Wednesday, January 23, 2008

From Adversity to History - A Rewarding Journey

The Indian team has just won the Perth test match and media commentators have already elevated the win to proclaim it as “the best test triumph ever”. Is it really so?

Hardly days to go before the match, Indians suffered an incredible defeat at the hands of the world champions at Sydney causing the nations’ public to vent all its anger at the opposition team’s rude manner, a “nothing-short-than-victory-would-do” attitude and of course the shocking umpiring bloomers.

Any captain in Kumble’s place would have found it hard to stomach the heat but the simple, soft-spoken, humble and mentally strong Bangalorean almost judiciously handled the media and made sure that the focus of the team doesn’t waver. Within days history was created at Perth – the WACA where visiting teams are written off even before the first day’s play commences.

At Sydney, it was a classical case of the Australian players and the umpires shooting themselves on the foot. How else can one explain a player who stands his ground after edging a catch to first slip, a supposedly gentleman-cricketer (Gilchrist) appealing for Dravid’s wicket when the ball was nowhere near the bat, a team’s captain grounding a catch and claiming the same shamelessly, an umpire consulting the opposition captain to declare a batsman out, another umpire having seemingly strange hearing discrepancies and to top it all, a third umpire failing to judge a batsman out after conclusive television replays to that effect?

The Australian team will have to do a lot to regain their place in many a cricket fan’s heart. No umpire will ever be free of pressure officiating again in a test match in Australia what with two of their colleagues covering themselves in glory. Umpiring errors in Australia aren’t new with several players and coaches often expressing their unhappiness before notable being the late Bob Woolmer, John Wright and our own Sourav during the last tour.

Indians did not cloud themselves in true glory either as Harbhajan succumbed to the Aussie bait almost effortlessly. That episode got even Shashi Tharoor to give his view: “It is dangerous to act as if the undoubted financial weight of India in world cricket entitles us to our own set of rules”. I hasten to add that we are increasingly perceived as acting exactly in that manner by at least some keen followers of the game too.

When one thought, it is packing time for the touring team, better sense prevailed and to the delight of a billion plus fans, the team showed that it has the goods to beat the world champions in their own best-suited-backyard.

Not getting intimidated by the conditions, persisting with a youthful pace attack and an experienced middle order and more importantly playing for a win from the word ‘Go’, this is certainly one test win that’ll do the game proud from an Indian perspective and help Kumble join the select club of that fast dwindling breed in cricket – Gentlemen!!

Beginning to love Bangalore - Final Part

Having lived in Bangalore now for more than six months, I am in a better position to write about my feelings towards this lovable city…

Jayanagar – a paradise:

Jayanagar 9th block is well positioned when one considers the fact that it is well connected to both Majestic and Silk Board – the gateways towards Tamilnadu. The proximity to a truly beautiful shopping area in 4th block and the malls in Forum and the omnipresent Big Bazaar would make any shopping buff happy.

Not long back, I explored the option of reading in the 9th block park. Situated not far from the Banerghatta road and surrounded by posh houses, it is an area that can give one a serene feeling whenever one longs for it. Taking a novel and settling down to read there, I found myself observing the joggers and the old men folk discussing the latest current affairs hot topic instead. Birds were making a cheery and at the same time, mad noise that none seemed to mind probably because I was the only person alone. Other people had company and rarely noticed my presence….

Traffic woes:

When one speaks about falling in love with Bangalore, a passing reader might wonder whether I forgot the traffic troubles. Not at all. I just have a different perspective.

This week, the private operators providing service to the IT and the BPO workers by ferrying them almost thanklessly to and from their workplaces decided to go on a strike leaving the workers to resort to autos and BMTC buses.

BMTC has its own style. Many buses have drivers issuing tickets and hence passengers have to inevitably get in and alight down at the driver’s end only. This leads to funny situations where in, the rear portion of the bus may be almost empty while the front part may appear crowded. That apart, the personnel themselves pilfer small amounts of money – unlike Chennai 50 P has no value in BMTC buses and same goes for 1 Re also. One has to shell out 10 for a 9 Rs ticket in most cases.

