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Hershel McGriff – Racing ahead!

September 4, 2009

At the age of 81, when most people prefer a laid back life, Hershel McGriff preferred something else. An eminent car racer, he preferred racing on the  Portland International Raceway, with a bunch of gutsy youngsters, breaking  his own record of being the oldest chap to finish the race at the 13th position. McGriff retired from his racing career at the age of 74 in the year 2002. He was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its first class in 2002 and into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2006. Then McGriff had said, “This is fantastic, getting in the Hall of Fame, but, hey, I might not be through yet. When I turn 80, I just might go out to a short track and show the young guys that I can still do it.” And he stood to his words completely!

McGriff is a motorsports legend.  In the year 1945, during the course of Carrera Panamericana race, where he won, he met Bill France, Sr., the founder of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is a family-owned business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events; and was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947-48.  France convinced McGriff to come to South and race in NASCAR races at Daytona Beach, the first Southern 500 race at Darlington Raceway, Detroit, and Raleigh. In 1954, France again persuaded McGriff to race full-time in NASCAR. During this period, McGriff had his four wins in the Grand National series. He had 17 Top 10 finishes in 24 events, and finished sixth in the final points standings. McGriff’s average finishing position was higher than the points of champion Lee Petty.

In the year 1955, McGriff had the option to race for a millionaire Carl Kiekhaefer’s newly formed team but he eschewed NASCAR’s premiere series as he wanted to be closer to his family and business in Oregon, and focused instead on the West series — where he competed in 233 races between 1954 and 2002.  McGriff won the 1986 Winston West championship and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.

Apart from his passion, this evergreen gentleman works on his 9,000 acres of Twin Buttes Mine property everyday. To quote McGriff, “I’ve always had a job. I drove the car to the races, and I drove it home. I didn’t have a hauler, a jet for the driver to fly in, or a motor home at the track. I envy all those young guns who can do it now. I feel I’m one of the many who paved the way so they could do it. I’m proud of it.”

Legendary! Someone who really knows to live his life to the fullest, even at the age of 81!

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Shivmani – the melodic maestro!

September 4, 2009

Childhood was never rosy for this gentleman but the urge to fulfill his dream helped him find his rhythm in life. Apart from music, self-motivation has escorted this illustrious percussionist to the position where he is today. Taking a tour through Shivamani’s life demonstrates this.

Born to a lower-middle class family in Chennai, a lot of Shivamani’s desires had gone unfulfilled in his childhood. His family couldn’t afford to send him to a school. They couldn’t afford to buy him the toys that he desired. His desire to play with the children of his age was not fulfilled. To quote Shivamani, “It is said that childhood days never come back. I sincerely hope they never do at least for me.” Though this isolation made him quiet, but as a blessing to thousands and lakhs of his fans, it instigated love for music in him.

Though Shivmani was a son of a well-known percussionist father S M Anandan, he never had the opportunity to explore his talent using his father’s mridangam or drums. But the fire in him used to make him so fidgety that he use to practice in the kitchen, with spoons, bottles, and saucepans;  to which his mother was his audience. It was later at the age of eight that his father saw him playing Aaja Aaja from Teesri Manzil on his drums and realized the fervor in his son. His father admitted him to St. Paul’s High School in order to join the band there. Later on, he was so fascinated by Mr. Noel Grant, a Navy drummer; he started bunking his school to be with Noel.

Life had more surprises in store for him. At the age of 12, when Shivmani performed on stage, he was hooted off by people who threw rotten eggs and slippers on him. But this didn’t deter him, instead he practiced vigorously, sometimes around 20 hours at a stretch, in order to fulfill his dreams. Today, all this hard work has paid him rich dividends. But just look at the irony of it all — the boy who was hooted off stage is now called the pundit of percussion!

