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Hi! I’m Justin Raj, a stock broker by profession, is also a freelance Journalist, an amateur Filmmaker and an enthusiastic Marathoner who possesses the ‘bad habit’ of writing too much. And as long as that ‘bad habit’ stays with me, I keep on posting to my blog.

A blogger is basically a tech-savvy writer. He is a keen observer with a sharing mind, not a silent spectator to all events which happen around him. If a reader is a person who loves to gain knowledge, a blogger or writer is one who loves to share his knowledge and dare to speak out his opinions and ideas. Like a singer expresses by singing, dancer by dancing, actor through acting, a blogger blogs his feelings and ideas out. Literally, Freedom of Expression is his shield and the blog is his Sword.

Here in my blog, write-ups are archived in 9 labels. In ‘Sweet and Bitter’ you can read about my diverse life experiences and valuable lessons I learnt from it. ‘Published Articles’ offers you my articles which have been published in Daily Newspapers. In ‘Random Brain Waves’ you can meet up with my random (or at times, weird) ideas. Poetry writing has eventually become a new hobby as well as a part of my blog. You can read my poems in ‘Verses’. In ‘Marathon’ label, you can read about my marathon experiences, challenges and how running a marathon can shape a man’s life.

‘Vlog’ is a recent addition to my blog as I realize the potential future of visual media. Sometimes, a 3-minute video can do the magic of expression than a 3000 word article. In this label you can watch the short films, documentaries, advertisements et al I have made. ‘Favorite Articles’ consists of articles which have influenced my outlook and attitude on life. Being a tireless traveler, ‘Travel’ label takes you to various travel experiences of mine. Conducting researches is a part of Journalism. In ‘Research Articles’ label you can get articles which throw light on various researches I have conducted.

Every life meets with various challenges, diverse experiences and at the end, all those teach us valuable lessons for our future. Wise men learn by other men's mistakes, fools by their own said H. G. Bohn. I learn more by my own mistakes than others. It doesn’t mean that I’m a fool! I learn from other’s lives too. My blog is a platform for sharing not only my life experiences but also the valuable lessons, ideas and poetry triggered by them.

To my mind, blog is a thinking man's tool. Blogging is more a passion than a hobby for me. It is as if talking something to someone somewhere in world. My words keep on talking to the visitors of my blog. I can feel the magic of words! And that’s the power of blogging!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Face to Face with Kirunda Kivejinja

Mr.Kirunda Kivejinja is a veteran Ugandan politician and current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs of the central government of the Republic of Uganda. On January 25th 2010, he has visited his alma mater, Madras Christian College (MCC) after a gap of more than three decades. He visited the room no: 213 at Bishop Heber Hall in which he had stayed during his sojourn (1957-58) in MCC. Surprisingly, the room today belongs to Kiran Tom Sajan, one of my close friends and classmate. Excerpts from a candid talk with him...
How do you feel after reaching Chennai?
I feel like I have reconnected to the place of my intellectual birth. Chennai has gifted lot of memorable events in my life. The unique feature of Chennaites   is that they give much importance to inter personal relationships. Today, as I can see Chennai has evolved a lot.
How was your life at MCC? How it shaped your intellect, career and life?
MCC life has stirred up my intellectual pulsation. It also offered me international exposure and made me confident. I learnt the basics of life and career here. Compulsory History and English lectures those days made my foundations strong. Long voyages I used to take those days to reach India made me tough. I was also blessed with number of long lasting friendship from this prestigious institution. It is also a matter of surprise that wherever I go, I definitely find a MCCian!
Can you brief about hall life those days?
Students are taught simplicity and love in hall culture. Bishop Heber Hall was undoubtedly the cheerful part of Madras Christian College. Those days we really had a real communion among residents and life was structured well enough for both studies and fun.  Sports and hall days were celebrated with great enthusiasm besides Holi and Idli eating competition. The spirit of being a MCCian as well as a Heberian was really high those days.
Your opinion about India...
India is a unique as well as a diverse country. Personally, I still hold a strong attachment to India and her people. It is a matter pride that I was one among the scholars handpicked by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself. On the political side too, we owe a lot to this great country. It was from India we learnt how to fight for our freedom. It was India which gave us hope and support during struggling periods. In fact, we are looking for a south-south partnership.
You always emphasis the importance of Arts subjects...why?
Today’s world needs good leaders. I was a science student but the path I chose in life was entirely different. It was not what I studied which helped but the knowledge I gained from reading books apart from text books. Even in Uganda, more students are pursuing the technical courses than arts courses today. It is the level of knowledge and how we deal with fellow beings which make us stand out of the crowd.
What is your message to MCCians and youth in general?
Study everything you can study and learn as much as you can. Don’t stand among the crowd; always try to stand out of the crowd. Always remember to contribute towards the country, global community and future generation.   

