‘Conned’ vocation!!!

At the memorial service of an old family friend. You want to stay back but at the back of your mind, you know you got to attend the convocation ceremony due in about three hours. You decide to miss half of the memorial service and whole of the funeral following up and rush back home, have your lunch, rest for some time and then dresses up in the ‘formal’ dresscode prescribed by the Institute. You reach the campus about 45 minutes early.
Now let the first person take over…
I meet a few classmates there who arrive one after the other all ‘dressed up’ in formals, looking smart. We are all looking forward to our names being called out a few minutes later. After a little bit of usual banter about the party the previous night where I was “missed”, we slowly make our move towards the large and magnificent college hall. I remember my first gathering in college was also at the college hall just before I started my college life in FYJC. Appropriately, it will also end, six years later, inside the same college hall. I had my dad sitting next to me that time but this time, unlike a few of my other friends, I do not bring my folks (Mom and Bro at the funeral and Dad in US). I wished they could have come to see their son go up and collect the diploma, but circumstances!
We take our seats towards the left of the auditorium and wait as the compere takes the stage and asks us to stand for the XIC hymn. After about 90 seconds of a really silent hymn, we are told to sit down. I crack my usual PJs there… (“I think she was referring to ‘him’ who is silent there”). We are again told to stand up as the technical glitches are sorted out and the hymn plays on, finally. We sit down after ‘We are here to praise You’. The guests and the who’s who are introduced after which a presentation of best works of the students of every course is shown starting off with ‘Reaping New Lives’, a documentary done by a group of students from Journalism that included my partner-in-blog, Pooja. A flurry of other presentations followed. I was waiting for our news magazine ‘Maximum City’ to be showed on the big screen and appreciated! But the lights came on after the last presentation (which wasn’t ours) and the chief guest was introduced to speak! Hey, what happened to our news programme? My classmate sitting two chairs away to my right said that every class is alloted only 10 minutes of their work to be presented! Alas… My first disappointment!
After the chief guest’s speech, the awards for the best students in various categories were given out! We were all now on our marks ready to get up and collect our diploma’s as soon as our names were called out. The friend sitting next to me donned his overcoat in anticipation, which so far was in his hands. And the classmate sitting behind him had his overcoat on right through the function!
The compere then announced, “All the students are requested to please collect their Diploma Certificates from their respective course assistants outside the college hall. We request the staff and guests to please join us for dinner at the college canteen to your left and the students can have their refreshments from the back of the hall.” “Is it over?” I remarked! That was it! It was all over just like that! Angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed, I got up from my seat. Feeling slightly relieved that I didn’t make a fool of myself by overdressing! I went out and collected my certi! ‘Chindi’ was the first word that came to my mind after seeing the certi!
I was introduced to their folks by my friends, some of whom had come from far far far away to see their daughters receiving their diplomas amidst thundering ovation. (the guys in journo were all mumbaikars) Everyone would leave with a heavy heart!
I decided to check out the ‘refreshments’. I’d told at home not to prepare dinner for me cause’ there was dinner at our convocation. Or so I thought! The refreshements consisted of a bag of chips and God-knows-what inside the brown paperbag for I didn’t even open the bag. “More chindigiri” I cried! Is this the reason why I paid all that money? I guess to become a journalist!
Craving for good food, I went with Sago and gang for a bite at McDs. XIC’s got to learn a lot about event-management and convocations. (among a lot of other things which is best left untold)!
A day that had begun with such good hopes turned out to be an absolute dampener! Funeral would have been so much better. Connedvocation indeed! Grrrrr……….

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Sporting Legends of Our Era!!!

