Category Archives: circa 2005

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To hurt or not to hurt, that is not the question…

I, like most people I know, hate uncertainty… and the few days after the biopsy, I spent my suspense-ridden time attempting to obtain more information about the possibilities that could emerge from the analysis. Big mistake, not everything I happened to read needed to be taken seriously, but the more I read, the scarier the picture began to look… finally my wait ended, but the agony didn’t…

Ok, the biopsy showed no malignancy…

I should be elated ! But I’m not…. the biopsy showed that P had cervical tuberculous lymphadenitis… for normal English-speaking human beings like us, It means possibly infectious glandular TB.

When the doctor described the treatment, we knew the battle lines had been drawn… The doctor spoke with as much compassion as he could, despite the insensitivity that decades of medical practice would have blessed him with. He said that P would have to take a six to nine month regimen of drugs that had side effects that could alter your body for good. He said that to address the immediate issue of swellings in the lymph
nodes, P would have to be given a Deep Intramuscular Injection of Streptomycin every day for 30 days. I thought I was going to break something. He said it would be something you could get used to, and that most people get through without major issues. I asked him what the major issues could be… and decided immediately that I shouldn’t have asked.

The journey home was silent… no tears… no emotions… no answers… just loads of questions that we didn’t want to ask…

We discussed a few things, tried to laugh at inconsequential things… failing miserably. This was the most uncomfortable evening of my life… I wanted to go somewhere else…I wished I could be teleported into outer space, where I could scream everything out of my system and not worry about sound travelling… but at that moment, I wasn’t important.

Now that we knew what we needed to do… there was little to talk about… I tried joking, laughing, singing, and each time ended up sneaking
out of the room to wipe my tears and drift back pretending I could continue my charade. P knew this wasn’t working, but played along, probably not wanting to show me how badly I was doing… it made me feel even more miserable, and later much later I sat in my balcony facing the empty hills that, before that night always seemed to cheer me up… this time nothing could change the way I was feeling. I made myself a drink and ended my evening with it… not because alcohol makes you feel better… because after a point, you feel less… I wanted to feel nothing…

The next day started as usual, I broke a toenail and bled all over the bedroom floor… Went to work and witnessed a spectacular short-circuit and a power-cut that made us shut shop and leave for the day… somehow nothing seemed to surprise, startle or stun me anymore…

The five minutes I spent last evening waiting for the injection to be administered will register as the five most unwanted minutes of my life…

No, I’m not depressed… I’m not sad… these are emotions you generally feel for and within yourself… I don’t know what this is… but it hurts… big
time…

You know if I had to make a wish right now, what it would be ?

I would wish I was the one feeling the pain now…

I don’t know how… but for the millionth time… I’m going to pull through… and I’m going to do everything I can, humanly possible or otherwise… to help P get back to normal… better than normal, goddammit… better than normal, I swear…

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Phoenix still buried in the ashes…why do men cry?

Just when I was making a superhuman effort to catch up with work and an assorted mess of intolerable people, inefficient practices and bureaucratic deadwood at office, just when I was on second wind and pulling out all the stops and using the last few ounces of physical and mental endurance I had left in me… just when I was in sight of the finish line, just when I thought victory was inevitable… Fate overtook me and crossed the finish line first…

Suddenly, after waiting till I was just about to celebrate… in one fell swoop, fate showed me who’s boss… showed me that just when you think you’ve killed all the dragons, crossed all the mountains and won every battle… life presents you with an obstacle so huge, monstrous and invincible, all your previous accomplishments seem inconsequential…

After what looked like a fight I was about to win hands-down, life dealt a quick, sharp blow that left my nose bleeding and me feeling like I want to cry like an infant…

Somebody who really matters to me, somebody who I can never bear to see in pain, somebody who happens to have the miraculous skill of being able to relieve me of any negative feeling, suffering or hurt, had to, before my eyes, undergo a neck biopsy last evening with me standing there feeling intensely helpless about not being able to do anything to alleviate the pain… that image stuck around with me even after the procedure was complete, all through a sleepless night, through a warm, ugly, headache-inducing morning…

I gathered myself up… and dragged my tattered soul, still lagging a few steps behind my tired body… towards the daily grind at work… climbed a cab and switched on the radio on my phone at max volume to drown out all the wailing that my conscience was doing…

Nothing on any of the channels seemed to distract me enough, and I kept switching between channels, until I heard a familiar chord, a song that we used to love… after the first few notes… the song seemed to fill me up… and I broke down… and wept… quietly, with my hand in front of my face so nobody could see my tears…

When I was younger, I used to feel proud and manly about my ability to take any kind of situation in my stride without breaking down, without crying… but this time, for probably the first time in several years… I couldn’t stop the tears…

I felt strange… embarassed… weird…

I still don’t know why I cried… my soul will heal, just like the biopsy wound… the biopsy results may not indicate anything serious… I knew
that… but I suddenly felt weak…. very weak…