Monday, January 25, 2010

Running: A Pure Personal Affair…

I got initiated into the world of running at the age of 11 by partaking in the 100 meter dash at the school sports meet. Wearing low priced sports-shoes and without any formal training, I finished first in the race. My dad, a sports enthusiast, was very happy as the good news-his son became the fastest sub-junior athlete at school- broke into the house. He took me out to an expensive restaurant in town that day and bought me lot of goodies such as branded sports-wears including a classy pair of spikes, which even the senior athletes in my school didn’t possessed.
Maurice Green was my hero. I never missed his races in ESPN and Star Sports. On ground, dad remained as my sole inspiration. He always buoyed up my appetite for running and backed me up both financially and emotionally. Trained in Judo, he used to provide me with workout tips. He also plays the role as my PRO whenever his friends visit our house. He takes time to mention even my petty sports achievements and ask me to show my medals and certificates to them. He never missed any one of my races and cheered at me in the crowd.

Though my dad lauded my little accomplishments, he always motivates to reach higher goals. Whenever I get on the podium to receive the medals, I could still remember his joyful face and the way he wavered at me in the middle of crowd. All the time he took special attention to get my photos framed and hanged on the wall.
“Consistent training” my dad always says “is the secret of success”. He also advised me to eliminate my beginners’ enthusiasm and taught me to have an endless passion on something we love to do. Consistency is the magic word and it is that particular word which fails me all the time. Even today, I’m neither consistent nor focused on anything. My passions, love and even my mind drifts day by day. I feel really guilty about that.
During high school days I consistently defended my championship title for three years. I was the top runner in sub district level too. My biggest achievement those days was when I finished first in 100 meter dash in District Amateur Athletic Meet. My dad was happier than I was when I achieve something on track. His delicious treats at restaurants and goodies kept me on track till the last days of my schooling.

After enrolling for higher secondary education, my dad insisted me to give more importance for studies than sports. Though I continued with regular morning runs, I kept myself away from competitive sports.
Eight years passed… I became a graduate… besides my dad is no more, turning down the candle of inspiration; he lit in my heart long time ago. The magical word-consistency-failed me again. Fitness level lost and I gained weight. It is during those low-spirited days that I stumbled upon the weekly fitness articles written by Rahul Varghese in The Hindu.  His running and living movement induced me to put on my spikes again, not to compete in 100 or 200 meter dashes, but for running in marathons-a novel idea to me until that time. The old child hood passion crept inside me. “Yes, I’m back!” I said to myself.
It was a whole new experience when I first participated in a marathon in the year 2008. No professionalism and competition only with myself. Running is just a personal affair to keep up my word to my dad that I’m consistent (learning to be). Whenever I run, I can feel the presence of him sitting at some corner of the trail watching me carefully with a serious yet sporadically smiling face. Each marathon I run is a dedication to him who still supports and cheers besides whispering the word-consistency- in my ears from the heavens above. “Love it and live for it. Don’t give up.” His words echo in my ears every time I pull on my sports-shoes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It’s High Time to be a Garbage-Man!

Millions of tons of plastic wastes are generated in this world each day. Dump yards have becoming a common sight near the highways, suburbs and neighborhoods. The suffocating odor it emits, mosquitoes it breeds and diseases it spreads have become an order of the day for most of us. People curse garbage. Activists cry for banning plastic. Some raises ‘No Plastic’ placards-made up of plastic!–at the meeting places of legislators. Some distribute ‘Save Trees’ pamphlets without knowing how many trees have been cut to make those pamphlets. All these seem like a gimmick or appear paradoxical. For the nearest future, we may not do anything about plastic and it cannot be thrown out the world overnight. But we can contribute a lot in proper segregation and disposal of plastic waste. Here, I just want to shed some light on the same.
All of us know there are two kinds of wastes: bio-degradable and non bio-degradable. Both types of wastes need proper care in disposing it. Some of us think it is uneducated people who make this world dirtier as they don’t know anything about waste management. Take my words, every day I see lot of educated college students and professionals ruthlessly spitting, comfortably pissing and carelessly throwing away the garbage on to the public places. Even inside my college hostel it’s sad to see used detergent sachets, shampoo bottles and cigarette packets scattered all around the corridors and bathrooms.

