Saturday, April 02, 2011

Warming up to the big day

I couldn't help but sympathise with my grandfather yesterday night when he tried watching all of 6 news bulletins yesterday in the hope that he would get some updates around elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, but all he got instead was a Shankar Mahadevan bellowing out "De Ghumake", Nikhil Chopra, Arun Lal, and Murali Karthik talking about batting, bowling, and preparing for a big game in that order, and Poonam Pandey extolling her patriotic virtues by promising to strip for a national cause.

In the background, his grandson, rather discreetly was leaving no stone unturned either in preparing himself for the big game. We all know how die-hard cricket fans in India consider it no less a responsibility to win games for India by indulging in a series of superstitions. With me, I always try to replicate all my practices whenever India win a game in all future matches till we lose one. It could involve one or a combination of wearing the same T-Shirt the day of the match, the day before, or two days before the game, or in going to bed at a particular time and facing a particular direction, or even in the kind of food that I have. Not to mention talking to and messaging only a certain set of people and ignoring everybody else. So, this time around it has been wearing the Team India Sahara jersey the day before the India game (I had to spend a good three hours in the bathroom to ensure that the aforementioned T-Shirt dried out before I could wear it yesterday. No wonder teams have been cursing the ICC's scheduling); going to sleep dot at midnight facing the west (I had to turn the bed a good 90 degrees much to the consternation of my parents); drinking coffee without sugar in the morning and having ice-cream after lunch which had to contain just fried rice, sambhar, and pappadam. I hope Nikhil John Kurien and Tony Sebastian don't ditch me today during the course of the match for we have sacrificed an enormous lot (exams included) in getting India here. And yes, if my sister is reading, I haven't talked to you over the last week in the fear that it might jinx the Indian run.

And a final serious word on the game proper. I just hope that Dhoni sets his personal vendetta aside and gives the enigmatic Sreesanth a game. India wouldn't stand a chance playing two offies against the Lankans who will keep milking them all day. Somehow, I believe the key to this game aren't the Sachins, Sehwags and Yuvrajs of this world (Lanka have an exceptional track record when it comes to nipping out the opposition's star players in a big game), but rather the more motley Dhonis, Gambhirs and Kohlis. Playing a totally unfit Murali has to backfire on them and the lack of big-match experience in certain departments might choke them like it did to Pakistan.

Personally, I want India to win for my testosterone-starved self of late is keen to find out what transpires around the promised striptease. The Sainiks might ensure that all this running in buff turns out to be a bluff but I am sure it will provide for some serious newsreel once the World Cup euphoria dies down. And yeah, it is noon which tells me that it is time to take a bath with Mysore Sandal Soap and Himalayas shampoo, and sport my Royal Challengers Bangalore T-Shirt. Nuts, I say!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Welcome, says the MBA

Readers of this blog would know that I am about to embark on a new phase in my life. I need not stress much on how out-of-the-box I have been in making my career choices. Hailing from that ubiquitous SIMCF (South Indian Middle Class Family), I tried to gain some expertise in a musical instrument which nearly ended up costing me my admission; studied hard in school; went to engineering college; got placed in a leading MNC, and am now heading to a B-School. Innovative indeed!

I was headed to a meet organised by this B-School bringing together all alumni and students currently based out of Mumbai. The venue was a posh multi-star hotel near the International Airport. As is the case with most such meets where you are not likely to be knowing more than two individuals beforehand and where you are likely to be using all your energy in doing an "Oh My God! Where have you been all these years?" when coming across an acquaintance from school, college, neighbourhood, street, city or state by chance, the crowd resembled one you would find at a funeral.

Sensing the eerie silence, the 'alumni' did its bit by going through a perfunctory round of introductions in which nobody seemed one bit interested. I always get the jitters before such introductions for you are invariably asked to do one of the following: a)sing b)dance c) crack a joke d) Answer some weird question e) Talk of your love/crush/would-be crush/could-be crush. Needless to say, I am poor at a), b) and e) and only average at c) and I couldn't thank my lucky stars enough when all I was subject to was d).

