Thursday, March 31, 2011

After the EPIC match!

Well, we won. In other words, one-sixth of humanity had collective orgasm last night when India defeated Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup semifinal. And with that, our clean record against them remained cleanest. As one can imagine, the euphoria is beyond words and I better not try to unravel it. What I can envision though is the humungous depression we as a nation could have slipped into had we lost this match. It could have eventually affected our country’s economy in the long run. Maybe even a recession, who knows? OK. That’s stretching it bit too far.

To begin with, this was the first ODI match in which Sachin played seven innings. No, seriously. He was the luckiest guy on earth yesterday. I haven’t seen anyone get so many “lives” in a single match. He was playing some really erratic shots there but not a single person could have blamed him for being stupid. Perhaps that is what godliness is all about. Any which way, Indians are born Sachinians. He eventually stumbled at 85. It’s a pity he couldn’t complete his 100th century. Whatever, he steered us to victory and that matters.

On the other side, Pakistani team looked in control but gradually lost it somewhere and just couldn’t get haul themselves back. Afridi’s face during the final overs said it all. They say it was an empathetic version of PontingFace. Being the best skipper Pakistan could have had for this tourney, the defeat must have saddened him like anything but he’s a hero to millions of Pakistanis and cricket loving folks for his exemplary leadership. Wahib was chosen over swansinging Akhtar and that made a huge difference to their bowling attack. He ended up with five-wicket haul. If you ask me, Wahib should have been awarded the ‘Match of the Match’, not Sachin. Sachin was simply ‘God of the Match’ for being extremely fortunate.

Thankfully, the usual banter on the field was almost inconspicuous. All the players kept their *friendly* language as well as body language at check. The entire game was played with the best of sportsmanship spirit leaving hardly any space for controversies. On the contrary, the ambiance on Twitter and Facebook was way too ugly, to be blunt. People from either side of the border were unrestrained with words and haphazard with nationalistic passions. Expecting anything different with such a crucial match in the background might be insensitive towards these hardcore fans. Maybe it takes an Indo-Pak match to reveal our true jingoistic nature. Rest of the time, we just pretend to be civil. There were moments when more action was going on on social media than on TV. I’m sorry for my Pakistani friends who would have been equally sorry for me had they won.

So, we are all set for the final against Sri Lanka. Whichever team wins, the World Cup’s going to stay in Asia for a change down under. That’s the bonus point. Like crores of Indians, I too want us to win this one. After all, Kapil Dev must be tired of holding up that cup in photos for nearly three decades now. It's time he passed it to Dhoni.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Before the EPIC match!

If you’re into reading crap, you must have read my piece on how cricket sucks and all. Well, I’m not going to renege on what I said (or at least tried to imply) but then I had no idea India and Pakistan were destined to clash in the Cricket World Cup (CWC) semifinal. My superpowers failed to predict its certainty and we are less than 6 hours away from this passive war.

As of now, I hope everyone wakes up healthy today for even if you're sick for real, your office won't believe you. Everyone’s damn excited about this game so productivity is better not discussed. I’d say Indo-Pak match makes AWOL a very legitimate option. The entire country is going to be stalemated once the coin is tossed. That’s a given. Even the sparrows and pigeons outside my window seem to be mighty excited about it. If only they knew the way to Mohali.

By the way, Mohali is the most happening place in the Indian subcontinent right now. After all, it’s playing host to a contest that doesn’t happen quite often. One can sense the hype with huge expectations from the 22 players who will be on the field amid roaring pressure. It’s going to be a riot of emotions. I guess even clouds got emotional last night and shed some tears over Mohali stadium. If rain continues to disrupt, then this match will be a more contentious issue than Kashmir. Anyway, according to my sources, God is a cricket fan so I’m pretty sure weather won’t be a hindrance.

The maxim that politics and sports shouldn’t mix sounds like a remote possibility when India and Pakistan are engaged. I like to call it diplomushy in which emotional bond is practiced between rival countries. Nevertheless, Indo-Pak cricket makes the most of it like it always has, be it in Sharjah or Toronto. Apparently, for countries like ours, sports are a blessing in dissguys. The rivalry is unmatched and so is the language used between players. The other day, I also watched that infamous Afridi-Gambhir-expletives-filled-clash video on YouTube to brush up my token patriotism. As you can imagine, it’s tough being a non-cricket fan in India but you have to give it to crossborder tension.

