Archive for September, 2009

All the passionate support

There is magic in following any kind of sport. And there is the passion of supporting your favorite player. Nail biting times, when he is struggling, pleas to God that he scores the century, or wins the tournament, have higher priority than your exams. The exhilaration when he looks up at the sun after hitting the four, and redeeming himself. You are there. You feel that joy. And when the comeback bid fails, the fifth set is lost by tired shots, it hurts you. When he takes pain shots, and fights through players 10 years younger to him, and reaches the finals, it inspires you.

There is a magic in maniacal support for your favorite player. There is hard work, of following him everywhere, keeping track of the scores and percentages, of the statistics, of defending him, of debating who is greater, of fetching obscure statistics about a forgotten match played in Nairobi to buttress your claims.

Couple of weeks ago, as FedEx was stopped in his tracks by Del-Potro, as Dravid fought back his way into the ODI side, and Sachin “GOD” Tendulkar reminded the world about the art of cover-drives, I thought about writing this post about all the passionate stars that I have followed. Somethings led to other, and I am writing it two weeks later, more out of boredom, of trying to postpone doing the Game Theory homework, and less out of the passion, that I found flowing through me again for the stars that I love two weeks ago.

The earliest sport memory that I have, is not exactly a memory, in the sense that I distinctly remember seeing it. It is more of a feeling of having seen the Football WC final of 1990, between Argentina and Germany. Amma, piqued my interest by teaching me the basics of the game, and Calcutta never made me forget it. Football, however has never captured my attention for long spans, and I end up watching it every 2 years, once for the Euro cup and once for the World cup. Argentina has been my favorite team for a long time, and if they are kicked out, I support Germany, probably because these are the first two teams that I learned about. And even though, I am a casual football viewer, Argentina facts were on my fingertips, I swore by Maradona and Cannigia, and indulged in numerous debates with Brazil crazy bongs.

Our genes are designed to like and love cricket. And those who don’t are special mutations. I just remember (rather, I feel I remember) the India-Pakistan match. India scored 216 in the match and the Pakistanis failed to chase it. The match remains special, as I watched parts of it in Kutush’s house, and felt the passion and tension of all the grown-ups watching it, seeped in to me. Appa, later in the year taught me how to read the score-card and interpret it, went through the nuances of overs-maidens-runs-wickets, c A b B, fow and extras, and I was hooked to Cricket. I still am. The day begins by reading the headlines on Cricinfo. The third thing I do after waking up (and if I am in India, the day begins by flipping to the last page of the newspaper and reading every bit of cricket related news)

In the mid-90’s, Sachin was India’s only saving grace, and it was hard not to become a die-hard fan of Sachin. It became a habit, to stop watching the match (because nothing remained to be watched) after Sachin got out. It used to be, get out and play, or start the HW kind of thing. Sachin is out. Amma would be happy that I will not stay awake till late in the night. And the habit still resides, even during the time when Sachin is not in a great form, and even when, India is a much stronger team to win despite Sachin’s non-performance. It takes a while to mourn Sachin’s dismissal, and to rue upon another lost opportunity to watch him bat. I know, for sure, that it will be hard to fight tears on the day the God decides to retire.

But my first real passionate support for a cricketing great was for Rahul Dravid. Much before he made his debut, I read about him from some “expert-column”, which back then, really had some meaningful analysis, which enhanced your knowledge about the game. The boy from Karnataka was doing great in Ranji trophy, had a technically strong game, and was supposed to succeed in the swing and seam bowling conditions for England. Dravid and Ganguly both made their debuts in 1996, in a new look Indian team, which featured 6 debuts in a single test. Ganguly stole the limelight. I was in Calcutta then, I was in Behala, and my house was stones throw away from the ground where Dada learned the game, and a short walk away from Dada’s huge mansion ( I have played with the man himself once). Imagine, as a 14 year old, sticking to your conviction then that, although Dada scored all those centuries, Dravid, who was unlucky to be out for 95 in his first innings was the better player.

It was hostile conditions to be supporting Dravid, but for 13 years now, I have been a staunch Dravid supporter, quickly jumping to his defense in any debate, quietly collecting memories of his brilliant innings. As I have learned more about him, I am more in awe of him, and consider him to be a role-model for me. Humbleness, hard work, conviction in your beliefs and leading  by hard work are some of the Dravid-learnings that I will not forget for quite a long time. Here is hoping that he has a great couple of years in ODIs and ends up scoring 9 more centuries to pass Gavaskar on the century scorer list for India. He deserves it.

