12 January, 2008

This ain't cricket may'te

If there was one news that has caused a shock effect among the Indian public and given the television channels enough fodder to chew on for the next fortnight, it would have to be the post-match events of the India – Australia test at Sydney Cricket Ground. The Benazir assassination gave it a close run, esentially because people who've been around for 25 years or more would have strong memories of the dynamic lady. But then, it was afterall an event that had no direct repuscussions back home, and there was no second-act to follow. And when an event such as what happened off the cricket field after this match hits home, everyone want to have their say (I was surprised that Lalu had not commented on this issue. But then today I saw his comment that team India should head home. So, thats one surpsise less, in what promises to be a thrilling next few days).

With a flurry of verbal volleys leading up to the series, everyone knew this was not going to be a quiet series. But that things would take such a turn, none would have predicted – definitely not Ponting and his men. That the umpiring was terrible and the fact that India might have won this game had the correct decisions been given, was for all to see (Michael Clarke would argue that this is hypothetical. But if you consider the fact that India actually had to take 25 wickets and had only 16 of its own batsmen playing, he might do well to rephrase his 'umpiring was consistent' comment).

There was something for everyone to frown over at the end of the match. So, whats my grouse? - The Australian team. And thats mainly because I always felt they were a champion team, and in my mind they were on par with Roger Federer, the Brazilian socceer team, and even the West Indies cricket of the 70's and early 80's. So, you expect them to be good on the field, and gracious off it. And thats where this Aussie team is different. Their success has left them giddy. The Aussies talk about playing in the spirit of the game. They do – when they're winning, but when they face a real threat, the spirit of the game takes on a whole new meaning for them. We'd all like to know Ricky if 'Not walking when out', 'appealing for dropped catches', 'sledging', 'and being hostile to the opposition' comes under your definition of the 'spirit of the game'.

The other issue is of course, the complaint against Harbhajan. Seeing his behaviour on the field, I'd like to guess that Bhajji is probably capable of calling Symonds a 'monkey'. But if there was no evidence, the right thing would've been to let Bhajji off the hook. This is because, in the case that he hadn't made the remark, Bhajji would stand wrongly accused his whole life. And in the case that he did, it would be letting an offender off the hook. But thats still better than punishing an innocent. Now, had this complaint been filed by the Sri Lankan team, or probably even the Pakistan team, I wouldn't be seeing red. But here is a team which has used 'opponent abuse' as its team strategy. So, saying stuff about the mothers and sisters is somehow acceptable, but calling a person a 'monkey' isn't? Maybe this has got more to do with the cultural differences, and maybe the Indian team members wouldn't have minded it so much had the Aussies called 'Sreesanth' a monkey, but he'd definitely be pissed off to hear stuff being told about his mother. The Australian team seemed to have forgotten that and gone ahead and made a big issue out of it.

The reaction from the Australian media, on the other hand has been pleasing. Not because, there were articles in support of India, but because, for once they have stood up for what they believed in, and not come out in support of their team, without rhyme or reason. Well done, and maybe the Indian media should also learn from this, rather than just showing pro-Harbhajan articles (agreed that anything to the contrary would make bad business sense in the present scenario).

So, lets wait and watch as the drama unfolds. But for now, as the Aussies would say “That just ain't cricket may'te”

05 January, 2008

But it rained

I'm not sure, whats so impressive about this phrase. But somehow I've always wanted to write a post with this title. Maybe, it just sounds so much cooler with Parikrama's music in the background. Interestingly, while trying to provide a link for the song, I found an interesting bit of trivia about the song here.

Some days are not planned. They just happen... Yesterday was one such. I stepped into office, expecting minimal work, but my teammates in the US suddenly seemed to remember there was work to be done. And then, when I resigned myself to a sedate start to the weekend at home, a colleague of mine offers me his ticket to a tennis match happening at Nungambakkan (Chennnai Open). So, I decide to wind up my work quickly and leave asap. For my luck, the office busses had left by then. Just as I walk towards the town bus stop for a long journey home, another colleague stops his car and offers me a ride. (surprising considering this had never happened before). So here I am thinking the stars are conspiring to help me watch my first live tennis match. I then manage a quick ride to the stadium on my bike. I enter the stadium, hoping to watch some live action. But it rained.... Ok, so its a 10 minute rain. How bad can it be, I think? Bad enough to delay start of play by more than 2.5 hours I realize.