But, you know what… I don’t care what life presents me with… I’ll fight it… keep them coming…
I’ll bleed through this, but I won’t stand down… I’ll laugh at the pain, till it stops, or until I stop feeling it… but I won’t go down without a fight…
and no matter what Fate has in store for me, I will overcome… but not for myself… for someone else… for the first time in my life I feel convinced
about fighting for somebody else… I’m not scared anymore… weak maybe, but not scared…

I know nothing may go wrong, it may all be all right tomorrow and the biopsy may not indicate anything more than common cold, but even if it
doesn’t, I’m ready for it… I don’t know where I’ll find the strength for it, but I’m ready nevertheless… and Phoenix will rise… from the ashes again, victorious…

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Can you hear me ?

…from under this pile of shit, that is… All the euphoria of getting back home disappeared the moment I realized what was waiting for me at work. Anyway, like a good employee should, I meekly crawled under the truckload of work before it piled up on me… that’s where I’m writing this from. Anyway, though I haven’t really been able to creatively vent my emotions too much in the last few days, I suddenly feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the entrance of the cop-station in “The Terminator”… because I feel like saying…

I’ll be back…
(but only after I clean all the shit at office…)
…now I kinda hold the world record for fastest cleaning of shit so don’t expect it to take too long… I can’t live without this place for too long anyway… why do you think I’m writing this? This is literary Cold Turkey!

Y’know, I’m seriously contemplating creating a separate blog for some of my photographs… a-la my dear friend Calvin…
And one more thing… a sincere thanks to all those fellow bloggers who added me to their links… thanks for reading, I will try not to disappoint you!

Later!

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Agony and Ecstasy

For the first time in my three week long existence in the blogging world, I am about to do something that every blogger is expected to do all the time… I am about to post something without having a real reason to, and believe me, there is an eerie kind of pleasure in doing this.

Today, actually in the next hour or so, I will have completed my assignment here and left Kolkata for home base. I leave with mixed feelings. That, I guess, contributed to the title. On the one hand I’m pleased at completing my mission, acing another assignment, going home… on the other, there’s something about this place, and the bitter-sweet experiences I’ve had while I was here that make me just a little sad…

The uncertainty of what the future holds for me is what gives me wings… I thrive on the rush, the high I feel when I negotiate turn after
unpredictable turn, in life… so going home not knowing what it holds for me does not scare me, in fact it excites me… still, there’s something about these few weeks that have probably changed me forever… and I will always hold Kolkata in memory for this…

Incidentally, last night I experienced something very heartwarming on a cold stormy street, something that’s special because of how unexpected it was… I was in a car in the Salt Lake area, heading towards City Center, a local hangout. Neither the driver nor me had any idea where we were, though we knew we were close to the place. So I did what a lost soul does best… I popped my head out of the car and yelled “City Center?” without looking at whether there was anybody there. Unfortunately, there was a dignified looking old man, wearing a spotless white T-shirt and gray trackpants standing right there… and I hadn’t seen him there. My yell scared the living daylights out of him, and I immediately apologized, though I thought his reaction was funny.

Regaining his composure, he pointed his walking stick back towards the ground (as soon as he jumped back, startled, he’d pointed his stick at me like some kind of shotgun, I think he must be a retired serviceman or something…) and told me, “You have to go right from here”. I looked right and saw there was no break in the divider for us to turn through, but I looked back at him and said “Thank you”, expecting it to be a simple “Go
straight-take-U-turn-go-straight-again-turn-left” affair. But as we drove ahead to take a U-turn, I could see that the old man was looking worried if I’d got the instructions right. I didn’t, in my wildest imagination, expect what he did next… he trotted across to the divider behind us, crossed it and the rest of the road before we turned and reached there, and motioned to me… I got the driver to stop, expecting the man to probably ask for a lift or something. The man just pointed down the road and said, “This way… just keep going straight for a mile and you’ll find it…” and walked back across the road without even waiting for my “Thank you”. Amazing… aint it ?

I know it sounds like an ordinary story, but there’s a reason why it’s special to me… I think one reason why ordinary human beings don’t go out of their way to help other ordinary human beings is because most of the time we don’t appreciate it enough, and what this old man did for me, I wanted to appreciate from the bottom of my cynical heart.

Dear Mr. Good-Samaritan-In-Salt-Lake, Thank you and if you don’t mind me saying it, Cool Trackpants, dude!!!

Bye Bye Kolkata !

Adios, folks… me is off to the home… when I get the connected to the Internet again, I write more post to the blog. Till then, take care… and happy ruminating !

