A TURBULENT MIND – MY JOURNEY TO IRONMAN 70.3

This image of the book cover was downloaded from the Internet and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright violation intended.

It was sometime in 2010 that Swetha Amit got her wake-up call. A journalist and writer in Mumbai, hers hadn’t been a disciplined lifestyle. She landed up in hospital. The diagnosis: ulcerative colitis.

The year 2011 was spent recovering and getting back to a healthy existence. Swetha’s husband, Amit Sridharan was training for the half marathon of the 2012 edition of the Mumbai Marathon. She joined the training program. Alongside, she worked on recasting her diet to a healthier option and completely quit eating out. The changes complemented the gym routine she had already in place since a few years earlier. That year – 2012 – she successfully completed the half marathon at the annual Mumbai Marathon.

Her transition to a healthy lifestyle helped her immensely. The very next year, she attempted the full marathon. “ It was a gruelling experience. We had no formal training plan. We just followed the Hal Higdon training plan available on the internet. Back then, we didn’t even GPS enabled devices and such,” Swetha said. Normally in running, transitioning to the full marathon is a journey in itself. Having dived into the full marathon rather early, Swetha nevertheless continued to run half marathons and races of varying distances. Training in Mumbai was fun; there was camaraderie among runners.

In 2017, Swetha moved to the US with Amit and their daughter, Samara. Amit had enrolled for a one-year programme at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. It took some time getting used to what the US had to offer. Swetha enrolled for creative writing courses at the university. She also decided to attempt the triathlon. Her journey from arrival in the US to participating in the Ironman 70.3 (half Ironman) is narrated well in her book, A Turbulent Mind – My Journey to Ironman 70.3. The book opens with the race day of Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz (California) on September 9, 2018.

For Swetha, there were many issues to contend with before race day. Open water swimming was one of them. The book provides an overview of her trepidations, attempting open water swimming in swim clinics and at triathlons of short distances. A fall from her bicycle that nearly prevented her from participating in one of the triathlons and, later, taking a major decision to not participate in an Ironman 70.3 that she had initially registered for – feature among challenges dotting the journey. Over time, she found good training support for all the disciplines of the triathlon, in California.

Swetha Amit (Photo: courtesy Swetha)

Speaking to this blog in October 2020, Swetha said that her next step would be to work towards attempting the full Ironman, which consists of 3.86 km of swim, 180.25 km of cycling and a full marathon. “Right now, I am in the process of rebuilding my base,” she said. The lockdown caused by pandemic meant no access to pools and gyms. Swetha kept up her fitness routine at home; she was sometimes helped in this by online sessions organised by Mumbai Road Runners (MRR), an informal running group, one of the largest of its sort in Mumbai. Meanwhile, pools and gyms have re-opened in California but the process of building endurance is lengthy and will take time, Swetha said. Compounding the process has been the recent spate of wildfires in California; it restricts outdoor activity.

Shwetha’s book about her personal journey to doing a half Ironman is easy to read. It is structured well; it is also written well. It isn’t a primer on how to train for the triathlon and attempt it. That’s not the motive of the book. It works differently – it should inspire those wanting to try the triathlon. I enjoyed reading it. Hopefully, so do you. Try it.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

SEAN CONNERY (1930-2020)

Sean Connery; this image was downloaded from the Facebook page of The Untouchables and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Back in 1987-1988, a film festival in Thiruvananthapuram screened the Brian De Palma classic, The Untouchables.

It was unusual. A Hollywood film was a departure from the regular fare at such festivals. Having heard of the movie from an uncle much impressed by it, my cousin and I made sure to see it.

