Book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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It’s been quite some time since I read a book. With this book I hope I get back to my reading & am able to go through my now very long reading list quickly.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

– Goodreads

This was a difficult book to get my hands on. After reading about it on a blog I had searched for it at my local book store who gives me books on a library basis. When I did not find it there I was left with no choice but to buy it from Amazon. That is how much I had loved the review for this book. Was it worth the money? Yes. And no.

The Night Circus is very easy to read. Erin Morgenstern writes beautifully & for that alone I would say it was well worth the money. She has a rich imagination & is able to put it on paper in the simplest of words. Her writing is so beautiful that at times when the book started getting boring I read just for reading her words. I usually hate lengthy descriptions in my books but it was a pleasure to read them here.

Unfortunately the book has no plot. The plot is what it says on the back cover of the book. A circus which runs only at night. And a magical competition between two individuals. That’s it. And even this limited plot is treated carelessly. There is not much character development for the two leads, Celia Bowen & Marco Alisdair. A book which was supposed to have a magic competition as the central theme should definitely focus on that event, even if it has been going on for years. The demonstrations of the magical abilities of Celia & Marco lack the punch which is needed & hence feels meh to even read about. Their love story too is quite dull & hardly of any surprise. The story also presents & supports a morally ambiguous notion of many supporting to live a manipulated life rather than choose to be free. Also the ending is unsatisfactory in which there is no permanent resolution. Instead the weight of responsibility is shifted to the next naive person.

I think this would make a beautiful movie. A Disney movie on this would be wonderful where we get to see the circus come to life on our screens. The striped tents, the contortionists, the illusionists, the ice gardens, the cauldron would all make for great viewing experience. As a book it was a good read but certainly not among the best out there.

 

A 3/5 for The Night Circus.

Krishna ki Chetawani (कृष्ण की चेतावनी)

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On the occasion of World Poetry Day here is another poem by the famous Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’.

After returning from their exile the Pandavas demand their Kingdom back. However when Duryodhan refuses to give them their rightful share a war becomes inevitable. To prevent the war which would lead to countless deaths of the innocents Shri Krishna offers to go to Hastinapur to try & reason with the King & his son Duryodhan. The scene that unfolds in the court room of King Dhritarashtra on that day is what is described here by the poet.

Lord Krishna Vishwaroop Virat Swaroop

वर्षों तक वन में घूम घूम
बाधा विघ्नों को चूम चूम
सह धूप घाम पानी पत्थर
पांडव आये कुछ और निखर

(After wandering in the forests & suffering multiple hardships

the Pandavas have come back home with new vigour)

सौभाग्य न सब दिन होता है
देखें आगे क्या होता है

(Good luck doesn’t always continue, let us see what happens next)

मैत्री की राह दिखाने को
सब को सुमार्ग पर लाने को
दुर्योधन को समझाने को
भीषण विध्वंस बचाने को
भगवान हस्तिनापुर आए
पांडव का संदेशा लाये

(To show the path of friendship & righteousness,

to knock some sense into Duryodhan

to stop the destruction which war would bring

The Lord (Krishna) came to Hastinapur, bringing with him the message of the Pandavas.)

हो न्याय अगर तो आधा दो
पर इसमें भी यदि बाधा हो
तो दे दो केवल पाँच ग्राम
रखो अपनी धरती तमाम

(If you are just, give us half the Kingdom

if not then at least give us five villages

and keep the rest of it to yourself)

हम वहीँ खुशी से खायेंगे
परिजन पे असी ना उठाएंगे

(We will live there happily

and will never raise weapons against our relatives)

दुर्योधन वह भी दे ना सका
आशीष समाज की न ले सका
उलटे हरि को बाँधने चला
जो था असाध्य साधने चला

(Duryodhan refused his offer

and instead ordered that the Lord be arrested)

जब नाश मनुज पर छाता है
पहले विवेक मर जाता है

(When the end draws near, the first thing a man loses is good sense)

हरि ने भीषण हुँकार किया
अपना स्वरूप विस्तार किया
डगमग डगमग दिग्गज डोले
भगवान कुपित हो कर बोले

(The Lord roared & revealed his true divine form

the court trembled as the Lord in anger spoke)

जंजीर बढ़ा अब साध मुझे
हां हां दुर्योधन बाँध मुझे

(Bring out your chains

come & try to arrest me)

ये देख गगन मुझमे लय है
ये देख पवन मुझमे लय है
मुझमे विलीन झनकार सकल
मुझमे लय है संसार सकल

(Look carefully, and you will see the skies, the wind, the entire universe is a part of me)

अमरत्व फूलता है मुझमे
संहार झूलता है मुझमे

(Eternal life & death are all but a part of me)

उदयाचल मेरे दीप्त भाल 
भूमंडल वक्षस्थल विशाल 
भुज परिधि बांध को घेरे हैं
मैनाक मेरु पग मेरे हैं
(Udayachal is my forehead
the solar system my chest
my arms envelope the universe
Mainak, Meru are at my feet)
दीप्ते जो ग्रह नक्षत्र निकर 
सब हैं मेरे मुख के अन्दर  
(All the stars & planets which are shining brightly
are situated in my mouth)

दृक हो तो दृश्य अखंड देख
मुझमे सारा ब्रह्माण्ड देख 
चराचर जीव जग क्षर-अक्षर 
नश्वर मनुष्य सृजाती अमर  
(If you are capable, see the whole universe which resides in me)
शत कोटि सूर्य शत कोटि चन्द्र 
शत कोटि सरित्सर सिन्धु मंद्र
(Millions of suns & millions of moons, millions of seas & rivers)
शत कोटि ब्रह्मा विष्णु महेश 
शत कोटि जलपति जिष्णु धनेश
शत कोटि रुद्र शत कोटि काल 
शत कोटि दंड धर लोकपाल
(Millions of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh
millions of victorious & wealthy beings
millions of rudra & time
millions of Kings)
भूतल अटल पाताल देख
गत और अनागत काल देख
ये देख जगत का आदि सृजन
ये देख महाभारत का रन

