Friday, May 27, 2011

Dear Sachin

Dear Sachin,

You obviously don’t know this. But since the evening of April 3rd, 2011 your picture holding the world cup trophy has graced the background of my desktop. I look at it every day and a sense of fulfilment engulfs me. And then I have to see you play in the IPL. I thought I would never tell you this. But yesterday I saw you getting out stumped to Syed Mohammad of RCB and I could not hold myself back anymore. Hence this letter. I hope you understand.

You know Sachin, Mr. Peter Roebuck wrote these words for you in an article dated November 14, 2009 published on the website, I quote: “Tendulkar might lose his wicket cheaply but he is incapable of playing an ugly stroke”. Let me make few things clear first. I have nothing against IPL. It is providing a viable career option for the cricket crazy youth of our country. It is making middle class parents confident about the future of their bat-wielding, ball-hurling kids. I have accepted the fact that my beloved game is no more a Gentleman’s game but has become a Businessman’s Game. I have also submitted to the inevitable commercialisation of Cricket which might have taken the game to new heights but has certainly brought the players to their knees (and shoulder, if you happen to be Gautam Gambhir). Par chalta hai. Times change. So now coming back to the point. I was still happy. My faith was intact and I had hope in my heart because you were there. The senseless urgency of the 20- over game wasn’t showing in your strokeplay. And then came “that” moment. It was a game between Mumbai Indians and Kochi Tuskers. All was well, runs were flowing from your bat as usual and the serenity of your approach, the balance of your stance was reassuring me that IPL hadn’t diluted the purity of your batsmanship. Until, of course, “that” particular shot. A routine delivery, pitched full, just outside off stump had accepted its fate of being dispatched somewhere between extracovers and longoff. What happened next was blasphemy. You went deep into the crease, beyond your off stump, covered the line of the ball, the bat came down in a whirl and with the tremendous power of your wrists the ball was sent screaming wide of long on for a boundary. IPL had done its job. Sachin Tendulkar had just played the Helicopter shot. If at all anyone reads this, I am sure I will be criticised for being a Puritan. And for being too fussy about technique and sanctity of the proverbial “text-book shot”. But I can’t help it. 19 years of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat does that to you. It’s not that I am putting the blame on you. Yet watching you play that shot was as painful as it would be watching a strategically semi-clad Madhubala performing a hideously hip-gyrating senseless item number in a Bollywood movie. It’s not because Mr. Roebuck says and hence I think playing an ugly shot is so a-Sachinic. It’s just that I plainly agree with him. It is not because of the mountain of runs that I worship you. It is not because the monument of centuries that I revere you. It is because of the straight drive (and the high elbow, obviously), it is because of the paddle sweep, it is because of the backfoot punch that leaves a trail of scorching grass lids from the batting crease to the cover boundary. I sit in front of the TV with starlit eyes gazing at the front foot defence and admiring your still head position. I am sure when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel he looked the same.

Any way seeing you play the 20-over game is as ridiculous as watching Micheal Schumacher drive a Tata Nano through the daily Mumbai traffic jam. Your devotion to IPL and Mumbai Indians beats me, dear boy. As a player you have nothing to prove, no doubts to clear. (For instance, the lap shot over the head of the short fine leg, which is so much in vogue today due to the T20 cricket, I have seen you play as far back as in 1998 in Sharjah against Australia). Money, I guess, is not your motivation. Yes, leadership might be. But for that to hop around the country for the mindless slam-bang of T20 cricket is a little bit too much. You are the master, Sachin and you know the best. Yet, I would not want to see you play in the IPL, play those ugly strokes, get out not through the skill of the bowler but succumbing to the required run rate. I know that an ignorant’s careless scratch on The Mona Lisa’s face doesn’t lessen its beauty one bit. But then it is the fault of his who has taken the masterpiece out of the galleries of the Louvre and left it on the streets. I want to see you play the Test cricket. Every IPL game, I feel, is taking one test match day away from you. And from me. Those who have loved will know that no amount of time spent with your beloved is ever enough. I love you Sachin and I want to see you play for a long long time to come. I don’t want IPL to tire you earlier than when you would have. I want to see those deliveries pitched on off stump go through the off side. I want good deliveries to be shown due respect and communicated the same to the bowler with that delectable little nod of your head. Is that too much to ask for?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Joys of Reading