Born in the late 1960s, I grew up with no particular interest in Sean Connery’s James Bond, the role he is widely known for. His depiction of the spy created by Ian Fleming had spanned the years from 1962 to 1971. My generation’s introduction to James Bond was through Roger Moore’s version of the spy, progressing thereafter to Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. Indeed the first Bond movie I saw was the 1974 release: Man with the Golden Gun. More years would go by before I saw Sean Connery on screen for the first time – incidentally as James Bond – in the 1983 film, Never Say Never Again. The difference between the suave Bonds then in flavor and the Bond of this film was instantly discernible. It had much to do with the persona and screen presence different actors brought to play. I could imagine what Sean Connery’s Bond from the 1960s and early 1970s may have been like. But the earlier films themselves didn’t appeal for as was the case with young people, my expectations from gadgets, stunt sequences and special effects were rooted in a newer generation and its imagination of James Bond.

The Untouchables blew such trivialities away. It’s was a timeless story of crime, corruption and the quest to bring a gangster to book; it connected across generations. The film was superbly directed and its casting seemed spot on. Robert De Niro was already a big star and his appearance as Al Capone in the film was the strongest reason movie aficionados had to see it. For Kevin Costner who played the lead role of Eliot Ness, this was the movie that made him a major league actor. Alongside the riveting story and scenes of the film (who can forget the shoot out at the railway station?), I came off remembering two characters – Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone and Andy Garcia’s George Stone / Giuseppe Petri. To me the enduring image of Connery is his Jimmy Malone. It was a powerful, no nonsense performance that fittingly earned him an Academy Award; it made him the only actor to have portrayed Bond who bagged an Oscar too in his film career. Since then, I was lucky to see Connery in a basket of films, among them – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, The Rock, Entrapment, Finding Forrester and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But it is Jimmy Malone that has weathered the years and survived in my mind. I recall two other roles as well. A fan of war movies, I keep revisiting the 1977 production A Bridge Too Far (directed by Richard Attenborough) which features Connery as Major General Roy Urquhart; I also recall the delight I felt in seeing him as Private Flanagan in the 1962 black and white film, The Longest Day.  

The glamor of Bond in his younger years and competent acting in his later years – this blend, which Connery came to represent, became an ideal to chase for screen personalities who followed. Sean Connery died on October 31, 2020. He was 90 years old. An actor with a distinct voice and accent, he will be remembered by many for the characters he portrayed on screen.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)      

ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY

This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the film and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

In the initial portion of the 2020 documentary film All In: The Fight for Democracy, you see Stacey Abrams, politician, lawyer and voter rights activist speaking at a function after her loss by a slender margin to former Secretary of State of Georgia, Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election.  The election was marked by accusations that Kemp resorted to voter suppression.

As a development in the US, the scene is arguably irrelevant to India although the US and India are among the world’s biggest democracies. But as a piece of articulation, what Abrams says in the film is priceless for its healthy blend of fact and emotion. Besides serving as spine for the documentary which deals with the suppression of voting rights in the US, the speech shines for its choice of words.  Her address has been spliced into parts that appear at various points in the narrative.

In the portion affixed near the beginning – it eases us into the film – she says, “ to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people and the state, boldly pin his hopes for the election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So let’s be clear – this is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I can’t concede that.’’ Later, towards the movie’s end, there is this portion, “ pundits and hyper-partisans will hear my words as a rejection of the normal order. You see, I am supposed to say nice things and accept my fate. They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy. You see, as a leader, I should be stoic in my outrage and silent in my rebuke. But stoicism is a luxury and silence is a weapon for those who would quiet the voices of the people. And I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right.’’

As said, this film is rooted in the American context. At a time when political and economic inequality is a burning issue globally and the Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining traction in the US, it shows us how the voting rights of the African American community (and other minorities) were hemmed in by a series of regressive laws and practices in the US, even after the country officially embraced democracy and diversity. Notwithstanding its story born in the US, the film holds much value for democracies everywhere, including India, the world’s biggest democracy. These are times when democracy is facing multiple challenges and the vast majority of us cannot even explain what is going wrong although we are dead sure of the rot by subversion. We know the fault isn’t democracy’s; the fault lay in how it got subverted by powerful forces. Yet many of us have begun dodging the subject and more dangerously, commenced justifying it and even trashing democracy for its inherent imperfection and lack of industrial efficiency. For nothing but the clarity resident in the words from her speech, Abrams appeared worth listening to in these times rendered murky by storms of mistruths and misinterpretations.

