Monday, March 14, 2016

A trip that never happened..

March 2014

It was the month of Public exams. While every kid in the block was busy preparing for their board exams, we at our office were frantically studying for a crucial test. It was a client visit. You might be wondering what is there to 'study' for a client visit. Well, it was one-off-a-kind wherein the client wanted to quiz us on the area of operations that we worked for them. It was a four member panel waiting to shoot us down with questions. We wanted to do well since this was an opportunity for us to establish the confidence and trust in Client's mind on our capabilities. 

It's been 5 months since the Project had started and it was already a roller coaster ride for us. Every day was a battle. We were sweating it out to make a mark, create a positive impact. A new domain, demanding client, loads of work. This quiz programme added to the heat of the moment. It was a pressure cooker situation. We badly wanted a break wherein we can relax, rejuvenate and resume fresh to take on the challenge that lay ahead. Thereby started my endeavour for the perfect outing plan.

The first hurdle was to round off on the location. It was meant to be a 3 day outing (Friday to Sunday). The location should not be too far, yet should be eye-pleasing. It should not be too crowded, yet safe. It should not be a typical tourist location yet worth the visit. It should be remote, yet accessible. After hours and hours of investing time on browsing through various travel sites, blogs, trip advisor etc. I finally rounded off on Chikmagalur. It’s a town known for its coffee plantations and moderate climatic conditions. Located in the foothills of Mullayanagiri range (the highest peak in Karnataka), Chikmagalur, I thought will be an ideal base location for us to visit some of the scenic locations around.

Rather than a typical picnic type of an outing, I wanted my team to experience a different kind of a travel. The itinerary had all possible geographic diversities that I could package within a 3 day span. A half-a-day easy trek that will offer a breath-taking, panoramic view of the hill range, lake visit, waterfalls, forest accommodation, tent stay, camp fire.. It was scripted to be the best ever outing experience that I could offer my team. It was not just an outing for me. As a Project Manager, I was looking at this as a team bonding exercise, spend time to know each other well and further strengthen the bond that we all already shared. With the client visit around the corner, we all had decided to have the travel after the quiz so as to be free of any anxiety or heavy thoughts on the quiz preparation.
5th Mar 2014

As always with any examination, we were preparing till the Nth minute. Frantic exchange of notes, training sessions, mock reviews. It was all happening. Trust me, I have not taken even my board exams this seriously. However we had a surprise waiting. Client suddenly decided to defer the meeting. Due to other commitments they could not make it on March 5th. It was pushed for March 10th. Half the team was happy that they now had more time to prepare. The other half was not happy since they wanted to take this head on and get back to normal mode instead of continuing the anxiety.

10th March 2014

It was the D-Day. Along with the planned Q&A session, we had other prospective business opportunities also scheduled for discussion. The most dreaded panel made it to our premise at 3PM. After the initial handshakes, status updates and Business topics, the most awaited event happened. It was around 6PM when the quiz started. The rules of the game was, for every correct answer a bar of Toblerone chocolate will be awarded. For the most prolific contestant a book to be presented. The Client was hoping that all the chocolates will be given away soon and someone will get to claim the book. My entire team, my Program Manager all were waiting with bated breath for the game to start.

First ball was a googly from the veteran in Client's side. We had a half answer for that but not convincing enough. It was followed by a bouncer wherein we had to duck. It was a bad start to the innings. In between we did score some runs and managed to earn a few chocolates. However after a point of time, the Client realizing that the scoring rate of chocolates was low, deliberately threw us some juicy full toss and half-volleys to be scored. It was an Australia Vs Bangladesh kind of a match. The only difference was, they wanted us to win. The ordeal continued for close to 3 hours. At the end of it all, it was a mixed emotion. We were relieved that it was over and Client was dissatisfied that nobody was qualified to earn the book!

It was like a few kilograms were taken off our shoulders! Despite the outcome of the quiz we were all quite relieved and looked forwarded to execute our outing plan. While some opined that the quiz was equivalent to a premature examination conducted even before the course was completed, others felt it was a crazy idea for our client to conclude and assess our capabilities based on such a mechanism. Irrespective of all this, we were determined not to be bogged down or demotivated by what happened. It was time to chill out....

It was all set. Itinerary finalized, budget approved, train tickets booked. The below were the places planned as part of the itinerary.

a.    Sarpadhari to Mullayangiri trek
b.    Hebbe falls
c.    Z point
d.    Galikere lake
e.    Ayyenkere lake
f.    Belur Temples

Some people were on a shopping spree, some were equipping themselves by buying shoes for the trek, few were planning on what to do during the camp fire. Excitement was in the air! People were briefed on dos and don'ts.  Some of the area where we go through do not contain telephone signals for private operators. Hence people were advised to carry BSNL since that was the only chance of some connectivity. We were to board the night train to Bangalore on 13th March night, reach the city around 5am next day and take the tempo traveller to Chikamagalur. I had made travel arrangements for the tempo traveller guy to pick us up from the station. We were totally 11 members including my Program Manager. Two of our team girls did not make it for the trip. One, because she was married and the other because she was due for marriage soon. Despite much persuasion they opted out. I had plans to take my wife along. But March 14th was the day of Karadaiyan Nonbu (a festival wherein women pray for longevity and welfare of their husband). She had to be part of the rituals and protocols back home. Hence she was not allowed to join me. You might be wondering why am furnishing such irrelevant information...

13th March 2014

We were all there in Chennai Central, waiting for the train to start. Everyone were excited. The trip had finally materialized. All of us were looking forward to a great time together. We had infact carried a set of same coloured clothing so as to make a good team photograph. Co-incidentally most of us were wearing black t-shirt. I had carried my trek pole hoping that it will be of use. The seatings were scattered across multiple coaches. It took us time before we managed to swap berth with co-passengers and settle down. After an hour of chit-chatting we all hit the bed.

14th March 2014

Around 5.30am we reached Bangalore. We thought of freshening up a bit before boarding the tempo traveller. As always with a big group, especially ones filled with women, it took us almost 2 hours just to finish our early morning chores and get ready. Meanwhile, the driver had called me multiple times. Finally around 7am we all boarded the tempo traveller. It wasn't a great vehicle. It looked a bit old, dinghy and cramped. There was no seat next to the driver. It was not the sophisticated, fully equipped kind of a vehicle which I had in mind. Infact the main disappointment was he did not have a music system which supports USB. It immediately put me off. Music, for me is one of the entry criteria for any travel. I thought of changing the vehicle. It anyway looked to be just an average vehicle. But we were already delayed and a change of vehicle will further delay us from reaching our destination on time, thereby the intended visits could get affected. Also the uncertainty of getting an immediate alternate vehicle loomed. With all this in mind, I dropped the plan of changing vehicle.
Enroute, we stopped for breakfast at a small time road-side shop. We were served hot Idlys that were slightly flattened and huge in size. Never have I seen such big idlys. It was sumptous though. We also managed to buy an aux cable that will help us make use of in-vehicle speakers and have the music sourced through our multimedia devices. We resumed our travel. I exchanged seat with Radhi who was sitting in the seat behind driver. Me and my Manager Devnath took turns in playing the DJ role to cater to the multi-linguistic audience. With refuelled tummy and music on, slowly it set-off the holiday mood for people. Few were singing songs, few chit-chatting while few resorted to slumber! For long we were going on a 4 lane road separated from the other side by median. I checked with the driver if we had crossed Belur since that was supposed to be enroute. He told me that we had already crossed it. I was surprised since I did not recollect seeing any sign board reading Belur. Thinking that I would have missed it when attending to a phone call I stopped wondering.

Rajinikanth's magnum opus motion picture Kochadaiyaan’s audio had just got released and the songs were going on a loop. Soon ghat section started. We began to cross quite a few coffee plantations. It was still very sunny and no sign of typical hilly climate. I was hoping that the climate will get better as we near Chikmagalur. With nothing much to do, I was just staring at the road through the windshield as the driver continued to drive us through the ghat. The road was narrow with hill's wall on our left side and right side was open downhill with no barricades in between. We were going at a normal pace. Just as we were about to take a left curve I saw a government bus taking right from the other side. The bus had just about half completed its turn and I was hoping that our driver will slow down to avoid a collision at the junction. But our speed never reduced! I was sure that we are going to hit the bus. On the background I could hear SPB's voice echoing "Engae pogudho vaanammmmmm" and before SPB could complete there was a loud thud and splintering of glass all over. Head on our vehicle collided with the tail of the incoming bus. The windshield crumbled into pieces of glass. The van started swiveling to the right directly towards the valley. By now the driver lost control of vehicle and failed to apply the brakes. The vehicle nosedived down the hill..

