April 27, 2016

Indian Speed Star Initiative by GAIL

Image Source:- http://www.gailindianspeedstar.org
In India, athletics always lacked attention. Games are a priority and among games too, Cricket takes the major attention. Athletics take the most neglected position in Indian society. And that's why in world sports arena, we don't manage to get good number of medals. We need to think why do we have this situation in our country. Is it because of the neglect of Govt, or is it because of the lack of "a culture of Sports" in our nation. In many rural areas, we have this old Hindi saying- "padhoge-likhoge banoge nawaab. kheloge-kudoge banoge kharab" (English transalation:- "If you study, you will become a great man. If you play too much, you will turn into a spoilt man"). Well, this may not hold relevant in today's times, but it tells a lot about the society's thinking. So we really need to think over this, as to why our society places so much emphasis on study and looks down upon sports and athletics as things which spoil future.

Thankfully, times are slowly changing, and more and more people are taking to sports. In fact, more and more organisations are sponsoring rather unconventional sports in the country. An example is the "pro-kabbadi" league being organized by corporates. Who would have thought there would be a National level kabaddi tournament organized by private sponsors, and organised with so much fanfare!! Same is with the Indian Super League for Football. So things are slowly changing.

It is in this regard that there seems to be another noble initiative, and thankfully so, in the area of athletics. GAIL - Gas Authority of India Ltd. has started a very nice grassroot level initiative for athletics.  It is named "Indian Speed Star", to find out the fastest runners in 100,200 and 800 mtrs track events. They have teamed up with National Yuva Cooperative Society which has further tied up with Anglian Medal Hunt Company as its Technical Partner for The GAIL Indian Speedstar project. The programme is mainly targetted to find talented children beween 11-17 yrs old, and then train them for 2020 and 2024 Olympics.
A panel of eminent sportspersons like P.T Usha, Rachita Mistry, AnuradhaBiswal& Kavita Raut have been appointed in the selection committee to support selections and guide coaching camps. As members of the selection committee their role would include creating the selection criteria or the GAIL-Indian Speedstar program, and developing the training plan and module for the selected athletes at the National Level.
District trials were conducted under the watchful eyes of coaches and selectors, appointed by the selection committee. The selection of the athletes was based on talent identification and selection criteria set by the selection committee.
Initiatory, in its first year, earlier this year with initial trials conducted at 55 districts across 10 states in which more than 25,000 children participated out of which 850 children made it to the State level.

Camp and Selection. The first State level camp and trial was organized on 27-28th of February in SawaiMaan Singh Stadium, Jaipur where 60 boys and girls participated out of which 4 have qualified for the next level. The state trials were held in Odisha (14 Selection), Delhi (28 Selection), Kerala (28 Selection) & Jharkhand(4 Selection)followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat in the last week  of April. The shortlisted children from the State trials will then participate in the National camp and selection which is scheduled to be held in May 2016 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. Shortlisted athletes from state trials will attend an intensive national level camp. At the conclusion of the coaching camp, final trials will be held.

This seems to be a really nice initiative by GAIL and I am sure many talented children of our country will get benefited by it. More details about this noble initiative can be found at the website- http://www.gailindianspeedstar.org/Let's also hope that more and more organisations come forward to sponsor and support such initiatives focused on athletics and other neglected sports.

April 24, 2016

Shantaram: Book Review

Image Source:- theviewspaper.net -  http://bit.ly/1MQSXWg
"So it begins, this story, like everything else—with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.
Quoted from the novel, this gives a bit of idea what the story is all about. Shantaram is a story about Shantaram and his exile life in Bombay. The life involves his role in Bombay mafia, his love for the girl Karla, and his philosophical journey with his Boss-cum-saviour KhaderBhai. 

What is most remarkable about this novel is that it has been written by a convicted Australian criminal who escaped high security prison of Australia and entered India on fake passport. The author, "Gregory David Roberts" has based the novel on his real life, so the initial part of novel is taken from his own life. But after that he surly has mixed it up with lot of fiction. 

