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Where Talent meets an audience…

After “Monday’s Child”…

by Louise Bagshawe

Monday's Child

What starts of as an endless tale of self pity parties, binge eating (or if the term stress eating is more fashionable) and emptying endless bottles of champers, G&T and whisky, “Monday’s Child” is a refreshing take on the proverbial damsel in distress story. Here, the damsel is never the ‘Belle of the ball’ and the hero emerges, unlikely and unexpected, from the dark shadows of a coat closet. While the chances of a happy ending after a loveless engagement and scores of misconceptions is seemingly dim, Anna Brown, predictably, enjoys the ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ending.

Coming to the story in itself, the characters are detailed to a crisp perfection, right down to Anna’s flatmates’ gorgeous head of golden curls. Anna Brown, an ordinary reader (Script reader) for the Dolce wearing and Chanel toting Kitty Simpson at Winning is desperately unhappy with her devil of a boss. While co-readers John and Sharon are pleas of pathetically mundane and shallow excuses for humans, with John nursing a not-so-secret crush on his boss Kitty, and Sharon, well, just utilising her feminine charms to avoid being fired-by the skin of her teeth. Now the damsel is in distress-she’s trapped in a job where her boss finds her too valuable to promote-in comes the hero and colossal director, Mark Swan. While reclusive Mr. Director is a massive 6.4”, even for Anna’s 5.11” proportions, Anna is the refreshing breath of fresh air to the cataract of so called beautiful women just shoving themselves at his feet.

Lily Frutt (she calls herself Lily Venus-how original for a model!) and Janet Meeks (She insists on Jay-Me, what with her J-Lo obsession) are the gorgeous flatmates, both models, who only manage to worsen Anna’s plain Jane, sidekick complex. While Janet is warm and considerate, Lily’s tongue stings worse than a Russell’s viper.

The story takes a turn when Winning is taken over by Eli Roth, the rich and girls-drool-over-me handsome hotshot from Los Angeles. While Kitty’s office nemesis, Mike promotes Sharon, all so unjustly just to ensure her job security with the takeover of Winning by Eli Roth’s Red Crest , Kitty and Anna are faced with the daunting task of finding the next Oscar winning script as also producing Greta Gordon, the yesteryears diva who OD’d and is fresh from rehab and keen to make a comeback.

In shay-shays Vanna (short for Vanessa Cabot), Anna’s college best friend and absolute sweetheart with a Wall Street-type bore of a husband Rupert and two ‘gorgeous’ children. While they started off on the same path at College, Vanna’s life journey takes her the way of big bucks, high walled a-slice-of-country gardens and delicious chandeliers. In comes Charles Dawson, the talentless multi-millionaire and Vanna’s idea of the perfect match for Anna after her poor dating track record. While Charles never fancies Anna, as he so bluntly admits (She towers over him and well, it had to be her Gonzo nose, Anna laments), how the innocently sombre dates turn into a sudden engagement is a thoroughly engaging tale.  While Anna is oblivious of Charles’ millions, Charles believes he has found ‘the one’ because, “you are the first woman who didn’t know about my wealth and still wanted to be with me”. How heart-wrenching! And the plot thickens when Charles introduces Anna to Trish Evans, the Nanny to his sister’s children and the scriptwriter of Mother of the Bride.

Well, Louise Bagshawe isn’t done with the plot yet. She cleverly intertwines Anna’s desperate want to be loved romantically by someone, with Charles want of a companion who isn’t after his money. While Anna manages to snag Mark Swan to direct the film, she is now faced with new predicaments- Her loveless relationship with Charles, the fear of breaking his poor heart, her racing mind that can’t get over Mark Swan and her career. Mark tries his best to help Anna zero in on the job she would like instead of fitting herself in a job she didn’t love (producing Mother of the Bride-the Oscar potential script).

What follows is an un-put-down-able read that makes the 437 page novel seem like a quickly ending children’s story book. It makes you cheer on the heroine and sympathize with her on many levels- her lack of self esteem living in a flat with two very beautiful girls, her amazement at being engaged to one of the richest men in England and her talented yet workaholic nature. While Anna clothes herself in garments that she hopes will make her invisible to the crowd (and how common is that emotion?), she fails to see the beauty she does possess, and I don’t mean her inner beauty. While she is all heart and caring towards Lily and Janet with respect to the men they love, Henry and Ed, she is quite comfortable being the not-so-pretty sidekick instead of the pretty one who tosses her hair for dramatic effect in an argument she knows she is losing.