During train journeys especially I see people casually disposing the food wrappers and plastic packets through the only waste bin at disposal: the windows. On one side, we can’t blame them because in sleeper class-in which I usually travel-is not blessed with facilities such as waste bins. But how many of us take some little time and effort to keep the waste until the train reaches the next station?
In most marathons, bottled mineral water is provided for runners at every water stops. It is a great pleasure participating and reaching the finish line in a marathon. But all through my run during one of the recent half marathons, my sole concern was on the plastic bottles and packets participants-including me-were throwing out on the road. It may or may not be cleaned up but I was so unhappy about the manner in which the plastic waste was handled.
On August 12th 2009 we have designed and carried out a Public Relations campaign called E-Go! Green the World which demonstrated inside and outside our college the harmful effects of plastic waste and spread awareness among people about proper disposal of plastic waste. Number of environment related documentaries and presentations had been screened along with plays, skits and games. At the end of the day, I wound up thinking, what is next after the campaign? Everything will be same again. Everyone including us will continue with our waste mismanagement.    
Everybody thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself, a great mind once told. I know very well that I can’t change the world but as far as environment is concerned, a small act will bring about big difference. A plastic bag we carelessly throw out will make the soil impermeable for the thousands of years to come.  Pesticides and industrial effluents have long lasting physiological effects on us. If we keep a single toffee wrapper inside our pocket till we find a waste bin near will make great difference to the environment in which we live.

Particularly after our Public Relations Campaign, I always keep a ‘waste’ bag with me while travelling by train or bus and also set up a ‘waste’ pocket in my backpack. If I can’t find any waste bins in vicinity I just put the waste; let it be chips packet, chocolate wrapper or plastic bottle in my waste bag and dispose it in the next waste bin I find. While having snacks at college canteen I make sure every friend of mine has disposed their wastes properly. I keep extra attention to my room, surrounding and public places I use to be plastic or garbage free.
After dumping amassed garbage in a waste bin gives me immense pleasure and pride that I’m contributing something to the ecology; which in turn nurturing my existence. There is no shame in collecting and properly disposing our own waste. It’s time to stop preaching and start acting. Be a role model for your friends and to people around you. It’s high time to become a garbage-man and to take pride in that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Filmy Talk…

Venkatesh Chakravarthy,the Dean of Direction and Screenplay Writing in Ramanaidu Film School at Hyderabad is a noted film maker, playwright and an author. On January 13th 2010 he was invited as a chief guest for the seminar titled ‘mise en scène’ organized by Reelty Bites, a film club in Madras Christian College, Tambaram. Excerpts from an interview with him…

Who was your motivation behind film making?
My father, Srinivasa Chakravarthy is a great inspiration for me. He had produced around seven movies in Tamil. Travelling along with him to the film sets and locations inculcated a desire and a passion towards film making in me.
How the academic life in Madras Christian College molded you?
MCC always have a special place in my heart because it is where I did most of my higher studies. I gained a lot of knowledge, experience and built lasting friendships from this prestigious institution. Blessed with great lecturers, there was great amount of interaction among students those days.
You were one among the architects of Bachelor’s Degree Course on Visual Communication which is popular among media aspirants…
When we look to Western universities, there are numbers of courses on media especially on film making but in India, unfortunately, less emphasis has been laid on media courses. That is why me with both Father Jaipathy and Suresh Paul of Loyola College took initiative and launched this Bachelor’s Degree course in July 1989.
Which of your works you consider as your lifetime achievements?
I have scripted, directed and edited the first mega serial in Tamil called Paramapadham and another seventeen episode serial engaging in a critical analysis of landmark films of Tamil Cinema titled Chitram Pesuthadi. One of my plays called Mirror and a documentary titled Chennai: The Split City received international critical acclaim. It was also an honor to work as the Executive Producer of an Indian English feature film- Framed written and directed by Chetan Shah of Rawfilms.
What is your advice to the young media aspirants?
For the past years Indian media industry has grown manifold owing to technological explosion and increased investments. Today, opportunities are immense in this arena. There are lots of challenges as well as opportunities out there. So, youngsters should get groomed to face and seize them.