(See the Earth & hell, see the past & the future

see the cycles of birth & the war of the Mahabharata)

मृतकों से पटी हुई भू है
पहचान कहाँ इसमें तू है

(The Earth is covered in dead bodies,

try & find where are you in there)

अंबर का कुंतल जाल देख
पद के नीचे पाताल देख
मुट्ठी में तीनो काल देख
मेरा स्वरूप विकराल देख

(See the heavens & the hell

 see me control the past, present & future

look at my terrifying appearance)

सब जन्म मुझी से पाते हैं
फिर लौट मुझी में आते हैं

(Everyone is born from me

and everyone eventually returns to me)

जिह्वा से काढती ज्वाला सघन
साँसों से पाता जन्म पवन
पर जाती मेरी दृष्टि जिधर
हंसने लगती है सृष्टि उधर

(My mouth spits fire, my breath gives birth to the wind

where I look, begins a new birth)

मैं जभी मूंदता हूँ लोचन
छा जाता चारो और मरण

(and when I close my eyes, death reigns)

बाँधने मुझे तू आया है
जंजीर बड़ी क्या लाया है
यदि मुझे बांधना चाहे मन
पहले तू बाँध अनंत गगन

(You have come to arrest me, but have you got a chain big enough?

If you truly wish to chain me, then first you will have to bind the heavens)

शुन्य को साध ना सकता है
वो मुझे बाँध कब सकता है

(He who cannot measure infinity, how will he ever bind me?)

हित वचन नहीं तुने माना
मैत्री का मूल्य न पहचाना
तो ले अब मैं भी जाता हूँ
अंतिम संकल्प सुनाता हूँ

(You did not listen to my requests, you did not value your friends

So I leave here, pledging before you)

याचना नहीं अब रण होगा
जीवन जय या की मरण होगा

(No more requests, now there will be war

And we will either win or die)

टकरायेंगे नक्षत्र निखर
बरसेगी भू पर वह्नी प्रखर
फन शेषनाग का डोलेगा
विकराल काल मुंह खोलेगा

(Fire will rain down on earth as the mighty fight

and death will open its jaws)

दुर्योधन रण ऐसा होगा
फिर कभी नहीं जैसा होगा

(Duryodhan, the war which will happen now

will be such as will never happen again)

भाई पर भाई टूटेंगे
विष बाण बूँद से छूटेंगे
सौभाग्य मनुज के फूटेंगे
वायस शृगाल सुख लूटेंगे

(Brothers will fight brothers as arrows rain down

The good men will suffer even as the jackals & hyenas (wicked) cackle in glee)

आखिर तू भूशायी होगा
हिंसा का पर्दायी होगा

(You will be destroyed

you will be the cause of all the violence)

थी सभा सन्न, सब लोग डरे
चुप थे या थे बेहोश पड़े
केवल दो नर न अघाते थे
ध्रीत्रास्त्र विदुर सुख पाते थे

(A deadly silence had fallen over the courtroom, the courtiers were petrified

No one knew if they were quite or unconscious

only two men were unaffected,

one the blind King Dhritarashtra & the other his Prime Minister Vidur)

कर जोड़ खरे प्रमुदित निर्भय
दोनों पुकारते थे जय, जय

(They stood up with their hands joined in devotion

calling out praises of the Lord)

I get goosebumps every time I read this poem. It begins with a soft tone but a your progress you can feel Krishna’s anger rising & can almost feel the fear which he inspires among those present there in the court room. After reading the poem I couldn’t help but go back & watch this stellar scene from the B. R. Chopra Mahabharata which has Nitish Bharadwaj as Shri Krishna & Puneet Issar as Duryodhan. You can find the scene here.

A wonderful recitation of this poem by Himanshu Agarwal can be found here.

 

शक्ति और क्षमा (Strength & Mercy)

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For the past few days I have been immersed in Hindi poems. Pure Hindi, not the Hinglish or Bambaiyya variety which is all we speak now unfortunately, is such a beautiful language.

Image source: http://www.chopra.com/article/shakti-universal-force#sm.0011qf12v12i5djt10323t5dde4ef

Sharing one such poem from my textbooks from my school days, Shakti aur Kshama (शक्ति और क्षमा ) by the famous poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. Below I also attempt a translation of the same.

क्षमा, दया, तप, त्याग, मनोबल
सबका लिया सहारा
पर नर व्याघ सुयोधन तुमसे
कहो कहाँ कब हारा?

Forgiveness, mercy, tact, sacrifice

you followed them all

but when did Suyodhan ever give up?

क्षमाशील हो ॠपु-सक्षम
तुम हुये विनीत जितना ही
दुष्ट कौरवों ने तुमको
कायर समझा उतना ही

The more forgiving you got, 

the more the Kauravas assumed that you were a coward

अत्याचार सहन करने का
कुफल यही होता है
पौरुष का आतंक मनुज
कोमल होकर खोता है

This is the result of tolerating injustices

the fear of machismo is lost when man becomes gentle 

क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को
जिसके पास गरल है
उसका क्या जो दंतहीन
विषरहित विनीत सरल है

Forgiveness is becoming of the snake who has venom

but no one fears the toothless, non – poisonous kind

तीन दिवस तक पंथ मांगते
रघुपति सिंधु किनारे
बैठे पढते रहे छन्द
अनुनय के प्यारे प्यारे

For three days Ram kept requesting the ocean for passage

he sat there requesting with the sweetest words

उत्तर में जब एक नाद भी
उठा नही सागर से
उठी अधीर धधक पौरुष की
आग राम के शर से

When the ocean refused to acknowledge Ram’s pleas

a raging fire of resolve consumed Ram

सिंधु देह धर त्राहि-त्राहि
करता आ गिरा शरण में
चरण पूज दासता गृहण की
बंधा मूढ़ बन्धन में

The ocean assumed a human form & supplicated to Ram

Touched his feet, became subservient, a slave

सच पूछो तो शर में ही
बसती है दीप्ति विनय की
संधिवचन सम्पूज्य उसीका
जिसमे शक्ति विजय की

Truth be told it’s in the quiver that lies the gleam of modesty

only his peace offers are respected who is capable of victory

सहनशीलता, क्षमा, दया को
तभी पूजता जग है
बल का दर्प चमकता उसके
पीछे जब जगमग है

The world worships tolerance, forgiveness & compassion 

only when they are backed by the glow of strength.

