THE TRANQUIL READER IN ME

Everyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I am a voracious reader. As I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs, I inherited the reading habit from my late grandfathers – from both sides of the family. Both were avid readers and exemplary writers, (though their writing was quite limited). If blogs and the internet existed during their times, I am sure both would have been published many times over. I do remember the times when my maternal grandfather used to dictate official letters, while being amazed at the way he structured and worded it. He even had a manual typewriter on which he used to type some of the letters himself. My paternal grandfather would read the Time of India from the first word till the last, and would remember almost everything that he read. Every time we cousins used to announce our class results, grandfather would only be interested in the marks we scored in English!

I personally prefer purchasing printed books (rather than the currently ubiquitous eBooks). I was part of a library a long time ago, but I found that it made more sense for me to buy books and read them at leisure. The smell of freshly printed pages, the thrill of holding the book in your hands and physically turning pages as you read, can never be replicated by its electronic equivalent. Though I am a hardcore fiction fan, I also read other genres, including non-fiction, autobiographies, mythology (Indian and global), inspirational and self-help books, newspapers, and even comics (which are suavely termed graphical novels these days). In fiction I prefer thrillers, murder mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi – I believe that life in general is tough anyways, so a little bit of escapism through such books is always welcome. Thrillers (James Bond, Modesty Blaise, Jack Reacher, Gabriel Allon, etc.) and fantasy (Game of Thrones series, despite GRRM’s wearisome style of character building to move the story forward, Conan the Barbarian, Hobbit series, etc.) are some of my favourites. In mythology I am an avid reader of Devdutt Pattanaik, a modern mythologist who cleverly draws parallels between Indian and world mythologies, subtly drawing the reader into contemplating the similarities while appreciating the differences. In autobiographies the best I have read so far is Mahatma Gandhi’s, “My Experiments with Truth” – a brutally honest self-evaluation, laying bare all the warts and sores that the great man had. Though I am not his biggest of fans, the autobiography is an eye-opener for anyone who wants to understand the man. It also shows how good autobiographies should be written. This is so unlike the recent over-hyped one of a Hindi movie producer / director, which is a contemptible exercise in mediocrity, repetitiveness, balderdash and inanity. But then these are apt adjectives to describe our vacuous Hindi movie industry anyway! One exception is the recent autobiography of the erstwhile leading romantic hero, which I hope to complete soon. I do not have a huge bookshelf with aspirational books kept for show – like you see in most people’s homes. People who like show off such bookshelves have hardly read any of the books on display – this becomes obvious when you ask them exploratory questions about some of these books.

Reading is one habit which I always encourage children to cultivate. This is easier said than done, with many people not really interested in reading tomes. But reading does not mean only books – reading comics (the ones that are meant for children) is a good beginning. There are so many books written specifically for kids these days – take the Harry Potter series (though I am not such a big fan), or better still any of the children’s books written by the inimitable Roald Dahl or Ruskin Bond. A daily reading of the newspapers will be extremely influential in your life. Not that in today’s age of post-truths and half-baked information, reading newspapers is such a good idea, but these are excellent methods of inculcating the reading habit in children, teenagers and adults. Even a studied skimming of headlines would give enough material to keep one updated enough to be an erudite contributor in any discussion on current topics. I sometimes even read movie scripts (as and when I can get hold of them online) to understand the vision of the writer, and then watch the movie to see how the director has translated it onto the big screen. One script I would love to get my hands on is that of Bahubali – it would be didactic to delve into the movie script of India’s biggest blockbuster.

Reading is a habit that opens up phantasmagorical pastures of imagination for children in which they can play to their heart’s content. It enriches and enhances mental growth, while opening new perspectives for a child to indulge and partake in. For children, it throws open doors while adults see only windows that they fear to look through. And you will agree that the good habits you develop in your nonage stay with you till dotage. I would like to end with the quote from one of my favourite writers, George R. R. Martin, which is very apt for all of us – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives only once”.

