Dear Mary Kom,

Wrote this a few days ago. Couldn't publish in time. But der aaye, durust aaye!

Dear Mary Kom,

I just came back from a movie hall after watching the eponymous biopic based on your life. And it was moving. So moving that it has made me write this letter. The letter is going to be a really long one. Please do get a bucket of popcorn and some soda before you start reading this.

First things first. You are a wonderful wonderful person Mary. You are a true achiever and a true fighter. I love your never-say-die attitude. I love the way you are totally committed to your sport. I love the way you have been an exemplary ambassador for the sport of boxing. Thank you so much for bringing so much glory to India. I am so proud that you and I are compatriots. I sincerely wish I could do half the things that you've done. You deserve all the awards and medals and appreciation and flowers and other things that we have bestowed upon you. And I sincerely believe that you deserve a lot more. Apologies that it took a movie to get me (and probably other Indians) to notice your contribution to our country.

So, if this letter gets rude, out of place, please ignore it as a rant of a jobless old man.

I do not mean any disrespect to you, but Mary, you've made a mistake. A big big mistake. You allowed Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Omung Kumar (I loved Omung Kumar when I was a kid when he did shows like Ek Minute etc.) to make the movie on your life. And you allowed Priyanka Chopra (who I know has been put on earth to marry me someday) to play the lead. The three of them, individually, are great (like I said). Probably as accomplished as you are. But the three of them together created a mess that is hard to digest. There are so many things wrong with the movie that I don't even know where to start.

Actually I know where to start. Research. If I were to make a sporting movie and a boxing movie at that, I would have done a LOT of research on it. No no, not on your life. That would be easy because I would merely need to sit with you and get dope on you (which I hope they did!) But research on sporting movies per se. I would want to know what kind of sporting movies have worked in the past. What are the few things that make a sports movie interesting. After all, its not a typical rom-com where the actors are running around trees and stealing pecks when no one's watching. I would've seen the classics like Angels in the Outfield, Finding Buck McHenry, even Mighty Ducks etc etc. And I would have seen the boxing movies like the Rocky series, Million Dollar Baby, Ali etc. I would even see Jerry Mcguire. And movies from India that have done well - Chak De India, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag etc.

And then, once I have done all this research, seen all these movies, I would goto the drawing board and start working on your movie. From what it seemed to me, the research bit was missing from your movie. Leave aside research, the script did not have the essential ingredients for a sports film. What could those ingredients be? I think it would be a long list but the key ones would be fast-paced story, action-packed fighting scenes, grandeur and strong characters (apart from you Mary) that inspire.

Mary, you are an accomplished boxer. Couldn't you consult the director on the boxing scenes atleast? The fight sequences were really really bad. They were so boring that I could've actually shown a clock ticking on the screen. I would've saved some money. Even the training bits were really sad. Look at Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. For whatever that movie was worth, it got the training bit correct. You can see the dude sweating while he was training. In your case, agreed you woke up early and you milked the cow and all that but that's your training? Really?

So anyhow let me talk about these characters. Lets start with your coach. Of course the coach is like the Guru. Whatever he says, is like a thing cast in stone. He has to be inspiring. Look at Micky. He made Rocky the fighter he was. Look at SRK in Chak De. Leave boxing and hockey. Look at a simple movie like Rockford. Nagesh Kukunoor is a PT teacher to kids and he is inspiring. Mary, your coach, to me did not look like someone who could inspire. Please please know that I am talking from the perspective of the movie. The actor, the lines, the action, demeanor of the coach is so so important for a sporting movie that you had to have a brilliant actor play that role. I don't understand why would you settle for someone who has not proven his mettle as an actor!

Then, your husband. Damn I hate him. He is too too good to be true. You cant imagine the plight of all other men in the country. When a woman sees your husband do all those sweet things for you, they'd start expecting their men to do the same. Thank God the movie flopped. Otherwise your husband would have been the reason for a few divorces for sure.

Lets talk about your father. His anger and exasperation is justified. He is a simple man and wants his daughter to do well. But Mary, in the movie, did you actually give approval to overt dramatization to that fight scene that is apparently shot in Turkey? Where you are down and out and your father sees you take a thrashing of your life and he then yells at a television to encourage you. And you, some 6000 KMs away get this burst of energy that helps you win. Mary, are you telling me (the gullible movie-goer) that telepathy works? I mean, it may. But this much dramatization? Are you sure? And no, it did not happen at just one place. Even the fight in the climax when your son is struggling with life and your come back. Really?

