भास असे हे भाषेचे

भास असे हे भाषेचे
एकाएक मी अनुभवले
कोठे भाग घेऊनि भागले
कोठे भाग देउनी उरले

एक असते ते वीट येणे
एक तो सर्वज्ञ उभा विटेवरी
कोणी विचारले भाव जगातले
कोणी सांगितले भाव मनातले

कर्मयोगी ने मान मिळवला
हठयोगीने मान ताटली
विषुववृत्त हे स्थान होऊनि
कवितेचे वृत्त जाहले

कोणी राग गायले
आणि कोणी राग दाखविले
कोणी माझी भेट घालती
मी कोणाला भेट दिले

सौंदर्य शब्दांचे तरीही
मला शेवटी असे कळले
दुपट्यात घेतले जेव्हां तिला मी
प्रेम तिचे दुपटीने ने मिळाले

A Tug of War with Life

Of the two
Things to choose—
Between Love and Hate—
I’d neither love to hate nor hate to love.

Of the two
Days that lay—
Between birth and death—
I’d learn to live the present.

Of the two
States to choose—
Between doing and done—
I’d choose to continue to walk.

Of the two
Thoughts that strike—
To do or not to do—
I’d be happier even if I fail.

Of the two
Ways to be—
Within or without—
I’d endlessly gaze at horizons, seashores alike.

Of the two
Options, if there are—
Handshake or despair—
I’d meet my destiny with eyes wide open.
©Suyog Ketkar

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.

Movie in Review: The Accidental Prime Minister

Despite how desperate some news channels and websites have become on muddying the image of the movie and its cast, The Accidental Prime Minister came out as a winner for me. In terms of what it gets (as inputs from the book by Sanjaya Baru) and what it brings to us, it indeed covers events in the timeline they occurred and provides a rather unbiased opinion on the story, with a few exceptions. I’d rate it a 4 on 5.

As always, the detailed review follows…

First things first. This isn’t really a “movie”, but a documentary, a chronicle of what happened—or why. But, for the sake of the review, let us stick to “movie”. This isn’t everybody’s movie. It doesn’t have loud music, filthy dialogues, needless action sequences, exploding cars, or gory blood spurting. It is a classic plot-driven cinema meant for the all-knowing, all-mighty audiences. Do some research before you hit the nearest cinema theatre to watch it.

Like any work of fiction on non-fiction, you see the movie from the point of view of the writer—the author, in this case. The movie starts with how after Congress came into power in 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS) was chosen to become the Prime Minister, despite Congress’ common opinion. And, while all the “sacrifice” did have its effect, we know what happened next: National Advisory Council (NAC).

The basic plot of the movie—and I want you to pay attention to this one—is:

  1. We have a protagonist, played by Anupam Kher, who is chosen to lead the country of around a billion people. Based on the short sequence that covers the timeline of MMS, we see that even he never dreamt of it.
  2. He has a daunting challenge before him.
  3. His challenge continues to become complicated as he discovers that first, he isn’t the final decision-making authority, and later, his drafts and decisions will be crosschecked and often overruled by the NAC.
  4. Throughout his first and second terms, he realizes that Congress (termed as the “party”) attributes all the failures to him, while all the success, howsoever little it is, to Rahul Gandhi, who the party sees as the potential successor (heir to the throne).

This is a classic plot for any movie—or book, for that matter. A protagonist. A challenge. A bigger challenge. Helplessness. Despair. Resolution.

Let us look at what I liked:

I liked the fact that both Vijay Ratnakar Gutte (the director) and Sanjaya Baru (the author) have kept their respective work opinions neutral. Nowhere do we see anyone using any false language or even a hint of it.

The cast is spot on. Suzanne Bernert shines as Sonia Gandhi. Her acting has been at par with both Akshaye Khanna (with that salt-and-pepper hair) and Anupam Kher. The supporting cast has proportionately outshined their little share of the silver screen: Vipin Sharma as Ahmed Patel is a treat to watch. Divya Seth Shah as Gursharan Kaur (MMS’ wife) is as wifey as she needs to be—purposeful, powerful, and impactful. Her dialogues and timing have been impeccable.