All in all, an entirely gripping story and a never to be bored, page turner of a novel. Hats off to Ms Bagshawe for this wonderful piece. A definite recommendation for the romantic, faint-hearted. Highly addictive. Looking for a sequel somewhere…

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Reviewing “Wings of Fire”

“He who knows others is learned but the wise one is the one who knows himself. Learning without wisdom is of no use”

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam quotes his late father and describes them as the inspiring words that ‘anchored him in periods of nebulous drift’. While the book begins with an introduction to the very humble roots of the hometown of one of India’s greatest scientists ever, Dr Kalam speaks of the creative forces in his life that spurned him to think creatively- his to be brother-in-law, Ahmed Jallaluddin and his cousin Samsuddin, both of ‘inferior’ education but inspirational nonetheless. From earning his first penny at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 (quite literally) by selling the much in demand tamarind seeds he found, to assisting his cousin Samsuddin, who was the sole newspaper distributor in their hometown Rameswaram, by catching bundles of newspapers that were thrown off from a moving train as it passed by.

The book then recounts his determination to pursue education like none in his family had. It chronicles his gratitude to his sister for mortgaging her gold to pay for his fees and his subsequent vow to reimburse her with his earnings. After completing his B.Sc degree at St. Joseph’s College, Trichi, he then moves on to Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) and impulsively chooses aeronautical engineering. He then mentions that noteworthy grades did not grace his marksheets but a thirst for practical knowledge did haunt him. After his rejection from the Air Force and simultaneous acceptance at DTD&P(Air) , Destiny as it seems, turned him onto the right path leading to greatness, and as he described “If I was not flying aeroplanes, I was at least helping to make them airworthy” .

Wings of Fire

Now, recounting his various encounters defeats the purpose of reading the book, his insights and morals are what are worth recounting. One incredibly apt insight is as such:

Unfortunately, the only line prominently drawn in our country today is between the “heroes” and the “zeroes”. On one side are a few hundred ‘heroes’ keeping nine hundred and fifty million people down on the other side. This situation has to be changed.

Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, his mentor, whom he attributed to his success and the progress of rocket engineering in India, played a vital role in Dr Kalam’s life and one particular bit of his advice to Dr. Kalam is something we can all learn from is: “Look, my job is to make decisions; but it is equally important to see to it that these decisions are accepted by my team members”.

Later in the book Dr Kalam writes: I often read Khalil Gibran, and always find his words full of wisdom. “Bread baked without love is a bitter bread that feeds but half a man’s hunger,”-those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.

On recieving the news of his developing a rocket-assisted take-off system (RATO) for military aircrafts, he writes: I was filled with many emotions- happiness, gratitude, a sense of fulfillment and these lines from a little known poet of the 19th century crossed my mind:

For all your days prepare

And meet them ever alike

When you are the anvil,bear-

When you are the hammer, strike.

Prof. Sarabhai had been more than a mentor to Dr Kalam and he always strived to impress him with his work rather than disappoint and as such, on the failure of one of the systems designed he recounts: Prof. Sarabhai’s approach to mistakes rested on the assumption that they were inevitable but generally manageable.

During his managerial phase of the SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle) he was assigned to design indigenously , Dr Kalam finds inspiration in his experiences and among my favourites is:

If you want to leave your footprints

On the sands of time

Do Not drag your feet

This referred to his decision to be receptive to constructive ideas emanating from his subordinates.

The year 1981 marked Dr Kalam’s transfer from ISRO to DRDL after having lent his expertise at ISRO for 18 long years. It was during the mediation of his transfer that Dr. Kalam was awarded the Padma Bhushan on the Republic day of 1981. He was appointed the official Director of DRDL in February 1982 and joined DRDL only on the 1st of June 1982.

He further states that the initial few months were spent only in motivating his highly demoralised team. He writes:  I still recall quoting Ronald Fischer at one of the meetings, “The sweetness we taste in a piece of sugar is neither a property of the sugar nor a property of ourselves. We are producing the experience of sweetness in the process of interacting with the sugar”.

At DRDL, he then formed the Missile Technology Committee to spearhead all the technological aspects of the missiles they were to design and produce, which followed in with the birth of India’s Guided Missile Development Programme. This is when he finds himself torn between his fatherly affection to his niece, whose wedding he almost misses due to his strenuous work commitments.

