Thursday, October 14, 2004

Umps or Fools?

It is 'walky time' these days at Chennai. According to news reports, Gilchrist 'walked' after he edged Kumble to Yuvraj via his pad. Then Gillespie turned towards the pavilion after he was caught by Kaif. Kasprowicsz then edged Kumble to Laxman at silly mid off and walked away. It did not end at that. At the fag end of the day, Yuvraj 'walked' soon after he realised that Gilchrist had pouched his thin edge off Warne.

Of these four Walkabbies, only Kasprowiscz seemed have walked when/after the umpire, in this case David Shepherd, turned down the appeal. Going by the reports, the umpires were in the process of making the right decisions in the other instances. So why the huge fuss?

It is because, in some ways, walking when the ump says 'not out' is going against the official decision and hence dissent. Cricket 24x7 points out that a couple of years ago, Stephen Fleming was fined by the match referee for pointing out that Australia had gone against fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs and placed three men on the boundary, even though the umps on the field agreed and no-balled the Aussies for the digression. Fleming was doing the right thing and then fined too, which sounds stupid.

Well, maybe the both the teams wanted the umpires to look stupid. So did the teams get together before the start of the test match (in light of the mistakes from the umps that went un-punished at Banglore) and decided that they will walk for every legit dismissal regardless of what the geriatrics in the black trousers feel.

And making Shepherd look foolish might just be the start of this exercise to induce the ICC to act and pull up the inconsistent umps and maybe even push the introduction of more technology aids for the umps. Anybody know what Gangs and Gilchrist (and Ponting) think about this whole fracas vis-a-vis umpires using technology?

The new dictionary of the Indian BCCI team?

These should be the new classifications and some of the words in the Indian BCCI team’s cricketing dictionary. The first set of words is the words that shall hence forth be referred to as Key Words – words that are key to any success both in the present and in the future. The next set of words are termed Illegal Words/Phrases - the ones that need to be dropped from use because they seem to be words that are not being used any where else in the world where cricket is played professionally. The third group is the set of Other Words – words and phrases that are still used world-wide, but in a restrained, qualified manner (unlike India) to ensure that they do not overrule the use of the first set, i.e. the Key Words

1: Key words/Phrasesruns, wickets, bowler, batsman, opener, wicket keeper, long term, fitness, true pitches, professional management (assets and talent), rest, independent facility management.

2: Illegal words/Phrases: make shift, short-term, experiment, the team’s cause, part time.

3: Other Word/Phrases (for Qualified use): all rounder, foot work, style, numbers.

The timing of the post might actually look wrong, because India seem to be doing well at this point of time (I mean today). But if you really look closer and follow the progress of the Indian BCCI cricket team, you will probably understand what I am trying to tell you here, because the (seemingly) small blemishes seem to be because the Indian BCCI team works according to some of these words from the second and the third set and ignores some of the other key words from the first. Please leave your comments!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Lessons and thoughts from Banglore

I watched most of the first test. ‘Most’ because everyday, I was either sleepy (and hence disinterested) or the Australians were pulverizing India. Overall, I think (fairly obvious thought here) that the Indians bowled their way out of the match on the first day. In fact, on the first day I was too pissed off with the bowlers to watch the game after lunch.

The story of the test match, for India at least, was Irfan Pathan! Pathan showed the way - first with Patel in the first innings and then with Dravid and Harbhajan in the second innings. A look at Pathan’s batting in the second innings should highlight what I am trying to convey. Dravid used to drive the ball into deep cover and refuse the single that was there for the asking. And on the last ball of the over, try to the take a single to keep strike. But Gilchrist would shrewdly moved the field to cut the singles and Pathan would have to face the next over. And he did just that.

For the first 79 balls of his 141 ball innings, Pathan was the obdurate defender going, at one point, 87 minutes without a run. Now if that isn’t what our esteemed commentators would call “going into a shell” then I must be mistaken. And then Dravid got out. At this point, I expected, regardless of his first inning 31, Pathan to get out soon, but he did something else. For the next 62 balls he faced, Pathan was the confidence personified. He proceeded to 55 mixing boundaries (6 more) and a couple of huge sixes over deep mid-wicket with the display of the some of the best defensive strokes that I have seen played against Shane Warne. I have seen a lot batsmen pad away Warne’s turners, but the use of the straight bat, particularly by a tail-ender, with such frequency blew my mind. We might have seen the first of many such innings from Pathan. However, he has to be treated cautiously. Regardless of the fact that he seemed to be a better batsman (going by his 85+ runs in this match) than Patel, the urge to move him up the order any more should be resisted.

As for Warne, the wait continues. Regardless of what a few people claimed, the ball that got Laxman in the first innings can (and should) never be compared to Warne’s first ball in an Ashes series. Laxman had only himself to blame for this dismissal. It seemed as if he had lost track of where his off stump was and this dismissal was quite similar to the when Shoaib Akhtar got him during a game in the Pakistan ODI series. The ball pitched on middle and leg and just went past his edge to take the off stump away. Standard leg spinner and he did not even have to use the rough. Warne seemed to wilt under Pathan and Harbhajan’s attack in the second innings.

At one point, after hitting the six that pushed the runs on Warne’s bowling analysis over 100 in the second innings, Harbhajan actually smiled (looking at Warne and clapped). And though the old bad habits (like the checked drive that he played against McGrath in the first innings) still were around, Pathan’s defense seemed to have rubbed off on Harbhajan and both played Warne comfortably and batted him out of the attack till Gillespie and McGrath came back to finish the formalities with the new ball. Zaheer threw his bat around at the new ball and contributed to the proceedings too, frustrating the bowlers to the maximum extent possible. But the new ball helped end the misery, though much later than originally thought.

The umps played a role too. While I don’t agree with what Sanjay Manjrekar (or was it L.Sivaramakrishnan) said – that the bad decisions that went against either team compensated each other, I still cannot cry over those decisions and yet be impartial, which I try to be. But I also have started to believe that cricket is a sport where if there’s a mistake early in a team’s (or a batsman’s) inning then that mistake has a greater possibility of affecting the result than a mistake that comes much later. Hence, I think Sehwag’s dismissal in the second inning had a greater impact on the result than a few others. Moreover it seemed as if luck (associated with an ump’s good decision) deserted India in just the most inopportune of times.

Well on the hindsight, the negative line from Harbhajan on the first day might have been the right strategy - to try to exploit the footmarks of Zaheer and Pathan. But it did not seem to work and the ball did not do much. It just seemed that Harbhajan was waiting for a mistake from the Aussie batsmen (a top edged sweep to be specific). That worked too and Hayden fell for that trap. But I would have tried that tactic only after I was sure that an attacking field did not work. And in going on the defensive with Harbhajan, I thought we lost the psychological advantage that carried over from 2001. I also thought Zaheer and Pathan were taken off too early. As the later days showed, the pitch had something for the fast bowlers as well.

In both the innings, it was as if the Indians had taken a leaf out of Kenwood’s tactic against the Master Blasters in 1996-97. For the uninitiated, the Master Blasters, a short lived team for which I played a couple of games in the Hostel Tournaments, was put into bat by Kenwood, a team that had a reputation of being unbeatable. And after dismissing us cheaply (50 odd I think), they decided to bat top down and send the tail-enders first. A combination of tight bowling, inept batting by the Kenwood pseudo-top and middle orders and an awesome catch or two gave them quite a scare and they finally won in the last over (16 over game) with a wicket to spare. However in India’s case it was quite the opposite.

What I mean is that the tail-enders showed the way with Patel, Zaheer and Pathan having impressive outings with the bat. The other batsmen perished to being in an inflexible frame of mind, given the nature of the wicket where McGrath and Gillespie seemed to be ineffective (in taking wickets) with the old ball. Only Kasprowiz seemed have it in him to trouble every one, but then I expected him to do that all the same given his billing as a sub-continent specialist in recent times. Batman after batsman came in and left without consolidating. And to our folly, anytime a batsman of the same caliber as that of the Indian top order, plays to consolidate, we fans call for their head and lament the fact that these batsmen have lost their strokes. Sachin baiters – are you listening?

Regardless of this test match, I wouldn’t go for any change for the next. Sachin is more or less unavailable (regardless of the unsuccessful disinformation aimed to psyche the Aussies) and so the only change, if the team management wants, would be to replace Yuvraj with Kaif. Yuvraj did not make much of an impression, other than those catches and in any case, if Chopra needs to be rested towards the end of the innings, Yuvraj can be brought in to substitute for Chopra at silly point or short leg. Another change, which I wouldn’t advise too much, would be to let Agarkar take Zaheer’s place. On the second day of the first test, I made a comment to my friends which I thought I never would. I have always thought Agarkar was over-rated, but the absence of any variety in the pace attack might be the catalyst for his inclusion. Aaah… If only Balaji was fit!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Gavaskar-Border Trophy

Gavaskar and Border presenting the trophy named after them to Saurav Ganguly Posted by Hello
My call for the latest edition of the Gavaskar-Border Trophy is 1-1, with draws in Banglore and Nagpur. The results in Bombay and Chennai however are too close to call.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti

Over the last 200 to 300 years, the incidence of urban legends and unsolved mysteries like the Abominable Snowman and the Yeti has increased multi-fold. While not being in the same scale, the mysticism surrounding AR Rahman's upcoming works, particularly the ones that are long overdue surely evokes the same effect among his ardent fans (which includes me too).