The makeup team (Shrikant Desai, please take a bow) bears special mention, for it is only because of them—aside from the casting team—that I could recognize the characters they play in the movie. Anish Kuruvilla as TKA Nair, Ramesh Bhatkar as Prithviraj Chavan, Deepak Dadwal as Jaswant Singh, and roughly 150 others have been given the required screen space and looks for them to slip into their characters seamlessly. It is as if we are watching the real person speak. The attention to detail, like the hairy ears of Lalu Prasad Yadav, was achieved through the makeup, but I hardly noticed it. Kudos.

A special mention to the costume designer Abhilasha Shrivastava for designing the wardrobe for Akshaye Khanna. If indeed Sanjaya Baru wears such outfits in real life, I must say that he has a refined taste of fashion. I am sure the costume team will receive the appreciation they deserve from others as well.

I liked the one-liners and punches introduced by the author and director. MMS saying “O teri” as he gasps and gulps, if it did happen, shows MMS did speak efficiently—even though he spoke less. The introductory sequence of Sanjaya Baru is good. I like how MMS asks him to become his “Sanjay” symbolizing Sanjay of Mahabharata, who gave a visual account and live commentary to Dhritarashtra of what occurred on the battlefield.

The touchy sequence of PV Narasimha Rao’s soul not being permitted into the Raj Ghat has been covered rather subtly. The typical artists’ view, this sequence doesn’t conclude as the scene ends. You somehow carry that thought along. The sequence ends when MMS calls upon Sanjaya Baru to tell him that he must resign from the chair of the Prime Minister, to follow party’s thoughts, because he knows that he doesn’t have much time now. This symbolizes how carefully MMS chooses to say that he doesn’t want his end to be like that of the former PM, PV Narasimha Rao.

I didn’t like Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi until the sequence of the epic interview with Arnab Goswami of 2014. Arjun has successfully reproduced the exact cluelessness with utter ease.

Before I close my thoughts, a cautionary note from me: I have seen a lot of hue and cry over this movie being false propaganda to malign the image of Congress. If the movie does anything, it only strengthens the image of MMS. It shares an additional perspective on what he did or wanted to do. It helps us see through what until now was laid undercover. A lot of file footages are inserted (hopefully from the same timeline) to support authenticity. The movie in no way malign anyone’s image, it is an account of what happened. I must say that my review is about the movie, not about the thoughts that drove it. However, if you leave the theatre with an afterthought, blame no one else but yourselves.

It is for the first time I see both an uproar and appreciation for a documentary; perhaps because work of art is shot with both great dedication and caution. The end of the era of MMS brings Narendra Modi on the screen and public opinion on the surface. Every time Rahul Gandhi came on the screen, the audiences began laughing even though his dialogues didn’t demand so. But, applause followed the sequence where MMS gives way to Narendra Modi. No one said a word; a lot was still said.

That’s the verdict.

Harvest

When the scorching gusts of heat
Fade the tears in your eye,
Recite the songs of the Spring,
Believe that seasons change, ask not why.

When circumstances are bleak,
Your bivouac is left far behind,
Choose what you must—
That let me not remind.

When without the trails
Should You journey barefoot,
Seek sojourns within a companion
In whose heart you could stay put.

When You, and only You,
Represent souls in the strife.
Look within as much as without.
Surely, the only rule of life.

When the days are few
You count each one anew
Amidst the hellish weather that
Destroys your crop that’s but already few.

Remember, always, to stand tall
And present the challenges a full face;
That You are your own harvest:
Be that befitting reply; and the one with grace.
©Suyog Ketkar

Nothing but Hope

In the turbulent tides of time,
The ebb and flow of the fortune, that is,
What holds me in place is
Nothing but hope.

In the pitch-black nights,
The darkness of misdirection, that is,
What serves me right is
Nothing but hope.

In that corner of my heart, where
Words weigh more than memories, that is,
Passion and compassion meet, I have
Nothing but hope.

In contrast with how much I take
That source continues to give, that is,
A soul that is burning forever has
Nothing but hope.

Inquisitive, as ever, as my self is
For the world that continues to unfold, that is,
Full of surprises, I can only hope to have
Nothing but hope.

Into the untraveled destinations as I step,
I am apprehensive yet committed, that is,
Of a belief that I have
Nothing but hope.