 

Though giving examples from the Ramayan & Mahabharat, this poem is relevant even today. Everyone who preaches peace should understand one basic rule of the world: peace offers from the weak are meaningless (V.D. Sawarkar). If you want to have peace, you need to be strong. The world respects strength & anyone who doesn’t have it will be trod upon & ground mercilessly.

 

TV: Descendants of the Sun (Korean)

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Finally I saw my first Korean drama. I could have done it a lot earlier but I kept putting it off. But when Zindagi started airing Descendants of the Sun (DOTS) I decided to give it a try. I was always curious to know what people liked about Korean dramas because personally I find their actors look like kids & I tend to like older men. They just don’t make me want to drool over them. But keeping my prejudices aside I started watching it on Zindagi. I got so hooked to this show that after the initial few episodes, 1 hour a day was not enough. I needed more of it & I needed the whole thing immediately. Hence off to http://kdramaz.com/ I went to binge watch.

Cast: Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, Kim Ji-won

Director: Lee Eung-bok, Baek Sang-hoon

Writers: Kim Eun-sook & Kim Won-seok

Language: Korean

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Yoo Si-jin, the captain of the alpha team of the S. Korean Special Forces Unit meets Dr. Kang Mo-yeon in a chance encounter when he & his friend Seo Dae-young send a pick pocket to the hospital & who in turn steals Dae-young’s phone. This kick starts the romance of the Captain & the doctor. Seo Dae-young too has an interesting but complicated love story which runs parallel to the love saga of the Captain & the doctor.

*SPOILERS*

 

What I liked:

I doubt there is anything to not like in this show. It is perfect in every way! And hence deserves detailed discussion. So here goes,

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Captain of the Alpha team Yoo Si-jin a.k.a. Big Boss. Si-jin breaks every stereotype of the definition of a hero. For many years now we have mainly had two types of heroes, the silent, brooding, sociopath but rich & intelligent type OR the jovial but loser type. Si-jin picks up the best from both the types & we get our very unique yet realistic man. He is jovial but not in the gay manner portrayed in many shows. He can be tough but he can be equally gentle. This is most evident during the phase when Dr. Kang Mo-yeon broke up with him. He was the perfect gentleman. He took the rejection like a MAN. He kept his hurt to himself & never ever hurt her in return or even to prove a point. He kept his pride intact but never hurt hers. In a world full of assholes & abusive men which are so common on Indian TV or sociopaths which is all American & British TV specialize in nowadays or the total henpecked variety of Turkish TV, Si-jin is a fresh breath of air. Every man should learn how to be a man, alone & with a woman, from Capt. Yoo Si-jin.

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Dr. Kang Mo-yeon. In a world of excessive feminism Dr. Kang is feminine, a feminist but not a feminazi. She isn’t shown to be dealing death blows to terrorists in order to display woman power. But she takes a stand for herself & her ideals & even leaves the man she really loves for it. She earned my respect there even though my heart broke for Si-jin. She can be pragmatic enough to give up on her dreams of becoming a professor & turn into a doctor for the VIPs & the TV face of the hospital in order to pay the bills but the doctor in her who vowed service to humanity comes to the fore in the time of crisis.

Sergeant Seo Dae-young a.k.a. Wolf. Like Si-jin once says all the tough decisions fall to this guy. He loves Myeong-ju from the bottom of his heart but he maintains his distance out of respect for her father’s love for her & his unwillingness to accept him as his son -in- law owing to his low rank in the Army. Once again the writers do not disappoint when we finally have Dae-young refusing to quit his job for Myeong-ju. I loved the part where he admits, matter -of- factly that he is a soldier & is great at what he does & he feels it would be wrong to deprive his country of his services. Such a fine way of showing that you can maintain your individuality even when you are in a relationship.

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First Lieutenant Yoon Myeong-ju. This was one unique character. She is feisty but her love makes her helpless when facing Dae-young. She knows she is loved by this man & takes all her comfort from this one fact even when he is busy ignoring her. It is his love which makes her fight for him, to be with him. A less determined woman would have moved on in the face of such constant rejection a long time ago. But not her. Myeong-ju & Dae-young are the sort of couple you want to lock up in a room till they solve all their problems & resolve to never separate again.

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The country or me? I think this is a question which every soldier must have faced from his better half. This is an often repeated scene in movies where the heroine asks the hero whom would he chose, her or the country. Of all the various replies I have heard, Capt Si-jin’s was the best. There are some things which you cannot put a rank to. More often than not two or more things can be equally important.

Great writing: The show has a lot of firsts. The recorded confession is a hands down favourite of mine! The dialogues are all simple but very effective, be it Mo-yeon’s confession, her rejections, their jealousies, Myeong-ju’s letters, the will. Big Boss & Wolf share a lot of bromance & their banter is fun to watch.

