Friday, January 19, 2018

Satte Pe Satta of a Marathon

This year’s Vadodara International Marathon (VIM 2018) somehow made me recall the great hindi film – Satte Pe Satta. I find a lot of similarities between the two. Here are 7 (to keep up with the theme) of these:

1. This is a fun love story. The love story begins with a slap. But Amitabh Bachchan is besotted & gets into hot pursuit mode. AB (as Ravi) woos the lady with fruits, then flowers, feigning injury next & finally succeeds (in classic Bollywood fashion) over the course of a song. Over the years, VIM has also gone through these stages:
The slap: In 2013, I walked off after the start for two reasons: the start was much delayed (for the aspiring PM-cum-Chief Guest arrived late & gave a long speech), and there was no way of getting out except after being flagged off!! (This blog didn’t exist then, so no account here)
The Fruit & Flowers: The next time, the start was again delayed (for the CM-cum-Chief Guest arrived late but gave a shorter speech this time) but not as much.
The Deception: Last year, they started on time but there still was much scope for improvement.
The Song: VIM 2018, when the organisers decided 7th Jan 2018 will be that “ek din” when “pyar ho jayega”.

2. While AB is the undisputed lead, the film is about 7 brothers who live a life of their own. On their own terms. Close to, but away from civilization. Coming to Akshar Chowk, it seemed as if there was some Occupy OP Road going on. But realized soon enough these were the 10K runners. They were in groups, chatting & having fun amongst themselves. Just like our 7 brothers in the film, but a few thousands in number. It seemed as if they would break into the song any time: Zindagi bhaag ke bitayenge, Sab ko sath mein bhagayenge, Hum to marathoners hain, Zindagi run-geen banayenge... If you think this is outlandish, imagine a couple of grown-up men going to a bar & asking for milk. This particular scene is more in the line of a Johny Lever, but the brothers make it look very natural.

3. An unconventional Hema Malini is the female lead, though it may appear that she is more of a supporting cast (to the 7 brothers). I particularly admire her role in this film. She takes on the men & emerges victorious each time. She has portrayed a strong, independent woman in other films too, notably Sita aur Gita & Sholay, but here she displays the conventional feminine traits too. Coming back to the film, she would never have believed that a place such as the brothers’ dwelling could ever exist. But she is up to it. Starting at one end, task by task, she totally transforms the disorderly house into a spick & span home. Pulling off an event of magnitude such as VIM requires equally meticulous planning & attention to details. This time they succeeded – from route selection to on route provisions & volunteering. Just like Hema makes her brothers-in-law take a bath (after having washed their clothes)!!

4. If the eldest one gets his lady love, can the rest be denied the same? No way, and they soon bump into a group of lovely ladies who are brought into the house (actually kidnapped). They are 6 in number, one for each of the remaining brothers. VIM 2018 too had something for everyone. Apart from the timed runs (42K, 21K & 10K), they had the mandatory 5K fun run, a costume run, a separate category for NRI’s (who happen to be in town this time of the year) & also one for the physically challenged. I suspect the VIM organisers were also impressed by Satte Pe Satta, where a wheelchair-confined Ranjeeta was the leader of the gang of girls!! Except that it should be called Satte pe Satte pe Satta for having these 7 categories in the 7th edition held on 7th January.

5. If you think this movie was all fun & love, you are wrong. It also had a health-related message for the viewers – “daru peene se liver kharaab hota hai”. And this message was reinforced multiple times in a short sequence. VIM too had a social objective – Swachhata (cleanliness). Hope Baroda turns up in the top-3 cleanest cities soon!

6. Bollywood has always believed in the Wodehouse dictum, “unto each life, some rain must fall”. Thus, no bollywood film is complete without the mandatory bad man. Satte pe Sata was no different, but here we got a villain with a heart of gold, aka Babu (AB in a double role). He walks out of jail & is contracted by Amjad Khan for another assignment – to kill his niece, Ranjeeta. A professional to the core, he quickly assumes the hero’s identity to get close to his target. VIM too had its share of mishaps. Like the refusal of the volunteers to provide ORS to the slower HM runners. But to keep it for the FMers come later when the sun is truly up & its warmer. Thus, they had the best interests of the FM runners in mind while doing so & were not really the bad guys. Like Babu, who did not take advantage of the lady, despite being in a position to do so.

