not really anxious, but i hope it comes soon- the 100th ton

It’s not the 100th century(or the lack of it) that’s making me do this. At best, it could just be a trigger, just a small trigger. The words you read here have been bedewing my mind for long.
I just saw Him get out for 94.Am i sad? Ummm no, perhaps bereaved would be a better word. But it’s not because it could have been his 100th hundred, but because it would have taken the monkey off his back enabling Him to perform ‘better’. The bourgeois calls me His greatest fan. I don’t think so, God doesn’t have fans, he has worshippers.
I’ve been watching Him since 1996, the sameyear i started watching Pete Sampras, my only other sporting ideal, and my dad’s too. But the difference is, i never quite knew, and never bothered to find out when he segued into the fulcrum that determines most of my life’s activities. I’ve missed school exams to watch Him bat,had a million debates with ‘non believers’ over the futility of their lives, and declared with aplomb a billion times that the difference between Him and Bradman is that of(and this would surprise many) Allah and Prophet. Bradman is the greatest batsman ever, no doubt. But then,you can can only compare two humans, right?
I’ve never really taken interest in Indian cricket. It’s only one man that has kept me glued to the TV set for countless hours, watching with a heart beating at an unfathomable rate. I can feel just the gooseflesh, the anxiety, the churning in my gut i do everytime He’s at the striker’s end.
Why do i worship Him? Well, there are no clear answers, and i don’t even need any,does faith need reason at all? Let’s just say He is what He is not because of the way He bats, but because of the smiles He brings to our faces when He bats. There have been many other sporting greats, but they’ve all been admired for the way they perform. With Him, well, he is great not because we want to watch Him bat, but because we want to feel happy, yes, happy. And i know you are all smiling in tacit agreement while reading this. Go on, smile more, there’s no one looking !
God is not someone who showers jewels upon us in times of despair, but someone who gives us hope. Yes, He gives us hope. But hope for what? I don’t know. But to me, hope is that unsinkable ship that sails one through every ocean, no matter how troubled.
Thanks Sachin, for giving me hope.

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Just a thought

I didn’t sleep all night,well,again. But this time, instead of the grogginess in my eyes and showering of expletives from my mouth that welcomes the first ray of morning, it was a contended smile that was waiting on the sun god. The reason was 90 minutes of sheer viewing pleasure in the form of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. It can easily be termed as my most enriching movie experience till date. The movie starts with snapshots of the beautiful city,showcasing its jaw droppingly gorgeous monuments and cathedrals, the Louvre, Notre Dame and all that Pari-in French,has come to be associated with. To the philistine’s eye, it would seem like another beautiful city,but if you’re blessed enough to possess the discerning mind of a philosopher, you’d marvel at Woody Allen’s genius as to how he portrays the city to have a life of its own, separate from its citizens, almost like the people of Paris don’t live in the city, but for it. The leisurely tone it lends to its fortunate occupants is such a far cry from the rat race that most cities produce today. New Delhi, anyone?
The portrayal of the city as a juxtaposition of such pristine scenery makes it look surreal, like it was born out of the perfect strokes of a famed Renaissance painter. The background score comprising of piano humming in perfect rhythm with the guitar does no good to someone who already spends half his nights wondering why he didn’t overstay his London visa !
In spite of the striking scenery and the mesmerizing dialogues, the part of the movie that really got me ruminating was how one of the rather eloquent characters(though only a shadow of Ellsworth Toohey of Fountainhead fame) chooses to define nostalgia- “denial, denial of the painful present”.
That’s a rather contentious way of defining an emotion as endearing as nostalgia. What is nostalgia to me? Put simply, it’s a longing for the past. I think about my past every day, every minute. I think of my school days, right from the times my mom dressed me up and even tied my shoe laces. I think of the first tennis match I saw more than 15 years ago. I think of the time I took Sachin’s autograph. I think of the time I first drove a car and rode Karizma. Heck, I am eerily reminded of Bill Clinton’s words,”when your memories outgrow your dreams, you’ve grown old”. But why do I think of my past? Is it because my past is even more beautiful than the city of Paris? Or is it because,as the character opines, my present sucks like Pilani which makes my past seem so enchanting? It’s difficult to say, I don’t have the answers. Come to think of it, does anyone? Welcome to my cul-de-sac.

