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ashokbhatia

Respected Sir,

As a lay citizen of India, allow me to say that you are spearheading a great drive to reform the education system of the country. There may be no big ticket announcements, but one can see some incremental steps which would help our youth to realize their full potential in the years to come.

I write this with all humility at my command, merely to suggest one such incremental reform, which, I am reasonably certain, can help our youth to develop their soft skills faster and better.

I write this to suggest that a special drive be launched to expose Indian students to the works of the eminent humourist, P G Wodehouse. By discovering, delving into and devouring these, our future citizens shall turn out to be cheerful, joyous and happy. India would soon become a country which would be not only chasing her Gross Domestic Product numbers…

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“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature,” said P.G. Wodehouse.

Well, someone of my dubious literary intelligence cannot claim to know what exactly defines literature. Allow me, therefore, to take the argument a bit further and surmise that a common love for some selected authors could prove to be a good foundation for a bond of friendship to evolve and develop.

This is precisely what I rediscovered recently, while on a short visit to the City Beautiful of India – Chandigarh.

The basic idea was to chew some fat together with some other fans of P G Wodehouse in the city. But the Guardian Angels, ostensibly concerned about my cholesterol levels, directed me to the lair of Prof. Ashwini Agrawal, with whom a simple cup of tea, accompanied by some savouries, facilitated the creation of a bond which is sure to develop into a long-lasting friendship in the years to come.

Arthur Hailey

Any discussion about Plum remains incomplete without his fans gushing over his use of the English language, his unique turn of phrase, the relentless lampooning of the British aristocracy in his works, and the sharpness with which his characters, whether human or otherwise, get etched. His dazzling wit comes in for praise, as does his scintillating humour. Our meeting was no exception to this general rule.

Besides Plum, several authors whose works we both had devoured in the past got discussed. The breezy whodunits dished out by James Hadley Chase came up for discussion. So did the erudite works of Arthur Hailey and Irwing Wallace. The meticulous thrillers of Frederick Forsyth got covered. Many other authors whom both of us admired in the past found their way into the brief discussion we had.

Frederick Forsyth

Some challenges got discussed. Getting the young millenials to read itself topped the list of concerns expressed. To attract their attention to Plum’s works came in a close second. The scheme mooted at the New Delhi meet of Plum’s fans – that of launching a matrimonial website which would facilitate bonding between two souls of which at least one happens to be a die-hard fan – was considered a good solution towards ensuring that the genes of Wodehousitis get passed on to the coming generations.

Professor Ashwini Agrawal rued having recently lost a great collection of his books, including those of Wodehouse, to the vagaries of imperfect plumbing in a portion of his house. As a renowned archaeologist who specializes in Numismatics, he also has a room overflowing with books of professional interest.

He is an avid traveller. It just so happened that we could meet up. The credit of leading me to him rests entirely on the slender shoulders of Ms. Abha Singhal

Prof Ashwini Agrawal

Joshi, another Plum fan based in New Delhi. Those of you who follow my blog posts may recall her having played the role of Gladys Biggs at the last gig in the metropolis, held on the 11th of November, 2017.

Like Switzerland, Chandigarh also hides its Plum fans rather well. One hopes that this post might ferret out a few more who reside in the City Beautiful. This could pave the way for a Drones Club to come up there, so those aspiring for an Olympic medal for throwing of bread crumbs may get some well-deserved practice and even those aiming to get a Grammy for a boisterous rendering of Sonny Boy might get a platform to showcase their skills.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india)

 

When Kalidasa speaks of Summer in Ritusamhara, he not only talks of the hot and dusty earth but also of the comfort of fountains and lily ponds, the moonlit nights spent either on cold slabs of marble or on terraces, the expectations of a good monsoon soon to follow and the affairs of the heart. He touches upon the manner in which lovers prepare for courtship in this harsh season. The use of fragrant flowers and sandal paste gets mentioned. The mention of soft sounds of the anklets worn by lissome damsels fires up one’s imagination.

The poet might as well have alluded to the kind of summer that Pondicherry offers. Howsoever oppressive the heat may feel during the first half of the day, late afternoon onwards, a cool breeze starts blowing in from the sea-side. The trees start swaying with gay abandon. The lily ponds can be forgotten. As the sun starts packing up its bags for a night’s well earned rest and repose, denizens rush to the promenade and enjoy a leisurely stroll thereat.

If the tender coconuts on offer provide succour to a hapless traveller by the day, small garlands made up of fragrant jasmine flowers provide a welcome relief during the evening hours. One’s olfactory senses kick in. The soul drives solace. The colour of either the skin or the hair, which wears such a garland and boasts of such a treat to one’s senses, no longer matters. The mere thought of a leisurely stroll which comes with the perks of an intoxicating aroma wafting in frequently lifts one’s soggy spirits no end.

