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Cricket needs you, Pakistan


I might get lynched if this write up reaches the reading table of self proclaimed torch bearers of patriotism, chest thumping right wing media warriors and of course, cow terrorists. Because, I am going to conclude this blog by saying that the current Pakistan cricket team has been a joy to watch.

Over the years, Pakistan’s attitude on the field has transformed into a greater level. I am not sure if you can think beyond Misbah in having nurtured the team’s attitude and there by bringing in, a sense of dignity. Gone are the days when Pakistan used to annoy and bully teams with super natural fast bowlers and chants from behind the wicket. They still have an abundant supply of raw fast bowling talents but when you look at the players on the field, you realize that things have changed. The only thing that hasn’t changed, is their unpredictability. There is a sense of innocence in the way their captain addresses the post match press conferences. Much has been said and mocked, unfairly and equally irritatingly, about Sarfaraz’s English speaking skills but agree or not, he has brought a lot of purpose to this team. His child-like enthusiasm on the field is adorable. His pep talks are the work of a leader in progress. His chants from behind the stumps, remind you of Moin Khan. But he isn’t Pakistan’s complete story.

Pakistan’s resurgence is the story of a bighearted Hassan Ali, the new generation opener Fakhar Zaman, of the supremely talented Babar Azam and of their decision to not send Shehzad and Hafeez to open the innings. Hassan Ali’s run up gives you an indication of the hard work that has gone into his making. He isn’t an Akthar, nor does he come anyway closer to the masterful Akram. His uniqueness lies in the absence of special tricks that the Pakistani fast bowlers are known to possess. He is just a normal bowler and looks forward to his every run up with a lot of discipline. Fakhar Zaman is different though. He does unPakistan things. He is Pakistan’s Sehwag with the bat. He sets them off to a flier. He is the new generation smasher. He must have never seen Hafeez bat. He flat bats the ball over the pacer’s head with nonchalance. So, in a 230-240 run chase, he takes them to a 100 inside the 15 overs and minimizes the chances of a choke. He has transformed the way Pakistan looked at ODIs. You simply wish he doesn’t get embroiled in any funny incident that might snowball into a massive scandal or a controversy. Then there is Mohammad Amir, the child prodigy, the teenage prodigy who lost his way, when the cricket writers worldwide were writing celebratory posts after spotting the next Wasim Akram. We don’t know how his rehabilitation phase was but every wicket that he takes, makes the cricket lover happier. No other cricket team has tales like these. And that’s what make Pakistan, Pakistan.

Pakistan are known to do Pakistan things. They could botch up a run chase with ease. They could also churn up surprise wins, which might surprise the hell out of the bookies in Sharjah. With every passing tournament, Pakistan keeps letting the ICC know that Cricket needs them more than they need cricket. So, what am I going to expect in the final on Sunday? Expect the unexpected. No one expected Pakistan to be in the finals. But no one wrote them off either. Ah, Pakistan. May you never change. Because, watching you play in this tournament has given us unbridled joy. Your brand of cricket is a thing of beauty. For a change, let us leave aside the emotions of India Pakistan politics and look forward to the final as a neutral cricket lover. Be an English or an Australian for a day. Because we love cricket more.

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The Indian Farmer


These are tough times for the Indian farmer. Yes, the same Indian farmer who is responsible for feeding you and keeping you alive. He is endangered and on the verge of extinction, if the tough times continue. The situation is worse if he belongs to the state that performs well. No one cares about him. None of the officials go and meet them. None from the government indulge in talks with them. In Madya Pradesh, he has to face bullets if he tries to raise his voice in protest. In Maharashtra, he has no other option than committing suicides. In Tamilnadu, he knows he doesn’t have a government to reach out to. So he goes to Delhi, sports a half shaved mustache and a half shaved head, eats rats and rolls on the road completely naked. Nothing happens. No one is bothered. He is tired. He returns home and ponders over his own existence. He sits in exasperation. He thinks of moving over to other sources of income. But he can’t. This is all that he knows. Farming is his life. A world outside of this, doesn’t exist for him. He thinks he is living a cursed life.

