just like that

"Be the change you want to see" - Mahatma Gandhi

A twitter post I saw today went thus – “Just to put a perspective to the Indian Olympic performance - 6 medals from 1984-2008 & 6 in 2012”. Even without that perspective, this has been a phenomenal Olympics. I still remember the joy of the lone bronze won by Leander back in 1996. Since then, it’s always been waiting for that one elusive medal while seeing with heartburn much smaller countries winning lots of medals. That ways, this Olympics indeed marks a new turning point in Indian sport. With the exception of tennis and hockey, even the athletes who did not win any medals gave it their all – Kashyap’s was a heartwarming performance  and all the male boxers put up a brave show(better refereeing would have given different results).  The medals will not only ensure better funding and sponsorship for these sports but will ensure greater mindspace in media and the powers that be. The debate in media has already started about how to take sports in India forward – PPP and other models are being discussed. All this might not translate into anything tangible but at least it’s a start. There are a lot of challenges there but this post is not about that.

There are two main things I want to take away from this Olympics – first, the spirit of the Indian woman. I think every woman who is successful in any field in India needs to be lauded for the simple fact that it isn’t enough that she needs to be good enough in her respective field but she also needs to overcome the societal barriers associated with it(Yes, they exist to a large extent even today). That ways, every achievement by them needs to be celebrated ten times more than a similar achievement by men. So Hats off, Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom! (BTW, Mary is my new favorite sportsperson - Sorry Saina!)

The second is about inspiring a new generation. Sachin/Dravid in one of their interviews long back had said that watching Kapil and his team lift the 1983 World Cup was an important reason for them taking up the game. That World cup victory had inspired an entire generation of cricketers and produced the Kumbles and Gangulys of last decade. It wasn’t that cricket wasn’t popular before (Gavaskar was a household name at least a decade before) but the WC win inspired a whole generation of youngsters to take up the game.  The same way, I hope this Olympics inspire an entire new generation to take up new sports. The challenges still remain (making a career out of these sports is still not easy today) but if you are a parent reading this, let’s try and develop a Usain Bolt from our midst in the next twenty years. What’s the fun in sending your kid to IIT/IIM when they can be a Roger Federer instead? J

So let’s celebrate this great performance but more importantly let’s use them as a stepping stone for a brighter future in Indian sports!

It’s been over a month now since that memorable Saturday evening. The 2nd of April will now take its place as the most important date in Indian cricket displacing the 28-year reign of June 25th. For me, personally, it was the greatest moment of my life. It gave me joy that I had never felt before. Before I go further, I would like to dedicate this victory to two people:

1) Sachin Tendulkar – The person who has inspired me the most in my life. The entire team rightfully dedicated the WC to him but as one of his true fans, I would once again like to do the same. We won it for you, Sachin! There wasn’t nothing much left for you to achieve but this is one cup we wanted to see you lift. A loss wouldn’t have reduced you in my eyes in anyway but the win just makes the world so much more perfect.

2) The cricket fan – The cup may belong to all the people in India but there are some who deserve more credit than the others. This win truly belongs to

a. that fan who stood for hours in the sun to buy a ticket for any test-match/ODI

b. that fan who never gave-up on his team when they were eight down and needed 52 off 34 balls.

c. that fan who did not say “This team is a bunch of losers” just because it was the fashionable thing to say

d. that fan who defended Sachin resolutely when some half-baked guy said random stuff about him not winning enough matches for India

e. that fan who woke up at unearthly hours to catch live action of a test match.

f. that Indian who never gave up on India, in sport or otherwise.

I have always loved cricket because it excites me in a way no other sport does. But on April 2nd, I actually felt what we have all known all along – that cricket is more than just a sport. On the streets, there was a celebration like never before. Everyone met on the street was greeted like a long lost friend. For once, the marathis and the Punjabis and the tamilians were gone - there were only Indians.

Now, as the dust settles and we return to our corrupt politicians, desperate news channels and an ordinary IPL, I have a small request for all of you. Most of us lead routine lives which could do with a little more inspiration. I hope all of us could rejig our thoughts once in a while to the night of 2nd April and derive hope and energy from that to do something better –it could be standing behind Anna Hazare or it could be starting that fitness regime you have been putting off – something that will make you better than what you are. Think about it!

Went to Istanbul last month as part of a dealers trip to turkey. Had a really great time. Just capturing some highlights of the same here.

Day 0 - Took the emirates flight from Chennai to Istanbul via Dubai transit. The new Terminal 3 in Dubai was outstanding - tempting u to purchase almost everything on view. I almost bought a W270. The McLaren F1 car that Hamilton drove last year was also on display and I almost called my friend Raj before I realized I didn't have international roaming :) Landed in Istanbul in the evening and we were welcomed in traditional manner with Turkish Delight( local sweet) and a bracelet with Turkish eye on it. Moved to Hotel and rested for the night.