AN UNDENIABLE EXPRESSION OF LOVE

I had been suffering from a temporary bout of writer’s block. For the past few weeks, I had been toying around with various ideas – I even started writing one on the biggest (in scale and production values) and highest grossing (1000 crores and counting!!!) Indian movie, but there has been so many reams written on this one already that anything I write would pale in comparison. A few topical political issues traipsed into my mind, but slinked away quietly. I have decided to religiously (pun intended) avoid any write-up involving politics, since it invariably gets me branded by pseudo liberals as a “bhakt” – even when presented with sound logic and verified facts. Then a recently hosted get-together for my wife’s side of the family, planted a seed of an idea into my mind, which I nurtured into this.

I am married into a Gujarati family (and extremely happy about it), which at most times is delightful, but at others is certifiably quaint! As per Indian traditions one does not marry an individual but an entire family, which is true in my case too. Fortunately, I am always treated like royalty (make no mistake, Gujarati’s always treat their sons-in-law as royalty), and this accounts for my perennially happy state of mind. Gujaratis, and most definitely my wife’s side of the family, love food – irrespective of whether they are eating or feeding, they just love food! There has never been an occasion wherein I visited a relative’s house and have not been treated to epicurean delights – the starters are always delectable and the main course is always an opulent spread. What we ordinary mortals call dessert is something that runs throughout the course of a meal for Gujaratis – sweets can be consumed as starters, main course… and off course! Have you ever travelled with a Gujarati family? Believe me, neither the mode of transport nor location matters – they carry enough food for themselves, co-passengers, attendants, drivers, pilots, for the denizens of the place they are travelling to… and some more. Gujaratis somehow seem to travel with this perpetual fear of a provender apocalypse. You can rest assured that if a Gujarati family is travelling, the bag with victuals will far outweigh other baggage. A Gujarati family will remain relatively calm if an airline misplaces their luggage, but will definitely go ballistic if their bag of comestibles is misplaced! So if you are in the company of a Gujarati, please ensure that you do not make deprecating remarks against food.

The other thing that propels my wife’s side of the family out of stupor is Hindi movies. The family’s WhatsApp group is usually dormant… until there is some discussion on movies (or food). Any mention of movies (or food) and the group goes into an unprecedented hyper-active mode, with debates, arguments, recipes and movie dialogues going viral in the group. My grandfather-in-law, his siblings, and most of his progeny were closely involved in the Hindi movie industry. From the current generation, my wife’s niece works in a well-known actor-producer-director’s company, while another relative is an actress (she starred as one of the main leads in a highly celebrated on-going American TV series). A celebrated South Indian movie actor-director-producer and his actress wife, are very close family friends of ours. When we attended a popular Hindi play recently, the director who has also directed movies, instantly recognized my wife (he had last seen her over two decades back). He fondly recollected the delectable dinner parties hosted by my in-laws on their building terrace which he used to attend. In toto, it is like movies are part of their bloodstream – in fact, there was an uncle who used to joke that if you cut the veins of any family member of the late Vasantrai Desai, you would get film reels spurting out instead of blood! Any family pow-wow becomes a virtual hotspot for exchanging movie trivia and salacious gossip about the movie industry (culinary recipes too!).

In general, this is a community that likes to distribute happiness… and if there are some confectionaries to go with it, the better. I have rarely seen a Gujarati who looks dejected (except maybe losers in the stock market). Their immaculate hospitality skills apart (you will never step out hungry from a Gujarati household), their happy-go-lucky attitude towards life, and extravagance in everything that they do, this is a community that works hard through the week (they also happen to be one of the richest communities in India), only to party harder during the weekends. I am lucky that I am now an honorary member of this culturally rich and gastronomically diverse community.

Over the past thirteen years that I have been married, I have realized that my wife’s family is simply expressing their irrefutable love and affection for me through food. And this has actually humbled me to such an extent that I simply gorge on this food – something that has got metamorphosed as the unchecked growth of my erstwhile waif-like waistline!

