Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stating the Obvious

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
A few days ago, Arindam Chaudhary released his book - Discover the Diamond in You - a book to be read fast ( a la fast food). The book release however made the headlines for all the wrong reasons as SRK declared there that he wants to be a porn star. But that earth-shattering statement did not make the ripples it normally would as within days, the country's attention was brought to the state of Andhra Pradesh, or Telengana or somewhere around that.
And to analyse this, IndiaTV brought Chaudhary to their studio. With his tremendous intellect, he said that the thing which has the most impact on people and indeed the politicians is books. And the turmoil in Andhra can be attributed to the release of a very recent book, which has been already read by all and sundry. A book so important, so sensational and yet so simple that from school kids to surgeons, from professors to politicians, almost everyone in the country had read it in the last two months. The IndiaTV anchor was well... not so well read.. and so he asked - but Mr Chaudhary which is this book that has caused this situation? And Chaudhary, a little disappointed that his book didn't quite have the same impact, said well... it's obvious, isn't it? - Chetan Bhagat's - TWO STATES... what else?
And just like that, without contesting a single election or even giving a single political speech, Chetan Bhagat had impacted the politics of this country with the same effect as that of the Mandal Movement. KCR had been the first one to understand the absolutely simple meaning of the book - or at least the cover - TWO STATES. And now within days, wherever there is ONE STATE today, people started to want TWO. Gorkhaland from W.Bengal, Maru Pradesh from Rajasthan and Bodoland from Assam are just some of the many demands cropping up.
The only state where politicians have rejected the TWO STATES theory is of course UP. In a rare show of political consensus Rajnath Singh, Mulayam Singh, Ajit Singh and Mayawati came together to say that UP is a state, which if it was a country would be the sixth biggest in the world. And hence they want many states, not just two and they will follow the policy of divide and rule of the British, rather than of the new kid on the block - Chetan Bhagat.
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Among one of the many new state demands that came into the news, was that of Kosal or Kosala in Orissa:
http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/politics/demand-for-kosala-state-picks-up-in-orissa_100288588.html . The name somehow triggered the Ramayan in my mind. So to check it further, I visited the website of the party demanding the state - The Kosala Kranti Dal. And lo and behold - my instinct was right. It seems that the demand for this state had been from the
time of Lava and Kusha - the sons of Lord Rama !!! -
http://www.kosal.org/?page_id=189 .
So, I strongly suggest that you bring out the epics from your shelf and map out your current location to an ancient kingdom. And then go on a little fast. You shall soon be in a hospital and then have your very own little state.
And this news just in: Amar Singh, who has been on a book reading spree, announced in a press conference, that he had just finished reading Dan Brown's - The Lost Symbol. He also said that the ending of the book had been under the influnce of the CBI (The Congress Bureau of Investigation) and he rejects it. According to him, The Lost Symbol is - The Cycle.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Marx and The Matrix

I am one of the those who believes that the Matrix is a modern day Gita. Both are among other things, a call to action. The other day, while watching 'The Matrix' for the umpteenth time, this particular thought came to my mind, that some of the things said in 'The Matrx' are rather relevant in the context of the Left front government in West Bengal. Confused?... Perplexed???..... Let me explain......

1) Here is a dialogue from Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.Let me make some minor modifications to this and we could very well have a Marxist leader speaking this to his cadres or even preaching his political opponents:
Did you know that at first Marxism was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept this politics. Entire votes were lost. Some believed we lacked the political agenda to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a community, Bengalis define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why Marxism was redesigned to this: the bottom of your community.
 
2) Here's Morpheus explaining to Neo about the Matrix:
a) "The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."
And here we can have some Dada or even THE DIDI explaining Marxism (of the Bengal variety) to a 'Babu', the protagonist of this blogpost.
"Marxism is a system, Babu. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be awakened unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."

b) Morpheus once again: "The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."
Dada/THE DIDI once again: " Marxism is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."

3) Here's a profound conversation between Morpheus and Neo
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

Dada/THE DIDI having almost the same conversation with 'Babu'.
Dada/THE DIDI: Marxism is everywhere (in Bengal). It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Babu: What truth?
Dada/THE DIDI: That you are a slave, Babu. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.


4) And finally with the entire Gita like Gyan that Neo has assimilated over the course of his epic journey, Neo says the following para in RED. Imagine, my protagonist Babu, also armed with all the knowledge of the dangers of Marxism, comes up with the same beautiful lines, in a advertisement for Airtel/ Vodafone (:D), which also serves as a proxy election campaign. (The lines are too beautiful and hence didn't want to change it)
I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.


Hope you enjoyed this post and found it interesting or perhaps silly (:D). In case you are interested in the philosophy of 'The Matrix' - watch the movie and read this: http://onwardoverland.com/matrix/philosophy.html. To see Marxism at work, come to West Bengal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Nobel Obama

The last week witnessed a history changing moment. Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into his presidency. It is one of those things which has produced some strong opinions, many of them put across in a highly creative manner. So I have decided to put together a post for posterity containing links to the best write-ups on this matter that I have come across.

First up, the greatest blogger in the universe - The Great Bong with Obama in a Superman costume -
http://greatbong.net/2009/10/09/the-obama-lama/

Next we have Suhel Da with the Dummies guide to winning a Nobel -
http://suhelbanerjee.blogspot.com/2009/10/dummies-guide-to-winning-nobel-prize.html . I intend to nominate myself soon after reading this.

