Saturday, March 26, 2011

India vs Pakistan - An unexplainable feel

I have always prided myself on having the Indianness instilled in me and it's kind of embedded in every layer.  There are no two ways about it.  There are moments when the pride is taken to a different zeal and level, and the confirmation is absolutely unquestionable.  There is one binding factor in India that transcends across religion, caste, economic classes, status, power and the different fracas of life, and that has to be cricket.  I say fracas, because with the advent of time, little things get magnified and we have found several reasons to cross swords with each other, and the result is there for all to see - government vs opposition, bureaucrats vs general public, corporates vs lobbyists, politicians vs reporters, and last but not the least, tonnes of internal family squabbles.

But, come Wednesday, everything in life is going to take a backseat.  India is going to witness the least economically productive day, and not for a reason. North, South, West and East, and millions around the world will be locked in a time warp, where everything outside the 22 yards and the surrounding boundary of the PCA stadium, Mohali is going to be put out of concern.  Offices may be open, but I doubt whether anyone would even consider going to work, shops and establishments may be open, but would witness lackluster business and if you are talking about deadlines at work, forget it! Schools can rather declare a holiday, and for a change, people in Bangalore and the rest of India would not talk about traffic jams on the roads.  Traffic would not even be a concern as I doubt whether even a fly would make its way away from a TV set.  It doesn't require any kind of mystery to figure out that Wednesday, March 30th is going to be a blockbuster day for Indian cricket.  Undoubtedly, the biggest match of the World Cup, INDIA vs PAKISTAN, a battle royale, worthy of surpassing the best of the best of competitions, will reach a crescendo, bringing down the roof, rather, the skies and will ebb and flow with each team (read India!!!) trying to outdo the other (obviously Pakistan!!!) giving us a humdinger of a finale.  Even when I write this piece, I don't want to think of the possibility of Pakistan trying to get the better of India.  It's too hard to even imagine that.  Take the Mumbai 2008 attacks into account, and take the context of what happened, this is literally a war without ammunition.  Even for a second, I don't mean to say that this match is going to mask what happened in Mumbai.  What happened in Mumbai is absolutely condemnable, and no Indian would have forgotten the horrific terror attacks in November of 2008.  But, it is just that the context is too hard to ignore.  India suspended all ties with Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack, and an India-Pakistan game in India is taking place after four years.  The magnitude of the match need not be explained.

Here in the US, as my fellow Indians and I are paralyzed with awe and excitement(we are also filled with trepidation, let's not lie about that) talking about the World Cup Semi Final encounter, my American friends ask me "Is it like the Super Bowl?".  All of us are quick to quip that it's not even close, rather, no sporting event in history comes close to this.  Not even the much talked about Ashes comes close to this.  It is totally a different atmosphere, and there is almost an unexplainable feel to the whole thing.  This is just the semi-final of the tournament, and even the finals will not be so closely scrutinized.  Talk to any Indian/Pakistani, every activity from now until Wednesday takes a backseat.  There is only one thing constantly whizzing in our heads.    As I have said earlier in one of my other blog posts, like me, more than a billion plus population will be playing out several scenarios in their heads as to how the game is going to shape up.  It is fantasy cricket of unimaginable proportions.  The last time we played against each other in the 2003 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar took the game away from the Pakistanis in stirring, blistering, brilliant, magnificent and thrilling (the adjectives can make another blog post) fashion.  We still haven't got over that game.  I hope the 2011 encounter will live up to its billing.  Even if it is an one sided encounter, we will take it as long as India wins the game.

After all this, if somebody makes a statement that this is just another game, he deserves to be whipped.  Win or lose, it doesn't matter, as long as we play to our potential, does not hold good.  We are expecting a win.  There is no doubt about that.  The players do understand that this is pressure of a different kind.  If it is a loss, we are going to be disappointed.  That is the great aspect of sport because as players you are directly able to control the emotions of a billion plus cricket fanatic population.