Among other cricketers that I have grown up liking and supporting are Wasim Akram (I was a young budding left armed fast bowler).  The first time I saw him and remember him was when he troubled India in Toronto. And despite being a Pakistani, who tormented Indians, his skills have left me mesmerized for a long time. Bowling was my favorite for a long time, and I loved to bowl, which left a lot of my friends amused and happy, because I never fought to get the bat. Walsh and Warne were favorites. I remember Warne entertaining the crowd in Eden Gardens, and his brilliant bowling, which was overshadowed by the God himself in that tour. Gilchrist captured attention with the brilliant debut 2nd innings century, under pressure in Hobart, and I have always enjoyed watch him bat. And there are some greats that I just don’t like. Jayasuriya and Murali come to mind, so does Steve Waugh (Mark Waugh was a favorite, his cover drives and slip catching were just jaw dropping Wows!) and Ricky Ponting. No particular reason for not liking them, but such it goes.

My generation of Cricket stars, players I grew up idolizing, following and relating too are retiring now, and the new crop of players are just player for me. Apart from Dhoni to some extent, not many of them are kindling the kind of passion for stars that I had in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Cricket watching now is just a different experience because of it. I am watching less and less of the games, relying more on Cricinfo, don’t remember any statistics (when at one time, I could rattle the century list, wicket taker list, could recall exact bowling performances from any match etc etc), and the relationship with the game has completely changed.

As much as I am scared about T-20 stealing awesome Test match experiences, I am thankful for the IPL to bring all these players back to the ground, even if it is just for 20 overs. It makes me feel like a teenager again, to watch Warney bowl to Sachin!

*Here, I had planned another trip down memory lanes for more cricket related memories, but Tennis is important too. More cricket can wait for a different post*

Thoughts about Doordarshan will make any 90’s generation nostalgic about their programming. DD showed the grand-slams, and Amma had picked up the habit of watching it from Delhi-Thatha (ya, Amma’s appa/amma are Delhi thatha/patti and Appa’s appa/amma are Madras Thatha/Patti). I would stick around while she would watch the tennis, and explain the sets, games and deuces to me. The game grew on me slowly, and is always in the mix of the sports that I watch regularly.  As with Football, the earliest players that I saw were the ones who endeared me. Stefan Edberg, Sergi Bruguera, Micheal Chang, Jim Courier are some of the players I have feverently supported over time.

But the player who has captured my attention and who is still my favorite player (even ahead of FedEx) has been Andre Agassi. I remember (the weird kind of remember), Agassi, long haired, rebel and prodigy, sweeping the ’92 Wimbledon. Since then, it has been a bumpy ride for me, surrounded by Pistol Pete fans, and having had to bear their ridicules when Agassi was going through the worst slump of his life. I have spent watching game after game, willing anyone to go past Pete, just so that all the Pete fans feel the pain that the Agassi fans were feeling. It did not happen, but Agassi scripted the most fairy-taleish comebacks in history, and late 90’s and early 00’s have been the best time for Agassi fans. I still miss him on the courts, and wish that someone take a movie about his life, which can be such an inspiration. My early post on the man says it all. My favorite-est tennis player ever!. Ah! Agassi reminds me of Steffi. I stopped caring about who won the ladies grand-slam after Steffi retired, and more so in the Williams power years (if I absolutely hate someone, it has to be Serena)…and now, with all the russian players with similar sounding names and even more similar playing styles, Women’s tennis needs a prodigy, and badly.

In 2001, Sampras was shooting for a record in London. In the 4th round, he faced the magician. Years of hating Sampras had me, by default supporting the 19 year old, long haired, ponytailed Swiss-man. They produced an amazing match, which makes for quite good viewing, and by the time Sampras was finally defeated in the 5th set, by the wizard FedEx, I had decided that I will be Federer’s fan for life. Now, no matter what statistics say or don’t say, no matter what Rafa fans claim, there has not been a better player  in the courts than FedEX. Period. FedEx is one love-affair that is still continuing, and even if, as critics and fans view that FedEx is going down, it is going to be a passionate, nail baiting support for the man, till he hangs up his racket.

And here is the match up between the legends.

