Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bhaat Trilogy

Note: This post is meant only for Bengalis or at least those who understand Bengali. And are preferably non - vegetarian :)

One of the great thing about following interesting people on Twitter is that you come across some really funny, interesting links. And just like that I came across the videos I have linked here.

As a Bengali living outside Kolkata for the last 2-3 years, I miss having conversations in Bengali about food. And drinks. Especially with the true connoisseurs, of which there is no shortage back in Kolkata. I fondly remember the lunches and dinners I shared with a manager of mine, when I was doing my articleship, during which he would talk about Hilsa and Chingri; about how soft the mutton is in Karim's Delhi; and how a Biryani on Jumma day taken from the top of the pot at Shiraz is better than the rest; among other things.

So when I came across these links - it certainly made me nostalgic on one hand and absolutely delighted to listen to some classic Bangali Bhaat (Bengalis would know what I mean here).

So I present to you what I call the Bhaat trilogy: 3 talks covering food and drink and a lot more. Delivered by this unknown gentleman. Sit back and enjoy. And go about them one after the other to enjoy the flow.

The Bhaat trilogy comprises of

Scotch Puran


Brandy Bilas


Shuorer Mangsho o Grand Canyon

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Football transfer spends - Part 1

Some time back I had stumbled across this very informative site Transferleague.co.uk . This site provides quite a detailed and comprehensive information about the transfer activities of English Football Clubs.

Let me provide 3 snapshots from this site - which capture very effectively the transfer spending of various football clubs in the Premier League Era.

Net Spend of English Clubs since the start of the Premier League.

Net Spending of English Football Clubs since 2003 (Post The Roman Revolution). The impact of the Oil Money flowing into the premiership can be clearly seen at the top of the table.



And Finally a snapshot showing the effect of significant events on Transfer Spends of the Bigger Clubs in England.

I intend to follow this up with a more detailed analysis sometime in the future, especially from an Arsenal viewpoint covering topics such as the correlation of spending with success on the pitch and which clubs have bucked the trend and how
For the time being, I invite the readers for their first comments on the spendings of their clubs over the years and what do they foresee in the future.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Toilets and writings on the walls

Late last month, I visited Kolkata for a holiday. The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (aka Dum Dum) was ....well...let's say quite different from the Bangalore International Airport. So I took a couple of pics of the toilets in the two places just for the sake of comparison. You tell me which pic is taken where ?
Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2











Interestingly,  I also found this written on the walls of the same BIAL toilet, but could not find a comparative one in Dum Dum. Perhaps the impact of the movie Gunda has been more in Bangalore :)

PS: Suhel Seth continues to write in the Graphiti (which also means writing on the wall) magazine - published every Sunday by The Telegraph. This one had to be shared. More insulting than amusing - but then that's his style. On asking my younger brother (a Class XII student), as to why would anyone even write to this Bhodrolok - his reply was interesting. He said that he is convinced that Mr Seth creates his own questions and answers. Word, I say.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The mother and sister of English

I am sure you have noticed that the English language used by most people these days is hardly ornamental. Or flowery. Or sexy. This article today in Livemint  shows how every Ram -Shaam, Jodhu -Modhu is becoming an author. And even with their numerous grammatical mistakes, they are hardly amusing to read. Check out this example from the same article - Chandraprakash Mohata’s Patyala Down De Throat… A sweet melody from pegs to riches
"...It was in a short time we had made ourselves comfortable with the computer machines; a bomb shell babe attracted our attention with an interruption. She seemed pretty with a perfect ten. Long hairs, sharp nose, thin lips twisted in a snarl.". In twitter lingo - #EpicFail.
What I really miss is seeing some good, old Legalese, where legal terms are combined in long-winded sentences, or varied or with permutations, with the initial design of legal or drafting precision but which otherwise add unnecessary complexity or inadvertently resulting in confusion. What fun I say ! Take this example taken from here.
When a layperson wants to give you an orange, he or she merely says, “I give you this orange.”
But when a lawyer - a master of legalese says it, the words he or she uses are:–
“Know all persons by these present that I hereby give, grant, release, convey, transfer and quitclaim all my right, title, interest, benefit and use whatsoever in, or and concerning this chattel, otherwise known as an orange, or citrus aurantium, together with all the appurtenances thereto of skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds and juice to have and to hold the said orange, for his own use and behoof, to himself and his heirs, in fee simple forever, free from all liens, encumbrances, easements, limitations, restraints or conditions whatsoever, any and all prior deeds, transfer, or other documents whatsoever, now or anywhere made to the contrary notwithstanding, with full power to bite, cut, suck or otherwise eat the said orange or to give away the same, with or without its skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds or juice.” Is it not wonderful ?
I am also pained by the diminishing use of Babu English or Butler English all aroundme. Take this example taken from here : "The extreme stimulus of professional and friendly solicitations has led me to the journey of accomplished advantages to proceed elucidatory and critical comments: wherein no brisking has been thrown apart to introduce prima facie and useful matters to facilitate literary pursuits . If the aimed point be embraced favourably by the public, all in all grateful acknowledgement will ride on the jumping border from the very bottom of my heart".  Did you #getit ? No ? Ask the meaning in an IIM interview and seperate the men from boys.
Or another one from the same article here: A book of ready-made letters for all occasions, recommending an ideal letter to a newly married girl says: "You adjusted yourself in the family of your in-laws. Always give good impression and impact to them by your every action". Pure epicness.
The point is this: If you want to write in English, write well. Or be funny (even unintentionally so if possible). Or at least write good Indian English,  but Abeyaar, Don't do Maa - Behen of Angrezi. Pliss.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Musical Career