Day 1 - Began with Visit to Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest shopping places in the world with over 1400 shops in a single place. Long parallel lanes and by-lanes were all dotted with shops on either side.We easily got lost inside and if it weren't for the cards given by the travel agent, would have had a tough time walking back to the same gate. One of my colleagues compared it to Delhi's Palikaa Bazaar. There were jewellery shops, carpet shops, antique stores, hookah shops, cloth stores, handicrafts and the like. Some of the carpets were really amazing and I was reminded of a Jeffrey Archer short story about buying a carpet.

Our next stop was the Spice Bazaar - once again similar to Grand Bazaar but in a much smaller scale that specialized in spices and turkish delight. Post the morning shopping extravaganza, we crossed over to the Asian side of Istanbul. The bridge connecting the two continents over the Bosphorous river was amazing. Interestingly, the Asian side looked newer with more modern malls and buildings. Post luch, we hit Baghdad Street - a long stretch of branded outlets on either side. It is supposedly one of the most expensive places in Istanbul to buy/rent. For the next hour or so, all we did was stroll that street up and down. We hardly entered any shops - one because everything was too expensive to even think about buying and two because some of Istanbul's most beautiful women were strolling the street just like us. After that, we drove to Camlica Hills, a sunset spot.Thats when I first tasted Turkish tea and it was easily the best tea I had tasted in my life. Returned to hotel in the evening for the Gala dinner with dealers. Whirling Dervishes(Turkish Janissary band), belly dancers and puppet shows entertained us for the rest of the evening.

Day 2 - A day devoted to exploring Istanbul's ancient architecture. We drove to Sultanhamet (Old City) and learnt about the Roman and Ottoman empires that ruled Turkey. The Hippodrome, St. Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Place all stood testimony to them. Was in particuar impressed with Hagia Sophia and its architecture.

Post tea, we hit a big leather retail store(forgot the name). Since we were a large group, we were welcomed with an in-house fashion show of their models displaying their variety of leather jackets.Turkey is world's leading producer of leather but the place we went was so expensive that only few of my really rich dealers managed to buy anything. Returned to the hotel in the evening and went out to a nightclub, Istanbul Inn, for dinner. Were again entertained with traditional turkish shows and belly dancers.

That night since we were free, we(the managers) took a separate cab and explored the night life of Istanbul. We decided to hit one of Istanbul's elite nightclub/discothque. Being a saturday night, getting entry was difficult and also none of us were in the required dresscode. Our local agent pulled a few strings and got us in; however, the music was annoyingly loud and after 20 mins and 140 USD, we were out. After that, we hit Taksim Square, another long stretch of shops similar to Baghdad Street(or Nanjing Road of Shanghai). Again, we spent the time just roaming the street and enjoying the atmosphere. Finally hit bed at some 3 in the morning. Got an extra hour of sleep as Turkey went back by one hour from that night for daylight savings.

Day 3 - Since shopping is a integral part of the trip for most of the dealers, we arranged for a trip to Carrefour in the morning. Along with dealers, even I freaked out buying lots of stuff from Turkey towels to biscuits to turkish delights(again!). Anyways, post lunch we hit Miniaturk, a minature park of Turkey which also happens to be the world's largest minature park. We rounded off the evening with a cruise across the Bosphorus, another highlight of the trip. Came back to the hotel, relaxed a bit and hit the local shopping mall where one of my colleagues added a Turkey Starbucks Coffee mug to his collection of Starbucks coffee mugs from around the world. I too bought one to start the collection :)

Day 4 - Day of departure. Since flight was in the evening, made a visit back to Grand Bazaar to catch up on some last minute shopping. Bought a few souvenirs for friends and family. On the way back, the transit time was very short - just managed to buy some chocolates from Dubai duty free and catch a final glimpse of the Mclaren. Also managed to watch "The Taking of Pelham 123" and a few episodes of friends on the in-flight entertainment!

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic trip! Turkey went right to the top of my list of foreign countries. Of course, the list had a new topper this month when I went to Thailand :) More on that some time later! BTW, my acknowledgements are due to Wikitravel(towards help in preparation), SOTC (tour operator) and my employer Asian Paints (for giving me a free trip :))

I have a fear that this tagging business will soon become the blogging equivalent of an email forward. In future, you might be tagged and if you don’t pass on the tag to 10 more people, your index finger will go numb on the seventh day :) Anyways, since we are still at an early stage in this business, I have decided to respect Athena’s tag(She’s the only one who bothers to tag me!). So Tag 4, here we go!

4 Places I Have Lived

Chennai – The place where I was born and brought up. School, College, Beach, Satyam Cinemas, Cricket and Friends – Too many wonderful memories for any other place to even come close. Will most probably be the place I settle down as well.

Mumbai – A city abuzz with life 24*7. A city that gave me a perspective of people and the world outside. A city I will never willingly settle down in but nevertheless, one of my favorites.

Indore – A wonderful two years in the hilltop. I have written entire posts on it so no further rambling on the same.

