Sunday, February 23, 2014

Diaries down under, Part 11 – the concluding chapters!!!

But for an act of God, wish of SIR Jadeja or unforeseen circumstances at work, this is my last week here. Six more days on the ground and one more in the air – I shall be at the place I always want to be, home. It has been four months here, my longest stay outside India. Last time I stayed out of India, it was for a brief period of four days. I was in Nepal.
Past, more distant it becomes, more seems to be the pace at which it just flew by. Future, if an event is eagerly awaited, seems to be coming at a pace slower than Venketesh Prasad’s slower ball. Mind you, some of the balls he bowled in late 90s are yet to reach the batsmen.
Learnings, like other phases of life, have been a plenty. It is only when you move out of your comfort zone you realize existence of things thought as unimaginable at one point of time. Christopher Columbus moved out of his motherland imagining India and happened to discover a piece of land bigger than thrice of India. In case he had heard about the riches of India, his discovery would surely have disappointed him utterly – if my history is not as bad as Dhoom 3 was, the land he discovered was nothing more than a just piece of land. Only if he had the power to peek-a-boo in the future, he would have beaten his chest like a Gorilla on rampage – he had discovered a land which Indians refer to as Watan.
I didn't discover anything beyond the piece of land below my feet. But yet, I did have a few eye opening realizations.
Cooking – Cooking is no rocket science. I don’t know anything about rocket science but you don’t launch any rockets while cooking, unless you put a few drops of water in hot oil. It wouldn’t be utterly wrong to say that women have made a mole out of mountain about this six letter word – cooking. It is simple.
But only, if you have to cook once in a month.
To do it daily is utterly boring and demands high degree of self-motivation to keep doing it.
Let me correct myself. It would be utterly wrong to discard cooking as “what’s the fuss” kind of thing. It is tough.
For all the progress mankind has made, cooking remains to be more of an art than science. There is no fix recipe. Everything is add to taste – spices, salt and all that. Every ingredient has to be perfect. Every step to achieve this perfection comes through years of practice to guess things correctly. Every investment that relies on guesswork is immensely risky. Every investment which entails high amount of risk must result in high returns. It’s the return on investment which keeps an investor interested.
For the women in your life cooking for you, day in and day out, returns come in form of your praise. That’s what keeps her motivated to clean the kitchen every night after dinner, get up next morning and cook again.
Now I understand the reason and eagerness to ask that question for which answer always needs to be “It’s delicious”. The perennial question is, “How is it”.
So next time you are served with bitter gourd on dining table, make sure you say “It’s delicious”. Oh there are ways to avoid eating it after saying so. But you are the instrument in which the investor has invested. Return is what you must provide. The return my dear friend, have to be good.
Oh yes, make sure you don’t jump in too quick to shower her with your praise. I have quite often heard in reply, “Pehle Khaa to lo” when I praised a tad second earlier than I should have. One must make sure the praise looks real even if it isn't. After all, mastering the art of masquerade is one of the keys to keep her happy. Do it.
People –Window seats in the local trains are the first to get occupied. If you are waiting for a train on a railway platform, you will be pushed around if the platform is crowded. It doesn't matter if you are in Mumbai or Melbourne. People are same, almost everywhere. If not same, similar for sure.
I landed here expecting everyone to talk about cricket. For the first few weeks I wondered if this country plays cricket at all. A 5-0 ashes victory later, I had people not only talking about cricket but questioning me about my own team’s performance. They are everywhere. Fair weather fan is the word for them.
Only thing that stops people from breaking traffic rules is fear of getting caught and punished for that. Only thing that differs is the frequency of doing it. Frequency of doing so is a habit which is developed over a period of time. So is all the warmth, kindness, gentleness and all that.
If I were to derive a mathematical equation which produces above mentioned qualities, mismatch in demand supply will be a key variable in that. More the resource crunch, more the chances that animal in this social animal called humans will come to fore. If demand supply mismatch was drawn as a straight line, developing nations and developed nations are likely to find each other at opposite ends in lot of cases. Economics of this mismatch drives most of the things on this planet if not all the things. The so called phrase, “day to day life is so simple and easy in developed part of the planet” isn't untouched from this phenomena.
Oh yes, if you don’t want your future generations to hear about the four letter word we keep hearing so often these days – Rape, stop killing female fetus. We are fast shifting toward the unwanted end of demand-supply mismatch spectrum in this regard.
Scenery – All those beautiful scenery, natural locations and what not look fantastic in the first look. They look good in the second. After a few more times, they start to become boring. Then the realization comes, it’s not the places that carry eternal beauty. The beauty lies in the immortals around you. Those places are nothing but the backdrops. What matters in a play is the actors performing in front of those backdrops. Maybe that’s why the saying, there is no place better than home. The sweet home.

