He-Man and Managing Your Universe – Five Management Lessons learnt from the TV series of the 80s

1024full-he--man-and-the-masters-of-the-universe-photo[1]Few weeks ago, I was surfing the shelves of a local bookstore when I came across an omnibus of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. My daughter, who was with me, was surprised that I knew about He-Man. Little did she know that I used to get up early on a Sunday to catch up on the show on TV during the 1980s.
As I look back, the lessons at the end of the show, which I used to find “interesting”, to say the least, are so relevant.
Here are five (plus a bonus) management lessons that we can learn from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

  1. Teamwork Works!
    If you ever watched a show, you will notice that the theme and format of (almost) every show is same – evil attacks and good triumphs. The good side or the evil side are not just one person – it is a team of people. Skeletor heads the evil troupe, and He-Man is leader of the good.
    Skeletor hatches a new scheme to rule Eternia, and attacks Eternia with the help of his cronies. Sorceress warns Masters of the Universe, who come together to save the day.
    Eternia is not saved by a single person but a team of Masters – Sorceress warns, Mech-a-Neck does reconnaissance, Startos provides air support, Man-at-Arms provide strategy, weapons & gadgets, and He-Man and Teela provide the raw power to fight on the ground. On the other side, Skeletor’s team does not work together, each one has their own agenda that conflicts with the others and hence their every attempt to capture Eternia fails. The same principle applies in our work lives. When working on a project, it is important that the team works together. Everyone contributes to the common goal and move forward. When a teammate needs help, the others lend a hand, pick them up and move on. If the members of the team do not work together, then the dysfunctional team will soon face failure.
  2. Alignment to a single goal
    In one of the episodes, the Eternian bees species do not get along with the bird species. Kings of both the species do not want Skeletor to overrun their kingdoms. They take extra steps to fortify their castles, however that does not help the other. In the episode, each (almost) lose their kingdoms to Skeletor. Although they realize their mistakes that they were not aligned and working together.
    Once they join forces, Skeletor is easily defeated. When working on a team, it is important to move forward “as a team” and equally important is moving forward in the same direction. Project teams have members from different departments and each of them bring their own needs and agendas to the table. It is needed that all the needs and agendas of team members have alignment towards the same goal. The ones who do not align to the common goal should not be part of the team; otherwise the project gets pulled in different directions, which will cause delays or worse, failure. When on the same team, work towards a single goal.
  3. Everyone is important
    One of the Masters, Mech-a-Neck, who can stretch his neck and does reconnaissance work in the TV show, starts to feel that he is not as important as the rest of the Masters. He thinks that even one of the robots of Man-at-Arms can replace him. Of course, the show predictably ends in him realizing that the work he does is important. At some point or the other in our lives, we have all felt or made ot feel that we are not as useful as the others. This is an extreme outlier case. Every cog in a machinery is important when they are part of the team. A cohesive team can work together better and faster than a team where folks have their own selfish agendas.
    When in doubt, just take a 15 min break, and recall all the work one has done in the past few years as a part of the team. You will find ample examples where you have stepped up and rose to the occasion and saved the day.
    Another important aspect is to understand that others are also equally important. I have met so many people who feel that they walk on water. Yes, they are smart, but when you fly solo, you can get a meteoritic rise that won’t last forever.
    Everyone on a team serves a function and is important, including you.
  4. Informed Timely Response
    Whenever Skeletor attacks Eternia, Masters have very little time to strategize to do a detailed planning. If they would have spent too much time in planning, Castle Grayskull would have fallen long time back. They gather information (Mech-a-Neck’s reconnaissance), assess the situation, decide on action to be taken and take action. In the corporate environment, we do not have luxury of endless time. The world keeps shrinking their times-to-market.
    There is a time to plan and then there is time to act. Planning cannot go on forever, and action cannot be without any thought behind it.
    When time comes to act, gather your wits & all the information you need, do an assessment,  make a decision and take action. Not taking an action in today’s world will harm your business.
    When you have all or sufficient amount of information needed to take the next step – decide and act upon it. Do stay perpetual planning.
  5. Looking back and looking forward
    In every episode of show, Eternia is destroyed by Skeletor. And in every subsequent episode, the people of Eternia are rebuilding their home. Home insurance must be very high in Eternia.
    Although it may be tough to live there, it shows resilience of the Eternians to learn from past, and then move forward. Man-at-Arms helps build barriers that are stronger and better fortified. That is a very important lesson I think. There is an old Indian saying, “Don’t fret over spilled milk”. I take it a step forward, “clean up and don’t let it spill, next time”.
    We all make mistakes and face failures. What is important is to learn from past and move on. It is very useful to develop a habit of looking back and deconstruct what went wrong.
    Sometimes we are too attached to a project to look objectively. In such cases ask a friend or a colleague you trust for help. Let them help you understand what went wrong.
    Learn from past mistakes, and take steps not to repeat them and move on.
    Moving on armed with new knowledge not to repeat mistakes is an asset that will prove very useful.
  6. Bonus Lesson – Leadership
    Yes, I did say Five lessons, but as I am writing this, I found another lesson. Every time Skeletor and his forces attack, Sorceress, who is the guardian of the Castle Grayskull, provides guidance to He-Man and Man-at-Arms to help steer them in the direction that will change the outcome of the battle. It is through her guidance that Eternia gets saved, no matter how bleak the circumstances. She is the voice of motivation, the voice of reason and the voice of guidance.
    And thus the importance of leadership – a voice of reason, guidance, inspiration and motivation. Leaders are always needed to provide the team with a vision of a goal for the common good and the team has to be able to buy into it. Too many times the vision does not get shared down to the team members. That always results in loss of motivation for the individual contributors on the team. Leaders at every levels of management need to share the vision with team members to keep them “in the loop” and bring overall motivation and alignment.

