Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Trademark shots

It’s happened countless times...

After getting relatively set, Sachin plays one of the straight drives which has the purists drooling. And the commentator (Mr. Manjrekar / Mr. Shastri being the usual suspects) observes, "Now that he has found his timing, he looks set for a big one."

No, this is not about our national obsession of whether Mr. Tendulkar is past his sell-by date. It’s not about what Mr. Manjrekar's views on the subject are. And it’s definitely not about Mr. Shastri's receding hairline and his increasingly shriller views on the fitness levels of the Indian team (coming from him, that’s a bit thick!).

This is about the shots which makes the world’s top batsmen what they are. The shots which are deeply etched in the collective consciousness of the viewing public. The shots which some have made their very own.

Tendulkar – A natural tendency is to go for the straight drive or the (rarely seen anymore) lift over mid-wicket. But my personal choice is the punch off the backfoot through backward point. The bend of the front leg while going back and across and the blade descending in a blur, ahhh … this would always be Sachin for me.

Ponting – Nothing else but the audacious front-foot pull off fast bowlers. The bat starting at right waist and ending up over left shoulder to deliberately lift the ball over the boundary. Just to show all the Ntinis and Harmisons of the world, who’s the boss. And some catching practices in the crowd for added fun.

Dravid – A toss up between the textbook cover-drive and the on-drive played with magical wrists. My vote for the on-drive, simply because of its difficulty levels against faster bowlers and the way Rahul finds the gap every time with this one early in his innings. A special mention to the lofted extra cover drive, something seen infrequently, but oh what a shot !

Sehwag – A popular choice would be sword thrust flaying the ball in the general direction of point / cover point. But for sheer amusement value it’s the inside-out cover drive which he plays off spinners while going towards the leg side and exposing all his stumps. A shot to give Geoff Boycott the shudders and Shane Warne a particularly bad migraine.

Lara – Undoubtedly the scissor like cut played off spinners. I have no choice but to quote Osman Saiuddin here who sums it up most evocatively – “That back lift, golf-like, paused and poised briefly at the top of its arch, is almost as compelling as the shots that it eventually manufactures. The real wonder is how he coordinates so many movements - the shuffling, the back lift, the bendy wrists twitching at the death to find gaps, lifting the knee - into just one picturesque image.”

Ganguly – The one which shortened the domestic careers of many a left arm spinner and which I am sure still gives Ashley Giles some sleepless nights. Its all there - the quick judgement of the length, the lightning step-out and the dramatic finale laced with delicious timing sending the ball to the mid-wicket stands. (And Tony Greig repeating those stupid words for the umpteenth time, “They are dancing in the aisles, out there.”) It’s a pity we may never see its like again in an International match.

Gilchrist – The thump over mid-wicket to perfectly good wicket taking balls on the off-stump. The ball ricocheting off the boundary boards before the bemused bowler completes his follow-through. And then a wide good-natured grin to show the bowler “Well, that’s life, mate! Nothing personal in it, ya know.” In case you could only record what the bowler wants to say at that moment, it would have put the Amar Singh tapes to shame !!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This is what you call a desperate post. A post to tell the world (mostly consisting of myself) that, I can still write something. I can still put together a string of words. So what if does not make any sense. Most of Phillip K Dick's books didn't make any sense when they were read for the first time. Some still doesn't. Maybe someday my blog would be discovered by aliens who could decode the ciphered messages and figure out what I really wanted to say.

I see an impossibly high over bridge in my dreams. The one near the station surrounded by hills from all sides. The station in which the little blue locomotive stops. The locomotive which carried me and her to that far away land. She looks East Asian in the early morning haze, but I can't make out her eye color. Don't have a fucking clue what I am doing with her in this weird place, but somehow my steps follow hers on the over bridge. Iron railings on one side and sheer drop on the other. A shining thread which has to be a river visible through the gaps in the rusted iron on the steps.

Is this somewhere in the Andes, I wonder while concentrating hard on my next step. I must have dreamt this locale up based on the "Prisoners of the Sun". But the drop seems real enough. So does the sound made by our boots on the steps. And the knowledge gleaned through reading countless fantasy novels does not help either; a death in your dream is the end of your life in reality.

Why are we wearing stupid business suits instead of life jackets and parachutes? Why is she going on endlessly about "the boy" instead of focusing on the simple task of staying alive? Who the hell is "the boy" anyway? "You don't know how drunk I had to get him to kiss me", she says. Huh? We are crossing an impossible over bridge which shows no sign of ending, so that she can kiss this boy? Am I somehow trapped in Bridget Jones' diary? The steps become more rusted, sometimes disappearing almost completely. I discover I have been clutching a hunting knife tightly all this while. A knife with names engraved on the hilt, so old that it can't be read anymore.

I was so engrossed in negotiating the next gap in the steps that I almost bump into her when she stops suddenly. Strange ! She seems to be wearing some body armor under the black business suit. Am I doing the same? No time for checking out now, as my eye falls on what made her stop. The steps have given away to a sort of landing here. And standing at the edge of the landing, humming the tune of "Smoke on the Water" quite nonchalantly, stands the Keeper. His dressing is heavily inspired by gangster flicks, right up to the grey fedora shadowing his eyes. The fact that he only has one metal leg, does not seem to dampen the menace dripping off him in any way. Not with that number of guns stuck on his leather belt. The smile playing on the corner of his mouth is a surprise, though. And so is the cry of delight which emanates from my guide.

The fedora tilts itself somehow. Revealing a face which might have passed off as Alec Baldwin, apart from the camera like devices where you would expect eyes to be. The devices which flash pictures of sandy beaches, grassy plains, misty meadows and a faintly remembered river in quick succession. "Hi Keeper", I hear myself say. Eh? How do I know this creature straight out of a video game? My fingers surprise me further by bunching into a strange two fingered salute. "You're home", she murmurs somewhere near my ear. Another locomotive seems to be steaming into the station far below us. The sound of the train drowns what Keeper is saying. I can barely make out the word "Goodbye". The buzzing pain inside my head, makes my steps falter a little. And suddenly I am flying.

My eyes open and stare listlessly at the cream colored wall. The pain in the loss of the life I left behind in my path for everlasting glory is still fresh in my mind. But I know its not gonna last. Already Keeper’s face is blurring in my memory. I turn around and look into my son’s face. Does he know what he has signed up for? The sleeping face does not tell me much. I start wondering how I woke up with a headache.
Silly dreams !!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Left handed complement?

Extract from Peter Roebuck's article analysing Australia's defeat.

