Sunday, November 29, 2009


A discussion on Bhaang reminded me a story from college –

Holi fell during that time of the year when our final exams and placements were over and convocation was more than a week away. Most of the guys had gone back home during this break. Some of us stayed back in the hostel. So did me along with 6-7 guys in our wing.

Being Holi, we arranged for some Bhaang and had it with banana shake. There is difference between how Bhaang hits you and how alcohol hits you. With alcohol, you realize with each sip that if and how much it has hit you. So you drink till you are in controllable control. As soon as you realize it’s about time, you may choose to put an end to your drinking.

Bhaang, you don’t realize it immediately. It generally takes 30-45 minutes before showing its effects. But when it does, it really does. Mistake most people make is that they take Bhaang like alcohol thinking it isn’t doing anything and end up with an overdose.

Anyhow, since I had taken it a few times before and I anyhow have very bad capacity for any such things, I had a glass of banan shake and went to TV room seeing second session of India – Pakistan test match. I was resting on the sofa set.

Suddenly some action happened in the match and I was about to jump. But to my surprise, I could not lift my head. I felt as if my head was made of steel and sofa set was nothing but a very strong magnet. I tried again. And again. And again. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t believe it because right from my childhood I was always told that I was empty headed. Suddenly I could sense lot of weight in the emptiness.

Anyhow, I had realized it was time and before strange things start happening, I must rush to my room and crash. If you have had Bhaang¸you would know that under its effect, you just keep doing whatever you start to do. If you start eating, you would just keep on eating. If you sleep, you may actually not wake up before next evening. If you start responding to nature’s call, you may actually end up donating your instentines, liver, and kidnies and may be even heart to the commode.

I realized I had started laughing. I started to run towards my room. Suddenly I realized all my friends were sititng in one room. I entered that room to find out everyone was stunned as if they were being expelled from the college a week before convocation. I looked at everyone. Everyone looked at me. And we all broke into laughter.

All but one – lets call him X. He was still serious, dead serious.

We came out laughing. We kept laughing for more than half an hour when someone talked about nitrous oxide – the laughing gas. He also said that this gas can make someone laugh so much that he could die.

Y – Who was laughing out loudest suddenly realized that it could happen to him.

He started yelling rather pleading – “Mujhe kuch ho gaya hai. Please Koi mujhe hospital le chalo warna main mar jaaoonga. “(Something has happened to me. Please take me to the hospital else I will die)

He did it once. He did it twice. He did it thrice. As he did it for fourth time – X shouted, in all his seriousness and lifting his one hand like a true political leader addressing an election ralley, “Koi Kahin nahi jaayega. Koi Mara to Jimmedari Meri” (No one will go anywhere. If someone dies, I will take the responsibility”

Hearing this, we were actually rolling on the floor laughing. This dialogue went on for half an hour or so. For every 4 times Y pleaded, X provided his assurance that he own up to whatever happens.

It went out of control for me. I came back to my room, puked out of the balcony and crashed. I woke up 8 hours later to find out that Y was actually taken to the hospital. What a few vomits would have done, was done by the doctor. X woke up next morning.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

24th November!!!

This is how I remember ‘That” match after being over a decade and a half old –

India was facing SA in the semi final of Hero Cup. I went to the bus stop where I used to catch my school bus. I stood at wrong side so that I could miss the buss. As I succeeded, I came back home and told everyone – “I missed the bus. It came before time” So, I succeeded in bunking school. I had to do it in order to see the complete match.

The match was in Eden Gardens where, for first time in India, we were going to see a day- night cricket match in a proper cricket ground. We had seen it once in Delhi, but that is not a cricket stadium. If a ground has a sandpit, which is used for long jump, covered with a plastic cover, it just cannot be called a cricket ground.

I had heard a lot about those floodlights. I was really eager to see them – on TV off cource. Even till date, I have never seen an international cricket match on ground. Luckily, broadcasting issued between BCCI and DD were resolved and we were seeing it live on TV.

I was not very hopeful of India’s chances. SA was a really good side, almost everyone was in form and their fielding was just amazing. Azhar, as he has done so often in his career, won the toss and we elected to bat.