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

A tale of two temples: Part II

It was a cool morning at a quaint little temple in an obscure but ravishingly beautiful village in the Konkan region. I was there accompanying a person I respect enormously, somebody who had encouraged me to visit the local deity. In places like these, the village temple is a shared resource. In other words, it literally belongs to the villagers who would prefer to go hungry for a day even if it meant that they could use the money to offer a few flowers to the Gods… the beauty of their unconditional and obviously overwhelming belief in the powers of the heavens inspired me tremendously and I was more than interested in experiencing a few moments of communion, despite whatever counter-religious
emotions I would normally have been feeling. This kind of atmosphere, I thought, was probably the reason that made believers out of atheists.

The temple itself was relatively well maintained, every part of it, and I couldn’t help but notice the cleanliness around. One more thing that I happened to notice was the conspicuous absence of the priest, which is pretty unusual because in places like these, the temple is about the only thing that could keep a priest occupied, unlike some other temples where you would get to see part-time priests. Anyway, the person I was with kept saying that since he was visiting the place after years, he would have wanted to perform a Pooja there before we left. He was well versed with the rituals and decided that in the absence of the priest; we had little choice but to make the offerings ourselves. He entered the Pooja chamber as he had done innumerable times in the past; after all he had grown up here, and was one of the most respected denizens of the village. I had seen ample proof of that during my stay there, with people showering him with hospitality and praise. Just as he was about to garland the deity, a harsh voice sounded from behind us, “Get out of there…”

We looked behind us and saw a unkempt man, in his forties, with a three-day stubble and a million dollar frown, charge towards us asking, “With whose permission did you step in here?”. I took offense immediately; it doesn’t take much for me to do that… I didn’t mind him questioning us, but I definitely objected to the rudeness that he seemed to be showering on us, making a spectacle out of our group and attracting the attention of the other people around, all of who were very familiar with the person I was accompanying and knew how respected he was here. My host kept his cool and requested our angry protester first to lower the intensity of his voice and then to explain why he had a problem with our worship. The guardian of the temple, as he very loudly introduced himself, said to us, no less rudely than before, that the upkeep of the temple had recently been “taken over” by one of the richer villagers, a man famous for making his riches through nefarious means, who had made a generous “contribution” towards improvement of the temple premises and its surroundings. Also, he explained (if explained is the right word to use; barked would have been more apt) that outsiders were not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. Outsiders who, you ask? Me, of course, dear reader… didn’t you guess?

Despite the embarrassment he was feeling, and the anger at being subjected to such humiliation, my host proceeded to let Mr. Unkempt (who appeared unbathed as well, and who also claimed that he was some kind of stand–in Pandit), conduct the Pooja for us, in his own style, riding more on the authority that he so enjoyed than any kind of experience in rituals or worship.

At the end of the mind-numbing mumbo-jumbo, we left, quietly, emotionless, at least with no display of emotions at all. We did not speak of this experience after that, even in the several months that have passed since, but I cannot deny the bitterness that followed that spiritual visit.

How spiritual do you think we felt during, or at the end of this episode… any of us: me, my host or the designated guardian of the Gods?

I would never have brought this up, if it weren’t for my recent experience with another abode of the Gods thousands of miles away, in another corner of this country. An experience that opened some wounds in a microscopic part of my soul that still believes that the powers that control the universe are stronger than the humans that occupy it.

Today, talking about religion and which among them is better and which is worse, happens to have become the favored pastime, or should we say, the occupation of millions of religious organizations in the world today, a few of who also happen to occasionally find the time to stake claims to the reins of power in our motherland.

I have some questions to ask of these so-called beacons of faith and spirituality. Though the questions are rhetorical, and I find it unlikely to find a convincing answer, I invite any of them to answer them.

You think it is right for a human being to feel committed to a religion or faith he is born to, or converted to…

You think it is your duty to advocate the word of God to those, who you feel, don’t listen or take it seriously enough…

You think it is your right to decipher and interpret the word of God in your own terms and enforce the same interpretations, however demeaning, condescending, discriminating, or downright ridiculous they may be…

With due respect to your pious intentions and your commitment to your religious beliefs, how do you plan to bring people to God’s doorstep, when there are other people standing in their way, people of the same faith, people with the authority and power to stand above the rest, people to whom you have granted the right to call themselves guardians of your faith, people willing to rob, lie, deceive, suppress, oppress, kill, rape those who willingly and unconditionally come to them, people who seem to create more of their kind every moment… all in the name of the very Gods that they and, you advocate? Who the hell do you think you are?

God ?

We live in times when the demons disguised as guardians of faith seem to outnumber those who unconditionally believe, fear and depend on
their faith…

Why should I use the services of brokers like you, who are as farcical as the values you represent, to communicate with my spiritual self?

Why do I need to see God through the glasses you force upon my eyes?

Why should I not interpret God’s word the way I think it applies to my life, at the risk of interpreting it wrongly?

After all, God will correct me if I’m wrong…

And for those who feel you are witnessing the birth of an Atheist, my sincere apologies, I will keep believing… albeit in my own God… with my own rituals and my own values…

Values that will remain only mine… that I will never impose on anybody else, that I will never justify or advocate, that will remain with me till the day I die and will cease to exist after that…

Values that only two people will know and understand…

Me and…  God !