Ekam Satyam is one such effort. So what is Ekam Satyam anyways? In June, 1999, the Hindujas announced a series of concerts by Michael Jackson. For the second concert in Munich (the first one was going to be in Seoul) Michael Jackson was going to be accompanied by some Indian artistes including Rahman, actors Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram and actress/danseuse Shobana called the "Michael Jackson & Friends" concert for the aid of the “world's needy children”. The proceeds from the charity concerts were to aid the efforts of the International Red Cross Society, the Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund, and the UNESCO. The Hindujas roped in G. Bharat (aka Bharat Bala) and his wife Kanika Meyer Bharat to conceptualize this performance. Rahman stepped in with his musical poweress and set the ancient Sanskrit verse Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti, the literal English translation of which goes Truth is one, the wise call it by different names (source: a search on Google) to music with English lyrics to supplement the Sanskrit verse.

Associated Press reported that this concert took place on June 27th, 1999. The concert is notable for the minor mishaps that befell Jackson while he was performing. A bridge on the stage separated too soon and MJ fell in, but climbed out to continue his next two songs without any apparent trouble. However he left after performing for just over half an hour and Associated Press reported that he was treated for minor burns caused by fireworks (during the concert) and stayed overnight at the hospital.

Indian newspapers and websites later reported that Rahman and his fellow artistes closed the nine-hour open air concert after Jackson entertained an audience of more than 55000 fans at the gigantic Olympic Stadium. Jackson later came on stage to join the finale performance with the Indian troupe and gave a rendition of the English translation of the Sanskrit verse and Rahman's number 'Ekam Satyam'(One Truth) with folded hands wearing a white outfit designed by Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra.

The Tribune which describes this concert also mentions the cutting short of the concert and the hospital visit. But I thought there was a slight descripency between the accounts from AP and the Indian websites. While the Tribune mentions that the Indian artistes were the closing act of the concert, it mentions that Jackson left after his performance of 35 minutes. So where the Indian artistes made to cut short their performance? Or did MJ cut his performance midway, making the Indian group come on early and then enter the stage to finish his duet with them and leave the concert.

Anyways that’s the confusion. So what happened to the single? In one of his MTV interviews, Rahman said that he has “rendered the Sanskrit portions written by A.R Parthasarathy while Michael Jackson has rendered the English lyrics written by Kanika Myer Bharat”. So I am assuming that just the title and the first line of the song is from the Sanskrit verse from the Rig Veda. Rahman also said then (in 1999) that “since it became immensely popular among Jackson fans in the West, it was decided to release the song as a duet sung by Jackson and myself” and that while he expected the single to be released by the end of 1999, he also expected the single to be included with Invincible, MJ’s then forthcoming album. However neither happened. And are their any recordings of the concert? None, it would seem. Maybe the Hindujas could throw light into this.

However a lot of samples/music files make their way across cyberspace claiming to be recordings of the elusive Ekam Satyam and frequently they set the alarm bells ringing on the ARR fans Yahoo group. And it happened again last week. This person said he had uploaded this long overdue composition into some server or the other where all of us (the other members) could download it. Before some of us could respond and ask him about the source, a lot of other people had jumped and tried to download the file (in mp3 format). The group was privy to a number of frantic (to say the least going by the liberal sprinkling of E’s and L’s in the usually short word that is “HELP”) emails from a lot of people who could not download the file. Then someone emailed saying that the song cannot be THE Ekam Satyam because it sounds too amateurish to be Rahman’s collaboration with Michael Jackson. And then someone else stepped in to tell us what a lot of people knew already – that this mp3 file was the same one that has been floating on the net for quite sometime now. That has stopped the mad rush for the time being (at least for the next one year, if Rahman does not announce the release of the single in some form or the other).

So when is the single gonna be released? Or have we heard samples of it already as a BGM, like we heard “Telephone Manipol” as one of Roja’s BGMs? Reportedly Rahman is in touch with the group and some of the members and the only way the confusion can be cleared up is by him and him alone.

The man talks!

Playing cricket is the ultimate thing

I should be doing what the team wants me to, and not what someone sitting 85 yards away in the commentators' box feels. You can't be talking about what the country should be doing and then focus on an individual. There is no question that it is a team game, and it is the responsibility of all 11 individuals to execute a team plan on any given day.

I really don't know how to put it across, because I can never make everyone happy. If I play a big shot and get out, some people will say, what's the need to do that when there are so many strokeplayers around, can't he just try to play 50 overs? I feel I should play the way I think I should play and not according to how XYZ feels. There might be a day when we need 100 runs in the first 15, and I will bat differently.

People keep saying, ah, he is not playing the same number of shots as before, but if you look at the strike rate you'll see I'm scoring at the same pace, just scoring in a different way. As you spend more and more time in the team, your role changes. It cannot be what it was 15 years ago or seven years ago. I don't think there is any player in the world who has played in the same gear throughout his career.

Is that a good enough answer for all you doubters?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Sachin - God and the Victimzed ?

I know this is slightly off the charts in terms of relevance, but this feeling of revulsion seems to come to me once every couple of years when Sachin Tendulkar decides that he needs to do something different to ensure that the fortunes change India. And lo, people start talking about how he has lost it completely, not noticing that something's changed positively. And this feeling is back again. Since I am sick of typing up the same thing, I just decided to repost this on the blog.

(Originally written on March 12, 2002)

During the last few years, I have not missed reading an article about cricket in magazines that have nothing to do with sport. I have all the issues (with covers related to cricket) of a particular news magazine that was on the forefront of the match fixing allegations, a couple of years ago. Basically I find it interesting to read these articles because these magazines do not have anything to do with cricket and so one can get some stuff from other angles. But most of the time I have found that such articles have a common thread. A partisan attitude is evident (barring some good pieces). But it is a truth universally acknowledged that a public in possession of a bad cricket team must be in want of a scapegoat (with due apologies to Jane Austen). However it is still surprising that they have chosen the best in the team for this purpose. And if you notice all these pieces of criticism have come, not from cricketers (or former cricketers), but from people who’s connection to cricket is not evident, at least to the casual reader.

So I have tried to put across a coherent reply to one of the common points raised by such articles… “Is Sachin, an all time great?” A general feeling around the media and some sections of the Indian public, is that Tendulkar, for the greater part of his career, has failed to deliver for his team when they need him the most. And a number of instances have been quoted where we were near and yet so far. These views go as far as indicating that the tag ‘chokers’ that the Indian team has earned in the last few years is because of one man alone. At least that’s what I could surmise…

The one major fact that these people have always overlooked is that there have been many a knock where he has done his bit (rather, almost the whole thing) and India has failed to win because the other ten failed to do their job. I am not a stud with statistics, but what better example to come up than the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1998-99. This match is quoted by one and all as a prime example to illustrate the ‘fact’ that Sachin is not what he seems to be. In that particular match, Sachin was fighting severe back spasms and was the 7th batsman to get out for a score of 136. This, after the last recognized batsman Nayan Mongia had got out (just about 5 overs previously) with a shot that was deemed irresponsible by one and all. With just one batsman to follow and back spasms racking him, he just had to hit out and go for the finish rather than taking a single and exposing the other batsman to Akram & Co. He got out after hitting Saqlain for 10 runs of the first 3 balls. Even though only 17 runs were required ("only" is not the word to use when Saqlain and Akram are bowling, but nevertheless) India lost all 3 wickets in scoring only 6 runs in the process. Tendulkar was going for the victory and had scored most of the 37 runs in just 5 overs after Mongia's dismissal till he got out. And of the rest of the 10 members of the team only Dravid (10) and Mongia (52) got to double figures. What happened to the other 8 ?? Ganguly got a bad decision (bad is a word that does not convey the enormity of that umpiring slight) , but then.... Tendulkar's innings (even though the finishing was not there) was invaluable when u see the scorecard. We would just not be discussing this match if it were not for the scores of the other batsmen in the team. In fact, Akram recently said in a TV program that the Chennai test was one of the best Test matches he had ever played.

