growing clout of “star couples” such as Indian Cricket’s super star Virat Kohli and his film star wife, Anushka Sharma.

Sometimes, celebrity endorsements can backfire! M S Dhoni was at one time India’s most loved sports star. However, his being Brand Ambassador for the Amrapalli Group resulted in the kind of embarrassment he had never faced before. His fan base felt cheated when the builder he endorsed did not deliver their flats on time! Many claimed it was his advertising that led them to trust this builder!! On top of that there was an unsavory dispute regarding his own payments from that group! Of course, those cheated in their purchase of flats argued that the amount Dhoni was fighting for was a very small percentage of his overall wealth. They, it was argued, had sunk a substantially higher percentage of their life’s earning in buying that flat from Amrapali!

Personally, however, these advertisements have never appealed to me. I prefer advertisements which touch my heart or tickle my funny bone. I saw one from Cadbury’s recently- one in Hindi called Laundry– which I thought was superb. But then, this is nothing new as Cadbury’s has always been recognized as a strong brand for many decades.

I also lhought this one from Cello for their Butterflow Pen called Lamba Naam was quite hilarious ! There are so many more I can mention but I shall save that for some other time!

Advertisements are expected to inform, to persuade and remind! The fact that even today we remember so many old advertisements seen on Indian television screens indicates that our advertisers have pretty much hit their mark!

T

“When The Wildflowers Bloom”: Rupa Bhullar

When The Wildflowers Bloom” by Rupa Bhullar was on my reading list and I completed it today. The book has been published by Rupa Publications recently in 2021.

The start of the book is quite dramatic. The main character, a 38 year old home maker, Tara Grewal is publicly humiliated at a party in front of her family and friends by her husband Tej. This sets the context for what is to follow. However, after that the story took fairly long to build up. Tara seeks refuge in her grandmother’s house in a village in Punjab. Not much happens other than a lot of reminiscing about the past and thoughts on what the future holds. To that extent I found the first part of the book rather sluggish after the dramatic start.

There were no surprises along the way and the plot was more predictable than I thought. I kept thinking there might be some action in the next chapter to stir the pot but it was not to be.

Now, about the positives. I must say the scenes are beautifully portrayed. I could easily and readily images the lush fields of Punjab, the drive up the mountain road to Kasauli, the serene atmosphere of the Gurudwara, to mention but a few scenes. The descriptive writing was of a high standard. I found the second part considerably more absorbing than the first.

I also enjoyed the characters like the old Beeja, the fiercely protective Premo, the ebullient Balwinder and of course the suave and charming Dev, not to forget his uncle and aunt both colorful characters very different from each other.

There are lessons to be learnt from the story. Lessons of the grit shown by a 38 year old lady with two growing children when she takes the crucial decision which would change her life forever. She has to decide whether to continue in an unhappy marriage with its share of domestic violence or walk out to an unknown world beyond. The book also throws light on the all too common theme of how women are exploited in our villages. It covers how the dreams of many girls seldom come true due to the harsh realities of their struggles growing up in villages.

If you are looking for an action-packed book, this is not for you. If, however, you want a leisurely but good read, without there being too much in the plot, you will enjoy this book.