Saturday, June 30, 2018

Life in March 26 - June 30


This report covers a significant milestone in the journey of yours truly. We decided to merge our startup with another company. Right now, I have a deep feeling of gratitude and humility  along with some fond memories and very crucial learnings (some of them quite painful as well :) ) While the memories will be cherished forever, I do hope that learnings stay and remembered and made use of in future. But overall, it has been a very exciting ride and I am very glad that I did it. So many fears had to be overcome and it takes real effort to see it through. And it takes effort not just from me but from family and everyone around you to make it happen.

Note - I am intentionally not saying the name so as to not make this searchable. It is quiet ironic given that I have worked on SEO for so many years now. While blog is public, it is largely meant to be personal reflection along with some random musings.

There will be a detailed post mortem and I will write more in a more private setting :)


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With that, it is time to cover what other interesting stuff happened.


- Family trip to Munnar. Detailed post here - http://arvindbatra.blogspot.com/2018/06/munnar-2018-family-trip.html


- Finished Sahir Ludhianvi's biography by Akshay Manwani.  Book review was shared earlier.

- Finished The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation by Ravish Kumar.
It is a small and tight book by one of India's finest journalists. It is a difficult read, it is a reflection of life in our times. But this is what makes a nation. Tough times and how its citizens deal with it. To run is easy, to stay and fight is the challenge. We as a nation are becoming quieter and that is what Ravish is arguing us to not do. To speak up is the need for a revolution and we must participate in it.

- Running has started. I ran 22K in May as part of training but had to go on a break due to work pressure. Now, it has started again.

- Movies :
Incredibles 2 - 3.5/5
Good movie especially on highlighting the gender issues and pushing the envelope on fathers taking care of kids. Good to see in Incredibles as Mr. Incredible always was shown as the macho man. I think they did it little bit much with JackJack.

Ocean's 8 - 2.5/5
I do not feel good to be this much harsh on a this genre and this intent but come on, it could have been so much better.

My happy family - 4.5/5
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/my-happy-family-2017
I think this review sums up my feelings bout the movie - https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/11/29/the-best-film-of-the-year-isnt-coming-to-theaters-its-coming-to-netflix-this-week/

I am Jane Doe - 4/5
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/i_am_jane_doe/
A good documentary based on a true story is so much better than any fiction. Plus, I am a big fan of Jessica Chastain

Florida Project - 3.5/5
Best move of 2017 as per avclub, I found it to be good but not that good to be the best one.

The Shape of Water - 3.5/5
Loved the effects, the acting. A touching tale of pure love with a fantasy ending.


A standup comedy show by Varun Grover.
Good one, typical grover saab.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Munnar 2018 - The family trip


Let's do a family trip ! yayyy!
Destination - Munnar
People - 8

How should we go ? Flight/ Train to Kochi and then temp from there? Two cars from bangalore?  One tempo from bangalore? Direct bus from Bangalore to Munnar? Note - Three people have acute travel sickness.

Should we leave on 18th night and come back on 21st morning? 22nd morning? 21st night? Can we travel overnight? Note - Three people out of seven are more than 58 yrs old

Where should we stay ? Homestay? Close to city centre? Outskirts in nature with no network? In a tea plantation? Budget kitna hai? Note - Three people do not have any preference, they are ok with anything :)


Planning a family trip that satisfies all the constraints is practically impossible. Given all that, we decided to take a tempo traveller 13 seater on 18th night to Munnar. The plan was to travel overnight on 18th night and comeback on 21st night by travelling during 21st day. We will have full two days in Munnar 19th and 20th to enjoy. Munnar from Bangalore is 9 hrs drive without any stops. With stops, it will be 12 hrs and if we leave by 8:30 pm, we will be there by 8:30 am next day.  The stay was booked at a top TA hotel to minimize any concerns and to top it, it also had a swimming pool :)


Day 1
The tempo was clean and okay - only issue that it made noise on acceleration but it had a functioning TV with DVD player and we had taken Amol Palekar movies - Formula for success. We wasted one hr while leaving Bangalore trying to find a mosquito repellant but with no success. We forgot that the bus will have to stop at RTOs for permits. On top, our driver was really sleepy through the night and made 3 extra stops to drive his sleep away. It took us a total of 16 hrs to reach Munnar at 12 noon and we were really exhausted.  On the way, we had stopped for breakfast at a typical Keral breakfast joint and it served yummy food