Family

Yesterday’s dinner at a friend’s place helped enlighten me about a lot of things. It taught me that even guys can cook, and cook well, and they need not necessarily look cissy while being in the kitchen. But of course, the fact that they can never do it all on their own still remains true(read female help).
During our short walk outside his house, I got to hear two extremely insightful statements- “Deep down, everyone is unhappy” and, “You must be happy with not just what you have, but also with what you want”. I could fathom the true wealth hidden in the latter only much later.
But the greatest learning of the night was about family life. I’ve been brought up in an extremely lovable yet archaic family, the typical Indian family with a strictly vertical, top-down structure where the male(the eldest one) is the head of the family.period. The parents are overprotective and patronizing and try n provide for every little need of the child, not wanting to subject him to the trouble of moving even a finger. What I experienced here was something completely different. The family had a totally horizontal structure, or in fact, no real structure at all and everyone seemed equal, in all respects. Conversations, ranging from girls to bhang balls, flowed smoothly. Needless to say that in my family, such topics are pushed to the realm of things that are well known, but never talked about. The dinner table saw the gathering of everyone present in the house, including his girlfriend. I am sure I would ask my girlfriend to dine with my parents only the day I no more have the desire to live.
I always thought men who cooked suffered from personality disorders. But it was not until yesterday’s dinner that I realized I was wrong, and in fact, I could never be a cook, and so many other things, even if I wanted, because my parents always had too many things served to me on a platter. You see, not just your partner’s love can be stifling.

Sachin

It should never have come to this. The person who’s most amazed and appalled at this piece is its author itself. Those who know me know what Sachin Tendulkar means to me. For me to even conceive a shred of negativity about him would be nothing short of a cardinal sin. Yet here I am, commenting on His ‘future’. No, I haven’t hopped on to the bandwagon of people who demand his retirement when the only time they get hard is while watching IPL. But even I feel it is indeed time The Great Man rethought his sanctimonious position in world cricket.
Perhaps His situation is not much different from that of my only other sporting ideal, Pete Sampras. I still experience gooseflesh while recalling my dad’s moist eyes at having witnessed Sampras’ 4th round loss to Federer at Wimbledon 2001. But that is not my saddest memory of Sampras. It is watching the resigned look of inevitability coming true on my dad’s face after watching Sampras lose to the lesser known George Bastl on the erstwhile Court 2, famously known as the ‘Graveyard of Champions’.
I don’t want that to happen to Sachin. To this day, every single delivery that has claimed His wicket has pierced my heart, but at the same time, it has also instilled in me greater belief that there will be no such deliveries in future. However, the thought of that very belief fledgling sends shivers down my spine. I don’t even care about the detractors crying out from rooftops that He is finished. They just reinforce the notion that the average sports lover is indeed a capricious philistine, incapable and unworthy of any intellectual remarks. All I care about is my own belief in Him, which still goes strong. But the question is- for how long? I might not be the eternal optimist but I remember watching Sampras triumphing at the Flushing Meadows in 2002 at 5:30AM IST. Surely, I had not lost all my faith. Surely, sporting greats always have that last lap of glory left in them. To quote the late Peter Roebuck-“Sachin was born to bat.” To even think that such a man has been extinguished overnight would be a travesty.
Don’t you remember how your heart screamed with joy when He so much as walked on to the cricket field wielding the heaviest bat in the world like His light saber? Haven’t you prayed for two wickets to fall so that you could behold a demure Man walking to the pitch sporting the Tricolour on his forehead? Hasn’t your heart skipped a million beats everytime He’s been on strike? Or a billion beats when that most wretched creature of devil raised the dreaded cry of “howzzzzat” against Sachin? Well, mine has. And in case yours hasn’t, you’ve just had one fewer reason to live than I have. I never thought I would conclude this way. I thought it would be a pseudo-obituary to a great career. But I feel the blood rushing again, the smile widening along with the tension in my limbs. The same old feeling of pure contentment. Chuck retirement, I wish I die before that ever happens!

Thank You Kasab, for clearing my doubts once and for all.