Yes, there is gargantuan pressure on the players.  That is the kind of pressure that lesser mortals are not capable of handling.  After the match, you will hear reports of a number of heart attacks and for a change, Ricky Ponting will not be the only one to have smashed a TV set.  Not only Sachin Tendulkar, every Indian and Pakistani player needs to have a Godly demeanor to handle this kind of pressure.  It does not get bigger than this.  You are playing in the World Cup.  You are playing for your country.  You are playing against Pakistan (Sorry, I can talk only like an Indian supporter.  I make no denials to say that I am proud to be biased.)    

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The legend of Uncle Pai

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now, but due to my laziness, it was just sitting in my drafts folder in an unfinished format.

If there is one character in modern history that deserves the ultimate recognition for igniting young minds, it has to be Uncle Pai, the man who was bestowed with tremendous vision to have nurtured the greatest comic books in India - Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).  Mythology and folk tales were impinged in our minds with highly simplistic narration and fabulous pictures. The books were absolutely Indian in style and substance.  We all loved it.

I was in my third or fourth grade, and it was the time of my life, when "I doesn't know" and "I don't know" were used interchangeably and without a trace of guilt.  All that I knew was that it just couldn't be "I know don't".   It was not an outstanding realization but nevertheless, a very important one.  We had moved our house to a new locality in Malleswaram 17th cross, and there was this uncle(that's what we called him; no idea of his name till date), who had a small yet fulfilling space of books just about a hundred meters from my house.  It was called as the "Cynosure Circulating Library", that's what my friends said, though there was no name tag hanging in front of the library, highlighting the proof of the name.  Anyway, as they say, what's in a name! A bunch of young guys, we always made it a point to go to the library in the evenings.  People from my generation would always remember Tinkle or ACK in a bundled format, where five or six editions of the books would be stitched together.  The bound book per day would cost no more than 50 paise or 1 Rupee.  The whole process of going to the library was a fun exercise, a sort of holy pilgrimage, with each of us having a clear idea of what exactly we wanted to read.  For some reason, I was never a fan of Phantom, Mandrake, Disney and so on, but Tinkle and ACK were delightful reads.  It was easy to identify these mythological characters, and the fact that my grandmother played an important role in narrating everything about Ramayana and Mahabharata and the tons of stories associated with these two epics, helped me stitch the narration with relevant and beautiful pictures.  Not that dates matter, but the very first ACK that I owned was Draupadi.  I was always hooked to the first story in the Tinkle, as it would invariably be about a folk tale picked from some part of the world, and it always carried a deep message.

Looking back, the best part about these books were that they always had something useful to impart, apart from the fun factor.  I always wanted to see Tantri the Mantri be successful with his plot some day, and even though, I knew that Shikari Shambu was a coward, I never wanted to see him hurt.  For some strange reason, I wanted to see Chamataka, the sly fox, in partnership with Doob Doob, be successful against Kalia, the crow.  In the same vein, I also hoped Suppandi would use his brains some day.  But, the best part about these things were that they never changed.  The illustrations that went along with the text was always brilliantly done.  The stupefied faces of Chamataka, and Supandi's owner had to be seen to be believed.  The dumbstruck expressions put forth by these characters left a lasting impression on me.  Apart from these fun characters, there were also the knowledge oriented Tinkle Tells you Why, which invariably I would end up reading after I finish all the stories.  It happened to me, Little Raghu and many more were fascinating.  The best part about these short stories was that they were generated by children.

Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha have created a legacy; a legacy that was built upon years of hard work and trust.  I cannot think of any other book that has influenced the kids so much that could result in an admonition from mothers, "You cannot read these books unless you finish your home work." Uncle Pai is undoubtedly a national treasure and it pains me to note that a man worthy of all the praise failed to get the Padma Shri from the Indian Government.  It is no loss to the great man, but certainly brings ignominy to the Government.