Then Mary, where did the entire thing about "you being discriminated in a bout because you are a Manipuri" come in from? Do you really think so? You really think we are that small? Some of us may be. But Indians at large? I was actually offended at that scene. Filmmakers have a responsibility and it sucks that someone would resort to communal tensions to make a story out of an incident. And please know that you are as Indian as I am. In fact, Mary, you are a notch better. Way better actually. Because you've brought glory to the country. I on the other hand have just ranted on this blog. Did you not realize that the management or the federation declared the other girl a winner because they hated your guts. Not because you are a Manipuri. Please Mary. I sincerely hope that you did not approve of that bit in the film.

There are so many more questions I have. But I guess time is not on my side. Over all, I think its a poorly written film. The direction and acting looked half-hearted as well. The fight scenes were pathetic. A film-student could have done a better job in my humble opinion.

Oh, and the film lacked grandeur. As an amateur film maker, it seemed to me that you guys cut corners while making the film. The sets were done poorly, space was sparse and props lacked detail, something that I did not expect from a team of Bhansali and Omung Kumar who have worked on magnum opuses like Black and Saawariya. I mean look at all other Sanjay Leela Bhansali films. The only thing that stands out in those films is the opulence, the grandness, the larger than life visual hooks. Your movie Mary, lacked all of it.

Some parts looked as if they were shot on a phone camera. May be they were indeed shot with a small camera. After all, cinematic creativity is something that I dont know nothing about as yet. You should've seen the sketches and you should've been a part of the PPM and other such meetings.

In the end, Mary, I think you ought to give your story to some other filmmaker who would probably do justice to your story and tell is better. You need to redeem yourself. The next generations just can not have this movie as the reference point when they think about the boxing legend from India - Mary Kom!

An Indian who is very proud of your achievements. And is disappointed with the film.

What could've been better?
Story, script and screenplay

What worked for me?
Your husband. Even the actor and his acting.

Overall rating?
1 on 5.

Will I recommend it?
NO WAY. In caps.

Why ship?

"Real Aritst Ship." - Steve Jobs.
Image Credit: Andrew Power / Busy Building Things

a. A conversation with a very very dear friend about The Nidhi Kapoor Story. Please judge.
b. I am a firm believer in the concept of shipping (folklore). She, on the other hand, hates mediocrity and thinks quality is always greater than quantity. It's a never-ending debate and there is no right side. I guess.

a. I don't remember the exact words that she used. Or the exact words I used. But this is how the conversation went.
b. This friend, F, is my dearest friend. The kinds I can die for. Really.

So, it went like...

Friend (F): Are you happy with your book? Is this the best that you can come up with?
SG: Not really. If I want, I can tinker it with for the rest of my life. But it has come to a point where I am confident about sharing it with the world. I wish I could write like all the other great ones...

F: Then why would you publish it?
SG: What do you mean?

F: Arey you said its not your best output. Why would you want a sub-standard and half-baked product out in the market?
SG: It is not sub-standard. I have given it an honest shot and I really think it ought to see the light of day.

F: Why? If you can still improve it, how is it not half-baked?
SG: Its at a stage where I think I can ship it. Of course I can add things, remove things, change things. like any other story, this one is in a perpetual stage of flux. I have created it. Everything is fictional. I can do whatever with it. But I believe that if more people see it, I'd get more feedback and better I'd get as an artist writer. Its that perpetual loop. Steve Jobs once said, "real artists ship." I want to ship.

F: But a mediocre product? Do you know whenever Steve Jobs launched something, it was always very very cool!
SG: It may be. Steve Jobs knew what he was doing with his life. I do not know. Writing does not come to me naturally. I had to work hard for it. It took me considerable time and effort to come to a point where I could finish the book. Hence I want to put it out as soon as possible so that I get as much feedback on it.

And like I said, I have spent enough time on the book and I really think that it would be worth the time people spend in reading it.