The direction & screenplay. The scene where team Alpha arrives at the earthquake site, descending from the chopper, only their silhouettes visible against the chopper light with the dust flying everywhere & the soldiers assembling in a line to salute their Captain, that scenes manages to make me tear up every single time. Multiple emotions & thoughts race through me every time I see that scene. I feel pride seeing how much the soldiers respect their captain, I feel grateful that the best have come back in this time of need, I chuckle a little when I see Si-jin searching for Mo-yeon (no matter what he said about him doing his duty & that being that to her earlier !) Earlier to this we have Dae-young volunteering to go back to Uruk, this time not being bothered about Myeong ju’s father’s opinions who is also his Commander. Other than this epic scene we have a lot of small scenes which convey a wealth of meaning like the one where Mo-yeon breaks off her heels to work better  in the disaster area & is later offered shoes by a site worker, or the one where Dae-young slips & falls in a pit & Myeong-ju’s hands still while she is operating on her patient. You can feel her panic & anguish but she continues working. You share her relief once you see Dae-young is safe & sound. In fact the episodes covering the earthquake, right from when it began with children playing & butterflies flying away, the episodes are a work of genius in terms of direction & screenplay & acting. The entire team deserves every award for those two episodes alone! And while we are talking about tragedy, the writer once again manages to balance it off with healthy doses of comedy. The comedy is always clean, never insensitive.

The songs are lovely. All the songs are great, even the ones I didn’t understand a word of! I have already downloaded the playlist & it has been on a loop ever since.

 

What I didn’t like:

There is actually nothing to dislike about this show, except…

WHY DIDN’T THE CAPTAIN PROPOSE MO-YEON WHEN THEY RETURNED TO URUK?

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I had been waiting for him to propose to her. When he kissed her I was dead sure he would do it now but instead all he did was talk some more. The dialogues like always were meaningful but some scenes demand certain things be done in a certain way 😛

Like who says things like ‘now let us spoil your lisptick’ & then goes on to actually spoil it by writing out a warning sign on a wodden board with it? *Facepalm*

Other than that one disappointment, the show is perfect on every level. It is the sort of thing which will make you laugh & cry, and make you fall in love with all of them each time you watch it.

A 5/5 for the show from my side.

 

Disclaimer: All pictures taken from Pinterest & belong to the original uploader.

Movie: Ti Saddhya Kay Karte

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What happens when two friends who have lost contact with each another meet again after many years? Do they pick up from where they left off? Well, things aren’t so simple for Anurag & Tanvi, since the last time they were together they were in love but today both of them are well settled in their lives with their own families.

Cast: Ankush Chaudhari, Abhinay Berde, Aarya Ambekar, Tejashree Pradhan, Hruditya Rajwade, Nirmohee Agnihotri, Urmila Kanitkar & others

Director: Satish Rajwade

Language: Marathi

Year: 2017

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*SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • The Direction: It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Satish Rajwade. Even in this movie I loved how he has shown the Maharashtrian middle class. If I had to show a non – Maharashtrian what a Marathi middle class looks like I will take him to watch a Satish Rajwade movie. He just gets us right! Our homes, our manner of talking, body language, our belief systems, our culture, everything is spot on. He has an eye for talent as well & can bring out the best in anyone. This brings us to Abhinay Berde & Tejashree Pradhan.
  • Abhinay Berde: The Marathi movie industry might just have found its chocolate boy hero in this guy. He is a good actor, dances well, is energetic & has a pleasant personality. So all in all he would be great hero material, especially for the Mills & Boon type romances. I loved him in the ‘parikathetil parya‘ song. Great choreography & awesome dancing by Abhinay. His real potential is apparent when he stands out among stalwarts like Sukanya Kulkarni, Sanjay Mone, Ankush Chaudhari etc. He should plan his career well & not waste his talent playing naukar to the Khans like his father.
  • Tejashree Pradhan: I have hated this woman since Honar Soon Mi Hya Gharchi days. But in Satish’s able hands I could clearly see a great deal of improvement in her. I was so glad he had done away with her uncouth giggling for one! And then her portrayal of the grown up Tanvi was pleasant & all things nice.
  • The story & screenplay: This was one difficult story to narrate. It had a mature subject & needed careful handling. A little negligence on the director’s or the writer’s part  & the movie could have entered the mucky waters of infidelity making Tanvi & Anurag come across as shallow & cheap. But the team has managed to convey the complexities of human emotions with finesse & that is the strongest point of this movie.
  • Nostalgia: It felt wonderful to be taken back to the 90s. Yes kids, this is how we lived! My eyes welled up seeing the kids play hopscotch. Ah those days when we used to play like crazy, our knees always bruised from the falls we took, our clothes drenched in sweat after hours spent in the sun, our hands & feet dirty but our smiles intact. I was drowning in nostalgia when I saw a kid blowing soap bubbles, when Anurag bought a card at Archies, when the kids gobbled up the cotton candy, when I saw the old cassette player. How I miss those days. What wouldn’t I give to go back to my childhood.

What I did not like:

  • Aarya Amberkar: I think this girl is over rated. She is beautiful no doubt. As Pallavi Joshi used to call her she is still that “pretty young girl Aarya Ambekar”. But I do not like her acting AND I do not like her singing either. She should concentrate on modeling. With such a pretty face she will be a hit. But I do not think acting is for her.

It is a good movie to watch & this one was cheap on the pocket too. A Saturday evening show cost me just Rs. 100. Subtitles have been included & hence the movie can be watched by the non – Marathi speaking crowd as well. They won’t regret it for sure. Regional cinema is growing in leaps & bounds quality wise & should not be ignored by ardent movie lovers.

Are Indians too emotional when it comes to their Army?

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Weekends are times for relaxation when we can indulge in endless tweeting, chatting, messaging, gaming without any guilt. But sometimes a group chat leads to a serious discussion & the weekend is spent thinking & over thinking about what people said, what you could have said, what you should have said, but didn’t.  I was part of such a discussion this weekend where someone started discussing the Indian Army. Many questions were raised, some heated arguments followed, and as it usually happens soon everyone decided to agree to disagree which is just a diplomatic way of saying “I think you are wrong!”

The statements/ questions in bold which were raised there I write down below. The answers are a mix of what was said by me & others on the group.

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Are Indians too emotional when it comes to their Army?