AN INVETERATE INFATUATION

Professional and domestic commitments aside, I was also working on the topic to write about, which delayed my regular blog. Then a friend suggested something that is saddening while being relevant and topical.

I have this close friend of mine who is quasi-addicted to social media. His morning begins with checking the phone for messages on WhatsApp and Facebook. He sends out good morning messages (along with the thought for the day – which apparently not everyone appreciates), to all his friends on WhatsApp, hits the like button on Facebook posts, before getting off the bed for his morning ablutions. His motive is very simple and altruist – he just wants friends to wake up every morning to a good thought… but the fact is that he has now got used to doing it every morning. No amount of cajoling or persuading by his wife has been able to get him off this fixation. It is not that he does nothing else – he attends to his professional and domestic responsibilities with equanimity, but cannot resist himself from checking his phone for updates every time it pings.

I am sure my friend is not the only one who does this. Social media has permeated into our daily lives to such a large extent that it has now become an intrinsic part of daily humdrum lives. At some level, social media has brought friends closer – I can vouch for it, since it got me in touch with school friends after almost twenty-five years of being incommunicado. But the detrimental effects far outweigh the perceived benefits that social media can bring into our lives. This friend who suggested the topic finds it rebarbative – she feels that it is extremely intrusive and invades the personal space that each individual has around her or him. While opening a delightful channel of communication between friends and well-wishers, it has also opened a Pandora’s box of unrealistic and unsolicited expectations. WhatsApp has the dreaded blue tick which indicates to the sender that you have read the message, and woe betide you in case the reply is delayed. Things have reached such a stage that a delay in responding to messages is now looked at as an offense on the part of the sender, conveniently forgetting the fact that the recipient may be genuinely busy or otherwise occupied. Or better still – honestly does not want to reciprocate (or just being nasty). What is it that transforms a mensch into an unsociable ogre, if he or she declines a reaction to social media posts? If a rejoinder is so imperative, would it not be better to pick up the phone and talk to the person? After all mobile call rates are dropping faster than the credibility of Rahul Gandhi! Social media platforms have created a comfortable divan for us to rest conveniently on, while sending out missives to our friends. We are regrettably retreating into self-made shells that get shattered with the most minor of confutations. Add to this, we even post our emotions and dispositions on social media (some of them downright silly), expecting people to like and comment. How does it affect the world if you had a fight with your spouse, or if you went for a midnight jog, or your cat gifted you a mouse (I kid you not)???

The other ill of social media remains the spreading of rumours and false news. Thespian actor Dilip Kumar (among others) has been an unintentional victim of this rumour-mongering, as he has “passed away” an innumerable number of times as per social media. I get forwards of many such hoax messages – some of them sent with the sole intention of creating panic and pandemonium among people. It infuriates me no end when educated friends forward messages without ascertaining the veracity of such annoying prattle. With Google available on all phones, and all news channels being online, it takes merely a few seconds to authenticate such news. Also available are multiple sites (www.snopes.com comes to mind immediately), which help validate propaganda and half-truths, but no one wants to make the effort. On my part, I try and correct such forwards with genuine links (if available) and do not forward it further. Another gripe I have with social media are the online petitions that keep popping up. Even though for veritably noble causes, they are absolutely useless from a legal standpoint – so all the online petitions are factually ineffective and hence serve no purpose.

Social media has its use and is expedient to a certain extent, but its misuse has made it a menace to the society. Sadly, the social media-addicted friend mentioned above is yours truly. It does not paint me in a flattering light, but I have always believed that unless one can admit to their inherent faults, one can never remediate it. The mirror reflects several other perturbing facets of my psyche that are splintered and needs mending – impatience, anger, ego, selfishness to name a few – I see slivers of each of these, every time I stand before it. The path to self-actualization and course correction is difficult but I am taking it one step at a time – it is arduous, strenuous and daunting, but surely not as demanding as refuting misinformation that keeps cropping up on social media!

