Death of the Purple Canaries

Mining can be a quite a hazardous vocation. Deep inside the burrows of the earth, miners dig for minerals, coal and other stuff to satisfy the ever-increasing appetite of our society, risking their very life and limbs in the process. In the wibbly-wobbly shafts, that can collapse at a moment’s notice shutting them forever from their loved ones, the miners look for reassurances in whatever manner they come, be it scientific or superstitious.  A little yellow canary in a cage is one of them,  renowned for its life-saving charms.

For ages, these little-cute-yellow-fluffy-birdies have been carried down the mine tunnel, often at the very front of the miner party as a good luck charm. These pale-coloured birds are very sensitive to dangerous gases like methane or carbon monoxide, and whenever they encounter it, they die rather swiftly and stoically. Their deaths are construed to be an alarm by the miners, to exit the tunnels immediately before the leaked deadly gases affect them.shutterstock_66032467

Do the miners love these canaries while they are alive, or possibly love them even more when they are dead, no one knows for sure. Yet, the death of these little canaries spells life for the many miners. Or one could say, that their deaths is a precursor of worsening times ahead, a warning of impending doom or destruction in case of status quo. It is a rather poetic or a prophetic end, depending on one’s objectivity. But one thing is for sure; no canary has been celebrated or knighted once dead. When they die, these birds are unknown and unwept. Their death is not a sacrifice, but merely an early sign. That’s how cruel life is.

Much like the canaries, though not an iota as cute, lives a species in our modern-day society. They are celebrated and feted, and fed and fattened. Yet, when they are sacrificed, not many tears are shed. This urban species is rather purple in its behaviour, and swiftly meets the end, when the economic conditions wary. They are most sensitive to forces of economics things like recession, depression or slowdown hit them hard. And their doom should be a warning for lot others, yet is often ignored.

Who are these little fluffies living out in our modern day cities, who aren’t so little anyways? Well, these purple canaries are also known by other synonyms like the fourth-estaters, the journalists, the presswallahs,  the jhollawallahs or whatever you call them. They live boxed in little cages, twittering nicely on a sunny day, when all goes well. Yet, when things go south, so do these chaps. In most cases, they will be the first ones to be retrenched, sacked or just booted out. A little visit to the local press-club will enlighten anyone on this rather ironical tale of a breed that gets to break bread with the high and mighty, yet, when the bread is at a premium, they are broken up easily instead. Thus, whenever there’s an economic descent or a slowdown, you will find more journos with their resumes on sites like Naukri.com and others. Continue reading

India Gangraped

In the aftermath of the heinous Delhi gang-rape case and the Mumbai gang-rape incident, numerous people were out on the roads holding candles, placards and what not. The media, as it is nature, went into frenzy; solemn anchors asked dire and direct questions. Panels were formed, experts were asked, politicians expressed outrage, protestors ranted loud. Newspapers and magazines too joined the  frenzy, with relentless coverage, sad statistics, and unending stream of visual infographics that drove home the point firm and hard: India is being raped and brutalised; left, right and centre.

Rape, yet again, was the hot potato, right from the panel studios to the living room. Rapes were being reported with amazing regularity from all over the country, foreigners, Indians, no one was spared. Numbers that came out only underscored the point. Here are a few statistics that will scare you:

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  • 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011, according to NCRB.

  • A woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the Capital

  • Cases of rape went up by 873% in the last decade. Shockingly, between 2007 and 2011, rape incidents increased by 9.7%, three times faster than all other crimes put together

  • Nearly 68,000 rape cases were registered across the country during 2009-11 but only 16,000 rapists were sentenced to prison

  • NCRB data shows there were 1,22,292 cases of molestation during 2009-11

The statistics don’t stop, like an endless stream of data they just keep going on. But what essentially can be summed up is that women in India are never safe, with one being raped every few minutes in some part or the other. The figure could be very high, as it is generally assumed that a majority of cases are never reported out of fear or shame.

The moot question is, how did the affairs come to this end so suddenly? Were we always like this, or have we become so in the past few years? Were the Indian males sleazy, opportunistic bastards all this while or have they become one suddenly? Continue reading

Why Mumbai needs Meru? And, why there’s more to it than meets the eye?

