Saturday, November 26, 2005

Supermen of Soccer...

Sometime after the 1990 World Cup, DD started a series called "Supermen of Soccer"hosted by Naresh Kumar (former Davis Cupper, and non-playing Captain of the team during the early 90s). It was fun for a soccer crazy 10 year old to watch footage of greats like Pele, Eusebio, and Maradona, among others. And mind you, this was before the cable tv revolution.

I'd religiously stay up till 11pm just to watch that show - those were the days when I needed "special permission" to stay up. Achan also used to record the show and I think we still have the tapes back home. The tricks of the trade demonstrated very ably by the stars would be put into use that week during the PT period, with "Maradona" pitting his wits against "Yashin" - a showdown which might have had soccer aficionados licking their lips with anticipation (ah the cliches!). It's amazing how as kids we imagined ourselves to be cricket/soccer stars transcending time and entering the arena!

One of the shows put George Best under the scanner, and it was interesting to hear that he was considered the star of his days - a time which also had Pele (approaching the sunset of his career), Cryuff and Beckenbauer. The impish/boyish charm sure had its effect on the British gals - little wonder that he was sometimes called the "Fifth Beatle". It was nice to see his life being celebrated as he passed, but then everyone's thoughts invariably went back to think of what he could have been if he had just not squandered his talents away. For every Bobby Charlton (arguably England's best IMHO), there's a George Best.

For every Pele, there's a Garrincha. Garrincha was one of the most amazing dribblers in the game, and I'd probably say that Pele might not have been as great a player had Garrincha (among others) been on the feeding line. But then, he too went 'wrong' somewhere, lost among the booze and the babes, dying a pauper on the streets of Rio. Came across a nice tribute to him on Rediff (written last year).

Maradona's done enough to see the 'other side', but thankfully he's on the mend and doing quite well. Atleast he had the decency to finally admit that the goal he initially attributed to God's hand was actually that of a mere mortal's! The England-Argentina match of 1986 is remembered more for the goal that wasnt, than for the goal that was sheer brilliance (I'm at a loss of words to describe what exactly it was!).

Ah nostalgia....all thanks to Georgie long, and thanks for all the memories...RIP!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Swingin' retrospection - 1

The lunch break was on, and as usual we were sitting outside the classroom and jabbering over lunch. Suddenly out of the blue, there was this sound of an earth-shattering cracker. It was March, and Diwali was over a long time ago. We dismissed it as some rich guy (South Bombay oozes them) celebrating in inimitable style, and went about our usual basketball game post-lunch.

Lunch over, we returned for our usual Friday afternoon English class with Ms. Shukla. As always, we were restless (or should I say over-exuberant), especially with the weekend coming up. For all our boisterousness, Ms. Shukla ended up making the entire class kneel and put our hands up in the air - a painful business.

And then the earth shook, the windows shattered, we hit the floor and took 'shelter' under our desks. We were dazed for a few minutes....Ms. Shukla was in tears, pandemonium prevailed! Uncle Louie dismissed it as a gas cylinder burst nearby, but the entire city was on edge - you could feel it cut as we walked back home.

I think of three of Ac's colleagues who were at the Bank of Oman at 2pm that Friday afternoon, off and on. S-Uncle was a very close friend of Ac's - full of fun, always cracking jokes. He was the first Uncle I 'made friends with' during the initial days in Prabhadevi/Ocean Gold. I think of the other folks who perished at Dalal Street, Worli, Sea Rock, Plaza.....

Some day (in my lifetime) I hope I see justice.....

PS: I finally managed to get my hands on Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found the other day, and have been in the process of slowly biting off chunks and chewing on them. It got me thinking of days gone by in Bombay, and inspired this post. All in all, it's one amazing book. I can actually hear Bal Thackeray talk through the words in the lines from Suketu Mehta's interview with him - speaks volumes about the author (and the subject too!).

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Strand is back!

Was checking out Mid-Day (as usual) this evening, and was very surprised to see this article about Strand Cinema finally re-opening!

It was on a rainy Sunday evening that A-A and I went to see Mr. India there. I think I was in 1st standard then, and thats probably the second movie I watched in my life - and probably the only Hindi movie I've seen more than 10 times.

During the rains the Colaba Market area was one of the worst places to be - slushy, replete with rotten vegetables, the musty air shaken every few minutes by the shrieks of a hen being slaughtered in one of the many chicken shops that dotted the market. I dont know if that's changed - I wouldnt be surprised if time stood still in Colaba Market. I sometimes wonder if the Malayali veggie seller still plies his wares at the corner of the telephone exchange building! Those were the days...

Back to the Strand...It was already heading towards it's curtain call back then. Metro was thriving like nobody's business (ok yeah Akshat's business!) through the 80's and into the 90s. Sometime in 1992 (according to the Mid-Day article), Strand shut down. Everytime I drove/walked past it enroute to Abhishek/Gavin's place I'd think about the good times I'd enjoyed there.

And so today it looks like the Strand's reinvented itself. Metro's reinventing itself too, if the class grapevine is to be believed. Both theatres have very fond memories for me, and I hope both do well - especially Metro, because after all it's Akshat's!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reverse swing - 2

He was enamored at first sight, and once they started a 'live-in' relationship a year later, everything seemed smooth. They shared a rather tempestuous relationship over the years, until he finally walked out on her 15 years after they first met.
He fell in love with someone else, while she kept waiting for him, hoping that he just might change his mind and come back to her. But then he had moved on, and had made peace with himself. She was a thing of the past. All said and done, things would never be the same between them again.
Whenever he returned, he'd drop by to see her and make sure she was doing ok - just for old time's sakes. Her hopes rose everytime he returned - the prodigal he was - but she was too timid to bring up the past.
On a muggy night late one August, as BA0138 lifted off the runway, he looked back at the city he loved once upon a time, shed a tear for her and a silent prayer escaped his lips...

PS: Changed the caption to Reverse Swing, based on a suggestion from Vinayak! Acc. to him it was a more appropriate caption for these posts!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Reverse Swing - 1

Was reading Ammani's blog and have been inspired to post some stuff (off and on, possibly more on than off) on the lines of her "A Quick Tale" series. Thanks for the inspiration!

They had walked the streets of South Bombay more often than they had cared to count, when they were in high school. Like he would say (later), every lamp-post had it's story to tell! They walked from Churchgate towards Marine Drive to watch the sun set - it was the last sunset they would watch together. A few months later they went their separate ways, a lot of things left unsaid!
A little more than four years down the line, at an office party she struck up an animated conversation with him. The people around them, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they had known each other since they were in kindergarten, were amused to actually see her go ga-ga over him. They were opposite poles, he the quiet unassuming types, while she was the loud, life of the office type...and anyway they hardly spoke to each other at work!
And so over dessert, overlooking the lush greenery that is Powai, they spoke about the paths they had taken. They had a rough idea about each others' doings and undoings via common friends, but the four year silence between them post-2/13 had not been broken.
She was not sure if he was seeing someone, but was unsure about how to broach the topic. Diplomacy was not her style, but today she figured she was treading on thin ice.
In the background, the DJ was playing "Kaliyon ka chaman" and the party was getting all groovy. Within a matter of moments, a girl appeared out of nowhere and whisked him back into the main party.
As her eyes fell on their intertwined hands, she knew she had her answer. Four years of hopes and six months of patience were reduced to dust! For all the times he had played "Against all odds" over the phone during the turbulent times, and she had scorned him....he finally had the last laugh!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Memories of Ganesh Chaturthi

Sunil's post on Ganesh Chaturthi got me inspired into writing this post, which gets my blog into one more of those fits-and-starts routines. Trust me, there will be quite a few of these in the near future!
I attended an aarti at a friend's place last night, and it brought back fond memories of my Bombay days. I think I was singing the aarti in Marathi (Note: Clemson has a huge Marathi mitr-mandali types) after almost eight years! Every year different families had their own small aartis with the main idol being installed in one of the garages. Invariably either Kulkarni Uncle or Padhye Uncle were the ones who would lead the aarti every morning and evening. Believe me, everyone used to attend the night aarti, something which changed later as the dynamics (and possibly family values) changed in Dhanastra. As kids we just loved the prasad - my mouth still waters at the thought of the modaks we used to get. Towards the end of our stint in Dhanastra, I guess there were only the individual poojas, and whoever was keen attended. I for one can easily say I attended every one of the aartis at the Kulkarni's and Padhye's in the 15 years I was there. I've lost touch with both families and so have my parents. Padhye Uncle passed away a few years ago, and believe me to a lot of us (including our parents), it was a bit like the end of an era. I remember everyone talking about the good times we had around Ganesh Chaturthi.
Bombay at Ganesh Chaturthi time is something one must experience once in a lifetime - I enjoyed it 15 times! A few weeks before the festival begins, the newspapers start talking about the latest idols rolling off the 'assembly-lines' - Lalbaug in central Bombay is a huge idol making centre. Some idols are mind-blowing for their sheer beauty or size, while others simply seemed to make fun of trivial issues like current affairs or the latest from Bollywood.
One of the pandals we always visited was the one hosted by the GD Somani school, pretty close to where we used to stay. I think pretty much every family in Colaba/Cuffe Parade visited the pandal just to admire the idol. It was probably one of the tallest ones in South Bombay atleast. This was one of the few times GD Somani was treated with some sanctity/respect - other wise we were always shouting "GD Somani....gutter ka paani" when we passed that way (yeah I know it sounds kiddish, but when you're 8 or 9 you dont give too much of a damn!).
The immersions were grand affairs, an unforgettable mix of drum beats and delirious dancing. As a kid it intrigued me how my heart(beat) seemed to go into overdrive to the sound of the drums. People throwing gulal in the air, trucks streaming past with the huge idols, some on carts, some on cycles - all in all a fairly motley mix.
All this to the echoes of "Ganpati bappa moraya...pudchya varshi laukar yea"!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Born crooks...and ingrates

As most Mumbaikars might have read, the Phase Pardhi tribe has been (supposedly) quite active on the crime scene in the suburbs lately!

