Pay it forward

Sacred Games


Uma leads my projects team at NalandaWay. A bouncy and generally a very happy person. I have known her for over four years now, and someone who has become very important in our work with children. She has a warm personality and it is very hard to catch her without a beaming smile.

On one hot sunny afternoon in Chennai, both of us were getting out of a school in Mylapore. We were slightly relaxed that the review of our programme had gone well with the trustees of the school. We had been anxious about the review for over a week.

“How old are you?” I had always wanted to ask this question to her. She has had long years of corporate experience behind her but always carried a youthful exuberance.

“Never ask a woman her age,” she said and gave her characteristic smile.

More than anything else, what is most noticeable about her is the total absence of cynicism in her attitude to life that usually comes with getting older. Both of us were walking towards my car and I noticed she was dressed rather festively for a school visit.

“So going for a wedding or a concert later?” I was curious.

“Nope,” and in a shy voice continued, “my husband had gone out of the country for the past ten days and I am meeting him for coffee now. Thought I might dress up for him,” and winked at me.

For my turn, I was now smiling ear to ear. Apparently love is real.

Uma is a fan of crime thrillers and I gifted her, “Sacred Games” by Vikram Chandra.

‪#‎PayItForward #‎GiftABook‬ 22/100

In medias res


“Anubhav” by Basu Bhattacharya is one of my favourite movies. The film begins with the nostalgic All India Radio tune that gives you a throw-back into the days where life was not so hurried. Anubhav is about love, marriage, intimacy, love, redemption and rediscovery. And Tanuja does it so poetically in the presence of a giant like Sanjeev Kumar.

“Anubhav” is about Meeta, who leads a lonely life in a mansion. Her husband Amar Sen (Sanjeev Kumar) pursues a career of an ambitious editor, a workaholic who is dedicated to his profession at the cost of ignoring his responsibilities at home. Six years of marriage have not brought Meeta joy since there is little intimacy between the two. Her craving to start a family is conveyed in the opening frames through a child left to fend for itself in a party that strictly involves grown-ups. Meeta’s concern for the weeping child, begging attention, stirs the mother within her to the fore. It is her journey to rediscover herself that makes this a well-crafted film.”

Watch it here

This is a perfect movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Pay it forward

Dongri to Dubai


I am a huge crime buff. From Godfather to Nayagan, Rock and Rolla to Satya, Reservoir Dogs to Aranya Khandam; I loved them all. Surprisingly my appetite has been more for films than novels. The real lives of dons have always intrigued me.

“Dongri to Dubai” by S. Hussain Zaidi is a go to book on crime and mafia dons in big bad Bombay. The book chronicles the stories of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, and Dawood Ibrahim from 1947 to 2011.

Totally unputdownable.

Unlike earlier, This time I had some trouble getting the cafe managers to agree to my idea. Two cafes did not agree to leaving the book on their tables. Perhaps I should not gift wrap it anymore, just a gift bag might work. When the second cafe turned down my ‘gifting a book to a stranger’ plan, I decided to give away the book to a stranger directly.

So congratulations Aparna, hope you like this book.

In medias res

Holy cow


My taxi ride was frustratingly moving at a snail speed, one evening in Mumbai earlier this week. Rains were playing ‘hide and seek’ and the humidity added to my woes. At a narrow congested road, a cow with large black and brown patches was tied to a tree. She was on my left and the traffic stood still. A young lady with a little child in her hip touched the part closer to the cow’s tail and prayed for a brief moment. She then encouraged her little one to lean and bend towards the cow, in manner of seeking its blessings.

An older gentleman followed her and affectionately touched the cow while chanting some mantras. There was no temple or shrine next to the cow, which had suddenly found reverence. A middle aged lady followed the elderly person and much to my surprise, she reached her hand below to collect the cow’s urine.

The taxi driver remained in his seat, completely oblivious to the ways of the cow’s devotees, while gently whistling to a recent Bollywood song.

Diagonally opposite across the road was a butcher shop and it was bustling with activity. This was the month Ramadan and a small crowd of people had gathered around the shop. They looked very dirty in tattered clothes and were seated on the floor. Some of them were wearing skull caps. They were waiting for food to be served to break their fast.

The slight drizzle suddenly gained momentum and I struggled with the lever to close the glass windows of the taxi.

While I was negotiating with the rain and the window, a large brightly lit hoarding grabbed my attention. A beaming Narendra Modi announced, “I am Patriot. I am Nationalist. I am born Hindu.”

Interesting times ahead.

(Photo courtesy: Outlook magazine)

In medias res


“What film did you watch sir?”

I was returning after a late night movie at the Phoenix Mall in Mumbai. I was sleepy and disappointed at having seen a crappy movie. The chatty taxi driver continued, “you should have seen ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. It will make you believe in hard work.” Was he hinting that I wasn’t working hard enough? But he should be a very intuitive psychic to figure that out in such a short time I wondered.

The driver was short, stocky and must be easily in his sixties.

“I have been driving taxi for the past thirty years and I still work atleast 15 hours a day. My son left today to America to do MS. We all went for this movie the day before he left. He is a good boy. My hard work has paid off sir, I am very happy,” and he turned back to look at me with a beaming proud smile.

Life is beautiful.