“Hey, am just thinking. What to post next in my blog?”
“Hmm… write something about Roger Federer!”
“What about him? But you know what? You have given me another idea!”
“Think about this… the era that we are living in… and think about all the sporting legends it has produced! I think I’m gonna write a blog about that… The legends that this era that we live in, produced. Take Cricket for example! We have/had so many of them—Sachin, Lara, Warne, Akram, Dravid, Waugh etc etc.”
“But don’t you think there was something amiss about these guys that set the legends of an earlier era apart! Maybe it’s consistency. See Don Bradman for example”
“True, but since we weren’t a part of those earlier eras, we really can’t say much about them, can we? Maybe they also lacked something that we don’t know about. And I don’t think we can compare Don with any of these guys. He was way ahead of the field. But, it’s also not fair to compare two different eras. I’m just telling you how fortunate we are to have so many sporting legends in our era”
“Yup, that’s also true!”
“C’mon, did you hear of any cyclist before Lance Armstrong?”
“Neither have I”
“And Michael Jordan revolutionalized basketball in a way”
“Yea, there were a few before him whom we could call ‘legends’ but none like him!”
“Tennis! There are so many! Pistol Pete Sampras tops the list followed by Andre Agassi. In women, we have Steffi Graf and, Martina Navratilova started playing again at 45! That is what legends are made of!”
“Remember, when everyone had counted Sampras out, he knew he had one more big one left for him! And there it was! US Open! What a way to end a career!”
“I do believe Agassi too, has one big one left.”
“And of course, your favourite Roger Federer is on his way to legendom.”
“And then we have F1. Love him or hate him, Schumi is the best!”
“But I think there will be debates over whether he is the best ever.”
“True. BUT we can’t compare two eras as I mentioned earlier and now, Alonso is on his way too.”
“How can we forget the golfing god, Tiger Woods!!!”
“Yes! It would have been a cardinal sin had we left him out of our list!”
“Ronaldinho! A legend in the making!”
“Definetely. That guy is a magician! I’d hate to be a defender when the ball is with him!”
“We also have Valentino Rossi in motor-bike, Mcgrath, Muralitharan and still a few others in cricket, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps in swimming! The list just goes on and on.”
“Don’t forget Gary Kasparov in chess! ‘Genius’ would be an understatement when we refer to this Russian! And there are still other sports about which we don’t have much knowledge about!”
“I’m sure, we missed out on a lot of names there.”
“The best part about this era is that these guys are actually becoming legends from a very young age.”
“I just hope there are more to come.”

Note 1: This is a corrupted version of a conversation between Sami and me.

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Election Time: My Predictions!

‘The assembly elections are in full swing across four states and a union territory.’ ‘Full swing’ is a phrase that is oft repeated in India along with what has become its twin word—‘elections’.

I really have a great deal of admiration for the political analysts and election statisticians, not to miss out the Election Commission of India, for the way they manage to keep themselves updated every time an election is held in India, for ‘every time’ in Indian electoral scenario actually reads ‘always’.

News channels, this time around have kept a low profile as far as opinion polls and exit polls are concerned. So, while they have gone ahead with their polling, they have also made sure that they play it safe by addressing that ‘these are not the actual results’. No channel would want to find themselves in a similar situation as that of General Elections 2004 where each and every channel predicted ‘iNDiA Shining’. Before I move on further, let me explain the difference between an ‘Opinion Poll’ and an ‘Exit Poll’. A poll that is taken amongst the public before they have cast their vote is an opinion poll while an exit poll is the opinion taken from a sample of voters as they leave after casting their vote.

I haven’t taken any such polls, but I will jump the gun and predict as to who will form the next government in each of the five states.

Kerala: It could have been a land-slide win for the Left Democratic Front taking into account the strong anti-incumbency factor against Ommen Chandy’s United Democratic Front, led by the Congress, but for the infighting within the CPI (M) and also the confusion as to who will be their Chief-Ministerial candidate. Also, the old man K Karunakaran supporting the UDF is an added advantage for the UDF. Love him or hate him, he still has a huge say in Kerala politics. But it will still be the LDF coming out to form the next government.
Chief Minister? Ahem… I’d say Penarai Vijayan

Assam: The anti-incumbency factor could again have been at play against the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government. But Asom Gana Parishad and BJP deciding to fight it out all alone means Congress is back in the fray to regain power. The anti-incumbency votes will now be divided amongst two. However, A post-election alliance seems distinctly possible. However, I do feel Prafulla Kumar Mahanta will have to wait for some more time. Congress may retain power but will find it difficult to gain numbers to form the majority.
Chief Minister? Tarun Gogoi

West Bengal: Left Front. I don’t think I need to say more.
Chief Minister? Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee again!

