The Folklore of Settling the Score

Crumpled papers
Yet again blurt this lore.
Akin to the silent lips
That confess the days of yore.

Fragments of paragraphs
Yet again rise from ashes to roar.
Akin to the shards of the glass
That once kept her thirsty for more.

Stories of the unknown
Yet again begin to pore.
Akin to some deepest secret
That once lay riddled fore.

Shreds of torn ships
Yet again sweep ashore.
Akin to Sailor’s ambitions
That sailed across the seafloor.

Wings of dreams, but be sure
Yet again will soar.
Akin to life’s own way, it is,
Strangely just ‘settling the score.’

©Suyog Ketkar
October, 2021

Show me the Way

When the dark skies of uncertainty
Don’t let the light gleam through.
And it’s impossible to see, decipher
In the absence of any hope-resembling ray.
I, with folded hands and eyes tightly shut,
Shall look up to you and thus begin to pray.

It is that time again.
I must choose.
That time to commit — Yay or nay!
Believe in belief.
Tread towards my true north
Amidst walloping winds that are at play.

I must go the extra mile:
Beyond my boundary.
Accomplish the impossible,
for that’s how I’ll make a merry.
Then I churn into gold what’s my stack of hay.
You lent me the idea. Now enlighten my way.

©Suyog Ketkar
September, 2021

The Interview and the Strange Feedback

Last month, I attended a formal interaction for a job opportunity within my team. One of my teammates is looking for an instructional designer. Since it is a small team, they included us to review the candidate. That’s how and why the interaction happened last month.


In India — specifically in all the interviews that I have attended either as interviewee or interviewer — there are a few things that have gone unnoticed, unsaid, or but understood:

  • The interviewer asks more questions than the interviewee
  • The interview process has to cover all questions relating to the candidate’s professional life, including if and why was there a gap in their career
  • The interviewer has to have an upper hand or can interrupt


Thankfully, I have never followed any of these rules… and thankfully, organizations are evolving. Come 2021, I have rarely heard anyone facing such questions.


I am of a firm belief that first, it is an interaction and not an “interview,” and two it has to be two-way communication.

But, the recent interaction went from an interaction into an interrogation. And I am speechless.

So, here is how it went.


My first impression was that even though the candidate had over 20 years of experience, she didn’t have the positivity I was expecting her to have. So, I motivated her to talk more or elaborate right from her first answer. It might be true, after all, that the interview is over in the first 50 seconds.


Then, I asked her a few questions, which she answered promptly. And answered a few of her questions. Hopefully, I answered those questions satisfactorily.


Then I happened to ask her about the Oxford comma. I expect that a technical communicator with over 20 years of experience will have, at least, heard about it. She didn’t know what it was. To which I told her that I would have expected someone of her experience to know such things. Nevertheless, she appreciated me for pointing that out, and we moved on.


Then I picked up a few sentences from her resume and asked her to find out if and what was wrong with those. I was prepared to hear her say that the sentences were OK, which they weren’t. To which I would have said nothing.


But when she could not point out the oversight, I pointed out those to her and told her that she could correct those. Even though I realize this is an interview, I thought this helping hand would be acknowledged as a welcome gesture. Besides, I even clarified that the answers to those questions would not impact the interview result.


On a side note, let me tell you a secret. For all the interviews I have attended, I have purposely asked for the interviewers to point out the instances where I could have gone wrong or improved myself. I have always received welcoming replies. In the process, I have made friends with the interviewers… Selection or no selection, we have gone above and beyond those social boundaries to create a collaborative environment. I still talk to a lot of them, more as friends.


So, back to this interaction. I told the candidate how I committed mistakes and overcame those by asking the right questions. I also told her how I liked the interaction to be two-way, and not one-way. Within a week after the interaction, I heard from my boss — during our weekly interaction — that she found me to be aggressively authoritative and egotistic. Although we did clear the confusion between us (my boss and I), and even he felt nothing wrong with my approach, I have since learned a few hard lessons the hard way.


