Friday, December 21, 2007

Sayonara Crawford

I was pleasantly surprised to read the headline "Crawford crawls to a historical death" on Rediff this morning! Considering the fact that I have been on a Greek/Roman epic watching spree (Troy, 300, Gladiator), replete with some very beautiful women, I thought Cindy Crawford was doing a period-movie.

It was only when I read the article, that I found that the author was referring to Crawford Market, which occupies an important place in the architectural marvels of South Bombay. It's right next to the Bombay Police Commissioner's office and maybe a mile from the Victoria Terminus. And yes, like VT, it too has been renamed as the Mahatma Phule Market. To think that it is going to be replaced by another ubiquitous mall surely makes a lot of Bombay-wallahs like me sad.

Having been there many a time during my days in Bombay, I have fond memories of the place. It had an amazing fruit and vegetable collection - I can still remember how we used to buy figs and lychees for a family friend in Coimbatore before our annual summer trip down south. And while we walked around in the April heat, we drank in the aroma of the various mangoes in their straw-packed boxes, the King Alphonso ruling over all!

As a kid, every time we drove past Crawford Market, I always looked up at the wind-vane atop the market, just to see which way the wind was blowing. I don't know if I will see it again, but I do know which way it points - in the direction of the winds of change!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Misplaced priorities (?)

Our boys in blue have finally won something of note on the international scene! It is undoubtedly a huge achievement (my misgivings about the entire tournament and its hit/miss attitude notwithstanding) and it sure has them raking in the moolah.

The numbers are staggering, with one state CM outdoing his counterpart by a few lakhs, and mind you, this over and above the BCCI bonus of $3 million. I might be a bit hard-headed, since I am rather disgusted (I shall get to the point a little later in my diatribe) with this 'bending over backwards' attitude to congratulate the cricketers.

If I am correct, the players are employees of the BCCI (when they play for India) and their respective associations (when they do indeed deign to play for their state sides). As a team representing India (and the BCCI), they have got their just reward of the 20-20 prize money as well as the 'bonus' from the Board. I am sure the chief ministers can put the 10/20/30 lakhs they are splurging (possibly for the vote bank?) on these [rather] well-paid/endorsed cricketers, to some better use such as (say) a coaching centre in their states. I dare say that this money might go a long way in some sort of rural developmental work!

Keeping this in mind, let us not forget NP Pradeep, the man who led India to glory in the recently concluded Nehru Cup. To put it mildly, he overcame a host of unfavorable circumstances to reach where he is today. Although one might argue that the achievement might pale in comparison to those of the cricketers, I'd say that it is a huge step in (hopefully) the right direction. Indian football was fairly top-rung in the 1950s, but has since undergone a downward spiral. The root cause probably being the lack of facilities in the country.

I am not sure if the government even announced a bonus for the victorious Nehru Cup team, nor for the hockey stars who won the Asia Cup the other day. All goes to prove that hockey and football probably continue to remain the poorer cousins of cricket!

As a follow-up: The hockey players have gone on a hunger strike protesting the step-motherly treatment being meted out to them.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Aussie mentality

"Indian batsmen a scared lot" the article screamed at me, begging to be read! I half expected it to be Ricky Ponting/Steve Waugh starting their game of 'mental disintegration', but to my immense amusement/surprise it turned out to have come from the pie-hole belonging to a certain Rodney Hogg along with some juicy quotes from Ray Bright.

I do agree that most Indian batsmen have been rather uncomfortable against quality pace, but I would not go as far as calling them 'scared'. We have had many a brave soul who took on the best in the business and came out victorious (Sunny Gavaskar and Jimmy Amarnath to name two), unlike some Aussies wusses (Dean Jones, Steve Waugh and Alan Border among others). Lets face it, the Indians handled Marshall/Holding/Garner/Croft//Roberts better than the Aussies did, in the early 80s. Even in the last decade or so (barring the disastrous Indian tour down under in 1999-2000), the Indian batsmen have dealt with the McGraths, Lees and Gillespies without much of a hitch.

Branding the team as a bunch of scared batsmen would be a tad unfair, considering the not so distant past. Mr. Hogg had a rather undistinguished career, during which his record against India pales even further (15 wickets at nearly 52.00 runs per wicket).

Good old Ray Bright claimed India played Bangladesh a fair bit and so "they tend to stretch cricket" (whatever that's supposed to mean). Turns out, Mr. Bright isn't that bright after all. The fact remains that India's played 5 tests against Bangladesh (won 4, drawn 1), while the Aussies have played 4 Tests (and won all of them). But he came close to redeeming himself with a rather astute observation (which even a ten year old might come up with) that "Ganguly and Tendulkar are perhaps not the same players they were five years ago".

I have a gut feeling he spoke to the reporter late on a Saturday night, blissfully oblivious (but unquestionably qualified to pass comment) of his magnificent record against India (9 wickets at an average of nearly 64!). It's almost like Shivlal Yadav (who has a much better record in India-Australia tests than Mr. Not-so Bright) and Karsan Ghavri (with due respect to both of them) calling the Aussies a "bunch of wimps" in the not-so-distant future!

