Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Watching Cricket - What is it all about, really?

Somebody asked me what I have against cricket.

Actually I don't have anything against the game. It is just another sport, with its own set of (strange) rules. In fact, I really like playing cricket. I think its good fun, as long as I am not fielding. And especially if it is played with a piece of cardboard as the bat, and a crumpled-up newspaper as the ball.

I am digressing. What I want to say is that there is just one thing that I don't like about cricket, and that is, that it goes on for too long. Far too long. Ok, even that is fine. If the players really want to stay out all day and sweat under the sun, it is their choice. I can even understand spectators in the stadium watching the match with interest. It can be good fun, like I found out first hand. But what irks me is that millions of people sit around and actually spend(I dare not say "waste") hours and hours watching these endless matches on television.

In case you haven't noticed, the actual action in the entire match happens for probably just ten percent of the entire duration of the match.

How, you ask. Consider this.

A bowler measures his paces, does the run up, and bowls. The batsman hits the ball, the fielders scurry around, and the batsman takes a couple of runs. If you measure the time this entire bit of action takes, you will see that it measures up to just around 8-10 seconds. Most balls take even lesser time, but I will be generous, and take the average as 10 seconds.

A one-dayer has 50 overs, that is 300 balls are bowled.

Total time taken to bowl all the balls = 300 X 10 = 3000 seconds = 50 minutes.

Ok, let me consider other miscellaneous things, and conclude that the total time taken is 1 hour.

So the actual action in an 8-10 hour match happens for just 1 hour. Fancy that!

The rest of the time is spent in looking around, licking the ball, rubbing the ball against their clothes in unmentionable places, tapping the bat on the pitch, adjusting the helmet, adjusting the pad, doing half sit-ups, making gestures with arms, wiping sweat, and what have you.

And the entire nation sits glued to the television, watching men perform these ordinary actions for 9 hours, just for that 1 hour of actual action. And they spend at least half of those 9 hours again, watching the re-telecast.

And this is just the one-dayer. What about a test match? For five days, the nation thinks of nothing else. And at the end of it, many times, you don't even have a result to show for it.

There are very few cricket matches which I think are really exciting. In most of the matches, you get to know midway, which team is going to win. After that it is just a matter of waiting. And what a long wait! What pleasure do you get, really, in spending so much time watching a match, the conclusion of which is a foregone one?

And also, how many hours are wasted each year watching old matches between random countries, the results of which are already known!

It makes me restless. It makes me cringe. I dare not even start to think of what all these people might have been doing if they hadn't been watching this match. So many productive hours wasted! So many opportunities missed! So many beautiful moments overlooked!

I know I am in the minority, so I know I should be ready for a sound thrashing from all of you. But seriously, watching cricket makes no sense to me. What is it all about, really?

Friday, September 15, 2006

The naming ceremony.

This is for all the Anonymouses (Or is it Anonymice? Or Anonymi? Err..let's just make it Anons, shall we?) out there.

I am probably very lucky that I don't have many Anon trolls on my blog.(Touchwood) Most of you Anons contribute to the discussion in the comments section with very thoughtful comments. When you disagree, you do so without being rude, and I really appreciate that. So, when your contributions are all positive, why do you prefer to remain anonymous? I can understand if you are being abusive - you wouldn't want anybody to know who the bad-mouthing loser is. But in this case, why the anonymity?

Ok, I understand, you might have your own reasons for not letting me know who you are. I can think of a few -

1) You do not want anybody to catch you reading my blog. (Infradig, you know!)

2) You might be known to me, and you might not want me to associate you with the comments. Maybe you feel our offline relationship will be affected by your comments.

3) The thought that I am left guessing about your identity might give you kicks.

4) I can't think of anything else.

But I want to know who you are. I want to know who I am talking to. Or rather, I want to know which Anon I am talking to.

I have a picture of each commenter of mine. Many of you are excellent commenters. (I am a bad one - the maximum I can do is to say "Great post!" and "Heh heh, that's funny", and the like.). So when you, Anon, comment on two posts, I would like to know that the same person who said this on post A, said this on post B. Please don't ask me why this is important, but it is. More than anything, replying to a comment addressing "Anon at 12 30" is not much fun.

So now, I want to know your name, but you don't want me/others to know who you are. So what is the solution? Here is one -

Give yourself a name. Anything will do. Even something as unimaginative as "XYZ"(As long as nobody else gets the same bright idea). Or "Scooby Doo". Or "Brad Pitt". Or "Laloo Prasad Yadav". Whatever.