The name of the tribe itself is pretty intriguing, especially the "Phase" bit! I wonder whether Phase was like a stage, or state of matter! Or was it a Marathi word/name!

But what had me chucking was an article in MidDay which said that "Phase Pardhis are one of India’s so-called denotified tribes. In their 1871 Criminal Tribes Act, the British had listed (thus ‘notified’) the Pardhis and 150 other tribes as criminal. That meant that if you were born into a Pardhi family, you were automatically a crook."

Thank God the Nayars/Nairs are a peace-loving gang (relatively atleast!).

Another article on MidDay says the residents of a "dangerously dilapidated" building in Mohammed Ali Road will not move to BMC-provided (Bombay Municipal Corporation) accomodation in Kandivli. It seems they want to move ONLY to Peddar Road.

What's next????? We might have residents in Dharavi wanting to move into Lokhandwala, Machchi-Maar Nagar into Cuffe Parade, people from the kuppams in Chennai wanting to move into Boat Club Road!

The world's ingrates!!!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Maharashtra cricket

Since time immemorial, the Maharashtra cricket team has been the poorer cousin of the Bombay cricketers. They had some really good players like Surendra Bhave, Shantanu Sugwekar and Santosh Jedhe who really stood an excellent chance of breaking into the Indian ranks, but for reasons unknown just found themselves (and their efforts ignored). Bhave and Sugwekar were a deadly batting combination, while Jedhe was spoken of very highly as an all-rounder - something the Indian team desperately needed in the early and mid-90s. In more recent times, I think Iqbal Siddiqui made a quick cameo role in the 2001-02 series when England visited India.

It was heartening to read two articles that showed that Maharashtra cricket is doing fairly well. The first one which caught my eye stated that Chandrakant Pandit had been appointed the coach of the Maharashtra Ranji team, and offered reasons on why he quit the Mumbai team. I was surprised, as I'd read somewhere that the Maharashtra Cricket Association had appointed an Aussie Darren Holder as a "high-performance" coach. The Mah. association sure took a bold step in this regard, because all said and done, the idea of a foreigner as a coach has never been digestable to the common man. Last year Punjab took a bold step by calling in the ex-Pakistani coach Intikhab Alam to coach their Ranji team, and it worked wonders with Punjab reaching the Ranji finals this year! One might say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but I do hope Chandu and Holder get along well and lift Maharashtra to success.

The other article was a slight disappointment, considering the fact that Tendulkar was not going to play the Zimbabwe Test series; but had good signs in that Dheeraj Jadhav was going to be replacing him. I have only heard/read of Jadhav's talents and it should be a huge boost to Maharashtra cricket if he does indeed get a chance and he does well. Although some folks might disagree, I think Tendulkar did the sensible thing by sitting out the Zimbabwe tour. I wish Tendulkar had taken things a bit easy and given his elbow a little time to rest instead of playing through the Pakistan series.

PS: I'm glad the press isnt too euphoric over the Indian victory over Zimbabwe!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Memories of days gone by...

In the past week I've gotten back in touch with two classmates I hadnt spoken to in almost 10 years (ever since I left Campion)- Beowda and Rosy (their Campion nicks). It's been an interesting thing (to say the least) catching up on the latest from both guys. Amazing to think that Rosy's now married and settled in London, while Beowds is almost a doc and works at one of the state-of-the-art hospitals in the US @ UPMC.

There still are some blokes I havent met in the 9 years - Terminator, BhopuGas, Koyal, Prince, Jaimbia, Jallu, Karlos, Jordan, ShakuniMama and Chachu. Some friends stay on the radar, some just disappear without a trace. Some have kept in touch via chat/email (Bablya, BigBull, S*xBomb, Fishy), others by phone and a couple I've met on a relatively regular basis (like H*r*y, Tipsy, Monkey, the Tolles, Vazi, Turkey, Gay1).

Everytime we meet up or speak to one another, we invariably run a roll-call and rack our brains over what news either of us has about the various guys in class. More often that not it leads to us reminescing on some arbit incident which happened in school. It's amazing how each of us remembers different incidents, though with some guys there's a stand-out incident which no one will forget!

We cant forget:
Gomo the momo - he and his threats to chew the marrow of some unsuspecting student's bones...
ILP and his Panjabi-isms.....(he was/is God in Campion imho)
Callu - and his B L X Bh...and who can forget "WATTAH"
Chaudhri - she of "page tirty-tree"
Alphonso - and his wisecracks of "Pande-Wande's too-ishuns"!
Alvaro - and his sermons...which drove the A-section to tears....gave us B-boys a good laugh...we never let the A-guys forget the day they let their guard down and let the tears flow...BOYS DONT CRY!
Frakash (...sorry Prakash) - he who mixed his P's and F's...Deepak poor bloke hasnt been forgotten!
Yadav and Dangle - who could scare the daylights out of even a hippo!
Uncle Louie - The more I practice...the more I score....
Kaydee - and his wisecracks.....
FidoDido - the coolest!

But amidst the mirth, there will always be one point which gets us sober - Miss Goswami. She taught us Geography in the 9th and 10th. She was new to school in the 9th, and was our class-teacher. We sure gave her a rough time, even driving her to tears on a few occasions. She screamed, screeched, walked out - it didnt have any effect on us - but we irritated her the same! Even lectures from Nannu didnt work, until he actually threatened to suspend the entire class.

The 'ragging' continued through the 10th, but slightly muted - possiibly because everyone was worried about their survey maps in the ICSE exams. We had pretty much made our peace with her, and we used to kid her about her single status - sometimes even linking her up with ILP! After school, we all got along well with Ms. G and used to joke about the tough times we gave her. She treated us just like made it a point to ask everyone about their love life and in turn we used to kid her about the masters in school who were bachelors. I met her pretty much everytime I went back to school.

When we heard she was getting married in 2001, all of us were pretty happy and the guys in Bombay had plans of attending the reception there. But then fate willed otherwise. We still shake our heads in disbelief thinking back and wondering how He could snatch her away the evening before her wedding.

And they say her Scooty still lies at 13 Cooperage Road, as a kind of reminder/memorial to her! Some day we guys hope to set up some sort of scholarship-fund (in Ms. G's memory) for students at Campion - if everything works out (we're still discussing the feasibility of the whole thing)!

And so that's that....

Bravery and Awards - Part 2.

WHY are we handing out military honors to silver medallists at Olympics, when the brave men who guard our frontiers and fight for our nation go unrewarded?!

Looks like we are a nation with misplaced priorities! Ridiculous!

On the topic of awards, I was amused to see Cyrus Poncha's name among the list of Dronacharya awardees. I do believe that there are other folks who deserve the award more - the case in point being Joaquim Carvalho (one of the gurus of Mumbai hockey). There's a website which lists the 'grievances' against Poncha. Some of their points make a fair bit of sense - especially the 'poaching' he does to get people to train at the academy in Chennai. Looks like has a HUGE grudge against Joshna Chinappa!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Forgotten soldier

Was surprised to come across an article by G. Rajaraman in Outlook, 'sparing a thought' for Vinod Kambli. It came as a huge shock to read that not too many people were standing by him (and Rajaraman hoped he'd be proved wrong on this one).

I was reminded of the heady days of the spring of 1993 when Kambi went berserk against the Pommies and then against the hapless Zimbabweans, scoring two double centuries in a row - and also doing pretty well in the ODIs against England. Those who were at the Wankhede that day will remember the pasting Kambli gave a hapless John Emburey. Kambli (and Sachin in the second test and good ol' Azhar in the first Test) along with the spin trio of Kumble, Chauhan and Raju went a long way in the 'brownwash' the Pommies got.

If I remember right, Sachin went through a slightly lean patch (by his standards) against the Englishmen (the brilliant century at the Chepauk notwithstanding). In one of his interviews I clearly remember him making a remark about how Sachin took the elevator to the top, while he (Kambli) got there via the stairs.

Some time after that, the world began to see a very flashy Kambli - almost like he underwent a total metamorphosis into this supposedly 'cool dude', a far cry from his Kanjur Marg (??) origins. And with that, his cricket went downhill. His weakness against the short ball was brutally exposed when the Windies toured India in 1994-95, and I dont think he recovered from that point onwards.

For one, I could well imagine how much it hurts to see his childhood buddy Sachin be the toast of India. But then I guess Kambli has only himself to blame for his problems - all the partying and boozing has taken its toll. I remember watching him play a Ranji game against TN at the Guru Nanak grounds in Chennai in early 2002, and it was painful! It was tough to imagine that this was the same player who whacked the stuffings out of some of the better English bowlers, and here he was struggling miserably against some part-time TN bowler!