Today, Indians will be praying for their unblemished record against Pakistan in CWC to remain so whereas Pakistanis would be expecting the opposite. Of course, Indians also want their God-elect – Sachin – to score his 100th century and make Afridi eat his words and cricket ball (yet again!). They'll conveniently neglect the fact that their cheering is nothing less than a jinx for the Little Master.

Pakistani team has done a marvelous job under Afridi’s mercurial leadership so far. They have been like phoenix if you take the bad press showering into consideration. On a longshot, I even see them lifting the Cup while surprising everyone the way we did back in ’83.

Yea, I know I must be sounding like a cricket pundit here. But since I’m cricket crazy for a day, what’s the harm in abusing the privilege! You see, being a fan makes you feel like an expert on things you know nothing about. Like who’ll win or lose. In fact, the best outcome of this semifinal is that it has created a Nostradamus out of everyone in the subcontinent.

With the kind of hostile history we share, Aman and Asha can take a break today. May the match be played in the best of sportsman spirit and without any major controversy. A few minor ones here and there will do. Today would be remembered for a long time. At least until we play Pakistan again. But the worst part is, even after this match ends, noise on either side of the border will continue.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Mumbai is a strange village. It’s either hot, hotter or hottest in this part of the planet. Sweating goes hand-in-hand with breathing. It can be unbearable at times. For the record, about 70% of Mumbai’s population lives in slum and the remaining 30% complain about harsh living conditions. Interestingly, poverty adds to the equation. It is like the most glaring cosmopolitan feature but somehow gets camouflaged by people’s never-say-die attitude. The very faceless folks who know nothing other than the hard learned art of survival under sweltering sun. It’s like a never ending struggle against one self. Against time. Against space. Coincidentally, the crowded local trains are one of those devil-kissed marvels where every single millimeter of space matters and people literally breathe into each others’ lungs and you are just a fart away from asphyxiation.
It’s safe to say that Mumbai is bursting not only at the rim but at the very center. It just can't wait to get back to restful evening. In a lot of ways, it’s hopeless but in others, simply incredible. You’ll never hear anyone say “Amazing how people can be so cold in a warm city like this”. Never.
It is a land of chronicles, mostly unbelievable but truer than death. That’s what years of migration do to a place. It fuels passion and ambition giving birth to countless tales of human endurance and triumph. A few stories are repetitive but the moral remains the usual: Resilience is the word.
There were some kids who used to study during nighttime under beacon at Mankhurd railway station. These kids have homes but not the kind we have. I mean, the privileged lot. They live in shanties but dream of getting an education that their parents couldn’t, so as to get ahead in life and make a respectable living. In simpler words, they just want to get the heck out of the shithole they are currently in. In most cases, their fathers are drunkards who created ruckus almost every single night at home, making it almost impossible for them to concentrate on their books. So that’s the reason they used to gather almost every single night and burn the midnight dreams. As of now they don’t do the same as the board exams have ended and vacation has commenced. They’ve got themselves part time jobs to kill time. Yes, jobs to kill time and not by staying online on Twitter or Facebook. It’s a poignant tale of tenacity. These are the kids who learnt the importance of education as well as electricity on their own. I know this coz I know them.
Dawn marks the time when street dogs go back to being pussies and humans venture out to replace the dogs in the street. But what happens before that? Well, these dogs literally rule. They chase every vehicle that passes on the street. It’s not like they wish to take a ride on it or something. They just want you to get out of their 'territory’ ASAP. In that context, we better not talk about rag pickers who start their day pretty early so as to pick their *stuff* before the dump trucks scoop up its daily roll. As one can guess, the dogs can’t bear to share either the street or the garbage fill with them. Amid the barking, we forget what a fabulous (read: hopelessly courageous) job these rag pickers are doing for the society by helping us with the recycling of things we discard as rubbish.
And just like that, a new day begins. Cynical as it is, with sharp sunlight on the face anyone can get an idea that this city has a long way to go before it can call itself what it is already calling itself–a city.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Fortunately, it wasn't Japan's fault. It was Earth's fault by default. Unfortunately, Japanese citizens had to pay a heavy price. And this scenario is witnessed from above the water. More horror lies within the surface with thousands still missing. Yes, we are talking about the latest tsunami-earthquake combo that was unleashed on a nation that holds nearly 2% of the planet’s human population and is the world’s third largest economy.

The stupefying pictures and videos posted on Internet and shown by our media depict scenes straight out of a multi-million special-effects-filled Hollywood movie. The only problem being this time it was for real. Living beings, both marine and terrestrial, were affected and in most cases, fatally. When you are alive in an era constituting of such cruel events, you’re bound to have infinite questions in your dumb head.