(Title fully and content mildly inspired by Stephen Leacock’s – My Financial Career – taught to us in Class XI (or some other class) CBSE English)
When I was in school I was a leader. I was a leader of outstanding ability, who took on great responsibility. (Ok, more like someone – who stood “outside” the classroom a lot and was “held responsible” for the general noise coming out of the classroom too.) Being a leader (called “Monitor” and not CDO (Class Discipline Officer) for some weird reason), I had to take several important roles. Like “maintaining silence” till the teacher came to class, or “conducting the assembly”.
A morning assembly at DAV Public School Patna, where I studied from Class II to VIII, (you know Roman Numerals don’t you?) was no ordinary session. We used to have chanting of Vedic Mantras (including the Gayatri Mantra – we never removed our shoes though – although when BIG B did that he got into trouble), followed by “The Pledge” (where we used to pledge among other things – “...all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”), Thought of the day (where we used to say some proverb or something – stuff you frequently see as Facebook statuses these days), News of the Day (prepared by diligently copying Headlines from the 8.30 News on DD the previous night – must be hard doing it now when you have to take the news from Arnab Goswami’s mouth), Poem of the Day (where students “by hearted” either English or Hindi poems from their text books – mainly to impress their teachers to give them more marks), Song of the Day ( patriotic songs written in the school diary – most of which were later found by me to be Hindi Film Songs – such as Hothon Se Choo lo tum, Itni Shakti Hume dena Data etc) and Shanti Path. Add to that, there was a drum – beaten to shift people from “Attention” to “Stand-at-Ease”.
I had been performing all roles (with elan I thought) apart from singing the Song of the Day, but was fairly certain of graduating to be able to do that. I had been confidently rattling off my shlokas with impeccable pronunciation (regular viewing of BR Chopra’s Mahabharat gave me the added edge) and my Shanti Path rendition was world famous in Patna. Some of my poem recitals had received spontaneous standing applause from the students (mainly because students had to stand during the assembly).  I had a rich, baritone voice (although my mother kept insisting that it was a case of voice breaking during adolescence). I had a great stage presence (being “healthy” as a kid helped matters). My mother was an accomplished singer and so my genes were all right as well. All in all, my future as the next Kishore Kumar seemed well and truly on course.
In Class VI, a new Maths teacher – Mr Ram Kumar - arrived. He quickly went about impressing the girls by claiming that he was also a “famous singer” on All India Radio, Patna. Very soon, Math classes became part rehearsals for his next song on Radio (I exaggerate this part). And then the moment came. My turn came for “conducting the assembly” with the said Math teacher now playing a Harmonium next to me. I went about my business as a professional and delivered yet another great performance (I thought). And then I moved to the back to allow others to perform. I was taken aback a moment later, when the teacher hissed to me with clenched teeth – Don’t you ever come close to the mike again!! You don’t have the voice to sing!!! (Or something on those lines) My confidence in my voice was Shaken. And Stirred. And Snapped. And a lot more. My musical career received a devastating blow.
So that has been one blow I am yet to recover from. And while I have received offers from various sources, I have never again sung in public since that day, other than in group Antaksharis among friends, where I am found gently humming and lip-syncing.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cricket in the time of work

Written Originally for HoldingWilley.com

There was a time when I was a kid. I could return from school by 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon. And then watch a cricket match on TV. If it was a test match – one could watch at least the second half of the day. In case of a ODI – second innings. And in the rare case if it was a Day-Nighter – yay !!– a full  100 overs of cricket to be seen, broken only by pretending to study a little every now and then. And peeping through the key hole when in the study room.

And that’s only for matches in India. In case the match was in England, South Africa, West Indies, Toronto or Sharjah, once again very convenient (ok – West Indies – not so convenient ) – but you get the drift, watching cricket as a kid was easy, especially when there was at least one more elder in the family who was interested (in my case it was my late grandfather). And yes, weekends were truly weekends and there was no stopping the men (and the boys) in the family if a cricket match was on.

As I grew older, I went to a college in Kolkata, whose timings were 6 am to 9.40 am. Yes, you got that right, I could be back home latest by 10.30 and watch as much cricket as I liked. Tuitions and studies were minor irritants, but I never let them get in the way of watching cricketJ. Matches in Australia and New Zealand were a bit of a problem, but no matter what the timing some part of the match could always be watched. And of course (am I sounding like Dhoni ?) were you out on the streets for some unfortunate reason, a stop by the nearest Electronics Goods Showroom would allow one to catch the action, with plenty of criticism, witticism and expert advice thrown in by fellow onlookers.

And then when I started going to an office and with it the accompanied travelling, working from 9 to 5 as they say  (in my case it was more like 9 am in a day to 5 am the next day  but that’s another story), watching cricket became difficult, especially on weekdays. And weekends when I worked, which was almost every weekend. Following a cricket match took an entirely new dimension.  And so, over time, the internet has replaced TV as the medium for following a cricket match. Every now and then a highlight show on TV caught between having breakfast or dinner providing momentary relief. People talk about “Bits and Pieces” cricketers, I had become a “Bits and Pieces” viewer.

Following cricket on the internet makes one feel a different kind of tension. When you are watching a match live in the stadium or on TV, you can see the field placing, perhaps whether there is particular plan put in place by the fielding captain, the bowler’s run up – in a sense a viewer gets a lot more perspective and background to what is coming up when the ball is delivered. Following cricket on a site like Cricinfo, however is a bit like being a day trader watching the stock market index go up and down on your terminal. And what’s worse you can’t buy or sell your team here, you just have to hope that you get the result you wish for.

Having “followed” a cricket match in various places across India on alternate mediums, there are many funny and memorable incidents to recall. The recent 4th innings run chases by India in the last three test matches ended up in glorious victories. Yet, for a generation which still has Port of Spain, 1996 and Chennai 1998 at the back of their mind, the entire office doesn’t relax till the last run is scored. Especially, if the match is as close as the one in Mohali was.

On the day of the finals of the T20 World Cup triumph, I was in a tea garden deep inside Assam. There was a television in the guest house, but as the match started I was in the office and being superstitious followed the entire match on the internet, with regular updates being provided by the client manager, security and other people who were following the match live. And when finally – the screen shouted – Misbah OUT! India Win, the superstition of not watching the match on TV was rewarded.

The most memorable incident which stands fresh in the minds is of course the day Sachin hit 200. Being a sort of slow work day, I was generally following the match on the Net. And then it suddenly hit me after all these years, that I had a radio in my mobile phone. So out came the ear plugs and the legendary All India Radio commentary of Sushil Doshi & Co was revisited all over again.  As he went past 150 or so, the Cricinfo servers crashed I am told. But Cricinfo had been blocked in office all day anyway, so we were following on other non-descript sites like cmdn.com. Suddenly someone realised that the msn cricket site was a good alternative and the entire floor then shifted to that. At around 6 pm, with Sachin in the 190s, All India Radio – decide it is time for some news, not realising that CRICKET IS THE NEWS. Damn. There is one round of celebrations as Sachin crosses 194; the ghost of Saeed Anwar is banished forever, 5 more to go for 200. So the scene resembles something like this now: People checking scores on their screens and mobile phones (I am constantly refreshing twitter on mobile). Some have called up their family members at home who are watching the match on TV for live updates. And with Dhoni for some unknown reason, refusing to give Sachin the strike for a long time, the tension is unbearable. Finally it happens; I get a confirmatory phone call from a friend whose brother has confirmed at home that indeed he has reached 200. The screen refreshes a moment later and I do a Print Screen to “capture the moment”.  Brilliant!

And so as time passes and it becomes more difficult for folks of my generation to watch a cricket match, the cricket fan in us will keep improvising. So, whether it is testmatchsofa.comfor alternate cricket commentary or your very own HoldingWilley.com for checking out COW (Chance of Winning) or just twitter, we have the tools at our disposal, if not the time. And once in a while, bunking work can be a good idea, just keep it in limit and for the big games, you don’t want your appraisal to be affected – do you?