That said, this film is not about her; it is about the larger and older problem of voter suppression and the subject has been beautifully explored with the story of Abrams as contemporary backbone holding things together. The film exhorts us to value our democratic right to vote and back that simple act constituting the bedrock of democracy with considerable awareness. Above all, it warns us to be vigilant of the many ways in which the right to vote is systematically weakened by well entrenched forces seeking a world cast to their convenience.

The film is available on Amazon Prime. Don’t miss it; especially, if you live in a democracy.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

ENOLA HOLMES

This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the film and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, then, you wouldn’t want to miss the movie, Enola Holmes.

I hadn’t read any of Nancy Springer’s books and that meant no prior knowledge of her series featuring Enola Holmes – the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes. Enola is Springer’s contribution to the Sherlock Holmes universe; the original world of Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentioned only his elder brother, Mycroft.

Springer’s series falls in the genre of pastiche. Wikipedia describes pastiche as “ a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.’’  The film based on the series, has young British actor Millie Bobby Brown in the title role of Enola Holmes; the actor is also one of the film’s producers.

In terms of narrative style, I felt the film borrows from the post Jeremy Brett versions of Sherlock Holmes, presenting us with a sister whose nature and operational style harks of Holmes by Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch. There is a lot of intelligence, action and a liberal dose of smart. It should go down well with the audience and age group the film is aimed at. Yet for all the smartness showcased, there is also a degree of vulnerability, the loneliness of growing up in a family of eccentric people; not to mention two elder brothers who have firmly traded emotional warmth for cold reasoning. The sister has to navigate her life pretty much on her own, something presented as ambiance essential to mold a Holmes.

The film occasionally loses its grip. But I shouldn’t judge or blame the film because an emergent problem with the universe of Sherlock Holmes is the existence of too many interpretations and related works that judgement comes easier than empathy. There is the true to the old, gold standard of Jeremy Brett and the more contemporary versions of Holmes portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller and Cumberbatch – you keep revisiting these like pilgrimage. It squeezes room in your mind for interpretations by others to breathe easy.

Two things in particular engaged about Enola Holmes. Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes had the same impression on me as Daniel Craig’s James Bond when compared to the actors who preceded him in that role. It is an interesting bit of casting. It left me wondering what would happen if Cavill continued as Holmes. Second, given the Sherlock Holmes saga is now very much off on its own trajectory distinct from how Conan Doyle conceived it originally, the sibling chemistry between Cavill and Millie Bobby Brown’s Enola appeared heartwarming and holding potential for the future. Going by Wikipedia’s page on the film, these hints of brotherly concern shown by Holmes appears to have invited a law suit, for display of emotion by Sherlock Holmes is restricted to works between 1923 and 1927 and the copyright for stories from that period still rests with the Conan Doyle Estate.

But as I said, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you would want to check out every new twist and turn and Enola Holmes is one. A sharp, independent youngster in an era yet to treat women as equal to men, Enola doesn’t disappoint. She has a life of her own. Sherlock Holmes merely looks on, a sort of just in case-protective shadow.

This 2020 film is available on Netflix. Check it out.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)   

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

This image was downloaded from the film’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

It is often said in journalism that the best stories are those that were right before our eyes but missed being told and therefore stayed unknown till reported.

This line of perception works magnificently for the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma.

We know its subject and core argument well but decline to examine them because we are too immersed in digital world to wish for an autopsy of that existence. You can blame the avoidance of close inspection on convenience, benefits (including monetary ones) accruing from networking, personal benefits outweighing concerns of damage – whatever you want. Fact is the avoidance of seeing our digital world as exactly what it is has created an even greater dearth of articulation around the problems it poses. It is a case of not desiring to talk and therefore, not possessing the means for it. All communication in this regard is still born or ritualistic.

Compounding the issue is the tyranny of life by business model. Business models bring their own compulsions partial to monetization and are often dismissive of humaneness and human interface. Not to mention, the generation bridging world without furious digitization and the one born to it, hasn’t arguably respected its intuition or spoken up enough. Later generations are therefore growing up with the phenomenon of digitization internalized; they are increasingly bereft of alternative perspective.