Jadeja and Prabhakar opened. Prabhakar pushed the ball to on side and just ran. He kept running till he reached the dressing room because some amazingly agile fielder had broken the stumps before he could cover ¾ of the distance he should have. Rhodes it must be, I thought. But it wasn’t. It turned out to be Cullinan.

In came, Kambli - India’s most prolific batsman in Hero Cup. Those were the days when life was really rosy for Kambli. He had recoved from the shocks of 1992 world cup, had cemented his place in the side courtesy 4 consecutive test tons and he had yet not faced speedy giants from South American ilands. On the other hand, his friend Sachin was woefully out of form. In a league match against SA he took 24 balls to score 3 runs. He looked so bad on the crease that he might well have felt a little relieved when he got out. Perhaps, that was the first time when he was totally out of form in a major tournament. Perhaps that was the only time when some of us thought that Kambli might take over SRT. Perhaps that was the only time when SRT looked totally helpless against any perticular bowler – P De Villiers. Anyhow, Kambli came to the crease. And Off he went. Exactly like Prabhakar. Rhodes it must be, I thought. But it wasn’t. It again turned out to be Cullinan. With in no time we lost 4 wickets with almost nothing at the scorecard.

Eden garden has always been very special for Azhar. He scored his first century here in 1985. 8 years later, he scored 182 against England when he was given a life line for only 1 test match. Azhar played another brilliant innings here. Pity he didn’t score a century. With him was Pravin Amre who, in his stance, used to hit the pitch so hard with the bat that it actually created craters. Sometimes I wondered if this was the reason to play him in tests. He would take his stance 3 yard ahead of the crease and create craters in the pitch. Once the studfarm was ready, it could be used by Anil Kumble. Somehow we managed 195 which I thought was a much below par score for a strong SA batting line up.

SA’s start was not great but they kept scoring. Meanwhile DD shifted to Local news, then Chitrahaar, then national news. We kept watching the news because that was only way to get a glimpse of live action which were to be shown in a 10 seconds clippings. If it was a drinks break, DD showed players taking drinks. We, the cricket fan base in India on which entire world cricket is surviving now, were at receiving end during those days. Whatever DD showed, we accepted gleefully. Thank God they did not show Bhartiyam that night.

Meanwhile, Kumble and Jadeja had bowled 19 overs, given away 60 runs and had taken 4 wickets. As the live telecast resumed, we were in for a surprise. SA needed 45 runs in last 5 overs with just three wickets in hand. Ah, we will win it easily. 3 of our strike bowlers have left more than required overs. We can’t lose it from here – I told my father. He disagreed. We had a youth versus experience argument for a few seconds. As turn of events unfolded in next few overs, I realized how wrong I was. Well, it wasn’t my mistake though. It was only 5th year of my cricket watching career. I had yet not realized our amazing abilities of 90s team – they could lose from any position – no matter how strong it was.

It all came down to the last over. They needed 6 to win. We had leaked 39 runs in 4 overs. They could do it in one ball. Who would bowl the last over? Kapil? Or May be Ankola? Prabhakar could have been obvious choice considering his rich repotoire of slow balls. But I think he was out of question since he had already bowled 49th over. It couldn’t have been Srinath for sure.

Suddenly, we saw SRT setting the field. Yes, he was given the ball to bowl the last over. “What? Him? Last Over? He is not a regular bowler? He hasn’t bowled a single over in this match? He is out of form?” I threw loads of questions at my father as if he had made the decision. “Don’t forget. He bowled a last over in Australia against WI to get us a tie. Remember how you jumped then?” I nodded. In that match, he was bowling the last over when I came back from school. He took the last wicket of Anyd Cummins and I jumped 10-12 times shouting “Tie. Tie”

It was rumoured that our strike bowlers were reluctant to bowl the last over – even the most senior one. May be they didn’t want to become another Chetan Sharma. So Sachin picked up the ball. “Comeone – I will do it.” he must have thought.

Someone made a comment on his bold act of choosing to bowl the last over– “He belonged to the age group which believes it cannot die.”

Sunil Gavaskar, I read it later, said on air – “This descision of Azhar will either turn out to be a master stroke or will be critized to much that he wont be able to bear it” Words of wisdom. But were there any possibilites other than these two?