At least I now know one more thing. It is OK for me, as an interviewee, to ask what mistakes I committed. But, as an interviewer, I must not point out the scope for improvement, despite how objective and positive my intentions maybe because not everyone shares my state of mind.


Let me know what you think.

Tourists

It was at the first light of life
That they took the baby step.
And continued to walk along
Even as they slept.

Still bright and breezy
Were they at the wee hours.
Trudged through while
Still learning their powers.

Amidst the blossoming yellow
Bathed, fed the fellows!
Then around the noon
Their lives began to bloom.

Their gaily souls traced the trails.
Still young at hearts, very hale.
The afternoon arrived, though pale,
Blessed with occasional bursts of the gale.

Until evening, their routine was set.
Along with pleasure, closures were met.
Truths were told. Masks had fallen.
Even the hardest had begun to soften.

Wearied souls came upon a bridge.
Living each episode unabridged.
Twilights coated with burnt orange.
Forgiveness tasted sweeter than revenge.

The night, it seemed, soon fell.
Such that no one could foretell.
It was time to pack the bags—
It was time to bid farewell.

The tourists then made the choice
For how long were they to dwell?
Death then enrobed those
Who had managed to quell.

The tourists then sojourned the bright tunnel.
They seemed to cope. And well.
What lay beyond that comfort, now
How were they to tell?

©Suyog Ketkar
June, 2021

Learning through Writing

From the short stories and poems to the first attempt at writing creative fiction in the form of the Spyglass, many occasions made me realize that writing took me even before I took to writing. Writing has shown me that both as a vocation and a profession, the fullest one can achieve is still unknown. Perfection remains more a pursuit, a journey, than a destination. For this post, I will take you along back in time for the backstory.

As a kid, I was never a dull boy. Yes, I was not good at studies, especially mathematics, physics, chemistry, but that was not because I was dumb. I was exceptionally good at all languages, including Sanskrit. I was also good at other subjects and extra-curricular activities. I neither disliked my teachers, nor did I hate learning. I still don’t. In fact, back then, I could not define what I now can. I hated the way people taught. This still remains with me: I am equally sensitive toward what is being taught and how it is taught.

The learning process needs a mentor and student. The mentors, I assume, have not changed. The student is still the same: equally hungry to learn. So, what made this student find his own identity? What happened that a kid who just about managed to pass the tenth grade and was made to accept a specific set of subjects turned out to be one of those students that outshined everyone else in almost every department before passing out of the same school?

It was during the eleventh grade that I began developing a reading habit. Or, I’d say, a few books called me to pick them up. It was a connection I cannot describe. Amongst the first few—and I want you to pay special attention to the selection here—were Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and The Glory of Puttaparthy by V Balu. I must have read both of those books at least a few times. While neither the books nor their respective genre has anything in common, both had the same effect on me. I became a better person after I finished reading them. It wasn’t enlightenment, but it wasn’t too far either. The same seagull that once had dreamed of flying at 70 miles per hour had transformed. It no longer needed to understand the rules, the aerodynamic flow, the wind direction, or wait for their turn in their flock of birds to get to nibble around the fisherman’s boat.

This small change then helped me graduate from being a mere reader to beginning to write. I penned hundreds of poems and short stories before I wrote my first non-fiction book on a writing pad. I called it the Ingredients of Success Recipe. Although I never published it, I did share it with my family and friends. They liked it. Or, at least, they pretended to. I won’t get to find out. But, that doesn’t matter, for I now have this priceless gift called writing. Now when I look back, I find mathematics rather interesting. And, so do all other subjects that I once hated of being made to sit and learn. Writing gave me the logic to decode the way to decipher through those dark clouds of thunderstorms called mathematics, physics, and chemistry. But, was that alone enough?

