Friday, March 19, 2010

Breathe easy

The picture above, meant for ignoramuses like me is of Vijender Singh from Bhiwani, Haryana of whose existence I did not know until I read the papers yesterday. He won the Commonwealth Boxing Championships gold in the 75 kg category on Wednesday and was already the world no.1 when he added this, another very shiny feather to his cap. Incidentally he had also won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics thereby adding another feather to my ignoramus cap earned by achieving the feat of never having heard his name. In a country ridiculously short on sporting heroes, it's a matter of shame that everyone does not know about this world champion in our ranks. No, we'd (or more appropriately - I'd) rather watch Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta cheer their rather mediocre IPL teams from the stands than know about a guy who actually has won something and must have been doing so for quite some time!

Here's an anecdote from Wednesday's gold medal match that'll shed some light on why Vijender is at the top. First round of the final and Vijender takes a blow above his eyes which opens up a cut. Blood starts seeping out, not a great sign as boxing referees will very likely stop a match right then and there if the cut starts bleeding significantly. So what does our Vijender do? He in his post match interview says that he controlled his breath, breathing long and deep so that his heart does not get hyperactive and start pumping blood out out of his eye cut. Not only that he eventually manages to stem the blood flow simply by this 'breathing technique' if you will, and goes on to defeat his British opponent comprehensively. Imagine that! Getting beaten to pulp by an opponent, only occasionally managing to dodge his jabs, upper cuts and haymakers, all the while thinking "Breathe easy!... Breathe easy!... Breathe easy!"

Ha! And you thought your day time job was tough. Welcome to the real world.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Zero

Today is Day Zero (apologies from my end for dragging my MBA graduate friends to this post by those two alluring words) according to the Hindu mythological calendar. Gudi Padwa was when according to the Brahma Puranas, Brahma the creator created the universe as we know it. Pretty significant achievement this by an old bearded nice guy, it must be admitted though since then it has developed an air of staleness and fosters a very high tendency of self destruction. All the same, this was no mean task.

The thought of Day Zero takes me back to my Day Zero, the day my universe of senses and memory was created and introduced to the outside world, way back on the 26th of September, 1984. The world may have existed before me (or so my parents tell me) and it may hang around long after I am gone (provided we are not stupid enough to end it ourselves through a wacky mix of clashing ideologies/civilizations/religions and succumbing to the ever itching urge to settle scores on the aforementioned topics) but my universe is what begins from exactly where my nose ends and I am satisfied with that definition. When it's my time to leave, I won't have much say in other people's universes anyways.

All my life I have kept meeting elderly people - relatives or acquaintances (elderly by definition meaning , anyone who was already born when I was air-dropped into this external world) who keep saying something on the lines "Oh! I have known/seen you since you were such a little kid! (Make appropriate hand gestures to indicate my not-so-significant size back then)" I never managed to figure out how and why this was important but apparently it was and when I'd reach their age, I'd do the same. That's just the way society rolls. Smile like whatever is being said is the greatest revelation in your life yet and you should survive these stabs of unwittingly induced nostalgia fine.

One day a couple of years ago however while mom was doing her shopping thing on a busy Gariahat evening, she suddenly grabbed my hand and tugged me towards a bespectacled man seated in a taxi caught in the horrific traffic snares of the busiest market in Calcutta. Turns out that this was Dr. Arun Mitra, the doctor who had delivered me in a hospital in Park Street. Not only me but my elder sister and elder brother too on their Day Zeroes. Even back then I had managed to overthink the simple process of coming out head first and this doc had to perform a Caesarian on my mom to help me and mom survive. To him, I owed my frequently spectacular, and once in-a-blue-moon curse worthy life. What do you say to a guy who has last seen you as soft boned blob of screeching flesh 23-24 years ago about all that has passed in between? Do you actually say something or do what I was totally tempted to do to simplify matters? Though I could not summon the courage to do this and had to make do with a tame "Hello sir! It's a pleasure to meet you.", I just wanted to look him in the eye and go "Gaa gaa, goo goo, gaa goo" like I may have done all those years ago. That in baby talk roughly translates to "What the hell have you brought me into? It's too much fun but it doesn't really make any kind of sense! Let me know if you have the slightest clue."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dhak, dhak... no

For the first time in my memory, I was watching India lose and yet was laughing like a hyena. It was a game I was watching in the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 at Delhi and our marauding opponents were Spain. More on the reasons later.

The sport of hockey (field hockey for Yanks and Canadians) is a very physically demanding game, possibly the most strenuous team sport I know of. Though it never caught my fancy, I can appreciate the skill and strength required to play this sport and also why people may take a liking to it though I personally did not. This World Cup in India drew a lot of attention to this undeservedly ignored sport in which upto 40 years ago, India used to rule the roost. Since then India has slid down the pecking order and new powerhouses like Spain, Germany, Australia - all the usual suspects in a list of champion national teams have taken its place. It seems like a sport with immense potential for violence, with ultra-fit men smacking each other's ankles with sticks and smashing the rock hard ball at speeds upto 112 miles per hour. The melee that happens whenever the ball gets near a goal is breathtaking with swinging sticks, dancing legs and a seething mass of humanity in the goal zone which the camera has a tough time keeping a track of. It's a wonder that there are no fisticuffs breaking out between the players every 30 seconds or so!

This brings me back to the source of my laughter. The Spaniards had a big, bold "PRINCESS" written across their jerseys, their team sponsors and manufacturers of God knows what. All I know is that it looked ridiculous on a bunch of well built men aggressively celebrating every perfectly executed goal of theirs as they annihilated India. The poor guys, most of them obviously not proficient in English may have been feeling triumphant at disposing off the host country so easily but little did they realize the irony inherent in their uniforms! Maybe the Indians should have gifted crystal tiaras, pink evening gowns and glass slippers after the game to each of the players. Maybe then the "princesses" would know.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Keep my paycheck

The horribly commercial business of IPL cricket is not somewhere you would expect to learn some of life's important truths, but today before the match between KKR and RCB began at the Eden Gardens, there was such a lesson to be learnt. The footage of the studio team cut away to Gaurav (one of the co-hosts of IPL 2010 on Set Max) who was waiting to interview one of cricket's all time greats on the grounds. Gaurav began his telecast by saying "It's just one of those days when you say 'Keep my paycheck. I am just too happy doing this job.' Here I am ready to interview Brian Lara who happened to be just passing by..." before getting into a chat with the batting genius. Can't fault him for his happiness, any cricket lover would have said and felt the same!

Aren't we all looking for such a job? A job where we can say even for the sake of lip service at least once in our lifetimes that the joy of the job is far greater than any of the paychecks on offer. Gaurav had found such a job and we would all be better off finding one for ourselves. Here's wishing everyone good luck on this most difficult of searches!