Saturday, March 20, 2010

My take on MIHYAP - The Book

I finished reading celebrated blogger Arnab Ray aka Greatbong's first book - May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss ! just now. I found the book to be an extremely enjoyable read. So, while I am too lazy to write a proper review of the book, I am enthusiastic enough to list down a few of the highlights for me.

1) The two short-stories - 'A Short Story on Terror' and '1-900 Hotties' - both surreal, funny and sad for a multitude of reasons. Laugh and cry at the same time as they hit you in unexpected places.
2) Chapter 9: An Indian Wedding - Let me say this upfront, that I have never been part of any wedding ceremony other than for the dinner part. A combination of apathy, absence and excuses has worked well for me in avoiding weddings. So when the author gives an incredibly funny first hand account of what happens in a typical Indian (in this case Bengali) wedding, it had me laughing and cringing at the same time. Laughing, because it is so insanely crazy, made crazier by the author's take on it ; and cringing because there is the fear at the back of one's mind, that I might be the victim of something similar one day. Now I know some of you reading this who know me well, might be laughing as to how I am even fancying getting married. However, just in case .....just in case it ever happens I will try my best to do a court marriage.
3) Some of the remarkable theories expounded in a most scholarly fashion. For example: - a) The Khanna Patel Lahiri Desperation malaise which is remarkably similar to the more popular usage of the first letters of the four words of the title of the theory.
b) The 'Bait and Switch' theory of song writing used by bollywood song writers in the 90s as demonstrated in songs of films like Khalnayak and Dalal.
c) The Quickly Minimize Windows Hypothesis'. Now let it be known that this works only when you have a presentable desktop picture. Also, that the most important keyboard shortcut which should be taught in Classes 7 onwards is the 'Windows + M' or 'Windows + D'. Unfortunately most of us learn this only when we enter the corporate world, but the utility of such shortcuts on late nights at home cannot be over-emphasised.
4) The incredibly scholarly analysis of several "over-looked" Bollywood movies especially 'Gunda'. Just one line  quoted here from the book should be enough to bring the readers to buy the book - This depiction of the eternal conflict between good and evil where each character is an anthropomorphization of historical forces, makes Gunda transcend all cinematic formulae, kind of like a Mahabharata of the times.'
5) The exposure of the reason as to why some of us don't like these new "bold" Bollywood movies which have all these "hot babes" delivered in one telling line - The dislike stems from a deep well of "Where were these types of girls when I was growing up?" angst which people of my generation will surely understand. Understand??? I feel it Sir.
Well, these are just a few of the highlights of this book and be sure I have kept the best ones unwritten here for you to go and enjoy it while you read it. This book is one of those which makes you all nostalgic about growing up in the 80's and 90's. While reading the book at times, I was smiling with the 'I have done that' feeling. And on some other occasions, I had the feeling - Oh shit, I didn't do that or I didn't see that one - Would have been fun - no?
All in all a book I recommend to all those who have a sense of humour. And just one question to the author posed here - Dada, these Poltu's diary entries are actually yours. Right ???

