Friday, December 12, 2008

Some food for thought on our identity post-26/11

The Campion family lost Sunil Parekh (Class of 1978) and his wife Reshma in the attacks at the Oberoi, and Patrick has a nice tribute to Sunil and Reshma, with a video celebrating his life. The part of the video showing Sunil in full form at a class reunion was touching to say the least!

It's been very interesting to see some articles being posted on the Old Campionites Association website. The batch of 1987 has been the most active, with Aashish Contractor (Britto) and Jai Natarajan (Xavier) writing two brilliant articles (in my humble opinion) capturing the essence of the change we need, and 'change we can believe in'! My venerable schoomaster Mr. Indrajit Panjabi (litterateur and librateur sans pareil) called them pieces worthy of TIME/Newsweek!

Aashish was on the scene at Leopold helping out (he's a doctor), and first wrote about his first-hand experiences here. He has hit the nail on the head in saying that over the past fortnight "One of the greatest hurdles that faces us as a nation today is our tendency to obfuscate issues, and no one has given us greater training in that art, than our politicians." The departure of Mr. Beautiful Idiot (aka Shivraj Patil) and the other Patil (RR) were steps taken forward, but sleepwalked back again (to quote Floyd, and Amit Varma). He goes on to talk about our 'chalta hai' attitude, accepting everything which comes our way, be it the corrupt police-force or lack of basic facilities for half the population, as long as we can live in our plush environs. The solution he proposes, of giving every person a sense of ownership of the safety and prosperity of the city might be a tad tough to accomplish although. I am not sure whether the 'communal issues' went up in flames in 2002, or whether it's been on low simmer since 1990-91 when Mr. Advani decided to go retro in his rath.

Jai on the other hand, has written a more emotional article, mincing no words in stating that "Mumbaikars over decades of greed and rapacity, have destroyed rule of law and corrupted the systems which should have protected us. We are the system. We are the reality of Mumbai. We are its pestilence. It is convenient to demand action, to demand results, somehow, anyhow. Can we believe in a fantasy that a bureaucracy, government and law enforcement apparatus which have never delivered anything meaningful, which we have ourselves strangled over the years, can suddenly start delivering results in one narrow sphere of security?"

He has taken a dispassionate view on the situation, hitting a raw nerve, and I guess a lot of folks will be up in arms after reading his post. What he writes does largely hold true - l do believe that the nation suffers from a slight lack of unity as a whole. And the only reason why such a hue and cry is being raised is due to the fact that the places hit were hangouts and the rich and famous (with all due respect to the people who perished in those unfortunate circumstances). As Jai wrote:
"Neither Mr. Tata with his billions nor Mr. Bachchan with his pistol was there to save us on Wednesday night. We were saved by lower middle class jawans who on a normal Sunday would not even be allowed to enter the Taj or Oberoi by the security, who cannot even afford a Thums Up at Souk. Do we even deserve these amazing young men to fight and die for us when every public figure and Page 3 celebrity is on air spewing verbal diarrhea about our fear and trauma?". This is probably the first time we have seen the Page 3 varieties of Bombay come out from their coccoons and speak out. It has always been the common man who has been caught in the crossifire, and I am skeptical about any reasonable 'change' happening (not even Rata Tata as the next Obama).

And so to the solution: Unless we re-engage our civic society as responsible and honest citizens of our own free will, we cannot expect better from our institutions. Let’s start with the hard, thankless and unglamorous task of fixing the broken windows and potholes. We have a very long way to go before reclaiming our Maximum City from what we have allowed it to become. Only then can we show the lead to the rest of the nation as we have always prided ourselves on doing.

Much as this makes sense on paper, I am not sure how practical it is. There is a dire need for us to make our nation more 'secure'; the pothole and window fixing will follow automatically. I know of folks who used to stay at the Oberoi, but then shifted to the Taj Heritage as there were rumors floating around about people of 'questionable character/antecedents' living at the Oberoi on a long-term basis. The agencies probably knew, but they never followed up. Why? Because of the general 'chalta hai' attitude which has percolated throughout our society.

And where does the change have to come? To a large extent, the common man is finally showing signs that he is sick and tired of the politicians who have gotten our nation into this quagmire, and although an honest politician is an oxymoron, realization has finally dawned that we don't need Judas-es. It is clear that corruption needs to slowly weeded out, especially in places where it involves national security. And of course, the security forces need to be prepared for any eventuality and properly equipped to handle it.