Yes, maybe. But Indians are emotional about everything. We cry when our favourite actor dies, we thump our chests when we win the World Cup, defeating Pakistan in any sport or form is as good as winning a war. So yeah we are an emotional lot. And why not? We are humans. And humans feel! Why should we be ashamed if we get emotional when we see a young soldier carried back home wrapped in the tricolour? Why did he die? Did he die because he lacked courage? No. Did he die doing his duty? Unlikely, since his duty was to fight. Instead he was used as cannon fodder. 

But isn’t it their duty to die? Don’t they get paid for it? Didn’t they choose it?

No! It is not their duty to die. It is their duty to fight. It is their duty to protect their country. But it hurts that little bit extra when you see a young man die, gunned down by terrorists, his hands & feet bound up by obedience to his Government & discipline. As each new Government carries on with its fake niceties of “Aman ki aasha” & “peace talks” countless soldiers die in this undeclared war which Pakistan has been waging against India since its very inception. The soldiers do get paid for it but what can recompense a life? What amount on a cheque can make up for an injustice done to you by your own Government who buys cheap fighter planes, defective & discarded weapons? Also, the ones earning a fat pay cheque aren’t the ones braving the bullets at the LOC. The ones involved in scams may not even have seen what the LOC looks like. But for the poor soldier who is there, fighting to his last breath, why is it so wrong to cry for him? 

These brave men did choose to serve in the Indian Army. But shouldn’t that be just one more reason to be grateful to them? Imagine if we didn’t have an army made up of volunteers. All able bodied citizens would then have been forced to take up military duties then. Are we ready for that? We just recently discovered that we are not even OK with standing in queues to withdraw or deposit money. If we are so irritated in working for our own benefit, we can just imagine how angry our young men would be if they are forced into the army where death stares them in the face, where they might not be able to talk to their families & friends for weeks together, where discipline is the way of life & not something you pretend to have when in public or with your in – laws. 

The Army does its duty.

Another argument put forth was that the army is just doing its work, its duty. (I am grateful that the person at least agreed that the army does its duty unlike a few others who weren’t even willing to give them that much.) So what is the big deal in that?

I think in today’s world where shirking duties is the norm, where a person who can dump his work on some poor unsuspecting soul is considered smart, in such a world if a person does his duty, then yes he gets my appreciation. Before we dismiss the army saying ‘they are just doing their duty’ it would do us well to remind ourselves that nowadays doing ones duty is getting rarer. All of us at some point or the other have not done our duty. Leave alone our personal duties, how many of us can say that they have voted in every election since they reached the legal age? Voting, a national duty, is more of a national holiday. And we dare to pontificate to our Army, the institution which has been doing its duty tirelessly?

Even sewage workers put their lives in danger. 

I remember reading this for the first time in some newspaper. The headlines was such that a casual reader would feel the writer is talking about dignity of labour. Only on further reading do we get to the real thing. He said that even sewage workers in India put their lives in danger every day, then what is so special about what the army does? Isn’t the sewage worker saving your life when he keeps your city clean? So again what makes the army so special?

I believe in dignity of labour & think no one, irrespective of their profession or lack thereof, should be treated badly. Though I disagree with this comparison. Firstly a sewage worker can be respected even without disrespecting the army. 

Second, if push comes to shove & the city starts getting dirty with no sewage workers to be found, if people start dying due to health problems caused by the ever increasing filth then eventually all of us will need to start cleaning up our cities. We would willingly put our lives in danger because we would know that once we clean up, the health conditions of people would gradually improve. Also, the rich could hire people to clean up for them! 

How many of us can make it through the tough qualification process of the Army? How many of us can go and fight an advancing army? How many of us can buy an army & ensure it fights for us? Buying an army might still be possible, but how do we ensure that they wont be bought over by the enemy at a higher price, thus leading to our doom? That is why the army is different from the sewage worker & automatically gets more respect. They have the physical ability, the training & the loyalty to save us & our country, a combination of the three qualities which are found ONLY with them. 

 

I am an old school person & hence understand that rights & duties go hand in hand. I for one am eternally grateful to my Army because of whose efforts I can have a sound sleep. I am grateful even to their families who send off their young children to serve not knowing when/ if they would return. It isn’t easy to part with your child, to give him up for a cause & yet countless parents do it year after year. Gratitude may come across as foolishness to the modern thinkers but if someone does something for me & mine, in return expects nothing, then I think he automatically earns my undying gratitude & respect. I would rather be a fool than an ingrate!

 

 

Demonetization

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And finally it’s over. The madness which began at 8 PM on 8th November 2016 has come to its “announced” end. It will still be many months before the media finally shuts up on this issue but the time Narendra Modi had formally asked for from Indians is finally over.

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These past few days were quite an experience in many ways, the sort we will tell our children & their children after that! I got to hear the most varied reactions to this move by the Government & learnt quite a lot about our netas, our janta & even my friends. Here I share a few of my observations:

  • Demonetization was the ONLY thing people talked about. Births, deaths, weddings, TV shows, news, newspapers, social networking sites…everyone everywhere talked only of demonetization.
  • Many people passionately believed in two immediate effects of demonetization. Post demonetization, India will either sink to complete bankruptcy or will usher in the golden age where no one lies, cheats or steals.
  • There is an economist hidden in all of us. After 8th November every one of us is guilty of having turned into an expert in financial matters at least once. Students, daily labourers, domestic help, farmers, politicians who couldn’t even get the pronunciation right, basically everyone. Yes, I too have been guilty of it I admit. 🙂
  • The hate for Narendra Modi is so great that people will ensure that they protest against everything he does. By the same logic, for some, demonetization is a bad move because he has done it.
  • ‘If BJP loses in the upcoming municipal council elections, blame it on Modi’s demonetization move. If they win, that really means nothing & shouldn’t be linked to demonetization!’ This is in no way a sarcastic statement but a way of life for many news reporters since 2014. If anything goes wrong blame it exclusively on Modi. If anything goes right, ah well it is not as if Modi did everything alone.
  • People will quote Washington Post, New York Times, Greek analysts (wrongly!!), Sputnik, and even Huffington Post to show you how the Yankees, Russians & British think this move was a blunder & will cause great losses to India. People who couldn’t predict who their own people would elect as President, people who couldn’t predict BREXIT, people who couldn’t predict their own recession would of course know what will happen in India. Totally reliable sources these!! And no one can deny that Russia & the world in 1991 is the same as India & the world in 2016.
  • People decided that Rahul Gandhi/ Arvind Kejriwal or some local goon masquerading as a politician will get their votes come 2019 because NaMo doesn’t have any sense about running this country. Why…because demonetization. And why RaGa/ AK you ask? I don’t know since I didn’t bother asking because if there is one thing I do know its this: nothing can ever convince me that Rahul Gandhi & co would make an ideal PM. And so what if NaMo has done other good things & so what if RaGa & co are only fit to star in memes & YouTube videos consolidating all their “oops” moments. But RaGa is the one with the right surname! And AK is an IITian! And this I heard from a group of educated people. Had it been a bunch of illiterates I would have understood their haste in slamming Modi & running to RaGa/ AK but well clearly education & literacy are not the same thing. Hate NaMo all you want, but supporting RaGa/ AK because of Modi hate is stupid according to me.
  • Surprisingly TV channels can get economists who will criticize demonetization. But neither NaMo nor his Government nor any of the self proclaimed unbiased media houses could get an economist who could support this demonetization? At least I wasn’t lucky enough to see an unbiased discussion. What sort of a debate has one person pro – Demonetization & five against it?
  • Big words were used by political giants to scare the common man. Draconian, bankruptcy, tughlaqi, emergency, loot, etc. Our very own very honourable Supreme Court even used the most feared word: riots. But surprisingly not many fell for this jumlebaazi (another word which is used to describe NaMo :)) of the opposition. Why? Because Indians do not fear physical hardships. Because they trust NaMo’s intentions. Read this in an article: A woman standing in a queue outside a bank in Punjab said to the reporter, ‘people will forget how long they stood in the queues, but every time they look at these new 500 & 2000 notes, they will remember we had a leader who fought against black money’.
  • Apparently if you do not support demonetization you are anti – national! Who would have thought. You cannot be ill informed or just a plain Modi hater. Nope! You are directly promoted to being anti – national
  • People always thought that bank employees were a lazy lot & the corrupt tag belonged solely to sarkari babus. But nope! Now some bank officers can proudly share the corrupt tag with our sarkari babus for they have been caught turning black money white for a hefty commission. I wish these people were tried for treason & not fraud!
  • A friend of mine has stopped talking to me. Reason? Demonetization 🙂 I supported NaMo & he called him Tughlaq. After that he stopped talking to me completely because I have no idea how the poor suffer. Not that he has any idea either since he isn’t poor. But as is the trend, let me say I lost a friend because of Modi 😦
  • The media usually stops discussing a subject when it can dig its claws into something more juicy. Not this time. Neither the death of a much loved politician, nor the unearthing of the scams done by the UPA nor a freaking cyclone could divert the media’s attention from demonetization.
  • Apparently if your Twitter account is hacked, it can never ever be because of your own stupidity. It is because either Twitter was lax in its security measures OR because digitization is not safe in India! Mostly the latter. 🙂 Also the protection levels of a bank’s server is the same as that of Twitter & the email accounts of news channels. So what if someone picks my pocket? Should I stop using cash & start bartering goods? Till my goods are stolen of course…Not to be missed in all these baseless accusations was the underlying “NaMo NaMo” chant with some openly saying BJP is hacking into opposition servers & implying that they are doing it under Modi’s directive.
  • ATMs can give you STDs! I really wonder what these people do in that ATM kiosk.
  • Immediately after the announcement on 8th Nov, railway & flight bookings saw a phenomenal spike. Individuals were booking tickets from all over India to all over India. What the Government did next left the honest man cackling for hours.
  • 90% India doesn’t have a bank proudly said the people who ruled India for nearly 60 years. Surprisingly no one brought up this issue when gas subsidies were given out. Didn’t anyone care that poor Indians in these areas won’t be getting their gas subsidy due to lack of banks? And of course Post Offices which were working along with the banks during demonetization can be forgotten because its not convenient to remember the market penetration of Indian Postal Services.
  • Any deaths that happen from 8th Nov 2016 to 30th Dec 2016 will be pinned by the media on demonetization. Some even said BJP = Modi is responsible for Jayalalithaa’s death as they wanted to capture the state & Amma was an hindrance.
  • You might be a rich or a middle class person. But since 8th Nov 2016 most of us have experienced the pain of the poor! How? Not that we know any poor farmer or labourer personally. But we can understand how badly they must have suffered. Our understanding capabilities have multiplied phenomenally during this period. Of course when the PM had introduced Jan Dhan Yojana our sympathy & love for the poor had gone for a toss as we joined the snooty elites in slamming Modi’s move for just brainlessly increasing the workload of the poor bank employee. We also mocked him when he asked us to give up our gas subsidy for the benefit of the poor…but well these are two different things!
  • We all want an end to the black money. As long as we don’t have to work for it. God forbid if we have to stand in a queue. I thought when I elected Modi it would be he who does all the work while I watch it on TV & nod or shake my head at his decisions. But he is making me work! For the betterment of my country?!! How dare he! The UPA government was so much better. It did nothing. We did nothing.
  • Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, I observed it were the young men & women who found it most difficult to stand in a queue. The old stood in sun & rain alike but the youth complained the most. Guess the experience the older generation had of standing in queues for water & ration paid off.
  • Every Indian dreams of the day when India will retaliate against terrorism. But the effect of demonetization on terrorism has been underplayed & least discussed of all. We cannot place two & two together lest the sum is not to our liking & we find demonetization might have done some good in countering terrorists. So we will ignore it & continue with how the poor suffer 🙂 So if the stone pelting has stopped, chances are it was never happening in the first place OR maybe Pakistan has had a change of heart? But no, it cannot have anything to do with demonetization. Where is the proof?
  • Apparently the muslims & dalits suffer more! They say they are the minority, they say they do not get a decent house to stay in India because of the anti – muslim sentiment prevalent in the country. But now we hear there are entire areas of muslims (meaning either they are all muslims there or muslims are in majority) where the bank ATMs are purposely kept empty so that the muslims suffer. Can we at least be consistent in our lies?
  • While vegetable vendors & chaatwalas (whom we generally assume to be illiterate) started using PayTM the CAs & doctors still accept ONLY CASH.
  • Read this on Twitter: There are hotels in LAVASA where they do not accept cards or cheques. PAYTM or internet banking is out of question. They accept only cash AND they do not provide receipts. Wonder who gets the cut from all that income.
  • ‘I have always been an honest & upright person. Never was I involved in black money or anything remotely illegal. Then why should I stand in queues?’ Even the man who gave black money to the builder when buying a flat, who bribed the traffic police, who gave hefty capitation fees for their children’s entry into medical & engineering colleges, who bribed sarkari babus on a regular basis said this with full confidence. And they weren’t the rich or elite. They belonged to the middle class.
  • No one is asking where are our netas? The ones who come to beg for our votes when elections come, where are they? The one who won in my constituency, why isn’t he here helping me in this time of crisis? Instead of protesting outside the parliament why don’t they provide subsidized or even free food to the thousands & lakhs of people who they say are starving because of demonetization? And why is no news channel asking this? Yes it is not their duty to correct Modi’s mistakes but it would have been great PR & a great way to score some brownie points. This more than their mindless dharnas could have helped them in 2019.