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to pronounce Kolkata

Now that the IPL is well and truly underway, commentators, wannabe commentators, anchors, wannabe anchors, cricket fans, newsreaders and people all around the world would generally be talking about the world's greatest cricket team - KKR. Yes the Kolkata Knight Riders. Love them or hate them, but you can't ignore them. And as a result, one gets a lot of people saying the world Kolkata and all too often in a wrong manner. Something that makes me cringe. And Kolkata is a very simple and easy word to pronounce. It's not as if you are pronouncing Thiruvanathapuram or Machilipatnam - is it? Some of the common ways in which people have been going around mispronouncing are :
CALL-KATA, CALL-KATTA, COOL-KATTA, KAL-KATA etc etc. For your understanding when I say, CALL here I am refering to the pronounciation of CALL as you would say CALL CENTRE. All right, enough of these.
So here's how you pronounce the word - KOLKATA. Try it like this by breaking it into three parts:
COAL- KAA-TAA. Yes, COAL (कोल)  as in Coal the fuel or Coal India. Like that. KAA is simple - KAA (का). And TAA is like you say TAA in  ताल (Ya - TAAL The Subhash Ghai movie)  and not like TA (टा) of Tata Steel. This is how the word is pronounced in Hindi text - कोल का ता
 And I am doing this as a public service initiative because even Tata Sky Active will not teach you this "pronunciation".
Look I don't mind you calling Kolkata as Calcutta or Kal-katta when you are speaking in English or Hindi or whatever. But when you are trying to say Kolkata then say it properly.
And if you don't listen to me about how to pronounce Kolkata, then I will cut you in mid-speech. Or simply as Mamata Di said - "If you don't listen na, I'll cut".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An unnecessary and totally useless preview of IPL3.

The greatest cricket-cum (cum in hindi means less) entertainment (zyada) show on earth will be starting in a few days time. So, I decided that an in-depth, knowledgeable preview to IPL 3 from a cricket expert like Harsha Bhogle, might just spoil your IPL-3 experience by becoming too serious and detailed. What you need is a fresh perspective from an obtuse angle. So that when you see the matches, you can differentiate between the leg-spinners and the fast-men.

This preview will contain a look at all the eight IPL-3 teams starting from the north in an anti-clockwise manner.

Team 1) King’s XI Punjab. First things first, the squad consists of more than XI people and unlike the Indian hockey team, non-Punjabis also play for it. This year has seen the captaincy change with Yuvraj Singh giving way to Kumar Sangakkara as a result of which a sharp reduction in the post-match hugs and kisses from Preity Zinta is expected. We are still sceptical about the chemistry between Preity and  Sanga, but expect lot of action in the pavilion with both the injured stars (that is what I call a "Hurt Locker (room)) – Yuvraj and Brett Lee vying for the lady’s attention. Also, in other news, it is expected that Irfan Pathan’s balls are expected to reach the other end at the lightning speed of 105 kmph.
But then, why am I talking about all this non-sense. The team name contains the word – King and that is for a reason – Sreesanth. Quite simply, he is the best actor, dancer, motivation expert and cry-baby going around the IPL circus. With a ball in hand, he becomes a premier swinging fast bowler. But that is not all, with Sreesanth in the team, all those following Sidin Vadakut on twitter can expect a tweet twice in every Sreesanth over, which is reason to get excited in itself.


Team 2) Delhi Daredevils. A team owned by the GMR group is as solid as a good corporate house. Not too many background stories around this team unfortunately. A team filled with batsmen such as Sehwag, Gambhir, Dilshan (of the Dilscoop TM fame), David Warner (the Aussie batsman who slogs like a hog) and AB De-villiers is expected not to face too many challenging bowling attacks. But then who needs bowling attacks to bother you when your matches are at the Feroze Shah Kotla pitch whose pace and bounce is as unpredictable ..... as well..... Ashish Nehra’a line and length. All in all, a completely avoidable team for the paparazzi, which is as serious as their captain – Gambhir’s name. Watch them only for the cricket.

Team 3) Rajasthan Royals. Lead by the maverick leg-spinner Shane Warne, the team has created history by becoming the first cricket team to have different jerseys for home and away matches. Seems rather odd to me, as they would be playing very few games at home in Rajasthan. Interestingly enough, some of their games have been scheduled in Gujarat. Did they ask Warne before doing that? FYI for Mr Warne – It’s a dry state (hahaha).

This Royals has team has never really recovered since the departure of their social and religious philosopher – Sohail Tanvir from their team. They have been further hurt by the loss of the Indian Garfield Sobers (aka Ravindra Jadeja) due to non-cricketing reasons. However, with a Shilpa Shetty (albeit now married) cheering for them, expect some Halla – Bol from these Royals.