Tamil Nadu: This is supposed to be another close race, but Amma shall rise again! Apparently, the AIADMK government has done commendable job post the general-election 2004 debacle when they couldn’t win a single seat. Now, even Vaiko, the guy who was dragged to jail in the darkest hour by Jayalalitha’s police force is with Amma. The DMK led Democratic Progressive Alliance might give AIADMK a good fight, but the latter will emerge to form the government again!
Chief Minister? J Jayalalitha

Pondicherry: The Congress is trying to complete a hat-trick here and might well succeed in doing so. The alliance with DMK is an added advantage along with the absence of anti-incumbency factor. A few rebel candidates might however disturb the Congress’ equation.
Chief Minister? N. Rangaswamy

So, I have spoken! I am terrible with predictions and I won’t hesitate to eat my words. But I hope I don’t have to!

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A Decade of Partnership!

On the 20th of June, 2006, two Indians will be celebrating a decade of their involvement with Indian cricket. ‘Celebrating’ is a word that should be used with some disparity as only one of the two will actually be doing what the word literally means. The other might be cooling his heels in his room. One is now doing the toughest job in Indian cricket, the other has already ‘been there, done that’. But, the contribution that both has done for the good of Indian cricket can never be over-looked, irrespective of whether the person in question is in the Indian team or not.

Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid both made their test debut against England at the ‘Mecca of Cricket’, Lords a decade back. Dravid’s entry in the Indian team was very much expected. But the Prince of Kolkata’s (then Calcutta) selection sent a few eyebrows rising and a few tongues wagging. As a 20-year-old, Ganguly had already disappointed in his ODI debut scoring just three against the Windies in 1991-92.

So, while Dravid needed to justify the faith shown in him by the selectors and supporters, Ganguly had a bigger ask to prove his critics wrong and silence them once and for all. And both the 24-year-olds delivered and how! The man from Kolkata scored 131 sublime runs but the Bangalorean was unlucky to miss a century on debut like his partner-in-debut, by just five runs. Both the youngsters had loudly announced their arrival in international cricket. From there on, there was no looking back, at least until recently in one case. Dada’s and Dravid’s career graph complimented the form they displayed. No one dared to doubt their abilities. “On the offside, first there is God and then there is Sourav Ganguly”, commented Dravid about Ganguly’s ability to time and pierce the ball through the off-side with a precision of a surgeon. Meanwhile, Dravid’s class and technique drew him comparisons with the great Sachin Tendulkar. While Ganguly was aggressive in his approach, Dravid was the accumulator who put a price tag on his wicket.

Both though, had their fair share of downs as well. Dravid was considered a liability in the shorter form of the game. Ganguly’s ‘problems in personal life’ affected his on-field performance as well. But like in their debut match, they fought out of the crisis themselves. The two, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, became the saving grace of Indian Cricket after the match-fixing scandal. The Prince was made the King of Indian Cricket. But assuming the captaincy was like sitting on a throne of thorns with the match-fixing scandal still ripe in the minds of the people. Cricket’s popularity was at its lowest. Every match India won or lost was a ‘fixed match’. Ganguly, pitched in for young blood in the squad and the results were almost immediate. Dravid was made his deputy, yet the latter’s place in the ODI squad was in serious doubt.

In order to accommodate more batsmen, Ganguly forced Dravid to don the ‘keeper’s gloves. Dravid, not a natural wicket-keeper, was not too comfortable with the job but, the skipper had the last say. And Dravid in the long run benefited as his batting in ODIs improved vastly, a fact that he himself acknowledged. It was a dawn of a new era as far as Indian cricket was concerned with Ganguly at the helm and Dravid supporting him ably. The trio of Ganguly, Dravid and coach John Wright worked with perfection producing amazing results, thus laying the ghost of match-fixing to rest once and for all.