As a kid, I never thought that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe will have so many lessons, much less management lessons. As an adult, I see so many parallels.
There are also allegorical parallels of the TV series; that is an article for some other time.

For now, that’s all folks!

JPS Nagi
July 17, 2016

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Marvel’s Civil War (2006-2007)

Marvel Civil WarWith the launch of Captain America: Civil War, my household is now going through devouring the comics of the series. Of course, I was asked the complete reading order of the whole series. And here it is – Marvel’s Civil War.

Civil War is a 2006–2007 Marvel Comics crossover storyline built around a seven-issue limited series of the same name written by Mark Millar and penciled by Steve McNiven, which ran through various other titles published by Marvel at the time. The storyline builds upon the events that developed in previous Marvel crossovers, particularly Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and Decimation. The tagline for the series is, “Whose Side Are You On?”

And as usual, here is just a list.

I addition to the reading order, I also wanted to know,
– Main Event.
– On going comic book series along with the number.

Click here to get a printable check list and reading order.

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DC’s Convergence (2015)

DC-ConvergenceAnother comic book event that happened in 2015 was DC Comics’ Convergence.

Convergence spins out of the final issues of the weekly series, Earth 2: World’s End and The New 52: Futures End. The story involves Brainiac collecting cities and inhabitants from various timelines that have ended, trapping them in domes on a planet outside of time and space and opening them up to see what happens.

The comics ran for 8 weeks and we got them all. We had to create a good reading order so that we can follow the story along beyond the main event. Some websites provide reading order, with lot of details about plotlines, ratings and how well does it fit in the timeline. I just want a list.

So I decided to create one myself. I spent many hours making this list, and decided this may be useful for others who are in the same boat as us.

I addition to the reading order, I also wanted to know,
– Main Event.
– On going comic book series along with the number (for example, Green Arrow # 002).

Click here to get a printable check list and reading order.

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Marvel’s Secret Wars (2015)

MarvelSecretWars[1]Earlier this year, I got to relive my childhood through my daughter. She got interested in comics.

In 2015, Marvel decided to end their comic book world through Secret Wars. Just like past Secret Wars, the 2015 Marvel’s Secret Wars is also a huge event. During this event, many series will be brought to the end and the genesis of new Marvel Comic Book Universe will take place as a result of that.

We have been getting comics on a weekly basis, but we found that it is a bit difficult to follow without a good reading order. There are websites that do provide reading order, with lot of details about plotlines, ratings and how well does it fit in the timeline. Sometimes … you just want a list. So I decided to make one for ourselves. I spent many hours making this list, and decided this may be useful for others who are in the same boat as us.

I addition to the reading order, I also wanted to know,
– Event within the Secret Wars (for example Main, Last Days, Battle World or Warzones).
– On going comic book series along with the number (for example, The Punisher # 019).

So I created a way to organize name of each entry in the list.Naming

Then I created color coding, so that it is easy for me to quickly pick up the event; this will be particularly useful if I wish to read only the Main Event, or say only the Battleworld.

