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Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Lightning Kid!

The game is supposed to have originated in India 1500 years ago around the 6th century. It was called Chaturangam , Sanskrit for  four organs. In military terminology it meant the four divisions of an army i.e., Horses, Camels, Elephants and the Humans. It subsequently spread to Persia where it was called Shatrez or Shatranj as the Hindi belt in India calls it and Chess as it is known around the modern world. Once the Muslim empire took to the game, it spread to Europe in tandem with the spread of the Empire. If all this gives you an impression that I am some sort of an expert in this game, let me bust the myth. A cursory Google search will tell you this and much more. Precisely what I did before I started writing this note. Suffices to say I am a complete greenhorn as far as this game is concerned.





Chess made a dramatic entry into my life when Viswanathan Anand became India’s youngest National Champion at the age of 12 or some such ridiculous number. While glancing through the newspaper announcing the occasion my old man looked at me with utter contempt and said that a kid of my age or thereabouts was already a National Champion and here I was, a virtual wastrel or words to that effect. (The typical Tam Bram parents when they look beyond an Engineer or a ‘medical’ as a career option for their children look at ‘intelligent’ sports like chess, Cricket or Football being rather pagan. But then I digress) Stung by the dressing down from the Pater, I jumped headlong into mastering chess. To cut the story short I managed a whole of ninety minutes before rightly concluding that Chess was not for me. Being a hyperactive and restless brat, I could not even visualize a life spent sitting quietly on one seat and pouring over a board of 64 squares till eternity. Gosh Maan! This was almost like studying! If I could do this for Chess then I might as well spend it better by employing the time over my lessons. (My teachers in school always washed their hand off me by giving me the mandatory 40 marks and promoting me to the next standard. 40 marks out of what you ask? Out of pity! But then I digress again)


As I grew up in a country which was then the perennial underachiever of the world, sports gave me one outlet where I could possibly bask in the reflected glory of ‘national pride’. I followed all the games, a Vijay Amritraj and a Ramesh Krishnan here, a Prakash Padukone or a P T Usha there. Post India’s triumph in the ’83 World cup I too along with the rest of India became a single sport fan. For the rest of the disciplines I was part of the multitude whose only contribution to Indian sport was “For a country of 80 crore people, shameful that we can’t win even one medal at the Olympics!” kind of helpless lamentation. It was in such a scenario that chess made a dramatic re-entry into my life. Rather Viswanathan Anand did!



 
Once a Champion, always a champion
Multiple things made me take notice of Viswanathan Anand. First among them was a sense of bitchiness hoping he wouldn’t do too well thereby giving my old man an excuse to renew his favourite hobby of giving me the ‘dose’. As Anand started moving up the Chess ladder, India’s youngest International Master here, first Indian to win the World Junior title there and the resultant India’s first Grand Master, admiration cloaked with a sense of helplessness took over. “How can this guy attain so much, so fast? Bloody Lightning Kid!” As victories over Karpovs and Kasparovs and Kamskys and Kramniks started coming along regularly I became a convert. Parochialism deep in slumber within me woke up. This man was after all ‘our man,a fellow ‘madrasi!’ IPL came much later or I would have ‘Whistlepodu’ for the original Chennai Super King! As I sang hosannahs about Sachin and ilk most of the time, one part of my mind surreptitiously kept track of what this wizard was upto. And finally when the pre ordained World Title came once, twice, five times, ‘Vishy’ Anand for me graduated from being the ‘Magician of Madras’ to become India’s best sportsman ever. I still can’t understand one single technique of this highly nuanced sport, the e4s and c5s, the Sicilian Defence, the Queen's Gambit   but the sheer weight of Anand’s five World Crowns in a highly competitive and truly global sport forced me to acknowledge that no sportsman has served this country more than this now portly, bespectacled professor look alike who took his first step towards greatness by beating his mother fair and square on the board. Humongousness personified.


For those of you like me who are raised on an overdose of Cricket and who find it difficult to agree with the above lines, let me just say this. Roll your tongue like you are licking the softest chocolate ever made, salivate and slowly say “Five time World Champion, FIVE TIME WORLD CHAMPION!” I rest my case. The runner up medal at the just concluded World Title round notwithstanding, Anand has done more than enough to be a Legend of the game and I dare say The Legend of Indian sports.  By a quirk of fate he is not the first sportsman recipient of India’s highest civilian honour the Bharat Ratna, circumstances colluding in such a way for Sachin Tendulkar to be bestowed with that record, richly deserved if I may add but I hope the country honours Viswanathan Anand with the same, sooner rather than later. Not doing so would be a travesty of Himalayan proportions.


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PS: Apart from his skills in Chess, one more reason for the Father to have a grouse with me was……………you guessed it right! The name!  

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

It is in my blood!

Calcutta, 16th August, 1980: Eden Gardens was jam packed. One felt that the greedy organizers had as usual let in more people than the capacity of the stadium. The atmosphere was electric, the tension palpable. And why not? After all it was a grudge match between sworn rivals. Their last meeting between the two had resulted in a virtual fisticuff on the field. As tempers rose along with the tempo of the game, the dreaded moment arrived! As the match referee flashed a few cards of multiple hues, all hell broke loose in the stands. Till then the exclusive preserve of the English fans, Football hooliganism made its presence felt in an Indian stadium. Once the mayhem ended the score was match abandoned, 16 dead, countless injured.  A few days later the marquee clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal were suspended from the game.



Bridgetown, Barbados, 1962:  During the Indian cricket tour to the West Indies, Nari Contractor the Indian Captain was at the crease. Bowling thunderbolts at him was the fiery West Indian fast bowler Charlie Griffith. This as you would have rightly guessed was the pre-helmet days. As the contest increased in its keenness, yet another blinder from Griffith found its mark, right on the batsman’s head. Nari Contractor collapsed on the pitch in a pool of blood. The game was stopped and Contractor was rushed to the hospital fighting for his life. So severe was the injury and so critical was contractor that a surgeon had to be flown in from US for an emergency operation. Nari contractor survived but never played test Cricket again.


Two different stories, two different countries, two different sports, two different set of people; two different tragedies resulted in one similar but wonderful result. Mythologies suggest that from destruction geminates new life. How true!  Every year on 16th August since that tragic day at Eden Gardens, Indian Football Association (WB) has been inviting fans to pay homage to the lives lost by organizing a voluntary blood donation camp. Dubbed the ‘Football Lovers Day’, thousands have been donating blood on this day in the camp generally organized at the sprawling Netaji Indoor Stadium.