It is then that India’s prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, later called IGMDP was born, at the request of the then defence minister.

Dr. Kalam was then faced with the daunting task of ‘selecting Five Pandavas’ or project heads for each of his missiles- Agni, Nag, Akash, Trishul and Prithvi. He humourously admits selecting them not on the basis of any friendships forged but merely that the five he selected himself, were all ‘married to the Draupadi of positive thinking’.

In 1983, Dr. Kalam revamped his team of scientists to better proceed with the design of the missiles and as such recruited young engineers into the IGMDP. It was then that a young engineer on his team doubted their ability to carry on because they did not have a ‘big shot’ amongst them. It is then that Dr. Kalam justifies with a beautiful response- “A big shot is a little shot who keeps on shooting, so keep trying“.

I can go on forever with my favourite quotes and inspirational lines drawn from the book, but as I said before, it defeats the purpose of reading this wonderfully engaging novel. I must confess that from the moment I picked it up to read, I did not have the heart to put it down. You will too.. So give it a shot!

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Finding Our “Nemo”

 

Quite frankly, that movie is popular enough and I need not publicize it any further. However, the moral of the story is what we all look for at the end- like in all Disney classics. While I do not attempt to draw a parallel from that tale with respect to the parent-child relationship, I do hope to draw valuable inspiration from the firm resolve shown by that seemingly small, orange clown fish. Separated from his son, he faced his worst fears because he could visualize the bigger picture- His son needed him and nothing else mattered.

So what do I imply when I say ‘Our Nemo’? It is quite simply the dreams we’ve envisioned and goals we have set for ourselves at some point of time or the other. Getting there is where most of us seem to lose our way. Pricked by the thorns of the challenge and unwilling to bleed a little along the way is what stands in the centre of the tunnel leading to what we want, like a wall of steel. How hard are we ready to push ourselves so that we can break the shackles of expectations from the world around us and be able to yell “GOAL!” like Galvão Bueno (commentator) does after someone scores one in Brazilian football matches? That makes all the difference.

So for those of you have not had the fortune of reading “Who moved my Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, it is never too late to grasp the concept of ‘finding your cheese/Nemo’, which is explained in the simplest manner with the story of the four main characters- the two mice “Sniff” and “Scurry” and the two little people “Hem” and “Haw”, all living in a giant maze. While many are unable to adapt quickly to changing scenarios at the work place or in their personal lives, our human nature makes it such that we tend to resist the change rather than ride the wave. Such impaired flexibility makes it twice as hard to be able to react satisfactorily to the situation and in most cases only compounds the problem. So where am I heading? Yes, for those puzzled with the above few lines, do what any sensible adult would after being inspired by the book.

The first step would be to find out ‘your Nemo’. What is the one thing in life that you want more than oxygen and would make you jump out of bed every morning instead of taking it out on the poor alarm clock and then snarling at the bathroom mirror with toothpaste spilling down the side of your lips? Once you find it, for the world, Don’t let it go!! Do whatever it takes to ensure you do something that you absolutely love doing.

The next step would be to learn to let go of things that are beyond your control and instead familiarize yourself with all the changes that are continuously occurring around you.  Harping on your misfortunes is getting you nowhere closer to ‘your Nemo’.

Third, walk that extra mile to make someone you love happy. You don’t live if you don’t live for others. Life isn’t only about “me” but is about “us” and “we”. You all know of the happiness that engulfs your entire self when those special people in your life are happy and attribute their happiness to you. Also, smile more, it will relax you and the people around you. (In no way do I imply smiling at random strangers along the road like a retard!)

And finally, follow this motto, (which was the dedication to me on my personal copy of ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’, written by a dear teacher):

“So, for now, laugh at the confusion,

Smile through the tears and

Keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”

Nemo

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Marrying For Money

Happy Ever After? Don’t Bank on it..

Marrying For Money

If you want to marry for money, You have to work for every Penny!

Chris Manby. The wonderful author of this page-turner of a novel. Well, while the last line of the synopsis does justice to summarise the moral of the story, it fails miserably to contain the ‘wow’ effect in the aftermath of the book. The brazen affluence of lumber heiress, Marcella Hunter comes in stark contrast to the unlikely heroine of the plot, Charity Grosvenor, who loses her job as a hotel maid at the hands of the same pompous heiress.

