Who are these girls?

What strikes first is their upfront, bold and aggressive demeanour. They ask for money in the name of children of some never-heard-of village in Rajasthan, and carry a letter for the same. The letter provides no other details. They seem to belong to no trust or charity organisation. My first encounter with them was some years ago — a group of 6-8 girls in their teens aggressively approached pedestrians for money at Panvel. This time, four girls, three in school uniforms,  were spotted near Shoppers Stop, Juhu. They stopped cars and motorists and pursued any and every person who happened to walk around. ...
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Walking to health

I’ve always wondered if it makes sense to exercise in an enclosed air conditioned gym, or in fresh open air. The latter always appears to be an obvious, common sense answer. This is the common wisdom we grew with, that early morning exercise in fresh air was the best one could do to stay healthy. So it is that I’ve found doing stretching exercises followed by a free walk to be a regimen that quickly brings the body back into shape — after a week, or even several days, you begin to literally stand on your two feet, your legs appear straighter, and the back is more free to move. The bonus is, you feel fresh even after returning home from some gruelling office work. I began with a quarter-to-hour walk routine, and added stretching exercises to make it even more beneficial. It takes determination to ensure you get up in time. But once the habit sets in, the alarm clock isn’t...
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Say it like it is: Let free speech rule

Constitutions may guarantee it, but this is one of the most burning issues in the world today. Growing up is all about free speech. Well, even children practise it, in fact more than adults, because they don’t face the consequences that may befell adults. Closely attached to free speech is humour. Most jibes and insults are traded in humour, except in a real fight. There appears to be no limit to what you may say in humour. And that’s where sarcasm, parody, taunts, cartoons and caricatures belong. I am not really an expert with verbal wars, but the issue is understood by everyone. It is no secret that major religions and communities of the world have been at war with each other at some point of time in history. And the war has continued on a different platform today. And in the last decade, almost on the same platform. We know bad things have been said and done in history by all nations...
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Barfi! movie review

A hodge podge of a movie, the story of Barfi! is nothing but cliches served in a new location. Keeping the two lead characters physically challenged serves to get audience sympathy, and one wonders if the producers wished to make a silent movie. The antics of the hero appear to be never ending and stretch on till the end, and only the locations and visuals of Darjeeling play the redeeming role. Looking at the plot, it seems as if the writer could not make up his mind on the resolution. But it had to be some kind of a ‘matching of sentiments’ — in the sense that the audience expectations were not to be belied. One never gets to know the physically challenged characters in detail — how close to ‘normal’ are they in their intellectual faculties — what we see is their outward show and antics, and romance.  There is some clever use of situations though. The story also remains incomplete...
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Herr Chandu’s Daring

[The time is morning 8 o’clock, near a state highway. Chandu, the young truck driver, and Vicky, a young project manager, walk towards a truck loaded with industrial equipment.]   Vicky:                    Look at this beauty, Chandu! A marvel of engineering. Look at the sharp blades; how they glow in the hot sun. It’s going to run like Usain Bolt and brighten up millions of homes. Chandu:               What is it, saab? Vicky:                    A steam turbine. It will generate power. Bijli for your house. Chandu:               Will it give power to… full India? Vicky:                    [Laughs] No Chandu, full India is a huge place. Are you from the new contractor? Chandu:               Haan saab. The old one was not daring enough. So they hired my company. And I am a born daringbaaz. You can ask by baiko [wife]. I jump like a tiger; I leap over ladders; I climb hills like a Sherpa. I can do my shave with my eyes closed. Once, I drove a...
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Panvel to Matheran Trek

Matheran is a beautiful hill station that at once captivates the romantic spirit.  While the route via Neral is the most convenient and popular mode or reaching Matheran (with the added attraction of a toy train), the adventurous souls can do it on foot, though it is one hell of a climb. The trek begins at Dhodhani (Dodhani or Dudhani) in Panvel, located at the foot of one of the hill clusters of Matheran. Matheran is over 2600 ft in height, and this trek is not for those in poor general health. The entire journey can last close to 4 hrs, including frequent breaks for rest. The zig-zag route is simple to find, beginning from a general retail store in Dudhani, and sticking to the widest route that is going straight up the hill, rather than circling around, will take you through to the top. Some points in the trek are tricky if you are going in the rainy season, as...
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Get a Stronger Voice

People with a strong and clear voice always create an impression, be they men, women or children. In chats over tea, while making a presentation, talking over the phone, or in public speaking, strong vocals win half the battle. Girls are impressed by it too. I  have always, for the last twenty years or so, struggled with my soft voice. At one point of time, I had almost stopped talking.  As kids, we let our voices come out as forcefully as we could, yelling, shrieking, and just shouting across the streets. Much later, I could barely call the guy walking ahead on the street. Talking in the train became a challenge. Friends would often lose interest and stop talking because I could barely get my voice across or forcefully vocalise my thoughts. Sometimes I was barely audible. Conversation I tried various exercises to strengthen my lungs and vocal chords. But to no avail. I tried to understand where the weakness lay. My lungs...
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Short and Sweet plays

The second edition of Short + Sweet Mumbai has just concluded, and the second day of the Gala Final had a curious mix of 10 minute plays. The only criteria to make it a short play here is the strict duration of 10 minutes. A standard play usually runs from anything between 1 to 2 hrs in length, so it is no mean challenge to squeeze your story in the time it may take you to switch off and boot your PC. Here is a brief review of the second day’s plays and what went on. Applause — Silly Point Productions The usual team of this production came up with an entertaining concept — the acceptable and outrageous behavior of the audience during a play. Good enough for a few laughs, but the subtlety of humor could have made it even better. Born Lucky — Akvarious Productions Better stuff was expected from a team known to have staged full length, large scale plays of some...
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Richard Cory and the world

There was this poem, Richard Cory, that we read in school. Richard Cory was a gentleman, from sole to crown. He was rich, fluttered pulses, and was graced in every virtue. Everyone wished to be like him. And yet, one fine evening, he went home and… The last line, when we read it, only amused our young minds. We didn’t wonder much about his last act. It even seemed like, sort of natural… a result of some hidden misfortune, pain or grief. Adults could harbour such pain, we felt, and it could happen. It was a normal, volitional act of a well meaning, healthy man. There was no point speculating on what ailed him; the poem gave no clues. That’s how complex life could be. Looking at today’s booming world, it could drive normal sensitive men nuts. Is there a cause to be happy? The ones who are happy are happy. The sadder lot carries its misfortunes alone. Some can take it in their...
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