Sir Frank Worrell
Nari Contractor’s surgery was about to be underway when the hitch was noticed. The surgery needed a lot of blood. It was then that Sir Frank Worrell, one among the famous ‘3Ws’, the holy trinity of the pantheon of West Indian batsmanship collected the players from both the teams and donated blood to save Contractor’s life. Since 1981, the Cricket Association of Bengal has been calling its faithful to the hallowed Eden Gardens to celebrate Sir Frank Worrell’s Day by organizing a voluntary blood donation camp.  Thousands turn up to mark the occasion which is also CAB’s Foundation Day and carry back a small band-aid patch on their hands and a certificate signed by a Cricketing Legend in lieu of a bottle of their blood. The goose bumps moment was when Nari Contractor was himself one of the donors during the inaugural edition of the Sir Frank Worrell’s Day blood donation camp!




 
Nari Contractor donating blood



Sports are such an integral part of our lives. I don’t think we live even one day without our daily dose of an update about our favourite game or sportsperson. In a land where sportsmen are elevated to rival Gods it is but natural that we share such passion for our stars. Our association with our star does not end with just what he/she does on the field. We expect our stars to be a paragon of virtue off the field too. And once they hang in their boots, we expect them to give back to the game what it gave to them. There are numerous instances of players post their retirement setting up academies, conduct coaching classes and some have joined the administration of the sport they were earlier part of as a player. Where all this eventually takes me to is this: While the sportsmen are doing their two bits for us, what is it that we fans are doing? Beyond filling up the stadiums or being a couch potato I mean!

During my years in Calcutta, I unfailingly marked my attendance at these two venues which had seen many a sporting clash. And every year I proudly came back with the band-aid patch on my hand and with a feeling that my life was not a wasted effort after all. The two days are even today marked on my schedule though it has been years since I left Calcutta. A reminder set on my ‘to-do-list’, alarm set on my phone. Irrespective of where I am and what I am doing, I make it a point twice a year, on the said dates to walk into the nearest blood bank to renew my association with the band-aid patch. At the cost to sounding pompous, I have been doing it ever since the age of eighteen when one becomes medically eligible to donate 250CC of the life giving liquid. There have been other occasions, some emergencies too but these two are days when I connect directly with that sphere of human activity which has given me so much joy, Sports! This is my tribute to the game that I love, homage to the stars who have shed their sweat, tears and blood for my team on the pitch, my payback as a fan.

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PS: Do you know the most common reason quoted for not donating blood? A survey says it is the fear of the pain caused by the prick of a needle! What is your excuse?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

My Sachin Story - 2

Recently I came across a story which suggested a possible scenario had Sachin Tendulkar not played Cricket for India! A generation for whom Sachin in India colours was as routine as the sun rising in the east, the article produced a chuckle. In my youth I might have actually dashed off an outraged envelope to be considered for publication under ‘Letters to the Editor’ column. Sachin’s is not just a career of a cricket player; Sachin’s is a story of tumultuous changes in the story of Indian Cricket. Correction! A 24+ year career is not just a story but a substantial chunk of history of Indian Cricket!

One among the many dramatic changes I have noticed in Indian Cricket from the time I started following it is the influx of money in the game. Money and Cricket is a done to death subject. The hows, whens, whys of the riches coming in and hence we will leave the same aside except for a small information to put things in perspective. Kapil Dev received a princely sum of Rs.25000.00 on winning the Man of the series award against the West Indies in the 83-84 season! This was the backdrop when the late Mark Mascarenhas made what was considered an insane offer of Rs.100 crores over 5 years to manage Sachin Tendulkar’s endorsement portfolio. If it is quite routine for Indians to feature in Forbes list of highest earning sportspersons today the seeds were sown then! If you assume this note is about the riches that Sachin has earned from the game, every paisa well deserved if I may add, then I must disappoint you. One of the recurring regrets of the young fans of today is that they were not born 10 years or so earlier to see Sachin at the start of his career. History they say lies buried in a library or the archives of a media company. While enough has been written about Sachin the Cricketer, here I attempt to present Sachin the larger than life super star. And in doing so hopefully we will also traverse the journey of the man who from a squeaky 14 year old went on to be anointed the God of Indian cricket and the one who reached the pinnacle of the endorsement gravy train.

 



The baby of the team takes his baby step in the world of endorsements. Sachin’s first commercial for Band Aid before he even started shaving. As with his cricket so with his endorsements.


The evolution of brand Sachin runs parallel to the evolution of Sachin the Cricketer. One brand which captures this metamorphosis is Pepsi for whom Sachin played a long inning.




As a ‘rookie’ finding his feet in the Indian Team. Marked out for future stardom but still a ‘chotu’ of the team under Azharuddin Sir! (Yes the same Azharuddin! The MP from Moradabad). The film also features a certain Vinod Kambli, the man who once famously said that while Sachin took the elevator, he had to take the stairs. We now know that Kambli in his ignorance took the stairs to the basement instead of the penthouse.




Every boy wants to be Sachin! Every child through the length and breadth of the country spoke with stars in their eyes.  Mala Sachin vahaycha aahe!




And soon even Superstars wanted to become Sachin. Need I say more?



The other brand to encode the remarkable journey of Indian Cricket and Sachin Tendulkar was Boost.




Boost announces the arrival of the new Indian star! The baton passes from the old to the new, from Kapil Dev to Sachin……………………


                                                           

Carrying the burden of being the sole energizer of a nation starved for success. The lone warrior!







As Indian Cricket evolved from a one man team to Team India it was but natural for Boost to reflect it.  Virender  Sehwag joins the game……….






The man’s consistency and longevity in the game is unparalleled. Sehwag loses his way. Mahi Dhoni makes the entry. Our man carries on…………………..







As the fickle form deserted him, so did many of his regular MNC brands. No offence meant to the brand here but Sachin and Ujala white? Doesn’t sound right!







As he closes on to write the epilogue of a wonderful journey, the last mile will be on BMW! Once a star, always a star!   


As you noticed, the fortunes of Sachin  the player, Team India and Sachin the brand ambassador has moved togather in unison. Sachin brought the Cricketers at par with the stars of silver screen in the endorsement business. Future generations can thank him. The best way to do that would be to bring the same passion, hunger and drive and win for India. The endorsements and the resultant prosperity will follow!

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PS: Hope my hard task master is satisfied. Right Senor @RFed1? Thank you @Ket25 for the Marathi.

Glossary:

Chotu: Kid, Child.
Mala Sachin vahaycha aahe : I want to become Sachin

Thursday, 24 October 2013

My Sachin story!