There are more than a few ex-Aussie cricketers who talk straight out of their wrong end. I remember this fogey called Kerry O'Keefe (as part of a blustery discussion on Aussie television just before the 2001 series) boldly predicting a 3-0 whitewash by the Aussies - I bet he was red in the face at the end of the series! Welcome to the club Messrs. Hogg and (Not-so)Bright!

And hats off to NEO Sports for digging up some absolute nondescript fossils for their views on the game!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The great Athers (aka Michael Atherton) has given his verdict on the 'beamer' Sreesanth bowled at Pietersen, calling for Sreesanth to be banned. From the way the ball went off at a tangent, it seemed like a genuine slip.

Frankly, I like the way the Pommies seem to be suddenly terrified and vulnerable! It's all good when they indulge in their puerile acts (jellybeans and what not), but when they're in the firing line, it's all very unfair. Their coach wants the stump-mikes to be switched off, so that his (foul-mouthed) wards can give their jaws a good workout. The Indian cricket team has become quite adept at giving as good as it gets when it comes to sledging and it looks like the poor Pommies find themselves on the backfoot on that count.

But it still doesn't take anything away from the fact that Sreesanth behaved in a rather abominable fashion by shoulder-charging Michael Vaughan. Siddhartha Vaidyanathan was spot-on when he suggested Sreesanth was just "buffoonery over brilliance". It is a Malayali tendency (so I have noticed) to throw a tantrum when things don't go your way - being over emotional is our forte!

SV has a very valid point when he hopes Sreesanth doesn't go down the path (less) trodden by some other cricketers. He referred to four blokes - Sadanand Vishwanath, Maninder Singh, Vinod Kambli and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan - who were simply mind-blowing in terms of cricketing talent only to blow it all away. Sada could be forgiven his decline, as it followed the death of his parents within a few months of each other.

I had written a few lines about Kambli and Siva here, talking about Kambli's salad days. Harsha Bhogle has a brilliant article (written way back in August 1998) about Pravin Amre and Siva. Back then (apparently), Siva was in the process of plotting a comeback to first-class cricket, having spent almost a decade in the (cricketing) wilderness. For reasons unknown, nothing came of it; but it's nice (in a way) to see him on TV these days, although some folks say they'd rather be deaf than listen to Siva's inanities spewing from the commentary box. There are a few lines which stand out from Harsha's article, where he quotes Sachin Tendulkar as saying how he was a huge fan of Siva and it was an honor to have him bowling to him in the nets at Chepauk (before the Aussies visited in 1998, when Sachin made Siva bowl into the rough outside the off-stump, so that he could take on Shane Warne).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Trapeze artists with short-term memory

Another case of our politicians getting their priorities all muddled - especially when there's a cloud of doubt hanging over the issue!

The venerable B. Raman wrote recently that we are "a nation with no memory", which quite succinctly sums up the sudden rush to jump off the trapeze to be seen with the 'flavor of the month'. Yes, politicians are experienced trapeze artists - they do fall, but then they dust themselves up and continue swinging!

It is unfortunate (and unfair) that true heroes get forgotten in this circus. But then again, it's pretty much the same story everywhere - even the average Joe here is more interested in the doings and undoings of Hollywood blondes (Lohan, Beckham and their ilk), than in matters of national importance.

Looking back at Mr. Raman's article, the innumerable times our national security has been compromised is mind-shattering! 26th May 1999, 12th March 1993, 11th July 2006, 25th August 2003, 13th December 2001, 14th February 1998, 24th September 2002, 24th December 1999, 29th October 2005.......the list just goes on.....and we forget our true rainbows and chase false, fleeting ones!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Look 'yonder' for the little th(o)ngs

James (his middle name) is one of my oldest pals from my school days, and I came across his blog this afternoon. We've known each other since 2nd standard and still continue to keep in touch off and on. Rivals on the basketball court, inter-house debates, soccer field, and GK among other things, we were quite good friends outside school. We debated together (and got routed bad by some budding cross-(l)egging by the BIS team) and generally hung out a bit.
We were also in fierce competition for the inter-house essay competition. If I could put a finger on one incident from our school days, it was an incident way back in 1988 when our man Jamie used the word 'yonder' instead of 'there', much to the shock, amusement and utter disbelief of the rest of the class. We had a budding Joyce on our hands, didn't we!
His blog makes very good reading and it's nice to see that James hasn't lost the power of creative writing to his normal day-job of being a code-writer. He has a rather amusing post on the wonders of faith, which had me chuckling too! Typical Jamie humor!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The PhD