Team 4) Mumbai Indians. Ok can’t joke around much about this team. They have GOD playing for them. Other than that – the team has an emphasis on WEST INDIANS (Bravo and Pollard) rather than NORTH INDIANS, which I am sure is purely coincidental in nature. The team employs a rotation of cheer-leading filmstars – Kareena one day, Raveena Tandon the next. It is the lack of consistency on and off the field which has cost the team in the last two editions. Expect Harbhajan and his doosras to do a better job this year.

Team 5) Royal Challengers Bangalore. This is a team filled with South Africans (past – Pietersen and present – Kallis, Boucher, Steyn). Hence, liable to choke. But with Kumble and Dravid in the team, they still might win lot of games.

I will keep my analysis of RCB  brief and simple. Point 1: The team knows how to have a good time. Point 2: Celebrity cheer leader is Katrina Kaif. Pure class. Nuff said. (See the pic and enjoy)

Team 6) Chennai Sooper Kings – A cult team lead by the Super Cool Captain Cucu aka YEM YESS DHONI. Filled with old and unfit allrounders like Flintoff, Oram, Kemp and Albie Morkel, they will rely heavily on the dirty Aussies – Hayden and Hussey to come through the tournament. The team is also a launching pad for sons of Chennai based ex-cricketers with Anirudh Srikanth (son of Krish Srikanth) and Vidyut S (Son of LS ;)) being prominent in the list.  [Quick edit - In light of squad changes and questionable paternity of some players, this sentence is striked off. Alternate useless fact is the brand ambassadors of CSK are the ex-dasher Srikanth and the dashing VIJAY]
On the bright side, expect the most sporting crowd of all  to come out and support at the Chepauk Stadium, which will include the genius Sivamani at work. Also expected to be bright is their yellow jersey, so Rizwan Khan is asked to stay away from the CSK games.

Team 7) Deccan Chargers. Defending champions, the winners of IPL2  have strangely not won a single game in Hyderabad till date having played 10 games there in IPL1 and the CL T-20. The team has very cleverly found a way around this and used the Telengana agitations to quietly shift their home matches away to the very stretched edges of the Deccan plateau – Nagpur and that place which Mamata Didi called Kotok. Expect Indian Railways & not Air Deccan to reach these places.

On the cricketing front, the dynamic Adam Gilchrist will be leading from behind (the stumps i.e.) as usual, but all eyes will be on the awesome Andrew Symonds and his latest antics. Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha are two India hopefuls on whom a lot rests in this team.

Team 8) Kolkata Knight Riders. The most famous sports team in sporting history. Period. Famous from Ballygunge to Bangladesh and all other places were Bengalis inhabit. The team, the brand is exactly what the IPL is all about – entertainment. Their exploits are well known and need no repeating. And this season they intend to go the extra step. SRK has already gone ahead in a campaign with Nokia called Main Bhi Coach campaign wherein any fan can send SMSes to 9664555555 and “coach” the team. Expect many prospective Buchanans and Greg Chappells showing fingers to the team when they disregard their advice.

The team will be appearing in a shocking, body hugging (LUX Cozying), purple jerseys this year and the sight of Ishant Sharma running into bowl like that might just make a few batsman sick and get retired hurt. The team will benefit from having Dada as captain for the time being, but in case he gets injured, all hell is expected to break loose once again. This is a team which has seen almost everything in the last 2 years – with world class players like Mashrafe Mortaza, Tatenda Taibu and Akash Chopra often donning their colours - but the appointment of a coach with the name “WHATMORE” does appear to be a sign of desperation. For cinematic effect, they also have a player – who can really say, My Name is Bond, Shane Bond. And finally, with most matches at Eden Gardens expected to be hit with “load-shedding”, Dada & Co are said to have practiced extensively in the dark – justifying their name – NIGHT RIDERS.

