Monthly Archives: November 2013

Din Dhal Jaaye…

 

If I were to turn into a psychotic, cold-blooded, serial murderer, while I am being carried off by the police, let them say of me –

“He was wronged. When the only thing good about his childhood was Sachin Tendulkar, they robbed him of it. Society has hardened his heart to a stone.”

 

*

 

So it has happened.

He has retired, and we have to move on with our lives.

I wanted to write a flowing tribute to the man. A tribute that would explain in detail how he peppered my life with its most beautiful moments. Of how he made my life in an otherwise shitty decade – memorable. Of how my childhood was Sachin Tendulkar.

I would be lying.

 

Because when Sachin was being Sachin, I was caught up at different places, doing everything but watching the match. It’s a long story, and to keep things short, please refer to the chart below.

 

Stellar Sachin Moment What was happening What I was doing
1991, Sydney century A young Sachin was belting fiery Australian bowlers in the fastest pitch in the world. Had just been admitted in my boarding school. Was five years old, so knew nothing about anything.
1996 Wills World Cup The World Cup was happening in India. Day light matches, a terrific costume, and a plundering of Pakistan in the quarter final. Sachin had begun opening the innings in One Days. 4th standard. Our class teacher would come tell us if India won the match. She also added some details of her own. At other times, she told us stories of her childhood, and how she would bathe in a tub full of bubbles in her childhood.
1999 Chepauk century India is chasing down Pakistan’s score in the second innings. While wickets fall left, right, and centre, Sachin keep butchering the bowling, going on to score 136. India lose by 12 runs. Sachin has tears in his eyes, and the legend of ‘When Sachin scores a century…’ is born. Since we weren’t shown any cricket, the only option was to read the newspaper from the staff room – in the fifteen minute gap we had after lunch.

 

The punishment for eating slowly was to be made to sit on the Girls’ side. I never rushed through my lunch.

1998 Coca-Cola Tournament, Sharjah After robbing Shane Warne of any respect he had for himself in a test series, India beat Australia in the semi final and final, and Sachin scored blazing centuries in both the matches. My family had decided that cricket was an unwanted evil. The TV was packed up, and I had to crouch my head against an old Philips radio till I felt like the hunchback of Bhubaneswar. Couldn’t listen to the climax of both the matches.

 

Now, let us have a look at some of the matches that I’ve watched.

 

Stellar Sachin Moment What I was doing What was happening
2003 World Cup Had watched the entire World Cup. On the day of the final, I had stayed back from school. In the PCO I was working in, there were at least 50 people huddled up to watch the match. I sat in front of the TV, right from the Toss, to the end of the match. Zaheer Khan sledged the Australian batsmen, and they launched into an assault that made the Indian bowlers seem like members of the Vaanar Sena.

 

In the chase, Sachin holed out after pulling McGrath for a boundary. Next day, there was school.

2009 India vs Australia India were chasing 351, on a pitch that was providing swing and assistance to the bowlers. I was working as a copywriter, and since my boss hadn’t come to work, I had safely parked my ass in front of the television for the entire match. Sachin scored a blitzkrieg 175. He played the lofted straight drive – in the way only he can, and punched the bowlers in gaps. At 36, he was making a comeback. And everyone watched in silence.

 

India, however lost the match by 3 runs, thanks to Ravinder Jadeja, who had worn his helmet, but forgotten to carry his brain inside it.

2011 World Cup I have moved into Hyderabad, and am studying again. I have no work to do, and have devoted myself to the World Cup in body, mind, and soul. It is the final at Wankhede, Sachin’s motherground. Sachin starts off with two boundaries, and edges Malinga to the keeper.

 

I am taken back to the feeling after the last world cup, a pall of gloom descends.

So there you have it. Everytime he did well, I wasn’t watching the match. And everytime I was watching, he didn’t do well. While he’s playing his last innings, I am in the villages of Ganjam, where electricity hasn’t returned to the houses after cyclone. I grow restless, wrapping up my work to watch him bat. He’s in the 70’s, I finally find a television, and settle down in front of it.

