Saturday, March 6, 2010


The first image that comes to most minds when they hear the name Germany is unfortunately that of the butterfly moustached monster named Hitler. However I, like many a car lover always think of Germany as some kind of a diamond mine for the most high quality, beautiful automobiles. As the land of Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Audi, it is impossible to ignore the enormously significant contribution of Germans in pushing the limits of the most beautiful machines human hands can create. Not only that, they manage to maintain their finicky attention to product build quality at the same time.

I guess that's the main reason why I end up supporting their national team at every FIFA World Cup. The German soccer team has all the characteristics of teams that I love to hate like Manchester United in the English Premier League and Australia in the cricketing world. They are a hard nosed bunch of players who firmly believe in the philosophy of "Winner takes all". Yet from the days of Juergen Klinnsmann in 1994, I have always been a German fan in every football World Cup. Come the World Cup, the Germans take up their positions grim faced to battle it out as a team focussed on straightforward victory rather than emphasise on any kind of flair or individual skill. Put them in a tough situation and any whiff of a fight-back chance, they will come around with a vengeance, a fact that every one of their opponents acknowledges. They also end up doing spectacularly well in every World Cup, without having any flamboyant or remarkably gifted players in their ranks. At some level, I am so infatuated with the cars that they build that I expect their human football team to run like a smoothly oiled machine too and for that unique robot like ability, they have my support!

An instant classic

Today I saw the coolest words of wisdom on a T-shirt out for sale on the footpath in front of the Indian Museum.

It said "Why drink and drive... when you can smoke and fly!"

What more could anyone else possibly add? Honestly, that's a classic!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


[In memory of a friend tragically snatched away from this world and in honour of the greatest cricketer on the face of planet earth]

It was early in 2003 towards the end of the second semester when a passionate debate about cricket was suddenly ignited in our room no. 118 of Hostel 3. Guys from neighbouring rooms and afar had joined in the fray. The debate was like many other hostel debates that had happened in the past and would happen again in the future, intense and eventually unresolved. No side was ready to give any quarter and swords remained drawn. The topic was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and his greatness, and for once in my life I was not in his camp. Not in his camp because there was only one person battling for him and he was the greatest Sachin fan I have ever known. It's not an easy thing for me to say, super maniacal Sachin fan that I am, that Abhishek Tomer was such a Sachin fanatic that I seemed mild in comparison. In that debate, Tomer was insistent on only one point "Sachin bhagwaan hai (Sachin is God)!" I said that Sachin was and is my favourite player of all time, but it was too much to call him God because A. he was yet to win a World Cup (This was before he almost singlehandedly took India to the 2003 World Cup final), B. he sometimes stuttered in big matches (Again this was way before the magic he displayed in the 2 one day finals against Australia in Australia in 2008) and C. India had a much much better record of winning the match when say Sehwag or Ganguly scored a ton rather than Sachin (Put this down to bad luck more than anything else). He heard all of this patiently and told the rest of us "Say what you will, but one day you'll realize that Sachin bhagwaan hai!". He couldn't really convince us and we couldn't really convince him.

I was watching India bat on live television in 2008 when I heard of Tomer's tragic passing away. A friend had called me and told me the terrible news. That night was not Sachin's night either as within minutes of my coming to know, Sachin walked back to the pavilion, dismissed early. I thought with a lump in my throat and a reeling mind, "There is no point in playing this match, Sachin. Your greatest fan is no more."

When I think today and go back to that day seven years ago in Kurukshetra, I evaluate God's (the real one if there is one up in the heavens) track record. Does God always do what is asked of Him? Do we really believe that He will help us out of every ditch that life throws us into? Do we worship Him because of His iron-bound reliability or because of what He is possibly capable of? Would we really be happy if He gave us all that we wanted without a struggle or without the occasional sobering punch of defeat? If God is so far from perfect, how on earth can we train our guns on Sachin!