A RUDE WAKE-UP CALL

I have a friend, who is very close to me – we virtually grew up together, sharing food, books, and a lot more. We stayed close by then, so we were in each other’s house almost every other day. We have had intellectually stimulating debates, healthy arguments and horrible skirmishes (a few of which were concluded with invectives and fisticuffs), but our friendship has withstood all of this with nary a scratch. Over the years, our respective professional and domestic commitments have admittedly reduced regular interactions between us, but we have not let the vagaries of time and tide diminish our friendship. Even when we occasionally speak to each other today, we talk to each other as if we have always been in touch.

A month back, a common friend called me to say that this friend had undergone a major surgery for the big C, and that he expressed a desire to meet me. For a moment I thought this friend who had called me was joking (given his antecedents he was definitely capable), but the more he spoke the more I slipped into an abyss of inconsolable lament and despair. He explained how a seemingly harmless lesion inside our friend’s mouth had been diagnosed as malignant and needed a ten-hour marathon operation to be fixed. Surprisingly, he neither chews tobacco nor smokes, is a strict vegetarian and teetotaler to boot! The lesion warranted the whole lower jaw being removed, to be reconstructed subsequently with flesh and bone from his thigh. Of course, I rushed to meet him and spent over three hours with him (and other very close friends), cheering and regaling him with jokes (some of them at his expense), while reminiscing amusing episodes of our nonage. He looked his usual self – maintaining a steady outer demeanour, throwing wry smiles at our jokes, with pensive reflections over our preachy and clichéd philosophizing, exactly as he was when we were kids (he was always the serious and studious one among our closed group of friends). His face was misshapen and swollen on account of the surgery, but he patiently sat with us and partook in our tomfoolery. He unwearyingly recounted his harrowing journey through the unceasing cycles of unending consultations, different types of opinions (India having first, second, expert and familial), intimidating visits to oncologists, which finally led to the alarming diagnosis, followed by the traumatic surgery. My friend being a regular marathoner and a person who is fit and healthy, he went through all this with a stoic disposition. Even when he was describing his ordeal, he maintained his usual appearance of having everything under control. Meanwhile, I was trying my best to maintain an outer façade of optimism and jollity, while internally I with extreme difficulty, just about managed to keep myself from breaking down. I met him once again a week back in the hospital where he had gone for one of his multiple sessions of radiation (an inevitable and malevolent corollary to the big C), but my condition on seeing him was no different, while he was his customary pragmatic self.

Hats off to my friend and his indomitable spirit – the whole experience has been luciferous for me. Till a few months ago he was (and still is) a much respected senior employee of one of India’s biggest conglomerates (thankfully his employers are supporting him whole-heartedly), busy planning a safe and secure future for his kids, and here he is fighting a valiant battle against the big C – with his wife and mother giving him ample support in this. The fight continues, but this is a fight I am sure he will win! Epiphanous knocks on the head (not like this though) are needed for each of us to mature in life. This poignant episode with my friend gave me many insights to the fluid and non-conforming nature of life. It drove home, with a battering ram-like severity, the fact that we are only sure about the “now” in life. While we are busy securing the future of our loved ones, life is making other plans for us. We plan to be successful in life and subsequently take an early retirement, so as to enjoy the fruits of our labour but can we guarantee that those fruits would not have turned rancid by then? Reminds me of the definitive scene from the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara, where Hrithik Roshan, proudly proclaims that he wants to slog and mint money till his late forties, after which he would retire to an easy-going, relaxed life. To this, Katrina Kaif counters by asking him what is the guarantee that he will live till forty??? In the same vein, can we despite the unmitigated advance in science, be sure?

The other obvious lesson learnt from this is never to give up. History is witness to the fact that a battle is won only when one falls but gets up to keep fighting. Can we not easily recollect incidents of our life where we refused to give up and reaped spectacular rewards in return? If life is an interminable boxing match, with unforeseen and threatening punches coming your way constantly, why throw in the towel without giving it back in equal measure?