The Uttar Pradesh Government in April, announced that it plans to waive off the loans of 3 crore farmers in the state. It’s a good idea and there is no question about it, except for the fact that the funds commissioned for this, comes from the bulk contributions of states where the farmers are dying everyday. For every 100 bucks given to the centre by Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka, they get back 30-40 bucks. Meanwhile, the non performing states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madya Pradesh get back 300-400 for the same amount. This is where the resource allocation fails miserably. Why would you penalize a state for performing well? The funds that are used to waive off farmer loans in UP comes from the funds generated by states like Maharashtra and Tamilnadu. And these states have prospered economically owing to good governance, good literacy rates, impeccable Human Development Indices and importantly, comparatively lesser population growths. Isn’t it the time for refurbishing the existing model of resource allocation? Or even sending out a stern message to the non performers that the continuous non performance will result in lesser funds?

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Depressing


10m air rifle qualifying round.

Two Indian Olympic medalists are participating. First series of shots are fired. Gagan Narang, the bronze winner in London 2012, leads. Abhinav Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold medalist, doesn’t even come in top 10. There are Italians, Chinese, Americans and all those countries that tore the USSR into pieces, competing. Next rounds of shots begin. Gagan begins his parachute fall and ends up at No.23. Disappointment. It’s okay, he has 2 more events left. Bindra, on the other hand, goes up and down. Given the fickle nature of this sport, you can’t expect anything but topsy-turvy. With a string of 10.8s, he ends up in top 8. Boom. Bang. Qualifies for the finals.

I followed all these, during the journey back home in the Bangalore traffic. My Twitter TL was an explosion of sorts. I kept refreshing it every half a second. When was the last time that a grossly unpopular sport was making me nervously excited? Or for that matter, when was the last time, an entire nation followed shooting from the edge of their seats? This must be the waves of change. Or even Tsunamis of change. But do you know who is responsible for all this? It’s the same man Bindra, who out of no where, made sure that the Indian National anthem was played at an Olympic arena after 28 years. One gold in 2008 became a silver and bronze in London. Shooting became a household name. And that to me, will remain Abhinav Bindra’s biggest achievement.

Abhinav Bindra is more than all the role models put together. The stories about his preparations are unthinkable. You need a stronger word than perseverance to describe that. If you get time or are struggling in life, grab a copy of his autobiography. You’ll feel inspired to do something worthy in life.

10m air rifle final

Shooters take positions. Few rounds of shots before the elimination begins. First round ends. Bindra is at 7. On the verge of elimination. A whole nation is concerned. Everyone watching the India-Germany hockey match has changed TV channels. Ukrainian shooter is eliminated. Next set of shots follow. Live coverage shows only the Russian, Hungarian and Croatian shooters. We are livid. How is an Indian shooter less important , you rascist pigs? But we do hear a huge roar after every shot. The scorecard after every 2 rounds indicate that Bindra is making a dramatic progress. At one point, he climbs as high as No.2. Only 4 shooters are in the fray. 3 of them will win a medal, for sure. Prayers begin. Across regions. Across religions. A whole nation is united at last. Bindra shoots and so are the other three. The score card gets some major shuffling. Bindra 4th. Russian 3rd. Italian 2nd. Ukrainian 1st. One more shot and we will have the bronze medalist. Bindra spikes up 10.2. Russian manages only 10. It’s a tie. Like that India Pakistan T20. They go into the superover tie-breaker. One shot each. Bindra hits 10. He is expression less. But the shot is excruciatingly less. A billion heart beats stop. All eyes are on the 22 year old Russian. He pauses, sets himself and shoots 10.5. It’s all over. There is depression all around. Another Olympic event and another South-African-cricket-team-at-world-cups moment. Stories of PT Usha in 1984 Los Angeles go flashing by. Another “missed by a whisker” result. Seconds later, Germany score the winner against India with 3 seconds left. Brain freeze. Tears. And the pain. The entire system must be meant to jinx us, our Olympians.

The wait for the 27th medal continues…..

As heartbreak eases, it’s time to say “Thank you Abhinav Bindra for all the inspiration. Yours has been an inspirational journey. I’ll keep going back to your autobiography….. “.