Hello friends. I know it is long time since I have written anything. Tried a few times but could not scribble anything worth sharing. However, yesterday a friend of mine wanted a script for a radio program which talked about the "Joys of Reading". Since it is a widespread misconception that I read a lot, I was asked to give my opinion about the topic. I hummed and ho-ed for some time, as I always do, but eventually gave in to the request. So, here it is. The text that sings paeans of the virtue of being well-read. Amusez-vous bien!!

When I write these words, I fully realize that I must make this comment of mine as much enjoyable as I can using my limited faculties. Otherwise the whole purpose of writing about “Joys of Reading” will get defeated, won’t it? So what is so special about this blasted act of reading for which parents of all castes, creeds and nations have been exhorting their children since times unknown? Aren’t we living in the modern day, in the “21st” of the centuries since one of the greatest of leaders mankind has seen walked on water? I agree. Whole-heartedly. It is a widely accepted fact that the pleasure of reading has been losing its charm since the advent of the modern day sources of entertainment like Television, internet, and game –stations have proved their prowess, beyond doubt, in helping us killing our time. But then that’s the catch. One can only kill time through the electronic entertainment whereas one can savor that time word by word, phrase by phrase, rhyme by rhyme by reading a travelogue of a bunch of indefatigable travelers or a heartrending account of a man’s lost love or a hilarious Wodehouseian farce. All the virtues of the electronic entertainment get negated by their often under-rated and overlooked vice. They don’t give you time to think and hence the phrase “to kill time”. However, a well written piece of prose or poetry can set one’s grey cells to motion adding on to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. It has been an age-old practice to seek inspiration from the lives of great men. A biography, in a matter of few scores of pages, lays in front of you the entire life of that person. His triumphs and defeats, his struggles and success, the treasure of knowledge he amassed over a lifetime is there for us to loot and all we have to do is to read it!!
However, curiously, the pleasure of reading, a book in particular, begins even before one has read the first line. The typical aroma of the crisp, virgin pages of a brand new book portends the excitement of the journey that will take place through the serpentine alleys of the cities where the sensational characters in the story practice their trade. And if the book is an old one, with a yellowish brown tint to its pages which are withered at the edges, it emanates the light of wisdom and experience of the wrinkled face of my grandma for which she gave her youth and audacity in exchange, to the incessant flow of time. Once you get over this titillation, you enter into the world of exotic lands, of unknown peoples and their cultures which gives you a vicarious pleasure of seeing the worlds through the eyes of the writer. Right in front of your eyes you can see your horizon extending!!
The blessed habit of reading is a friend which has no restriction of time and place. It is the best companion of a man in solitude as it keeps him in good humor and gives meaning to his loneliness. It is a selfless and loyal friend and so devoid of whims that one gets surprised by its ability to turn every passing minute into an enriching and fun-filled experience. To add to it, this reading habit creates an unmistakable aura around a person because his firm, confident opinions are based on solid facts and an all-round understanding of the matter at hand. What else is meant by an “educated person”?
As much as it is a companion in solitude, it has a tremendous ability to make one forget the trivialities of our mundane existence. Even if it is the quotidian act of reading newspaper in the local train, you become oblivious to the swarm of humanity around you, the intrusion of unsolicited human contacts and the not-so-pleasant fragrant mixture of the sweat and scum around. Believe me, Nirvana can be spelt as “R-E-A-D-I-N-G”!!

P.S.: The only reason for not being able to write anything for so long, I think, is that last few months have went past like a blizzard and I have been left dumb-founded by the events. Nothing special. Just finished the first year of my management course and was left with quite a lot to think about. So while I think about it you take care of yourself and enjoy every passing minute with hope in your eyes and a song on your lips. Amen.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Miss you!!!!!!!