After you became one with the One,
And merged yourself, that is,
I wish you to be there with me, after all, I have
Nothing but hope.
© Suyog Ketkar

Speaking with Kids in English? Here’s Why I Don’t.

The following conversation happened recently between the Class Teacher and us:

The Teacher: As part of giving Spruha a comprehensive learning experience, please talk to her in English at home.

I: Well, we do use English words and phrases in our conversation. But, mostly the conversation is in her mothertongue. Why do you stress speakinng with her in only English?

Teacher: It will ease our communication. She must become habitual of the language. After all, she is going to use it for the rest of her life.

I: I still fail to understand the importance of speaking in only English?

Teacher: Spruha will soon graduate out of this preschool. For her ease of learning, you must speak to her in the language that schools these days use. In most cases, they compel all students to use English, which is why I tell you to speak with her in English.

I gathered my thoughts and spoke:

I: Language is of sound importance in the first five years of anyone’s life. But, no language except for her mothertongue will help create a bond between us and her. While I certainly get your point, I find it largely impractical on my part to teach her English before helping her communicate fluently in her mothertongue. The critical part is, she must learn to communicate, and not merely speak.

Teacher: I see your point. I just wanted to tell you that schools expect certain things.

That’s when Shambhavi eased the conversation.

Shambhavi: I know what you are saying; even I have observed the same thing. But, I also see from where Suyog is driving his point home. We’ve seen people try to speak with thier kids in their own [usually annoying] versions of English the moment they see us speak with Spruha in English. People feel overwhelmed by this self-assumed responsibility of speaking in English the moment they see someone else do it out of plain habit.

We all chuckled. Then, Shambhavi added.

Shambhavi: There is also a common misconception that speaking in English makes people appear sophisticated. Basically, Spruha has to first learn to respect her mothertongue. And then, any other language. Let’s just say, we will teach her Marathi; you teach her English.

The long conversation deservedly followed an almost-equally long pause. We assume that we convinced the teacher on our point of view.

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Given that pretext, let’s get to today’s conversation. As a learning facilitator, I’ve been itching to write on this subject for long. For kids, getting to express themselves is the foremost thing to learn. But, if that’s the case, and I believe it is, why do I see an increasing number of parents restrict their respective kids—toddlers, in some cases—from using any other language in [almost] all public spaces if not for only at their homes? Are they all snob? Many bothersome questions like these underpin this post.

 

 

In India, dealing with “English” matters in public is still a matter of pride—for those who speak—and amusement—for those who don’t. Typically, when parents speak with their kids in English in public places:

  • Some people desperately try to ignore thinking that it is in fashion nowadays.
  • Some just walk off. They mentally call you an angrez (Angrez is in Hindi for people from England—or any other English-speaking nation).
  • Some feel scared. They even try to compete by faking an accent; never mention their grammar.
  • Some feel low on importance. This category will usually begin speaking a bit louder. Yes, in a common language, like Hindi.
  • Some ask the Hindi version of, “Goes to an English medium school. Right?”

7583954880_IMG_1739Aside from such funny situations (and people), this is a learning lesson for me. Let me be specific: there is a visible gap between those who use English out of habit and those who [try to?] flaunt it. If they still do it with the sole intention of helping their kids learn a new language, I can still buy their argument—so long as they don’t advertise it. There are countless reasons, such as North India-South India divide or that two people may not understand one another’s regional language.

But for the most part, most of us do it because they fall prey to a sort of social pressure. Yes, you guessed it right: the same social pressure that makes us think that one language is superior to the other and the same social presume that makes us feel that, eventually, one degree (like the Medical or Engineering) is superior to the other vocational courses. It is still a huge statement to say that some of us see kids as kids, and some, as report cards.

Let us help our kids learn to respect themselves. Let us help them preserve their core. Etiquette and skills can (and, certainly, do) follow.

🙂

Between Then and Now

Then, I loved brushing my father’s thick facial hair,
Which, I was pranked belonging to my grandfather
And which my father had stuck on his face.
Now, a part of my daily schedule
Is my own beard that equally isn’t few!

Then, the miniature me, for whom,
Everything looked big and formidable.
Now, I laugh that nothing
Is neither so shocking
Nor so ignorable.

Then, the unpaved trails to my home
That I loved to run around in glee.
Now, all I do is smell the hometown
On the shores of the workplace,
Hoping peace to alight on me.