There is one commenter, who comments with an assumed name. I know who he is and why he does it - it suits me just fine! One calls himself "Same old Anon" in each comment. That makes it so much more easier! One even calls himself "The Anonymous Coward". But you don't have to be that honest, really!

So...could you please be considerate and name yourselves? And if its not asking for too much, you could even give me a hint, you know... whether you are somebody I know personally....*Crash* *Bang* *Shatter* Ok Ok Ok! Just name yourselves Ok? Just that! Please?

The Indian Ultrarunner - Arun Kumar Bharadwaj

Do you know what an UltraMarathon is? I confess that I did not know. Did you know that there is only one Indian Ultrarunner? I did not know.

But now I do. Arun Kumar Bharadwaj is the only known Indian ultrarunner.

But how did I get to know? Arun Kumar Bharadwaj read my post about the Times Bangalore Marathon in Metroblogging Bangalore, followed the link to my blog, and left this comment on this post in which I talked about Sreesanth, Kingfisher, and the TOI.

I will reproduce a part of his comment here:

Dear friends,
I am an ultramarathon runner and can understand it in a better way being in a state of my present situation. I think people writing here would like my little bio data.

It is :

How can we transcend ourselves if we do not challenge Our Capacities?

Name: Arun Kumar Bhardwaj
Email : a_runrunrun@yahoo.com
Cell Phone : 9213 964 901
Postal Address: Planning Commission, Parliament Street, New Delhi 110001.
DoB: 2 February 1969
Birth Place: Village Baoli, Distt. Baghpat. UP.
Education: B. Com. from Delhi University
Occupation: Govt. Service (Planning Commission, New Delhi) India
Height: 5 feet 8 inch, Weight: 68 kg
Family: Wife :Sangeeta, teacher in Central School. Daughters: Zola & Sofia (DoB 23.9.1998&12.1.2001), Son : Yiannis (12.7.2002).
Years running: On & off for 15 years. Ultras: 6 years

Personal Bests:
1. 180 km in 23.25 hours on 28-29 July 2000 (solo run from Haridwar to Baghpat, UP)
2. 270 km in 33.10 hr on 7-8 November 2001(solo run from Yojana Bhavan, New Delhi to National Ayurved Institute, Jorawar Singh Gate, Jaipur). Indian Record for the distance w.r.t. time taken.
3. 138.172 km in IAU Asia 24 hr Track Championships in Taiwan on 2-3 March 2002.(9th place). First Indian representative in any 24 hr Ultra Marathon.
4. 492 km in Australian 6-Day Race 17-23 Nov. 2002 & broke former Indian national record for 6 days race of 478 km made by Tirtha Kumar Phani in 1987. Thus, became first ever Indian to cross 300 miles in six days race (15th Place).
5. 516 km in Self-Transcendence 6-Days race, New York 27 April -3 May 2003 and became the first Indian to cross 500 km in a 6-Days race (7th Place).
6. 520 km in Copenhagen 6-Days challenge, Denmark 3 – 9 August 2003 (4TH place).
Became first Asian to complete three 6-Days races within one year, and every time with a new national record.
7. Finished IAU 100 Km World Cup 2003, Taiwan 16.11.2003. Became first ever Indian to participate and finish any 100 Km World Cup.
8. 501 km in International Six Days Running Championship, Mexico on 22-28 March 2004 (4th place in age category and 8th Place in general). First Indian representation in any Mexican ultramarathon championship.
10.532.8 km in German International 6-day race, 1-8 August 2004. Placed 15th. New Indian Record.
11. 550 km in 122.45 hr Delhi to Chandigarh and back. Appeared in Limca Book of Record 2005. 12. MIR Marathon, Moscow, finished in 3.56.45 in –4 Deg. Celsius and Rain.
13. 153 km in 24 hr Open Championship of Russia, 7-8 May 2005. Became the only Indian in the history of Russian Ultramarathon.
14. 556.45 km in 20th Australian Six Days Race, 20-26 Nov. 2005. New Indian & South Asian Record. (14th place out of 36 runners from 12 nations, after arriving only 20 hours before the start of the race and ran without any support crew).
15. 521 km Loutraki 7-Days International Race, Greece, 1-8 April 2006 (on a hilly course).

Typical training: It varies but normally 160 - 200 km/week. I sleep 4 hours only i.e. 12 mid night to 4 am and one night sleepless per week.