[PS: Would love to read the readers’ stories on following cricket in creative ways]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Aiyyo-dhya

The word "Ayodhya" (अयोध्या)  is derived from the Sanskrit root  "Yudh" (युद्ध) , meaning "fight" or "wage war," and it translates to either "not to be fought" or, less literally, "unconquerable." Is it not ironic that India's longest running dispute over a piece of land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims is IN Ayodhya - a place which is not to be fought over. (For more read here
The verdict of the High Court on 30th September effectively asked the disputed land to be divided into 3 parts - one to Ram Lalla (the child form of Lord Ram), one to Sunni Wakf Board (the party representing the Muslims) and one to Nirmohi Akhara. Which lead to people asking who were these people ?
Nirmohi Akhara are a Hindu religious group about whom not much is available on the net, but this article here and another one here gives some idea...  Interestingly enough the term "Nirmohi" (निर्मोही)  means having no "moh" (मोह)  or attachment., i.e. people who have renounced the material things of this world. Well, I found it ironic that people belonging to a group called "Nirmohi" would be "attached" to a piece of land which happens to be India's most disputed and controversial.
But then don't they say - Life is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Football like Politics

The Run of Play - the most incredible website on the wonder and terror of football has featured some articles over the last few weeks wherein football has been described as comedy and tragedy among other things.(For all those who share an interest in literature or the English language along with football, the site is a must visit.) That got me thinking on the bus back home this week, as to there must be other things too to which football is similar to. The obvious thing that came to my mind is club football is a lot like business..... till I figured it out in 5 seconds that Club Football IS Business (Later they actually featured a post on football billionaires too - incredibly). And then it suddenly hit me that football is a bit like Indian politics. Here's why: (BTW This post is not written in a Run of Play style. It is more like a Class 12 CBSE Board Exam answer paper style )
1) Powerful few: There are probably as many football clubs in the UK as there are political parties in India. And yet, the likely winners remain a powerful few....... You know which ones I am talking about....
2) Money matters: Money can buy the league, money can buy you cups in football...... In India, money power can win you seats and elections...
3) Hooliganism/ Gunda Raj: Football fans of many clubs indulge (or at least used to indulge) in Hooliganism or unruly, destructive, aggressive and bullying behaviour. Well, in India, so do political party workers and activists at times. 
 4) People switch sides often: Footballers often switch sides, moving from one rival club to another..... More worryingly so do politicians in India, moving from one party/ coallition to the other. For each William Gallas, we have a Kalyan Singh, Mamata or a Mayawati. And side switching (Dal-badal) takes an entirely different dimension if you go to Bihar as this link illustrates.
5) Excessive Media attention: The English or for that matter Italian or Spanish media pays far too much attention on Football in general and more disturbingly, the darker side of the private lives of the footballers. Here in India, there are too many not so nice stories about politicians filling our newspapers as well.
6) Controversies: With high stakes to play for - there is a controversy a day in football. Did the ball cross the line ?, Was the red card given correctly ?, Was it a penalty ? Was the match fixed by having favourable referees ? . Just to name a few footballing controversies. And in the same spirit, Indian politics is filled with controversies as well: Was the election rigged ? Was the CM involved in misappropriation of funds via fabrication of "vast herds of fictitious livestock" for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured ? And then there are controversies about KICKBACKS - a term a very appropriate in both football and Indian politics.
7) Leadership of the unpopular: Almost nobody in France wanted Raymond Domenech as their coach of the national team but he remained in the post for over six years. Also almost nobody in India wants Suresh Kalmadi to head the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee. But he has been so for God knows how many years.
8) It's all about bragging rights for the public: So your team wins the league or the party you support wins the election. All you get essentially is bragging rights - to go and brag to your neighbour or office worker about how you won and so on. Cause, let's face it, your team/party winning ain't raising your salary too much is it ?
I could have gone on a bit longer for the similarities don't end here. I am probably missing the most obvious connections The problem is I am a bit of a sucker for both European football and Indian politics. And I am not sure if I love them for all the wrong reasons ??

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cricket and Immorality

Sports resembles life in infinite ways. The good, the bad and the ugly of our society and culture are all displayed, in varying degrees on the sports fields. So, when we live in a world, where corruption is a fact of life, where crime is all around us, it will be naive to expect our sporting fields to be free of them.
Now, whenever a sporting scandal happens, I find that it often gets disproportionate media attention and coverage.  Which brings me to question, whether something like spot fixing on the cricket field is more worthy of attention than the day to day bribery which happen in our government offices for instance ? And secondly is it fair for us to expect our sportsmen to be on a higher plane of morality, or more incorruptible than the average man on the street ?
Anyway, moving on let me look at the various forms of cheating/ immorality that happens on our sports fields. For I find that certain forms are more reprehensible than others. Or to look at it differently, some are far more easier to understand and even empathise with than others.
1) Cheating done to help your own team in the natural course of play: Many, many examples come to my mind, but I will stick mainly to cricket for examples. For most of us, we  relate to it best.  Batsman gets a faint knick through to the keeper and doesn't walk off. Rather he waits for the umpire's decision and let's say 1 in 5 times he gets away with it and continues to bat. Or a fielder claims a catch which he knows to be a bump ball. Or appealing for a wicket when you know the batsman is not out. Somewhat similar to a handball on the football field. Or diving to win a freekick or penalty. Or doing what is termed as a professional foul. Now strictly speaking this can be termed as something wrong which is done by our players.Often the argument made by people in their defence is they play to the whistle or the umpire's decision. And there is some merit in the argument. For if there is a batsman who walks when his team is 210/1 but doesn't when 20 runs are required to win with just two wickets remaining, then he is simply misusing his image as a "walker". Now, when a cricketer does any of these things on the field, which are some form of cheating, he is opening himself up to criticism. My own take is that I understand why a player would do that, and at the end of the day it has been done to benefit or help your own team - so be it. I shall not lose sleep over arguments that cricket is a gentleman's game etc etc. Fact of life - so move on.
2) Well Planned cheating/ strategy done in a systematic manner to help your own team: Two examples from cricket that come to my mind straightaway - Bodyline and ball tampering. There was definitely a sense of pre-determination in both of them, an effort to bend the rules and derive maximum advantage of the situation and playing conditions. Perhaps these are more condemnable than category one. And while I don't subsribe to them, but still I can understand what is the purpose - which is to help your team and win. Systematic and targetted sledging can also be an example here - but then we can just call it attempts to mentally disintegrate the opposition and walk away
3) Immoral activities/ corruption to "screw" your own team: In other words, things like match fixing. Where players take money to underperform and lose a match. I find this to be most disturbing and absolutely unpardonable. For this has no greater objective or goal in mind i.e. winning a match for your team. Rather, the player is letting down millions of fans/ countrymen. The financial incentives for doing that make it comparable with any financial fraudulent activity which people in the corporate world indulgem. But as a sports fan, I find this category of cheats most disgusting.
4) Trivial and ridiculous incidents which have no greater purpose in mind: And this brings me to the incidents which have happened in the cricket world in the last two months. The Suraj Randiv no ball (assuming it was intentional) to deny an opposition batsman a century. Or the latest spot fixing where the Paki players are making a quick buck by bowling a no-ball or playing out a maiden over. Frankly in my opinion, these are trivial and ridiculous.
This incident of spot fixing is something which made me laugh a lot. And on deeper thoughts the main persons being cheated out there are the "honest" people who are laying bets on these little events of a cricket match. The beauty of betting is that you are making an attempt to predict correctly events which are uncertain, by spot fixing such things the uncertainty involved is being removed, "the sanctity" of a bet is being compromised :).
Anyway, coming back to these incidents in general, I fail to see why 24 hour news channels should be working themselves up in an indignant fury. The only worry is whether these incidents are just the tip of an iceberg of match fixing, but then they can't be determined in a television studio, can they ?
As mentioned before, of all the forms of sporting corruption, what has disturbed me the most has been match fixing. For let us not kid ourselves, sports is a serious business and sporting stars are our heroes. Ten years ago, the match fixing scandals had left me a very disturbed and sad individual. And then I had found my redemption in the 2001 India - Australia series and since then cricket had been good fun once again. This time, the older and perhaps more cynical person in me has found these incidents trivial and rather than being shocked and saddened, I have merely shrugged a shoulder.
And one last thing. I just hope the all the people out there criticising the corrupt cricketers on TV and on the internet are the types who never fudge medical bills, pay their taxes fully and never pay a bribe to get things done for themselves.
PS: There has been still been some good stuff written by bloggers about this latest spot fixing controversy, which are well worth a read - so here's some of them: Greatbong in his typical style, Anthony Chettup on Short of a Length (where you get other nice links as well) and an extremely serious and moving piece from Venkat Ananth. I highly recommend reading them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just an old story

