Sunday, January 09, 2011

Who's your buddy?

Searching for redemption at the bottom of a glass of watered down Laphroaig probably isn't a particularly unique way of enduring a Sunday night, but you must admit that it has a JJ Cale floating in the air kind of quality about it. I'm writing tonight to fulfill a fairly basic need. The need to feel like one has done something of consequence during the course of the day. Somehow, just laying in bed and binging on those crunchy apples while watching Scrubs re-runs for the 4th time doesn't quite seem to have the same sense of achievement.

So I turn to my most reliable and least used mode of catharsis. Writing. I know I've written time and again about my fear of writing. That inexplicable tightening of the chest whenever I feel like writing but I can't. I begin to get freaked out by the most random of things. The blinking cursor for example, has long been a nemesis of mine. Somehow that periodic flashing of a line just waiting for something intelligent to be said feels like too much pressure. But this time, I have a weapon that I reserve for only the most desperate of situations. Two words to be precise.

Fuck it.

If you're here then you will listen to me ramble. You potentially have trillions of other places that you could be on the information superhighway, but now since you're in my little half-acre, you shall have to endure my tiresome stream of drivel. And my drivel this time... oh fuck it, I have no idea what my drivel will cover this time. So why don't we just both find out.

First of all I'd like to begin by talking about whiskey. Now I know my mother will have a fit when she reads this, but unfortunately it has now turned into my favourite drink. I don't come around to drinking very often, simply because I believe that it is best done with good drinking company (which these days is surprisingly sparse). Ah wait, could it be, could it actually be that I have now hit upon a topic on which I can provide a lengthy discourse without seeming like an over-sensitive multi-syllabic-adjective-using-pseudo-intellectual?

I guess that last sentence has just answered it's own question but let us carry on.

My pointless banter now begs the question... What makes an ideal drinking buddy?

A question of that nature not only warrants intense introspection and in-depth analysis, it also warrants a kudos. To my best drinking buddies of all time. To Pi and Karan. Gentlemen, wherever you are at this moment, I salute you with my 5th scotch for the evening. May we have many more drunken senseless philosophical conversations in the future. I shall now proceed with my discourse that borrows heavily from the live inputs of these fine men.

To be a great drinking buddy you must of course have the following qualities:

  • The ability to match your buddy drink for drink: Look boys, there is nothing more pathetic than having your drinking buddy, your brother, behave like a sissy and give you some sorry ass excuse for why he can't have his 5th drink. And if he's past his fifth drink and then passes up one, then the only reason is that he's about to regurgitate. So the only two outcomes of passing up a drink when you're drinking with a buddy is

    a) Look like a pathetic sissy
    b) Projectile vomiting

    Any friend, who's any kind of friend will want to avoid either scenario. Hence the only alternative that dignity permits is to drink. So suck it up, grit your teeth and give a firm nod the next time your buddy offers you another.

  • The ability to lech appropriately: Now let's get this straight, every man needs to lech. Hell every human being needs to lech. But this needs to be done appropriately. Girls of course can lech at anything and it would never be inappropriate. Girls leching at girls incidentally happens to be one of the few get-out-of-jail-free cards that men ever get from women. Boys, if you ever have a female around you who says some girl who passed by is hot, please consider this your tiny window to vent. But please don't be over-enthusiastic, one appreciative grunt is all you're allowed. But then again, I digress. The point I was trying to make here was simple

    a) Appreciative grunt when your drinking buddy leches: Appropriate
    b) Delhi boy wolf-whistle and Punjabi english: Inappropriate (unless you are Karan Malhotra)

  • The ability to appreciate fine music: Classic rock, Jazz, Blues and Backstreet boys (You are my FIIIIIIRE!). Anything outside this, you cannot find acceptable. Especially that Buddha Bar, Let's-Be-Cool and chill out on low pointless couches while they charge me 800 bucks for a drink nonsense.

  • Short-term memory loss: Do you really want your drinking buddy to come up to you the next morning and tell you that you tried to kiss a bald man's sweaty head while confessing your undying love for anybody who speaks Konkani? No. Incidentally he wasn't Konkani.
So there it is Ladies and Gentlemen. If you've ever been called upon by a buddy to share a drink with them, always remember the 4 tenets of drinking buddies. Drink a lot, lech responsibly, scream woo-hoo whenever "I want it that way" plays and forget about it all.

Thank you and Good Night.

P.S.: I noticed that I had spelled with remarkable accuracy throughout this post. 5 is obviously not the magic number. No.6 pick up those sticks.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Test that wasn't

I'm an avid cricket fan. And I don't use the word avid lightly. I treat my love for cricket like any of my other loves. Very very seriously. And like someone who treats the game of cricket seriously, I have often derived life lessons from the game. I know this sounds corny to many (many of those being from the fairer sex), but I sincerely believe that sport can reveal a person/teams mindset, emotions and strategy towards life in general quite effectively.

Take for example the test match that could have been. I shall always remember the final test between India and South Africa as a fine example of how a risk averse approach can turn potentially epic moment of sport into one that is indistinguishable from so many others that were made of so much less.