It was funny watching the organizers drying the court though. There was one machine, which was used to dry the courts, and there were about 15 boys and girls with towels in their hands, literally scrubbing the court dry. But the girls seemed to tire out pretty soon (it did looked like a pretty tiring thing to do, and so maybe the organizers shoul've got some strong people to do this), and the boys probably decided it made more sense giving the girls company rather than bother themselves with the drying bit. With things not happening as fast as expected, the tournament officials decided to get into the act. So, soon we had the tournament director and a host of other officials, trying now to fan the court dry with towels. I'm sure these folks would've had a mouthful to say had the rain Gods decided to re-appear for another 5 mins after all the drying had happened.

Finally, at 2300 hrs the match between Rafael Nadal and Lopez (don't remember the first name) was restarted with the scores at 2-1 in favour of Nadal in the first set. With a sparse crowd at the stadium, I chose what seemed to be a vantage seat. Little did I know, what was in store for me. To my left, sat a teenager who seemed bent upon trying to impress his younger brother, who in turn seemed fixated upon the fact that he got Nadal's autograph during lunch. Just behind, was a middle aged man with his wife in tow. He seemed to have an unwarranted opinion on everything, from the organizers to the state of tennis in India. He also had very smelly feet, which he decided to rest upon the seat beasides me.

As for the match itself, it was a nice experience watching a sport from such close quarters, and Nadal, the powerhouse that he is, showed why he is the No. 2 player in the world. Although I do wish he buys himself a more comfortable pair of shorts and stops pulling the shorts from his backside after every shot. If that wasn't very descriptive, dont try too hard. It isn't a visually pleasing image. Finally, at 00:30 hrs, I head back home with hopefully no more surprises in store.

08 December, 2007

Tales from Sri Lanka

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Sri Lanka? For me it is ‘Sanath Jayasuriya’, ‘The accented Tamil’ and unfortunately the rest of it doesn’t lead up to very good memories. But did any of you think ‘English Theatre’?

This August, we had the Hindu Metroplus theatre festival in Chennai, which saw not just theatre groups from all over India, but 4 International acts too, and a couple of them professional theatre groups. One of them was the Colombo based ‘Stages Theatre group’ (http://stagestheatregroup.wordpress.com/). I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about this one, since I hadn’t heard of them earlier. But being a Sunday and with nothing better to do, I decided to go for it. Surprisingly the hall was half empty and as a consequence, I got a seat upgrade.

The play was called ‘Checkpoint: Three strangely normal plays’. Hardly anything about it was normal though – either in the presentation or in what they had to convey. And the first two plays were real events, btw.

Play 1: ‘The bus ride’ (or something to that effect)
This was a one-man show, literally. One guy doing all roles.
The story starts with a drunk (referred to as ‘x’) on a bus, who keeps talking incessantly. The other passengers are visibly upset by his behavior. The bus happens to break down in the middle of nowhere and its close to 10 in the night. The drunk then offers to buy all the passengers a drink, which they willingly accept. Then when he is asked about the reason for the celebration, he starts his story. In a strife-ridden Sri Lanka, emergency has been declared, and politicians have complete control. X’s son has been missing for days and he then realizes that the local politician has kept him in custody. The politician proposes a deal that he would return the son in exchange for X’s wife. Without money and an option, ‘X’ agrees to the deal, and starts drinking to forget. His drinking becomes a habit and he keeps borrowing money from the politician, and the cycle continues. On this day, ‘X’ decides this would be the last time that he would borrow money and decides to throw it all away due to his guilt. I’m not sure of the exact ending. But it was a heart-wrenching story about life in Sri Lanka during the emergency. And the fact that one man did it all was amazing.

Play 2: 24 Hours
The premise of this play was simple. To track the news coming out from different media sources over a period of 24 hours. The sets and the screenplay (except for the first sequence) were done very imaginatively. No actual dialogues were spoken, the characters wearing masks just moved around according to the sequence, while the news was being read in the background. It was sad to see the state of affairs the country was in. From news about an attempted assassination, to news about the attack on a girls school by govt forces, since they were suspected to be LTTE rebels. The best part was a confrontation between the ethnic rebels and the govt body, where they keep throwing numbers. The play was a visual treat in terms of the screenplay, lighting and the imaginative direction.