We cannot afford to let another 26-11 happen to our nation, at any cost. The signs are there for all to see, the action(s) remains to be taken.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Masala in the media

Came across an interesting post on Shiva's blog this morning, raising some fairly pertinent questions about the role of the media (in light of the events of November 26th). He wrote:
It gets worse when it gets sensational and stupid. Picture Barkha Dutt walking up to bedsheets hanging from a window in that cursed hotel talking about how people used that as a lifeline, mindlessly repeating the same thing. Where is the homework? Reportage is like my daughters fighting over who is first. Analysis is about supplying verbiage and making people cry. Presentation is intrusive, voyeuristic and worse, narcissistic.
The Thanksgiving weekend was the first time in about five years that I really got hooked to telly signals beamed straight out of India (courtesy CNN-IBN), much to the chagrin of the people around me. Although CNN did carry the Bombay news as its main item, overriding everything else, the choice of experts called in on Wednesday night (EST) was rather poor, with Deepak Chopra and some nondescript bloke (who looked like he had been yanked right out of a club and into the studios, disheveled hair and all) answering Larry King's inane questions, spouting their own weird conspiracy theories. They did have Amit Varma on the show, making it sound like he was in the thick of the action, but sadly Amit "couldn’t offer him any dope there".

Amit was spot-on in his analysis:
....such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.

This is foolish, for sometimes events are complicated, and we simply need to wait for more information to emerge before we can understand it. But many of us—not just the pundits—don’t have the humility to accept that. We want to feel in control, at least on an intellectual level, so reasons and theories emerge. But the world is really far too complicated for us. Yet somehow we muddle along.

I think this holds true for all the hoopla that played out on Indian telly channels, causing Shiva to write his anguished post.

I'm sure a lot of us followed cricket matches in school, with the radios carefully hidden underneath our desks. In the middle of a dull Hindi lesson, our antennas would detect a sudden surge in the near-mute commentary (I dare say jabber) emanating from the radios (yes, there were about 7 or 8 of them spread all over class) and heads would suddenly drop, to listen to what the excitement was all about. Sad to say, but the Indian radio commentators of the late 80s through the mid-90s were like rough coir compared to the (supposed) silk of AFS "Bobby" Taleyarkhan (I don't think I have ever heard him, but he is unequivocally considered one of the greatest commentators India has produced). The average radio commentator on AIR was more renowned for his shrieks than for substance. I remember reading somewhere (not sure if it was Harsha Bhogle or Richie Benaud) about the real art of radio commentary being in the ability to paint a picture of what was going on, without unnecessary hype and with minimum words. The same applies to television undoubtedly.

In the end, I cannot really blame the media for the way they deal with the news (and report it), since after all it can only be as good as the general audience it caters to, to use a cliched statement. We love our masalas, be it on the 7pm soap or in our 10pm dinner. So what's wrong if it's in the 9 o'clock news?

PS: Usual disclaimers apply!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lost for words

A lot has been said (in print and on the telly) about the latest from Bombay. I started writing this post filled with a sense of what I would call 'frustrated anger' (?) at what was happening to the 'city of my youth', as my fellow Campionite Rajdeep Sardesai called it. It's a different story that I was driving in the mountains around the Asheville area, far away from any news-source, and I was on 'simmer mode' all the way on the I-26 and the SC-25. Anger at the people behind the attacks, and frustration at the political elite for obvious reasons. Over the three days the saga played out, I think a more rational outlook on things emerged in my head. I have been lucky not to know of any friends who lost their lives or those of their near and dear ones (touchwood), and am thankful to the "Great Umpire" up there for not raising His dreaded finger. My father was to have stayed at the Taj starting Thursday, but the meeting was canceled! (Note: He used to stay at the Oberoi, but moved out since there were rumors floating around about residents using the premises for questionable purposes

Bombay was home to me for 15 years. When I was three, and I was staying with my grandparents (while Achan set up house in Bombay), Bombay was some magical place in my mind - the proverbial city of dreams. I left in 1998 (from VT; not CST), without bidding it a proper farewell, with the thought that I'd always be back for one more tango. The sad part is that I never went back for more than a weekend, save for a month in the summer of 2001, when I interned with Hindustan Lever at their Sewri factory. For reasons I cannot explain, with every visit back I just felt that the city had changed so much. To draw cliched analogy, it was catching up an old crush - you wonder how it all changed so much and whether it was for the best.