Vendors peddling frozen desserts and ice creams of all sizes and shapes laugh all the way to their respective banks. Those dishing out fruit juices and smoothies also do brisk business. Owners of outdoor cafes miss their normal rush of customers, who prefer to pop up instead at restaurants which offer air-conditioned comfort. Hotels boasting of swimming pools are hard pressed to accommodate guests who would like to take the plunge. Boutiques which offer organically made perfumes often run out of supplies. Those selling cotton garments never complain of any slackness in their business.

Like the poet envisages, cool rays of moonlight provide great comfort late in the evenings. Just lying on one’s terrace and looking up at the moon makes one forget the harshness of the hot and humid days. The sheer expanse of twinkling stars leaves one invigorated. The skies are invariably clear and one can easily see distant constellations.

The reasons for Pondicherry being attractive during summers are not hard to find. The place is small in size and one does not waste much time commuting from one place to the next. Even though it offers metropolitan comforts, it is not a concrete jungle. Mother Nature still holds sway. Environment is clean. People are friendly and cool.

An early morning dip in the sea perks one up no end. So do boat rides, surf riding and scuba diving. The crowds are lesser, making it a good time to enjoy a peaceful vacation in this little town. With lesser number of people swarming at the beaches, one can enjoy one’s private space at most public places.

As someone who has lived in Pondicherry for over two decades, one finds that the summers were almost 2 degrees cooler in the past than what one finds these days. My favourite spot is a neem tree in the backyard of my house, where I can devour a Blandings story dished out by P G Wodehouse, with a kettle full of green tea by my side, duly accompanied by some cookies.

I am sure you have perfected your own methods of enjoying the summer in Pondicherry. Feel free to share your ideas with me!

(Images courtesy www)

(A version of this appears here: https://www.pondylive.com/simple-pleasures-of-a-pondicherry-summer-starry-nights-sea-breeze-sweat-and-surf)

 

My pride, my UBS

ashokbhatia

In our lives, UBS played the role of a dynamic and bustling airport,
From which we soared in life´s azure skies, enjoying our flights of high
import;
Some took to exploring various corners of our Mother Earth,
Of CEOs, diplomats, businessmen and bankers amongst us there is no dearth.

While in UBS’ hallowed portals, we enjoyed bunking classes,
The brainy ones worked on assignments which were copied by the masses;
Cornering important books from the Central Library was a critical vocation,
For poking fun at our faculty, Student Centre was the prime location.

OB theories and riddles of Sales Forecasting kept us on our toes,
Figuring out Quantitative Techniques made us feel abysmal lows;
Twiddling our thumbs to read between the lines of a Balance Sheet,
Devouring the works of Philip Kotler was much up our street.

Weekend treks to Kasauli and Morni Hills were favourite gigs,
Midnight gorging on…

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There are indeed times when the harsh slings and arrows of Life weigh one’s soul down with woe. The intensity of each succeeding sling shot becomes more acute. The frequency also registers an uptick. Life seems to be overtaken with a Thos-like propensity – to test the depth of one’s reserves of patience and fortitude. It appears as if each arrow is doused in paraffin and is being shot by an Edwin the Scout to douse an already raging fire in one’s cottage. One’s Guardian Angels appear to have gone off on a long vacation. The air is congested with a series of W-shaped depressions which keep hitting one at regular intervals. Even before one has had a chance to pull oneself out of the preceding episode, the next one follows, leaving one all of a twitter. The soul remains in a phase of perennial torment.

When faced with a situation of this nature, one has two options. One can either wallow in self-pity, question one’s Guardian Angels as to what one has done to deserve a harsh treatment of the kind being dished out, and generally keep looking for shoulders which would not look askance at the prospect of getting wet with one’s tears. Or, one can start exploring the possibility of clawing one’s way back up the cesspool of darkness one finds oneself in.

In case the latter option suits one’s temperament, there could be no better way to beat the blues than to immerse oneself in one’s work with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

Besides, the following actions, if taken, might make one realize that one should never repine, never despair, and never allow the upper lip to unstiffen, come what may.