During my years as a freelance writer, I accomplished quite a bit, for I paid off my education loan even when I did not have a regular earning. During the same years, I had also enrolled for an MBA, which was exclusively for working professionals. Eventually, I figured that to be able to make a family and to sustain it, I will have to earn myself a job. Around the mid of 2011, I had completed a translation project that had drawn me some substantial appreciation and accolades from local representatives. I had completed that project in a mere 15 days—the project would normally have taken over four months of my schedule. But for a practiced hand, translation was a mechanical job. I wanted something more creative, more original.

It was during the last quarter of that year that someone suggested I pursue pranayama, the breathing technique. I researched it and settled on doing Nadi-Shodhan, a breathing technique that purifies the blood and mind. The first month of my breathing exercise wasn’t easy. While it resulted in some magical experiences within the first couple of weeks, it also gave me terrible back pain and other emotional turmoils. Words struck faster, so my efficiency improved, my earnings increased. But, at the cost of my health. The reason was that I had not taken the Deeksha (initiation) for its practice from a guru. So, I suffered from acute back pain for almost two years. But I persisted. Eventually, the pain subsided. Now it is gone.

Why do I tell you all that today? What is the reason I open those chapters of my life to you? What is it that I wish you to take away as the vital thought? The life of a writer is that of a generalist. We are the jack of all trades. And that itself has lent me the most potent insight: to be a learner, I just have to take the next logical step. As a proud generalist, I have broken down complex topics into simple terms and simple terms into clear messages, and clear messages into actionable, understandable items. One careful step, every time. I have moved from clutter to clarity in everything I have ever pursued as a writer.

William Zinsser, of On Writing Well, says, “Writing is thinking on paper.” I can only elaborate on his thought. If writing is pouring down your thoughts on paper, then re-writing is choosing which ones continue to stay there. In one of my previous posts, I said that if one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it, then the reverse of it—to teach a subject, learn it first—is equally valid. I have used writing to wayfinding my way into the core of complex topics. Writing, for me, is like a map, which I use to navigate subjects and thoughts, much like city roads.

Does that mean if writing helped me understand the world and make it my own, it would do so for you, too? Maybe. Maybe not. But it certainly would give you that perspective of your own to understand the terms of the world as you pen them down in your own words. Each one of us has their own learning methodology. Writing is mine. What’s yours?

The Name that Wasn’t

The Name that Wasn’t

No voice, no noise.
No reflection of oneself.
No definition; none for assumption.
I am not myself.

Now here, now there.
I pity myself.
Now this, now that.
I am not myself.

Neither today nor tomorrow.
I can’t portray the inner self.
One’s thoughts, another’s actions.
I am not myself.

Neither from the rain
Nor from the draught.
From where do I then
Glean myself?

I am but a name
That tiny nothing
Neither more nor less.
I remain myself.
© Suyog Ketkar

Flipside

Tears that trickled down
My cheeks, filling me with fear;
Tears that once tore me apart,
Convey my thoughts, too.

Fear, the feeling of which
Scared me to death;
Fear that led me to nothingness,
Wakes me up to new limits, too.

Death, the addressing of people as Late,
Made me think of “for what?”;
Death that once parted my loved ones,
Cracks up avenues for a new life, too.

Cracks, within emotions, that once
Filled me to grief,
Cracks that leaked emotions
Leak my inner sunshine, too.

Grief, which once scarred me,
Only Time will come to heal.
Grief, which I’ve come to see,
Brings me to peace, too.

Time that once was clueless,
Brought me down on my knees
Time, the all mighty, now
Tells my brave tales, too.

Oblivion, the existence of which
Bothered me of endless inexistence;
The search for it again,
Empowers me to pen my dreams, too.

Endlessness that once endorsed
Unwilling, untrue souls around me;
Endlessness that then knew no end,
Authors my tiny successes, too.
©Suyog Ketkar

Mankading: The Case of Ethics vs Laws

Life is a curious case of choices. The choices make us who we are. The choices may or may not be ours, but they do influence us a great deal. But, as we look at it closely, life isn’t any different than the game. And, so aren’t the choices.