Click here to get a printable check list and reading order.
This list includes releases up to September 19, 2015. Come back for updated list every week.

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Punjab 1984 – Ballewood Arrives !!!

Finally, punjab-1984I watched Punjab 1984. And here is what I think of it. This is an intense movie. The performances were good. There is a triangular conflict in the movie; Diljit shows great potential as an actor in the new generation. Pawan Malhotra, who is main antagonist in the movie, fits the role like a glove; his grins, smiles and expressions makes you hate the character, which shows how good job he is doing with the role. And the third apex of the triangle is played by Kiron Kher as a mother; she pretty much carries the movie on her shoulders. She is relatable as a mother, and portrays a very complex role with ease of an experienced actress (which she is). Diljit and Kiron’s scenes of a other-son bond are a treat to watch. The dialogues are very well written – they work at the surface level and also at a deeper emotional level. I also loved how the writers treated the story; the topic is extremely sensitive, and the treatment is excellent – instead of targeting a group, religion, or pointing fingers, it is a human story – rising above the limits and boundaries. It is a story of a mother looking for her son, who because of circumstances ends up at odds with the then prevalent law of the land. The story moves back and forth in time with flashback, which are very well edited.  It is a coming of age story of a son, who makes some choices under circumstances, and traces his path to redemption. It is the story of a man cornered, and how he stand against the ones who cornered him. If you are one of those folks who do not like the fact that Indian movies have music where the whole casts stops and start lip syncing to the song and dance to the tune, then you are in for a treat. Music of this movie adds layers to this movie. The songs are playing in the background, and they take the story forward. They are all situational, and most of the time, you will not even realize that you a song just started. They are essential and compliment the progression of the story. Watch out the lyrics for Swaah Ban ke, Lori and Ammi Udeek Di – they bring the sensitivity of poetry to this movie. they will bring a year or two to your eyes. The lighter songs Channo, Rangrut keep the happier parts of the story happy. Kudos to the music directors; yes there are few. And then there is Anurag Singh, the director. I have to say, I am impressed. He has proven to be one of the better directors in Punjabi Film Industry and deserves all the laurels to get the kind of performances he got out of the actors, and to keep the heart of the movie alive throughout on such a subject. With this movie he proves his range from being able to handle movies like Jatt & Juliet series (which were OK, I think) to a serious drama like Punjab 1984; and he does not misses a beat. This is his crowning glory so far. The movie is intense, emotional, and a tear jerker. Get ready with those tissues, and think about the questions raised by this movie, which are many. Lastly, story, scenes, and cinematography reminded me of Maachis (another well rounded director Gulzar) throughout the movie. It feels like either a homage in style or deeply inspired by it. I had to go look for the Maachis DVD after watching Punjab 1984. All in all it is good movie. I would call it 9/10 on the scale of good dramas. Go watch it ! JPS Nagi July 2, 2014

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Oubliette – A Mind Prison

Few years back, I decided to take some writing workshops, to learn and collaborate on how to write. The classes I joined were called prompt writing workshops, where we would be given few prompts, and some time to write a piece that would use those prompts. I really had fun in these workshops. As I was going through my bookshelf, I found the notebook where I wrote all these pieces. So here they are, some of the stories that came about from my mind. You may find these stories to be incomplete, but these are some of the starting points of many long stories that are in my mind. The prompts that were given are in bold. 

Here is the first piece, Oubliette – A Mind Prison.

Apocalypse has not been reached yet, but we were surely moving towards it. The fall of the major democracies around the world had caused a domino effect, innocent revolutions at first, but soon they were at a scale, that the republics that remained were not able to face without being eradicated. 

In 2047, the republics had shrunk pretty much to the European sub-continent or the North Americas. Europa was in a unique position. The high Hindu Kush on the east had created difficult for the revolutionaries to cross over without the fuel. The three wars fought on the mountain terrain had weakened the Asian revolutionaries. The environmental changes had made Saharan region to be the toughest desert on earth. The cold and dry Hindu Kush on the east, hot and unforgiving Sahara in the south and Atlantic on the other sides, had secured few more years of survival for Europa.

Then there were the few who still believed in the idea that a single human mind can change the course of history fought long and hard. In between the fights, they looked towards the stars in a hope of finding a better peaceful world. Among them was Pierre Mogambo – 2078 Nobel Laureate, and the world foremost authority in neuro-science and quantum physicist. 

