Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pursuing HappYness

The Pursuit of Happyness' is an inspirational story of a struggling salesman bringing up his son in suburban San Fransisco in the mid 80s. This movie is based on the actual life story of a rags to riches entrepreneur and stock broker Chris Gardner as he struggles through abject poverty and destitution on his way to break into the stock brokerage business as an intern.

The movie follows the life of Christoper Gardner (played by Will Smith) who sells little-needed medical bone density scanners for a living. Supporting his child (played by his biological son Jaden Smith) after his wife's departure, he is forced to relocate to a smaller house, loose his car and even spend time in jail for not paying parking tickets. His life takes a turn when he gets a break in to the world of finance and investments as an intern. He reluctantly takes up this non-paying, no job guarantee offer though the odds of getting a job after internship was next to nil. Between toiling hard to make a mark in his internship and trying to sell the left over bone density scanners over the weekends, he also needs to stand in a queue for rehabilitation everyday!! They become homeless, living in hotels, homeless shelters, and even a cruddy subway bathroom! But Chris holds on to his ultimate dream of being happy and giving him and his son the life they truly deserve.

Will Smith plays the role of his lifetime. His comic timing is very evident in the lighter moments, but his sincerity to the role is best brought out playing a man with no options, no family, no help and little hope. Special praise must be reserved for his son who plays his part to the tee. He has portrayed the innocence and sweetness of the tender age, while being able to hold his own in the more serious of circumstances. The father and son share an awesome chemistry which is very apparent right from the first scene.

Every scene and emotion portrayed on screen is heart warming and touching making this movie a truly worthwhile experience. What touched me most was the way Chris never gave up fighting even when faced with the most dire of circumstances. This movie stands as a testimonial to the cliché, success and more importantly happiness follows those who pursue it. In Chris's own words we experience happiness in eye blinks. The rest of the time we are chasing after it.

I rate this movie a must see for the sheer tenacity of emotions and thought process the movie puts the audience into.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Wise and Otherwise" by Sudha Murthy - Book Review

I just finished reading "Wise and Otherwise" by Sudha Murthy. And I must say I am mighty impressed and moved by the book. This book is a collection of 51 short stories, every one of them being a gem. Whats more, majority of the "stories" are in fact real life experiences of Sudha Murthy.

The first and foremost aspect of the book which I fell in love with is its simplicity. The incidents are narrated by the author in simple words, without any attempt at glamour or extravagance. The language is simple - you dont need a dictionary to understand it. The opinions put forth are direct. Its almost as if the author does not want to attract attention; this is the most attractive feature of the book.

No "story" is more than 5 or 6 pages long. However, each and every story is a lesson in life! Thats not to say that every story paints a rosy picture of life. Sudha Murthy gives some instances which clearly portray the vagaries of life. Some of these incidents are so moving, you are forced to reflect on how unfair life really is. For example, the author recollects the encounter with a gharwali, who was initiated into the "profession" at an age of 12, by her younger brother whom she adored, that too on Rakhi day! Similarly, there is the example of a man who branded his aged father as "homeless" so that he would be admitted into an old-aged home.

The moral of the stories varies from humility to humanity to equality to social issues. Another feature of these stories is that they are all realistic. The masses would relate to these stories. Its not about the "rich and famous", but about everyday people. The "heroes" in the stories are for the most part, simple "persons next door". For instance, the author shares her experience of how one of her friends learnt to have a positive outlook towards life, after being inspired by a beggar dancing in the rain! Likewise, Sudha Murthy describes how a woman did not forget to express gratitude to the author even on her death-bed.

Finally, another highlight of the book is the experience factor. The way the stories are written, you can clearly see the feelings, the emotions and the experiences that has gone into each of the anecdotes. It is obvious that the author has travelled far and wide - from the extremely poor villages in Orissa to the flashy environs abroad. The tiny tidbits that the author gathers in each of these encounters aggregate to form enormous experience. It is this personal insight and experience that injects life into every single story.

Now for the verdict - There's no two ways about it. Irrespective of one's demographic classification, this book is definitely worth a read. I conclude by rating "Wise and Otherwise" as a must-read; and hope to take a leaf out of it myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

WC - The Game of Unity & Love

Come the 13th of March, 2007, everyone’s attention will turn towards the tiny countries in Central America, collectively called, the West Indies, to follow the progress of the biggest & most-awaited event in any cricket enthusiasts’s schedule – the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Although the opening ceremony will be held on the 11th of march at Jamaica, the matches do not start off until West Indies play Pakistan on the 13th. Both of these teams belong to the Group D; Zimbabwe & Ireland being the other two teams. West Indies are having a decent build-up to the WC, hampered a little bit by their 3-1 series loss to India. But, they do play well in WI, with the backing by their jovial crowd. Brian Lara, playing in what-should-be-his last WC would want to make this 1 a memorable 1. His leadership skills has improved a lot in this captaincy stint.

Pakistan, on the other hand, are an unpredictable outfit, being wounded by their 4-1 away loss to South Africa. But, as we have seen time & again, on their day, they are capable of beating the best. Pakistanis would be looking up to their old warhorses – Inzamam & the tremendous Mohd. Yousuf to fire consistently. Absence of Shoiab Akthar & Mohd. Asif will definately be felt in the bowling department.

Moving over to the Group A, there is a mouth-watering clash between the current No.1 & No.2 ODI teams in the world, namely, South Africa & Australia respectively. Although, Australia have been outclassed in their previous 5 encounters, it wouldn’t be wise to rule them out of WC contention, especially with the return of their Captain Consistent – Ricky Ponting & the wicketkeeper-batsman, Adam Gilchrist. They, however, are bound to miss the services of the in-form but injured, Brett Lee, who has been gradually developing into a deadly fast-bowler.