While Marcella’s high society lifestyle with an illegal immigrant for a housekeeper Anjelica Solorzano permits her to conveniently forget her first brush with Charity right up to the part where she obliviously invites Charity and her sister, Grace to her extravagant birthday party at her own residence in Little Elbow, the Hamptons. When Charity and Grace move in next door at the Rose House, Marcella turns her world upside down, unnecessarily complicating her life with jealous competition when all of Little Elbow’s rich and eligible bachelors turn their attention to the humble and seemingly rich Grosvenor sisters. In the mess she creates for everyone in Little Elbow, she blinds herself to the affections of her houseguest Simon McDonnough.

While the Grosvenor sisters initially attempt to fight off the glamour quotient of living in such a dollar-saturated neighbourhood as compared to their shabby apartment in Tooting, South London, they are soon sucked into a mangled web of dating men from the world’s most unsuitable husbands list. While Charity Grosvenor finds herself trapped in a warped obligation of dating first a Wall Streeter addicted to his cell phone and then a software tycoon with no social skills, she fails to give in to her instant attraction to her poor but handsome handyman,  Ryan Oldman. Charity learns to preen roses and fix rowdy and deserted greenhouses from Ryan and soon enough it dawns on her that she wants him as more than just her gardener or the shoulder to cry on after another disastrous date.

The plot thickens wonderfully when Grace manages to snag Choate Fitzgerald, Marcella’s ex and also a her nearest competitor in the lumber business. Choate falls helpless in love with stunning Grace, who, as it is later revealed, is fresh from a broken engagement with Danny, back home in London. At first, Grace’s conscience rips her apart when she realises that any number of Vera Wang bridal gowns cannot buy her love for the man she has consented to marry. While Choate, the most painfully boring conversationist in all of Little Elbow cannot believe his luck, a bad bump on her head at a polo match, manages to change Grace’s mind, just as she was about to return Choate’s ring, which sat silently in her pocket from the instant he had popped the question.

The first bombshell is dropped when it is revealed that the seemingly well-off sisters aren’t as well-off as the story they had cooked up. While the rent money for the Rose House was provided by a lucky lottery that Charity landed, Grace joined her sister on her vacation just to move on after being  robbed of her wedding savings by her own fiancée, Danny. Or so she thought. That thread of the plot is stitched tight at the culmination of the book. Besides the fake exterior, pathetic is the moment when Ms. Manby introduces her readers to Charity’s little black book full of details of the rich bachelors she hoped to date and marry before her brief stay in the Hamptons culminated.

A rather ridiculous set up with a man old enough to be her father, Charity finds herself loading her date into an ambulance instead of a limousine, ably assisted by Ryan of course. With Ryan avoiding her in general after she refused to let him pay for Burgers and drinks at a pub outside Little Elbow one night with a rather rude rebuttal (“You’re just the gardener..” ), Charity finds comfort in his arms that sported the type of muscles that make a girl want to swoon just so she can feel what it’s like to be caught up in them. That’s when the next big bombshell is dropped when Ryan subtly reveals that he is in fact the elusive Bryan Young, the owner of the Rose House.

What follows is heightened drama when Danny comes in search of Grace, Grace gets in a head on collision with an emotionally exhausted Anjelica (Who harbours a one-sided love affair with Choate), Danny attempts to break into the Rose House while Charity calls the cops and has him arrested and Bryan learns of Charity’s roots the hard way (via Marcella). The last and final bombshell involves Peggy (Ryan’s aunt) and Marcella’s grandfather who were lovers in their teens and the possibility of them rekindling their relationship after years of being apart. Revealing the ending at this point would defeat the purpose of reading such a merry and wonderfully different novel.

Then comes the riveting question you are left with in the end. Is it worth marrying for money and ending up as a trophy spouse for the rest of your doomed existence? While Charity, Marcella and the rest of Little Elbow learn the ultimate lesson about the transitivity of life, they are forced to face the consequences of their actions. And when the question came to me, the answer was all too simple. For someone as relatively lazy as myself, working as hard as Charity attempted what with putting up with ludicrous dates and men with giant wallets but brains smaller than peas, is simply not worth the effort. It was never even a distant possibility. Marrying for Money-A must read by all means. And full points to Ms. Manby for that winner of a phrase: If you want to marry for money, You have to work for every Penny!

 

 

 

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