And then the "party" began. Now it needs little emphasis that there is little space at such parties for a person like me who has lived one heck of a boring life so far by sticking to vegetarian solid and non-alcoholic liquid. My interest in such events is limited to careful observation so that it gives me sufficient content for a blog post like this which in turn helps me with my Google Talk status message for a week. It has always intrigued me how any person in his/her senses is able to hold on to a peg of vodka for well over an hour without finishing it. In the best interest of etiquette, I gulped a litre of fruit juice and another couple of litres of mineral water. However, my hands started complaining from having to hold on to empty glasses/bottles and I decided that etiquette could go to bed for the day.

Besides the observation part, I also take great interest in whatever little vegetarian food that is on offer. It always fascinates me how the proportion of non-meat starters on offer decreases exponentially with time so much so that you are forced to barge into the kitchen to enquire whether there was any impending vegetable crisis. Frustrated at having to wait for so long, I dived into the main course and after eating to the content of my stomach, had water out of necessity for the first time.

The last bit of such parties is the one I enjoy the most. I am not talking about the desserts which were so sumptuous that I am skipping both breakfast and lunch today. Everybody is so thoroughly sloshed that they start to rail against the system. When you are inebriated, you seem to get one of these 'Eureka' moments when you realise that you have lived a life of very little substance and instruct all and sundry not to repeat the mistakes you have committed. One common rant was against three particular institutes known to have a canny resemblance with three consecutive letters of the English alphabet.

So I came back with the usual gyaan on networking, studies and stuff. From my side, I am thoroughly looking back to getting back to hostel life which I believe is the greatest education that you can receive in life in a thoroughly mesmerising campus (I have been there before) getting back to doing all that I enjoy doing. I have never looked forward to a break so much so far.

Monday, March 22, 2010

IPL III- Initial Impressions

A fortnight of T-20 tamasha is behind us and as always, it has left all, purists included, craving for more. A look at how the various teams stack up at the end of the first quarter:

Chennai Super Kings- The men in yellow started off rustily only for immediate course correction. Hayden and Morkel don't look like being as consistent and destructive as they have been in the past; the bowling is a definite area of concern and they have once again brought aesthetically unappealing cheerleaders to the tournament. However, with the tournament's most astute captain-coach combination at the helm, CSK are favourites to reach the semis. Injuries to Kemp, Flintoff and Oram will deprive them of that second quality all-rounder and hence further progress. Watch out for the emergence of Ashwin and Vijay during the course of this tournament

Delhi Daredevils - Undoubtedly, the most thrilling batting unit in the IPL but a bowling unit that leaves a lot to be desired. Delhi have epitomised lacklusterness and have been particularly hurt by the approach of arguably two of the finest T-20 batsmen in the game: De Villiers and Dilshan. Gambhir and Nehra returning from injury will be of paramount importance and Dan Vettori joining them will lend much needed teeth to their bowling. Hard to see Delhi not entering the semis with a Warner, Sehwag, Gambhir, De Villiers batting lineup

Kolkata Knight Riders - They are everybody's favourite team to watch because of one man who is unfortunately proving to be the wrench in the works again. Kolkata's best chance lies in Ganguly spending as little time at the batting crease as possible for his T-20 record in terms of strike-rates is abysmal for somebody batting at the top of the order. Gayle and McCullum will add lots of muscle to the KKR batting, but expect them to be shackled by the extensive use of spin by the opposition. Undoubtedly, Ganguly has done a good job in getting a potent squad together, but KKR don't bat, bowl and field well enough for this format. Will not end up with the wooden spoon but that is about as good as it will get.

Rajasthan Royals- Everybody's second favourite team but you just sense that their magic is a thing of the past. Warne's tactical acumen, one just feels, has taken this team as far as they could have gone and the lack of quality in the squad is hurting them. Warne's propensity to get on board former Australian cricketers has to be criticised and you reckon that even if Shane Watson turns up, they will still have to be content with the Wooden Spoon. Have been unfortunate with injuries and bans as well.

Deccan Chargers - The Chargers are on a roll just like last year and seem to have this knack to close out tight games. Once again, their bull run has been powered by its foreign contingent and the lack of quality in the squad is bound to hurt them. Expect a lot of spin to be used against the Chargers as the wickets start to aid slow bowling but backed by a good start, and the presence of Andrew Symonds, my T-20 MVP, they will be there and thereabouts. Will just miss out on the semis.

