Friday, July 01, 2016

Extraordinary Facets

A TED video on Conversations. A Malayalam writer and an unsung politician.

One common thread that runs through all three is the delight of discovering something completely unexpected. Serendipity in many colorful layers.

In the TED video by Celeste Headlee one quotation struck me: "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't" (Bill Nye). I had heard this one before but in an altogether different context. Over here Headlee was talking about the Art of Conversation.  Dig a little deeper and you find that the need to keep your mind open about people extends way beyond people you are ever likely to meet in flesh and blood.

Last week saw the release of new book on a Congress party politician and ex-PM who, for a change, has no roads named in his honor: "Half Lion" by Vinay Sitapati. The book seems to be full of surprises and stories of intrigue that was, until now, outside the 'public domain'. Such revelations are, of course, expected from biographies on politicians. What you would not expect to find are facets and qualities that seem so very unlike the regular, seasoned politicians.

PVN Rao was aparently a serious polyglot and technophile. He could speak Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, and even some Oriya. Over the years, he had not only taught himself COBOL and BASIC but also went on to code in UNIX for mainframes!

Then you have the famous Malayalam writer, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. A few days ago I revisited "Bhargavinilayam", one of his well known short stories. Even while going down a familiar path I was surprised to notice that, as a writer his interest in music went way beyond Kerala. He would travel from one cheap rental house to another carrying all his belongings in a few cartons. One of the boxes contained his favourite wind-up gramophone with a collection of over 200 LP records. His range of interests was quite amazing - Pankaj Mullick, Dilipkumar Roy, Saigal, Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson, Abdul Karim Khan, Kanan Devi, Kumari Manju Dasgupta, Kurshid, Juthika Roy, M.S. Subbulakshmi...

 What an amazing world some people carry in their minds!


* TED - "10 Ways to have a Better Conversation" by Celeste Headlee

* Book Review - ET -

* A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces - Extraordinary Short-Stories from the 19th Century to the Present, Edited by David Davidar, Aleph, 2014

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