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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bovine Tales and Espana '12

- dedicated to the Belgian genius of the makers of Asterix - Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo

The backdrop of the below conversation hovers around the author and his comrades’ steep desire to take part in Pamplona Encierro ’12. You have no idea what that is, of course. If only you could appreciate Spanish culture beyond its women..

The Encierro is Spain’s famous annual bull run, a practice that involves running in front of a rampaging set of bulls (el torro) let loose on a makeshift course in the streets of Pamplona. The most popular event of the Sanfermin festival, it, well, runs, from July 6-14 and is a perfect example of how nutty testosterone really is.

This post is about a telephone conversation.

And it began, like all telephone conversations do, with a tring.



“Heh sorry, what’s up bey?”

“Right. For a second, I was quite worried that I was spending so much time in office that I had missed out on a paradigm shift in opening greetings of telephonic communication.”

“Come to think of it, the yawn should have come out right now, right after that infinitely long sentence you just uttered.”

“If only foresight was part of your repertoire. Fat, of course is. Are we going anywhere in December?”

“What’s the other fella saying?”

“Get your passport, bey! I have a feeling you’ll ditch us on the Pamplona Bull Run plan”

“Tch tch, such distrust. I am a man of impeccable honour.”

“Practice running faster every morning, or on that fateful day the bulls will have an impeccable meal of honour.”

“I am beef-ing up for July, just so you may know.”

“Aaah so that the bovines cow-er away from you?”

“I have always believed in taking a bull by its horns”

“What bullshit.”

“While all of you will be scurrying away like mice, I will stand my ground, even stare the beast in its eye. And before it can recover itself,  I shall bull-doze into it and give it a thumping it never forgets.”

“Do not yelp for help when the ox is chewing on your box, or your cowf, aaar calf sorry.”

“I see you haven’t seen my enraged self. In such phases, I am more like a, lets say, a bull-in-a-china-shop.”

“You do sound like a bully, when you put on that fake deep accent. ”

“It is your co(w)etous desire to possess my baritone, I see.”

"This is exactly like those conversations in Asterix. Goscinny and Uderzo would be proud of us."

"Udder-zo, you mean"

“Mooing on, what’s up bey?”


Monday, June 6, 2011

The various flavours of coffee

“Remember that Dove-Yahoo contest, the one about Real Beauty? I think I might just write something on that.”

“Waxing eloquent on a little brook, a baby girl, a profound poem, eh? How alpha male."

“Yes, get me a pink javelin for my next birthday.”

“But seriously. Hardly your genre. What inspires this tectonic shift in writing?”

“One should always venture to expand his realms. Alexander wouldn’t be he, if he had stuck to Greece. Also, I am a very deep and profound person and often think about things like real booty erm beauty, duty, even annuity.”

“I should have known, there is a big prize.”

“You think that money could corrupt a purist like me? Good going, Sherlock. Coffee?”

“You know, it is difficult to give it a specific definition. Beauty can mean a lot of things.”

“Or maybe we don’t have to build a cage. Words can be beautiful too. All one needs to know is how to weave them into an essence.”

“When I was a little girl, I thought Steffi Graf was the most beautiful woman in the world. And Salman was so handsome. I wanted them to get married to each other. Ha, back then I knew beauty only in its skin.”

“While I gazed admiringly at Pamela Anderson running on that California beach. What a woman.”

Eww. You men are such idiots. Absolutely no class.”

“She was saving people from drowning. What a heroic woman. I’d give her a Bharat Ratna if I could”

“If Miss Anderson is going to be the essence of your essay, may God bless you. But it is a very ‘Miss World’ question, what true beauty means to you.You expect a person to immediately start looking serious, have that optimistic gleam in their eye before they set forth declaring how true beauty is not skin deep, and how it encompasses grace and sensitivity, strength and compassion in equal measures. Inner beauty, is of course, far greater than external beauty. And they are right, no doubt. But isn’t that being too cliched? Surely, one expects more."

"Yes, let convention be damned. Remember when India won the cricket world cup. In the immediate moments after Dhoni’s six, a team ran beserk around a field, with Tendulkar in the lead. In those few moments, as the screen displayed ‘World Champions’, as I looked around, a thousand others laughed, cried, screamed, sang, prayed, waved their flags and pumped their fists in glorious ecstasy around me at the Wankhede. In Sachin's smile, in his team mates’ gay abandon, in the words on the screen and in the people around me, there was a beauty, surreal like I quite hadn't seen before."

"I bet you were weeping buckets. But I think I know what you mean by surreal. This goes back to 2001. It was a dark night"

"Stormy too?"

"Shh. Pass the coffee. It was around 4 am, and I was walking on a narrow rail track with a bunch of friends, in the Western Ghats, in the middle of nowhere. Minutes earlier, we had alighted at Castlerock station, having planned to trek the twenty odd kilometers to Doodhsagar waterfalls by foot. As we plodded along, my friend grabbed my jacket to show me a shooting star. I missed it, but a moment later, I saw one on my right. Within seconds, the whole sky was ablaze with shooting stars. Not in tens, but in hundreds. So stunned were we, that even after the spectacle ended, we remained transfixed for a few minutes. It takes some doing to silence a group of college kids, but we were absolutely numbed by the sight. The next day the newspapers reported that there had been a meteor shower the previous night. The clear skies of the Ghats had held my hand and knocked on the gates of beauty.I had never seen such scenes before.

"I wonder if it were the Ghats, and not the Planetarium."

"More interestingly, neither story had any mention of love."

"Criminal. A conversation is hardly one, if it does not have an element of love in it, no?"


"Sometime, somewhere I did fall in love. And when I did, I was overwhelmed by it. In it, in her, I found myself. There's no feeling as beautiful as that.

You see, the point is true beauty cannot be captured in one definition. But yes, true beauty is a feeling or sensation that triggers a sense of joy, or wonder or admiration in the soul it seduces. It can be fleeting, or permanent, but while it lasts it causes a positive change in the workings of your heart."

“Hmm, look at those young girls. I wish I was sixteen too, not a care in the world.”

“At the risk of quoting Miss Jane Austen, it sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-six than she was ten years before."

“Talking about me?”

“Again, coffee?”


This article is a part of the indiblogger and Yahoo! India - Dove contest "What does Real Beauty Mean to you?"

This is where you should vote if you like me enough, right here . Non indiblogger users can click on the fb app. here. Cheers!

Dove Real Beauty on Yahoo! India


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Little Boys, Big Boys

There is a nine year old boy who stays in the house opposite the Narayanan family’s. It is his grand parents’, so usually it is only in the summer vacations that we find this diminutive little being in our midst. The rest of the time he is at school in Chennai.

Like most other men and women his age, he is fascinated by Hector, so every evening he comes in his little feet to our house. Hector himself has no affection for anything that is below puberty years, or below five feet (Mum at five feet one just about passed his acceptance standard). So whenever these little children come to him with shining eyes, he pouts as if he were a pretty princess and gracefully sashays down the length of the hall and burrows under the sofa muttering under his breath,

When a dog goes under a sofa and leaves only his butt in view,
you should really know what he thinks of you.’

