Thursday, January 02, 2014

Healthy Life in 2014: Learning from our brands

I learnt a lot in 2013. Yet, if I had sharply heard what some of our popular brands were crying out loud, I probably would have starved my family doctor. So in 2014, here's what you need to do to lead a healthy life. Apart from what they claim to do, there are some hidden meanings we can explore:

Brush twice a day with Colgate/Pepsodent.
In case your food lacks that saltiness or tanginess, they have added Salt and Lemon. Just insert some paste into that cavity and use, when needed.

Drink milk with Horlicks/Complan/Boost.
So you can be the next guy who will read out an emotional Thank You Speech at Wankhede. But you’d definitely be taller.

Have Kellogg’s for breakfast.
For that perfect figure which will make us wear that red saree/salwar. Get inspired, my eight-in-one family pack tummy!

Bath daily with Lifebuoy/Dettol.
So you can jump around in a gutter, bath in mud for the rest of the day. And then, Docs themselves have started giving soaps for tablets.

Have Sunlight Marie for evening snack.
So you can defeat your kids and a lousy spouse in badminton.

Drink Red Label tea.
So you can skip breakfast, lunch and dinner and still be fresh and energized enough. Never mind the acidity.

Drink Water from Aquaguard/Kent Water Purifier.
Because infants love that, you know. Wait till (and if) they grow up!

Chill around in a room with Voltas Air Conditioner.
It also, apparently, keeps the wife cool as you stretch and watch her slog in the house.

Have some food from a LG Frost Free Refrigerator.
So you can fool your wife into a dinner date at home with a week-old (or more) food!

Wash your dishes with Vim Liquid.
So hardcore non-veggies like me don’t get to taste some veggies that were eaten from the same plate a week back. But then, we would be totally okay with that Vim Liquid that wasn’t washed off.

Switch on Good Knight Active Mode or Spray around 'Kaala' Hit.
Because, one mosquito is enough. No, not that Nana Patekar dialogue. Also, ‘Active Mode’ keeps the mosquito away from sitting on the machine itself!

Spray 'Laal Hit'.
Because Roaches love to have a party at night on your plates. This will make them see red!

Wipe your floor with Lizol.
Because that’s where your babies love to lick. Changing diapers becomes secondary after this.

Wash your toilet with Harpic.
Because those green animated germs don’t look cute inside a commode. They deserve to die.

After  all these, if you still find yourself waiting for a doctor’s appointment while you cough, sneeze and choke to death, no worries! Have a Coco Cola, and share the happiness!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: The People’s Champion

My family didn’t own a television set back then, and we were living in this about-to-collapse dilapidated chawl. I remember running back home and telling my brother, “India won. Sachin took an outstanding catch.” I had just seen a match peeping through the window of a house that boasted of owning a rare colour television. But the catch that Craig McDermott offered at long-on was as straight forward as any would be on that day at Perth during the Benson and Hedges World Series in Australia in 1991. Something that even I would have caught in my sleep! But, I made that catch sound almost Jontyesque to my brother.

That is something Sachin made most of his fans do. He was just two years into international cricket, but was already the darling of the normal Indian cricket fan. Or at least for me, he was! He was yet to hit a century in ODI, but had started showing promise, and prowess in the longer format. One could almost smell the fragrance of greatness written all over him. He was destined. Destined to excel. To break records (almost every single one in the book!) To be the best in the business. But more importantly, destined to entertain close to a billion, leaving them, at times, gasping for breath!

In the 90s, he was the only one they could rely on. “If Sachin plays, we would win!” became an irritating truth. It was no secret that his dismissal meant many houses saving on their electricity bill. Televisions, coloured or black-and-white, went off. At the Varghese residence, the radio commentary wouldn’t sound more boring.

Then came that famous Desert Storm! Pictures of Shane Warne with his mouth open swatting a fly was recently brought back to my memory by a colleague. That picture told a few thousand stories. Not a single one of clarity within Shane Warne’s head. The late Tony Grieg’s “What a Playaa! What a wonderful playa!” would play in our ears repeatedly. In his dressing room, he would sit with his helmet on during the literal desert storm. Superstitious or otherwise, we didn’t care. He got us over the line. The Aussies were stunned. The Tendulkar madness had risen to another level. That season (98-99), arguably his best, made sure comparisons with Sir Don Bradman would rise to a higher decibel.