On Feb 4th, major newspapers in Mumbai carried a fervent (and a rather long one as well) appeal from Meru Cabs, asking the lay public for support, something that went like, we served you now, support us. Saying it in short, the ad talked about how hoodlum practices had forced the company to stop its operation and how in spite of almost all the drivers wishing to return to work, they were not let to, by a “handful of people with ulterior motives”. At the end, there was a business plea, to let a corporation carry out its business unhindered by political machinations.

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For many of us in Mumbai, the current Meru fracas is certainly not a new one. Over the past year or two, it has become a regular affair. Over some trifle issue or the other, the olive-green taxis will be off the road, and after some reconciliation they will be back. Only for the same cycle to repeat all over again. In fact, the ad itself mentioned that the company has suffered such “strikes” 6 times in the past two years. None of the competitors, the Mega, the Easy or the Tabs, have faced such issues. So, what exactly is the company doing so wrong that it’s facing such backlash again and again?

Curiosity finally, got the better of me, and I started Googling on the subject and asking my friends in the industry to find out how and why things had come to such a pass. And here’s how the story unfolded. Starting off in this very city of Mumbai in 2007, Meru today is India’s largest radio taxi operator and world’s 3rd largest company, operating some 5500 cabs in metros like Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, in addition to Mumbai. Statistically, Meru serves more than a million passengers a month; executing over 20,000 trips on a daily basis (it even holds a Limca Book of Records for the same).

Now, just as Redmond is synonymous with Microsoft or Atlanta with Coca-Cola, or even closer home how Bangalore is synonymous with Infosys, Mumbai and Meru have an intrinsic connection. In fact, it should be a matter of pride for all of us that in a short course of half-dozen years, a start-up from the city attained such success that it was even featured in WSJ or even as a Wharton case-study. Meru’s success is symbolic of Mumbai’s entrepreneurial acumen, where if you have a great idea and a determined will nothing can come in the way to success. Except possibly for politically-aligned trade unions.

Time for flashback. When Meru started operations back in 2007, we Mumbaikars were completely at the mercy of the city cabs (referred locally as kaali-peeli). Hyper-inflated bills, rowdy behaviour, rash driving, and others were all the calling cards of the kaali-peeli. Commuters were helpless in front of these cab-wallahs, who ran according to a writ of their own. In this mire, appears Meru, a professional run-taxi operator, that delivers a swanky sedan at your door, with a civil driver and a mechanism to ensure no over-charging. While over the years, Meru added a lot many features to their cabs, like web-booking, credit-card payment, etc., the earlier 3 were its only USP. Continue reading

The Hypocrisy of Outrage

A 17-year old girl comes out of a pub in downtown Guwahati and is suddenly beset by self-assisgned moral custodians, who set upon her like a pack of dogs, molesting and marauding her collectively. In a country where a woman is raped, molested or murdered every single minute of the day, this would not have been of much consequence. Except that this time round, there was a meadiawallah, right on the dot, armed with a camera to capture the gruesome act. In all it was just another crime against women in a nation, where such occur by the dime and dozen every single minute. But then destiny had something else in store.

A brief look at the chronology of how things enacted, more or less tells the story. The shameful incident took place on Monday night, the video aired on the next day by Newslive. The police as usual is the case, did not take notice of it at all and life would have gone on as usual. But sadly for the accused, the video went viral on Thursday and the nation suddenly woke up to the gruesome act. The collective outrage on Thursday, with even Amitabh Bachchan tweeting on it, set the balls of law into motion, with the police waking up and arresting 4 of them.

The whole incident raises many question, not the least the role of media in the entire heinous crime. What in the god’s name was the cameramen doing there, recording the whole outrage faithfully, as if it was some National Geographic video, that he’d let nature take its own course. Why did not the cameramen try to intervene, at least make an attempt to diffuse the situation? Why did molestors not react angrily at their video being taken, they almost seemed to be chummy-chummy with the reporter? Did he rush to the police immediately and offer the video as a documentary evidence or was he more interested to take it to his studio? Why did the channel not suo muto reach out to the police, before airing this video? Continue reading

From Gol Maal to Bol Bachchan; the 100 crore fall of Hindi cinema

1979 was a very weird year for Bollywood. In the sense, there was no real defining trend for movies succeeding those days. Thus you had extremely divergent genre of films like the ghoulish Jaani Dushman, romantic Sargam, picturesque Noorie, zesty Mr. Natwarlal, Lahu Ke Do Rang (my dad was a sound recordist in this one), were raking in the moolah at the BO. No one really knew what the ‘public’ wanted. There was no real formula for success.