Let me confess! This note is most likely to be greeted with a “Oh no! Not again! Not one more!" But then everyone has a Sachin Tendulkar story which is unique in its own right. With a unique feeling, a unique emotion, a unique flavor. I venture into this exercise on the hope that the multitude of Cricket fans will continue to show an insatiable hunger for the ‘Little Master’. And anyway, like it or not our hero is likely to be the staple diet for a few months to come!

Old folks like me, the 80s generation relate to Sachin in a way which is difficult for the gen-nexts to comprehend fully. To give you just a peep, men of my time consider Sachin the Great Liberator of Indian Cricket at par with the Great Liberalization of the Indian Economy in ’91, just two years after Sachin made his international debut. His fearless approach to batting cloaked with a right amount of technical expertise was at par with recovering the family gold that was pledged by the then Government of India to bail out the floundering Indian Economy. I hope the enormity of the shadow of Sachin’s persona on our lives is established for your understanding, in its entirety.

Gaddaffi Stadium, Lahore in ’89 was the scene where my first memory of the Sachin Impact in my life and on the world of Cricket is sourced from. Sanjay Manjrekar was batting well and was on his way to his first and only double century in Tests. As the Pakistani bowlers struggled to dislodge the Indians, it appeared that the wily Pakistani Captain, Imran Khan was allowing things to drift. For a team loaded with fast bowlers, there was a strange reluctance on Imran’s part to take the new ball which was due eons ago. The equally cheeky and cunning, Javed Miandad’s questioning of the decision brought no response from the captain. Finally fed up with the drift, Miandad confronted Imran on his strange tactics and demanded an answer. From here I will let the reporter covering the game for The Sportstar take over. “Sanjay is already nearing his double and will be out sooner than later. I am reserving the new ball for the chotu who is due to come in next!” No points for guessing who the ‘chotu’ was! And the Imran retort is supposed to have shut up the usual motor mouth Javed Miandad for good!  For the record the ‘chotu’ braved the new ball and finally fell to Abdul Qadir for a modest but well made forty one.

A few years ago I had to take the Mrs to a Bone & Joint clinic in Bangalore as she was complaining of a constant and seething pain in her elbow which no pain killer seemed to cure. After mandatory tests, X-Rays etc, the sagely specialist came to the diagnosis. “She is suffering from Tennis Elbow. The same injury as……..SACHIN TENDULKAR!” The last two words were spoken by him and me in tandem. From that moment the Specialist and I traded places. “I know she must not pick heavy objects like Sachin picks his bat. She should not strain the hand with sudden and swift movements like Sachin does to play the copy book cover drive. She has to give the elbow a lot of rest for nature to cure it in due course unlike Sachin who rushed it!” Post my monologue the specialist nodded in agreement and presented the bill!

The setting was the Eden Gardens in 93/94 for the Hero Cup Semis against South Africa. Self was perched upon the student’s stand. (To the uninitiated the stand for whose tickets you have to queue up at the box office for at least 24-36 hours in those days. Welcome!) Batting first India finished with a less than respectable 193, our man contributing a sedate 15 of 31 balls batting in the middle order.  Post the effort, Sachin disappeared from our collective conscious till his dramatic re-entry in last over of the match. With SA needing 6 runs to win we in the gallery were wondering who would turn out to be India’s match-ka-mujrim. As expected the on field think tank lead by Captain Azharuddin and everyone else were involved in a meeting which would rival an India-Pakistan dialogue over nuclear disarmament. The student’s stand was rife with rumours that the senior bowlers Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar and Javagal Srinath were looking at plausible excuses to not bowl that critical over. You know how we young rumour mongers are! Craning our necks to try and catch the meeting, we presumed or assumed that Sachin had jumped into the middle, snatched the ball and is supposed to have said “main dalega!” Irrespective of whether there was any substance in the rumour or not, Sachin bowled and India won! Eden Gardens those days had cement benches for seats which needless to add were covered with layers of dust. The practice among Eden regulars was to carry loads of newspaper which were laid on the benches and you then sat on it. Same was the story that evening. Post the war cry which announced India’s win, Eden Gardens paid tribute to Sachin that night in a very unique manner. The newspapers were rolled and converted into makeshift torches which were lit up, across all the stands!  I know you are wondering how Sachin would have said those immortal words, “main dalega”. Well, we will not disappoint you! In fact we will let Rahul Dravid tell you how!







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PS:  Dear @ThankUAchrekar/@IndianMourinho: You asked for it Mate! Hope this didn’t give you too much torture! 

Glossary:
Chotu: Kid, Baby
Match ka Mujrim: Culprit who lost the match.
Main Dalega : I will bowl.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Be aware of your blind side!

“Be aware of your blind side” said the young instructor during my driving classes a few years ago. Now saying it is of course a lot easier than doing it. On probing on how to be ‘aware’ the instructor came out with a gem.  “Don’t worry, your subconscious will take care of it!” he said. Takes us to the question, then why be ‘aware’ of something which your subconscious will anyway take care off?  To be honest I became ‘aware’ about my blind side only after being reminded of it and nearly ran my car into another. This triggered a few more thoughts on certain routine instances with regards to be or not to be conscious.

One is often faced with such dilemmas in our everyday life when we are not sure how to react. I pen down a few which has often bothered me and how I went about overcoming the same. It has happened to almost all of us when you come across a random acquaintance while going about our activities. An acquaintance whom you have seen many times in the locality or market or bus stand etc without actually knowing him/her. You recognise the person, want to smile at him/her but pull back in the last moment wondering what if the same is not reciprocated. My solution to this is just go ahead and smile irrespective of the end result. If the person smiles back, great. I no smiles result, no loss. After all an oft repeated but frightful chestnut says ‘a smile doesn’t cost you anything but adds highly to your face value’!

The other routine occurrence which many of us would have gone through is a feeling that someone just called you from behind. This happens especially in places where we least expect it to happen. My suggestion is turn back, check and make sure whether somebody is indeed calling you or not. If yes, touch base. If not, go right ahead to wherever you were going.

It must have definitely happened to you some time or the other when you hear a conversation on an adjacent table in a restaurant or on a train compartment or any such random places. The people involved in the conversation are either unaware or are wrong regarding the subject under discussion which incidentally you are familiar with. The impulse is to interrupt/interject and set the record straight. However you hold back because you might be treated as an unwelcome addition or worse still an eavesdropper or a nosey parker. My suggestion is to approach this in a civil manner.  Ask the parties concerned and volunteer to explain. If welcomed, go ahead and do it. If not, thank and make way!

