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Friday, 28 September 2012

Rahul Dravid- The man for all seasons

 June 20th –June 26th, 1996 an elegant , studious and a very likeable  young man debuts for the Indian Cricket Team in the Lords Test Match Against England and is on the wisp of an international century and misses it by 5 runs after nicking it to the wicket keeper. Enter Rahul Dravid, who forges and creates a solid Partnership with the Indian Cricket Team. Rahul established himself at the vanguard of a new , defiant  generation that were no longer easy beats away from home. Rahul as a number 3 bat for India was the cement that held the foundation firm while the other flair players expressed themselves. He has faced the brunt of many a new ball bowler innumerable times when the openers have gone cheaply. Rahul Dravid at the crease is like a skilled surgeon in an operation theatre who goes about his work with surgical precision while the other flair players are given the space and solititude to create their own path. Rahul has played a stellar role in many an Indian victory especially overseas ranging from the overcast conditions in England to the hard bouncy wickets in Australia. Dravid is the current world record holder for the highest percentage (%) contributions of runs scored in matches won under a single captain where the captain had won more than 20 tests. Rahul Dravid was one of the few Indian Players who could play all the strokes in the book and in all kinds of conditions. He did not have the flair or the flourish of the other players but he did match it with his temperament and his ability to grind the opposition down with his high levels of concentration and bat for long hours which was the critical requirements in test Cricket. One of the many a watershed moments for Rahul Dravid would be the big superhuman innings played in Kolkotta in 2001 with VVS Laxman for company against the Aussies who were in search for their much discussed “final frontier” to produce one of the greatest comeback victories In the history of the Game. Rahul Dravid with his quiet understated elegance and confidence gave the game of test Cricket a number 3 batsman who could excel in all conditions. He has created the template for the classical Batsman and what one could achieve with high powers of focus, determination and discipline.   Finally do try to you tube the “2011 Bradman oration” which Rahul delivered during India’s dismal tour to Australia in 2011-2012. Dravid spoke in a way that mirrored the occasion. There were well thought out, in sight-ful observations like many of Rahul’s magical strokes for India in test Matches.

Love,Life,Luck and Laughter
Shekhar Vijayan

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Sunshine, Sunshine
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey

You will never know dear how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

On the above mentioned poetic note let me just say

I for one never had a pet during my formative years and was scared of all four legged carnivorous creatures and would never go within a kilometers distance to residences which housed them. Dogs as pets was a complete no no which  followed a linear and  a common thread in my family  due to the dog bite suffered by my sister during her third year of existence . I don’t know if it’s a brainwave but I just felt that a dog was needed to complete our family , not the typically ferocious one which would jump on sofas and expose the springs for all and sundry but the chosen one which was a puppy and then grow into a dog. Little did I know what I was getting into ….
Circa four summers back based on a random whimsical fight between the mrses and me  where we tend to agree to disagree on anything and everything was borne the desire to get a four legged canine as a friend for life. It was subsequently followed by a phone call to the 21st century’s version of yellow pages (a familiar search engine) and after a few more phone calls to educated references a meeting was sought with an established dog breeder. The breeder suggested a golden retriever /Labrador would be the best bet taking into account the financial disposition, the geometric proportion of the apartment one resided in, the enthusiasm and excitement displayed by the future owners ( which we had in abundance).  The car ride to the breeder’s farmhouse was not a breeze from any stretch of imagination but the less than lush greenery and the small lakes with barely there water was a sight to be -hold for us  small towners. The farmhouse was situated in the hinterlands of Bangalore and one had to go through an assortment of muddy, un-tarred, rickety and worn out roads which tested the four wheel hatch back and our digestive systems steamrolled into one. The dogs were nestled in a gated enclosure with four cages adjoining each other managed by a gurkha predictively named bahadur. The breeder in her characteristic wit and candor sold the ice to the Eskimo and now the Eskimos needed to decide whether they would bite the bait and go for the kill.

