Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Farewell to Cricket

If I were to look back and identify the defining series that gave me my cricketing mojo it will have to be India's tour of Australia in 1991-92. I was eleven at that time and even though the tour itself was a complete disaster in which we won next to nothing, my memories of it are more vivid than almost any other Cricket I have witnessed since.

Srikanth in the one dayers, a nerve wracking tie with a first innings score of 126, inconsistently immense seam and swing bowling by Prabhakar, Kapil and Srinath, Azhar's century in Adelaide, Kapil's four hundreth wicket and of course, the coming of Tendulkar. Though he had played a few tests before and even made a century, that summer was when the age of Tendulkar began for me.

It has been coming for some time now but the current series with the Aussies has finally decided it for me. My days as an avid, nervous, fidgety, cynical, heartbroken, mildly jingoistic, rapturous - sometimes all at the same time - Indian cricket fan have finally drawn to an end. The Indian cricket fan mostly plays out games in his/her dreams. Dreams of perfectly played matches or innings or spells or even a single delivery or a shot. Dreams of future matches in which Tendulkar scores a double in a come from behind win against the Aussies at the MCG, or a Sehwag double hundred in a single session or VVS playing to leg (and then to off) to the same delivery. But the present is seldom agreeable. For every well played win there are at least two inept defeats, for every moment of genius there are at least five instances of apathetic nothingness. For every display of steel there several balls of cotton.

It is defintely not a job for the impatient this, following Indian cricket and its players. People who do, and there are a lot of them, need an avenue to isolate themselves whenever an adverse event occurs. There are those that turn to sarcasm and humour, there are those who will blame either or all of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly. Some stop talking about it until the series tides over, some turn to F1 or the Premier League, and a significant number takes solace in trolling Rediff message boards. But these attempts seldom help. The pain lives on in our collective memories. And the dreams become more bizzare. How about a Tendulkar triple on a seaming Durban wicket in which no other batsman crosses ten? That would help ease the pain would'nt it.

But I shall not complain, at least not today. There have been moments, I must say, when it has almost been worth it. And there have been moments when the defeats have been personal. But some of these men who in all probability played their last test in Australia, are childhood heroes. A breed that is forgiven everything. I have never cared for the hundredth hundred if you ask me. The man has already done enough and more. And so have the others.

So what exactly is the legacy that my generation of cricket fans can hold on to? Some say this has been the greatest generation of India's Cricket. If that is the case, then it has been an underwhelming one purely in terms of results. In terms of skill, maybe the greatest, but only by a whisker. Their predecessors were no rabbits. Names like Gavaskar, Viswanath, Wadekar, Mankad, Bedi, Kapil Dev, Amarnath are not easily bettered. What will I tell my daughters about Cricket when they grow up, especially if we are still living in distant Switzerland then? They will probably have a thing for Ice Hockey or god forbid cross-country skiiing or worse still curling. Will they ever be able to appreciate the feeling that grabbed their father when Tendulkar would hit McGrath down the ground, when Laxman drove Warne inside out almost for an entire day at the Eden, when Kumble had that look in his eye with his jaw sticking out or everytime that Sehwag walked out to bat? Probably not.

I find it hard to relate to the Dhonis, Kohlis and Gambhirs of this world. Fine cricketers no doubt but they have never influenced how my day pans out if they were to get out cheaply. Tendulkar's wicket (and Sehwag's, Laxman's and Dravid's to an extent) but Tendulkar's above all, has the tendency to send a few million people into a mildly depressed stupor for the rest of the their day in which they do what they are supposed to do but bereft of all joy and vigour. Does Rohit Sharma do that to you?

My favourite Indian Test Cricketers who made their debuts in the 20 years since I woke up to Cricket, in no particular order are: Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid, Azhar, Ganguly, Kumble, Srinath, Kambli, Raju, Sehwag, Munaf Patel, Akash Chopra and L Balaji.

Friday, January 27, 2012

George RR Martin On Fantasy

Original Link Here

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real ... for a moment at least...that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines.

Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La. They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to middle Earth.

Now that was wasn`t too badly put was it?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hai Huku Hai Huku Hai Hai

Of all the songs out there, this gives me the most joy. And I don`t really care what you think.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The mindnumbing predictability of the Indian Male (Vegetarian)

This post was triggered by a sudden memory of a visit to an Indian restaurant in a foreign land a few years ago. When a bunch of slightly hidebound Vegetarian Indian men step outside to eat, you can pretty much predict the evening down to the last spoonful of 'saunf' that will be consumed.

"Ek starter mangaa lete hain, soup lega kya (kaun sa sweet corn ya tomato?) - what they don't have sweet corn soup? What the fug man. Accha Manchow soup hai kya? Starter mein paneer bolna hai kya? phir mein course mein kya lenge? theek hai hara bhara kabab bol de. ya platter bolein?...masala papad anyone??"

"mere liye ek fresh lime salted bolna."

"main course bhi soch lo yaar. pata nahin kitna time lagayega. paneer handi? nahin yaar handi sweet hoti hai..kadhai paneer bol de? pehle pooch le gravy aayegi ki dry. How about Paneer do pyaza? abey PDP mat mangaana..mostly pyaza do paneer hi hota hai usmein (joke + laughter with at least two people who say - good one). Dal Kaun si lega Black ya Yellow? Dal Tadka bol dete hain. Raita lega kya - Boondi ya Pineapple? Roti kaun si lega? mere liye ek garlic nan bolna. Ek misi roti bhi bol diyo. Butter roti order kariyo aur waiter ko bolo ki roti repeat kar de. Rice baad mein order karenge. Agar sabji kam padi to ek dal aur mangaa lenge."

And that is pretty much is that. All this conversation happens in the space of a few minutes. There might be a few digressions driven by prices on the menu, an interestingly named item like Veg Atrangi (a motley medley of exotic Indian spices and vegetables in mild tomato curry sauce) or the very vague Paneer International (a global touch to an age old Indian speciality)

And there you have it. Everyday millions of groups of Indian men order paneer and assorted items with very little standard deviation in terms of the mix. Of course there are other "cuisines". "Aaj Chinese khane ka mann hai, aaj Pizza khane ka maan hai" types but largely Paneer holds sway. And there will always be someone who will order Chana Masala as if his life depended on it.

But my biggest grouse with restaurant menus is the fact that most items on them are not even for real. Are you trying to tell me that there is actually something call Veg Rajasthani or for that matter Paneer Lababdar? And what exactly, pray, is the difference between Paneer Handi, Paneer Kadhai and Paneer Tawa? And don't even get me started on Jalfrezis and Makhanwalas. And what of the legendary Diwani Handi? Its a frickin' sham I tell you made up of cottage cheese, vegetables of doubtful provenance and delectable tomato gravies, all designed to keep us from eating real food. Leave all that improvising to the French I say. I mean has your mom ever cooked Veg Panchmukhi at home?

Things of course change when a woman enters our lives. But that discussion is for another day. Right now I have a date with Dal Akbari...

Friday, January 07, 2011

In Der Schweiz

And so it comes to pass that I move to Switzerland, of all places, to work. A vastly different land from the mad chaos of Andheri East.

Its not a bad place this. Everywhere one looks one is confronted with a scene that looks like you've seen it before somewhere in a famous watercolor. And it is a place where all sports channels are currently drooling over the mindnumbingly boring and amazingly inelegant sport of cross country skiing. And the fact that you cannot drive in any direction for more than three hours without being in a completely different European country adds to the feeling of adequacy.

But for now I am just happy to get away from Saki Naka.