Monday, February 14, 2011

Dum Biryani

I got out of the car, just about to enter my favorite Thai place, but the "Dum Biryani" sign outside the neighboring restaurant was just too inviting to be rejected. I ventured inside, saw a cash register and three people talking about the Biryani. "I know I'm not supposed to lavish praise on my own food, but the Biryani here is really the best I've had. I wouldn't make such a claim if I didn't believe it", said one man in Urdu.

The biryani indeed lived up to the talk. The raita having run out, I asked one of the people emerging from the cooks' area, and one of the three at the front if I could have another cup.

He came up to me and plainly said, "I don't work here". He then sat at the table beside mine and started eating his own biryani with his wife and child.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Letter to Rahul Dravid

There was a period of around four years when I thought you were India's most dependable batsman. I felt more secure when you were at the crease, than when even SRT was occupying it. And it did not feel blasphemous or anything, because you outperformed him. Even today, with your fall and his complementary soar, you are only 2500 runs apart despite having made your debut a good six years after him. Deliveries and catches that got you out were talked about at length the following day at school or college, for they had to be special. Every victory outside India was fashioned by a marathon effort by you.

But no more. Now, it looks like a struggle. Ever since the tour of England in 2007, when you very mysteriously resigned from the captaincy to "concentrate on your batting", it has been just that. You look like you are being overburdened and weighed down when you are at the center. You've looked far more serene under far more difficult circumstances, when the batting of the team hinged entirely upon SRT's, Laxman's, Ganguly's and your shoulders. Now we have a more consistent Sehwag, a Gambhir and a more than decent wicketkeeper batsman to fall back on, should the core fail.

Since that tour of England, there have been a few starts, but you haven't converted them into more meaningful scores. You looked good against New Zealand away and Sri Lanka at home in 2009, and I thought maybe this was some kind of revival, the end of a lean patch which most players of the highest class invariably go through, for SRT's was not very long before. There were expectations in 2010, but they haven't been met. Sri Lanka was a dismal campaign, but you didn't appear out of form; you just kept finding ways to get out. I thought that might have been the end, and that Dhoni's and the selectors' patience had run out and that perhaps you wouldn't get to play Australia, but it happened. A weakness against left-armers bowling from over the wicket began to emerge and manifest itself and was duly exploited by Johnson and Bollinger. Then another good series against a very weak New Zealand side followed, which again raised my hopes of a revival, and ensured a ticket to South Africa.

I thought South Africa was going to be the decisive series. For it was here that you made your first test century, fourteen years ago against Donald at his pomp; it was here that you made vital but often completely ignored contributions during the World Cup in 2003; it was also here that you first started losing your way in 2006; it was here that made your mark in the IPL, that eventually led to a recall in the ODI team; but it was also here that you played your last ODI and dropped cruelly, never to be considered again. And I suppose you were selected to play on this tour only because of your very fine record overseas, for we have, and will always have enough batsmen to succeed in India.

Tonight is when we need you. I am writing this without much expectation, but I hope to be proven wrong. Tonight is when you need to roll back the years, score a century, and help India at least save the test match, and with it, the series. For winning is dependent entirely on the start that Sehwag can provide, unless of course SRT has other plans. Should you fail, it ought to be the end. I am saying this only because I cannot bear to take this any longer. It's kind of like wishing death upon a terminally ill, long-struggling loved one.

Thanks for the memories; I will cherish them.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

There have been multiple instances in the past couple of years that I have had the strong urge to write something but have been unable to, mostly because the urge didn't persist for long enough.

Screw it. This will have to wait too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reflections and rain.

I had evidently pissed off my friend, but I couldn't care less. I ask to be dropped off near the main road. My friend doesn't quite know the route. I suspect I was in the car only to guide him to the main road anyway. I borrow some money and set off to buy some books.

It is quite a hot afternoon, and time is running out. There is the railway station that I haven't seen in years. It is indeed old. Then there is the bridge I have to walk under, and continue straight before I hit a most famous intersection and take a right on to a most famous street. It used to be different, I know. There is now a McDonald's not too far from the intersection, and I immediately disapprove. Who the hell cares about what I think though. The street is crowded, as it has probably always been. It hasn't changed much since I was here last, save of course, for the McDonald's. In fact, it looks like it's always been this crowded. I try to imagine the same street at the height of its grandeur. Almost instantly, trees, and reflections replace the unseemly electricity poles, streetlights and advertisement hoardings. Turn around and take a couple of pictures of the structure beyond the intersection, but the same electricity poles and power lines prevent me from getting a good shot. A bearded man in white taps me on the shoulder and asks me the time. I realize I am getting late, so I quicken my pace and take the next left. In the meantime, clouds have begun to gather overhead. Wonder if it might rain at Lord's too. Myself and a few hundred million others that follow India's test cricket fortunes would quite like that.

There are signs, although few and far between, written in a script I cannot read. The smell of a familiar food item consumes me, but I decide against eating; I had just had a heavy lunch with the friend and two others. Find my way to the place I had set off for. There is nothing new about this road. It's bustling with activity, as always. There are understandably more people of my age, presumably here for the same reason. It has begun to drizzle a little. I go inside different stores and give shopkeepers the list. At bigger stores the list is given a quick glance, and then passed onto a younger assistant with specific instructions. But nothing. The shopkeepers know they need to pull their stalls inside and shut shop for the time being. There is a popular shop where I am sure I will find them. It was my last resort, and only upon ascending the poorly lit and extremely narrow flight of steps to the second floor do I realize that I had been here before, again, some two years ago.