Shantanu, however, does arouse some enthusiasm in my mother. It is a welcome change in a day largely indulged in looking after man, dog, kitchen and garden. In his arrival, also approaches the entertainer in Rekha Narayanan, and both potter about the kitchen discussing the latest trends and fashions in the life of a nine year old. I suspect that Rekha has been secretly going online and reading up on Rebecca Black while I am asleep.

Kids these days are very different from how we were. This little four foot something imp has a facebook account, loves basketball and attends cooking classes after school. Whatever happened to only being good at cricket and nothing else! Facebook at nine? Whatever happened to staying in parks long after a hard day’s game and discussing which girl ended up as your ‘love’ in that delightful invention called ‘FLAMES’. A boy attending cooking classes, and knowing the difference between asafedita and baby corn? Yeah yeah, call me sexist, look down upon me, cheer for the new metrosexual India, but in your hearts you all know it is the die-hard cricketer who can’t cook anything except Maggi you all lust for.

We do have our similarities. Shantanu hates girls and swears that he will never have anything to do ‘with that lot’. At that age, I felt much the same way. Just like R K Narayanan's, neither did my 'Malgudi Days' have any trace of err maals. We didn’t see quite the point of why God would invent such a gender. Back then, Gaurav and I swore to stay ‘brahmachari’ all our lives. Dear lord.

Every time the poor lad comes to our house, he peers at me through his big glasses as I challenge him for mock fights. I let him beat me at arm wrestling but if he makes fun of me, he is made aware that he is nano seconds away from being stripped off his tee, or worse shorts. If he checks his facebook, I tease him about every girl in his list, and he screams so loud that Hector wishes it was his bones that he was gnawing at. When he sits behind me on the bike and holds my waist tightly because he is scared, I thank him for being such a physically affectionate girl friend, and the “put me down, PUT ME DOWN RIGHT NOW” is lost in the buzz of the engine. I think we like each other.

At regular intervals, Shantanu asks my mother, “why is your son like that?” You see Shantanu, I grew up in a house full of girls – sister, cousins, whatnot. They are brilliant, but my timidity only deserted me properly when I reached a Belgaum Engineering Boys Hostel. So when I do see a young boy anywhere in my breathing space, I find a brother whom I can bully, amuse or tease. To maybe build, inspire and make a man.

- NN

p.s Back in those brahmachari days, the sadistic souls that my parents were, they would keep teasing me that they’d marry me off to the girl who lived next door to us. So one day, shoving my 4th Standard Science book under my armpits, I marched solemnly up to my mother and leafed over to page 48. A red and blue picture of the male anatomy stared back at us.

“I’m going to cut mine off. Then I can’t have babies or get married”, I spluttered pointing an indignant ring finger at the pinkish looking reproductive system. Mother collapsed on the floor laughing, but I felt like a proud martyr then. Just think..what commitment, even at that age. Err thankfully nothing was ‘cut’ then or ever, and soon with the first signs of puberty and the airing of Baywatch, all earlier brahmachari pacts were forgotten.

For crying out aloud, what is wrong with our school science books? Those look less like a pair of kidneys and more like a potato farm. and why have you named that fried egg your gall bladder?#$#$@@$#@ If you show your reproductive organs in such an unreal form, how will any innocent boy ever understand what he was really going to sever off? Pah!


Monday, April 25, 2011


The train sounded its siren, and they hugged each other just like all those who love each other do, on separation. My father and I swiftly turned our heads in every other direction, him staring hard at a bulb, me discovering sudden fascination for a dust bin. They might be married, but that’s no reason for us to be unfazed, or at unperturbed ease when my sister hugs her husband. We are like that only.

But this is not that story. It is of a phone call, between two siblings.

That day as I picked up the phone, she greeted me with the familiar ‘Stinks’. It is a nickname we religiously refer to each other with. Sometimes, I respond back with a ‘hey Double Stinks’. When she asked me if I had time at hand to talk, I stared at the gmail chat blinking furiously, and ignored it.

“I have news for you.”

“You have finally realized that I am superior to you, and have come to beg for forgiveness?”

“It’s amazing how consistently bad your jokes are.”

“Tell me what you have to say. There is a community of women bawling out there because I am not replying to their chat messages.”

“Neeraj .... I like someone.”

It is difficult to crack a joke, or be narcissistic, when your sister says that.

Remember Rocky Balbao in Rocky Balboa? Spraying the villains with thousands of bullets?
Remember smashing a wall to smithereens with your fist? No? Oh that was Sunny Deol. Okay,remember defeating your sister at arm wrestling?

I suppose there comes a time in every man’s life when his younger sister tells him that. And when she does, he must close his eyes, concentrate, and try replacing those mental images of sledge hammers with sheep, raging infernos with flowering meadows, Genghiz Khan with Vinobha Bhave. He must take off that striking Indian male cloak sewed with a thread called possessiveness and expose a vest tagged growing up.

The situation demands poise and manner. He must know all that is essential about that other man. It is a tricky affair, he must ask sensible, pertinent questions. Understand the culture, the background, the values this rhododendron comes from. It is his sister, after all.

“Umm does he play cricket?”

“Haha, I knew you would ask that first up {laughs more}. I told him you would. You are so predictable, stinks”

“You haven’t answered the question.”
A little more steel in the voice.

He does. He’s played up till university level.”

“Err gulp university?
” You go back to the day when they did not select you even for the University probables list. “Bet he wasn’t the best fielder of his college team.”

Hahaha, I am sure my brother is the better player of the two.” And sometimes that’s all that girls need to get their way through boys. We are a defeated gender. I looked quite content after that.


“I am so glad that you are cool about this. Apu and Bhavna {cousins} are waiting to know your reaction.”

“ Well, it’s not as if you’ll stop seeing him if I ask you to, will you?”

“Of course not! As if I’d listen to you.”

“Err idiot, at least you could have let me feel that I had some hold in this matter.”

“Please! I’ll kick your ass. Oh you know, ……………”

I met him a few months later. Then, two years later in October 2009, they got married in Palakkad, Kerala. It was not as grand as Shashi Tharoor’s wedding a year later in the same town, but I never saw two people laugh and smile so much on stage as them while getting married. When I look at them, him following her around the house, I know of no two people who love each other more. It reminds me of happiness, of something, of someone. It makes me glad she chose him for he is everything he should be.

As long as I am better at cricket.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adam versus madam - railgaadi feat.

“Dude, F 21, getting in at the next stop!”

I opened a curious eye from under my blanket and looked below. A group of boys, all in the age bracket of 20 to 22 sat hunched in a circle on the lower berths. In perfect synchronization, the train sounded its siren in the background, to give this all important piece of information, the aura and atmosphere it so richly deserved.

“Dude, how does one impress a girl?”

I was fully awake now. It wouldn’t be right to lie down when such worldly noble matters were being discussed. And it really was a question of the ages, one that had troubled most of mankind throughout evolution.

Dude, you need to be different. She should think you are cool. For eg. Tell her you are a dirt biker or a salsa dancer, she’ll fall head over heels for you”, said one of the species.

I wanted to tell him that all he looked like was a dirty broker but stopped short when the yokel began to gyrate his hips in a supposed seductive fashion. I do not want to be harsh to a young man but I could testify in a court of law that the copulation process between two giant pandas in full heat would be comparatively more graceful than what we were now being witness to.