Image Source:- goodreads.com
There are three main characters in this novel- Shantaram, Karla and KhaderBhai. The Novel revolves around Bombay mafia headed by KhaderBhai and stories of people working with him. There are a few more highlighted characters like- Prabakar and Abdullah. The chief protagonist, Shantaram enters India on fake passport, reaches Bombay and tries to mingle in there. Initially, he does some petty criminal jobs like currency exchange and drugs selling, but slowly he gets dragged into the KhaderBhai's Bombay mafia gang. In the initial days when he finishes up with his money, he starts living in slums, where he helps people with his basic first aid skills, opening his own small clinic there. Prabakar was the Bombay tour guide he had hired on his first day in Bombay, and Prabakar becomes one of his best friend in Bombay. The slum dwellers love this foreign guy so much for his simplicity and willingness to mix.

A significant portion of novel describes his life in slum, his willingness to mix with poor people, his compassionate and kind nature for people in suffering. He also eagerly learns the Marathi language. Prabakar takes him to his native village in Maharashtra, and there Prabakar's parents give him the name- "Shantaram". Prabakar himself had given him a short name "Lin", and the slum dwellers used to call him "LinBaba" with respect.

Paralally, the story moves in three more dimensions. First is his hangouts at the famous Leopard cafe, where he makes 4-5 great friends. Second is his love relationship with the girl Karla, who happens to be another foreigner on the run in Bombay. And third is his life in the companionship of KhaderBhai.

His life with KhaderBhai, is what takes major part of the novel. KhaderBhai's mafia used to have a council system where all the privileged council members used to meet at regular intervals to discuss mafia things, and more so, to discuss philosophy- which was the favourite hobby of KhaderBhai! So Shantaram, even though not a council members, used to get invited there for philosophical discussions. And slowly, he grew closer to KhaderBhai. They used to have long spiritual, philosophical discussions many times, and those part of books are really fascinating to read. Like this quote by KhaderBhai- 
"In order to know about any act or intention or consequence, we must first ask two questions. One, what would happen if everyone did this thing? Two, would this help or hinder the movement toward complexity?

Even otherwise, the novel is full of philosophical quotes which make you stop and think about the deep meaning intended to be conveyed. Like take this one- 
"One of the ironies of courage, and the reason why we prize it so highly, is that we find it easier to be brave for someone else than we do for ourselves alone."

Things take a sudden turn in story when KhaderBhai prepares to leave for Afghanistan to help Afghans in the war with Russians. He was an Afghan and his villagers were involved in the war with Russians. He was going to smuggle arms and money to Afghanistan. He had contacts in Pakistan and so, he left with his entire gang, for Afghanistan, via Pakistan. Shantaram too left along. Somewhere along the journey, he came to know of a very bitter reality about KhaderBhai which made him fight with him. KhaderBhai was like a father figure for him, but he felt betrayed and broken. 

Things moved on, he came back to India, but KhaderBhai got killed by Russians in the journey. After his death, the story takes a downhill. The equation in KhaderBhai's Bombay mafia changes. It becomes "Sanjay Gang", and the story gets rolling fast. Karla gets married to someone else. Shantaram moves in with another girl Lisa. Life slowly moves on for all... till the next series of novel in the sequel. 

The uniqueness of this novel is in it's style of story telling. The story is such a perfect mix of love, betrayal, suspense, thrill, and philosophy. The story gives such an immersive experience to the reader. You get completely involved with the narrative. You will start wishing that everything happens good between Lin and Karla, that their heart comes out of the pains inflicted by the past. You starts wishing well for all the characters. When Shantaram gets a feeling of betrayal by knowing about the reality of KhaderBhai, you also feels the equal amount of shock and surprise. Even though most part of the novel is fictitious, it appears so real. Even though the novel is just too thick- almost 950 pages- it hardly bores you. This is a perfect novel for someone who likes philosophical discourse, as well a love story full of struggle and mystery. Highly recommended novel, if you haven't already read it. 

P.S.- This novel has several, wonderful quotable quotes, and I have put up another blog-post compiling them all. You can read them here.