One of the other things I have noticed is the effect of music on as mundane an act as walking. During the days when I did most of my commuting by walk with a mandatory walkman attached to my person, I realized I walk faster when the music was peppy and fast paced while I seem to drag my feet when some soulful number was being played. My steps synchronizing perfectly with the beats of the song. The other walking related syndrome I have noticed is that one has a tendency to inadvertently get into a ‘race’ when one sees a passerby walking besides you, faster than you. Nobody likes to lose me thinks, even in an non competitive ‘race’. The marvel is that the other person in question in most cases reacts similarly.

Psychiatrist or students of this Science may have fancy names for such phenomenon and I hope someone among those of you reading this will someday explain me the same in depth. Till such time all I can say is “be aware of your blind side’!

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PS: Hope @FatimaJAX has the answer to one of her queries!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Brat!

“A daughter is more attached to the father and the son to the mother” is the oft repeated phrase in the family circles in India. I don’t know if this has any scientific basis or is a regular entry to the ‘Paatti sonna kadhaigal’ sort of books. Whatever it might be, I am happy to announce it doesn’t hold true in my case. The kids, both the D and the S being Papa’s children. More so in the case of my son.

Though one would like our children to set the bar higher when it comes to choosing their idols, I am also told that the first heros of one’s life are often our parents. So is the case with my son and this let me confess, gives me immense pleasure. The oft and unexpected hugs, the smiles, the kisses that are bestowed on you. Well priceless! And when you see him advertising ‘Dad is my Hero’ on his T shirt, it gives you a joy which belies words. You will be correct if you assume that I am extremely happy with the scenario described above. But with some *conditions apply as they say in advertising parlance.


While this ‘Dad is right’ slogan is fine the difficulty starts when this is taken beyond normal standards. Like when while on a shopping trip the junior goes straight to the apparel brand store which I patronize. While the choice of brand is fine, the difficulty is when you notice that these brands price their children’s range almost at par with those of their menswear collection. I mean such an expensive wardrobe when you know the dude will outgrow the cloths in less than six months. Any amount of convincing is useless and surrender inevitable.


                                                                     The Brat!


We live in an information age. We have lot more avenues to update our knowledge base. Thanks to the internet and burgeoning television channels children are far more aware of things to aspire for. Courtesy the film ‘Cars’ one of the earliest fancies to catch my son was well, Cars. Initially models of cars from the movie and as time went on cars, cars and more cars. He could virtually name every model of every car brand on the roads and possessed a ‘bucketful’ of their miniatures too. It was all so pretty when friends found it very impressive that a three year old could recognize so many models. This was to take a dramatic turn during a weekend ride for a family gathering. While driving through Embassy Road in Bangalore, we noticed a new BMW store that had opened. As expected the son wanted a new BMW car. And as usual I agreed, a visit to a departmental store to pick up a miniature of the same being the routine. Imagine my shock when he said that we go to the BMW store and pick up one then and there! “Let us give them our car (a poor old hatchback) and take a BMW” being his irrefutable logic!


                                                      Roaring for Team India WC'2011

His initiation to the game I love, Cricket was thanks to that massive six hit by a certain M S Dhoni on 2nd April, 2011 at Wankhade stadium. Since then I have been forced to buy more bats and balls than maybe even BCCI! Add the beast called IPL and add the multiple CSK jerseys (“I want it with No.7 and Dhoni written on it only”!) that I have invested on. It was fine till then. But then things reach ridiculous levels when you are dragged out of your bed early in the morning on a weekend for bowling to him. The dude who would need to be literally picked and plonked into the washroom on weekdays before going to school is up before Lord Surya to play cricket. One can accept the ‘punishment’ to this extent but what takes this to torturous levels is that you keep bowling! The rules of the game keep changing as he bats and bats. The Imaginary stumps keep moving away from the areas the ball goes through. The number of overs to be bowled keeps increasing as does the number of balls per over.  Rules pertaining to modes of dismissal like LBW, out to a catch, run out and even clean bowled were replaced with one simple rule: “I will only bat”! You might guffaw at my predicament but try bowling 25352 balls everyday from 5 AM till late into the night, with the venues changing from the drawing room to parking lot to parks to terrace and back to drawing room, and all this on a weekend. I am sure I have your sympathy. I mean even if it is a game vs your son, everybody wants to bat too yaar! And sooner than later your enthusiasm gives way to irritation, anger, frustration and finally resignation! But My Lord will keep batting!

                                                         
                                                             WhistlePodu

 And finally the day ends and you thank your stars and massage your aching, creaking bones.  But one final duty still beckons. The brat refuses to sleep unless you give him company. And you yet again sacrifice your favourite TV show to take an unscheduled trip to the bed. A mini wrestling bout on the bed and tight hugs later, peace finally reigns. Before switching off the lights you have one last look at the child, sleeping without a worry in the world, with a smile on the face, and all your creaking bones, aching muscles recover miraculously.  You smile at the peaceful look as if it is saying to you “My Dad is my hero”!

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PS: I am sure every father reading this will have a similar story to tell. And everyone reading this knows of a loveable brat or two!

Glossary:

Paatti Sonna Kadhaigal: Grandma’s tales.

The Brat's Recent:



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Art Of Quitting!

Quit when your fans ask “why?” and not “Why not?” is the most quoted chestnut about a Star’s or a leader’s retirement. Let me confess. This note is triggered by the recent news reports about the growing clamour in a section of media and fandom on the possible retirement or the ‘non-retirement’ of Sachin Tendulkar. The hastily organized home series against the West Indies to coincide with the landmark 200th Test match of the Little Master, well planted stories in the media about BCCI giving Sachin an ‘honourable exit’ at home are surfacing on the hour, as are the stories about Tendulkar being selected on ‘merit’ alone in future series. While Sachin or for that matter anybody retires or not will finally boil down to that individual’s decision, there are a few thoughts that I as a follower and as a fan ‘demand’ from my leader or star. I will try and break up the same in this page. The views are only about people who ‘do’ retire. So as you have rightly guessed, Politicians who either die or fade away in the fond hope of clinging to the chair are not included here!

I have always maintained that when it comes to Indian Cricket, more specifically retirement of Indian Cricketers, there are only two models. The Sunil Gavaskar model and the Kapil Dev model. People who are much more well versed with player statistics may kindly excuse me. This is not an exercise which will indulge in them. When Sunil Gavaskar announced his retirement from the game before the Indo-Pak Test series in 1986-87 season, none could dispute the fact that he could have carried on for a few more seasons. He was as fit as he could ever be, had come back from a very successful tour to Australia and was among the runs in the Home series against Sri Lanka. The gem of a knock he played in his last inning, almost single handedly taking India to victory in Bangalore are what folklores are about. The question I then asked myself as a young fan was: “Why SMG?”