Then, the biggest small HOME
That was more than enough for four.
Now, a HOUSE that’s big enough for eight,
In a time where
Living together is only in folklore.

Then, the wounds that healed
Way before the pain was felt.
Now, the scars of countless stories,
Not on knees but on heart,
You know, all that is left.

Then, the little me,
Who crouched behind a chair,
Waited like stocking a prey,
Now, staring at the lurking fortune,
Would the game be any fair?
©Suyog Ketkar

She’s that Inspiration

I usually keep my feelings to myself unless I wish to write about them. Whether good or bad, this habit of writing looks like one that’s here to stay. Also, I cannot wait for another year to convey her what I feel for her: the person in context, my maternal grandmother.

It is easier to decide on your inspiration than to become like one. I, however, am finding it hard, for I have a little too many of them around. The trouble is, I can and do learn from each one of them with every passing day. This post is about the one who’s each day is a happy-sad challenge in her now salt-and-pepper life of intermingled experiences.

She is from an age (read era) where women were hardly considered powerful enough to have full education let alone running a family competing with husbands on the salary part. But, credit must be given where deserved. She has led her family well enough after her husband’s departure in 1976.

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From the Second World War, India’s struggle for Independence, and the 1965 and 1971 wars, she has stood firmly beside by maternal grandfather. But, after these hard phases, the worst ones for her have been losing her family members—first husband, then my father (in 1993), and then her son (in 2011). In January, this year, she brushed past death after a series of heart attacks (two of Mild and one of the Severe degree) in a single day. On one occasion, doctors told us later that they couldn’t detect her pulse for as much as 10 minutes.

In April, she turned 88. But, if only that was enough for her to think that she needs to stop working. She still does everything on her own, which I find amazing. Did I tell you that she performed stage shows of Violin in the past? And that she learned to play synthesizer about 10-12 years back and plays it every day since then? She reads a chapter from Bhagwat Gita every day and has been doing that for as long as I remember. In the process, she has learned all the shlokas from all the 18 chapters from the epic.

If that is not enough, cooking interests her. So, she takes mental notes from the cookery show on her favorite television channel. Then, she experiments in the kitchen to prepare that for all of us. Yes, even today. It is because she thinks that the ready-made clothes don’t give her the required comfort and fitting, she stitches her own gowns that she usually wears every day.

Here is my message: We are and will be yours. Why this message? That too, after four months, you may ask. I don’t need an occasion to write about Aaji. You are an inspiration for people. But, you are much more than that for your family. I have come to conclude that if old age were to add numbers to people’s lives, it added wrinkles and stories to yours’.

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The thing is: experiences disguise themselves as sometimes scars and sometimes as wrinkles. But they leave their marks on all occasions. And then, you don’t remain the same anymore. In the same sense, people are no more than wrinkles in the fabric of your life. You can iron out some; but, some just don’t go. They are there forever. They make you. They remain a part of you. You are as wrinkled a fabric as them. Have a healthy life ahead, Aaji. Your wrinkles and stories are a part of my fabric. They make me who I am.

Pretty. Simple.

It is easy to say that time flies. It is still easier to say that we wish it to stop sometimes. But, it is way harder to be in the present and still give the warmth of the limitless love to your child, who you see growing before you. But, it does feel like it was yesterday that she was born to us. Spruha turns 3 today.

Shambhavi and I envy each other for playing gopikas that compete for the love of Krishna. Just that the roles are reversed in this case: Spruha is Lord Krishna, we are the gopikas. From the tiny pink fist that wrapped around my thumb for the first time to the everyday hug that I receive when she sprints toward me as I get back home after work, there is so much more to this story than I can ever share. Here’s that poem for Spruha:

The silence in my speech was
Recognized by many.
But, she could recognize
The speech within my silence.

Each day, the sunrise sprinkled the magic
Of beaming glory through countless windows.
The happiness that gleamed to me was
However, from those sparkling eyes.

What contrast lies between Her and I.
For she is happy with even broken toys.
And the pains of a broken heart
Are visibly excruciating to my eyes.

It must be the contentment
That drives the smile.
For she knows that her feelings are
With us and not toys that beguile.
© Suyog Ketkar