Play 3: Forum Theatre
This was perhaps the simplest of plays, in terms of screenplay and sets, but probably the most different. The director tells upfront that the play would take up a situation and then stop at a particular point. And then the audience is asked what they would want to see happen. And so, starts the story of a husband and wife, who have a misunderstanding over an immigrant. The play stops there and the audience is asked on what they would like to see at that point of time. The best suggestions are then enacted impromptu. This is then repeated a couple of times. In fact after one of the breaks they invited a member from the audience to be part of the next scene. An ending wasn’t intended, and the aim was to talk about an important issue in an innovative manner.

All in all it was a very interesting play. And especially after an overdose of Neil Simon from the ‘Evam’ (a popular Chennai based theatre group) stable, this was a refreshing change.

02 December, 2007

Speed Guitar

Is this guy for real?? Can someone really play this fast? I thought I had some skills on the guitar... But this puts me to shame... Look at the part towards the end of this video, where his left hand moves at lightning speed... In fact it was a little too fast to be seen clearly on video... If you liked this search further for Michael Angelo on Youtube... You'll find some more amazing videos...

01 December, 2007

ICL - The beginning.

The Indian Cricket League has finally arrived – at the non-descript town of Panchkula in Chandigarh. After all the hype and media bytes of ‘BCCI vs. Zee Group’, we finally have some actual cricket, if you could call it that. But I guess even Subash Chandra, the head of the Zee group would secretly confess that he's missed a trick or two here. The Zee guys probably thought this would be a good idea and announced the 20-20 competition, with a spate of players signing in from all over the world. All this looked really impressive. The problem however was that most of these guys were either retired or were on the verge of retiring. And then, when the sleeping giant BCCI woke up from its slumber, the ICL started to look like the town circus.

Anyway, yesterday, I watched the first match of this tournament, between ‘Chandigarh Lions’ and ‘Delhi Jets’. I must say, these guys have redefined 20-20. They’ve made what is potentially a very exciting form of cricket, boring again. A team like Australia plays more aggressive cricket in test matches. The tournament started off with a dance performance by Kareena Kapoor. A lot of people, esp politicians would be excited by this. No, not by Kareena’s dance. That’s asking too much of her.

Maybe Mayawati would use this in her election rally, giving a 20 minute speech and then when she’s tired we’d have a few overs bowled. And just as a prelude, the inaugural night of the ICL had its share of politicians pitching in for Subash Chandra. Lalu and Amar Singh were very conspicuous in their presence. Lalu, as always had a lot of gyan to pass on. After all he’s been dealing with Harvard and Stanford grads of late.

A special mention of the commentary, which was very imaginative, literally. Sample this.

First over of the match:

Wd 0 0 0 Wd

Pat Symcox: Oh this is turning out to be such an action-packed over. Everything’s happening. (Yeah, we’re just very simple folks to not comprehend the action involved in a wide delivery, and some defensive strokes).

Pat Symcox (to Dinesh Mongia): Nayan Mongia, please tell us how …

And just when a confounded Dinesh Mongia is about to reply, off goes Pat rattling about something totally irrelevant.

Tony Greig (commenting on a single): Oh, that’s a wonderful shot. Looks like the Lions are back on track (After 7 balls of no runs being scored, maybe Tony’s commentary was more exciting).

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this tournament - at least of what of what I've seen so far. In fact these matches have shown how any good concept can be made boring. Lets hope at least the IPL, with all its stars is worth the money – which is quite a lot in these tournaments, btw.

26 November, 2007

You are invited

That’s the wedding invitation cover of a very close friend of mine, who will bid farewell to the ‘Bachelors Club’ in another two days. I found this invitation very novel. And what was more novel was the reason for the invitation – straight out of a ‘Yash Raj’ production.