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#DudeTravels


 

Jewellery ads and election posters dominate the 'Stick No Bills' part of our walls! ‪#‎Thrissur‬

Jewellery ads and election posters dominate the ‘Stick No Bills’ part of the walls! ‪#‎Thrissur‬

"You are not a Malayalee if you haven't travelled on these #KSRTC"- Jacobinde Swargarajyam

“You are not a Malayalee if you haven’t travelled on these #KSRTC”- Jacobinde Swargarajyam

Election campaigns are on full swing! #Aluva

                              Election campaigns are on full swing! #Aluva

I was sweating profusely throughout the day. The humidity levels were simply unbearable. Global warming is more than evident in these parts of the world. To tackle it, more air conditioners are added and it’s just a one-way route as far as Global warming is concerned. May God save our planet.

1

Is Premam worth all the ‘hype’?


I was in Trichy last week. And to escape from the brutal Trichy summer (which makes the tar melt in double quick time on the roads and where people do not need a gas stove to make egg omelettes), we decided to hit the shopping mall for ‘AC’. I was just about casually humming the melodies that were being played inside, when my ears, arteries and veins lit up. It was ‘Malare‘. The same ‘Malare‘ which took Kerala by storm. The same lyrical brilliance which tests one’s pronunciation skills, something which a Non Malayalee might find hard as gargling a marble. So, how did ‘Malare’ make it to the playlists of non Malayalees, Tamilians in particular?

I have lived all my life in Trichy and it is very rare that a Malayalam film is talked about, forget even getting released. I wouldn’t blame the city and its people for it. There is a good number of Malayalam speaking people, who like the many I have seen, prefer Tamil over Malayalam. And so, even if, all the celestial bodies align and a Malayalam film gets released, it will definitely run to near-empty audience. But this is where Premam stood out. Defying all the laws, Premam was re-released in Tamilnadu and the film was a run away hit when it was screened at LA cinemas in Trichy. The film ran for over 250 days in Chennai’s Satyam cinemas. The funnier part is in Kerala, the film’s intended audience, the film didn’t cross 160 days.

Pic Courtesy: Muzik 24*7

Was it the merely the Nivin Pauly phenomenon? Or did the story bowl the Tamil audiences? I’d say its a mix of both, though the story, screenplay and the costumes were the clincher. Nivin Pauly is the most sought after hero in Malayalam, closing in on the levels of Mammootty and Mohanlal. His boy-next-door roles that became blockbusters in Malayalam were gleefully accepted in Tamilnadu. His bilingual ‘Neram‘ fared reasonably well at the box office and was critically acclaimed here. ‘1983‘ and ‘Bangalore Days‘ were much talked about in Chennai. And slowly, people started following his films. Chennaites fell in love with his ‘Oru Vadakkan Selfie‘. It is at this backdrop that ‘Premam’ hit the screens in Chennai and Coimbatore. From what was initially thought to be a Nivin Pauly entertainer, the film transcended boundaries and made its characters, household names.

When you talk about ‘mass’ scenes, our films have shown us the cliched image of a hero beating down a herd of villains, sometimes in gravity-defying stunt scenes, supported by some killer background music. Or as some of the Telugu and mindless Bollywood films showed us about bikes and cars toppling, with the hero coming out unhurt. Obviously, lakhs and crores were splashed to shoot these ‘mass’ scenes. What Premam did was quite simple, like how some Russian chap suggested the usage of a pencil over a fountain pen inside a spaceship. College students aged 21, sporting a beard and a rayban glass, dressed up in a Black shirt and a ‘mundu‘, would be walking while raising their legs to wind up the ‘mundu‘. Add to it, Rajesh Murugesan’s killer background music and the slow motion shots. Just that. That’s it. No guns. No knifes. No broken beer bottles. No sharp weapons. What we saw on screen gave us goosebumps. You felt like you could throw up twenty villains at a time. You felt energized. You felt you could yell ,”Screw you” to your boss. This was the real ‘mass’ scene. Of course, we have seen Mohanlal stylishly do that before. Mammootty adventurously did it in Rajamanikkam. But this was equally effective on screen and was of a different level. They are college going guys. The film was catered to the age group of 18-25. And they went amok. Every Tamil speaking person who saw it, could relate it. ‘Mundu‘ or ‘Veshti‘ is their traditional attire as well. They had seen such a scene at least once in their life as well. (Wonder why Narasimham and Rajamanikkam didn’t become a rage in Tamilnadu. The scenes were equally mass).

