Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Thursday, October 29, 2015

CHARCHA On Secularism, Nehru, Books...With Nayantara Sahgal, Vikram Seth, Germaine Greer, Vir Sanghvi

CHARCHA On Secularism, Nehru, Books... With Nayantara Sahgal, Vikram Seth, Germaine Greer, Vir Sanghvi
By Faridoon Shahryar

The experimental theatre at #NCPA in #NarimanPoint #Mumbai was buzzing with a very different sort of excitement. The 6th #TataLiteratureFestival opened without any shoshebaazi. A compact auditorium packed with eager book lovers, journalists and even a few representatives from some embassies. The first session was on the subject #CanBooksChangeTheWorld where noted authors #VikramSeth from #India and Australian writer #GermaineGreer battled it out. Seth is famous for #GoldenGate #TheSuitableBoy his poetry and for championing gay rights in #India. Greer on the other side belongs to second wave of feminist movement who came on the fore front right from her first novel #TheFemaleEunuch. Greer was full of witty one liners and she was clearly one up on Vikram Seth who was chivalrous enough to let the bright lady hog the limelight and the applause. Ms Greer made a notable statement when she said, famous Indian English author R K Narayan deserved a Nobel Prize. "There were lobbies that worked against him but if Graham Greene considers him worthy of a Nobel then he surely deserved it," Greer said. Anil Dharker, the celebrated journalist, thinker and the brain behind #TataLitFest said that one book that he felt changed the world is #MahatmaGandhi's #MyExperimentsWithTruth.

The second session and the session that was most keenly awaited was the one on #ChaachaPeCharcha to discuss the relevance of #JawaharLalNehru in today's times. Ms Nayantara Sahgal, the extremely graceful niece of Nehru ji and an author of eminence was the main speaker. Ms Sahgal recently started a movement of sorts when she returned her #SahityaAkademi award to protest against the growing intolerance in #India. Since her protest, many writers, musicians, filmmakers, scientists and now historians have lodged a strong protest against growing intolerance in the country. Noted journalist #VirSanghvi columnist #AnilDharker and #ArunMaira, former member of #PlanningCommision were the other speakers. Several aspects of Nehru were discussed, his achievements as well as where he went wrong. Vir Sanghvi made a pertinent point when he said that after partition in 1947 #Pakistan opted to become an Islamic country that heavily depended upon #USA. America used its soil for making bases, the rich became richer while the poor became poorer. Nehru pushed for #India to become a democratic republic, started the non aligned movement, helped in creating identity of the newly independent African and Asian countries, invested in mixed economy and worked towards communities learning to co exist in India. Sanghvi said that in today's day and age, if India is much better placed than Pakistan then it was the base created by Nehru which was responsible for that. "Mobile phone intellectuals will never understand this. For them, we should have taken the US help right from the beginning but then we would have been dependent," Sanghvi said.

Nayantara Sahgal shared some interesting insights and also spoke about the secular ethos that Nehru believed in. Both Sahgal as well as Anil Dharker said that it may be because Nehru was an agnostic that he could have a balanced view point on the religious aspect that infests India in a very deep and complicated manner. "He took inputs from artistes, intellectuals, thinkers. He insisted that there should be a strong opposition in the Parliament. He was a democrat to the core. Indira Gandhi was not," Sahgal said.

It is notable to note that while the session was going on and going on very well, a few people walked out of the theatre. The discussion on secularism and inclusiveness has its supporters but there are others who think otherwise. One can't blame them. Everyone has the right to have an opinion and exercise it. That's democracy. Something that Jawaharlal Nehru would have approved of.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jo abr yahan se utthega, vo saare jahan par barsega...Happy Sir Syed Day!

Jo abr yahan se utthega, vo saare jahan par barsega...

Today is Sir Syed Day. The Aligs who are following me would know how big a day it is for everyone at AMU. And those who are not familiar, let me share a few thoughts that are clouding my mind this morning. It is the birthday of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan today. He was the founder of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College in 1875 which later went on to become Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. He did whatever he could do, to further the cause of education in India. He collected donations, small or big but relentlessly went ahead with his mission to impart modern education based on science and reasoning. He faced stiff opposition but he remained unfazed. Once he was garlanded with shoes. He didn't react, simply went ahead and sold the shoes to add to the donation for the construction of the MAO college.