Can you define cinema in your own words?
To my mind, cinema is an excellent medium of artistic expression. Sadly, plague of profit-making has transformed cinema into a consumerist package of visual, narrative and performance pleasures. Today technological advancement too has started manipulating cinema taking away its realistic exquisiteness. 
Do you have any movies or documentaries in the offing?
During my professional stint of 30 years, I have crafted number of documentaries and also corporate films. In fact, I have lost count! Today I’m channelizing most of my time grooming young media aspirants. Yes, of course, if I get an offer from a good producer, I’m in to shoot a feature film.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Boy and His Dreams…

This article of mine got published in Times of India on January 3rd 2010. After the publication of this report, several vernacular dailies have carried this story. Consequently, due to the publicity given by the media, an institution came forward offering financial assistance to Harish’s education which gave a sigh of relief to him and his toiling parents. I’m very happy in hearing this news. All the best, Harish!

N.K. Harish Raj, a 6 year old boy from the outskirts of Sembakkam in Tambaram is not an ordinary one at his age.  Recently on 13th December 2009, in the Abacus Mental Arithmetic International Competition held at Penang, Malaysia he was handpicked into Group A of 4 bright children from other parts of the world. This Standard Two student from Zion Matriculation School was conferred the Yuvasri Kala Bharathi Award by Bharathi Yuvakendra Association for his excellence in studies.  A lover of movies, music and chocolate, Harish, is also a Karate Green Belt holder.
“I’m giving my child what I wasn’t fortunate to receive during my childhood: a decent education and a good living. By helping him in studies, on the other end, I’m also gaining a good amount of knowledge” says N.Kiruthika, mother of Harish Raj. She has dedicated her whole time nurturing his studies and extracurricular activities. “Harish is so special to all of us. He is well disciplined and excellent in studies. He is a role model to my children too” remarks Rani Sudarshanam, the owner of the house they are renting. Most of his time is devoted for studies, karate practice and reciting Sai Bhajans.

“Economic stringency is the main challenge we are facing for his education. I’m striving hard to bring my child a better education and a good job in future” says Natarajan, father of Harish Raj. “I have approached several institutions for financial help and waiting for their response” adds up this taxi driver.
For Harish Raj, solving mental arithmetic problems and puzzles are just a child’s play. When asked about his ambitions, he said with his usual shy smile that he wants to become a civil servant and serve the country. Even though his commendable achievements inspire many, this ambitious, hardworking boy has a long way to go.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Remembering the Memory Master

Today is a happy day for me: I passed in all nine semester exams by clearing the entire backlog which was haunting me for the past one year. Unlike my friends, I was not nervous while checking the results online. I was already expected a failure because it has become a norm for me to flunk in one or two papers during the Graduation and Post Graduation courses. Anyway, I hit the bull’s eye today. After personally achieving something, first person to congratulate me is me myself. But today, firstly, I need to convey my gratitude to another person who indirectly involved in this small success. His name is Harry Lorayne, a legendary magician and a memory training expert.

It was two years ago I read a book of Harry Lorayne called The Secrets of Mind Power. A great book, though, it couldn’t influence me much at that time. After joining the master’s degree, it was my friend Arun Mathew who gave me the book, How to Develop a Super Power Memory authored by Harry Lorayne. It was his informal, clear and witty way of writing that gripped me rather than the detailed memory techniques.
Harry calls his memory techniques ‘a lazy man’s way of remembering things’. It is an apt name since his techniques are quite simple and workable. We can memorize and recollect phone numbers, addresses, names, faces, dialogues and even speeches in a matter of seconds with his legendary techniques. I sail through the book smoothly and learnt most of the techniques. The memory techniques were an excellent aid for a lazy, exam fearing person like me to remember important essays and even key dates during examination days.
The logic behind his techniques too, is plausible even to the common man. Anything we see in our mind or manipulate in our imagination is very hard to blank over. Harry Lorayne shows and teaches how to create mental images and link them in order to remember and retain even after a very long period. He has even created peg numbers and words for both card games and numbers respectively. This makes the card games more interesting and also helps to remember long digit numbers with ease.
He appeared in number of  popular television shows, conducted lot of magnificent magic and memory feats and given to world a good number of masterpiece books on memory. His works were, notably, first of its kind in the whole world. None of his peers matches with his achievements and glory. It is said that you should first sit on the shoulders of giants to become a giant. So, if you want to develop a ‘photographic’ memory and amaze your friends with your memory feats or to score high marks or to lead a ‘memory-filled’ life, you should definitely sit on the shoulders of one and only memory giant, Harry Lorayne. 