South Africa is a team which has been performing consistently in the past few months, easily beating India & Pakistan in the home series. Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis & Shaun Pollock are their proven players. They will also rely on the services of Makaya Ntini & Mark Boucher to come-up with a clinical performance.

Group C includes two teams which must have gained immense amount of confidence after recently beating the World Champions Australia, ie. New Zealand & England. New Zealanders have a nice team, packed with all-rounders, because of which they bat deep. But, they might have a little problem in the middle order, which lacks experience. Their greatest strength is their fielding & their team-work…many players chip in with runs & wickets in most games.

England played wonderfully well to win both the finals of the Commonwealth Series against Australia, but, their form in the matches before that isnt very encouraging. Apart from those two gritty games, they have been struggling in Australia. Andrew Flintoff & Kevin Peterson alongwith Paul Collingwood, are bound to be their players to watch.

Group B is where our primary interest lies, with sub-continent teams like Sri Lanka & India battling it out here. Sri Lanka might have looked a bit out of sorts in their last ODI series against neighbours India in India, but, their team will be boosted by the return of the tremendous bowling war-horses, Muttiah Murlitharan & Chaminda Vaas. Batting line up appears strong, but, they will require players like Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara & Jayawardane to fire consistently.

Indian team, after its terrible outing in SA, has managed to recover its confidence, beating both WI & SL at home. Their main concern will be the batting. Although, most batsmen were among runs in the past two home ODI series, but, its while playing away that they manage to falter. Captain Dravid has made a courageous, but, right move by picking Sehwag in the team; because, he is the kind of batsman who can murder any kind of bowling attack, if he stays in the wicket for a while. In the 3 practise matches & agaisnt minnows, if he gets close to a hundred, then, that’s what will get him going. Sourav Ganguly, who has looked very good since his comeback, should hold the top order together. In my opinion, Sachin Tendulkar should still be opening; but, in order to fill in the lacuna in the middle order, he has had to drop down the order. He should have a good WC campaign, if India are to do well in this WC.

Bowling prospects are in the hands of Zaheer Khan & Agarkar, with new comers like Sreesanth & Munaf Patel fully raring to go. If Irfan Pathan gets back to his earlier wicket-taking ways, it is going to help the team a lot, as India will get a decent all-rounder as well.

Among the minnows, if any upsets can be expected, it should come from Bangladesh or Kenya. Zimbabwe have had very few matches in the last couple of years & most of the seniors are also gone. Canada, Holland & Scotland would be aiming at improving on their past performances & giving more of a fight to the test playing nations, all the while hoping for an upset. Ireland and Bermuda will be be feeling ecstatic, just being part of the major cricketing event.

All said and done, the league matches might not draw in too many audiences, save for the 1 or 2 matches in most groups between the test playing nations. The party really gets started on March 27th, when the Super 8 matches begin. It’ll make for some good TV viewing!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Reacting a Tad Too Late

There is a Kannada saying which roughly translates to "He started digging a well after the fire broke out" (pardon the messy translation). Well, thats exactly what applies to every untoward incident that happens in India.

Two days after the Samjhauta Express blasts, the Delhi-Lahore bus departed "amidst heightened security", as one newspaper put it. Oh great! So by doing this, the events will be reversed and the 65 (and counting) people who perished in the blasts will be brought back to life! And you see, these criminals are seriously running out of ideas. Thats why they are sure to plant bombs in the Delhi-Lahore bus barely days after they pulled off the Samjhauta Express blasts. Right?

Excuse the sarcasm, but the administration must be made up of a bunch of jokers. I am not saying that there shouldn't have been heavy security for the Delhi-Lahore bus. I am just saying that there should have been similar rigor for the Samjhauta Express as well. I just cannot imagine how the security could have been so lax that passengers were able to excuse themselves from the security routine of the train by paying 50 rupees!

But this incident is just an example. Such inaction on part of the authorities has become the norm. What is worse is the pretence of concern and "action" after such incidents take place. From mobs/riots to boat capsizes which kill scores of children to wedding hall blazes to train accidents - the story is always the same. A very avoidable tragedy occurs (often because of official apathy/administrative inefficiency in the first place), then there is the finger-pointing between various agencies, committees set up to "probe the incident and submit a report". The sleepy authorities, given a rude awakening from their year-long siesta, are desperate to save face. All of a sudden, they become very concerned about the people, the public, the country.

The big question is .. why not be a little more cautious in the first place so that the tragedy would have been averted? Had these authorities excercised that oh-so-little extra caution right from the beginning, they would not have had to struggle to save face today. By the way, if you are thinking why I am repeatedly referring to officials "saving face" and not about the officials' concern or country and the people.. well the answer is "What people?" "What country?"

The most shameful aspect of such incidents is the way politicians utilize these unfortunate incidents for political (read vote bank) gains. I have written before about this here. There were reports in the newspaper about how, after the Samjhauta Express blasts, the relatives of the injured had a tough time reaching out to their near and dear ones at the hospital. Reason: There was a constant flow of (competing) politicians at the hospital. Politicians must give a thought to the struggle that hapless relatives will go through if they visit the hopsitals. But, hey, since when did politicians start thinking about people?

I do not know what scale of tragedy is required to really wake up the authorities. I hope they adopt the policy of "Be Prepared" sooner than later and save those thousands of innocent lives. And this policy should not be restricted to the authorities alone. We "aam janta" have as much a role to play in this as the administration. Simple practices like a little more honesty, a little more patience and a lot more principle in life; can do a lot to bring down such extremely undesirable incidents. We can do with a lot less of these, especially now that we are on the right path of nation-building.

Looking forward to an India where more value is placed on the human life! JAI BHARAT.