  1. Remaining in touch with the loved ones, who care and share.
  2. Being surrounded by those who bring some sunshine into one’s life. Warm hugs and embraces perk one up no end.
  3. Having advisors like Jeeves around whose keen intelligence and resourcefulness may enrich one’s life.
  4. Calling upon the services of pals like Bertie Wooster who would never let one down.
  5. Treating oneself with a daily dose of some Larsen Exercises, making an acquaintance like Ashe Marson proud.
  6. Trying to break the mould and doing something one has never done before; visiting far off places, meeting new people, and indulging in such heavenly pursuits which had so far remained pious intentions. These could even include such acts as pinching umbrellas and policemen’s helmets.
  7. Avoiding the company of aunts who feast on glass bottles and happen to be lionesses in the garb of sheep. Instead, getting oneself invited to lairs which boast of an Anatole on the premises.
  8. Standing up to a bully like Roderick Spode and giving him a piece of one’s mind; provided, of course, one has access to a Eulalie-like secret.
  9. If one belongs to the tribe of the delicately nurtured, one may like the company of someone configured along the lines of Rupert Psmith.
  10. If one is instead from the tribe of the so-called sterner sex, one may like the company of an Emerald Stoker, a soothing and sympathetic girl one can take one’s troubles to, thereby being confident of having one’s hand held and one’s head patted. However, it may help to avoid the company of persons built along the lines of Florence Craye, Honoria Glossop, Roberta Wickham or Stiffy Byng.
  11. Curling up in bed with one’s favourite whodunit, preferably with a tissue restorative by one’s side, and with soothing music softly playing in the background.
  12. Remembering that this phase too shall pass, as the wise men have said!

Overall, one may like to brood upon the singular advantage one’s Guardian Angels have conferred on one – that of facing harsher slings and arrows of Life. The perks of such a fate are many. One develops a spiritual outlook towards life, that too at a faster pace, much like the clergymen who come in contact with Master Thos. Nerves of chilled steel get developed. One’s inner resilience improves, leaving one less prone to distress of any kind in future. One develops a tendency to focus on the sunnier side of life. The inner will to live life to the hilt gets back on its throne. The brow is no longer furrowed. Rather than believing oneself to be a victim of circumstances, one learns to go with the flow of life, adapting to change. One learns to respond to life gracefully, with ease.

One may then look north, south, east and west and discover not a single cloud on the horizon. One realizes that no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun would be shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through; just like Bertie Wooster says somewhere in his memoirs!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/shopping-therapy-and-some-plummy-techniques-to-treat-depression)

While continuing our walk through the corridors of the National Gallery of Modern Art, we are often mesmerised by the rich tapestry of artworks it offers.

Village Family (Sailoz Mukherjee)

 

Head Study (S Bakre)

 

Nude (K H Ara)

 

Practice Session (Krishen Khanna)

 

Landscape (Ram Kumar)

 

Old Man and the Bird (B C Sanyal)

 

Untitled (Satish Gujral)

 

Thorn (N S Bendre)

 

Shakti (Chintamoni Kar)

 

Sea Creatures (Jaya Appaswamy)

 

A sculpture in the lawns

The photographic skills of yours truly suffer from severe limitations. Hence the poor quality of the visual representation attempted here.

The artworks are well-lit, save and except the fact that the lighting arrangements often interfere with one’s endeavours to capture some of the artworks on one’s camera. This is especially so when art works happen to be protected with a sheet of transparent glass.

In fact, this remains an issue with most of the art galleries elsewhere too. Perhaps, museum curators and architects in general need to be sensitized to this simple need of a lay viewer while soaking in and wanting to capture images of national treasures of an artistic nature.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/a-walk-through-the-national-gallery-of-modern-art-in-new-delhi-india-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/08/a-walk-through-the-national-gallery-of-modern-art-in-new-delhi-india-part-2-of-3)

With 12,000 square meters of exhibition space, the Delhi branch of the National Gallery of Modern Art is one of the world’s largest modern art museums.

A walk down its corridors makes one marvel at the attention to detail and the sheer depth of talent showcased at the gallery. When the walk is aided and guided by a guy who is an enthusiastic art lover and a dynamic person, many of the artworks on display spring to life and touch the viewer’s soul.

Portrait of HH Bhagavat Singhjee of Gondal (Gujarat)

 

Toilet (Heman Majumdar)

 

Mahishasura Mardini (Dipen Bose)

 

Toilet (G C Bhatt)

 

Divine Flame (S L Haldankar)

 

Self Portrait (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

Self Portrait (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

Notre Dame (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

Young Girls (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

Study of a Model (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

The Ancient Storyteller (Amrita Sher Gil)

 

Three Pujarins (Jamini Roy)

 

Christ and a Boy (Jamini Roy)

 

Shiva and Sati (Nandlal Bose)

(Continued….)

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/a-walk-through-the-national-gallery-of-modern-art-in-new-delhi-india-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/a-walk-through-the-national-gallery-of-modern-art-in-new-delhi-india-part-3-of-3)