Shantaram: Some wonderful Quotable quotes from the Novel

Image Source:- http://screenrant.com (http://bit.ly/1qJ8YDk)
In continuation with my earlier post on the Review of Shantaram novel, I thought to compile some of the wonderful quotes from the Novel. Some of these are so striking, realistic and philosophical that they make you stop and think over it for a moment. Here they are:- 

1. So it begins, this story, like everything else—with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.
2. The voice, Afghan matchmakers say, is more than half of love. 
3. But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn’t wise.
4. Civilisation, after all, is defined by what we forbid, more than what we permit.
5. The facts of life are very simple. In the beginning we feared everything—animals, the weather, the trees, the night sky—everything except each other. Now we fear each other, and almost nothing else.
6. That’s not wise, Lin. I think wisdom is very over-rated. Wisdom is just cleverness, with all the guts kicked out of it. I’d rather be clever than wise, any day. 
7. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them.
8. What I am saying is that reality—as you see it, and as most people see it—is nothing more than an illusion. There is another reality, beyond what we see with our eyes. You have to feel your way into that reality with your heart. There is no other way.
9. The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men,’ he said. ‘It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men—it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil.
10. I don’t know what scares me more,’ she declared, ‘the madness that smashes people down, or their ability to endure it.’
11. Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears.
12. Nations neglect no men more shamefully than the heroes of their wars.’
13. The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid men, and a hundred million cowards. The rest of us, all six billion of us, do pretty much what we are told!’
14. Some of the worst wrongs, Karla once said, were caused by people who tried to change things.
15. What characterises the human race more, Karla once asked me, cruelty, or the capacity to feel shame for it? I thought the question acutely clever then, when I first heard it, but I’m lonelier and wiser now, and I know it isn’t cruelty or shame that characterises the human race. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are.
16. One of the ironies of courage, and the reason why we prize it so highly, is that we find it easier to be brave for someone else than we do for ourselves alone.
17. Lovers find their way by such insights and confidences: they’re the stars we use to navigate the ocean of desire. And the brightest of those stars are the heartbreaks and sorrows. The most precious gift you can bring to your lover is your suffering.
18. They were poor, tired, worried men, but they were Indian, and any Indian man will tell you that although love might not have been invented in India, it was certainly perfected there
19. Every virtuous act has some dark secret in its heart, Khaderbhai once told me, and every risk we take contains a mystery that can’t be solved.
20. None of us lie or guard our secrets when we sing, and India is a nation of singers whose first love is the kind of song we turn to when crying just isn’t enough.
21. People say that money is the root of all evil,’ Khaled told me when we met in his apartment. His English was rich with accents of New York and Arabic and the Hindi that he spoke reasonably well. ‘But it’s not true. It’s the other way round. Money isn’t the root of all evil. Evil is the root of all money.
22. That’s how we keep this crazy place together—with the heart. Two hundred fuckin’ languages, and a billion people. India is the heart. It’s the heart that keeps us together. There’s no place with people like my people, Lin. There’s no heart like the Indian heart.’
23. Sooner or later, fate puts us together with all the people, one by one, who show us what we could, and shouldn’t, let ourselves become. 
24. But we are all moving towards it—everything in the universe is moving towards it. And that final complexity, that thing we are all moving to, is what I choose to call God. If you don’t like that word, God, call it the Ultimate Complexity.
25.   Karla says that depression only happens to people who don’t know how to be sad.’ 
26. In order to know about any act or intention or consequence, we must first ask two questions. One, what would happen if everyone did this thing? Two, would this help or hinder the movement toward complexity?’
27. ...in the long run, motive matters more with good deeds than it does with bad.
28. ...because if we all learned what we should learn, the first time round, we wouldn’t need love at all.
29. You can never tell what people have inside them until you start taking it away, one hope at a time.
30. At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone.
31. I could’ve loved her. Maybe I already did love her a little. But sometimes the worst thing you can do to a woman is to love her.
32. We know that crying is a good and natural thing. We know that crying isn’t a weakness, but a kind of strength. Still, the weeping rips us root by tangled root from the earth, and we crash like fallen trees when we cry.
33. I told him, she said, that a good man is as strong as the right woman needs him to be.’
34. There are three things that no Indian man can resist: a beautiful face, a beautiful song, and an invitation to dance.
35. It was just that all the hope had been so empty, so meaningless. And if you prove to a man how vain his hope is, how vain his hoping was, you kill the bright, believing part of him that wants to be loved.
36. You can’t kill love. You can’t even kill it with hate. You can kill in-love, and loving, and even loveliness. You can kill them all, or numb them into dense, leaden regret, but you can’t kill love itself. Love is the passionate search for a truth other than your own; and once you feel it, honestly and completely, love is forever.
37. MEN WAGE WARS for profit and principle, but they fight them for land and women. Sooner or later, the other causes and compelling reasons drown in blood and lose their meaning.
38. Love’s a one-way street. Love, like respect, isn’t something you get; it’s something you give.
39. It’s bad, loving someone you can’t forgive.’ ‘It’s not as bad as loving someone you can’t have,
40. He’d been able to deal with that pain because he’d accepted his own part in causing it.
41. when the loving, honest moment comes it should be seized, and spoken, because it may never come again.
42. There are few things more discomfiting than a spontaneous outburst of genuine decency from someone you’re determined to dislike for no good reason.
43. Luck is what happens to you when fate gets tired of waiting.
44. It is always a fool’s mistake, Didier once said to me, to be alone with someone you shouldn’t have loved.