A few years later, he would get used to the sound of massive ovation every time he stepped on to the field. India would lose its second wicket in a test match. The crowd would erupt. It didn’t make sense. India was playing in its home territory. Going by how we Indians usually behave as a cricket audience, there should be a deathly silence. For them, that wicket meant their hero was walking out to entertain. Television producers, at least towards the end of his career, ensured that they caught him entering right from the time he was descending the stairs of his dressing room. Commentators would go quiet. The cameras would roll with sound of the audience giving him that ovation he so richly deserved. At times, even the air-time for advertisements would wait. Or the producers would just be kind enough to show a replay. Not of the previous dismissal, but of Sachin’s entrance. Pictures that would remain etched in our memories for ages. An image (or countless ones) of Sachin walking out to do what he does best. Bat tucked beneath his arms. Handle usually pointing in the direction of the ground. Donning his gloves. Looking skywards. It was almost gladiator-like.

His wicket meanwhile brought out the other extreme. Heads in hands. Faces covered. Pin-drop silence. Almost a scary one. If I was the batsman coming before or after Sachin, I would be one depressed soul.

I had the privilege of seeing his only T20 century Live! From listening to a running commentary description on radio of Sachin’s straight drive to seeing that magical moment right in front of my eyes – the wait to see the man in action was worth every second. We got our monies worth when we saw that trademark straight drive! It was something that I could take and store in my museum if I could. That was my ‘gasping-for-breath’ moment. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he also played a helicopter shot. And finally the 100! Mumbai lost the game, but we didn’t care. “We saw a Sachin 100!”

Much like how my office canteen reacted when Hashim Amla saved a certain boundary of Dhoni’s bat of the last over against South Africa. They stood up and applauded Amla’s effort who kept it to a single. Never before and never after will we see an opposition fielder being appreciated so much for saving a boundary. Sachin was on 199. We wanted him to get to that double, a milestone that no man had reached before. The “superman” obliged. Offices across the country had low productivity that day.  

At a high-level senior management conference where incidentally Rahul Dravid was our guest speaker, a top-executive of the company proudly announced that Tendulkar has finally reached the 100th 100 landmark. India lost that match.

And that was the story of countless Indians. Many didn’t seem to care whether India performed. For them, Sachin was India. India was Sachin.

Even before his retirement, he was the headline for many editions. The primetime for many news channels! He was the “happy news” that Indian Cricket was desperate for. He was the ‘positive story’ for the media. He was their TRP! People loved to watch him play. They loved to watch (and read) anything about him.

The sad smileys and depressing status messages on his retirement were a testament to the man Sachin is. A true ‘People’s Champion’, with due apologies to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. My co-commuters in train did not want to read the newspapers this morning. “It’s way too depressing!” they said. For me, I will have a few cut-outs preserved for my grandchildren. I saw this man bat.

Thank You Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sreesanth: Enigma Personified

Interestingly, this post comes exactly a year after I’d written ‘An open letter to whomsoever it may concern with cricket.’ I am still a cricket fan. I still like the IPL. But sadly, very sadly, nothing much seems to have changed. Déjà vu! Read on…

A couple of years back, I remember watching a Malayalam movie which had a character named Sreenath, who was a flamboyant Indian cricketer. Although he is not central to the movie, a sub-plot to the movie is about the betting and match-fixing scandals. In the movie, a ‘clean’ Sreenath helps the cops in investigating and busting the syndicate of thugs that run the business. The actor, although not a look-alike, played a character that closely resembled a certain Santhakumaran Sreesanth. Two years can be a really long time in life, let alone in a small world of cricket.

Malayalees always shared a love-hate relationship with Sreesanth. They loved him because he was the first real Mallu to make it big in the international cricketing circuit (Abey Kuruvilla, Tinu Yohannan and Sunil Valson came and went, largely unnoticed). They hated him because of his antics. One can just glance through some public forums to see the amount of venom spewed on him, some of them funny, some downright ugly. But then, Mallus, by nature, are not known for their politeness.