Mumbai Indians - With a new coaching staff at the helm, Mumbai have re-structured their team much to the envy of all other teams and have started playing fearless cricket. Pollard and Rayudu have been excellent additions and with the tournaments's best 1-2 punch in Zaheer and Malinga, they will be tough to stop especially if Jayasuriya starts firing at the top. However, Tendulkar's propensity of being a little bit too cheeky with the batting order could come back and hurt them. Last year, it was Harbhajan Singh and this year it seems to be the turn of wicket-keeper Tare. MI will be difficult to beat if they keep it simple and face no injury concerns. They should finally break that semi-final jinx

Royal Challengers Bangalore - My sentimental favourites because of the presence of timeless legends like Dravid and Kumble. RCB have done a phenomenal job in turning the franchise around with some astute strategy in the bidding and transfer market. It all looks hunky-dory right now but RCB have never been good at setting totals and all their wins so far have come chasing. The batting with Pandey and Uthappa firing looks formidable but the bowling, though aggressive, can come unstuck against good batsmen. Will also face selection issues once Pietersen and Taylor join the squad. Will be in a shoot-out with the Kings XI for the final semifinal spot.

Kings XI Punjab - They are once again a team built around some very skilful T-20 cricketers most of whom are missing. They have had a bad start but expect them to go on a run once Brett Lee, Shaun Marsh, Katich and James Hopes return. They might regret having made Sangakkara the captain for he seems to have very little batting form but they will still be encouraged by Irfan Pathan's spunk. Yuvraj has by and large disappointed in the IPL, and with questions being raise about his training methods, he has a few critics to respond to. Will stake a claim for the final semi-final berth but the poor start might just come back to haunt them.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My name is Woods and I am not a sinner

After Tiger Woods' apology on national television late Friday night, the media is abuzz with reports of how the FBI and the US Government seem to have come up with a new plan of action to nab Osama Bin Laden - the 9/11 mastermind still at large. The mission to be led by Woods himself has been codenamed 'Operation Hole in One' on insistence from the Tiger on the basis of all the success he has had on and off the golf course with the aforementioned mission in mind.

Operation Hole in One, which would not have any military involvement, is said to be the brainchild of George.W. Bush -the previous president of the United States of America. Bush, it is rumoured, seems to have been inspired by the Bollywood flick My Name is Khan, running to packed audiences in the US. Mr. Bush-with a penchant for out-of-the-box thinking as was evidenced during his tenure when he decided to attack Iraq to wipe out terrorists in Afghanistan- is said to have been touched and deeply influenced by the ability of the human mind to transcend all barriers in the face of love as portrayed in the movie . This particular scheme seems to have struck Mr. Bush in the middle of a scene when the lead protagonist of the movie finally seeks out the President of the USA as demanded by his wife and screams out, "My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist" . Conspiracy theories however suggest that Bush has not been one bit enamoured by the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to his successor and wants to have a shot at himself and hence this ploy.

The FBI, it is believed, has already colluded with Elin Nordegren, Woods' wife after approval from Barack Obama, who it is suggested, sees this as a great opportunity to cut down on military spends and thus enhance spendings on bonuses of Wall Street executives who are still struggling to get back to their feet in the aftermath of the recession. The pact would have Elin accepting Tiger back into the house only after seeking out Bin Laden and conveying the message, "My name is Woods and I am not a sinner" which would help the US track down Bin Laden at the same time.

It is also rumoured that Tiger was reaching out to the global community when he said, "I have a problem and I need help" as part of his telecast 'apology'. The FBI is also supposed to be working behind the scenes on this and is in the process of building up a grand coalition. The U.K Government is said to be working hard on the wives of John Terry, the England football captain and Ashley Cole, the Chelsea left-back in their efforts to launch another parallel operation code-named 'Operation Ball on Goal'. Bill Clinton has also thrown all his weight behind Tiger Woods and has promised to help him out given his experience in international diplomacy and sexual escapades. Back home, the Ministry of External affairs has solicited the help of disgruntled politician Amar Singh (now without a party) and disgraced Andhra Governor N.D. Tiwari given their proven track record. The Shiv Sena/MNS combine is apparently regretting the protest that they had launched at the launch of the movie as it has boomeranged badly on them in the absence of a Marathi Manoos in the Indian contingent.