“No man, who is interested in a biker? One has to be an achiever in college, like a sportsman or an accomplished musician.” I liked this second fellow, he seemed to be talking about people like me. Immediately, I was transported back to my engineering days, aaah the days when I lead my branch team to victories galore. Strangely none of those sequences had any women trying to molest me, nor even tear off their clothes and scream my name in joyful ecstasy, not even give me as much as a platonic hug. Pushing cricket behind, I moved my reverie to the college stage, the platform where I had moved my body just like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy insisted we all should. But then again. Of course, there was the occasional girl who smiled at me in the corridor, but mostly I was only waltzing with Bashir, or Rohan or Sanjay or Muthuswamy. I was positively glum now.

It is all in the mind, brothers”, a third hero declared, raising one eyebrow condescendingly. With one eyebrow raised high up on the forehead, he looked like a cross between the Rock and a cock. The poultry variety, not talking of err weapons here. “One should plays the game ofs the minds with the womans.” With that kind of grammar, he was playing good games with my mind too.

I don’t know what’s wrong with all you guys. Can’t you ever stop talking about women?” the fourth guy denounced. There is always one fellow in every group who believes that by rebelling against popular culture, he can appear cooler. He was nodding his head in a knowing way, agreeing with whatever he had just said himself. Usually, such men take no more than thirty three seconds to keep their hearts on the platform whenever anything remotely close to the xx chromosome walks by. Che Guevera looked on grimly from the tee. The others kept quiet desperately trying to come up with some other topic.

“Anjali Bhatia”, said the one who had masterfully scanned the charts, in a sad voice. “Bhatia? Same surname as mine!” exclaimed the rebel. He was already seeing himself get wedded to her, I just knew it. Che Guevera cannot ever win over Shahrukh in India.

At that moment, she walked into the compartment and so pretty was she it seemed as if time had stilled forever. It was actually the train that had stopped but such occasions demand better metaphors. The rebel had completely given up his stance, and had closed his eyes in blissful submission to the fragrance that had suddenly overwhelmed the surroundings. A gentle breeze started from somewhere under our feet and swirled gently around our cheeks. Outside, a man was screaming at another, but it sounded like twenty one year old Lata Mangeshkar was singing at an opera.

And that’s when a man walked into the compartment, and held her hand. “Brother .. must be brother” each one of us were screaming inside our heads. The ‘brother’ now put his bag next to hers and they sat in a small space that rightfully should have been hers alone. They were not paying any attention to us. Instead, it seemed as if they were oblivious of the entire world, and only had eyes for each other. Must be long separated brothers and sisters. Strangely, the breeze and the fragrance had disappeared too.

I lay back on my berth, and the world was a monstrous place again.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Days

That first night, I looked into the pit, and he stared back at me intently. In that brief interlude, as we sized up each other, I knew that he had been named rightly. ‘Hector’, I whispered. A little bigger than my palm now, he’d grow up to be as valiant and handsome as Homer’s Prince of Troy, my heart said so.

I scooped him up from the big Videocon box that was meant to be his bed, and laid him on my pillow. As he tossed and turned and succeeded in pushing his butt up my nose, I hugged him. Minutes later, we both lay with our backs on the mattress, breathing equally heavily and occasionally kicking at the air in protest as and when a scene changed in our respective dreams. Tintin and Snowy never looked so macho together.

Remember the part where I prophesized he would be an epitome of courage as he grew up? I have never been more wrong in life. The next morning amma referred to him as ‘gullu’ and the name stuck on forever.

To understand his importance in our lives, firstly one has to know love, and secondly, speculate if the Narayanan family is sound in the head. For how else do you explain a girl (Nishi Narayanan) who’s leaving her home and city for the first time in her life, in pursuit of a post graduation, suddenly turn back from the gate, and run towards a now emotional mother and brother standing with outstretched arms, but push her way past them to hug the little pooch and burst into gallons of tears? I must insist that it was with the greatest dexterity that I slammed my embarassed arms back to their rightful positions (beside my frame) as soon as the first pangs of foolishness seeped in.

It is my belief that he would have been a forceful, assertive lad if we had spent more time together, but my moving to Belgaum for my engineering, and an over exposure to mother-daughter conversations made him a complete pansy. When I did return for the holidays, I did try to convince him that punching the air and snarling was more the stuff of what real men were made of, but he preferred rolling on his back and being tickled. I suppose I could consider this very ungainly of positions with all his organs in glaring public display and lying out in the open at gravity’s mercy as a sign of cheap, undignified and therefore, manly behavior. Good boy, Gullu.

As the days passed and he entrenched himself in our hearts and souls, we realized that there was absolutely nothing he was good at except for probably being, a physical manifestation of anything that is good in this world. He was never asked to perform any duties as a watchdog because when we did try to broach the subject, he snored even louder than normal. When I was scolded by my parents, and expected him to understand intuitively and come comfort me just like all those intelligent dogs did in story books, he would saunter around the house or gnaw at his bone with even more dedication. In our WWE games, I ‘choke slammed’ him every day but instead of feeling insulted and arousing pride to beat the crap out of me, he’d lick me as soon as his ears got out of his eyes’ way. The only time he looked positively embarrassed was when Air India refused to let us carry him in the passenger space, and hours later, he was brought out in the luggage trail with the rest of the suitcases, bristling with indignation.

A few months back, the doctors said he had a tumour. It may or may not be cancerous, we do not know yet, but somewhere the thought that something like that could touch him makes me furious with whoever’s up there. I will strike my bargains.

As I look at him now, I wonder if it’s possible that the little imp takes more space on the mattress than my six-foot father lying next to him. ‘Little’ he isn’t any longer, for he is twelve years old now, an old boy, and that gives him the license to be excused for not chasing cats even if they are sitting on his head, or not being the first to reach the door when the bell rings, sometimes not hear it ring at all.

As I tickle his stomach, amma asks me to ‘let the poor baby be’. He might be twelve, but he is still a baby? Maybe nothing has changed, even if it has. We still give him new names every day, and we still play with him like we did when we were ourselves children. We are still as fascinated by him as we were when he first came in.

You were named Hector, stud boy, beat that tumour till it begs for mercy.

‘The appearance of a furry head from under a chair is often all that a man needs to realize how much that one ‘okay’ added to his family.'

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stand up, for the champions, for the champions, stand up!

If only you knew Sachu, how I felt, when you held the cup in your hands and ran joyfully past me. Up in Sachin Tendulkar Stand, every single person screamed your name as hoarsely as they could, but I just stood there, mute and stunned, the world a blur. For that one moment, you did not hear me chant your name, neither did you see me close my eyes, but that is how we have always been. If only you knew how my heart cried and sang with happiness. April 2nd, 2011 stands frozen in time

The previous night, as I boarded the train to Mumbai, all that I carried was the ‘Cricket Revolucion’ tee and my flag, in the hope that if India won, I’d sprint to Marine Drive from wherever my television was, and join in the celebrations. Then 330 in night, Aneesh Madani told me that he was going to the Wankhede in the morning in a last ditch effort to try for tickets, and I could join him.

