Monday, April 23, 2007

Random List

Movies, which never became blockbusters or won oscars (or filmfares), or even developed a major cult f0llowing, but are some of my personal favourites:

1. Napoleon Dynamite
2. O Brother, Where Art Thou!
3. Socha Na Tha
4. The Straight Story
5. True Romance
6. Chasing Amy
7. Dogville
8. Garden State

Just felt like noting them down somewhere!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Despite several complaints, time and again, my newspaperwala ends up depositing The Times of India outside our flat. We shifted to the The Hindustan Times long back (it is atleast readable), but I guess the commission is heftier in TOI that periodically he decides to throw it at our doorstep (a rant about TOI some other time). So, many mornings I have to subject myself to read the filth that it spews. What has pissed me however is the way in which - in the last few weeks - there has been atleast a column a day lambasting Sachin Tendulkar, and suggestions from former players (many of whom had to be kicked out of the team) asking Tendulkar to retire "gracefully", as they put it.

I started watching cricket in the early 1990s. I remember seeing my first ODI in 1991 - an India/WI match which was a tie - it was a thriller of a match, with the last WI wicket falling with 1 run required. I was hooked!

It was a very bad time for Indian cricket. We used to lose consistently; defeats from positions of strength were very common; we didn't have many exciting players, no great heroes, the last one - Kapil Dev, only a shadow of his former self. The lineup consisted of such elegant ball-leavers and padders - Shastri, Manjrekar, Sidhu et al (interestingly all commentators now), and the action was provided by Srikkanth, whose batting was more Harbhajan Singh than Adam Gilchrist (both in style and extent of stay). Then, one yearned for a matchwinner, somebody who could singlehandedly take the battle to the opposition, somebody who could swing his bat and grind the bowlers to dust, somebody who wouldn't disappoint you! We got one - a boy, oh! but what a man he was, Sachin Tendulkar!

Every nation-generation needs a sporting hero. While one can applaud Pete Sampras or Michael Schumacher, it is difficult to embrace somebody who lives saat samundar paar and doesn't talk/eat/dress like you. Maybe in a smaller nation, but a nation of 1 billion can't outsource its need for heroes like that. In our generation, who spent our teens in the mid-90s to early 2000s, our hero was Sachin.

Before the ascent of Ganguly, Dravid etc, it was Sachin who would lead the Indian batting show. Azharuddin was a wonderful batsman in his own right, but scandal has marred his legacy. In any case, he never caught the imagination of the nation. The other batsmen were merely support cast. When Sachin would get out, people would close off their TV sets and go to sleep, similarly, until he stayed, hope still reigned that "something" would happen, and it sometimes did.

For many years, Sachin and Anil Kumble were the only two genuine match-winners India had. Most of the matches India won in the mid-90s were through their performances (alone or together) - sometimes almost super-human (the two crazy nights in Sharjah, the 10-wicket haul against Pakistan). They laid the foundation on which Indian cricket enjoyed a golden period in the early 2000s, what with the victories against Australia, Pakistan, England and the WC Finals. But by then, they had company; until then they had carried on, Atlas-like carrying the hopes and expectations of a billion.

Well, and how has the nation responded to them. Anil Kumble has been made fun of by almost everyone - "he can't spin a ball", "batsman can play him as they play medium-pacers", "only on Indian wickets"; nobody noticing the fact that through guile and variation, he tricked batsmen to almost 550 test wickets, that when Tendulkar failed, most of the batsmen didn't leave him with even 200 runs to bowl 10 full overs to. Kumble's story is more about a man not getting his due, but then bowlers have never been given much attention in this game (even Kapil Dev is known more for his dare-devilry with the bat than his exploits with the ball).

As the Tendulkar controversy is unfolding, it is suprising and exasperating that people are baying for his blood, even though he can keep his place in the team purely on the basis of current form - that the team has no bench strength, that to find somebody to replace Sachin, even at current form is not easy. Even his most ardent supporters will agree that he is long past his prime, and is unlikely to be the Sachin of old. But he deserves the right to be allowed to retire when he feels it is time, he has been criticised several times but has come back with a bang - I believe he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt, who knows he still has it in him, and if he doesn't, lets trust him to realize that and quit on his own.

For many years, Sachin was the sporting icon of this nation, and he bore the mantle with grace and dignity. It's just "not cricket" to treat him thus now.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sei Samay

Browsing through Wikiquote, I chanced upon the page of "The Wonder Years". This show used to be telecast on Star in the mid-to-late 90s in the afternoons at 4:30; I would get back from school just in time to change my clothes and eat my evening snack in front of the TV . As I went through the page, I was transported back to the my time in school, the time before I turned all worldly-wise and cynical and stopped trying to make sense of things around me.

Going through the page, I realised I remembered many episodes very vividly. The nostalgia here hits you harder not only because I saw that show before I left home (and the life associated therewith) but also because it was a show about nostalgia. Granted, there wasn't much common that happened in my life with Kevin Arnold's in terms of actual events (particularly those relating to the incomparable Winnie Cooper) but then the connect went deeper than that.

"It was a strange and passionate time. Some of our dreams dissolved into thin air. They almost seem comical now. But some of our dreams are lasting and real"

Adolescence is the age when you pay a lot of attention to yourself. I mean as a child, your thinking is mostly driven by your parents and teachers, after 20 you start worrying about the future and after that you are almost always too embroiled with the world to pay attention to yourself (Note : I am extrapolating based on the life of adults I have seen and the way my life is shaping here - I have no direct evidence of this. In the realm of possibility, maybe most middle-aged people actually spend a lot of time in self-exploration rather than worrying about their kids' education and collecting enough to buy a house.) So, it was the time I used to dream; at various times, I thought of becoming a cricketer (not caring that I found it difficult to even carry a bat), a film-star, a treasure hunter (yes! I used to actually spend a lot of time digging the fields behind my house, the high point of the brief career being a shoe my father had lost a few years before) and many such things. It was the time, when the mind was trying to think on its own. I wouldn't go so far as to say that watching the show changed my life, but yes at times it gave me some perspective; told me it was okay to be confused.

"In 7th grade, who you are is what other 7th graders say you are. The funny thing is it’s hard to remember the names of kids you spent so much time trying to impress".

I used to very self-conscious when in school, maybe everybody was, but then I didn't know that. There were a few girls I had crushes on and I used to behave very awkwardly around them. I remember straightening my tie for the perfect knot, agonizingly removing the last crease from my shirt, trying to get the perfect curl on my forehead. I was taking the first tentative steps in the field of male-female relationship dynamics - and it was very difficult, and complicated and interesting and full of discoveries all at the same time. I guess we all start by assuming that the world is logical and plays by certain rules - and hope to discover what they are.

"Maybe we weren't aware of it then, amid the school paper-drives, and the scalloped potatoes, and the sounds of the neighbor's children playing... But life was rich there… In our small sanctuary. And precious."

And it is now that I have begun to yearn for the place I spent my childhood in. I spent around a week there some time back and remembered being calm and comfortable with my surroundings after a lot of time. It's not as if growing up is perfect - in fact it is a very painful period fraught with possibility of scars that last lifetimes, but it is also the last peaceful calm before the inevitable storm. And having left the shores now, I can only look back and wonder.

"Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back, with wonder."

The next best thing to do is to watch the show again. Will try to get my hand on some episodes. :D