It was after his father’s death that he got a chance to play the dholak for music director K V Mahadevan for an action scene of a film. Seeing his passion, SP Balasubramaniam asked him to join his troupe. From there onwards, there was no looking back in his life. Later on he got a chance to work with AR Rahman with whom he debuted his first full-fledged recording for Roja. Since then, he has worked with various stalwarts like Zakir Hussain, Louis Banks, Karl Peters, Shankar Mahadevan, Andrew Lloyd Webber, James Asher and Steven Segal. He also has his own band called Silk.

Others live for their passion, Shivmani for percussion!

Your Voice is precious!

September 3, 2009

Ever wondered what it would be like to be the voice of Superman? Or even an actor whom you really like? Won’t that be awesome? A career in voice dubbing would grant you an opportunity to do the same. Voice dubbing is a reproduction of voice by imitating a character’s speaking style, their mannerisms, gestures, characteristics, and idiosyncrasies.

With a boom in the television industry, the avenues for voice dubbing artistes have increased tremendously. Some of the larger film and television production houses nowadays have their own dubbing departments where they produce a single program in number of languages to cater to the entire world. Many major TV serials or films originally made in Hindi are dubbed into various regional languages. Even South Indian films are being dubbed in Hindi. All new Hollywood films also are dubbed in Hindi and other languages. The options do not stop here, there are number of video and radio program, documentaries, presentations, radio/TV jingles, spots, etc. where voice dubbing artiste can exhibit their talent. As a result, the prospects for voice dubbing artistes are immense.

To quote Noel Keymer, Mumbai-based entrepreneur and radio jockey, “Anyone who doesn’t have a speech hiccup,” can take up this profession. To be a voice dubbing or voice over artiste, you need to have a good, clear voice, clear diction, firm command over one or more languages, and an ability to emote through voice. A good voice isn’t enough but an ability to emote properly is very significant.  Cartoon dubbing need lot of variation in voice and a single artist can perform dubbing for many characters. Since we are used to hearing cartoon voices in broken, jarred voice; lot of modulation and stretch of voice is required. Mimicry artistes have a good advantage  in this case.

Even though considered as an offbeat career, the voice dubbing artistes are paid pretty well. A fresher can earn Rs 300-500 per hour for dubbing and a more experienced person can earn Rs 5,000-7,000 an hour. It can even be Rs 30,000 for a whole feature. More popular people of this field may even charge Rs 10,000 for a unit (around 10 minutes). Voice-overs for e-books and presentations get paid Rs 250-500 an hour. Not bad at all!

So if you think you have a good voice and an ability to speak authentically and entertain people, then you should definitely consider a career in voice dubbing.

Walt Disney – Creator of Wonders!

September 3, 2009

What are the first things we think about when we hear the word ‘Disney’? The evergreen Mickey Mouse, the cute and innocent Snow white, and many more such unforgettable animated characters. But very few of us know about the mastermind behind these immortal creations – Walt Elias Disney.

Walt Disney had the audacity to translate his musings into a billion dollar company. Born on December 5, 1901, Walt Disney spent most of his childhood in Marceline, Missouri, where his family had purchased a farm. It was here, he discovered his passion for drawing when a retired doctor living next door paid him to draw pictures of his horse. But his idyllic farm days didn’t last for long as his father, due to some illness had to sell off the farm, forcing them to move to the Kansas City. Here, Walt worked on a local newspaper route delivering the Kansas City Star.

Walt was sent to the Benton School of Grammar where he got acquainted with Walter Pfeiffer. The Pfeiffers were theater aficionados, and introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. During high school, Walt engaged his time drawing patriotic cartoons for the school newspaper. And, when he could find enough time, he would attend night classes at the Chicago Art Institute.

At the age of 16, Disney finally dropped out of school to join the Army, only to be rejected for being too young. He even forged his birth certificate to join the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps, but by the time he finished his training, the war had ended. Disney decided to stay in France and worked as an ambulance driver, all the while continuing to spend his spare time drawing, completely covering his ambulance with his own cartoon creations. After two years, Disney returned to America, where he decided to finally pursue his passion seriously.