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

A tale of two temples: Part I

When I started posting to this blog, I’d made a list of those topics that I wouldn’t write about… I guess all of us here have done that at some stage. Today I break that promise… by writing about a subject that has already earned more than it’s fair share of controversy and debate in recent times; “Religion”. No, I’m not a very religious person… In fact most people that know me personally would say that I wasn’t religious at all. But the truth is at times, like most people, whenever it is convenient, whenever I find myself in a situation that I think is not within my complete control, I do depend on an unknown force to help me pull through.

I was born into a Hindu household, but I respect Hinduism as a faith, more than a religion. In this, I respect Hinduism only as another pair of glasses people wear to depend on the unknown. Hinduism is the pair of glasses I have been brought up to wear, but I don’t think it gives me any better a view of God than Islam or Christianity or Sikhism or any other “religion”. Which explains why I’m most comfortable keeping my faith private, very private. This begs the question: if I want to keep my faith private, why in hell (or heaven) am I writing about it in a public space… Let me explain… Your’s truly does not visit a lot of temples. In fact, the last two times I did (in 3 years), I did it to keep somebody else’s commitments. Both of my experiences reinforce a point I’m trying to emphasize in this post. On Sunday, the 15th of May 2005, I decided to visit Kalighat Temple in the City of Joy. I went there only because I didn’t want to sound rude and spoilsport to the company I was keeping. Let’s just say that I have the experience to know that even today, most people do not look at a person who refuses to visit a place of worship, as a normal person. So they proposed and I went along… with an open mind. Besides, most “Citizens” of Joy highly recommended this visit. Anyway, this is what happened: As we stepped out of our car, three bare bodied “Pandits” with super-sized Tilaks insisted on escorting us inside the temple. We thought, “Well, they think we’re wide-eyed tourists… we’ll show them…” and said to them in a relatively authoritarian tone, “We’ll find our way around, thank you!”. I must have had a particularly uninviting expression on my face, which is probably why two of them grumbled and left. The one who remained calmly said “This is my job, don’t worry… this way please” and kept walking a couple of feet ahead of us, continuously warding off the flower-sellers, beggars and assorted junior pandits who seemed to be falling off the very walls of that entrance in front of us. He led us straight to a dingy shop in the corridor where there were assorted ingredients for a “Pooja” being sold for the “right” price and almost ordered us to keep our shoes there. I immediately did what a true Arian does in such situations and straightened up and told him to piss off and that I didn’t need his help to get around. As soon as I did that, a couple of people standing there made some noise about how you should not speak with anger with a “Pandit”, at which I lost it completely and asked them to piss off too, though in much more politically correct language. I swear I didn’t swear even once… we proceeded to another stall, took our shoes off and asked for the Pooja platter. The man at the stall proceeded to load a small 9-inch plate with about 20 kilos of stuff, including but not limited to, 2 coconuts, a huge garland, a box of vermilion, and hundreds of smaller unidentifiable trinkets. You couldn’t imagine how much stuff you could balance on a small metal plate 9 inches in diameter, but let’s not change the topic. I asked him how much the platter was for, and he cutely said, “We have a wide range, Rs.501, Rs.751…”, I cut him off and said “Rs. 51 please…”. I have never seen a quicker change of expression than at that instance. Suddenly, the contents of that platter miraculously reduced to just one coconut and a half-dried garland. I thought, “What the heck… it’s the feeling that counts”, and left towards where I thought the entrance of the temple was, but I was in for another surprise… I knew then that this was just the beginning…

“Walk this way…”, one of the hangers-on said, more like an order than a request, “and take your socks off too, they’ll get wet”. I looked quizzically at the man in the stall and he said, “He’s your Pandit… he’ll take you inside, you won’t have to stand in the queue!”. We followed, like ants in a straight line… As we entered a shabby corridor, one side of which was occupied by at least 10 beggars, most of who looked pretty affluent for beggars. As we walked inside, our Pandit whispered in my ear, “Your jewelry, your money and your cameras…. Be VERY careful!”. “Yeah, right, I thought… the only ambiguity is about who gets to rob me first…”.

The atmosphere inside the place was decidedly spooky, strange people lying motionless on the ground here and there, like dead… several pandits staring knives and daggers at us. The irritation I was feeling was overwhelming as compared to the spookiness, and faith was nowhere in the picture. As we walked around a smallish, very dirty building, I noticed… there was NO queue… “Sucker…”, I told myself, ”but what the heck, the faster I’m through this, the better.”. He led us to a closed door, a man sitting beside it, apparently the Pandit in charge of worshipping whatever was behind that door (We were later told that was the sanctum sanctorum). The Pandit asked us to recite a few mantras after him and noticeably accelerated proceedings after looking at the suspicious way in which I was staring at him. Trust me, I have heard Sanskrit and Bengali before, but whatever he was muttering sounded like it was straight from Qo’nos!