It has been a crazy two months. It had all the signs of a revolution. The official trial period is now over. Now comes the time when the aam aadmi will start demanding some answers. The first question would naturally be: was it all worth it? NaMo better have something to show for the past two months of inconvenience which the sloppy planning & execution of the demonetization has caused. My best wishes to our PM as always.

I will end this post with a suggestion for the PM. Talk to the people. You are famous for your “mann ki baat” So why not have a program where you explain your rationale behind this move? Get your team with you, the select few who knew about this move before hand. Ger Mr. Anil Bokil with you for he has explained this whole demonetization, its benefits, its long & short term effects, the reasoning behind it beautifully in a Marathi program. Do anything, but do not keep quite. Your silence is being misconstrued as your acceptance of defeat. The people of India put a great deal of faith in you when they voted for you. Do not let them down by being mum when your move is hurting many who voted for you. Most of them are anyways just waiting for some explanation from you to start supporting you once again. You do not want to lose out on those loyal followers or “bhakts” as the liberal Left derisively calls them. After all his faith has always been a “bhakts” strongest & weakest point. You don’t want to hurt their faith.

 

Passport reissue

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Finally its over! My passport is renewed & I am free to travel as & when I wish. I had been putting off going to the Passport office because honestly speaking, I hate going to any Government office. I just cannot stand the stoned officers or the general lethargy in the atmosphere. But I was in for a surprise at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) in Mumbai.

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I filled the application for reissue of passport online. After paying the necessary sum, once again online, I booked an appointment. They allowed me to choose the date & time of the appointment. I had chosen the first slot early in the morning in order to avoid the rush which might result due to delay in processing of initial applications.

I reached the PSK half an hour prior to my appointment. Only the applicant is allowed inside the PSK unless you are a senior citizen or physically challenged. From there a guard checked my printed application form & directed me to the counter assigned for reissue. There the lady checked my application & attached the photocopies of my submitted documents. After waiting for thirty minutes I was given a token & then directed to the next counter. Here I didn’t have to wait at all & was immediately taken in for getting my documents scanned. At the same counter they collected my fingerprints & clicked a photograph. After paying Rs. 40/- at this counter I was asked to move in to the next room. Here the wait lasted for almost an hour before I was called inside. The officer here verified my documents & stamped my old passport as “canceled”. After waiting for 15-20 min I was called to the last counter where they approved my request for passport reissue. From here on you collect the acknowledgement slip & fill in the feedback form & exit the PSK. If all your documents are in proper order the entire process from the time you enter the PSK to the time you exit it takes about three hours.

Everything is very well managed in the PSK & the service provided is much better than what one would expect from a Government office. My last experience at their Worli office had not been so good. Since I had submitted my application form online there was no question of data entry errors & hence everything on my passport be it my name, address or birth date, were correctly printed.

The delay at the third counter is because they prioritize senior citizens & tatkal applicants. Hence the rest of the applicants often have to wait for some time before their token numbers start.

I received my passport within 3 days of going to the PSK. Throughout the process the PSK keeps you well informed about each & every stage, from your passport application being processed, your passport being printed & it being dispatched.

The only problem I encountered in the whole process was with the Speed Post Department. The postman dropped a note stating that no one was at home, even though all of us were very much at home, and asked me to collect the passport from their office. They do not hand over the passport to anyone except the applicant. Even that is done after careful verification of your identifying documents.

Other than the final hitch with the speed post delivery of my passport my entire passport reissue went very smoothly. A big thank you to everyone who has managed to get things in order since the last time I was there at their office.

SPITTING AT THE SKY

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It’s a pity that we are living in times when someone has to actually write down why the soldier is important. But Major Gaurav Arya does it perfectly in this blog post of his.

MAJOR GAURAV ARYA (VETERAN)

Warren Buffet, perhaps the most successful investor of all time, with a piggy bank creaking under the strain of USD 64 billion, was once asked what the secret of his success was. Buffet said, “I buy when everyone else is selling. I sell when everyone else is buying”. Sound advice and solid judgment. No one can argue with that.

Now, take Warren Buffet’s advice and twist it to suit a narrow Indian context. What is the shortest route to fame? When every Indian is solidly behind the Indian Army, write an article abusing it. You set off a social media firestorm, gain instant infamy and suddenly everyone and their uncle knows you.