About two and a half years ago, in January 2008, I had gone on an audit trip to a place called Hathidah in Bihar. It was a factory visit, one I quite enjoyed. The client was excellent and organised and the trip was very satisfactory from a professional standpoint. But perhaps, I enjoyed the trip a lot more, simply because I was visiting Bihar after some time and got the opportunity to converse in the language and dialect I so love once again.
We were put up in the guest house within the factory and would be joined during meal times by some of the officers. During the dinner time conversation on the first night, I was warned by one of the officers not to go outside the factory without having security with me. On asking him the reason, the gentlemen replied with a perfectly straight face that if I ventured out alone, I was liable to be kidnapped and then forcibly married !!! He then went on to describe how young factory workers - young unmarried men in their 20s were accompanied by their fathers when they came to office. He also told me how one guy working in the stores department had been missing the last week and when he returned - he had been forced to be married in the mean time.
I found the conversation rather amusing that time. Growing up in Patna in the last decade, I had known all about the fear of parents sending their children to school and so on, but this kidnapping and forcible marrying of young boys was a phenomenon I had been unaware of. I have shared this story with a few friends and it has been received with varying degrees of amusement and incredulity.
So, while browsing through Google News the other day, I came across this review of a new movie called Antardwand. And what caught my attention was the subject of the movie - " the kidnapping of marriageable boys by desperate fathers of wannabe brides".
And this made me recall the story I just narrated. Well, having a movie on this topic sort of lends credibility to my story - Doesn't it ? :)
PS: I am looking forward to seeing the movie some time soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Drama of the 5th Day of a Test Match

Written Originally for HoldingWilley.com 
Cricket provides entertainment, excitement and education to its fans in all its forms. The thrill of a slam-bam T20 encounter, the riveting journey of a close high stakes ODI and the charm & pleasure of an engrossing test match, all cater to different segments of cricket’s audience. For me personally, nothing beats watching test cricket when a good contest is on.
Test cricket provides the purest and the truest contest between bat and ball, the batsman and the bowler – it is after all a TEST. And among the many facets of test cricket which I enjoy, one of my favourites is the drama, the tension and the sheer excitement of a test match which enters the 5th day, where more than one result is possible. It could be a team chasing a stiff target, with the bowling team also in hunt to get all 10 wickets, or it could be a bowling team on top looking to get the opposition out, but the batting side battling for survival and playing for a draw – the tension, the excitement is often breathtaking.
With the 3rd test match between Sri Lanka and India at the P Sera Stadium, going almost the distance, while producing some excellent cricket throughout along with a morale boosting Indian win, I think it is a good time to look at some of the test matches in the last few years that have literally gone the distance.
I think it was Richie Benaud who once said on commentary that a good test match pitch produces a result in the 3rd session of the 5th day. Now, while a good/ great test match, need not be one which necessarily finishes late on the 5th day, for instance a low scoring thriller on a seaming or spinning track which lasts just 3 days can be exciting, some of the most memorable test matches in the last decade or so have been decided late into the 5th day. In order to have a compelling contest in a test match, I believe two things are extremely important – 1) Two well matched teams and 2) A sporting pitch. Now what is a sporting pitch is a debatable question, but what most cricket fans agree upon is that it should provide reasonable opportunities for the batsmen and the bowlers to do well, which typically means some assistance for the fast bowlers in the early hours of most days, good pace and bounce in the track, and some assistance for spinners late in the game, all however meshed together in what should still be a decent batting surface. Or let’s look at it another way, a good test cricket pitch is one where the toss should not be decisive.
Talking about some of the best test matches of the last ten years or so which have gone the distance, as an Indian – the first 3 that come to my mind straightaway are our 3 wins against Australia between 2001 and 2004. The two home wins – the incredible follow-on turnaround at Eden Gardens (which I believe is The Greatest  Game Ever Played J ) and the pulsating, heart –throbbing series decider at Chennai ; followed by the Rahul Dravid (and Ajit Agarkar) inspired victory at Adelaide. All three of them were played on wonderful, sporting wickets, which were excellent for batting and yet always had something for the bowling team too.  Incidentally the drawn 4th test of the series, which was Steve Waugh’s last match, was also a quite brilliant encounter- one that got away from us perhaps due to some poor catching.
Let’s look at a few more classics which went deep into the 5th day: India vs England once again at Chennai – 2008, where Sachin took India home in an epic run chase in the 4th innings; India vs South Africa at Eden Gardens in February this year (in the series where Hashim Amla was refusing to leave the crease) – late, late drama before Bhajji clinched the win.  Australia vs India at Sydney, 2008 - The test which we could have drawn had we batted for 9 minutes more, if not for the dubious umpiring from Bucknor and Co – and yet a terrific test match none the less.
Let’s change the India centric view and look at another team and bring in England – a team which over the last 5-6 years has been in unusually high number of dramatic, last hour – sometimes last over finishes. Let’s look at the 2005 Ashes in England ; the 2nd test at Edgbaston – the match which produced the now immortal image of Flintoff embracing a dejected Brett Lee after he had just led England to a pulsating 2 run win. The 3rd test at Old Trafford was just as close but this time the Australians held on with the last wicket pair battling away for a draw. The last test at Oval was almost as dramatic with England holding on for a draw and the series win in a fascinating day’s cricket. Roll forward 4 years ahead and the 2009 Ashes, while not quite being the same series as the 2005 one in terms of sheer drama, also provided spectators with some thrilling cricket. The first test at Cardiff ended with Panesar and Anderson seeing off the last few overs to hold on for a draw. And perhaps that escape allowed England to get some relief and later momentum to regain the Ashes once again.  The situation was not too different when England toured South Africa later that year. The first test at Centurian and the third test at Cape Town, both ended in draws with the last wicket pair surviving – Graham Onions being the last man standing on both occasions. In a 4 test match series, where England won the 2nd and South Africa the 4th, these last wicket heroics proved decisive for England to square the series, when clearly it was South Africa who had dominated 3 matches and perhaps with some luck could have gone on to win it 3-1.
[However it has to be noted here that while in the last few series, England had all the luck going their way, they were massively unlucky in the 2009 series in the West Indies. They managed to get West Indies 9 down in the 3rd and 8 down in the 5th test match, but could not force home their advantage and lost the test series 1-0.]
What makes it particularly interesting for me as a fan to watch these close test matches, is that they bring forward different aspects of batting and bowling. Very often, especially in limited over cricket, the attacking skills of a batsman and the defensive mind-set of a bowler are all that is on display. However, 5th day test cricket sometimes is about how well can the batsmen defend and cope with the turning ball or a wearing pitch or whether a bowler can pick up wickets when it is really needed. The tables are turned here and we find the bowlers attacking and the batsmen defending for a change. It tests those parts of a batsman’s technique or a bowler’s repertoire which one rarely sees otherwise.
As a cricket lover, while I do enjoy ODIs a lot and T20 a little, give me a thrilling test match with 5 days of brilliant cricket, any day of the weekJ. And with Test cricket now having a bunch of teams which are fairly evenly matched, I expect to see some more engrossing contests in the next few years.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Introspection

