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Roger Federer: One More Please? July 13, 2015

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Today: I could not will myself to get up for my round of squash this morning. I trudged along to the breakfast table and could barely digest the sandwich which my lovely wife had made. Putting on my shirt was difficult and there was nothing more painful than driving to office

July 2012: I was in Shanghai with my office colleagues and friends. Roger Federer was majestic on that day and dispatched the British pretender in four sets after losing the first. Since the break in the second, he looked like a man possessed. Celebrations at every forehand winner and sumptuous volley were the order of the day.

Two days back: When he hit the backhand volley from a losing position against Murray, it was like time stood still. There was nothing to do but get up and applaud. 2015 was certainly his year. The volley was the best winner I had seen in some time. Surely, Becker must be scared seeing this in person.

July 2008: One rain break. Two great champions. Three friends watching the game. Four hours and forty eight minutes. Five of the best sets ever. Anger, frustration, followed by ecstasy and finally agony. With due respect to Borg and McEnroe, the greatest tennis game ever. You felt his pain. You felt his relief. You cried with him. You felt the pressure and burden on his shoulders. You marvelled at the game that is tennis.

Yesterday: Numbness was part of me when the mike was picked up at the Championships. He said that he would be back. He said that he had no burden on his shoulders. He said that he was just happy playing at the biggest stage of them all. You still felt numb.

I prefer watching tennis all alone. It is the one game which allows me to get into the skin of the sport and give myself the roller coaster ride. Can you get that first serve right when it matters? Can you ace it? Can you will yourself to play a 30 shot rally at the age of 33? Do you have the will to save a set point when you are already a set down? Can you save seven of them? Can I exercise the control over my mind? Can I reach that meditative zone when nothing can touch me? Do I have the hunger to fight back against a beast? Can I put away my expectations, my family, my life and everything to just focus on getting the next move right? Can I control my work? Can I be honest with myself and make the career switch I need to? Can I put asides the money and think for myself?

Roger Federer has given me unbridled joy over the last decade. To see him glide across the court like Harry Potter’s Patronus is sheer pleasure. To watch him master the court is orgasmic which nothing else can match. To see him cry is like a knife going through your heart. But when he says that he is happy playing tennis, even if he is losing, I am supposed to feel happy. I feel happy, yes, but I do not feel blissful. I feel empty the next day, I feel absolutely terrible. I know that every chance at the Wimbledon Final is probably his last. I felt so in 2014 as well. I crave for that one more title. I craved for that last Tendulkar hundred. There are supposed to be happy endings, aren’t they? Sir Alex had it. Paul Scholes had it. Agassi? Steve Waugh? One more Grand Slam, please.

A friend told me yesterday that we have been lucky to have seen Federer, Tendulkar and Messi in our generation. I could not agree more.

The Sachin Farewell – A View from the Stands and beyond November 19, 2013

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It was 1400 hours on Saturday, the 16th of November, 2013. Hearts heavy with what we had just experienced, Himank and I decided not to stick around for one last glimpse. We decided to make way for lunch and drinks at the nearby Cafe Mondegar in Colaba. Predictably, there was a fair bit of a queue outside the joint and it was dominated by fans wearing the iconic No.10 jersey and sporting the Indian flag paint. After some jostling, we made our way to the table and set about conversing about what we had just witnessed. A couple of drinks later, with the screen showing his shots, we went down the memory lane, and spoke about the hundred against Henry Olonga’s Zimbabwe, the straight sixes against Eddo Brandes, the hook against Caddick, the best Indian chases all involving him- Desert Storm 1998 and Commonwealth twin innings’ 2010, the straight drive, the innings’ against Pakistan in 2003, World Cup 1996, the back pain and innings against Saqlain & co in Chennai, Dale Steyn competing with him… It just kept going on.