Among all these films, a social-comedy that had an average-looking-nobody-sort Amol Palekar in the lead too was released. Directed by Hrushikesh Mukherjee, this film was the perfect amalgamation of talent, great script, punchy dialogues, amazing acting by the cast, right from Palekar to Utpal Dutt to even the small Kesto cameo. The film Gol Maal relied heavily on subtleness, it wasn’t Chaplinisque one bit, but like a literary adaptation. Nothing was absurd, loud or over the top in it. Take for instance, a scene in the movie in which Ramprasad makes fun of Bade Babu, who is constantly plucking hair from his nose, stating that how if only the lands of the country could be as fertile as his nose, cut the crop in the evening and a new one awaits in the morn. Babu laughs at the pun, before stopping and asking, “are you making fun of me?” This was the real essence of Gol Maal; it was making fun of a lot of people and archaic values, but in a manner in which wasn’t offensive to anyone.

Honestly, I don’t really know whether the film made even a crore at the BO in those days, or was a hit in those times. But what I do know is that time has indeed proven that when a film is made with good intentions and robust work, it lasts fairly long. Thus, even today, when the film runs on the myriad channels for the nth time, I still stop and enjoy the movie like I did many many years back.

Cut to 33 years later, a film loosely based on Gol Maal just released. And it stands for everything that the original stood for not. Thus, you have flashy sets, over the top acting, bawdiness, reigning superstars, exploding cars, and what not. Just the perfect masala to make a 100-crore film. In the next few days we will come to know that Bol Bachchan has indeed made a 100-crores (underlining yet again that there is no paucity of money-spending morons in India), the makers will throw a flashy party on the success, the actors will further increase the fees, some reviewers will pan it and some will praise it to the skies, and even a sequel to the same will be planned. In all this melee for success and BO records, the real essence of movie will be lost and colluded. Continue reading

Paulie’s Euro Predictions

Early last morn, had a very unlikely guest dropping by for a visit. With sinewy, blotched arms (full 8 of them) and a rather bloated head with large oblong eyes. For a moment, I was shocked, dismayed and scared, and almost decided to wake up. But then, the fella put his arm around my shoulder in a rather reassuring way, telling me that he came in goodwill. After a little hi-hello, he introduced himself in an awkward brit-germanic accent, stating that he was Paulie. ”

Paul the Octopus,” I exclaimed. “Prefer it just Paul,” he stated, “the overemphasis on the octopus part is basically meant to sensationalise my predictions. I am, or rather, was just like any other guy round the corner with some ESP”. I nodded my head in appreciation, it was a sleepy nod though.

 

Following a little here-and-there, about the rains, the impending water-cut, pesticides in vegetables, end of night-life in Mumbai, Sunny Leone

‘s upcoming film and my to-be magazine launch, he came to the exact topic. “I have come here to reveal you the winners of the next matches” Obviously, he didn’t quite li
ke my reticence,so repeated himself again. This time, knowing what he expected, I kinda exclaimed, “yeah, yeah, go on”.

“Would you like, a tank of water with flag-cards, so you can settle on them and reveal the winners.” “Dude, first up, I am not what I was, so we can easily skip all that part. Anyways, that was all for the cameras, the guy at the zoo, use to keep my fav mussel on one of the flags and I used to settle down on one of them for a nibble. I could have easily shared my choice on an iPad, I would have preferred it more,” he said, glaring at me. “Anyways with you, since, we already are having a conversation, it would be easier to tell you right”. Yet, again I nodded, even sleepier.

After a few moments of silence, in which he possibly expected me to beg and implore, which I did not obviously. “Well, so here’s my prediction my boy, between Italy & Germany, it is the Italians, who will win again” “What? Italians? Germans are better off,” I retorted in shock. “No, I tell you boy,” he was condescending again, “those deutsche guys choke when it comes to deliver, so they will lose.” “I hope it ain’t personal, after all, did not a German restauranter offered to offer you up in a plate, when you last predicted their loss.” Continue reading

How BJP won (from) the Presidential Elections!

Till about a fortnight back, BJP as a party was in complete disarray. Beset by bickering and squabbles involving almost all its leaders, from Joshi to Modi to Gadkari to Advani, the party seemed like a Titanic destined to sink in the choppy 2014 waters. With so much politics in-house, BJP was all on a course to lose whatever little moral high-ground that it had come to occupy in the past 8-odd years of UPA rule. The prognosis was dour; namely, the lotus was wilting, and wilting much fast.