"Australia's bad start with the bat proved costly. None of the senior batsmen could blame the pitch. Ponting's footwork let him down and Damien Martyn drove indiscreetly. Watson did not last long enough for any impressions to be formed. Settling upon the right opening pair is the team's most pressing need. Considering the quality of the numerous candidates, it seems odd the job has gone to an unproven part-timer. However, it is not right to chop and change after one setback. At least Watson is a right-hander, a breed rapidly becoming extinct."

Indeed? Prompted me to check the teams playing for Champion's Trophy for batsmen and all-rounders ...

Australia - 4 LH (Gilchrist, Hussey, Hogg, Katich), 5 RH (Watson, Ponting, Martyn, Clarke, Symonds)
England - 2 LH (Strauss, Yardy), 7 RH (Flintoff, Bell, Pieterson, Collingwood, Dalrymple, Read, Clarke)
India - 4 LH (Mongia, Pathan, Raina, Yuvraj), 6 RH (Dravid, Dhoni, Kaif, Powar, Sehwag, Tendulkar)
New Zealand - 2 LH (Fleming, Oram), 7 RH (Astle, Fulton, Gillespie, McCullum, Marshall, Styris, Vincent)
Pakistan - 3 LH (Farhat, Iqbal, Abdur Rehman), 7 RH (Younis, Yousuf, Hafeez, Afridi, Akmal, Malik, Razzaq)
South Africa - 1 LH (Smith), 9 RH (Gibbs, Dippenaar, Kallis, Boucher, de Villiers, Hall, Kemp, Pollock, Bosman)
Sri Lanka - 3 LH (Tharanga, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara), 5 RH (Jayawardane, Atapattu, Dilshan, Maharoof, Kapugedera)
West Indies - 4 LH (Lara, Chanderpaul, Gayle, Hinds), 6 RH (Sarwan, Baugh, Bravo, Morton, Samuels, Smith)

Total - 23 LH / 52 RH

Huh? What is Roebuck talking about? Maybe, he was talking about left handed medium pacers. There's been a surfeit of them lately.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chiraunji Lal Khosla

The realization dawned on me with my first mouthful of popcorn. Why was I avoiding "Khosla Ka Ghosla" till now even after hearing countless positive reviews? It’s simply because the movie was being advertised as a "slice of Delhi life”!! With that kind of promise, you can't blame me much for thinking it would have the following elements:

1. The Delhi lingo consisting of "Beh^$#@" as every third word.
2. Youngsters wearing designer clothes loafing around in Gurgaon / Noida malls.
3. Real estate barons in flashy suits showing off their latest designer watches and Mercedes'.
4. Endless driving around posh South Delhi localities.
5. One-two obligatory shots of the Qutub Minar / Red Fort / India Gate.

This is a Delhi which I don't know much about. And coming to think of it, don't want to know much of either. It’s that part of the city which is continuously running from its past. And the past is what makes Delhi, Dilli!

The movie pleasantly surprised me, through its sarcastic look at the numerous quirks and idiosyncrasies which make the city. And its examination of the actual Delhi middle class. The ones who work in all those Government offices.

It was not only the popular Delhi stereotypes, which caught the eye …

1. The corrupt cops asking for their cut.
2. Rajma chawal (causing gastroentric disasters).
3. Jat musclemen on loan from the neighbouring state.
4. Larger than life land shark rushing to Vaishno Devi at the drop of a hat.

But those understated things in almost every frame, which are so quintessentially Delhi ...

1. The red Rooh-Afza bottle at the centre of the dining table. The Hamdard syrup which has been recommended as a counter to the harsh summer loo by countless Delhi mothers.
2. The fixation of owning a South Delhi house (even if it’s almost in Rajasthan) by the "service" class. The envy apparent in the dialogue, “Abhi to aap South Delhi-wale ho gaye, Khosla saab.”
3. The various levels of fixers. Typified by the statement - "Aap broker ho ya party?"
4. Tara Sharma's ethnic handicraft (all purchased at Cottage Emporium, I would presume) heavy flat.
5. The naiveté underlying Delhi aspirations, "World Famous Estate Agents" / "A-1 Agency"
6. The clichéd though real penniless Art / Theatre / Cuture-wallahs
7. The chartered buses carrying officers from Mukerji Nagar to CP. An understated comment on the Public Transport.
8. Collapsible gates / queues and shouting at Delhi booze shops. For those who do not know, Delhi booze shops are controlled by the Government and stay shut on 1st and 7th of every month, because monthly wages are dispensed on those days!
9. The Delhi spirit characterized succinctly by the statement, “Kya Kar Loge Tum?”
10. Khadi wearing NGOs looking out for their next donation cheque.
11. Horribly ostentatious Sadar Bazaar type tabletop / wall decorations.
12. The routine power cuts.

Now these are parts of Delhi I can recognize. Shows just one single fact. The indelible marks left by a city where I have spent some of the most glorious moments of my life.

No place (where you have spent significant time) ever really goes out of your system. Those memories are just lying there somewhere.

And no, to long for something which you never missed in the first place, is not stupid at all.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Oh Bombay - III

Some find their Bombay in the wide sweep of Marine Drive. In the white-capped waves breaking against the concrete wall. The stillness of the sombre grey skies before the onset of a paricularly harsh downpour. In the breeze carrying the scent of the sea from far-away lands. The weather-beaten face of the buildings facing the sea. In the glitter of the Queen's Necklace in the evening. The glitzy heights of Oberoi's standing like a sentry at land's end. In the smell of fresh dough wafting through the rooms of Pizzeria. The moss-coloured stone facade of Wilson's college, seeped in history.

For some, Bombay catches the local train from Charni Road station every weekday. Brandishing either their "Bhav Copy" or "Mid-Day" they chatter endlessly about myriad things : the "tezi" stocks which are going to give 200% returns over the next month, urban myths about how Vinod was always a better bat than the great Sachin, how the ban on dance bars have affected the bottom lines of police officers, the decline of the diamond cutting / polishing industry in Surat etc. etc. Some distribute the forgotten tiffin their wives had faithfully packed, some just hang on for dear life as the Dadar human wave comes crashing down.

Some see Bombay written in bold letters on the faces of children on street corners selling pirated copies of the latest bestsellers. They can forget anything while watching them recommend "How Opal Mehta ..." as "yeh kitaab leke bahut maarpit hua, saab". Or chasing the cars over signals over a copy of the "The Argumentative Indian". Some find a typical Bombay way of getting rid off them, by pretending that they don't exist. Some find solace in their annual contributions to CRY, some avoid their eager eyes in shame.

Some still fondly think of Bombay as a teenager, never minding their actual age. The ones in their black Metallica T-shirts who assemble at Marine Lines station before Indy Rock. The ones who have to get hopelessly drunk at Sunlight Bar and Restaurant before they can search for the meaning of life in hastily rolled joints. They never notice how Bombay rolls off as sweat from their brows in the middle of crazy lights and headbanging. Sometimes Bombay stares at their faces from the puddle of puke which they produce in one of the gallis near Bade Miyan after a particularly unadvisable dinner.