As a captain, Ganguly became some one who looked at the opposition in the eye and dared to challenge them. Most didn’t like it too much! He himself admitted once, that he might be the ‘most hated captain in world cricket.’ India was no longer at the receiving end of sledging. A scene that will remain forever etched in the memory of many Indian fans will be that of the bare-chested dance performed by Ganguly at the Lords balcony in 2002 as a payback to Flintoff’s jig at Wankhede. School-boyish attitude one might say! Well, that’s what made him click with the youngsters in the side and made India from an ‘also-rans’ to a real winning squad that was only a couple of steps behind to challenge the mighty Australians. One of the reasons India won that Natwest Final was because of Dravid’s sacrifice to become a wicket-keeper in order to accommodate the likes of Kaif and Yuvraj. Most tend to forget Dravid’s contribution to many such Indian victories under Ganguly’s regime.

Ganguly’s slump in form was followed by his sack as the captain and then, also as a player. His deputy and a long time friend Dravid now took over the mantle of leading a side.

If Ganguly had to deal with the ghost of match-fixing when he took over, Dravid had to deal with the ghost of Ganguly, which in a way continues to haunt him till date. But Dravid proved to be a worthy successor as his team is proving now! Dravid is reaping the benefits of the seeds (read Sehwag, Yuvraj, Kaif, Pathan) that Ganguly had sown.

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SACH is Life!

The living legend of Indian Cricket turned 33 today! But, the cry to axe him after every tournament just gets louder. ‘He isn’t the same anymore’; ‘the body is rusting’ etc etc are just few of the comments about the Little Master that the self-proclaimed ‘experts’ of the game utters after every Sachin failure

No one seems to realize that Tendulkar is not in fact, as he is made out to be, a God! He too, like all other cricketers of his era is just that—a cricketer. As far his fitness is concerned, no other cricketer in the current era has been playing cricket for almost 17 long years. The body, after all these years of carrying the burden of a million prayers, is bound for some repair work. The only concern is the fact that these repairs are now needed quite frequently. Back, toe, ankle, elbow and now shoulder—almost every part of the maestro’s body has been put under the scanner, almost literally.

Every Tendulkar failure means that he has actually failed to hit a century or a 50! That is what a nation hopes he will do every time he walks out to the cricket field. Only a handful acknowledges the difference he makes by just being a part of the Indian side. Statistics and records, they say, can be misleading, but in Tendulkar’s case, they are not! I tried to put in a few stats and records of this Bombay Bomber, but I realized that it’s going to occupy a lot of my space in this blog. And besides, almost every Indian cricket fan, whether they like him or not, know his records in and out!

Until very recently, in order to chase down huge totals set in by the opposition, the nation looked up to Sachin to dig out the runs. I remember in July 2002 during the Natwest Finals, India chasing 326 were 140 odd for four, when Sachin played a rank bad shot to be bowled. Most of my friends switched to other channels, but being an eternal optimist as far as Indian cricket was concerned, I kept watching the game rarely missing a ball. No one really expected the two youngsters in Kaif and Yuvraj to come good and do the impossible!

Quite often, Sachin’s ability to disappoint during the finals of any tournament is highlighted. This however, must hold true for every Indian cricketer who under-performs in a final. I am not trying to defend Sachin’s under-performance in a final by any means for I know that his last notable performance in a final came in 1998 (an year when he batted like a dream) against Australia at the Coco Cola Cup in Sharjah. His performance at Sharjah was so destructive that Shane Warne began to have ‘night-mares of Sachin charging down and hammering’ him over long-on. The late Sir Don Bradman paid the ultimate tribute to the Master Blaster when the former recognized Sachin as his modern-day incarnation.

What also makes Sachin what he is today is his off-field demeanor. Controversies have come his way once in a while, but Sachin has always managed to steer clear, without much of a fuss. People respect him not just for his cricketing abilities but also for his attitude off the field. No surprise therefore, that he is still one of most-liked sporting icons of the country, despite his ‘bad form’.

I agree with Wasim Akram in his article today to the ToI: “Write off the Master Blaster at your own peril.” Sachin Tendulkar is still just 33 and according to me, he has AT LEAST four years of cricket left in him! Agreed, one must not live in the glories of the past. But when, it comes to SRT, it is very hard to forget the man who is truly the Living Legend of World Cricket. Hold on to your seats folks! For, I dare say this; the best of the man is yet to come.

So, here’s dedicating one of my longest post till date to Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, to whom the millions in the country owe big time for the sheer joy and hope he has provided for more than a decade and half. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIR!!!

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