Within a few minutes, we realised that the four young lads in the table next to us, all sporting Sachin jerseys were discussing exactly the same. And so were the group of friends in the table behind us. Ditto with the two couples ahead of us. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know how it worked but I’d never witnessed anything like what was going to happen in the next few minutes. Someone started it from a couple of tables behind us and within no time, the entire cafe broke into chants of “Sachin.. Sachin”. Here. In the cafe. In the middle of the day. We went, “Thank You Sachin”; “Saaaachin..” and all the Sachin chants which we witnessed at the Wankhede. It was unbelievable. Like they say, “Divided by , united by Sachin”. The Europeans in the Cafe, were of course, bewildered, but took the opportunity to soak into the moment and capture “Incredible India” on their cameras. The chanting continued through the afternoon, and you could look at various moist eyes even after the emotional cauldron in the stadium.

Somehow, it felt natural that this should happen. Somehow, it felt inevitable. It was as if we were all gripped by a common force and energy. If there is anyone who has inspired and been loved by the entire nation more in equivocal terms, I’ve not heard of that person.

It has been three days since I witnessed the outpouring of emotions and those words coming from Sachin. I still can’t get over the profoundness and candidness of the speech. It was not earth shattering, Sachin is not the best orator, and it was nothing that we didn’t know. But the connection he made with us in the stands, and beyond was striking. Again, I had never witnessed anything close to this. But then, I don’t think we’ve witnessed anything like Sachin Tendulkar.

The moment which I can never forget is when he walked purposefully across the ground from the Pavilion to the wicket. We were all wondering why it was, and before we realised it, Sachin had bent down, paid his obeisance to the soil and took its blessings before the packed house for one last time. It was at this moment that even the strongest amongst us in the stands broke down.

And so did Sachin.

I still feel that I am floating in the numbness which took over the stands just after Sachin left the ground.

Thank you Sachin.

Sachin Tendulkar: The Waning Aura? May 7, 2012

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Yesterday, I got the opportunity of witnessing another of those last ball finishes at the Wankhede. The match had it all- high runs being scored, massive sixes, athletic fielding, good death bowling, a top innings by God..!

God. This is probably the seventh time that I witnessed Sachin bat in a stadium, including last year, on a sombre birthday in Hyderabad. Every time, I’ve seen him bat, including in faraway Vizag and Hyderabad, the crowds have gone berserk and chanted his name till their throats hurt. His batting is something which people have eagerly anticipated; his sixes are the most cheered for. But yesterday, it was a little different.

Sachin still got cheered for the balls he stopped and the runs which he scored. However, it was fairly subdued to anytime before. The usual chants of “Sachin.. Sachin” were missing, in fact the DJ had to egg people on to do the same. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the chanting for Malinga was much louder than that for Sachin. In Mumbai. In God’s own abode. On the day after the Eden erupted for their own son of the soil, Dada. Oh dear!

Thus far, I had refused to believe it. After all, he was the darling of the nation just a year back, when he had won us the world cup. People in office talk about his decline and how he should have retired after the world cup. Twitterati never fail to bash him up. His hard core fans started to turn away. In spite of that, I refused to believe. Till I visited the stadium yesterday. Sachin Tendulkar’s sheen has surely started to wane away.

The reasons for the same could be many- the wait for the 100th, the news about penalties and RTIs, the new house, the Ferrari, the Rajya Sabha nomination, the Rahul Dravid retirement. It could be a heady cocktail of all these factors. To my mind and heart, He is still God- an inspiration, an entertainer of the highest magnitude, the reason why I am still drawn to this game. But sadly enough, I have now started to believe that he is no more God for many people across this country.

Rahul Dravid: An Inspiration March 9, 2012

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Yesterday, as I clicked on the trending topic “Rahul Dravid” on Twitter, the first tweet which noticed amidst the cluster of messages and tributes was, “Even when he announces his retirement, the media persons rush to ask Sachin Tendulkar for his opinion”.

This has probably been the summary of Rahul Dravid’s career. It is to his credit that in spite of playing in the age of the biggest Indian sporting star India has ever seen, he has more than held his own and marked his route towards greatness. That he has rarely ever received his due is well recorded; what is amazing is to never find himself fretting about it. Never. To my mind, the greatest tribute he could have received was from the Bradman Oration at the Australia War Memorial, who chose him to deliver a speech in front of an August audience. Needless to mention, the speech was delivered with eloquence, dignity and grace. Just like the great man.