A few seconds later, he borrowed a coconut from our platter, repeated some of the gibberish, sprinkled it with some vermilion and said the first intelligible thing in several minutes, “Rs. 501 please…”. This time, I thought I’d take it cool, and took out a 50-rupee note and placed it on the coconut. The respected Pandit took the note and threw it back at me… and said, “If you can’t honor God, why do you come here?”. Seething, I asked him, “What does a poor man do here?”, and he said, “Even the poor pay more…”. I said, “What difference does it make? God has no use for money… and you look rich enough already!”, and was immediately asked by those with me to shut up… eventually I didn’t pay him more than Rs. 51, but I was too sore to continue this any further… but my torture didn’t end there…

By now I was tiring of being the pain in the ass for everybody around but for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to think that it was all right to shower money on people masquerading as agents of God. I was convinced it was wrong to do so… and my conviction was strengthened quickly by what happened immediately after. The Pandit escorting us told me it was not a good thing to question age-old rituals and the guardians of the same. I didn’t argue, only because by now, I was tired of being the only cynic around. We went around another small, even dirtier building, the gates to which were locked, but there were at least three or four people lying on the floor inside, making me wonder how they got inside in the first place. By now, the place had started to resemble the aftermath of a wild rave party, with people lying around the place in meth, coke or ecstasy induced slumber. There, a fat dude, again with a larger-than-life Tilak on his forehead, called us to another door, with a few stairs leading to it. We were made to stand on the stairs, three abreast, and after some more gibberish, we were told by our escort that the fat dude was the chief Pandit in the temple and if he performs our Pooja, any wish we make could be realized. A few seconds later, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a few other people undergoing the same treatment and heard, to my surprise, their escort telling them that the man in front of them was the head Pandit of the temple!

I played along, by now, all religious thoughts banished from my mind. Never before, I tell you, had I felt so atheist in my life, but why blame God for what his representatives do? Then, something right out of a Hindi film happened! A man walked up behind us, and passed on a 500-rupee note to the Pandit and said, “Mr. Anil Chaudary sent this for a Pooja”. The Pandit, temporarily interrupting proceedings, went on a little tirade complaining about how he does not do Poojas with such small offerings. Then, nonchalantly, his point made, he continued and some more mantras later, asked me to place some money on top of the coconut he was holding. I proceeded to place Rs.101 on his palm, and he looked at me like I was covered in something green and slimy and said, “You should not insult the Gods like this, we don’t even accept anything less than Rs.1001, at least do more than this! ”, showing me the 500-rupee note that the imaginary “Mr. Chaudary” had sent. I told him I couldn’t better that and this time, I was being absolutely honest… I hadn’t expected this to be such an expensive trip and had left my money in the car. Our man proceeded to lecture me about how he was the head Pandit of the place and if we couldn’t afford him we shouldn’t have come to him in the first place. He also happened to tell off our escort for bringing such cheap devotees to him. I told him, “I didn’t come here to meet the top Pandit, I came here to look for God, like all other devotees… so if you feel heartbroken about this, sorry but you’re not any more or less important to me than any of the others here…”.

I didn’t want to lecture him, particularly because that’s my profession and I hate it when I get into a lecture, especially when I’m not being paid for it. I was boiling inside by now, so I told him to give us the Pooja offering so we could leave. As we left, we went to the stall to fetch our footwear, and I paid the stall-owner the promised Rs. 50, when our escort said, “Sir, give me Rs.100 too, I ensured you didn’t have to take the queue”. I was stunned. I asked him “What queue?”, a question he didn’t answer but instead said, “I also took you to the head Pandit, and not many people have the good fortune of getting their Pooja done by him”. I said ”You’re lucky we’re near a temple, because otherwise you’d have been on the floor, counting the teeth that fell out of your mouth when I whacked your face. Take what I’m giving you and shut up… before I lose whatever decency I have left in me…”.

I walked off with thoughts in my mind of how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to anybody in that tone, but I was really over the edge by then. I walked away from that place feeling ashamed, frustrated, angry, disillusioned, violent and embarrassed, all at the same time, but definitely not anything I expected to feel after a close encounter with something so celestial. And looking back, I now realize just how violent and rebellious that hour-long trip down salvation alley made me feel. I had never felt this way before, and I hope I will never have to. I’ve come close to feeling like this, though. That was about a year ago at another temple, one that was much smaller and lesser known than the Kalighat temple, several thousand miles away to the west coast of the country. But more on that in part II

One thing I just realized is that, at the end of the day at Kalighat, after all the racket and the emotions involved, we eventually never got to see the Goddess… aint that strange ?

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

ANIDAC – All night I dreamed about cricket !