WOMEN AND WE MEN

The horrific incident of a Malayalam actress being molested inside her car made me hang my head in shame – first as a male, and then as a Malayali. I always prided myself of the fact that my ancestral origins are from the state of Kerala (where the Nair community follows a matrilineal tradition), but not anymore. Also Kerala still remains one of the most literate states of the country, but is obviously happy to be in the same statistically repulsive comparative chart as the badlands of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, when it comes to safety of women!

But this is the case with not just a few states of our country. Even the ostensibly benign concrete jungles of Mumbai have now turned into a happy hunting grounds for bestial monsters, who walk around in the guise of virile men! For the hundreds of cases that do get registered every day, there are thousand others which do not get reported, mainly due to the attached stigma and inconvenience it causes the victim, and in many cases due to lethargic policemen refusing to register a case. Personally, I hold even eve-teasing on par with molestation – after all the double-entendre laced verbal diarrhea, unleashed on an unsuspecting female by the molester is just another manifestation of vocal and virtual violation! To a large extent I would lay the blame for this on the way boys are brought up in our country. Apotheosis of sons by traditional Indian mothers, who willingly forgive and overlook all transgressions by their male progeny is saddening. Sons are free to have innumerable affairs, only to eventually dump their girlfriends, so as to marry a girl of his mother’s choice. Daughters are taught to remain and operate “within boundaries” (set by fathers and brothers), but no such confines exist for sons. Sons involved in eve-teasing (or even more odious crimes) are given a gentle slap on the wrist, while the female victim is commanded to dress “appropriately”, to avoid such incidents. A random look at the statements made by some of our male politicians after any such incident is ample proof of degeneracy. One minister from the ruling party in Kerala brushed aside the unfortunate case involving the actress, describing it as an “one-off case”, conveniently overlooking the nauseating fact that a rape takes place in Kerala every six hours!

The blame also lies in the portrayal of women in our movies and TV serials. At best, our movies have passed off women as arm-candy, while glorifying stalking and eve-teasing as some kind of a harmless “fun” activity that all men indulge in. Things are a bit (only a bit) better in the movies made by the current lot of young directors, but strong women-oriented themes are few and far between in our movies. Television, which could have been a harbinger and path-breaker in this respect, has taken women’s empowerment a few centuries back, with their hackneyed plotlines that relegate women to being schmaltzy homemakers. Or in rare cases, a soppy and weak professional who always needs the hero’s strong arms (I have never figured out why all TV serial heroes need to be buffed up, with six-pack abs being an absolute necessity) to rescue her from unimaginatively clichéd domestic situations. Three currently running serials come to mind – one (written by a well-known male author of racy romances) has a total mamma’s boy as the hero, who distrusts the woman who he loves and later marries, to eventually dump her for his mother. He blatantly continues to stalk the heroine to confirm if she has a new man in her life, and the other characters (except the heroine’s father) are perfectly fine with it! In another (which stars a family friend of ours), the heroine is regularly insulted and constantly berated by her in-laws and other relatives, but silently bears it all. And her husband (the hero, also buffed up) remains a tacit and tongue-tied partner to this lambasting of his wife. In another upcoming serial, the hero equates housewives to working women, saying that both are exactly the same. But what about the financial independence and individuality that a working woman has, usually missing in a housewife’s mundane existence? Also, most of our advertisements objectify women to such an extent that fairness is promulgated as a benchmark for any girl to get married! These advertisements are surely being “unfair” to women.

And guess what – all these serials are popular and mostly consumed by homemakers who then, knowingly or unknowingly, pass on these misogynist views to their sons! Maybe not all mothers are like this (mine definitely was not), and maybe not all wives take things lying down (mine definitely does not), but it is more a rule than an exception. Bacha Khan’s view in this matter rings so true – If you want to know how civilized a culture is, look at how they treat its women. Unfortunately, there is no app for the thing called “respect” – it has to come from within us men. After all, it is a woman who gave birth to you!