My parents taught at AMU. For most part, we lived in the Medical Colony in the AMU campus. I had a great time. Too many friends, too much fun, great growing up years. We never really distinguished our friends by their religion or name. The thought never even came to mind. Sir Syed had famously said, "Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of a beautiful bride that is Hindustan." I never ever distinguished between a Rahul Chauhan, Shaishiv, a Shavez Imam, a Navneet Kedar (A Christian by religion and the man solely responsible for developing whatever musical taste that I have) or Satnam Singh. It never occurred. Honestly. This for me is the legacy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. At least this is how I look at it and that's how I imbibed in my life.

Happy Sir Syed Day! May Sir Syed's noble message of education travel far and wide.

Best Regards

Friday, October 16, 2015

Shah Rukh Khan's Speech At Edinburgh University

Shah Rukh Khan's Speech at Edinburgh University

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed an honour for me to receive this doctorate today. “Humbled” is a word often used by people in my profession. I dislike the hypocritically obsequious connotation of it in these contexts so I’m not going to use it, but I will say that such occasions have a way of putting me right in my place!
I get invited to conferences and inaugurations now and then to speak. When I receive the invitations, I also receive my brief. It’s usually about “success” and my “tips” on it (not my toes- those are covered by the “I will never show my toes” clause in my acting contracts. It’s my attempt at gender equality. My co-stars have no nipple clauses; I have a no toes one). 

Most people believe Bollywood stars aren’t insightful about anything other than the fateful occurrences that made them stars in the first place! I’ve had the odd divergence from being taken for stupid though; recently I got an email from the International Association of AdvertisingIt read, “Dear Mr. Khan, The advertising community would like you to address them on Globalization and disruptive marketing”. I spent the next 4 hours on Google trying to assimilate the “disruptiveness” of innovating a product to match its market? But it was one of those rare days when even Google can’t help you. A day when you need to leave Google and ask God for deliverance. But I have a film releasing soon, so I didn’t want to waste my quota of favours from God…believe you me, I need a big hit right about now. So I did the next best thing. I made a grand entry on my io hawk and told everybody, that there is nothing I can tell you that you already don’t know. 

You are such an august group of gathering…blah blah. Instead let me entertain you because you all deserve a break, and before the organizers could interject I started thrusting my pelvic into their faces and broke out into the one and only intellectual thing I know to do… The Lungi Dance. I got away with it without being “humbled” (it helps to be a better dancer than most advertisers ) and what’s more, they seemed to have a good time.

But that was a conference and this is a Doctorate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh. So I’m going to try to sound intelligent and insightful especially for you today. One of the subjects on the list of five I was sent for my speech today was: “Life Lessons” so for what its worth: here goes.Let me start at the very beginning.

Whatever I have learnt of life has been at the movies. Actually the first few films that I did in my career and their titles very nearly have formulated all that I believe one should pass on as Life lessons to students of a prestigious institutions like yours.

One of the first movies of my career was a movie called Deewana. I fall in a love with a widow, who I meet literally by accident in which I very nearly kill her mother in law. I marry her. Not the mother in law but the widow.  The widow is not keen on the marriage because she still loves her late husband but she marries me anyway. My rich mean father disapproves of this unison and does what a mean rich father does…tries to kill the widow.  I am naturally disgusted by his behavior and after a long two page stand off with him, leave the house for good. Then for some reason apart from the fact that I ride my motorcycle without holding the handlebar I have an accident. Seeing me so forlorn and sad in the hospital bed my ex widow wife falls in love with me. 

There is something about sick men that always attracts women to them. The sicker the better. Then again by a chance of fate I rescue a stranger at night from a bunch of goons, and guess what?? He turns out to be the original husband of my ex widow wife, who hadn’t died inspite of his inheritance hungry uncle’s best efforts. Evil uncle then kidnaps me and my ex widow now not so ex present day wife to get hold of his nephew. I escape his clutches and come back with my wife’s undead husband to rescue her. By now she is strapped to a bomb and after a liberal round of fist fighting kicking and screaming the evil uncle is blown to smithereens by the very same bomb that he had strapped on status confused lady of the film. But not before the sacrificial ex-husband has done a kamikaze, unstrapping his ex-wife and set the bomb off killing himself in the bargain. All obstacles removed, our hero lives happily ever after with his beloved wife.
I’m not sure why the movie was called Deewana (which in Hindi means madness of a particularly nice/romantic kind) but I have a feeling it had something to do with the guy who came up with the plot!! So here’s my first life lesson, inspired by the movie title Deewana: Madness (of the particularly nice/romantic kind) is an absolute prerequisite to a happy and successful life. 