Such critical are the choices in the game that it can either make or break records or the name. One such case occurred in the latest game of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 when Ashwin’s KXIP defeated Rahane’s RR.

But before we get to the Mankading incident, here’s what the law states, “If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be run out.” The non-striker would be run out “whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered”.

The video footage suggests that though Ashwin did not give any warning to Jos Butler, he was right in saying that it was his “space.” We can see that in the footage, too. Ashwin was about to take the delivery stride when he whipped the bails off.

Here is the link to the video of what happened (Courtesy, ESPNCricInfo):  http://www.espncricinfo.com/core/video/iframe?id=26361862&endcard=false

For those who wish to go by the rules, Ashwin’s efforts meant that Royals lost a wicket and subsequently lost the match. For those who wish to go by the spirit of the game, well, we didn’t lose any hopes to see a good game until the last ball. We did see an exchange of words or two, but was that not a violation of the spirit of the game?

Mankading isn’t unlawful. It is disgraceful of the bowler unless he has given warnings. On the other side, it is just a disgraceful way for a batter to get out. Certainly, it is stupid for him to not be within the crease (read, starting point) as the ball is bowled. I mean, logically, you may stand outside of the crease when a fast bowler is bowling because you’d like to use that extra heads-up to complete a run on a close call. And, here Jos was on the spinner’s end. So, the extra step wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Ashwin, in my opinion, should not have mankaded Jos. Had this been an international match or the IPL 2019 final match—thereby, being a critical case that demanded a critical solution—things would have been different. This was a league match of IPL. After all, winning important. But, winning still isn’t everything. I would have chosen to preserve the spirit of the game.

Vignettes of Writing

Writing is excitingly funny. Not because I mustered the courage of beginning this article with an equally funny use of an adjective. But because as a writer, you are that superhuman who gets the required attention without requiring to show up. That’s perfectly OK for the claustrophobic and utterly shy introvert within me. Writing is equally funny for the readers, too. Through your writing, they step into the world of someone else’s thoughts without losing the comfort of their chairs. That can also happen if your writing puts them to a sound sleep.

It is funny that writing, the act itself of weaving words together, is not funny at all. The consequential reading might be. But, to write is never funny. It involves a lot of work. Repetitive work. You get stuck to the same desk and same schedule for days, weeks, months, and (god forbid) years. Yet, you continue to dig out the priceless wisdom of doing and redoing the same stories as if your mind were a bottomless mine of never-ending thoughts.

I have been writing ever since I was a kid. In what I remember was my fourth grade, I wrote a small story of three kids who explore something amazing and go on to achieve their awesomeness forever. If only life was that easy! I will put this bluntly: beginning to write your thoughts down is the easiest part. Completing that train of thoughts is hard. Publishing that is even harder. And, writing on how to write is a topic that words wouldn’t do justice to. If only being a writer was that easy!

Yet we have countless writers who make their way through this seemingly endless journey of writing, rewriting, and publishing, to become overnight sensations and swim in money (You wish!), hoping to be someday the icons that give serious goals (and jealousy) to people around them. Quite often, a dull-looking kid, who frequented at the lonely sidewalk, struggling to find congruence of his own thoughts with those of others, eventually transforms into a celebrated writer. The fact is that words bring to us a lot more than mere messages. It is time we learn to weigh and honor our own words. Despite how we look at this world of writing, the writer’s ability to draw us out of ourselves, drown us into their own world, only to help us rediscover ourselves as better, more fulfilling individuals is awe inspiring. We can still safely call this end a happy beginning.

I met the writer in me when I was perched on the milestones in my little story. Who knows you, too, might if and when you choose to contemplate.

Happy writing.

Movie in Review: Uri, The Surgical Strike

Movies come and go, but only a few can mark their presence on the movie-goer’s timeline. Uri: The Surgical Strike marks its presence in the same way. The movie strikes the right message at the right time, and with surgical precision—for the pun’s sake. The patriot within me wants to rate it a complete 5 on 5. But, alas, for the careful watcher that wishes to nitpick.