Yes, I raised my hands in celebration at the end of the video!

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Winter is coming

Burdened with self doubt and weakened by cowardice;

Lost on the interstate, speeding at 80 mph;

Looking at the exits going by, but scared to leave.

A Mars mission headed to the Moon,

Future visions obscured by the truth

A Touchdown pass, intercepted;

Stop. Rewind. Play

Stop. Rewind. Play

Stop. Rewind. Play…

Searching for hope, yet hoping for a miracle;

Summer’s gone, the Winter is coming

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This is what you think if you are awake till 5 am every-night

Sandwiched between, Sepia tinted memories and rosy dreams;

Today stretches on infinitley. Never-ending.

Door county, Chicago, U2, Yellowstone, Bay area, Portland, Singapore and Indonesia;

Feels like a materialistic memory maker, with no other purpose but to make memories photos.

Why? Why? Why?

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A love affair with Gutters!


Before I write the post that the title refers to, I want to write this!

Consider, the night before

  1. A talk that I have to give
  2. Meeting my adviser
  3. Telling a huge lie to someone

All these three events, have one thing is common. I practice the talk a million times as I struggle to sleep the night before, I go through my “parts” of the meeting, in which I tell about the research that I have been doing and the results that I have to my adviser, and I sure like hell, go through the lie that I have to tell the next day.

Now you know, what scenario 1 and 2 have in common with scenario 3!

End Aside


It was the late eighties (’88, I think,  need to confirm it with Amma), and we had gone to Coimbatore for Ramu Mama’s wedding. Sometime during the trip, the ladies were conducting the Sumangali Prathanai (which is explained in detail here). Men and boys were requested to stay outside while the ladies did the actual puja and ate the food inside. So, I was left with a lot of other small kids, which included my cousin Badri outside the house, and under the supervision of some random mama/chitappa. In my recollection, it was some 25-27 year old chap, related to us. The superviser mama, in order to keep us engaged, made paper boats for us, and we took turns to set them to drift in the nulla next to the house and watch it sail for some time. The most exciting part was not watching the paper boat sail in the nulla, but was the act of putting it in the nulla. All the kids awaited their turn, but my cousin was a little restless, and wanted to jump lines and take my turn to set the boat sailing in the nulla. I resisted the move, but he was (and is) stronger than me, and tried to push me to a side and steal the paper boat from me. The push, unfortunately was misdirected, and I, along with the boat fell into the gutter.  The flurry of activities that followed has been a typical conversation fodder in many conversations when someone in the family gets nostalgic and goes, “Remember when Kaushik fell into the gutter”.

I was quickly taken out, and all the dettol available in Coimbatore was poured into a hot bucket of water, and I was cleansed, right in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, Badri was taken in, and given a flogging my Raghu Mama. I do not remember any of this, but a vivid descriptions by so many people, has helped me imagine such a situation, women in 9-yard saris crowding around a small kid being bathed in really hot water in the middle of the street, while another young boy, was being beaten and scolded, pretty loudly too, inside the house.

Would have been a good day for the passer-by’s on the street too!

Calcutta, 1991-93

59/5 Bakthiar Shah Road, is the first house that I remember living in (helps that there is a ton of photos of this house). Getting down at Mannar Khabar (a sweet shop that was missed all the years we were in Shaker Bazar in Calcutta), you walk into a narrow lane for a long time (a very long time for kids). I even remember seeing a python coiled on this particular stretch of road sometime. At the end of the lane, there was a gate, and a garden (which keeps becoming a wild unkept garden with tall grass in recollections of the lane), and a house deep inside the garden, from which I think we might have had a friend, but the house was one we hardly visited. You take a left at the end of the lane, walk just a little, and turn right and there was Bakthiarshah road. A residential lane, quite far away from any of the main roads in the area. Out house was the last one on the left in the lane (which also had a backyard). The second house on the left belonged to the judge in the Calcutta High court, the one next to us, belonged to an ex-major of the Indian Army, and the house right opposite ours, had the dominant South Indian population in the lane. The street ended with yet another gate, beyond which was a pretty closed community built amid lots of trees, where my childhood bully cum friend Kutush (he has also *-ed in this post). In the house above his, Puja, my sister’s best friend lived and not very far Kannan, another close buddy of my sister’s lived. Next to Kannan’s house was the old lady, who locked her house and gave the lock a tug to see if it comes out, and from who, I seem to have gotten the habit too!