As far as I know, the Mumbai cricketing community is probably one of the closest-knit ones. So it comes as a huge surprise to read that Kambli was pretty much all on his own through his latest 'crisis'.

For every Tendulkar, there is a Kambli. For every Kumble, a Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Both Kambli and Siva were the toast of Indian cricket once, but then they let it all slip away in the whirlpool of fame and femmes! Ofcourse Siva did manage to 'resurrect' himself (if thats the right word) as a TV commentator, and one only hopes that Kambli's stars will align themselves in a suitably lucky position soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sports and work

I was quite amused to read that Rajyavardhan Rathore was awarded the AVSM (Ati Visisht Seva Medal) - the second highest military honor for serving officers - last year. For what one might ask, and the answer stares you right in the face!

I have no idea about the gentleman's exploits in the Army, but the medal was surely for the silver he clinched at the Athens Olympics. It was a huge achievement undoubtedly, but to award him a military honor for that reeks of something nasty! Let's face it, Mr. Rathore earned his plaudits and awards on the sportsfield, and he got his due there. Why was there any need to give him an honor that (I think) is normally awarded to the top military commanders for their work or for brave men who have played their role on the frontiers?

I do remember that after her brilliant performance at the Asiad in the mid-80s PT Usha too wanted a promotion in her Railways job! Our good ol' friend Mohd. Azharuddin thought he needed a promotion in SBI after winning the test series against England in 1993 - well before he found other means to supplement his meagre income! Needless to say Azhar didnt get his promotion to the DGM level!

I think sports-people in India are a fairly insecure lot, partly because opportunities dont exist post-retirement (or when the music is over!). A lot of them just disappear into oblivion. Some are remembered off and on for their achievement, but most just fade away. However, sportspeople abroad shift gears and move into the corporate world with ease, or just go into coaching.

One case which comes to my mind clearly is Eric Heiden. He won 5 gold medals at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980 and was active on the cycling circuit for a few years before he moved into retired life. Even after quitting the arena, he joined medical school and is now a leading orthopedic surgeon.

It's the uncertain future which ails Indian sports-people. It's probably the reason why the Yuvrajs and Irfan Pathans do whatever advertisements they can do now, when the going is good. Who knows what the future might hold for them a year or two down the line. Might as well make merry while the sun shines. But yet at the same time, they lose focus on what they're mainly here to do - play cricket!

It's all a vicious cycle all said and done!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Mahabharatha redefined

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and we were talking about Karna and suddenly he came up with one of the most amusing bloopers I have heard in a while. According to him, Yudhishthira was Karna's father! It had me laughing uncontrollably, but to an extent it just reminded me of how at times we 'forget' the epics.

All said and done, I'd say the Mahabharatha is one of my favorite 'books'. It's full of characters of various hues, some a slightly darker shade of pale. To this day, I cant but help but sympathize with Karna, for all his 'hardships' and the tought choices he had to make. The dilemmas and secrets Kunti harbored from the Pandavas. It would be interesting to put a spin on things and wonder what might have transpired had Karna been 'accepted' as the eldest of the Pandavas.

I never realized that Veda Vyaasa had a lot more 'personal touch' with the storyline than just dictating the text to Ganesha! But then I guess Amar Chitra Katha suitably censored those parts, or I missed them!

Bheeshma comes across as a very honorable old man, but as a kid I despised him because he sided with the Kauravas in the war - yes, I had a different set of rules when it came to Karna!

The battle of Kurukshetra is an epic within an epic. The sheer force of the Bhagavad Gita is simply amazing - the words ring true even today! It still amazes me how Abhimanyu learned only the way in to a chakravyuh, and didnt learn the way out! The death of Drona reads as one of the particularly dramatic sequences, where Yudhishthira had to lie that Ashwatthama (an elephant, and not Drona's son) had indeed been killed. With that lie, his chariot which normally always stood a few inches above the ground (due to his greatness), came down to the ground.

All said and done I'd tend to think Krishna was a very shrewd player. Two instances stand out on the battlefield - the death of Karna, and the slaying of Jayadratha. All said and done both had their roles to play in the death of Abhimanyu, and Karna had laughed when Draupadi was insulted in the court - so that naturally had Arjuna baying for their blood. But still, killing Karna while he was trying to rescue his chariot from the sinking mud was slightly unfair consdering the high 'standards' set by all concerned!

For some reason when you think of the characters, one immediately visualizes the people who played the roles in the TV serials (so much for the media!)! (Also speaks volumes about what a good casting job the Chopras did!). Yes, we did have those shady battle sequences to deal with - but back then slick computer graphics were a long way off from Indian shores!

Shashi Tharoor's Great Indian Novel is an amazing 'parody' (if thats the word) where all the events in India's post-Independent history have been superimposed on the storyline of the Mahabharatha. It sure makes some amusing reading!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New York..New York...

There's something about New York which gets my heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Looking across the Hudson at Manhattan as the bus winds its way up/down (depending on whether you're leaving or entering NYC) the ramp leading into the Holland Tunnel is a mind-blowing sight.

I ventured into the city the other day, with the mission of avoiding the subway and walking around the city - experience the city up close and in my face! I must have walked something like 120-140 blocks (and that's not counting the avenues I crossed). It gave me an opportunity of experiencing one of the most amazing cities in the world, and a chance to think/analyze on a lot of things.

86 storeys above 'sea-level', the observation deck of the Empire State Building is quite a decent place to look out at the city, but not the best place to get some thinking done. All said and done, the hour and a half I spent waiting in line for tickets to the obs. deck was well worth it.

Central Park is an interesting place, filled with its share of kookie characters as well as the normal ones jogging, walking or meditating. Good place to analyze the past and make plans for the future, and also shoot the breeze with the couzin!

In some ways, NYC reminds me of Bombay. Maybe it's the josh. But yet I do believe Bombay's lost its charm over the years.

It's one of those places where you can forget you're from smallville and think BIG! Like Sinatra sang:

New york, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one top of the list, king of the hill
A number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it - in old new york
And if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere

It up to you - New York New York

So that's that...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Freedom at Midnight

Finally got down to reading Freedom at Midnight over the weekend, and finished it this evening. It's been on my 'to-read' list, but somehow never got down to reading it.

At the outset I'd say it's a masterpiece - the spelling mistakes notwithstanding (arent I a grammar Nazi!). Although some folks might say it read like a history book, it gives one a ringside view (ah cliches!) to what went on behind the scenes as Aug 15th 1947 drew near. Towards the end it also focused on the assassins of the Mahatma, looking at their strategies and how they planned everything out. I think Lapierre and Collins did a brilliant dissection of every character in that book - be it Jinnah or Godse, Nehru or Mountbatten. Thankfully they didnt delve into the Nehru-Edwina equation at all, and concentrated instead on the equation Nehru shared with Lord Mountbatten.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

One armed valour

It beats me as to how India got blown away by Jayasuriya on Saturday night. Here was a man batting with one arm and the Indians couldnt prise him out! I sometimes wonder if India's gone back to the days when it did not have the ability to deliver that killer punch to knock out the enemy, having got him on the ropes.

The only other one-handed effort I can think of right now was by Malcolm Marshall against England in 1984. He broke his thumb, but came out to bat and helped Larry Gomes get past the century-mark. When he came on to bowl, his left hand was in plaster and he bowled a vicious spell taking 7-53 and routing the Pommies.

I dont think I can really think of an Indian with a comparable performance bar Anil Kumble in the Windies in 2002 (when he bowled with his jaw in a bandage). I think our cricketers lack the courage (and gumption) to take the opposition bull by the horns (ah, the cliche!). Like someone said, "we're the best batsmen at the non-striker's end"!

PS:I have been in Clemson since Wednesday, and it's been one huge rush - running around getting things done and settling in. It amazes me that I'm 3h ahead of PST and it gives me a strange kick! Maybe I'm still in Irvine-mode.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


2.30 on a Tue morning and I'm actually blogging. Just listened to this song called "Fabric" which featured on the "Monsoon Wedding" OST. It's one of the most beautiful songs, and I can still recall the backdrop on which it was picturized - a gloomy, rainy Delhi sky.

Have always associated this particular song with gloomy evenings - especially all those Sunday evenings back home. I still do have the song buzzing off and on in my head.

Today's my last day in Irvine, and needless to say I leave with a heavy heart. It is tough to say adios to one's amigos - but it has to be done! Might be back in November for the U2 show - gives me a reason not to sell those tickets! Biking past the old haunts brought back memories.

So that's that.....

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Vasantha Bhavan

So on Sunday morning, after much efforts waking Thendi up, we set out for Venice enroute to Camarillo. Since it was almost lunchtime by the time we hit the road, we planned a lunch stop at Madras Tiffin Cafe in Cerritos (Artesia). Sundi had taken K there when he was a fresher, and K couldnt stop raving about it.

We reached the place to find Madras Tiffin Cafe transformed into Hotel Vasantha Bhavan, replete with Gulti maami as the 'woner'! We were a bit apprehensive about the food, but went ahead and hit the buffet anyway! In between all the jokes cracked at the expense of the pseud-maamis, we polished off 4 masala vadais, 3 thayir-vadais, two uthappams and three masala dosais! Gee, we sure had an appetite! We had found heaven (for South Indian food)- at last! It's unfortunate that I wont be around to relish another meal at Vasantha Bhavan soon!

