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- Rocky for Real
What is the root cause of success? Is it birth at a particular time or place? Is it circumstances, family, or luck? What about one's own hard work? There are a dozen success stories, but the one thing that connects them all, and is perhaps the most important factor? Perseverance. The strength of willpower to keep at something, to chase one's dreams is perhaps the most important quality that one could have. Here's the story of a boy from the streets of Karnataka who would go on to rule Mumbai. And no, I am not talking about Rocky, the protagonist of the K.G.F films. The KGF films are perhaps, an exaggerated version of the same- the story of a hero who wanted to conquer the world, who achieved his dreams because he believed in them and kept working towards them. The movies grabbed the headlines for a variety of other things: for hiring a 19 year old to do the film's editing, for its historic collection. One of the things that drew attention was the film's excellent, goosebump inducing background score, composed by a music director unknown outside the boundaries of Karnataka who had woven magic with his musical notes. His story is something that everyone must know, for it seems to bear similarities to Rocky's life, with bomb blasts, police, and most of all, lots and lost of hardships. Yet, he struck it out. For Yash may have played Rocky on screen, but this is the story of Rocky for real. Born in 1984 in the historic port town of Basrur, Karnataka, Ravi Basrur was born into a humble family of sculptors. Named Kiran at birth, he was the fourth son, who just couldn't bring himself to study and pursue academics. Instead, his heart was drawn towards the rich folk tunes of his artisan village. He yearned to do something, become someone in the field of music. At the age of 14, he was forced to abandon his education and take up sculpting in the family workshop as poverty threatened to knock down their loving household. Try as he might, things did not click between him and sculpting and he found he could not progress beyond a certain point. He got struck in a rut. This is where most give up, and keep at a job they hate. When he was 17 years old, he got the opportunity to venture out of his little village for the first time in his life, when his father sent him to Bangalore with some cash in hand to learn advanced sculpting in order to develop the family business. With just 200 in hand, he joined a sculpting workshop and began saving up, in bits and pieces. When he had in hand a sizeable amount to call his own, he bought his very first keyboard. Keyboard in hand, he began his relentless quest to get a job under a music director. Looking unkempt and shabby, without even a basic knowledge of English, his honest desire and yearning for music found no takers in metropolitan Bangalore as he was turned away repeatedly. Dejected and rejected, he took a friend's suggestion to move to Mumbai, the city of dreams. With the whos and who of the movie industry frequenting pubs, he began looking for chances to play in pubs, hoping to get noticed by someone, anyone who could provide him with a break. He got his first break when the owner of a large pub, a fellow kannadiga, agreed to let him play at his pub. Jubilant at finally getting his first chance, he promptly left his day job at a sculpting workshop and began to go towards the pub, all his instruments in tow. That was when life decided to deal a near fatal blow. He received news that the pub in question had been raided and temporarily closed down. In a strange land surrounded by strange people who spoke an unknown language, Kiran did not understand why the bustling city was restless. Sitting on a railway station platform with all of his instruments in boxes, he was assaulted by policemen on suspicions of being a terrorist. Mumbai had just witnessed some of the worst bomb blasts ever, and a stranger sitting on a platform with large black boxes was sure to attract police action. Kiran could do nothing but watch and scream as the musical instruments he had so lovingly brought with the little money he had were broken beyond recognition. Now, he had no job, no music, and definitely no money. Back to square zero. With no money to return to his village, he travelled from Mumbai to Bangalore in the train lavatory, holding the door shut with his hands lest the ticket inspector catch him. Lacking the heart to go back to his village, he asked his elder brother to pick him up from the previous station and take him home; a home that was in a worse condition than he had left it in. The household had sunk deep in debt, worsened by the loans he had taken in an ill fated attempt to make and sell redundant music cassettes, and loans taken to buy a computer to help in his music. In an ill conceived idea, he decided to sell one of his kidneys if it meant he could continue producing music. He contacted the agents who agreed to harvest one of his kidneys in return for money. Fearing that they might cheat him out of his life, he pulled out at the last minute. Subjected to the worst possible judgement by his brothers and parents, he resumed work at the workshop. But in reality, he was dead inside. Torn away from the music he so loved, he could not be at peace, even if it meant relative financial stability. He decided to venture out again. Asking his family to consider him dead, he left his village again to seek his fortunes in the very place that had scorned him - Bangalore. Working odd jobs, unable to catch a break, devoid of money even for basic sustenance, he took to living in public toilets at 2-3 Rs a day. He truly had hit rock bottom. All his friends who had helped him his first time in Bangalore tired of him and turned him away. One of his oldest friends, however, took pity on him and took him to a face reader (a sort of astrologer) (for what joy? I do not know). The man in question took one look at Kiran's face and declared, "This man in front of me is at a low point in life because he