Why is it that only after you lose someone you realise her importance, her place in your life?? The value of her presence dawns upon you only when you find yourself staring at the void created by her absence. She came close to leaving me, some time ago. But fate intervened and she stayed. However, this time around she is gone, definitely. Forever.

She was one of the closest friends and a confidante. I told her everything. She listened to everything. The songs I sang, the poems I recited, the curses I threw at myself. She was a witness to all. And what did I give her in return? I tormented, tortured, neglected her. She never complained. She always stood by me when I needed her the most..and boy, how often I needed her!!!! She never cribbed about time, place, occasion as if she never had her own priorities, her own life, her feelings, her expectations. I know she had. I could feel when she wanted to be comforted, to be placated, to be loved. After all, she was not just anybody. She was my companion. She was there when I celebrated. She was there when I mourned. She was there when I won and she was there when I lost. She was there when I smiled and she was there when I cried. But most important, she was there when I was alone.

I was foolish to have brazenly assumed that I can part ways with her. Ki fark painda hai?? I thought. Of course, life will go on. I will recover in a week or two. But for a romantic it is not easy to forget his love.Is it??( first, second, third..nth, now how does that matter!!!). How will I remember to forget her? Is it possible to forget her? Is it possible to erase her impression from the canvass of my consciousness?? I guess, it will take some time. After all, she was not just a bike. MH-31 BC 2844 stood for much more than that. Adios, sweetheart!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A mixed bag

Bonjour Messieurs et Mesdames. Phaneromaniac sincerely hopes that you all are in your pinkest of physical, mental, social, emotional, psychological, and, of course, financial, health. Amen!! Today, when I and Gajanan sat for our French lessons, Gaja had a surprise for me. But before that, let me introduce Gaja to you first. Gajanan Patil, earlier Herr Patil and now Monsieur Patil, and I met in a German language class and even before we realized we became chums. Probably because we both wear a beard. He, a French beard and I, an unkempt one. So to do justice to his look, I guess, he started to learn French on his own. Since I have studied a bit of French myself, I proposed that we sit together and do it. It gives me a chance to re-establish my French connection, you know. So when he came to my place today, he brought an entire French lesson, comprising of 16 chapters with translation in English and audio files, downloaded from the net. Now that is something very special because, for a change, the translations are correct and the audios clear!! The story recounted in the chapters looks quite interesting and I am sure it will be fun to read and listen.
When he left, naturally, mood was cheerful and excitement filled the hot summer air. Then came the shock. Aai had told me in the morning that she was going to Chandrapur to visit her dad. I said ok assuming that she will be back in a day. But just as I dropped her to the bus stand she said, “See you on Monday!” Monday!!!! Three days!!!!! What am I going to do for three days alone at home?? Already the days are eternally long and ass-burning hot. Moment she left, I saw ennui entering through the back door. I need a marker pen. For what? To write her name on the walls of my boredom. I must read “1001 ways of killing time”. Anyway, thanks Eluard for that line.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bhoole bisre geet..

Yesterday, for the first time, I greeted her with a smile and ...and she responded with the liveliest grin I had ever seen. In this age of ruthless competition, skewed human relationships, waning sense of belonging, when life has become precarious, more than ever before, if at all one must live, one must continue to consume resources and one must do his bit to push the race towards extinction, then he should do so for the sake of that smile. It compels me to forget the count of my years, it begs me to drop the cynicism with which the injustice around us, so easily, adulterates our thoughts and prejudices our actions, it asks me to shrug off the pragmatism for some time and act foolishly. It reminds me of those days when one had the ability to have a hearty laugh at anything, no matter how trivial, how churlish!! It reminds me of those innumerable bits of joy which I have conveniently forgotten in the quest of that 'something big'. It compels me to recall those moments and smile to myself. It urges me to revive my desire to enjoy life, it pleads me not to be afraid of being happy, it assures me that, though such moments will not last longer, they will never cease to find me. It asks me to wait for them and when they arrive, to greet them with the brightest of my grins, with the purest of my intentions. Then, it promises me, they will last forever.
The innocence of that smile has triumphed over my selfishness.