Plus I want to try. Stumble on things, fall down and then get up again. And eventually carry on walking. And, if writing does not work out, I will move onto the next thing. Simple. Thats the plan. And commercial success is a true true barometer of an artist. Even though for every famous writer, there are a thousand others that die an anonymous death. When I die, I really want to tell myself that I tried. Simple.

F: Fucking faff! And if you really want feedback, show it to your friends. Why release it in print and all? Why make so much noise about it?  
SG: Because friends could be biased. They wont be merciless in their reviews. They wouldn't want me to get discouraged. If its out there, I would know that what the aam aadmi thinks.

And I really really believe in doing things that make accidents happen. What if someone reads this and gives me an idea that can change the way I work? Unless I print the book, I would never reach that person. No? So its important to get this in the hands of as many people as I can.

F. Wait. Are you writing this for yourself? Or for people?
SG: Of course its for my own happiness. It would be good to make money from it though. But money is not the only criteria. I want to tell stories. People may or may not listen to what I have to say. But I know that if I keep up to it, I will someday become a storyteller.

F: So, this is about fame?
SG: No no. Its about trying to do something that I think I could do for the rest of my life! Its yet another thing that I am trying my hand at. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, Id move onto the next one.

F. I dont believe you. You are such a fucking moron. 
SG: But that's how I am. Trust me I really want to improve the craft and I cant see any other way. I definitely cant be the guy who works in a garage till he comes up with a masterpiece. Whatever I do, I want to put out as soon as possible.

The conversation went on for another 30 or so minutes till she finally got disgusted and almost threw a glass full of water on face. Thank God she did not do that.

Though, I still wondering, what did I do to deserve that extreme a reaction.

10 books that have stayed with me over the years

First posted on #tnks blog.

There is this thing going around FB where people are listing their top 10 books. I refuse to not be a part of any fad. And thus, here is my list (in no particular order).

1. The Godfather. By Mario Puzo. As someone said, it is the dictionary of crime. It was the first time when I thought reading books could be fun. I loved reading it. I love love it. The characters have stayed with me for years. I can still recall the plots. I know the dialogues by heart and so on and so forth. If there is one book that you out to read before you die, its this one. Or may be its English, August.

2. English, August. By Upamanyu Chatterjee. Its like my biography. Just that Ogu is little less lost, far more focused and younger than I. I can totally relate to everything that Ogu did while he was posted in Madna. I've went through every emotion that August lived through while he wrote the book. If there is one book that I wish I had written, it would be this. Here is a post I wrote about English, August.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo. By Alexandre Dumas. Its a work of pure genius. Its revenge. Served cold. This is what inspired me to work on The Nidhi Kapoor Story. If there was no Monte Cristo, there wouldn't be any Nidhi Kapoor. I wrote about the strange dreams that I started having when I read the The Count.

4. Rich Dad. Poor Dad. By Robert Kiyosaki. Yes. Self-help. And yes, I am aware of all the controversy and debate around it. But, eat my shorts, as Bart would say. I read this recently and since then it has changed the way I look at things. I wish I had read this one sooner. May be just before I entered the business school.

5. Eat, Pray, Love. By Elizabeth Gilbert. Because I am as depressed as Groceries is. And her travel helped me get over some bit of my depression. I am serious. Just that I dont know if its a true story or a fictional one. I did goto Bali this year and vaguely tried to search for Ketut but could not find him.

6. On Writing. Stephan King. Of course. I don't have to say anything anymore. It has inspired

7. To Kill a Mockingbird. By Harper Lee. I instantly fell in love with Scout. I wish I had a girlfriend like her! Too bad Harper Lee wrote just one book. As an aspiring writer and a voracious reader, I see a good bit and a bad bit. Good, that she has made enough money from one that she does not have to rely on the mercy of readers / reviewers for sales of the next ones. Bad, that as a reader, I couldnt read more from her.

8. Jack Reacher (series) by Lee Child. This is what unadulterated, indulgence is. You are so enthralled by the man, Jack Reacher, that you dont want his fables to ever come to an end. I have read 13 / 14 books and when I realized that I had read almost all his books, I did not want it to come to an end. And I cant wait for the next one to come. Whenever it does. Someday, I aspire to write about a man like him. Or may be a woman.