7. Essentially, I feel the film was about transformation. An unkempt, ruffianish Ravi into a suave gentleman who can romance a girl. A tyrant eldest brother who begins to admit his mistakes (he appears to be genuinely sorry for having lied to Hema abt his family/household & the girls for having kidnapped them). A no-nonsense, disciplinarian Hema Malini into a caring wife & sister-in-law. The wild brothers into civilized men. So has the VIM improved year by year into what turned out to be a blockbuster event this year. And just like Ravi’s friend in the film, Shekhar, I am sure most regular participants would have wondered at the end of the event, Ye registan mein phool kaise khil gaya?”.

These similarities apart, do you know what’s my favourite scene in the movie? It is Hema Malini throwing back the fruit gifted by Amitabh Bachchan. It was a water melon (ROFL) & I was afraid it would crash on his head. It was a relief it didn’t & I knew she would soon be his!! The medal too, in honour of AB’s choice, decided to perch on this fruit.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Untold Smog Tales

The smog in Gurgaon is so thick that Robert Vadra grabbed his own land. This message has been doing the rounds in WhatsApp since yesterday. In fact I couldn’t forward this message to any group because it was there in all. Which shows that the problem is as serious as made out by the news channels. But the news channels have been focused on the pollution/visibility data & the actions taken by the government. And speaking to those who have been affected by the government actions. But there have been many other incidents that point to the severity of the situation, though missed out by the mainstream media.

In one smog-related incident two vehicles collided in Gurgaon. As per tradition, the drivers stopped their vehicles & got out. But due to the heavy smog, they beat up a pedestrian crossing the road who happened to be there when these gentle-men had just come out of their vehicles. You may argue that had there been no smog, the pedestrian would have been overrun by a vehicle. But road rage is a serious ailment in Delhi/NCR & we need to take it up seriously.

But it is near impossible to cure those in Delhi/NCR of their undesirable habits. There was this case yesterday (yet to be verified by the news channels) of a lady standing at the bus stop bashing up her own husband, along with a group of women, for doing to her what men in Delhi do to women standing at bus stops. We still do not know what story the man told upon reaching home but the wife was tending to his injuries. As they say, time heals all wounds.

It is no use approaching the Police during this period. Some of them have also become victims of the smog & the famed ingenuity of Delhiites. It is reported that some cops were handed bundles of Rs. 10 notes (which should have been of Rs. 100 denomination) when they went about collecting the hafta. Unfortunately, they are unable to recall the persons responsible for this. Many of these cops have now gone on medical leave. We also heard that their senior officers have now approached the government to introduce Rs. 5000 notes so that such incidents are not reported next winter onwards. As it is, the police is already understaffed for maintaining law & order in a city of this size.

Not that people in Delhi have the habit of approaching the police at the drop of a hat. They are more accustomed to taking the law in their own hands & resolving issues there and then. Like the employees of Indigo Airlines. But due to the heavy smog, the Indigo ground staff beat their own pilot who was boarding the plane. The grapevine has it that the Airlines is thinking of taking strict action against the pilot.

While airline operations have been severely hit due to smog, the humble auto rickshaws have also not been untouched. In fact, they have been twice affected. Firstly, the fall in number of commuters has reduced their income drastically. As if this was not enough, practically all auto drivers are missing turns due to the smog & taking passengers to their destinations by the shortest route. The auto rickshaw drivers’ union is in discussion with the government to increase fares during periods of smog.

Not just the locals, even those visiting Delhi from outside have been affected. Though, most of these suffered from only breathing problem & illness. But there was this group from a large state that gathered at Ramlila Maidan to demand inclusion under reserved category. There was another group from that state, adjacent to this one, who was opposing the demand for reservation by this group. But due to the smog, the leaders (of both groups) found themselves on the wrong stage & their speeches being booed rather than cheered. The minister who had come to meet the groups was so confused that he refused to address either group & hurried back. It appears that he has reported this to his colleagues & the central government is now speaking to the concerned state governments to tackle the smog problem.

But there is a positive story too. The incidents of rape have stopped completely owing to the smog. The potential rapists have stayed indoors for fear of becoming victims themselves while out on the prowl. Safety first is what they believe in. And so should you if you stay in, or are planning to visit, Delhi/NCR. Take care & stay healthy.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Khichdi of Thoughts

This is about the time when I had just moved to Bharuch. Someone suggested having Khichdi for lunch. The classic gujarati Kadhi-Khichdi being something I relish, I went along. Arriving at the joint, I was told there were two varieties of Khichdi’s – one, Rasa Wali, served with chicken gravy & the other, Tari Wali, served with the oil floating on chicken gravy. I haven’t found either at any other town.