needs money. But there will come a time when people will have to book an appointment to see him." Unlike many others, he put money where his mouth was, and promptly have Kiran Rs 35,000 in cash, telling him that he was not going to ask any questions about money, and that he was not really obligated to return it. Kiran was speechless and overcome with gratitude. Ravi was the name of that man who had given him money, and by doing that, had given him a shot at the future he so desperately craved. He changed his name to Ravi Basrur, Ravi for the man who had changed his life, Basrur for the village that had made him into the man he was now. There was no looking back. With the money he had made, Ravi Basrur set up a small studio and began learning the ins and outs of the music industry. Getting a job at BigFm, he began to produce small, catchy jingles that caught everyone's attention. He got introduced to Prashant Neel, the director of KGF. Eventually he got the chance to work in his first ever feature film, Ugramm, which was an enormous success. His career grew leaps and bounds after that, when Prashant Neel, the director he had collaborated for Ugramm, approached him for a mega project that would take years to complete. Ravi put aside all other commitments and put his heart and soul into what would become the album of K.G.F, with some really good songs and some of the greatest background score ever. What Ravi (the astrologer) had predicted eventually did end up becoming true. Kiran from Basrur had blossomed into Ravi Basrur, one of the most sought after music directors in the country. He had a thousand chances and a million reasons to give up. Fate, circumstances, everything seemed to ask him to stick to where he was, to not try to change the status quo, to not chase his dreams. But he persevered, and chased his dreams across the stars, until he found a place among them. "Don't be discouraged. It's often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock"
- The Hero In Duryodhana
It has been quite long since I wrote anything. Probably because I hardly have time to read. A book on the shelves of a bookstore randomly caught my attention, and rocked my world. It was an account of the Mahabharat as a story of Duryodhana's life.I realised that thanks to the narrative that has been maintained over generations, we have come to believe that the various characters in our epics were black, or white;you are either the hero, or a villain. We actively forget that our epics were not, and are not, a collection of dusty proverbs told in the form of a story. They are the stories of common people of another era, and just like the people potrayed in our epics, their stories have an enormous grey area, and are meant to explore the complexities of human nature. It has been quite long since I wrote anything. Probably because I hardly have time to read. A book on the shelves of a bookstore randomly caught my attention, and rocked my world. It was an account of the Mahabharat as a story of Duryodhana's life.I realised that thanks to the narrative that has been maintained over generations, we have come to believe that the various characters in our epics were black, or white;you are either the hero, or a villain. We actively forget that our epics were not, and are not, a collection of dusty proverbs told in the form of a story. They are the stories of common people of another era, and just like the people potrayed in our epics, their stories have an enormous grey area, and are meant to explore the complexities of human nature. The Ramayana, surprisingly, is a bit clear on this-Ravana was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a staunch devotee of Shiva and an illustrious ruler who lead his country into such wealth and prosperity that the streets were fabled to be inlaid with gold, thus leading to the name- Golden Lanka. While the sin he committed by kidnapping Sita is not to be condoned, that doesn't make him a 'bad guy'. Though he is the villain of the Ramayana, he had more good qualities than bad, and was a great king. The Ramayana, surprisingly, is a bit clear on this-Ravana was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a staunch devotee of Shiva and an illustrious ruler who lead his country into such wealth and prosperity that the streets were fabled to be inlaid with gold, thus leading to the name- Golden Lanka. While the sin he committed by kidnapping Sita is not to be condoned, that doesn't make him a 'bad guy'. Though he is the villain of the Ramayana, he had more good qualities than bad, and was a great king. Duryodhana, on the other hand, has it worse. He is vilified as a complete villain who did everything based on greed, lust, and angst towards his cousins-the Pandavas. It is usually forgotten that while he had horrible qualities, he had many great ones too, that made him stand apart from the Pandavas. The Pandavas, and Krishna on the other hand, had detestable qualities as explained above that are often forgotten in the brilliance of Krishna's glory. It is never specified how exactly Duryodhana was evil. While he had unreedemable qualities that lead to his downfall, he was a courageous warrior with exceptional skill in the art of mace fighting. He was said to be brilliant, kind, and was a good ruler. The Kurukshetra war, if looked at closely, was not a battle for the welfare of the people, the citizens of the country;rather, it was a dynastic war for succession between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Nowhere in the great epic is it written that people were unhappy under Duryodhana's rule. While treating someone poorly on the basis of caste is essentially illegal in India now, we see that Karna, who, (in my opinion) is the greatest hero in all of Mahabharata, is treated poorly on account of his caste. In the light of his horrible actions towards Draupadi, the wrongs done toward him by the Pandavas are forgotten. The reason a warrior of such calibre, renowned throughout the country for his Dharma, fights alongside Duryodhana is that he was the