Invariably at any Indian restaurant you'll find a few pseud-types. They will come in their Sunday best and eat their dosas/uthappams with forks and knives. They have this almost supercilious air about them watching us 'junglees' eating with our fingers. But when they run into trouble (which happens invariably), fork and knife goes for a toss and out come the fingers.

The maamis might have been in the US for less than five years, but irrespective of whether they are from Mylapore or Mahbubnagar district they MUST put on their best American accent. One maami got her money's worth when she asked one of the staff where she could pay in her best English (which even the Queen would have been proud of). The guy replied: "Naa tamizh dhaan....Tamizh-le pesi-na podhum! (I'm Tamilian, so please dont hesistate to talk in Tamil)"!!!! I bet the maami was suitable impressed to say the least!

Then there's the pesudo-humble maami who shuttles from table to table trying to make polite conversation with other patrons in the restaurant (much to the chagrin of her glowering hubby, who invariably has IITM written all over him). It's probably the last dregs of the dormant Bharata Natyam artiste, soon to be (or already) soccer mum. The kids ofcourse dont give two hoots about Indian food - it aint cool enough.

Who can miss the Gulti family from the deepest parts of Karimnagar district! The hubby looks like he walked straight out of some comic strip - a living example of Homer Simpson (D'oh!). The wifey ofcourse has been in the US for just two years and hasnt been suitably Americanized. The kid is completely desi, drooling and regurgitating stuff all over the tablecloth much to the mother's amusement, and screeching at the top of it's voice!

Oh in all this, forgot to mention the three morons watching and laughing their guts out!

So thats that...The only minus point for Vasantha Bhavan - their saunf is pathetic. God knows what rubbish they smoke and pass off as saunf !

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The quest for a good 'South Indian' restaurant

K, V and I have been desperately seeking a good South Indian restaurant for the past two years. In our quest, we have visited (not necessarily eaten) at some interesting places. All have been in CA, except for the one I visited in Irving last week.

With all due respect to the restaurants dishing out Southie fare, you folks havent an iota of an idea of how to make good idli/vada/dosai. I'm sure all the ABCDs must sure be impressed with your fare, but for hardcore connoiseurs like V, K and yours truly, your idlis taste like thermocol, the sambhar gives gutter water a fair competition, and your paper dosai tastes a tad better than what else - PAPER!

In the same breath, I cannot but humbly request the 'woners' (read: owners) of the Saravana Bhavans and other 'Bhavans' to kindly refrain from serving up stuff like "Pollock" (read: Palak) Panneer and the like. Let's try and stick to our respective domains of expertise and experience. Fusion is good (undoubtedly), but like someone said, it often leads to confusion.

One of the no frills attached places I've been to is the Komala Vilas in Sunnyvale. This is a frequent haunt for desi dudes (and their spouses) after a tough morning's cricket in the vicinity. The coffee's really good, but the rest of the stuff wasnt up to the mark. Ah and one more thing - the cashier bills you Indian-style, on chits of paper!

We've attempted raiding the Saravana Bhavans in Sunnyvale and Cupertino on more than occasion - mainly coz of the name! On one occasion, there was a power outage in the Sunnyvale area (and we had to satisfy our hunger on some lousy Subway sandwiches), while on the other two occasions, we just couldnt get into the place.

A few months ago, we hit this place called Tirupati Bhima's in Milpitas. It's supposedly run by Sri Krishna Sweets (the naming funda still intrigues us), the famous makers of that lovely jilebi and mysurpa! The place had just opened and despite waiting for an hour, we couldnt find a table. But then we werent as aggressive as some of the Andhra folks there!!

Last week, thanks to Narayan's buddies RD and Mr. Balla (who I discovered was a couple of years senior to me in college) we ate an excellent buffet at "Rice and Roll" in Irving. It blew our brains out, and had our mouths watering. The vadas and dosas were out of this world. I think all of us gorged mainly on the vadas and dosas - tandoori chicken and lamb curry be damned! Ah, and we topped it off with some home-made mango ice cream. All in all, I wonder how we drove all the way back to Austin after such a heavy meal - hats off to Narayan!

I cut myself short here.....the crowning glory shall be revealed tomorrow! Till then will have to leave u well...smacking your lips waiting for tomorrow!?!?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

And then there was one....

One of the main reasons I got past the first few weeks here in Irvine was thanks to the incessant jokes and discussions we guys had in Cornell - some lasting till 5am. It went a huge way towards keeping my thoughts off home and other 'sentimental' stuff!

We are a crazy bunch, each one a specimen in his own right. Each of us has our own 'style' and idiosyncrasies. But yeah, we had a blast - even after we moved to our own apartments in Verano later on.

The bike rides to the beach.....
Hangin' at Donut Star....
The dinner discussions....
The I-90 incident....
The 'sanitary napkin' stealer......
The joint cooking sessions.....
Weekend cleaning sessions.....
EA Sports Cricket 2004 tournaments.....
Road trips to SD, the Bay Area....
Putting fundae........

And so a fortnight from now it will be one dude standing in Irvine. Hopefully each one of us will find our Valhalla (or has already found it)!

So this weekend it's one last time..before we turn the page...and another chapter comes to an end...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Kokomo and other good luck charms....

Rarely has a song influenced a certain event in my life more than "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys. I would tend to believe it's more than coincidence.It's almost been a good luck charm for me (and my team) whenever we have heard the song before/during a quiz. The other good luck charm is something on the lines of the dance the All-Blacks do before they play a game of Rugby. Something which might raise a few eyebrows, considering the violence involved!

It all started out with the BQC of 1994-95 when we were driving to Nanavati in Skywalker's car one foggy November morning and the usual morning show was on Radio MidDay. What plays...Kokomo....and thats where it all started. Back then Nanavati studios was a bit of an underground lair. While getting ready I happened to knock my head against an AC vent overhead. Since then, the minor head-banging became part of the school quiz team and Similar Aspirations "start-up" routine! I know Skywalker sure wasnt amused to get his banged around by me!

I know someone reading this will attribute Campion and SimAsp successes (and failures) to the presence of some folks who were regular flag waving "well-wishers", but then I cant but help wonder and ponder on Kokomo and the head-banging routine! To the VTS one(s) and Saam...Thanks a ton!

And so that's that.....

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Eknath Solkar - RIP

Eknath Solkar passed away in Bombay today. The first time I heard his name was probably in the late 80s or early 90s, when his 'office team' won one of the local tournaments in Bombay - it was either the Kanga League or the Times Shield. ToI (which back then was quite a good newspaper) had profiled him and his achievements for India. I was quite surprised that someone was playing (and winning) local league cricket for his office well after his India career had ended.

What I didn't appreciate back then (rather didnt realize) was the huge difference he made fielding close-up for India, that too without a helmet. I cant think of a greater close-in fielder than him. Today the Shiv Sunder Das', Laxmans and Chopras all field with varying degrees of protection, but back then the helmet was not around and most people just crouched at forward short leg and took the pounding if and when it came. Raman Lamba was unfortunate to take a blow to the head which turned out to be fatal.

And so Ekkie Solkar passes on......and quite flows the Don....


Happened to be driving by University Hills yesterday evening, and found a notice about the 'open house' at the observatory. The UCI observatory is located on a dirt track off the main drive in University Hills, affording a grand view of the whole of Irvine. It was a mindblowing view to just look out on the town. We could see planes land and take off from John Wayne, and somewhere in the distance there were fireworks. The dirt-track leading to the observatory is unlit and we had to navigate it by the light of the moon and my cellphone. It's also supposedly cougar country, but then none of us really worried too much! It's one of those places where the serenity (cougars notwithstanding) just takes your breath away, and I do plan on taking a walk there sometime. It was also a bit of a coincidence that I had been talking to NA about stargazing the previous evening.

My exploits with astronomy have been pretty limited, but I have gazed out at the stars on many a clear night and taken it all in. I'm good enough to make out Orion's belt and Mars and Venus in the twilight sky - the buck stops there with me. I do remember hanging with my building gang back in 1996-97, watching the Hyukatake comet whizz past in the sky. I also have vague memories of being woken up one night when I was 5, to look at the Halley's Comet. At that time it was amusing to think that I wouldnt see the Halley's comet again, unless I was alive into my 80s! AN and I still have a running joke about the Hale-Bopp comet - it reminds us of Cyndi Lauper's song "She-bop"!

Apparently Venus, Mercury and Saturn align in a straight line today(June 25), and the open house was probably in anticipation of it. The main UCI telescope was focused on a nebula 30,000 light years away (!!!). Most of the folks were quite disappointed just to wait 1-1.5h just to see a few white specks on a black background through an eyepiece. But the sheer magnitude of the distance is a humbling thought - much like we look at cells and organelles under a microscope.

We also got an opportunity of seeing Jupiter and Saturn last night in all their glory. We could see the cloud layers on both planets - we couldnt see the red spot on Jupiter, coz the telescope wasnt powerful enough I guess.

It's going to be a heavy duty weekend, with a lot of thinking and analysis - academic and personal. There is the old adage, that it is "written in the stars". I have not really been a firm believer in that, but then was reminded of it last night at the observatory. The next 2 weeks are going to be crucial for me as I take important decisions - some short-term and some long-term, some I love making, but a few which I feel I would be better off not thinking about. I just hope that the plans dont come to naught and I end up with half a page of scribbled lines. Yeah, Pink Floyd's "Time" does ring true oh-so-often. So please do keep your fingers crossed for my sake and hope that it all works out for the best.