But just about when the whole of nation was getting sick and tired of the Joshi posters and the Modi jibes; something much bigger happened that took the whole focus away. Quite like Lord Krishna who supplied unending yards of chiffon sari to save Draupadi’s honour, destiny intervened for BJP with the announcement of the Presidential Elections. To be fair, a president in India is merely a titular head, and barring a few exceptions most individuals have been p

eople without a head (so as to say). Essentially, a president’s job in our socialist-secular-democratic-republic is to serenade on the Rajpath surrounded by a bevy of brawny surd bodyguards dressed in red and riding horses on the 26th of Jan, and secondly live in a very ostentatious palace and play host to foreign dignitaries. In fact, a year or so back, there was a contest that had been announced for the ‘world’s best job’, namely, that of a caretaker of a scenic coral island. Somehow, I think, being president of India is somewhat similar to that, an eternal holiday for 5 years, except that you have to sign a few bills forwarded by the cabinet now and then.

Coming back to the current presidential frenzy. Right from the start, the presidential race was set to be much exciting from the word go. Thanks to her numerous foreign jaunts and her lack-lustre performance otherwise, Pratibha Patil had ensured that she and her brood would be vacating the palace on Raisina Hills, with no even an atom of a chance of re-election. This time round, UPA, led by Congress also did not have all the numbers to enforce its choice and were largely dependent on like-minded (rhymes with money-minded) parties to help them build a consensus. On the other hand, while UPA was weak, NDA led by BJP was even weaker when it came to its votive power, and had little or no choice but to merely nod in agreement, under the sham of consensus.

There was little doubt that much like last time, Congress would yet again be able to install its man at Rastrapati Bhavan, who will oversee the important 2014 elections. Basically, it was Sonia Gandhi’s game to lose. And much surprisingly she did! Continue reading

An Open Letter to Rajdeep Sardesai

Dear Rajdeep,

I write this to you neither as a great fan of Indian media that you have come to represent, nor a disbeliever of what the Fourth Estate is capable of, merely as a common Indian who is intensely perturbed by the way things are. Let me also state here, that this letter of mine is in response to a note that you addressed to Anna, wherein you raised several points on the current campaign against corruption. First up, much like Anna, TV channels deserve quite a bit of credit for making the current agitation successful. Were it not for all the news channels that are hell-bent on outdoing each in the 24/7 coverage, Anna wouldn’t have been half as effective as he is now.

In fact, your admission in the letter, that news-channel like yours did not much co

ver Anna earlier as “Ralegan Sidhi is a long way from Delhi”, was quite telling. I have so far grown to the notion that reporters and editors follow news, where it is, not give weightage to them based on personal convenience. I guess that could be a justification as well for why news channels like yours have only given lip-coverage to Irom Sharmila, who has been fasting for the past 11 years, just because Manipur is far away from Delhi. I guess, if any crusader wants the press to pick up his just cause, he will now have to set up shop at Delhi.

Team Anna realized that to get the attention of news channel, he will have to land up in Delhi. In fact, isn’t it quite obvious, that even though the government was ham-handed and brutish the way it wound up the Ramdev agitation, the channels lost interest, once he was carted away to Dehradun. Not surprisingly, in the initial days, the government was very keen to not only evict Anna from the Ramlila ground, but Delhi altogether. It knew how the Indian media functioned; out of sight – out of byte.

One of the funny things in your mail to Anna was your reference to the Marathas as a community, talking about how after the 3rd Panipat Battle in 1761, Anna has “taken the national capital by storm”. The analogy was completely erroneous, considering that the battle in 1761, was fought between two kingdoms or principalities, of which one was alien to this land. This is not a battle between two ideologies or person (in fact, even the prime minister has been emphasizing the same time and again), it is against a common evil, namely corruption. Second, by dubbing Anna, as a Maratha, I felt you were trivializing the whole movement. He is not a Maratha battling it out for Marathas or Maharastrians as Sadashivrau Bhau was fighting for the Maratha Confederacy. He is an Indian, fighting for an issue close to all Indians, from the very top in J&K to the very south in TN.