What is the purpose of living like termites? Why is death more mysterious than J.M. Coetzee? Does God believe in Karma? Were the Mayans really that good with math? Did Aryabhatta have any liaison with them? Are we approaching Judgment Day faster than planned? What is the dress code for that once-in-a-deathtime occasion? Did Steve Jobs spread the ‘world-will-end-in-2012’ rumour so as to sell off his iPads? Will religion save our corrupt colourless soul? What the fuck am I doing writing (reading, in your case) this tripe? And many more such ineffectual doubts.

The worst part is you can’t throw a careless joke and feel wise about such catastrophe. This is no TV show or political gimmick. Real people are dying here. People die in wars too but wars don’t involve God. God is just an imaginary spectator on bloodsheddy battlefields. Here, God is like an active stockholder provided he cares to exist. But still you don’t give up. You just don’t want to lurch in a jocular fix. Otherwise, you’ll start sounding serious and destroy whatever is left of insanity. You come up with weird theories. For instance, earthquakes prove that there is life beneath us and every once in a while, they like to party. Or that God loves Twitter for he never fails to provide the unemployed ones with topics to discuss with the employed ones (who then themselves don’t work much!). Anyway, Twitter is to conversation what bonsai is to trees. Fair enough.

On a serious note, whenever some thing like this happens, instead of making God feel guilty, we pray and make him arrogant. People go ballistic with emotions and almost get close to invoke God and convince him to sign up for Social Media. We’ve got to understand that it doesn’t make any difference. Our so-called concerns are as significant as the letter 't' in the word tsunami. You see, it’s like asking a burglar to undo the theft. The praying lot are the most hypocritical, I must add. They are aware but still they do it as it relieves them of guilt associated with life and luck. The unpraying tribe simply marvel at the extent of our Creator’s inability to summon a less painful design. Moreover, if this disaster was a prologue to the play called Armageddon, I’d be very disappointed in the director named God.

My respect for Japanese people has increased a thousand fold for their sheer resilience. They keep their chin up and try to get on with life with discipline despite impossibilities surrounding them. History has it that they are the only ones to face atom bombs. By their record, they’ll emerge soon. Hopefully, much stronger than before. Of course, we ain't talking about the deads here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy International Women's Years Ahead!

Humankind recently celebrated International Women’s Day. Nothing unusual happened, as usual. It too had the nondescript 24 hours of misery but it symbolizes femininity and the beauty associated with it. So, net-net, it ought to be an important event on the calendar. Also, I too wanted to post something on that very day but procrastination has its way with me. Anyway, better late and now than later and never.

Let me remind you what you already know -- the true legend of fairer sex’s struggle for equality and gender prejudices prevalent in our quasi-modern society. Rural regions are even worse off than ours. Crime and age-old prejudices against women are never out of fashion. And the worst part is we are getting used to it. We shake our heads in premeditated disbelief whenever we read about untoward actions meted out against women, be it in any part of the world. But that’s that.

If you ask me (which you won’t!), I’d state that the sole objective of having an Int'l Women's Day is to check whether we, as human beings, can stay unsexist at least for a day or not. Sad as it is, we have designed a men-friendly world and one can only ponder if such a calamity was possible without women’s active participation. Think of the support and care one receives in the form of mother, grandmother, sister, wife, aunt and female friends. It’s an amazing case of working for your enemy’s interest. I know this might sound oh-so-feministic but things are bleak as always and whatever light we witness is hardly enough to dispel reality.

In an ideal world, we could have done without religion. Or at least, we would have dismantled the nexus of book-based faith. But that isn’t so. I find religion contemptuous because it has generally acted against womenfolk. If religion is genuine, then the possibility of God being misogynist must be true, too. Just look around yourself. Religious bodies want the womenfolk banished to the claustrophobic kitchen lest they rebel to demand what is rightfully theirs. Such societies fulfill their ulterior motives by denying them education. Illiteracy is rampant among girls in almost all listless countries and it’s quite easy to connect the hapless dots. Again, I must be sounding vain and pompous but then I’ve got a reputation to maintain and a futile argument to sustain.

Digressing over to the positive side, there are women who have made a place for themselves on this sexist planet mainly on the strength of their merit. It’s a healthy encouragement to see them on the pedestal of their respective fields. They are not only successful but also creating avenues for others. Fortunately, these are the women who inspire millions of little girls and fellow women to aspire to do something worthwhile with their life.