But, the strike call forced many employees to fall back on BMTC buses for the autos were having a field day laughing all the way to the bank. However crowded a bus, one never experiences any sweat which is a huge relief when compared to Chennai. Since the city is thoroughly cosmopolitan, the people don’t hide their smiles either. Often, I have noticed that two people who don’t share a common mother tongue smile more easily to each other. Has it got something to do with a longing to make others understand their living-away-from-parents plight? May be…

I have observed a lot of people commuting by cars to their workplace though the firm they work for may have a shuttle-service for which the employees don’t have to shell anything off their pockets. The very same people complain about getting caught in traffic jams, the pathetic service of BMTC and the infrastructure problems of the city. They forget the fact that if they consciously resort to car-pooling or traveling by company shuttles, everyone can travel in more comfort.

Blaming the city and its infrastructure at the drop of a hat and complaining about how one is forced to bear with petrol hikes, when the solution lies with oneself has become a fashion of late. All said, a city with an unstable Government and a greedy workforce doesn’t augur well.

Loving like a child:

Like a child who yearns for the hug and caress of a parent, I yearn for Bangalore’s gently caressing breeze and its people who day in and day out make the whole nation proud simply by being part of its diverse culture. Be it the laborer who returns with a smile after work chatting with his fellow-workers or the young girl chatting away on her just-brought mobile phone about her day’s experience to her parents, the city is fast becoming India’s second Mumbai where jobless youth are beginning to flock in search of a cinematic rise to wealth.

It is the place to be in, for a young man with reasonable expectations and a little patience J

Way to go, Bangalore!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coorg Diary

When nature in all her glory beckons!!
When a new year with all its promises waits…

It was during the part of my first Industrial visit in college that I had last been to Coorg, but still I vividly remember that trip partly because it was my first outing with friends to a hill station and mostly because the place bowled us over with its natural beauty. So, I was all excited when Lokesh and the team initiated the plans to celebrate New Year as a team at Coorg.

Meticulous Plans:

Thanks in large measure to Lokesh, the whole team assiduously planned the journey up to the very last detail. Meetings were set up, menus were discussed, transportation was worked out, a list of necessities was drawn up and phone calls were made to make sure that nothing was amiss and the trip becomes a memorable one for the team and memorable it proved to be in the end!!

Hitting the roads:

Manoj, Lokesh, Deepak and Ashish took on the task of driving the team to its destination – Thrill Mountains; a Homestay nestled in nature’s backyard. The journey was not without its share of fun and masti. Finding myself in Deepak’s Indica, I listened to the merits and demerits of every four wheeler that is in the Indian market, learnt how laws are strictly adhered to in the US and found why the vehicle’s pickup was a shade slower due to its diesel engine.

Stopping for Lunch:

We stopped at a roadside vendor’s to quench our thirst with coconut water. It was time for the cameras to come out and from then on, every moment worth capturing and perusal for the future was lapped up with alacrity.

For lunch, we stopped at Srirangapatna, a short distance from Mysore. The enthusiastic non-vegetarians in the group drove down to a military hotel a little afar at Deepak’s suggestion and later from their gratified faces, we came to know that the drive had been worthwhile.


When we hit the road again, tiredness crept in and at least in the vehicle that I was in, energy levels were a little down. Then, we came upon the forest road to Madikeri and the route with its eerie and nevertheless mesmerizing look brought the energy levels back. It seemed as if, the sunlight was playing hide and seek with us; we’d see the sunlight illuminate our path for a few minutes followed by faint shadows taking over the road. While this alternated, the road got narrower and narrower and Lokesh with his deft maneuvering of the Maruti almost succeeded in making Deepak doubt his driving skills but for Hari’s intervention at encouragement.

It was quite a task for the four vehicles to maintain track of each other what with a KSRTC bullock cart deciding to join the merry race. When we at last sighted the Homestay, we were all rather wondering how reality can take the image-forming mind by surprise for I am sure our minds would have formed fancy images of the place and now as reality dawned it was an occasion for happy confrontation.

Antaakshari night:

To our surprise, the mercury hadn’t plummeted as low as we had expected and hence it was a pleasant chillness that greeted us. Two pairs of birds in their cage presented an indescribable sight, for one was left appreciative of their beauty and at the same time had to check an instinctive urge to open their cages and set them free to explore the mystic natural beauty almost waiting to hear their wings flap cheerfully.

The place itself presented a challenge to the cars and we were briefly witness to some adventure sports!! The cottage or Homestay as such beckoned us to unwind and relax; Jambesh found some admirers and Yokesh wore his hospitality robes again.