And surprisingly some (including this article by C.Rammanohar Reddy) have compared him with Andy Flower at his best. This reveals another basic flaw. While, on the outset, it is probably fair to dismiss the Zimbabweans as a one-batsman team, the team is full of dangerous floaters (as Douglas Marillier and Travis Friend have amply demonstrated last week!) all of whom are capable of 30's and 40s in any given day. And they do get these runs regularly. So the "exceptional average" of 84.5 % (which he had a couple of months ago) would lose some sheen if you look at the scores of the other batsman. I am sure you would find the above-mentioned 30s and 40s supporting the hundreds made by Flower to the maximum. So it’s unfair to use statistics as a tool to evaluate Tendulkar. Sidhu might be partly right with his "Statistics are like miniskirts, they reveal more than what they hide" statement. But sometimes the hidden stuff makes compulsive reading and convinces us that the open stuff is all hogwash. And maybe the question that has been posed is answered by the usual view that these people put across. "Given his prowess, Sachin does not seem to be able to set up a victory as often as he should". Where are the other batsmen to sometimes finish what he started? Please….. Cricket is just not a one-man game. If you don’t have another batsman to take guard opposite you, then you cannot even bat. This is not street cricket where sometimes all the players get to bat. I hope every Indian fan realizes this and does not get into any conclusion of this kind. Sachin is just the major piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is the Indian team. Only when all the pieces fall into place, will India win.
Accountability is another factor that the Indian public and more importantly, the team and the selector need to understand. They should understand that “no member is bigger than the team” and that includes Tendulkar too. I think he has realized that. His decision to relinquish the captaincy stems from the realization that he cannot cope up with the kind of hassles that a captain has to face and then perform of the field too. But again this has been held against him too. So what more are we going to hold him responsible for? The Babri masjid issue?

So let's not blame Tendulkar for not making “match-winning” scores. The difference between winning and losing lies in playing as a team and not as a collection of individuals. And if someone says that Tendulkar is responsible for not the team not winning, even though he has had good stints at the crease, then he cannot be more wrong. If one batsman's score alone would win a match, I am sure India would be the only unbeaten team around, cause from his first Test to the latest, he has done his bit and would continue to do so until he feels he cannot. Then he will gracefully get off the bandwagon and let India rue the day they doubted Sachin's

Wanted - A time machine

Wanted: Tendulkar of old

I will tell you what such stupid people need. A time machine. So that all these people can go to 1994 or anytime to watch Tendulkar play another of his gems in vain! I know it is their view point, but the moment such things get printed, online or otherwise, I have every right to say how stupid this sounds.

My first problem - A comparison with Richards and the mention that "Richards kept the image till the time he left the scene" which I think is erronous. IMHO, if I have to put it the same way that Sachin is being described here, Richards lost it in his last couple of years. His average for his last three years was a good 12 points below his overall average of just over 50. But then if that's what is being refered to as "keeping the image", then there is no reason for us to pull Tendulkar down, right? And if the numbers were to be studied more closely, Sachin's average over the last three years is a good 4 points over his overall average of 57.

Oh ya, the lack of strokes. It talks so much about how Tendulkar used to play like God, but forgets essentially that in a team game, individual performances dont matter after a point. What matters is whether the team wins. And its is unfortunate that a huge lot of us looks at this period of semi-dominance (India still has a long way to go before they can dominate) and equates Tendulkar's (apparent) below par performance during the period to the erronous view that he has lost it.

One word - Bull shit. I will not say any more, because then I am just gonna be as caustic as I can ever be. All I can say is that India plays a lot more cricket nowadays (both ODIs and Tests) as compared to the Windies of the Richards era. India play so much more cricket that a comparison between Tendulkar's stint with the team (in terms of number of matches) with that of the whole English team seems to be a farce. England (as a team) have played just over 400 ODIs (their 400th ODI was last week) while Tendulkar himself has played around 340, which should be an ample pointer to the amount of cricket that he has played.

And to expect that he do the equivalent of the destroying of McGrath from a 0 from 3 overs to a 28 from 6 overs analysis every single time he walks out to bat is nothing sort of stupidity and it just points to a lack of understanding of the game - a lack that seems glaring going by the amount of screen space that such people recieve.

A couple of years ago, during another of Sachin's (again apparent) lean periods, C. Rammanohar Reddy (usually a straight forward columnist for The Hindu's Sunday edition), wrote a similar sounding piece - or atleast a piece that made me feel the same way as this one. And this is what I emailed him (with a slightly changed tail piece that wished that someone inundate his email addy with a zillion email bombs). He just replied with a single sentence that conveyed his incredulousness over the last line of my email.

Really, if I ever want to watch nudges to third man or watch brilliant concentration outside off stump, I will switch on the TV when Dravid is playing. What a waste of time and talent if Tendulkar has to do that. What a terrible waste!

Wow... If there was ever anachronistic view of Indian cricket, this one is one! I am not going to say anything more! Sachin is still someone who needs to be placed in a different pedestal. Maybe he won't be alone in that pedestal - In fact I will be guilty if I said he is the only superhuman playing in cricket. There have been many more and there are many more and there will be many more, but he still commands a place, regardless of whether he plays that heavenly push down the ground or not. I will still watch him play, even if he grinds himself to the ground against the likes of Price and Giles. But he is not God. I will not say that now and never in the future. He is just Superman and I am not one myself!

Nuggets from my rubbish

This passage brought a smile to my face today. It speaks of an issue close to my heart, something that worries me, but the comparison definitely made me smile. And needless to say, the writer still holds his place up there in my list of favs.

Alas, everybody has off-days. Politicians do, more often than anyone else, but even Lata Mangeshkar can sing badly some day, A R Rahman can compose a poor tune. Hindustan Lever and Tiger Woods are in a slump longer than anyone could have imagined. And poor old Indian cricket never even got into the league of those four entities! - Harsha Bhogle (Indian Express)

And I hate Microsoft and Hotmail even more. First, they make sure Gmail invites go to your bulk mail folder directly and now even normal emails from Gmail ids go directly to the receiver's bulk mail folder. And if your account receives a lot of bulk mail, Gmail messages are more likely to be buried under rubbish. I sent my resume to someone's Hotmail addy - an acquaintance, a couple of weeks ago from my Gmail account and kept waiting for a response from him. And then yesterday when i called him, he tells me he has not received it at all and that he was waiting for me to call (cos he did not have my ph number or email addy)! How I hate Hotmail now!

Monday, September 20, 2004

And a couple more...

For a long time now, this blog has been a shortcut for a lot of people to get their kicks from cricket. Ok, for those of you who did not notice, there is this small on the right column which updates automatically from time to time with the scores from every cricket match that matter from around the world. Ok, If you want, you can get live scores from even a match between Manicaland and Matabeleland at the Mutare Sports Club that will be played between 19 and 22 April next year, though you might have to be someone like that cow that will be chewing cud that day watched over by the Masai tribesman standing just outside the boundary line, in order to really enjoy what would be going on on that ground then. But ya, live cricket scores, thats what you get on this blog alongside the rubbish I spew from time to time.

But for people who actually read Cricinfo from the first word to the last, the time has come where you can get on a single web page to get pointed to every single interesting peice written on cricket over the preceding day or so. Check out Cricket 24x7, the site that Jagadish maintains along with Ganesh. Jagadish was with Cricinfo previously and though he now works for a company that aims to become No. 1 in the search engine business, it is obvious that he still gets his kicks out of cricket. Amit Varma thinks so too. I have been a frequent visitor to Cricket 24x7 and dunno how I missed plugging it on when I updated my blogroll sometime ago. Sorry Jagadish and Ganesh, better late than never!

The other new entrant to my blogroll is someone who might deserve a round of apologies from me. Or she might not. Anyways, Indica Indica has recently moved to a cold place and could use some warmth and a few fresh visitors on her blog. Ok, before she sends me a email bomb, I just have to say that she gets a lot more visitors than me and obviously she writes way better than me.

Welcome to my blogroll guys!


Friday, September 17, 2004

Sops for the fat cats - Part Deux

This post initially started as a reply to comments for the previous post. But then I thought I'd rather post it directly.

My point is, this money could have been better spent. Now anyways Loyola and Ethiraj have to submit plans on how they are going to spend the money. But these colleges seem to already have one of the best, if not the best ever infrastructre. So my idea is that, this money has been given to them solely on the trust that they will be able to come up with good plans for spending it. But why these colleges in the first place? Technically there should be a lot of other contenders for this money, because if I look at a mediocre institution (or even an institution like the Shanmugha of the late 1990s), I can give you 10 different schemes to improve the place. And that's from a green horn like me.

So a better way to go would have been look at some college where the infrastructue is mediocre. In my eyes this would be the colleges of the type that were in the erstwhile DOTE-III category of engineering colleges (just as an example). Ask them to submit plans/proposals just like the applications for a research grant. Choose the best proposal in that and give the money to them. Now what this would mean is that the average standard of education could improve just a wee bit.

Anand: I agree with every word that you have said, regarding your earning of the right for a subsidy. In fact on the hindsight I realise that such an award is suitable for a college like Loyola, which I think is run by a management that looks more at the positive social effects than the money. But what about Ethiraj? What about the students there? I frankly dont know, which is the sole reason that prompts me to criticize the award.