Continue reading

Be Disruptive like Jobs

There was muted silence as a frail-looking man in black turtleneck and blue jeans took stage at the Yerba Buena center in San Francisco. Over the course of next hour, Steve Jobs took the hundreds on agog enthusiasts through one of the most anticipated launches of the year, iPad 2. Literally within minutes of the launch, the cyber world was abuzz with reports and analysis, with blogs, Facebook, Twitter, news sites, feeding the frenzy. Steve Jobs had done it again for Apple, he had ensured that even before the tablet was launched, people would be clamouring for it.

iPad’s success is a brilliant instance of how innovation can be truly disruptive. It’s not as if Apple invented tablets, the concept has been around for decades. In fact the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted in 1888. The first crystallisation of the concept was made by Alan Kay in the early 1970’s, when he came up with the idea of DynaBook. And yet whenever most talk of tablets, they start with iPad. In a less than a year (iPad was launched in Aril 2010), Apple has sold 15 million iPads in 2010 and 40 million in 2011. iPads account for 95% of the market. Apple achieved all this not merely by inventing alone, but by innovating, through careful evaluation of user needs and crafting solutions that meet those. The company is not inventive, but disruptive.

Going ahead, Apple can be a template for any enterprise that wishes to be successful. One needs to deliberately look ahead, peer into the future, and craft products and services that will be ahead of its time. In these days of hyper-competition, innovation is not enough, disruption is required. As IT leaders, you to need to pick a leaf from Jobs biography and make an attempt to be the same. Look at things around you, talk to customers, keep a tab on competition, check the flow of the tech winds. Study, analyse, evaluate, and once you have done so, do it again. Only through force and habit, can you be really be disruptive. Remember Jobs didn’t create Apple in a day, it has been around for over three decades.

Thus, put on your thinking hat and start with a road map. Who knows – in the times to come, there might be many iPad like successes from this ancient land. There’s already talk of Sakshat and Adam doing the rounds…

The ills of democracy: A failed state?

64 years might not be much time, when it comes to assessing a nation’s progress. But it is sufficient enough to discern, where the nation is headed to. Examining India’s report card is an exercise in despondency. One can’t fail being saddened and shocked by so much going wrong at the same time. While, everyone paints a rosy picture of an Asian giant, growing at 9% y-o-y, the real truth is corruption is gnawing at India’s entails, resulting massively rising disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Numerous statistics and facts, not to mention the frequent scams, point to one big unequivocal truth, India is steadily becoming a nation of a few billionaires and a billion starving mouths. We are not turning into an economic giant, but more of a giant balloon of sham, that can go pop anytime.

If you don’t believe the truth, here are some facts and figures that will tell you otherwise:

  • India continues to be among the world’s most corrupt nations. In fact, it has fallen further in the Transparency International index to be ranked at 87 among 180 nations
  • India ranks a low 119 among 169 countries on the 2010 Human Development Index
  • As much as 55% of the population suffers multiple deprivations while an additional 16% are vulnerable to multiple deprivations, according to the report
  • The gross national income (GNI) per capita measured on purchasing power parity terms for Indian was less than a third of the world average at $3,337 in 2008
  • India tops the list for black money in the entire world with almost US$1456 billion in Swiss banks (approximately USD 1.4 trillion) — estimated
  • 80% of Indians earn less than 2$ per day and every second child is malnourished
  • The total amount of money involved in various scams in India over the last 12 years alone, since 1992, is estimated to be over Rs 80 lakh crore (Rs 80 trillion) or $1.80 trillion!

So what could be the possible reason for this downfall? After all, we are one of the largest democracies in the world. How can the collective go so wrong? The horrible truth is, not only are we the largest democracy in the world, we are also the largest in terms of corrupt governance. Continue reading

Yankee Doodle Doo! — A Big Apple Travelogue

Of all the things that my editor is known for, sense of humor is not certainly one of them. So when he called me up and asked me, whether I would like to go to New York, I was a bit taken aback. He was sombre and so was his tenor, giving me little reason to suspect his intentions. “It is for a Juniper event, 3 days to Big Apple,” he added. With nervous excitement, I acquiesced and from that day onwards (till I came back), all I could think of is New York.

It was a roller coaster ride, many ups followed by the downs. As I had decided to stay back for a few more days, 4 more to be precise, there was a lot that needed to be done, right from finding a roof to arranging the moolah.

To cut the long story short, this piece isn’t about my trials and travails in the US, but rather the impressions that have formed on my mind and what I bring back from the continent.