My heart was leaping even when our ‘local’ crossed Marine Lines and reached Churchgate. At 7 in the morning, the only people that stood outside the stadium were the caterers. Staring at the edifice, I wondered if I could ever enter it. Apparently not, because every broker was selling his tickets between Rs 40,000 to 1 lakh. At nine, the Mumbai police pushed us out of the road and we roamed helplessly around the sea front. As time wore on, and the clock struck eleven, I was getting desperate and ready to throw the entire 30k I had in my bank account. An hour later, a pan-chewing dog-eared fellow offered two East Stand tickets for 55,000. Somewhere down the road, a father was coating his son’s face with orange, white and green, and minutes later the son returned the favour. It looked magical but for the first time in my life, I wanted to become a pickpocket and run for my life with those two tickets.

“When you truly love something, the whole world conspires for you to achieve it.” At one, at our wit’s end, an IPL manager called Aneesh and told us he could offer us two tickets. We flew to the Trident Oberoi, and as Aneesh readied himself in the loo before meeting the man, I felt like kicking him for taking so much time. Later, my ticket read ‘P-374, Level 2, Sachin Tendulkar Stand’. Sachin Tendulkar Stand. How apt.

We ran to the stadium, calling up everyone we could to tell them of the news. I don’t know if I have ever enjoyed standing so much in a line that had over five thousand people representing it.

The Wankhede is beautiful.

For all the discomfort that an average Indian has had to endure to get into a stadium, it becomes all worth it once you are inside. We danced with the music, we sang with the music, we made every Lankan in the field know how much we despised him albeit only for the day. We let every single Indian know how much we loved him, even Sreesanth. With every run the Indian batsmen hit, our voices grew louder. Every time someone hit a boundary, Santosh shook his hips with an abandon that only Shilpa Shetty can match and if his id had not read “Security Officer Mumbai Police’, I would never have guessed so. It was also nice to know that police constables do have facebook profiles, and I will be featuring in one such photo album my hip as curvaceous as Santosh’s.

My father insists that we should not confuse sports with patriotism, but I fail miserably to heed his words. In my immature mind, sport has everything to do with loyalty and patriotism and whenever A R Rahman’s ‘Vande Mataram’ reverberated through the stadium, we looked skywards and sang with so much emotion that our very bodies arced backwards, and I felt goose pimples rippling through my flesh.

And then Dhoni hit his six and we were world champions. For 19 years, I had been waiting for this moment. For 19 years, I have been declaring before every world cup that ‘this time India will win’. For 19 years, I have felt hurt even angry when people poke jokes at my team, or call them ‘fixers’ or ‘chokers’, any single word against my team. If only you knew, India, that every time you have stepped onto a cricket ground, I have supported you as faithfully as I have loved. When I looked around, I knew there were several hundreds like me, each taking in the moment individually.

When Dhoni hit his six, a nation went wild. All I could was close my eyes, and soak in the moment. A dream has come true, in silence lay my feelings, and I felt numbed. A minute later, we were all hugging each other as tightly as Yuvraj had held on to Dhoni mid-pitch, some smiling, some crying and some hurling expletives at the rest of the world, pumping their fists in glorious aggression. And then Sachin Tendulkar came running out into the ground smiling, and in that one movement the entire thirty thousand plus in the Wankhede forgot every other emotion they were experiencing and the whole crowd chanted his name unitedly with a happiness that only he has received on a play ground. Later, as the team took the victory lap,as Yuvraj became all emotional and egged on the crowd to scream louder, the crowd roared madly. There was so much fire in his eyes, one knew how much it meant to him. There is so much one can say about a man by the way he plays his sport. I will never forget those moments ever.

As we packed into the crowded corridors on the way out, there was not an inch of space and we moved at a snail’s pace. Then someone from the back broke out singing, “We are the champions”, and every body in that hall joined in, making it the biggest chorus in Mumbai ever. The policewalas who had looked so tense and therefore rude, earlier in the morning, smiled broadly now, and the crowd hugged every single CPRF and Mumbai policeman on our way out. Out at Marine Drive, a city went ballistic in its celebrations, bikes, cars, roofs of card adorned with people and flags. It seemed as if the whole city had come out on one road and had gone berserk in its joy. We stood on top of police posts and waved our flags, we hopped moving cars’ roofs and sang, we went mad. What a shot Dhoni, tu stud hai yaar!

Hours later, when I finally returned to Bandra at 7 in the morning, they were still showing people celebration on television. Tomorrow, they will reward all the players obscenely, hold interviews with their families, friends, chaiwalas; ask celebrities what they think of India’s win; show countless repeats of the match; ask ex-players what they think; hold state functions and give honorary positions to players which they have no clue about. Dhoni knows it as well as we do, that it is a fickle country and we reward only when we win, never to improve. But that is tomorrow. Today let us just dance on the road with the man who walked out of the stadium, or the one who came all the way from Singapore just to see this game, or the one who ran till Marine Drive from his slum after the match - who does not even know where Sri Lanka is, but is dancing because their country is now world champions. From the other room, I could hear Aneesh hum the song “stand up for the champions

Two days later, the song still refuses to leave me.

"I was built to be the best
Number one and nothing less
Leave me to my destiny
I have waited patiently
I have vision' oh I believe
I know I can count on me
So stand up, for the champions
For the champions stand up…”

We did it, Sachu.I can now rest in peace.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

One night at the Mohali

'What is love, if not steadfastly loyal, biased and all-important'
- NN beliefs

India has entered the final, and what perplexes me is what if this is achieved. What does one do after a dream comes true.

For all the tension that shrouded the subcontinent yesterday, the pressure that every cricket lover felt on each side of the border, the skills that the players exhibited, the presence of two Prime Ministers, the Gandhis, and Aamir Khan, the man who stamped the maximum impact on Mohali, in my opinion, was a magnanimous Pathan called Shahid Afridi. Such is the power grace enjoys.

For there were men who played better. Wahab Riaz showed us everything that epitomizes Pakistani fast bowling - clocking over 90 miles, reverse swinging, and looking handsome. In Saeed Ajmal, we saw the spinner to look out for in the future. In Raina, there was a young boy who had not been told this was one of the most hyped matches he would ever play in and therefore he shouldn’t possibly look so cool while batting. In Bhajji, when he picked up Afridi, we saw fervor.

But then Afridi came back and congratulated Team India, willed them to win the final, and apologized to his own country for not delivering them this victory. What Afridi did was not magnificent, really it is but expected of a captain, but it was the manner and conduct with which he did so that made us feel for him. When we expected him to rail his fielders for dropping Sachin not once, not twice or even thrice, he shook his head, smiled and got back to business. When he did take Sachin’s catch, poetic justice if ever there was, he stood in his trademark pose with his hands outstretched and chest protruding out like a proud monarch. Ian Chappell has criticized his celebratory pose, but I find it bloody beautiful.

The game needs showmen Mr Chappell, and yesterday Afridi proved he has more than that to him. Gaurav Banerjee asked me if we could ‘let’ Pakistan win the next world cup. After careful deliberation, we think it is okay. Such is the spell the man cast on us yesterday.