I wasn’t his biggest fan, but I didn’t hate him either. The ‘Santh’ (quietness) began and ended in his name. But despite all his antics on and off the field, some of which I secretly enjoyed, he came across to me as someone who’d wear his heart on his sleeve when he had the ball in his hands. Take for instance, when he did a mid-pitch jig after smashing Andre Nel over his head. Or after making the pitch a pair of African drums when he knocked over Mathew Hayden in the World T20 semi-finals! But then there were some, where I felt like doing a Bhajji on him. Like when he bowled a beamer to Kevin Pietersen in England, or when he was giving an unwanted send-off to Andrew Symonds after the latter had already gone hammer and tongs on him. Or yesterday!

As the news about his arrest by Delhi Police trickled in, through Twitter of course, my first reaction was that of disbelief. I was led to believe that it was a massive frame up. It began to sink in. Slowly. If Hansie Cronje, believed to be an epitome of honesty, could succumb, Sree was like the hungry lonely fish in a drying pond. Easy picking!

How could a man who seemingly is from a well-to-do family, earning probably to the count of millions of dollars through his contracts, and well on his way back to the Indian team be so stupid? Surely, money can’t be the lure in this case, although it might have been for Ajith Chandila and Ankeet Chavan! Was it his friendship with his “distant relative” Jiju Janardhan? It probably was, but only Sree can answer that. 

I am being told by reliable sources that he was quite a loner in the team. But in Rahul Dravid, he had the best leader possible to get his career back on track. He was back bowling, and bowling well. And the more heartening part - behaving better! He was largely credited for being an inspiration to another probable future Indian player from Kerala - Sanju Samson and also to a talented Sachin Baby. One can only wonder what’s going through them after their ‘etan’ (big brother in Malayalam) is now probably behind bars now for selling himself off.

Santhakumaran Sreesanth was always an enigma. He remains one. Sadly, not just for his former fans, but even for his own family! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

When Mumbai called Virat a 'Cheater!'

Mumbai is selfish. Very selfish. The culture of 'Yeh mera hai. Tujhe isme kya lena dena' (roughly summarized and translated to 'Mind Your Own Business') is very much imbibed, if not already born with, into every second Mumbaikar's genes. That is seen everyday in our fight for a breathing space in a local train or on the roads, when we don't wait for a signal to go green. Or worse still, it is seen from the 'Priest and Levi'  (from Jesus' parable of Good Samaritan) attitude while someone's bleeding to death.

That probably explains why some section didn't care whether Virat Kohli was an Indian. For them, he had 'cheated' against their city's team, owned by India's wealthiest guy. Much like how Kohli himself didn't care when he took up a verbal fight, which almost went from mouth to fist, with a senior Indian cricketer from his own state just a couple of weeks back.

Kohli wanted the crowd to treat it as just another sport. He probably should have done the same when he reciprocated with a middle finger when the Aussie crowd gave him an earful. Or when he mouths a few 'non-airable' words almost every time he hits a century.

Coming to Wankhede's reaction, the fact that it is one of the most hostile crowds cannot be lost on anyone. 'Monkey-scandal' (not calling it 'Monkeygate!') had its genesis here, only for their target to play for their team a couple of seasons later. They booed their very own - a man who gets a standing ovation even in Rawalpindi. A kind-hearted like Harsha Bhogle may say these are a few 100! But when it happens with such alarming regularity, you got to question a city's attitude. And this comes from a hardcore Mumbaikar, who has no second favourites! I love it, still.

The other aspect that largely went unnoticed was the incident itself. Rather, the attitude surrounding the incident. Yes, the bowler didn't do it intentionally. Yes, it was all fair-and-square and Virat was well within his rights not to withdraw the appeal. Ambati Rayudu was unlucky. But he was out. Period. However...

