Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Inspired by the Dazzler

I was watching "The F word" on TV last night and as part of the show, chef Gordon Ramsay usually invites a celebrity to prepare a dish for the restaurant patrons. The guest yesterday was Darren Gough. Good ol' Dazzler. England's premier fast bowler at one point in his career. A career abruptly cut short by a troubled knee.
I remember reading his autobiography "Dazzler" a few years back. Though I don't clearly remember the contents and I suspect a visit to the city library to reread this is due, I do remember the cover page where the Yorkshireman is in whites, tossing a ball up in the air and having that trademark impish, schoolboy smile on his face.
He looked rather refreshing last night, though his metrosexual act (read: pink tee, earrings and the newly acquired swish dancing skills) was a tad overstretched. Still, it was a treat to see the player whose bowling action, at one point in my life, I tried to imitate. It wasn't the classic smooth action like Shane Bond, but the beauty of the action was it allowed me to bowl what I usually am good at. Inswingers.
[For those who don't know me, I play cricket at a very basic level (club level). I think of myself as a bowler and can be useful with the bat.].

Darren Gough was touted to be the next Ian Botham, but circumstances and injury troubles never let this dashing bowler exploit his full potential. Dazzler was in a different league. His wonderful and accurate bowling, swashbuckling cameos with the bat, on-field friendly banter, enthusiasm, and passion made for interesting viewing.
I remember one such incident on TV where Darren bowled a relatively short bowl outside the line of off stump which the batsman effortlessly cut behind point. Seemed like a regulation couple down 3rd man, but Mark Ramprakash at point threw himself on his left and saved the 2 runs by sheer brilliant fielding a-la regulation Rhodes style. Darren’s reaction: the customary smile and a warm friendly flying kiss towards Mark. His antics on-field kept the mood light and his bowling and passion kept the morale high.

Last night, Dazzler made a spud dish which received lukewarm comments, but there was Dazzler, smiling his way through everything. He even asked Ramsay to dance with him and showed him a few tricks of the ballroom technique.

How I’d love to watch him play against some of the best players today!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Maximum City experience

Just onto the last few chapters of Suketu Mehta's fantastic portrayal of Bombay as the Maximum City and there has been more than 1 one time, that I have nearly had tears in my eyes reading about the city which I have lived in for at least 13 years, but never taken a great liking to.

Here are a few things that I do miss though (and I never have had a chance to do them ever in my life after leaving Mumbai):

a. Playing Holi - Holi in Mumbai is different from Holi in any other city, like Holi in Mathura or Holi in Delhi. The way I saw Holi was getting up early in the morning, filling in a bucket full of water balloons and taking charge of the building terrace. Virtually, every building terrace would turn into a combat zone with an army equipped with water balloons, coloured water and more water balloons. Only the strong survived the battle. One of my friends had probably the best arm in business, which gave us a good advantage over other teams. His throw caught people unawares and it was accurate 99.99% of the time. I remember him once wiping out a makeup off a girl's face standing in a window 3 storeys below in the diagonally opposite building...and that too without hurting her with the water balloon. After we finished with the combat bit, one of the adult folks would get some ice-cream or some chocolate, as if to announce our win.
Never ever had a chance to even fill a water balloon in the last 12 years.

b. Catching the train - My personal experience with trains was limited to only 2 years that I had to travel from Borivali to Andheri for junior college. Some might argue that this is one of the easiest journeys made on train, but the sheer adrenaline to catch a Virar fast at peak hour, instead of the Borivali-Andheri one was too much to give up on in those days. All that bravado of clinging on to one's life outside the door, other traveller's choicest comments over space. For example:
Person 1: "Chalo chalo andar chalo...bahut jagah hain"
Someone from inside: "Aare andar koi cricket nahi khel raha hain"
Person 1: "Chal bhai andar chal"
Person 2 from the other door of the compartment: "Aare udhar se logn andar aayenge to idhar se bahar girenge"
Even now, 12 years later, I still catch the train to work, but the excitement is long gone.

c. Living in apartments - This has a very different flavour to it then living in apartments anywhere else in the world (mind you, I haven't stayed in all those cities, but it has a nice ring to it). Our building (as most buildings in Mumbai are) had people from various religions, beliefs and even weirder walks of life. From retired Army people, to middle-class shift workers to small business owners, we had it all. People perennially complaining about broken water pumps/tanks, lack of any decent veggie patches around the building, about the lack of any space for kids to play...have seen it all. In spite of all shortcomings, the building stood as one when needed. We celebrated all festivals, from Christmas, to Id, to Baisakhi to Diwali. There were always some sweets or edible goodies (cakes, wafers etc) distributed in the building on some pretext or the other. We borrowed video-cassettes (those were the days!), magazines, even milk bottles from the neighbours and vice-versa, when the need arose.
The fantastic Punjabi family next door was virtually our family...we knew about their highs, lows, successes, failures, cribs and they about ours. Nothing was sacrosanct
Thankfully, I have been blessed with good neighbours all my life.

To be continued….

Thursday, 26 June 2008

That last Saturday in September...

To those not familiar with the popular sport of Australian Rules Football, this particular Saturday might not mean much. They may go about sleeping in, enjoying a good brunch, having a siesta and start whinging about the upcoming Monday, by dinner-time.
To those who have seen Aussie Rules, this last Saturday is nothing short of reaching the ultimate destination. No wonder then that the AFL cup is often described as the Holy Grail...
All that excitement, all the build-up, all those insightful analysis, all that tipping, all that beer and all those snags...it all happens here. Now.