Then we have a "Behind the scenes" look at it
http://www.rameshsrivats.net/2009/10/the-nobel-peace-prize-behind-the-scenes.html . Received the link through twitter probably.

Livemint's Salil Tripathi with this Biblical version of Obama's Nobel Prize - The Oracle of Oslo -
http://www.livemint.com/2009/10/14221634/The-Oracle-from-Oslo.html?h=D .

However, before anybody thinks that the entire world hates Obama, let me bring to you, award winning director (and fellow Arsenal Supporter :D) Michael Moore's Views on this subject in two letters:

1)
http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikes-letter/congratulations-president-obama-nobel-peace-prize-now-please-earn-it

2)
http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikes-letter/get-obamas-back-second-thoughts-michael-moore .


My views on this are that this year's Nobel Peace Prize is a shocking decision which ultimately reflects people getting carried away with the Obama brand.

As Neil Armstrong might have said - One small setback for Man, One giant SLIP by Mankind.

However, who knows - Obama might indeed be a Superman, who flies around the world at night in his red undies, trying his best to include Estrogen pills into the Diet Cokes of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. We have to give OBAMA-MAN the chance to work his magic.

The Wall and The Five Wise Men

This is a very confidential document. This was not supposed to be in the public domain but got leaked by "THE SOURCE". What follows below is the unstated policy of the Indian cricket team selectors (aka 'The Five Wise Men') about Rahul Dravid for ODI cricket. The things to note here are:
1) This is a document which is constantly being edited as per convenience. What I have here for you is excerpts from the latest version.
2) The Five Wise Men truly believe in Horses for Courses. That is to say that for the same player they have different policies for different types of cricket.

" Full name Rahul Sharad Dravid

Born January 11, 1973, Indore, Madhya Pradesh

....

We do not rate Rahul Dravid as an ODI batsman anymore. He is a spent force who has foolishly based his game on such outdated principles as footwork and technique. He even has the audacity of leaving certain balls outside his offstump in an One Day International matches.

We have much more superior batsmen in Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja(aka "The Blue Eyed Boys") among others waiting in the wings. They have superior strokeplay, slogging skills and the ability to bully the opposition bowlers into submission on flat, docile pitches. They are multi-talented batsmen capable of hitting fours and sixes at will and bowlers around the world shake in their boots facing the prospect of bowling to these tyros. What is unfortunate is that we cannot make room for all these players in the team as we do not have any more deadwood(read Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman) to clear.

However, in certain unfortunate situations created by the ICC and the international calendar, the Indian team does have to tour countries like Australia and South Africa. Here the curators of the pitches show an abject lack of understanding of cricket and go ahead by preparing pitches with extra pace and bounce. In such hostile conditions, it is only natural that our Blue Eyed Boys do not fancy getting a hit (double meaning unintended). We propose to using Rahul Dravid in these conditions, primarily as a sacrificial lamb for damage limitation purposes. With the entire batting line up around him getting out cheaply, he will not score too many runs, thereby making it easy for us to leave him out for the better matches.
..."

Signed - THE FIVE WISE MEN.

The document ends with a post script below:

PS: We never rated Rahul Dravid as an ODI player.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A different kind of airport

I was coming back to Kolkata from Mangalore last week via Bangalore. I took one of those beautiful Volvo buses provided by the Bangalore International Airport from the railway station to come to the airport. A handful of Bangali Dada-Didis were also on the same bus, full of enthusiasm, returning for the Pujos in high spirits. I sat quietly, listening to the typical 'tongue in cheek', colourful conversations all the same. Listening to some Bangla after a long time actually made me feel good.

The conversation veered to the state of major Indian airports..... Here's some of how it went - " ...Bangalore Airport ta bhaloee toire hoyeche..... Dilli tao besh bhalo banache.... Aar bombay tao kharab korene...mane okhane ja porimane traffic - se hisabe bhalo cholche ekhon ota... tobe hyderabad ta ekhon indiar best..daaroon baniyeche... aar kolkata - aare bhai Dumdum to "Heritage" airport :)"

Translated in English - "...Bangalore Airport has been built quite well.... Delhi's also has been built quite well... Mumbai's is also not bad..considering the amount of air-traffic they handle... But Hyderabad is now India's best...Superbly made... And Kolkata - Hey brother - Dumdum (Kolkata's airport) is a heritage airport :)"

And somehow the heritage tag is used more often perhaps in Kolkata than anywhere else... Just heard this other story from a relative yesterday. While various international airports have thermal scanners installed which swiftly scan and measure the skin temperature of people and then those who register temperatures higher than normal can be isolated for further evaluation to help prevent the spread of the disease. There were reports that even Kolkata would have them. Not sure whether they are already in place or not. But international incoming passengers were currently being scanned by our "heritage nurses" (the term was used by my Mama himself, without this story being told to him) and the good old hanshake was being used to check people's temperatures !!

I was a very frequent flyer for a few years till last year, and about 2 years ago, Dumdum was comfortably one of India's better domestic airports. But I have to say, it has really fallen behind now to Hyderabad, Bangalore among others. Will somebody do something to shake it out of its heritage glory.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jaswant Da Core !!