April 17, 2016

Novels and Fictions: My Favorite Fiction Writers

Novels are probably the most addictive thing I have in my life, so addictive that once I start a novel, I can't focus on any other work before finishing that novel. My first encounter with novel was in 7th standard when I came across a Hardy Boys novel in my School's library. After that I didn't take much time to finish reading all the available novels of Hardy Boys and then followed Nancy Drew. Both were similar ones, meant for small children. Stories of adventure, suspense and playfulness. Sherlock Holmes books by Arthur Conan Doyle followed next. His wise detective ventures with Doctor Roberts were always so fascinating. And then I slowly moved on to several other writers' novels, like those by Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum, Fredrick Forsyth,Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, and then Chetan Bhagat. Needless to say, I used to read novels just and just for entertainment. I loved novels with thrill, suspense and mystery. 
Image Source:-

In last few years, I read several other kind of novels, which were a mix of philosophy and the usual thrill and suspense. Dan Brown and Gregory David Roberts (of Shantaram fame), have been two such novelists who have impressed me a lot with their writing style. Out of all these novelists, Dan Brown is the one, whom I would put as my most favourite novelist. Almost 7-8 yrs back, when I had came across his most famous novel- Da Vinci Code- I was least interested to read that, or any of his other novels. That's because the novel, going by news, seemed more of a religious and scientific fiction, and I was least interested in the genre. Suspense,thriller were what attracted me. But then last year a friend suggested me one of his other novel, I took it up to read, and found it quite exciting! It was indeed related to religious mythology, but there were fare share of suspense, and thrill involved. After that I finished most of his novels one by one. Interestingly, I didn't find his most famous novel - Da Vinci Code- that nice. 

It was another novel- "Angels and Demons", which I liked most. His novels stand out in a sense that they contain a right mix of religion stuff, philosophy and the thrilling suspense. I liked the Gregory David Roberts's novels too. But Dan Brown's novels have a slight edge. Besides, Robert's books are more like inspired from his own life. But since they are inspired from real life, they look more realistic too. That said, Dan Brown, will stay to be my favourite fiction writer, followed by the Shantaram :)

April 10, 2016

Logo Designing & Redesigning Competition by WhatsUrSkill

I came across this nice portal WhatsUrSkill which provides a platform to showcase your skills and win prizes for the same. The concept looks great and the two currently existing contests look very promising. The initiatives there can be a great place to hone hobbies too for many people.
Image Source: https://www.whatsurskill.com/
This logo designing competition SWAGG, involves designing logos for 15 start ups and 5 NGOs.
The participants need to redesign their logos for these organizations . The winners will get cash prize up to Rs. 2 lakh in total, and tablets by WACOM.com. Further, each participant will receive Rs. 350 from Ruprr.com. Detail of the terms and conditions can be read here.
All in all, this contest looks great for designers and art enthusiasts. The website WhatsUrSkill too seems promising. They describe their website as a "Kolkata-based Online Talent Recognition Platform, which gives an opportunity to all the artists in India to showcase their Graphic Designing/ Drawing/ Photography/ Acting/ Dancing/ Singing skills and get awarded for their performance. The objective is to see people follow their passion and make a successful career in it." Hope they do great and enough people are benefited by this nice initiative.