Don’t ever treat your little insanities as if they are aberrations that ought to be hidden from the rest of the world. Acknowledge them and use them to define your own way of living the only life you have. All the most beautiful people in the world, the most creative, the ones who led revolutions, who discovered and invented things, did so because they embraced their own idiosyncrasies. There’s no such thing as “normal”. That’s just another word for lifeless.
Soon after I acted in Deewana, I became the hapless hero of a movie called Chamatkar. This movie had a more believeable plot line. I get cheated off all my money by my best friend slash, conman and find myself asleep in a cemetery only to be awakened by the ghost of a murdered mobster. A ghost that only I can see and nobody else. I am very perceptive that way. Anywaythe mobster ghost helps me get a job as a teacher through his ghostly good offices.  I fall in love with his daughter from a wife that has passed on after being duped by his flunky. Together, the ghost and I organize a cricket match, yes I was doing that even before I owned a cricket team, and avenge the various misdeeds done to us by bashing up the flunky and the conman, forgive them and let each other descend into the respective abodes where we belong. He goes back to the grave and I go away with the babe. Now Chamatkar, means miracle: right and straightforward without any nuances. So my next lesson is the following: If you ever find yourself cheated of all your money and sleeping on a grave, do not fear,a miracle is near, either that or a ghost.

All you have to do is fall asleep! In other words, no matter how bad it gets, life IS the miracle you are searching for. There is no other one around the corner. Develop the faith in it to let it take its own course, make all the effort you can to abide by its beauty and it will not let you down. Use every resource you have been given, your mental faculties, the ability of your heart to love and feel for those around you, your health and good fortune: all of the thousands of gifts life has given you to their maximum potential. Honour your life. Honour each gift and each moment by not laying it to waste. There is no real measure of success in this world except the ability to make good of life’s endowments to you.
Sometimes life’s gifts arrive wrapped in all the wrong damned wrapping too, at which point we have to learn to do two things with them: recognize them for what they are and gamble on our fear that they might be disasters. This brings me to my third life lesson inspired by two movies in which I played the anti-hero: Darr and Bazigar.

Twenty years ago, in the Indian movie industry, roles were very clearly defined. They provided the security of your stardom in a sense. If you’d been successful playing an“angry young man”, you’d pretty much be angry and young for the rest of your career. If you’d been a police inspector in three movies, odds were, you’d be one in the next 33 too. This applied to female stars as well: wives were wives, seductresses-seductresses, mother in laws- mother in laws, and so on. Few actors would have willingly switched from romantic heroesto obsessively violent lovers. I took the leap…not because I was particularly brave, but because ( a very dear director friend of mine sat me down and told me I was ugly. And being ugly necessarily meant I do bad guy roles. I wasn’t the romantic hero types, he said, actually he used the words, that my face was not chocolaty enough, whatever that meant.)So I started to eat a lot of chocolate and while waiting for it to take effect, I jumped into bad guy roles.Darr means fear in Hindi and everyone always tells you that you ought to be brave so I’m not going to bore you with that idea. Instead let me tell you this: Being brave means being shit scaredall the way to the party but getting there and doing the Funky Chicken in front of all your teenage kid’s friends anyway. Let me just add on behalf of all the fathers of the world who have embarrassed their children by doing this…it takes a lot of bravery resolve and grit to do this.

So do it. Don’t let your fears become boxes that enclose you. Open them out, feel them and turn them into the greatest courage you are capable of. I promise you, nothing will go wrong. But if you live by your fears, everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong and you wont even have done the Funky Chicken.
While we’re on what everyone tells you to be, let me also say that all the planning in the world, won’t take you where you want to get to. It’s fine not to know what you want to be twenty years from now. Most of those who had it all figured out became bankers anyway. Oh this will appear on YouTube right?? There goes my next big loan for the film from my friendly neighbourhood bank.

I did a movie once called KabhiHaanKabhiNaa, in which I was the victim of a lover’s confusions and my next lesson is precisely that. It’s ok to be confused. Confusion is the route to all the clarity in the world. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t ever take yourself seriously enough to be so clear about your own ideas that you stop respecting other people’s. Our values are our values, they don’t make us any better than anyone else, at best they make us different. Always try to see the other person’s truth because like every movie has a story, every human being has one too and you have no right to imagine that yours is better than anyone else’s. You can leave that silliness to my esteemed colleagues and me!!