'Mass'

  ‘Mass’

After watching it umpteen number of times, I can easily say that without the ‘Malar‘ part, it would’ve remained a normal Malayalam film. It wouldn’t have taken Tamilnadu by storm. It wouldn’t have prompted some of my Tamil speaking friends to learn Malayalam. It wouldn’t have bridged the gap between the two industries and more importantly, the fans. The character was laced on reality. A Saree wearing teacher without make up is what you see in a normal college in Kerala and Tamilnadu. The concept of a student falling in love with a teacher is not new. You have seen a Malar and George. You have seen love stories in campuses. You have seen love failures and broken hearts. Alphonse Putharen simply showed us what we’ve already seen and heard. There was nothing new. But it was all about the way the scenes were conceived and shot. The depiction is completely non-filmy. The dialogues were raw, nothing of the cinematic stuff were included. And people liked it. In the end, people like to see on screen what they see in real life, unadulterated. Give them raw, they will definitely like it. Tamil audiences too, deserve films likes these often. Hopefully, the film makers note it.

So, is Premam worth all the hype? Not really. It’s a just a love story in different stages of a guy’s life. But extraordinary elements are the cinematography, direction, dialogues, background score, ‘mundu’, ‘mass’ scene and ‘Malare Ninne Kaanadhirunnal, Mizhivegiya niramellam maayunna pole

 

1

The ‘Over’ of a lifetime: As it happened


Nehra Ji....... Pic Courtesy: Twitter

                                                               Nehra Ji

Jasprit Bumrah has just sent down his sixth yorker of the over. Chinnaswamy applauds. Couple of players rush to pat the bowler on his back. The bowler breathes a sigh of relief. He had a terrible time on the field early on. But those are past memories now.

All eyes turn to the big screen.

“11 Runs to Win from 6 Balls”.

All eyes, now turn to the center of the pitch. There is a mini round table conference there. Everyone knows who is going to bowl the last over. Hardik Pandya, the swagger from the Wild West (Baroda), the funky hairstyle owner, the brash young man, the obvious six hitter, the generous six donator, the displayer of youthful energy on the field and at times, a Sreesanth impersonator, is entrusted with that duty. This could change his life, both ways. He could be a hero who would be celebrated. He could also be a villain, who would be the butt of all jokes on social media. His newly constructed glass house, could be pelted by stones. The next 5 minutes is going to decide everything. He is seen smiling though, pretending as if he is cool. He cracks a joke with the umpire. And slowly, strolls his way to the bowling mark.

He starts his run up. There is tension written all over him. After all, this is Chinnaswamy. A bowler’s nightmare. The home of high scoring T20 thrillers. The six hitting paradise. The small boundaries. Plus, the opposition is not Australia, its Bangladesh. You can’t lose to Bangladesh and all. It’s a prestige issue. We helped them get Independence. And their fans and advertisements have been tastelessly taking a dig at us. They knocked off our captain’s head with the help of Photoshop. We simply cannot lose this game.

First ball. Hardik tries a yorker outside off. The ball deserved a boundary. It should’ve been drilled to the short cover boundary. Even a Pakistani batsman would’ve done it. But it is Bangladesh. They can’t do it. The ball is easily stopped by the boundary patroller Sir Jadeja. Single.

“10 Runs to Win from 5 Balls”

Another round table conference begins. This time it is chaired by His Highness Nehra Ji. Dhoni casually chips in. The three of them turn around 360 degrees and look at the field. Nehra Ji tells him what to do, where to bowl and at what length. The loyal disciple Pandya nods in agreement. Everyone walk back and take their positions. Pandya runs in. With his typical ‘medium pacer from the street cricket’ action, he sends a length ball. The sort of balls you need as a batsman, to boost your confidence. Venkatesh Prasad used to hit sixes of those dollies in the practice nets. But it is Mushfiqur Rahim. He fires it wide off extra-cover and manages to get a boundary. Only a boundary. But, it is 4 runs nevertheless. The tension slightly diffuses. You know the match is slipping away. This is after all Chinnaswamy. A bowler’s nightmare………….High scoring………..Six hitting…………small boundaries…….