Sponsors who had ditched Tiger in the aftermath of all the controversies are said to be keen to get the Tiger back on board and are willing to offer revised deals to help Tiger support this noble cause. The Al-Qaeda is said to be in a state of panic over the Tiger's video-taped recording, something which had been their trademark till now. Bin Laden, reports Al-Jazeera has also posted a series of advertisements in various Matrimonial columns under various monikers to keep ahead of the Tiger in the numbers game. However, there is little doubt about the fact that the Tiger on the prowl has managed to unnerve the Al-Qaeda more than the army action by the US over all these years.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In hope does this community live

22:00 hrs, Saturday, 13th February - Depressed as I am, I decide to head to my friend's place (a male) to get over it. Both of us are very excited about the upcoming day though neither of us have an idea as to the reason why.

00:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - Frantic calls are made to the community of all "single and ready to mingle" friends wishing them luck and happiness on Valentine's Day. The irony of prefixing a happy to all disgruntled and lovelorn individuals is not lost on me when all that is likely to happen during the course of the day is a series of "where are you taking her" questions over gtalk, the her referring to an individual who could have been referenced sometime during a drinking session or a one-time infatuation. It also strikes me that Valentine's Day has become more of an occasion for the community of 'singletons' (pun unintended) as it always feels embarrassing to wish somebody who is going around with another somebody. Probably, they do keep the Valentine's flag aloft amongst the community of "committed" individuals. Fingers crossed and touching wood, I go to sleep.

09:30 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - I wake up and grab my phone in anticipation of some SMS from some old flame. I see two missed calls and one SMS from home. Cursing my luck, I head back to sleep again.

10:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - I wake up and open up my Google account much to my friend's dismay. By all accounts, he seems to have planned for a long morning in front of his laptop wishing all his female friends but since I am his guest, he has little option but to grin and bear. He starts watching Mohabattein as a mark of protest.

11:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - I am well into my chatting session as I partake in the sorrow of most of my friends. I get depressed again and get a customary ticking-off from a friend whom I am convinced must have been a statue in a previous avatar. Of course, Valentine's Day gets discussed in great detail

12:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - I am dragged by my friend to an up-market departmental store for he wants to get some gift. I am not supposed to ask about the intended recipient and I chug along. As is often the case, we spend a good hour without able to finalise on anything. I spend most of the time near the sports accessories section and proudly claim to another friend over phone about how I was helping somebody get a gift for a "special one". I get a strong "usko aur koi nahi mila kya gift dhoondne mein help karne ke liye" retort. I disconnect the call immediately. Seeing me drooling over a football, my friend offers to gift it to me. I am forced to refuse as accepting a gift on this day would be seen as acceptance of defeat in the pursuit of that special one especially with the better half of the day remaining. We give up on gifts and ogle at a giant body-builder as we move out

15:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February -So, as much of the day gets spent discussing and debating the best way to go about spending time on Valentine's day, the best we manage to come up with is My Name is Khan. Opinions are sought, reviews read and bargain prices searched for. The problem with SRK and AK movies is that you invariably end up getting completely divergent viewpoints. This one is no different. "If you want to retain your faith in Bollywood, stay away from this one" , says one whereas another is all praise for SRK's performance. We decide to watch the movie all the same as some more frustrated individuals join us.

16:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - The one thing I don't want to happen with me on this day is getting beaten up. Having read about all the Sena disruptions, I decide to play patriot as I put on my Team India jersey just in case some Sainik happens to create a ruffle. What that Sainik is unlikely to have noticed are my sunglasses neatly tucked in my T-shirt and all the fairness cream smeared on my face. Human beings are indeed an optimistic lot!

19:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - The movie ends. We have a quarrel as to which was the more tolerable half. Opinion is divided right down the middle but there is consensus over the fact that the Sena might have been doing a noble deed for once.

21:00 hrs, Sunday, 14th February - I sit down to write this post. And just to add credence to the fact that some individuals never seem to lose hope, here is what my friend just pinged me:

Friend: dude..
what the hell are u doing at home
its valentines day man
get a move
21:50 me: lol
writing a post on all of this
Friend: on what?
bloody u.
21:51 wasting ur time on valentines
call ur girl and go out man
dont be such a bore

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is this Bengal's moment of awakening?

The brick apartment with a red-grill facade near Lake Gardens would have been in mourning; the 'mishti dahi' counter would have shut shop; the tanawaala by the milk booth would have refused his services, and the hijdas by the Central Park would have ignored their social ostracization. As someone who had grown up in a political milieu which revolved only around Jyoti Basu, I couldn't but help feel a tinge of regret in the passing away of the Communist stalwart.