The other day, our Hon. Minister for Food Processing was all set to declare Khichdi as the National Food. But she chickened out at the very last minute & not because she loves tikka & tandoori more. She didn’t want another controversy cropping up when election fever is rising in two crucial states. I tell you, these antinational, intolerant, left-leaning libtaards have been creating needless controversies for too long now. I still remember, as if it was yesterday, the noise they made when our government pushed yoga on a global scale. Don’t they feel proud now when the whole world does yoga on International Yoga Day? Thus, I request the Hon. Minister to just go ahead & declare Khichdi as the National Food.

A simple, healthy, easy-to-cook, complete meal as Khichdi deserves its rightful place at the global level. Today, it’s the burgers, noodles, pizzas, etc. that are recognised all around the world. What about Indian dishes? Except for Chicken Tikka Masala, the world is ignorant about our culinary delights. Had we promoted the Vada Pav outside, MacDonald’s would have been a Vada Paav chain that also sold burgers. We cannot let this happen to Khichdi too. Thus the government needs to go all out to push Khichdi as the go-to Super Food. And leave it to Baba Ramdev to set up the Patanjali Khichdi Ghar’s which are sure to outnumber the Pizza Hut’s, MacD’s & Starbucks put together, worldwide.

But the government should first ensure that we get the GI tag for this food. Else, someone in the US will get a patent for Khichdi & we will end up paying him a royalty every time we cook it. The GI tag will also certify Khichdi as the real thing & those like Porridge, Tyraahi (Egypt), Noorkali (Iran), etc. as mere imitators. Khichdi may have various versions & names in different countries. But our civilization is the oldest & our Khichdi is the original one.

Next, the government should organize Khichdi Fests to popularize this Super Food which has more varieties than the no. of states & union territories. In fact much more, if you consider that the small town of Bharuch itself has two. Within India, these will act as a tool for national integration. Once people in part of the country start accepting & appreciating the Khichdi of other parts, language, culture, traditions would soon follow. Outside India, this would ignite their palates & they would come in droves to savor Khichdi in the country of origin. It may as well turn out to be as big a reason to visit India as the Taj Mahal.

Each of us has been force fed Khichdi as a kid when we used to be ill. We can exploit the health benefits ( of Khichdi. There is another thing missing in the decadent west that we have in abundance – Spiritualism. Club the benefits of Spiritualism & Khichdi & we can sell the concept of Detox Tourism to the west. I believe they would be more than willing for something like this. A month’s visit for complete personal regeneration – physiological as well as spiritual. And an opportunity to take a selfie in front of the Taj too. Can it get any better?

And not to forget, getting UN to select one day in the year as the International Khichdi Day. That would be a day when the whole world eats Khichdi. Armed with the GI tag, Indians would be the only ones to make & sell Khichdi to the world. This would not only help in eliminating unemployment, we would also see the rise of a new breed of Indian entrepreneurs with a global footprint.

If only the government listens…

Pic credit:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What's cooking? Khichdi, of course!!

Perhaps, we didn’t read the signs. It has always been a simple & easy-to-cook complete meal, disliked by kids because it was usually fed when ill. Other special occasion being when the lady of the house was too tired (or in no mood) to cook. Then, first an acclaimed movie used it at its title. Next, Ashish Nehra blamed former coach Chappel for converting the Biryani of a cricket team into Khichdi ( And now, Khichdi has been christened a Super Food by none other than Ms. Harsimrat Kaur, the minister for food processing. A person who should have logically preferred Chicken Tikka or Tandoori Chicken is agreeable to the humble Khichdi being recognized as our National Food.

Which proves that not all politicians look at things from a regional/ethnic/linguistic/religious perspective. Convinced of her non-partisan approach in these matters, I beg her to consider similarly honouring these dishes too:

National Breakfast – It can only be Idli-Dosa & nothing else. These are no longer the monopoly of udipi outlets spread across the country. When one travels along the national highways, this is the only item available in the dhabas for breakfast. Apart from Parle G biscuit packs, of course. Even in Gujarat, a state whose denizens carry their own stock of Thepla’s when they travel outside. This will also help assuage the sentiments of South Indians who have always been distrustful of actions of the central governments. Maybe, we will then also be able to declare Hindi as the national language. Without having Lungi, in return, as the national garment.