As my plane landed on a chilly January dawn at Newark International Airport, the first thing that came to my mind was the sheer scale of the complex. I could see from the air itself, that the place was mammoth. And once I disembarked, my doubts turned into reality; there were some hundred odd terminals and more. Newark Airport is some 20 odd miles from New York, in the neighboring state of New Jersey. It took some thirty minutes drive to reach my hotel on 50th street, the New York Palace Hotel. Right next door to the hotel was the St. Patrick Cathedral that seemed to be inspired from maestro Antoni Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona. And so was the famous Rockerfeller Center, some meters away.

Mapping Manhattan
In many ways, walking in between those sky-reaching towers gives you a sense of deja vu . Have we not seen this somewhere is a constant hum that keeps reverberating through the conscious mind and there are valid reasons for it. New York City (I will henceforth use the rather stylish acronym NYC) has been captured on celluloid innumerable times. So when Spiderman is shown slinging his way through the rather narrow streets of Downtown, or how Robert Neville (Will Smith) in I am Legend , finds out in the empty streets of Manhattan that he isn’t actually the last man standing, or even John McClane (Bruce Willis) and a store owner play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around Broadway while trying to stop him. Closer to home, a certain Mr. Karan Johar, has canned NYC almost exclusively in the very few films that he has made (thank heavens). Continue reading

In memoriam: Uncle Pai

“Hello. That is Shashwat Chaturvedi, right?” a sombre relaxed voice on the other end of the telephone quipped. It was 9 in the morning, and after an arduous late-night at work that stretched on till morning, I would have cared less if it was Lord Shiva on the other side. Groggily, I mumbled an affirmative. “Good. I was just updating my telephone diary. You are a journalist, right,” came another question. This time, I replied in the affirmative and also asked for the antecedents of the caller. “Good. This is Anant Pai.” Even though half asleep, I was jolted, wondering to myself whether it was actually a call or my mind was wandering in some hazy dreamland. The silence at my end prompted the soft voice, “Anant Pai, here. Uncle Pai as you might know.” The next few minutes, I was gushing over the phone, speaking dreamily to Uncle Pai. The rest of the day, I just floated around on a cushion of air; after all it is not every day that you get a call from Uncle Pai.

Like that day, when I was shocked and stirred up by his call, an innocuous post on FB stating “RIP Uncle Pai” again shook me up but this time it was shattering. Like millions of other Indian kids, I too had grown up on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Kathas and Tinkles, and for us Uncle Pai, the creator of these magazines, was more like Santa Claus, except that he didn’t look one and secondly, he told stories and not ordinary stories but those that connected us to our forefathers that walked this very land, 50, 100, 200 and 1000s of years back in history. Most of us, still treasure those original ACKs in the hope of sharing it with the next generation. Thus in a way, ACK had become a family heirloom, passed one generation to the next.

Fortunately, I had the good luck of meeting and interacting with Uncle Pai a couple of times and in each of these meetings, I’d sit in front of him as if confronting some big sage. I would sip from the ever flowing fountain of knowledge; just keep hearing him out, asking him a thing or two and then just paying attention to what he said. When, I was young, I had heard that some rare people were blessed by goddess Saraswati. For me, he was the living embodiment of that goddess. He knew everything under the sun and more importantly, he knew to tell it in a way it stayed with you. For instance, on hearing my name, he told me the real meaning of the term Shashwat, and to drive the point home, he also recited some shlokas to the effect. Or when I spoke about the one Sanskrit shloka that always stayed in my mind, namely the title track of Bharat Ek Khoj, Uncle Pai immediately recited the Nasadiya Sukta (it was from him that I came to know the name) from the Rig Veda, translated it for me and then told me that it was he who had suggested the same to Shyam Benegal (the director of Bharat Ek Khoj) as title track for the serial. Then once the shlokas were done, he would easily sing a Bengali tune, recite Kabir or quote Shakespeare.

There was nothing under the sun that Uncle Pai did not know about; he was a veritable encyclopedia on everything. But the best thing about him, was the manner he could storise everything, turn it into a tale, making it ever so palatable for the young mind. He was a story-teller by par, and he had his mantra. To be a good children’s writer, he used to say, one must know child psychology or what the child loves. One must look from the child’s point of view. Uncle Pai had a simple thumb rule for them, when “children are in a hurry to go to a playground after school, at that time stop them and read your story. If your story holds enough interest for the child and if he doesn’t run away to the playground- you have succeeded in becoming a good writer.” Continue reading