And if you thought the last two stories I told you were crazy, here’s another one in the reckoning for the Oscar for weirdest screenplay: Guddu. Guddu was my name in a movie about loving and giving in which basically, I have an accident (yes another one) but this time instead of almost wiping out my future mother in law, I wipe out my girlfriend’s eyes. Many convoluted sub-plots including a life threatening brain tumour, a legal battle for the right to donate organs and a fast unto death, mylawyerfather, my religious mother and I are battling over which one of us will donate our eyes to my blind girlfriend. In the end, I recover miraculously and my mother dies donating her eyes to my girlfriendand we all live happily ever after. Life lesson number four rears its head: Give of yourself to others. And while you’re at it, make sure you realise that you aren’t doing anyone any favours by being kind. It’s all just to make you feel thatsneaky little twinge that comes from being utterly pleased with yourself.  After all, the one that gets the most benefit out of any act of kindness or charity that you do will always be you. I don’t say this, as many see it, in a transactiveor karmic way. Its not an “I do good, I get benefit” equation with some white bearded figure taking notes from the heavens above. It’s a simple truth. An act of goodness becomes worthless when you assign a brownie point to yourself for it, no matter how subtly you allow yourself to do so. As benevolent as your gesture might be; someone else could have made it too. Regardless of how rich, successful and famous you become, don’t ever underestimate the grace that other people bestow upon you just by being the recipients of your kindnesses. You might be able to buy your friend a Rolls for his/her birthday but its no substitute for a patient hearing of your sulky rants on a bad hair day.

Sometimes things just happen, as encapsulated in another movie title of mine: KuchKuchHotaHai; and you know what? They don’t always add up (that would be “One Two Ka four” as the list of titles continues). So my fifth lesson is this: when life hits you with all the force of its resplendent rage, the Rolls isn’t going to give you comfort. A friend’s grace will, and if you can’t find resolution as easily as you would like to, don’t panic. Everything evolves as you go along, Chalte- Chalte as we say in Hindi (and yes, that was another movie I did but no more mad plots for God’s sake!!)
Even disasters eventually resolve themselves. Give life the space to move at its own pace, pushing it ahead only by way of being kind to yourself when you are hurting or in despair. You don’t always have to figure things out or find an explanation for the circumstances you are in.  It’s more prudent to accept that sometimes there just isn’t one. “Ram Jaane” (God knows), as we say in Hindi and as a priest responded to my orphan-child character when i asked him, what my name was, in a movie of the same appellation. The boyplodded through three entire hours of film referring to himself by that fatalistic phrase and why not? Who says that what we call ourselves is any definition of who we really are? And that’s lesson number six for you: All the names you give yourself, or those that others call you, are just labels. You are not defined by them no matter how flattering or uncomplimentary they are. What defines you is your heart.

Ask The Artist Formerly Known As Prince!! And learn a thing or two from him, if you don’t believe this insanely sexy Indian Superstar standing in front of you. And I say this out of experience because if I was to go by what all I am called on Social Media I would be an old desperate manipulative has been star who swings both ways while making crap movies, and these are just the good mentions.

If you aren’t charged upabout doing something, if you don’t have what in Hindi we call the “Josh”, the fire in your belly for it, then don’t do it. It’s a waste of your time and more importantly, of those who pin their hopes on your endeavours too. Redefine yourself if you have to but do it on your own terms and just get on with it. In fact, like my character in the movie My Name is Khan, don’t forget where you came from and who you really are. It ought to be the compass by which you navigate through life’s vicissitudes. The North that keeps you oriented despite a series of misfortunes or a shower of privilege.