A DISCERNING JOURNEY

At the risk of being labelled immodest, I must say that the last month has been an extremely hectic for me. I got a serendipitous opportunity to visit the US on account of our company’s annual sales meet, and so have been traversing the globe for the past fortnight. I spent a professionally fruitful six days in an uncharacteristically gloomy Dallas, and then voyaged to a perennially sunny Florida for three days. But before I continue, I would be amiss if I did not offer my heartfelt thanks to our family friends Nandini and Shri, who played the perfect hosts during my sojourn in Florida. In addition to hosting me in their opulent abode, they took me sightseeing, shopping and fed me some gastronomically delightful meals. Other than their interest in food, their love for retro Hindi songs and Hindustani classical music, struck a resonant chord within me, which made our conversations refreshing and relaxing at the same time.

I have always complained about immigration and customs officials in India, but after a tiring two-hour wait at Dallas airport, I changed my opinion. The immigration clearance took an hour (but was alleviated by the very helpful immigration officer) and the subsequent customs clearance (by an absolutely grumpy official) took another hour – with just two counters to handle the humungous non-US crowd from more than five international flights that landed during this period, this was to be expected. In stark contrast, on my return it took me just 20 minutes to exit (with baggage) from Mumbai airport! You can usually gauge the vibe of a city through its taxi drivers, and the cabbie who transported me to the hotel was an affable chap who spoke amiably and jovially. So, barring the unwarranted tribulation at the airport, Dallas was generally good to me – the foggy weather notwithstanding. After five days of hectic activity in Dallas (the day would begin at 7 am and end only by 10 pm), I flew to Florida via Baltimore. Florida was sun and fun! The water-taxi ride down the Biscayne bay, passing the residences of some ludicrously rich celebrities was awesome. The enduring taste of salt on my lips (water splashing due to the slightly choppy lagoon), was nothing short of spectacularly memorable. I had always seen the (in)famous Miami beach and Ocean Drive in many American movies and TV shows. The blatantly over-dramatic Horatio Caine (David Curaso) strutting down this stretch in CSI: Miami had always made me envious, and a visit had been on my bucket list. So walking down the drive was like a dream come true – the day being warm and sunny helped in the place living up to its insalubrious reputation. I must easily have been the most overdressed person in that area that day! I also saw the Monarch Hill Renewable Energy Park (infamously termed Mount Trashmore) – a 225-foot high landfill, that currently takes in an average of 3500 tons of garbage every day, to be converted into bio-fuel. A visit to the Everglades was also on my list, but I have left it for the next time. But even in the notoriously iniquitous state of Florida, vehicle drivers are disciplined and follow traffic rules religiously. Of course there were a few who cut lanes dangerously, but this was more of an exception than a norm.

Which leads me to a disturbing trend which I noticed in America during Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. For a country which is the self-proclaimed “greatest democracy in the world”, demonstrations and sporadic incidents of violence against a lawfully elected President, is unbecoming. The Indian media pales in comparison to its vindictive, vituperative and vicious American counter-part. In the few talk shows that I watched, the media seemed to be heavily favouring the anti-Trump protestors, while paying very little heed to his supporters. Even sane and unbiased voices were drowned in the superfluous cacophony created by the loquacious dissenters. In any healthy democracy both sides need to be heard without bias, which currently does not seem to be happening in America. It seems to have become a classic case of “us” against “them” with battle lines clearly drawn, and the hitherto concealed prejudices of Americans coming out into the open. Politicians in India definitely have it easy compared to their contemporaries in America!