Some dig for their version of Bombay in New Link Road and Lokhandwala. Where dug-out earth gets magically transformed into shining multiplexes and glass-faced shopping arcades in Bombay's very own version of gold rush. Some seek Bombay in those pothole filled roads strewn with building material. Some take the constant buzz of construction around them as the anthem of a city running desperately to stay at the same place. Some search for Bombay's reflection in the blank stares on those wannabe models frequenting the numerous eating joints.

Bombay's heart lives in a quiet Juhu bungalow called Prateeksha, for some diehards. The same ones who magically appear at the first hint of a dark tinted glass SUV leaving the gates for the daily visit to studios. The occupant with the salt and pepper designer stubble is still mentally classified as Vijay by some of people chasing behind. So what if he is going for the shooting of a Navratna Tel ad, in their minds he is still bashing up Amjad Khan. Sometimes, they get a roll-down of the window and a wave. In Bombay, sweet dreams are made of these.

So, where’s your Bombay tonight?

Oh Bombay - II

One of the great myths about Mumbai is that it’s the most cosmopolitan city in India. Well, actually it’s not a myth. It is quite true, in case your reference point is Meerut or Ahmedabad. Ok, maybe even Chennai. But then, relative cosmopolitanism does not score highly in my scales.

My friends keep telling me that I do not recognize the greatness of the cosmopolitan Mumbai, because I have not worked for a living in any other city. “In which city would you get a place like Bandra, where the population is equally divided between Hindus, Christians and Muslims?” they say. “Where else are differences in cultures not only appreciated but celebrated?”

Looking at that kind of logic, you may tend to agree. However, I beg to differ. In my opinion, most of what is construed as cosmopolitanism in Mumbai is actually barely suppressed tolerance. By long practice, the different communities have built up invisible walls around themselves. The people outside the wall are rationalized generally through stereotyping. You must have heard the popular ones, “Bongs are football crazy, cultural snobs who can’t think beyond fish and sondesh”, “Gujjus are so money-minded that they would bargain even with their dads”, “Punjabis talk continuously without sense and believe in ostentatious celebrations”, “All Maharashtrians want their sons to become doctors / engineers because they are afraid of business”, “Parsis are congenitally mad in love with old family heirlooms” etc. etc.

This is not to say people in other cities do not suffer from this pigeon-holing syndrome. But nowhere is it as acute as it is in Mumbai. People of the city accept the differences, because they believe steadfastly that people are by nature so different from each other, that they cannot be understood. Comfort is found in labeling others as Bong / Mussal / Mallu / Ma ka Pao / Tam / Gujju / Sindhi / Marathi in trying to explain their reactions to situations, rather than finding out other, more truthful explanations.

The next question of course, is why? Why people in Mumbai are so indifferent, so impersonal that they could only see each other with this blinkered vision. The answer I think lies in Mumbaikars’ obsession with running the daily marathon which passes for life. Everyone here is always running for their lives or more precisely their next bundle of cash. This relentless mind-numbing chase leads to a situation, where the mind is simply incapable of the effort required to understand another person deeply. Stereotyping and rationalizing on the basis of that paradigm is a much easier option.

Sad, but true. Cosmopolitan Mumbai is just an illusion. The ghettos here are not apparent, because they are deeply etched in our minds.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A needless exercise

Its been a slow day, and I am gonna shock the world with posts on consecutive days !!!

As it happens a lot with people with little or no creative juice, I resort to the oldest trick in the world .... copy-paste.

All this started when, one of my friends asked for sci-fi recommendations, which led me to this, a ranking of top 100 science fiction books. Naturally, was curious to know how many I have actually read. The number turned out to be 24 out of the top 50. Not bad, eh?

So here are the top 10, with my value-add ...

1. Dune, Frank Herbert - A sci-fi "Lawrence of Arabia", which nevertheless remains a cult novel. Sadly, the sequels lost the plot through increasingly complex philosophies which messed up the story.

2. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - One of the very best. You can't go much wrong with a plot involving children battling alien invaders. A book which asks all the difficult questions and lets readers find their own answers. If only the author was not so preachy in real life !

3. Foundation, Isaac Asimov - On second reading, Hari Seldon and his brand of psychohistory seem a little childish. But then Asimov's simplicity is his greatest strength, attracting readers from across spectrums.

4. Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams - The one and only. Dry british humour turning all sci-fi fundamentals on its head. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are immortal. And so probably is Marvin, the paranoid andriod.

5. 1984, George Orwell - The Mother (or should I say, Big Brother) of persecuted individual novels. "It was bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen". There, I just did the first line from memory. That's how good it is.

6. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A Heinlein - IMHO, does not deserve a place in the top 10. May have been a pathbreaking novel when it was released, but always sounded overrated tripe to me. Coming from Heinlein, its a let-down.

7. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - The first one which I haven't read. Considered to be written under the influence of heavy narcotics. Well, if Jim Morrison can be inspired by Huxley, so can you.

8. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury - Guy Montag and his python. The dreaded future where books are burnt. A moral fable turned cult classic beyond compare.

9. Starship Troopers, Robert A Heinlein - Another one from Heinlein, which has more popularity than substance (not to mention those giant bugs). An example of people choosing the author over the book, perhaps.

10. I, Robot, Isaac Asimov - More popularised by Will Smith's simplistic movie version rather than the book. This is Asimov at his very best, blurring the boundaries of science fiction, detective novels and social commentary.

And the balance 40 ....

11. Neuromancer, William Gibson
12. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K Dick
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C Clarke
14. Ringworld, Larry Niven
15. The Time Machine, H G Wells
16. Childhood's End, Arthur C Clarke
17. Hyperion, Dan Simmons
18. Rendezvous With Rama, Arthur C Clarke
19. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
20. The War of the Worlds, H G Wells
21. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A Heinlein
22. Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
23. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
24. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
25. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin
26. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
27. The Mote in God's Eye, Niven & Pournelle
28. Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card
29. A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L'Engle
30. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick
31. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
32. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
33. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
34. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
35. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
36. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
37. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
38. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
39. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M Miller
40. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
41. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
42. The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov
43. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
44. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
45. UBIK, Philip K Dick
46. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
47. Time Enough For Love, Robert A Heinlein
48. A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
49. The End Of Eternity, Isaac Asimov
50. The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut

Oh Bombay !

This Navratri marks the seventh anniversary of my moving to Bombay. And strangely enough, the eleventh anniversary of my first sight of it.

My aching bones keeps reminding me of the daily marathon that passes for life in this city.

Seven Years. God !