“If I had to chose one man to bat for my life, it has to be Rahul Dravid”- Brian Lara.

Cut to Kolkata 2001. With India in dire straits, Laxman hit that knock, but to my mind, Rahul Dravid was an equal hero then. While Laxman was in good form, and hence had been promoted to No.3, Dravid was not. He was not expected to last long but then that’s when you can trust Rahul Dravid to fight. And fight he did. Digging out all his reserves of mental energy, determination, technique, selflessness; Dravid delivered a master class of the highest order.

In a way, Dravid is someone who all of us can relate to. While Tendulkar is someone who has always been seen with God-like qualities, Laxman with his immense talent, Ganguly with his flair; Dravid’s been one who can easily fit into the role of the boy next door. And that’s what makes his achievements all the more amazing. It is what makes him the most inspiring figure around- “I can try and emulate his attributes, and I’ll succeed”.

“All this going around is not aggression; if you want to see aggression on cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes.”- Matthew Hayden.

I don’t have too many words to say, I am too choked with emotion at the prospect of Rahul Dravid retiring. My eyes are moist, for one of the biggest idols of my life is walking into the setting sun; for he is the one who has taught me the biggest lesson in my life. Just don’t give up. Watching him fight high quality seam bowling warms my heart.

My favourite Dravid innings:
1) 233 vs Australia- Adelaide in 2003
2) 180 vs Australia- Kolkata in 2003
3) 144 vs West Indies- Georgetown in 2002
4) 93 vs Australia- Perth in 2008
5) 270 vs Pakistan- Rawalpindi in 2004

God Bless Rahul Dravid.

The Blue Coral October 31, 2011

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I have not seen water clearer than this. The ocean bed went deep into the earth, and the bluish-green highlighted the character of the sea. Crystal, luminous, serendipitous, glorious- Use all you like, but can you describe the ocean? The inhibitions put aside, the mask was worn leading to the first peek- the uncovering of the purdah into the stunning ocean.

I could feel the hair in my hands stirring at the appearance of the vitality of life. The fins and the scales on the fluid creatures under the sea was a sight to behold. The yellow on the skin was the most natural colour I had ever seen, could I just extract it and etch it on the walls of my room? Further away, the blue fish was the most heart-warming creature.

The community of the gilled creatures behaved in an enthralling way. Bread allured them, but so did the leader of the lot. Did I see them following their chief, who warned them of the huge hairy big-square eyed creatures surveying them? Or did they sense the joy of an awaited event? I could not tell. I wanted to know. I had no way of doing so. I wanted more time with them, to observe, to learn, to live.

Never had I thought that tentacles could excite me more than anything else. The togetherness of the creatures stunned me, with the odd coral sitting isolated in deep contemplation. Beyond the physical, the commonality across living beings is striking. And the sight of the isolated blue coral- was orgasmic, or tantric; as you would like to put it.

My insomnia in the middle of the night is only to be explained by the first explorations of the majestic ocean. I cannot wait to romance her again.

Peace. Hardly do you find this word more apt.

PS: This is with reference to my snorkelling trip at Phuket (Phi Phi Island). My co-travellers were Abra, Anuj, Ashwin, Bharath, Giridhar, Hersh, Kavitha, Mahesh, Shalini, Toshe and Vipul.

Seam Reap: Enchanted October 24, 2011

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History and its books have always fascinated me. The culture of people, the unfolding of events and the romance of it all has few other things which compare. During school days, I loved studying my history books and imagining about what would have transpired during that period. I often found myself walking along the streets of Harappa, listening to the arguments of Birbal, feeling the heat of it all in Paris, staring at the temples of Angkor… Who knew that one day, I’d actually get to visit the temples of Angkor?!

Amidst fears of floods and rains, we set off for Siem Reap in the exotic country of Cambodia. I was initially sceptical about the trip added to the fact that the timing of flights from Kuala Lumpur would leave us with less than 36 hours in the city. However, it all turned out perfect for us- the cab, hotel bookings all leading to one of the better trips I’ve had.