I could not believe what was happening in front of me. I could hear the girls screaming behind. The vehicle gained speed due to the 80 degree slope.. Running through trees and bushes. It was like a high speeding roller coaster dipping downwards. I did not know how far below the fall is going to be and if any of my friends would survive. I was so sure that driver, me and Dev will not make it since we were seated on the front. Things were happening so fast that I could not even shout, pray or think of my family. I was prepared to embrace death since it looked imminent.  Within seconds the van landed nose front on a road and toppled to the right.

It was a terrible fall. It took a while for me to come to sense that I was alive. I could not hear anything. Blood was dripping down from my head. I could not feel any pain. I thought I had lost my legs since I could not feel them or move them. Thankfully it was numbness. The furniture debris were all over us inside the van. I crawled and squeezed out from the vehicle onto the road. Public had gathered by then and were helping in bringing out my colleagues from the vehicle. One had fainted and lay near the vehicle, one seemed to have a fractured leg, others badly injured.. It was utter chaos. As we were counting to check if everyone had come out we noticed one was missing. It was Radhi! It sent a chill down my spine. I was praying that the fearful thing should not have happened. Immediately I peeped into the vehicle. I could see her stuck inside unconscious. We were all shouting at her to wake up. No response. Me and my colleague went into the vehicle again and tried pulling her out. She was badly stuck in between the window pane gap. I tried checking her pulse but could not sense if it was on or not. I shook her, beat her on the cheeks, shouted at her, tried pulling her. She did not respond to any of this. She lay there stiff.

It was a miserable feeling looking at her in such a state. The crowd around told us to give up on her and attend to ourselves. We were adamant that she be pulled out. An iron chain was tied to a lorry at one end and our van to the other. The towing attempt failed since the chain gave away. After much hardship for around 40 minutes, the public somehow pulled out Radhi. I immediately ran to her side to check if there was any sign of life. The public had declared her dead but somewhere we all felt that it’s just the unconsciousness. The place had no mobile signal. None of us could reach out for an ambulance. A goods-carrier vehicle came forward to take us to the hospital, which was around 20kms away from the spot. Five of us boarded the open roof vehicle taking Radhi along. Weeping and praying throughout the journey, we kept talking by her earside to convey that she is OK and will get up soon. Enroute we caught hold of an ambulance and tried shifting her to that. The ambulance guy refused to take her saying she was already dead and he can carry only us since we were injured and needed medical attention. After much persuasion he took Radhi in along with us. She lay in front of us with an oxygen mask. We were all praying that she comes out of this.

We were brought to the Sakleshpur Government hospital. Each of our address and other details were collected towards registration. First-aid was immediately initiated to all of us. Before the nurses could attend to me I went to check Radhi's status. The doctor declared her "brought dead". She had a crumbled rib bones and died of brain haemorrhage. I could not believe what had struck us. I was too dazed and shocked on the sudden turnover of events. Just a couple of hours back we were all happily awaiting our holiday destination and now we find ourselves in a hospital nursing our injuries and our dear colleague declared dead. It was tough to realize that the chirpy little one will never wake up and talk to me. The pain was unfathomable. She was a darling of a girl. One of the brightest team member and a stellar performer. It was unimaginable to think of what her parents will have to undergo the rest of their lives, losing their only child.

The news soon reached our head office back in Chennai. Some of our Managers and colleagues rushed to take control of the situation and complete the formalities. Help started pouring in from various corners. People who were directly and indirectly connected to us started rendering whatever moral and physical support that they could offer. The solidarity was overwhelming. That night, after post-mortem, Radhi was taken to Dindigul, her home-town. Since all of us were attending to injuries, we were advised not to travel. We stayed back in Bangalore for a health check and rest before taking the train back to Chennai.

A 11 member team had started off joyously, only to return back one member short. Little did we know that danger lurks and can strike anytime. If at all Radhi had not exchanged seats with me in the van, if at all I had decided to change the van in the morning itself, if at all I was awake to the fact that the driver never took us to Belur and had diverted more than 40 kms from the actual route, if at all I had never organized this tour, if at all I had shouted to the driver to apply brakes the moment I sensed a collision, if at all I had shouted to my colleagues to hold onto something during the fall.. There were too many Ifs. But nothing is going to change the script. Strange are the ways of God. If the Kaaradayan Nonbu prayer had saved my wife from becoming a widow, then what about the countless hours of prayer that Radhi's parents had offered in the temple all these years. For the wonderful people that they are, it was such a dreadful and cruel thing to go through. Nothing could be done to console them. It was heart-breaking to hear them say that the very purpose of their existence is lost. Even time may not heal the wound that they are suffering. Radhi was special. Someone on whom we had lot of respect professionally with the way she approached her work. A topper in any endeavour that she had undertaken. Wish she was not so harsh on us and given us a chance.

Two years on, even now a road travel gives me hallucinations. I still avoid wearing black dress during a travel. We walk across so many accident news and statistics daily in our life. However, to experience and evidence the emotional turmoil that such a catastrophe brings to the people concerned is beyond expression.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rahul Dravid - Mr. Nice Guy of World Cricket !!!

The below is a blog which I had drafted long back during the forgettable Indo-Englad series where we were thrashed with a whitewash. For some reason or the other I was not able to complete it and have it posted.

With Dravid announcing his retirement, the timing of posting this wouldn't have been any better....

29-Jul-2011: Its been too long since I wrote a blog. I did not want to lose out on the habit of writing. All this while I had been racking my brain on what topic to pen down. Everytime I attempted one, I would be stuck up half-way without knowing how to continue. Finally I gave up my futile attempts to blog and decided that unless something really sparks up, I will not login to blogspot. Days passed by and nothing really motivated me to login again. I was content in spending my day with a routine visit (I repeat VISIT, not work) to office and roaming around doing nothing worthy. The start of the Indo-England series helped me while-away my idle time. Cricket in England is the best a cricket-lover can ask for. The beautiful ground, seaming track, top-notch TV coverage and some quality cricket on the field, all makes it the best viewing experience. As expected, Rahul Dravid was at ease in the seaming conditions where the rest of the batsmen struggled to survive. He came up with yet another laborious century at Lords. Even at that juncture there was nothing that kindled my lazybones. It was the second test last session, the little partnership between Dravid and Laxman to see through the day, thats when the spark happened. To be precise when Dravid faced the 5th ball of the 8th over from James anderson, a delivery that kicked off from 'just-short-of-good-length'. It was a similar kind of delivery that Praveen kumar had earlier bowled to remove Graeme Swann in the England innings. It was what one would call as an "unplayable delivery". The fact that Dravid managed to defend even such a lethal delivery made me go restless. It was as if, I immediately wanted to connect to internet and pen down all the good things that I could think of this great man, who time and again resurrects Indian batting. For a man who has a mention in WISDEN book its immaterial to have found a place in a junk blog page which is run by a jobless nomad. However being an ardent lover of test cricket, the least I could do was to write an ode to this wonderful human being who still manages to play the game "the gentleman way". The below is a humble attempt of mine to summarise the kind of feeling this man evokes when he walks onto the crease, the respect he commands by his impeccable behaviour on and off the field, the awe that he brings by his sheer tenacity and mental toughness, the list is endless.