During the drive back home my mind was going through the ramifications of our decision in adding a four legged doggie to our ek mein aur ek tuu family. I showed an extra inclination to talk to friends and office colleagues and random strangers who owned golden retrievers to gain a sensibility around it. The all round advise on golden retrievers was well meant bordering on “loving, evenly balanced personality, genteelness with children ,lack of aggression and the clincher – its ability to please. The conversations at home was centred around our readiness and the willingness to share responsibility once the pup logs in.  We did face a barrage of questions from our parents from both sides and were prepared none the less for the same.  We just believed in the simple but very profound line “one for all , all for one” which would help us wade through troubled waters. Since we were looking for a golden retriever  pup .. the wait it was a wee bit longer as she to be transferred bag and baggage from Kolkotta.The pup was flown down on the appointed day.  
  The  first few days were interesting as the occupants including the domestic help of the house and the pup were warming up to each other and boy did they get along. The pup on her part was acclimatizing herself to the new surroundings, banging  herself against anything which moves (think Charlie chaplin in one of the silent movies slipping on banana peels, the only difference is the pup did see stars)and also trying to gnaw and eat anything which moves. She was aptly christened Sunshine because of her thick golden coat and the shine it emanates. As expected came the  demarcation of the responsibilities – the Mrses taking care of the hygiene and the dietary habits while yours truly will oversee the daily ablutions and the pit stops, which incidentally has remained the same till date. It did not take much time for sunshine to enter into our everyday conversations by subtly plonking her weight bang in the middle while we were discussing anything random to steadfast serious  ( not that it mattered for her) I guess it sprang forth from her deep desire on not to be left alone and the feeling of insecurity. During her growing up years , she did face trying times with her health and ailments related to her eyes and legs and being put on drips in the vet hospital.( one step away from breathing her last) Yes she scaled through and is  as fit as a golden retriever should be. She has travelled far and wide down south with us ranging from the idyllic getaways of chikmangalur  Chennai and  the green vegans  of kerala by not taking the passenger seats but plonking herself on the dicky of our erstwhile hackback without even a whimper and eyes which says “ lets get on with it”. I dare say she quite likes the stairs of Chennai and the lush green open spaces in kshemam .She is game for a game of ball and fetch and most recently the boomerang at any time of the day and night.  She is the first one to jump out of the house and the first one to get in (and we thought she’s an animal who likes the greens!)if she senses there’s an outing on offer. Sunshine totally abhors going to the vet (pray who likes going to the doc , being injected by an obnoxious looking needle and administered funny looking medicines) Sunshine is a social animal to the T and it doesn’t take a nanosecond of time for her to befriend anyone judging by the number of followers she has from our extended families and the mass exodus of human beings around. She wears a permanent badge of optimism, cheer and determination ( I guess that’s what her epitaph would also read) I did surprise my mother( who was very scared of dogs and still is . she does have a relationship with sunshine which borders on touch me not , but gets all the food and attention the little moppet deserves) once who is well settled in kerala by landing up at her doorstep with sunshine in tow( yes we travelled 8 hours together through the sweltering heat and dusty climes   when the mrses was on a office visit overseas and yours truly was on office leave) we did have many an interesting conversations on the way what with stopping for watermelons en route and to think  the villagers thought we were zombies and thinking the dog was an alien with the way she devoured the water melon.

The joy of having a golden retriever as a pet is manifold. You get to befriend more such families  , get an innate understanding of their social behavior, it’s a lot like bringing up a child , understanding their whims and fancies and the deep seated innocence they come with.  I feel the most interesting part is sunshine lives in the present not the past or the future (which  all the self styled gurus and  spin doctors have been harping on ) which is judged by the way she react  when she sees us you after 10 minutes, 20 minutes , an hour , a day  a month or even a year .. it just doesn’t change and is quite awe inspiring. We are privy to this spectacle every day and it sure makes a poignant sight. Her social skills are exemplary and she doesn’t know where to stop with all the fondling and the petting. Her snoring is killer and is perfect sync with the Beethoven’s sixth symphony. The awe inducing moments are many but the one which tops my heart is the warm button like eyes which express everything she wants to say without trying too hard as she is a very reluctant barker Her hand eye coordination is magical much like the Chris gayles and the virender sehwags and the vast array of golfers with the perfect golf swing.I strongly feel  tomatoes are her achillis heel aka biggest weakness and there have been days when she has devoured a dozen oranges  on the go giving me tough competition.

On this cheerful moment let me quote john grogan  which is so very raw and true.
A wise man once said -A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his

Spoiler Alert- I may have gone a little overboard on sunshine but then for all the dog lovers out there, you just cannot get enough of them can you?

Love,Life,Luck and Laughter,
Shekhar Vijayan

Saturday, 22 September 2012

You don’t win the silver, you lose the gold!!