I was amazed to know that the city of Siem Reap has over 500 temples, and one could feel the pulse right on landing at the airport. As one of my friends put it, the airport seemed to be “a resort taken over by the government and converted into an airport”. Along the line, there were various grandeur resorts and hotels, but we (group of 10) opted to stay in a budget hotel which cost us just over 7 USD a head. Surprisingly enough, USD seemed to be a more common currency here than the local Riel.

After getting things in place, we headed to the first temple we wanted to see- the Angkor Wat, the symbol of both modern Cambodia and the ancient Angkor empire. This 900-year old temple is the largest religious monument in the world and the size of the same is overwhelming! We took three hours to see this temple, and one can easily an entire day for the same. The feeling I had while at this temple is indescribable- I had Goosebumps all over me on multiple occasions here. Even though the temple is now a Buddhist one, the details of the inscriptions were all milestones from Hindu mythology and the “Churning of the Ocean” was especially magnificent. In fact, the churning seems to be a central theme across various temples in Siem Reap. Walking along some of the aisles of the temple while drowning myself in the walls, I felt immensely in peace with myself. I have not seen such a stunning temple anywhere in India!

The last major King of the Angkor empire, Jayavarman 7 built the Buddhist Angkor Thom temple (The King was himself a converted Buddhist). This temple has the “Smiling Buddha”, the secret behind which we tried discovering in a stunning laser and dance show called “Smile of Angkor”. The walls of this temple depicted the war between the Angkors and the Chams (the latter still exist in parts of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia). The last temple which we visited in the day was Ta Prohm– the place where the Tomb Raider movie was shot. This is a temple which is quite unexplored. The most amazing part of the temple was the growth of massive trees at random parts of the temple, something which was a result of the temple being deserted for centuries.

The next day (I am conveniently skipping the exploration of night life of Siem Reap- the highlight of the same was the local massage, where the masseur uses legs too!) was spent in another beautiful sight- the floating villages in the Great Lake of Tonle Sap. The lake is massive- apparently it can carry us right unto the capital city of Phnom Penh. The culture of the people and floating villages were lovely to watch, and a very unique phenomenon. It was amazing to see the way these villages still existed, and a thought about the life which people have to lead at the same.

All in all, it was a short but memorable trip. I leave with a promise to come back to Siem Reap- it’s a place which deserves much more time.

PS: I’ll write notes about my Singapore and Langkawi trips soon.

The Widening Generation Gap June 4, 2011

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The other day, I went for this movie with two of my family friends- both guys who are younger to me by six years. Now I remember many of my cousins hanging out together in my hometown Ranchi with this range of age difference but seemingly in the same generation. There was not too much of a gap in the thinking and exposure level of these guys, and they happily got along very well with each other. Today, however, I think the case is not the same. The world has become more dynamic than ever before and changes occur at a neck breaking pace; so much so that guys six years younger than me often seem to be from a different generation (Though I may still get along with them)

The dictionary defines a generation as a period of 25 years. I think over time, the number of years between generations has reduced dramatically- generations change much faster now. Today, while parents try and bridge the ‘generation gap’, I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult for parents in the future in trying to understand and handle their kids. Guys having cell phones at the age of 11, watching the kind of movies which we never did at the age and having a half baked understanding of things at ages you would not have imagined etc are remnant to the same. I think this makes it all the more stronger case to stay in the family, which is unlikely to happen. But the positive side of all this is that kids these days become smarter very soon. One consequence of which is that we’d probably see smarter CEOs and deadlier criminals at much younger ages in the future.

Having gone through this experience, hats off to the parents who truly are friends to their kids.

Sachin’s Journey Consummated April 3, 2011

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Unbelievable. For all my posts, I try and structure my thoughts, put them in a framework and present them in a readable fashion. Not today. Even 12 hours after THE moment, I cannot stop thinking, stop putting it all together.

THAT twirl after hitting the six. It was as if MS Dhoni was saying, I don’t give a rat’s ass to you guys- did you freaking see that? It was the expression and satisfaction of a man having actually led his team. On a night of emotions, his calmness even after hitting the shot was one of the most amazing emotions. Numb. A feeling many of us have even now.