Coming to where to follow IPL, obviously, you would have to see it on the channel which broadcasts it (most probably Set Max). But for detailed analysis of the finer points of the game, switch to the "Aman-Asha" channel Times Now. They are most likely to have the legendary Charu Sharma and "Chicks on Flick" anchor - Neha Sareen along with such cricket experts as Arbaaz Khan (h/o Malaika Arora Khan - FYI) and the celebrated cricket historian Boria Mazumdar to discuss about fielding positions - silly points, fine leg etc. Cricket really gets serious with these folks You can also follow it on You Tube. (Google you are warned - hope you have cricket servers in place - I hope you guys know what happened to Cricinfo here)

A few important issues have been intentionally left untouched. Firstly, the various stages of undress of the different cheer-leaders. No photos here as it is quite possible that my family members might read this some day. Having said this, this is my all-time favourite cheerleader story. Read and enjoy. Secondly, no IPL article is complete without mentioning Mr. Lalit Modi. But after seeing him call  this blog by Anand Ramachandran on cricinfo a fake, I decided not to push my luck.

And finally, you might be thinking after reading this post, that I don't like the IPL at all. Well, I do have my reservations about it but it is a good thing at least for one reason. It has something for everyone in the family and a much better way of spending time as compared to watching "Saas-Bahu" serials or Arnab Goswami talk.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Apna Sachin