One of the biggest hits I made was an unexpected one and for once the plot was neither meandering nor barking mad. I was the coach of a beleaguered women’s hockey team that went on to overcome its struggles and win a world championship. Its title was Chak De, an inspirational martial cry that Sikh soldiers used while lifting logs in order to make bridges across rivers on their campaigns against their enemies. It implies the will to get up and get on with it, which brings me to life lesson number seven: whatever it is that is pulling you back, its not going away unless you stand up and start forging your own path with all your might in the opposite direction.Stop whining and start moving, so to speak. Sadness and happiness have the same quality of transience. Life is a balanced exchange of one with the other.And this is lesson number eight: Don’t attach yourself to either, they’re both going to change with the same certitude. Take them with the ephemeral spirit of their impermanence and manage them with a healthy dose of good humour. Laugh at yourself when you are despairing, shed a tear or two when one of my movie plots makes you hysterical with laughter (we did actually consider Guddu donating a single eye to his blind girlfriend and both of them waltzing into the sunset eye patch to eye patch). KabhiKhushiKabhiGham was the title of an Indian style family drama in which I was one of many heroes and it means just that: to be happy sometimes, and sad others, is the very beauty of a life lived in full measure. Why fail yourself by desiring one emotion and detesting the other?

You know, I’ve acted in over 50full length movies, if I took you through ajourney of each title, we’d be sitting here forever and you’d all end up fast asleep (this wonderful venue being most un-cemetery like notwithstanding) so I’ll wrap up with my last two lessons.

Live from the heart. Dil Se. Love. Love people, love the world around you, love animals and birds, and big cities and mountains, love dreams, love life, love your work, your friends and your enemies even if you feel least like it. Most importantly, my friends; love yourselves. Embrace all that this life has in store for you, let your heart be as deep as the deepest ocean and as wide as the farthest horizon. Know that it is limitless. Love is not an excuse to grab or to hold or to own or to barter. It is the only excuse you will ever have to call yourself special.And if someone you love lets you down, don’t fault yourself for not trusting him, fault yourself for not trusting your love enough to forgive his/her trespasses.
You never know what the future will bring, whether there will be a tomorrow or not. I died at a shockingly young age in a movie called Kal Ho Na Ho which means exactly that. And I wasn’t even a smoker!!! I never let my two older children watch it to the end, we even filmed a whole alternate ending especially for them. But now they have grown up and like all of you, will soon be embarking on a wondrous journeyof their own. Instead of trying to protect them from life, the wiser and older version of me grabs every chance to tell them: live as hard as you can in this very moment. Live now. Live today. You may not see it with your youthful eyes, but NOW is as much time as you will ever get. Because tomorrow we will all be dead. And just in case there is no cycle of rebirth etc…why take a chance. I don’t want to end this on a cynical note by reminding you about the reality of death. I want to let you all know that how important your today…your now is. Study hard. Work hard. Play harder. Don’t be bound by rules…don’t hurt anybody and never ever live somebody else’s dream. Remember however many times you go wrong, no matter how many times you fail, despair, feel like this world is against you….in the words of Bob Marley…at the end everythingsgonna be alright. And in my words. “ Hindifilmonkitarah life meinbhi, anthmein sab kuchtheek ho jaatahai. Aur agar na ho, tohwohanthnahihai…picture abhibaakihai mere doston.” Take it as the only truth you need to know. Take it and believe it because the most unlikely to make it  Bollywoood isis telling you this…the most romantic hero who doesn’t look anything like chocolate or taste like it.

“Now” all you bored professors out there in the first row, come on up: lets do the Lungi Dance !!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch
By Faridoon Shahryar

Steven Spielberg's #BridgeOfSpies is handsome and mature entertainment that intrigues and makes you laugh as well. It is based on a true story in the early 1960s when the cold war was at its peak and the world was sharply divided between Capitalist America and Communist Soviet Union. Ample amount of blood was spilt at the newly constructed Berlin wall. In such circumstances an aged Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) gets caught in USA. To uphold the principles of American democracy, Abel gets a defence lawyer in James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who not only gets the probable death sentence of his client commuted to life imprisonment (despite strong resistance from his countrymen as well as the family), he does something even more historic.

When a US spy plane pilot gets caught in the Soviet net, the US government wants Donovan to bargain with the Soviets to get back the pilot in exchange of Abel. The Glienicke Bridge connected the West Berlin with East Berlin. It is on this bridge that four exchanges took place, the first one was executed by Donovan. The humane yet smart manner in which Donovan negotiates with the Soviets not only to get back the spy plane pilot but also an American student researching on Communist countries in Europe is an ideal case study on diplomacy of the finest kinds.