Mogambo, as he preferred to be called, joined Cern in 2047, at a young age of 21. His papers on the quantum physics had caused a stir in the scientific community. His work advanced the creation of miniaturized quantum computers, which would fit the palm of one’s hand. Over time, the size became small enough that the most powerful self-learning computer could be powered by the light, heat or batteries if one prefers. The tiny quantum machines were perfected overtime to become artificially intelligent, and Mogambo collaborated with the neuroscientists to create world’s first computer that could emulate the complexity and intelligence of a human brain.

Around the same time, the resources around the world were depleting at an alarming rate and the jihadist revolutionaries started to look at the two republic land masses. The psychologists were trying to understand what was causing this phenomenon that changed the collective human conscience from saving the world to pretty much destroying it. And for that, Mogambo’s artificial brain was used to emulate the behavior patterns.

As scientists worked with the artificial brain, scientists started to see how the human brain is capable of forming new neuropaths. Understanding neuropaths and structures also helped Mogambo to understand how can one create ways to prevent the new neuropaths from being created, and that is what led to his Nobel prize winning invention – oubliette, a mind prison.

~~~ 1 ~~~

World was uniform. People were quiet, peaceful, and happy. Even in this perfectly manicured public park, Charles found them bound, not free.

Charles de Lint was a free soul. Dressed in one of his old time tweed three-piece suits, he always stood out of the crowd. He had a collection of those tweed three-piece suits in his apartment. The colors, he thought, I love the colors. Where are the colors? Maybe that’s why … and then he lost the train of his thought.

The peace was reached in 2084, but Charles didn’t know much about it. The times he could sleep is when the dreams would come, and went away as soon as they came leaving a sense of void inside him. Charles de Lint was a free soul.

“Charlie boy, nice suit,” came the voice from behind. Charlie had heard that voice before. The vibration seemed to be familiar to his ears.

Charlie turned, and saw a stout man walking towards him. He was wearing the simple, functional overalls, like everyone else. They were brown in color, and the front was flat, without any buttons or zippers. They were all along the side.

At least it is not the white that I see everywhere. Bill … Bob … No, No … His pupils dilated … Benito … and then his pupils contracted as if the sun had shone on them. Caretaker.

“How are you on this fine day, Magician”, Benito was still walking towards him. His eyes never left Charles, as if the gaze had frozen Charles in space and time.

That is what I was called, The Magician. And just like that, he lost his train of thought.

“I am well, Caretaker. It sure is a fine day. Is spring here already?”

“O yeah, spring started last week. Got to get those pastel three-pieces out, Charlie boy. And call me Ben.”

“All right … Ben. I was … I was just headed over to the Museum of Saturn. I heard they brought the fragment from the asteroid which is heaviest matter known to us.”

“Yeah, I heard it too”, Benito was standing next to Charles, looking at him curiously.

“Something I said?” Charles asked, Caretaker.

“No, no, no, no. Charlie boy”, Benito gave a hearty laugh, but it never reached his eyes. “You need to get those pastels out. It is spring”. He said, waving his hand at the blue skies, and then at the lush green grass. “Well, I should head out. I have an appointment. Good running into you. Glad you are doing OK”.

“Yeah.” Yeah.

Benito took the glasses out of his pocket, placed it one his face and plugged the earplugs. Charles heard faintest vibrations of sound. Benito gave an informal salute, his lips curled in a smile and turned to walk towards the park gate. Charles thought he heard him say … Nah …

~~~ 2 ~~~

I can see it in your eyes, Negotiator”, Charles was saying, “In all of your eyes”.

Hundreds of tubes faced towards him. There was nothing around them, just dark. The tubes were protruding out of the big globe, suspended in the air, like a pin-cushion. Wait … What?

Each tube had an eye at its end, glowing different shades of red, and they were all facing him now. For a microsecond, Charles caught a movement on the edge of his left eye – one of the antenna tubes quivered. And then the thoughts left him.

When he woke up, he was in his studio apartment. How long have I been asleep? He got out of his bed and walked towards the corner kitchenette. Did I dream? Again?

Ben said pastels. He poured a glass of orange juice. He took the first sip. Pastels, I should wear pastels. It is spring.

In few seconds, he had crossed his room and standing in front of his closet, full of three-piece suits. He took out the nice light gray three-piece suit. I wonder, if they will find me … interesting. After all this is gray.

He gently placed the suit on the bed, and headed into the shower.