Closer home, we’ve got our mothers and grandmothers and sisters and all who by their selfless love and hardship keep us buoyant. We know we can’t thank them enough. Maybe that’s why we never thank them enough.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cricket, Cup and Countries

Cricket sucks. I could have started this piece in a milder tone but I’ve got to warn the cricket-lovers before I sound nastier than I intend to. We all know it's just a lazy sport involving a lot of furniture. Wooden bats, stumps, bails. You get the idea. I must add cricket is a lovely sport as long as you’re not interested in it. Once you become a fan, it’s a frigging downhill thereafter. You get absorbed into this tedious circus of run-bowl-bat-field routine. No wonder this sport is played in less a dozen countries. Nonetheless, they have something called “Cricket World Cup” (CWC) going on as I type this polemic. It’s beyond humour that an event comprising of only 14 nations uses the word ‘World’ matter-of-factly. Unlike Football World Cup, you don’t witness cut-throat competition to qualify for CWC. On the contrary, non-cricketing nations like Ireland, Canada and Holland are invited to fill in spots against established cricketing biggies like India and Australia. There is nothing wrong with setting minnows against Goliaths but it just illustrates the helplessness of a sport in popularizing itself globally at the grassroot level.

One thing that well nigh sets CWC apart from other sports’ World Cups is the fact that it has the distinction of being hosted in all inhabited continents, something even football and hockey is yet to achieve. I know you must be wondering when did South America which might confuse cricket for an insect held the CWC. For the record, it happened in 2007 CWC when Guyana hosted a match and Guyana is a part of South America.

Cricket is a colonial vestige, at least in India. We were matchless in hockey during the time of our independence from British Raj. So naturally, hockey was chosen to be our national sport. As of now, if you look around, you can clearly point out the discrepancy in our attitude towards hockey. For the first time in 80 years, Indian hockey team couldn’t even quality for Olympics held at Beijing. It sounds like a death knell to something that put India on the global sporting map long before we could even call ourselves a free country

Cricket flourished in the subcontinent under the pretext of being the gentlemen’s game. It was called so not because all cricketers were certified gentlemen. They were not. It was just the nature of the sport. To begin with, it’s a non-contact sport, unlike football or hockey where players physically clash with each other. Cricket, on the contrary, is a collective display of individual space. The bowler has his predetermined run-up. The batsman has the 22-yard limited sprinting arena. The wicket-keeper stays put at his spot. The fielders have their designated area of concern. Even the umpires hardly move. The only thing that really helps this otherwise stationary act is the ball that can be shot in any direction by the batsman and occasional castling of stumps by bowlers. That keeps the momentum and excitement alive among the hapless fans.

And talking of ‘gentlemen’s game’, cricket is quite free from hooliganism that is prevalent in football and other popular sports. But then that is discounted passion. In cricket, the “gentlemen” do something worse. They are known to manipulate match results through match-fixing, spot-fixing, slow-overs and whatnot. It’s pathetic, to say the least. Moreover, cricketing body is known for its leniency towards drug abuse which is conspicuous in its reluctance to work with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The recent sacking of three Pakistani players on doping charges is just a start.

Take a look at our cricketers; you just can’t miss their paunch. It just demonstrates the level of fitness a “sport” like cricket entails. Or at least our cricketers believe it entails. Besides, even on newspaper, cricketers are mostly shown practising all other sports except cricket to “stay fit”. It’s like a colossal joke that has been tolerated for too long.

As you can guess by now, I’m not a cricket fan. But it doesn’t diminish my Indianness. Of course, I’d love to see India win CWC coz the last time we did, it was more of a miracle and less of everything else. I can’t deny cricket is the only thing that actually binds our diverse country north to south, east to west. Nothing else comes even close to cricket in fulfilling this arduous task. Not even Bollywood. And then there is Sachin-factor too. I want him to retire with that one laurel missing on his legendary mantelpiece.

Lastly, this drivel won’t bring a revolution of sort and there must be millions of people who won’t agree with me but it doesn’t change the home truth that we nearly don’t exist in other sports despite having 1.2 billion people under one flag. Cricket’s unprecedented (read: commercial) success has a lot to do with this dismal scenario. It’s a shame but in ways more than one, cricket alone is not to blame. There are lots of other factors that goes in to play and when I say play, I don’t mean sports.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And the Oscars goes to the dogs!