'Whoever said, 'it’s not whether you win or lose that counts,' probably lost.' This statement was famously quoted by Martina Navratilova and she does know a thing or two about winning . Chew on this - She won 18 grand slam singles titles, 31 major women’s doubles titles (an all time record) and 10 major mixed doubles titles, she reached the Wimbledon singles 12 times , including nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990 and won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon a record nine times ( she made quite an unusual sight in white shorts). That said let’s get down to the shorter form in length and breadth – table tennis.
Table tennis also known as ping pong is a sport in which two or four players hit a light weight, hollow ball back and forth using table tennis rackets. The game takes place on a hard table divided by the net. Except for the initial serve, the players must allow a ball played towards them only one bounce on their side of the table and must return it so that it bounces on the opposite side. Points are scored when a player fails to return the ball within the rules. A skilled player can impart several varieties of spin to the ball, altering its trajectory and limiting an opponent’s options to great advantage.
A fortnight ago, a table tennis tournament styled on the lines of davis cup was organized in my better half’s office. 20 teams (populated by a mix of 4 men and a single woman) participated in the mother of all clashes. The team chose incredibly original names like – Famous five , A Team ( I was searching for Bradley cooper , guess he was recovering from a  hangover), ek  tha tiger ( inspiration from one Mr. Khan – not the epiglottis), Misys commanders ( no the team did not dress up in army fatigues) daredevils , cunning stunts ( incidentally the first team to get knocked out – talk about cunning eh?) and a host of other names inspired by the need to sound aggressive and pitch it just right to engage the audience.  The water cooler and lunch table conversation revolved around strategies by the spin doctor , inspiration quotes spamming the mailbox of the participants and as the tournament progressed  dinner table conversations at home were all about the need to focus on the point , not the past or the future.
As ability would have it , the top 4 teams qualified for the semis ( famous five , A Team, Hum Paanch and Top spinners- the team names needed to show a element of camaraderie and team spirit) and as expected the semi final was the real knock out with all kinds of mental games being employed – mental disintegration, stare till the opponent blinks , sizing up the opponents during the practice sessions. The first semi final was a hum dinger of an affair with the Famous five and Top spinners thrashing it out. It closely resembled a grand slam tournament where the opponents in true gladiator style were not willing to give an inch away (not a quarter more nor a quarter less) and once the lucky charm (nudge nudge wink wink – yours truly) entered the hallowed turf of Misys, the ‘Famous Five’ team were firing in all cylinders – think a Lambretta turning into a bat mobike with the nitro booster. As per hearsay and the local grapevine, the ‘Top spinners’ were a bunch of swollen egos and  over-achievers who believed that they just needed to show up and win while forgetting that the team needs to put in the hard miles and win the championship. The team spirit and the camaraderie displayed by the ‘Famous Five’ with the chest thumping would put Paes, Bhupathi and Mirza to shame (post the Olympic Shambolic). The ‘Famous Five’ team had five incredibly varied characters ranging from the poster boy – Chandra aka Messi who had all the shots in the book. Partha the keen strategist who had the knack of understanding the opponents weaknesses, guess the “Macher Jhol” does the trick. Avijit had the ice cool demeanor & passive aggression. Divyesh the maverick of the team who just wouldn’t give up and knew how to needle the opposition. And last but certainly not the least, the incredibly versatile player who could sing, dance & play with finesse - is it a bird, is it a machine or is it a supergirl, no it’s the wonder kid Nisha. This team believed in the simple philosophy – all for one, one for all and brought their A game to the table when it mattered the most. The crowd reception was tremendous with new names being coined for the seating arrangements, read ‘Vijay Mallya pavilion - for the early birds as per the scheduled time while the late comers had to make do by cheering on their feet. The two referees were in their elements and seemed to enjoy the game much more than the clashing teams. They looked like an odd brookeback mountain meets dostana couple
The semi-finals was a marathon affair with men’s doubles team from the famous five team delivering the knockout punch – a la Mohammad Ali beating George Foreman – rumble in the jungle . The crowd was involved in every aspect of the game and would applaud each and every point notwithstanding the teams. For many naysayers   in the crowd it was the first time they were watching a match of such epic proportions- guess everyone from the senior director to the gym instructer had come to see the match – talk about office productivity. It was an energy sapping day for all the teams with no one really doing a day’s work at office (closely resembling just another day in Parliament).
Closer home at Pai Layout the focus was all around the final and staying in the present with ‘Sunshine’ also looking on cluelessly to its mistresses’ anxiety.
Cometh the moment cometh the man – the ‘Famous Five’ scripted their own success story
The final  which was held the next day on a Friday was a hum drum affair with some big names being squashed. Both the teams had contrasting strategies – the ‘Famous Five’ believed that they could win all the matches in any order whereas the ‘The A team’ seemed inflexible in going against the run of play and that’s where they lost the plot. The mixed doubles and mens doubles using the perfect concoction of caution and aggression won in straight sets – it was all about the initial punch and the team got it spot on taking a 2-0 lead. The first of the men’s singles match was a nerve wracking five setter with seven championship points lost. The ‘famous five’ rallied around each other and absorbed the loss taking it in their stride delivering their best in the second men’s singles closely resembling the five setter played previously with the obvious difference being the way Partha played his game of ‘no prisoners of war strategy’ to the maximum and winning the championship.
The crowd erupted with joy and it was a sight to behold with everyone congratulating the victorious team on their seem-less victory. One tends to notice that such victory galvanizes the team environment and everyone is on a high with cheer and loud high fives completing it
I for one thoroughly enjoyed the games played with spirit, sportsmanship and even display of mental and physical skills. I had battled all this with a niggling cold, nausea, fever and the works but then what the hell, nothing beats the experience of your heart going ‘woku-doki’ because of the hours of practice put in by the wonder kid along with ‘Coach Carter’ at home.

Love, life, luck and laughter.
Shekhar Vijayan.