Backed by pleasurable writing by the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) and Matt Charman, and engaging direction by Spielberg, #BridgeOfSpies emerges as one of the best films of 2015. Donovan tells a CIA agent, "You're born in Germany while I was born in Ireland, what makes us American is our Constitution." There are several memorable lines. Also the low key dry humor makes you unexpectedly chuckle several times during the course of the film. Tom Hanks is expectedly brilliant not only as a no nonsense professional lawyer but also as a loving family man. In a crucial scene he has to bargain with young boys in Germany who impart information in return of his overcoat. Hanks, being the perfectionist that he is, digs deep into the Art of Negotiation mastered by a passionate lawyer. But arguably, Hanks is somewhat overshadowed by the massively understated Mark Rylance who displays deadpan humor and searing irony at the same time. Rylance has some of the best lines in the film even though the length of his role is much less than that of Hanks.

Janusz Kaminski's camera work sparkles with an air of nostalgia. Adam Stickhausen's production design is poetry in detailing. The manner in which the fraught-with-friction Germany of early 1960s has been recreated is exceptional. Spielberg makes sincere efforts to balance the politics of Cold war without colouring Soviets as all-black and Americans as all-white. Even then a passing glance from a train window clearly communicates how a wall in America is much easier to climb while the Berlin wall is a matter of life-and-death. The inference is easily understandable.

Even though Steven Spielberg has turned 69 but his passion for story telling is scaling new heights. No heavy duty VFX, no unreal tomfoolery, just the reliance on solid writing, deft direction, technically brilliant and some great performances makes #BridgeOfSpies a must watch film. Do NOT miss it!

Star Rating: **** 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Homesick At Home

A poem by my daughter Insha

It is so strange to be home
It was so fun there
I feel so alone
The loneliness is too much to bear.

There were so many happy smiling faces
People taking me places
Oh, it was all so good

It is so strange to be home
And see all the empty rooms
Just like an empty dome
Where no flowers ever bloom.

There were so many nice things
Even the birds used to sing
Oh it was all so good

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rich, Vibrant, Open, Young Minds At Paramarsh 2015, Vadodara

The Rich, Vibrant, Open, Young Minds At Paramarsh 2015, Vadodara...
By Faridoon Shahryar

It is such an encouraging experience when you interact with enthusiastic students who are keen on acquiring the wealth of knowledge and that too with an open mind. I delivered a lecture to the students of the faculty of technology and engineering at Maharaja Sayajirao University here in Vadodara at the final day of their annual college festival 'Paramarsh 2015'. I spoke about the changing face of journalism in India. I shared a few of my personal thoughts and experiences but I specifically harped on the importance of 'Credibility' and why 'Honesty with a little bit of common sense is still the best policy'. Six students came forward and I interviewed them. We spoke about their future plans, why travelling is very important to open windows of the mind and why they need to work towards becoming better human beings to dilute the burgeoning competitiveness that puts undue pressure on young minds. What's the point in burning out when there's so much to do, so much to see, so much to treasure and so much to be happy for. I also emphasised on the importance of communication skills. You may be having the best of technical knowledge but if you can't put your point of view across in clear terms, it will always be a drawback. People are the most important resource and how you communicate with them can either distance you, or endear you to them. Choice is yours. Efforts are yours. And, its all worth it!

I genuinely hope that the young minds that I met today and the young minds of this great country will always put merit, liberal mindset, equality, rationality and inclusiveness above anything else. I hope they will shove out the obsolete, divisive and dangerous mindset out of the way and usher in a new India that's the pride of the world. A boy said that he likes cinema that advocates rationality, films like PK and OMG-Oh My God, films that denounce superstition, over emphasis on religion and backwardness. It was really nice to hear his thoughts.

The student volunteers took wonderful care of me. Phaphda, Jalebi, Chhole and some other Gujarati delicacies kept my taste buds truly satiated. One of the coordinating students, Nensi Patel showed me the campus of the faculty of technology and engineering. The campus is partly based in the Palace of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad and partly it has been built by the government. A very strong 45000 students force is studying in MS University, Vadodara. I was told about an App that has been created for the university and has had 15000 downloads. All the information pertaining to the University is regularly updated on this App. Paramarsh 2015 is entirely organised by the students, who've gone out and sourced many sponsors. I saw an Eifel Tower made out of newspapers, a painting that celebrates the beauty of Venice and many such creations dotted the lawns of the campus. I was felicitated during the closing ceremony. It felt as if I've become a part of the grand institution.