Capri - I am not criticizing Loyola or Ethiraj, but the UGC! I certainly cannot trust the goverment in India to do something impartially! And the UGC is government!

if the other mid range/lower range colleges needed it, they should have worked for it

I am sure they are working on it, but they shouldn't be working on it while competing with the likes of Ethiraj or Loyola. I mean, these are the big boys (or the big gals). And once someone wins an award, it is always the sign of a good sport to congratulate the winner. But to me, an award should generate more awardees in the future. So if you had given this award to say - the Gummidipoondi College of Arts and Science (an imaginary institution) which has been started in 2001 and is looking for funds to improve its facilities after a decent start by itself, then tomorrow, the dedicated visionary who runs the Gangaiamman Arts Science and Technological Research Academy (G.A.S.T.R.A) will be prompted to apply after following the successful Gummidipoondi model.

Ethiraj and Loyola winning this award is akin to Ferrari winning the Formula 1 races so easily these days. Competition should inspire more competitors. However if one team wins it all, it actually has the opposite effect and drives away the others. But that will not take any sheen off the winnner, just that in a couple of years the sport will be dead! But there is a tradeoff, if you seek to limit the run-away winner(s), ultimately everything will stagnate. As opposed to Formula 1, in the US, the NASCAR championship has been run on almost identical cars (to ensure a level field) and over the last couple of years it has become a farce, at least in my eyes.
And the general consensus is that while success or the drive to succeed in motorsport has led to so many advances in technology in auto manufacturers in Europe (Audi, Mercedes etc.) and Japan (Subaru and Mitsubishi for example), in the US, during the same period, there has been so such events in Ford and GM, because the technology insulated NASCAR is no inspiration! Infact the relative improvement in Chrysler has been due to knowledge infusion from Daimler Benz.

So the idea would be to give sops to the second and third rung competitors to raise them to a level where they can compete with the big guns on a level field and let them fight it out afterward.

At the same time, should you be giving away scholarship to a student who is mediocre or the one who stands first.

Guru: That theory makes the assumption that people who get into apparently mediocre colleges are mediocre themselves! A lot of ppl get into such colleges because of issues like the "free seat, payment seat, management seat" system. A lot of students still beat such a system and get into instis like the IIMs later on in their life! So by denying such institutions the money, you are making the life of such students a wee bit more difficult. But am sure they will still come out tops! As for the gals of Ethiraj, I don't know much, because I spent my "formative" years out of Chennai. So for me, it was some gals in RECT! And I think the RECT-ian gals knew that at least some of us guys from SCE rocked. We rocked their campus for a couple of days every year during Festember! Aaah... Festember... *Sigh*.......

But I did spend a couple of evenings every week for the most part of six months of 2000-2001 in the immediate environs of another such institution - Stella. And I will gladly endorse any such statement that alludes to similar facts about Stella Maris!

And Nilu: Moodum. Who was talking about a college like SASTRA?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sops for the fat cats?

The news that Ethiraj and Loyola have received grants of 1 Crore each from the UGC leaves me with mixed thoughts. The article in the Hindu which harps this news mentions a comment from Ethiraj’s principal almost as an afterthought that 8 TN colleges in total have been conferred with the same status and the award - `College with Potential for Excellence'. So why does the Hindu just mention these two colleges? The article appears in the Chennai sub-section of the page devoted to TN news with no mention of the other colleges anywhere else. And that’s just my grouse against the Hindu!

This `College with Potential for Excellence' status entitles the colleges to Rs.1 crore each from the University Grants Commission spread over the next three years to be used to “upgrade their facilities”, which brings us to my next grouse. Even if the 6 other TN colleges chosen, really deserve a 1 Crore grant, do Loyola and Ethiraj need this?

I think Ethiraj and Loyola are already well established institutions and their existing facilities are excellent enough to turn out well rounded students in every field of academics that they have their eye on. Both these colleges find a mention in any listing of the Top colleges in India, let alone in TN. In 2003, Loyola was ranked 1st in Arts (7th in 2002, 5th in 2001 and 2nd in 2000), 4th for Commerce (4th in 2002 and 11th in 2001), 4th for Science (1st in 2002, 2nd in 2001 and 4th in 2000) in the India Today – Gallup Survey to find the Top Colleges in India. And the same survey mentions Ethiraj as one of the top colleges in the country, though not in the top 10 (information gleaned from various free resources on the Internet).

While this might have started sound like a post lauding these two colleges for their award, my view is that this money could have been better spent by giving it to a mid range or lower range college that is trying to come up. I am sure every single one of us has heard sob stories from friends and relatives about colleges they know that have zilch in terms of facilities, but have an approval stamp from the authorities authorizing them to admit candidates every year. While some of these could be fly-by-night operators just in the business for the money, I am sure there are one or two colleges whose managements want to do something good, but lack the money to do so. Just a hypothetical thought, not necessarily true, but worth the thought, anyways! This idea, of these two colleges getting money like this, seems to just like the tax cuts that the rich appear to be getting here in the US from the Bush government!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

R.I.P Johnny


Posted by Hello


A week after it all happened, I found myself looking a photo album from my college days. It must be close to five years since it was taken, but that picture sure left a lump in my throat. So much has gone past in these five years and all our lives have changed mostly for the better. Some of us are set for a good life while some of us are slowly motoring along that path. Everyone but Johnny.

While I can't say anything for those people who were with "Space Jim" Johnny on that day or even Raapi, my view is that life is too unpredictable to live without taking on a few challenges. It will always be discussed whether PJ could have avoided what he did that fateful day last week. But then Murphy's law is ubiquitous and if you ask me, sitting down on a chair is as dangerous as driving at 90 mph on wet roads. So where do we draw the line? So do we live as we think we should? I guess so... I know this is muddled, but I can't put it in any other way. It's the classical catch-22 situation! Decide for yourself! Make the choice and remember that you may live or die with it!

And for want of better words to eulogize PJ, I am just echoing the Don's classic words....

thinking he is gone...
he will always be remembered, dear john....


R.I.P Johnny!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Freud would have been proud!

Last night I had a dream! I dreamt that I was in Athens, Greece (I can see where that came from) and I won a silver medal for India after running the 4 X 400 race, running all alone (now that IS a weird dream)! Or atleast that was what I was telling people in my dream after the medal ceremony.

What I remember of the race is this. Me and the other participants start running, touch a wall, start running back and back again after touching a wall on the opposite side, repeating this 4 times (hence the name - 4 x 400?). I was winning, but I lost time turning around each time after I touched those walls. I managed to catch up with the leader every time, except that in the last leg I could not and finished second.

The weirdest part of this dream was that the winner of the race was a WOMAN! For all you first timers on this blog, I happen to be a 26 year old MAN. So now, I am gonna call up the psychoanalyst in town to discuss the freudian impulses that seem to be driving me toward such dreams! But don't worry. I have not lost my mind. I just sold it on Ebay to pay my rent for this month!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Champions to be?

Rediff has a pick the team page for the first match of the Champions Trophy. And the possible twelve are Sourav Ganguly (captain), Rahul Dravid (vice-captain), Virender Sehwag , Yuvraj Singh, V V S Laxman, Rohan Gavaskar, Mohammad Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra and Dinesh Karthik.

Now if I were to consider Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif, Balaji, Pathan and Harbhajan (due to recent good figures) as automatic picks (which they are), it leaves me with four places yet to fill. I started with the rest of the batting order, but decided the conundrum might be easier to solve if I figure out my bowling attack. Pathan, Balaji and Harbhajan have been the better bowlers in the three matches of the Natwest Challenge. So ideally we would need two more bowlers. But going by the record so far, I think Ganguly might opt for just four bowlers and would want the fifth bowlers duties shared among his part timers and him. But there likes India's major challenge - the absece of one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Four bolwers and Sachin would have been my choice too (with others chipping in just to change ends or something), but thats outta the picture. So it has to be five specialist bowlers with the last two coming from the trio of Kumble, Nehra and Agarkar. I would give Kumble an automatic spot, because he adds variety and guile. So that makes eight.

Out of these three places, one has to go for an opening batsman. Normally Sehwag would have been an automatic pick for this position alongside Ganguly, but the abject lack of form makes me waver on his choice. Going by the same yardstick I am not considering Laxman an automatic pick. So the choice of opener would be between Sehwag and Laxman (since he is the only one among the other non-automatic picks to have opened the batting) with one of the two finding a place at the top of the order and the other fighting for a place in the middle order with Gavaskar and Dinesh Karthik. Lets put off this decision till we figure out the choices for the other spot. Now coming to the question of inclusion/non inclusion of Karthik. I am all for it, because this is a good time to experiment with minimal chances of negative results upsetting our chances in the tournament. So Karthik would ideally get the 8th automatic spot, with Dravid hanging up the gloves. So this is my team of eleven - Ganguly, X, Kaif, Dravid, Yuvraj, Karthik, Pathan, Balaji, Harbhajan, Kumble, Y, where X is a choice between Laxman and Sehwag while Y is a choice between Nehra and Agarkar.