For me watching a Dravid building his innings is more interesting than seeing a highlights of him knees down to drive the ball through the covers for a boundary or his trademark flick towards midwicket. The sight of him leaving the ball closely shaving the stumps is a sight to behold than see him come down the track to a spinner. It is not his batting that impresses me. It is his approach towards batting that makes me feel great about this man. He is not a dashing player like a Sehwag or a flamboyant, gifted one like Ganguly or an elegant, artistic batsman like Laxman. He is not one who can score a boundary at will or send the ball soaring into the stands. He has his own limitations. He is a normal batsman who firmly holds onto the guideliness of batting manual. His defence is his strength. He tries nothing extravagant, instead plays to his strength, which is defence. His simple theory is to tire the bowlers and reap benefits. Unless the ball is in his "playable zone" he is content enough to leave it aside or defend it. Its because he rarely gets tempted to play away from his zone, the bowlers are forced to feed him what he wants. Its just that the above process takes a mammoth amount of time to be spent on the crease, which he is patient enough to do. Seldom will you find his innings to be flashy, filled with audacious shots and rocketing strike rate. Instead it will be an innings punctuated with solid defence, deft touches, a blow in the body, calculated leaves to keeper. Each innings of his is a result of hours and hours of concentration, focus and skill at work. Ask him to score 15 runs off one over, he might fail. Tell him to bat the entire day, he will do it. For people who assume that the latter is easy, think twice. Winning a 100 meters race within a short timeframe is easy or winning a marathon ? I know both tasks have its own difficulties. But the latter requires more strength, more endurance and determination to not giveup in the middle. Thats what Rahul specialises in. Thats the reason he is more effective in the longer version. I, being a purist who believes Test cricket is real cricket, a version that, as the name suggests, tests the skills of the players, tests the endurance of the players, tests the longevity of a person, cannot look beyond Dravid to name my alltime favourite batsman.

Being a kid who had grown up witnessing Rahul's rise from a half baked mortal batsman to a highly accomplished cricketer in all forms of game, his cricketing story is a lesson, an inspiration of what one can become if you are adamantly focussed about making it big. Right from his pathetic first ODI, to the dream debut in Test, till his bradmanistic batting display in England recently, his is a career of a comman man, who through his sheer hard work went onto become the most respected cricketer of the era. He is not only a role model with respect to his batting techniques, but also for the way he conducted himself on and off the field, the way he played the game, the way he handled the media, the way he kept himselves away from controversies.... A thorough gentleman and Mr. Nice guy in all aspects. A selfless person who did whatever it takes to contribute for the team's success. Anything that the team demands, he is there to deliver it to his best of capabilities and utmost sincerity. Be it being a stop-gap keeper or being asked to open in bowler friendly pitches, being shuffled across various batting positions, being made to fight a lone battle when everything around keeps falling apart. He is the ஆபத் பாண்டவன் (Messiah) of Indian cricket. When things are in dire straits he is the man who can be counted upon to make us reach shore safely. His presence in the middle brings a sense of self-assurance to everyone that the match is in safe hands.

For any person who wants to write about Rahul Dravid, the first thing that would find a mention is his solid batting technique. But for me the striking aspect about him is his unrelenting attitude, determination and the willingness to fight it out. Watching him play would make one feel "how much does this man do, to keep his wicket intact". He values his wicket a lot. Never one to throw it away. Seeing him battle it out ball by ball and build an innings, its like watching a sculptor at work. Slow, tiresome, laborious, skillful, patient and determined. It might sound boring. In this fast-forward world anything that takes a long time is boring. Yet at the end of it all, when you see him finish the day with success you are a live witness to the process of hard work and determination resulting in success. His innings teaches you what hard work can result in. What determination and willingness to fight can lead you to. Watching him bat is a learning beyond cricket. Its an inspiration.

Thank you Rahul. For all that you have done to Indian cricket, for all those patiently grafted innings that time and again helped India recover, for being the perfect ambassador for Indian sport, for being a living example of what discipline, focus, hard work and determination can do to a person. Its been a privilege and honour to have been able to witness and follow your international career. Howmuchever I talk about you, its tough to express the amount of respect and awe that you bring in me. You are a true legend indeed...... Wish you had chosen to don the whites one last time before announcing your retirement.

All these years I was never bothered about it, but now I feel proud to belong to this race.... the Dravidian :-)

After I was done with this post, when I read back, I notice that the words endurance, hard-work, determination have been repeated umpteen times. What to do...... an expression about Dravid, without any of these adjectives will be incomplete !!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CHAOS THEORY - The Butterfly Effect

Anyone heard of the above ?? Am sure people would have got familiar with this after the release of 'Dasavatharam'. The 'Butterfly Effect' is a concept in Chaos Theory which says "A small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere". Example, a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago. You might question "How can a Butterfly flapping its wings influence the weather in Chicago ??". The logic behind it is, a small event at one location can trigger off a sequential of events, which ultimately might result in a huge catastrophe somewhere else. I experienced it myself.

"I forgot to take my mobile when going to witness a Cricket match in Dubai. My friend got arrested in Chennai". Do you see any link between this two incidents. To understand the Butterfly effect, just read through the below.

07-May-2009 : It was a Thursday. I was in Ajman project. Me and Balaji Murthy (my team leader) were rushing to pack-up for the day. We had sought permission from the Client to leave early for the day, the reason being, to travel to Dubai to witness the 20-20 match between Pakistan and Australia. The match was scheduled to start at 19:30 and we were already running short of time. We managed to start from office by 17:30. We booked a cab and proceeded towards Dubai. Just as we started, I suddenly remembered that, in the hurry, I had forgotten to take my other mobile (had two mobile. One with UAE number and other with Indian number). It was loaded with my Indian SIM card which has a postpaid connection and International roaming. Since our test lab was a pretty safe place, I didnt bother to return back to collect it. The priority was to be on time to watch the match.

The match turned out to be one dull, drabbing, one-sided game. Pakistan won the match pretty comfortably. After the game, Balaji Murthy proceeded to Abu Dhabi and me went to my sister's house in Dubai. After spending the weekend there, I started to office on Saturday early morning from Dubai. Dubai to Ajman is just a 40 mins drive by cab. I remembered that my mobile had been left behind in office on Thursday. So I ensured that I reached office well ahead than the usual time to retrieve it. I reached office at around 8 a.m., pretty early for me to report on a weekend. I saw my desk and the mobile was missing. Panicking, I called up the security, he said it was found lying unclaimed on Thursday, so he had kept it safely in a locker. Feeling relieved, I thanked him and got back my mobile. Rest of the day went on as usual.

11-May-2009 : As usual I was exploring the T24 system to unearth defects in the TF module when my friend Ganesh from Chennai called up. It was unusual for him to call me at this time of the day. Wondering what the matter is, I picked up the call. He didnt even say a hello. Straightaway he started with all the bad words that can be found in the Tamil language. He further continued by questioning me 'To which girl were you flirting for the entire night over the phone for the past two days'. I was surprised. Although my Indian SIM card has an international roaming, I hardly use it for outgoing or even incoming. Last week, by mistake when I had picked up an incoming call, which eventually turned out to be a sales call from ICICI for a credit card offer, the amount charged was close to Rs100 per minute for an incoming. After that incident I have not used it for any calls, I explained him. "Then why the hell is the Hutch representatives standing at my doorstep early in the morning and asking for immediate payment ??" he asked. My Indian SIM card was registered in Ganesh's name, but I was the one using it for the past 5 years. All these days, I had never defaulted on any payment. Even the last month payment was done on time. I was wondering why then the Hutch people are troubling him now. Coming back to the conversation

Ganesh : "You say that you have never used the SIM, then how come the bill amount is so huge and the Hutch agents are pesturing me for immediate payment"

Me : "What are you blabbering. The bill amount was just around 1000 Rs and the payment is already done. After that only a couple of incoming call was attended. Anyway what is the bill amount now ??"

Ganesh : ******* (some bad words).. "Its more than One Lakh da"

Me : "WHAT CRAP !! Are you drunk early morning"

Ganesh : *********(Again some bad words)

Me : "Ok ok. I think there might be some problem in their billing. They might be using some crap faulty system. Don't bother them. Tell them to go off. If they insist, ask them for the bill

Ganesh : "Its not the one month bill da. Its the bill for just two days"

Me : What !!!!! Tell them to give the bill details. Scan it across to me immediately once you get it.