The wide-eyed kid who mistook Thane Creek for the sea, Crawford Market for Dadar and Hotel Majestic at VT for Bombay's equivalent of New Cathay Restaurant is still there somewhere. The one which has still not grown indifferent to staggering contradictions which Bombay exposes you to everyday.

The slums faithfully bordering every posh locality ... the maid whipping out a mobile phone to pacify the next household ... the neighbourhood Udipi menu with a Continental section ... people distributing biscuits to mildly irritated passengers stuck on the roads ... Cosmopolitan Page 3 parties attracting Shiv Sena functionaries ... share markets and cricket being discussed on the trains on the very next day of the bombing.

To an outsider (and I am one, in spite of all the pretense) its almost amusing. How its proud denizens keep comparing Bombay with New York. The way they excuse crumbling infrastructure, increasing apathy of the legislature, parallel economy run in parts by the mafia/builders/politicians. How the "Spirit" of Bombay is invoked in every calamity which befalls it.

However, sometimes Bombay chills you to the bone. Sometimes, the city's friendly facade peels off to reveal the rot within. Like long suppressed streaks of madness, it bursts forth in a torrent. In those sudden xenophobic comments from your sophisticated friends, the sudden rudeness from the friendly cabbie, those angry faces staring at you and not moving an inch when you want to get down from the train.

It makes me wonder whether I would die in this city. After all, how hard can it be?

What they tell you is that Bombay is great because it gives you the freedom to be what you are. What they don't tell you is nobody gives a damn what you are.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The guy's not bad

Never thought I would write that about someone from the Deol family.
Abhay Deol has talent. Not in bucketfulls, as is quite evident in the case of Abhishek B, but compared to Dino Morea and Emraan Hashmi, he is simply divine. And its refreshing to see him not waste himself in the "Kutte / Kamine" roles popularised by his uncle and cousins, but tread off the beaten path in "Socha Na Tha" as well as "Ahista Ahista". Maybe no one is offering him those "dhai kilo ki haath" roles in the first place (its heard that Bobby D is not getting any for sometime), but lets give him the benefit of doubt, shall we?
Its also helped, that the scripts of these two movies did not have anything expect their lead actors. The story was simple in the case of the first one, almost bordering on ludicrous in the second. But to see Abhay D trying so hard to fit into the roles of regular guys makes you glad. And just compare this with say, Shahrukh trying to be an average jerk in KANK, with a footballer demigod past !!!
Then maybe I am just biased with "Socha Na Tha". I remember recommending the movie to countless friends. Its definitely not pathbreaking like "Munna Bhai MBBS" or even "Dil Chahta Hai". But it shows clearly what a simple idea with honest execution can do, when the lead pair is concentrating on their character in the first place rather than trying to look too cute. The film is surprisingly good even on the second viewing and has a number of endearing moments. Abhay D fits like a glove to his role of a confused 24 year old who is out of his depth in most matters of his life including career, love, marriage, family etc. And to his credit, the guy makes it looks effortless.
Its that spark in Abhay which made me watch his second movie. "Ahista Ahista" starts of with a much more serious premise and Abhay's character is quite complex for a Hindi Movie hero. And this is a movie trying so desperately to be different that it bores the audience to death. The director (the same one as the earlier movie) loses the plot mid-way and the music director (the unwashed denim jacket guy again) loses his head with that soul searching "Love You Unconditionally", but in the middle of all this mayhem, Abhay D steals your heart with his honest attempt to essay a role, which would have been a challenge to anyone.
Too bad no one else saw the movie.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Father to Son

About twice a week, my kid wakes up crying in the middle of the night from what we (knowledgeable adults that we are) think are nightmares. Coming to think of it, what could be a typical nightmare for a two and a half year old? Some evil uncle stealing his favorite pink crayon? The horrible cablewallahs taking POGO off the air? The battery running out in his new car?

Whatever they are, the "nightmares" seem to occur with pin-point accuracy, at a gap of 3-4 days, around 2:30 am and the reaction persists for about 10-15 seconds. Why do I know so much about it? Because I remember waking up before it occurs at every instance. Its almost as if I knew it was coming.

Yeah, I know, there are myriad explanations ... It happens every night, I only remember the ones which I have seen, I sleep through the others etc. But what is curiouser in this respect, that my wife hardly remembers any such event. Which means, I can proclaim that there is this strange psychological tie that exists between me and my kid which results in my mind anticipating his nightmare and waking me up to comfort him. Heh ! Sounds crappy to even myself.

However, this is the best I can do to show that, I have been a valuable part of my kid's life. The bugger does not of course give any such indication. He seems to consider his dad as a minor irritant at most times - The person who joins up with mom to bother him with such brainless tasks as eating, drinking water and sleeping, while all he wants to do is to determine just how much impact stress mom's watch is going to handle before it reveals its operating mechanism - The slightly weird guy who insists on talking to him in English, when he speaks to his mom in bengali - The one who tries to be cool by watching the Cartoon channels but gives himself away by watching the wrong toons!

This does not mean that I am royally ignored by my kid (at least not always). He knows which results are better achieved with dad rather than risking a stern stare from mom. The ones involving banging his tri-cycle against walls and running over dolls, watching silly men beating each other sillier @ WWF, bouncing and balancing books on top of each other to figure out complicated torsional characteristics etc. Sometimes I almost get the honored place of a junior accomplice in his wicked scheme of things. But that is usually short-lived, the spell broken by the mom entering the room with yet another meal. This usually involves a lot of running away / catching up and severe feigned illness, in which dad's role is somewhat ambiguous.

So you see, trying to justify the importance of your existence in your kid's life can be terribly "trying" at most times. And the ridiculous thing is that, you want it so desperately ! Sigh ! I am sure our parents never fell into this trap.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

All you wanted to know about books ...

...... and then wondered why?

The title is self-explanatory. I have been tagged by our resident gushy parent. I am sure the world looks just like Calvin & Hobbes' very last panel to him just now.

Later on he would notice that this singular feeling is caused simply by sleep deprivation. Ecstasy and cocaine are said to have the same effects, but then what would I know?

And no, I am not trying to be more cynical than I actually am. It’s only that reality has a habit of creeping up on you when you least expect. Maybe, tomorrow.

Anyways, here it is. I am sure millions would be just dying to know this.

One Book That Changed Your Life

Catch-22. Before reading this, I used to think only I find the world warped. After going through this, I realized its more warped than I thought.

The Book You Have Read More Than Once

The entire “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George RR Martin. Albeit, encouraged by the fact that countless maniacs at the Westeros forum were doing the same. It was worth it. Firstly, I figured out a lot of things which I missed on the first read. And more importantly, it reinforced my belief that, Martin is simply the best pure fantasy writer, ever.