Our house had a small gate to enter it, and a big varendah at the end of which was the main door. Right next to the house, flowed the gutter, which was pretty narrow by gutter standards, and pretty shallow too. A short kid could jump up, let a peek of his head show above the wall and spit right into the gutter. Sometime in ’91, cousins Bharath and Lakshmi with peripa and perima came to Calcutta from Zambia to visit us. We were super excited about their arrival, and begged Appa to take us along to the airport to receive them (also, the fact that they were flying in, from abroad,  was a bragging point in school). But the flight was scheduled to come late in the night, and Appa refused to take us along.

The next day, upon waking up, I found Bharath sitting on the varendah wall, with his hand spread wide, and slowly swaying from side to side. He told me he was flying, and asked me (and I was 6 then, he was 12 or 13) to join him. Amma and the elders were talking inside, dangerously unaware that my sister and I were outside. Lakshmi joined Bharath up on the wall too, and Vidya was too little to get up. I was not and I got on the wall, and as soon as I spread my hand, I lost all balance and fell, unfortunately, on the wrong side of the wall, and straight into the gutter.  The gutter was not very deep nor very wide, and it meant that I hurt the bridge of my nose and the top of my forehead. I was fished out of the gutter, all bathed in the black dirty waters of the gutter and the my thick red blood. Neighbors got involved, a taxi was called, and I was rushed to the doctor near the Mother Diary milk vending machines. After an emergency procedure, I ended up with three stitches in-between my eyes and three on my forehead ( the emergency procedure has been later repeated many times as a testimonial to the doctor, who could sew up a kid bathed in stinky gutter water and blood, in such a crucial place without affecting the eye, and also as a reminder of the bravery of the kid to withstand that pain without much tears). The sign on my nose still remains as a proof that this did happen (and so is the photo below).

After being stitched and cleaned with dettol, and after picking up a fever because of all the tension and all the pain, Amma decided to stay home with me, while the others went with Appa on the Calcutta tour. The tour, being the part of my cousin’s visit that I was most excited about. I relentlessly cried to come with them, and finally went. On the last part of the tour, in Banu Mami’s 13th floor apartment, the photo below was taken.

Also included is the photo of the varendah wall, the scene of crime.



Couple of years later, late afternoon, Kutush and I were bicycle racing on the street, confident in the knowledge that all our street-street dogs were sleeping peacefully somewhere. I had a small BSA-Champ cycle, while Kutush, having grown tall and strong real quick, had a much bigger cycle. These handicaps, not withstanding, I agreed to race Kutush. The race was going well for me, I was pedalling real quick, I was bent low on my seat, squirming to see ahead in the distance, accelerating, and was not much ahead of Kutush. But I had forgotten, one tiny little detail, in all my zest to finish first. There was a speed-breaker in the middle of the street. My bike took-off from the speed-breaker. I lost all control of the bike, because it was not on the ground. The speed that I generated, helped me fly a small distance ahead, and I crash landed right into (you guessed it), the gutter. Minor injuries were suffered, which included a bruise above my eye, and a swelling which left my left eye temporarily shut.

And I remember the next day, my Moral Education final exam. Amma took me to school and for some reason convinced the teachers to let me write the exam separately in a room, and being all alone, I peeked into my class notebook to look at a answer, ironically in a moral education exam.

This time, I did not fall into the gutter.

Sometime in the 4th semester, I got a real nice gift, a hand woven woolen keychain. I intended to keep it for a long time, but my old love of the gutter claimed the gift. It was the day of our Math’s Internals, and halfway through the exam, I just had to answer to natures call. Not trusting the department rest-rooms, I handed in a half completed answer paper, and ran to Chamundi, our hostel, and rushed to the rest-rooms. In all the hurry, I dropped my keys, with the keychain into the toilet, and saw the flush take it down. Later, I informed the hostel people that I had lost my keys and in an act that I don’t comprehend now, also informed them that they can, if they want to, find it in the gutters. Promptly a person was asked to go into all the shit, and fish for my keys. He found them, claimed to have cleaned them and handed them to me. As much as I wanted to keep the nice colourful keychain, which the gutters had changed into a uniform ugly black, I threw it away.

Now, this is one love affair that I would love to get broken up with!!