My first significant interview was when I was changing schools in Class 9. Prior to that, school changes had been handled by my parents and in those days, toddlers and kids were spared the horrors of gruelling interrogations on stuff like metaphors and the fibonacci series. At least that was the case in Patna in the late 1980s and 90s.
Moving ahead, the point that I am coming to is whether it is an interview for an admission to a new school, or college or a job, one of the commonly asked question is "What are your strengths and weaknesses ?". Or in management lingo, do a SWOT analysis of yourself, with greater emphasis on the S and the W. And if one has the company of experienced and sensible seniors and elders around, it is quite likely that people will advise you to prepare for such a question. I too had been lucky and would always go prepared mentally for facing such a question. (It's another matter that the answers would never come out the way I had prepared, but then that's another story.)
Looking back, the strengths and weaknesses that I mentioned in my interview (or at least planned to) seem a little different to what I say are my current strengths and weaknesses. Rather more disturbingly, some of the qualities that I used to think were my strengths might be honestly put in the weakness bracket today.
And all this brought me to think that when I was younger, whether the strengths that I had mentioned, were more the qualities I wished I possessed rather than them being actually the qualities I possessed ? Was it the case of those qualites being more aspirational rather than real ? And to that a few qualities which I think the person on the other side of the table wants to listen and the S of SWOT is ready. I tend to think, that was the case. Having said that, I also believe it is a perfectly appropriate way of going about presenting yourself.
Wonder if anyone else feels on similar lines on the topic ?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Magic of Murali

"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige". - This is how Michael Caine's character Cutter describes a magic trick in Christopher Nolan's brilliant film 'The Prestige'.
Muttiah Muralitharan has been giving a fairly good demonstration of what is said above over the past two decades. Murali's PLEDGE is the cricket ball in his hand, same for every other bowler on the planet. And then he begins his mesmerising bowling action, eyes bulging in concentration and focus.... His TURN is literally that... A lot of turn.... No one has turned a cricket ball more than him. And he has mixed his turn, with flight, pace, direction and a lot of smiles. And then comes his PRESTIGE - the crowning moment - when he gets his man - a wicket !
My favourite Murali, and for that matter Sri Lanka, performance is his 16 wicket haul against England at the Oval in 1998. In a match where Sanath Jayasuriya hit a sensational 213 and Aravinda De Silva a magnificient 152, it was ultimately Murali's magic which brought the Lankans that brilliant win. You can enjoy some of his wickets here .
And like, Alfred Borden, the question Murali has been asking the batsmen over the years has been a simple one: "Are you watching closely?" As it turns out today on his retirement from test cricket, 800 times, they were not.
[PS: This blog has been inspired by the brilliance of Murali, Christopher Nolan and this blog by Gradwolf where he reviews INCEPTION. A must read if you have seen the movie]

