Monthly Archives: August 2014

When Famous People Die

“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost


(Mr. Wilde notwithstanding) Death is the only constant in life and yet after millions of years of evolution, how come we still find it so hard to accept it?

When a famous person dies, we read the obituary, acknowledge it with a touch of sadness and then move on.

Yet, sometimes when death is shocking, sudden, unexpected or tragically too soon, we can’t help but wonder why or mourn more deeply.

It happened with John Lennon, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Princess Di, Steve Jobs….and now Robin Williams.

Shining stars with so much potential and beauty or talent or contribution and then one day, poof, gone.  Just like that.

It takes a while to sink in that an icon or celebrity you saw or admired, even if from afar, is suddenly no more.

Thanks to my NY Times News Alerts, my jet lagged brain saw a message in the middle of the night in Mumbai. It began, “Robin Williams..” and I thought, Oh no!

Aeons ago, I remember watching that first episode of Mork and Mindy and then making time to watch all the other episodes every week. Actually, even before it was spun off into its own show, I remember watching his first Mork guest appearance on Happy Days with Fonzie.

Robin Williams was not about your normal, everyday humor. Oh no. It was LOL and ROFLMAO all the way.  Who was this manic comic genius??!

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. Don’t lose it.” ― Robin Williams

His brilliant stand-up comedy and movies…I loved him in the wonderful roles he played in Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting,  Popeye, The Birdcage…but my all-time favorite has to be Dead Poets Society.  I can easily watch that again and again.

One of its unforgettable episodes is this one – What’s your verse?  (click on the link or the picture below to watch). Since his death, this has been one of his most popular clips being circulated and recirculated. With good reason.  

Robin Williams

Oh Captain, My Captain! 

So hard to believe you’re gone so soon.  What tremendous memories you leave behind! Thank you for the laughter (and I mean the ROFL kind) that you brought to our world. We will savor it now more than ever. You bet we will.


“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.”

― Robin Williams as English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society



Modi Sarkar: Time to Stand Up and Speak!

Modi campaigning in April 2014

Modi campaigning in April 2014

May 2014 – During my last trip to India, Modi had swept through the country like a tsunami emerging as the strong, new leader for the country. Optimism and excitement infused the country, virtually everywhere you looked. Dominating the landscape were supporters saying, I told you so combined with euphoric celebrations and cheering against a silenced, worried and depressed minority.

“Modi Sarkar”* was clearly the new buzz. The country’s problems, major and minor, were all but resolved.

Three months later, I expected that things would not have changed much.  Three months is after all no time at all!

I was wrong.

August 2104 – The occasion was a round table of a few high-level executives, luminaries and industry leaders from across India. Prior to a formal meeting, we were sitting at lunch when I asked what I thought was a fairly innocent question – “So, how do you think Modi is doing?”

To a person, all the people around the table were Modi supporters, some of them fervent ones. When I asked the question, I did not really expect anything contentious,  just a solid update from intelligent people with informed opinions.

Here are some of the responses I received  in the active debate and discussion that ensued:

“Some people are calling Modi another Manmohan Singh. He doesn’t say anything!”

“He’s just not talking, people are losing faith.”

“He needs to have monthly or at least bi-monthly meetings to update everyone”

“Yet, he’s such a good orater, a strong speaker”.

“I think he’s a bit uncomfortable with his English”


“The media is completely left out of the loop; they have nothing to report so the people hear nothing”

“Oh no, but he will making some BIG announcements on August 15th.”

“Yes, he will.”

“He has to!”


“Do you know that just like in Gujarat he has no Press Secretary? That’s not good. He is not ruling one state now.”

“He has made two international trips so far and the Press Corps was not allowed to accompany him. That has never happened before in any government.”

“The Press is how people get information. If they don’t get anything, they will start making up stuff in the name of opinion and it won’t be good.”


 “His own Cabinet is too afraid to say anything. Even a trusted adviser like Rajnath Singh!”

“They have been warned not to speak by Modi.”


“Well, I think this is part of his overall strategy and it’s a good one. He’s just biding his time. You just watch, he will make some BIG announcements on August 15**”

“That’s fine, but he can’t keep silent for so long.  People need to hear about plans and progress.”

“He needs to give regular briefings – like State of the Nation addresses.”


“Remember, to the common man, the government has changed but in his life, nothing has changed.”

“Modi needs to set (or reset) expectations.  People need to know…”


Wow. I was stunned. Remember, it’s been a mere three months! Yet what I heard this time was so different from the euphoria of the last trip.

Isn’t it incredible how impatient people are? And these words were not coming from your everyday “common man” either but from executive level Modi supporters.

At the end of the day, this is all about expectations. There was such optimism and so many huge game-changing, almost God-like expectations from Modi Sarkar. Three months later, people think, hope and feel that “good things” are coming.  But they don’t know. They know nothing.

Modi “won” arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world – to govern a highly complex nation with its own set of unique and massive challenges. He won on the strength of his promises for change, and people’s hope for progress. Hopefully, he will do all that people have expected from him. 

But he could sure set a lot of minds at ease with something so small yet completely (deliberately?) overlooked. A little thing called communication.

Ah well, perhaps on August 15, 2014 – just around the corner now (a few hours!) – everything will be A-okay.

Ache din ane wale hai .***



*Modi Sarkar – Modi’s Government, the common moniker in India for this ruling government.

**August 15th is India’s Independence Day and Modi is indeed planning a major speech.

*** Ache din ane wale hai is Hindi for “good days are ahead”, one of Modi’s most popular campaign slogans.



Photo Credit: By Narendra Modi [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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