Disney’s dream of becoming an artist was rejected by his father.  Thus, with the help of his older brother, Roy, Disney found work making print ads at the Pesemen-Rubin Art Studio and continued experimenting with animation. He soon found himself fascinated with the possibilities of animation. Since then, never ever did he look back. His journey from there onwards created wonders for the world. He made his mark in the motion pictures world with his cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, and adaptations like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty – the list is endless.

In 1940s, Disney drew sketches of his ideas for an amusement park where he envisioned his employees spending time with their children. He got his idea for a children’s theme park after visiting Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California.  Thus, was created Disneyland.

Since then, the Disney Empire expanded beyond belief, more amusement parks popped up not only in America, but also all over the world, and films are still being created under his name. And Walt Disney, the man who started it all and added panache of his and the nation’s good morality, will remain a household name forever!

To quote Walt Disney, “I don’t like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It’s just the wilderness instinct in me…” These words say it all!

The Outdoors is your Office!

September 2, 2009

Ever imagined your office in some snow-clad Himalayan mountain? Not really, right? This can be a reality for those who just love to live their life on the edge! Activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, river rafting, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, scuba diving, etc. can keep their adrenaline flowing.

Adventure sports are becoming quite a rage amongst youth today. Some pursue it as a hobby and some consider it as a lucrative career option. The tourism industry in India has flourished significantly in the past couple of years and a number of opportunities have opened up for youngsters seeking to make a career in adventure sports.

To begin with, you should be physically fit to opt for a career in any adventure sport. Then you can enroll yourself in an institute which conducts these courses. One of the best known institutes is The Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali, which has been imparting training in various disciplines of adventure sports since 1961. It is a government-run institute that provides courses in various disciplines of mountaineering, skiing, and water sports. It provides training in rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, trekking, camping, map reading, skiing, swimming etc. Other institutes offering similar courses are Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling; Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi; and Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering, Batote, J&K.

After finishing with this course, you can start a career as a guide with a travel agency. You can also find a job as a liaison officer with travel and tourism agencies. Other job options include working with various agencies like sports centers, athletic clubs, sports clubs, holiday resorts, excursion agencies, etc. Those who have enough experience in this field can also set up an Adventure Sports Center of their own where they can offer services and impart training in their area of specialization.

If you are bored of your regular nine to six job and have an immense love for the outdoors, then getting a diploma in mountaineering is the just right prospect to coalesce business with pleasure!

Staying Fit!

September 2, 2009

Looking and feeling healthy is a goal many of us wish to achieve. There was a time when only athletes or a sports person would go to a gym. Now, with a growing clientele and an increase in awareness among people, demand for professionals like aerobics instructors, yoga instructors, and personal and corporate trainers has increased. From working professionals to housewives, top bosses to youngsters, the number of health conscious people has increased across ages and professions.

Nowadays, fitness has become a booming business, with more and more health centers coming up. There is also an assortment of fitness organizations for aerobics, kickboxing, Yoga, Pilates, spinning — to choose from. The affluent, especially film stars, are keen on setting up fitness centers at home, developing additional job opportunities for personal trainers.

A fitness trainer’s job includes training people in different aspects of physical fitness, helping them get into shape and stay fit. A physical trainer instructs an individual or a group of people about exercise routines such as weights, aerobics, or the various machines available in a gymnasium. But their job doesn’t stop there. A trainer should give their clients basic advice on health and nutrition, including posture, change in lifestyle, if required. He/she also should be involved in designing specific diet programs for people, taking into account their age, lifestyle, fitness levels, and health parameters.

As a gym instructor or a physical trainer, you can work with clients on a one-to-one basis, either at a gym or at a client’s home. The workout is specially tailored to suit the client’s specific health and fitness requirements. Some experts conduct group workout sessions that involve aerobics, stretching, and muscle conditioning exercises.

Fitness trainers have the flexibility to work in gyms, big hotels, health clubs, fitness centers, spas, tourist resorts, housing societies, and large companies as well. After gaining some experience, you can also opt to run your own center. As a physical trainer, you can specialize in any one particular kind of exercise routines such as weightlifting, aerobics, karate, kickboxing, spin cycling, yoga, pilates or tai chi, spinning, and be a specialist trainer.