Injury history: None relating to running. Have undergone four major surgeries of Parotid Tumor between 14 and 17 years of age. I was very weak from my childhood, from the age of 6 to 19 yrs, I was a victim of malaria every year in rainy season. My body weight was only 26 kg when I was 14 years of age and 35 kg at 17 yrs. I, always, was the weakest boy of the class in my school time.

Favourite ultra foods: Totally vegetarian & teetotaler. Honey, fruit juice, banana and sugar cane.

Things I like most about ultra: Traveling, getting to make new friends. It gives opportunity to explore the unknown inner world and give spiritual ecstasy. I like my tears most during my ultras, I love them.

Things I hate most about ultras: Leaving my family waiting for me.

What got me started doing ultras: To produce myself as an example before my daughter that Everything is Possible for a willing heart..

Why I do ultras: I enjoy pushing myself to my limits. I am the only ultramarathon runner in India, a country of more than 1 billion people and that’s why I am facing very difficulty in continuing it. But I know that in future my story will become a great source of inspiration for coming generations and I would be satisfied by that reward. Also, the pure spirit I found in Ultra Marathoners is matchless, celestial and I want to be a part of them. When you run beyond the imagination, it gives a special sense of exceeding.

Ultra goals: 276+ in 24 hours. 400+ in 48 hours. 1000+ in 6 days. I aspire to finish and win every race of SCMT (upto 3100 miler). I also wish to run all state capitals of Indian states from New Delhi with a minimum recorded time.

Favourite ultra quotes: “Never Give Up”.
“If you have indomitable will-power then Impossibility-gate is not an obstruction.”
“When you believe then you can do it. Do you believe?”
I’ll want to quit, I’ll want to die. Let me die, don’t let me quit.”


Just look at those achievements! This man is an inspiration. He is an Indian. And sigh! We need an Australian to champion his cause. Thank you, Phil Essam!

If you want to contact him, here are his details again:
Name: Arun Kumar Bhardwaj
Email : a_runrunrun@yahoo.com
Cell Phone : 9213 964 901
Postal Address: Planning Commission, Parliament Street, New Delhi 110001.

All the best, Arun!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chivalry and Courtesy

I was talking to somebody who said that he feels women are too easily impressed by chivalry. After screaming herself hoarse about the equality of men and women (he said), the same woman swoons over a chivalrous man. He accused women of double standards.

A bit of thinking led me to the conclusion, that yes, we do like chivalry. In fact, everybody does. But not in the sense of men holding doors open and offering their chairs to women. Everybody appreciates courtesy, good manners, and concern towards fellow human beings, regardless of the sex of the courteous person, or of the person at whom the concern is targeted.

Maybe I can explain better with examples.

Situation: A group of us are passing through a self-closing door.
I don't expect - Anybody to hold the door open for me.
I expect - The person who has already passed through, to pause and hold the door for that one second longer to prevent it from swinging back, so that it does not bang into my face, and I can pass through it elegantly and safely, and in turn, hold the door for that one second longer to facilitate the person behind me to pass through unhurt.

Situation: I enter a conference room for a meeting, and see that there is one chair short.
I don't expect: Anybody to get up and go out of the room, and get me a chair.
I expect: That when I go out and get a chair for myself, and am struggling to get the bulky swivel chair into the room through the self-closing door, my colleagues should not stare at me blankly, chewing their pen caps, but get up and hold the door open so that I can get my chair inside.

Situation: Getting on to the bus.
I don't expect: Anybody to stand aside and allow me to climb into the bus first.
I expect: That s/he should not shove me aside to get into the bus first.

Situation: Waiting (like at the doctor’s), where there are a number of chairs, all occupied.
I don't expect: Anybody to get up and offer their chair to me.
I expect: Somebody to get up and offer their chair to the pregnant lady/the lady carrying a baby/old people/the person with a crepe bandage around his ankle.

Actually these are very small things. It is common sense, and basic courtesy, which should be followed by everybody without a second thought. But an unbelievably small number actually practices it.

So naturally, when someone, be it male or female, displays such little gestures of thoughtfulness, it is very natural to be drawn to him/her. And the insensitive ones, who don't understand what is happening, accuse women of falling for chivalry. All I can say is, wake up, and smell the coffee.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Frustrated.