As some would argue, the core issue in the wake of world swept by technology and money is brutal dominance by one type of imagination. It has become such a plague that countering it is a massive challenge; the challenge begins with the very format for questioning dominance – it isn’t enough that you complain, you must speak the language of those inflicting the damage and present the case for correction in their idiom. This has for long been the gap between problem and solution; the ones experiencing the problems are wired one way, the ones authoring the problems and who are also expected to fix it, are wired another way. The gap has also eroded the merit of intuition, reducing what you feel in your bones to the status of an evolutionary discard. The only way out in this battle of competing convictions is if whistle blowers and other such concerned individuals in the technology-money establishment speak up. They know how their edifice works, what its wiring and jargon are. Getting such folks to speak up and anchor the documentary is this film’s biggest strength. You hear it from the horse’s mouth. Revelations like successful technology managers ensuring that their children have only limited access to mobile phones while the rest of the world bundled as market is encouraged to do the opposite, exposes the hypocrisy.

Not surprisingly, their articulation wouldn’t seem entirely complete in establishment’s eyes. The troubles dissidents nurse about the establishment and the absence of comprehensive solution they hint at betray potential dead end. We are too deep into the tunnel to withdraw; plus let’s not forget – the technology explosion provided real benefits too. So, where do we draw the line and how? Except in the case of one or two of those interviewed, solutions are not forthcoming. But that isn’t bad at all for the questioning and the reluctance to blindly toe establishment’s line that it inspires, are the missing link, the long awaited check. Will it work? Or will it be another call in the dark? Only time will tell. The Social Dilemma is one of the best documentaries in recent times about our digital, networked world and the problems it poses.

This is a very timely film; available on Netflix.

Watch it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)            

C U SOON

This image was downloaded from the film’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

For some time now, Malayalam films have played around with new topics, engaging characters and different styles of narration.

Still I wasn’t sure how I would weather C U Soon, despite the 2020 movie being repeatedly recommended by a good friend. I had heard of its narrative style dominated by computer and mobile phone screens and its largely indoor ambiance. None of this works with me. It’s the sort of blend that triggers a mental claustrophobia. Not to mention, I would be watching it in COVID-19 times after months of being confined to one’s apartment and the immediate neighborhood. Would I want the same restricted ambiance and submergence of life in things digital, served up on screen for my entertainment too? Paradoxical as that may seem, it sums up life over the past several months. If there is anything I want, it is to get out and magically go back to the life I once had.

So it was with much trepidation that I got around to sampling C U Soon one day. As it happened – I watched it in one go. It held my attention. The idiom worked – it was something I didn’t expect; the experience left me amazed. In retrospect, I think it was the novelty of the format, a plot good enough to sustain viewing and a particularly good performance by Darshana Rajendran with Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew and Amalda Liz anchoring the rest that did the trick. It was a taut film with little flab; it sped along under its own steam.

Wikipedia provides the production timeline of the film, described as India’s first “ computer screen film.’’ According to it, in June 2020 Mahesh Narayanan (he wrote the film’s screenplay) announced that his next venture would be an experimental film. The movie would be shot on a mobile phone and the location would be an apartment. Filming was completed in August; the film released on Amazon Prime in September. It is thus very much a child of pandemic and the progressively relaxing phase of lockdown; a milestone of sorts in domestic film making, I would imagine.

That’s more than one reason to see it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

BLACKKKLANSMAN

This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the film and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

BlacKkKlansman tells the real life story of an African American undercover detective of the Colorado Springs police department who, along with his colleagues, manages to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). That’s the film’s summary as gleaned from the Internet after I watched it. I saw the movie with no idea of what lay ahead, except curiosity to know what a film with Adam Driver in the lead cast, held. The incredible story was therefore a complete discovery.