I woke up in my hotel room with cricket on my mind. Lingering scenes in my head… Last over of the match, 4 runs to win, 7 wickets down. In the last over of any one-dayer, even if the team batting had been Upper Mongolia and the team fielding, Australia, the above equation would seem to be tilted against the fielding team. But ’tis a strange game… they say, so what destiny h olds, who knows?

Relatively inexperienced bowler, very disciplined… but tense… A tailender at the crease, ill-at-ease but sure of scratching a few runs from the bat or any part of his body that the ball made contact with… Bowler runs in… the ambience at the ground goes from ear-splitting-roar to silent vacuum in the course of his 15 yard run-up… First ball is a dot… vacuum remains; by now it is easily obvious that the team batting has the most support. 5 balls left, still 4 more runs needed to win!

Second ball, two runs scored, complete chaos on the field, once the crowd realizes that the batsmen are safe, the roar returns, louder than ever! After all, who hears of a team losing a match after needing 2 runs off 4 balls with 3 wickets still in hand? Sensing an inevitable victory, all the optimists and a large percentage of the pessimists in the crowd begin their raucous celebrations… and trust me; this part of the world knows how to celebrate! But the celebrations start 3 balls in advance, too soon, a little too soon…

The bowler runs in with a unidentifiable expression on his face, but one look at him, and you know something is about to happen. He bowls the perfect last-over ball, the batsman tries the aggressive bent-bat technique that has proved so risk-free throughout the second innings… and gets bowled! The fielding team’s celebrations are muted, perhaps pondering that defeat has only been postponed, not avoided. The crowd goes relatively quiet again, but not silent; there are two more wickets available, if they score one more run, the scores will be level and defeat, out of question. And well, there are 3 more balls to be bowled. An eternity, it will prove to be… as the next batsman strides in, jaws clenched, without a helmet (!), the non-striker advices him in a 25 second staccato lecture, not even pausing to breathe… the new batsman nods assertively, confident that so close to the ultimate goal, all he has to do is play cool and not try to be a superstar… But for some inexplicable reason, as the bowler comes in to bowl again, the batsman seems to shed his terseness.

As the ball comes in… overpitched, just short of yorker length, swinging in, whereas the shine on the ball is on the other side (that’s why they call it reverse-swing!), the batsman succumbs to a temptation to play inside-out over the off-side infield and swings. In the process, he overcompensates for the reverse-swing and bat follows through to the leg-side, in the process, missing the ball completely and the stump goes flying!!! The non-striker stares holes into the back of the departing batsman. This was NOT what he’d asked him to do… But which batter does not want to clinch a nail-biting ending with a well-struck boundary and become an automatic hero? I would! The fielding team is ecstatic, the crowd, despondent… Now the ambience reminds us of the Colosseum, with impatient Romans shouting, “Kill… Kill…”, tired of the battle and not
wanting any more of it, wanting to cut to the climax…

Now, can this get any more exciting? Let’s reassess the situation: Batting team requires 2 runs off an equal number of balls, Fielding team needs one wicket to prevent the batting team from what looked, a couple of balls ago, like inevitable victory!

The bowler has bowled his best over ever so far, even if he does nothing spectacular to end it, he’s done justice to his thankless job as a death-bowler. But he’s on a hat-trick, and how often have we seen the bowler try so hard to achieve this personal landmark, that he delivers a ball that the batsman can, with some luck, take advantage of, and concedes an easy boundary or at least, a few runs. Fact of the matter is, everybody knows how difficult bowling the perfect yorker is, you pitch it long and it becomes a full-toss, pitch it a little short and it becomes a juicy half-volley. Both possibilities are not acceptable options for the fielding team… but a true warrior is one who, when given the opportunity to achieve ultimate glory disguised as a chance to do great service to his kingdom, to save it from impending doom, to help it gain an improbable victory, will not resist the temptation of taking the risk… the reward is irresistible. But will the bowler, who hasn’t fought as many battles as some of the teammates now egging him on, rise to the occasion?

The run-in on the next ball seems to take forever… the tension is so thick, you’d need to chainsaw through it, I’m sure even the Gods are holding their breath. But the bowler is in his zone… all he can see is three poles that probably look about 10 feet tall an a foot thick to him right now. He’s hit them twice in the last two balls, he wants to hit them again, one last time today…You can see it in his eyes…

He leaps at the crease and delivers another 134kmph reverse-swinging yorker, looks perfect, but the batsman reads it early, moves across and
positions himself perfectly for a front-footed flick into the vacant area between square leg and fine leg… two runs for the taking, he’s probably
thinking… But the ball does something remarkable, it dips and bends inwards, far beyond what one would have seen in any reverse swinging yorker. What initially looked like a ball that would curve in from outside off to travel towards off-stump, now has the batsman trying to pick the ball up from where it’s heading, which is towards leg stump… There is a thump and the ball rolls away from the pad of the batsman, just in front of the middle stump… no contact from the bat, plumb!