The Kingfisher flight is at 6 am. The passenger reaches check-in counter at 5:46 am. Authorities refuse to let him on the plane. The passenger throws a tantrum. The authorities do not budge. So the passenger goes to the media with this story, and TOI publishes the story - Sreesanth had a "harrowing" experience at Bangalore airport.

1) A passenger is a passenger is a passenger. Just because he is a cricketer, he cannot board a 6 00 am flight at 5 59 am. The Kingfisher authorities were right in refusing him entry.

2) Sreesanth has said something to the effect that it was a special day for him (Onam) and his entire family was waiting for him, and the flight authorities were not at all cooperative, and he reached 4 hours late. If the event was that important for him, couldn't he have woken up an hour earlier?

A budding cricketer, and already he thinks he is God.

No wonder. Cricket (don't get me started on this game), given undue importance, and the players placed on pedestals by adoring fans.

And the media makes it all worse. Hockey player Sandeep Singh was shot 'accidentally'. There was just one column about that in the newspaper. Sreesanth missed a plane to attend a personal event, due to his own stupidity. Two columns, along with a photo dedicated to him.

You wouldn't normally hear a hardcore optimist like me making statements like this, but I see no hope for our people.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Meal on a Banana Leaf

..Or as we call it in Kannada, BaaLe Ele OoTa, has to be one of the best things in life. Any celebration in South India is incomplete without a sumptuous lunch served on a Banana Leaf. In fact, I admit shamelessly that there are a number of functions to which I go more for the lunch than for the event itself.

The importance of the food in such events, especially weddings, cannot be understated. Food is what the guest supposedly remembers even after he has forgotten the name of the bride and the groom, and how he is acquainted with them.

In fact, the caterer for my wedding had been decided three years before the groom was. Well, what I mean is that my mom and I had been to a friend's wedding, and the food was so wonderful, that my mom took the caterer's card, and when it was time for my wedding, it was this one that we contacted. And the food was fantastic!

A wedding feast is an event in itself. You are usually hungry and tired after talking to so many relatives/friends, whom you get to meet only at weddings. After all the smiling and talking, all you want to do is eat. So when you hear that lunch is ready, you run to the dining hall (unless you are unlucky enough to be closely associated with the couple getting married, in which case you get to eat only in the third pankti(batch) or so).

You sit at the table (it was cross-legged, on the floor, in the days when people were in good shape), in front of a fresh green banana leaf. You sprinkle some water on the leaf and clean it with your hands. Then you watch the food being served - in the preset order, in the preset positions on the leaf.

You wait desperately for the rice and ghee to be served, because only then are you supposed to start eating. Once it is served, you look around you to ensure that the older generation has started eating, and then you delve into the food.

You start off with the Payasa (Kheer), and then licking your lips, you eat the Thovve(simple, thick dal), which tastes fantastic despite how simple it is. Probably just your brain getting the pleasant signal that food is on its way. By that time, they arrive with the huLi (thick sambar with loads of vegetables), and you gobble it up in no time. Before the next item arrives, you have time to eat the mixed rice (Puliyogare, Bhaath or Chitranna), and sample the two different kinds of Kosambari(Mixed, garnished salad). You even taste the Gojju (A thick spicy preparation with a tamarind and jaggery base), and the Mosaru Bajji(Raita).

Just as you stretch out your hand towards the different kinds of Palya (Gravyless, vegetable curries), they arrive with more rice. Close on the heels of the rice comes the Saaru (A kind of Rasam), and you eat it with relish, mixing the Palya, and the HappaLa(Papad) with it.

Once you have savoured that, you sit back and crane your neck to see what the Bhakshya (sweet/s) is. Hurried exclamations to the person sitting next to you, expressing joy(usually) or disgust(extremely rarely) at the choice of sweets. Then you polish off the sweets with relish, and even as you eat them, along comes some kind of a fried savoury, like a Pakoda/Bonda, and you lose no time in eating that too.

In the middle of all this, some of the items make an appearance once again, and you have the choice to eat your favourite stuff all over again, if your stomach permits. Finally the Rice comes along again, followed by curds, which you mix and eat with salt and a little of the pickle.

Then you get up and wash your hands and leave the dining hall. A packet with a coconut and betel leaves is thrust into your hands. You look around for the nearest scapegoat on whom you can dump the coconut, and then do likewise.

Then you go back to the main wedding hall, where you can easily distinguish the guests who haven't eaten yet from those who have. The latter have this smug, satisfied look on their faces. And of course, a coconut in their hands.
- -