National Beverage – As Salman Khan crooned, “Ek garam chai ki pyali ho…” ( Cutting Tea is my nomination too. Not those dished out by these 21st century CafĂ© Coffee Day’s & Barista’s. I mean the cutting chai at those road side tea stalls. I don’t think there is anything better than the over-boiled tea made of recycled tea leaves & served in those small cups. And the pearls of wisdom that one picks up while one is at it, is the free add-on. Right from India’s response to China to the strategy on the cricket field, the fonts of knowledge spring forth from here. So much so that, the earliest memories of our pioneering, path-breaking, record making PM are of selling tea at one of these outlets.

National Snack – What else but the iconic Samosa. It may have been an import, but we have made it our very own. Like Cricket & Hockey. Immortalised in Bollywood songs & Election speeches, it has outlasted all icons. Yes, Akshay Kumar no longer plays the lover boy & Laloo Yadav is back on the fringes in his home state. But the Samosa with Aloo (and other fillings too) still remains a staple at Railway stations, college canteens & street corners.

National Vegetable – It brings tears to the eyes but also the taste buds to life. It is an accompaniment to the main dishes, but the main dish too. You can sprinkle it with salt, with pepper too, or lemon as well, or even dipped whole in vinegar, or as the main dish if the hunger pangs are too severe (or one is too poor). Veg or non-veg, the Onion gels with every dish, every cuisine. Never talked about, it has led to governments tumbling down. Just like us Indians. Even SRK will agree that one should never underestimate the power of a common onion.

National DessertRosogolla for no particular reason but simply to make Didi happy. In the hope that if Didi is happy, she will not be cross with rest of the world. And that she will not send harmless professors to jail. And that she will not behave as an opposition leader despite being the CM. And that she will finally manage to find some time to have her sarees ironed.

P.S.: In the next few days, I am sure the congress will claim they were first to honour this Super Food simply because the UPA behaved as if it was cooking Birbal's Khichdi ( If the hon. minister takes action on my suggestions, she can prove that this government can deliver more than Jumlas.

Pics credit:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Sunrise in the West

“Aaj Suraj kidhar se uga?” (or, where did the sun rise from?) was the first thing I was asked when I reached Kamati Baug early on a Sunday morning to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I assured them all the celestial bodies were on their defined course & it was only the lure of a cake that made me wake up at 7 am. Also present was this guy (let’s not name him) who is a fitness freak. He is so obsessed with fitness that he wants to transform every person he knows, and that person’s neighbor, into a fitness freak.

Including me. He quoted (his other weakness) Jo Walton (whoever he is/was) to me – “There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free. Don't miss so many of them.” I knew what was coming next & shot back with this pearl of wisdom by Mindy Kaling – “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.”

This ended his attempt (before it could begin) to make me board the fitness wagon. But this also made me think of all the proverbs & sayings that are inspired by sunrise. And I went in search to ashram of Sri Sri Google Baba, the universal source of knowledge. Here are a few of those I found:

Debasish MridhaEven if you cover the whole world with darkness, you can never stop the sun from rising. (Going by his name, I feel Debasish hasn’t read the Bible. Or if he has, he wasn’t too impressed with the achievements credited to Moses.)

AnonymousEach new day, a gift to be opened, sunrise slowly unties it’s ribbon of hope. (True, but I like it when the gift is untied & opened. The process remains the same & I don’t feel the need to witness it day after day.)

Victor Hugo: Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. (Is the source correct in assigning these words to Victor Hugo? Every kid knows this & I can’t think of a reason why VH made this profound observation. Maybe they didn’t till VH pointed this out. For, isn’t Newton supposed to have discovered “Gravity” though it existed right from the time the earth was formed?)

Munia Khan: The sun can rise anytime in your dreams. And there night may fall anytime as well. (I think Munia was responding to Victor Hugo. This should also be my response to those early risers who want me to emulate them.)

But, no one has ever described a sunrise better than William Shakespeare:
The heavenly-harness'd team
Begins his golden progress in the east.

Of course, not everyone is in awe of a sunrise. One being last year’s surprise winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob Dylan. He has his preferences clearly spelt out:
There's beauty in the silver singing river,
There's beauty in the sunrise in the sky,
But none of these and nothing else can match the beauty,
That I remember in my true love's eyes.

Or the Congress party (and many others), which is shouting from the rooftops about the Sonrise in Gujarat.

Quotes sourced from:

Pic sourced from:
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