Let me just draw a parallel between this dismissal and Ashwin's infamous attempt at Mankading Sri Lanka's Thirimanne. Here (Rayudu), it was pure bad luck! There, the non-striker was careless and stupid to venture out of his crease. Here, the bowler's leg accidentally came en-route the batsman's outstretched bat; there, the bowler's situational awareness caught the non-striker napping. Yet, our experts and media called this decision fair; but when it comes to Mankading, they'd go head-over-heels in saying how "unsporting and unfair" the bowler and his skipper are, to appeal (even if it is well within their rights). Playing within the rule book, I am still not convinced how one can be called fair and the other one not! I suppose, just like in real life, some laws are more equal than the others.

I guess, that is probably why many call Cricket a complicated game. We all love it, still.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Tweets during my three-hour local train journey to office today

Mumbai will never be short of stories. And each Mumbaikar will always have one every hour. Here's mine represented in the form of a collection of tweets during my three-hour local train journey to office today (produced in chronological order so you can get a feel of the 'ordeal'): 
  1. Faaaaantastic morning... Till I reached the station. Central Railway continues its 'khed hai'/'regret the incovenience' announcements.
  2. Trains continue to be in the 'delayed' or 'cancelled' mode in Central Line. Those travelling,plan accordingly. #MumbaiTrains
  3. "Yaatriyon ko honewali asuvidha ke liye hame khed hai." Sounds very re-assuring and genuine,coming from a pre-recorded voice.#MumbaiTrains
  4. Shouts,arguments&abuses in the train. Kalyan v/s Dombivli. Thank you, Central Railway. Couldn't have had a better start.#MumbaiTrains
  5. One of the 'best' counter-argument points I've heard. "I am more educated than you." All happening in my train. #MumbaiTrains
  6. What is it about arguments inside a first-class compartment where people suddenly start arguing in English? #MumbaiTrains
  7. So people in FC compartments switch to arguing in English to prove that they are 'educated.' #irony#MumbaiTrains
  8. If u ever wanted to witness a diverse India,just travel in a Mumbai local train during peak hrs. Abuses fly in all languages.#MumbaiTrains
  9. Highly interesting when the arguments in a train turn into an 'us versus them' debate. Us=Kalyan Maharashtrains;them=Domb Maharashtrains
  10. Peace in first class for the time being but i can hear abuses from the adjoining second class compartment now.
  11. All the audience lacked in the verbal warfare in this first class compartment was a pair of boxing gloves. #MumbaiTrains
  12. Ahaa! White flags. The 2 'educated' folks have moved on from arguing to discussing the delay in train. In Marathi, of course.#MumbaiTrains
  13. I should have obeyed my instincts. Should have! Should have gone to Khandala in stead.
  14. Stuck b/w Mumbra&Kalwa in a packed train for more than 1 hour. On a normal day,I'd be having my double half-fry in office now.#MumbaiTrains
  15. Tempers flared.Fists raised.All because of delayed trains.Tempers cooled.White flags raised.New friends made.All because of delayed trains.
  16. Train just snailed its way to Thane.1 'arguer' got off;not before shaking hands with his erstwhile rival "chala saaheb.bhetuya."#Mumbai
  17. And not surprisingly, there were 4 Tata employees, including me, of the 6 seated folks to get off at VT.
  18. VT! After 182 mins and 37 seconds of arguments, abuses, verbal cat and dog fights, peace talks & handshakes, my train tweetathon ends.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hillsborough Disaster: Goof-ups, Cover-ups and a long wait!

In what was one of the biggest goof-ups by the English police, not only did they do little to rescue the choking and dying Liverpool supporters crushing (and vomiting to death) against each other and the fence at Hillsborough Football Stadium in Sheffield that fateful April afternoon of 1989, but strangely they didn’t even allow 43 of the 44 ambulances waiting outside from entering the stadium. As if that wasn’t enough, post the incident, they shifted the blame to the fans for the disaster accusing them of rioting and looting under the influence of alcohol. Indeed turning out to be one of the biggest and shameful cover-ups in British history, supported by an irresponsible editor of a leading tabloid, perhaps to sell a few extra copies.