It’s over… the finger is up, the batsman is leaving, lbw, head down… wishing he was on another planet, probably wishing he hadn’t been born… the non-striker looks like a baby whose favourite toy has just been eaten by the dog… there is a collective cry of dismay from the crowd, that sounds like rigor-mortis… no significant noise will be heard from them anytime soon…

The distraught batting team in the dressing room, many of whom have sacrificed their fingernails (and probably toe-nails as well!) during the last nail-biting over, one of them now throwing his arms, some gear and choicest swear-words all around him… the losers at home!

The euphoric fielding team, who is now hugging, patting and smothering the bowler… the victorious underdogs!

The bowler… who can’t stop grinning and running… he’s scored a hat-trick, returned a 5 wicket haul and most-importantly, won the match and the series for his team… the warrior, who has achieved something even he might not be able to surpass…

Was this a movie, a dream… I was wondering when I regained sanity after the first few blurry moments after I woke up… No it was reality, a rare reality that I had the good fortune to watch at close to 4 AM last night… sorry, this morning! I gave up a few action thrillers to watch this match, never expecting something like this… but it was worth it, this was by far the closest game of one-day-international cricket I have ever seen… For the record, the actors in this action-packed, edge-of-the-seat, not-for-the-weak-hearted thriller were :

Lead Actor:

Charl Langeveldt (SA) 9.5 overs 0 maidens 62 runs 5 wickets (5nb)

Supporting Roles:

CH Gayle(WI) c Pollock b Nel 132runs 219mins 152balls 7fours 2sixes
HH Dippenaar(SA) c Marshall b Bradshaw 123runs 184mins 129balls 12fours 0sixes

These were the highest ever individual scores on this ground… incidentally, the record broken twice on the same fateful day…

Guest-Appearances by the #9, #10, #11 for WI:

IDR Bradshaw(WI) b Langeveldt 1run 4mins 2balls 0fours 0sixes
DB Powell(WI) b Langeveldt 0runs 2mins 1balls 0fours 0sixes
CD Collymore(WI) lbw b Langeveldt 0runs 1mins 1balls 0fours 0sixes

The result: South Africa beat West Indies by one run in 49.5 overs… winning the series 3:0… the 2 matches left are dead rubbers!

You know, I’m not a commited cricket fan, just a passionate one… but I had this uncontrollable urge to write down for posterity what I had witnessed last night… unbelievable… magical, unreal… cricket !

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/209027.html

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Time Flies when you’re having fun…

That should read: MY time flies when YOU‘re having fun… I’m back to the other side of the country after an ultra-eventful weekend back home. I wrote before I left about how pleased I was about this happening… On my return here, however, I don’t really know if it was really worth it… I hardly found enough time to do anything I wanted. This morning I woke up really really early at home wondering where I was… and for the first time in my life, praying that I didn’t have to go. It’s strange because I’m the kind of person who’d happily hop onto any kind of transport to travel anywhere as long as I got to be on my own… That was a few months ago…

Now, after 12 flights in one month, across the length and the breadth of the subcontinent, and this coming in a year that has seen me travel over 30 times to as many as 6 countries. That should keep any wanderer satisfied, shouldn’t it? Well, among the million things I’m feeling right now, satisfied is not one of the adjectives I would use to describe any one of them. Better words are tired, drawn, burnt-out, irritable, irritating, confused, exhausted… HOMESICK etc. etc…

I hate that I had to add HOMESICK to the list above… at one stage in my life, I would have thought it extremely insulting for anyone to have asked me if I was homesick… I pride myself on my fierce independence and my insatiable wanderlust. I still think of myself as a nomad, traveling always excites me… but today, after a 2 hour 30 minute flight across the country on Business Class, I feel deprived.

It’s not that when I’m back home or close to home, life is always perfect. Well it’s anything but. Still, for some strange reason, sometimes, I
feel good about traveling only for the high that I associate with coming back, something like the after-effects of abstinence…

Maybe it’s got something to do with how work has taken over most parts of my life, maybe it’s got something to do with repetition, monotony, but I still find my work fun… it’s a passion for me, and I think it doesn’t look like that’s going to change very soon…

It almost makes me cry when I think about things I haven’t done in a long time… hosting a party at home with friends in whose company you
tend to forget the artificiality of real life, walk through the clouds watching the raindrops forming around you and falling so gently that you get wet without even feeling it, take my bike out and ride at 125kmph with the wind blowing in my hair and the adrenaline pumping in my veins… watch a movie that makes me laugh… or cry with somebody I want to laugh or cry with… wake up at 12 in the afternoon only to go back to sleep for another hour and not end up feeling guilty about it… the list is endless…

No, I’m not depressed… although I know this post makes it difficult to believe… No I’m not depressed, I know, trust me, I’ve been depressed before and I know how it feels…

I’m determined… to dream about things I love doing, and things I would love to do… I’m even more determined to chase those dreams till they become real.

