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.