Consider the premise at the start of the 4th day of the match. The worlds Number 1 and Number 2 teams were battling it out for supremacy in an eagerly anticipated and highly regarded clash. In Test No. 1, South Africa had humiliated India. Which considering India's form against New Zealand, didn't come as much of a surprise to the hardened Indian supporter. Simply because at the back of every Indian supporters mind is a strange base expectation. That the country will lose. I know this is a bold claim, but I speak as an Indian cricket fan who's seen his team let him down time and again over the past 15-20 years. They would show a flash of brilliance, sometimes even go out and win a series. But to win so many in a row. My God. It was almost like we were all waiting for the inevitable collapse.

And when SA hammered India in Centurion, I began to think the inevitable and inexplicable loss of form and slide from the top had begun. Inevitable for reasons I have clearly specified in this piece and inexplicable because India has almost always had an impressive team. The batting order has been the stuff of legend for years now and the bowling while lacklustre, was never plain bad. On paper, it always seemed like we could bat any team out. But again, I digress. Kallis hammered India with that fabulous 200 and while it looked like India had begun to wake up at the end of the test, I was still convinced that it would be too little too late. Mostly because the revival was driven by our ancient God. Sachin scored his 50th century in that test, but then like in so many other matches, all his teammates were able to provide as homage was heartbreak.

Then came Durban, and with it the most inspired revival I have seen in quite sometime. I say this revival was more special than those in recent memory (ref: the many many comebacks against Australia) because of the confidence and authority with which India returned. And this wasn't a draw, it wasn't even a slender win. This was a convincing victory against a side that had just hammered them, on their own turf. And on a pitch that so obviously suited South Africa's pace bowlers. It had pace, bounce and everything else that often makes our batting line up look like they suffered a heavy bout of amnesia.

The second test at Durban saw the resurgence of a bowling attack that had previously looked absolutely listless. Inspired in large part by the return of Zaheer Khan, the Indian attack hammered away at the South African pitch almost as if they had been bowling on it for as long as they could remember. The South Africans almost had a what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here take on things, and before they could process what the Indian bowlers were doing to them, the game had been wrapped up. It was the kind of morning where you run to your newspaper just to read the gushing reviews of India's triumph. The kind you want to live over and over again.

This set up the third and final test in an almost delicious balance. A balance that seemed to rest in stable equilibrium for an epic three days. Kallis with his brilliant 160 had done what Sachin had done for us in so many matches, take the team to a respectable total even as the rest of his team lost interest in the game. Sachin responded with a similar innings in India's response. At the bowling end, Steyn bowled what could easily be considered one of the best spells in recent memory. That image of him charging down the pitch and swinging the ball prodigiously reminded me of two of the greatest bowlers I've seen. The greatest compliment I can pay Steyn is that he looked like a hybrid of aggression of Allan Donald and the wisdom in swing of Wasim Akram. That Sachin survived that onslaught and scored 146, just re-iterated for the 51st time (!) that Sachin is the Master Yoda of cricket. Omniscient, omnipotent and unassuming (and short). From the Indian bowling attack we had Sreesanth bowling the spell of his lifetime with that snorter that took out Kallis and he too got a five-for.

And so it stood. Day three of the third test between the Number 1 and Number 2 team with the series tied and the third game balanced evenly after three days of brilliant batting and bowling. It was a series that deserved so much more. You could of course fault the Indian bowlers for not finishing the job after taking SA to 130-6. But as the fifth day amply demonstrated, the pitch then quickly transformed into one closely resembling a fortress. If all you wanted to do was defend, then you could dig in and bowlers, short of throwing rocks at you, could do little to get you out.

Thus this (finally) brings me to the point I'd like to make. For this test to become truly epic and be counted as one of the best that was ever played and thus making the series one for the ages, somebody would have to take risks. And in any given situation, there is usually one team that has the choice of playing it safe or taking the risk. On the evening of the 4th day, after a fantastic fightback, that option now lay with SA. If they really wanted to go for the win, the could have declared when the score was between 280-300.

This would achieve two objectives, one it would give the SA bowlers a real chance to bowl the Indian line-up out. In all the days of the test, 10 wickets in a day never really seemed like a possibility. Even on the last day, it took some really careless batting by the SA tail for India to close the deal and take the final 8 wickets. Secondly, it would also entice the Indian batsmen to go after the ball a bit because the carrot of a series win would be in front of them. By waiting to be bowled out, SA virtually guaranteed a draw.

The series between SA and India deserved, nay demanded a result. But some deflated bowling by India took the comprehensive result away. The risk averse approach by Smith and his men, on the other hand, did something far worse. It deadened a contest that was begging to occur. Today, as I sit here typing this out, I can for the first time in my lifetime as an Indian cricket supporter say this: I honestly would've loved it regardless of who won.

How tragic then, that in such a beautiful contest, we were all denied the chance to feel. We were denied a result. Damn you Smithie, you coulda won this. If only you were man enough.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The demi-official letter of return

It has been noted that there has been no activity on your web log for the last 14 months. viz. from November 2009 to January 2011. You may kindly place your justification for the same on file.

This issues with competent authority.

Conscience Auditor General - CAG
Ministry of Recreation and Fictional Affairs
Kalpana Bhavan
Govt. of India

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