And he edges to First Slip.

I can’t really say with conviction that watching Tendulkar bat was one of the high points of my childhood. I didn’t see too many of his innings – at least not the great ones.

But that is not to say that I grew up without his presence in my life.

 

It was impossible to grow up without Tendulkar in the 90’s. He was India’s first brand – the first person who held sway over people across the country – something no politician, or film star can boast of. Amitabh Bachchan has no relevance down south, Rajini Kanth is more of a pop figure up north. Gandhi is irrelevant for most people these days. But Sachin Tendulkar.

I saw him on hoardings, on the covers of Pepsi bottles, in magazines, and in the stories that my friends told me about him. And I had read tons and tons of articles on him.

Since television was out of bounds, cricket came to me through a different source. From the pens of S. Dinakar and Bobilli Vijay Kumar of The Hindu. While I did not have the colourful, heart-wrenching action in front of my eyes, I had the lyrical fantasies that the two gentlemen wove out in the papers the next day. I read about the drives through the covers, and of lofted drives that flew into the stands.

I read about how Sachin miffed McGrath when he stopped him in his run up, to adjust the sight screen. I read about how a sandstorm forced the cricket to stop, but when it started, a bigger storm was to strike that night in Sharjah.

And I would recreate those scenes in my head. In my mind, Sachin was always a reticent mercenary. A hard-working gritty professional.

 

*

 

In the later years, I was a little embarrassed by the image that was made of Sachin.

Whenever a cricketer flew down to India, we would ask him whether he thought Sachin was the greatest. It was like there was a need for validation.

This deifying of Tendulkar, probably because of how Indian it is, always pissed me off.

 

I have always wondered what it would be like if Tendulkar was not this cherubic, soft-spoken youngster, but a muscular, brash person? What if he talked back to the bowlers, had affairs with actresses as was the norm back then?

Would Tendulkar still have been the hero that he is made to be? I doubt it.

While we talk about the glories on the field, and the 24 years on the ground, the real reason I think Tendulkar is what he is, is because he successfully managed his career without putting a foot wrong. Because he lived up to the pedestal that he was put on – of being a humble, hard working, son of the soil.

That’s how we like our Gods – clean.

 

*

 

While there will always be debates about the Bharat Ratna, I wish it wasn’t conferred on him immediately.

Before you order your gang of friends to find my address, kindly hear my reason out.

All his life, Sachin was scrutinised by the entire country. Every time he came out to bat, the commentator would begin talking about Sachin’s shoulders – ‘He carries a billion expectations on those shoulders of his.’

Or, ‘A billion hopes lie on the shoulders of one man…’

sydney harbour bridge edited final

By elders, by contemporaries, by children – his every step, his every word, every move. A century every time he came out to bat, a word in appreciation of victims of earthquakes and floods. A political opinion from a political party, stooping down to the level of politicians who die everyday, for which there need not be a bandh.

The same moralistic nation that made him a God will now be watching every step of his.

Being conferred with the highest award of the country is a greater pressure. For Tendulkar, it is back to being 16 again. While one test has come to a close, another one begins.

I can imagine Arundhati Roy asking her secretary to buy a new file folder, marking it ‘Tendulkar’, rubbing her hands in joy, waiting for him to commit a mistake. And then, once he commits it, I can see her smile, lick her lips with joy, and begin…

“That day, when the madness of a billion people, the sentiments of a few, bent the country into offering him the highest award of the country. Not an award for his achievement in sports, mind you. But the greatest award that can be conferred on an individual.

And yet, as the din starts to die down, my mind searches frantically for the answer to the question – ‘How did the nation benefit?”

 

The same India that wiped tears of joy as he left, will bay for his blood if they see him doing anything that is against their morals. Just when the pressure seems to ease off, a more vicious pressure will now have its hands ready, to claw at his neck.