Some things are better watched live and some things, alive. You have to give it to Oscars for being the most articulated celebrity circus in showbiz. Well, this year’s Oscars fell somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t an epic disaster, so to speak, but still it lacked its quintessential spark. For starters, it lacked jokes. I don’t know about others but I don’t watch Oscars for fashion policing. I watch it for hilarity – the innocuous digs that the host takes at the A-list actors who in turn are left with no option but to join the laugh parade. This year’s Oscars was not only bereft of such could-have-been jocular moments but also the guy (read: TV show hosts/comedians) who usually carry out the deed.

At the risk of sounding ruthless, the emceeing wasn’t up-to-mark. But James Franco was as high as sky. The poor guy was stoned and on top of that, he had to act sober but failed miserably. He was way too busy smirking, giggling and forgetting his lines. His co-host, Anne Hathaway had to overcompensate for his lack of participation. Out of the two, Anne obviously did a better job. Her charming personality coupled with her singing and rapid wardrobe changing skills made her screen-time worthwhile. Yet it wasn’t enough.

There were some spectacular moments too. Thankfully. Like Kirk Douglas’ appearance on stage to present the Best Supporting Actress Award. At 94, with heavy breathy voice, he still remembers the art of entertainment. He cracked jokes on Australians, Colin Firth and even flirted with Melissa Leo before handing out the bald statuette. For the minutes he spent on stage, you couldn’t help thinking: Yes, Oscars is the country for old men. After all, the Academy ensures legends and the not-so-legendary oldies are paid their due respect.

This time around, they had Billy Crystal (who tickled the starry audience pink within seconds of entering) reminiscing an *encounter* with his idol Bob Hope on the very jocular stage he was standing, years ago. Then there were Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law who shared the stage and effortlessly created laughs. Randy Newman’s acceptance speech for Best Song crafted some genuine yet laughy instants.

Acceptance speeches are rarely pleasing to ears, let alone audacious or inspiring. This year was no different. But I liked the Best Documentary 'Inside Job' director Charles Ferguson’s assertive stand about the absence of recession-tainted corporate executives in jail. I remember Sean Penn doing something similar for gays’ rights when he won Best Actor in 2009. Then there was Tom Hopper who won Best Director for ‘The King’s Speech’ advising everyone to listen to their mothers for he did the same and was going home with the golden statue.

Needless to say, like millions of fellow Indians, I too dream of Oscars and revel in its unsubstantiated glory. This year had some Indians (Bollywoodians, to be precise) on the red carpet including Abhi-Ash and Ashutosh Gowariker. AR Rahman performed “If I Rise” on stage. Moreover, the musical engineer had two nominations for Danny Boyle’s ‘127 Hours’ which he didn’t win. Boyle who struck gold two years ago with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, was the biggest loser this year as his movie couldn’t pick up a single win out of six nods.

And yes, there was Tariq Anwar who failed to grab the award for Best Editing in ‘The King’s Speech’. This was his second nomination after ‘American Beauty’. Had he won, he could have become the first post-Slumdog Indian to grab an Oscar. Sigh.

Christian Bale won the Best Supporting Actor for his skinny role in ‘The Fighter’. Natalie Portman bagged Best Actress for her irritating but awesome portrayal of a ballerina in ‘Black Swan’. Colin Firth was anyway the sole man in Best Actor’s race with his stammering in TKS so there were no surprises there. TKS also won the Best Picture award. Deservedly so, I must add.

When I say Oscars has gone to the dogs, I’ve got undeniable reasons. Christopher Nolan was snubbed as usual. He wasn’t even nominated for direction. Just imagine ‘Inception’ without Nolan’s imagination. Difficult, isn’t it? For all we know, the Academy has issues with geniuses like him. Darren Aronofsky and Roger Deakins (and many more) also belong to this helpless club. Formidable movies like 'True Grit' and 'Winter’s Bone' went home empty-handed. Well, '127 Hours' wasn't the favorite in the first place.

In some way, watching Oscars, having no inkling what the Academy is all about, I mean, who are these people who get to vote, helps a lot. Perhaps, for all its annual exaggerations, Oscars deserves a lifetime achievement award as well as retirement.


No matter how dull it was on television, we, on Twitter, successfully snubbed Monday morning blues thanks to Oscars. Yup. So that’s a brownie point there. Meanwhile, I learned a trick or two for my celebrated “career”. You see, I’m thinking of doing a James Franco in my office some night. I’ll let you know once I do it. Or maybe after I undo it.