Over the last few weeks, the chaotic disintegration of the BJP has provided me with much mirth and amusement. The sacking of Vasundhara Raje followed by her show of strength in Delhi, the Arun Shourie - "Walk and talk - what an Idea" episode being all highly entertaining. However, the most entertaining one has been the whole Jaswant Singh saga.

I find it very curious as to how and why a top BJP leader would ever be fascinated enough to write a book about Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Having said that he is perfectly entitled to indulge in "scholarly'" works of all manners and forms. However, what was more fascinating was the way the BJP reacted in summarily dismissing one of their founder members who has served them with honour and distinction for over 30 years.

Here's how his dismissal by the BJP was described in a paper - According to BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, the party leadership was also angered by references in Jaswant Singh’s book to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first home minister of India, who is credited with unifying the country, that went against the BJP’s official stand.
“This book had mentioned Sardar Patel to be responsible for the country’s division. It is against the core ideology of the party and hence the action was taken,” said Javadekar.
“Today’s decision meant only one thing: that the party would not compromise with our ideology, and discipline was above all in the party,” Javadekar said.

Interesting that they got so angry about this book, based on some excerpts published in the print media, even before they had read it. Within a day, the person once described as Hanuman had been converted into Ravan, all courtsey a man who had died in 1948 !!

Jaswant Singh responded with giving a plethora of interviews over the next few days, going so far as to disclose that he had been covering for IRONMAN Advani and basically saying that the Ironman was a liar or had memory issues. He went on to describe BJP as a modern day Klu Klux Klan (wow !!). And here's his response to the CORE that the BJP spokesperson described above - "...Then which core values, supposed core values, have I dented. Is writing about our own history an assault on core values. I don't want to cite that L K Advani had done exactly the same. So when all this began to fall flat, I was told that I have violated something sacrosanct about Sardar Patel."

So here's what I think is the core of the BJP, that they are all talking about. It's core has two parts - like the yin and the yang.
1) The heroic core: The BJP is very sensitive and conscious of the fact that they have had no significant presence in India's freedom movement and its legacy. India's freedom movement is of course one of those few things that universally captures the imagination of the entire country and over the years they have tried to have a hero who played a major part in India's independence and own his legacy. They have found an answer in Sardar Patel ( a Congressman who once banned the RSS) the original IRONMAN ! And thanks to the Congress party's total and complete devotion to the Nehru-Gandhi family, the BJP believes that he can be hijacked away from the Congress. Bottomline - Heroic core involves a lifetime Congressman.
2) The villanous core - The other part of the BJP's core is that just as heroes are needed, so are villains. And in Jinnah, they have the perfect villain, the person believed to be responsible for the partition of India and more importanly their vision of "Akhanda Bharat". Bottomline - A party generally denigraded as a communal party has a villain that it describes as "Communal"

So when Mr. Singh dares to tread on this half cooked, half baked dubious core of an ideological party then he is left with no where to go, but just the press. Skeletons having been coming out of the closet ever since, providing terrific television viewing for someone like me.

And while the Da Vince Code was truly difficult to crack, the Da Jaswant "Core" or rather Jaswant Da Core was not really too difficult to find. The only thing common was powerful societies(Opus Dei and BJP) who act in strange fashions in both of them !!

Season so far

So, the good start did not last long. First defeat of the season in the 3rd game to United 2-1 away at Old Trafford. The result was not the worst one, but considering the nature of United's goals, us fans can feel a little aggrieved. We are just 3 games into the new season, but a lot has happened already. So here is a quick recap.
Game 1: Away at Goodison Park - Going into this game, I expected a tough hard fought battle against the likes of Cahill and Fellaini. But what a surprise the match and the result was. 6-1 away win against Everton is just unimaginable, but there it was. Playing this newly formed 4-3-3- and having the "happy heading" new boy Vermaelen at back, we outplayed Everton with a stunning performance. Cesc was superb with a double - dedicating them to his departed friend - the Espanyol captain Jarque.

Next up we had the Champions League qualifier away at Celtic Park. A lot of talk about how intimidating the atmosphere would be at Celtic Park among other things dominated the headlines going into this game. However, Arsenal played well, getting two rather lucky goals along the way to come back with a very impressive 2-0 away win for the second leg.
Game 2 of the Premiership against Portsmouth was the first home game for us this season. And while a double from Diaby sealed another good 4-1 win, the really interesting thing about this game was a conscious effort by the club to make the Emirates a more 'warm' and 'intimidating' place. Looked superb on TV and this pic illustrates it beautifully. Love the kid holding up the scarf with Gooner pride.


Next up, we had the return leg against Celtic at home. Another comfortable victory 3-1. But the penalty awarded to Eduardo for a supposed 'dive' has created such headlines and reactions overall that all I can say is this: Majority of the media are fucking hypocrites and the football authorities, especially UEFA don't really know the mess they are getting themselves into. Good luck to them, cause Arsenal will keep a track of how "neutral" and "unbiased" they are. These people certainly give the word "Doublespeak" a whole new dimension.