By far the greatest among Indian Cricketers, especially given his handsome contribution both with the bat and the ball, Kapil Dev was the reason I latched on to Cricket as a fan, as a follower, as a devotee. The seed of fielding as a discipline in Indian Cricket was sown by Kapil Dev. Suffices to say Kapil Dev took the game forward in India. However as injuries took their toll, consistency dropped and the lethal outswinger would not appear like magic whenever he wanted, Kapil Dev’s only reason to drag his career along was to overtake the World record of 431 wickets then held by Richard Hadlee. As a fan of Kapil Dev and by extension Team India, I prayed before the start of every day of a test match that may Kapil get his bagful, overtake Hadlee and then retire. Kapil Dev did eventually take that landmark wicket after what seemed eons to me. I waited with bated breath for the noise around the event to settle down and for that eagerly awaited announcement of retirement to come. Alas! It didn’t. Kapil continued for one more unfruitful tour to New Zealand and then was never picked. I am not sure he ever retired till date!

As a fan, one of the primary emotions which we associate with our star is one of joy! Every time the star in question is shown on TV or he walks down to bat or bowl or takes that amazing catch, a part of us looks at the success, the ‘high’ as our own. Adrenalin pumps, heart beats pick up, it is almost orgasmic! The flip side surprisingly is not a low that we hit when our star does. The primary emotion on such occasions is hope! Yes, the man will pick up the pieces, rejuvenate and come back stronger to achieve what he has been destined to! Our Heroes don’t fail, they are not meant to. Knowledgeable enthusiast that we are, we know form is temporary and class is permanent. And life carries on till the next purple patch. But then comes a time when however much the mind is willing, the body refuses to respond. Age, failing fitness, enthusiasm levels maybe start playing with our hero. The prolonged spell of mediocre performances which we find difficult to digest, unacceptable, especially given the earlier standards of excellence on display. That is when the fan in me asks “Why go through this torment, this torture?” When I find it difficult to ‘defend’ the falling standards of my hero. When I notice a part of my childhood, my youth being dismantled piece by piece by a LBW to an innocuous straighter one from a journeyman or beaten by pace by a rookie fast bowler and clean bowled, again and again. The sighs, the oohs and aahs at every delivery that threaten to take the edge or a juicy half volley not banished to the boundary ropes. When survival at the crease and not domination of the bowling becomes the headlines. That is the time when I ask my hero, “Why not?”

Most among the post Kapil Dev era legends who graced Team India so successfully called it quits when ahead of the game. Anil Kumble called it a day the moment he realized that his latest injury was career threatening when he was integral part of Team India. Saurav Ganguly was given a friendly nudge by the BCCI and went off the field with a bang even symbolically leading Team India for a few overs in his last test. Rahul Dravid was supposed to have announced his retirement after a very successful tour to England. It is rumored that he was asked to undertake one last hurrah in Australia to bolster the crisis prone Indian batting. VVS Laxman bid adieu under dodgy circumstances but everyone agreed that maybe he deserved one last shot at glory! In each of the above case the fan in me asked one question, “Why? Why not some more of the magic?”  I find it very difficult to ask Sachin Tendulkar this question now. Will he go the Gavaskar way or the Kapil Dev way? Only time and Tendulkar have the answer.
    

      

Thursday, 5 September 2013

BCCI Ltd.

A quick question! Which is India’s most successful organization, a market leader by far across the world and well on its way to become the virtual monopoly? No! Not any IT company, not even a consumer product, engineering or a petrochem giant. It is the Board of Control for Cricket in India, BCCI for short. If you think I have lost my marbles, well read along. Had BCCI been a business venture (I concede you your moment of mirth that your “Aren’t they already?” arises) with a listing in stock exchanges, I would think its market cap would rival the best in any business, definitely by far the largest for a ‘sports’ company!

To a large extent the history of India and the BCCI moves in tandem, exceptions apart. Indian cricket achieved independence before India the country did in 1932 when it was granted Test status. But for this small anomaly, India and Indian cricket were almost the same, servile in their attitude to their ‘masters’, British Crown and the MCC respectively. India invariably found itself subjected to racial prejudice and Indian Cricket invariably followed suit with the rub of the green mostly going against her. Best players of England or Australia would not travel to play in India, the tour schedules invariably dumped the colder, wetter half of the English summer on India’s lap while the top guns invariably got to play at best times and at best of venues. BCCI’s moment came post India’s victory in the 1983 Prudential World Cup, more specifically while co hosting the 1987 Reliance Cup. Indian economy opened up four years later. The overwhelming success of the tournament thanks to the might of Indian sponsors, a multitude of passionate fans on the ground and billions glued to TVs, set the BCCI’s juggernaut rolling towards the summit of the business of Cricket.

When I look at BCCI, I see a very intelligent and aggressive strategist any business house in a competitive market would be proud of. Some of its moves rival the action one sees in a ‘cola war’ or a ‘detergent war’. Let me elucidate.

Poaching: Essentially disrupting the competition by hiring its talented personnel. Though not exactly indulging in poaching, BCCI broke the hegemony of the MCC, Australia and its ‘vassal’ countries like West Indies and New Zealand by setting up a parallel power centre in collaboration with the teams from the sub continent. Backed by an ever increasing war chest, thanks to mega sponsorship deals and burgeoning broadcasting rights, Associates were weaned away from the status quoists for votes. Gradually the epicenter of Cricket moved to India.

Flanking:  A strategy employed by market leaders,by launching a ‘me-too’ brand in the same category which chips away at the competition and protects the market share of the leader. To give an example, Coca Cola bought Thums Up to flank its premier offering, Coke and tried keeping Pepsi busy fighting Thums Up.  While BCCI let its wishes known on any legislation on the conduct of the game, it let ICC which had come into being by then and which almost entirely depended on Indian Cricket for revenues and by that logic its survival to lead the charge. With the hotline permanently on ‘on’ mode between Dubai, the ICC headquarters and Mumbai or Kolkata or Chennai depending on where the BCCI president came from and given its dependency on the largesse from Indian cricket, ICC did the master’s bidding. While BCCI got flak, a lot of the artillery was pointed at the ICC too.