For a family with a vocal Centrist ideology - which in recent times has shifted to being moderately right of centre - my grandfather had been an exception. Bengal society was probably to blame for it. In the late 80s and the early part of the 90s when I had a smattering of Bengali words in my arsenal, you were either a Communist or didn't possess even a passing interest in politics. The best part of my childhood was spent in a household which belonged to the former category- a household which I have come to understand since was frequented by the likes of Somnathda.

In many ways, the Communists have come to represent all that is good and bad about the Indian polity. For all the hoopla about coalition formations when Morarji Desai managed to cobble together an anti-Congress formation, "marriages of convenience" became a reality once that "farmer from Hasan" assumed the highest mantle thanks in no small measure to the Communists. Basu might have called it a historic blunder but in actuality, it is probably the only reason why the Communists still have a standing in Indian politics. So, while they have evolved to help in putting together the numbers for successive governments, they have also come to symbolise all that is wrong with coalition governments: ideological bickering and creation of narrow-minded interest groups making governments operate on the maxim - no change is the best change.

As much as I respect the Communists for they were the only formation- at least till the late part of the previous decade- who could take a moral high ground when it came to corruption and discipline, they are second to none when it comes to hypocrisy. Communists have always talked about public healthcare and the oft-used proletariat's dominance of the bourgeoisie, yet it remains that there is probably no single formation in the whole of India that has contributed to the neglect of education and healthcare institutions in the public domain as much as the Left has in Kerala and West Bengal. Jyoti Basu's sojourns abroad have always been well documented and so have his posturings for the sake of his son.

For all the pragmatism that the Indian Left has come to stand for, Basu will probably have to be placed right up there with the likes of Castro, Chavez etc for the control that he has wielded over West Bengal for such a period of time; it is only the passionate anti-imperialist (read anti-USA) , anti-free market pleas that have enabled them to stand the test of time. Basu was also different because world history is replete with instances of democracy having collapsed under the weight of communism whereas he managed to legitimize leftist ideology. The election machinery that the Left managed to build up had been the cynosure of many eyes until a woman with her group of activists managed to expose it all through Singur and Nandigram. Basu shall and should be remembered for his land-reforms and reforms of the village level administration but he should also be remembered for having driven industry, art and science out of what was not long back considered the intellectual capital of India. Rasogallas and Mishti Dahi are still their favourites; the metro rail network wears the same paint; the Hooghly bridge and the Victoria Terminal are still the only objects of envy; and Alimuddin Street still houses the blocks of power. Take out the trams and the tanas, you would hardly realise that the world has moved forward twenty years in time.

But in death, all faults have to be conveniently forgotten. It is a pity that it took the unusual concoction of India's tallest corporate magnate and the "wronged daughter" from Bengal to bring them into public conscience. The fact that the Communists have lost their identity all of a sudden will probably be Jyoti Basu's legacy in Indian politics if a dispassionate obituary were to be written.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the next generation discusses over lunch on Sunday afternoons in that brick apartment near Lake Gardens. Basuda is no more; Dada is history in a different way; however, politics is as much about the lady in the white saree and her cloth jhola as it is about Buddha Babu. Is this West Bengal's moment of awakening?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A breath of fresh air!

I am downcast, depressed, and in mourning. The city that I have taken to has just prevailed over my adopted cricketing city. Mumbai might have won the Ranji Trophy for a record 39th time by beating Karnataka, but I have never been so excited after watching a Ranji game.

We have just seen the future of Indian cricket though I am sure that Akku would already be shaking his head in disapproval. Even while admitting to my habit of using hyperboles liberally, I am convinced that Abhimanyu Mithun and Manish Pandey represent the future of Indian cricket in the bowling and batting departments. And much to the chagrin of all my friends, I am also convinced that the Bangalore Royal Challengers are going to be very difficult to beat in the next edition of the IPL.

Coming back to the game, the ground was jam-packed; there were people on top of tress, lamp-posts, electric towers and every other conceivable vantage point. Just goes to show you that the longer format of the game is still the most captivating provided you have a good playing deck. The tussles in Australia and South Africa have definitely provided for more interesting viewing than all the mindless lopsided one day internationals that have panned out in the sub-continent.

A toast to test match cricket indeed!

P.S: Special mention of Akku, Vaibhav and Abhishek who found nothing better to do on New Year's than solve my crossword.