Coimbatore – My home for over a year now, this sleepy town is an absolute rocker. A brilliant weather means I hardly get out of bed before 9 on most days :) Surrounded by Hills on one side and the lush greens of Pollachi on the other, the travels have been such a delight. If it wasn’t for the completely barren social life, this place would have ranked higher.

4 Favorite TV Shows

Neeya Naana? – While everyone is busy making people either cry, sing or dance, this one stands out from the pack. Modeled on group debate format, the anchor takes you brilliantly through two sides of important social and personal issues every week. Currently the best show on TV if you know Tamil.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S – Had heard so much about it before I actually saw it but this was one show that lived up to its billing.

24 – First season was terrific. Has gotten slower and predictable in the next two. Hopefully will pick up in four which Iam yet to start.

Seinfeld/ How I met your Mother – Well, it was a tough call; so I chose both. Seinfeld continues to amaze me with its simplicity while Barney, Ted and Robin make HIMYM irresistible.

4 Vacation Spots

Shimla and Manali – Awesome!
Kerala – Only been there once but it’s simply beautiful. Should explore more sometime!
Pondicherry – Ideal for a one-day round trip.
Paris – The one place I dream of going someday!

4 Favorite Foods
Ghee Roast, Pongal, home cooked (Sambar Rice +Alu Podi Curry) and Rasagulla

4 Daily Websites
Gmail, Cricinfo, Google Reader and Facebook

4 Places I’d Rather Be
Question Pass

4 Things to Do Before I Die

Watch India win 50 over WC (if possible at the stadium)
Learn to ride a bike :)
To be a job creator for at least 100 people
Be a cricket commentator (atleast briefly)

4 Books I Wish I Was Reading For The First Time

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
Kane and Abel
Vyasar Virundu (Vysar’s Version of Mahabharata)
The “Blandings” series

4 Movies I Can Watch Again & Again
Mouna Raagam, Anbe Sivam, Minnale and Indian

4 people I believe (or hope) will respond to this tag

Jay Jay

Just didnt want the blog to become inactive again. So reproducing an earlier post I wrote as a guest blogger for Mrunal's new blog.

Cricket versus T20

Along with over-arm bowling, Kerry Packer and the third umpire, T20 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the few things that changed the game forever. Like all those changes, the impact of T20 was not immediate – Two years and an Indian win in the inaugural World cup was what it took to capture India’s, and thus, the cricketing world’s, imagination. Smartly, Lalit Modi & Co stepped in. A few cash-rich corporates, some of the world’s best players, a borrowed concept and a booming economy (on second thoughts, just a growing economy) took care of the rest. No one even remembers poor Subash Chandra now.

Well, with IPL2 ready to rock South African audiences and Indian televisions, I thought about why IPL1 didn’t fascinate me as much as it should have. Surely, if not for all the glitz and glamour, atleast the big names and the cricket on display should have had me. First and foremost, I guess it was the city-based teams’ concept. I really didn’t feel that passionate about supporting my city, or any city for that matter. And when Mathew Hayden, Joginder Sharma and Andy Morkel turn out for Chennai SuperKings, whatever little you felt is also gone. On the other hand, when Team India is playing, it’s a totally different ball game. The ecstasy that an Indian win brings is truly unmatched and so is the disappointment at a narrow loss.

The second thing that doesn’t work for me is the whole T20 concept itself. Sure, it gets over in three hours and fits television audiences perfectly but for a serious cricket fan, the cricket on view is not as pleasing as Test or one-day cricket. I remember seeing the inaugural T20 WC and truth be told, I fell for it. What nail-biting excitement it provided and of course, India kept winning. Two years on, the format has not evolved as much as it should have with the result that we keep seeing batsmen trying to hit every ball for a six. Swing and seam are gone; Flight and loop have been forgotten and it’s all about getting the Yorker length.

There is no doubt that T20 has given an exciting twist to the gentleman’s game. As Richie Benaud famously remarked “Test cricket is what parents take their kids to and T20 is what kids bring their parents to” (or some such thing). It has got a whole new generation of people hooked onto cricket. It has got more money into the game and for a cash-strapped ICC, it’s a huge opportunity. But let this opportunity not lead us to the demise of the game. Let it not turn cricket into some fast-paced action thriller where power and purpose take control over skill and strategy. The Dhonis and Gambhirs of today were brought up on Sachin’s Sharjah-like innings. Let Yuvaraj’s six sixes in an over not be the role model for tomorrow’s cricketing princes. Let T20 be what it is - the fun-filled, relaxed form of the game.

It’s a tribute to the game that Test cricket is still considered the pinnacle by its players and fans. And it’s a tribute to its administrators that they have maintained the balance between all the three formats. Undoubtedly, the big challenge will be to sustain the same in the coming years. Let’s maintain IPL as what it is – a cleverly packaged entertainment show with cricket as its anchor. Let it stay as the format where Buchnan tries out his multi-captaincy theories and Modi his time-out commercials. But let’s not take it beyond that.

About this blog

A blog struggling to keep itself alive as its writer juggles his life between selling paints and playing poker!


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