Economies of scale:  Do you know the first shampoo brand to be sold in sachets? No! It was not a Unilever or a P&G. It was a Chennai based ‘local’ upstart called CavinKare with their brand ‘Chik’. Once the concept found acceptance with the consumers, the larger companies copied the concept and went ‘national’ in no time on the back of their deep pockets and wide distribution network to drive large volumes. What started as an innovation to spice up the English summer was fine tuned and was taken beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination by BCCI. The innovation was called T20 and the new beast in town, IPL. Glamour and glitz were the sidelight which was visible; while the real highlight of the IPL, equally visible was the money honey. Rival boards which often depended on sponsorships from Indian companies which channelized the left over budgets their way and on very attractive terms, thanks to the insatiable appetite of the Indian fan to devour any international cricket, found the revenue streams squeezed further to the extent many boards are now facing bankruptcy. BCCI also hit the rivals where it hurts them most, their core ‘assets’, the players who often ‘retire’ or refuse to appear for their national side and queue up for an IPL contract. Soon a ‘window’ for IPL magically appeared in the Future Tour Programme of most national teams.

Entry Barrier: As the name suggest, it is an attempt to stall the entry of a rival organization or product by denying the market or shelf space.  This is done by either political backroom dealing, (Thums Up in its original avatar as an Indian company pressurized through its lobbyist in Delhi to stall the entry of Pepsi through multiple objections and painting Pepsi as an East India Company in disguise out to enslave India all over again). Partly Political it maybe but BCCI’s ‘treatment’ of Pakistan Cricket Board is one such. While an Indian tour to Pakistan is out of question for obvious reasons, an India-Pakistan contest in a ‘neutral’ venue is stalled for some reason or the other and if the same is scheduled in India, the deal is made commercially unviable for PCB. The only time such a contest can be held in the near future is during ICC conducted ‘global’ tournaments like the World Cup or when it suits the BCCI, on its own terms needless to add. Denying permission to Indian players to participate in rival T20 leagues like SLPL, Big Bash or BPL is yet another example of this tactic.

Ambush Marketing: Remember Pepsi walking away with eyeballs and accolades with its “There is nothing official about it” campaign while Coca Cola was the ‘Official’ drink of the World Cup’96?  Organizing a West Indies tour out of the blue to put a marquee Indian tour to South Africa in jeopardy! Rings the bell? BCCI will stand to make approximately Rs.300.00 Crores from the WI series and Cricket South Africa far lesser than anticipated or none at all from a truncated or cancelled tour.

Many more parallels can be drawn between a ‘business’ and BCCI, its ‘customer service’ for example. But we will leave that for another day.
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PS: Did you know, BCCI through multiple well wishers ‘requested’ Doordarshan to telecast the 1987 WC live? Dear BCCI, you have come a long way since then baby!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Whose freedom is it anyway?



Recently during  my free time, browsing through You Tube I came across a video of noted Pakistani historian-cum-columnist Mr.Hassan Nisar speaking to a Pakistani private television channel in a programme called Mere Mutabiq on the occasion of Pakistan’s Yaum-e-Azaadi. Among the various things that Mr.Nisar spoke forthrightly about, one particular sentence stuck me so deeply that I can recite it in my dreams. About the Independence of Pakistan Mr.Nisar says “14th August 1947 ko hame koi azaadi nahi mili, sirf hamare aaka tabdeel hue the.”  In simple English it means “on 14th August 1947, we did not get any Independence, only our masters changed that day”, obviously referring to the change of guard from the British to the natives. Jingoistic pride made me feel very happy for a minute and laugh at Mr.Nisar’s very obvious barb at the powers that be in Pakistan. Once the laughter died down, I spoke aloud the same sentence to myself, in Indian context. I was shocked to realize that Mr.Nisar could well have been speaking about India and that some of his barbs would indeed stick. Mr.Nisar goes on to propound, in his trademark brave words dripping with sarcasm and genuine ire about various ‘issues’ to back his theory that but for the change in masters, freedom still eludes the populace. Many of them relevant in India’s case too. It was quite disturbing to say the least. And it set me thinking. I decided to revisit my middle school political science lessons on our Fundamental Rights as encoded in the Constitution of India. While the ‘scope’ of freedom as a subject is vast, I restrict my thoughts to just one here: Freedom of Speech and Expression.

“Right to freedom which includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation” 'Part III – Fundamental Rights' 

The question that troubled me was this: Do we ‘really’ enjoy the Freedom of Speech and Expression?  The question led me to a few instances which seemed to suggest the opposite which I mention below:

1.       The destruction of an art gallery running an exhibition of M F Hussain’s paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
2.       Akbaruddin Owaisi’s  ‘hate speech’.
3.       Non release of the film Vishwaroopam  and its subsequent release only after certain portions were edited.
4.       Ban imposed on the sale of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses.

In each case I found that the fundamental right of Freedom of Speech and Expression as enshrined in the Constitution of India and as I understood it being infringed upon. Interestingly one  finds that the ‘opponents’ in some of the cases mentioned above and its ‘supporters’ often undergo a switch in their roles in some of the other cases. This led me to further dig into the political science book and I came up with this:


Restrictions upon the Freedom of Speech and Expression if it affects any of the following:
·         I. security of the State,
·         II. friendly relations with foreign States,
·         III. public order,
·         IV. decency and morality,
·         V. contempt of court,
·         VI. defamation,
·         VII. incitement to an offence, and
·         VIII. sovereignty and integrity of India.


While I wrote the above answers by rote during my school examination, the dichotomy struck me once I revisited the entire scenario. I mean how can I be ‘free’ to expound my views through a spoken or a written word or a film as the case maybe if I am leashed by restrictions?  If you look at the cases listed above what stands out is that freedom was infringed upon due to a lurking fear of violence from the ‘aggrieved’ party and not all of these cases went through the courts and due process of law. In any civil society the normal option available to anyone who disagrees with a point of view propounded is to counter the same with words of logic and reason presenting the opposite view. Or agree to disagree. Or yet still approach the Courts for justice. It is only when a spoken or a written word is not opposed by a similarly ‘peaceful’ mode and instead we see physical violence or a possibility of the same being resorted to that we see the ‘freedom’ of speech being infringed upon. While I concede that maintaining peace, harmony, law and order is indeed a thankless job but there is always a fear that we may end up becoming a ‘mute’ society afraid of speaking our mind because someone will decide to take offence and react violently and the state may decide to bring in further ‘restrictions’ to maintain ‘law & order’. Most of us don’t have any problem if anyone disagrees with us, in fact would welcome a civil debate on the disagreement. Just as it is the duty of the citizens to keep the discourse non violent it is the duty of the government to punish those indulging in violence and protect the individual freedoms. Or else we will end up like this cold war quip mentioned below:

An American and a Russian were talking about freedom. “We American’s enjoy the highest levels of Freedom. I can stand on the tallest building in Washington DC and shout that the American President is an Idiot” Said the American. Replied the Russian “Big deal. I too can stand on the tallest building in Moscow and shout that the American President is an Idiot!”