“Good Morning Charles, on this fine day of spring. It is April, 29th, 2114. What would you like me to put on”, said female voice.

“Put on The Beatles. Hard Day’s night.”

“Going old school? Here are The Beatles”.

And Charles relaxed to sounds almost 150 years old.

 

Jatinder PS Nagi
Copyright March 29, 2014

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Patangbaazi & Rau di Kheer

lohri-festivalBeing brought up in the northern part of India, brings back fondest memories of Patang-Baazi (Kite Flying Competitions) and Rau-di-Kheer (Sugarcan Rice Pudding) to mind during early parts of January – along with the great festival of Lohri.

Punjabis, irrespective of their religion, continue to practice their Punjabi Folk Religion. Respect to the seasons and the natural elements of fire, wind, water and the earth is very important. Among such rituals, is Lohri – a festival celebrated on January 13. It is dedicated to the end of the Winter season in northern part of India. The day is also believed to mark the end of the winter solstice month, arrival of spring, and beginning of the Spring Harvest season.

The last day the month (per Indian calendar) is January 13, and the sun transition into the zodiac sign of Cancer (Makar) on January 14. Makara means Capricorn Zodiac Sign and Sankranti means transition of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another. The festival, called Makar Sankranti in southern parts of India, is the day that marks the transition of the Sun into Makara Rashi (Capricorn Sign) on its celestial path.

The atmosphere is electrifying during the festival. The celebrations involve the friendly kite flying competition in northern India, during the day. During dusk, the families gather around the bonfires, and sing folk songs eating tiny sugar balls coated with sesame seed (gur di rewari), peanuts (moongfali), and pop corn. These are also offered to the fire, as an offering for a prosperous harvest season ahead.

In houses that have recently had a marriage or childbirth, Lohri celebrations will reach a higher pitch of excitement. Punjabis usually have private Lohri celebrations, in their houses. Lohri rituals are performed, with the accompaniment of special Lohri songs. Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. Punjabi songs are sung, and everybody rejoices. Lohri is a great occasion that holds great importance for farmers as this is the beginning of the harvest season for the winter crops. People residing in urban areas also celebrate Lohri, as this festival provides the opportunity to interact with family and friends.

Among the dying rituals is the visit from the kids from the street, who go door to door singing the Lohri song that tells the adventures of the Abdullah Bhatti (Dulla Bhatti) – Robinhood of Punjab, who led the rebellion against Mughal Empire during the reign of Akbar.

Food is another integral part of the festival. Sarson da saag (mustard green) and makki di roti (flat corn bread) is usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner. Some of the men wait in long lines at the local sugarcane juicing machines to get the fresh sugarcane juice, which the women use to make a rice pudding (kheer). On January 14, the next day, this rice pudding (generally served with yogurt) for breakfast and lunch to indicate sweet beginning of the new year, and spring season.

Happy Lohri, Everyone !!!

JPS Nagi
January 13, 2014

PS. Some references were used from Wikipedia.

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Life, Philosophy and Beer

A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things — your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18.

“There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

This was sent as a part of those annoying chain mails, which I never forward. But this was too good not to be shared with the world. Thanks to the original author.
I am borrowing this because of two reasons. One because it has been a while that I wrote something. Two because this is such a good anecdote to show people that there are things that are more important in life than they think.

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“It’s fictional. You’re real”

Redshirts by John Scalzi is one of those stories which are difficult to review, without spoiling, but I’m going to try.

The story takes place in post-television 25th century future on an elite DubU ship – Intrepid. It is under the command of captain Abernathy, whose crew include science officer Q’eeng, first office Keerensky, medical office Hartnell and chief engineer West among others. Intrepid is on a peaceful mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. Sounds familiar? Well it should. During its explorations the crew encounters some hostile situations on different worlds, and quiet often there are away teams formed to deal with them.

The novel opens with some new crew members assigned to intrepid. They develop a sort of friendship while waiting for the shuttle in the bay that would take them to the ship. On reaching ship, they are take on their assigned tasks in different departments. They continue to meet when they are off duty, and found out that Intrepid has highest casualties for new crew members among any Dub U’s ships during these away missions, statistically. As they dig more and more, they find that there is some sort of space time continuum mix up where realities from different times seem to have intertwined.

I should stop now, because I think I have already said too much.