Celebrities – I didn't even think of going to Leander Paes and asking for his photographs – on both the occasions I spotted him dining in a bistro bar. Maybe that’s because tennis is not my game. Meeting a gentlemencalled Vivan Richards is something I would rate as one of the topmost moments of this trip. I still jump like a kid and tell people, “You know, I have met Sir Vivian Richards”. Maybe that’s the impact of larger than life figures what you stamp upon people you admire. But then, they are all humans. They walk, they stop, they talk to you and they walk away. They aren't very different from you. What’s different is what they have done which makes you to want them stop and talk to you. 
A lot has changed since I have landed here.
India’s #4 no longer holds the image of “good boy”. Sachin Tendulkar has joined the bandwagon of ex-cricketers. Virat Kohli’s middle finger is still not forgotten.    
A new political party has done the unexpected - thrown away a government of over a decade and formed its own government.
Uday Chopra has given yet another masterpiece performance in Dhoom 3. It was rumored that he might retire after this movie. Not sure if Abhishek Bacchan has gone from bad to worse or it’s Uday who has improved but Uday looked to have acted far better than AB in Dhoom 3. Even the auto rickshaw AB drives in his first scene has acted better than him.
People have openly started accusing that Arnab takes money from political parties to mentally torture his panelists on his show. Not even in my dreams I had ever imagined that people would have guts to question the integrity of an honest journalist.
Lot of other things have changed too but more the things change, more they remain the same.
India’s #4 still walks out to bat when score is 10/2, a nightwatchman is always sent in to bat ahead of him and his centuries continue to go waste.
A political party will always be a political party. Their nature hasn't changed. They all act in the most expected manner and that manner hasn't changed over the years.
What I have heard that Dhoom series hasn't ended. Eagerly looking forward for next parts.
Arnab is unstoppable, just unstoppable. Not sure if it’s my imagination or true but only thing that has become more prominent in the way he talks is his tone – it has become more poetic.
Lot of other things have remained the same.

Maybe this is the last part of this series, maybe this isn't. In case it happens to be, I must say it was fun. Complete fun.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Diaries down under, Part 10 – Meeting Sir Viv!!!