My friend calls me and asks me if I wanted a ride back. Politely decline his offer. The street is almost empty now, for it is raining perceptibly more heavily now. But there's still a while to go before it might pour. The air now intoxicatingly smells of wet earth, and an overpowering desire to reunite with old memories makes me set off for the bus stop on foot.

By the time I get on a road that leads to a characteristically shaped bridge by the same name, it has suddenly become very heavy. I run to the bridge and stop for shelter, while trains slowly go about their business as is usual.

Emerge from the shelter after the rain relents somewhat, and enter a world entirely different from the one I spent the last hour in. Learn from locals that it has rained at Lord's too. The test match has been saved.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fifteen minutes on the Blue Line

My phone beeps to an SMS saying "Hello, where you are?", to which I hastily type "At Indraprastha. Gimme 15 mins.", after being slightly amused at its deliberately flawed structure. I purchase a token for Connaught Place. I somehow don't like the name Rajiv Chowk. Very few people use it anyway.

"Bag kholo", I hear a rather portly gentleman in uniform gesture at me. I open the bag and show him its contents, among which is a camera. "Tasveer mat kheechna", he sternly warns me.

By now I can hear the train coming from Pragati Maidan. "Haan mujhe pata hai, yaar", I retort and hastily zip my bag, about to leave the concourse for the platform.

"Zaraa apni language sudhaaro." Before I could ask, he says, "Mai aapka koi dost nahin hoon. Ghar pe aap apne bhai ko 'yaar' bulaate ho kya?" I think about nodding before starting to run to catch this one.

(A minute elapses)

I can see the Jama Masjid, the Gopaldas Building and Statesman House, among other landmarks as the train leaves for Pragati Maidan. There are many people waiting at the station. A visibly confused bespectacled man sits to my right. A woman says "The next station is (pause) Mandi House" in a pre-recorded announcement in an annoying British accent. "Agla station (pause) Mandi House (slightly longer pause) hai", a man with a deep voice follows after.

We pass Tilak Bridge in a hurry. Our elevation decreases palpably as we continue on Sikandra Road. The Mandi House station is underground, much to the amazement and delight of a kid sitting a little to my left. Again, quite a few people enter, and by now, all the seats have been occupied. The man at my right now seems a little worried; he asks me how to get to Pitampura.

Barakhamba Road station comes. I prepare myself for the deluge of people I expect to see at Connaught Place. I relinquish my seat, and two people rush to occupy it. Instinct, agility and audacity count, when an empty seat is in contention.

There isn't much distance between this station and my destination. A lot of people get up, as expected, and start building up near the door on the right, as both announcers inform us in their different ways. A robust young woman tells her attractive friend to get out as fast as she can because there will be pushing from the other side too.

There are indeed a lot of people at the platform at Connaught Place. After the pushing and shoving, I get out, rather satisfied at my tenacity. I direct my bespectacled friend to the platform for the Yellow Line, and pause to look around.

Now I wish I could go back on my (exceedingly informal, now that I reflect) acknowledgment of DMRC's rules, for the station looks beautiful.

Monday, July 09, 2007

January 3rd

He had missed the previous year's test match due to personal reasons. This was always going to be a big occasion for him, playing in front of his home crowd. There is something about the Sydney Cricket Ground that makes you want to step up your game a notch or two.

I had just dismissed Ponting that arrogant shit, with a nice straight ball he had no clue about. Now for Steve Waugh, the one Aussie I've always secretly admired for a variety of reasons. He would definitely be a little rusty seeing as he had missed a whole season, but I'm sure he was fired up too.

I attempted to catch him plumb first up, the same way I had dismissed Ponting. He shuffled across, thus heightening my hopes, but flicked it past mid-wicket for a boundary. That was such a put-off. That must have given him so much confidence. One would have expected him to play it safe; but he surprised me with his audacity.

I then tried the short ball, and it came off well; trying to pull it, he copped it on the arm. I glared at him, but he was looking away, not in the least to evade my glare. Both of us knew he was in pain, but he didn't want to show it. Come on, it's Steve Waugh. Who doesn't know he has problems with short stuff. I had read newspaper reports which said he asked McGrath to bowl short at him during practice for a while now, so he would have been a little surprised with the outcome. The next one was fuller; he nicked it just short of first slip where it was misfielded. He set off for a single, and I deliberately ventured in his way to brush against him. Still no reaction.

I could see him rubbing his arm every few overs. I bowled him some more bouncers to soften him up, but he just wouldn't pull or hook. He'd sway away, wanting to have nothing to do with them. I must have beaten him at least ten times in that one spell. He would look ungainly at times, but he'd make the best use of whatever talent he had. He looked very determined to stay there. I would often be compelled by this urge to sledge him, but by now I respected him too much for that. It probably wouldn't have worked either. Perhaps I would have been a lot more comfortable sledging him ten years ago. Waqar tried some in-swingers but to no avail - either flicked or dug out. Saqlain's doosras he picked with utmost ease.

We bowled them out for 250. I took five for sixty odd, so I should be happy. But I'm not. I couldn't get him out. He remained nabaad on 115.

He wanted to make this his day. He was that sort of a person.