Meanwhile I got a lot of forwarded memes which praised the way the outgoing American President walked away into a glorious sunset (rhetorical) without creating a fuss and moving in to a modest house (not entirely true), unlike our outgoing politicians who cling to pelf and perks even after retiring (usually after almost a century of “serving” people). But if you honestly reflect on this, you will realize that we are ourselves are to blame for this deplorable state of affairs. Even after almost seven decades of independence, we allow our democracy to die a slow death by manipulating ourselves to the whims and fancies of our media and politicians. So it is high time for Indians to clear the cobwebs of our mind…

FAST FORWARD TO BEING BETTER

Let me begin by wishing all my faithful readers a very happy New Year. I spent a good four days last week with my family in Surat. This being my wife’s hometown and as son-in-law I had my wife’s family fawning over me, which embarrasses me no end. But their unmitigated love acts as a soothing balm on the travails of the four-plus hour exhausting drive from Mumbai to Surat. It’s another thing that I spent half the time on calls with colleagues from across the globe, as we had a huge deal to close. But the trip was memorable as we also had some close friends come over from Mumbai, indulging in some unique gastronomic adventures (some of the cuisine that you will not find anywhere else), with the added advantage of the ladies being able to shop for the fabrics that Surat is famous for.

Another highlight of the trip was all of trudging off to a local multiplex to watch the movie Dangal. To call it just an inspirational movie would be an understatement. This would arguably be the best movie of the year (only Sairat comes close) – supremely entertaining, highly motivating and brilliantly acted. The debutantes are so good that they can easily put veteran actors to shame. Aamir Khan effortlessly puts to rest speculations about who is the better actor of our generation. Those who have seen the movie will instantly recollect the scene where his on-screen daughter calls him after a long period of time – without saying a word, he sets the screen on fire with just his subtle facial expressions. His earlier gratuitous “intolerance” remarks notwithstanding, here’s an actor who has graduated from his initial chocolate-hero days to mature into a complete cinematic experience, improving and improvising with every outing. The fact that he does just one movie a year (if at all) only adds to his aura. I have read some of the reviews of the movie written by international critics, and they are not so appreciative of the movie. Almost all of them rue the fact that the movie is superficial and is more of an entertainment for the masses. But we Indians are like this only – we watch movies for entertainment, and if we learn something in the process, it only adds to the value for money. Sure, the team has taken cinematic liberties with Mahavir Singh Phogat’s life-story, but it only makes it more dramatic viewing.

But what I found more interesting in the movie were the lessons that it conveys through some beautifully written scenes, the most important one being having focus in life. The male protagonist is ridiculed, harangued and even intimidated for his single-minded goal of grooming his daughters into becoming world-class wrestlers. In the predominantly male dominated India and Haryana’s extremely misogynist society, to have daughters participate (and win) in a manly sport like wrestling requires not just courage, but also steel-willed determination. Brushing aside the vociferous protests from his wife (no chicken in her kitchen), daughters (chopping off their locks) and the village elders (how can girls wrestle with boys), he concentrates all his energies on making his girls gold medal potentials in a sport that he loves and was once a champion in. But the highlight of the show was when the entire audience stood up when our national anthem was played. I am someone who gets goosebumps every time I hear our national anthem being played. Call me a “nationalist” if you want (I wonder how this became a vituperation for the “liberals”), but I am extremely proud of the country which gives me an identity in this world. We are still busy forwarding asinine jokes about demonetization, rather than looking optimistically towards the new year. This one move has magically transformed people who could not clear their economics paper in school into financial “experts”! If we do not like the current incumbent, we will get an opportunity in a couple of years, but till then let him do his job. Why do we still insist on staring at closed doors when we have so many little windows of opportunity open for us?

Making money can never be a goal and should not even be our focus in life. Long term goals in today’s fast-changing world is not feasible, but why not set short term goals in life? Like for me, the personal goal for the year is to try and complete (and publish) my first book, make more inroads in the field of music, and professionally to improve my technical capabilities. Also, on popular demand from my wife and daughter, want to be less addicted to my phone and social media, which seems difficult but not impossible. We all have a Mahavir Singh Phogat buried in us, it is only a matter of bringing him out and working towards our goal – the keyword in this effort being focus. Short-term goals are easier to achieve and if your focus is right, they cannot be broken like the resolutions we all make at the beginning of the new year. Rather than trying to be better than anyone else, but let our goal for this year be to better than we used to be!