Boy traveling by train. Girl enters same cubicle. Boy decides to try his luck. Girl falls for it. Boy/girl who live in different cities, go their own ways. Gross abuse of technology follows. In come the parents. The climax of course, as in any decent Bollywood flick worth its name, ends in marriage (will in this case). And as the images posted above suggest, he had an RAC ticket that got confirmed. Of course, it was not just his RAC ticket that got confirmed (Ok, so I’m copying some witty stuff that he had printed on the 2nd sheet of a 4 page wedding invitation). But I think he’ll excuse me for the publicity that I’m giving him through this wonderful blog, which has readers pouring in from all over the world.

Nice, isn’t it? Nice – Yes. Believable – No. Yeah, it did happen in his case, but I know better. I’ve been traveling by train for the whole of my life, except for a few trips by plane, and not once have I come across an interesting girl in my cabin. I wish I were exaggerating here. Well, I guess I can’t say ‘never’, because there was one time when I had a chance, perhaps.

Last year, I was traveling to Goa for the New Year – “by train”. Along with me, was my loser pal Aravind, and we were to join 4 more friends at Goa. As luck would have it, an interesting girl happened to have a reservation in our cubicle. We decided to put up a disinterested act, immersing ourselves in the latest edition of one of those snotty business magazines, and thus putting to rest any hopes we’d harboured of impressing this girl. And what does this girl do? She picks up some alcohol that she has stacked in her rucksack and gets on with it. In the next station she is joined by some more friends and then more, and very soon, all you could smell is Whiskey. And we were left to get all the business gyan that we wanted to, on our way to Goa. Of course, we’re not total losers, and we did have our share of fun in Goa. But that’s the story of my shot at a ‘Bollywood style’ love story.

Of late I’m getting worried, that my mom has given up all hope. When she points out to the good looking girls, while we go shopping, it’s not a very encouraging sign. Its an indication that left to me, my mother doesn’t think I’d ever get married. But who knows. Maybe the next train journey would be different. In the meantime, I’ll make sure I book an RAC with has a good chance of getting confirmed.

25 November, 2007

The Story of Iqbal

I was home on a Saturday night after quite a few weeks yesterday. So, I just decided to laze around and catch a movie. I had recently bought a ‘War movie’ collection, but since I didn’t want my mom to get bored (the last time I watched a war movie named ‘Hiroshima’ with my mom, she was out after the first 20 mins, and so this time I knew better). DD1 was showing ‘Iqbal’. For those of you who didn’t know, it’s a sports film by Nagesh Kukonoor.

The protagonist, a young teenager named Iqbal (played wonderfully by Shreyas Talpade) is deaf and dumb, born into an impoverished family of a farmer, but is absolutely passionate about cricket. He finds an unwilling coach in Naseruddin Shah, who was a one-time cricket star, but is now a perennial drunkard. The story is about how Iqbal, makes it to the Ranji team and finally to the Indian cricket team. A wonderful film, and towards the end, you’re really praying for Iqbal to make, although you how the movie is going to end.

But other than the wonderful story of the under-dog winning in the end, there was something else about the movie that I really liked. The coach was a major factor in the success of Iqbal. But how many of us actually get that kind of a coach in real life? A coach who really wants you to succeed? Who would go out of his way to ensure that you do well? One of the biggest regrets of my college life was that I didn’t have a teacher who I could really look upto. And if you had known the rules that my college had, you’d know that there was a lot to regret about. There were some who would teach you what was prescribed in the textbook, and others who would come and chat with us and try to be a friend. But none who could inspire us to learn more about what they had to teach. Not surprisingly, when I was at a friends place recently, I could hardly remember the names of some of my teachers

Recently, I was watching a show on NDTV, where during a college farewell, the teachers had something to say about each and every outgoing student and presented each student a gift to remember. In comparison, my convocation was a song and dance show and we were not even invited onto the stage to receive our degrees.

The second story coming from Iqbal was the story of differently-abled children. And what was wonderful about this film, was the manner in which it chose not to focus on his disabilities, but rather to focus on his abilities. I think in real life too, its important that we give differently-abled people their place in mainstream society, and treat them whenever possible as normal people rather than sympathize on their disabilities.

My neighbour has two children, one of whom was born deaf and dumb. But due to the dedicated efforts of his mother, he is now able to speak and hear to a good extent. While, initially I did pity him, I later realized that he is a wonderful artist. And I’m not even exaggerating here. He’s won a scholarship and a state-level drawing competition to prove that.
I think we all strive for recognition, and not pity. So why differentiate?