And after 4 convincing wins, the team reached Old Trafford to play the champions yesterday. The match was tough and close. The first half saw Arshavin score a stunner to give us the lead, just seconds after being denied a stone-wall penalty. The second half started with Arsenal on the front effort and it took a superb save from Ben Foster to deny RVP his first goal of the season. And in some sense, the match turned there with United scoring through a Rooney penalty and a "diabolical" own goal by Diaby. We had a late goal ruled out (correctly) for offside in the 95th minute. I could take that all right, but just then the referee (who denied us a penalty, brandished 6 yellow cards - most of them incorrectly) sent off Arsene Wenger for kicking a water bottle, when he saw the offiside flag after he had been celebrating mistakenly. A manager of the stature of Arsene Wenger being sent off for by referee Mike Dean !! ( a person who has been suspended for involvement with a betting syndicate - suspect character in my opinion who acted disgracefully) The brief period where Wenger did not really know how to react and face the sick humiliation from the United fans was sickening. Moments that I will not forget or forgive. But as a Football365 mailboxer said -" ...Man United fans will label him rude and arrogant. Neutrals will call it frivolous and childish.But fifty years into the future, no Gooner will forget that image of a tall, thin, white-haired French man standing imperiously in a hostile Old Trafford stand, arms outspread in defiance." Well said and this image is for posterity.
The season so far as described above has been eventful to say the least. The positives according to me have been - Vermaelen looking pretty good for a Arsenal centre back and Alex Song playing rather well compared to the expectations. The one thing that has worried me (apart from our huge injury list of course) is Almunia. He is not having a good season and his decision making looks suspect to me. I just hope he comes to form back soon.
All in all, exciting times ahead.
Gunner for life.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Starter for 10

Saw the movie this week on TV. Found it pretty interesting on a number of counts actually:

10) The background of the movie is the famous quiz show - University Challenge. Made me remember my college days when I had actually sat for a qualifying round in Xavier's one day before a B.Com - Part I paper. (We never made it to the TV Rounds, but my day was made when Siddhartha Basu came to our college a few months later hosting a special show. Managed to win an audience prize from him as well that day).

20) The story of the film itself is a pretty interesting love triangle and the humour is splendidly British.

30) The lead actor - James Mcavoy (of Wanted fame) is quite good and so are the two beautiful ladies - Rebecca Hall and Alice Eve.

Just a trivia to round things of, the movie's title - "Starer for 10" - actually refers to the famous catch phrase from University Challenge itself, it is the quizmaster's line to get a set of questions rolling with the first question being for 10 points. Hence called "Starter for 10".

Departures of different kinds

Sir Bobby Robson passed away yesterday. All that I can say is that he was and will always be my favourite non-Arsenal football person. In fact it can be safely said that he is among the very few people who was universally loved by all those that knew him or knew about him. He coached teams in four countries and won trophies in all of them. He was also manager of the England football team that played really well in the 1990 World Cup. I saw him primarily when he used to manage Newcastle United, and to hear him give an interview or listen to him speak as a Pundit occassionally was always a pleasure.

The other "departure" this week has been that of Kolo Toure from Arsenal to Manchester City. The last of the "invincibles" has now departed. Kolo has always been a much loved player among the Gooners and he will remain a legend for me always. Wish him all the best and hope he does well for himself. There is not much else to say about him.

So two departures of two different kinds in one week. May your soul rest in peace - Sir Bobby. And farwell Kolo - you are a legend for us !!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interesting stuff

Some interesting news that I found out over the weekend

1) Saurav Ganguly is going to host a quiz show for a Bangla channel with the programme being named "Dadagiri' !!!.

2) Roger Federer became a proud father of twin girls. Great stuff ! Was wondering whether we would see the "Federer twins" dominating women's tennis in twenty years time. Just for the record, the two have been named Charlene Riva and Myla Rose. Just as I was checking Google for their names, it seems many others have already felt the same. Here's just a sample of the interest surrounding their birth : "..London bookmakers Friday are offering 100/1 odds of one of the pair someday winning Wimbledon. The twins, born Thursday, have barely opened their eyes but are tabbed as 25/1 to claim a Grand Slam event. "The twins certainly come from good tennis stock," said a spokesman for Ladbrokes. "If they are half as good as their dad they will still be a potent force on the court." - With their tennis pedigree as daughters of the best in the world to play the game, the newborns have been rated as 50/1 to win a Grand Slam doubles title as part of the same team and 200/1 to earn the Wimbledon crown before 2035, when they will turn 26. " - Brilliant, isn't it ??

3) Alan Donald has called for ICC to legalise ball tampering. Check out this link for the story -
http://www.cricinfo.com/southafrica/content/current/story/416286.html.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bye bye Adebayor !

So, after a week of intense speculation, Emanuel Adebayor has finally left for Manchester City. It is believed that Arsenal will be getting around 25 million pounds for him. And among most Arsenal fans, this move is going to be rather popular.

Adebayor scored around 60+ goals in 150 odd games for the Gunners. He was absolutely superb in the 2007-08 season scoring 30 goals in 48 appearances. Last season, however he was too unsettled and played well only in patches.

I will have fond memories of Adebayor the player.... some of his best moments came in big games. The winner at Old Trafford from a Fabregas through ball being the favourite. Other great moments were the goal against Villareal in the quarter final away leg and two goals he scored against Milan and Liverpool in the 2007-08 Champions league from Walcott passes being stand outs for me. There were some other more stunning goals along the way - the volley against Tottenham being one of them.