9. Shantaram. By Gregory Davids Roberts. I did not like the way it ended but the way he has romanced Mumbai with his "brother" on bikes, uff! They must've been one hell of a time. If there is someone who has been able to do justice to Mumbai and its charm, its Shantaram. Read this one purely for his narration on Mumbai. And infectious smile of one Prabhakar.

10. The Mahabharata. By I dont know who. Surprise surprise. Not a modern fiction but a story none the less. I must have read this one a thousand times. Excluding the Geeta bits. The book is about righteousness, fairness, fair play, good, bad, evil, life, revenge, greed, love, jealousy and all such passions that a human being is capable of experiencing. Love the complex plots and epic connections and relationships. While writing, the notes would have ran into millions of pages. I know I'd never be able to, but I would give an arm and a leg to peek into the notes. Any ideas how?

And here is a bonus.

11. Warren Buffet letters. Again, technically not a book but it's a collection of annual letters he writes to shareholders of Berkshire. Love his sense of humor, his candour and the simplicity with which he writes. He doles about advice on life and investing in the garb of these letters. Its one of those things I wish I had read sooner.

Thanks Internet for this meme. Thanks Radhika for the prompt. What is your list of 10 books that have stayed with you over the years?

P.S.: Too lazy to include links to these books. Easy enough to find I guess, if you want to read them.

Hello September. Of 2014.

And just like that its September. Of 2014. Time flies. And how.

I don't recall the specifics but it seems like yesterday when it was September of 2013 and I was planning for a roadtrip through the US of A with friends. The trip for reasons beyond the scope of this blog did not happen in September. Apart from the trip, I was thinking about my book. And about what life holds for me in the times to come. The times to come have arrived and life pretty much looks the same. Except that I have little less hair and little more gray hair. 

Anyhow, the point is, its almost been a year and I have no clue where time went. 

Of course I did things and I met people and all that. But do I recall how I spent the time? No I dont. I just recall that since last september, I wrote and travelled and worked and spent all that I had saved and read and blogged. I generally had a good time. But again, I dont know any specifics. I dont have stories to share, I dont have medals to boast of, I dont have bank balance to show off, I dont have sgMS to go to. I dont have any of those things that make life worth living. 

Brings me to the question that I have been asking a lot lately. What's the point of all this? 

And no, I am not depressed before you start recommending solutions and medicines. 

This time, like the previous four or five months, I wont really do an analysis of what went wrong and what I learnt and what I missed and all that. I think that I am not programmed for that kind of planning. I forced myself to work on it. I tried but I could not. The question is, how do I make time count, before its September yet again. Of 2015. Assuming I make it to Sep of 2015.

Hunt for the second / third place

Lets start this rant with a few facts. Quirks, more than facts to be honest.

Fact 1. I dont like moonlighting my home with my office. It works for a lot of people, but not for me.

Fact 2. I seek flexibility, freedom and independence over a stable job. Even if its a well-paying one. Anyhow, well-paying naukri is a myth. 

Fact 3. I see a bed and I want to lie down. Yeah I am lazy like that. I can't say no to the allure of the bed.

So, now the rant. 

Because of facts 1, 2 and 3, you can guess that most of my work happens from coffee shops and all that. Which was fine till late. But then a lot of people are now in my position and thus these coffee shops now frown on people spending long hours. Plus, with the prices going through the roof, its become very expensive to sit there. As a result, the productivity has taken a hit and I've wasted a lot of money and time on the hunt for the illusive perfect place to work out of. 

So, I need, no not need, want... so I want a place where I could sit and work for long hours. And odd hours because I want to keep the flexibility going. I have tried talking to all those fancy co-working places and communes around where I live and nothing seems to be working. 

I put a tweet, posted a question on Quora, put it on FB but nothing is working out. And time is running out fast. Fast like crazy fast. And I cant seem to do anything about it. Someone, please help! Any good samaritans know of some place that I could use? 

Kangaali me aata geela

So when I was young, I loved using idioms. And one of my favorite ones was / is, "kangaali me aata geela." Literally translated, it means when you in deep shit, more shit is piled on you. And as I type this, I am in deep deep shit. So deep that I don't think I can wade out of it. Ever. Unless some divine intervention happens and the Hand of God (or an act of God) pulls me out of it.