In Delhi, Reebok India organizes a course twice a year under the Reebok Instructor Alliance program. Other institutes including The Growth for Fitness Instructors (GFFI) also offers various courses for fitness instructor.

Apart from the professional qualification, the significant traits required to be a fitness instructor are good communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and above all patience. A good body and fortitude to spend long hours working out is vital. You must also have a good knowledge of human anatomy, and be aware about basic effects of lifestyle, diet, nutrition and stress on the body. You need to be innovative enough to vary the exercise routine in order to avoid monotony.

So, if you love to sweat it out and are fitness conscious then this profession is surely for you!

Baba Amte – One in a Billion

September 1, 2009

Writing about the life of great people in a few hundred words is extremely difficult. But some people inspire you so much, that you are forced to pen down few lines on them. One such personality is Muralidhar Devdas Amte also known as Baba Amte. Baba Amte is a legend. He has given dignity to thousands of Indians afflicted by leprosy, brought hope against exploitation to many thousands of tribal people, and provided a way of life to thousands abandoned by a callous society.

Born in a wealthy Brahmin landowner’s family, Baba Amte basked in the comfort of sumptuousness and grandeur as a kid. He used to drive the best of fancy cars of that age, used to hunt boars and deer with his own gun, used to take pleasure in classy hobbies like watching Hollywood movies and writing reviews for them. He had also written film reviews for the film magazine “The Picture Goer” and had even corresponded with Hollywood icons like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer.

To add to all this, Baba Amte had a lucrative career as an advocate. But since he was inspired by the ideologies of Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, John Ruskin and Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, he couldn’t accept the pressures of exploitation in his profession. At times, his legal practice forced him even to be dishonest. This bothered him even more. He discovered that many clients expected him to lie for them, something which he found unbearable. Thus, gradually he lost interest in his law practice. More and more he admired the ‘richness of heart of the poor people’ and despised ‘the poverty of heart of the rich’. It was the ‘common man’, he felt, who was really uncommon. He felt that one way of ensuring a full life was to become one with the poor and oppressed.

From being a person blessed with all the riches of the world to being a social worker and helping the poor, Baba Amte had come a long way.  The sight of Tulshiram, a man dying of leprosy, changed his life forever.  To quote Baba Amte, “I have never been frightened of anything. Because I fought British tommies to save the honor of an Indian lady, Gandhiji called me ‘abhay sadhak’, a fearless seeker of truth. When the sweepers of Warora challenged me to clean gutters, I did so. But that same person who fought goondas and British bandits quivered in fright when he saw the living corpse of TuIshiram, no fingers, no clothes, with maggots all over.” He further says, “I took up leprosy work not to help anyone, but to overcome that fear in my life. That it worked out good for others was a by-product. But the fact is I did it to overcome fear.”

Consequently Baba set about changing what he could. In his endeavor, his wife Sadhanatai is equally valued. Her incessant desire to help others attracted Baba Amte to Sadhanatai. Both of them, with a dream to help others, together started shram ashram near Warora. Since they both lived with ‘low-castes’, Sadhanatai and Baba were considered outcasts by their families. But nothing could stop these two undeterred souls who were passionate to change the world of the poor and the needful.

Baba’s legacy has lived on through the work of his two amazing sons (Dr. Vikas and Dr. Prakash Amte) and their wives (Dr. Bharti and Dr. Mandakini Amte, who in their own ways have contributed significantly to furthering Baba’s vision. Dr. Vikas Amte runs Maharogi Sewa Samiti and coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects; his wife Dr. Bharati Amte runs a hospital at Anandwan and his brother Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Manda Amte run the school and hospital at Hemalkasa.

One can just go on like this but the significant thing that everyone needs to notice here is that if there is a will then one doesn’t have to search for the way; the way comes searching for you and you have to just tread that way to reach your dreams. Baba Amte left all his riches and opulence to follow his passion, thus changing, for the better, the lives of thousands around him.