For 23 years, the families of the 96 victims carried the burden of ridiculous false allegations that their "drunken and ill-mannered" sons/daughters/husbands/wives were responsible for their own crushing deaths that afternoon. Although they painfully fought for justice all these years, and even as the independent panel vindicated the fans from all blame, one wonders how much of that can make-up for all that the families went through for these two decades! The period between 1989 to 2012 was far from 'getting over and move on' for many of these folks. Some had to live through the burden. Some committed suicide. Some became mentally unstable. Some marriages collapsed. All of them had one less loved one in their families.

At 10, Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest person to die at Hillsborough. His death and the tragedy inspired his cousin to lead his boyhood team and later, reach the highest level in club and world football- a certain Liverpool legend by the name Steven Gerrard! Stevie G though, undoubtedly, would have traded his entire career for a peaceful and eventless 15th April 1989!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Adios Andy: Witty lines from Roddick!

After his loss to Juan Martin Del Potro yesterday in the fourth round of the US Open, Andy Roddick bid adieu to the world of professional Tennis! He was my personal favourite of the current lot. And in a generation that produced some legendary rivalries among future hall-of-famers, Roddick stood out as much for his funny quotes as his scud-like serves!

While the Djoker is an on-court buffoon, Roddick's witty statements to the Press made him one lovable guy. Well, at least for me, he was! I'll surely miss the character that was Andy on court, but would love to see him behind the microphone doing commentary. Hey may not have won many tournaments, and may only have one grand slam board etched with his name, but there's little denying that he was one of the news-makers in Tennis, and more often than not, for a right reason! Here are some of his classic verbal serves sourced from various websites:

 Whatever I said last year, just copy it. I'm sure it still fits.
Speaking to the press after losing the first round at the 2006 French Open
 It comes from playing like s**t. Why would I feel confident right now? If that was the case, I don't think we'd be sitting here having this funeral-like press conference. It's just weird because, I used to like hit for a half hour and then go eat Cheetos the rest of the day, come out and drill forehands. Now I'm really trying to make it happen, being professional, really going for it, and I miss my Cheetos.
Speaking with reporters on the source of his frustration and lack of confidence after his loss to Igor Andreev at Indian Wells. 
 "As good as anybody not named Roger."
On his chances at the US Open. 
"Roger Federer has a physical and mental advantage over everybody. He's doing to tennis what Tiger Woods did to golf a few years ago. He is making us all improve."
 "You said it, I didn't. I can't think of anything funny to say that would not get me in trouble. I'm going to leave that one alone."
Replying to a media question as to whether the new long pants worn this year by some of the Spaniards and other players are "too metrosexual." 
 "If I'd known it was going to be this cold, I wouldn't have done it."
On his new short haircut at the Masters Cup in Houston
 "Neither will you."
During an on-line ESPN-sponsored chat answering the accusation " suck and you will never win a major again so what do you have to say about that?" 
Andy Roddick's answer to the question "What letter in the English language sounds like a female sheep" on the British "Weakest Link". 
 "Hey you guys with the ladder. If you come here I'll buy you pizza." 
Calling out to firefighters in the process of rescuing Roddick and other hotel guests from a fire in Rome
 "You're on live TV, you know. You look like a real moron right now." 
Yelling at a chair umpire at Indianapolis
 "That's definitely my most improved shot from last year. I hit a backhand lob winner in the first game, and a backhand passing shot to break. And another one in the tiebreak. I couldn't hit a backhand into the ocean last year." 
On his improved weakness
 "No, if I wore a sleeveless shirt, people would try to feed me after the match. If you got the guns, go for it. I got two breadsticks sticking out of my sleeve. I'll stick with sleeves." 
When asked if he would be going with the sleeveless look
 I'm the most successful bad player ever.
 You guys are brutal. Absolutely brutal. The guy has only made two Grand Slam finals this year. I would love his bad year. I would love it. 
On Roger Federer's 'bad' year
 I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and got his tub. 
After being being asked how he felt of his own play after losing the Wimbledon 2004 final against Federer
 I'm going to have to start winning some of them to call it a rivalry.
After being asked whether he and Roger Federer had a rivalry that would last for years
There were a few more, but won't be ideal for my blog. Which one of these did you like the most?