Directed by Spike Lee, the film – it won the Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay – is well made with a sense of underlying tension running all through. It features John David Washington in the role of Ron Stallworth, the undercover cop. Although based on the book by Stallworth, the script has plenty of departures from it; there are liberties taken. So what we end up with is a blend of fact and fiction, none of which however, takes away from the utter audacity of the main plot. This is a film about racism; it is also one that exposes the ridiculousness of presumptions and stereotyping. Plus it is a reminder that notwithstanding exposes of this sort, racism continues to tarnish human society.

My first instinct after watching BlacKkKlansman was to search for the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. It happens – you watch one film and then you develop this urge to revisit something similar you watched years ago. My memory of the Alan Parkin classic starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe was frayed at the edges; refreshing it seemed apt. Unfortunately I couldn’t locate it on any of the streaming platforms I have access to. But based on what I remember, my assessment is – that is a film with a more serious, gripping ambiance. It deals with an incident but equally highlights the issue. Spike Lee’s film is more specific to incident and has its moments of abject nervousness and statement of things as they are. But the overall delivery is accompanied by a stylized swag, which even if it is ephemeral and fleeting, tends to somehow sap the gravity of the whole. But it’s an interesting film overall; not to mention – Harry Belafonte in what should to be his first appearance in a feature film since Bobby of 2006.

This is a film worth watching; available on Netflix.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)      

FREEDOM

Photo: Shyam G Menon

I don’t know about you, but the one thing I cannot live without is music.

It has been my constant companion through ups and downs in life.

Music complements the other thing I value greatly – freedom.  Increasingly humanity has shrinking respect for freedom. It is being swept aside by the march of money. There have been many songs about freedom. No I am not talking of patriotic songs. I am talking of songs that celebrate freedom as an attribute to be cherished without need for any cause. Freedom does not require a reason to be important; it is important as it is. Why else would the physical universe be so immense? Why else, when we are in chains, do we have the ability to close our eyes and find that same universe within?

Everybody has their favorite song evoking freedom. I don’t dig lyrics much. I am more somebody who identifies with songs because they attract aurally. You find release. For a long time – practically since the first time I heard it in the late 1980s when the album The Joshua Tree was released, U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For stayed with me, an anthem for existence. In later years, Traffic’s Dear Mr Fantasy became a favorite, especially the live version by Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton from their concert at Madison Square Garden with its soaring lead guitar. Amidst pandemic and lockdown, Chris Rea’s Set Me Free emerged another favorite. Hope you like it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

WFH DAYS

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Among major shifts accompanying COVID-19 and lockdown was Work from Home (WFH). Initially it was heralded as the digital future. Now, we are worried if it may end up an annoying blend of neither the best of office nor the best of home.

Over the past few months, periodic interactions with friends and relatives threw up concerns about WFH; especially long hours of work given employee is anyway at home and available on call. The boundary between home and office has increasingly blurred. With time we may retract to a more enlightened form of WFH. However, there are challenges. Currently, there is more money in an inch of technology than a mile of human life. In world by money, we just can’t be sure what will eventually triumph. In the meantime, as with many things beyond our control, the best option we have is to laugh at our predicament.

The recent past has for some reason drawn me closer to the music of Chris Rea, the British rock and blues artiste. His debut album was in 1978. In the late 1980s, somebody gifted me his album: Dancing with Strangers. It had the hit song Let’s Dance. From then on, I have listened to his work on and off. But of late, I have grown to genuinely appreciate his style. A talented guitarist, he keeps his music simple. His compositions often evoke a sense of space and momentum (a good example being that beautiful song: Set Me Free). I like this idiom of peaceful, spatial and moving in a world becoming more and more complicated and congested.

Working on It was a song he released in 1989.

Here are the lyrics:

Oh how I’d love it girl, just you and me

Take the day and fly

But oh this job, it’s got the best of me

Tell you why, tell you why

Somebody above is in a desperate state

Some kind of urgency, the kind that won’t wait

I say tomorrow, he say today

And the man in my head well he tell me no way

Keep working

I got eight little fingers and only two thumbs

Will you leave me in peace while I get the job done

Can’t you see I’m working

Oh, oh I’m working on it

Oh, oh I’m working on it

Well they’re coming from above me

And they’re coming from below

Yea they’re in there right behind me

Everywhere that I go

And my buddy, he’s screaming down the telephone line

He say gimme, gimme, gimme

I say I ain’t got the time

Oh, oh can’t you see I’m working on it

Oh, oh I’m working on it…

A few days ago as I revisited this old song, I felt it could be an anthem for our WFH days.