“6 Runs to Win from 4 Balls”

Nehra ji is not amused. Even he would have tonked that for six. He starts a conversation with Dhoni and summons Pandya to the middle. The lecture begins. Some traffic patrolling follows. Fielders swap positions. Yuvraj is seen relaxing, fully aware that he will not be the punching bag this time. Chinnaswamy’s noise levels reduce by half. Kohli is sporting a gloomy look. Surely man, he can’t lose at Chinnaswamy. This is his home. Meanwhile, Nehra Ji has finished communicating his ideas to Pandya. Let us see what he does. He sends a short gentle medium paced delivery. Normal batsmen would’ve conveniently hooked that and deposited in to the crowds. But it is Mushfiqur Rahim. He has Misbah’s genes. He goes for THAT shot. Galaxy surprisingly, the ball manages to kiss some part of the willow and gravity defyingly, beats Dhoni’s hands. 4 more. Rahim lets out a celebratory cry. Boss, that should be after you win a world cup. Not now. Anyway, Bangladeshi dugout explodes. Chinnaswamy is stunned. The stadium has been muted. Kohli is about to cry.

“2 Runs to Win from 3 Balls”

Nehra Ji has given up. Still, Dhoni drags him to give Pandya some final advises. Rohit Sharma joins, probably to remind everyone that he too captains an IPL side. Everyone feels relaxed. There is no way that we can win the match. I manage to take a loo-break and come back. I am not going back to the bean bag. I decide to stand. Pandya bowls a gentle half tracker. I have seen Gayle dispatch every such delivery to Cubbon Park. But this is Mushfiqur Rahim. He is half the size of Gayle and has one-tenth of the power that Gayle possesses. He goes for the pull and sends the ball straight to the fielder in the deep. Chinnaswamy slowly makes noise. But they aren’t convinced fully. Its just two required and any sane mind would knock that off. Two singles would do.

“2 Runs to Win from 2 Balls”

Nehra Ji is expressionless. He hardly believes that we could win. Without much interest, he shows Pandya where to pitch it in. Pandya nods. And after all the advises, he forgets to even pitch the ball. Juicy full toss. Slow ball. Short boundaries. Mahmudullah’s eyes lit up. There is a chance he could do a Dhoni and set off on a victory run. He wanted to be a hero and gives in to the situation. He smashes the full toss. If it was Dhoni, the ball would have hit the roof of Chinnaswamy. He has patented this art of finishing games with a six. But this is Mahmudullah. He would not even clear the Chinnaswamy boundary. The ball neatly nestles in Sir Jadeja’s hands. Sir Jadeja dives. The players rush to him from everywhere. Nehra Ji gives out a cheeky smile. Pandya has gone bananas. The noise levels increase. We can now smell victory. But all three results are possible. The super over possibility is looming large.

Already a contender for Dronacharya Award

                              Already a contender for Dronacharya Award

“2 Runs to Win from 1 Ball”

2007 Johannesburg memories come flashing by. Within a couple of minutes, Joginder Sharma starts trending worldwide. Pandya is a Joginder Sharma kind of bowler. All the five balls have been worse than what Joginder bowled. Each one of them deserved to go for a boundary. What is with Dhoni and trying his luck with mediocre bowlers. Final round of talks begin. Nehra Ji is animated. He wants to win a Dronacharya award badly. He starts the tutorial. Dhoni remains ice cool. Nehra Ji is telling him all the possible deliveries. He tells him you can try a bouncer, or a slow bouncer, or a straight Yorker, or a wide Yorker from around the wicket, or an off cutter, or a back-of-the-hand slow ball. After discussing the possibilities, Nehra Ji has the final word. Bang the ball in, he gestures. Pandya okays. Dhoni nods. Chinnaswamy is on its feet. Kohli is about to explode. MC-BC is just about to come out. Ravi Shastri is being missed in the commentary box. Pakistani fans bite their nails in anticipation. Pandya runs in, for one final time in this never-ending over. As advised by Nehra Ji, he bangs the ball in. The batsman goes for an imaginary upper square cut. He misses the ball. Cacophony. Dhoni collects it. He starts sprinting. So does the non striker. Its a direct 100 m race between the two. In a flash, Dhoni knocks the bail down. Non striker reaches. It is difficult to judge on naked eye. The umpire asks for the third umpire to step in. Dhoni is not sure. The non striker is expressionless. The TV replays start. The front foot is all okay. And now, for the frame that would be the decider.