Wenger hinted that the negative attitude of some Arsenal fans drove him away from the club. The fact is that post the 2007-08 season, he started openly flirting with Milan and Barca to engineer a move away from the Emirates and this did not go down well with most Arsenal fans. And during the last season, the passion, the effort and the commitment was not visible in adequate amounts to win back the fans.

Having said all that, I wish Manu (his nickname) all the best at his new . Here's hoping he scores a few more agaisnt Liverpool, Chelsea, United and of course Spurs !

Monday, June 22, 2009

Off season

A lot of amazing/interesting thing have happened in the last few days since the club season ended with the FA Cup final. Some of the events that are worth mentioning are:

1) Kaka and Ronaldo moving to Real for absolutely filthy amounts of money. I have no idea as to how they can afford to spend a combined total of 136 million pounds on two players, and guess what it seems they are just starting. The La Liga would be tasty though, next season, wouldn't it ??

2) The Confederation Cup has thrown up some exciting matches, none more so than Brazil's 4-3 win over Egypt. The star for me was Mohammad Zidan, a player, I hope who will come soon to the Premiership.

3) Spain are playing awesome football. Should the Brazil-Spain final happen as expected, we would get a good idea as to how good the Spanish are. I suspect it will be a great match, with the Spanish just shading it. I think the Spanish have great strength and depth in defence (including the GK spot) and midfield. My only concern would be as to how would they fare in case David Villa and/or Torres are injured (got forbid) for the World Cup.

4) Arsenal have made a quick start to the buying season with the signature of Thomas Vermaelen of Ajax. Here's wishing the new boy, a great career with the Gunners !!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Champions league final

They were called wizards, magicians, puppetmasters, sorcerers and what not. If you had been following the English press prior to the final, Barcelona were being described as a team with these adjectives and many more and you would be forgiven for thinking that the task facing Manchester United would be a superhuman one, facing not mere mortals but the Gods of football itself. And yet, and yet.......the consensus among the experts was that United, not Barcelona were going to win the final and win it comfortably.

The reason given for this dichotomy was this. Yes, Barca do play the most divine, sublime football on earth, but then that is all that they do.....United have many more strings to their bow, they can play beautiful, flowing football when they want and play a tactical, controlled style as well when they need to and this tactical superiority was supposed to give them the edge....

We all say what happened and let us be very clear about it........ the better team won and won with some ease.... Some points that I would like to make about the final are:

1) Xavi and Iniesta are the best midfield pairing going around the world at the moment. They have a great first touch, brilliant and complete passing range and a wonderful awareness of the game.
2) Cool, calm and composed.......... that is what the entire Barcelona team was after the first ten minutes....... It was difficult to believe that they were playing a Champions League final...
3) Messi is sensational..... He is a little present sent by God for all football lovers to enjoy and let us do that beyond our club loyalties.....
4) Wayne Rooney has become so unselfish that it is becoming difficult to believe that he would be England's main striker in the World Cup next year.
5) Great to see Sylvinho and Henry win the Champions league..... Well done guys, I am proud of you........
6) Pep Guardiola was a legend when he played..... Winning the treble in his first year has just added to it......No surprises, the guy is a born winner....
7) I don't know who is the best player in the world. Is it Messi or is it ............. Iniesta ???

Barcelona were the best team in Europe and they are deserved champions. Well done Champs !!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sachin - A God or not?

There has been a raging debate on in my office as to whether a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is fit to be called the God of cricket. It all began with one banner at a match many years ago, where it was written - "Cricket is my religion - Sachin is my God" or something around those lines. This was brought during the IPL discussions and it has become quite a storm in the bulletin board here. This reminds me of a story which is worth telling.
It was the day before the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa against Australia. After much persuassion, I had agreed to go with my family to a place called Chandannagar (which is a small town about 30 kms) to spend the weekend with our relatives there. It is a small place where people are just as enthusiastic about cricket as any in the country. The house where I had gone was a large joint family and the entire conversations going around there revolved around the big match on the next day. The evening before the match, I heard fire crackers going off. When asked the reason, I got the reply from an uncle of mine that this is about the time when the Indians would be having their nets in Jo'burg and we are having a net-practice of our own of the celebrations for tomorrow. I went to sleep that night with a prayer on my lip hoping to have the greatest day of my life on the next day.
The next morning, I was woken up by the sounds of some puja happening nearby. I came down and enquired about it and was told that "Sachin Puja" has started. Taken aback a little, I thought that surely this is a joke. It must be that special prayers are being offered at the local temple for the finals, which is not really unexpected. I was asked to step out of the house to see for myself and about 50 yards outside the main door there was a small pandal (created a la Saraswati Puja style) where quite a few people had gathered. Stepping into the pandal, I saw an idol created of a man wearing the blue India shirt, with a bat in one hand and the helmet in another, somewhat resembling Sachin himself. I could not believe my eyes for a second. Here I was in Sourav Ganguly country and the people had gone nuts enough to create an idol of Sachin and worshipping him with great fervour and gusto.
Anyways I did not really approve of the idea of worshipping a living man (I have my own ideas about idol worship which are a matter of separate discussion) but this puja continued throughout the day. The match started in the afternoon with the entire family (all 4 generations of it) in front of the TV standing up for the national anthem. It is a moment that is well etched in my memory.
We all know how badly the game progressed and I am not going to elaborate on it here. We were supposed to go back to Kolkata in the evening and having to chase 360 odd meant I was in no mood really to sit and watch and did not mind getting up to go. So just as the Indian innings was starting, we got into the car. The Puja was still continuing with the same zeal. Just as the car reached in front of the pandal, the sound stopped all of a sudden. And then a phone call came to my uncle saying that Sachin is out !. What an ironical moment and one that is unforgettable for me.
Having told this story, let me tell you my take on the debate. In the Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon tells Sophie in the end that - What matters is what you believe in.... And that is exactly my message to all those who believe that he is a God. Do not let anybody else tell you otherwise.
And for those, who while acknowledge his greatness but don't quite believe he is a God, that is fine but do not disrespect the belief of others.
For those who do not acknowledge his greatness, I really have nothing to tell them.
As for me, I feel I have been blessed to have seen the man play. It has been my life's honour to have him as one of my heroes. I love him unconditionally. He does not have to prove anything to me and he will always have my support. It is a pleasure to see him still playing and I know this for certain that our lives will be a little poorer when he stops padding up to bat.