I have walked the streets where it all unfolded god knows how many times. The Taj and Oberoi were hangouts reserved for times when folks visited from the US (and from the mid 90s, my father's chosen hotels when he was in Bombay for meetings), while (all said and done) Leopold was a "
slightly shady, downmarket eatery patronised by hippies and harlots" (Vinod Mehta could not have put it better!). Colaba was my neck of the woods, and it felt strange to see so many places I have known so well become terror targets. The Metro theater (now called Metro AdLabs, and thankfully restored to its old glory) was where we often watched movies in school, and ate pizzas from "Intermission" (not sure if it still exists). I do admit that I still am lost as to the exact location of the Nariman House/Jewish Center, but do know that it's somewhere in the vicinity of Colaba Market/Pasta Lanes - I just cannot remember which buildings lie on that road or some friend/acquaintance who lives there (which is often how many of us identify streets and apartment complexes)!

A million questions have been asked, and the wise (wo)men have put forward their own theories. I can only pray and hope that good sense prevails (both amongst the powers that be and the seemingly powerless citizens) and the right moves are made to safeguard the common man, who invariably is the victim of these incidents. Rational thinking is probably the need of the hour, and unfortunately some politicians have resorted to their usual tricks of shooting from the hip, which I think has been shameful. People talk endlessly about the resilience of the people of Bombay, but I think that streak is present in people everywhere, be it NYC, London, Madrid, Bali or even the tsunami-affected areas. It's probably just plain human nature, and not the greatness of the people from one city or another - I guess folks will disagree with me on this one.

Last but not the least, I must acknowledge some folks whose blogs/photos kept me 'in the loop' with their perspectives on the events. I don't mean to sound parochial, but one often tends to relate to the words/sights/sounds of the 'sons of the soil' - they tell it from an angle that seems so familiar.
Amit Varma and his four year old baby "India Uncut"
Prem Panicker and his "Smoke Signals"
Vinu Kumar Ranganathan's Online Cloud and Flickers (of Hope)
Dr. Arun Shanbhag, a fellow Colaba-wallah and Clemson-wallah, one level ahead of me on the Dr. Jonathan Black research tree.

Note: Usual disclaimers apply for this post. I don't mean to sound like a pundit, and write this as an anguished Indian, wondering why this keeps happening to his 'hometown'. A lot of folks from South Mumbai would probably feel the same.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Adios Anil

I woke up this morning to two things (or rather transitions) which made me pause and go "Wow!". The first one of course was the change from daylight savings to standard time. The other one, was a stopped me dead in my tracks.
Anil Kumble began his playing career (for India) sometime in 1990, when he was part of the squad at the Australasia Cup - an age when we had to rely on Teenage Video Library for highlights of various cricket tournaments on video cassettes. At that point, he was just another bespectacled spinner and I cannot remember him being hailed as the next Bedi/Chandra/Prasanna (not unlike another Aussie bloke, who had a rather unremarkable start to his career). After looking at his Test and ODI profile on Cricinfo, he was in and out of the team until the home series against England in 1992-93.
It was in this series that he 'came of age', bamboozling the best (not necessarily the brightest) boys from the Old Blighty, in tandem with Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan. I remember watching that series and growing to like the man - partly due to the fact that he was born exactly a decade before I was, but mainly due to his simple, unassuming demeanor (the wickets and matches won were always there).
A lot has been said about his heroics, with the bat and ball, with a bum jaw and cut left hand. But for me, the moment that is another critically 'defining' one for Kumble was the camp held for the Indian players before they faced the Aussies at home, in 2001. Everyone knows Kumble was just recovering from shoulder surgery, but there he was at IIT-Chemplast, arm in a sling, taking an active part in the preparations. He could easily have been elsewhere, but battled it out in the hot sun, deep in a discussion with a young bloke in a puggree while a weather-beaten New Zealander looked on admiringly. [I am guessing someone will bring this point up in his/her tribute to Kumble].
It is sad to see good ol' Kumbles move on, but what brought a smile to my face (and perhaps his) was the fact that he did it with DIGNITY. That too, on his favorite hunting ground at the Kotla, with Sachin handing over his cap one last time to the umpire!
If there was one song that comes to mind for Kumble, it is Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man":
And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.......
Forget your lust for the rich mans gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.......
Boy, dont you worry... youll find yourself.
Follow you heart and nothing else.
And you can do this if you try.
All I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Woh Lamhe - Part Moonu: The "club"

Valiachan had his typewriter in the small room on the first floor. Back in the day, when there were no computers and email, he used to painstakingly type out letters on his faithful typewriter and send them out to various people/companies. Often, letters to one of his siblings would be carbon-copied to a few others (I don't know why, and I doubt he cc-ed the other ten!). And I'm sure he wrote some of his (in)famous vedi poetry up there. You could have called it his 'study' - it was a quiet place - one where he could compose his thoughts and put them down on paper. As always, I don't have much by way of memories of those days, but just fleeting glimpses.