Truth be told, my first reaction to Aakar Patel’s article in the Times of India (6 November 2016) was one of dismay. Anger and hurt followed. Suddenly, there was absolute calm. The article was not the prey. It…

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Heart to Heart with Anuradha Prabhudesai

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I have always found the whole “things find you if its meant to happen” a little silly. But this Diwali I experienced a string of coincidences which made me believe in that line.

I logged in to Twitter, a place I rarely visit. My friend had retweeted a link of a video. Now its been ages since I have talked with this friend so I had every intention of scrolling on & I did. But after refreshing my TL when I saw the link still at the top I clicked on it. I usually never watch videos unless I have specifically searched for them. But this one, I guess I was meant to see! And I spent the whole time sobbing my heart out. I spent a sleepless night thinking about what Mrs. Anuradha Prabhudesai, an ex banker & a common person like me had spoken about in the video.

The video was about the Indian Army. Mrs. Prabhudesai had gone on a tour of  Ladakh many years ago when she came across a quote which changed her life. The quote was: I only regret that I have but one life to lay down for my country

This one quote ignited the spark of patriotism as well as curiosity within Mrs. Prabhudesai & she started off on her journey of understanding our soldiers & the terrain & elements which they survive among many other things, better.

The interview is in Marathi but below are the main points covered by her which I have translated into English:

  1. She visited the place first as a tourist & on interacting with the soldiers there, as she gathered knowledge about the history of the place she realized that although she is an Indian she is completely unaware of the happenings in a part of her own country because although she had heard about a war taking place in Kargil she had missed out or forgotten the finer details as they had no bearing on her daily life. She was shocked to learn that the place where she was sitting at & enjoying a meal (Dras in Kashmir), during the Kargil war 1000’s of Indian soldiers had lost their lives at this same place.
  2. Next day she visited Tiger Hill, which is nothing short of a cave of death. Tourists can see the place from afar but our soldiers had entered it bravely & found a way in & then out of it.
  3. From there she visited “Vijay Stambh” & was shocked to see that most of the jawans who had lost their lives were in their early 20s. She is reminded of a poem from her childhood where a father of a martyr says to his son, ‘you have become immortal fighting for this country, I am fortunate to have a son like you, my love for you my son makes me shed tears of grief today but I am proud of you & your achievements. Till today I have blessed you but today accept my last salute.‘ When she realized how tough it must be for a parent to salute their martyred son she took an oath at that spot to bring people to this land of martyrs in order to spread awareness among them about the work of the Army, about the difficulties they face owing to the geography & climate, etc
  4. A colonel showed them a clip of the Kargil war where Paramvir Chakra winner Capt. Vikram Batra’ mother says that at least love the country on which I sacrificed my son. This made her think about the loss of sensitivity in humans with each passing day. She remembers that people in her times were a lot more humane than what they are today & each day humanity is attaining a new low.
  5. The Indian Army is one institution which is truly secular. Every single soldier there is an Indian. They do not know their caste or religion. All they know is that they are Indians!
  6. The Indian Army stands for secularism, courage, skilled leadership, love for the country & an inherent desire to serve India. But unfortunately the common Indian never gets to see this side of theirs in his daily life.
  7. Today there is a lack of a proper role model. It is not that people are not bothered, unfortunately they are not aware.
  8. Mrs. Prabhudesai has started “Lakshya Foundation
  9. The youth of today need to be trained to take up some responsibility. If a person cannot take up the responsibility of his home will he be able to take up the responsibility of the nation?
  10. It is easy to react but very difficult to act. It is easy to blame. She recently conducted a program where she had invited high ranking officials from the Army, Navy & Air Force to guide children from various schools. Many had warned her against it saying that children these days do not attend such shows & it would be insulting to these officers if the talk show went empty. However her efforts did not go in vain for 800 students from various schools attended the program & listened to the guests in rapt silence & after the lectures concluded many wanted to know how to enroll in the Armed Forces. “If you do good, people will take it.”
  11. Lakshya Foundation has published various books. They have also started various programs like ‘Diwali with soldiers’ or ‘Valentine my soldier’ When young children came in contact with these soldiers they realized how much these men in uniforms had achieved in such a young age thus providing much needed inspiration.
  12. The soldiers never relate the gory details of their duty when they come back home. They find it pointless to burden their families with their tales of woe & always paint a rosy picture of the things they face so that their families would not spend time worrying about them.
  13. We fret over how much weight a Bollywood heroine has put on. But she knows a soldier who had lost 18 kgs weight while at the Siachen glacier. This one guy came down, there were 889 others who never came down.
  14. While the soldiers fight for safeguarding every single inch of the Indian territory, our own textbooks cut out an entire Arunachal Pradesh from our map!
  15. Tourists crowd at the Pangong lake & click pictures of its beauty. But how many know that this lake had turned red in 1962? Today due to the movie  3 Idiots the Pangong lake is now called “Kareena Point”. Nobody tells the tourist that brave Indian soldiers laid down their lives while fighting the Chinese troops in 1962 at this very place.
  16. Mrs. Prabhudesai once met a soldier who was moving about a room in circles, looking lost. She approached him & offered to tie him a rakhi but he lost his temper & his hand flew across her face as he went on to insult her. She was reduced to tears but his officer explained to her that the man had come down from Siachen glacier just yesterday & was not in the correct state of mind. He will keep roaming about in this lost state for another day before they take him to get treated. Four years later this same man approached her once again after having traveled a distance of 70km just to apologize to this lady to whom he was once so rude.
  17. When a person reduces his needs then it becomes easier to focus on the more important things in life.
  18. If you sow goodness, the bad will automatically be overshadowed
  19. Not everyone needs to go to the border to fight. First learn to be a human! Everything else will come to you automatically.

A special mention to the interviewer Dr. Uday Nirgudkar is necessary here for allowing the guest to speak. Taking an interview is a skill, not everyone can get the person in front of them talking by asking the right questions. So thank you Dr. Nirgudkar for knowing what to ask, when to speak & more importantly when NOT to speak.