Saturday, September 12, 2009

Side Burns!

Back after a long time. Plan to post more frequently hereafter.

I read this beautiful piece on the website of ‘The Dawn’ the Pakistani daily a few months back and wanted to write about the same. It was a transcript between two chat friends one Indian and the other a Paki. Don’t know if this happened for real, but the news claimed it did. The Indian Rakesh and the Paki Adil were chatting after a long time. In the past they have had have had numerous animated conversations on Taliban, Kashmir, USA, Islam, Hinduism, Bin Laden, Cricket, Hockey each one defending his country’s stance. However, this time it was different. Since it had been quite some time since they chatted after the usual friendly exchanges, Adil popped the question. What do you feel about the current situation in Pakistan? This set Rakesh thinking. There’s a lot that he felt about the situation in Pak, but thought to himself “Where do I start? What do I tell him?”

Rakesh then told him how sad it was that the whole societal fabric was coming apart in many areas thanks to the Taliban and the fundamentalists. Adil too shared his sadness about what was happening and how they had fallen behind the eight ball when it came to progress (if there is any) in all aspects of public life. Adil mentioned about how tens of friends and relatives of his had fled the country in the past five years or so for a safer and a better future in the middle-east and the west. Adil said he too had the opportunity to do so, but didn’t as he always had the hope that things would change soon for the better and that a true leader would emerge who would put Pak on the path to sanity if not glory. He would at times think that the leader would be Imran Khan. Unfortunately that has not happened and says it’s only a matter of time now that he would immigrate to the UK. Adil had lost all hope for Pak for it is now on a path to total annihilation. He told Rakesh how lucky India were that they had super people like Manmohan Singh and Abdul Kalam at the helm and how they were committed to the vision they shared for the nation. He also shared his envy and commended the progress India has made economically and technologically compared to Pak.

I just sat back and felt aren’t we lucky that partition happened and we ended up on the right side of the Radcliffe line. Imagine having to deal with army dictatorship, the anarchy, huge influx of refugees for the past 30 years, the Taliban and the influence of religious fundamentalists on society, the jihad and the decaying community life. Not that India is armoured against all these. Yes, we do have the Bajrang Dal, RSS, MNS, SIMI, Shiv Sena etc. who through their theological and ideological dogma as well as self righteous antics make an attempt to disrupt this societal accord. Just that luckily enough education, progress, development and democracy have created a huge majority encompassing all religions and classes who are able to rationally investigate and interpret their beliefs in a manner that ensures a harmonious society to a great extent.

The leaders Gandhi, Patel and others deserve our undying gratitude for they albeit unknowingly through partition have prevented India from being a part of the hell that Jinnah and his men have managed to create for themselves. I for one think partition was the best thing to us. Yes, the prospect of Miandad, Wasim, Sachin and Gavaskar sharing the dressing room does sound enticing but then so does an Indo-Pak encounter. One could dwell on the past analysing, scrutinising the actions of Jinnah, Gandhi that perpetrated the partition, but the bitter or rather the sweet truth one has to admit is that undivided India would not really have been the fancy of our imagination.

I hope and wish Pakistan is able to fight the evils plaguing it and that a strong leadership emerges and are able to build a nation for their people to live in where freedom can be celebrated and cherished.


Friday, February 27, 2009

No Looking Back!!

I read a wonderful article today about Ewen Chatfield on cricinfo. For the not so cricket enthusiasts, Chatfield was a swing bowler who was Sir Richard Hadlee’s partner in crime during the dominant  New Zealand side of the 1980’s. He went on to play for over a decade taking 123 test and 140 ODI wickets. Stats that any budding cricketer would readily take if offered when playing for your nation at the highest level.  He was awarded the prestigious MBE for his services to New Zealand cricket. But that was over 20 years ago. What does he do now? Chatfield now is a taxi driver. Yes you heard it right. He drives a taxi. Good for him though, that he lives in a rugby fanatic NZ where cricketers could lead normal lives without cameras hounding them at all times. Imagine an Indian cricketer with 100 wickets driving a cab for a living.

It was 3-4 weeks into his taxi driver job that he was first recognised by a passenger.  He starts his day at 05:30 in the morning and as per rules and much to his displeasure is allowed to work for only 13 hours a day. Yeah!! Just 13 hours a day. He’s not your typical sportsman story who did a lot for the sport and the world just ignores and forgets him altogether and who would spend the last days of life penniless moaning about how unfair the world has to him.

Chatfield on the other hand is mighty thankful to what cricket has done to him. Chatfield is possibly best remembered for nearly being killed on the cricket field. He was knocked down by a bouncer from Peter Lever of Engalnd in his debut test. His heart stopped and he swallowed his tongue and only mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage by Bernard Thomas, England's physiotherapist, saved his life.  He considers his fortune just to be alive. He is every bit grateful that he got to travel the world, rub shoulders with the likes of Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe and bowl to people like Gavaskar, Richards and Miandad. Since retirement in 1989 he has worked as a coach, a courier man, a salesman at a chip shop, a lawn mower and has driven a dairy van. He is now not in touch with any of his team-mates. He claims he doesn't get nostalgic and doesn't watch old tapes. He lives with his wife and family in Wellington a happy man, very happy indeed.