Sunil has a brilliant post (on second thoughts, does he ever write ordinary pieces, I wonder!) on how/why the PhD takes so long.
One of my colleagues from the department (although from a different research group) will be defending his PhD in a week's time. The best part is that he's doing it just three years after he started on it, which is incredible! That should give us mortals some inspiration to work harder towards making an attempt to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Like a lot of people say, one needs to be highly self-motivated to accomplish research goals. Like Murphy's Law wills, a zillion things go wrong; but it's important to keep things in perspective. We often discover (like I have) that stuff we were breaking our heads over for six months to a year have already been accomplished without much of a sweat by other research groups. So what do we do then? COLLABORATE!
Research in a chemical/biological field requires an immense amount of patience and fortitude, as many folks will attest. Cells mysteriously cells adhere to your substrate (when you expect it to be crawling with them!) forget to close valves/turn on pumps...the list goes on. Jorge Cham of PhD comics fame has it down really well, his comic strip keeping us poor lab-rats in splits many times a week!
It never ceases to amaze me how people ask "How many years more?", when they hear I'm a PhD student. Now that is a question many of us prefer to avoid like the plague. And guess what, they're never satisfied with your answer of "x years", hitting back with "why not (x-1) years?"!
But all said and done, it's quite a lot of fun, this voyage of discovery called the PhD!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

150 years on...Lest we forget!

Rediff has a beautiful series of articles on the events of 1857 here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Raagas and Hindi Songs

I was organizing the Hindi songs on my laptop and while googling for the various movies they came from, I came across a nice website which has indexed various Hindi film songs by the Raaga they have been composed in.

It's quite interesting to note that some of my favorite songs (naturally) have been composed in my favorite raagas!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Discovering Malayalam literature

I was aimlessly browsing the Indian Literature section in a bookstore last January, when I came across a booked called "The Unspoken Curse" by V.K.Madhavan Kutty. I had seen his earlier book "A Village Before Time" in Landmark a couple of times, but never got down to buying it. Being away from home often brings one closer to one's roots, and two-and-a-half years of life in the US had made me more conscious of the Malayali in me; the book was bought.

It was a decision influenced by my parents, who had spent many a pleasant evening (earlier that year) chatting with the author himself. An uncle of mine was getting some ayurvedic treatment done at a local Arya Vaidya Sala, and when they visited him, they were pleasantly surprised to find that Madhavan Kutty was staying in the next room. They said he was a very unassuming man - simple and straighforward. [He would pass away a few months later, in November 2005].

Over the next month or so, I read the book gradually. The storyline was rather poignant. In it, I could see so many memories (sights, sounds and smells) of life in Kerala. The politics of the tharavaad, the laments of the unmarried ones and the dynamics of the joint-family system are things that I am fairly familiar with. And so, I decided I'd read some more works from the pen of the great man.

And so this time when I was back home, I finally picked up "A Village Before Time". It's a brilliant book and I can draw parallels with my family for almost every character he refers to in the book! I wonder if there are other books out there, which have been translated into English.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So long Mr. Lara....and thanks for all the phish!

As always, Zatta (aka Rahul Bhattacharya) has a written a delightful piece - this one bidding goodbye to Brian Charles Lara.

As a cricketer, he'll be among the greatest I have seen (playing) in the flesh. I cannot think of anyone else who has pulled his team out of perilous waters so many times - a thing our very own Tendulkar failed at miserably. The fact that he played in an era of Windies cricket which would well be dismissed as a nightmare, is a different question. If someone were to say 'flamboyance' and 'batsman' in the same breath, Lara would be the only one who would come to mind. That back lift and the nonchalance with which he dealt with many an attack is something that will be missed. Hayden and Gilchrist are undoubtedly two of the best southpaws in the game today, but theirs is more bludgeoning rather than finesse.

I think I first read about his exploits way back in 1988-89, when the Indians were touring the Windies. Leading the U-23 XI (featuring among others, Jimmy Adams and Junior Murray), he smashed the Indian attack (a rather makeshift one at that, featuring Sanjeev Sharma, Robin Singh, Arshad Ayub, Hirwani and Srikkanth) for 182.

Then came the 277 at Sydney, which confirmed he was destined for greater things. He came to India for the Hero Cup in 1993 with a buzz about his skills. The only match I got to watch in that series was the clash at the Brabourne Stadium between the Windies and South Africa - having missed the game at the Wankhede which featured the Lankans and Windies. As a game, it was the unforgettable game in which Jonty Rhodes took those five stunning catches, one of them getting rid of Lara. It was a disappointment for us back then, watching Lara mishook a delivery from Snell only to have Rhodes sprawled across the pitch taking the first of his catches for the day.

He returned to Indian shores in the winter of 1994, crowned the prince of cricket (by the great man Sobers himself, at the Recreation Ground in Antigua one hot afternoon in April). The Test match at the Wankhede was a disappointment in terms of Lara's scores - a scratchy 14/74 and a fourth-ball duck in the second innings. Strangely, that was his last Test series on Indian soil.

I for one will remember him for his exploits in the Test arena, rather than ODIs. That does not take away anything from the fact that he played some blazing innings which changed the courses of many a match - the 1996 World Cup QF against South Africa and the 150 odd he scored against Pakistan in one of the Sharjah finals being two innings that stand out.

The likes of Lara may not be seen again. He was an entertainer in every sense and he will be sorely missed.