This is not exactly my idea of a Dream Team. But it is unfortunate that Laxman and Sehwag are in the same level form wise that I have to choose between them. It is also imperative that India employ a full time wicketkeeper as an investment for the future. It is unfortunate that Parthiv Patel does not merit a place in this team even after a year or so as Dravid's understudy (in the ODI squad). Though I was gung-ho about his selection in 2002 and I thought he would make a good understudy to a older wicket keeper, soon I realised he was not going to get games and when he did, his mistakes while battting at the age of 18 were going to be held against him.
If Karthik gets a chance to play (regardless of my choice, I don't think he will) and does well, I hope he gets persisted with, because after a point, it is imperative that we come to terms with the fact that in a couple of years Dravid is going to be gone and we need a strong ODI keeper. Our choices are to either go with an experienced hand (the search for which will probably end with Ratra and if you ask certain people, Dasgupta) or shuffle between Karthik and Patel till one of them proves to be the man for the job. It is going to take a year or two, but I think this wait would be worth it. But it is also frightening that even before Karthik gets to play his second or third game, people have started talking about his replacement in the India A squad - Dhoni. It is always natural that someone or the other always scores runs or has a hand in dismissal. But only after we let them play for sometime can be decide whether those performances were merely flashes in the pan or not.

Coming back to Rediff's team. I picked Ganguly, Sehwag, Kaif, Yuvraj, Dravid, Pathan, Balaji, Karthik, Harbhajan, Kumble and Nehra. And I find that apart from people rooting to have just four bowlers and include both Laxman and Sehwag at the expense of Kumble, my team seems to be what everyone chose too. But I would consider going with four bowlers a logical mistake given that our batsmen seem to be in the worst of form. For once, it seems our bowling is our strong point. Let us use it to our benefit!

A strike.. and a counter-strike!

The Indian batsmen definitely owe an apology to their fans. - Javagal Srinath after India's loss to England in the first match of the NatWest Challenge.

I am pleased to hear that he is making good progress in writing interesting columns. - John Wright's reaction when asked about Javagal Srinath's comments

(source - Cricinfo)

I read Srinath's salvo the day it appeared and did not react mainly because I wanted to see how the team reacted to Srinath's 'transformation'. And Wright's comment made me smile. Personally, I agree with Amit Varma and I feel that such a statement from Srinath was totally uncalled for, because it comes even before a year has passed since he retired. There cannot be a radical change within such a short span of time, given that the coaching staff is virtually unchanged as is the team composition (apart from the addition of Pathan and Balaji, which have been changes that have given us the few positive results among all the negativities in the past few months). And so I feel he is just criticising what he was part of not even a year ago. Is that ethical?

He does seem to stating the obvious as some of his views on planning indicate. And his criticisms about individual players seem to focus on the injury ridden Zaheer and Nehra, which however are genuine gripes that a lot of people, including me have been having for quite sometime now.

I think Indian cricket, after a long period dominated by fickle minds and mediocrity, is now driven by talent and team spirit. The only cog missing from this seemingly well oiled machine is a framework for seeking out potential injuries and concrete plans for recovery.

In April 2002, I was listening on radio to Holding and Co. blast Zaheer for just ambling in and bowling at half pace on the first day of the first Test of the Windies tour. Zaheer was returning from the off season break after spending this time as a period of recovery from another of his injuries. And in two years, this has not changed. No Sir, not a bit. But I don't think it is fair to blame the team management for this. I don't think there is a clear channel of communication between the national team and the first class (state) teams in India as opposed to the case in England and Australia where the first class teams can be instructed to rest or play a potential member of the national squad so that the team management can asses the situation.

The off season training programs should be much more localized than it is now, where, at the first hint of an injury the national team shunts a player to either Banglore (NCA) or Chennai (MRF). Not that this is a particular disadvantage, but comparable facilities in every state team's headquarters, not to mention good pitches and consistent selection could do a lot more good to Indian cricket. And its not exactly out of the reach (financially I mean) of the BCCI.

But then, I am not too different from Srinath, am I? I am still stating the obvious. Alas that is all that I can do! A group of friends have been talking about paying the 200 odd dollars to purchase the pay per view telecast of the Champions Trophy, but every single person in this group is still not sure whether it would be a good spend, given the status quo in the team. However I am still tempted to place my money on this team and my view is that we should still buy as planned, but spread the investment among more people than it is now.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Friday, August 27, 2004

Exaggerated Eminence

Looks like aNTi would be come the next youth icon in Bangalore. Already the number of girls who have asked me and my friends "you know aNTi?" is approaching double digits! - Sanjeeth.

But it now looks like the reports of my sudden metoric rise in eminence in and around the Garden city of Bangalore might be greatly exaggerated. After some vague responses pertaining to the current superstar of Karnataka, Upendra and his successor, he let the cat out of the bag that there have been four instances when he has been asked if was acquainted to me since he graduated from Shanmugha. too. A break-up of the four instances gives me the impression that people who know me (or want to know me, I hope) are also in the KQA and attend "Ad contests" (as participants??).

And contrary to what Sanjeeth thinks, I cannot explain this. BTW, he has to yet clarify who those questioners were/are. Does that mean that those questioners were not members of the opposite sex? Well, they don't know what they are missing here.

Update: Sanjeeth has issued a rejoinder to his original comment. He was asking for such a post from me after making a one liner. But then he thought I was pissed off and I wasn't. I just wanted to know if I know everybody who knows me. Anyways, the crux of the matter is that I know I am "humorous". But fact is, I think I did not have any speaking parts in those "ads" that Sanjeeth mentions. And even if I did, I don't know if those would qualify as "humor" - given that we lifted plot lines randomly from pop culture. However, having said that I won't run away from compliments, because I could use some right now. So if someone thinks I was/am humorous, damn right I am! Thanks Sanjeeth, for bringing this out to the open ;). And for heavens sake, if someone asks you about me, feel free to pass on my email adress (I will hold on to my cell phone number for now)!

(P.S I am not anybody's Thalaivar. I am just a thondan - thalaivar anbai naadi avar pinnadi nirkkkum oru sarasari thondan!)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Welcome

After a good couple of months of relative obscurity as far as detailed posts go and then a week of feverish activity, I am back. My thesis has been defended after a 2 grueling hours of grilling. But I thought I faced it with the usual panache. The corrections are slowly being taken care of and my life is slowly coming back to where it was a couple of months ago. Job search is back to full steam once more from the relative lethargic actions of the last month and so is the depressing mood prevailing among my friends who are in the same stage as me. Some of it is rubbing off on me too, but I think I will be better soon.

Anyways, I had put off updating my blogroll and after a couple of friendly reminders over the last one week, I have realized that my tardiness is passé and I have to buck up. So, today I added these people on my blogroll - Meghana, Tikku, Anush, Ishwar, Mitochondria and Megha. In the next few days, I will be adding some more people who I should have added today, but missed due to the lower processing capabilities of my blighted mind. But before that some introductions are in order.

Tikz is one of my juniors from Shanmugha. He was always known for his humor and was a co-conspirator in many a project to pull Jakku's leg. He writes about his Adutha Veetu Aunty and though the title of his memoirs (?) is "sexier than Malgova Maami", it "isnt even near sex". He has just written three episodes so far, but going by the story so far and the style in which it has been written, this page promises to develop into another online classic. BTW, Adutha Veetu Aunty is mostly in Tanglish. So if you are not conversant with Tamil written in English, the writing will not make any sense and you will be missing in on the fun

Anush 'Not So Dumb' Seetharaman is another who shares his alma mater with me. He seems to have a knack for story telling that seems to be straight from the Maniratnam school. I wondered at the start of every story whether his writings are autobiographical, except that he seems to have written a number of stories and the stories always seem to end with the protagonists reminiscing about everything after 10 years or so. Hence he seems to be just alum from Shanmugha who seems to have a vivid imagination. Visit Anush for a good read every time you get on his blog.

Megha's YumnYum is one of those blogs I landed on after looking at my referral stats. Upon mutual enquiry, we found that both of us could not figure out how I had been referred from her page (could it be BlogSnob?), but going by the Star Trek reference on her very first post, her Walk In the Clouds seemed to be a nice addition to the eclectic collection of blogs on my blogroll. Her later posts easily added credence to my opinion and her choice of music seems to be in parallel with my tastes. .

Mitochondria a.k.a Mito is an enigma. The self admission that Mito's parents are both doctors led Anand to wonder if Manoj Night Shyamalan and Mito is one and the same person, but Mito seems to be a student in the Film School at Athens. Notice that I have not used my univ name or the word "here" before "at Athens" in the previous line. That is because no one here at Athens seems to have heard of an Indian, particularly a Chennai-ite at the Film School and also because Athens seems to be a name fairly common among university towns - other towns with the same name are in Georgia etc. Mito is currently in Chennai on a visit and a return to the US will probably tell me whether we reside in the same environs. Mito's return will probably also solve the mystery behind the name of his blog - Uzuguzu.