The Book You Would Want On A Desert Island

The complete Asterix collection, which I threaten to buy at every Crosswords sale. However, only end up buying such important and character building specimens as, ABC with Animals, Shapes and Colours, 32 vegetables/vehicles/fruits/birds etc. See how serious I am about parenting?

One Book That Made You Laugh

Practically all of Terry Pratchett. Mostly his Night Watch / Death books.

One Book That Made You Cry

Mammaries of the Welfare State. Why oh why, Mr. Chatterjee?

One Book That You Wish You Had Written

Mahabharat. All those pre-marital and post-marital affairs and kinky sex, mmmm. Some experiential learning would have also helped quite significantly.

One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written

The autobiography of Natwar Singh. I mean, who cares?

What? That has not been written till now? I am sure its on the cards.

One Book You Are Currently Reading

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Yeah, somehow never managed to till now.

One Book You Have Been Meaning To Read

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. The guy comes heavily recommended.

For those who are with me till now and have not died of boredom, here are the goodies ... two free sites for reading SFF stories on the net.

Baen's Free Library

Free Speculative Fiction Database

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Legend of BCFS

This one is a private joke written at the request of Dipta, so please excuse.

A long, long time ago... I can still remember.
How the morning fag used to make my life.
And I knew if I didn’t have my fag.
I might as well be packed in a body-bag.
And delivered to the doctor with the knife.

But Jampot made me shudder,
With freaky cold that freezes your bladder.
Needed that fag more than ever;
Hoped Dadu’s gonna do me that favour.

So I can’t remember if I was surprised,
Or did it hurt my wounded pride
When the smoke to me was denied
The day FAGSTEAL arrived.

So bye-bye, GF Kings good-bye.
Should have shouted then,
But the damn throat was dry.
After whole night of drinkin’ whiskey and rye
The stolen smoke burning in my eye
And the smoke stealer always nearby.

Why didn’t I deliver a kick backside?
Why didn’t I strip his fucking hide?
Why did I bloody just let him go?
Oh, I do believe that it was fate.
Though none of us then would have taken the bet,
In hindsight, that’s how life’s meant to flow.

Now the whole world’s in love with him.
`Cause they are of course, oh so dim,
They love those borrowed reviews.
Why only we are so bemused?

Now we can only watch awestruck.
While Big Chief FAGSTEAL runs amuck.
Should have known we were out of luck.
The day FAGSTEAL arrived.

We started singin',
So bye-bye, GF Kings good-bye.
Should have shouted then,
But the damn throat was dry.
After whole night of drinkin’ whiskey and rye
The stolen smoke burning in my eye
And the smoke stealer always nearby.

We started singin' .... we started singin' ....

Inspired shamelessly from Weird Al Yankovic's "The Saga Begins". Lyrics here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A damp squib

Well, what else do you call an afternoon, where three old friends sit in a room and cannot find a topic for discussion apart from that one? Those strange long silences, those blank stares, those tired jokes and the forced laughter meant only one thing. The thing we all knew about but somehow were afraid to say out loud. We have nothing more to say to each other.

Maybe we know each other so well that we think any conversation is only superfluous. Or maybe our individual worlds have moved on. And moved somewhat away from each other. Find that last one hard to believe, because it was only three months back when we had that wonderful conversation on "The North-South divide in Bombay colleges" or "How Andheri / Malad boys survived three traumatic years in South Bombay colleges?". He he he, all that crap at 3 in the night with shitloads of beer sloshing around in our bodies. And at Wong's of all places. Yes, the place where you rub shoulders with assorted hookers, their pimps, customers, underworld thugs and maybe some alcoholic TV stars who are past their expiry date.

That's why its even more surprising .... the fact that we sat for close to five hours and searched each others faces for that spark in the discussion to arrive .... and it came in the form of an sms (All hail the new economy). An sms which simply says this, ........ "For meeting broadminded male / females in your area, Call Tanya now @ 982.....".

We have traveled on that conversation route before. Actually, one of us talks only about this all the time. How his entire life is ruined and how his mind resembles the script of "A Clockwork Orange" and how he cannot sleep at night without getting smashed. And all that because of two (mostly) harmless words, variety and frequency. Those gentle souls who were with me till this moment (don't you bums have any other work?) and have suddenly lost me over that last sentence .... for their benefit ... what it means is that, he is not getting enough of it and he is not getting it from enough people. That he is getting any at all is a constant source of wonder for some of his friends, but what can one say in front of that kind of conviction? The quantity and quality related trauma has obviously left him in a very bad state, where his every living thought is full of wanton women and soft beds.

The other person involved in the discussion is a weirder case, if that's possible. In his case pleasure is always laced with guilt and guilt laced with excitement. He has been drinking this strange cocktail for some time now. And its really not his fault that he attracts women who are looking for the complete opposite from the relationship. A dependable shoulder to cry upon, to begin with. So no wonder he gets himself caught into these intricate webs of false impressions, unsaid promises and unknown commitments.

With that crowd its only obvious that the said sms from the said Tanya monopolised conversation immediately. And with a sense of palpable relief too. Quite a change from staring at silent faces and hoping for conversation. And then the dam broke .....

It started with how the Tanyas of the world know who their target audience is. How did this sms reached unerringly to the person who is most likely to get swayed by the charm of meeting broadminded people in his locality? A likely hypothesis presented itself ... these are actually the people dragged under the poverty line by the insensitive edict from a sanctimonious Maharashtra Government ... the out of work bar dancers !!!! How do they get the mobile numbers? Well, they (used to) get a lot of numbers every night .... numbers written hurriedly on pieces of tissue papers .... numbers passed on through those ever helpful waiters ... numbers written on 100 buck notes (don't ask !). And quite a few remember the return calls also, "Hi, Main Raani, Itna Jaldi Bhul Gaye Mujhko, Kaal To Bahut Naach Rahe The" etc etc. So its quite possible that, the strong database is being used methodically to pick-up (pun not intended) area specific targets.

To put our hypothesis to test, the said Tanya was called back. She seemed to be thrilled to meet a juicy prospect like "Raju" and promised to come back with detailed itenary and plan of action by the next day. An entrepreneurial spirit which begs to be lauded, we thought.

It was quickly surmised, that the distribution channels span classified ads in Mid-Day and Mumbai Mirror. "Massage in your house" and "English speaking escort services" are also in the same game, maybe with the same cast of characters. Special mention was made of Gujarati "broadminded" communities with such Ekta Kapoor friendly names as Animesh and Neha. It was debated whether this was a Navratri related phenomena and decided that now the party goes on whole year (so no seasonal sales of condoms, for all those who are tracking that industry).