Dejected...... totally

Never been more dejected during a football match and after a football match. Yes, Arsenal were always likely to get knocked out by a better team and they did. But the manner hurt, the way things panned out hurt. I cannot go out blaming people, shit happens, here it did. But what was most disappointing was to see the fans leave the stadium seeing their team trailing. I bet one would never see that happening at Anfield.
A word of support for Kieran Gibbs. All right he slipped. But all of us make mistakes. At this team, Arsenal fans need to show him support and their backing. I do.
Four years without a trophy and it could be a few more. I understand the limitations that are there and I am patient. I keep the faith and remain a Gooner, as always.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Champions League - Second legs

Well, the first legs did not provide the goals that all of us had expected. What do the second legs look like?
Arsenal host Manchester United, lucky to be trailing by just a solitary goal from the first leg. But the facts are that United outplayed the Gunners totally and other than a brief spell in the second half, where Arsenal managed to retain some possession without penetration, United were totally dominant. While Arsenal should play much better than what they did in the first leg, United are capable of scoring away goals easily and just one away goal for them means that Arsenal have to score at least 3, which I don't see is possible. So, this one looks like a done deal to me and unfortunately it seems it is the end of the road for the Arsenal this season.
Chelsea managed to come out with a goalless draw from Nou Camp after a great defensive display that stiffled the Catalan magicians. The second leg is also difficult to call. One can expect Chelsea to go forward and that is exactly what Barca would need to allow them to play their own game with a bit more space. My prediction is a narrow Chelsea win to setup a repeat of last year's final.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Champions League Semi-final Preview

The semi-final first legs are coming up this week and what contests, they promise to be.
Barcelona vs Chelsea at the Nou Camp.
Two very different sides, who play differently. This is the leg, where Chelsea need to defend really well. Terry, Alex, the full backs and Michael Essien will need to be immense. Going forward, though with Drogba back in form, they should be able to test the Barca defense.
For Barcelona, the holy trinity of Messi, Eto'o and Henry will be expected to score a few as usual. But for me, it is the trio behind them, Xavi the playmaker, Iniesta the puppet master (as Sportcenter put it the other day) and Yaya Toure the anchor man who have been equally brilliant and they would hold the key in the battle for midfileld superiority.
I can't predict a winner for the tie yet, but expect a narrow win for Barcelona at the Nou Camp with crucial away goals for Chelsea. 3-2 to Barca.

Manchester United vs Arsenal at Old Trafford.
United vs Arsenal has always been the greatest game on earth for me. United, the most successful team in England for the last twenty years or so, against my team. It is a rivalry that has captured the imagination of people around the world and I believe these two teams produce the games of greatest quality and beauty when pitted against one other. Let me make it clear that while I don't like United, I respect them, not just for what they have won, but also for how they play the game.
Coming to this match, United are definitely the favourites. Their season has been slightly different to what we have come to expect from them, with lesser number of goals being scored by them, but more importantly much, much lesser number of goals being conceded by them. You get the sense from them that they are in control of a game at any point. With Vidic and Ferdinand at the back, I don't expect Arsenal to be troubling them much at OT. The only player who I see, being a serious threat is Walcott with his pace and current good form. On the other hand, if Arsenal do not improve significantly at the back, United will punish us.
I will not dare to make a prediction, but here is my rather practical wish list: I hope the game is still alive when the second leg starts in the Emirates and we get an important away goal (or 2).

Liverpool 4 - ARSHAVIN - 4 !!