IswarOne is Suddenlee, Another of those graduates from my alma mater who seem to have taken quite a liking for the virtual world. A member of the Cooler Wing and not to mention a fellow RC (till he reportedly lost that qualification after a dalliance in Banglore), he wears his heart in his sleeve and spouts such lines as "Adakkam amararul uikkum agangaamai aappu adithu vidum" with aplomb. He also seems to be the originator of another classic line that starts with Vaazhkayil vettiyai, naaripona jettiyai that seems to have earned him the title - JattiKoothan. I only wish he posts more of such gems in addition to his serious posts on life and its quirks.

Lastly Megh(a)na, the femme fatale mentioned at various points of time in this blog finally decided that she has to join the band wagon too. And join she did with a gem! If she were to get a penny for every thought of hers, she would not need a job at all. But will she be as prolific as she should be? Only time shall answer this question. As for me, I have known her well enough over these last three years that just her single look on certain things is enough. Munnabai ayela hai ! Bolega to ekdum solid blog, kya?

Welcome aboard guys! I find your posts entertaining and I am sure this will be an opinion shared by every reader who comes to your page from mine.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ohio University - a Top 5 party school?

The Princeton Review ranks Ohio University (Athens, Ohio) among the top 5 in the list of party schools. It is also rumored that Playboy refused to include OU in a similar list because OU is "in a different plane by itself"! BTW, I plan to graduate from this very place 10 days from now.

Though, I don't know of any response from the univ so far, as opposed to responses from the other schools on the list (easily viewable after a small google search and so I shall not take the pain of giving links), but upon searching the univ website for the key words "party schools, princeton", I see that the first link is a press release from 1998, when OU last made the list (perhaps). Interestingly, this page seems to have been modified on "2004-01-07 02:09:31". But the response toes the same line as those adopted by the other schools - that the Princeton Review "has never been known for credible surveying methods".

However, OU being a party town does not hold any significance to me - a relative teetotaler compared to the binge drinkers that I see among the undergrads on campus every Thursday, Friday and Saturday (yeah, the weekend starts on Thursday evenings here). In fact I am out of touch with the bar scene here in Athens, a small sleepy town when the univ is at break during the summer and for five weeks in November-December.

Mom, before you break into sweat, look carefully at the list. Even Wisc-Mad (reputedly a research oriented school) is on this list and it is number 3! So, don't worry. And frankly I care a damn about such things!

Update:
I don't know that you have to immediately make the connection between happy students and the use of alcohol - OU spokesman Hub Burton responding to a question from the Athens Post.

And probably as a response, the college website has this link on its front page.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Blogger banner?

This image is a screenshot of this blog. Does anybody know why this happens and that too only sometimes and not always? Please leave a comment if you know why.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Hrithik versus Vikram - who hammed the most?

In Bollywood, there is widespread shock at Hrithik Roshan not bagging the Best Actor award for his outstanding performance in Koi…Mil Gaya.
Says a major filmmaker. "I haven't seen the Tamil film for which Vikram has won the Best Actor award [Pithamagan]. But it is impossible to believe he was better than Hrithik in Koi…Mil Gaya. A performance like that comes once in a blue moon. Why didn't they give the special jury award to Hrithik instead of Manoj Bajpai for
Pinjar?" (Source: Rediff)

My reaction to this, as someone who saw both movies - Hahahahaha.. When will "major" film makers in Mumbai realise that they are blind people living in a land, the majority of whose citizens are one-eyed!

But I do have to say this. My first thought after Pithamagan was that the role was sufficiently overplayed to make sure that Vikram had a more or less sure shot at the National Award. As for Hrithik in Koi Mil Gaya, all I felt was revulsion. Though a lot of people would feel that both roles were of a similar type, we did not hear Vikram talk in a un-natural voice, at least not throughout the movie!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

True or Half True?

Just how true is this? Mebbe not completely, but I am sure there is something to it, if losing to Peurto Rico by 19 points is any indication! And I am certainly surprised and impressed too that the WNBA is taking a league wide break to accommodate the Olympics!

But I am sure one thing - Sports Illustrated's party must have had an effect!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Of Murder, Pictures and Autorickshaws

Two deaths in two weeks have evoked a sense of the macabre in me. It all started last week when someone forwarded a link from The Hindu that reported that a student from my own alma mater had stabbed his childhood friend over a spurned marriage proposal. And then someone even managed to find morbid before and after pictures of the girl and that has become a much forwarded/discussed email among some of my acquaintances.

The Hindu did not (and neither did a lot of other news sources) publish these photographs which seem to be the work of the Tamil rags that aim at sensationalizing everything. It just seems that the editors of the Tamil mags and newspapers lack the mental maturity and the sense of respect to the departed and their kin. Morbid pictures are almost always splashed on the first page. This apparently is the case with the Tamil TV channels as well, as some fellow bloggers reported after watching graphic images of the recent Kumbakonam fire and its aftermath.

When I was seeing those pictures that were forwarded to me, another image was soon jostling its way into my mind from deep storage - an image (another such post-death picture) of the in-famous Auto Shankar - he of the Thiruvanmiyur serial killings from the late 80s and the supposed inspiration behind some of the sequences in R.K.Selvamani's whodunit Pulan Visaranai. Auto Shankar was executed in Salem Prison in 1995 with a large number of his kith and kin (not to mention the bystanders) milling outside the gates. When his body was brought out of the prison, strangely or not, his face was perfectly visible and one of the press photographers managed to get a clear shot of his face as his body was being carried through the milling throng to a van which was to carry it to Chennai. This picture was splashed on the cover of Junior Vikatan (or was it Nakeeran, the mag that got into trouble by serializing Auto Shankar's "autobiography" that he wrote while in prison, detailing the police-politician nexus and the "real" circumstances behind the killings?). That picture stayed in my mind for a long time and for a week after I saw it, I kept getting mental images of the dopey eyed Shankar's face with a large namam on the forehead. I don't exactly remember whether the namam was due to my own imagination or not, but I did have nightmares for atleast a week thence.

These mental images have kinda returned over the last week after I saw the crime scene pics that were forwarded to me. One fellow blogger actually mentioned that it was "funny" when he forward the pictures to me, but the gory pictures coupled with the picture of the gal when she was alive actually made me retch. And today, reading about the execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee in Alipore on the CNN website, I found that "India's last execution was in 1995, when an auto-rickshaw driver convicted in the serial murders of prostitutes was hanged in southern Tamil Nadu state" - none other than Auto Shankar. Weird huh?

I was probably 12 or 13 when the Auto Shankar serial killings happened and now that I have about a week's waiting period before I defend my thesis on August 20/23, I thought I'd re-read about what had happened and when I Googled for "Auto Shankar", I found that most web encyclopedias that refered to Autorickshaws refered to the Auto Shankar case too and a Wikipedia profile of his is being quoted everywhere where a reference to Autorickshaws is made. Sadly I could find just one site which refered to Thalaivar's Autokaran role - this!

On a completely un-related note, the last link that I have mentioned is from this completely wierd website. Please leave me a message if you figure out what the hell does "quantum spectroscopy techiniques in psycho-acoustic suggestion" means!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Car chases and a colossal miscalculation

One day in 2002, I saw the second episode of the dud series Fastlane on Fox, which used(according to the series plot) a green 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, supposedly the same one driven by Steve McQueen (while playing SFPD lieutenant Frank Bullitt in the eponymous movie), as a major prop in its plot. I had read so much about McQueen, his patent and Frank Bullit's 10 minute car chase down the streets behind a Dodge Charger of similar vintage that I had to go to my univ library and borrow the tape. The car chase was captivating and the only note-worthy car chase (at least that was the way I remembered it) that I had seen before that, was the one from the climax of Vidudhalai, the mid 1980s Tamil re-make of Qurbani, starring Thalaivar and a surprisingly comical Sivaji (playing a middle aged cop) with a pot belly and accompanying loud laughter. Those of you who have seen both these movies would probably feel I am doing McQueen and the Highland green Mustang a grave injustice, should attribute this slight on the fact that suitable comparisons did not exist, until I saw French Connection and then Ronin, both rather belatedly last year.

Then I saw French Connection. If Bullit’s was carefully planned mayhem on cordoned off streets, French Connection’s was monster car madness on public roads with the public (and the people in high office?) completely unaware of what was on that day. Most of the near death experiences in Gene Hackman’s maniacal driving thorough are near death experiences really! Ranging from the wreck that ends the scene to Hackman’s cinematic avoiding of a lady with a cart crossing the road were real sequences that were not staged. FYI, this link mentions that the lady went into shock soon afterward, but survived, along with that particular scene that can be seen in all its glory.

I borrowed Ronin because I read somewhere that that the car chase in Ronin surpassed Bullit's and the French Connection’s. I was very impressed by the automobile carnage of symphony-esque proportions involving 80's vintage cars careening about the roads of Marseilles. Ronin’s chase became immediately enshrined with Bullitt’s.