After the phone conversation, I just forgot about the whole incident. I didn't bother about it too much since I was confident that it was a billing mistake

12-May-2009 : Early morning, I saw that Ganesh had sent the itemised bill. I opened the attachment. Every detail was correct. I scrolled down to see the bill amount. It read Rs 106,249.00. I didn't know how to react. I was sure that there was something fishy in it. Then it stuck upon me. I saw the call time and date. All the calls were done on 8th and 9th May. I realised that someone had used my mobile during these two days when the mobile was lying in the office. I checked the call register in my mobile. It didnt have any details. The person was smart enough to delete them. I kept staring at the bill. Such a huge amount. Only way to pay is to take a loan. Meanwhile back at Chennai, the Hutch authorities started harrassing Ganesh for payment. I was trying to figure out who would have made the calls. On 9th May, I myself had seen the security taking the mobile from a locker and handing it over to me. I used Google to type out each and every number which was listed in my itemised bill 'Outgoing calls' section. Google, as always has answer for everything. I found that 00880 was the international code for Bangladesh. All the outgoing calls in the bill showed that the calls were made to Bangladesh. It didn't take me too long to realise that it was indeed the security who had used my mobile. He was a Bangladeshi.

I was dumbstruck by the fact that, he had the guts to use my mobile for the entire two days (international calls made in international roaming) and to handover the same mobile to me the third day. I would not have even be bothered if he had stolen the mobile. The instrument would have cost me just less than 1500 Rs. I reported this to Balaji Murthy since he was my TL. He promptly escalated it to the Ajman Bank CIO. Meanwhile, that evening the security didn't turn up for the shift. It further confirmed our doubts. The CIO instructed me to lodge a complaint with the police. Me and Balaji Murthy went to the Ajman Police station. Meanwhie, the security was also caught and brought to the station. I have been to police stations in Chennai on a few occasions. But this was my first experience of lodging a complaint against a person, that too in a foreign land. A case was booked. Interrogation was done, wherein he accepted of having used my mobile. The CEO of the security agency who had recruited him in Ajman Bank came to the police station. He apologised to me for his employee's action and promised to pay me the entire bill amount. I felt relieved. I didn't expect justice this fast. That too within 24 hrs.

13-May-2009: I got the cash AED7,500.00 from the security agency. Although I got the money, I was sad that the guy will be imprisoned for atleast a period of 6 months. He was a young chap, younger than me. A dual case was registered against him. One from my end and the other from his employee (The security agency). The Ajman Bank CIO, on hearing this, took pity on him and paid AED7500.00 to the security agency from his pocket. He requested them to withdraw the case against the guy. He told me also to withdraw the case.

It took me a couple of visits to the Ajman court and some lengthy procedure to withdraw the case against the security guy. The irony was, I have never been to any of the courts in Chennai. Police station, Court..... this kind of sight-seeing, I didn't expect in my first onsite assignment. However, I was glad that the issue was solved. AED7500 was not exactly equal to the bill amount. It was less by around seven thousand. Paying 7000 from my pocket is far far better than paying one lakh, I thought. I called up Ganesh and narrated him the week long events. I told him that I will transfer the money in a couple of days. But he had a different plan !!

While I was busy solving the issue in Ajman, Ganesh had been getting abusive calls and all kind of ill-treatment from the Hutch collection agents. Even threatening calls were made to his mother and family members. During all these days he had sought the help of my elder brother, who is a lawyer. They had been fighting with the Hutch authorities explaining them that the SIM card had been misused by a fraud and the issue has been taken up legally in UAE. Moreover, it was the mistake of Hutch to not to have freezed the connection once the 'Maximum usage limit' was reached. But the Hutch authorities were not in a mood to relent. They continued with their unscrupulous attempts to claim payment. Considering all this, Ganesh had decided NOT to pay a single penny to Hutch because of their unprofessional and rude behaviour.

Ganesh : "Let's take it up legally through your brother and file a case against hutch".

Me : "But I have the money with me, lets better pay it. Why to complicate things".

Ganesh : "I will deal with this along with your brother. Why should we pay for a mistake done by Hutch. There is a concept of 'Maximum usage limit' beyond which if the charges shoot up, they are supposed to cut the connection immediately. The maximum usage limit for you is only Rs2000.00. Hence logically, they shouldn't have allowed the calls to go beyond that amount. It is their mistake. To add to that, for the kind of harrassment and abusive calls done by them, they dont deserve any payment. I will take it up legally.

After many such arguments he finally convinced me that we can discuss about it after I reach India. Till then no payment will be done to Hutch. So the money was lying with me.

After a week, suddenly the decision was made to end the project as the bank was going live. None of the team members expected this announcement. It was the month-end. Nobody had any money to spend for shopping. Then all eyes focused on me. I was the only rich man there, thanks to the AED7500 which I got. Within a couple of days, almost the entire money got spent. I distributed half the amount and the remaining I finished it off with my shopping. The project got over. I returned to India and happily set-off for a vacation to Manali along with my parents.

Days rolled by. The Legal battle between my brother and hutch was continuing through email conversations. I was reporting to Kilpauk office, spending my time happily in bench. Ganesh was also happy since the abusive calls etc had all stopped. Things went on smooth, untill one night at around 1 in the midnight I got a call from my friend's sister."Ganesh is arrested" she told. I immediatlely rushed to his house. His parents were standing on the gates, with terror-stricken face. They said he had been taken to the nearby Virugambakkam police station. I went there. My elder brother (the lawyer) was already in the police station negotiating with the police authorities using his Lawyer influence to somehow get Ganesh released. But they refused saying that the instruction was from a very high level and nothing could be done. They said he will be taken to Saidapet Police station, where the matter has to be taken up with the ACP, Chennai. Upon seeing me, my brother instructed me to go home immediately. While I was on the way home, he called up and told not to stay at home, but at his office. He said that I will be the next target for police so it is best that I stay at the Lawyer's office. He said "Go to my office. I have arranged for your stay. Don't come out until instructed. Switch off your mobile. Nobody should be aware of where you are. Not even our parents. Just stay there until I give further instructions.". It was around midnight 2 when I reached his office. I spent the night there wondering what had happened to my friend. It was a sleepless night.

Next day morning my brother reached office along with a bag which contained my dress and other stuff. I never thought things will go this serious. I asked my brother on the status of my friend and what happened the previous night. He explained me saying that the Police had watched Ganesh closely for a few days on his in-time and out-time to house and had deliberately planned to arrest him at the mid-night when he returned from office. They had all come in mufti and knocked at Ganesh's doors. Ganesh, thinking that they were some goondas sent by Hutch, pushed them and ran off to the street. He was chased by the policemen. While they were behind him, he had immediately made a call to my brother. Just as he was speaking to him, the police caught up with him. His clothes were torn and he was dragged. Meanwhile, the public had gathered. Hence, he was allowed to change the dress and was taken off to the police station. All this had happened in front of his parents' eyes. Hearing this, I felt really guilty. "I shouldn't have listened to him. I should have myself paid the amount" I thought. I called up the people to whom I had lent the money and arranged for 50K immediately.

Next day evening, the partial amount of 50K was paid at the Police station and Ganesh was released. That was the end of the drama I thought. It proved to be wrong when my brother told us that since all the calls were made to Bangladesh, the Police are doubtful about the caller being related/linked to ULFA militants. He said that, the investigation for that has been moved to the Central Dept. He said, the hunt for both of us will still be on, untill we prove that the calls were made by someone else. The hunt for me will be more intense since I had been dodging Police right from day one. They had already interrogated Ganesh and saw his passport. Since it didn't have a UAE stamping, they knew that the SIM card was being used by someone else. They tried their level best to get information from Ganesh about me. Thankfully, he was stubborn enough to deny them the information.

Me and Ganesh were locked inside the room in the Lawyers office for three full days. We were not allowed to even go out for food. Everything was given at the doorstep. I couldn't even call up office to inform about my leave. During these three days we managed to find all the documents related to the case which was booked by me in UAE, against that security. The problem here was, all the legal documents issued by the Ajman police and Ajman court were in Arabic. We got them translated by a Govt. approved Arabic translator. Finally on the fourth day, we came out of the hiding and visited the Saidapet Police Station. We both were escorted by half-a-dozen lawyers. Seeing such a battalion of lawyers, that too from the ruling party side office, the police were reluctant to drill me with questions. I was just asked to submit a statement and narrate what had happened. The hutch authorities were also present there. They withdrew the case against Ganesh since full payment was made to them. The chapter was finally closed a few days later after the Police authorities were convinced of the evidence provided by us and the cross checking done with the UAE police.

After this incident, the first thing I did was, to change the phone connection to my name. If at all, had I remembered to take my mobile along with me that day, all these wouldn't have happened. One small miss, lead to such turn-up of events.