Later on, on a summer evening, bored of playing cricket, R & I decided to make Valiachan's 'study' a shrine to numerous sports superstars and called it the "P.T.Koman Nayar Club". Ammamma gave her permission gladly (I guess she thought we'd stay out of mischief while setting up the club), and so after a few token signatures from her, Amma and Ammama, the club was created. It was graced by posters from Sportstar magazine, with stars from yesteryear like Bradman & Truman, and ofcourse flavors of the 80's like Graf, Kapil, Edberg and Richards. Not one inch of space on the wall was left untouched (and I'm sure that Ammamma was thankful we didn't use the ceiling!), and the front and back of the door was reserved for the best posters.

From the store-room next door, we dragged in a charpoy-like bed and got a bedspread for it. It would serve as our afternoon hangout, a silent witness to many a joke and endless (and sometimes mindless) laughter. J-Valliamma and MK-Valliamma on hearing of our club, gifted us a set of table-tennis rackets and balls, and once we brought in a table from the store-room, we were all set to play TT. And so it went, TT in the mornings upstairs in the club, and 'tennis' in the evenings in the verandah! And so the 'boys of summer' had their fun....

A few years later, we had to pull down the posters when the decision was made to rent the house out. It was a sad evening, as we bid goodbye to Vengsarkar, Sampras, Greenidge, Pele and about 40 other stars! They had livened up many a summer afternoon, witness to the banter of a bunch of crazy boys and now they were consigned to the scrap heap!

And so, when we finally moved to Coimbatore in 2002, it was like rediscovering an old, beloved haunt once again. Much as I would have loved to have the old 'club room' as my room, I ended up getting one of the bedrooms downstairs (it has its own set of memories, which I guess I'll write about in the future). Achan made the 'club room' his adda, with one part devoted to his pooja stuff, and the other part has the CD player and his huge music collection.

Today, I think of the room as "Achan's pooja room"; somehow the days of the 'club room' are long gone by. But sometimes I have a good old chuckle thinking about what it was before it became a room of worship - the first place I really "hung out". And in the quiet serenity of the room, you sometimes hear the laughter of two kids, and sounds of a table-tennis ball going up and down a makeshift TT-table.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Woh Lamhe - Part Deux: The verandah

The house would lose so much of its charm without the verandah. Spacious and airy, I think Valiachan spent most of his mornings sitting out in the verandah and enjoying his newspapers/magazines. Post-tea, he would again venture out to take in the cool evening breeze, and watch the sun set - mind you, this was before the place (over)developed. More often than not, someone would drop by during their evening walk to have a short chat. There was a time in the early 70's when you could see all the way to Maruthamalai from our verandah.

The verandah will always be the place where my parents got married - as did Chittamma and RKM. I wonder if there will be another grand event (like those two weddings) gracing the verandah again. The whole idea of getting married in the same place where your parents got married is a rather "cool idea", and there's still time!

On one of the walls, next to the front door, Valiachan used to keep track of the heights of all his grandchildren, noting down the date and height in pencil. Sadly, those marks were whitewashed a long time back; but it would have been interesting (and a humbling experience) to see how we all grew. During our summer vacations, Rama and I would convert the verandah into our own Wimbledon, to play our own version of tennis, with table-tennis rackets and balls, pretending to pit Rod Laver against Bjorn Borg. (And oh yes, Laver always won!).

But the best part of the verandah was the thinna (the cement bench running around half the verandah, for the lack of a better term to describe it). How I would kill to be back home, sitting on it, watching everything go past, Amma picking jasmines in the garden, Valiachan 'chilling out' on his chair, Ammamma looking at all her flowers and Achan sitting on the thinna enjoying a good snooze!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Woh Lamhe - Part Uno: The garden

For whatever reason, this trip home was a little different - and Amma and Achan felt the same too. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of reading, a fair bit of thinking, loads of laughter, a tinge of sadness (normal when you leave), a wedding, just one movie (watched with Amma and Achan) and a lot less TV! And I'm still thinking, a fortnight after getting back to the US. The house looks older, but brings back the same memories.