I hope we don’t make a Gandhi out of Sachin. An obsolete joke, a token of respect.

 

*

 

The other thing about deifying somebody is that it obliterates the awesome parts of their life – shrouding it with a grey shawl of godliness. An overarching blanket that covers good, just, kind, humble, and awesome. Making ‘Awesome’ only a small part of the entire package of larger goods.

But for most of us, Sachin was not a god. Those are titles that the media makes up, they look good on placards, and in tribute videos.

But we, the children of 90’s, didn’t really treat him as God.

What did we treat him as?

Pure Awesomeness.

That was Tendulkar for us. Not a pagan god for the sport, but a player who could slay the greatest demons with his bat. He could go to any part of the world, on any type of pitches, face the fiercest bowlers, and yet the “Tok” sound that came when his bit hit the cherry, was sweet.

While he deserves every bit of the tribute he gets, for me and most of my friends, Sachin was not God. He was Fuck Awesome.

 

*

 

For all the criticism, when the time came, it did shake me. When I stood in front of the TV, watching him tell his coach that there were no more matches he would play, forcing a smile, and fighting back tears, I choked up too.

Sachin was the last connection to my childhood. A connection I had taken for granted.

Let’s hope he gets to chill out for a few months. And finds something else that he is just as awesome at.

 

*

 

68.9 years.

That’s the average life expectancy of a citizen of India, give (Kerala, Punjab) or take (Assam, Madhya Pradesh) a few years.

68 years is a long time.

If we do reach that age, while our grandchildren make love to their friends over their smartphones, and we sit on a chair, ignored, and someone comes to us and smiles a warm smile, and asks us what we were thinking about, we will say ‘Nothing..’ and shake our heads and smile.

Our grandfathers spoke of the freedom movement. Our parents spoke of their struggles to raise us.

We will speak about a short man with curly hair.

It will be a long, lonely walk. But like someone once said…

India v Sri Lanka - Tri-Series Game 11

On Writing A Book

Dear reader,

I haven’t been able to publish much on the blog, since I am writing my book.

                                         *****************

 

I have always wanted to write this.

I have always wanted to be so busy writing my book that I had no time for anything else. Like the writers they show in movies, books, and clichés, I wanted to be this writer who is shabby and unshaven, and unmindful of the earth going round the sun.

The truth, however, is a completely different matter.

Having a blog is a tricky thing. It gives you this sense of importance, of having achieved something. Since the medium is personal – a reply, a comment, a word of appreciation – is just a few clicks of a button away, you get this feeling that you’re finally doing something important.

It was sometime in 2011 that I had decided to start writing a book. It was to be a natural extension of writing my blog. I would finish writing the manuscript and send it out to publishers and then get published.

And then, I would marry Kareena Kapoor.

As you can see, most of it was mythical.

It has been a treacherously lonely journey. Partly because of my discipline, or the lack of it, and partly because of the myths I had associated with being a writer.

The discipline part I cannot do much about. I start writing something, and then I am distracted by YouTube, that evil website that was created by software engineers so that writers do not acquire fame and wealth in their lives. And just when I am in a bit of a flow, I look down to the left bottom of the Word page, and see the Word Count and think, “Wow! 1000 words!! That should be enough for a day, no?”

I have read books and manuals, stolen advice from Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King, spoken at length about my ideas. I have held my brainchildren in my hands lovingly and showed them to my friends, who nodded in appreciation and took another sip from their glasses. And then, like Ganga, I took my brainchildren and dumped them in the water.

For the most part, I had started telling people that I want to write a book because people would keep asking me what I wanted to do after my course. I had no clue, and so I would say that.

If you have no plan in your head, and someone is bugging your ass off about what you plan to do, simply say – “I want to write a book.” Most people will keep quiet once you’ve said that.