Sri Kumar J

Sunday, September 5, 2010

English - The obsession

AM IN BENCH and that obviously implies that am idle right now. Hence for all of you guys who are very busy and stumbled onto my blog by mistake, my advice/warning/disclaimer is better get back to your important things, because the following scribbling is just an outcome of “utmost boredom combined with extreme idleness and a desperate measure to while away time”. In short Vetty. Pardon me, I tried all means to while away time. Take frequent coffee breaks, read newspaper, chit-chat with friends, long luncheon interval…. Yeah of course some work when mood permits. Nothing worked out. Hence I had to take this drastic step of scribbling whatever comes to my mind and share the same in this forum so that the torture can be passed onto the readers (if any). For people who had dared to read upto this line, I repeat my warning, I cannot be held responsible if you feel that this entire article is one trash and that it wasted your precious time. If still you are generous enough (or jobless enough !!) please proceed at your own risk !!!!!!!!!

What is the count of the number of occasions when you had forcefully conversed in English with a person(s) who very well understands your local language ?

How many of you choose the option TAMIL (or your mother tongue) when initiating a call with a customer service of a bank or mobile service provider etc. (My guess is most of us choose ENGLISH to initiate our query)

I don’t know whether the above are correct examples to correlate. But the point which am trying to convey is that more often than not, we tend to impose ourselves with the usage of the language English eventhough it is uncalled-for. The general tendency is we expect a respectful response from the other side when we speak in English rather than in our local language (which is unfortunately true at times). I deliberately make it a practice to place my order in Tamil when visiting the likes of Amethist, Pizza hut, Coffee day etc or any big hotel where the waiter always converses with us in English and occasionally I do get a weird look or probably a lesser treatment when I continue my conversations with him in Tamil (by lesser treatment I mean, being served food as if it's a charity done by him to me or being looked upon as a person who is from remote village visiting the city first time). The same scene gets replicated either in an Airport or at a Private Bank premises etc.

Why is that the treatment varies when the language used is English ? How many times have you looked down upon a person or jumped to a conclusion that he is not upto your level just because the guy doesn’t match your English speaking abilities. How many of us treat English speaking ability as a measure to judge a person ? Our jaws drop when we hear someone addressing us in one fluent, accent-filled English gyan. The first impression created on our mind is ‘This fellow must be really a highly educated guy”. Similarly we often hear people saying “This guy doesn't even know how to converse fluently in English, write mails in English but he is a Manager. How undeserving !!”. Has English speaking ability got anything to do with a person’s managing capabilities ??

The main reasons for the above behaviours are

• Either blatantly or somewhere in the corner of the mind, people have the misconception that “Being proficient in English = Being Educated/Civilised”. It is misconstrued that people who are fluent in English are highly intellectual, brainy goose, oozing with IQ (pardon my sarcasm)

• A feeling of "Unless we speak in English people won’t respect us"

Only with regard to English usage do we see such weird behaviours. There is one category of people who force themselves onto speaking English in a public forum just because they don’t want to feel let-down in front of people who speak fluent English.. For some, speaking in English is a style-statement, a way of exhibiting themselves. And there are these bunch of people who have an inferiority complex because they are not able to match up with their peers when it comes to speaking in English. Lastly there are these unfortunate jokes who think that the ratio of speaking in English is directly proportionate to the respect they gain. Majority of these comics are generally from the younger lots. Thankfully with age, people get matured and understand the rational approach to things

Why such frenziness over a mere language. Why so much of gloss and glitter given to one language speaking capacity. Does anyone ever feel proud and say "I have immense Tamil speaking ability, I can fluently talk Tamil" or does anyone derive immense pleasure when they are fluent in one of their neighbouring state languages. Then why is that pride and pleasure come into picture only when it is English language. Is it because of our inherent trait of always keeping things on top of our head and dancing for anything that is foreign and treating it as superior (not knowing the values of things that are available right under our nose). Foreign job, foreign travel, foreign merchandise, foreign bridegroom……… Whatever might be the stupid reason behind all the above madness, obsession whatever you call it, let’s remind ourselves the below basic things (the post is turning out to be too lengthy, hence had to abruptly cutshort and bring to one conclusion !!)

• At the end of the day, like anyother language, English is also a means of communication only. Being proficient in it doesn’t warranty intellect, similarly not-so-fluent doesn’t imply being dumb.

• Never judge people by their English speaking abilities (or the lack of it). Being proficient in English has a lot to do with our family background, the way we are brought up, the exposure towards the language etc. It has nothing to do with a person’s capacity to fulfill tasks.

• Don’t force yourself to speak in English thinking “If I talk in local language he/she might not give proper response or respect me”. You gain respect for what you are, not for what language you speak.

• Whatever be the forum, don’t feel ashamed or hesitant to converse in the local language with a person who understands the same. The important thing about a communication between two parties is that both should be in sync with what is told and what is listened. If that can be achieved conveniently by the local language, why to resort to an uncomfortable means. Even if it’s a corporate environment, an official conversation between a superior and the subordinates or training sessions need not always be in English. Opting to use local language doesn’t imply spoiling the decorum of the context or sounding odd. Its just a matter of whether the entire audience understands and is comfortable about the language that is being used.

• Using local language with superiors and peers in office doesn’t mean we are informal or casual. It is our approach that defines whether we are formal or informal, not the language.

I understand that it has turned out to be one dragging, lengthy gyan. It was not intended to be a anti-English or a pro-Tamil preach. As quoted earlier, it was just a time-killing exercise. For poor readers (if any) who had managed to go through the entire junk, I appreciate your patience.


Sri Kumar J

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Soul stirrer.......

The below is one topic that has been discussed, written, debated over and over again by millions of people across. I know very well that one more addition to that huge pile of blogs and articles about this living miracle is highly irrelevant and immaterial since it doesn’t require any further emphasis or confirmation. However, being an ardent follower of IR music, I couldn’t resist myself from joining the bandwagon in trumpeting his genius through whatever means I could find. I had wanted to do this long time before, however every attempt of mine to draft a few words (few !!!!) had resulted in miserable failure. It was like trying to draft a summary about how the Ocean looks or how it feels when a cool breeze hits you or about the love for one’s mother… How-much-ever proficient one might be in a language, yet no one will be able to write a fulfilling summary on the above topics. Certain things are indescribable. The best way is to rather keep it untold, sit back and enjoy the experience and awe of it, rather than trying to bring it in a word form. Mine was a similar position when I had decided to write about IR’s music. Even now as am drafting this post, am at loss of words... rather am groping for the apt words to describe my admiration, obsession, fanaticism, madness, devotion, passion towards this man's works.

1980's – The Golden era of Tamil Film Music Industry

Close to 900 movies, more than 5000 songs and still counting. The staggering record of IR stands testimony to the pace at which he composes music. The 1980's was an era where Raja ruled the Tamil film music industry. His songs were so popular that some of them got copied in Hindhi (with no credit being given to him). Even crap movies managed to get a 'hit' status, thanks to his songs. Directors queuing up to get his dates, radios echoing his songs 24/7, enthralling all listeners ranging from urban to rural. No musician enjoyed such a cult status as IR did during the 80's. The kind of media attention which people enjoy today was not present during those days, but that never stopped him from hogging the limelight. Many actors owed their career to Ilayaraja. Courtesy his songs, they enjoyed an extended stay in the cine industry. His domination of that era is evident from the number of releases that made to the theatres during that decade. Composing music for more than 50 films in an year consistently (which implies a new release every week !!), churning out hits after hits. The fact that people are still glued to listening to all the hits of 80's shows that his music is evergreen and stands the test of time. Most of the songs nowadays belong to the 'popcorn' category (i.e) enjoy it for the moment and move on. But, Raja's songs, despite repeated listening remains fresh and never seem to bore you. Although nowadays people come up with some really good foot-tapping numbers, melody is what stays on with us forever and that’s what makes Raja special. Even His hard-hitting peppy numbers will have a soothing melody behind it. Melody is His forte and He is the uncrowned King of it. His pathos numbers can be heart-wrenching and tearjerkers. Some people argue that He is no more the ‘much-sought-after music director’ what He used to be during his early days and that it’s the twilight of His career and His standards have dropped. I don’t think there can ever be twilight to His Musical journey. It is true that there are various options for the directors nowadays and He is no more the monopoly. That doesn’t imply that His standards have dipped. It is just that the trend nowadays is so much towards music resulted out of computers and synthesizers. Original composition is few and far to find. For me, Ilayaraja is a musician beyond any stretch of imagination, a bench-mark of His own. He is probably the destination for all other music directors. Beyond musicality and talent, it is the soul in His songs, His command over the Tamil language, the clean diction and clarity of lyrics... that’s what makes Him stand apart from the rest and He will remain unconquered.