The quality-quantity junkie took the opportunity to crib about the online channels of the great game. Too much effort and too little to show for it, he claimed. And proved his point by recounting endless stories of perfectly witty and decent messages receiving nothing but stony silences. One wondered whether his persona had anything do with it. But one cannot help but sympathise with friends, can they?

The final nail in the coffin was that call from the HDFC Bank telecaller, "Sir, we are giving you a credit card absolutely free and a demand draft also, may I please have your address?". With the mechanically consumed rum and whiskey finally taking effect, we managed to reach an "Eureka" moment. The best thing to nip this telecalling nuisance in the bud is to ..... hit upon the chicks !!! You can try such lines for effect, "Kya Aap Credit Card Ke Saath Apna Dil Bhi Deti Hai?" or "Main To Aapka Demand Draft Le Lega, Badle Me Aapko Bhi Kuchh Lena Chahiye" etc. etc. But only fuck-up with this wonderful scheme is when you might find out that those nice telecallers are actually .... you guessed it .... the out of work bar dancers !!!!!

With that came the realisation that we have somehow reached the collective lows in our lives in terms of intellectual capacity. Good that the booze was still not over, it would have been really hard to take it otherwise.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wassup, Mr. Moitra?

Going by the first two numbers of "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" one cannot but feel sad as well as confused for Indian film music.

One of the numbers ("Pal Pal") is inspired quite clearly by Cliff Richard's (yeah, the same geriatric undying romantic who used to your mom's favourite) "Theme for a Dream".

And the other ("Lage Raho Munna Bhai") quite incredibly by the ICICI Bank ad jingle !!!! Is this just an unintentionally "inspired" goof-up or is it in-film advertising taken to its depths?

And all this is even more poignant, because its coming from someone who was expected to be the great white hope of the industry .... one Mr. Shantanu Moitra.

You might argue that the signs were visible as recently as Parineeta, whose music is heavily inspired from all the obvious sources including Tagore, pahadi folk tunes and blues.

But I personally was going more by the evidence of the ethereal "Naam Ada Likhna" from Yahaan. A composer coming up with such a beauty resorting to Cliff Richard in his next venture? The mind boggles.

Waiting for the rest of the album. One cannot give up hope.

Update : Figured out some trivia, which might just absolve the composer of the ICICI Bank jingle horror !! One Mr. Vidhu Vinod Chopra happened to direct the first ICICI Bank ad-campaign with that jingle. So is it the invisible hand? This one's worth a watch.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Trafalgar Chowk ....

..... is a name of a joint in Bandra Reclamation. I guess, it wants to be known as a Resto-Bar.

Why am I bothered? Wanted desperately to write, but did not have a topic (Sigh ! That can sum up so many days for me).

Was there on Sat night. Not the first time, and going by experience definitely not the last.

And to think we were debating about the choice for so long. Going through the long list of usual suspects :

1. Toto's Garage or "The One CD wonder" (In case I hear "Hotel California" one more time, I swear I'll puke on that owner with dark glasses)

2. Club IX or "Stags are not allowed even in case we have only cleaning staff inside"

3. Boat Club or "The decrepit exterior is nothing when compared to the interior"

4. Purple Haze or "So few people come here that we have decided to make all our money from one customer ... namely YOU"

5. Out of the Blue or "We just went there yesterday"

6. Seijou and the Sole Dish or "Pay through your nose for lousy food"

7. Zenzi or "You call that decor, sonny?"


8. Olive or "Do you really want to get mistaken for a gay couple?"

So TC (a poor apology of its Delhi namesake) was it. The valet parking leading upto two broad halls ... musty smelling reddish-brown upholstery ... seriously tacky plastic coasters and exactly one other occupied table populated by three bored couples ........ their kids running around and shouting like maniacs.

The fun and games started soon after .... with the arrival of an elderly couple and what we assumed then as their daughter wearing a strange peacock blue dress.

The couple seemed to be planning for a lot of guests. An anniversary dinner, we assumed again. Our interest was piqued by the "daughter" running out every five seconds for a phone call. "Ahhhh, a very persistent boyfriend", we sighed. Then people actually started arriving. Two long haired ad-agency types, one girl in a black top, one more in an earth-green one, a guy with the "Kelly Dorji after 20 sleepless nights" look, one flashily dressed stock broker, a rat-faced guy who looks like he has passed out of Osmania University and another ad-agency type. Quite an odd family, we surmised. Imagine our confusion, when they started to introduce themselves to each other ! After wracking our collective brains for about 30 minutes, the penny finally dropped in its place .... its a Business Networking Mixer !!!!! Us and our over-active imagination.

Being quite intrigued by the sheer prospect of perfect strangers meeting each other and "network" their way up the corporate ladder, we decided to watch them closely. These are our findings:

1. There is at least one guy who gets a little high and tries to hit on the middle-aged executive sitting next to him. (The stock broker is the prime suspect).

2. While this happens, the others look embarrassed and pretend hard not to notice.

3. The lady switches her place soon after this, with our esteemed stock broker realising his mistake a little late and trying to make up desperately with loud non-sensical talk.

4. Another guy who wants nothing except for "friendship" has got his new "Kiran Rao" glasses made, but sadly no one's noticed.

5. At least one long-haired ad-agency type tries to impress a young nubile thing with "deep, meaningful" conversation while the lady dutifully looks on in "wide-eyed" innocence.

6. Another "young thing" who is feeling a bit ignored makes a quick trip to the loo to adjust the V-cut top just that wee bit. The strategy works like a charm on the person, for whom it is not intended.

7. The tongue-tied "Osmania University" smokes like a maniac and casts furtive glances at all the tops on display. Gets caught in the act once every ten minutes.

Overall, an enlightening experience. Not counting those heavily decked up and bored housewives continuously counting money in what I thought was a Kitty Party and which my friend insists was a husband-pimping game. The husbands in question gathering towards the far end of the table, speaking in whispers and leching at the other tables. The lovelorn boy who decided to sing "Annie's Song" for his girlfriend and forgot the second line. The curly-haired owner who joins the guitarist for the Eagles numbers and the smashing girl in that black number.

As I said, its definitely not the last time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why am I hooked to Speculative Fiction?

The post makes the assumption that you know what speculative fiction means. If not, then don't go to running to wikipedia. Let me make the attempt ...

As I see it, quite simply, speculative fiction deals with "speculative things" which cannot be explained by our everyday science (or at least the current version of it). Yes, I have heard of Arthur C. Clarke and his "Any sufficiently advanced technology is almost indistinguishable from magic" refrain. But that still does not make speculative fiction any less "speculative". This is indeed a broad definition, spanning science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror and maybe even the magic realism of Rushdie and Marquez.