SRT started to run – slowly. He bowled the first ball. McMillan hit it to long off where Ankola mis fielded. But he recoverd in time and threw it to batting end. De Velliers, who was at non striker end, wanted two. McMillan said no. Third umpire said GO. He was run out and McMillan was thrown to non striker end. Double bonanza it turned out to be.

Vijay Yadav, the keeper, came up to the stumps. Plan was to bowl slower to Donald.

Second ball – he bowled and Donald played back to him or may be he missed. This continued on third, fourth ball.

Yes. They need 5 off two balls now. “All we need to do is bowl a dot ball here. Donald is just not good enough to hit a boundary on last ball. Just Keep McMillan off strike” I thought. McMillan had played brilliantly for his 48 till now.

Fifth Ball – they some how steal a single. “Damn. 4 of 1 now” I thought. I looked at my father. Both of us were down the memory lane - Circa 1986, Sharjah. “No. It won’t happen this time.This is Sachin” He said. He was a big fan of Sachin right from his debut series.

There was a big team meeting at the pitch. McMillan stood alone. So did Donald. But everyone in Indian team surrounded SRT. Surprisingly, SRT had the most confident look amongst his other team mates. Vijay Yadav went back to his normal keeping positions – few yards back.

SRT started to run. His run up barely took a few seconds. But those seconds looked like hours. India’s nail consumption must have gone up by millions in those few seconds. India was playing SA. But in my mind, that Sharjah match was being replayed.

And he bowled. McMillan moved towards legside and SRT followed him. It was really slow and had no bounce at all. McMillan missed it, Yadav collected it and came running towards the stumps. SRT started celebrating. “Le li saale ki” was written all over his face. Even though he didn’t score much in the tournament, he still ran away with the most remarkable moment of the tournament. India has won very few more-than-three-nations tournaments. But we don’t remember Hero Cup for India’s rare victory. We remember it for “that” last over.

PS: After checking the video of the match on youtube, I realized that there are a few factual errors in this post - like DeVilliers had hit it to cover in last over and there was no fumble etc. But, let it be. I have written purely based on my memory which has been ageing fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Return he does!!!

Like phoenix rises from the ashes, like Dev Anand keeps returning as a protagonist singing songs with an actress seven decades younger than him, like Rakhi Sawant keeps returning to the breaking news with never imagined acts, he returns. Appam returns.

So what is the big deal? Like exhibition of freedom in our democracy (like recent acts in Maharashtra assembly) did so, everyone does get a chance to make a comeback.

But Appam’s is a bigger one. Comeback I mean.


Because when everyone thought his dancing skills will be to impress the likes of Karishma Kapoor instead of the likes of Ande Nel, he makes a comeback.

Because when everyone thought he would be appealing against a faulty air conditioner and would never get a chance to put his legs wide apart, keep his hands parallel to the ground, open his mouth as if the finger which was supposed to get out has got stuck deep inside and try to touch the ground by his hips against smiling face of Steve Bucknor, he makes a comeback.

Because when everyone thought that people will forget the slap which echoed more than Rana Vishwa Pratap Singh’s slap on Dr. Dang’s cheek after the latest slap in the country where a famous actress’ father-in-law got slapped, he makes a comeback. BTW, if father-in-law reads this piece of news, I am not sure what will hurt more, the slap or the news title.

And thank God he is back.

For ages Indians have been suffering at the hands of match referees. With his ability to be called by the referees at the rate of a visit every drinks break, Appam’s charm might make at least one of the referees fall for him which is one nemesis lesser. Afterall this is how arrange-marriages work, isn’t it? 15 years of seeing each other day in day out, two people finally fall in love.

We need to get rid of a particular spinner ASAP. He has been in the side for his match winning perfromaces which happen once in 12 months. Let’s hope Appam makes the sacrifice by offering him his other cheek for the greater good of country and the spinner is slapped out forever.

With due respect to the Sangas, the Mahelas, the Muralis - I have always found Sri Lanka as one of the most boring test playing nations. May be it’s because of their “once you get 550 and declare, we will bat till your bowler start bowling to fine leg” brand of cricket in 90s. With the expectation being along the same lines for the test series, Appam will be our only hope. So what if he may not make it to top 11 – even as a drinks boy he can entertain us. Imagine him doing a moonwalk when he is asked to rush to the pitch with some juice/drinks/medical advice/ towel/ stretcher/ magic stick/ anything for that matter, because our spinner has been hit in a place where no man likes to be hit.