For more than 20 years, this man has carried the hopes and dreams of a nation on his shoulders. He is too self-effacing, too much of a real gentleman to make any claims to be God. That is the most awe-inspiring aspect of Sachin's mental make-up. He wouldn't ever get thrown out of a night club for misbehaving with a girl (unlike a certain Australian competitor) and neither would he ever put the unity of his team at stake for his personal ego (like the West Indian great of this era who I personally believe is the only batsman in the world who can dare to look Sachin in the eye). Truth be spoken, Sachin could do that and get away with it such is the level of hero-worship the great man commands, but he would not... simply because he is Sachin. All he ever wanted to do is to walk out to the middle of the ground as the crowd shouts his name and hit the ball with the middle of the bat. He wants to get up every day, train, run, shout, bowl and give his 100% on the cricket field every single time. He wants to let loose a flood of joy and optimism through the lives of his millions of followers by that wonderful straight drive, the crackling cover drive or the bullet like pull shot. When Sachin bats, he bats for everybody and everybody bats for him. I don't care for all the records that he holds or how many trophies he has won for India, all mere statistics and cold numbers to me. It's how I feel when I watch him play however long or short his innings might be. For that wonderful honour of watching this artist at work, I am indebted to him forever.

When on February 24th, in the packed office canteen, we saw Sachin steal that final single to get to 200 and jumped up in delirious joy, there was only one thought running on my mind over and over again like the ticker tape they keep running headlines on at the bottom of news channel screens. Wherever you are, buddy Tomer, may your soul rest in peace and may you smile & savour this victory. When I see that an international sports legend is 36 years old and still as bubbly, enthusiastic and capable of bringing such happiness into people's lives, I must finally accept defeat in this 7 year old debate and say what must be said. "Sachin bhagwaan hai!". Enough said!

Holi Hai!!!

Yes, the picture above is from an 'ordinary' Holi, as ordinary as things can get in my alma mater, REC Kurukshetra (Yeah, yeah now known as NIT Kurukshetra for all you nit-pickers). It's 10:15 in the morning and I am at my laptop reminiscing about how coated in mud I would have been by now had this been any one of the 4 awesome Holi celebrations that I had participated in during the course of my engineering. The swamp things that are seen in the picture are actually a random selection of friends and acquaintances on the boy's hostel grounds, midway through the Holi madness, soon after which I am sure the cameraman must have been dunked in the mud too.

I can already see a few faces go "Eww", "Yuck" as they read this but mud based Holi was the most natural and healthy Holi possible. No artificial chemical dye based powders and colours involved, besides the fact we were students always in a state of bankruptcy so this was the only budget friendly way of doing things. Hook up a pipe from the ground-floor bathroom of B-block, scuff up the earth a little bit before allowing the water to flow into the ground which normally was for hostel cricket only. As the mud began to form, the first few lunatic volunteers would themselves take a plunge into it but this was not the fun part of the celebrations. The real enthusiasm was reserved for those who were in any way unwilling to participate in this annual cleansing ritual. Hostel room doors would be broken down if some information of a popular hideaway inside was confirmed, and then kicking and screaming, with a splash would go in our latest capture. So would any unsuspecting soul who may have wandered into the common room on the day of Holi and was vehemently claiming that he thought watching a cricket match was more fun than rolling in the mud like pigs.

Everyone knew that wearing anything but an sacrificable T-shirt and old pants was madness on the day of Holi inside a RECK hostel. In the rough and tumble style of Kurukshetra Holi, sooner rather than later there'd be a loud "Rippppppppppppp". Oops! That was the beginning of the end of our poor mud soaked clothes. The eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth way of life would swing into operation and soon there would be no T-shirt left intact on any shoulder. Soon the mud Olympics would be on with freestyle sliding and team gymnastics on the slippery, slithery skating rink that our erstwhile hostel cricket ground had become. Dog tired as the first spring sun shone down brightly on our wheezing lot, we would lie prostate on the same mud and water and catch our breath. By lunchtime, 300 odd guys would hit the hostel bathrooms to get back to their non mud-caked avatars and the spectacular amounts of mud that would line the bathroom floors made all of us pity the cleaners who surely would have cursed us into hell many times over.

Holi was a special day in Kurukshetra, I should say an especially special day in Kurukshetra because all days in Kurukshetra were special. I remember Holi in first year, when despite having flunked in a subject like some others of my batch (The first semester results had been declared the day before and my assassin's name was Physics-1) Holi pulled us out of our gloom. We were moping about with a dejected look on our face when we saw a couple of guys sneak towards the bathroom a bucket of muddy water in hand where one of our more disciplined friends was just finishing his daily normal non 'Holi'day bath towelling himself dry. Then a splash; howls of loud laughter; a string of angry, even louder, non-repeatable swear words and all of us with a sudden smile creeping across our face shouting "Holi hai, bhai... Holi hai!!"