SPB - IR, the killer combination

Blessed are we, to be living in the same era of these two legends, to be able to enjoy the birth of some of the most enchanting, memorable songs. When they join hands, its sheer magic that is created (unfortunately its been quite sometime since this combination last worked together). To write a review on the kind of songs these two giants have produced, it requires a lifetime. The masterpiece "Mandram vandha thendralukku" is enough to speak volumes about the mind-boggling numbers created in their combination.

King of BGM

In an era where Background Music was least given importance, here was a man who revolutionized BGM in Indian Cinema. The recent awarding of National Award for Best BGM to Ilayaraja proves it. The fact that 'National Award for Best BGM' is a new category which was introduced just last year and rightfully the first awardee being Ilayaraja shows his prowess. If at all this category had existed a couple of decades back, am sure He would have bagged dozens of them for His lilting background scores. Naayagan, Mouna Raagam, Agni Natchathiram, Dhalapathi….. these are cult movies where the BGM stands out (I badly miss the IR-Maniratnam combo ). People who have grown up watching these movies can blindly identify the scene by just listening to a few seconds of the background score. Such is the impact it has on the viewers.

People say 'Music is a great stress reliever'. The absolute truth in that statement I could experience it only when I listened to IR music, more so whenever I travel. The kind of feeling his melodies evoke is something only mother's love can match upto. The best way to enjoy Ilayaraja music is to be alone, close one’s eyes and get ready to be carried to a new world. After a point of time one will feel a sense of tranquility, feeling so light as-if something gripping has been taken off our shoulders (if you don't believe me try listening to HOW TO NAME IT and NOTHING BUT WIND). Songs like 'nalam vaazha ennaalum' from Marupadiyum, ‘ninnai charanadaindhaen’ from Bharathi, 'pitchai paathiram' from His album, 'maranthen piranthaen' from His album and many more songs of His, if listened when alone takes me to an entirely new world... sometimes makes me sound philosophical too... a sense of 'what am I here for, what am I running behind, why all this....' kind of a feeling creeps in. Such is the power of His music.

IR Vs ARR... A never ending debate

Every hard-core fan of IR might probably have been a tinge sad about the Oscar being awarded to Rahman. Not because of the award not being given to IR. We don’t need an Oscar to certify or recognize the brilliance of an IR or ARR or MSV. The irritation creeps in when comparisons start pouring in and when conclusions get derived just because someone holds two Oscar awards in his hands. I have read so many articles and debates on this one hot topic... IR Vs ARR... Every article or debate, I find that it would end up resulting in one party abusing the other party. The pro-Ilayaraja group will abuse at Rahman calling him a mere sound technician and the pro-Rahman group will hit back replying that 'Ilayaraja is a personification of arrogance and pride and he is known only to south India whereas ARR is popular world over'... I don’t want to join in the above category and behave anti-Rahman. Yet, to put-forth my opinion on a IR Vs ARR debate, all I could say is having a global limelight has various factors determining it other than sheer talent. Being the most famous, doesn't necessarily imply being the most talented. Fame has lot to do with marketing, international exposure, public relations etc. In my humble opinion just because ARR is global and has a couple of Oscars doesn’t bring him ANY close to IR, it never will. So all pro-Rahman who call IR as an unpopular person should reiterate the above fact in their mind. If they do, the debate will come to an end :-)

Raja – the individual

For the past couple of years I have been digging up so much about Him, reading anything and everything about Him, collecting His works, articles about Him and what not.... The more I do, the more the thirst is to dig up harder. However, one striking aspect which I noticed across many articles was with regard to ‘Ilayaraja, the person’, His pride, His arrogant statements, the tiffs which He had with innumerous people whom He worked with. This was one trait which even hard-core fans like me found hard to justify or defend. Some of the above allegations might be true, some might have been twisted to tarnish His image and some might have been resulted due to misinterpretation. Yet, considering that some of the above are true, the only consolation or justification that can be thrown is that when one has the option to be influenced by ‘Ilayaraja, the musician’ why to care a damn about who ‘Ilayaraja, the person’ is. When His music has the potential to influence so many people’s life, getting rooted in everyone’s mind, bringing so much of joy and peace to millions of people, why to care and complain about something which is very personal. It is His music that He preaches, not His lifestyle. Then why make a big fuss about it and quote it as a reason for Him being not so popular. It is highly illogical to deny Him due recognition quoting His pride as a reason. It pains to see that, for the genius of a musician He is, he is still just a ‘Regional hero’ rather than being a ‘National treasure’. Although IR has millions of fans across the globe, still He has not been given the due limelight which He deserves. Kamal hit the nail on the head by describing IR as one more Bharathiar kinds... Someone whose value is not given the due during his lifetime and one who is treasured only posthumously... However, I hope it doesn’t happen that way and that people realise and recognise this genius.

Celebrities about IR

LALGUDI JAYARAMAN (Eminent Musician, India) - "His talent is not the fruit of one single birth's efforts. This level of achievement is only possible to one who has lived with music for countless births. The speed with which he writes notations have always baffled me"

Dr.BALAMURALIKRISHNA (Eminent Carnatic Vocalist, India) - "As far as i am concerned, i would say Ilaiyaraja is the composer of the century. If there is one single authority on 'orchestration' it can only be ilaiyaraja.

K.J.YESUDAS (Eminent Film/Carnatic Vocalist, India) - "There are infinite music forms hidden in his heart. All that should flow-out for the good of mankind."

ZUBIN MEHTA (Music Conductor, Israel Philharmonic) - " I was bewildered after listening to his 'nothing but wind' and 'how to name it'. He belongs to the 21st century and perhaps beyond." (comment given during late 1980's)

LASLOV KOVACH,(Conductor, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Hungary) - "He is Hollywood Kind. A very special composer. It seems he does not have to think at all to create music. Music just flows out."

NAUSHAD ALI (doyen of hindi film music, India) - "What this man has achieved is 100 times more than what any of us have achieved; only time can tell the quantum of his achievements."

SUDHA RAGUNATHAN (Eminent Carnatic Vocalist, India ) - "Yesterday, today or tommorrow, ilaiyaraaja will remain the unquestionable emperor of music...Period !!!!."

UTTAM SINGH (Music Composer, India) - "Ilaiyaraaja is perhaps the only complete music composer in India."

SUHASINI MANIRATNAM (Eminent Actress, India) - "Show me a composition matching legendary compositions like 'shenbagame shenbagame' & 'panivizhum malar vanam' by Ilayaraja. Only then can you talk of someone overtaking him."

MANIRATNAM (Noted Film Maker, India) - "Ilayaraja would look at the scene once, and immediately start giving notes to his assistants, as a bunch of musicians, hovering around him, would collect the notes for their instrument and go to their places. When the orchestra played out the notes, they would be perfect, not just in harmony but also in timing - the background score would commence exactly where it should and end at the exact place required. Ilayaraja was a genius, who could compose music with just one look at the scene.

I know that this has now become one biiiiiiiig, dragging and lengthy post... probably for some people 'an overdose of Ilayaraja mania with an exaggerated level of passion'. Hence I wish to end it abruptly at this point. I don’t know whether I was able to do justice to what I wanted to write about Him and what I had ended up writing. But remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg of my feeling towards His music. So be happy that I had chosen not to exhibit the entire iceberg................. Probably I could never be able to :-)

Hail Ilayaraja Music !!!

Sri Kumar J

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A dream which ended to be one...