And I think one of the many things that will help me is to decide to do what I want to do more often than those things that I have to do…

Till then, back to work…

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Technophiles or techno-idiots?

In the last 10 years or so, our lives have become more and more dependent on technology. The PC, the World Wide Web, blogs etc. have all created this new kind of human being, that has 3 parts of the brain: namely, the right side, the left side and the wired side… It is the wired side that I’m concerned about. There are ways to determine how right-brained or left-brained one is. The outcome of such a test can help you decide whether you are better at creativity or logic. This information can then be used by an individual to decide, in everyday life, which situations one is best equipped to handle and more importantly which situations one is not as apt at handling. So, if you are told that you are left-brained, creativity is obviously not one of your strengths and if you’re right-brained, you’re not going to be as effective at reason and logic. Most people commonly accept this theory. I wish there was such realization about one’s basic aptitude for technology, a sort of a test for the wired side of your brain so that we humans could respect the limitations of our aptitude and use technology more responsibly. If that made you wonder why something as profound as that needs to qualify as a treatise on technology and why somebody like me wants to categorize the human race into several levels based on technological aptitude, allow me to explain. Most of us find ourselves extremely comfortable using a PC and basic functions like browsing the web, accessing electronic mail, installing our favorite applications and so forth. In the information era, most of us also pride ourselves on our knowledge of viruses, worms, Trojans, phishing and the like. And still, when was the last time you met somebody recently who has complained about spam, viruses, worms and dangerous attachments, someone who worried about their identity getting stolen and their bank accounts emptied? Even though I spend the most part of my day in a technology-centric environment, and even if I discount all the people I meet in my line of work, I still meet such people constantly, approximately, at the rate of one every couple of days. Though I understand their concern, and appreciate their level of awareness, I constantly find myself frustrated at what they themselves were doing (or not doing) about it. If you owned a weapon, would you limit your knowledge to understanding just how to use it, or would you also want to know ways to prevent it from being used against you or others? Why, then, do people find themselves not practicing what they know and preach about responsible computing? Somebody tell me why?
P.S.
This post is for anyone who likes talking of a new virus that’s spreading across the world when forwarding a nice looking screen-saver to his entire contact list… anyone who writes a blog slamming spammers and leaves his email id on the web for comments. If you think N*****M as the umbrella organization for software-oriented companies in India would be responsible about safe computing, dismiss those comforting thoughts, the N*****M website is super spammer-friendly, just don’t ask me how! This post has it’s origins in several tons of frustration I have accumulated in the last few months watching people unwittingly fall prey to hazards of the wired world, precipitated by watching a well managed (apparently) 100 PC network, collapse before my eyes to a measly worm that is happily spreading around the place under our noses.

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Somebody up there, likes me… at least for today

I have spent the last week wondering if a human being could actually will something to happen to him. I am not an overtly religious person, but I have always depended on an unknown, unseen force to pull me out of situations I don’t find myself comfortable handling. More often than not, I succeed, but I give credit to the unseen force even if it may have been my efforts that achieved the desired results. It makes me feel more human. And who doesn’t like wishing for something and seeing it come true, even if somehow, secretly, unintentionally, their own actions were, in some way responsible for what happens?
Now in the process of chasing storms for the perfect footage, I was subjecting myself to an overdose of wishing, and hoping… At the same time, my assignment in a city I have not entirely come to like (as yet) was keeping me adequately busy… In my free time, when I wasn’t looking up in the sky for lightning or watching the rain or lying down or watching TV, I was wishing I could get some excuse to go
back to the city I love, for the weekend… My client had just funded a round trip back to my city last weekend and would have thrown a fit if I had so much as hinted at spending another 20k of their money just to spend a couple of days in the place I grew up in… The company I work for had no reason to intervene… If you ask my client, they’d tell you that I’m doing a kick-ass job here, and my company wouldn’t risk that kind of feedback for the world. So I gave up on the wish, well almost… Till today, I received a call from my office back home… asking me what I’m doing for the weekend and if I’d mind coming back for a couple of days and then return back to my assignment on Monday morning. There had been a grave problem at office and my presence was needed in a hurry. God bless problems… what do you think I said? In my head, I was saying “YESSSSSSSSS, YESSSSSSS !!!!” like an east europian pornstar, but I actually put on my best “Let me check my schedule” tone-of-voice and said “Maybe I do mind, you could have given me longer notice… wellllll, anyway, ok… I think I should be able to…”

Jumped on the web, booked a ticket online in about 0.543 seconds flat. Ok, that was a minor exaggeration, it could have taken marginally longer… You know, for a techie, you can’t imagine how much this online-booking concept scares me… anyway at the end of it, guess what…

I AM going home………….. So what if it’s just for a couple of days?
Only tonight, I’m hoping there’s no storm… there you go… that’s another wish… anybody listening up there?

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]