Sunday, September 21, 2008

the end of the road

randy pausch's last lecture was a lesson for everyone. how to live life to the maximum and seize every moment as it comes.the professor of computer science at carnegie mellon university agreed to give this last lecture when he was diagnosed of terminal cancer of the pancreas.there is a tradition at carnegie mellon of inviting a faculty member to give an annual lecture in a series called 'journeys' in which the faculty member is expected to speak on what he/she has learnt from life and what wisdom he/she wishes to pass on if it was the last opportunity. in the case of randy pausch,the last lecture was really a last lecture because he had a only a few months to live.

delivered on 18th september 2007,there were 6 million people who viewed the lecture online.he spoke to an audience of about 400 students and faculty members.the entire video is available on "you tube" and I would urge everyone to see it. it is absolutely absorbing.the title of the lecture was "really achieving your childhood dreams". randy pausch has a great sense of humour and he is also a great showman.he starts of with his ct scan slides and shows how his pancreas have been invaded by the deadly tumours.and then he starts a series of press-ups and tells the audience that apparently he is fitter than many of them. showing no signs of weakness or exertion for a man who has given up fighting the disease. his death was certain in a few months. "we cannot change the cards we are dealt. just how we play the hand". the exuberant last lecture was full of lessons like overcoming brickwalls.they are really not obstacles but they are there to make you perform better. to seize every second. time is precious and is running out.the terminally ill professor made millions of people all over the world sit up and rethink life.his lecture and the book that followed has changed innumerbale lives,touched american politics and has set off a publishing phenomenon.

his friend jeff zaslow, co-author of this book and a columnist of the 'wall street journal"(wsj) posted a 5 minute video in the wsj's website. it took off like a rocket.randy pausch even appeared on an oprah winfrey show which was watched by more than 10 million people.

the cocky and arrogant professor had a huge fan following in the campus.he had a loving wife jai and doting children-logan,chloe and dylan.a complete family man,he acknowledges his gratitude to his parents who allowed him to dream.the last lecture was actually for his kids.he wanted them to dream like him.and for them to know when they grow up as to how much he loved them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ganesha goes green

today is the last day of the ten day long ganesha festival. as usual ganeshas will be submerged and a tearful farewell given to the lord with the crowd chanting in full throat -"ganpati bappa mourya, putcha varsha parat ya". the remover of obstacles,one whose blessings are invoked before any auspicious thing is started, lord siva and goddess parvati's intelligent son and the most popular deity among hindu gods and one who is well known internationally for his elephant face will be immersed in the waters and eagerly awaited till the next year.

when "aum ganeshaya namah" is chanted, we are saying let wisdom prevail in what we do. wisdom seems to have dawned finally.there was a difference in the celebrations this year. in the past, the repercussions of celebrating ganesha festival without caring for the environment was so visible.however, this year,thanks to the zeal of environmentalists,there was a marked change in people's attitude and there was an awareness and concern to perform the festival with minmum damage to the environment.

pop(plaster of paris) idols release co2 reducing the oxygen level in the water and harm marine life. the paints on the idols further aggravate the damage.water bodies being sources of drinking water at many places get poisoned by the paint and deposition of floral offerings. there were many organisations which made their celebrations eco-friendly. some recycled all ganesh offerings. others created artificial ponds for immersion of ganesha idols. some made the idols from paper pulp. newspaper and mud mixed together.the newspaper acts as a binder.then with the pulp and use of hands the idol is made.painting is done with natural colours extracted out of turmeric and mud.some made ganapati out of clay.some even had silver ganapati idols and immersed them in a bucket of water and wiped them be kept in a safe place to be brought out the following year.some even ran workshops to educate people on keeping the festival ecofriendly. about 20,000 ganesha idols were made by school children using mud and vegetable dyes.

the bmc set up a website jointly with to provide details of ecofriendly ganeshas,location of artificial immersion ponds and other ways of celebrating the festival in a green manner. promoted sales of eco-friendly ganesha idols. there will be a cleanlilessness drive,the website said with students and members on the coastal front to clean up the mess.

a god who refused to marry because he felt no woman was more beautiful than his mother. a god whom no woman wanted to marry because he had an elephant head. said to have two wives though-riddhi and siddhi.material propsperity and intellectual growth.a god whose every part has deep meaning and significance. his trunk,his large ears,his third hand,his singular tusk and whose posture of sitting on a rat with one foot on the ground and the other resting on his knee convey esoteric meanings.

our beloved ganesha has now become an e-god.the obstacle remover has brought wisdom to the people.let us hope this movement picks up and that ganeshas pollute less and make the environment greener and more greener.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