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Women and I

I did my schooling in a convent school run by Catholic priests and nuns. Strict rules and regulations, heavy home-works and harsh punishments were the trademarks of my school.  During those days, classrooms were divided into two columns, one for boys and other for girls. It was looked upon as a sin if a boy or girl talks to each other. Girls and boys were made to sit in different rows during movie screening and even had separate performances in cultural programs. Both girls and boys were taught to be friendly with same sex and opportunities were nil to mingle with the opposite sex. The word-‘Co-ed’ remained only in the banners of the school. In short, they failed utterly to cultivate a community feeling among pupils.

Since I was a very naughty, irritating and restless boy, teachers were suffering to move the class forward with me. Most of the harsh punishments went fruitless on me. As a result, mom and dad became regular visitors of the headmistress. Finally, my beloved teachers decided to teach me a lesson. One day they transferred me to the girls’ row thinking that I will be quiet among girls and stop my mischief. But they were wrong. Initially, I felt bit humiliating to sit among girls while all boys from other side looking at me like a villain. Eventually I understood that it was a wonderful opportunity. A rare envious opportunity all other boys missed in my school those days: to talk and mingle with fairer sex.

 “Don’t trust her” “Don’t tell to them (girls)” “They are weak” “She is going to cry!” were the usual comments by boys against girls. All those comments proved wrong to me when I started acquainting with girls. The girls were better. They really cared for me. Some girls brought extra food for me for lunch. Some sweet girls brought special sweets for me on their birthdays. With my arrival, in fact, the girls’ row became a terror ground of giggles and laughter.
Sensing my growing popularity among girls, teachers transferred me again to boys’ row but I made more girlfriends than boys during those days. Finishing up the school, at high school and college, I got more opportunities to mingle with girls. But the indifferent attitude towards the opposite sex which was inculcated during childhood is still evident in some of my friends’ mindset.

Recently while talking to one of my girlfriends, she told me: “Boys are cheaters. I’m bit feministic!” she was also proud in saying so. Most people lack proper understanding of the opposite sex. When my boyfriends say that handling girls is too tough, I always have a different attitude: handling girls is easier than handling boys.
Most of the characteristics of women, I learnt by observing my sweet mom and also from John Gray books. I’m more attached to my mom than my dad. Talking to my mom was easier for me than conveying something to my dad. She neither asked me to solve complicated puzzles nor seek any solutions to her own problems. What she always needed was a patient ear listening to her.
Even my girlfriends taught me a lot about themselves. Don’t mistake me, they are the best medicine during troubled times. They patiently listen, support and give out unbiased opinions. Care, support and emotions are the foundations of the women’s world. I’m not telling all women are helping, caring, loving and emotional. Neither am I stating that all men lack emotions or helping attitude. Experiences differ with persons and there are also exceptions in every case. However, in men’s world, preference always goes to goals, competitions and achievements. However, we should understand that men and women need each other. As a matter of survival, there should not be any room for feminism or male chauvinism.

To my mind, women and men possess equal freedom and rights. Physically, yes, men are stronger but mentally or emotionally I think women are stronger than men. One of my boyfriends recently started learning car driving. “Why you took such a sudden decision to learn driving?” I asked him. He told me that his girlfriend started learning driving so he will feel inferior if he doesn’t know driving. After hearing that, I couldn’t help laughing. I told him to play very carefully with girls because she may do whatever he does but he can’t do whatever she does. He disagreed with me totally until I asked him a simple question: “Can you do the same if she come to you and tell: I’m pregnant”. A simple smile was his response.
We will get a clear picture of the ‘men-women worlds’ by simply observing a girl and boy kid. While a boy kid loves playing with bikes, cars and guns, girl kid enjoys with dolls and pets. When boys restlessly run around with his ‘deadly’ gadgets, girls patiently clean up the cupboard or put make-up on her dolls.  While boys love to be sophisticated girls always prefer to be simple. In Shaggy’s song, ‘Strength of a Woman’, he clearly expresses his wonder whether the God is a woman. I share the same wonder with him…


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