THOSE tears. Harbhajan Singh was putting Sreesanth to shame. Yuvraj Singh was the one with eyes moist, body pumped and world conquered. His hug with God which lasted over a good one minute was a memory which will remain etched in my memory forever. It was as if he was saying, “This is for you, Lord. Just you. Fucking savour this.”

GOD. He didn’t know what to do. Smile? Cry? Can you just imagine? A dream for which he has given everything? Blood, sweat, tears, vomit. Something which kept him going. Something for which he has given everything. Can you just freaking imagine? To my mind, it was fitting that his biggest fans, people who he has inspired, guided, mentored and loved- Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh completed the jobs. It was like a tribute, and a signal that the Master’s lessons had paid off. It was a proud moment for God when he saw his disciples do the job which he had always dreamt of. It was THE emotion and moment which we all crave for. It was to say, God, we are ready to take over now.

THAT statement by Virat Kohli. Today my despise towards two people turned into respect- MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. THAT lap for Sachin Tendulkar. What would have the fans felt then- seeing God up close having the most awesome expression and feeling EVER in his eyes.

Absolutely unbelievable. Little wonder that I just fucking could not sleep in the night. The night when I reached a high which alcohol can never take me to. The orgasm which sex can never give. The feeling that to hell with everything, I can peacefully die now.

Love you Sachin. Thanks for all the fish.

Of academics, placements and others : IIM Indore August 1, 2009

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It has been a month in IIM Indore, and it’s amazing to see the amount of effort which people put into their academics over here. Of course, people were pretty serious about their academics in IIIT-H as well, especially in the first semester; but certainly not to these levels. The competition here is pretty intense, and there is a clamour to present the best assignment or give the best quiz. I mean, there must be at least 70-80 students vying to be in the top 20. Of course, it’s bound to change over the next few semesters- how much is the big question.

There is one more factor which cannot be overemphasized and contributes to this phenomena- the amount of importance the admin gives to your academics. With the number of surprise quizzes (12), assignments and presentations we’ve had in the last 30 days, it’s been like going to a Gurukul. Of course, academics are the primary function of any university, but it’s pretty different over here. For one, students are very serious probably because this is their last degree before they are thrown into the real world for good- they’d possibly be using the concepts learnt in a B-school more than anything else. Two, the stakes over here are pretty high, in terms of the jobs and packages you could possibly land up with. Three, there is a level of maturity which comes with age and value for an MBA from a good B-school.

However, it’s not been just that at IIM Indore over the past five weeks or so. There are a host of other activities to keep you on your feet 24*7. Even your extra curriculars are taken pretty seriously over here- given the interest people have. Kidding, it is the interest- but is more about the value such activities add to your resume. 😀 Ahh.. resume and placements are the biggest catchwords over here. I wonder what’ll actually happen during the placement season!

All in all, it’s been a pretty hectic last few days, especially given the lethargic final semester we had spent in IIIT-H. I’ve finally begun to find my feet and enjoy myself at this place. It is that time of the course now, when I am really looking forward to the next few months at IIM-I. 🙂


PS: Planet-I residents- Read about the PGP1-Sec C CP phenomena here. More on CP later.

Adieu May 21, 2009

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As I walked along the hostel wing, it seemed to echo with eerie silence. As I trod out of it towards the mess, I noticed that I walked alone for the first time. There was no pillion rider in the bike I rode, I drank my coffee all alone.

Getting the no-dues certificate signed seemed like stoking nails into the coffin. When asked to submit the identification card, I did not want to let go. This same card had accompanied me for four years, getting me a safe passage at unearthly hours and places.

And then there were the little gifts, and the memorabilia unearthened while packing. The ICL tickets, the placement lists, the Felicity posters, the ragging letter, the lost pen drive.. They were all there. Each of them had a story to tell. Each of them was screaming for attention, for those lost memories.

The memories which bound us together, the memories which will stay, come what may. So what if we cannot be together, the spirit lives on. Ten years down the line, when I walk into this place, it will welcome me as if I’d never left. Because this place belongs to me and I belong to this place. A piece of me will be here forever.

Such a bitter sweet symphony is life, isn’t it?