These three movies are still etched in my mind (after beating Vidudhalai by miles). But I seem to have some competitors of recent vintage too – Gone in Sixty Seconds for one. But Nicholas Cage’s driving of a vintage 1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang does lose some sheen when you look closely and find that a lot of takes are (probably) staged as opposed to the previous mentioned three that are largely untouched by the brushes of editing software. I did think that chase in The Bourne Identity (Matt Damon, driving a Morris Mini) was closer to Ronin’s (and Bullit’s) in terms of intensity than Gone in Sixty Seconds, but I do think that is because of the similarity of the French locale – Paris and Marseilles and the wet cloudy feel of the scenes.

Then on Friday, I saw the Bourne Supremacy. There are two chase scenes – the first one set in Panaji of all places (yup, in hippie looking Goa, nonetheless). The vehicles are very much Indian – an army green Maruti Gypsy that Matt Damon drives through (and alternates between) the dusty back roads of rural Goa and the busy city center of Panaji and his pursuer driving a Hyundai Sonata (?). In fact the Hyundai sticks out sorely like a thumb, which David Webb a.k.a Jason Bourne notices immediately and realizes (he is really paranoid, not without reason) he has to skip town.

Then the second chase involves Bourne driving an old beat up Merc (another similarity with Ronin I guess) with his pursuer (the same killer) driving a Merc G-Class (Did the Tata's base the visual cues of the Sumo on those of the G-Class?). This chase seems to have been modeled on Ronin’s with wrong side driving, t-bone impacts, 360 degree skids, not to mention a frenetic drive through highway tunnels, all finding a place. In all this, combined with the fact that I think that the Bourne Supremacy is much better than the Bourne Identity, this chase has been inducted to my top 10 car chases.

Elsewhere in movie land, Roger Ebert writes off Night’s The Village with the same sort of resignation that I feel for one of Mahesh Bhatt’s recent Hollywood rip offs. I am not someone who reads movie reviews before watching them, unless these reviews (like the ones Taran Adarsh and Prem Panickar wrote for Yuva/AE) stick out like a sore thumb. But Roger the Simon and Garfunkel songs in "The Graduate" are instantly forgettable Ebert is someone who can be believed (to say the least). So if he uses phrases like “colossal miscalculation” and “an anti-climax” to describe a movie then it will more or less be one.

Anyways, I will be waiting to see in DVD or in video when it finally comes out in a couple of months. Maybe if a lot of lesser mortals (lesser than Ebert and so my equals) tell me otherwise, I will watch it maybe after a couple of weeks when I can finally breath a sigh of relief.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

War in the Stars

It is finally official! Revenge of the Sith, CNN reports that it is! IMDB still does not return a result to a search of this title (as of 3:52 EST on Sunday, the 25th of July), but we can be certain that this name (introduced in the form of a baseball jersey bearing the name at an annual comic book convention at San Diego, yesterday), is the actual name of the upcoming Star War's prequel to the original three from the late 70s and the early 80's. Trivia mongers would probably remember that the 1983 Return of the Jedi was shot on locations under the fictitious name of Blue Harvest : Horror Beyond Imagination to keep away die-hard fans of the franchise.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Baum's stinky bomb

(Picture Courtesy - The Week, Feb 23, 2003)

It has become blindingly apparent that there has only ever been one man worthy of holding the record. He's had none of the advantages of his forerunners. He's taken his wickets exclusively against top opposition, on pitches prepared to blunt his powers. He has done nothing to sully the game's good name but instead has been an ambassador. When the tail comes in, he cheerfully hands the ball over to lesser teammates so that the spoils are shared. He's in all ways a champion.  - extracted from Obviously the whole thing was a sham before Warnie,  by Greg Baum, from online edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, July 17, 2004 (link, courtesy Jagadish).

Are these the words of a dumb and deluded Aussie ("He (Warne) has done nothing to sully the game's good name but instead has been an ambassador." YEAH RIGHT!), or a joke by standards Down Under? You decide! I have in the past been a fan of Warne and his bowling, but unlike other great cricketers, this man seems to have the propensity for getting into trouble (click on picture above) and trying to bullshit his way out of it rather than facing up to his mistakes. And to top it all, his recent comments on Murali are not the words of a sporting champ! So to read these cloying words being used to describe Warne, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Well, this article is not totally about Warne. Some of the comments about other cricketers from the past are good enough to incense any discerning fan of cricket (and its players) and ergo this one too!

Sample this:
(Lance) Gibbs was really an amiable old duffer who got his wickets because the pitches suited him and because he came on after Hall and Griffiths. Tailenders were especially careless against him.
 
But in retrospect plainly shows that he (Hadlee) had no skill other than to put the ball on the spot, that he was selfish in bowling twice as much as any teammate, and that although he made the ball talk, it was with a New Zealand accent. Moreover, he insisted on his right to bowl at Nos 9-11. Australian fans had it right: Hadlee was a wanker.

Wanker? Isn't that a euphimism for someone who is not the "master of his domain"? Wait there is more...

He (Kapil) had Indian umpires wrapped around his little finger. He did suspicious things with the old ball. And he bullied tailenders.

He (Walsh) got his wickets because he had Curtly Ambrose at the other end and because there was something odd about his bouncer that really should have been brought to the attention of authorities.

This however takes the cake!

Fortunately, we here in Australia call a spade a bloody shovel. He (Murali) obviously gets all his wickets on favourable pitches at home, against weak opposition, with the connivance of timid officials. He ducks strong opponents but goes to town on tailenders. It is just as Warnie said. What Warnie didn't say - because he's a good sport - is that Muralitharan breaks not just records but the rules. He is a chucker. His wickets should be expunged from the record books for the good of the game, and that this would leave Warnie alone at the top of the world has got nothing to do with it. Did not enter into our thinking even for a doosra of a second.

Unfortunately, in recent years, Aussie cricketers and writers have taken to calling the hoe a bloddy shovel too. And as for George Baum, his Aussie bias is pretty obvious. Lillie does recieve the kindest words in this peice (other than the homage paid to Warne).

Dennis Lillee broke Gibbs's record. In our flawed memories, it was quite a moment at the MCG when he found the edge of Larry Gomes's bat, Greg Chappell pouched the catch and the crowd sang Waltzing Matilda. For a long time, Lillee was actually regarded by some as the greatest bowler of all. But in the clear light of hindsight it is obvious that pitches, balls and rules were all in his favour, that he intimidated batsmen and terrorised umpires. Besides, he picked on the tail.

So what? Since when did the SMH start paying for such bs? Previously, I had thought SMH was a respected Aussie rag, going from the articles from the time of the Indian tour in the early days of this year, but I seemed to have formed a erronous opinion too soon.



Monday, July 12, 2004

Undeserved Praises and Ear Worms

The genesis of this post is from the allusions made to my higher order vocal capabilities as suggested by some/one of the commenters on my previous post. While it is impossible for individuals with lower order cerebral growth like me to comprehend whether the insinuations made are to be taken positively are not, I have a moral responsibility to clear the air regarding the range and scale of my MQ (i.e. Musical Quotient), before I get a "ithellam" in the comments.

Right now, my Winamp play list contains the likes of Aal Thotta Bhoopathi, Sarakku Vechurikken, Kasu Mele, Gemini Gemini, Madhuraveeran dhaane, (oops I missed probably the only song that mentions, albeit incorrectly spelt, Salt Coutours, a locality in the North Chennai Parlimentary constituency, dating to the early British settlers) etc., among others - all musical gems from the booming industry that deals with soundtracks from movies made in Chennai. While this might not exactly be a pointer to the overall picture, this sampler ought to be ample evidence that I am a no-brainer as far as musical knowledge is considered. The presence of these songs also results from the fact that I do a mean koothu and that’s the common denominator among all these songs, or at least most of them. I am sorry, Mom, I know you tried your best. For the others, I do have to say that my mom tried her best. Wait, I hint at that in my previous statement. Whatever!

So as I said, twice, my mom tried her best. In the summer of an eventful Orwellian year, I spent too much time trying to imitate run outs from long on and long off with stone, with other kids standing opposite me doing the same. A lot of blood was shed, that my mom decided that she had to right the sequence of wrongs that she had set off (FYI, I learnt to write with mom holding my hand re-creating cricketing scenarios and tracing the path of a cricket ball in the shape of the alphabet) and decided that my energy had to be channeled somewhere else.

And luckily, living next door was Ilayaraja’s violinist, V.S Narasimhan with his family, including his aged father, fondly called Iyengar mama by everyone in Gangai Amman Kovil Street in Royapettah, Chennai. from whom he had learnt his music.

Anyways, my mom bought a second hand violin (western style) from one of her colleagues at AG’s Office (you will be amazed to hear about the variety of items that can be purchased at this grandfather of Saravana Stores right from your “seat”, as my mom puts it) and on Vijaydasami day, I started my lessons under the tutelage of Iyengar mama. But fate decreed that I take momentary breaks in my journey through the musical world – reasons for the same ranging from my sister’s imminent birth to moving to a new locale to academic pressures (as my mom perceived it). More on these breaks later on.