'the last lear'

shot in 40 days flat on a relatively low budget(bigB charged only 10% of his normal rate),the arindam chaudhuri production was a treat to watch.the movie was premiered at toronto last year and was released last friday at mumbai(wonder why such a long time-gap), after scaring the guts out of the producer and bigB. jaya bhaduri's off- the- cuff remark that for her hindi came first and then only marathi did not go well with mumbai parochialists and politicians. they all jumped into the fray criticising jaya bhaduri and allowed hooligans to go on a rampage tearing billboards of 'the last lear' and burning effigies of jaya bacchan and even threatened to stop the premiere of 'the last lear'. bigB apologised on behalf of his better half and truce was called and peace was soon established. the young nephew of the shiva sena supremo bal thackeray,raj thackeray, who led the assault yet again on behalf of the marathi manoos won yet another battle. and film star muzaffar raked up another controversy saying that he was upset that his trademark hairstyle was copied by bigB in the movie without his permission! not only that, his looks and mannerisms were copied by rituporno ghosh for the character of harish mishra. these distractions soon blew away and the film was being shown to packed houses over the weekend.

the movie begins on a divali night with fireworks and crackers auspicious start.but then the protogonist(harish mishra alias harry) is in a state of coma. veteran thespian(amitabh bacchan) who plays the role of harry seriously injured his spinal cord when he did a stunt.harry(bigB) is a 75 yearold retired stage who breathes,drinks and eats william shakespeare.his ambition was to act as king lear in the play which was to be staged for which he did a lot of painstaking research and went under king lear's skin.just before the play was to be held,someone from the stage crew had commented about his live-in companion (vandana) which upset him so much that he gave up theatre altogether in a huff. living in an old and ancestral north kolkatra mansion with closed circuit tv in his room, he lives in a time warp.he is a personification of vanity and arrogance. sporting silver hair,the diehard theatre person ridicules movies and says he would never act in a can show only the face or the hands and if you want to show the whole body of the person you have to take a shot from a distance,he tells siddharth(arjun ramphal) who wants to make a film titled "the mask" with harry in the main role.siddharth's younger brother,a journalist interviews harry before he decides to act in the movie.while discussing shakespeare,harry is shocked that the youngster referred to the main character in "midsummer night's dream" as oberoi instead of oberon.and he never forgets the gaffe.forced out of retirement,the ageing and decadent actor decides to make a movie debut albeit with some reluctance.siddharth is overjoyed that he has found the right actor for his film.

shefali shah as vandana,preity zinta as harry's co-star shabnam,divya dutta as the nurse ivy,arjun ramphal as the film director siddharth-all perform their roles to near perfection. credit goes to director rituparno ghosh for extracting the best out of each actor.there are some very funny scenes like when both harry and siddharth see on the cctv at harry's home,the activity in front of the old mansion. the movement of people doing different things at different times. siddharth feels that this itself can become a story for a movie. every now and then there is a passerby who relieves himself against the compound wall of the mansion. the scene where harry implores siddharth to allow him to do the stunt of falling from the cliff much against siddharth's will is very touching. after all has he not paid a hefty sum to hire akbar, a stuntman.he,however, relents when harry goes down on his knees and begs of him and tells him that after all he is like siddharth's father.should he not accede to his wishes? a fatal mistake by siddharth. because harry breaks his back doing the stunt.

is there any message that arindam chaudhuri wants to convey? what is shakespeare's lear doing anyway? actually there is no connection between king lear and the last lear excepting probably the common factor of age and arrogance in the characters of king lear and acting is very different from acting in a film,the director seems to say and the harassment of young maidens by their suspicious boyfriends does not appear to be very uncommon.ivy and shabnam share this fate in the hands of their respective boyfriends. about which we come to know when vandana,shabnam and ivy share their dinner on the night of the premiere sitting in the drawing hall of harry's home. harry is lying in a serious condition in an adjacent room after the accident. frequent flashbacks unfold the story till the climax when harry mutters some shakepeare relationships change! the selfish director,siddarth, who never turned up to see his main hero after the tragic fall in stark contrast to the sympathetic co-star shabnam who skips the premiere to be with harry also shows different people exhibiting different feelings and emotions.the old are difficult people to handle;they are irritable,cranky and vulnerable. and some men take advantage of their age and susceptibility. women more often are at the receiving end and do not get a fair deal.relationships are complex and not easily understood and explained.

in sum,a remarkable movie to watch.bigB's performance when he quotes shakespeare with great panache and elan was for me something unforgettable. a well-knit team of actors who raise the bar with their outstanding contributions and make the film truly a delight to watch.

the jury is still out whether the film will be a commercial success. for me that is besides the point. it is a job well done.