My friend Atik showed me the more modern side of Vadodara in the evening. A vibrant city dotted with malls and multiplexes. A city blessed with the rich heritage of Maharaja Sayajirao Rao Gaekwad and his family, sprawling cricket grounds, Parsi Havelis and much more. The wide roads are a treat. We savoured the succulent Bhuna Gosht at Marhaba Restaurant. The aroma and the taste lingers on. Paan from Paras Pan Bhandaar was divine as well. The cool breeze was intoxicating as I ruminated about a memorable day. It was surely inspiring to work towards many more such memorable days in the future. Inshallah. Good night!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Time to rise above Differences: Diary of Day 1, Vadodara

Time To Rise Above Differences: Diary of Day 1, Vadodara
By Faridoon Shahryar

My friend Atiq treated me to a scrumptious dinner at regal hotel, near Vadodara station a short while back. Chicken tikka and chicken legs hung in the open air as smoke swelled out. Nearby there were buzzing-with-excitement shops of Vegetarian Gujarati Thali. I didn't find anything amiss. All was well. Eating preferences can surely co exist if one ignores the vulture politicians who prey on the sentiments of ordinary people who have far bigger issues in life rather than worrying about what the neighbour is eating.

Vadodara was one of the worst affected cities in Gujarat during the 2002 communal riots. It was split in two. Many years have passed. It will be impractical to say that the after effects are still not around. I am sure they must be there. I travelled on the back seat of Atiq's scooter and saw a decent amount of the big city today. I saw a nice co existence of the business establishments of both the communities. I genuinely hope that people gather sense and work towards bridging gaps between hearts. It is for everyone's own good. Strife, hatred, discord doesn't help anyone. Politicians will run out of business if their hate factory shuts shop. Personally I don't look at differences because I supremely believe in the secular ethos of India. And that is the beauty of India...its diversity!

The cool fresh breeze here in Vadodara is a welcome departure from the clogged Mumbai. I am staying at Maharaja Sayajirao University Guest House. I have stayed at best of hotels in India and abroad but a university guest house has a very special place in my heart. My parents were professors at AMU, Aligarh and eminent writers, academicians and artists came and stayed at the multiple University Guest Houses that were there at AMU. I have often accompanied my parents to meet such eminent people at the guest house premises. The MS University Guest House is a very fine building, with lots of greenery all around. Vice Chancellors lodge is nearby and one of the biggest attractions of Vadodara, Sayaji Baug is right in front. Atiq took me to the historic Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad's Lalit Vilas Palace. It is a truly majestic sight. It is a heritage building with a hotel adjacent to it. There's a sprawling golf course as well. Peacocks loitered around in their laidback splendour. I ate famous Gujarati specialities Bakharwadi, Lilwani Kachodi and Sev Khamni in the evening. Bakharwadi and Lilwani Kachodi were simply heavenly. I really appreciated the owner of the restaurant who insisted that the Lilwani Kachodi ought to be warmed properly by his staff before we start eating it.

I shall be taking two lectures tomorrow. The students of the Engineerng Faculty met me in the evening today. Extremely cultured and well behaved. I was told that I shall be the Chief Guest for the closing ceremony tomorrow at Paramarsh 2015 and I shall share the stage with the honourable Vice Chancellor. Well it is a big honour. Hope I live up to their and my own expectations tomorrow. The day will start early and it is time for me to hit the bed. Wish me luck. Good night. :-)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Audio Visual for guest lecture at Paramarsh, Baroda

Hello Friends 

Hope you are doing well. I shall be delivering a guest lecture during the annual function of 'Paramarsh', the annual function of Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on October 4 on the 'Changing Face of Journalism in India'. Mr Prabhu Chawla, noted journalist of 'Seedhi Baat' (Aaj Tak) fame is the other speaker. Kindly find enclosed the Audio Visual presentation that the organisers are sharing on their social media platforms and during the festival. Thanks for your support, as always and looking forward to your good wishes.

Best Regards 

Hello Friends Hope you are doing well. I shall be delivering a guest lecture during the annual function of 'Paramarsh', the annual function of Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on October 4 on the 'Changing Face of Journalism in India'. Mr Prabhu Chawla, noted journalist of 'Seedhi Baat' (Aaj Tak) fame is the other speaker. Kindly find enclosed the Audio Visual presentation that the organisers are sharing on their social media platforms and during the festival. Thanks for your support, as always and looking forward to your good wishes.Best Regards Faridoon
Posted by Faridoon Shahryar on Friday, October 2, 2015