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PS: Go ahead, speak up. We have nothing to lose except our freedom!


Glossary:
Mere Mutabiq : My Views

Yaum-e-Azaadi: Independence Day





Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Liberation!

Gosh! Everything has changed. For the better! And how? Gone is the ramshackle hut masquerading as a school and instead replaced by a pucca RCC building. The refugee tents which were the classes have seen a metamorphosis and instead stood in their place concrete structures albeit with ceiling made of steel sheets. Not the ideal arrangement but a far better than the past. The porambokku land behind the main building has been fenced, cleaned of its shrubbery and stones and now looked as good a play ground as one can expect from a Govt school in the remote Kalladakurichi town. The shanty which was being used by the ayah for preparing the midday meal was now a proper kitchen. And surprise, surprise, proper toilets for the children and a separate one for girls too! Miracles never cease! Not to miss the freshly painted board bearing ‘Kalladakurichi Arasu Palli’ proudly announcing the presence of the school.

As I walked in my eyes searched for the one piece of furniture which I hoped had not been replaced. A dilapidated ‘Honours’ board right next to the head masters’ room. It was there! But as with all things in the school, replaced with a brand new board. As I glanced through the board, it was there! Right on top of the list. ‘Matriculation Exams- Session 1987, School 1st,Zaheera Banu’! They had not forgotten while replacing and repainting the board. I suddenly felt like a mini celebrity as I read my name again and a few more times. I was as the board informed, the ‘school 1st’ in its first ever batch writing the Matriculation examination. And what a proud moment it was for the school and for me. The school had overcome various obstacles from local politicians who were eyeing the prime land and were out to down shutters to the school. Add to it the perennial fund crunch which could not be overcome despite the subsidy from the Govt.  And survive; nay flourish. My story kept pace with that of my school. Born in a poor family which found it difficult to make ends meet, it was well nigh impossible to let a child ‘waste’ time studying instead of working in the fields of the local land owner and be an earning member. No amount of tears, anger, pleading, cajoling on my part would make my parents see reason and send me to school. They were of course illiterate themselves and any discussion on the benefits of a sound education was looked upon suspiciously.  As I was on the verge of giving up any hopes of a modern education, fortunes turned. The Govt. decided to introduce a midday meal for children attending school. My poor parents who like many other parents wanted to give their children at least one proper meal a day couldn’t refuse. No Parent would like to see their offspring suffer from hunger when a square meal was readily available. So what if they had to commit a social crime of sending their children to school to avail the one square meal a day. Where all my logical arguments about the benefits of education failed, elementary needs of survival won the day!

There was celebration all around the school. The students, teachers, support staff led by the Head Master were all smiles. The school had delivered 100% success in its very first board examinations.  Indeed a proud moment for all of us. The struggles of running the school had paid rich dividends. A batch of forty students had been recovered from farm work, menial jobs, possibly a life of a wastrel or a future criminal and bright minds eager and ready to take on the next challenges that life had in store were harvested. To mark of this excellence and to motivate the others in the school and the town somebody suggested the ‘ Honours Board’. During the farewell day function, the board duly came up, my name being the first on it! Friends and classmates deluged me with best wishes. Teachers counseled me on the future courses that I should/could pursue. The Headmaster blessed me with beaming smile and a word of encouragement on the path ahead. I was on seventh heaven! I had finally grown wings which would help me fly, compete against the best, conquer the obstacles and transform my life. Education was liberating me, empowering me! A lot of work remained. What to study next? Which stream to study? Which college? Will I be able to manage the daily trips to Tirunelveli town and back? I ran all the way home to share the news of my success with my parents. As I entered the home, I saw my father speaking to another man. He looked up at me with a happy smile, “Get ready Zaheera! You are getting married next month!” he said.

I woke up from my reverie! Rechecked the application form. Tightened my grip around my daughter’s hand.  Walked purposefully into the school, straight to the head Master’s room. “My daughter will not be denied the education that I was” I promised to myself. 


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Glossary:

Poramboku : Unclaimed wasteland
Ayah: Maid
Arasu Palli: Government School

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Friends!

Chalk and cheese, two sides of a coin, oil and water, and the twain shall never meet. I can go on and on with day and night, North Pole and South Pole, black and white but I presume you have already got the point. There are people who are just not same from any angle. While the phrase opposite attract each other is often true so is the fact that opposite are not compatible once the novelty wears off. The last phrase I am going to quote here is exceptions prove the rule.

This story of me and my friend had its beginning in the remote village of Keezhambur in the remote district of Tirunelveli in the remote state of Tamil Nadu. As immediate neighbours in the single street agraharam, we were best friends, sat in the same bench of the same class of the same school. Thick as thieves is a phrase which was bandied about by everyone in the village about us. We played together, played truant together, prayed together. The village routine was if you wanted to find one, you could as well hunt for the other. In short, inseparables. If all this seems routine then the similarity ends here and the oddities take over.

Our ideas, our views, our wants, our likes and dislikes, our habits and hobbies. Nothing matched, in fact were mostly the opposite. In school while I selected Tamil as second language he took up Hindi. My thaai mozhi to his rashtra bhasha. While I would be disciplined, well mannered, goody goody types who always did his homework and was the teacher’s pet, he was the naughty, unruly, teacher’s nightmare types. While I was the home-to-school-to home type, he would insist skipping school and do a ‘sight seeing’ trip to Tirunelveli town. While I could not raise my eyes to meet the same of my parents, he was the eternal rebel. His parents insisted that he should cultivate my habits while mine often threatened  to banish me from home should I continue in his company. The net score was while I almost always finished his homework too, took a lot of blame for his pranks, did his odd jobs during his ‘sight seeing’ trips, occasionally got belted by the villagers who when they couldn’t find him for his activities took their frustration out on me. This continued in high school, college and worklife.

Our principles, our ideologies, our tastes differed too. I was a firm believer of Marx, Das Kapital and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. He was a staunch proponent of Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest”. While I did rounds of the employment exchanges, wrote bank, railway exams, he did rounds of companies which offered PLI – Performance Linked Incentives.” No pay, only pension” was his oft repeated ridicule about ‘sarkaari naukri’. I would enjoy seeing those mushy love stories in Tamil films which were screened in the nearby town, he preferred to drag me all the way to Madurai or Madras to watch the latest Hollywood action packed blockbusters. While I enjoyed watching mass games like Kabaddi and football, he called them ‘oh so pattikkadu’ and followed Cricket. Liquor, cigarettes, pan masala were a sacrilege for me while he tingled in the pleasure these gave and the ‘high’ of doing it in spite of parental objections. As a result once again I paid the price of being a ‘non-smoker among smokers, teatottler among alcoholics’. And while his trips to offices of private sector giants continued, I had to foot his bills too as I had landed a clerical job with a local firm once I had been declared ‘reserved out’ of a  Govt job.