And so that's that....

What's buzzing:
Yanni...Live at the Acropolis...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Soda, Jap-cakes, Sunshine Snack Corner and some Ecstasy...

As always, something had to inspire me into posting. This time it was Sunil's memories of the Bangalore Iyengar bakeries and other places he frequented through his school-days.

Most people who know me will probably vouch for my ravenous appetite - it's a different story that none of it shows (except for that not-so-minor-now paunch). I love food, plain and simble. I got my sweet tooth from Amma's side, while the love for savouries came from Achan's side! Quite a combination indeed.

My earliest memories of food would probably be of my maternal grandmother's fried fish (yeah I hear some people going "Siva Siva!!!"). The story about my request for "mo' phish" like Oliver Twist has been repeated innumerable times, that it's almost like family folklore now. Yeah I still relish fried fish. I long for the day I'll be home in Coimbatore, and I can say the same thing to Amma!

I was introduced to the pleasures of plain soda at the age of 3 by my maternal grandfather. Almost every night he'd have half a bottle of plain soda, and I'd get my share in a kutty stainless steel tumbler (geez, it's been ages since I used that word!).

Summer vacations and visits to Coimbatore would be incomplete without jilebis, mysurpa(k) and japanese cakes. I really used to love digging into the juicy j's and mouthwatering mysurpa. There always would be a 6-pack of j-cake waiting for me when I went to the Ammammas' house. Yes, I got addicted to this stuff thanks to my grandparents and grand aunts! Even during my college days, there have innumerable times (on my visits to Odyssey) I've popped in at SKS next door and gobbled a J or Mysurpa(k). Cant wait to do it soon!

Growing up in Bombay exposed me to stuff other than what "mom would like you to eat". I remember buying Ravalgaon's "Pan Pasand" for 25p apiece at the bus-stop while returning from school. When Amma heard about it, she thought I'd get hooked onto it. Needless to say I'm not hooked, but I wonder if the sweet is still manufactured nowadays!

Sunshine Snack Corner was this snack bar around the corner from where I used to stay. It was run by a bunch of bawas/baawis and they sure dished out some really delicious stuff. Their frankies were just out of this world (My mouth just watered at the thought of it!). Apparently some 20 years ago when I went there with my cuzin, I told the guy there "Gold Spot lao.....jaldi lao!". I presume it's a figment of my cuzin's fertile imagination, but yet again the story has been repeated so many times that it's again family folklore now!

Speaking of Gold Spot, it was a HUGE favorite when I was in Hyd. I must have been 2 then, and loved my "Gol-pot", coz it had those rubbery "things under the cap" which had characters from the cartoon Jungle Book. Limca became a favorite, till I had to drink a 300 ml bottle in 10 seconds and answer questions at the Limca Quiz. One Antara Datta (or one of her cronies) ran into a bit of trouble at the quiz once and showered the other teams with Limca. Needless to say the rest of us were so honored that we gifted the La Marts girls the quiz!

College days were the days of chola-poori in the canteen. God knows how many of that Bhillu/Dosai/Puffy/Venks and me wolfed down. Cant ever forget how we'd wait for the clock to strike 4pm and then hangout at the canteen, discussing the days events over pepsi and chola poori. Somehow I never touched the "meals" even once in my college days! Yes, those were good days! I got hooked to spaghetti thanks to the maan himself, Sunil, who back then was an awesome cook - presume he still rocks...should ask Arati for her opinion!

The Infy days were largely spent eating out. No cold coffee/Starbucks Frappuccino will ever come close to the Ecstasy the Mavanes, Yu and Pu used to have at CCD inside Keonics. In Aamanthran and Sukh Sagar, my orders are part of Mavane legend! It always would be Butter naan with either butter chicken or panneer masala as the side-dish. I have been woken up on occasion at 2am to hear that someone was eating my favorite dishes. Ah, and who can forget the awesome egg curry we used to get in the Old Infy building food court. Magnifico! Oh yeah, and the Dominos pizzas on weekends...

Sometime soon I'll be back and possibly check out the old haunts with the gang. Till then it's fingers and toes crossed....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Playing midfield

Was talking to "Paolo" a few months ago about getting back to playing football (or soccer for all you Americans). I hadnt played it in a long time, especially after my knee injury, and felt really good playing it after what seemed like ages. Watching Euro 2004 was a bit of a strain, especially since my legs got itchy seeing all that fancy footwork from the likes of Zidane, Figo et al.

For some reason, I played very few soccer games during my college days back in Chennai - it was more cricket and basketball. Guys like Pedo, Bhillu and Avishek were regulars on the ACTech football team and used to practice regularly.

So the discussion invariably lead to what positions we played at. Paolo, much like his idol Maldini played defence, while I would like to think I played as a sweeper ala Beckenbauer. Paolo's riposte to this was "Ah, jidhar ball jaaye, udhar gol maare! You can literally score for both teams!", which had both of us in splits. But Paolo being the nice guy he is, clarified that the phrase actually personified midfielders! Ever since, the midfielder has come to personify someone unsure about something and happy to go either way (in a charitable way), and someone who will play for both sides (in an uncharitable way)!

Was walking in Aldrich Park (the central park around which UCI is built) this morning, ruminating on some stuff. I enjoy company, but there are some times when I just need some time on my own, all alone - this was one of those times. It's been two long years here, and to say that I look forward to going home and seeing my folks would be an understatement. I have seen the changes in me and around me. I thought I was a thinker back when I was in college, but having come here, that skill has been sharpened a great deal. Out here I make ALL my own decisions and face the consequences, be it as simple as buying a can of coke or something as tough as planning a skydive!

I have made my share of mistakes and have learned from them. There have been "twice-bitten" cases, but I can rest assured that the third occasion does not/will not arise. I have tried assimilating whatever advice folks pass my way. Most of the time it's been helpful to a large extent, although there have been times I have ignored the warning signs and plunged headlong only to hit the bottom of the pool.

There are certain issues where I have played attacker, and some where I have been content to play midfield (in a good way ofcourse). Like I said in an earlier post, it's all about what one really wants. A chat earlier this weekend with a friend from Chennai also got me (and him) thinking about the pros and cons of the PhD. I definitely want to finish my PhD from a good school, that's for sure - for now I dont know which one it will be! For now I do believe that I dont want to be second-guessed on this one. I may not have a 5-figure salary (bordering on 6) right now, which undoubtedly will be a disappointment to some folks, but five years down the line I have faith that this investment of time/money/patience and a whole lotta other stuff will pay its dividends. It's all about keeping the faith and not losing hope, and also being honest with yourself.

"Bill Gates", "Chris Rock" and I had a very interesting discussion over lunch the other day up in San Jose. Have known them from my college days, thru Infy and now in the US. The last time we met was on Elliott's Beach as the sun set on a fab evening - I think we hung out in and around the beach all day! 3 folks, about as similar as you can get, but with totally different outlooks on life. Bill and Chris both have steady jobs (thankfully), and naturally their folks are on the lookout for a suitable spouse. Bill and "Nancy Drew" have known each other since the first semester of college and have been thru thick and thin together. Both parents are ok with the match, but then the chief protagonists are still unsure, so it's pretty much a roadblock there. Chris, despite all the jokes is pretty worried about the next India trip for whatever surprises it may throw up! The M-word is a non-no nowadays! Ultimately we conclude it's all about holding on/out for what we want, which neednt necessarily be the same as what our parents want for us. But then at the end of the day it's up to the individual to decide whether to pursue something, or just let it die a natural death. Like the adage goes, you can bring the horse to the water-hole, but u cant make it drink! There are a zillion things which might have meant a fair bit to us a few years ago, but today they're just bricks in the wall!

I'm content to otherwise play midfield on the M-issue and a host of others. I have more than enough on my plate, and handling a few more tensions isnt worth it! I got the surprise of my life a few weeks ago, and whatever people may say about omens (reading Paulo Coelho a fortnight ago doesnt help matters!), it's 'better' (using that word with a lot of care/apprehension) to think beyond the present on omens and the like. I guess even the people who kid me about things (some over the past 4-5 years about DESTINY) do realize that everything has a 'darker shade of pale' too! But yes, there has been a bit of a paradigm shift in the way I have analyzed the situation on second/third/n-th thoughts! It reminds me of the discussion I had with a friend the other day about the rules (she called it the 'gospel') we live by. Her gospel seemed simple enough - there is no gospel! She claims she realized this over the years, as her views on different things in life changed with age. I wouldnt analyze things too radically, but I guess our views on things change gradually (for better/worse), but yet certain core values remain the same. She refuses to agree with me on that, counter-arguing that it's against her 'gospel' to have core values! To each man/woman his own!

And so that's that....a pithy patchy post...

What's buzzin...
Blue Oyster Cult...

Farewell Dr. Armstrong

While waiting in line to pick up my graduation gown and cap, I happened to pick up the latest issue of the UCI Alumni Association monthly newsletter. It came as a HUGE shock to read that Dr. Kevin Armstrong was no more. He was just 39!