John has great ability to define his characters well and then develop them throughout his stories. This novel is no different. The new crew members Dahl (who is the protagonist), Duvall, Hester, Henson have characters that one easily understand when they interact while waiting in the shuttle bay. They do not always agree with each other. They also form a part of some of the away missions, and suffer losses. They start to observe a pattern, which the officers of the ship seem to be oblivious to. Over the course of events, their friendship, beliefs and trust for each other is tested. You start to identify with the characters, and can’t help but want them to control their own fate instead of letting the mixed up timelines decide what happens.

Redshirts does not disappoint at any place. It is a must read if you grew up with TV shows like the original Star Trek, or Dr. Who. The book is a nod to these and other cheesy space adventures of yesteryears. There are dozens of moments and in-jokes built around the worlds that are familiar and hilarious. It is darkly funny at times; even when things go wrong, John puts a smile on your face with interactions of his characters. The story moves at a fast pace, and is extremely well edited. There is nothing that does not add to the story or character development and you are drawn in. If you want to read a fun science fiction story during summer try this one.

If you like listening to books, get the audiobook. It is read by Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from Star Trek – The Next Generation). Wil is very impressive voice actor, and he brings this book alive with his narration. He has collaborated with the author before in Fuzzy Nation and few others.

Both the book and the audiobook are highly recommended. I give this book 5 stars; hey, anything that can keep me up all night deserves 5 stars.

Jatinder PS Nagi
July 4, 2012

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Memories of the Clouds

I have very few memories from when I was very young. Still some moments are strongly etched in my mind.

When I was couple of years old, my grandfather, whom I remember wearing only white garb, used to carry me on his shoulders, walk couple of miles and to take me to a local potter who made toys out of clay. These toys were molded by hand and painted in the shapes of animals – parrots, dogs, lions, cats, or rabbits. All the toys were painted in bright colors, like reds, blues, yellow, orange, green or black. They would capture my imagination at that age.

Bapu ji, as I fondly called my grandfather, would get me a new toy, and then we would walk back home. The toy, being made from clay, would invariably break within couple of days and he would take me back to get a new one. So this small journey would happen every week.

Time would fly while riding his shoulders, listening to him humming a hymn, the periodic rhythm of his gait, and desire of getting a new toy. We would reach the potter, and I used to choose one of the toy animals. As much as the journey to the potter would be filled with excitement of getting a new toy, the journey walking back home used to be filled with happiness of holding it in my hand.

My eyes would look up in the skies, and I would try to find a cloud, shaped like the toy I just got. As soon as I would find some decipherable shape, I would point to the cloud and shout “Bapu ji, look there is a cat”. He would stop, shade his eyes using his wrinkled hand, and look up. He always agreed with me on the shape of the cloud. He would then tickle my feet, break my gaze from the sky and start to walk again, as I would giggle with tickles.

As I got older and heavier, he would hold my hand, so I could walk along. The moment I would step out of the house, I used to tell him that I would get tired. He would implore me to walk a little further, till the end of the street, where he would promise to pick me up. As we would reach there, he would ask me to go a little further. Humming hymns, pointing to new shapes of the clouds, he would keep me distracted from not feeling tired. Before I knew it, I would have a new toy in my hand, and I would pull on his hand making him go faster. Hopping, skipping, pulling on his hand, he never let go of my hand. We would keep looking for new shapes in the skies.

Summers were hot, so we would sleep on the terraces. The sun would wind down, bringing in a cooler dusk. The sky would get shades of orange, red and purple. I would lie down on the terrace with my parents, or grandparents, or uncles, or aunts, or cousins, and watch those clouds as they float by. Constant changing clouds would result in innocent arguments about their shapes. I would call some shape a horse; my cousin would say that it is a dog. The wind would melt away the white elephant before my aunt would make out its trunk or tail. And sometimes the rain clouds would appear and start pouring as everyone would rush downstairs.

While lying under the skies, I would slip into the dreams of floating with the clouds. I would never know when my father carried me to my bed on the terrace, or when my mother would tuck me in. The bird calls at the break of dawn and my mom’s calling would wake me up. The slanting rays of the sun would hit the eyes. Through peeking eyelids, the white and grey clouds would be floating against yellow or red sky.

Maybe these memories are the reason that every camera that I have ever owned, seem to turn itself up to the heavens. I am still looking for those shapes in the clouds that I used to as a kid. The blue skies seem so far away, yet it seems like so close. It carries all the memories from my childhood in its vastness – of people who were, people who are; for the people who will be.

All I have to do is just reach out.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 25, 2012

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