I wasn't born here, so I can't boast of knowing footy in and out, but ever since I have followed this exciting sport, I know this: This is easily the best athletic sport in the world (at least mine).
I won't go on telling you about its origin, its history or the way the game is played. I can safely assume everyone can find that bit out.
But here's what I can tell you: what I feel about the sport.

Having migrated to this beautiful country almost 6 years back, I was first exposed to this sport on TV. At first, it seemed amazingly similar to Rugby, but footy is distinctly different. It took me a while to figure out the rules of the game or the way it is played...and from personal experience; it's not easy as it looks to kick a footy! That slightly "elongated oval" shape makes it difficult (and hence fair to both the playing teams) to handle, bounce or kick the footy. Personally, I find this very funny, but most of these sherrins (the correct term for the footy) are manufactured near Ludhiana, India, where I assume no-one has even heard of the game. This interesting bit of trivia was pointed out to me by my cricket team captain, who's a Sri Lankan by birth, but was brought up in Australia!
This game is intensely physical and fast, and unlike the raw brawn used in Rugby, footy skills are nothing short of those in martial arts. While being tall and strong helps in getting good possession of the footy, being fast, sharp and lithe also has its advantages.
As part of the student induction programme at Uni, we were first taken to the G (the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, where footy is played from Mar-Oct) to see the Bulldogs play on the Magpies. No, I am not referring to feral animals staking a claim to the carcasses, but instead to 2 Melbourne based teams. Watching them play an exciting brand of football under the freezing cold weather and grey skies was enough to set my adrenaline rushing. I had never seen a game like this before and I knew I was in total awe of the game.

From there on, it was one game after another, either on TV or on the ground and it didn't matter to me what teams played as long as it was footy. I even watched some VFL (secondary level but equally professional) matches on TV Sunday mornings. I tried learning to bounce the ball from my Aussie friends and kicking it even a few metres. I can moderately do a bounce and a kick, but there are times when simply holding that sherrin makes my blood rush as if the heart was fitted with an extra pair of pumping mechanism. I have often told others that I sometimes I feel really unfortunate not being able to play it as a sport.
One of the questions that you are asked in social gatherings is "What team do you barrack for?" and only your interest in this game can save you in such situations. You have to pick a team and stick to it. There are 16 to choose from (while this article was published), so it shouldn't be difficult. Your judgement in barracking for a team (especially if you are a migrant) can be based on any number of reasons, ranging from the suburb you live in, what team your colleagues follow, what team's leading the ladder to downright silly like what city you are based in, what colours you like, what your tastes in animals or other creatures are.

Every time I go see a match live, I feel I am part of this city, cheering on each goal, each mark, each tackle, along with each bump. Normally, you wouldn't see me screaming my lungs out over anything (part of me being that placid bull), but I went to a match 3 years back where my team won by about 80 odd points, when I screamed my lungs out, which resulted in a complete thrashed and hurting throat for over 3 days. I didn't care because I felt so alive watching the game.
Oh and by the way, I barrack for the St Kilda Saints (who haven't been going really well this year, or the last one, or the one before that), but I chose a team 5 years back and stuck to them.

A good game never fails to stir the placid bull...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Back to the future...

No, this is not the popular movie series starring Michael J.Fox with his unmistakable swagger and those "wide as an owl" eyes!

This is more of a self-realised experience, courtesy the public transport in Melbourne.(Side note: People have constantly retaliated that "its better to have a public transport than not having one", but that does not mean the public transport providers can get away with anything)

Over the last few weeks that I have stuck to catching the "mode of mass transit" to get to work, I have come to realise that I time-travel with Connex (the public transport service here).For instance, I catch the 8.17 a.m. city loop from my station (assume Station A) to get to the city. I arrive at one station on the city loop (Station B) by 8.36 a.m and hope that I can catch the 8.39 to my final destination (Station C). Instead, when I catch the 8.17 (which arrives at 8.19) and reach Station B at 8.36, I can comfortably (and more often than not) get on the 8.26 from Station B. Now, there's a catch here. If I catch the 8.26 technically, I should get to Station C by 8.52, but by some strange occurrence, I get to station C at 9.08 (which would have been alright if I catch the 8.49 from Station B).

Check out a quick diagram I whipped up to explain this.

Between all this, I can manage to read a few pages of a book and then some more (because I gain 10 minutes in transit?), watch the world go by, count the number of non-black wearing Melburnians (topic for another post) and get that feeling of deja-vu...again.

Meanwhile, check out this amazing blog by Phin for the latest in public transport, Melbourne

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Adventures of a kick-ass panda...

Watched a special preview of Kung Fu Panda on Saturday night at IMax. That Panda kicked butt (mostly his own), got smashed by his own attempts at learning Kung Fu, chop-sticked around to get some dim-sims, leaped great heights to steal cookies and saved the day with his wok-tossed noodles (well, almost!).
I was a bit disappointed with other star voices in the movie - they simply didn't get any scope (and you would expect Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu to get some more footage). Jack Black suits the role to a tee...you wouldn't dare imagine someone else playing the Panda to such perfection.
Definitely a paisa-vasool in my books...