Dr. A was the doc I consulted when I twisted my knee last year in that infamous accident near Santa Barbara. I still remember sitting in the consulting room at the Med Center waiting to meet Dr. A, and in walks this tall, well built gentleman (I thought he would have played in the NFL!) with a wide smile and booming laugh. For some reason when he examined my knees, I was worried that he just might crack a bone or two, but then he treated it so gingerly - a far cry from that sukdu Dr. Z in Santa Barbara, who tried putting my knee back together without any anesthesia! Like his name, he sure looked strong-armed. Infact he worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers on their medical staff for a few years before he joined UCI.

Over the next couple of months, I made quite a few follow-up visits, and each time I met him we joked about this and that. He kept kidding me about being weak kneed and its implications on finding a suitable girl (Aeromsith memorably sang on the topic of falling in love being hard on the knees!). [I didnt know back then that he was single, and had been voted by PEOPLE magazine as one of the top 50 bachelors in the USA, a huge honor on the celeb circuit; especially to be named up there along with Ben Affleck and other guys women swoon over!].

He was a good man, a humble man. A lot of the people I have worked with and spoken to at the Med Center held Dr. A in great esteem. Dr. S was telling me this afternoon, "He made a mark wherever he went, and made a huge difference in peoples lives". He sure left his mark on my knees.

So here I am, with stronger knees, "playing midfield", ready to take on the world. Everytime I admire 'em quadriceps, I pay tribute to a great man.

Dr. Armstrong - RIP...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Pink Floyd reunited!

This is awesome! Been 24 long years .....

A Mumbaikar in Madras...

Sunil summed up the whole idea of being a student from the vernacular medium studying in an English-medium institute like Anna U on his blog the other day. It inspired me into writing my own views on the whole experience of being an "outsider" in Anna University, like the proverbial
Englishman in New York - recognized, but not really accepted!

Anna University has its set of what Dr.O called "hindi-kaarans". These folks were generally non-Tamilians who generally were from the Northern parts of the country, and from Day-1 itself were singled out for special treatment, both from their peers and from a few professors. I for one didnt really face much of this special treatment from my seniors, as I was a day scholar, plus there were folks who were nice enough to play "protector"!

Being from Bombay, word had gotten around about me on the first day itself, and I was pretty much a marked man. With all due respect to the average guy in Anna U, most of them look like a cross between T. Rajendran and Vadivel. The Leather Tech department was full of the rowdiest of the rowdies, and I got scorched pretty bad by a few folks there. I wasnt spared by the Biotech seniors either (both absolute pussycats as I'd discover later), who got together with two hulks of seniors from my department and ragged the daylights out of me in the ACTech canteen. But I was spared any major ragging thankfully. [Have heard a lot about Sunil's ragging abilities, but he fortunately spared me!!!]. The NCC interview ofcourse was a different story, with Messrs. Mothivel and Hariprasad (along with Sathish and Bruce skewering my best cadet chances with questions outside the 'curriculum').

Overall I got along pretty well with all the professors except two gentlemen - O and Gunz. O as mentioned earlier has generally had his knives out for every non-Tamilian student passing thru ACTech. Combined with the fact that I was a Mallu to boot, he had a sword ready for me. All the same it wasnt much fun having it dangle over my head, as he put deadline after deadline by which I was supposed to converse with him in pure Tamil, which naturally never happened, leading to many a snide remark over the next 2 years. I had the misfortune of having him as my viva examiner for an Organic Chemistry lab, which got me very close to scoring a 'cup'. But overall, he was a decent professor who taught fairly well and was concerned about ensuring that everyone understood whatever he taught.

Gunz was O's sidekick who taught us Math in the 3rd semester. For some weird reason, all the questions in class, kept getting directed at me and I got marked off for all the times (pretty much 100%) of the time I couldnt answer the question. Man, am I glad to have got past 3rd semester!

3rd semester was the craziest semester we AC-techers went through! Berchmans' lab...Cup-Kali's theory and lab....Karthiyaswami's weird Electrical Engg lab....Iyengar-saami's Strength of Materials class....Chinnakali's Materials Science class....amazing days!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The forgotten.....

Prem's post (which linked me to an article by Rajaraman in Outlook) got me thinking about a couple of cricketers who were considered bright prospects, but for reasons unbeknown just never made it big, or had the chance to perform at the highest levels.

I am a firm believer in the general prevalence of a 'godfather' system in the Indian selection system. The 'quota'-raj ofcourse needs to be thrown out sooner rather than later, if we have to have the best team. There have been umpteen cases of lesser mortals donning the Indian cap at the expense of a few good men.

Sometime back Dr. Ramachandra Guha had conjectured on the scenario had Rajinder Goel played for India. He played before my time, and unfortunately I dont think I have seen films of him in action either. I think he was rated up there with the Spin Quartet, but never got a look-in because it would have meant dropping Bedi! In an interview with Cricinfo a couple of years ago, he was pretty matter-of-fact in stating that had he been born in another era, he would have been a shoo-in for the Indian cricket team. Paddy Shivalkar and Dilip Doshi were two other good spinners who lost out like Goel. (Doshi did play 33 tests, picking up 114 wickets, but had an uneasy equation with Sunny that ultimately led to the end of his stint with the Indian team).

Sometime in the early 90s the Haryana Ranji team was a force to reckon with on the domestic circuit. Besides Kapil, Chetan Sharma and a young Aja Jadeja, there was a (roly-poly) gentleman named Amarjeet Kaypee who just kept piling the runs on (to use a cricketing cliche!). He holds the record for the maximum runs scored in the Ranji Trophy (a record that was previously held by another pocket roller and joker called Ashok Malhotra), but never came close to being considered for the Indian team. It came as no surprise to hear his gripes.

One exclusion which has always intrigued me has been Amol Muzumdar's. He was (and is) one talented bloke, but has never gotten his due from the selectors. It is unfortunate that he too played in an era when the Indian middle-order was packed with the likes of Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and Ganguly. Now with the emergence of Kaif and Yuvraj, I don't see him making the team. Like Rajinder Goel, he will probably go down in the books as one of the greatest Indian batsmen never to have played for India.

Kanwaljeet Singh, the right arm offie for Hyderabad was infinitely more talented than his Hyd counterpart Venkatapathy "Muscles" Raju, but the closest he came to donning Indian colors was when he played for India 'A' against the touring England 'A' side in 1994-95. Though people say that his age was a factor, I guess it was more than that. The selectors probably had forgotten one Pat Symcox who played for the Proteas well into his forties, and was belting the bowlers all over the park!

Vikram Rathour
and Sunil Joshi were two guys who made their debut on the Indian tour of England in 1996-97. Both had done extremely well in the first-class season in India, Rathour with the bat, while Joshi was being touted as the next all-rounder! But then the pitches in England and S.Africa exposed Rathour's inadequacies and he lost his place in the side. The reason he got a look-in was probably as a candidate for the opening slot. Joshi did marginally better than Rathour, but again just faded pretty much into oblivion with the rise of Harbhajan and Murali Kartik. The all-rounder debate still rages on. We have had flashes glimpses, caught out of the corner of our eyes - Agarkar's century at Lords, Irfan Pathan's bat-wielding skills are impressive, Zaheer hoicking Olonga out of the ground; but nothing which we can rely on as yet!

There hasn't been a single Mallu of note who has made waves on the domestic (forget international) cricket scene (Author's note: We're getting parochial arent we!). In my humble opinion, neither Abey Kuruvilla nor Tinu Yohannan (I cant think of any other Mallu who has made it to the Indian cricket team) were Indian-team material. KP Bhaskar was a force to reckon with on the domestic circuit in the mid-80s through the early 90s with Delhi (yeah, all Mallus prosper when they're out of the motherland!). Sambit Bal from Cricinfo paid tribute to the gentleman the other day in an interesting article.

In Sambit's article, he speaks about a few cricketers who were domestic lions, but tame pussycats on the big stage - Ashok Mankad, Brijesh Patel, Ashok Malhotra. Kambli and Graeme Hick (to digress a bit from the Indian system) were two players who were destined for better things, but just never made it big. [I think Hick is the only cricketer in the last 20 years to have scored a century of first-class centuries]. Kambli simply took it easy once he belted the Pommies and hapless Zimbabweans in 1993, while Hick just couldnt handle pace. I remember the Windies tour of India in 1994-95, when Kambli's weakness came to the fore and all of us in class were fervently hoping that he would manage to overcome it. Sad to say, he never did, and remains te prime example of the Indian cricketer who had everything going for him, but never lived up to his talents.

All these guys got "opportunities to fail" (as Sambit put it). On the other hand, poor KP Bhaskar (and Amarjeet Kaypee and Rajinder Goel) will forever remain "what-could-have-beens" questions in Indian cricket!

[This was started out on June 2nd 2005, and finished on June 7th, as u can see!]

Whodunnit in the Army?

Looks like the scandal over the Brigadier who sold Pak plans in the '65 war is making huge headlines. For some reason I find it tough to believe that such a thing happened, and if it did, then like Col.(retd.) Athale wrote, "the Pakistani army would have had to be extraordinarily dumb!".

But yet, the man crying wolf is an eminent Pakistani and son of the Pak President at that time, Ayub Khan. Being a former minister (I think he was the Foreign Minister), I could bet that he knows better than to make empty allegations. And judging by his reaction on being given a list of names by Outlook, I suspect some hero is going to take a fall soon. 3 of the names in that list are familiar army heroes, the most famous one ofcourse being Field Marshal Manekshaw, besides OP Malhotra and GG Bewoor who were both Army chiefs.