only one who saw Karna for what he was- a great warrior, irrespective of his caste. When disgraced at the martial exhibition for his caste despite being just as good (or better) than Arjuna, Duryodhana is the only one who stands alongside Karna, and offers him a portion of the kingdom, elevating him from the position of that of a Charioteer's son to that of a king in an instant. While searching for the Pandavas in their thirtheenth year of exile, Duryodhana reached the sourthern forests of Kerala. Feeling extremely thristy, he asked an old lady for water. The old lady, belonging to a low caste, offered him some toddy which he drank gratefully. The old woman, realising that he was of Royal lineage, was touched that a man of his standing would accept something from an untouchable, but as we see in the epic, the eldest Kaurava never saw caste. Duryodhana, on the other hand, was touched by her hospitality, and after meditating on a nearby hill, praying to Lord Shiva for the prosperity of the villagers, he assigned swathes of agricultural land to the villagers. The villagers built a temple on the very spot where he meditated. To this day, the temple pays its property tax in the name of 'Duryodhana', showing the love and respect the villagers have for the 'villain' of the Mahabharata. Does this mean the exoneration of his evil acts? Of course not. This post is to merely show everyone, that life is neither black, or white, but rather multiple shades of grey.(again, as before, copied word for word from Jeffrey Archer). The fact that Duryodhana was a good man does not condone his acts of evil, but neither does the good qualities of the Pandavas exonerate them from their sins. Once believed to mean 'a bad ruler', it has only recently come to popular attention that in reality, 'Duryodhana' meant ,' one who is extremely difficult to wage war against'. For all his faults and merits, he did live true to his name. Thiruvalluvar did say, குணம்நாடிக் குற்றமும் நாடி அவற்றுள் மிகைநாடி மிக்க கொளல். Weigh well the good of each, his failings closely scan, As these or those prevail, so estimate the man. In the end, whether or not Duryodhana was a villain is left to us to decide, after reading the Mahabharat. I believe his actions towards draupadi were heinous, and his failings were many, and probably unforgivable.But we have just looked at the demerits for too long. It's time we looked at the other side, whether or not we decide to change our opinion.
- Cycle Rims, Annas, and an Idyllic Childhood
Just imagine this. You are a little boy in second grade with a penchant for the imaginary, who's alone and just depressed because of a variety of reasons. Too young to know what depression means, you have no outlet for the dreams you seem to always dream up, the stories that flit through your brain. You desperately need companionship and a place to escape to. You could always take a visit to the idyllic town of Malgudi, where you shall be welcomed by a little boy called Swaminathan, in his shirt and dhoti, who's about the same age as you. He can be quite friendly. He was, to me in second grade. Sadly, Malgudi can't really be found in any map. Hidden within the pages of R.K.Naraynan's timeless classic, "Swami And Friends", it is filled with the mundane in an extraordinary manner. You can't help but get drawn into the struggles and passions of a boy from First form, A section (The first class that one attends school, something out of an old form of British English) You get to visit a town where astrologers fib to escape attempted murder, where the sprawling walls of Albert Mission School welcome you into the First Form A section, with Ebenezar's fanatic scripture class, 'fire eyed' Vedanayagam's math class, and get to feel Samuel's kindness when you seek his wrath. You get to be friends with the son of the Police Superintendent, and the strongest boy in the world. Moreover, you get to join the most exclusive cricket club in the world- The MCC, Malgudi Cricket Club, and play with the best bats in the whole wide world, Junior Williard Bats. The book is brought alive with the cartoons of RK Laxman, and draw you back into a time when things were simple and the worst thing that could happen to you was math homework on addition. It was Monday morning. Swaminathan was reluctant to open his eyes. He considered Monday specially unpleasant in the calendar. After the delicious freedom of Saturday and Sunday, it was difficult to get into the Monday mood of work and discipline. He shuddered at the very thought of school: that dismal yellow building; the fire-eyed Vedanayagam, his class-teacher; and the Head Master with his thin long cane.... These lines, beginning with such innocent intentions, and hard realism (from the view of a second grade kid) had me hooked as the second grade boy in me was curious enough to find what Swami would do. His ardent admiration of his 'posh' friend Rajam, complete belief that his friend, Mani with his club was the strongest person in the world, was mirrored by my own beliefs and convictions, that an adult, or even an older kid could hardly ever hope to understand. The most surprising thing about this book is that it was actually written by R.K.Narayan when was an adult. To be able to peer into the workings of a little mind when not so little yourself, and reproduce it in such a manner shows the depth of the skill with which Narayan plies his craft. This is not a review, per se. You could call it a nostalgic recalling of simple times, caused by the fact that many people I know, unless they are bookworms, have not even heard of this book. There is Harry Potter, and there is Percy Jackson, no denying that. But the letter to Hogwarts comes when you are 11. Why not take time to experience Swami's world meanwhile? P.s. If you are not a bookworm, just ask your parents. They might remember a television series by the name of 'Malgudi Days' that aired on Doordarshan in 1986. I've seen a few episodes myself, and you can't have a television series that has captured the essence of a book more.