PS: Guys, this is total madness. I wrote this some time ago. Of course, for a gal. However, since this piece ,now, is reduced to just a juxtaposition of Roman letters grouped together in packets named 'words', I guess there is no harm in sharing it with you.So long.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One for Holi

A lofty dollop of the 'sweeter-than-honey' chana-dal paste slid slyly between two innocuous, thin wheat flour rolls, like the mischief of a naughty kid comes veiled under the guise of innocence, and bathed under a liberal shower of home-made ghee...that's Puranpoli for the gourmand and the gourmet alike.
Puranpoli is a Maharashtrian-special delicacy, often prepared on the occasion of Holi. The whole process of preparing Puranpoli is quite tedious, requires a lot of time, skill and patience. But the whole exercise, when finished, bears a very sweet and delightful fruit.However there is a caveat attached. If you are planning to rush to the office or college, after indulging yourself with few hefty helpings of Puranpoli, then boss, you are in for a shock. Even the most energetic of men, I have seen them turning into sloth bears after such an heavy intake. It is extremely high on calorie and fat content and with ample of sleep-inducing agents, like a handsome sprinkle of Nutmeg powder, added to it, only a hearty siesta can do justice to the treat. Needless to say,it is the ultimate torture for the abstemious. For exactly these reasons, first it being heavy on digestion and secondly, time consuming, it is only prepared on select occasions during the year,like Holi in March and the Mahalaxmi Puja in September.So it is an eagerly awaited prospect. These days,you can find it in few restaurants,as well. But then none of them can match Aai's impeccable mixture off ingredients, her mastery over packing the paste in those wafer thin layers, its smooth texture, the silky-soft morsel that simply melts in your mouth without
making a fuss. You know what, year after year,season after season Aai's Puranpoli has transcended the realm of reality and has garbed around itself, the aura of a legend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Evening of October Nineteen

Monotony has crept in. Apart from the Sunday which passes with a surprising celerity, all other days just seem to crawl. What I am I doing these days, you ask, Precious? Repeating the same old mistakes and paying for them, through EMIs. But more about it later. It’s 8.30 in night. What can I do? Ah yes! I have a movie. “The Illusionist”. Done. So long.