As far as I know, in 1965 the Indian Army was within striking distance of Lahore when the white flag was raised and they pulled back (presumably under pressure from some quarter). Taking all this into account, I suspect someone just might have given the Pakistanis the wrong plans! Like the grandson of Deep Throat, we can declare the dude who leaked the plan a hero's salute!


And so Mr. Advani has been making polite noises on his visit to Pakistan. With every passing day he comes up with something "sweet". I shake my head in disbelief! It's ok Mr. Advani, we believe that u werent involved in any conspiracy to assassinate Jinnah.

As I write this, Rediff has a headline which says that Advani has resigned as the BJP President. What will we hear next? "Advani takes sanyas on Mount Kailash"??

It sure was amusing to read that Mr. Advani called Jinnah a man of "impeccable secular credentials". And December 6th 1992 was the saddest day of his life! (Yeah, I am dating Kate Hudson!). As far as I know, Jinnah always wanted two countries, divided on the basis of religion. The end was simply "accelerated" by PJ Nehru's greed for the coveted PM's post (kissa kursi ka, circa 1947)! Although Patrick French (Jinnah's biographer) might call Gandhi a wily politician, imho Gandhi was helpless and hopelessly outmaneuvered by Nehru and gang in pressing for the 2-nation solution! Gandhi was a prisoner of his own conscience (to a large extent) and to a lesser extent I'd put the blame for a few of India's woes squarely on his shoulders. Nehru is ofcourse responsible for the majority of the problemos, though his undoings balanced his doings!

Wonder how many days more Mr. Advani has in Pakistan, and what else he can come up with? Will he apologize for the 1971 war? Will he toe the line of Mushy that Kargil never happened?
I frankly think the man has lost his marbles!

So that's that!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Michael Palin online!

While googling for a link for my previous post, I came across this fabulous site, which has everything on Michael Palin's travels online! Books, photos, THE WORKS!

Vee, now u can read 'em all!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Book last!

After reading a couple of book tag memes, I had been fervently wishing someone would tag me. It took a good month or a little more, and finally it was Sunil (who's balanced his life) who tagged me! I'm very passionate about reading, much to amusement of my roomies (who see a book in the mail almost every 2-3 weeks - via Amazon Marketplace ofcourse). At any given time, you'll find bookmarks in 3-4 books. The bookshelf here is overflowing with books, files and the odd CD! The sole reason why I didnt buy one at Ikea was the fact that I'm surely moving within the next 2-3 months. Where I go....that's uncertain, but as the days go by it becomes clearer just a wee bit.

On to the books...

The last book I bought:
I'll name a few here, coz I bought them off the Amazon marketplace together.
Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 days
Michael Palin's Full Circle
Patricia Schultz's 1000 Places to see before you die
Shashi Tharoor's Great Indian Novel

The last book that I read:
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho. Had nothing to read on the train back from Camarillo last night, so flicked the book from N-Ettan's collection. After reading all the travelogues by Messrs. Palin and Theroux, and the mindless (and brilliant) satire by Mr. Tharoor, this was one book which really made me think. Got me into a discussion with a co-passenger, which was really interesting. All the same, good to know that people here do appreciate good literature.

Which books have my bookmarks in them right now?
Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 days
Shashi Tharoor's Great Indian Novel
Rahul Bhattacharya's Pundits from Pakistan (thanks a ton for the book E & RE)
Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari (last few pages, phew!)

Five books that have made me think/influenced me:
Here are a few of my favorites...
John Grisham's The Partner...The end was bittersweet! I bought it way back in 1997, and I might have read that ending a good 15-20 times, and everytime I read it, I feel kinda suffocated (the feeling that crushes u deep within). It was something totally out of the blue, coming from John Grisham.
Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist...It's a very simple story, almost like a children's fable, but the deeper meaning it carries is phenomenal, and impossible to miss.
Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge..It's all about the choices we make in life, and the way we want to lead our lives. I had my eyes on this for a long time (ever since I did my summer internship in Bombay in 2001, and RR told me about the book), but finally bought it here in Irvine last summer.
The Mahabharatha. This might sound corny, but here is one book I can never get enough of. I might have read this one atleast a good 15-20 times from cover to cover (a huge task, considering that the one I have by Kamala Subramaniam might have atleast 800 pages). There is a lot to assimilate everytime I read it, especially analyzing various characters.
Anurag Mathur's Inscrutable Americans...Another book which had me laughing uncontrollably pretty much all through. As a graduate student in the US, for some weird reason I sympathize with the dude a fair bit!
Vikram Chandra's Love and Longing in Bombay...Bought this is Chennai for just one reason, it had a snap of the Mumbai skyline on it! But the stories in there were absolutely amazing. Captured the essence of Mumbai, the sights, sounds, smells, weirdos, cops....

And so it's time for me to tag:

Bhillu the Rambling Man
Kartik Balasubramaniam who's supposedly playing Mindgames after reading the Vedas and Upanishads.
Dercosyst - supposedly in your face and he aint smiling! yeah right!
Govind of Halasya/Promiscuous Contemplations
Anjana of Afterword- politely rude, briskly vague and firmly unimaginative. it seems!
Sumi/Tinkerbell from Never-neverland!

Bhel on the Bombay...

Unfortunately of late, my daily dekko's becoming a weekly affair. Sorry 'bout that! It's a tough week, and probably wont post much.

All the same, was linked to Farokh Engineer's reminescences on Bombay via Uma's blog. He spoke about bhel-puri in Chowpatty followed by dinner at the then-Governor Dr. PV Cherian's place, which got me thinking about Mumbai beaches.

I never had bhel on the beach in Bombay, mainly coz Ammamma/Amma thought it was the unhealthiest place on earth. Even sugarcane/sugarcane juice was strictly no-no! Those who know me well enough would be amused to hear that I can count the number of times I have been to a proper beach in Bombay on my fingers.

Most of the visits were on class picnics (in school) to Governor's beach. To use a wee bit of American terminology, it's the Maharashtra Governor's own private beach, secluded from the hustle and bustle that's Walkeshwar, nestled in the Malabar Hill(s), gazing out across Backbay. The only time I remember hanging out at another beach was solitary occasion at the Juhu Beach after the BQC finals. I have never set foot on Chowpatty for some reason, though I have walked along Marine Drive on innumerable occasions.

The Bombay skyline coupled with the Queen's Necklace, is one of the most breathtaking sights I have seen. To stand on the Oberoi and gaze out all along Backbay is simply amazing to say the least. (Calling it the Oberoi Hilton is a joke, imho!). Driven along the entire stretch on a zillion occasions, mostly on #123 enroute to tuitions (at an unearthly 6am); though sometimes at 2am enroute to picking up/dropping someone off at Sahar. I remember walking up the road near Walkeshwar late one night and standing where the road curves into Malabar Hill. I just stood there, waves lashing below me, looking over the Bay...gazing at a city I love so much..pondering on life in general...watching a car once in a while wind its way across Marine Drive.

U can take a man out of Mumbai...but u cant take Mumbai out of a man! (what a way to end....with a cliche!)

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Desi Runaway Groom

This happens in India too!
What if.....Jennifer Wilbanks and Rajiv Bhattacharya decided to take the plunge together....
What if.....both bride and groom did their separate escape acts...would they still be indicted?!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The cricketing debates...

The last week or two has seen a raging debate in the cricketing press/blogosphere about a whole lot of issues.

The main one ofcourse being the wisdom of giving the Bangladeshis test status. This matter's been debating and flogged beyond imagination in a variety of articles out there on the net and in print! All I can say is that it's another one of Jaggu-dada's (vote-gaining) screw-ups. It would be interesting to see if he might be unseated in the near future, as the rumor goes!

Prem Panicker's blog linked me to an article by the well-known sports-writer Rajan Bala in the Asian Age. It evoked a mixture of emotions. much like Prem commented. I sure was amused to read that the eminent writer believes that if the Bengal Ranji team played Bangladesh 50 times, they'd win 49 times! I think it was gross exaggeration on his part. If he said that about New South Wales/Victoria vs. Bangladesh, it might have been a wee bit more plausible. Chester-le-Street is going to be another wake-up call for the poor Bangla "tigers", and I wish them luck all the same!

Despite all their bravado, playing against the hapless Bangladeshi team is probably the worst tune-up the Pommies could have bargained for, especially with the Ashes coming up next! The Pigeon has named his target(s) and it remains to see if someone from the English side can cook pigeon. One classic memory I have of McGrath getting really riled, was at the Chepauk in the 2000-01 series when he tried teaching Tendlya to hook/pull only to get despatched to the deep square leg boundary a couple of times! Tendlya sure gave it back to the Pigeon!

Another reference in the article to Younis Khan pulling strings to get the vice-captaincy ahead of Yousuf Youhana reeks of something unfair. I think (with all due respect to Mr. Bala, and Younis Khan), I dont think this could be true! But in the same breath he does suggest that Younis will take the fall, which cant be too far from the truth. I think for one, Inzy should NEVER have gotten involved in the squabble in the first place. Needless to say Afridi was/is/and always will be one arrogant player/person, and despite his talent and will pay his dues sooner/later.