Oh, apart from God, I am sure Mr. Murphy must be laughing at me as well. After all, despite all the positive vibes that I send to the universe, life has been unfair to me. I mean not unfair but it could've treated me better. It has made me a mediocre, arrogant, cocky young old man who refuses to change the way he operates. If life were to be any better, it could have either made me a beggar and left me to rot at the mercy of the world. Or it could have made me an exceptional brain and allowed me to make a dent in the world.

Neither happened and the world left me as a mediocre man. I lost the damn ovarian lottery.

And like I have said a million times, mediocrity sucks. And I am nothing but a case-study in mediocrity. Before I continue with the self-flagellation and self-doubt and pity and all that, let me come back to the kangaali me aata geela bit.

So when I had money, I saved like I was Uncle Scrooge. I did splurge, but most of what I spent was on things that I did not really need. And ever since money has tightened, I have tried to control my splurges but my expenses on things that are essential to work has spiraled. Take charging cables for phones and laptops for example. When I had money, I could buy as many cables and most times my employer would have foot the bill. But the cable never broke. I never misplaced the cables. Everything worked with perfection, like a dream.

And ever since I've been left to fend for myself (and money is in limited supply), everything seems to be breaking. Like my phone cable. And now my laptop charger. And since both of them are Apple products, the accessories are expensive. Sigh! This is just one example. There are more such incidents that tell me that kangaali main aata geela hota hi hai. I believed that accidents and fuck-ups happen with those who attract those. Have I become one of those? Plus I dont know what I want in life. And life is getting shorter by the day. And thus, I have lesser time to achieve things, as and when I know what I want to achieve in life.

I am now part of that feedback loop that is spiraling downwards. Fast. I am poor and hence I am getting poorer. I need some sort of tailwind to bring me back upto speed. Remember I spoke about a year and a crore the other day? That! That is what I need. And like I said, I need some divine intervention. Some act of God, some hand of God, something is needed.

To end this, I know that that act is just around the corner. Just that I don't know when or where will it happen. May be there's a way to expedite it? Prayers help? Try praying for me? No point actually. God and I have a chattees ka aankada. God has told me 'fuck you' in as many words.


Book Review: Private India

I recently read Private India. The latest by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson. Got the book as part of the book review program by

Private India. James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi.
Before I launch in a full-blown review, let me get some numbers out of the way. I mean the ratings. 

Readability: 3.5 on 5
Suspense: 2 on 5 (I could guess the killer moment the character was first introduced)
Storyline / Plot: 4 on 5
Overall: 3.5 on 5

One line verdict: A good one-time read. However the story, the characters, the plots won't really stay with you after you've read the book.

Full Review
Before the review, lets try to make a recipe for a bestseller in the crime / thriller category.

  • Step 1. Take one potion underdog hero who is battling with his personal demons and alcohol (or drug) addiction. 
  • Step 2. Throw in a bunch of loyalists who would stand by the hero through the thick or thin. 
  • Step 3. Add atleast two people who think that the hero is a bag full of shit and is better cornered into a remand home or something. 
  • Step 4. Finally, create a villain who has a personal vendetta against someone really really famous. Step 5. And then let the villain plan, plot, execute, run from the hero, to eventually get caught by the hero, only to turn tables in the climax, before tables turn one more time to give the hero the upper edge.
  • Step 6. Of course, once the dish is ready, as per the taste, sprinkle some steamy scenes, sidekicks (for the hero, the heroine and the villain) and personal histories of all characters.

Private India follows this recipe down to a T. Except the steamy love scenes. Wonder why did they leave it out.

Anyhow, coming to the story, the lovely city of Mumbai is rocked by a series of murders. Each victim is a famous personality with a vague connection to the Bollywood. On each crime site, a series of clues is left alongside each victim and its upto our righteous, know-it-all Private Detective to solve the mystery of the clues. And prevent the serial killer from going on a spree. And ofcourse catch the killer.

There are a couple of side plots as well. Purely to distract us, the readers, from the main story. And to give the book a larger theme per se. But I'd say, the side plot is so weak that they could've totally left it out.

So, while the unknown assailant is merrily killing people, the hero is trying to catch up with the killer and the side-plot is trying to confuse us, lessons in history happen and we suddenly reach the end of the story! That ways, the story flows smooth. Very smooth. I wish I could write like that.