So, what happened was, every break was accompanied by a change of teachers. However what was common was that each and every teacher felt that I had to start from the rudimentary Sa Ri Ga Ma as I had not learnt much previously. And it has to be noted that at various points, my breaks occurred when I was in the Geetham and even on the Varnam phase and on each subsequent time I started from the first step. This took place over the major part of a decade or so till I stopped finally in 1995. So now, given the notes, I can play, but my knowledge of the ragas and thaalams is so rudimentary that when people identify different ragas from the first listening of a movie song, it never fails to amaze me. But there is one song I could identify and that was the song Ninnukori Varanam from Agni Nakshatram – the raga being Mohanam. So, my musical ear is tone deaf. So what was Vekku praising? By the way, were you praising me? Vendam da, you don’t have to praise me, even when I know it is deserved, but really, your praise is much more than I deserve..

Vekku’s praise brings me to another facet, which a lot of people know about. Yup, I am a more than decent bathroom singer. I grew up in the shadow of another gifted bathroom singer, my cousin R, but then he was much more talented and he never failed to raise goose bumps when he sang a mean cover of Raja Raja Cholan Naan (Yesudas, from Rettaival Kuruvi). Nevertheless the steady supply of tapes, courtesy R, made me a discerning fan of good music, with tastes ranging from compositions by Swathi Thirunal to Ilayaraja and in the last few years, Rahman too. However, with our parent’s obvious distaste for music from across the seas, both of us cousins limited our listening to a few Western albums – Boney M and Michael Jackson to name two. Hence I am still in the dark ages as far as rock music is concerned which has hampered my quizzing abilities by a large margin.

Kiruba had a post on ear worms about a year ago, I think. I can’t find it now, but I did listen to a few songs so frequently that they have forever stuck with me as ear worms. And as a result of these ear worms, I became a bathroom singer with few aspirations of taking it further. I also picked up the art of whistling, but my technique coupled with a possibly bloated voice box, makes my whistle louder than I would like. On a silent evening, my whistling carries so far that people that people in their rooms about 100 meters away in the other side of my hostel used to be disturbed by my whistling.

But I do know my limitations, though I have sometimes thought I do sing (in the bathroom) much better than some of them “good” singers. However, one of my pals, B once told me that physical phenomena such as resonance hike the quality of a voice to a much higher plane than deserved. I knew it was a barb directed at me, because regardless of his nick at college, Drums, he was not known to be musically inclined. I am still waiting for a mathematical proof for this phenomenon.

Some of my opinions about my own voice have not however stopped me from embarrassing myself at times. As I recently disclosed during my one and only bacchanalian orgy (there will be no more of these, because of certain incidents that led to my roomies amusement at my expense), considering that there were 70 year olds around having a ball singing their hearts out at a cousin’s nalangu ceremony a couple of years ago, I embarrassed myself by starting to sing a markedly difficult song and lost all semblance of the proper pitch. I have had to satisfy myself with the thought that I have nailed that song ever since without trouble while in the shower and during that orgy mentioned earlier.

Regardless of momentary lapses like the one mentioned above, I know my capabilities so well that I have talked my way out of a couple of try-outs for the local band here and shied away from any attempts to record myself on tape or something. If you call my cell phone number and if you are lucky enough not to get me on the line, you will get ample evidence of the quality of my voice box, which leads me to what I mentioned earlier.

A lot of people tell me that I speak too loud, regardless of whether I am next to them or on the phone. But why is that any non-Indian that I talk to for the first time over the phone, addresses me as “Maam”? Isn’t that a paradox? Or are these people who tell me that I am loud suffer from over-sensitive senses? A point that I will ponder for the rest of my life – okay, only after my thesis defense is done in a month.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Funny Funny Me

I am a funny guy. However, most of you who know me personally may bracket me under the obnoxious category and that is just your opinion which you may keep to yourself or trumpet it to the rest of the world, as your preferences may be. But I consider myself to be a funny guy. Sadly my idea of humor is much more cerebral than your average under 30 single person (case at point – this very post) that what might evoke immediate laughter from a cerebral thinker fails to even hit the edge of the target otherwise.

What makes me funny is the fact that I never hesitate to laugh at myself. Yeah, that’s the key point – you are never funny unless you can laugh spontaneously at your own joke. But the risk you would be taking is that you might be so tickled by your own joke that you won’t be able to complete it. But as you already know – try try try again... till you never fail again... So keep at it and you can reach the Himalayan peaks where I am mostly alone now.

One major cause for the humor in my life is something whose effects have been so aptly described by Sidin. But my case slightly varies because right now, my priorities, though the same, are in a sequence that is radically different from Thalai’s advice. So, yeah, as Sidin described, I am facing the effects of being a Mallu-Tam Bram with a sixteen letter first name, a seven letter middle name and an eleven letter last name. None of my identification documents from here in the US have all the sixteen letters of my first name. Hence the short and sweet “aNTi”, thanks to one particular friend from my Shanmugha days who called me that sometimes. At different points of time however, my nom de plumes have ranged from the name of a snack made from vegetables dipped in batter and fried to a device used very commonly in signal transmission and receiving – the former the work of a classmate from school who got his idea by just looking at me, while the latter rhymes with my name.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to dress up and participate in a public gathering to receive a document (which is so fake that even Telgi would be embarrassed to be in possession of one) formally. Hell, this penchant for verbosity is going to land me in hot weather one day. Anyways, what I was saying was that it was Commencement Day (i.e. convocation) at univ and since I have yet not defended my Masters thesis (that is another story that might just be told in a month’s time) I got a fake degree that essentially said that I don’t deserve to graduate (yet), but since I refused to let them get on with the event, they were letting me walk up on stage and get whatever they give for incorrigible punks like me.

So, there was this huge line at one end of the stage, which was full of these academician types in their full grandeur. Each of us had to walk up to the foot of the steps leading to the stage, give an index card with our name to the announcer who would announce our presence, after which we were to walk up, get the piece of paper, shake a few hands and walk off, after taking a picture with the American flag in the background at the other end of the stage.

There was this huge line of graduates and I was in between a group consisting of a few friends. It has to be said that most of us, fake-graduating with engineering degrees were foreign students and the announcer – who, being the head of the International Students and Faculty services here, was one of the better ones at pronouncing unpronounceable names, was generally having a hard time keeping a straight face while trying to read the scrawls that passed for names on each card. I, myself had used block letters, mainly because I am methodical with a stickler for details. However the same cannot be said about everyone, right?

Finally I am at the head of the line and I hand my card to the announcer. The accepted procedure, which I (in my haste) had not noticed, is to wait till your name is called in whole, after which you walk up to who-ever is up on stage, collect your faux-degree and walk off. And wait I did, for just about the same time that others waited too. And herein lies the fault and hence (as Joey says) the “moo – point” of this post.

I walked up on stage, shook hands with like three professor types who were standing there, took my play-degree from one of them and was walking off the stage when I realized that there was a roar of laughter from the crowd present and also that the announcer was still talking.

You know how, when you are doing something that you dread, your mind completely goes blank for the duration of the deed and afterward, you don’t remember any of the details. That’s just what happened to me. I had, in my haste, waited till the guy had called out one half of my first name (by half, I mean 8 letters, which is much longer than a lot of names that people generally are blessed with) and started walking up the steps. I had finished all my activities before the guy could even complete reading out my name and when he did complete, apparently he sighed just a wee bit (or maybe he swallowed or coughed inadvertently), much to the amusement of the whole crowd. And I was not pricy to any of these till about a zillion people asked me about after the event ended. I later watched footage of my “walk of fame” and I started laughing myself. It was positively hilarious.

That was not all. About a week later, I was on the phone, talking to the video department of our univ library wanting to renew some tapes that were due that day. This was the conversation.
Lady on the phone (LOTP): Instructional Media. May I help you?

Me: Hi. I have a couple of tapes that are due today. Can you renew them for me?
LOTP: Madam, Can you read the serial code off the back of the tapes? *
Me: Sorry, I don’t have the tapes right now with me. Can I just tell you the names? (I was at work that day.)
LOTP: Ok Sir. Please tell me the names.
Me: Casino Royale…
LOTP: Ummm Hmmm
Me: and…A Fistful of dollars
LOTP: ok... Can I have your name please?
Me: My last name is Subramanian. That’s S...U...B...R...A...M...A...N...I...A...N
LOTP: Ok Madam, now your first name?
Me: Well, I do have a long first name, but the first two letters are A and N.
LOTP: Hey I know you. You are the that guy with longest name at the Commencement!
And I was left standing speechless till she broke my reverie to tell me that my tapes were renewed for another week.

(* Anytime I speak to some local over the phone he/she always adresses me as Maam or Madam, never a Sir! Wonder why this happens considering that a lot of people tell me that I must have swallowed a speaker while i was a toddler!)