Use good headphones, speakers.

Turn up the volume.

Bass matters.

Amidst WFH, shake a leg.

Enjoy.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

RISING PHOENIX

This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the film. It is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright violation intended.

Many of us would know the name: Pierre de Coubertin.

How many of us have heard of Ludwig Guttmann?

The first is considered the father of the modern Olympic Games. The second is among those responsible for the Paralympic Games. In recent decades, the Paralympic Games have been typically held in the same host city as the Olympics, after the main event has concluded.

As you learn more about it, you realize that there is practically nothing to qualify the Paralympics as less than the Olympics unless your judgement is based on notions of mainstream, normal and majority – all of which nudge imagination towards a sense of physical and mental ideal. If challenge, hard work and determination are what author great stories from the Olympics, then such attributes are equally strong at the Paralympics. In fact, challenge may be more because the athletes overcome tremendous physical and mental hurdles before they are able to perform, leave alone finish on the podium. Yet the story of the Paralympic Games and that of the athletes participating in it, have always lived in the shadow of main and ideal.

This is what makes the 2020 documentary film Rising Phoenix essential viewing for anyone fond of sports. It gives you an inside view of the Paralympic Games – its genesis under the leadership of people like the German born British neurologist, Guttmann and the struggles the organizers and participating athletes endured in their life. It tells you of the step motherly treatment traditionally meted out to the Paralympic Games by society, which saw them as a cosmetic ritual – sort of corporate social responsibility – balancing the perception of the Olympic Games instead of genuinely valuing the drive, energy and commitment of the differently abled athletes. The Soviet Union, host of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, declined to stage the Paralympic Games; it was subsequently held in Arnhem, Netherlands. More recently in the run up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games were nearly canceled for want of funds. There have been other similar examples of cavalier treatment – instances of the Paralympic Games held to very few spectators in the stadium – as well as islands of endearing support like the 2012 Games staged in London. The Games in London is the largest Paralympics held to date with a record 2.7 million tickets sold. At Rio too, once the Paralympic Games got underway there was tremendous enthusiasm and crowd support; over two million tickets were sold.

While the modern Olympic Games held under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, began in 1896, the Paralympic Games – as an athletic event for the disabled, coinciding with the Olympic Games – started only in 1948, when British World War II veterans participated in the International Wheelchair Games in London. The Paralympics acquired its distinct stature as an apex championship open to those other than war veterans, only in 1960 (Stoke Mandeville Games, Rome; it is seen as the first Paralympic Games). Its Olympic year editions started being held just after the quadrennial Olympic Games in the same host city or country as the Olympics, in the years following the Rome event and more reliably so by the late 1980s. As per data available on Wikipedia, India has participated in 24 editions of the Summer Olympics to date and won 28 medals in all (it hasn’t won a medal yet in the Winter Olympics, although it took part in 10 editions). It participated in 11 Summer Paralympics (it hasn’t participated in the Winter Paralympics yet) and won 12 medals, including four gold.

Rising Phoenix is available on Netflix. Among the athletes featured in it are Tatyana McFadden (she has participated in both summer and winter Paralympics with the bulk of her medals won in the wheelchair track and field category; she has also won elite marathons in the wheelchair segment), Bebe Vio Beatrice (wheelchair fencing), Jonnie Peacock (running), Ntando Mahlangu (running and long jump), Ryley Batt (wheelchair rugby), Cui Zhe (powerlifting), Ellie Cole (swimming) and Matt Stutzman (archery). Each of them comes alive as a composite of personal story, interview and footage of training for their sport and actual performance at the Paralympics.

Don’t miss this film.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)