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Tic Tac Toe Finals

In its current format, it takes 62 matches in the World Cup to determine the two finalists. The 63rd match is largely pointless, the winner gets the consolation for finishing 3rd and then we have the Final. The most important match in world football for four years.
The 2010 World Cup, hosted quite beautifully by South Africa (if I have a concern, its been the sluggish nature of pitches which have not lent well to quick passing along the ground), has now reached the final stages. Tonight Germay and Uruguay will play in the 3rd-4th place play-off match, but really everyone is waiting for tomorrow when The Netherlands and Spain will face-off in what is an unlikely final match. Unlikely because, inspite of having produced some of the finest footballers in the world; inspite of having clubs that have often been kings of Europe (Ajax, Real Madrid and Barcelona), these two countries have continued to under-perform at the world stage for a long time. Things have changed this time for the better, and I am particularly happy to see both these teams in the final. So here's my take on both the finalists
IN DEFENSE OF THE DUTCH: Ask anyone (who pretends to know football) about Dutch football, and chances are they will start talking about Total Football and Johann Cruyff. The term has stuck around the Dutch team for far too long and for no reason. The two final appearances in 1974 and 1978 remain the high points of their history along with the magnificient team of 1988 starring Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkard that lifted the 1988 Euros. And despite having some of the world's best footballers through the nineties and noughties ( Bergkamp, Overmars, the De Boer brothers, Stam, Kluivert, Van Nistelroy, Seedorf, Davids to just name a few) and coming close several times (W Cup 1998 Semi finals, Euro 2000 Semi finals), the Dutch are reaching a major final for the first time since 1988. The thing to note this time is that this team is very different from the Dutch teams of the past and comparisons have almost inevitably led to criticism.
This Dutch team doesn't play Total Football (circa 1970's). This much we know. Has any other team played like that ever ? Not that I am aware of. So the point is: Not playing Total Football cannot be a reasonable ground for criticism. What has however, also been missing is the usual free flowing, attacking football and flair, that one has come to associate with the Oranjes.... But a closer look at the team and the current talent pool will tell us why.
In goal - Stekelenburg and the back four in front of him - Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen and GIOvanni van Brockhorst are competent players. None of them are what one might call world class. Apart from a couple of dodgy goals let in by the keeper from shots outside the box, they have been solid, without being spectacular. Well, other than, GIO's screamer of a goal in the semis against Uruguay that is :).
Next we have the defensive mid-field partnership of Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong. At their best, they are two tigers on the prowl in the centre of the park, who have been extremely effective in stopping the opposition attack; at their worst, they might be accussed of two thugs in disguise. In fact, some of Van Bommel's challenges have been horrendous to say the least, and yet he has got away with just a couple of yellow cards. The joke going round on twitter is that Harry Potter wants his invisibility cloak back from him, so blind have the referees been to his indiscretions so far.
Up front, they play with Sneijder as the playmaker, Kuyt on the left wing, Robben on the right and Van Persie up top. Four very different players, who have at times not combined very well at all. Dirk Kuyt provides work-rate, defensive cover for Gio, and intelligent runs and passes, and has had a very good tournament. Robben, who started the tournament late, recovering from an injury, has been playing the way he does best, making runs on the wing, cutting in at times and shooting. He has drawn a lot of fouls too, and has sucked the opposition into kicking him as Brazil did. He dives, sometimes, to win freekicks, generally makes most of whatever contact he gets, and then produces the occassional moment of magic or brilliance which can turn a game. Van Persie, coming into the world cup from an injury plagued season at Arsenal has remained largely subdued, and yet with the talents at his disposal keeps the opposition sufficiently occupied. His off the ball runs and some deft touches around the box are all that we have seen and yet he has been at the centre of confusion in the opposition penalty box when the Dutch have scored. And the person who has been doing most of the damage has been Wesley Sneijder, the man, who I believe has been influencing more big games in the last 3-4 months in world football than anyone else. Sneijder plays the game with intelligence. Often he drifts in and out of games. His genius is in picking moments to make a sublime defence splitting pass (as he showed for Inter against Chelsea or Bayern) or a shot/ cross as he has done throughout the world cup with his 5 goals. Off the bench, Van der Vaart remains their most likely creative force capable of changing a match and he has played well at times during the tournament. The Dutch as a team in this tournament have been a reflection of how Sneijder has been playing. Largely functional, effective and efficient for the duration of the game, yet having moments of brilliance and inspiration, doing just enough to get the job done for a match and then move on. What they have done well so far is not to have an implosion wherein they lose their bearings during a crucial period of a match, or get too gung ho while attacking, leaving their defense exposed.  They appear to have a resilience about them, as witnessed in the comeback against Brazil, in a tournament when not many teams have over-turned deficits to win. They have managed to get goals from unlikely sources too - headers from Sneijder and Robben, (two not too big, bald men), proving to be winners in the quarter finals and finals. Their success has come at the cost of beauty and flair, but right now Coach Van Marwick and his men would be happy to follow their sponsor Nike's tagline and JUST DO IT!!
(Note: In case you are interested in knowing about Total Football, how the current Dutch team are nothing like it, read this interesting piece from Brian Phillips . It's just that I don't agree with his conclusion) 
PASSING the parcel with Spain and other fun and games: Spanish football, so often at the top of the European club scene with Real Madrid and Barcelona had been the biggest under-achievers in world football till 2008, when they won the Euro, with largely the same team. In fact it is remarkable to note that this is the first time they have ever reached the world cup semi-finals, let alone the finals. A country that has always produced talented footballers over the years, often believed to have failed due to dissensions and in team politics, Real vs Barca fights and so on. However, something did change in 2008 when playing a short passing and movement game based on the style that has evolved over the years in Barca, popularly known as Tiki-taka, the Spanish conquered all comers and won the tournament in some style. However, as Sid Lowe (this link provides a brilliant analysis) has pointed out tiki - taka is as much a defensive tactic meant to suffocate the opposition of possession, as it is an attacking ploy. While the aesthetic pleasure derived depends from person to person, its a matter of taste after all; the effectiveness cannot be questioned, having gone through six consecutive knock-out matches now (Q/F, S/F and Final in Euro '08 and Round of 16, Q/F and S/F in W Cup 10) without conceding a goal. Watching Spain pass the ball around with care and style, with a quickness of foot and mind, is a bit like seeing a jealous boy-friend taking around his girl-friend around a park, always possessive and protective from others.
A look at their team now and as we go along we will see how significant the influence has been of the style and the personnel of one club - Barcelona. Iker Cassilas, goal-keeper and captain, world class keeper for a long time, has been largely under-used throughout the cup; his highlight coming in the penalty save against Cardozo. The back 4 is largely settled with Ramos at right back and Capdevilla at left back; Ramos rampaging on the right, more often than his counterpart. Pique and Puyol provide an all Barca centre of defense and have been very good, Puyol having the added honour of scoring the winner in the semis against Germany. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets are the defensive shield in front of the back 4, yet very different players. While Busquets who has come through the ranks at Barca is an interceptor of the ball, who makes very quick and efficient use of it, quickly moving it forward, Alonso has the added advantage of having possibly the most comprehensive passing range in the game. His ability to hit long passes almost makes him "quarter-back" like on a football field and provides a wonderful variation to the generally short passing style employed by the team. Just in front of them is Xavi, the conductor of the orchestra, the man who symbolises Tiki-taka in all its glory. Arguably the greatest midfielder Spain has ever produced (Pep Guardiola his Barca coach is a tough contendor though), Xavi plays the game with such simplicity and grace, that it can leave the spectators and often, the opposition, simply admiring his beauty. Andres Iniesta, the puppet master can make runs, dribble, pass and shoot from all possible ways and is mesmerising at times. David Villa up front has provided the much needed fire-power, the elusive end product,  scoring 5 goals, and basically establishing himself as the world's best striker. He often starts on the left wing, cutting inside, he can shoot from distance or can score from a scrappy situation. That makes 10 almost certain starters. The 11th player has been different from time to time and coach Del Bosque has some incredible options to chose from. He could go for an out of form Torres, who on his day, is a spectacular striker with pace, power and precision; Pedro - Barca's pacy little winger who can run rings around the opposition; Cesc Fabregas - Talismanic captain of my club - who can provide penetration and finishing from midfield. Or he could go for David Silva or Jesus Navas - exceptional wingers or a target man in Llorente - the options are simply mouth watering. And any of these can come in later in the game to make the difference depending on the game situation.
THE MATCH: There will be several intriguing match-ups especially in mid-field which might go on to decide the match. Unless something extra-ordinary happens, Spain will have a majority of the possession.The Dutch will not be too bothered about it. Iniesta and Villa will make the runs and test the Dutch defense thoroughly. How Van Bommell and De Jong deal with Xavi and Iniesta will be interesting, how Howard Webb will deal with Van Bommell will be even more so.... A quick yellow card and Van Bommell might just become more careful, subdued and less of a problem. The Dutch will try to find Robben on the flanks, his matchup against Capdevilla is one of the few they will fancy to win. And then there will Sneijder, lurking, stalking, waiting for his moment to strike and change the course of the game.
I suspect it will be a very close game. I am going for a very tight Spanish victory (2-1), although I would be more than thrilled if The Netherlands become world champions. (Why is that - I am a massive Denis Bergkamp fan :D)
PS: This match is all about Johann Cruyff. If The Netherlands win, his country would have become the world champions. Or if as he predicts here, Spain win, it would be the successful culmination of the short-passing game that he developed at Barcelona. In other words, his style would win. Take your pick :)