One of the things I will surely miss once is go back is the coffee. Although my sample set is quite small but Melbourne coffee is the best I have tasted till now. I and my friend have made this habit of going out for a cup of coffee every night after dinner.
While coming back home after the coffee last night, we waited at a pedestrian crossing for the light to turn green. As the light turned green, we started crossing the road. You don’t expect many people roaming around at 11:00 PM in the night and there weren't many. It was two of us crossing the road and another couple of guys coming from opposite side.
As I looked at the guys coming from opposite direction, one of them caught my eyes. He looked a bit strange, especially the way he was walking. The way he was walking; his shoulders were moving a bit awkwardly – it wasn't a usual walk. It was as if he had tattooed the phrase, “I care a damn all over his walk”. Swagger is the only word which came to my mind after seeing him walk.  His face looked a bit familiar too.
As he came closer, I pressed my mind hard to find out why his face looked familiar and suddenly words came out of my mouth “That’s Vivian Richards”. I nearly shouted.
Sir Issac Alexander Vivian Richards was just walking past by me. One of the greatest batsmen ever, only man who can challenge SRT’s position of best ODI batsman ever, a living legend, the man who dated Nina Gupta (that’s the first name everyone relates him to) was walking past by me.
I had heard so much about his batting from my father who used to be a big fan of Richards. As it has happened with most of us in my generation – we have grown up listening to the stories of 1983 world cup, got sick of them and were so happy on that fateful night of 2nd April 2011 to be able to tell the previous generation, “See, I have my own world cup. Now stop boring me with all those stories of 1983”. I have also not been different.
Quite often my father would tell, “We scored just 183. When West Indies lost first wicket, we weren't happy but sad. We knew Richards was going to finish it off in a hurry. If not for that catch by Kapil, we would have lost in 25 overs”
I would ask back, “184 in 25 overs? Is that even possible?” Remember, it was pre-T20 era.    
“He is Richards. He can do anything” I could sense absolute admiration in his voice for Richards.
“Was he better than Tendulkar?” I would ask back thinking can anyone be better than Tendulakar?
“Tendulkar is good. But then you haven’t seen Richards. He was the boss” such replies from him had made an aura of Richards in my mind.
By the time I started following cricket, Richards had already retired. I hardly saw him bat live apart from a few veteran matches in which he was absolutely murderous.   
Luckily for me, youtube era arrived. I saw numerous clips of Richards batting. Forget the stroke making; it was that expression on his face which wore utter disrespect for the art of bowling, of any kind, that impressed me. As if he was telling it to the bowlers “What? You want to bowl to me. Don’t bore me maannn. Go fetch it from the boundary line because that’s where that red cherry is going to disappear”
Fire in Babylon is one of my favorite movies. In case you claim to be a cricket fan and you haven’t seen it, you must do one of the two things – either stop claiming to be a cricket fan or watch the movie NOW.
I loved the way Richards explained in the movie – how he faced the bowling, especially fast. I loved the way he talks about how he would keep staring at the bowler. Stare from a batsman of his stature could be killing. The movies shows how once he got hit on the head which had nothing but a cap in the name of protection, stood up, brushed off his cap, didn't even touch his head, faced the next ball and hooked it over the square leg for a six.
He averaged over 50 in tests. With the kind of batting style he had which comes with high risk of failure, which was monumental. He averaged 47 in ODIs in an age when anything over 35 was considered good. Even God may not know what he would have done in this age of T20s.  
When he batted, he was the boss. He must have been a monster if he was real is what I used to think about me.
Well, he wasn't or that’s what I realized last night.
The moment I recognized him, I froze. Then and there. At the middle of the road.
I had to make a decision – to follow him till the other end of the road, catch up, take an autograph, and get clicked with him or to carry on and regret later saying “Oh that was Vivian Richards. Damn, I missed the chance to take an autograph”
The decision had to be made in a split second. I made my decision.
I asked my friend to follow me and started following Sir Viv. Unfortunately, my friend was a split second late and carried on.
I reached the other end following Sir Viv. By then he was done with crossing the road.
As I reached the other end, he turned back and looked at me wondering why I would be following him. Oh yes, I could sense a tinge of worry in his eyes. No matter how strongly built you are, someone following you at 11:00 PM at night will surely make you worried.
Worry in his eyes scared me. You don’t want to be considered as an offender by a guy who is more than double of your size.
I put a smile on my face, extended my hand to shake hands and asked, “Excuse me. Are you Vivian Richards?”
My question embarrassed him, nearly. As if he was embarrassed to be recognized by someone who looked absolutely thrilled to meet him. Or maybe he was embarrassed to answer the question if he was actually what he was made out to be.
What would he have said?
“No, I am Ethan Hunt on a mission. I've put on Viv’s mask” or a “Yes, anything wrong with that?”
His reply, with a sheepish smile, stumped me, “Once upon a time mate, yes”. It was modesty personified.
“Really pleasure meeting you, sir. A huge fan” is all that I could manage in reply.
Normally I am never short of a witty remark to strike off a conversation or so I have been often told but last night was an exception. For the second time in 60 seconds, I froze. I couldn't say anything. He just smiled and carried on walking.
I turned back and walked across the road where my friend was waiting. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, grinning like a kid who had just got his favorite toy as a surprise.
I have never understood the big fuss people make about meeting celebrities but then, I myself had never really met a celebrity I really admire till last night. This was Goosebumps stuff for me. Next hour went in telling everyone, who I thought who might know about Sir Viv, that I had just shook hands with the great man.
Well, meeting with one of the greatest cricketer ever was quite thrilling – doesn't matter if the meeting lasted hardly few seconds. I hope to meet many more heroes in future.
One day I would like to meet Sachin Tendulkar and ask him, how he never got bored of doing the same thing over and over again for nearly 30 years – batting.
One day I would like to meet Rahul Dravid and ask him how it feels to be Rahul Dravid?  
One day I would like to meet MS Dhoni and ask him how he never slapped Ishant Sharma or Munaf Patel even though he has led them on the ground many times.

One day I would like to meet SIR and tell him instead of asking anything, “It was me who gave you this epithet, SIR”