Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Collateral Damage

The old gift became a martyr
In a lover’s tiff.
A mug, shattered to pieces,
That once shared, a message in ceramic,
“Love Endures”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hum Intezaar Karenge

It was the late hours of the evening, where the professed time of sleep for my son had arrived. I was due to perform that duty, reading a set quota of books to him, written by authors I have never heard off. I fired up my trusty Windows smartphone to see what the score might be. On the other side of the world, near the shores of the Arabian Sea, a diminutive giant of a man was heading towards a statistical Everest. Flurries of boundaries as well as an upper cut over the ropes were showing up in the twitter-like commentary that the mobile version of the site was providing. In due deference to the moment that was to arrive, I asked my wife to drop whatever it she was doing and take over my task for the night.

I was an ‘I was there’ moment for me that would translate into an ‘I wasn’t there’ moment for my son; but I am sure he’ll understand when he grows up.

I rushed down to the hall downstairs, switched on my laptop, headed to my list of streaming sites that I trust to bring me the telecast, and cozied myself into my sofa seat, ready for the inevitable. Since updating my Facebook status while cricket goes on has become a regular habit since the World Cup, I posted the following: “I have nails to bite and I am biting them. He has 99 centuries and he is on 94. Hmm, 99.94 :)”

I have enough cricket-crazy friends on my Facebook list to not have to explain the significance of that number. I wrote that, clicked enter, and shifted to the window with the live feed. Ravi Rampaul, the one who produced a brute of a delivery to get Tendulkar’s wicket in the World Cup game, played a similar hand. Ball pitched just short of length, and bouncing just a tad more. Tendulkar, who had batted beautifully until then, decided to hit a trademark backfoot punch. Wrong choice of shot. The celebrations of Rampaul and Sammy would not have endeared them to Indian fans, but hey, they had every right to rejoice.

One mistake and the interminable wait extends. With Tendulkar out of the ODI series against the Windies, the onus shifts to MCG and the Boxing Day game. I know that Australia is one of Tendulkar’s favorite opponents, but a tour of Australia should not have had this landmark to contend with. More drama added to this tale.

I frequented some news articles on the missed opportunity, and as with any Tendulkar article, you realize that he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. People, who would scarcely score a run in gully cricket, call him selfish and playing for records and hogging place in the team; never mind that he still remains one of the top scorers in the team. People who don’t know in swing from out swing believe that he remains incapable of scoring another ton, never mind that he has scored 99 before this. 99! If your mind doesn’t jump everytime you read that statistic, it is simply because nothing Tendulkar does will ever be good enough. He sets a benchmark and keeps excelling it. That single-minded pursuit of greatness, without losing his humility is a very rare cocktail, one which has brought him thus far.

When will century no. 100 happen? I don’t know. At the start of the World Cup, I had posted on Facebook that my dream was that Tendulkar would score a century in the final at Wankhede; his 100th, and then India would lift the cup. That came very close; yesterday was very close, and perhaps there are a couple more heartaches along the way. Nonetheless, watching the man play is a blessing that we should enjoy, without getting lost in the absolute numbers. Sometimes, a straight drive hit right between the stumps and the bowler, is worth its weight in gold. Century no. 100 will happen. Until then, ‘hum intezaar karenge!’

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Look Back, As We Look Ahead

I spent a few hours watching the documentary series called ‘The Story of India’, by PBS. Those hours were worth it, because it was good to really reiterate what we already know, but mostly gleam upon – the rich history of India through the ages, the sinusoidal path that the country’s fortunes have followed through the millennia, the meaning and origins of what pervades life in India today. We often lack the ability to maintain a perspective beyond the short term. It is easy to see India as a growing democracy, book-ended by thriving IT sectors and Bollywood; a narrow minded view of the burgeoning global middle class. But people and places don’t just come about in a day. There is a long tail of events that leads to an explanation of who we are and why we are the way we are. How often do you think of the modern secular democracy as being based on the principles that Asoka espoused or the influence that India has had on the food in the Roman empire, and in turn, modern Italy? Where do the scientific prowess of the ancients fit in and how do we factor the influence that western invasions wield on our self-confidence as a nation?

The documentary itself is as comprehensive as can be made when trying to describe a five thousand year history in six hours. It is over-romanticized at times and it is often amusing to see a westerner romanticize it thus. But I’ll take it - I’ll take his waxing over Chandragupta Maurya and Madurai, his gloating on the greatness of India’s past and relevance in the world. As India strives to seek its place at the top in this modern world, it is good to know where we came from and what really makes up our DNA. Our surge towards modernity and progress is simply building upon our rich foundations.