We reached our hotel - The leaf at 12 noon. We quickly decided to get fresh, have lunch and sleep for sometime. The plan for Day 1 was to go to Kalari Kshetra and see Kathakalli and KalariPayattu shows. Kalari Kshetra was very close to our hotel. The shows were decent, definitely a one time watch. They do not provide a good justice to the history behind it, also not very polished but a good start and if more people come, they can make it a lot more polished as well. 




Day 1 ended with us having dinner at our room - some home items and some hotel items. At midnight, we cut Aarti's birth day cake.


Day 2
Day 2 was going to be a full outing day. It started by a visit to KFDC garden. Followed by a boating at Matupetty dam. But before that, we stopped at a classic Munnar view point and clicked like hundred pictures.




The garden was okay. Matupetty dam was crowded with huge lines for everything - from food court to boat rides. We booked a Shikara ride and to our joy, we even saw an elephant family. While the boat ride was on, it had started to rain making the experience even better




Post the dam, we decided to come back and went to a Kerala massage centre to have a oil massage. I also tried Shirodhara for the first time. I have realized that I am not a big fan of oil based massages. Once we came back to hotel, Aarti gave her birthday treat with a big dinner buffet.

Throughout the day there were lot of traffic and our tempo was stuck. I leveraged this opportunity to my favor by finishing half of Sahir Ludhianvi's biography. Even in the morning, I had decided to skip the pool and enjoy morning coffee along with the book while cool breeze was blowing. 

At midnight, we celebrated Anshika Didi's birthday by cutting yet another cake



Day 3
Day 3 started by us taking advantage of the pool before we depart these beautiful premises. While the property was beautiful, the thing that stands apart for Leaf is their hospitality. They were able to get us cakes for both nights and were very patient in attending to our other requests as well.



Return journey was straight back journey. It was already 10am by the time we left the property. On the way back, Aarti, Kanishka and Babu were feeling travel sickness. We had to stop so that could puke. It was 2 by the time hunger hit us. We stopped at this local place for lunch which served us amazing Kerala food on banana leaf. 


After watching Amol Palekar flicks, Jaane bhi do Yaaron, we also watched a travel movie - Riding solo to the top of the world. It was a new one and I totally dig this movie. While others may have found it boring,  it is a very special movie made with lot of pains as it is a solo movie. 

For dinner, we stopped at A2B for a treat by Anshika didi. We had Appe along with very good North Indian food.  By the time we were home, it was 11 pm. We were all exhausted but it was a good family trip! We truly had lot of fun.








Books in 2018 - #1



2018 is going to be a year of books. At-least far higher than previous years. I had made a resolution to read about Indian authors / books about India. But that is not the only thing that I am going to read. Here is a brief summary about what I have read so far -


Miss Laila armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph
Review here - http://arvindbatra.blogspot.com/2018/03/book-review-miss-laila-armed-and.html


Aap & Down by Mayank Gandhi
Review - A decent book to give a glimpse on what went behind the journey of AAP - both its rise and subsequnt downfall, as told from the first hand experience of Mayank Gandhi. I liked all Mayank explains the AAP chapter when it comes to dealing with Anna Hazare, and sums up his experiences of working with Anna before. This information is something that not everyone has been pricy to and is a delightful read.
However, I have many misgivings about Mayank's role in the AAP saga during its downfall. He should have spoken more eloquently and atleast resigned much earlier. Even in the book, those chapters needed more details, more information should have been made transparent. But it fails to do so. In addition, Mayank has some spiritual philosophies which are difficult to digest. However, given that Mayank is doing some wonderful work now in Parli, it is difficult to have any misgivings about him.
Overall, this is a fine book, written in easy English and is a good accompaniment for what may be the best political struggle of my time yet.



