From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

On never losing teammates

In ISB, life, sports on August 25, 2008 at 8:48 am

Passion. It’s a lot rarer than we might think. Most often its mistaken for Drive, of that there is plenty. The professional who puts in 90 hour weeks, the sportsman who trains for the better part of each day, they’re all driven. Passion is so much purer. The pursuit of an activity or an endeavour, not because of what it leads to, but for the sake of the pursuit itself. The means is the end, in fact, there is no end. We come across it all too fleetingly in our daily lives. At the time I write this, I’m having a hard time thinking of any everyday examples from my personal encounters that can be categorized as passion. And it was one such clear example that got me started on this post.

L Rama Krishna (RK to us) had it. He one of those I made acquaintance with at ISB. I first met him during one of the dinky little indoor cricket matches played with a tennis ball and a couple of bats that had seen better days and also during ’07 application-review sessions. A rake thin structure, a bushy moustache, any guesses on his age would fall in the 40 – 50 bracket. It was his enthusiasm that you noticed, be it when he batted, bowled or even more when he fielded.

It was later, on seeing his email addressed to the student group id, inviting those interested in playing for the ISB cricket team, I realized, his interest in the sport was combined with significant talent and experience at the club level. As is my wont, I set aside brightly burning assignment submission deadlines, trooped off to tear around a mostly grassy field, lobbing a 165 gm leather sphere, waving a block of wood and called it therapy. My cricketing endeavours are all well-documented on this blog, a little too well-documented for some. We played half a dozen games against teams from various companies, lost all except one. But, dang, did we have fun. The game we won was our last at ISB.

Placements rolled by, term 8 parties did too, the next ISB batch moved in. Over 8 months after graduation, RK sent an email talking about his new role on the office of admissions and financial aid. I congratulated him and asked him how the cricket was going, for good measure adding in brackets “(was part of the 06 cricket team)”. His response was a good 1-page long, talking about how good the current team was and how they’d won 3 out of 4 games that season.

What will always stay with me is his chiding opening to his response “How can you think that I’ll forget you? A cricketer doesn’t forget his teammates.” As if to prove his point, he went on to recount, in commentator-detail, a couple of shots I’d played in one of our games.

RK passed away on August 13th 2008. Rest in peace buddy. Here’s to always being teammates.

Reflected Glory

In sports on August 14, 2008 at 6:07 am

India won its first gold medal in twenty years and its first individual gold..ever. Frontpage stuff, if ever there was. “Congratulate Abhinav” links spring up on every website to be dutifully filled in with comments that go”…you have made the country proud…”. Courtesy the full spotlight coverage, we know that he’s now back in India and has meetings scheduled with some well-known sports afficionados; for instance, the president..whazzername. From the slew of coverage that followed, there were 2 common themes; 1. He’s rich. His training costs in the tens of millions were sponsored by a doting father and 2. The reason the third most populous country in the world routinely misses most sporting top 10 lists is the lack of infrastructure and financial support from the government. If the columns are to be believed, there are scores of atheletes in the nethers of this country, straining at the leash to burst forth and deliver Olympian podium performances if only given the right kind of support. Await calls on increasing funding for sports, coupled with complaints on how cricket has cannibalised every other sport in the country. No, this post is not in defense of cricket.

Firstly, how loud would the voices demanding the commissioning of world-class facilities be if they had to fund them? Going by data on Abhinav, it would cost anything between 5 and 10 Crores Rupees to win an Olymic gold. And this is after having identified those select few with a natural ability far above average. So how much are we willing to foot to garner another dozen medals? After all, you can’t put a price on national pride. You think a dozen golds will do just fine, I think it has to be atleast more than that bully of a neighbour. Maybe we can settle that with parliamentary debate? But doesn’t just plain natural ability count for something? Sure it does, its safe to say that the likes of Sergei Bubka and Mark Spitz would be leading sportsmen in their fields irrespective of where they were born, but its anyones guess whether they would be the legends they are if denied world-class training facilities. This might seem contradictory to what I started off saying that setting out to win Olympic golds cannot be a state endeavour. The point is, achieving sporting supremacy is a naturally evolving phenomenon, combining supremely talented individuals with the requisite training facilities to enable them. An economist Daniel Johnson has succesfully predicted medals tallies over the last four Olympics based on economic factors. We might therefore find our medals tallies growing exponentially once larger percentages of the population have access to potable water.