Most people. The others will start off with their pearls of wisdom:

1.      “Tu toh next Chetan Bhagat banega, yaar.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find Chetan Bhagat’s books terribly shitty. Yes, they sell like cold cakes, and in numbers that would make Salman Rushdie issue a fatwa against the man.

chetan-bhagat

But frankly, I find his books very lame. There are the same cardboard characters in every book – a whimpering, spineless narrator; an idealistic, studly friend; and a girl who wears salwars but likes to do the chiggy-whiggy in bed.

But the curse of the next Chetan Bhagat title must have been conferred on every aspiring writer in the country.

2.     “Can you make me a character in your book?”

This one is trickier. As a writer, you are expected to draw from your treasure of experiences. I cannot write about the Cold War or revolts in Congo because I have no clue about them. And the most exciting thing about being brought up in a middle class Indian household, is losing one’s virginity. So what does one write about?

One writes about their own experiences. And this is where it is tricky. Since the people around you know you are writing a book, how can you not draw from their personalities without them trying to guess who it is? And what if some of them think of themselves as heroes, and my opinion about them is that of a protagonemad?

3.     “Famous hone ke baad humein bhool mat jaana, bhai.”

I am sure Chetan Bhagat can chill in his house and smoke Cuban cigars, but for the most part, writing a book pays you peanuts (and I don’t mean the tasty, fried variety). Having quit my job, I have to draw a balance between the Writer Who Doesn’t Give a Fuck, and The Tenant who Pays the Rent. Difficult line to draw, and I was always terrible at Geometry.

I do Stand Up comedy, but that is as widely accepted in Hyderabad as vibrators being sold in Big Bazaar. Most of the time, the people I go to work for ask me one of the following three questions:

  1. Kis kiska mimicry kar sakte ho?
  2. Kavi sammelan type ka kar sakte ho?
  3. If this goes well, we’ll pay you from the next time. Fine?

That is when the Writer Who Doesn’t Give a Fuck has to bow his head and step back, and the Tenant Who Pays the Rent has to step forward, smile an oily smile, and stretch out his hand.

For the most part, it is a terribly lonely business.

Which now brings me to the myths I had associated with being a writer.

I had always imagined myself as a cool author. Not the guy who talks in long, winding sentences, using words that only a quarter of the audience would understand. I prided myself on being the Cool Author. And how does this Cool Author write?

He drinks, and then he smokes a joint. And then, ideas start raining from the sky. He sits in front of his computer and assimilates the rainfall into his head, the pitter-patter of the raindrops being converted into the click-clack of the keyboard.

And as the Cool Author drinks some more and smokes some more joints, he keeps typing, chipping away at the statue with a glass in one hand, and a joint in another.

I couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, if the Truth was at North Pole, I was somewhere on Mars, waiting for Mangalyaan to finally break into the orbit so I could go back home.

I have begun four chapters of four books, and when people ask me what I’m writing, I choose the one most likely to impress them, and begin narrating it out to them.

They are all my children – these stories – and I stand on the banks of Ganga, holding them close to my chest. Afraid that I might have to drown them in the river, as Shantanu stands behind me and says, “What the heck?”

For the most part, I have realised that writing is about spending time with yourself. In a completely non-masturbatory way. It is about digging deep into your own thoughts and shutting the door on the world outside and putting those thoughts down on paper.

And yet, when this realization hit me like the morning sun after a month of winter darkness, I still hadn’t moved any further.

So have I made my peace with it?

I don’t know. The myths I had about writing have been shattered. But I still wage a war with Discipline. On some nights, I sleep a satisfied sleep, having beaten the enemy like Gregor Clegane. On other nights, I go to sleep feeling like an Australian spinner playing a test match at Baroda.

Now, when people ask me what I’m writing – I have an answer ready.

I first look at the person and do a quick, Holmes-like judgement.

If it is a young person, I say – “Non-fiction. I am doing a psychoanalytical study of the farmers in Venezuela.”

If it is an elderly person, I say – “Fiction. A book about a psycho killer who rapes newly wed brides. It’s called Shakalaka, Baby.”

I don’t get too many questions after that.