But nothing, just nothing came between us when it came to our friendship. It was almost like we were twins, the modern day Duryodhana-Karna, the Jay-n-Viru combo. Nothing, no one, no situation was capable of driving a wedge between us. We were the proverbial two bodies, one soul, till death does us apart kind. The kind about which pen wielders and poets have sung hossanahs. He lived his way and I bailed him out from every situation, every difficulty, and every problem as he struggled to realize his dreams, achieve his destiny, maximize his potential, his wish, his wants, his ambition. After all aren’t Friends like this only. I had faith in his abilities and his grit to strive and reach the level of excellence he was capable of.


Then the inevitable happened. It had to. All his single minded focus and efforts finally bore fruits. He landed a plum post with a leading MNC and rose through the floors in the swiftest elevators ever invented by man. And dragged me out of my clerical job and made me jump into his bandwagon. Every month, every day was a discovery of a new peak he would aim at and reach. All this was so exciting, so exhilarating. And it made me a very very happy friend. The exception had won, the friendship solid as ever. Every success celebrated mutually and at every new destination, together as always. The exception had just busted the rule. Opposites not only attract but can remain compatible even when the novelty wears off. We were the real examples of that. Nothing, just nothing has changed between us. Well on second thoughts, just one thing has changed between us. He is now the Managing Director of the company we work for, I am his Personal Secretary. I now call him SIR!     

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Hope @Kingkrish94 is a happy friend now!

Glossary:

Agraharam: A street with predominantly Brahmin residents.
Thaai Mozhi: Mother Tongue
Rashtra Bhasha: National Language
Pattikkadu: (Literal) Barren forestland.(Simile) Villager/Paindu types, derogative.
Sarkaari Naukri: Government Job.           

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Bride!

My sister-in-law stepped back with a tired sigh to indicate that she was through with me. Her job done and nothing will keep her away from her filter kaapi anymore. I stood up gingerly and stared into the mirror in front of me. The result was quite satisfactory even to my critical eyes. In fact I am lying. I looked beautiful, almost angelic. Hair combed in a tight plait yet easy enough to breath. The long length of my hair of course deserved the best kunjalam which I adorned now. The parting of the same deftly camouflaged by the netthi chutti and a hint of kunkumam visible just near the forehead. Jasmine and kanakambaram blended nicely along the length of the locks. The vermillion dot on my forehead competing for attention with the kaajal. Earrings with the most elegant pieces of jimikki and the diamond mukkuththi shining on my nose rounded off the angel lookalike. The saree, copper sulphate blue with magenta border in colour embellished with the embroidery skills of the most consummate artisans of Benaras who had possibly spent millions of painstaking hours on this six yards of poetry on silk. Yes, the same one which I had worn on the day of my nischayadhartham, my sagaai. The one for which my husband had supposedly carpet bombed the whole of Benaras to ensure I wore it on the day of our engagement. My long bony fingers and wrists sported the most exquisite platinum bangles that money can buy and the deep maroon shade of mehendi which no money can buy. The shakha pola bangles and feet coloured with alta, the symbols of a Bengali suhaagan, a sumangali being the handiwork of yet another sis-in-law who was based in Kolkata. And standing out among all this bridal finery was the most precious nugget of gold that I wore, my taali. The mangalsutra tied lovingly around my neck by my adoring husband on my wedding muhoortham as I sat on my teary eyed father’s lap. I had one last look at the mirror! Aah! I looked so beautiful that a tear almost escaped its dams. And I was led away to my room where my husband awaited me.

 The divine fragrance of the incense sticks welcomed me into the room possibly reinforcing the belief of the holiness of an Indian wedlock. An artistically decorated UruLi with every possible flower that nature had bestowed on us grabbing the attention on the stand near the bed. Jasmine and rose petals lay spread all over the bed blending into a riot of colours, in a perfect jugalbandi. And gently crushing the petals, my husband lay on the bed, seemingly asleep.  A hint of a smile on his lips. This was the old tease act of his which he had first unleashed upon me on our suhaag raat, our nuptial night. The night when two bodies became one soul.  And almost every other night since then, enjoying it thoroughly as I blushed shyly. Maybe it was his style of reminding me of the night when I became his. Not that I needed any reminding! I remember every moment of that night, as vividly as humanely possible. The night of discovery, of a man, a human, my mate, my husband.

For all his bravado during our infrequent meetings and equally infrequent telecons before our wedding, he turned out to be far more nervous that night than I imagined he could ever be! As the night progressed, I was to find out to my good fortune that I had married the gentlest of men, of very modern thinking despite being part of a very conservative and orthodox family, one bestowed with gender sensitivity and one who believed in empowerment of the women. I have heard of myths about the Indian arranged marriage. How can you love a stranger they often asked? By the time the night wore off, I was in love. Truly, madly, passionately in love with this stranger.  Every day, every minute since then of our fifteen years of wedded life, he has practiced his beliefs to the fullest and I have loved him like no one before or after me can. Even after fifteen years of togetherness and two children later, of good times and difficult ones, of happy togetherness and occasional domestic tiffs, that night never ended for me, not for a moment. Those wonderful, stolen moments of togetherness in a joint family choc-a-bloc with people.  A smile escaped me as I remembered his playful prank all over again.

A gentle knock at my doors woke me up from my ride down the memory lane. God! It was dawn already. It was the time then! My sister-in-law walked in, glanced at my husband lying peacefully on the bed and embraced me tightly as tears welled in both our eyes. She wiped my tears and wiped away my sindoor. She held my hands tightly and crushed my shakha pola bangles. The hands that tied the moondram mudichu (third knot) of my mangalsutra as is the practice, untied all the knots now.  As we parted, her hands reached for the white saree.

“The barber is here!” somebody called out.
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Glossary:

Kunjalam:
Nethichutti:

Mukkuththi:

Shakha Pola:

Jimikki:

Mehendi:

UruLi:


Alta:

kungumam/Sindoor:


Mangalusutra/Taali:

Kanakambaram:


Muhoortham:  Auspicious Hour.
Sumangali/Suhaagan: Women whose husband is alive.
Nishchayadhartam/Sagaai : Engagement ceremony.
Suhaag Raat: Nuptial night.
Jugalbandhi: generally associated with music, competition/fusion of two musical instruments/vocalists.
Moondram Mudichu: Third knot of the mangalsutra.