What a match, it was at Anfield, this Tuesday. An absolutely amazing game, which oscillated from the brilliant to the bizzare, back and forth, providing great entertainment, joy and despair all along the way. Liverpool were dynamic going forward. They exerted tremendous pressure on the rather patched up Arsenal back line and literally took the game by the scruff of the neck. Rarely, if ever, have I seen the Gunners under such pressure and for such a sustained period of time. And yet, Liverpool have been having some defensive frailties of their own in the last month or so and boy, did Arsenal, sorry ARSHAVIN !! punish them. In the end it was a tremendous game, the second 4-4 that we have had this season and while on the balance of play, I have to say we did not deserve to win. But Arshavin for his amazing play certainly did, and hopefully he will win soon at Anfield.
Some points worth noting from the match were:
1) Fernando Torres is magnificient. His turn of pace to beat a defender, once he receives the ball is breath-taking.
2) Arshavin's second goal will remain in memory for a long time to come. The ability to sense that a defender can put under pressure in a seemingly innocous situation, followed by taking the ball away and then finishing it off with a stunning strike that beats a great keeper in goal just shows what a player he is. I am glad he is at Arsenal and will be lighting up the premiership for a few years to come.
3) Theo Walcott has now produced two scorching runs at Anfield in just over a year. And both have resulted in goals which put us in a winning positions in the tie/ match. Unfortunately, on both occassions we have conceded immediately and lost/ drawn the match. This one felt like deja vu.
To sum it up, Liverpool were devastating, Arsenal were diabolical at times (at the back), but Andrei Arshavin was stunning and the result was a reflection of his brilliance, rather a fair score line.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keeping the faith

What a week it could have been !! A clinical and classical performance, midweek against Villareal took us through to the semi finals of the Champions League where "the bestest team in the world" awaits us. More on that in a later post. However, that performance had all Arsenal fans buzzing with hope and excitement, looking forward to the FA Cup semi final against Chelsea at Wembley.

We lost 2-1 in a hard fought match. There were some individual mistakes and we paid dearly for them. However, there is no score or need for finger pointing. As an Arsenal Fan, all that I ask from my players is that we play with commitment and passion and I saw that on the pitch.

We are going through a rather long trophyless time at Arsenal, but there are certain principles based on which this club lives and dies by and I hope it stays the same. I hope we manage to retain our players for the coming seasons and we can look forward to them with great hope and expectation.

And this season is not yet over and I keep the faith, as always.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The virtues of silence

They say that while speech is silver, silence is golden. I have always believed in this dictum, preferring to keep my mouth shut at every possible occasion.

You see, I consider myself the strong and silent type. That is the image that I have always tried to project of myself, especially to the fairer sex. Well, come to think about it now, I am hardly someone who will remind you of Clint Eastwood in terms of appearance. And to be honest, I am not very strong either. In fact my physical and fiscal strengths leave a lot to be desired. And my scorecard in pursuit of someone to love is this: Affairs till date - Nil, Girlfriends acquired - Zilch, Dates been on - lets not get into that territory..... You get the drift......

Well, here's a little confession, the strategy of projecting yourself as "the strong and the silent type" is as mainly due to the fact that one doesn't know what to say at opportune moments, that one is too dumb to say anything remotely intelligent.

When it comes to things like debates and group discussions, my record has been almost as dismal :(. In one of the GDs that I had attended last year in my campus recruitment process, I remained so silent that in fact, a fellow participant actually looked at my miserable face, took pity on me and brought me into the discussion, only to be out-shouted by another guy in about 15 seconds !!

But being silent has its fair share of advantages as well. As a kid, if you are silent in class, you are less likely to be hauled up and punished by your teachers in case the class is making a lot of noise !! In fact, being silent in class is always likely to get you in the good books of your teachers (as long as you keep churning out good marks in exams). I guess on this count, I did a pretty good job.

There have been some other situations as well, where my silence has been beneficial. In my articleship days, I had a senior manager (for whom I have tremendous respect) who is a very hyper (i.e. aggressive) character. He speaks, works and talks at a furious pace, and it is difficult for most people, especially newcomers, to cope up with the speed of his speech and thoughts. But my blank, expressionless face coupled with (one of his favourite terms incidentally) my "dignified" silence helped me sail through turbulent times, so much so, that after a while, I had become one of his favourite subordinates.

So there you go, that is my experience of silence and its virtues (and vices !). In case you do want to be "The Strong and Silent Type", click on this link:
http://www.wikihow.com/Be-the-Strong-Silent-Type. It is a little more serious and a lot more helpful than my blog.

A week is a long time in football

A week can be a long time in football. And it was illustrated beautifully in the last couple of games played by United and Liverpool. But before that, lets do a quick review of the champions league quarter final first leg matches.

Villareal - Arsenal. I predicted a 1-1 and so it finished. Villareal had a great first half, but Arsenal came back rather strongly in the second half, with Adebayor's stunning effort, being the excalamation point. The match is balanced on a knife's edge, and I can't predict a winner. But I will be doing my best, praying that my Gunners go through :).

Manchester United - Porto. I predicted a 3-1 win home win for United, but it finished 2-2. Porto were good value for the draw and are taking a significant advantage in terms of two away goals back to the Dragao. But I would still back United to go through with a 1-0 away win.

Barcelona - Bayern Munich. My prediction was a 4-2 win for a Barca. I got the 4 goal part of it right, but Bayern never turned up with their part. Barcelona are through to the semis, and I forsee more goals from them in the second leg. Is there a better attacking force in the world than Messi, Eto'o and Henry ? If there is, I would like to see them play !!

Livepool - Chelsea. I had predicted a tight 1-0 win for the Reds at Anfield, but boy was I wrong. Chelsea played a blinder in a 3-1 drubbing with Branislav Ivanovic's head playing a key role against Rafa's zonal defence. But as they say, Spaces don't score goals, players do and that's what Chelsea did. They are almost there, but not quite. Not against Liverpool and memories of Istanbul still fresh in our memories.