When the game ended, even sleepy Gandhinagar went ballistic as bikes, cars and maybe even nilagais rode around town honking their horns, waving their flags and screaming India Indiaaaa. And those who were walking were nodding back and screaming a similar response, all oblivious that we were all strangers but united by this victory. There were men and women dancing on the road, just like young Raina and Kohli would be in the team bus and hotel. The World Cup tickets and the ‘efficient organization’ surrounding it might make stadium viewing an experience only for the elite, but out on the streets, in Delhi or Mumbai, Gandhinagar or Guwahati, there are thousands of Indians whose lives have just become a shade happier, at least momentarily, because Dhoni and his boys will be playing for themselves and maybe us, at Wankhede on the second of April, 2011.

They say when you truly love something, the whole world conspires for you to achieve it. Pakistan dropping Sachin five times as he approached his 100th hundred probably reinforces this thought. It has been my longest unfulfilled dream to see India win the World Cup, and you to be part of it Sachin. Once you do, we can both hang up our boots together and one day tell our kids how we were part of India’s greatest win at Wankhede, in our own ways.

p.s The author is leaving for Mumbai on the night of the 1st. He does not have a ticket yet, but will not say no if you feel emotional and want to hand over yours to him. Either way, he is going to be part of the procession that celebrates outside the Wankhede in the aftermath of the match. Inviting every single Indian team ‘loyalist’ to be there as well.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adam versus Madam

Here’s a nice little question for you. What do you think was God’s master plan when social networks were discovered … invented, if you are ready to fall for that. I think She (I am still talking about God here) had had enough of mankind claiming that they were the superior gender, and wanted to create a parallel world where womankind had every single power available.

For a long time, I used to love being a boy, and routinely felt sorry for the girls in my class because while we tore about the football field during games periods like bad football players, they usually huddled under the trees trying to avoid the brunt of an unforgiving sun. The pleasure of momentary ecstasy or agony, something that only sport can provide, was lost on them. Now don’t judge me because in no way am I suggesting that girls do not play sports or are not good at them, but just that they were fewer in number. In my school. There, now you can’t find fault with that even if you want to.

But now, I do feel that it would be rather nice to be a pretty girl and have forty eight people ask you to take care, pray for you, blow ‘muahs’ in concern or send you an sms saying they’ll take the first flight and come over if need be only because you put a status message cribbing that you have a cold. Just yesterday, Gb and I were going through one such profile and either we are cynical stone hearted cavemen, or suddenly, the event of a pretty girl announcing that she has a cold is a matter of national grief and sympathy. On the other hand, if I did dare to put up similar text on my profile page, six men would reply saying how they wished that I had also caught small pox, rabies and chikungunya. And these are the men who were ready to fly down from Mumbai to Delhi to just hold the handkerchief when she sneezed.

Then there is this other very hot girl on my friends list. So hot, that even I feel like declaring my enthusiasm to hold her tightly in my arms and protect her as she battles any grizzly war against innocuous germs who only wanted to make her cough. I want to do more but let’s leave that for another post. Well anyway, miss super hot’s father was turning a year older and she found it mandatory to announce her daughterly affection for him by sharing the birthday message on facebook. The fact that he himself is not on the medium and will never be able to see the message, of course does not mean much to her. Within minutes, there were about fifteen replies. Jat men whose hearts had never ever let them walk into their mothers’ kitchen and who laughed heartily even when SRK ‘finally’ passed away in ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ suddenly found their hearts melting at this girl’s love and declared that she was the sweetest girl on the planet. This after posting a heart birthday wish to the unsuspecting man (you rock uncle, lol!). He would rock, you baboons, with rage when he finds out that your love for him is sprouting out of that girl’s shapely figure. Lol indeed.

It gets worse when these women are struck by a bout of ‘life’s mystique’. While half of mankind is complimenting her on her profoundness (“well said!”) and themselves offer insightful theories on why exactly life is such, I have passed out because there is only so much banging-on-the-table a head can take. It is only after sharing every updated post’s links on fb, twitter, gmail, city hoardings, three times a day and pleading to supposed best friends that I manage to acquire a grand total of four comments on my blog. That hot friend gets 29 comments for appending her facebook page with two words “I’m bored.”

It must be fun to get so much attention. Amusing at least, to have random souls send you ‘friend requests’ and come and tell you in ways galore how and why they want to befriend you. I wonder if it’s the same high as scoring a goal and running around the ground on a hot summer day.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No country for young men

”Yaar Mehte, yeh kaisi jagah hai yaar …”

- NN, on a long office day when he missed his love,and maybe his datacard too.

Disclaimer: Abhay Sen, it is terribly unfair that your name does not find mention here, alas you were in a different department. But do know, you are 'our baby' and there will be a post on you much before I move into another job.Nod.

Preface: Somewhere in the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad, lies an eerie jungle. Abundant in Nilgai, a beautiful wide eyed animal belonging to the antelope family, the forest has also courted fame and tourism for being home to a primitive specie known as the Prehistoricus GBicus or GB– very lovable with its long mane and body but best known for adopting a baritone and accent whenever a female of its specie is in proximity. Rumour has it that this strange land is the capital of Gujarat, but of course we don’t believe everything, do we? We call our home - Gandhinagar.

On the 19th of Jan, the Government of Gujarat recruited six people from the class of 2011 and since I was not present on campus then, let me now appraise the chosen few of what they have gotten themselves into. The rest of you can emote expressions as per the rollercoaster nature this riveting read embarks upon and I will give you marks for, skill and another wonderful trait called loyalty.

The Juna Sachiwala campus, a stone’s throw from the Vidhan Sabha, is a series of dilapidated old buildings in pink and brown. On your first few visits, it feels like you have been thrown into a different civilization, a country of old men and older women. Stunned, you turn on your toes like a dog chasing its tail, but nothing changes. It is as if all the oldest people in the country have been thrown into one campus, a thousand A.K.Hangals in one piece of land. There are dinosaur fossils in Cambodia that are younger than the brunt of GoG’s populace.

And then, they ask us to make print ads on ‘Vibrant’ Gujarat. Aaah, the irony.

The office in itself is not like any place you ever interned or worked in before. It is a world of tea served in aluminum kettles and peons waiting on every command of the commissioner. Rooms are large, piles of folders sitting on dusty desks and jokes and laughter being thrown across from all corners. Cubicles are a notion, and privacy unheard of. You tend to not care too much about being aloof or secretive when you spend twenty to thirty years of your life with the same people, day in and day out. All over the world, camaraderie breeds in such environs.

However, ‘in a stroke of luck’, Mican recruits have an air conditioned cabin to themselves. So, when you do enter here as you will the first day, do feel free to greet Nitasha and Mihir. When your eyes move upon the empty chairs at the other end of the table, hopefully you will nod your heads in reverence of the three swashbuckling buccaneers who once gave honour to those seats - Monsieurs Mehta, Banerjee and Narayanan.

There is a certain code of conduct that we inculcated in the cabin. Gaurav does not like to be disturbed when he is watching a movie, come crucial time-bound assignment or enraged, ballistic commissioner. And nothing enrages Abhay Mehta more than an important question related to work when he is in the midst of typing an eloquent comment on Facebook. Of course, once he has typed out the ‘hehe’ or ‘aww’, he becomes his cheery self and will listen carefully to your doubt, right till the moment he finds another status update where he can put the same comment. And me? I have to necessarily move a berserk chest or a vulgar hip every time I play ‘Woofer tu meri meri, mai tera amplifaaya faaya’ so you need to find the little breaks when I don’t, if you really want to converse with me.