It all started with the 1996 world cup. I was in class VIII. Daily when I walked into the class, I could hear some of the boys loudly discussing about how the previous day’s match went on and when some girl used to query them on how Sachin got out etc they will immediately grab the opportunity (which they were eventually waiting for) to sit down and explain the ball and thus develop the conversation. I used to heave a sigh, sit quietly and watch the conversation grow further onto something else other than cricket until thankfully some teacher interrupted to take class. I had no chance to participate in those kind of conversations because I never watched cricket...... I was being left out of conversation with girls and thus being deprived the opportunity of frying kadala with them......... POOR ME, WHAT A TRAGEDY AT SUCH YOUNG AGE!!! That was the day I decided that I should also start watching cricket (what a source of inspiration!!!! yuck, shameless fellow......... I can hear you guys telling). So I compulsorily sat through some of the matches which India played so that next day I would proudly walk my way into the class (as if a man well prepared for a CAT exam), hoping that some topic about the world cup arises wherein I can pitch-in with my comments on the match (idhellaam oru pozhappaa nu dhaanae kekkareeenga. What to do, so much of hardwork put in, to get to talk to girls). The homework however was tedious. Watching something which doesn’t interest you, that too for hours together was difficult. I used to wonder how people have the patience to sit 8 long hours to watch a dull drabbing game. But at no cost did I want to lose out my girl(s) to the other guy just for the reason of not knowing the proceedings of the previous days match. So the fear of losing the 'competitive edge' (kaaaari thuppanumnu thonumae !!!) kept me stick to my decision. As the saying goes "For every successful man, there is a woman behind". Success or not, but for me taking to watch cricket, there were quite a number of girls behind the decision :-)

As the World cup entered its knock-out phase, gradually, without my knowledge I started liking the intensity, the suspense, the entertainment and aura of the game. Thanks to those good looking girls in my class and of course to my unflinching flirting attitude, I got introduced to a wonderful sport. Who can ever forget the verbal duel between Prasad and Aaamir Sohail in the quarterfinal…and subsequently the stumps getting shattered. It will be frozen in every keen follower of Indian cricket and am no exception. I started liking the game so much that I joined Vinod Kambli in shedding tears, when India lost out by D/L method in the called-off semi-final in Calcuttta. That was when I took to playing the game. Me along with my friends used to cycle kilometers away from our home, not bothering the scorching autumn sun, to enjoy a game of cricket. Not everyone had the cushion to own a cycle. So most occasions it was either a triples or doubles in my atlas cycle and often the scapegoat was me who had to pedal. The 50 paisa Pepsi cola or the semiya kucchi ice at the end of a scorching day of cricket will be amirtham to us. A person carrying a two rupee note in his pocket was considered rich. Not a single vacant plot in our locality was spared. Wherever we found space enough to plant the stumps (in the absence of stumps, the front or back wheel of the cycle served the purpose) and have few yards to serve as the pitch, we were all there, like vultures eyeing its prey.

It was in 10th standard holidays that me and my friend decided to give it a shot in taking the game seriously. We enrolled ourselves into a renowned cricket academy. Along with cricket we learnt so many things, got introduced to many new friends. It was a dream that we were in pursuit of and it ended to be one. Those were good old days, where nothing mattered other than what happened on the field. Each and every time I went onto bat, with my coach watching me, I felt like a public exam. So desperate to pass, so desperate to somehow make it big. To cheer a five wicket haul of my childhood friend from the gallery and carrying drinks to him, to celebrate a towering six of my gentle-giant friend, which soared out of the ground, to have played along and pursued our passion and dream along with my childhood friend, the foot-board travel in D70 bus, with room enough only for one leg and the space meant for the other leg occupied by our bulky kit bags, the early morning jogs on the road all the way from vadapalani to kasi theatre, the residential camp at the outskirts of Chennai, the tiring fitness classes, the practice with the bowling machines, the hit on the abdomen by one of its fierce incoming delivery, the unforgettable tight finishes in the league games, the crucial drop catches that cost the match, the corridor practice at my home, the scoldings from the apartment inmates, breaking of the window panes, countless hours of nets session……… everything remains fresh in my mind. Our pursuit of the dream had all the ingredients...... happiness, sorrow, irritation, frustration, anxiety, failure, excitement, adrenaline rush.... Although, the script could have been better.

It all boiled down to one fateful day when me and my friend decided (or rather realised) that we were going nowhere near the destination which we aspired to and age was fast catching up and along with it came the responsibility to be shouldered back home. We wouldn't call it a painful decision because we knew our priorities and we knew that the journey was still too long and far for us to continue with our pursuit. However, to look back at those days and finding ourselves in ground reality where, here am sitting in front of a monitor in office and staring at it, whereas I should have been holding a bat and be ready to face the next ball and my friend is roaming around meeting his clients whereas he should have been celebrating a wicket resulted of his outswinger. This was not where we wanted to be, this was not why we had specifically chosen a cricket-reputed college to do our graduation, this was not why we had invested whatever little money that our parents could afford. But thats how life is. It has its own ways of throwing surprises and hurdles at us. Its our ability to cope with disruptions and failures or crushed dreams that determines our mental toughness, maturity, peace, happiness and contentment in life.

All said and done we are happy yet, not brooding over the failure of our dreams. Rather cherishing the attempt made and all those moments that came along during our attempt. Once again thanks to those beautiful class mates of 8th std. Thats where it all started and paved the way for some wonderful, nostalgic and cherishable days in my life...........

Sri Kumar J

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dada – The renaissance of Indian Cricket !!!!


10th Oct 2008 – I was staring at my office computer’s monitor, trying to decide on what other website I should be choosing to browse to while away the idle office time. Just then I got a SMS from my friend. Since I was eagerly waiting for some mail or message, something to keep me engaged for atleast a minute (such was the extremity of my boredom) immediately I took my mobile out of the pouch to read the message. It read “Machi, Dada quitting after the Australia series da”. I was taken aback. It was really a jolt, the news. I immediately pounced on the keyboard to type out all the news channel websites, hoping that atleast one of them will read “Ganguly retirement – a rumour”. But no, all the websites confirmed my friend’s message.

Having been a hardcore fan of Dada and an ardent follower of his ups and downs, I was already praying (rather hoping) for a run feast from his bat to silence all his critics and repeat his ‘comeback skills’. I never wanted to see the last of Ganguly. Everytime people wrote him off, I was begging to God to bring in a revival and that’s what exactly happened all these years. But now, I knew that probably no more miracles are possible. The coming twenty odd days are the last that I am going to see of a man who resurrected Indian cricket and shaped it into a formidable side. Former Australian captain had once quoted “Indian cricket team is a team of great individuals, but we are a great team”. It required a captain of dada’s calibre to change that perception. Right from the day he took over from Azhar, the change was imminent.

Ganguly had taken reign when there were these talks of match-fixing, people throwing matches for money. But here was a man, who almost did anything to see India win. Be it making Steve Waugh wait for eternity or bring back forgotten people (likes of V. Raju just because Aussies were weak against spin bowlers). You could never doubt his intentions or integrity. He was the King of Indian cricket and he made decisions that best suited an Indian win. He was aggressive, arrogant at times. But nothing mattered to him as long as India won. He did not bother about what others thought about him, what the media wrote about his decisions, what the former players had to comment.
He only wanted one result, an Indian victory. During his process of building a formidable side he identified men of similar aggressive nature. That’s when the likes of Sehwag, Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Zaheer and of course MS Dhoni, all arrived on the scene. He backed them to the core, since he knew that they had the ability to meet the opponent eye to eye. He was definitely the one who changed the face of Indian cricket in the overseas arena. It was under his leadership that the Indian team learnt the art of ‘killer instinct’. Gone were the days when people used to switch off the television sets once Sachin got out. This new Indian team under dada always gave us hope. Even after 6 wickets going down, we could see that there was a will to fight till the end. Many occasions they did pull it off. The Natwest final being a great example

Ganguly had always been a man who doesn’t mince words when speaking out. He always spoke his heart and little did he know that this trait in him will dethrone him from the empire which he had built all himself. If I was Harsha Bogle, I will probably be cursing myself for having taken
that fateful interview and brought out that statement from Ganguly, which resulted in him losing his captaincy and ultimately a place in the side. Within a matter of days Ganguly, from being the maharaj, was reduced to a mortal player, waiting to find a place in the squad. It all happened too soon. Cricket they say is a great leveler. For that matter all sports is. But it was when witnessing what happened to Ganguly did I realize the real bitter meaning behind that saying. True. It did bring Ganguly’s pride to a fall. But it was really emotional to see this great man, who once walked with his head high, like a Maharaj, making all important decisions himself, appearing in a Pepsi ad saying “Am Saurav Ganguly. Hope you all didn’t forget me”. He was pushed to the oblivion and people gunned for his head and wanted to ensure that he was history. I had lost all hopes of seeing back dada in the international cricketing arena. That was when Dilip Vengsarkar, the then new chief selector, who followed Kiran More, threw the lifeline to Ganguly. Wasn’t he waiting for it??? He grabbed it with both the hands and came back to a roaring form. The whole nation was rejoicing seeing the Bengal tiger on the prowl again in the pitch. His knock against the South Africans proved that he was back……… better and wiser !!!!