Four Indians doing the County circuit this year, which is pretty good IMHO. I fail to understand how Laxman lost out to Ganguly at the Glamorgan stakes! I always thought VVS was headed to Swansea, but suddenly out of the blue Ganguly pops-up and takes over! All the same, hope Swansea isnt an out-of-tune swansong for Saurav! I'm surprised that Mr. Bala didnt wonder about any string/rope-pulling in this case! Looks like Irfan Pathan has started out pretty well for Middlesex. Mongia too has been doing quite well for Leics. It remains to be seen whether Saurav and Bhajji make their mark.

So that's that!

What's buzzing:
Don Henley - The End of the Innocence (album)
Beatles - One (album)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cricketing what ifs...

Courtesy Amit, I was linked to a brilliant article by my favorite cricket writer, Dr. Ramachandra Guha in the Telegraph. Three out of the six scenarios he put forward struck a chord.

1. What if Duleepsinghji and the Nawab of Pataudi, Sr. played for India in the inaugural test in 1932 vs. England?
I dont know if Dr. Guha was too imaginative in conjecturing that with Duleep and the Nwab on the Indian side, we might have won that Test! But we sure had a fairly decent team, bolstered (to use a much cliched term) by the frontline attack of Amar Singh and Mohd. Nissar.
Both Duleep and Pat (as Dr. G referred to them) served Indian 'interests' in their own ways later in life, with Pat captaining the Indian team to England in 1946 (rather unsuccessfully) while Duleep served as the Indian High Commissioner in Aus and NZ.

My what if: If Amar Singh continued playing for India into his 30s (he died at a very young 29!). The Englishmen had nothing but praises to sing, when it came to Amar Singh. Len Hutton said "There is no better bowler in the world today than Amar Singh" in 1970, a couple of decades after he had faced Amar Singh first! The unforgettable quote comes from Wally Hammond, who memorably said:"he came off the pitch like the crack of doom''. Coming to conjecture time, I guess India would have been less of a punching bag for the other teams, and it would have been interesting to see a team containing Merchant, Hazare, Mushtaq Ali, Vinoo Mankad, Amar Singh, Lala Amarnath playing against Bradman's invincible Aussies.

2. What if Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Merchant had played against the Aussies in 1947-48?

I guess I went off on a tangent to this in the point above! The entire situation due to which Mushtaq Ali was unable to make the tour was sort of poignant, and reflected the times prevalent then. Though Dr. Guha's article seemed to suggest that Vijay Merchant cried off, I am sure his reasons were good and he would never have let the Indian team down.

On a personal note, Mushtaq Ali is the only cricketer from the pre-Independence era whom I have met. It was in 1993 at the Brabourne Stadium just after the Windies-SA Hero Cup game. Most of the folks hanging around the clubhouse after the game saw Sunil Gavaskar talking to this tall ramrod straight elderly gentleman (at that time I admit, I did not know who he was), and naturally went towards them hoping to get Sunny's autograph. Sunny was quite surprised, and said "Arrey, Mushtaq-saab ka autograph bhi lena!!!!". Only then did some of us realize that we were standing next to one of the greats of Indian cricket.

3. What if Ravi Shastri had become captain instead of Azhar!?
Dr. G is quite correct in saying that Raj Singh Dungarpur and his "bunch of jokers" went for the quieter man, though I suspect Azhar would still have fallen prey to the lure of mammon which would ultimately lead to his downfall. Azhar, like Cronje had everything going for him, and needlessly went and ruined his life. I always was a fan of both of them, especially Cronje, and to see them fall from the pedestal I put them on was disgusting to say the least! Cronje paid a very heavy (and unfair IMHO) price, and it remains to see what Azhar has to say. His silence says it all, despite the muted protests (there's surely more to this than what meets the eye). Selling your country's pride and honor is plain pathetic. What scares me is the possibility that other folks might be involved!

I think Shastri captained India in just one test against the Windies at Chepauk in 1987-88. Cricketing cliches aside, I'd say he has one of the most astute cricketing brains, and would have made an excellent captain, probably much better than Azhar. It was also unfortunate that he had to cut his career short at just 30!

My collection of what ifs:

What if Sidhu had not walked out on the Indian team on the England tour in 1996?
I suspect we might not have seen either Dravid/Saurav or both making their debuts....

What if Raman Lamba had played the second (??) Test of the Pakistan tour in 1988-89?
Azhar was going through a nasty patch out of form, and Raman Lamba was supposed to replace him for the Test at Faisalabad(??). For some reason (I think due to illness), Raman Lamba had to pull out and Azhar played the game and cemented his place (another cricketing cliche) with a century. (While searching for the tour index, I was thinking of the folks who made their debut on that tour, and could only think of Vivek Razdan! I had conveniently forgotten that Mr. Tendlya also made his debut on that tour!).

What if Dhruv Pandove hadnt met his end in that unfortunate accident in 1992?
Dhruv was spoken of in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar, and met with a fatal accident in 1992 while returning from a Deodhar Trophy game. He had even broken Sachin's record for being the youngest Indian to make a first-class century. I would like to believe that he would have been a cornerstone of the Indian batting lineup today, but that probably would have meant that we might not have seen the best of Laxman/Ganguly/Dravid!

Jeez these "what ifs"....they sure have their flip sides too!

So that's that!

The longest road trip

Did something I have dreamt of for a long time, the other day - driving up the 1-N, all along the coast to the Bay Area. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime (if not more!) things one should do!

We set out a little after the rush-hour had passed, but got caught in a huge pile-up near LAX (thanks to two SUVs which banged each other and decided to settle matters on the freeway lanes itself, instead of moving onto the shoulder), which set us back by almost an hour. But it was fun, just watching the flights literally swoop right over our heads before they touched down on the runways. As always the Boeing 747s set my heart racing.

The first pit-stop was at Santa Barbara, where we took a drive through State Street (the main avenue, with all the "happening" joints), hoping to find some parking and maybe grab a bite. Unfortunately we couldnt find a decent spot, and decided to drive on and maybe grab a bite somewhere further on up the road. VR was sure impressed with State Street (Pics: Courtesy Monsieur Gabor Cselle, who has a great set of snaps on CA!)!

The stretch of the 101-N between SB and San Luis Obispo is easily one of the most boring stretches of highway (ofcourse, nothing beats the I-5!). We stopped for 'lunch' at a town called Nipomo, just beyond Santa Maria (town where the 'Man with the Fedora' or THE FREAK is standing trial). It was here that the great VR flicked a Red Bull from the gas-station! I think the folks who might have been watching on CC-tv probably were too scared to pursue the thug VR is! Ok jokes aside, he was holding the Red Bull for me while I used the can (the restroom fool!), and decided to walk out to the car for a smoke with the Red Bull in his hand.

The 101-N hits the coast at Pismo Beach, before moving in again towards San Luis Obispo. It's absolutely amazing as you approach the coast from inland. From SLO, you drive west again and hit the coast at Morro Bay, after which the drive's all along the coast.

We stopped off at a few vista points along the coast, including one beach which was full of seals sunbathing happily. There's a fair bit of excitement just pulling off the highway on a whim, right across the oncoming lane, after ensuring (ofcourse) that there wasnt any traffic around! The sheer thrill of hitting the gas, as you pull back onto the highway to continue the drive is sheer exhilaration!

Sometime in the early evening, we reached our scheduled stop-over at San Simeon, the town where we have the Hearst Castle. Built by one of the most famous millionaires in the US, William Randolph Hearst (on whom the movie Citizen Kane was based), it is one of the most imposing 'historical' structures I have seen in CA - the rest are all natural, or lack history! It's on a hill and overlooks the Pacific Ocean, which must have been a pretty awesome sight from up there (we could not go up, as the tours for the day were all over). We did however, visit the museums at the foot of the hill, which had some amazing pieces of art. How I wish I could have seen the famed Neptune Pool at the Castle!

Our next scheduled stop was Big Sur, to catch the sunset! The highway now went into the hills, and the road was pretty twisty and winding! No wonder most of the car commercials are shot here! I could imagine Raikkonen/Montoya take those curves (Note: I'm not a Tifosi!!!)! We just about made it in time, and caught some amazing snaps! It's easily one of the most mind-blowing sunsets I have seen. Standing on the cliffs, above the ocean, waves crashing against the rocks below, mist in the air, a slight nip in the air, a near-full moon rising, the orangish glow slowly turning to red, and then te afterglow once the sun had gone down below the horizon!

After that the drive up to Monterey was pretty scenic in the twilight, with hardly any traffic. We passed the exit for 17-Mile Drive, which has a few fond memories for me! Once we passed Monterey, we took the 156 to get back onto the 101. The dinner-stop was at Gilroy, where we stopped for gas. That Shell gas station must be one of the most popular ones, coz it was packed!

From there it was a straight drive to Fremont, where I dropped off VR and spent the night chatting with AN on guitaring a little more till 4am. Surprisingly the Red Bull did the trick, 'coz after driving 12h I still had a little energy left to ramble on till that unearthly hour!

It was the first time for VR, so he was pretty excited about the whole drive, and he still cant stop raving about it! I am eternally grateful to him for the entertainment and encouragement, and for the extra Red Bull! Looking forward to more trips in the near future!

V's post (with snaps) can be found here! Email me and I'll send you links to the snaps!