By their very nature, all speculative fiction asks the question, what if? This is not to say that, all stories of this nature deals only with this fundamental question. Rather this question provides the actual backdrop for the story elements to interact with each other. "Lord of the Rings" may actually be a mere moral fable on the hazards of absolute power and the strength in humility, but can you actually imagine the story without its backdrop of magic and magical creatures?

So in essence, the “what if” element of speculation creates an atmosphere for the real story to be enacted without any bondage of the rules of reality or science. This effectively frees the author to give her imagination a free rein in creating her own version of reality. On the other hand, it also makes her responsible for creating a believable world which would allow the readers to willingly suspend their disbelief for some time.

The above rather pointless discourse does not get to the point of the post. Which is, why am I so hooked to it?

Its a phenomenon which began in my school days, when I used to devour anything with vague science fiction content. Yes, I managed to read all those horribly translated Russian SF also, the ones which always surprised me with their latent sexual tension. To the utter horror of my schoolmates, my favorite Indrajal Comics character used to be the red leotard clad Flash Jordan, as compared to the more “with it” Phantom or the “ethnic” Bahadur.

Horror came from the rather comic stories of Leela Majumder and Premendra Mitra and of course some chilling short stories of Satyajit Ray. Somehow, I never took too much to it. I mean, staying awake through the night after reading a rather scary one still happened, but those instances were few and far between.

Fantasy is something I discovered only in college life. You may argue that the Ramayan / Mahabharat / Thakumar Jhuli which I read in the ages between 5 and 10 are actually fantasy, but they never sounded right, maybe because they stretched the imagination too far. The real “Sword and Sorcery” stuff were consumed during various Vector Algebra classes. It looked rather childish at that time. It still does. But that hasn’t stopped me from becoming a junkie.

Rather than pontificating on my literary travails let me now try to summarise why I think I am hooked.

1. Escapism - The sense of the extraordinary rather than the mundane with less side-effects than grass or hash.

2. Wonder - The sheer genius of imagination. Hyperion, anyone?

3. (Ahem!) The Story - The characters helping the reader to make sense of an alien landscape, which is otherwise incomprehensible.

4. Fatalism - The whole shit of prophecies and all. Does anybody do anything without an deep underlying purpose in these stories?

5. Naivete - Only a kid can believe some of the situations presented to the reader. Then again kids are always smarter than their parents.

Hmmm .... in trying to analyse my addiction it seems I have done a character analysis of myself. Now, if only it was true and not "speculative" !!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Can Superman really do it?

Saw "Superman Returns" on Sunday and it sure sucked big-time. Can't believe its the same director who gave us "The Usual Suspects", "X-Men" and "X-2". The movie is too cheesy for words and fails to connect with fans and non-fans alike. It especially falls flat in its attempt to explore the underlying human-ness of Superman, who is supposed to be an alien in the first place. Go figure !!

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor hardly brings any menace to his role, strangely sounding more like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, than the tech-savvy criminal super-genius we all are aware of.

**** Spoiler Alert ****

The greatest suspense in the movie is that Lois Lane has Supe's kid. Ho-hum etc. etc.

Here's a hilarious take on the physical impossibility of such a situation by the great Larry Niven, the author of the Hugo / Nebula winner Ringworld series (which IMHO employed pretty poor physics themselves).

And these are some excerpts to whet your appetite ...
Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman designated LL for convenience.

Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he's doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he's missing. (One should not think of Superman as a Peeping Tom. A biological ability must be used. As a child Superman may never have known that things had surfaces, until he learned to suppress his X-ray vision. If millions of people tend shamelessly to wear clothing with no lead in the weave, that is hardly Superman's fault.)

The problem is this. Electroencephalograms taken of men and women during sexual intercourse show that orgasm resembles "a kind of pleasurable epileptic attack." One loses control over one's muscles.

Superman has been known to leave his fingerprints in steel and in hardened concrete, accidentally. What would he do to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?

Consider the driving urge between a man and a woman, the monomaniacal urge to achieve greater and greater penetration. Remember also that we are dealing with kryptonian muscles.
Superman would literally crush LL's body in his arms, while simultaneously ripping her open from crotch to sternum, gutting her like a trout.
Lastly, he'd blow off the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El's semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet.
(One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy's puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?)

In view of the foregoing, normal sex is impossible between LL and Superman.

Artificial insemination may give us better results.
A ripened but unfertilized egg leaves LL's ovary, begins its voyage down her Fallopian tube.
Some time later, tens of millions of sperm, released from a test tube, begin their own voyage up LL's Fallopian tube.

The magic moment approaches...

Can human breed with kryptonian? Do we even use the same genetic code? On the face of it, LL could more easily breed with an ear of corn than with Kal-El. But coincidence does happen. If the genes match...

One sperm arrives before the others. It penetrates the egg, forms a lump on it's surface, the cell wall now thickens to prevent other sperm From entering. Within the now-fertilized egg, changes take place...

And ten million kryptonian sperm arrive slightly late.

Were they human sperm, they would be out of luck. But these tiny blind things are more powerful than a locomotive. A thickened cell wall won't stop them. They will *all* enter the egg, obliterating it entirely in an orgy of microscopic gang rape. So much for artificial insemination.

But LL's problems are just beginning .....
And so I guess, would Bryan Singer's unless he redeems himself with a great sequel, as all fansites continue to scream.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Shopping takes you to hell !!!

This is a post inspired by the great J.A.P himself, or rather his reply to my comment on his post.

So here goes ....................


This is definitely a post-marriage insight.

Till about one year before my marriage, I use to treat shopping like men usually do. Just another chore to be performed akin to washing your undies and shaving on the weekdays.

And the underlying algorithm for it used to go something like this ....

1. Your jeans are falling apart and your boss does not think of it as a fashion statement ... you go to Shopper's Stop.

2. Your tummy rumbles after waking up in the morning ... you go and buy breads (in case you are feeling particularly perky, check for molds and all) and jam.

3. The sole of your right shoe came off while running after the 8:08 local .... time to go to Bata.

4. Your fellow passengers are wrinkling their noses ... time to purchase that bottle of Axe.

etc. etc. .... you get the point.

In case, you would have told me shopping is actually 15% expedition into the unknown, 30% exploration into your sub-conscious, 25% decision tree analysis involving Black-Scholes model and 30% orgasmic bliss, I would have thought you are Zaphod Beeblebrox, himself.

But then again, I had not met my wife. There's still this remote possibility that she is actually Zaphod masquerading as a sex-symbol, but lets not venture there, shall we?

After marriage, I was first curious as to why perfectly grown up women (without any traumatised childhood, as far as I know) behave like such raving lunatics when confronted with a shop.

Then interested ... then flabbergasted .... then scared ... and then trapped.