Secondly, what are the rest of us so happy about anyway? This is not a cynical, rain-on-our-parade kind of question. I’d ask this of any American exulting in the glow of the bushel of Michael Phelps’ golds waving a red-white-blue. Winning an Olympic gold is the ultimate sporting achievement. Beating every other proponent of your sport, single-mindedly training for a significant portion of your life, only visualizing those final few moments knowing you will need to muster every ounce of skill you were born with while maintaining monk-like control on your emotions is stuff that the rest of us will never be able to imagine. For us, a lifetime’s training and preparation ending disastrously on account of mistiming by a fraction of a second forms a ‘sports bloopers’ video on youtube. The discs of gold (or silver or bronze) are not symbols of one nations’ superiority over all the others, they signify much more, of one individual’s superiority over the law of averages, over the limits of human endurance and performance. They should indeed be applauded, celebrated…not by only those whose passports bear the same crest…but with unadulterated awe and appreciation by every individual.

The Fellowship of the aargh

In blah, life on August 6, 2008 at 8:11 am

It is a myth perpetrated by american sitcoms that the end of singledom coincides with the suspension of all acts upholding democracy and the imposition of military rule. If anything the opposite is true in the latitude that it presents towards personal grooming (imagine being single and taking someone out to a weekend lunch in a crumpled t-shirt and and a 4’oclock shadow?), delegation of shopping responsibilities (this is a big one!) or a bunch of others that stem from the ‘no return’ policy that the whole deal is to begin with. I know there is a concept that fosters separation and considerable reduction of your net worth. Look at it this way, being single is like when you buy an ipod from the mall, the slightest suspicion of a scratch and you make a beeline for the ‘Returns’ department for a replacement while being hitched, is like buying a vacation home in a rustic retreat, you like the location so what if the garage floods in the monsoon, it would take serious termite damage for you to demand a refund on your down payment.

However (there just had to be one of those, didnt there), every once in a while, there are these activities that you do that are ‘good to deepen the relationship’. Roughly translated, this means things that one of you like doing and wants to minimize the guilt of being self-centered by inflicting them on the other. This is of course not applicable when I feel the need for both of us to watch a session of test cricket even though S thinks of a root canal as a more agreeable way to pass the time. I mean, how can one not agree that our bond would strengthen if she developed an appreciation for studied leave outside off-stump? Oh wait, this post is about me as the victim.

It all began innocently enough when a store with a loud red and blue front and an affiliation to a large indian business house opened in the neighbourhood. Apparently, they let you rent dvds. With no limit on the number, pick-up and delivery facility it was not much a decision to make. Our taste in movies would be depicted as two very large circles with significant overlap, illustrated by the unanimous decision to wrangle tickets to the premiere of Spiderman 3 while on honeymoon in Sydney. So, it was a safe bet (or so I thought) that there wouldn’t be too many fallouts of exploring the non-overlapping areas on the movie-preference circles. I relied on historic data to suggest that if I could survive ‘Sense and Sensibility’ with the “fetching young ladies” and the “gentlemen who did not have a vocation” (read unemployed), then it could not be too bad.

Then the trilogy happened, the extended version. Tolkein’s book is part of legend and there are many who swear by the adventures set in middle earth. Hobbits, elves, dwarfs, heroic quests, wars between good and evil, undying love, reincarnating wizards…its all there in the 3 stories. A screen capture of any randomly picked scene would make a fitting wallpaper for the artistically inclined. I, however could not stand it! The slow camera pan over the New Zealand vista gets old about midway through the first movie but continues through the length of the three. Thats hardly my grouse with the series though. It is be the surfeit of scenes with closeups of emotion-laden faces with a lilting background score, the plethora of characters, each with their own unique set of psychological disorders, the unending deliberation between any two parties involved, be it about going to war, or to the loo. Most of all it was the excruciatingly annoying Frodo Baggins, who spends most of the three movies widening his eyes in fear, flinching from pain or fainting from weakness while his slightly more bearable companion, Samwise feeds him, protects him and even carries him to Mount Doom (which was Frodo’s only job to begin with!). With several hours lost, I’m watching hopefully as the ring bearer seems set to make the final ascent towards the mouth of the volcano that will complete his mission when his path is blocked by a giant spider. What is this? a goddamn video game?! On the other side of the landscape, a war, where a bunch addresses each other as “Aragorn, son of Arathon, ranger from the north” while a seriously large troll charges, club swinging madly. Made me want to charge into the battle to atleast end it sooner.

Am currently trying to find the movie versions of “Sunny Days”, “Out of my comfort zone” or anything that documents the life of a cricketer in painstaking detail. Revenge will be mine!

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