This story was very inspiring to me. The perspective I wish to throw is that most people find it so much easy to rest on the hard fought successes that they have achieved in the past that they expect those laurels to do so much for them in the future too. One develops an ego so huge which does not allow him/her to take a step back and one doesn’t move forward either. The optimism and confidence they exuded to achieve what they did eludes them totally. They get stuck there, crib and complain about how fate and circumstances have led them to the mess they are in. How easy it is to blame the system, the people who run it and the processes in place. So common it is to regret what we did or didn’t do in the past. So easy it is to screw your happiness and that of the people around you. Ewen Chatfield could have done the same. Instead he chose to move from one plane to another, not without difficulty or pain but what is so commendable is the optimism that keeps him going and isn’t he happy and content. Always with the belief that there was only light at the end of the tunnel, no darkness.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let the games begin.....

Hi Friends my first ever blog...finally...have been thinking of writing one for a long time but somehow never happened..i know its valentines day, but no its not about my love or my girlfriend(dont have one :( ) but yeah its about something that i love a lot, my country and sports. 

Let the games begin.....

Following the 27th edition of the Olympic Games held in Beijing last year, there is a new found enthusiasm among the sporting fraternity in the country as well as enthusiasts. The world’s second most populous nation may be emerging as an economic superpower but has for long been a sporting bummer. When Abhinav Bindra climbed the top podium, a billion people’s heart swelled in pride even as they fervently hoped it was just the beginning of a new era in Indian sports. For the first time since 1952 has India won more than a single medal at the games. What’s more India has won a whole three - count 'em, three – medals this Olympics.

                India lacks a sophisticated sporting culture. The prevalent culture, albeit archaic needs to be nurtured and how do we do it? One way is to celebrate all our sporting successes, few as they may be. They could trigger a new fervour across the country and change peoples outlook towards sports other than Cricket. For cricket itself has reached the heights it has today due to the money pumped in through media by ways of branding & advertising the sport. Successes such as these have the potential to inspire an entire generation of budding sportsmen to take up sports seriously and become competitors at the world stage. Soon you may see schools being equipped with shooting ranges, boxing rings and even akharas. The government could definitely do its bit by not just rewarding these champions suitably but also take care of their sporting needs in the future. Definitely the way forward.

                The country is reeling in the glory of the 3 magnificent men who have brought medals home and would do so for some time to come. One could argue that all the hoopla and the frenzied  celebrations around the country’s performance is  uncalled for and is a little over the top. After all,although the athletes in question have performed admirably but India, a country of over a billion people, has only three medals this Olympics, which is less than half what a Michael Phelps managed. Also one would feel that the athletes who have braved the bureaucracy and the lack of support they have received the sporting machinery to bring laurels to the nation will remain in the public eye only for a short time. They will soon be lost in oblivion once the honeymoon period is over as have so many of their compatriots in the past. But at this stage whatever money the media could help bring would sure be as treated as gold dust. Shooting, boxing and wrestling could certainly do with a bit of public interest and funds. Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar may provide the push factor that these sports desperately need to reach the next level of excellence and mass participation. The media is only helping these stars reach out to the public. Just as a Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis or a Ben Johnson inspired a whole league of African American athletes on show today, the Abhinav Bindras and the Vijender Kumars too can replicate that in a sporting-success starved India. In any case, they are national heroes and need to be treated as such, for they are so rare. Each country has its way of treating heroes. We, Indians, are a festive people. We wait for an occasion to celebrate. If that seems over-the-top to some people, so be it. We are like this only! Hype in India is not restricted merely to achievements in sports. We love to exaggerate as is exemplified in Bollywood.

 So’ let's get some perspective. It's great that Bindra, Sushil and Vijender have managed to win medals in Beijing. But we do have a long way to go. Resting on their laurels and just feeling good about them wont take us anywhere. Lets create an environment that nurtures the Bindras, the Paes’, the Rathores of the country. Let the games begin and let us all play to win!!! 

Just thought would share some trivia with you guys as well.

At the 1932 Amsterdam Olympics, the gold medal winning Indian team scored a whopping 35 goals in 2 matches in the edition including a 24-1 walloping of the United States of America. Hockey’s undisputed king Dhyan Chand and his brother Roop Singh scored 25 of the 35 goals scored by India. In all the duo led India to 3 Olympic hockey golds. Such was Dhyan Chand’s mastery over the game that Residents of Vienna, Austria honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands and four sticks, depicting his control and overall prowess in the sport. During a 1935 tour of New Zealand and Australia, he scored 201 goals out of the team's tally of 584 in 43 matches. Sir Don Bradman, the greatest cricketer that ever lived and his hockey playing counterpart Dhyan Chand once came face to face at Adelaide in 1935, when the Indian hockey team was in Australia. After watching Dhyan Chand in action, Sir Don remarked "He scores goals like runs in cricket". However like many non cricketing sportsmen, Dhyan Chand too didn’t see much comfort post retirement. In 1978 when Dhyan Chand was diagnosed with Liver Cancer, and came to Delhi's AIIMS, they sent him to the general ward where he was treated for 3 days. A journalist's article eventually got him moved to a special room. He succumbed to his aliment shortly thereafter dying penniless, receiving a meagre pension. It made it hard to forget the first few words of his autobiography 'Goal': "You are doubtless aware that I am a common man."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009