Coming to the good bits.

  • Each chapter is less than 1000 words. Some are even less than 500. So it makes for a very very easy read.
  • The story has been penned really nicely. Its very readable. Clearly the book has been written for people who probably are new readers.
  • One of those fast, pacy reads where story doesn't drag at all. The kinds that you can read in one sitting if you are on a beach or on a holiday. 

And the not-so-good bits
Despite both of them being very very popular authors, this is the first James Patterson or Ashwin Sanghi that I am reading. And honestly, I expected better. From whatever I have heard, Ashwin Sanghi's strength is digging up history (or mythology etc) and coming up with interesting takes and twists on those. At least my friends have made me believe so. Private India is nothing like that.

And James Patterson is like the grand-daddy of writing (and thrillers) and each his book is expected to be a page-turner and unputdownable. As a struggling author, its one of my dreams to be able to write as well as him. This one, however, is not really up there.

May be its a case of over-promise and under-delivery?

In the end
Like I said, its a good one-time read. Perfect for a holiday or a vacation. Reading Private India is like watching one of those mindless action flicks where you sit through the film and you enjoy the violence, without applying your brain. And when the movie over, even though you don't recall what or why, but you know that you had a good time watching it.

P.S.: This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

P.P.S.: This is the first time I am doing a post as a part of some review program. I would tag all subsequent review posts as #aff. And no, I don't make any money from these reviews / posts. 

P.P.P.S.: My book is coming out in Oct. If you like reading and you would want to review my book, please leave your details in this form.

In praise of writing

The last few days have been really busy.

Amongst other things, I have been playing a fervent ping-pong match with team at Grapevine India. They have sent me the edited and proofread version of tnks and I was supposed to give an approval on it. I did not like a few things that they removed. And they did not like a few things that I really want in the final version. Both of us (Grapevine and I) are guilty of clinging onto things and thus we are squabbling over it. And squabbling over things is a very very time consuming and exhausting.

Thankfully, we've reached a truce and agreed on the final draft. And it means two things.

A, we are on track to meet the October release deadline for the book. Yay!

B, I can now start working on the next plot. In fact, today I wrote a few lines for the next one. And I loved working on it. Loved it like crazy. Words magically appeared on my screen and the time seemed to be moving fast. I realized that I love creating new things. That chase of new new thing has remained with me even after all these years!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I live. To see time fly by. To see words popping in my head.

When I write, I forget everything that is wrong with my life. I instead become the God and I, for a change, can control things. I can mould characters and their behaviors. I can change the course of incidents and situations and everything else as per my whims. I can give birth, take a life, nurture something, torture someone and be indifferent without any guilt. No, I am not a egomaniacal narcissist. As yet.

Just that I am the happiest when I am writing. And nothing else comes close. May be, except spending time with sgMS!

Original, edited version posted here.


When I was young, I used to love this band, Euphoria. At MDI, I even got an opportunity to host them at our cultural fest (and like a starry-eyed kid, I was mesmerized with them and loved while they were performing for us. Of course I took pictures with the band.)

Fast forward to 2014. While browsing random videos on youtube, I stumbled onto this song, Tum. It looked like a modern version of a song that I loved when I was young. Thinking that I may have out-grown the love for a love song, full of mush, I initially wanted to skip it but then something in me asked me to give it a chance and listen to it.

And I was blown by it.

Funny this is that the new avatar is almost like the old one. The lyrics are essentially the same. The music is what it was back then (except a new instrument). And the energy is as much as you expect from a Euphoria song.

And yet for some reason, this time, the song sounded more beautiful. It came across as lot more meaningful. it brought back all the good times that I've spent with sgMS.

To end this, Tum has to be one of the most beautiful songs. Ever.

P.S.: This is the first time I am writing a post with the help of Hemingway app. Do let me know if you like this post any better from the other ones that I've written.

The tales of a grumpy old man

One of the things that keeps me up at night is that I am growing old. By the day, by the hour and by the minute. And with old age, I am getting grumpy, fat, unhealthy, lethargic, stubborn, headstrong and other things. And I dont like any of that. And I dont know what is the escape. I cant stop the aging process and I cant stop the side-effects. Its like being on a conveyor belt that is moving towards a destination that I cant control!