We Indians, myself included, have a tendency to get extremely excited whenever he breaks yet another record. So the euphoria that surrounds Sachin Tendulkar just reached a new crescendo on the 24th of February, when he reached the almost mythical landmark of 200 runs in an ODI innings at Gwalior against the South Africans. And yet, records are just a small part of what Sachin Tendulkar means to me and perhaps some of us Indians.
It will not be an effort to establish his greatness or his “greatest-ness” for they are activities of a futile nature in my opinion which do no one any good. What I am about to write here is extremely personal. But, I also believe that my feelings are shared with countless other Indians who have been following cricket in general and Sachin in particular for the last two decades or so. I hope that what this post perhaps lacks in structure is compensated for by my emotions. They are as genuine as they come from me.
My earliest memory of Sachin is listening on the radio along with my grandfather of him hitting Abdul Qadir for 3 or 4 sixes in an over. Sachin was a childhood prodigy and stories of his record breaking exploits had spread far and wide. But he could not have made his debut under more trying circumstances against Imran, Wasim and Waqar in Pakistan. The term ‘Baptism by fire’ cannot have a more apt usage than this. Somewhere during the tour, as a 5 year old kid I learnt that Sachin had been hit on the nose by one of these evil bowlers (Waqar). But the slightly older kid – Sachin had not given up, rather he had wiped the blood of his nose and said to his partner (Sidhu) – Main Khelega. I am of the firm opinion that this story has inspired me and millions of other kids of my generation. Getting hit while batting (even if it was from a tennis ball) and continuing on the crease went on the become a symbol of courage and pride for me and my friends. And if our mothers ever tried to come in between, we would never let them do so, after all, our hero Sachin had not retired hurt.
Sachin was the one of the role models for all of us growing up in the 90s. He was the man that all of us wanted to become. In a sense, our generation has been lucky to have cricketers like Kumble, Dravid and Sachin for us to hero worship – individuals whom our parents were only glad to allow us to idolize. For Sachin along with some of his peers has been a symbol of hard work, dignity and courage – the values which all Indian parents would want to inculcate in their children.
Sachin’s earlier years in the 90’s coincided with what can only be called as a tough period for the Indian team. Often it would be Sachin playing a lone hand trying to save the game for India or fighting an uphill battle in a seemingly lost cause. And it is here that in a team of mere mortals who lost more often than won, Sachin would still give the Indian public a cause to smile. We may have lost a match but then a 50 or a 100 from Sachin would be the only saving grace, the silver lining in the dark clouds surrounding Indian cricket. Yes, we also had Azza in batting, Srinath and Kumble coming up in the bowling department, but we were a far cry from becoming the world beaters we are today. The point I am making is that we often found that while our team as a collective unit did not give us much to cheer; we had a world beater amongst us who was world-class, who was going to be an all-time great. And so we became obsessed as much, and in some cases even more, with his success and his records, than of the Indian team. Perhaps this was a legacy of the Gavaskar - Kapil Dev era, I am not sure, but for us, it is clearly for Sachin that we went on to become the cricket crazy generation we are today.
When India won the Hero Cup in 1993 – the most unforgettable image of that tournament was Sachin bowling the last over against the South Africans at Eden Gardens, winning us a match from an improbable situation. And as a kid you got two things in mind – #1 Sachin can do just about anything and #2 - I want to be the hero and so I want to bowl the last over of every match. It is a moment which to me signifies many things – a case of a person taking personal responsibility of a situation in a moment of crisis; it is a case of a young man keeping his cool under incredible pressure and expectation; it is of a person who trusts his skill and ingenuity to outsmart the opposition.
There is something about Sachin that I have personally felt and observed with many other friends as well. And that is a deep and personal connect. It is a sense of shared ownership of his achievements. Sachin is a representation of oneself on the field of cricket. When Sachin plays, we feel that we are a part of the action. His successes feel like your own and perhaps more importantly his failures feel even more your own. (To give a personal example – I used to remember each and every Test dismissal of Sachin’s till 2002 after which perhaps it became all a bit too much to carry in my head). No moment has been more devastating for me in cricket than the moment when Sachin got out in THAT test match against Pakistan in Chennai, leaving us desperately close but short of the target. But perhaps nothing has brought me closer to the man that that. We have both lived through the pain of those moments, so now that the good moments come, we can enjoy with that much more pleasure. The 1999 Chennai defeat vs Pakistan overturned in the 2008 Chennai victory vs England. The disappointment of the magnificent yet incomplete 175 against Australia at Hyderabad, wiped off by the 200 vs South Africa at Gwalior. And these are just two examples of how Sachin has set the record straight run by run, giving us occasions to celebrate – sometimes with joy and sometimes with vengeance – over and over again.
We Indians love stories. And Sachin’s story is the kind of story that all of us love the most. A regular boy, perfectly eligible to be fashionably called ‘the guy next door’, humble and down to earth, who goes on to conquer the world with sheer determination and hard work, making the most of his God given abilities. Is this not the story line that all of us want to have for our own lives?
Sachin has provided us with a sense of national identity like no one else. And that remains at the core of his appeal. Since Sachin’s debut, more than 70 players have represented India in test cricket and more than 100 have gone on to play for the country in ODIs. Many of them have gone onto have massive fan followings throughout the country. And yet somewhere down the line, Ganguly is more popular in Kolkata than Delhi. Kumble’s appeal is perhaps more in Karnataka than MP. Dhoni, for all of his achievements, is still not a universally respected figure. Sreesanth rocks, but mostly in Kerala. All of us have that special corner in our hearts for the player that we call “our very own”. Loving someone who comes from our own state is very natural as it is an expression of our regional identity. And yet, we make an exception for Sachin. For Sachin is our favourite player regardless of whether our hometown is Chennai or Cuttack, Patna or Patiala. He has transcended regionalism like no one else. And unlike anyone else, from cricketers to film stars to politicians, his support is not limited to pockets of fanaticism but is based on the individual love of a billion citizens and the collective reverence of a nation. Sachin unlike anyone else and like the great city from which he hails – Mumbai – truly belongs to all of India.
There is so much to say about Sachin, but I will consider this as a limited over exercise and leave the rest for another day. This can never be a complete post for Sachin's innings is a long way from being over now. It is perhaps just stumps at the end of a hard day and a good time to reflect. I will sign of by saying only this:
Sachin Tendulkar has been an integral part of millions of Indian families for the last 21 years. On the days he plays – he becomes the head of the family.

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