Happiness is LSD !!!

Switching through channels about 20 minutes ago, I stumbled upon this wonderful show called Business Sutra on CNBC TV 18 (which I watch occassionally), where the remarkable Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik links our mythology and customs to business fundas in a wonderful way (The hyperlink also has links to the episodes of Business Sutra  in case you are interested). And the line that caught my attention was - Happiness = LSD !!! And here, LSD is not Love, Sex aur Dhokha ( which by the way is the best Hindi movie of the year so far :D). Instead, LSD stands for Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga - 3 of the most important Goddesses in Hinduism.
He then goes on to telling that Lakshmi represents material wealth/ happiness, Saraswati represents intellect, knowledge etc and Durga represents our emotional wealth/ state of mind. And how, Lakshmi is fully measurable, Saraswati - partially measurable and Durga is not measurable at all....
The bottom line being that Happiness is a combination of things, only parts of which are measurable; some factors will forever remain immeasurable at all times.
Fascinating stuff and a line of thought which had never occurred to me. So just wanted to share with this my friends.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Semi Finals Predictions

I have been doing fairly rubbish in these world cup predictions so far. And still I make another  attempt here to show off my football punditry.
Netherlands - Uruguay:  Looks likely to be a battle of attrition, considering how Uruguay approach the game generally and how the Dutch have been playing in this tournament so far. However, with Uruguay having just one match winner in Forlan, as opposed to several for the Netherlands, I will go for a Dutch win in normal time. 2-1 to the Dutch, with Dirk Kuyt scoring the winner. (Yes, you can laugh at it if you want)
Spain - Germany: Promises to the best game of the tournament so far. This youthful German team has pleasantly surprised everybody with their attacking prowess in the tournament. The Spanish, much fancied on the other hand, have underwhelmed to a certain extent, relying heavily on David Villa to take them to the semis so far. And yet, it has to be considered, that it is Spain's best ever World Cup performance (at least since 1950 where the format was different). Coming into the tournament, a Spain - Germany semi-final would have had Spain as the firm favourites, but I am going for a German win 2-1 in extra time, simply considering the momentum they have behind them.
So a Netherlands - Germany final is what I predict. What about you ?
PS: I definitely want to see the Dutch play in the final, I have been supporting them throughout. I am an admirer of this Spanish side since 2008 and would normally back them, but have developed a soft corner for this German team during the tournament, so planning to be strictly neutral in the second semi-final

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quarter Finals Predictions

After a largely exciting Round of 16, which produced some terrific football at times, here we go into the quarter finals. So here's another attempt to play the now famous Oracle Octopus myself.

Netherlands - Brazil - Brazil to win 2-1 although it could even go to penalties...... Rooting for the Dutch though :)
Uruguay - Ghana - Uruguay to go through comfortably - 3-1. Once again rooting for the underdog here - Come on Ghana !!!!
Argentina - Germany - Tough Match !!!! Going with Argentina 3-2 - Messi to have a blinder :) . But has to be a cracker of a game. No favourites here. Just hope the better team wins.
Paraguay - Spain - Easy choice. Spain win 2-0, as long as they don't get complacent. Torres to open his account.

And so my predicted semi-final line up looks like - Brazil v Uruguay & Argentina v Spain.  What's yours ?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Round of 16 predictions

The Round of 16 starts today and here are my quick predictions for these 8 matches coming up. Now logic or explanation given - just going by gut feeling for now

Uruguay - Korea Republic  - Prediction - Uruguay 2-1
USA - Ghana  - Prediction -  USA - 1-0
Germany - England - Prediction - England on penalties  (1-1 after 120 mins) (Yah I know - stupid prediction :D)
Argentina - Mexico - Prediction - Argentina 3-1
Netherlands - Slovakia - Prediction - Netherlands  2-0
Brazil - Chile - Prediction - Brazil 3-2 :)
Paraguay - Japan - Prediction - Japan on penalties (2-2 after 120 mins)
Spain - Portugal - Prediction - Spain in extra time (1-1 after 90 mins)

I am convinced I will get at least one score line correct :). Let's see.
Here's hoping for some thrilling football !!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Capello Pep Talk ?

With England playing Germany on Sunday - if I were Fabio Capello, I would think of using the following lines said by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) in Inglourious Basterds as a pep talk before the match.

"......We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good? "
Haha - Correct right ?
Jokes apart, expect an epic match this Sunday. May the best team win

Saturday, June 19, 2010

European powerhouses



Watching England take on Algeria last night was an effort to stay awake. And in order to stay awake, I decided to do some basic research to find out as to who have been the best European teams in major tournaments for the last 20 years. I took 1990 as I cut off because 1990 World Cup was the first one I ever watched. And I have considered both  World Cups and European Championships for this exercise as I believe the Euros are played at almost as good a standard as the World Cup.