As the night drew near, tables were laid informally bearing the weight of Kingfisher, chicken starters and Foster. The team took seats for Antaakshari and suddenly found itself divided into the young on one side and I shouldn’t say old on the other, but a relatively richer team on the other when one looks at the fact that they had seen aspects of Life that we were yet to confront. The game started and without any doubt the younger brigade was more forthcoming with songs in response to every challenge that was thrown at them. Letters ‘Ha’ and ‘La’ made us rack our brains. Ashley and Hema refused to sing despite our repeated requests but in their own ways enjoyed the fun.

Oldies ruled the night with their timelessness creating enough room for some of us to go back in time. Hari’s collection of Shaan’s songs was admirable and soon I was thinking about ‘Dil kya kare, jab…’ – that sweet number brought back memories of my imaginary love. Enough digression…

Dawn at Coorg:

As Dec 31 dawned, I found the team sipping tea on the veranda. It was a dawn befitting the place, calm, and encouraging the enthusiastic tourist to explore. After a refreshing bath in hot water that felt like a ritual, we were all ready to face the day. I, Hari and Gopal in our individual ways proclaimed “All the World is mine” upon Hari’s suggestion and they made for some funny snaps.

An adventurous expedition:

After a hearty breakfast, we drove to the residence of Lokesh’s brother-in-law. The house was going through some renovation and it presented an opportunity for us to look for photographic spots. Amaresh was hyper-energetic and he even tried his hands at tree-climbing to bring down some fruit, I am still unsure what!!

We then went to a small but picturesque lake and there, Rohit set new standards in stone-throwing. Many attempts were made by the team to beat his distance but few if ever even managed to equal his. Deepak and Rohit indulged in some mock-fishing and the photos show the results.

As we began our trek, we saw coffee seeds that make Coorg stand out from the multitude of tourist spots in this country. In trekking gear, making random lines, exclaiming and prodding, our presence should have made quite an impact had there been any onlookers. Manish Singh became the centre of attention with slogans akin to election chants bearing his name. It was very much like an election campaign for Neta-Manish except that there was no door-to-door canvassing here.

Ashish instructed me and Rohit to capture Deepak in a frame of which his would-be bride should be proud of and we were more or less successful in that. The trek gave us enough room to capture the joy that each of us felt in a wide angle of shots, each to be cherished. We came to a clearing where there was a natural formation of water in a little pool surrounded by rocks of varying sizes. The place was slippery and some of us removed our shoes and carried them while a few sat themselves down unwilling to brave the crossing.

I was too engrossed in keeping my footing that for a moment, I almost forgot to admire the beauty. Then, I saw Gopal taking in the scenery seated comfortably and in my hurry to admonish him in a friendly manner for having missed out on the fun of crossing the small pool, I lost my footing and I guess, I have got a mark just a little above my left eyebrow as a remembrance gift for the whole of 2007 in the process.

Manoj took a different point of view and asked me to enjoy the fact that the place has left a mark in me literally. I thought that, it was certainly a different point of view. As I reclined on one of the rocks, Amaresh and Rashmi were trying their best to get Gopal and Rohit wet. They had become kids again. Deepak was also given a chase, but he deftly escaped getting wet.

Getting nursed:

Generously, Lokesh’s brother-in-law took me to the Mercara nursing home where my wound was nursed and stitches applied to it. The whole nursing home appeared to have come straight out of a cinema scene and it looked as if we had barged in and polluted whatever was happening there. The place calmed me a lot and after getting the wound treated, we returned to have lunch.

Returning with Ashish:

It was also the first time, that my hands felt a gun and what could be called bullets that can kill a living thing.

Ashish later suggested that I come with him in his vehicle to the Homestay. He said, it would serve both of us good to get some rest for the night and so, we took leave of the team. The drive to the Homestay was easily one of the best parts of the whole trip. Ashish was playing some timeless melodies and the road was winding in a manner that took us back in time so much so that I wouldn’t have been surprised had I seen Amitabh and Dharmendra singing an ode to friendship just then.

An attempt at camping:

Ashish promptly had a bath and took a good nap. I wasn’t able to sleep and read for a while. When Ashish woke up, we went down to Yokesh and he gave our menu for the night. There, we met Yokesh’s son, who on talking to said that he walks 5 kilometers everyday to get to his school. So much for our high GDP and National road connectivity!!