The board outside the house still reads P.T.Koman Nayar, although its now a granite one. The driveway leading to the house is still dusty, and becomes a little slushy when it rains. Valiachan used to walk up and down the driveway every morning, sometimes with his youngest grandson for company. His walk would almost always be interrupted by the cries of a pazham-vandi selling his favorite bananas. Bananas safely deposited on the sideboard, he and I would be back on the driveway trying to get to '10 rounds'. It was fun, I remember, for my Valiachan was a man with a great sense of humor.

As a boy, my idea of fun was playing with a tennis ball in Ammamma's carefully manicured garden. Either Valiachan, Ammamma or Amma/Achan kept an eagle eye on me from the veranda, ensuring that I didn't trample any of Ammamma's plants - though Valiachan would be deep into his newspaper or magazine and doze off after a while. Ammamma loved gardening, and
it used to be a plethora of colors with a variety of flowers, with many huge trees creating a nice shade. The garden today is a lot different, with a lot less plants and fewer trees, which had to be cut as they were interfering with the telephone and electricity poles. But what is striking is that the "tree house" is gone.

The "tree-house" was something that Valiachan constructed along one of the corners of the compound. No one really knows why he made it, but the lower level had a store-room at one end, and the other end was a garage where I remember Valliammama used to park his car. The top upper level was just open space, with an asbestos roof. For some strange reason, Rama and I liked the place, and we spent many a crazy evening goofing off up there. It was demolished around the time we moved back in, and although the place looks brighter, the "tree house" still makes me go back 15 years and cherish the good times we had.

Some time in the late 80's, Janthi-A gifted Rama and me a set of kites. What a whale of a time we had, letting it loose, higher and higher. It wasn't a competition really, but just the sheer joy of seeing something in graceful flight, soaring up into the sky. The kites never broke, giving us one unforgettable summer.

Everything looks so much smaller when you grow up. It is sometimes tough to believe that Rama and I used to play (over-arm) cricket along the driveway - today I would probably have to stand closer to the kitchen if we ever played again. Yesterday's 50 steps are today's 20 - I guess that's the way it always is! But sometimes if you look out from the verandah, you might see two boys laughing and playing outside in the garden in the sunshine.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Misguided nation?

Krishna Prasad outdoes himself again with a brilliant article talking about the lack of VIP-representation at Field Marshal Manekshaw's funeral yesterday. The fact that the man was celebrated (in life, and in death) by the men who served with/under him, and by the common man, speaks volumes about his greatness. We don't need really need the cliched statements of politicians which have the usual sprinkling of words - 'great soldier', 'service to the nation', 'soul rest in peace'.
I have said this before and I say this again: we are a nation with a majorly short short-term memory, although Mr. B. Raman contends that we are a nation with NO MEMORY! The press is probably also at fault - especially when they prefer to cover the arrival of a person of (possibly) questionable integrity and honor, instead of paying tribute to some of the bravest men who have lost their lives protecting the nation.
The fact that the politicians/VIPs could not spare time to pay tribute (in person) to the Field Marshal does not take away anything from the greatness of the man, but speaks more about the politicians/VIPs. Much as I was disappointed by this (lack of VIPs, not the article!), I am sure the immediate family preferred it that way. He was a gentleman who valued his privacy, I'm sure, which probably explains why he settled in Wellington, as far away from Delhi as he could possibly get! The Field Marshal was a man of integrity I'm sure , and he must be smiling that sly smile of his sitting up there, as if to say "I'm glad you never came to see me at the end!".
In the much-used words of Kipling, he was a man who walked with kings and yet didn't lose his common touch!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

R.I.P "Sam Bahadur"