Der Film ist aus. “The Illusionist” is setup in the late 19th and early 20th century Vienna, capital of Austria. “The Illusionist” or Edward Abramowitz, who later assumes the sobriquet, Eisenheim (Iron house????), is a magician. He has spent a large part of his life in the Orient. Nobody knows who taught him magic there or how much he learnt. But his repertoire is impressive. For instance during one of his performances he asks the audience whether man can stop or slow down or accelerate the flow of time and then he puts an orange seed in an empty container and right there in front of everyone appears an orange bonsai with of course, tiny oranges clinging to it. He is not any ordinary magician, he is a wizard or so praise his admirers. All is going well for him when, during his performance, one day, fate reunites him with his childhood sweetheart, Duchess von Taschen. But there is a hitch. She is on her way to marry the crown prince of Austria, Leopold. Yes yes. The trouble has started. Taking the liberty to digress a bit, I say, why do sensible men fall in love? Fall they must? Or is it simply too tempting not to? Or is it indeed a genuine emotion? I am perplexed! Let’s go back to the story. This crown prince of ours is a woman beater, an insecure and an arrogant person. But our Duchess is helpless. Crown prince Leopold plans to marry her and thereby annex her land, Hungary, to his kingdom. Meanwhile Eisenheim and Duchess von Taschen recognize each other (they were separated in their greener years), meet and, of course, copulate, a sina qua non for a Hollywood flick, in an aesthetically shot sequence.
Oh! I forgot the narrator. Meet Chief Inspector Walter Uhl, who is telling us this tale of illusions and magic. This chief inspector has committed to help crown prince Leopold in his plans to dethrone the Emperor of Austria (i.e., crown prince Leopold’s father). In return Leopold has promised Uhl to fulfill all his political aspirations and thus obliges Uhl. Uhl spies Duchess von Taschen and Eisenheim, questions him, begs him to keep away from her. Now this Uhl is an extremely interesting character, even more than Eisenheim, I dare say. He knows that by pledging his loyalty to Leopold he will realize his dreams. But at the same time he is not the quintessential venal cop. He has a conscience. Apart from being interested in Eisenheim’s art, he claims to be an amateur; he also desires his well being. Later when he becomes sure of crown prince Leopold’s complete moral debasement, he fearlessly confronts him, even putting his life in danger. All these conflicting emotions, his genuine admiration for Eisenheim and most importantly the sharp and keen inspector in him come out very nicely. Paul Giamatti plays Uhl. I first met Giamatti in M.Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water” (2006) and I think, this time around he was far more convincing.
Now the climax. Eisenheim summons the illusionist in him. Leopold has already shut down his troupe. Also he knows that Duchess von Taschen loves Eisenheim. One night Leopold confronts Duchess von Taschen and threatens her. She defies him and leaves the chamber. He follows her to the stable where they have a noisy argument and suddenly she comes out, riding on a horse, wounded. She disappears and Eisenheim discovers her in a stream, dead. Postmortem reveals a fatal wound by asword or knife. An emotionally distraught Eisenheim tells Uhl that Leopold has murdered her, who obviously doesn’t believe. But the evidence is quite suggestive. Eisenheim buys a run-down theatre and starts a new kind of show. He calls spritits of dead people, allows them to converse with the audience. However he is just leading them to a surprise. One day, in the presence of crown prince Leopold, who is present there under the guise of a layman, he summons Duchess von Taschen. She tells people that her killer is in the audience. This generates a lot of negative sentiment for the already unpopular crown prince, which unsettles him. In his next performance Eisenheim again calls Duchess von Taschen and this time Uhl is ready to arrest him under the charges of fraud, charlatanism and conspiracy against the empire. As he reaches to grab Eisenheim, he meets thin air, only to realize that till now he was talking to an illusion. Eisenheim disappears, leaving everyone stunned. A thorough search follows but in vain. From Eisenheim chamber Uhl gets clues which lead him to crown prince Leopold, Duchess von Taschen’s killer. He conveys the truth to the emperor and refuses crown prince Leopold any further help. Leopold, in panic, shoots himself. In the last scene just as Uhl is coming out of the royal palace, an urchin hands him a packet saying Eisenheim has given it. Its pages illustrate the technique behind that orange tree trick. Uhl spots Eisenheim in the crowd, chases him but he escapes. Then the mystery unfolds itself for Uhl and he realizes what Eisenheim has done to all of them. A master illusionist,as he is, Eisenheim first concocts a perfect case for Duchess von Taschen’s murder by crown prince Leopold. Then sends her out of the country, successfully turns public sentiment against the prince and leads Uhl to the evidence. By the time Uhl sees the big picture, Eisenheim is on his way “to be with her”, forever.
Performances by the actors are very good. Especially Giamatti and Rufus Sewell (crown prince Leopold) stand out. Sewell has portrayed the menacing and vindictive Prince superbly. You may have seen him in “The Legend of Zorro” (2005). Here also he has a similar kind of role. Jessica Biel (Duchess von Taschen) is ok. Edward Norton as Eisenheim is very very expressive. This is not a role which involves a lot of physical acting. Norton says it with his eyes. Watch out for the duels between Sewell and Norton. Gripping, to say the least. Then there are the illusions. The orange tree, which I mentioned earlier, or the painting of the Emperor or Duchess von Taschen’s tryst with her soul. All are fascinating to watch. But the best among the pack is the one in which the butterflies carry the handkerchief to the lady. Like Uhl, I am,too, confounded. Director Neil Burger scores handsomely here.
By the way, since the setting is in Austria, presence of German is evident. For instance I saw a board “Tanz Schule” which, of course, means “Dance School”.
When Eisenheim is trying to convince Uhl that crown prince Leopold has murdered Duchess von Taschen, Uhl retorts that what he presents as evidence (testimony by Duchess von Taschen’s spirit) is just an illusion. Eisenheim replies, “Perhaps there is truth in the illusion”. Perhaps there is.
So much about the movie. Its 2.30 .The night is dark and still. The Nocturnal must retire. Gute Nacht, Precious.