Not even the best scripted novels would have had the kind of twists and turns that a Ganguly’s cricketing life had. His initial debut in 1992, then the long gap, the burst into international scenario with back to back centuries in England, the match winning batting and bowling performances in Toronto against Pakistan, the takeover of captaincy from Azhar, the Greg spat, the fateful interview, almost nailed into a coffin by Kiran more, the comeback of a lifetime, dropped from the Irani squad for the Aussie series and last minute lifeline from Srikanth, the century at B’lore test, the 15 run short of a record-breaking century and finally the heart-breaking golden duck. Such was the ebb and flow of his fluctuating fortunes.

During his days of glory, Ganguly was probably the most destructive batsman India has ever produced. Such was the audacity of his strokes. The sight of him dancing down the track to the likes of South African quickies (during their tour to India) still remains etched in my memories. The ability to send the ball soaring beyond the boundary with minimum effort is a stamp of Ganguly’s great batting. He was definitely not the best in the business when it came to being technically correct. The bowlers always felt that he gave them a chance. But the fact that, despite that he managed to score more than ten thousand runs in the shorter version and seven thousand odd in the longer version speaks volumes about his character and mental strength. He certainly was the most effective opening batsman for India along with Sachin. The grace with which he pierced the gap between covers and cover point was a treat to watch.

Ganguly was not the most loved or respected person by the opponents. Infact on most occasions he got under their skin. His mere presence sometimes, irritated the opponents, especially the Aussies. But, that was a deliberate ploy which he used successfully to mentally disintegrate the opponents, a fact which was openly accepted by Steve Waugh in his auto-biography. Probably he is the most controversial character in the history of Indian cricket. His entire cricketing life makes an interesting study. He evoked a lot of emotions. Just when you think he is down and out, he will comeback with a roaring knock. And just when you relax and feel that he will go on to play for a long time, he will stammer and land himself in trouble. He was a man full of surprises. His final test match truly evident of that fact. The way he almost pulled off a fairy tale end to his career by coming so close to a century and when people, after his magnificent first innings knock, expected him to crack the whip one last time, he walks back with a golden duck.

For all the trouble, pain and agony which he had gone through, Ganguly, I think would have been more than happy to have received such a resounding farewell. It was a fitting farewell to mark, probably the end of an era. It was a farewell, which he might well feel happy about, considering the fact that he would have loved to play on if given the option to. The sacrifice was well worth the gracious exit which was awarded to him. Even he wouldn’t have dreamt of an end like this when he was left lurching in the woods fighting out for a place in the team. It was a great sight to see him don the captaincy role one last time, waving to the fielders and setting the field.
It would have been great if the last wicket had fell under his short little captaincy role. But as always with Ganguly, it doesn’t happen when you expect it the most. But it brought back memories of those wonderful days.
The days when he lead the team onto the field, the sight of him wearing the butterfly eye gear with his full sleeves t-shirt folded 3/4th, the great Indian huddle which he formed, the charismatic smile on sealing a victory, his eccentric behavior on the field, the sight of him dancing down the wicket hoisting a left arm off spinner over the boundary for a six, showing his middle finger to the aussie crowd after the historical win over the aussies in Chennai and of course his shirt stripping act………

He would have definitely wanted to have played more matches for India. It’s no doubt that he has been forced into retirement. But it is far better than seeing him fighting in vain against the selectors and the younger lots to gain a place in 11. He deserves a better place to be right now, after all those wonderful moments of joy which he brought to the nation, through his batting, leadership skills and charismatic appearance. The place is our hearts…….

Dada, do not worry about being forced to part away with your place in the Indian team, you will always be celebrated in our hearts, till our lifetime…………

Sri Kumar J

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In the Line of Fire !!!

It was a sunny day during the first week of September, 2001. The week wherein terror struck in USA’s twin tower. Back home here we were spending our weekend in the usual fashion, a game of cricket. It was a match against the IIT students, whom we had assumed, will be too busy buried in their books throughout the year to have even the slightest idea of how to face a outswinger or read the googly from the bowler’s arm.We expected it to be a game to be won hands down by us since we were the amateurs (or budding professionals) and they were a bunch of guys playing cricket for recreation. However we were in for a surprise or rather subject to a state of embarrassment. The opponents batted first and thrashed us to all parts of the ground and imposed an almost impossible target for us to chase. That was when I walked onto the field to try and prolong the defeat as much. As always, I opted not to wear a helmet. The visor of the helmet obstructed or rather diverted the focus on the ball. Hence I had always felt uncomfortable inside it.

Things went on fine until that bowler came onto have a spell. He was a short guy, who, during the earlier innings had shown his prowess with the bat. It was his first spell for the day and he gave an impression of a gentle medium pacer. He started his run-up and me was watching him charge towards the stump. The moment the ball pitched short I realized that it was a bouncer, however I managed to tactfully dodge the same and the ball safely proceeded to be pouched by the keeper. “Better wear a helmet da” the bowler quipped to me as he was turning back from his follow through. “That’s OK, I can manage, not a problem” I said. Although I was a bit shaken up by the previous delivery, didn’t want to show that to the bowler. The bowler was ready for the next ball. As he started the run-up, this time I wanted to ensure that am not in the line of fire. The bowler was charging towards the wicket and me was getting ready to shuffle onto the backfoot and counter the ball. As he hurled the ball towards me, I saw it landing halfway onto the pitch and straight it started its journey towards my face. (I can still rewind that video and slow it down to every millisecond !!!!) As I swiveled to attempt a pull shot, I saw the red cherry growing enormously in front of me. The ball looked like a meteorite shooting its way towards the target. With every passing millisecond I could see the ball growing larger, larger and larger as it approached me. I realized that it was too fast for me to pull the ball, however the realization was too late ??.. The ball was now so close to me that nothing else could I see but the ball !!!! With great force it thudded onto the target, My nose ofcourse !!!!.

It felt like a huge boulder being thrown on me and I could feel the pain raising to my head. Such was the jolt and force with which it hit. The next second all I saw was blue skies and I realized that I was collapsing. Just when I was about to fall I saw the three stumps were on my way. Landing on them would mean that am out. Who cared a damn, I thought. When my survival on the earth itself was at stake I wasn’t too bothered about avoiding the stump to be a not out batsman. Straight down I went, taking along with me all the three stumps to the ground.

As I got up to start my walk back to the pavilion, I could sense the oozing of blood from my nose . I was too shaken up to even feel the pain. Just as my friends were shouldering me towards the pavilion, the bowler walked up near to me and said “Sorry yaar. It was not intentional”…………… “Its OK…... all in the game” I replied (huh !! sangoodhara vayasula sangeeeeetha). As I was lying down trying to minimize the blood ooze, when I looked around I could see the next two batsman wearing a helmet and hoping that they will not be required to bat (till then they were roaming around wearing a cap) I couldn't help but have a chuckle at their terror stricken faces. After a few minutes my friends took me to the nearest hospital for a first aid and was later shifted to Malar hospital. The doctors confirmed that the nose bone had crumbled and it will require a surgery and a long bed rest for the same to heal. If at all I had paid heed to the bowlers words when he warned me to wear a helmet I would have saved myself a painful nose and a few thousand bucks for my parents. However, as has always been the case with me, I learnt the lesson the hard way. (But I still try to justify it by saying ‘Lessons learnt the hard way always stays on forever’. Don’t argue back asking ‘Lesson at what cost’, I will have to surrender then).

A few months later - “Machi, this weekend we have a match against the IIT guys da. Are you coming” my friend called up and queried. “Kit bag la helmet irukkaa” I asked :-))