The first time I encountered him, he was the 'gentleman with the handlebar mustache' sitting in the seat behind me on the flight to Coimbatore.
The second time our paths crossed, he was sitting in the first-class section and got royal treatment when he got off the flight at Peelamedu.
By the time I ran into him again about a year later, I had heard/read a little about the war of 1971 - largely thanks to the Doordarshan serial on the men who have won the Param Vir Chakra. The initials were etched in my mind - SHFJ, a rather long name. So when my father told me at the airport that the gentleman sitting alone in the front row (whom we had seen so often) was the indomitable Field Marshal, I was finally (knowingly) meeting a legend. As he sat blissfully enjoying his peace in the newly renovated Coimbatore airport, this 15 year old gawky guy decided to wish the great man and request his autograph.
Sam Bahadur Sahab being Sam Bahadur Sahab wanted to know why I wanted 'an autograph of this old man". "Go chase the cricketers", he said. Sometimes in the presence of true greatness, your tongue turns to water and I cannot remember what I said, except for a few disjointed words about 'great hero of India'. All the same, he was gracious enough to sign and wish me well in growing up and serving the nation well.
The last time I saw him was on the afternoon of August 30th 2003 - the day I left home for the US. I was expecting to see some actor/actress on their way to a shoot in Ooty. As always, the flight (from Bombay) came to a halt a short distance away from the main terminal and I stared into the distance to watch the passengers disembark. A familiar gentleman, his trademark white handlebars still perfectly in place, walked (fairly) ramrod straight from the aircraft to the main terminal. As he got closer, I realized it was Field Marshal Manekshaw and I smiled to myself. I am fairly sure very few people recognized him, since he just walked undisturbed (no pesky teenagers bothering him) and handed over his bag to the armyman who was waiting to receive the great man. And then they exited the terminal and probably drove off into the Nilgiris.
At the risk of sounding corny/cliched, one of India's greatest sons moved on to Elysian Fields today. India forgets her true hero(ine)s too often and too easily. Our true heros are not necessarily the blokes who can hold a bat and hit a ball, but the brave (wo)men who have put their lives at risk/laid down their lives in many a battlefield not just in India, but all over the world. For every Sam Manekshaw, there is a Rifleman Manoj Kumar and a Lance Naik Karam Singh.
Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, R.I.P!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The weed and the monkey

It was a firecracker waiting to explode, and when it finally did, we had Sreesanth shedding crocodile's tears and an Harbhajan being well.....obnoxious! A lot has been written about it, and I'm guessing Sreesanth better shoulder his share of the blame.

We all know Harbhajan and his disciplinary problems, but the fact remains that more often than not he has been a good bowler, letting his bowling do the talking and generally gives back only as good as he receives (which probably is human). Sreesanth on the other hand, as the Hindustan Times wrote this morning, is more a 'showman than sportsman'.

They really hit the nail on the head, describing him as an 'attention seeking problem-child'. I have seen the same happen with a cousin of mine, who always loved provoking everyone while playing cricket (and of course crying when he got it nice and hard) and like many a kid threw a typhoon of a tantrum whenever he got out.

There's no excuse for being obnoxious, however great one may be, and Sreesanth is on par with Bhajji on the 'obnoxiometer'. It's rather creepy to hear him talk about himself in the third person, and his innate ability to rile his own team-mates must be frustrating for the Indian cricket team/coaches. I don't know if he ever sat down with a (sports) psychologist and discussed matters, and I'm guessing even the best in the business would tear their hair out trying to figure out the stuff Sreesanth is made of!

I'm waiting to see what the final decision on the matter is.

PS: Has anyone found a resemblance between Curious George and Sreesanth?

IPL blues

The IPL has a become the key focus of cricket lovers over the past week - some debating its raison d'etre (1,2,3), while more recently it's been the Sreesanth-Harbhajan controversy.

With regards to the idea of the whole tournament, I think that whoever invented T20 was undoubtedly smart. The days when people would faithfully sit next to their radio and listen to the commentary of many a stalwart, are long gone by (it's a different story that the radio commentators of this day are rather strange). Today, we multi-task and are perpetually on the run, so if we could condense the usual 90-overs of a test match (or 50-overs of an ODI, for that matter) minus all the dot balls into a T20 slugfest, then we have a game on! Oh, and we get to see our dream XIs, often seen only in exhibition games, actually become reality (imagine Dhoni, Hayden and Hussey on the same team!). (Note: I was wondering if anyone remembers those exhibition games organized by MRF in the late 80s, where the Windies played against a World XI in India?).