Friday, September 05, 2008


it is not the climate that i am referring to.nor the glamorous is the quintessential south indian hot drink that goes under the the name rasam. taken in between sambhar and thayir sadam(curd rice),any south indian meal is incomplete without has to be hot.both temperature wise and in chilli content.the andhraites excel in making their pappu chaaru as hot as as it can be. they also prepare theeyati chaaru(sweet rasam). made with dal without dal,the key to the taste of rasam is the selection of the spices.the numerous variations include-mysore rasam,tomato rasam,lemon rasam. pineapple rasam(a popular rasam in my family),vayppambu(neem flower) rasam(my favourite), drumstick rasam,baby onion rasam, ginger rasam,milagu rasam,buttermilk rasam and so on and so forth.

the story goes that once the mysore maharajah gave a banquet in honour of some visiting dignitary.his hebbar iyengar cook was a super chef. the chef's sambhar was so tasty that the kitchen ran short of it due to the huge demand. when informed of the stockout, the maharajah immediately called the chef and asked him to come up with something very fast.the chef who was at his wit's end got a brilliant idea. he very innovatively created with the sambhar left overs the now famous rasam. needless to say it was a super hit with the guests.

during the first world war when the british troops were stationed at bangalore,one evening the tamilian cook in the barracks' canteen prepared a soup for his 'saar'.the englishman found it delicious."what do you call it?",he asked excitedly. "milagu tanni soup, saar",replied the cook meekly. thus was born the now famous mulligaitawny soup,an anglo-indian favourite. it is plain milagu (whole pepper) rasam served with rice.

wow! what a rich melange of spices! asafoetida,mustard seeds,fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds.curry leaves and coriander leaves to top it all.with tamarind giving the required tanginess and split red gram,turmeric powder,ginger,garlic if you desire,coriander seds,peppercorns salt and ghee and even a small stick of cinnamon and rasam podi for added flavour,you can reach seventh heaven with your taste buds fully wonder it is called sattumadhu (sadam plus amudu), which means rice with nectar, by the tamilians.

simple to prepare and very high on the satisfaction count this simple mixture of tur dal water, juice of a small ball of tamarind, tomatoes( i like it in big chunks,though many prefer small ones),onion and garlic (for those who crave for that flavour),green chilli and salt with a final tadka(sputtering) of pepper,cumin and mustard seeds,split black gram and desi ghee(rarified butter),fenugreek seeds,methi and hing. it is a 20 minutes' job and when served piping hot can be savoured as a drink or mixed with rice and taken as rasam rice as it is generally done. one could also add vada to the rasam and make it a rasa vada,which i find the punjabis love.a favourite in wedding lunches and dinners,one needs a fair amount of skill and dexterity to manouever the rasam on a plaintain leaf.otherwise you could end red in your face with your neighbour looking daggers drawn for making quite a mess.

"in vain our hard fate we repine. in vain our fortunes we rail. on millagutawny we dine,or congee(kanjee) in bangalore jail." this was composed by an english prisoner during hyder ali's rule in early as 500 bc,the aryans were eating "supa",a sanskrit word that described the extracts of cereals and various pulses which were later flavoured with ginger,pepper and pomegranate. the rasam has a long long history and loved by commoners,prisoners and kings. if you have not had this liquid appetiser, just don't wait. just get it and slurp. if you are one of those who haven't indulged in the finer things in life,this is your moment. embark on a journey of senses and discover the world of rasam.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

narielpaani(coconut water)-the miracle drink

it is a fantastic drink. absolutely safe. no chances of any contamination. no chemicals. nothing spurious about it. and the latest research reveals that it helps patients recover from chikungunya, typhoid, cholera, jaundice etc. called elaneer in tamil nadu, daab in bengal and narielpaani in maharashtra, this super-heatlhy drink has everything going for it. i am not saying this. it is the world health organisation (WHO) which strongly recommends this drink.

it is a diurectic. it has pottasium and small amounts of sulphur,phosphorous and copper. it has vitamin C. besides, it is a beauty aid as well. it is excellent for hydrating the skin. deepika padukone swears by it. and so do yana gupta, kareena kapoor and ameesha patel who are all narielpaani buffs.

it is a great detox. it has negligible fat and calories.

make it a part of your daily routine. it will work wonders on you. a common sight in front of our hospitals is the humble narielwala. my narielwala,rajesh from kerala (actually rajen but made to rajesh by the mumbaikars) knocks on my door every morning with a broad smile on his face and a nariel in his hands- full of the miracle drink. god bless him. i know that my day has been made.