- The Washout- The bloated story of a little failure
With the majority of heroes in Tamil cinema and pop culture in general playing around with guns with the ease and enthusiasm of a baby eating candy, its no wonder every kid (including me) fantasizes about shooting one day. In fact, I idolized firing so much that it was one of my major, driving reasons for joining the National Cadet Corps. And my, wasn't I enthused when I finally got to hold a gun in my hand when attending camp. Holding a gun in your hand is sort of magical. It makes you feel powerful. It's certainly heavier than the movies make it look, though not by that much. It's quite manageable, really. The reassuring weight of a firearm comes with a teensy bit of nervousness that if you accidentally, or intentionally shoot someone, they're dead. But I was not too worried by that. (Nope, I'm not a psychopath, just someone who's confident). Handling the gun came naturally to me, and I was one of the few people who's hands did not shake. The first time I was taken firing, rain washed out the entire thing. (and no, that is not the reason for the title). It rained exactly for the 5 minutes it took to cancel firing, and then, it was clear skies and white clouds:( The day finally came. Turns out the toy targets I shot with toy guns in my explosive childhood weren't far enough. The real targets to be shot, were 30 metres away, which is REALLY far. Everyone's hands were shaking(except mine, ofc;)), and a lot of people were being whacked in the backside by the instructor (their fault, really). I confidently loaded the bullet, shot. Loaded, aimed, shot. Loaded, aimed, shot. A total of 5 rounds. Absolute heaven. I was feeling quite sorry for some of my batchmates, whose hands had been shaking so bad that they couldn't have possibly hit the target. I went to collect the target sheet, to submit for scoring, and well, I was dumbfounded. My target sheet was as clean and clear as day. None of the bullets had landed anywhere ON the sheet, let alone the scoring areas. While my friends, whose hands had been shaking, had all landed bullets. The term used to refer to me, was a washout(hence the title), in other words, a guy who didn't land a single bullet on the sheet. It was brutal for me. A failure, of sorts. I was the only guy in my batch (apart from a friend) who washed out. All of the others, including those whose hands were shaking like crazy, had made it. It kept running again, and again in my mind, so much so that I, a person who usually doesn't dwell on anything, was brooding over it all day. For some reason, this little failure brought up all the times I had ever gone wrong, ever failed abysmally, in my 18 years. As I dwelled and brooded and stressed about my failure, I tried to make sense of it all, to somehow tinker around with my brain to see what the hell was wrong with it. For I wanted to forget it all, forget every little thing associated with that day. So I began reading up on what failure does to your brain (a lot). What I found is something for another article (cuz I like to milk every event in my life for the maximum number of articles), but what I realised was that what happened to me was actually great. I screwed up firing in a camp where firing has no bearing on your performance. The personal setbacks that I've faced, however bad, came at a point in my life where I literally have a lifetime to heal from it. Your dreams and goals don't have an expiration date. All you need to do is take a deep breath, and try again. I haven't mastered it yet. Hell, it still hurts that I failed. But theres a bit of a light in the darkness. Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. I found mine, yet the darkness wasn't dispelled. It doesn't need to be. We just have to hold on. I found my happiness in the dark, and whomsoever is reading this, I do sincerely hope you find yours. P.s. How much ever brooding I did, thanks to my friends and batchmates, I was laughing by the end of the day;) "Success is not final, and failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."- Winston Churchill