With the much talked about razzmatazz of T20s, “I just get the feel that something is going to happen here” commentators, imported cheerleaders doing aerobics acts on the tunes of “Bidi Jalai Le”, every player playing everyday in every color’s t-shirts, test cricket in whites does become boring. Appam will bring all the masaala here. He will practice his dance. He will dance at the practice. And if by any chance, another pacer is batting at the nets – he will try to do what he does best. He will sledge him to injury. Once that pacer is gone, he will target another one. He just hates batsmen of lesser abilities. I am sure he doesn’t see himself in the mirror while honing his batting skills– something many batsmen do. Else he would have killed himself by now.

He will bowl. He will bat. So what if he isn’t included in 11. He can still do it in dressing room when camera is showing him on big screen. Afterall he will have to give a screen test in in a possible career option which can wait. He will at least carry drinks. He will laugh. He will cry. He will dance. He will freeze. He will sneeze too. He will speak. He will fart. Once the series is over, let’s hope he doesn't depart.

And we will keep wondering – how did God invent Appam? Or may be why?

Hail Appam.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Just to make it see sunlight – Part 4

The collegue!!!
The worst that could happen is to get a phone call when you are hanging in a Mumbai Local. It did happen to me. I had gone to Mumbai to meet up some of my friends over the weekend.
“Hello! Is it Swapnil?”
“Hello Beta….”

It was yet another proposal. The girl was working in my office working in HR department. It’s a small world, isn’t?

"Enough, I will take control this time" I thought.
“Hi” I initiated chat with her on my company’s messenger.
“How are you?” was her reply. Damn she already knows about me.
“Hi. I am Swapnil. I need some help from HR.” Let’s play games.
“Yeah, tell me.”
And I made some excuse and story. Next few days we spent chatting without letting the other person know that we already know about each other through a different source and for a defining cause. It was all going smoothly.
But there was a hitch. Whenever I asked her to meet, she somehow avoided. Damn, she must have seen my photo. And her excuses were very typical of a female excuse – “I am busy today. What about sometime later?” “I have to make a presentation today. What about next week?” I have always wondered is it that I have always asking out the busy females or as soon as I ask them out, their bosses burden them with extra workload.
“Can we meet up today?” suddenly she messaged me on 10th day.
“Sure. Anything urgent?”
“I need a professional suggestion.” Wow. We have hardly known each other that too on chat for 10 days and she is considering me worthy enough to be her professional adviser. Man, I have always had this charisma.
“So tell me, what help do you want?” I said after exchanging pleasantries.
“I am on contract here. My boss is transferring me to Bangalore where I would be confirmed.” She said.
“Congrats!!! Go to Bangalore” I said nonchalantly.
“But I do not want to leave Pune.” She said and I wondered why? ‘She must have got her just a good friend in the city. She would have come just to see me if I am better than him. If yes, I am selected else she has an option anyways.
“In that case you miss the chance of being confirmed.”
“But if I stay here, I might get confirmation in next appraisal cycle which is 6 months later.” She added.
“Good, take a chance and stay here”.
“But what if I don’t get confirmed 6 months later?”
“Females”, I thought. They always have an equally strong counterargument for any argument. Only reason for having an insaaf ki devi and not insaaf ka devta is that only devi could have balanced the weighing scale with such perfection. Men are not blessed with such brilliance.
“Thanks a lot for your advice. I guess I should be leaving now”
“So soon?” I wondered.
“Yeah, I have some work.” God, I get my salary for free or what?
She wanted to have a quick glance at my looks and had made a really bad excuse for it. Or in a way, she gave me a clear response. I knew I looked terrible, but it was an indication of me being horrible. Was I that bad?
I have always pride my self of being a fighter. I continued my fight on chat but whenever I asked her out, she became busy. We did bump into each other a few times but we didn’t talk much. But one thing I did notice about her. There was never a smile on her face. Was it like that or I was a smile repellant? Anyhow, enough was enough and I decided to end this road. After all, I belonged to the breed of most desired grooms, I thought so. I will never have a dearth of proposals. It’s just the conversion of potential into performance.

Part 5 to come soon …