In case you have still not understood what the hell I am talking about, you must be in one of those Engineering students fantasizing over your Director's 50 year old secy. I am so glad for you, as you are safe for some more years, till your parents finally decide that those persistent yellow stains on the bed-sheet are actually quite inconvenient and find you your soulmate. For your convenience, let me outline the situations with some examples (Timoshenko & Young, capisce?).

Have you noticed the glazed look on the faces of someone when she is making a final choice from about 235 assorted items scattered in front of her? Regular junkies, man ... worse than heroin addicts.

Have you ever witnessed the amusing spectacle of someone walking out of the shop in a huff, after rummaging through half the shop's contents, because the design she liked is available in the colour which does not suit her mood at that particular moment? And the shopkeeper muttering under his breath, "I would break a coconut, in case she actually purchases something."

What about not buying a wallet for a 5/- price difference and then going to the next shop and purchasing a perfume worth 5000/-. And replying to some protests from partner with the philosphical "In case you would understand that, you would have been me, no?"

And what about that thing of asking their partner "Well, what do you think?" when the one you will point out to would definitely not be purchased. Or rather, asking even more poignantly as well as pointedly, "But you like this other one, don't you?" as if she would buy it just for that reason.

And its not easy to escape the dilemma just by saying "You do whatever you want, O Goddess. Why take advice from such low-lifes as me?" because then you will surely hear this absoute stunner, "What is the point of you coming along, in case you are not going to choose anything?". Huh? .... As if I had a choice to begin with.

And what about .... ahhhh forget it ... there she comes with that expression on her face ... the one that means we are going shop-hopping again tonight. There goes my Argentina-Germany match.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Cup of Life

The world turns ... and days pass ... and your hair turn grey .... and your life slowly withers.

But sometimes you can just about throw off that cloak of indifference and rekindle the dying embers for that final dazzle.

This normally happens every four years, about this time of the year.

In 1982, there was no TV in our house. So that famous troika of Zico-Socrates-Falcao was not seen. Only read about in the pages of Anandabazar Patrika and Aajkal. Only spoken about in hushed tones with the reverence which bangalis reserve for Brazil. Paolo Rossi was clearly the devil incarnate. Three goals against Brazil in the match they needed only to draw? Maradona's name was mentioned once or twice, but he was remembered more for the red card against Brazil than any sustained brilliance. Brazil's loss even overshadowed one of the greatest matches in WC history, the epic SF between France and W Germany. Yes, the match in which the German goalie thought he was Mohammed Ali. Some tears were shed on the exit of the Platini-Tigana-Giresse trio but a WC final without Brazil? Who cares whether Rossi scored his sixth goal in his third match or Dino Joff held the trophy that was destined for Socrates' nicotine stained fingers? My WC was over long before the one Mr. Altobeli scored the third goal for Italy in the final.

1986 came with disturbing news about ageing Team Brazil's downward trend and Zico's injury. And finally some understanding that the men in Green and Gold cannot win every match only because I wish it fervently. Mexico would always be a riot of colours (blame it on the newly acquired color TV) .... the Mexican Wave .... that man Altobeli scoring the first goal and ensconcing himself forever in those WC Footbal trivia quizzes .... the free-flowing Denmark and Morten Olsen destroying Uruguay 6-1 ... The gladiators of Spain in their dark Red costume turning the tables on Denmark .... Belgium and USSR locked in battle .... Igor Belanov scoring a hattrick only to see his team out of the cup ... Careca drawing the loudest cheer out of our throats, only for Platini to stifle it in second half ... Zico, barely 5 minutes into the game blasting his penalty kick over the bar and with it Brazil's passport to the semis .... Maradona's Hand of God and his goal of the century .... and just for emphasis two more equally brilliant ones against Belgium .... Linekar's six of the best ..... Rummenigge and Voeller almost stealing it in the dying minutes .... Burruchaga's solo run after the defense splitting pass .... Was Valdano offside while scoring the second goal? .... The Kaiser's forlorn look on the benches. But no Brazil, O Discordia.

The summer of 1990 was one of the hottest in Cal history. The Cup in Italy only addded to the woes. Yellow cards here ... red cards there ..... fouls everywhere. Francois Omam Biyik heading home the mother of all upsets .... Maradona, looking like a ghost reprising his favourite role .... getting chopped down every 3 minutes .... but still managing that fateful pass to Caniggia which sealed Brazil's fate .... Roger Milla and his crazy dribble around that first rate idiot Rene Higuita. The battle between the "Maradona of the Andes" and the "Maradona of the Carthapians" .... Rijkard's spit in Voeller's hair ... Gullit's flop show ... Linekar pumping in another 4 .... Gazza running out of fuel and patience. Toto Scillaci coming out of nowhere and fading out equally well.... Little Buddha's magic goal ..... Maldini's fatal error .... Goykocheah's purple patch. Lothar Matthaeus and his marathons. The most boring final in history. The whole world willing Brehme to score and close the chapter.

In 1994, I was in Hardwar when it all started. Still remember the effort of trying the glean all possible information from 3-day old Times of Indias. And cajoling the seniors at the GET hostel to switch on the TV at an unearthly hour of 4 am. Maradona's comeback to the world stage with 4 goals past hapless Greece ... his equally swift exit with cocaine traces. Bulgaria's Stoichkov and Netherland's Bergkamp. USA's Meola and Lalas. Oleg Salenko scoring 5 goals in one match only to see his team get booted out. Ultra-defensive Brazil disappointing in the group stages .... Dunga and Rai's "falling leaf" free kicks which go nowhere near the goal .... Romario-Bebeto cutting a swathe through opposition in the knock-outs. Letchkov's bald head burying the defending champions. Baggio rising from the grave to single-handedly carry Italy to the finals .... Brazil barely getting past spirited Sweden. A final to compete with the 1990 one. Italy lose in the shoot-out but who wins? This is not the Brazil we know.

1998 was spent in Jamshedpur amidst a sea of fellow football enthusiasts. Brazil's unimpressive stutter against Scotland was overshadowed comfortably by the soaring Super Eagles beating Hiero's Spain in a thriller .... The deadly Chilean duo of Salas and Zamorano .... Croatia's predatory Suker and silken Prosinecki .... England losing the plot against Romania ... and losing the shoot-out against Argentina ... Danes scaring Brazil badly .... Bergkamp's magical one-touch against Argentina ... France Italy slugfest resulting in Di Baggio's vital penalty kick hitting the crossbar .... Croatia showing German's their place with an unprecedented 3-0 scoreline ... Brazil and Netherlands meeting for that climactic showdown .... Kluivert's last gasp goal proving futile .... the battle between gold and blue and loads of coloured faces .... Ronaldo's mystery concussion .... Zizou's head and feet sealing Brazil's fate .... Denilson's meaningless dribbling at the edge of the box. Petit striking the final blow .... another four year wait for Cafu.