Jokes (?) apart, we, the Communication Consultants to the Government of Gujarat are in the business of promoting and developing the brand that is the government of Gujarat and the man who sits on the highest diwan. Print ads, speeches, news letters, magazines, content, website, advertorials are our daily companions. In the lakhs of crores of investments and MOUs signed in the Vibrant Summit, hidden somewhere is the hard work and contribution of the Information Department of the Govt of Gujarat. It is a decent profile that may not drill in you the best practices of advertising, but rest assured you will touch more aspects of communication than your peers in the same year. Also, hopefully, when you sit in the press office some late night and eat dinner with a deputy director, a designer and a chauffeur on the same table and see them laughing and backslapping each other, you will understand that there does exist an India that sometimes frees itself of the forces of inequality and allows itself to laugh gaily. You won’t see much of that in a Proctor & Gamble, but yes do make the switch if you get a chance!

If only that bloke sitting on the big chair did not make us redo pages only because his skin was not appearing the snowiest of whites in the accompanying snap… In this last one year, I have stared at his features with more concern than the fulsome admiration with which I gazed at Pamela Anderson’s womanhood throughout my teens. As GB, Mehta and I stand near a signboard that reads ‘Dreams’, we wish you all the best in your new journey and selection of ‘fair’ photographs. Enjoy!

p.s Long before you enter the den, Gaurav and I used to daily enter it … err late. Please. Mother always told me that I should have my eight hours of sleep. Anyway, as we’d rush to the big man’s chamber, late as usual, the old peon standing outside his room would smile at us. In the last thirty years, the man had never seen anyone so unmindful of the boss’ aura or authority. As we would run past him we would know that he had tried to save us again and we’d smile back, half out of gratefulness half out of habit, before rushing in to face the music.

He’ll cover up for you. But do make sure that there are amongst you some who are even less punctual than us. You see, I would like to be remembered as a good example.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lands and People

Having not fathered any children yet, I am yet to wander my mind over obscure territories such as what would be the ideal gift for a child celebrating his first birthday. But if asked to give my hypothetical opinion, I would put my pants err foot down for a pair of nappies, or maybe a ball. Anyway, it’s safe to assume that most parents would buy their infant a little dress or toy. And that is why I never understood why my dad bought the entire collection of Encyclopedias and‘Lands and People’ the day I turned one.

Over the years, along with the yearly gifts, my sister and I also picked up some of my father’s traits that he so deliberately left all around, and today I can safely say I love both geography and history. This time around, in Nero’s classes, do find below a set of places that you must all visit in your lifetime, and some of the traits that defined the place but did not find honorary mention in classical

Nero Chala Oxford: Part Two

Australia – The modern day Sparta. In this country, all new born babies are baptized with Fosters beer. Girls grow up with boomerangs instead of barbies, while boys receive education on how to celebrate once they have won the Cricket World Cup.

Bihar - Barring Mahender Singh Dhoni, every person in Bihar has kidnapped every other person in Bihar. Last we heard, an upper class cow had stolen a schedule caste monkey’s child and was demanding 20 kgs hay as ransom.

Cuba – The US can’t really be all that powerful as it claims if it could never capture an island country one-hundredth its size and two hop skip and jumps away from its shore, despite obvious attempts, eh?

Delhi – The big hearted city, Dilwalon ki Dilli. The city, rather its people practice thorough equality by nicknaming and referring to every organism, caste, religion, man or even stray dog with a word that sounds very similar to ‘pen chor’. Besides seating all and sundry in our large hearts, we somehow also find the time to completely botch up mega world events, do the bhangra to any form of music be it bollywood, Backstreet Boys or Beethoven(and yet look good at it), and ensure that women are ready to conquer the world, by making the streets thoroughly unsafe for them. Of course we are just acting. How else will they stay at home and study properly!

Estonia – A dis(re)putable survey insists that Estonia’s main occupation is Orkut. I think this is the ideal time for India to invade the country. Then we’ll have Estonia, Kashmir will be USA’s and Pakistan can keep Gurgaon.

France – Last New Year’s eve while I was sitting home alone and flipping through TV channels, a lot of random men were copulating with a lot of random women in the streets of France, supposedly only so because they were emotionally overwhelmed about the arrival of the new year. December 2011 I will be there too.

Greece – A beautiful country that gave the world the Olympics in 776 BC, Illiad in 800 BC, democracy around 450 BC, Aristotle in 384 BC, and then sat back and did nothing in the whole of the 21 centuries after Christ.

Honduras – In 1969, after losing a match to neighbouring Honduras in a South America World Cup qualifier, El Salvador attacked the country in what has been termed as the ‘football war’. Since the fighting stopped in just four days, it’s assumed that most ‘Hondurans’ (what a dreadful way to address one’s citizens, if that is what they call them) were busy celebrating and being wasted and therefore refused to participate, leaving the Salvador army rather confused and bored.

India – We have Rajnikanth and Tendulkar, so we must be more powerful than both Russia and USA.

Japan – A country with zero percent crime now, not because its people are overly honest, just that the few rare times a crime was committed, each victim happily clicked a dozen pictures of their respective thief’s while they were robbing them. The police nabbed them in a time less than what it would take a startled thief to scream ‘Mitsubishi’.

Kerala – Largely referred to as ‘God’s own country’, its image got a beating once Sreesanth announced his connections to the state. Ever since, no mallu wants anything to do with Kerala, and it is just Sreesanth’s, the ‘sod’s own country

Leaning Tower of Pisa – The only building in the world which is marveled despite
having such a ridiculously flawed architectural design that it can’t even stand straight.

Mount Everest – A 13 year old Californian boy has climbed it, a 71 year old Japanese teacher stood at the top and said he wanted to sing a song, Apa Sherpa jogs up and down every day and Rajnikanth is taller than it. Why in sweet Jesus’ name, is it so over hyped then?

Nanga Parbat – When we were eleven, we used to laugh hysterically whenever one of the guys secretly pointed it out in geography class. Dear Lord.

Pakistan – Our books keep telling us that India and Pakistan were one land torn into two, that we are uselessly squabbling against each other, that we are the same people. How then do they produce a beautiful fast bowler every day while our board has to use all its clout to force television channels to not put ‘right-arm laughable’ against Munaf’s name?

Queenstown - Take a look at the picture and then we'll comment on it.

Right. Moving on,

Spain – You might be European and fancy but you have really not developed if you find pleasure in baiting and harassing a bull, playing with its dignity and eventually killing the poor beast. A lot can be said about a man's heart by the way he treats his animals.

The Great Wall of China – Imagine how bored the early Chinese must really have been to build a wall over 8000 kms in length. And if they don’t remove the ban on Twitter and Facebook soon, I am afraid the people might just build another bigger wall, just to entertain themselves. After all how many Jackie Chan movies can one possibly watch?

United States of America - Of America, Twain thus opined in 1890, “We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.”

A 120 years and several inventions later, I agree as much.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's only words ...