We then tried our hands at setting up the tent but almost stubbornly the manual led us nowhere and after half an hour we gave up and started our wait for the rest of the team. Time seemed to drag and soon we found ourselves talking. We talked on a wide variety of subjects – cell phones, growing malls, imaginary money, NDA, work and kids. When it seemed as if, the rest of the team would never arrive, we heard the sound of cars.

Ringing in the New Year:

It was a night that could easily be termed a fairytale. I could not believe that I was so happy that I thought I was part of a happy story and am not living all of it at all. But jolting me from my reverie, campfire was started and Deepak’s Indica served as the stereo system for the night.

Food was gulped up and the plates emptied as soon as they got filled. Jab we Met, for quite a number of reasons seemed to be everyone’s favorite. Shahid and Kareena wouldn’t have dreamt that their exploits in the movie would become such a rage all over the nation and from what I read in the newspapers, music and masti don’t seem to have borders.

Slowly, each of us got into dancing mode. Our pace in dancing, if one can term it so, depended on what song was playing and Rohit saw to it that we had the right songs playing. The countdown to 12 o clock started and dancing our way to ‘Deewangi Deewangi’ from OSO, 2008 was upon us.

Suddenly, we were all tired and had our dinner of Rotis. Yokesh and his family were invisible. The first day of 2008 was obviously just another occasion in their monotonous life and seemingly, it offered them little by way of a change in their fortunes. But to count one’s blessings, life goes on and sure enough, we saw Yokesh’s son starting his 5 KM long walk in the morning very much indicating that it was just an another day.

The Journey back:

Hot water became a rare commodity and hence, only some of us gave our bodies a clean rub before starting on our journey back. It was for the most part eventless, save for the bad roads during the initial leg of the journey, partly because we all knew the trip was drawing to a close.

Richer by happy memories and giving myself a pat in the back for being part of this enviable team, I got down near Big Bazaar. I am sure that years later, if we turn back the pages of our lives, we’d smile to ourselves thinking about how we celebrated the arrival of 2008!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Taare Zameen Par - A movie that was long due...

A refreshing difference:

Rarely do movies touch the innermost layers of our soul and evoke in us emotions that cry out bringing the child hiding within each of us. By doing so, they elevate the art of movie-making and set the standards so high that it becomes difficult to reproduce for a long time.

Amidst the multitude of movies that get released in our country, most cater to the commercial market save for few that make a faint attempt to either mirror societal current or fewer still which serve as phenomenon driving social change. In this context, it would be futile to use any adjective whatsoever to describe the movie – Taare Zameen Par.

Learning disability:

To say that the movie's sole focus is on dyslexia would be akin to mistake the forest for a tree. Nevertheless, the perspective the movie brings, by showing the symptoms of Dyslexia and more importantly, how it can be cured, if only proper attention is bestowed, needs to be appreciated. In our struggle to produce toppers and high rankers all the time as Aamir himself says in the movie, we forget to let this generation of children enjoy their childhood.

I seriously doubt how many of us ever knew that learning disability may also be a reason for a child to perform poorly in academics. What would have required an enormous awareness campaign targeting a huge population has been made simple since the movie takes upon itself an almost insurmountable task of educating the public as well as goading them to redefine parenthood.

Sensitive approach:

To give children the liberty to explore things and being sensitive to their demands and moods is one thing that parents in their increasingly changing lifestyles forget. I am sure that every parent who sees the movie would come out feeling thankful for reminding them of a task that they compromise on only to regret later. Darsheel Safary playing Ishaan in the movie has done a great service to the nation by emoting with near perfection to reflect his feelings be they loneliness, anguish, helplessness or intense happiness. In him, we slowly begin to realize the child in us.

Never going overboard or melodramatic, the movie makes every watcher relate to the characters seen on screen. The song in which the boy doubts in vain whether his pain and inability remained invisible even to his mother is so beautifully written and sung that it makes one teary-eyed.

More of this type:

We need more movies of this type and urgently too so that we know how to treat children at a very tender age. If schools arrange for the students to see this gem of a movie, it would be the best lesson they ever impart. The Government can make 'Taare Zameen Par' compulsory viewing in all Government schools and that would be the best educational reform it ever implements.