Travelling alone in a city with no specific agenda leaves you with ample time to appreciate those beautiful little things that light up the spirit of the city. That fellow lone traveller, a part of whose face is hidden behind his wise- looking beard and reading glasses , the rest of which is buried in the book he reads; the chuckling brother- sister duo who discuss animatedly about what they see across the windows; the carefree young dude whose music reaches you over the rattling rails and gushing wind; an elderly gentleman who held his wife’s hands all along the journey and those assuring smiles they always exchanged. They all did have me smiling all through the day.

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I was taking a break at my cousin’s place at Mumbai before starting for the onward journey to home. My niece was about 10 years old then. It was evening and we were talking of studies, sports, music and every other activity she was involved in. At one point, she made a comment – “Chachu, aap chaai bahut peete ho kya? Chai peene se hi aapka rang aisa ho gaya hai.” (Uncle, do you take tea often? Your color has turned into this because of this.). Her mom who was sitting in a corner, feeling embarrassed cut her short and told me – “We have told her that she would become dark if she drank tea, just to keep her away from it. Please don’t mind.”  I couldn’t say much. Here was a kid who had been taught that dark people didn’t exist in the world. People became dark only because they overdrank tea.

On 19th February, it was the turn of The Bookworm (Church Street, Bangalore) to host us for a discussion on the philosophy of the Objectivism exponent – Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand, who has written a few of the most widely known books of all times including The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged has been a subject of great interest among readers of all ages and nations. We were aware by the virtue of our own readings and our discussions with fellow readers and friends that Ayn Rand’s usage of literary devices to drive her beliefs about man, society, and economy into the reader’s realms of imagination is intoxicating.

“Results indicate that complete retirement leads to a 5-16 percent increase in difficulties associated with mobility and daily activities, a 5-6 percent increase in illness conditions, and 6-9 percent decline in mental health, over an average post-retirement period of six years. Models indicate that the effects tend to operate through lifestyle changes including declines in physical activity and social interactions. The adverse health effects are mitigated if the individual is married and has social support, continues to engage in physical activity post-retirement, or continues to work part-time upon retirement……. Retiring at a later age may lessen or postpone poor health outcomes for older adults, raise well-being, and reduce the utilization of health care services, particularly acute care.”
(Source – The Effects of Retirement on Physical and Mental Health Outcomes –  Dhaval Dave, Inas Rashad, Jasmina Spasojevic)

It was during the Bangalore literature Festival that I first heard of Bara. This book of U.R. AnanthaMurthy was discussed by a panel moderated by Chandan Gowda. Chandan Gowda indeed has translated this super short novella into English from Kannada. I had no idea what Bara was about during the panel discussion but what got me interested in it was the mention of a string of thoughts as experienced by the protagonist, an IAS officer of a drought stricken district.

A couple of days back, I woke up to a text message that said “Celebrate Women’s day with Levi’s!  Buy any women’s jeans and get FLAT Rs.750 OFF on your next Levi’s apparel. Only in exclusive Levi’s apparel”. I instinctively reminded myself to look out for offers in home decors. Later in the day as I walked into my office, I noticed a lot of women clad beautifully in sari and I could hear the men wishing them a “Happy women’s day”. My social media timelines were filled with greetings from men of all sorts – men who can’t crack a joke without mentioning their wife or marriage, men who believe women can’t be intelligent, men whose daughter is a princess, mother is a goddess and wife is a maid, men who believe women ought to dress appropriately to avoid being raped and more.

On a normal day, I do not use alarms to get up in the morning. The body clock adapts quite efficiently. On days when I want to put double check-posts, I set an alarm. However, on such occasions, I get up well before the alarm time to actually sit and listen to the alarm music when it goes off. I had been meaning to attend the Mangal Arati (the morning prayers in Indian temples) at the Ramakrishna Math, Ulsoor (Bengaluru). The Arati starts at 5 am sharp. So I had to start around 4 am to reach well in time. This was on 25th of February. Though it was difficult to break the inertia of sleep, once broken, it was all energy and exuberance in the arctic breeze striking against the face. The night was not over yet. The morning was yet to arrive.

फिल्म डॉन में अमिताभ बच्चन ने दो भूमिकाएँ निभायी हैं। उनमें से पहला किरदार नकारात्मक है। डॉन एक बहुत खतरनाक अपराधी है और उसके ही शब्दों में ११ मुल्कों की पुलिस उसका पीछा कर रहीं होतीं हैं। फिल्म शोले में जय और वीरू टुच्चे चोर हैं। फिल्म डर में शाहरुख़ खान ने एक बेहद संगीन और जुनूनी आशिक़ का किरदार निभाया है। फिल्म स्पेशल छब्बीस में अक्षय कुमार ने एक ठग का किरदार निभाया।

ये सब मैं आपको क्यूँ बता रहा हूँ? इस से पहले कि मैं उसका जवाब दूँ, मैं एक बात और बता देता हूँ। अभिनेता प्राण शायद अब तक के सबसे हरफनमौला कलाकार रहे हैं। कहा जाता है कि उनके नकारात्मक किरदारों को इतनी नफरत मिली कि एक वक़्त पर दर्शकों को यकीन हो गया कि प्राण निजी ज़िन्दगी में भी वही हाथ में चाबुक लेकर घूमने वाले पूंजीवादी हैवान हैं जो गरीब किसानों का खून पीता है। लोगों ने अपने बच्चों का नाम प्राण रखना बंद कर दिया।

Countries have habits. Our country has a habit of either believing too strongly in somebody or not believing a word of the person. Whether a person is truthful is a thing to be analyzed only much later when someone else who can have a greater command on our belief system appears on the scene. Many nations have a national habit of believing only their own. Other nations have the habit of believing anything that is imported. Few countries can maintain a balance between the two and analyze.