Quotes have always found me lapping them up with great delight, especially when they are of the wry variety. They give the writer a chance to tell what he thinks of the world in but a line or two, and if he is able to make the reader ponder, reflect and smile, it is a personal battle triumphed.

Unsatisfied by Oxford and Britannica’s efforts to educate us, I take it upon myself to delve into the depths of English literature and define some of the words that we use every day. Hopefully one day long after I get a Pulitzer, they would remember this post as the one that shook the very foundations of those institutions that built the language.

Nero chala Oxford: Part One

Apple – That damned object which could choose no other head but Isaac Newton’s to fall upon, leading to a plethora of theories about an unseen force that serve no other purpose but trouble every ninth-grader studying physics in the world. If only it had fallen on me, I would have eaten it.

Ball – That most magnificent of human inventions, ranks right up there with the wheel and the commode. Big or small, it has been the greatest entertainment provider whether in the giant stadium of Wembley, or the most ravaged village in Sudan, Africa.

Cat – A useless animal whose coolness stems from the fact that it can perch at small heights and look unfazed and thoroughly bored by a furiously agitated barking canine standing right below. Reproduces at a remarkable rate in Mica.

Dog – The most noble being in the world, it is the only organism that both understands as well as practices selfless love. Is made to look stupid when its incessant pouring of vitriolic anger is ‘looked down upon’ by its arch-rival, the cat.

England – A country absolutely bereft of brilliance but so adept at Marketing that they have had you convinced that Andy Flintoff, David Beckham, The Spice Girls and Lords Stadium are the pristine best in their categories. Agatha Christie is their redemption.

Fickle – A six letter word and character trait that manifests itself pronouncedly all over India whenever the Indian team loses. Or wins.

Ghosts – Their reputation was left in tatters with the arrival of Casper. Received a further walloping when the makers of ‘Aahat’ tried to felicitate them on screen.

Harry Potter – In the ‘Da Vinci Code’, Langdon’s editor reads his script and is astounded by the finds. He believes it will make more waves than the greatest best seller of all time. “Bible?”, Langdon asks. “Harry Potter” is the reply. Period.

India - There is much about the Indian gene that could be derided - we are lazy, corrupt, largely insensitive to womankind, and racist. But we sure produce bloody good batsmen.

Jat – A breed of organisms that knows no fear, no care, no authority, and sometimes no sense.

K – My favourite letter in the alphabet set. Also Ekta Kapoor’s. For altogether different reasons.

Love – When the whole world collapses, and there is Armageddon, they will remember it as the planet of the apes that went down to the dogs. And for how much he loved her.

Mandira Bedi – A revolutionary, who stood for womankind’s entry into a sports chamber hogged forever by men. After her entry, even women started agreeing that their kind had no business there.

Nero – Played the fiddle when Rome was burning. A CD burning software. A writer. Cute.

Ouagadougou – The capital of Burkina Faso. Has crippled the tongue and larynx of every single person who tried to pronounce the word, including the nation’s president.

Photoshop – A tool that makes every layman a ‘brilliant’, ‘awesome’, ‘fantastic’ photographer

Quotes – A very powerful tool to exercise wit and charm. Rendered Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw immortal.

Ryan Giggs – The greatest son Wales gave birth to, and the son England never had but always desired.

Santa Claus – A very nice man, who really should have visited Hindu, Muslim and Sikh houses too, not just Christian. We, the other religions, have kids too, you know.

Twitter – An expression box which clearly suggests that women love to rant, and men love to 'follow' them.

UDRS – World’s answer to India’s bullish, big-brother attitude in cricket. Under the rule, every batsman plumb lbw to an Indian bowler, has walked 2.5 metres down the wicket, and is therefore not out. Ian, ring a Bell?

Vivacious – the most pleasant word to describe a person who is so full of life as to endear himself to most people he interacts with and be wanted around, by virtue of manner, smile and charm.

Wit – An innocuous character trait that nobody puts as a ‘strength’ in their CV for an interview, but arguably the greatest weapon to have at your disposal at all times. Including that interview.

X – Mark Twain refused to define any words beginning with X, and I have a similar revulsion for the poor alphabet.

Yorker – The first word Lasith Malinga gurgled as a baby, right before he crawled three yards and threw his dirty nappy right into his father’s toes. Second was ‘ooowzat’ and third ‘amma’.

Zephyr – Seated across to Harsha Bhogle in the commentary box in Australia, Terry Jenner once remarked of the weather, "This is not a wind, just a zephyr." The reply speaks volumes of Bhogle’s acumen, and left me as a huge fan, nay, loyalist.

"Zephyr. What a nice word for Scrabble, it has only one vowel and is worth 23 points."



Sunday, February 27, 2011

An affair worth remembering

Disclaimer: After almost three months, a post that is not meant for Cricinfo, or some of the other fellas who published me, but just for myself.

‘The trouble with romantic stories is that they do not always have a happy ending. The good part about them is that they are beautiful while they last.’
- Neeraj Narayanan, the last Sunday of Feb '11

Much before this post sees the light of the day, a hundred experts would have given you every single piece of analysis on how both India and England did not manage to win the match from seemingly invincible positions. They will tell you, like they have a hundred times before, that this was the greatest match ever but what they do not know is why it became so.

It all began because of a man named Rajan. Well almost, if you are a believer in romantic tales.

After thirty five overs, England had wanted only 98 more. I exited from the stand, went down the staircase and stood outside the huge brown walls my head in my hands, unable to believe what had just happened.

Earlier, in the break after India’s batting, I had messaged the entire world, ecstatic that I had actually seen, Sachin carve a century and my team post a mammoth, unachievable target. I felt I was clever when I told people that I could now pick a favourite Tendulkar century, while they could not. But then Andrew Strauss walked into the ground and put on an exhibition that could rival the most pristine things of beauty.

It was not brutal, not carnage. No Jack the Ripper, no Achilles. Neither was it artistic, Rembrandt-like. Instead, so perplexing was his brilliance, and there was so much ease and disdain written all over it, that you would think it was almost inhuman, magical. I would pick Houdini, for I am a traditionalist, you are free to tag him as Dumbeldore, or even Voldermort if you are so partisan and Indian.

With England coasting to victory, a lot of people were leaving the stadium and I watched them, distraught that my script had gone so awry. But unfortunately, those who are fighters are also often ungracious and unwilling to let go, so I stood at my spot outside the walls, hoping for the crowd inside to erupt, just once, to let me know that Strauss was out and we still had a chance. Five minutes later, I returned to my stand, the curiosity trouncing the sadness. But England kept plundering runs.

At the end of the 38th over, Rajan, a stranger who I had befriended at the queue in the morning, shook my head and laughed at me. “It is okay if we lose, dude” he told me , “they are playing better.” I looked at him, in angst, and launched into a tirade on how no team was supposed to lose after scoring 340. Instead, he asked me to not give up and cheer our team. Maybe it was his cheery disposition, or just the fact that I was ashamed to know that there was someone more sportsman-like, but something just popped then. We agreed that we had not lost yet, and there wasn’t any reason to lose hope. For the entirety of the next over, he cheered madly, followed by Gaurav Sinha, yours truly and Mohit-someone while the entire stand looked at us bemused. Chawla gave two in that over, and buoyed by the results, a bunch of twenty or so joined the band and gave voice to the stadium. The next over Zaheer spewed venom in the park and the scenes in stand A were incredible. While when India had batted, we had shouted with joy at every shot of Sachin and Co, here every dot ball was accompanied by a roar that had nothing friendly about it. We stood on our chairs and screamed so loud and so much that we killed our throats completely. So aggressive was it that it buoyed almost everyone in the stand and the stadium, and we all stood there screaming and making the greatest racket we ever had, with our drums, our placards, our whistles, and with our hearts. It might have lacked virtuosity, as its definition demands ‘morality in excellence’ but it had a rawness in its fervor, a madness in its celebration, that dignity can never offer.