So Kasab’s been executed, finally. Phew! Were you among those who feared he might never actually face the gallows? Well, I surely was. And why shouldn’t I be? After all, we still have Mr. Afzal Guru telling us that you can attack our country, be sentenced to death by none other than the SC, and still be alive more than six years after the passing of the decided date of execution.

People say Kasab’s death should not be rejoiced, of course, that would be ridiculous for a civilized nation. But I think more than rejoicing, we’re only heaving a collective sigh of relief that, at long last, a mass murderer, a terrorist, has met his deserved end. Yes, deserved.

The event brings us right back to the raging debate surrounding capital punishment. Having done extensive research on the subject, I’m still in two minds whether capital punishment should be carried out at all. But indeed, when I look at cases like Kasab, I can’t help but rule in favour of it. The naysayers, the so called harbingers of humanity, would put up the most universally bought argument, that humans don’t possess the right to take another one’s life. Indeed this argument has lots of substance to it. However, the very use of the term capital punishment entails a great deal of fair and independent judicial heartburn behind it. Of course, the argument could be that it comes loaded with that ever so slight margin of human error, but then, what doesn’t? Capital punishment does not mean that a civil society suddenly turns so barbaric as to force death down the threat of another fellow being, it only means that in spite of long and thoughtful attempts to find a way to NOT kill another man, the crime committed by the man was so brazenly heinous, that the collective conscience of the society comes to the saddening conclusion that indeed, death is the only solution. This is precisely what the SC means by the ‘rarest of rare’ dictum.

This painstaking weighing of facts and evidences is well brought out by the Kasab case, where he was tried for over 4 years in spite of having been caught on camera parading the streets of Mumbai, proudly killing people in the name of Allah. We, as a nation, should be proud that such an exemplary trial was carried out for a man who waged war against the nation and killed its innocent sons and daughters.

Some of my esteemed colleagues have been so deeply moved by Kasab’s last words that they’ve gone to the extent of calling him a reformed man who should never have been executed. Really? Isn’t it more tenable to owe his last words to the fear of death and divine punishment that he must have so clearly feared in his last moments? Wasn’t he being purely selfish by asking for mercy in the name of Allah, the same God whose name he so proudly and wrongly proclaimed while pumping bullets into innocents’ chests? Did years of incarceration reform Masood Azhar? Or has he struck back to kill perhaps thousands of Indians in the years gone by? Few know that a certain Dhananjoy Chatterjee pleaded innocence right till his last moment. So does that mean we let go a murderer, a rapist, and perhaps even a necrophile?

Arguments that Kasab’s death will not serve to allay the pain of the kin of those who died during the Mumbai attacks have also been brought up. Well, it must be a mere coincidence that none of the voices seem to belong to those in question.

Then there’s this oft quoted “Punish the crime, not the criminal”, which always seems to fit the bill whenever capital punishment is carried out. And how exactly do you intend to punish the crime? By educating the likes of Kasab that killing hundreds of people in the name of religion is a sin? Hmm..sounds very effective to me. Or maybe by releasing a handful of terrorists, oops, misled people with the potential to reform, whenever a plane is hijacked?

Aside from the legal and philosophical debate, the fact that capital punishment has been carried out in such a fine manner sends a very strong and comforting signal to both Indians and the international community alike. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell laughed at Norway when I saw Anders Breivik striking an awe inspiring pose giving the phantasmagoric Nazi salute. I am just relieved that our brothers across the border haven’t had a chance to do that, though Afzal Guru still needs to answer his final calling.

I have nothing against those who condemn Kasab’s execution. They do make for a very compelling argument indeed. But I wonder if they’d stood firm on their views if they’d lost someone dear to his bullets. If there are any tears, they should not flow for Kasab, but for the fact that evil men like him still exist, and that sometimes civil people have to pay them back in the same coin.As long as the likes of Kasab breathe, capital punishment must not be allowed to stifle to its death. The need of the hour is to realize that the country faces a grave danger from both within and outside, and to take care of perpetrators of such ghastly crimes, we bloody well NEED capital punishment. It’s nothing to be proud of. In fact, I would say it’s nothing short of a necessary evil, but necessary it IS.