Despite the whole idea of dream teams becoming reality, the concept/skills on display are rather unappealing. According to me, I might tend to agree with Dr. Ramachandra Guha, who wrote:
“In my opinion, Test cricket may be compared to the finest Scotch, 50-overs a side to Indian Made Foreign Liquor, and 20-20 to the local hooch.
“The addict who cannot have the first or the second will make do with the last.
“The pleasures of the shortest game are intense but also wholly ephemeral. There is no time to savour delights offered in such a rushed and heady fashion. The medium form allows one to take in the booze more leisurely…. After spending a whole day at the cricket one can, as it were, remember individual sips of the drink that one has consumed. On the other hand, after a Twenty20 game, all one remembers is that one got drunk, and one’s side won, or lost….
“So long as only hooch is on offer, I will not be seen anywhere near a television set broadcasting a cricket match. I will resume my drinking habits once the IMFL and the Scotch reappear on the menu.”
I do plead guilty to watching a few games, but have been left with an overall sense of disappointment. One of the prime reasons has been the 'money factor', which I think has been grossly over-exaggerated - I cannot fathom how David Hussey makes more money than his more accomplished sibling "Mr. Cricket" Michael Hussey! Although one may draw parallels with soccer, I think the 'masala' component (cheerleaders and all) of the IPL tends to eclipse the cricket.

It is also painful to watch some really good players like Dravid, Jaffer and Laxman simply struggle to adjust to the demands of this game. They're just not cut out for it! And to top it all, Dravid has been bestowed with a 'player/icon' status! Laxman atleast had the magnanimity to give up his icon status, so that his team could spend the money on buying better players!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Alumni loyalties

As usual, Sunil takes the lead and I follow - same issue, different perspective, similar conclusions! Some folks might say I lack originality!
The Old Campionites Association (OCA) sent me an invite to their annual reunion bash (always held at the RWITC) the other day. Much as I would have loved to attend, sitting so many miles away I will have to wait to see the snaps dutifully put up on the OCA website post-March 1st. Going through the OCA website (and Patrick's too), one can't but help feel nostalgic about the times we all shared in the corridors of 13, Cooperage Road. Seeing today's titans (or Campion Champions, as they have been baptized) as little bacchhas in shorts, is amusing to say the least. Every photograph is a throwback to an era that we wished would end (let's face it, all said and done, no one liked school when we were kids), but a decade later we realize the true value of the times we spent there, and the friendships we forged.
Unlike Sunil, I am fortunate to have evaded the clutches of the University Alumni Association (or whatever moniker it goes by). Sunil was very lucky to have been part of a semi-autonomous institute/center (part of the University though), which (to an outsider/semi-insider like me) had its own 'set of rules'. But then I guess everyone had to deal with the overall bureaucracy. If Sunil gripes about his professors, then I can't say much about the ones I was taught by. Some were genuinely nice people, but the majority were mini-Hitlers. The 'great visionary' Sunil referred to taught us a course in the third/fourth semester, which is best remembered for the strict dress-code he tried to enforce and which we tried our best to ignore. And then we had to deal with the newly implemented system of TAs in our final year - an interesting move, but something which backfired miserably! I can emphatically state that most of them didn't really know their stuff well enough and most of us had this air of indifference over the whole thing.
And that is where I see the clear difference between universities here and 99% of the ones back home. The Indian education system is such, that it hinders creativity and thinking through/analyzing the whole process (something I plead guilty to on occasion). We are all 'pushed' with the idea of becoming doctors/engineers, that we learn by rote and regurgitate it with unfailing efficiency on the exam answer sheets. Even in college, we had a set of courses that we have to take and there was little room to pick and choose electives; unlike out here where choosing coursework is almost like a distraction! I strongly believe that a lot of us lacked a strong mentor in our department, who could guide us and help us focus on our professional development better. Of course it's another story when it comes to the fact that some of the professors who taught us had PhDs from our own department, but had this arrogant air about them, as if they had Ivy League PhDs. The lab technicians were fun blokes to talk to - quite unassuming folks - and they often knew more about the chemicals/experiments than the professors themselves.
But looking back at the four years I spent there, I made some good friends, acquired a taste for some amazing music, and hopefully learned something at the professional level. I am sure I will have a good time going back to the old haunts and remembering the good ol' days - as I once chuckled: "Every lamp-post has it's own story to tell".
And so, going back to the issue of loyalties, I think I have a decent sense of loyalty to every institute I have attended. They have played a role (big/small?) in shaping me into something more concrete compared to the wide-eyed tyke who walked up the steps of an institution with a glorious past (and I dare say, uncertain future) almost a decade ago.