Wikipedia registers ‘battle cry’ as a war chant, a universal form of display behavior, aimed at competitive advantage, ideally by overstating one's own aggressive potential to a point where the enemy prefers to avoid confrontation altogether and opts to flee. In order to overstate one's potential for aggression, battle cries need to be as loud as possible, and have historically often been amplified by acoustic devices such as horns, drums, conches, bugles etc. In those telling moments, the Chinnaswamy had its own battle cry and it was bloody magnificent.

Do not accept it, but Zaheer’s inspiring spell was not just his doing but also because of what a thousand in Stand A did to his adrenaline. And when he captured his wickets, there were many who went ballistic, there were men past fifty who were dancing, bear-hugging and ‘high fiving’ all and sundry, and there were others like me who used the chairs as steps to travel from one level to another, and went and submerged into the arms and bodies of random strangers only because their eyes were as fiery and full of rage as I thought mine were.

And that is why the match was so great. Not for its scores or its stroke play, but because a crowd had found voice like no other, even if the cynics insist that is a regular trait of the Indian cricket lover. A world cup that had so far been pimped only by the media, and cared for only by the Bangladeshis, had finally found a match that could propel the interest of thousands in India, and make them queue up in front of ticket counters with renewed vigour.

Please do not think watching a world cup match on television is a better experience than watching it in a stadium. It is only when you are standing there, watching those young boys bringing the flags out, and then singing the national anthem with fifty thousand other people, that you realize that there are very few moments that could make your heart fill up with so much pride on being part of the nation that you are. I have always liked our national anthem but today I was happiest while singing it. I also had goosebumps for the longest period of time. We have all seen the orange, the white and the green in our flags but they look so much more prettier when we wear them as hand bands, head bands or as paint on our cheeks. Go to a stadium, because as much as you love Sachin, hearing fifty thousand others yell, nay, sing his name louder than you is a joyful experience. Go to a stadium because sitting at home you might be able to watch your replays but you will never be able to befriend so many people you will never see in your life again.

p.s At the end of the 46th over, with India now in the driver’s seat, I noticed Rajan holding his head and sitting on his chair. He was not alright he said, and was suffering greatly. I hugged him, and egged him on to cheer the team one last time, but he smiled back and said that he was happy enough now that the crowd was on its feet and doing its job. He left the stadium at the end of the 48th, and that was the last I saw of him. I do not know how he would have felt when he would hear that India had not won, had actually conceded 28 in two overs to a bunch of tail-enders. But I have a feeling that he would be okay about it.

p.s 2) It is 330 in the morning now, and I have finally written what I wanted to. The ‘India’ headband and the flag painted on my cheek haven’t yet been removed/washed off. It will take a while, for the aforementioned, and the emotions to fade into oblivion.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An unassuming man called Rahul Dravid

Disclaimer: This article was published by Cricinfo on a winter day early 2011.

Preface: Once upon a time, much before Cricinfo became essential to our lives, there was a delightful magazine for all us cricket lovers known as the ‘Sportstar’.

It was the year of ’94 or ’95, two years since the game had surged through my veins and made me its seduced captive. Since my colony only had older bullies who never let me bat or bowl, so right after I’d reach home from school, I would run to the porch as soon as I was done with the pesky business of lunch. Holding my bat with the right hand, I’d throw a ball onto the wall with the left, and before it ricocheted off the wall and reached me, I would swiftly grasp the bat with both hands and launch into a drive through covers, rather two broken cactus pots. That day, the first time I missed a shot, I declared Manoj Prabhakar clean bowled by Craig Mcdermott. But instead of letting in Manjrekar to bat next at three, I carefully scribbled a relatively obscure name, ‘Rahul Dravid’, in my notebook scorecard.

That week’s Sportstar edition had a picture of the same man as one of the top run getters in the Ranji circuit. An eleven year old’s intuition told me that he would play for India one day, but mostly I put him at three because he looked handsome in the photograph. He was frowning because the sun hit his face, but he still looked handsome.

Sixteen years later, the same man stood at the Centurion, with twelve thousand international test runs to his name. The next day, however, every single newspaper in India only chose to speak about Sachin’s fiftieth ton, how he missed his father still, how he went for coaching to Shivaji Park, and a hundred other anecdotes that every Sachin lover knows by heart. The third highest run scorer in tests, the man who would arguably have been India’s greatest bat if not for the boy the whole country was busy lauding, did not even have a mention.

Dravid’s greatness however is not limited to his runs. It is a potpourri of character, hard work and a genuinely good heart.

A month earlier, the same two men stood at either ends of a pitch, two runs away from sealing a 2-0 score line against the visiting Aussies. For years, the single largest complaint against Sachin, unfair as it is, has been his seeming inability to be there at the end and take India to victory. An over before, we were all glued to our sets and wondered whether Sachin would finish it off with a six to silence his detractors, if he would uproot a stump and run with it like a child when we won, and a million other things. But now Rahul was on strike and would of course finish it off himself. Just like he did seven years back, hitting that trademark square cut boundary to give India her first victory in Australia in 22 years. But we all want Sachin to do everything, don’t we? As we sat there watching Mitchell Johnson bowl to Rahul, we prayed he leave every ball alone and strangely he did. The next over Sachin won the match for India, took off his helmet, raised both his hands to exult with uncharacteristic emotion, and smiled.

We will never know if Rahul Dravid did so intentionally, letting his more celebrated team mate have his moment, but it is a tribute to his character and image that we are inclined to believe so. If intentional, it was a selfless act, by a man who has been renowned for the same (remember donning the keeper’s gloves so that India could play both Yuvi and Kaif?), and it shamed us for wanting Sachin to score those runs.

One day Rahul Dravid will retire, but he will take away with him a bit of what is left of the gentlemanliness that the game tries to still portray as its unique element.

One day Dravid will retire but he will take away with him that beautiful square cut - wrists as supple and turning like Zorro’s, toes rising sweetly in sync with the pace of the approaching ball, standing perfectly tall, majestic and most importantly in control, before whacking the cherry disdainfully through backward point.

When Rahul retires, the nation will lose the greatest number three to have ever graced it, and writers will mourn saying that the media never gave him his full due. But don’t blame the media, for grace will never overcome the charms of boyish appeal or even spitting fire, traits his best mates Sachin and Saurav so regularly exhibited in that enviable Indian middle order. But when Rahul retires, that middle order and also the Indian eleven will lose its most handsome face, something that we all wrongly assumed was handed over by God, but in truth, which came about by the virtues he imbibed in his soul as he grew up.

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