As you would’ve guessed, a detailed review follows…

The movie is set as a reply to the provocative terror attacks from “the other side”. It is a carefully chosen plot because it creates a “pull” for the audience. A bleeding patriot would wish it to be telecast alongside Border and Lakshya every 26th January and 15th August.

Despite the fact that there is A LOT to talk about, I cannot say much about the movie—<gasping>overwhelmed. As I gather myself back from the void of awesomeness, here is how I would put the overall experience:

The beautiful locations. The humming of soldiers as they cruise past countless trees. The uniforms! The thumping background scores. The eyes that bleed blood, not tears. The passion that flows through the veins. The nerves of steel. And, the heart of gold. Go, live the experience in a theatre near you, alongside 100 other enthusiasts.

From chapter 1 through 5, this movie dedicates itself to the central plot of “We are humans first”. But, it goes through a lot to help you experience the message. The emotional side of a soldier is often overdone in movies. This one, however, is an exception. It has the right amount of everything: you have a bit of drama, comedy, despair, a hint of romance (yes, hint of), a lot of action, plenty of facts, a couple of heart-in-mouth surprises, some sound logic and a hell lot of underpinning revenge.

It is only toward the end of the first half that you get to see the title of the movie appear. Don’t be surprised because it fits the flow of the plot and triggers what happens next: the surgical strike. Then follows the chronology of the “D-Day” when the story begins to flow with unexpected twists, turns, and bumps. The pace is covered rather well. The preparations have been covered in days. And, the D-Day proceedings, in moments. Every minute is used carefully to unfold the story before you. On a lot of moments, the audience, including me, wanted to stand up and shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” out loud, if not clap for the gallant efforts.

The movie also highlights the lives of commandos, who, by the way, fight more wars than we think, both on the battlefield and within themselves. For that reason alone, Vicky Kaushal, playing Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, is the perfect pick for the lead role—he has done both with ease. He ushers us to a vantage point where we first see the life of Major and then become a part of it. As he begins uttering the regiment’s war cries, you want to see Vihaan’s tears evaporate as they trickle down his cheek. The loss of a dear friend, you wish, should not go in vain. That the revenge must be served. Good direction, there, by the debutant, Aditya Dhar. I am not surprised seeing an IMDb rating of 9.4 on 10, already.

This brings me to what I like about the movie. Vicky Kaushal as the lead and Mohit Raina (yes, the “Devon-ke-dev-Mahadev” famous) are dapper in tuxedos and rock solid in the uniforms. Paresh Rawal is as invisible as ever; don’t get me wrong, but with his level of finesse, I only saw the character he was playing for he slipped into his role that seamlessly. Yami Gautam is effortless in her role as first, the nurse, and later, as the intelligence officer. She perfectly flaunts the beauty-with-brains combination. I’d have liked the senior actor Rajit Kapur to do voice modulation for playing Narendra Modi, but he has his own signature style. Blame it on the plot and the cause, every single actor has given their best. We laugh when they laugh. We cry when they cry. We feel their pain as much as they do.

What else does one expect from a wartime movie? Perfectly picturized action sequences: absolutely no glitches. Zero misses on the storyline. Authentic mano-a-mano fight sequences and blood spurting. The action sequences are well-executed and we couldn’t find any loose ends. To that, the movie itself is perfectly woven; one subplot leads to another, and one scene begins only where the other ends. No parallel stories.

What could have been better? Well, frankly, it could have been a six-hour mega-movie and still have things left unsaid, so much of meticulous planning, training, technology, intelligence, hard work was required for a flawless fructification. Your first thought as you step out of the theatre is, “if so much research and effort went into making only a ‘movie’, imagine what would have been the scale of research and efforts in implementing it in the real time?”

I wish I could do a lot more whistling, roaring, and clapping; both for the real efforts and for the movie. The cinematography and direction have together put up an experience that makes me feel I got more returns than I invested. If time permits, I will watch it again.