The Dreamers by Snigdha Poona
Review - A must read. The idea behind reading about Indian author or books about India is to know and learn about India up close. From the position of privilege that I have, from this bubble that I live in, it has often been hard to understand why India is behaving the way it is. Deep down, I like to believe that people are rational, sensible beings and they truly want what is the best for the nation. Yet, given that, the choices they make are sometimes difficult to rationalize with. 
The Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam goes to the heart of my conundrum by focussing on folks from all walks of life and trying to make sense of the idea of India through their aspirations. While at one end are individual stories, witty, delightful, full of interesting people and their colorful experiences, hard work and sometimes scary as well. But where the Dreamers shine is when Ms. Poonam is able to find the common emotion across these diverse narratives - that of challenging the status quo and an intrinsic nature to stand apart from your surrounding milieu and fighting very hard to win the respect of your local peers. This drive is the one that pulls India ahead and it is this drive due to which folks are able to look past the trashy environment and plow to build a secure and rich future for themselves.
I would highly recommend the chapter on Richa Singh - who for the first time became the President of University of Allahabad and the one which involves a Gau Rakshak.



Sahir Ludhianvi - The People's poet by Akshay Manwani
Review - My fascination with Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics has been in the background for quite sometime. In numerous cases I had marvelled at the quality of lyrics of songs and upon research I had found that they were penned by Sahir saab. In addition, his zidd to have the name of lyricist announced on radio is something that i deeply respected. The newer radio stations do not follow this and I hate them for it. In March, I saw a play Ek Mulaqat featuring Deepti Naval and Shekhar Suman as Amirta Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi respectively that touched about their stories. While the play was alright, the next day I had ordered this biography and I finished it during my Munnar trip.
On the biography itself, Manwani does a good job in covering the childhood and young days of Mr. Ludhianvi. It is his roots from his earlier days, his association with the leftist, the people's movement that has shaped Sahir views and his poems are mere reflection of his conscience. Manwani talks about his struggles and then the first breakthrough and from there on documents his journey. This journey documentation becomes little non-interesting as it is devoid of much anecdotes. Manwani shows glimpse of various eccentricities of Sahir, example - his fear of lifts but does not go into its manifestations. Sahir was also very arrogant and had taken fights with everyone, Manwani documents these instances but feels incomplete in certain ways. However, the first part of Sahir's life, his pre-Bombay life comes across very nicely in the book. 'Bada artist banoonga' - Sahir's claim to become successful and awareness that he is very good put against a backdrop of partition, bad father and a family to take care of. The other great part of the book is that it is filled with his lyrics along with their English translation. 
Definitely a good read for fans of Sahir Ludhianvi.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Review - I had always longed to read novels about people, the kind which are frequently adapted and made into movies such as Fault in Our Stars. But I have always been confused on which one to pick up. This dilemma was solved when Parul had recommended this book.  With this weird title, I thought to first check its reviews and was surprised that it was loved so much. So, I immediately picked it up, ahead of my this year's reading list.
TGLPPPS is worthy of all its praise and probably more. It is truly a delightful read, written with wittiness and a tone of utmost candidness and genuine caring and warmth. Set in post-world war II UK, it is a story of an author living in London where half of the city is in ruins. She starts to communicate with residents of a island under the United Kingdom which was under the German occupation, these residents had created the TGLPPPPS. Narration unfolds in the form of letters that flow from its characters. In the backdrop of a literary society, casualties of a world war, an island with beautiful landscape, it is an unlikely love story but very fulfilling read.
I highly recommend this book, infact I have already gifted three copies of this book,


Foundation 2 & Foundation 3 by Asimov
What a joy to have finished the ultimate Sci-fi series of all time. I would rate Foundation 1 > Foundation 3 > Foundation 2. I did not like that much of Mule storylines. Also, Foundation 3 ending finale reveal felt forced as well but other than that, books are awesome to read. Truly inspirational in their scope from beginning, what I loved about these books is that Asimov continues to add mysteries and unravels them masterfully in subsequent chapters. With such a premise, the options are numerous and many will not work. It is truly Asimov's skill that he binds these instance in a coherent manner while keeping the literary thrills intact.


Its been 7 books so far and one that is 65% over. More about that one in next edition.









Life in March 26 - June 30

This report covers a significant milestone in the journey of yours truly. We decided to merge our startup with another company. Right now, ...