Coming back to how a week is a long time in football, let us just reflect on Liverpool and United's last few days. On last Saturday, Liverpool played away at Fulham and literally pounded the Cottagers goal throughout the game, but with no luck. And just when it seemed, they would blow their chance of going on top, Benayoun scored in injury time for a well deserved and inspiring win for the Reds. Next day, United came up against Villa at Old Trafford, with a patched up defence which was missing their 3 top centre backs. And Villa promptly took advantage getting 2-1 ahead, with 20 minutes to go. Ronaldo scored his second goal to equalise and the match looked as if it would end in a draw with United dropping a couple of crucial points. But enter, Frederico Macheda, an Italian teenager on his debut. He comes with an absolutely stunning strike in injury time and United have the 3 points, the lead in the premiership and more importantly momentum on their side.

But as the events in the week in the Champions League quarter-final showed, the momentum proved short-lived with United conceding two crucial away goals to Porto with the equaliser being very late, to leave them in a tough spot. But next day, Liverpool got battered at home by Chelsea, and their champions league ambitions almost over for the season.

Both the clubs and their supporters have experienced tremendous highs and lows in the past week as the football has continued to remain rivetting in both the Premier League and in Europe.

Looking forward to this coming week to see more ups and downs in this fascinating season.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Firaq and memories

Went to watch the film - Firaq last week. Had known that the movie was about the Gujarat riots of 2002. Thinking about that, brought back a memory which is shared here.

It was the month of March in 2002 and I was appearing for my 12th Standard Board exams. With the exams going on at that time, I had not been following the events happening in Gujarat too much. It was possibly the Hindi Exam that day. My seat for the board exams that year was in a school in Park Circus, Kolkata. All of us were in the hall about 20 minutes before the paper was to start. Getting ready to take on the paper, sitting quietly, focussing on the next 3 hours. Just then, a lady teacher who was our invigilator that day, came to the front of the class. In a quiet, dignified voice, she briefly told us about the events going on in Gujarat and asked us to stand up and have a minute's silence to pray for peace and harmony.

I have never been able to forget this incident and every time the mention of Gujarat and the riots come up, this incident crops up in my mind.

I wish such things don't happen in the country again. I don't know and honestly don't want to blame anybody but I wish we become more tolerant as a people and a country.

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

The champions league quarterfinal draw has thrown up a number of intriguing matchups. Here's my take on what I expect in the first leg matches.

Villareal vs Arsenal: This match pits two "footballing" sides in a rematch of the 2006 semi-final which Arsenal won thanks to a goal from Kolo Toure at Highbury in the first leg. A lot has changed in both the sides since then, but not their coaches. Expect a match of technical expertise from both sides, with the unit whose mid-field comes out on team likely to win it. There won't be much in this one, but the events of this weekend suggest that Arsenal will have the slight edge going into it. Villareal lost 3-0 at home to Almeria, but more importantly may have lost their sensational winger Santi Cazorla to injury for the rest of the season. Arsenal on the other hand welcomed back Adebayor and Fabregas into the team and the duo were instrumental in a convincing 2-0 win over Mancester City at the Emirates.
My prediction: 1-1 (with Arsenal gaining a precious away goal)
Dangermen: Villareal : Giussepe Rossi (ex Man U - motivation in itself to hurt the Gunners)
Arsenal: Emanuel Adebayor (back from injury, back in form and hungry).

Manchester United vs Porto: This is one of those matches which the press had been claiming to be a walk in the park for the Red Devils. But events since then, with the double loss to Liverpool and Fulham in the league coupled with some injuries to Berbatov etc. have meant that they are not in the best shape. Still, they are quite possibly the best team in the world and at home should prove to be too strong for a Porto team. The revenge angle for the 2005 defeat would only make the Red Devils more hungry.
My prediction: 3-1
Dangermen: Manchester United : Wayne Rooney (Suspended in the league, so would be rested and motivated to do damage)
FC Porto: Lucho Gonzales (The one man in the Porto team who can take the game by the scruff of the neck in the midfield).

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich: Two teams, who can score lots of goals as the last round has shown. Bayern have Ribery, Klose, Toni, Podolski et al. Barca have the trinity of Henry, Eto'o and Messi. Expect goals and lots of them !!! However, Bayern's shock thrashing at the hands of Wolfsburg over the weekend might dent some confidence. The match will showcase the passing, movement and skill of the Catalans against the power and directness of the Bavarians with all the ingredients of making it the most explosive matchup of the last eight
Predictions: 4-2
Dangermen: Barcelona: Lionel Messi (Quite simply the best in the world at the moment)
Bayen : Frank Ribery (Possibly the best European player at the moment :) )
Liverpool vs Chelsea: And finally we come to what has now become an annual fixture of the Champions league. Playing against each other over 5 straight seasons in addition to their domestic meetings means that these sides know all that is their to know about their opposition, quite literally. I expect that this meeting will go ahead on expected lines. Liverpool would be desperate not to concede the away goal and I feel that they just might be successful. Look for a tight, tactical battle in a crowded midfield.
Predictions: Liverpool 1 - Chelsea 0
Dangermen : Liverpool - Steven Gerrard (In good form and with Torres, possibly makes the most dangerous combination in Europe now)
Chelsea: Frank Lampard (Big match player, would need to be at the top of his game to counter Alonso, Mascherano and Gerrard)

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