The point scoring system that I have used is as below










And after that it was just a task of fitting the results of the teams into a box to come up with totals to find out which have been the best teams in Europe. And the results are below (Click to see the entire table)
A summary of the results is here below:

And the results clearly show that Germany has been the best European team of the last two decades. They were clearly the dominant team of the nineties - head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the countries. The Netherlands coming a distant second. However there has been no such dominant team in the noughties - the Italians coming marginally ahead with 27 points over Germany, France and Portugal - all of whom have 26 points.
And so the best 3 teams from Europe over the last two decades have been - Germany -64 points, Italy - 47 points and France - 44 points. Netherlands, inspite of not having won any World Cup or Euro in this period are a respectable fourth with 42 points. England (31 points) struggle to come in 6th place, just ahead of Portugal (30 points). Spain, perennial under-achievers (like the English in fact) - jump into 5th spot - thanks to their Euro 2008 win.
I think this gives a sense of perspective when we call some teams as big teams. Clearly Germany and Italy are the 2 teams from Europe which have over the years, including the last two decades, done remarkably well. France (1998-2000), Spain (2008 - 2010 ?) and Portugal (2004-2008), underachievers for long, all have had purple patches during the last two decades, possibly because of having their all time greatest squads being assembled in this period. Portugal of course can be debatable as their so called Golden generation was supposed to be playing in the 1990s, but once they started qualifying for these big tournaments consistentely in 2000, they have done quite well for themselves. While the all time greatest Dutch teams have been in the 1970s and 1980s, they have been fairly consistent in these big tournaments, thanks to their individual talents, without really cracking it big yet. I, for one, am hoping that 2010 is the year for the Netherlands.
And where does that leave England in the midst. Considering all the hype and attention that they garner, thanks to the Premier League, England have been largely disappointing in major tournaments. And with 2 draws in 2 games so far, things are looking grim for them once again.
This blog will be updated with the results of the 2010 World Cup and it will be interesting to see which European team goes the furthest in this year's edition.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some thoughts on quizzing

A few months, probably on twitter and then in personal conversations with friends, while discussing quizzing, a few of us were lamenting about the lack of quizzing on television. As it so happens, currently the Indian television scene is filled with a mind-boggling array of reality shows, talent hunt shows and such assorted stuff which frankly becomes very hard to relate to for some boring, nerdy folks like me. And a quality quiz programme is badly missed.
Growing up in the 90s, Sunday mornings used to be spent watching some mythological show, followed by some cartoon and then the Bournvita Quiz Contest. Hosted by Derek O’ Brien, BQC was an essential part of the Sunday routine for many young ,enthusiastic quizzers like me. And many young children who got some of their earliest taste of quizzing from BQC went on to become quizzers for life.
As I grew up further, I began to appreciate other, higher standards of quizzes. Two such shows - Mastermind India and University Challenge, both hosted by the remarkable Siddharth Basu, are particularly note-worthy in terms of the quality, format and presentation, which opened up new horizons for what a quizzer can look forward to.
And then came the era of the Game-shows such as KBC (incidentally produced by Siddharth Basu himself), which on the one hand brought quizzing to a much larger audience and for some time capturing the imagination of the nation itself, on the other hand however, it can perhaps be argued that it also sounded the death-knell of the other regular quizzing that we had on television. The point being who would care to attend or organize a quiz show where the winner gets Rs. 500/- when you can win lakhs and crores by answering some simple stuff and get to meet a superstar as a bonus.
All along of course, schools and colleges in India have always had a culture of quizzing. Come to the larger towns, the 4 metros, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and we can find quizzing forums who conduct regular, open quizzes which are attended with great enthusiasm by quizzers. We also have a few Corporate Quizzes on TV such as the Tata Crucible or the Brand Equity Quiz by ET, both extremely prestigious, which keep the flame of quizzing burning on TV now.
I feel that the best time to create a quizzer out of person is when he or she is young and that the absence of a programme like BQC or even the ESPN School Quiz Olympiad, will perhaps be felt perhaps 10 years down the line.
Having said that, I work at Infosys, Mangalore and we conduct an annual school quiz here for kids of class 8-10 – SCHOLARS and the incredible levels of participation and then performance of the kids last year left me in awe of them on one hand and a little humbled as a question setter on the other, considering how well they cracked my questions :)
Perhaps the future of quizzing is different. For instance we have quiz blogs such as this one from my friend Suhel, which provide tremendous food for thought on a boring working day. Social networking is bringing together like minded folks a lot more than before and more open quizzes will probably be a reality. Internet and the new media will no doubt provide plenty of material for current quizzers to test their skills. I however have my doubts on its power to draw in new quizzers. That's just something we have to wait and see.
Talking about quizzing, you would always meet the types who say that quizzing is for nerds and you need to have a strong GK for it etc etc (and they are mostly right J), there is a lot more to quizzing than mere general knowledge or mugged up stuff. Going through the net, I found these two quite, brilliantly written articles on Quizzing. The first by Amit Varma: Quizzing is not just a trivial pursuit and the second by Salil Tripathi: What quizzing teaches us. Both are must reads for quiz lovers and articulate beautifully the various facets that draw people towards quizzing and why we love it. And both also talk about the ultimate question which distinguishes a good question from a bad one, a good quiz / quizmaster from a bad one: How is the question asked and not what is the question is what counts. And the more quizzers and quizmaster we have who understand this art, this skill, the more people we can draw to the world of quizzing.
Till then, Happy Quizzing  :)  
PS: This blog was triggered by an argument I had with a friend in office over a quiz, which later got me thinking about quizzing and writing this blog post which I had planned to do for some time.
[PS2: 3rd October: This post by Arul Mani is added here, simply because it is a collector's edition.]

Monday, May 24, 2010

सूनी सांझ

मेरी सबसे प्रिय कविता । शिवमंगल सिंह सुमन द्वारा रचित सूनी सांझ ।  बारहवी कक्षा में पढाई गयी कविता आज भी याद आती है । हालाकि मुझे यह कविता कंटस्थ तो थी, लेकिन फिर भी मैंने कई बार इसे इन्टरनेट पर ढूँढने का प्रयास किया । और फिर मुझे  मिला http://www.kavitakosh.org जहाँ पर हिंदी कविताओं का एक भरमार मौजूद है ।  तो अगर आप में से   जो कोई भी हिंदी कविताओं में रूचि रखते हैं, वे ज़रूर इस वेबसाइट का उपयोग कर सकते हैं  । और उसके पहले मेरी प्रिय कविता सूनी सांझ को एक बार ज़रूर पढ़े ।


सूनी सांझ


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


पेड खडे फैलाए बाँहें
लौट रहे घर को चरवाहे
यह गोधुली, साथ नहीं हो तुम,


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


कुलबुल कुलबुल नीड-नीड में
चहचह चहचह मीड-मीड में
धुन अलबेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम,


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


जागी-जागी सोई-सोई
पास पडी है खोई-खोई
निशा लजीली, साथ नहीं हो तुम,


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


ऊँचे स्वर से गाते निर्झर
उमडी धारा, जैसी मुझपर-
बीती झेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम,


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


यह कैसी होनी-अनहोनी
पुतली-पुतली आँख मिचौनी
खुलकर खेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम,


बहुत दिनों में आज मिली है
साँझ अकेली, साथ नहीं हो तुम ।


   - डॉक्टर शिवमंगल सिंह 'सुमन'

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