Wow, This Frame!! Frame it.

                                                  Wow, This Frame!! Frame it.

YES. THE NON STRIKER IS SHORT OF HIS CREASE. CHINNASWAMY ERUPTS. CRACKERS GO OFF IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. YO BANGLADESH, YOU NOW KNOW WHO THE BOSS IS.

OH, DHONI. YOU USAIN BOLT. YOU LIGHTNING. YOU CHEETAH. YOU RACING CAR. YOU THING OF BEAUTY. HOW DID YOU DO THAT? FUCK.

OH, MY DEAR NEHRA JI. YOU LION. YOU TIGER. YOU LEOPARD. YOU CHEETAH. YOU THING OF BEAUTY. HOW CAN YOU BE SO LEGENDARY????? YOUR NAME SHOULD BE RECOMMENDED FOR THE DRONACHARYA AWARD.

 

 

 

4

Peaceful Pondicherry: Give time a break


Some things haven't really changed

                                     Some things haven’t really changed

Peaceful Pondicherry. Give time a break”

The promoters of Pondicherry tourism couldn’t have chosen a better tagline than this. The coastal town is unique in its own way. There is calmness around. There is peace. There are no inhibitions. Everything seems to stroll along. Everyone backs the idea of ‘living in the moment’. It is pretty much like the good old days. There are no strings attached. There are no commitments. And there is every chance that you might think about ditching the life you’ve lived and living the life you’ve always dreamt. Pondicherry makes it happen.

Give Pondy a thought. Give time a break

                                     Give Pondy a thought. Give time a break

My T-shirt had the writing,” It is bad manners to keep a vacation waiting”. But Pondy is not about mere vacationing. It is much more than that. It is about savouring the French flavour. It is about being conscious about cleanliness, like the morning tea seller at Promenade beach, who requests his customers to throw the tea cups only in the dustbins. It is about leading a disciplined life, be it at the traffic signals or be it with your choice of food. It is about the kindness and hospitality, like this stranger who patiently explained us in detail about the wholesale liquor shops and the streets where they are housed.

Stay away, English. We are in the land of the French

                         Stay away, English. We are in the land of the French

Pondy will forever be French and if I were to judge the French purely by their impact on Pondy, then I’d definitely rate them highly. A canal runs through the heart of the town. On one side lies the French Pondicherry. The neatly laid out perpendicular streets, the prevalent cycling culture on the tree-lined boulevards, French style buildings, nameplates and billboards bearing the names in French, the streets closer to the Promenade beach and laid back life of the inhabitants will give the impressions of a quieter coastal town in France. A plethora of cafes and restaurants serving French and Italian cuisine there will bowl us over. I’ve already started to ponder when I am going to gatecrash the Baker Street again. On the other side of the canal, lies the Tamil Pondicherry. It’s interesting to know how liberal people here were, to still retain portions of what the French left with them.

Don't look further. The best breakfast in the town is here

                      Don’t look further. The best breakfast in the town is here

My favorite Pondy moments were the times spent on the beach. The early morning sunrise from the rocky Promenade Beach was quite a sight in itself. The sun rose, like it does nowhere else, from the Bay of Bengal, creating magical colour patterns on the waters. The windy evening at the Paradise beach was thrilling. These virgin shores took us to another world, a world you’ve read in the fairy tales, a world of magic and tranquility, where you don’t care about burdens and commitments.

Sunrise from the Promenade beach. What a way to start the day

                Sunrise from the Promenade beach. What a way to start the day

But if there is one place, which was an eye opener for most of us, it is Auroville. The quaint village lies on the outskirts and is beautifully nestled in the bog. Auroville, where one comes to live the life that he/she had always dreamt of, attracts thousands from across the globe. The volunteers make every attempt to preserve nature. Organic farming is encouraged. The kitchen serves organic food cooked with solar energy. Plastics are banned. Cycling is appreciated. Local arts and crafts are supported. We can volunteer in farms, local schools and a string of nature conservation initiatives. In a way, this is the best place for self introspection and really think about what we want in life. There is no one to judge us and we are our own master. This trip is probably the best decision that we took. Pondicherry is not just a place, it is a state of mind.

This Ferrero-roscher shaped Matrimandir is pure magic

                       This Ferrero-roscher shaped Matrimandir is pure magic